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Voyages, Adventures

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You sort through your cards, thumbing each one carefully as you study your opponent. The blond sitting cross-legged in front of you is idly picking his way through his hand, eyes half-lidded. He looks tired, with circles under his eyes and hair a bit too dishevelled, but far more relaxed than when you’d first arrived.

The room is silent and so is the ocean beyond the walls of the ship. It rocks the enormous vessel, gently, coaxing everyone to sleep. Well, everyone except you and him. Rampant thoughts and overwhelming feelings kept you up. You can see his mind is still on the paperwork he was poring over, but you wouldn’t let him go back. It was about time he breathed a little.

All you can hear is the quiet fwip of cards being tossed between you two. A mountain of said items separates you and him, growing larger as time goes on.

He drops a card on the top of the pile. You smile wryly.

“Bad move, birdie,”

Marco inhales deeply, narrowing his eyes at you for the nickname then shaking his head as you slap a card on top of the pile triumphantly. His hands go limp as he releases a small chuckle, cards slipping out of his grasp.

In the end, he sends you a defeated grin, eyes crinkling in the corners.

“You win again,” He states, the flickering light of the candle on a small bedside table making the shadows dance eerily around you. Marco’s eyes shine through the exhaustion, mirthful.

You nod, collecting the cards and motioning for him to hand in his own pile. He does as requested, tilting his head as he watches you shuffle them deftly. At last, you place the stack on the floor and cross your arms over your chest. He stares down at them, mind wandering back to the things he had to do.

You sit in cordial silence that stretches on for a little too long, and when he notes your expression – pinched brows, teeth worrying your bottom lip, (eye colour) eyes unblinking as you glare at the ground – he speaks up.

“Tired of playing ~yoi?”

“...”

A reply that you don’t voice echoes within your head. I’m tired.

His placid expression melts away when you don’t respond.

“(name)?”

You snap out of your daze, training your eyes on the man in front of you. The ship sways as the ocean starts to rouse, but you don’t pay it any mind. Marco and you stare at one another, expressions troubled for different reasons.

“You alright ~yoi?” He tries again, leaning closer to you as he braces his elbows on his knees. You inch back slightly, eyes scanning the room for something to focus on. Anything that will take your mind off of… everything.

Marco takes no offence to your actions, nor does he ask again. He waits as you gather your thoughts, breathing deeply.

You know you can’t tell him you’re tired like you do with everyone else. It wouldn’t be a lie, but it wouldn’t be the truth either. He’s far too observant, too smart. He’s known you for too long. You can’t lie to him.

“Marco,” His name rolls off your tongue in a murmur. You count the floorboards to keep yourself in check. “Can I ask you something?”

Marco nods his head, and a small, appreciative smile graces your features. It’s not the happy, cheeky smile Marco is used to – not the one he wants to see on your face.

“If you died,” He twitches, you notice, “would you want everyone you loved and loved you to remember you? Or would you want them to forget, just so they don’t have to go through the pain of loss?”

Your inquiry isn’t something anyone would expect, you know. But Marco has been your friend for many years. You don’t mind if he doesn’t answer your strange question; you just need to let the damn thing out.

He doesn’t respond.

You wait, count your 10th floorboard, listen. Marco says nothing.

His calm and collected appearance at your question unnerves you, but years of friendship have also taught you that Marco is damn near unflappable. He probably knew something was up the second you crossed the threshold.

He still doesn’t answer. You take a single card from the deck, stare at the back, and then drop it again, frustrated. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, maybe both, you know exactly which card that was and what it meant.

Finally, he says, “(name), come here ~yoi…”

You hold your breath, torn between scooting further back and crawling to him.

Marco shifts, shoulders drawing back as he raises an arm – a gesture that you've seen him use as a way of comforting you and many others when they too feel down. You’d seen him do it with Ace when he’d been declared the second division commander. You’d seen Thatch sling an arm around Marco’s shoulders and the blond fondly roll his eyes and yet do the same thing. Mother Hen of the Whitebeard Pirates, the cook would claim loudly. He’d done it when you almost-

Hesitantly, you go with the latter.

Now beside him, you focus on the mark on his chest, still proudly in display even in the comfort of his own bedroom. The deep, navy blue and the familiar crescent-shaped design brings Whitebeard to your mind. Your eyes slip shut in shame. What would the man think if he saw you like this? What would he think of your question?

Marco wraps his arms around you, and you do the same, clinging to him. Seconds tick by, and even then he doesn’t provide an answer. You don’t really need one, either way. It’s not a question someone would ask one of their oldest friends. This thought makes the humiliation branch out to every fibre of your being.

As if sensing your darkening mood, the blond tightens his grip on your shoulder. A reminder that you’re not alone.

“Let’s go to bed ~yoi. You look exhausted.” You press the side of your face against his shoulder, sighing pitifully. Marco huffs in amusement, rising from his spot on the floor and taking you with him.

You let him escort you to his bed, body glued to his and your nails digging into his purple shirt. The two of you flop down on the mattress, a chorus of sighs ghosting past your lips at the freshness of the sheets. Marco reaches over, grabs the candle, then blows it out.

Shadows take over the room, and you close your eyes, weariness gnawing at your consciousness.  

You still haven’t released each other. No, instead, you wound your legs together and listen to the few sounds up on the main deck.

Footsteps, a few voices that fade into the distance, and quiet laughter rings out. The blond at your side breathes deeply, sighs, tightens his grip a second time before loosening it.  

And eventually, you fall asleep.

(x)

The next morning, you find yourself alone in bed. Sunlight filters through the porthole built into the wall, and you hiss at the brightness of the room as you crack your eyes open. Blinking the haze of sleep from your eyes, you search the room for Marco.

The blond is sitting at his desk, quill in his hand and ink bottle nearby for when he needs it. You know he knows you’re awake, but you don’t bother saying anything. Peeling the covers off, you rub your shoulders for warmth and pad over to him.

“Morning, ~yoi,” Marco looks up when you reach his side, sending you a warm smile.

You return the gesture, placing a hand on the backrest as your eyes skim over the documents in front of him.

“That looks fun,” You comment casually, grinning when Marco rolls his eyes. He begins writing again, his movements smooth. His writing is cursive yet simple, just so it’s still readable to those that have less experience with reading.

You fall silent again – a common thing among you two. You’re not ones to fill the silence with words. You let it fill itself.

You examine the room, noting the deck of cards on the bedside table. The card you’d fiddled with last night is upturned on the smooth surface. Curious, you walk over to it, snatch it off the table, and stare at it.

The King of Hearts.

The scratching of the quill on the paper halts.

“(name),” Marco calls, voice low as to not scare you. Or maybe it’s because he was just too focused. You hum to let him know you’ve heard him, and he continues. “what did you mean?”

Well aware of what he’s talking about, you inhale deeply and think before answering.

“I don’t know.” You admit, twirling the card in your hands. It’s a bit worn in one of the corners.

The sound returns.

(x)

“Marco, come on.”

He doesn’t listen. Thatch frowns.

“Marco, please.”

“Thatch, go away ~yoi.”

The man with the pompadour shifts, a plate of food in his hands. Marco refuses to acknowledge him, quill scratching furiously on parchment.

“Marco, you need to eat something.

Marco drops his quill on the desk, more aggressively than he intended, but far beyond the point of caring at this moment. Thatch is still there, at his doorway, concern radiating off him in waves.

He knows that it’s not their fault. He knows that it’s not his fault. He knows that.

And yet he wants to blame them. He wants to blame himself. He wants to blame you.

Marco is well acquainted with these sorts of emotions and knows how to handle them so they don’t end up impacting another negatively, but lately, they’ve been a bit much to deal with.

He cranes his neck to peer at his brother, eyes burning with the exhaustion of the past week. Thatch takes it as an invitation to silently venture closer, and when he sees that Marco isn’t going to kick him out again, he places the food in front of him. The first division commander shoves some papers aside, staring solemnly at Thatch’s peace offering.

“I’ll come back in half an hour to take the plate,” Thatch says, clapping a hand on his shoulder and exiting his room. It was his way of telling him to eat it, or else. Marco feels the corners of his lips tug upward at the hidden threat, but no more.

Turning back to his work, he reads through the papers, blinking slowly. There were several reports of the damage to the ship. Broken railing, snapped rigging. On top of it all, a paper with a single name haphazardly written on it.

(name).

Cause of death: Unknown.

Almost everybody believed it to be the battle against the marines they’d encountered on their voyage to a nearby island. Commanders that knew him were a bit more in tune with the situation, but nobody truly knew what happened. Marco had an inkling of an idea, but nothing concrete.

If you died, would you want everyone you loved and loved you to remember you? Or would you want them to forget, just so they don’t have to go through the pain of loss?

The question haunts him. He’d been anticipating some sort of statement, like usual. An odd remark about his paperwork, a concern for one of the crewmembers, a random thought, but not that. Never that.

And even now, he didn’t know the answer.

He didn’t know, because he couldn’t die. It's the one thing he's afraid of confessing to anybody. It's the one thing he was afraid of telling you.

Marco glanced to his left, where the deck of cards sat. That day, he’d taken out the card you’d been fiddling with, for no reason at all. Now, he could see why you did. He could see why you did. 

If only he could go back. 

Chapter Text

Up above, the merciless sun beats down on everyone’s backs as they talk, laugh, and work. Seagulls fly overhead, around the masts of the grand ship, the Moby Dick. In the very middle of the main deck, two young people hold each other’s hands, their expressions full of… love… and… oh, wait.

“Oh, (name).” Ace said, looking into her eyes.

“Oh, Ace.” She sighs dreamily, eyelashes fluttering as they stare into each other’s eyes.

“Please, don’t go.” The brat begs, “I love you.”

She gasps, sounding exactly like a strangled fish. She pulls away from the kid in front of her.

“I…” She says, full of shock, “Ace, I…”

Someone roughly elbows him in the side, and Thatch sputters, keeling over and protecting his middle. The barrel he’s sitting on teeters forwards, and he flails, leaning back to regain some balance with a curse.

“Damn it, who the hell–!”

“Thatch, seriously, stop it.” Haruta punches him in the shoulder, and Thatch cackles through the pain, far too amused to scold him for the attack.

“Why?” He demands, “Just look at ‘em! Getting all lovey-dovey with each other!” He wipes a fake tear from his eye, clapping his hands together and holding them under his chin, “They grow up so fast.”

Haruta deadpans, blinking once as he spares the two of you a glance. Ace is grinning, looking on as you chuckle at something he said. When he turns back to Thatch, the man is waggling his eyebrows, attempting to stifle a laugh and failing miserably.

Haruta sighs, irritated and far too exhausted from yesterday’s watch. Onlookers share expressions of mirth as they listen to the fourth division commander babble and come up with dramatic scenes on the spot. The shorter male opts to walk away, rolling his eyes when Thatch inhales noisily and begins from where he left off.

The brat reaches out, grasping her hands again. “(name), don’t leave me.”

Both you and Ace are nodding, lips pulled into grins as you shake hands and proceed to part ways.

Ah crap, they’re leaving- where the heck is he going? And what is she doing with that smug look on her face?

By this point, a few men are chortling, and Thatch smiles, gesturing to the two of you. “Can you believe these two? Leaving when it was just gettin’ good?” The people around him shrug and carry on with their tasks, and Thatch decides that it’s time that he does the same.

Hopping off the barrel, he saunters off to the kitchen, whistling happily.

(x)

“Is this good?” You ask, feeling your lips stretch into a fond smile when Ace looks up with a hum, eyebrows raised and hat accidentally tipped to the side. He grins evilly, nodding as he straightens up from his spot.

“Yeah, that’s good.” He walks over to you, offering you a hand so you could pull yourself up. You accept it, chuckling when he wraps his arm around your shoulder and buries his face in your hair.

“Alright, let’s go.” You say, guiding him to the exit while wiping wood chips from your shirt. Ace lets go of you when you step through the doorway, marching ahead of you with an innocent look on his face.

“Nobody around,” He whispers then takes your hand, “Let’s go before he comes back, yeah?”

You motion for him to lead, and then you’re off, giggling like children.

(x)

Eight hours later and lots of cooking, Thatch is dragging himself through the halls and to his room, Marco at his side.

“Did you see him?” He shakes his head, frustrated and, though he won’t admit it, somewhat impressed.

“I did ~yoi.” The blond says, tucking a few papers into his pocket after folding them neatly.

“He ate so much! I swear, that Ace needs to slow down…” He grumbles the rest of his sentence to himself, lowering his head to the floor. He hears Marco huff, laughter ghosting past the man’s lips.

“Don’t laugh, you!” Thatch whines.

“Alright ~yoi,” Marco holds his hands up in defence, doing everything but what Thatch told him not to do. Thatch groans, stopping when he realized he had reached his bedroom. “Goodnight, Thatch.” The blond waves over his shoulder and Thatch grumbles something akin to ‘g’night, you bird…’ back, because even when he’s frustrated, he’s still in the mood to tease people.

Throwing the door open, Thatch trudges to his desk and removes his jacket and foulard, laying them on top of his chair carefully. When he’s done that, he bee-lines to his bed and kicks off his shoes when he sits down on the mattress.

With a sigh, he flops down in the centre of the bed…

...and promptly yells when the whole damn thing caves underneath him.

“Holy shit!

A pause, some panicked ruffling, and then…

Ace! (name)! I’m gonna toss you brats off this damn ship!”

 

 

 

In the galley, both you and Ace knock two rum-filled mugs together with a clunk, raise them over your heads, and laugh merrily.

Chapter Text

They wouldn’t leave.

It’s not like you mind having costumers – that’s the last thing a business owner would be bothered by – it was just… the noise, the people, their antics. One tall, burly, blue haired man keeps yelling “SUPER!” incessantly, like it’s the last thing that’ll save him. A blond with a… peculiar set of brows kept fawning over every woman he saw. Then, there was a green-haired man who could lift a table with a single finger, switching between observing and closing his eyes.

No matter what state he chose to be in, an intimidating aura steadily radiated off him like some weird stench. Lastly, there was the skeleton yo-ho-hoing the evening away. The minute he’d walked in, you’d already been put off. Not to mention the question he’d asked when he’d first spotted you.

The ladies with them, and the others, were far more tolerable.

But then there was the captain.

An odd one, that youngster, your boss said. It couldn’t have been more of an underestimation.

Right now, the odd one was devouring every bit of food you had in stock and chugging drinks like they were nothing.

Rolling your eyes, you turn away from the bunch to wipe counter, serving an older man when he requested a refill. When that was done, you focus on the bottles lining the shelves, listing the different types you still had left.

There weren’t many people in the bar anymore. It was late, and most had work to do in the morning, so now it was just those pirates and a few other stragglers.

Seconds, minutes, an hour goes by, and they are still here. The red-head in the group rises from her chair, stretches, and announces her exhaustion. Everyone except the captain and the green-haired man stand up as well, intent on heading to their ship so they could rest. You listen as they part ways, still organizing things, lips pulled into a taut line.

A hush sweeps over the room, but it doesn’t last very long. The captain noisily munches and chows down his food, occasionally mentioning something to his friend.

You stop organizing things and decide to clean up the place a little bit, instead. There are spilled drinks on one side of the counter and you can’t face away from those people for eternity.

Setting to work, you grip a rag and wipe up the mess, heedless to the figure making his way up to you, crumbs on his face.

“Hey!!”

You jump, feeling your shoulders bunch up as you shut your eyes, inhaling deeply to settle your nerves. Focusing on the odd one, you raise an eyebrow inquisitively.

“I want more meat.” The guy declares, the grin that stretches across his whole face nearly blinding you. You shift, your grip on the rag loosening and tightening anxiously.

“Don’t have any.” You mumble, going back to work on the counter. The guy hums, bemused, before a whine breaks loose. Cringing, you glance at him, eyebrows pinched in annoyance.

“But I’m hungryyy-” The last word trails off noisily, another whine reaching and striking your eardrums painfully.

“I don’t... care.” You force the last word out, grimacing at the effort it takes. The guy stops whining, staring at you weirdly. Ignoring him, you give him the cold shoulder, praying that he leaves.

He doesn’t. No, he demands the same thing again.

“Eh? What do you mean? I thought this was supposed to be a meat restaurant…”

“It- It isssss…” You clamp your mouth shut, jaw jutting out. The guy stops again, but you don’t hope for anything this time. Go away. Go away. Go away.

“Why are you doing that?”

Okay. Great. Here we go.

You cringe, glaring at him. He doesn’t back down. There’s an odd gleam in his eyes that wasn’t there before, and it does magical wonders to your anxiety. Breaking the awkward eye-contact (although it was probably awkward because you were making it out to be that way), you scrub the counter a tad more aggressively than necessary.

“Wha-” Pause, breathe in, “What?” You grit out. It’s always the same questions. What’s wrong with you? Why are you talking like that? Are you stupid?

“That! Why are you stopping when you talk?” He asks, pointing at you. You glower at him, then at his friend whose watching you both, but they don’t back down.

You wait a moment, hoping that your silence will prevent the usual barrage of questions that comes after you answer that inquiry.

But the guy doesn’t leave. They don’t move.

Sighing and tossing the rag aside, you whirl on the captain, brace your hands on the counter, and look him dead in the eye. “Stutter.” You state simply, eyes narrowing dangerously as you lean in close, daring him to mock you.

The boy doesn’t lean back. He doesn’t appear put off at all, actually. Either he’s not impressed by your act, or he just doesn’t give a fuck. He does stare back, with that same gleam that unsettles you in his eyes still.

Sighing a second time, you slink back to your rightful place, collecting mugs and other things.

“Is that why they were laughing at you?”

You drop your face to the floor, irritation simmering in your gut. “Ye-yes,” You manage, softer than before. Why can’t he just go?

It wasn’t surprising. Some punks heard you stutter, thought you were an idiot for not being able to ‘speak like an actual person’, and have been mocking you since. Life goes on. You still have a job to do, and so do they. You’ve spent enough time dwelling why you were like this and you weren’t wasting anymore.

Shockingly enough, the captain does leave you alone once and for all. You must’ve scared him off with your stuttering.

(x)

“C’mooon… don’t ignore me!” A man cackles as he grabs your sleeve, tugging you closer to him. Your hip bumps against the counter, and you scowl, jerking away.

“F-f-fuck off,” You hiss, wiping your hand on your pants and serving another customer.

“W-w-w-what did you say?” He demands, mimicking you with a crooked grin on his face. You remain ignorant to his teasing.

They’re back today. Those pirates seemed to have enjoyed the place, it seems.

Seated near the back, they are much quieter today than they were yesterday. A bit more… grim, you’d say. You know because you’re familiar with that expression; it’s the one on your face every day.

“C-c-c-come o-o-on, (name)! I’m a p-paying customer, you know!”

“Don’t c-care…” You mutter to yourself, pouring drinks and rounding the bar so you could grab a mop and a bucket to clean up a stain. Coincidently, it’s near those pirates, whose faces are a bit too serious for your liking.

The guy follows you, his friends hanging back to witness whatever else he has planned. You don’t give a shit.

Loud footfalls trail after your fleeing form, and you wait until they’re right behind you. Then, you spin around, fists balled up as you get ready to throw punches.

Seeing what you’re about to do, the man hurriedly jumps backward, hands raised in defence as he laughs. “Woah!”

You try a second time, aiming for his gut instead. He dodges again, and seeing that you’re not going to give, he grabs your wrist and twists it to the side. Grunting, you throw your leg out, but he dodges that too.

“You’re aggressive today, ain’t ya?!” He hollers, flashing you a care-free grin. It makes you want to knock his teeth out.

“Let go, b-ba-bass…” You don’t finish, too preoccupied by the force crushing your wrist. The man chortles, shaking his head in disbelief.

Suddenly, just as he’s about to speak again, a fist flies into the side of his face, knocking him back and into the counter on the other side of the room. Your eyes follow the seemingly endless limb right beside your head, landing on none other than the guy from yesterday. He’s stood up from his place, a furious fire burning in his eyes, which are shrouded slightly by his straw hat.

“Don’t you hurt my friends!!” He yells, then unleashes hell on those standing up for your attacker. You linger behind him, perplexed, when the same green-haired guy casually sidles up to you. Glancing up at him, you watch him for a long minute. Then, he meets you eye, a tad smug, and you know you’ve royally fucked up.

You should’ve kicked them out.

(x)

“You… You didn’t have to do th-that.” You cross your arms over your chest, stepping around a recumbent form and towards the counter. The man on the floor groans and you provide him with a swift kick to the side for good measure.

“Yeah I did.” Luffy – you’d  learned his name soon after ordering he stop wrecking your workplace – says. He smiles widely, laughing as he scratches the back of his head. His crew are with him, perfectly content with the wreckage save for the redhead, who had scolded him for a good 15 minutes after the carnage was over.

Rolling your eyes, you shake your head, mug in hand. You place it back where it belongs after scrubbing it clean.

“You know, Chopper can help you out with your stutter.” The redhead says, a smile on her face, “He’s a great doctor.”

The little reindeer makes a sound of surprise and then dances weirdly while insulting the woman for complimenting him. You’re not impressed. Neither is the green-haired guy.

“I don’t ne… need help.” You bite back.

Nobody responds to your comment, and your shoulders sag slightly, exhausted.

“You-you’re going to have to p…pay for the damage.” You say after a while, and you can practically hear the redhead’s placid expression fall away. In its stead comes a horrified realization, and then she turns back to scolding her captain, hands wrapped around his neck. You’d be concerned, but he’s already proven that things like that don’t really harm him.

Choked noises and nervous laughter from a long-nosed guy and the reindeer fill the room. The tension lurking in the corner fades away slightly, and you can’t help but feel a bit more relaxed.

Out of nowhere, after Luffy’s been released from the woman’s deadly hold, he whirls on you, plants his hands on the counter, leans in close, and yells in your face:

Join my crew!!!

Chapter Text

You’d been adrift at sea when they, the most fearsome crew in all four Blues, crossed paths with you and your banged up rowboat. At first, you expected them to adjust course and move right past you. Your boat was steadily filling with water and you were two seconds away from dying, but then a bird descended from the ship and saved you.

Back then, the physical and mental injuries you’d sustained from the accident had been far too recent, too raw, for you to understand what was happening. The fact that two claws were gently picking you up and carrying you somewhere safe had felt unreal. But then you’d woken up in a bed, your injuries tended to, and a nurse at your side.

The captain, Whitebeard, had joined you one day while bedridden. There hadn’t been much conversation; he did most of the talking, you answered meekly when prompted. The second he narrowed his eyes at you in thought, you knew he knew something that you didn’t. It stressed you out, but you concealed it fairly well.  Eventually, he stood and offered you a place in his crew, a gleam in his yellow eyes. With nothing to go back to, you accepted, fidgety and restless.

And so, your new life began.

Now, six days after you agreed to join, you’re free to roam the ship. Your physical injuries have healed thanks to the nurses’ care and you’re well rested.

But it doesn’t mean much if you can’t actually walk outside, now does it?

Pressing a hand to your chest, you listen to the sounds of crewmen slogging away noisily yet cheerfully. There’s laughter, orders relayed with enthusiasm, and conversation; something that you’re not used to, at all.

You pick at the gauze taped to your arm – contusions and few cuts, the nurse told you, nothing to worry about – eyes set on the door ahead. The need to open it is there, but you’re not sure.

There was no one in the sick bay with you. The nurses started off each day by flocking the captain, or so you’d heard. In the time you’d spent here, you’d heard more than once the head nurse grumble as she redressed your injuries. Pops and stubborn old man were popular sayings amongst the nurses when Whitebeard was being mulish.

You shake your head, realizing you’d been staring at the door for more than fifteen minutes while lost in thought. Drawing yourself to your full height, you hesitantly pull the door open just a bit, peeking through the small crack.

As expected, there are easily more than a hundred people milling about.

You make a sound of discomfort in the back of your throat, teeth worrying your lower lip. Was it really okay for you to go out there? The only socializing you’ve done was with the few nurses and cooks that brought you food every so often. And they were nowhere in sight.

Not like you would’ve gone to them, either way. They were busy people and you weren’t very skilled in medicine or cooking. You knew about ships and fishing, and that’s as far as your experience on the sea goes.

Opting to give the world a second chance, you open the door the rest of the way and step outside, shutting it behind you. Nobody bats an eyelash in your direction, not yet, and you take as positively as you can.

“Oi, you there!” Someone calls, and you feel your spine straighten nervously. Looking around, you spot a man waving you over, and recognize him as the man that had brought you your first meal. You’d been too out of it to remember him– that is, until now. 

You watch him motion you to come on over for a second or two, conflicted. Walking over there meant having people glancing in your direction, and ignoring that man meant looking like a jerk. Briefly, you break the eye contact, scanning the deck.

No eyes are on you.

“Hey!”

Apparently, you spaced out again, because now, the same individual from before was now right in front of you. You jump visibly, and the man leans back slightly in slight surprise, but the smile doesn’t fall.

“Thought you were never coming out,” He says with an easy laugh after a while, and you eye the man in confusion. Had he seen you open the door and sneak a peek outside? At your lack of a reply, the man tilts his head to the side, eyebrow arched.

“You remember me, right?” The man asks curiously, and you nod your head despite having little to no idea to who he was. “Oh, good! I’ve been waiting for you to rest up so I could give you a tour.”

“A tour?” The words tumble out of your mouth before you can stop them, and you fight back a cringe. Surprisingly, the man doesn’t seem to mind your question.

“Yep,” He grins, “You ready?”

“Uh...” You begin weakly, surveying the deck one more time and freezing when you spot a couple of men gazing at you. Clenching your jaw, you train your eyes on the man in front of you again and mutter, “Sure.”

(x)

Along the way, you managed to learn his name. And drain most of your energy trying to memorize every place he showed you. Thatch didn’t seem to mind your silence, or the fact that you refused to look up from the floor unless absolutely necessary.

“And this is the galley. I saved it for last since it’s almost time for lunch.” He smiles down at you. You pretend to busy yourself studying the galley so you don’t have to return it, eying him from the corner of your eye when he turns away.

There are sounds of pots and voices emerging from somewhere to the side, and you assume it’s the kitchen. The smell of food is starting to permeate the air. Your stomach growled – thankfully, it was quiet enough that Thatch didn’t hear it, but you still wrapped your arms around your middle protectively.

“You can go ahead and grab your food if you want,” He says, “Other than that…” Thatch claps a hand on your shoulder, “Welcome to the crew!”

“Thank you,” You mumble, watching him walk away before focusing on the buffet on the side. Heading towards it, you pointedly ignore peoples curious glances as you hastily pick up a tray, pile some food on it, and plop down at a vacant table. It’s in the farthest corner of the room, and you’re seated with the wall to your right.

A couple minutes later, while using your fork to push the things on your plate into neat little groups, you hear some yell the word ‘lunch!’. Not even a second later, people are stampeding into the galley, and you glue your body to the wall, hoping no one talks to you.

Tall, hulking men and nurses march into the galley, smiles radiant at the prospect of a meal. Groups of friends chatter loudly, shoving each other teasingly. The amount of food declined as people filled their plates.

Curling in on yourself slightly, you carry on with your own meal, eating slowly. It wasn’t a shock, but you’d almost finished your plate. Maybe you’d grabbed too little…

“Hey, new girl, what’re you doing sitting here all alone?” You recognize the voice, and see Thatch standing at the end of your table, a ladle in his hand. Then it dawned on you that you’d never given him your name.

“Nothing,” You manage, cursing inwardly when you realized how silly you sounded.

“Oh, so you’re the one the first division saved?” A new person pipes in, and you spot a man – a shirtless man, mind you, with a tray so full of food it looked ready to topple, in the background. Your jaw clenches, and you look away for a brief moment. A blush attacks your cheeks at the sudden attention, and you mumble.

“Yes, I am.”

The man smiles crookedly, inviting himself into your comfort zone and sitting in front of you. “I’m Ace! The commander of the second division,” He declares, adjusting the hat on his head.

“(name),” You nod your head politely, not at all put off by the sudden company. Not at all.

“Well, while you two get acquainted, I’m gonna go grab my food.” Thatch states, and Ace sees him off with a wave, still grinning.

“So, (name),” Ace faces you again, black locks of hair colliding with his cheeks, and you shrink a little. “I heard about your injuries; how are you holding up?"

“I’m fine,” You blurt automatically, and feel another cringe threatening to shine through when Ace blinks in mild surprise. You seem to have that effect on these people.

“That’s good.” He grins anyway, shovelling some food into his mouth. Over his head, you see more people – you assume they're commanders, judging by the way others greet them - nearing you. You take your fork and eat whatever remains on your plate, then stand, heedless of Ace’s questioning look, a leg of ham hanging out his mouth.

Placing your tray on the nearest table, you skilfully avoid the commanders and escape out the door, a certain pair of mercurial eyes on your back the whole time.

(x)

A week after that ordeal, and you’ve grown somewhat used to things around here. Somewhat. Not really.

Thatch and Ace continuously attempted to speak to you, for reasons that were beyond you. Especially Ace.

Now, there was nothing wrong with that, obviously. The fact that you didn’t need to walk up to anyone and introduce yourself had been a huge relief, but still. It didn’t make it any less… odd.

Most of the time, when you weren’t being assigned different tasks, you spent your time outside and alone, observing the brilliant blue ocean. It was around this time one of the two set off to find you. The one with most successes thus far was Ace.

“(name)!”

And… speak of the devil.

You don’t bother turning towards him, knowing that he doesn’t need a greeting to approach you. Ace runs up to you, cheeks flushed red from the heat despite being a man of fire. He smiles openly when your eyes meet, and you wave at him, smiling a little.

“It’s lunchtime,” He grips the railing with one hand, happiness and an ease that you envy radiating off him in waves. You cast your gaze downwards, where the water is crashing against the hull of the Moby Dick.

“I know,” You mutter, but make no move towards the galley. Ace raises his left eyebrow, something he does when he’s suspicious, confused, or curious.

“Not hungry again?” He inquires, lips stretching into a knowing smile. You nod, shrugging hopelessly. “All right… but make sure you eat dinner, yeah?” Again, you nod your head, listening as Ace dashes to the galley. When you make sure no one is around, you pat your stomach with your hand and go find a place where no one will bother you.

(x)

You weren’t there at dinner time.

Ace frowned, craning his neck, eyes trained on the doorway, hoping that you do show up. Marco, sat beside him, notices his strange behaviour and glances at the door, trying to find whatever Ace is searching for. He doesn’t.

“What is it ~yoi?” He asks instead. Ace brings a piece of meat to his mouth, biting down on it as he thinks.

“How often do you see (name) with anyone?” Ace wonders out loud, and Marco hums.

“Not too often,” The blond replies honestly after some thinking, and Ace makes a gesture as if to say, there you go. Bingo.

“I always find her alone, staring at the ocean, quiet. Thatch too,” The younger male explains, “And when I ask around, nobody seems to know anything.”

“I told her to come by for dinner, but…” Ace trails off, teeth tearing into the piece of meat again, worried.

“But she’s not here ~yoi.”

“No.”

“…”

“…I’m gonna go find her.” Ace claims loudly, downing the contents of his plate in record time before rushing towards the exit before Marco can even reply. The blond looks on as Ace runs back into the galley with a soft curse, grabs a tray, fills it up, then speeds back out.

(x)

And find you he did. It’d been difficult, but he’d found you. You weren’t at your usual spot, near the whale head, but at a crow’s nest. It’d been a massive challenge carrying the tray of food up there, but he’d managed.

You were seated on the floor, gazing at the sky, when he’d popped out of nowhere and nearly given you a heart attack.

“Ace!” You exclaimed when you realized who it was, then covered your mouth with a hand and put as much distance as you could between you two. It saddened him more than he could admit.

“You said you’d be at the galley,” Ace said, extending the food towards you. You crossed your arms slowly, glancing at him once before turning away. The man feels a spark of frustration light up inside him at your behaviour.

“I didn’t… I must’ve missed the call.” You lied, nails digging into your sides. He doesn’t buy it.

“That’s fine,” He says, stepping closer, “I brought you something to eat.”

This time, your eyes do meet his and stay. They’re wide, nervous, but he doesn’t know why. Sighing, you accept his offering and sit back down, back against the railing. He lingers for a moment or two before joining you.

It’s silent for a little bit as he lets you eat, glad that you’re not rejecting the meal.

“You’re not too fond of crowds, huh?” He says, smiling when you freeze, mouth open with the intention of eating a small potato.

“…no.” You admit, your voice barely above a whisper. Ace thinks that he’s made some progress in his quest to get to know you, but then you carry on. “That’s not it.”

“What is it, then?” He probes, shifting into a more comfortable position. You sniffle, scratching your nose as you set the plate and fork to the side. You repeat your actions from before, eyes boring into his, but an unsettling calm has bled into them.

“I’m…” You start, clearing your throat, “The day… you found me on that boat… I wasn’t alone.” Ace leans closer unconsciously, keen interest in his eyes. You resist the urge to put some distance between you two.

“I used to work with a fishing crew, had been for many years, on a brigantine, with its own captain and whatnot.” Right, Ace thought, not wanting to interrupt you now that you were finally opening up just a tad.

“This… captain… of this brigantine…” Your words came out forced, and Ace inhaled deeply before placing a comforting hand on your shoulder. He made sure you saw him do it as to not freak you out. And, for the first time during your stay, you smiled fully at him. Sure, your teeth went back to mindlessly gnawing at your lip not even a fraction of a second later, but you’d smiled.

“He wasn’t… kind.  He had a bad temper and was very easily angered. And when that happened, especially when the catch wasn’t particularly good that day, he’d, ah…” You made a dismissive gesture with your hand, eyebrows furrowed. “Punish us.”

“Usually it meant that rations were cut in half or, if there was someone to blame, they’d be ridiculed in front of everyone. That meant… uh…” You cleared your throat again, feeling a knot forming in your stomach at the mere thought of your previous captain.  Afraid of mentioning it out loud, you presented the commander the sight of the scars marring your wrist.

You were attempting to twist out of the ropes, the material digging into the skin, cutting, interrupting the blood flow. Not like it mattered much. Blood dripped from your fingers onto your clothes and floor as you rested your forehead on the deck, heart hammering. Your feet weren’t much better. The captain stands in the middle of the deck, arms splayed out arrogantly as men and women alike cringed, grimaced, and hid their faces behind their hands. The rookie had stumbled again; she hadn’t done a well enough job.

Understanding washes over him, and Ace feels anger swell in his chest as he studies the damage on your skin.

“Anyway,” You sigh, because yes, it’s time you moved on… but to what? “I’m just… not used to being treated like… like this.”

Ace wanted to say he understood, and to a certain extent he did – he understood why you chose to isolate yourself; he understood why you weren’t a big fan of eating. It brought back memories, and you probably weren't accustomed to acting freely, unlike everyone else on this entire ship. Sadly, though, he could never understand the pain you must’ve endured.

You don’t expect much from him after that story. You’d left huge parts of it out, clearly, and his reaction was the reason why.

Outrage, anger, disgust. That’s all you could see in his eyes; a flickering flame waiting to become an inferno. But it never did.

“It’s okay.” He mumbles instead, and you noticed his hand was still on your shoulder. You cock your head to the side, a tiny, anxious smile on your face. “You’re okay now.”

Oddly enough, you believe him.

(x)

Three months later after the day you’d joined the crew, the Whitebeard family is celebrating their father’s birthday. Drinks are gulped down, music plays, and people are dancing. On this particular night, none of the nurses are nagging the old man, too busy partying. The commanders linger close to the captain, conversing happily, Ace included.

“Ace!”

The man in question perks up at the sound of his name, hat protecting his eyes from the evening sun as he searches the deck. He gulps down his drink, tankard in hand when he sees you running up to him. There’s a broad grin on your face and your (eye colour) eyes are bright. The men around him secretly share knowing glances.

You halt right in front of him, breathing laboured from the sprint and cheeks red. Ace feels the same shade of red crawl up his neck, but he hides it behind his confidence.

“(name), what’s up?” Your grin is infectious. The corners of his lips twitch upward, and he can practically hear Thatch’s teasing inside his head.

“Nothing, I just… I wanted to give you something.” You explain, your spine straight and fists balled. Your expression, despite the obvious signs of mild inner turmoil, doesn’t change.

Ace peers down at your empty hands, eyebrows pinching in bemusement. “Oh? Really?”

You nod vigorously.

“Well… what is it, then?”

You slide a foot forward, take a step, put yourself in his personal bubble. He doesn’t mind. Years of roughhousing Luffy and the close contact on the ship do that to a person.

“This,” You whisper, a somewhat mischievous gleam in your eyes as you brace your hands on his shoulders and quickly press your lips to his before he can respond.

At first, he doesn’t react, shocked to his very core as he stares at your forehead with wide eyes. Your eyes are scrunched shut, and your nose bumps against his. A second later, he’s responding to your kiss without thinking, applying the tiniest amount of pressure as bliss, delight, and utter confusion flood his being.

You pull back to gauge his reaction, laughing when you see that his grey eyes are still impossibly wide, blinking rapidly as if to reset his brain. The commanders and everyone that witnessed your actions laugh and cheer, whooping and whistling wolfishly. You hear Izo yell ‘about time!’ over the ruckus, and can’t help another chuckle when Thatch high-fives a group of men closest to him. Coincidently, it's the same group that' been on deck gazing at you when you exited the sick bay.

Ace, eventually, snaps out of his daze, his free hand coming up to gently, ever so slowly, grip one of your wrists. He can feel your rapid pulse beneath his thumb. A vibrant shade of red dusts his cheeks, making his freckles pop, and you grin. He slings an arm around your shoulders and hugs you close, the unspoken statement clear as day to you.

You’re okay now.

 

 

"You knew all along, didn't you ~yoi?"

"Gurararara!" Whitebeard smirks. "Perhaps I did, my son. Perhaps I did."

"Seriously, Pops? Do you know how long it took me to get her to talk to me?" Thatch demands incredulously, "I can't believe Ace managed to get her to open up, knowing how he is."

"Hey! What's that supposed to mean?" 

You laugh softly, burying your face in Ace's neck, cheeks reddening in embarrassment yet feeling too at peace to care.

 

Chapter Text

Those words might just haunt you for the rest of your existence.

“…This project will be due in two weeks.”

A figure drawing project… Great.

Third week into the year, and you’re already diving into the difficult shit.

You release a sigh through your nose and rise from your seat. Waving to your teacher, you exit the large classroom and into the vast hall, pondering over your new assignment.

The first stages, which were few, did not require too much thinking. On the handout provided, the first step was to find a live model. That is, a person who will be willing to pose for you for several hours, almost every day.

Now, you knew people. You had friends. But you doubted many would be willing to put themselves through that torture. You thought that maybe you could hire someone, but then you realized that you’re poor and you need to eat.

Thankfully though, you had a plan B.

Fishing out your phone from your pocket, you insert your code, tap on the phone app, and call your closest friend. Three rings later, the man answers cheerily.

“Hey, (name)! Haven’t heard from you in a while!”

“Hey, Ace.” You greet, cracking up slightly at the very mild southern accent coming through the other end. “How have you been?”

“Been doin’ good! How about you? You don’t call me unless you really need something.” Ace – and you don’t need to see it to know – grins, chuckling at your affronted scoffing.

“I’m good too…” You trail off, rounding a corner and letting your shoulders slump when you spot the main entrance. “And… yeah, I do need something.”

“Shocker,” Ace laughs harder, but not unkindly. He’s well aware of how much teasing you can take. “Whaddya need?”

“Okay, so, you’re a second year.” You start, hearing his confirmatory hum. “Remember the figure drawing project?”

“Oh! Yeah…” Ace hisses, as if burned by the very memory, which was technically accurate. The day Luffy snuck into his studio and fiddled with the hot glue guns was not very fun for him. “How long did they give you?”

“Two weeks. Two weeks to do this damn thing.”

“And I’m assuming you need someone to model for you?”

“…yeah.”

Ace is silent for a moment or two. You push the doors open and step outside, appreciating the smell of grass and the slight chill.

Finally, he snaps his finger and says, “I think I can get someone to model for you.

“Really?” You exclaim, then remember to keep your voice lowered when someone turns to look in your direction. Clearing your throat, you mumble, “Who?”

“My brother; he’s free and looking for something to do, anyway,” He answers casually, and you freeze, face twisting into a grimace. Oh no.

“You mean… and I mean no offense… Luffy?”

At this, Ace chortles quietly, as if reminiscing about the accident from last year. “Nah, my other brother. His name is—”

Suddenly, he’s interrupted by a boisterous voice in the background, “AAACE!”

“Uh oh,” Ace mumbles, “That’s my cue to go. I’ll send him over tomorrow. Is that okay?”

You startle, falling back into a steady pace as you stammer, “Wait, no, Ace, you haven’t even–” The promptly get cut off when Ace ends the call abruptly. That jerk.

You frown down at your phone screen and your reflection, then shake your head. Might as well prepare for tomorrow.

You just hope that whoever Ace plans on partnering with you isn’t as bad as his hyperactive brother. Nothing against the kid, of course, you just didn’t have the energy to deal with any more than necessary.

(x)

Sabo narrows his eyes at the hastily scribbled address, courtesy of his brother Ace, and looks up at the door in front of him. The lady at the front desk hadn’t been very helpful when giving him directions.

The blond shakes his head, wondering what in the world he’d gotten himself into. It hadn’t even been him; he’d walked into the apartment to Ace roughhousing Luffy on the couch – probably over food – when he’d received the news. 

"Hey, Sabo!” Ace shoved Luffy’s face away, panting and grinning before he blinked, expression falling for a second. “You have to go meet someone tomorrow.”

"First of all, what are you two doing now? Second of all, why do I need to meet someone tomorrow?” He’d asked incredulously, walking over to a grunting Luffy and peeling him off of Ace. Ace grinned, sitting up far too smugly.

“They need help with a project, and since you’ve been free lately, I thought I’d send you over.”

" Seriously?”

" Seriously.”

And that’s why and how he ended up here, in a part of the city he didn’t know, backpack slung over his shoulder. He adjusted his grip on the strap of his bag, craning his neck to check if anyone was in the hall. If someone were to see him, what would they think?

Deciding to take the risk, the blond raps his knuckles on the wood and waits patiently. When he hears nothing on the other side of the door for a good minute, he twists the doorknob, surprised to find the room unlocked.

He’s even more surprised at what he discovers.

The first thing he notices is the capaciousness, despite what the size and outer appearance of the building suggested. The walls are made up oak planks deep in colour, save for one, which was made up of large, rectangular windows. They are framed by thin white curtains. Lustrous rays of sunlight bounce off the floor, pooling in the very centre, and Sabo realizes the ceiling is also partially made of windows. 

Throughout the area, he spots canvases, some bare, some with paint splattered on them. The way that they’ve been placed forms a strange sort of pathway, almost like a labyrinth. Sabo dares a step forward, still gripping the doorknob as he scans the room, awed.

A bit closer, he realizes that most of the canvases scattered around the room are finished paintings. They all vary in size, colour, composition, and styles. Some he can see are of people, others are landscapes, and others are things that he’s used to seeing in a museum – simple, yet nice to look at.

So far, whoever this person is, they’ve made a good impression on him.

Sabo carefully ventures further into the room, hoping that whoever he’s meeting is in here. His dress shoes echo eerily in the quietude. He doesn’t find anyone.

He rolls his shoulders, a tad anxious at having entered such a delicate and obviously private place without permission. He’s about to head back outside when he hears a soft voice behind him.

“Uh… who are you?”

Startled, he whirls around, facing a woman standing in the doorway. Her eyes are narrowed suspiciously, almost angrily, and her stance is wide. Panicked, Sabo raises his hands in a placating manner.

“I’m Sabo, Ace’s brother.” He says, praying that the person he’s looking at is the right one after everything, “Are you (name)?”

(x)

There was someone in your studio. A handsome, broad-shouldered, slim man, but someone nonetheless.

You tighten your grip on the bag of art supplies you’d brought with you, straightening your spine and staring deep into his wide, blue eyes. He looks… nice enough to trust, you supposed.

“Yeah,” You breathe after you’re finished searching the room for any damage and find none. “I’m (name).”

The man visibly relaxes at your statement, and you feel the corners of your lips twitch upward. Yeah, he’s not bad… so far.

“I didn’t know you were coming in so early.” You admitted, tilting your head to the side as you cross the threshold. Sabo blinks, a hesitant smile playing at his lips.

“I can drop by at a later date, if you’d like. Ace gave me few details yesterday, so I didn’t want to come in too late.” He explains, shrugging his shoulders, his voice lowered.

Oh, no, no!” You throw your arms out pleadingly. There was no way you were going to let him go. Nu-uh, no way, Jose. “You don’t have to go. I’m sorry, I was just surprised – I didn’t mean to sound rude.”

Sabo’s smile reaches his eyes this time, and you instantly return the gesture with one of your own, albeit smaller. Sighing in relief, you place the bag beside a workbench crowded with papers and unfinished sculptures.

“I have to get things set up, so you can hang out if you want. Is that okay?”

Sabo nods once, “Of course! Not a problem.” He says kindly, watching you scramble to the far side of the room, where there are numerous blank canvases. He takes a seat on the stool underneath the skylight, his bag leaning against the legs.

He pulls out his phone while you’re busy moving paintings, easels, and other things towards the walls. When you’re done, the centre of the room is bare save for the blond. Grabbing on last canvas, you spare a glance in his direction, feet halting the second you take in what’s in front of you.

Noticing the absence of footsteps, Sabo looks up at you from his phone, awkwardly looking away for a brief moment when he sees your staring. He meets your eye, which is brave of him, considering you haven’t stopped gaping.

“Is everything okay?” He asks, tone of voice still far too kind. You shake your head, grinning shyly.

“Yeah, yeah, I just… had a sudden idea, is all.” You confessed, a blush colouring your cheeks. Sabo’s dazzling smile roots you in your place, and you have to force your body into motion.

“Anyway, I’m done getting set up.” You declare, hoping to disperse the awkwardness lingering in the air. The blond straightens up at your words, eyebrows raised expectantly.

“What do you need me to do?”

Oh God, here comes the even more awkward part.

“I, uhm…” Sabo continues to wait, tucking his phone in his pocket, and you feel shame slithering up your spine at a sudden realization. This man, whom you’ve just met, who has calmly sat down on a stool, does not have the foggiest idea. He… he doesn’t know. “I need you to…” You gesture weakly, face burning. Giving up, you cover your face with your hands.

Sabo’s expression morphs into one of concern as he stands, walking towards you, “(name)?” You peek through your separated fingers, then uncover your face and wipe your shirt free from wrinkles.

It’s not like you haven’t drawn live models before – you have, many times, in fact. It just didn’t feel right asking a complete stranger, who was Ace’s brother. This good-looking guy who’s done nothing but be pleasant company so far. You’re going to scare him off! And then your project will go down the drain!

Sucking in a deep, steadying breath, you blurt in an emotionless voice: “I need you to remove your clothing.”

Sabo freezes, you freeze, the whole world fucking stops to witness your doom.

You study his face, hiding your lips behind your fingertips. There are gears turning in his head, you know, because he’s glancing all around the room. Each time his eyes bounce to another spot, his cheeks turn a little redder, so at least you know you’re not the only one that’s embarrassed.

“Oh.” He heaves at last, and you smack your hands over your face again.

“I’m sorry! I thought– I thought Ace told you!” Stupid Ace! How could you do this to me?!

“It’s… It’s fine.” Sabo chuckles breezily, scratching the back of his head. Just what had his brother gotten him into, “It’s for a project, right?”

“Yes…”

Sabo – you want to bless his soul – shrugs. “Then, it’s okay. I’ll do it.”

The sound you let out is between a sob and a laugh, and Sabo has to choke back his own sounds of nervous amusement. “Really? I haven’t spooked you, have I?”

“No… no, of course not,” He assures you gently, and you feel like crying.

Immediately, you rush to gather your supplies, thanking him profusely. He slumps down on the stool, observing the scene you’re putting up before glancing down at his clothes.

What had his brother gotten him into?

(x)

Having a man anxiously undress while you’re in the room was horrifying, to say the least. You peer at Sabo from behind the canvas. He’s still seated on the stool, a silk blanket you’d cut up for this situation concealing what doesn’t need to be in the painting. Ahem.

He’s been struggling to keep his expression neutral like you’d asked him to do after he was sufficiently covered. There’s a twitch in his brow, and his eyes aren’t as calm as before. You know why, and you can’t help but feel guilty.

Once he’d removed… everything, and covered up, he’d informed you he was ready. You had been facing away from him to be courteous, counting the planks on the wall. When you turned back around, you froze… again, ideas bursting inside your mind like fireworks, each one better than the last.

He was… perfect?

At least, that was what the artist inside you kept hollering.

Sabo had tucked some of his hair behind his ear, and that’s when you finally spotted the scar on his face. The pinkish colour made his blue eyes pop, more than they already did when you first saw him. It covers part of his brow bone and temple. There are scars similar to that one marring the skin of his clavicle and left shoulder, but they’re not as prominent.

Still. He was perfect. His skin was tanned, which complimented the background you had in mind. He was well-built, which made proportions a far simpler task. And he was just plain gorgeous as a human being, so that was a bonus too.

Overall, the best subject you could’ve ever hoped for. Your need to murder Ace has taken a seat for now.

You had just about finished the sketch, which had taken fifteen minutes longer than usual, but for good reason. You wanted your piece to be as close to the real thing as possible. The oil painting would start soon.

“Sabo,” You call softly as to not scare him. Sabo doesn’t move – something you’d strictly, yet kindly, ordered him to do. Good thing he listens.

“Yes…?” He returns just as softly, eyes scanning the scenery outside as he lists things off in his head. Tree branches swaying in the breeze, greens, browns, sun shining.

“Could you tilt your head a bit to the left?”

“My left?”

You hum.

“Sure,” He follows your instruction, but it’s not…

“A little less?” Sabo feels an amused smile coming on despite his anxiety. He tries adjusting his head like you want him to, but it’s still not good enough. “Hold on…” You murmur, rounding your canvas as you pull back the sleeves of your shirt. Sabo stiffens when you extend both hands, bringing them close to his face. “May I?”

Sabo’s eyes lock with yours. There’s a smudge of paint on your cheek from when you were preparing your oil paints. He sees no ill intent and wills his mind to focus on that, insecurity bleeding into his features without his consent.

“...sure,” He repeats, eyes slipping shut. Your fingers brush against his jaw in a feathery touch, and he holds his breath as you guide his head into position. He senses your movements as you lean down closer to him.

“There… you can open your eyes again. Thank you so much.” He feels your breath ghosting over his nose and lips, and, just like that, you disappear behind your canvas again.

Sabo opens his eyes, blinking against the sun as he stares outside. The only sound in the room is the scratching of a pencil against the soft material of the canvas.

You spare your subject one last glance, noting that his expression is finally under control and that he doesn’t appear as conflicted as before. Smiling secretly, you place your pencil down, and begin the second stage. Painting.

(x) 

The painting, if you were to say so yourself, and you are, was coming along beautifully. Not only that, but your teacher said so too when you presented him with a progress picture.

Everyday, at 6PM, Sabo drops by your studio. Each time he did, you felt the butterflies fluttering in your stomach worsen. Not because he had to strip or whatever, but because he was so… kind. Patient. Helpful. The best company you’ve ever allowed into your second home.

And both of you weren’t as nervous, either. After the third class, the blond had become increasingly relaxed, and witnessing that, so had you. After each arduous session, where you would spend hours slogging away with the oil paints and he would sit still, things just kept… getting better. Sometimes, you’d invite him behind the canvas when he was fully dressed again, pointing out your progress. The first time, he had been so amazed his jaw had dropped to the floor, earning a laugh from you.

“There’s no way you drew that.”

“You’ve literally watched me paint, Sabo, what do you mean I didn’t paint it?”

“It’s… it’s too good! I- I can't believe that's me. But… wait… why is my skin grey?”

“Greyscale. Helps put down the flesh colours later.” Sabo nodded, mouth forming a small ‘O’.

And so that’s how the first week and a half went. Three days before the due date, and you were almost done painting.

But there was still something missing. And you didn’t know what.

“I think it looks good.” Sabo said earnestly when you mentioned your troubles to him. You shook your head, flattered but frustrated at the same time.

“Thank you, but… I don’t know. I feel like I could add just one more thing.”

You scrutinize your painting, arms crossed over your chest. The composition was quite simple. You sketched Sabo out on the right hand side of the canvas, leaving room for beams of light to filter in through a window. You’d used a palette knife and vertical strokes to create a feathery, washed out texture in the background surrounding him. It did well creating the illusion of a worn-down, alabaster wall. Honestly, you couldn’t have used a better medium.

It looked like he was in a room, seated on a marble stone with just the silk blanket as a garment. At one point, while painting, you decided to have him lean against a wall. You made this vision easier to achieve by placing a stark white backdrop behind him. The colours, overall, were pretty light and faded, with his hair being the most prominent feature, seeing as it was golden. It made him look like he was glowing. Which he was, most of the time, since he was right beneath the skylight…. Now that’s a sight you’ll never forget.

Then, it hits you.

“Sabo, what’s your favourite flower?”

“…My favourite flower?” He sounds shocked.

“Yep.”

“I… I don’t know… maybe geraniums–”

“That’s it! I have an idea.” You gush, smiling as a million pictures of all the different things you could do with that flower flash through your mind. “Oh, Sabo, you just saved – wait, you actually have a favourite flower?” You wonder out loud, eyes snapping to his. He clears his throat, looking away with red cheeks.

“Maybe… but don’t tell Ace?”

“That’s cute.” You grin, cupping your cheek with a hand. Who would’ve thought?

Flustered, Sabo saunters over to his backpack. “So… you’ll paint those flowers and hand it in?”

“Well, kind of? We’re presenting it to the class.” You elaborate and see how Sabo falters slightly when bending down to grab his bag. “Why do you ask?” Sabo stands up, throwing his bag over his shoulder with a smile. There’s sadness in his eyes, though.

“It’s nothing,” The blond dismisses your concern with a wave, but you don’t buy it. Even so, you don’t question him any further.

Sabo’s footsteps echo in the room as he calmly heads to the door. You do nothing but watch, your inner turmoil expanding with each step he takes.

Talk to him! Ask him! Ask him!

“Hey, Sabo,” You start, grinning as he stops and looks at you, eyebrow raised.

“Yeah?”

Marching over to a nearby desk, you take the nearest pen and paper and quickly scribble your phone down on it. When you’re done, you bee-line to the awaiting blond and hand him the paper. He stares at it for a long moment, unsure of how to react.

((Sabo thinks he might’ve stopped functioning properly when he saw the numbers on it and your encouraging smile.))

“Call me… if you want…” Your grin turns sheepish and your cheeks are hot. Sabo blinks the surprise off his face and smiles so wide it’s impossible to look away.

“Yeah,” He agrees, folding the piece of paper up and tucking it into his pocket. “You know, I had a lot of fun. I thought it was going to be a lot worse.” Sabo laughs and you join him.

“Same here,” You rub your arms, “When Ace told me someone was coming over to my studio, I didn’t know what to expect. Thank you for being so patient and putting up with me.”

“It was my pleasure!” He blurts immediately, face flushing at the fact that he’d raised his voice. “I mean… yeah… sorry, I–”

“It’s fine,” You chortle at the way he can go from polite to an adorable mess, and Sabo grins at you, reaching for the doorknob. “I’ll see you around?”

“Yes, of course! I’m glad I could be of help.” Sabo opens the door the rest of the way, stepping out and swinging it shut. When you hear the familiar click and steady tapping down the hall, you relax, puffing out your cheeks.

“I can’t believe I just did that."

(x)

You aced the damn thing.

If your teacher had loved it before, he was completely head over heels for it after it was finished. You spent half an hour speaking to him about how your ideas came to mind, bringing Sabo into the conversation because God knows you wouldn’t have been able to do it without him. Your teacher seemed interested in the fellow, which was always good.

Now outside, you excitedly grab your phone, dialling Sabo. You’d been texting each other the past three days and you couldn’t have been happier.

“Hello?” You hear on the other end.

“Sabo! Oh my God, he loved it! I think– I think I did really well?!” You stammer, raking your hand through your hair as you begin the trek to your apartment building.

“Really? That’s awesome, (name)!” He shares your enthusiasm, his free hand forming a fist in his excitement.

“Yeah! He said I couldn’t have picked a better model. God, Sabo, you’re a lifesaver!”

Sabo’s face turns a hundred different shades of red; he’s glad you’re not there to see him.

“Nahhh…”

“You have to let me make it up to you.” You state, tone of voice suddenly serious. Sabo coughs, having accidentally choked on air at your words. “Sabo?”

“I’m- I’m good.” He coughs one more time, “B-but, you don’t have to. Really.”

“Hell yeah I do. How does dinner at the Baratie sound?”

“You know that restaurant?” Sabo demands, happiness flooding his being when you answer his question with ‘heck yeah, that place is great!’.  He drags a hand down the side of his face in disbelief. “Yeah, that sounds… great, actually."

“All right, cool, I’ll send you the details later! See you on Sunday?”

“See you on Sunday.” Sabo grins, biting his lip. He keeps the phone to his ear for a little while after you hang up, still not knowing what to believe.

On the couch, Ace, who’d been listening to the whole thing with a raised eyebrow and a shit-eating grin, drawls, “You’re welcome~” Which earns him a smack on the shoulder after Sabo is done spluttering like a fish.

Chapter Text

You roll your shoulders, hefting your bag up higher as you insert the key into the lock of your apartment. The door clicks as it unlocks, and you push it open, already feeling a smile appearing.

“I’m home,” You call, hearing the clinking of weights in the living room. There’s a reply that you can’t really make out, but you don’t mind. Shutting the door, you drop your bag and remove your shoes, sauntering into the living room. Zoro, shirtless as usual, doesn’t look up from the floor, sweat beading his brow.

Knowing better than to bother him, you move past him into the kitchen, intent on starting on dinner so you could rest later on. You open the fridge, pulling out a couple ingredients to begin with. Walking over to the counter, you place the lettuce, tomato, and pack of meat you’d purchased a few days prior down.

The faint sound of footsteps reaches your ears, almost silent, and you smile when an arm snakes around your waist. Had he done it months ago, you would’ve jumped right out of your skin, but you’re used to his tendency to enter rooms unannounced.

“Hey,” You say softly, craning your neck to press a kiss to his cheek. Zoro grunts in reply, observing you quietly as you open the pack of meat.

After that’s done, you wriggle out of his grip, taking the lettuce with you to wash it. With your back to him, you turn the faucet on and start washing the vegetable, humming lowly.

You sense him approaching again, this time a bit slower, and you glance at him over your shoulder. “How was work?”

Zoro grunts again but does provide a reply. “The usual.”

You grin, twisting the faucet so that the stream of water halts. “That’s good.”

Zoro doesn’t reply. Instead, he raises his hand and lets his fingertips brush your hair. “You got a haircut."

Blinking, you dry your hands off and card a hand through your hair. “Yeah, I did.” You laughed softly, facing him and leaning against the counter. “I wasn’t even planning on mentioning it. Didn’t think you’d notice.”

Zoro smiles, the back of his hand caressing your cheek. You close your eyes. “Yeah, well, I did.”

“Does it look good?” You ask, feeling a bit self-conscious now that the matter has been brought up. The man in front of you hums, bringing his face closer to yours. You know because you can feel his breath on your lips.

“Yeah, it looks good.”

 Chuckling, you allow your eyes to flutter open, meeting his dark ones. “That took you a while to answer, love.”

Zoro makes a sound between amusement and embarrassment at the nickname. He gives you some space, and also the perfect view of his bare torso. Resting your hands on his shoulders with a teasing grin, you add, “Thank you.”

He mumbles something incoherent, and you release another chuckle as you hug him.

“How about you?” His voice resounds deep in his chest, and you tighten your grip, listening to his ever-so-steady heartbeat.

“Work was fine,” You sigh, feeling the tension from the day leaving your body. Days were always fine when you got home to this. “The usual.”

You feel him nod, then cup a hand over his mouth to quieten a yawn. Straightening up, you raise an eyebrow at him and free him from your hold. “Tired?” Zoro nods again, and you smile fondly. Glancing back at the lettuce in the sink, you shrug, take his hand, and drag him into the living room.

He grumbles protests until your shove him and he flops down on the couch. Immediately, he relaxes with a profound but relieved sigh, and you cross your arms over your chest, watching him.

Eventually, once he’s finished stretching, he looks up at you and realizes you’ve been staring at him. Zoro arches an eyebrow in your direction, but you’re too busy peeling your light jacket off you to notice. When that’s done, you sit on the edge of the cushion, kick off your shoes, and curl up next to him.

Zoro makes room for you to settle down, and when you do, you feel close to falling asleep. You would try to fight it, but with him already snoring lightly, it’s hard to.

And so you sleep.

 

 

Chapter Text

Today, surprisingly, it was silent on the Thousand Sunny. Knowing her captain and crew overall, this type of occasion seemed rarer than the priciest treasure out there. You appreciated these kinds of days, where one was finally allowed to slow down and breathe. Waves gently lapped at the hull of the ship.

You’d decided to spend the morning out in the grassy deck, intent on observing the great blue ocean when an all too familiar voice called out to you.

 “Ah, good morning, (name)-san!” You smile, turning to find Brook waving at you from his seat against the main mast. Walking over to him, you wave back and plop down beside him with a sigh.

“Hey, Brook.” You greet after you’ve made yourself comfy, stretching your arms over your head. “It’s quiet today, huh?”

Brook hums, a decorated cup of tea held between his thumb and index finger, the plate that goes with the cup in his other hand. “Yes, it is, (name)-san. It seems that even the strawhat pirates can have a day of quietude.” You grin at his comment, nodding your agreement. Rare were the days where Luffy wasn’t causing a ruckus, snickering and yelling. You wondered what he was up to.

Considering it was still early in the morning, probably ordering Sanji to give him food and give it to him now, I’m hungryyy.

“What were you doing out here?” You muse, “Other than… drinking tea.” Your words lag a little, for no particular reason other than how the heck does this 8-foot skeleton eat and drink? It was a mystery you never truly decyphered.

Brook seems to lighten up at your question. Setting the cup of tea at his side, out of your line of vision, he presents you with a sheet of paper. There are words written down on it and you come to realize that it’s the lyrics to a song unfamiliar to you.

“Is this an original?” You ask in amazement as you read the words, kind of gaping but not really because that would be too embarrassing for you. Brook sits up proudly, clearing his throat to answer your question.

“Yes, it is! Do you like it?” He asks, head swivelling to look at you, and you nod your head vigorously.

“It’s different from the usual shanty,” You say truthfully, “but it’s still very nice. Didn’t expect you to go with a romantic tone.”

“Thank you very much for words, (name)-san. It’s wonderful to hear you like it, even if I don’t have any ears! Yohoho~!” Brook laughs, a boisterous sound that always brings a smile to your face. You hand him the paper, biting your lip pensively when he takes it back and turns away from you.

“How does it go?” You inquire, because the other question dancing merrily in the back of your mind is also too embarrassing for you, it seemed.

Brook pauses, staring at you for a moment before quietly clearing his throat. His eyes (or… where his eyes should be, really) find the unfurled sail with the strawhat’s jolly roger printed on it.

And he sings.

Haunt me in my dreams, if you please…” The words come softly at first then gain strength as continues to sing. You close your eyes as you listen, cupping your cheek with a hand.

Every other sound you’d been hearing before – from the sounds of the ocean to the sounds emanating from the kitchen – fade away, deadened by Brook’s voice. Even though it’s meant to have an accompanying instrument – the piano, most likely, it’s still very beautiful.

Far too quickly, it ends.

You open your eyes when the last few words stop echoing inside your mind, blinking in… disbelief? Admiration? You don’t know, really.

“Wow,” You heave, earning a smile from the skeleton. “You have to teach me. Can you?” You’re not sure your voice is as melodious as his, but… well, it was either ask, or remain silent, regretting it for the rest of your life.

“Of course I can teach you, (name)-san!” He exclaims happily, ecstatic.

And so he does. He runs through the song with you, showing you how you can sing it better or how to not strain in certain parts. At first, you’re shy. Your voice is barely above a murmur and you’re fidgety, but you grow more comfortable over time with Brook’s encouragement and compliments.

“Shall we go from the beginning, then, (name)-san?” Brook extends the paper towards you and you take it from him, shrugging nervously.

 “I mean, if you want?” You reply, shrinking slightly. What if someone hears?

Taking this as your answer, he yohoho’s and raises his hand like a director would normally do. You force your shoulders to relax and sit up higher, willing your heart to remain at a reasonable speed.

With a few short motions, you begin.

1, 2, 3…

“Haunt me in my dreams, if you please…”

Knowing that this is the real deal and not just some lesson, you’re awkward and shy. Some notes are shakier than others, but the skeleton beside you doesn’t seem to mind. His hand keeps moving, carrying out a steady tempo for both of you to follow. He looks at you, and despite his lack of eyes, the statement is still clear.

Sing.

“Your breath is with me now, and always… It's like a breeze…”

Brook joins in, confident and sure but still somewhat withdrawn, as if waiting for you. You feel anxious about this bit of knowledge, not wanting him to feel like he needs to hide his talent because of you.

With this thought in mind, you raise your voice a fraction, remembering to inhale deeply so as to not sound out of breath.  

“So, should you ever doubt me, if it's help that you need… Never dare to doubt me.”

The last line is sung more confidently, and you smile up at Brook, who returns the gesture.

Brook’s hand movements suddenly stop, and you both stop singing for a second before the skeleton begins humming what you think is the accompanying part. Since he doesn’t have his violin, he makes due with his voice. You watch, content with listening but also attentive in case his hand starts moving again.

On the other side of the deck, the door to the kitchen is opened quietly so as to not disturb you two. Numerous heads poke out from within, and Luffy nearly yells something out when Nami smacks a hand over his mouth, silencing the boy. Sanji, Robin, Franky, Chopper, and Usopp are smiling, some more openly than others, while Zoro has an eyebrow arched curiously.

The group slowly exits the room, sticking close to the wall so you don’t notice the movement.

Brook’s hand moves again, and you suck in a deep breath before you two begin the last stanza.

“And if you want to sleep, I'll be quiet…”  

Nami hisses like an angry cat when she realizes that Luffy licked her hand to get out of her hold. Hadn’t you been singing, she probably would’ve tried throwing him overboard. Luffy snickers mischievously and continues watching silently when Robin lifts a finger up to her lips. Chopper and Usopp are hugging each other close, mouths and eyes wide open in wonder.

Like an angel…"

When you sing this stanza, you wait a second before shocking yourself and everyone else by harmonizing with him. Your hands close around your knees in excitement and satisfaction and you want to squeal, but you carry on singing.

“As quiet as your soul could be… if you only knew, you had a friend like me...”

The stanza ends with you grinning so wide that your cheeks hurt, but you don’t care much. Brook hums the rest of the accompanying part while you sway slowly, memorizing the tune.

At this point, the rest of the strawhat pirates have taken several brave steps forward, huddled together as a group. Franky is about to yell ‘SUPER!’ when a pair of hands sprout from his shoulders and clap over his mouth. Robin hides her smile behind one of her actual hands.

This time, you do hear the muffled sounds of a struggle, and when you spot the rest of the crew, watching and listening and there, you almost climb up the mast to escape. Brook stops humming when he notices them as well, brightening up at the prospect of an audience.

“Ah, hello, everyone! What a fine day we are having, no?” Brook chortles, waving at them as you curl up, hugging your knees.

“Hi…” You mumble, wishing you could internally combust. Your cheeks are a vivid shade of red and everyone is still staring. They hadn’t replied to Brook’s greeting, much to his confusion and to your chagrin.

“I didn’t know you could sing!!” Luffy yells, marching right up to you with his usual grin. You scoot closer to the skeleton at your side, smiling anxiously.

“Ha, that’s because I kind of can’t…” You murmur.

“Nonsense,” Robin starts with a calming smile, “Your voice is beautiful, (name).” She adds, smile widening when Chopper nods enthusiastically.

“Yeah, (name)! It was SUUUPER good!” Franky tacks on, posing, and you feel a bit more relaxed.

“We heard you from the kitchen,” Usopp tacks on with a grin, “You’re really good!”

At that moment, Sanji storms over to you and grips your hands. When you see the enamoured gleam in his blue eyes, you blanch quite obviously.

“Dear (name), you have the most enchanting voice I have heard! Like a siren, luring sailors forth with her beauty!” His rambling continues all until Nami has to pry him off you, which amuses the silent swordsman in the background.

“It was really good, (name).” The redhead says to you when the blond has been released. “And what about you? What did you think, Zoro?”

The swordsman perks up at the sound of his name. He meets Nami’s eyes, then yours, and nods. “It was good.”

Despite the simple phrase, as per usual from the swordsman, it still meant a lot to you. Your blush darkens visibly, and you hide your cheeks with your hands as you mumble your thanks.

“It was more than good, marimo!” Sanji claims, offended that Zoro would use such language. Zoro rolls his eyes, which angers the blond further, and soon the two are fighting again. Luffy laughs in the background, Nami starts yelling at the two, and the rest look on with amusement in their eyes.

Brook, still seated beside you, bends down to your level with a murmur of your name.

“May I request something from you?”

You give your full attention, grateful for all he's done for you, and nod your head once. “Of course!”

Brook stops for a second or two, and then…

“May I see your pan-”

You fake a laugh, feeling your cheeks flare up again and threatening to melt right off your face. “Nice try, skeleton!”

Brook is disheartened by your quick deflection of his request, and to cure him of his sadness, you hug him with a soft chuckle, watching the rest of the crew mill about fondly.

That action flips his mood back to chirpy, and he releases his famous laugh, attracting the attention of a certain blond. Sanji points a finger at the skeleton accusingly, demanding that he gets off you, but you wave your hand and shake your head. You’re happy the way you are, and so is the skeleton in your arms.

 

Chapter Text

The music in the club roared through you, drowning out the voice of the man – wait, pardon you, the creep trying to coax a response out of you. Swirling your drink, you watch the contents inside the glass spin around, eyes half-lidded and bored. Your eyes itched annoyingly, the makeup you put on them slightly smudged from attempting to wipe the exhaustion away.

“Come on, it’ll be fun–” The man tried a fourth time, reaching out to lightly brush your arm with his fingertips. Jerking away from him, you downed your drink and jumped off the stool, slamming some money on the counter. 

“Sorry, not interested!” You yelled, hoping that the idiot had heard. If he didn’t, well… your fuck budget had reached zero, so it didn’t matter much.

You walk away, weaving your way through the seething mass of dancing bodies, towards the exit. It was about time you went home and forgot about this shit day.

Shoving past a woman flailing her arms wildly, you rub soothing circles into your temple, trying to ease an oncoming headache. People bump into you, threatening to knock you off your feet, but you manage to make it out without having to fall face-first to the floor.

You heave your purse further up your shoulder, gripping the straps angrily as you open the door and trudge past the line of people still waiting to be let inside. Checking behind you for the creep from before, you are relieved to find that he hadn’t followed you out. Good.

The clicking of your heels grows as you distance yourself from the club, almost to the point that the sound is nothing but eerie. You rummage through your purse and find your phone, gripping it tightly. This street isn’t foreign to you, but being alert was a must around this area. Groups of people huddled together prowled the streets more often than not, seeking the kind of excitement that led to trouble.

And, whether it was by coincidence or not, it was where Kid typically hung out – usually in an abandoned building that he’d turned into his workshop, tinkering with cars or whatever else he found. Or, if he was in the mood, stole from some unfortunate soul. It didn’t matter who it was or where they came from. Once he was interested, there was no swaying him.

You’d debated calling him several times while drowning your sorrows in that club. But, then you’d realized just how many times he’d told you that the guy you were going after wasn’t worth it. And to be honest, you weren’t in the mood for his smug attitude today.

Still, it would be nice to be able to talk to someone about it. Even if it did have to be an ass like him.

You make a sharp turn, thumbing your phone case thoughtfully. Whenever you were subjected to his smartass replies, it gnawed away your patience and distracted you from everything. Sure, it wasn’t the best way to handle things, but it was better than turning to other weird shit like drugs.

With this in mind, you unlock your phone and find the man’s contact information. You check for any cars before crossing the street, letting your mind take you wherever it wishes to go.

Three rings after lightly tapping on the ‘call’ button, a gruff voice kindly greets you.

“What the hell do you want.”

You shake your head, looking down at your feet. “Nice to see you’ve missed me.”

Kid growls, which used to intimidate you, but after dropping by his workshop almost every week, the horror effect just isn’t there anymore. You opt to get right to the point to avoid angering him further.

“I’m gonna stop by your place for a couple of minutes. That cool?”

A scoff, “No.”

“’Kay,” You respond serenely, “I’ll be there soon.”

“What the fuck did I just sa—” You ended the call, speeding up a little as you made another turn.

At some other point in time, you would’ve gone elsewhere after being rejected like that, but you’d had enough of that tonight. Besides, it’s not like you were a nuisance all the time. On more than one occasion, Kid would demand for assistance, and you’d provide it. Whether it was handing him tools or shining a light on what he was working on, you were there to assist. Sure, it involved a lot of complaints and exasperated orders from the Scottish man, but that was the norm with a person like Kid.

Finally, the building came into view.

First, the worn sign labelled ‘GARAG’, with the missing ‘E’, in a bleached green. It was nailed in a way that made it seem it would fall any minute. Medium-sized, square windows lined the top half of each wall, some broken, and others cracked or intact. The entrance had large, rusted doors. Unsurprisingly, they were shut tight.

You banged your fist on the metal surface then cracked one of the doors open a second later. Poking your head through the gap, you scanned the vast area. Littered throughout the workshop were several cars, some with their hoods popped open still. They all varied from size, colours, and brands.

In the farthest corner of the room, you easily spotted Kid, looming over his newest addition to the collection.

His eyes snap to you when you enter the place, a certain irritation in them. You don’t know if it’s meant towards your arrival or at the vehicle in front of him. Kid is wearing a black tank top that has a tear in the side and a pair of old jeans. There are stains on his hands and one on his face, right across his nose. He raked his hands through his crimson hair, pushing some stray strands back only to have them fall back into place.

Kid focused on the car again when you approached slowly, something that was unexpected after the way he’d spoken to you. Not like you minded. You would take silence over his complaining.

You dropped your purse on an old stool. Grabbing a rag, you wiped down a counter before hauling yourself on top of it and sitting down. Kid spared you a glance, but remained silent.

Eventually, after a good five minutes, he pipes up.

“What brings you here, (name).” Kid’s tone of voice is one that leaves no room for bullshit, despite the normal question.

“Rejection,” You state, hoping that it’s enough to sate his curiosity. It isn’t.

“Oh, really...” He hums, shaking his head as he picks up a tool you don’t have a name for. “Don’t tell me it was…” The man pauses briefly, raising his eyes to yours. You don’t notice though, too busy avoiding his gaze.

The embarrassment and shame worsened when he scoffed. “I fuckin’ told you he wasn’t worth your time.” You rolled your eyes angrily, glaring at him.

“Yeah, you did.”

At your voice, Kid’s eyes flit over to you, but you’re back to gazing out the window. He scoffs again.

You note Kid’s shake of the head and the hammering that follows suit.

“That fuckin’ surgeon’s always been a good for nothin’ piece of…” You pick up on some of the words he says, but the rest are lost. After being so bluntly rejected by that fuckin’ surgeon, you’re happy to agree with whatever he’s saying.

“You said it.” You mumble, pulling out your phone to distract your brain from the stupid memory. Surfing through each app helps somewhat, but you run out of things to do at one point. With nothing else to do, you jump down from your seat, round the car, and peer down at what Kid’s hammering away at.

The actions stop for a fraction of a second as he realizes that you’ve changed locations and are now by his side. Then they carry on. You watch, interested, waiting for him to start ordering you around.

Two minutes. That’s all it takes.

“Pass me that.” There it is.

You do as you’re told, placing a wrench in Kid’s awaiting hand. He grunts, which is enough thanks.

This carries on for… you don’t even know how long. The noise, Kid’s grumbling, the breeze coming through the window… they all become white noise as you think about your afternoon. You’re so lost in thought you barely register when Kid requests a new tool, eyes faraway. You don’t even hear him calling your name.

Well, that is until he’s snapping his fingers in your face, scowling.

You lean away from his hand, frown returning as you distance yourself from him. “Yes?”

Kid is quick to respond. “If you’re just gonna ignore me, why the hell are you here?”

You rub circles into your temples, feeling the headache from earlier begin to throb. “I wasn’t ignoring– look, what do you need?” Kid’s mood seems to darken even more.

Then, out of the blue, he walks away abruptly, snatching the same rag you’d used to wipe his hands and prosthetic arm. The boots he’d donned boom against the concrete floor as he stomps around, grumbling. You nearly gawk at him, baffled.

You’re forced out of your daze when he tosses your purse at you, which you manage to catch with a yelp.

“Dude, what are you–” A loud BEEP interrupts you. The red 2006 Ford Mustang – the custom 2006 Ford Mustang, as he liked to say, has its front lights on. It’s the one car that Kid wouldn’t let you go near. Now here it was, sitting right beside the exit, ready for a stroll.

“Get in the car.” Kid orders, expecting you to do just that.

“Excuse me?” You hiss in disbelief. With his back turned to you, you can’t read his facial expression, but he’s just as an annoyed as you are. He throws his head back and aggressively cusses in Gaelic. Lucky for him, it’s enough convincing for you.

You climb in the car, entertaining the idea of slamming the door but deciding against it. Kid had yet to snap at you – which is shocking, because he looks ready to kick you out – so you huff and cross your arms.

Kid hops in a minute later, fixing the collar of his leather jacket as he inserts the key into the ignition switch. You observe from your seat, hugging your middle as you lean your head against the window.

The car rumbles to life. You notice Kid’s smirk at the way the vehicle responds so quickly.

And then you’re off.

You honestly wish you could say that being in the same car as Kid was safe. Sometimes, when he grew tired of the workshop, he picked up a key and zoomed through whatever street piqued his interest. You’d tag along if you had nothing else to do because you had to admit, there was a certain thrill to those late night escapades. Especially very late at night, when not a soul roamed the streets except you two.

You’re not sure about now, though. But it’s not like you had much of a choice, anyway. The car was already pulling into a deserted street at a speed that was, in your opinion, unnecessary. Right away, you could tell that whatever Kid had added to this car, it wasn’t necessarily the safest.

Each bump had you jumping in your seat; each turn pressed you against the window or threw you in a random direction. You glared hard at the driver, who remained unfazed.

Eventually, you make it to the main street, with buildings, streetlights, and neon signs lining each side of the road. You didn’t have to ask to know what the hell he was planning.

“Kid, today really isn’t–” This time, you weren’t cut off by a beep, but your own squeal when the car picked up speed. You heard him laugh at your tremulous cussing. “For the love of shit, Eustass!” 

This went on for a while. He’d disregard stoplights and crossings, cackling when you attempted to scold him. Somehow, you persuaded him to slow down, but the difference was minuscule. The buildings and signs meshed together into a dizzying mess, forcing you to close your eyes so you wouldn’t be sick.   

You shrieked when the man swerved into an intersection and halted so suddenly you would’ve flown out the front if it weren’t for your seatbelt.

Hesitantly, you cracked your eyes open, breathing laboured from the rush of adrenaline flowing through you.

Up ahead, a car with an obnoxious paint job trundled down the street to your right. The driver had the windows rolled down so that his buddies could point and laugh at Kid’s car. You could sense the oncoming race that would determine who had the biggest death wish from a mile away. 

“Kid…” You warned. He ignored you for the third time tonight, which meant he wasn’t going to listen to you in the near future.

Before you could exit the vehicle and book it out of there, the Mustang roared and surged on. You recoiled away from the door, shooting Kid what felt like your 100th nasty look.

“Put your seatbelt on.” Kid murmured, dark eyes trained on his new challenge.

“Oh, so now you’re concerned– wait, what about you?” You motioned to his seatbelt incredulously. He laughed, dismissing your concern. Blue and orange hues from the lights outside danced in his eyes, where you could see glee.

“We’re gonna fucking die.” You mumbled, startling when Kid’s brand new challenge pulled up beside you. They made odd faces at you and waved mockingly. One of them kept hollering that you join them. You face Kid, who’s at ease and waiting for the stoplight above you to flit to green.

Before that happens, you check that your seatbelt is secured, glowering at the other dudes. The engines rumble like distant thunder – a warning for those within earshot to beware. When the light changes to green, the vehicles are like lightning. The noise they make blocks out everything trying to reach your ears.

You screw your eyes shut when Kid floors it, biting back a shriek for the sake of preserving both your eardrums.

Judging by the lack of swerving and crazy turns, the goal is the end of the street. Still, even with this discovery, you don’t open your eyes. Your heart is thundering in your chest, thumping against your ribcage almost painfully.

“Hey, (name),” Kid calls your name, bored. You open one eye enough to peek at him. “Wave those sorry fuckin’ losers goodbye. We’re leaving.” Bemused, you check the rear-view mirror with wide eyes, finding that you left the other car in the dust.

“What did you even do to this car?” You ask, pressing the button to roll the window down and removing your seatbelt. A gust of wind hits you in the face as you lean your top half out, watching the other car in awe. Then you laugh.

It starts off quiet as you raise one of your hands and give a meek wave. Then you straighten your arm over your head, laughter doubling in volume, and flail it wildly. You probably look crazy, but you don’t give a shit.

You lower yourself back onto your seat chortling, hair mussed by the wind. Kid is grinning evilly, the pride apparent even in the way he grips the steering wheel.

“That… was one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done.” You smack a hand on your forehead, absently pulling your seatbelt back on.

“Can’t say the same, love.” Kid replies as he pulls over. You’re about to question him when you realize that besides you is the apartment complex you reside in.

“Right, okay.” You nod, grabbing your purse and throwing the door open. Your legs feel like jelly from the wild ride, but your blood is singing and you feel like yourself again. That’s really all you could ask for after…

It’s not even worth thinking about.

Jogging up the steps to the entrance, you reach for the door handle, then stop, pensive.

Kid hasn’t driven off. Not only that, you can feel his eyes on the back of your head.

You smile to yourself, heading back down the steps and onto the sidewalk. Kid thinks you’ve probably forgotten something and pulls out his phone. Shaking your head, you saunter over to his side of the vehicle and rap on the window pane. The look he sends you this time is puzzled, but he does lower the window.

“What-” He begins, only to freeze when you lean inside, grab his chin, and bring your face close to his. You almost laugh when he holds his breath, a daring glint in his eye, eyebrows knitted. Kid's prosthetic hand closes around your wrist tightly but not to the point where he'll crush it. 

“Thanks, love.” You whisper sweetly and then lean back, smiling mirthfully as you take your hand back.

Faster than he could’ve thought, you disappear, the swishing of the main entrance the only hint that you had been there. Kid grunts, revs the engine, and speeds away with a cocky smirk.

Chapter Text

You’d always been vigilant. From the day you met until now, you’d always kept your eyes peeled through whatever the world tossed your way. On more than one occasion, back when you were younger, you’d been the one to drag them away from excessive danger, no matter what complaints or threats they voiced.

So why did you end up like this? Why are you in a bed, unconscious, hanging onto life by a mere thread? And how ?

Law didn’t know. And he hated not knowing the answer to a problem regarding one of his crew member's health. More than that, he hated seeing you like this, which had made treating your wounds that much harder.

He removed the latex gloves and bunched them up, tossing them in a nearby bin. The sound they made as they reached the trash signalled that he’d finished. There was nothing else he could do.

Law knew you were strong. In the time you’ve spent together, you’ve grown sturdier and tolerant to injuries. Year-old scars from numerous battles decorated your body and marred your skin, each one with their own story.

But there’s always been a limit to that strength, and you’d hit yours. He didn’t know if it’d been before you left, after, or somewhere in the middle of the fight.

Law grabbed a chair and wheeled it to your bed, sitting down with a resounding sigh.  

Their last skirmish with a rival crew had been the day they’d lost sight of you. He could still remember the few survivors of that crew fleeing the scene, when you sidled up to him. Weapons ready, the two of you shared a glance, and with a nod and a smirk, you began the pursuit. Law had watched you go, confident that you’d end everything swiftly and return to them.

You didn’t.

They searched for several hours, though their efforts were fruitless. There were no signs of you or the remaining members of the crew they’d defeated, which meant you weren’t on the island anymore. And although he didn’t show it, he’d feared the worst.

There’d been outrage when everyone finally agreed that you’d been kidnapped. And although the only thing he wanted to do was find you, he ordered a retreat and set about treating injuries from the fight. This was met with a lot of complaints, all of which he was forced to ignore because he too wanted to get you back no matter what.

It took four days.

You’d ended up at another island that housed a noble and villagers that were not as welcoming to pirates. Again, when they docked, all he wanted to do was scamper off into the village and save you. It pained Law to stay back and assess their situation, all while formulating a plan in his head.

When everyone was ready, though, they stormed the place. The marines, lazy and oozing pride at having a famous pirate locked in one of their cells, were taken off guard. They scrambled to and fro, yelling into den-den mushis as body parts went flying and blood dripped from the walls.

And so, after unleashing hell on the damn place, they got you back. The pirates that’d handed you to the marines were in cells of their own, and Law disposed of them fairly quickly. They pleaded with him, promising him things that he didn’t bother registering.

Law…

He blinked, sitting up as he fixed his gaze on the doorway, expecting Shachi or Penguin to be there. When he didn’t spot either of them, he glanced back at you, mildly surprised to see you squinting up at him.

The man rose from his chair, nearing your bedside, immediately checking you over. “How are you feeling?”

You tried shifting, face scrunching up.

“Don’t push it, (name). You just woke up.” He scolds gently, ever so fretful. “How do you feel?”

You sighed, the sound trembling as your eyes slip shut again. “Tired. And in pain.” There was a pause as you pondered your current state. “...How bad?”

“Bad.” Law replied, plopping back down on the chair. Now that he wasn’t working to treat your injuries, the exhaustion from the past few days was starting to settle in. He watched you smile sardonically, fingers curling into the sheets.

Usually, you’d apologize, but that was only when you knew you’d done something wrong. A sudden ambush wasn’t your fault, being unable to escape wasn’t your fault - or maybe it was. You didn’t know.

“How is everyone?” You ask meekly, voice barely above a whisper. Whatever he’d injected into your system was taking its time wearing off.

“They’re worried, but all right.” A nod is the response he receives. You shift again, this time out of discomfort. Lying down for so long is one of the many reasons why you hated suffering from major injuries. Though, these didn’t feel like major injuries. They felt like something you’d receive from training, but perhaps that was because of the painkillers working their magic.

Law reached out, noticing your stiffness. His hand was mere inches from the pillows hugging the back of your head when, out of nowhere, you flinched violently. You edged away from him, eyebrows pinched in distress. He stopped.

Quickly, you realized what you’d done and opened your mouth, only for the words to die at the tip of your tongue.

“Sorry,” You forced yourself to speak, swallowing past the ball lodged in your throat. “I… sorry, I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

Law stared at you. The lighting in the room made the dark circles under his eyes more prominent, and his hair was wilder than usual. You broke the eye contact after a few moments, tense.

“What happened…?” His voice was gentle, concerned. Rightfully so. The fact that you’d actually avoided potential contact was disconcerting, considering you don’t mind being touched. If somebody was in need of a hug, you were there to provide them comfort, no matter how insignificant the issue may seem. Or, at least, that's what he thought.

“I…” The words won’t make it past your lips. You shake your head, firmly; you don’t want to talk about it. Not yet.

“I need to sit up.” You say instead, strongly. Your words bounce off the walls of the silent room, echoing. Law is ready to argue with you, a frown curling his lips downwards, but you meet his eyes pleadingly. With a hefty sigh, he complies, helping you sit up carefully. He releases your arm and removes his hand from your back when he’s sure you won’t flop back down, boneless. “Thank you.”

The both of you fall back into compatible silence as you stretch as much as your injuries will allow. There are bandages secured around your torso, biting into the skin of your stomach due to your position. You’re grateful for the change, though. Pieces of gauze are taped to the cuts and nicks you’d sustained. Most were from trying to fight your way back to your captain after being ambushed.

Unfortunately, your enemies had been too many for you in your fatigued state, and had made sure you wouldn’t run by bludgeoning you until you stopped struggling.

Honestly, you don’t even want to peek at your leg.

Secretly, you peer at your captain’s tattooed hands, lips pursed in thought. You’re sure he’s taken note of your uneasy behaviour, but he doesn’t point it out. He lets you think, waiting patiently for when you’re ready to speak.

“...”

Wordlessly and rather hesitantly, you extend a hand towards him.

He regards you, gaze unwavering, and envelops your hand with his larger one, mindful. A tremor slithers up your spine, eyes screwing shut in concentration. Law was starting to get an idea of what they’d really done to you, and felt hot anger flare up inside his chest. He wished he could bring the marines back to life, if only to dice their bodies to pieces a second time.

Nonetheless, he doesn't comment on it. Just let you do what you needed to feel better.

You remained still for a minute or two, getting used to the feeling of being held, not pummeled.

“When can I leave the bed?” You whisper so as to not disturb the silence too much. His thumb brushes over your knuckles, and you hear alarms go off in your head, though you don’t make a move.

“Give it a few weeks and you’ll be free to go. I want to make sure nothing is severely damaged.” He replies just as softly, eyes roving your visage in search of panic. Your expression evened out as you inhaled deeply, eyes opening.

“Okay.” You paused again. “...Law?”

“(name).” He returned.

“Have you taken a break, at all?”

“...” The silence was enough.

You sighed, meeting his yellow eyes with a frown on your face. This was common between the two of you - when one didn’t care for themselves, they’d be subjected to a scolding look. He was usually the one sending you said look, despite being two years younger than you.

This time, though, it was your turn.

You raise your free hand, which he clasps, expression unreadable. You knew he was acting this way because he was worried. He just didn’t know how to express it well. Not without bringing medication and terminology you barely understood at times into the conversation.

Tugging on his arms, you urge him to join you on the bed, muscles straining in effort. They’d really gotten you this time. His jaw clenches and unclenches, a detail that could easily be missed by those who don’t spend as much time with him.

When he’s seated on the mattress, you recline on the bed, hands still gripping his.

One last impatient tug, and he’s lying down beside you. He takes up most of the bed due to his long limbs, and he looks kind of awkward when you let go of him. You tuck your hands under your pillow, unable to handle much any more contact. You don’t think he can, either, not with the stress on his shoulders. He adjusts the way his legs are situated so they don’t brush against your battered ones.

And, all this time, you’ve been staring into his eyes, and vice-versa.

When you’re finally comfortable enough and the bandages don’t dig into your skin, you pipe up again. “Now sleep. I’m not going to let you leave until you do.” You threaten, but it’s lighthearted.

“You don’t get to order me around.” Law mumbles, eyes gleaming with slight amusement. You smile, and even though it’s shaky, it’s genuine.

“Most of the time, no, since you never really listen, anyway. But right now? Yes. You’re tired. I’m tired. So let’s sleep, yeah?” You retort, putting one hand between you two. Law’s gaze flickers between the limb and your eyes, and, slowly, he covers your hand with his again.

“I promise I’ll tell you everything later.” You add as an afterthought, anxious. “I just… I need a little time.”

Law nods. You send him a small smile as thanks, then close your eyes, feeling drowsy now that you’ve settled in bed.

(x)

Two weeks was all it took for you to be able to walk out of the infirmary.

While you did have numerous injuries, the damage was not as extensive as Law had first surmised. They ranged from small cuts to a few bruised ribs, which still needed to heal. He’d been hesitant to let you roam the ship because of this, but your complaining did eventually convince him.

The day after awakening, everyone in the crew came rushing to visit you, burbling and asking questions. You’d answered easily enough, with only a few grimaces and uncomfortable shrugs. Surprisingly, everyone kept their distance, only touching you if you gave them a smile. A few times you tensed, but the more time you spent with the crew, the less frequent it became.

Your shoulders were off-limits though.

Now, you’re wandering the ship. You hadn’t been given much to do, for obvious reasons, but it still didn’t excuse the fact that you were painfully bored. Blowing a stray hair out of your face, you enter the control room, intent on finding something to busy yourself with.

Inside, you find the crew’s mink poring over some maps. He looks up when you cross the threshold, greeting you happily, which you return with a wave. Walking up to Bepo, you examine the maps out on display on top of the table, curious.

The mink called your name, “How are you feeling today?”

You glance up, lips pursing slightly. “I’m doing well. Still need to heal, but I think I can get back to doing some work soon.” Bepo nodded, eyes finding the maps on the table again- You decide not to disturb him and meander about the room.

Just then, somebody walks into the room. “Ah, (name), the captain’s looking for you.” You meet the eye of a newer recruit, his boiler suit pristine and the jolly roger smiling at you.

“Thanks,” You call as you hurry out of the room. Chances are this was another check-up, which, knowing Law, were impossible to try and hide from.

Thinking of your captain left an ache in your chest. He was worried about you and wanted to know what happened, but you didn't know how to word it properly. You hadn't even mentioned the impromptu nap you took with him at your side. He hadn't either. 

In record time, you arrive at the infirmary, where the aforementioned person resides. He looks up as you open the door, even though he probably didn’t need to. For him, it wasn’t hard to figure out who was walking down the halls with his haki and all.

“Hey,” You greet amicably as you shut the door. “Check-up?”

The man nods, gesturing to a bed, and you follow without question. Sitting down, you undo the button on the collar of your suit, then unzip it down to your stomach, fixing the tank top underneath.

You’re still not comfortable showing them, but unfortunately, the most worrisome bruises had been around your neck. At first, they’d been a mix between blue, purple, and black. Your hands fidget with the light scarf you’d wrapped around the column of your neck. With a tremulous sigh, you reveal the bruises.

What’s worse, they were finger shaped, and when Law noticed them the glower he’d regarded them with had been terrifying. That’s all you remember from the jail; a look of pure rage and hand grazing the injuries, shaky. Thankfully, they’re in their last stages.

Still though, you felt somewhat insecure showing them.

Law scrutinized the contusions, the same obscure look in his eye from when he first spotted them. You shift, slipping your arms out of the suit’s sleeves, and place your hands in your lap, face stony. Then, he stands, swiftly rummaging the cupboards for the ointment he’s been applying on your neck.

“They look better,” You mumble as Law finds what he’s looking for, eyes trained on the floor.

His feet enter your line of vision, and you raise your chin to let him work without difficulty. You inhale deeply, unwilling to succumb into the panic of having someone touch such a sensitive area. Each touch sends tingles of fright skittering along your limbs, leaving goosebumps in their wake.

“Breathe, (name),” You hear Law murmur, moving from one side of your neck to the other. You deflate, sighing audibly. When had you stopped breathing?

“Sorry,” You reply, sheepish and kind of ashamed. He probably thought that you were being ridiculous. Law meets your eyes for a brief second, and then pulls back, capping the ointment quietly.

“Are you going to tell me what happened?” Law prompts calmly, putting the ointment away. He glances at you when you don’t reply, eyes unblinking as you stare at him.

He feels somewhat guilty at the bluntness of his statement, but he had to ask. Even though you were making a smooth recovery, there was something in your eyes that betrayed you whenever you spoke to someone. A haunted, miserable look that had everyone worried even though you assured them that you were fine, a smile to go along with it.

“You already know what happened, though.” You return dejectedly, jaw clenching.

“Not the whole story,” He sat down on the stool that he was previously occupying, before your arrived. “And you haven’t told anyone about what’s troubling you.”

Your mood sours further at his last remark. The only reason you hadn’t told anybody was because you wanted to handle it on your own - you knew you could. You just needed time.

Although, it was starting to hinder you. You were going to start taking up chores and whatnot again soon and if your mind was elsewhere, you’d be back in the infirmary in no time.

“I got jumped,” You begin, fidgeting with your boiler suit. The fabric felt odd to your fingertips. “At the beach. There were marines posted there for who knows what reason, and they ran up to them.

When I got there, they noticed that there were pirates from two different crews in front of them, and they went with whoever seemed weakest. I was that person.”

You take a moment to recall exactly what happened. There was the fight that you took part in, intent on wiping out every last one of them so they wouldn’t bother your crew. But then, the exhaustion from the previous fight crashed over you, weighing you down, and you became the easier target. You relay all of this to your captain, who seems eerily calm.

“They took me somewhere, I don’t know where-”

“A noble’s mansion.” Law butt in, providing the detail that you’ve been missing for so long. He paused, thinking, before adding. “You were going to be sold.” The mere statement is horrifying, but hearing the boiling rage hidden so well behind the façade of serenity is worse.

“...that.” You continue, because you’d rather not dwell on his revelation. “And then… well, what I assume is the asshat noble there… he… he…” Trailing off, you motion to your body.

The beating had been the worst. He’d started with your right leg, so you would be too worried nursing it to think about fleeing. Next had been your hip and your abdomen. He might’ve gone for your head if you hadn’t kicked his feet from underneath him with your left leg. After that, he summoned his guards and they pinned you down while he tried strangling you. You spat blood at him, which was disgusting enough that he got off you and let you breathe.

Telling this to Law, you grimace at the memories flashing before your eyes. He doesn’t make a comment.

When you finish with the re-telling of events, you stare at the floor, waiting for a reaction.

Instead, you feel a pair of hands cradle your face, urging you to raise your eyes again.

Law is standing in front of you, eyebrows pinched. His hands are cold against your skin, which is heated from the utter shame of having to open up about… this. Your body is wound up and the face of the noble is still enough to make you want to recoil. But this is Law, not some sorry excuse of a human being.

Law says nothing. The words are clearly stuck, but that’s fine. You don’t need him to speak.

Your hands close around his wrists, gently, and your eyes slip shut. You hadn’t let anybody’s touch linger for more than a fraction of a second in a very long time. It doesn’t feel great, but it’s a reminder that you’re safe here. You’re not in that cell anymore.

The hands slip down to your shoulders, giving them a brief squeeze before travelling back up to your face. You appreciate the coolness that radiates from his palms. Then, he distances himself from you. You release his wrists, eyes fluttering open.

A silence hangs above both your heads. It’s heavy, but it’s not uncomfortable. It’s the type of silence that follows when somebody does something they’re not used to.

Finally, you look up, a genuine smile shining through. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” Law’s voice is soft, as if he’s still reeling over what he’s done. You study his expression, chuckling quietly. His eyes snap to you immediately, widened just a tad.

“You haven’t changed one bit.” You tease, shaking your head as you rise from the bed, zipping up your boiler suit. Clapping a hand on his shoulder, you repeat, “Thank you.” Then, clumsily, you place a kiss on his cheek and rush out the room a second later, leaving the man stunned.

Minutes afterwards, he realizes that he is still standing in the same spot. His fingers brush the place you’d pecked. Law shakes his head, a strange, yet pacifying feeling settling inside his chest.


Chapter Text

It was exactly a year after you supposedly perished without leaving a trace for them to follow. Marco had all but returned to his usual self, with bouts of sadness coming and going like ocean waves.

Sometimes, it was a storm of emotion, raging inside his chest and altering his way of thinking to the point it was almost destructive.

Other times, a dull ache throbbed once or twice throughout the day, always reminding him of its presence but never hindering him. He could smile and laugh and have fun without problematic thoughts there to ruin him. Nobody in the crew sent him furtive glances or asked if he needed a break, which was just how he liked it, because he was fine. He really was.

Marco was familiar with loss. Centuries of living and growing had taught him that it was unavoidable for everybody else on this world. And, admittedly, the pain of losing people over and over again gradually became less intense. It was only normal for him to think that way -  or at least he hoped it was.

But meeting you and spending each day with you at his side had been therapeutic, in a way. The two of you had trouble sleeping for different reasons, which meant that you had hours to spare. At first, he’d spend the nights alone, up on a crow’s nest with the stars and the moon as his company. But then he noticed you wandering the ship, a lost phantom, and after a few conversations, he thought he’d found someone like him.

Not in the immortality aspect, of course. It was the outlook on life the two of you shared. Your wisdom and knowledge was something that he had taken over five decades to collect, when you were just twenty-eight. It was the way you faced each challenge; coolly, level-headed, ready to lead if the commanders just weren’t available. You’d been his right-hand without the two of you realizing it.

But, alas, that knowledge came with a price.

You never disclosed too much information, and he never asked any probing questions, but he knew that you struggled daily. Sometimes you’d lay in bed, staring at the ceiling for an hour, caged in your own mind. It was always up to him to coax you out of bed with an easy-going smile and a hand on your shoulder.

On one of these particular days, he walked in to find you sitting up already, blankets a bundle on the floor. They were nearing an island known for its freezing temperatures and some people in the galley were already wearing hats and gloves. Thatch claimed that when Pops spotted you, he ordered you right back to where you came from so you could change. Apparently, you tried arguing, but one stern reprimand drowned out any more protests.

That had worried Marco. He knew you would listen to Whitebeard and do what you’re told. And yet, when he opened the door to see you, it was quite the opposite.

Your outfit, despite the goosebumps on your skin and the shivers clinging to your frame, was minimal. Shorts, a loose long-sleeved blouse, no socks. Your lips were pursed, eyes fixed on another crew member’s bunk, hands hanging loosely between your thighs.

Before this, he’d expected to find numerous scars littering your skin, but instead, he found one marring the lucent skin of your left thigh. A simple attempt at releasing pent-up emotions, and judging by the way it suddenly stopped, you hadn't been too fond of the idea, after all. Marco's heart ached at the thought of you doing something maim yourself.

The translucent light filtering in through one of the portholes outlined your slouching frame and highlighted the exhaustion on your face. When he kneeled in front of you, you looked down at him with such innocence it almost felt he was finger-wagging a child. You didn’t know what you did wrong.

Then, as if waking up from a hazy dream, you blinked and grasped his hand when he held it out to you. You dressed in more appropriate clothing while he waited outside, and when you exited the room, you were quiet.

Thankfully, it wasn’t alarmingly so. You two ambled down the hall toward the galley, enjoying the other’s presence without the need to speak. A secret glance at your face confirmed that you were actually feeling better. Later, after eating, you walked up to Whitebeard and apologized sincerely. The old man laughed, shaking his head, but the expression morphed into one of worry once you turned your back to him.  

Marco swore he would help you feel better. He urged you to speak to him whenever your thoughts were too overwhelming and made sure you didn’t neglect yourself. But he also didn’t coddle you. When you repeated a certain action that he knew would harm you in the long run, he had you swear you wouldn’t do it anymore. It pained him when you crossed your arms, looking away as if that could act as a barrier and put an end to his fussing.

After close to three months, your progress was gratifying and beyond relieving. You felt more comfortable opening up and you never replicated a stunt like the one at the winter island.

So when you suddenly vanished, it felt like someone had taken all he’d done, tossed it on the floor, set it on fire, and then screamed that it wasn’t enough. Everything he’d tried wasn’t enough and now you, one of his dearest friends, were gone.

In his room, ten days after you disappeared, he realized he was hoping for something else. Something more. He was forced to walk around for a good three hours before someone herded him to Whitebeard. Marco almost broke when sharing this.

But now, he and everyone on the ship healed. They missed you, but life didn’t wait for anybody, and soon things were back to routine.

Today, he was focusing on paperwork, noting each division’s spendings and budget, among other things. He’d holed himself in here after eating lunch, trusting that his division won’t fall into disarray with him absent.

The pen scratched against the paper noisily, following each movement his hand made. Marco inhaled deeply as he put aside a paper, working on the next one quickly. It was quiet in the room, which he appreciated.

Another paper done, he set his pen down and rolled his shoulders, sighing as his joints popped. Marco’s eyes slipped shut as he relished the quietude, only for them to snap open when the den-den mushi on his desk began making noise. He reached for the little snail, curious and mildly suspicious. His hand hovered over the creature as he thought; whoever it was, were they really worth the hassle? With the government listening in on conversations, he didn’t want to risk anything.

Marco shook his head, ignoring the snail and breathing a sigh when it finally stopped.

He picked up his pen and continued writing, eyebrows knitted in concentration.

Outside in the hall, he recognized the sound of footsteps, but didn’t pay it any mind. He’d made it clear that if there was an issue, any other commander was to assist while he caught up with paperwork.

“Marco!!”

The man’s shoulders slumped. It was Ace rushing down the hall… but for what? He’d ensured nothing was out of place. For him to come running meant-

BANG.

Marco flinched and whirled around at the intrusion, ears ringing from the deafening boom of the door colliding with the wall. Ace stood there, hands rested on his knees as he panted. His hat was skewed from the run and his face was flushed.

“Yes ~yoi?” The blond rose from his chair, a bit put off by the younger man’s behaviour. “What’s wrong? Did something happen?” He approached Ace, who merely shook his head.

Ace fixed him with a wide-eyed look, then heaved. “It’s- it’s (name)! They’re alive!”

Marco’s expression darkened considerably, lips pulling into a taut line as he regarded Ace seriously. “That can’t be. We searched everywhere with nothing to show for it.” Despite his grim words, he inched forwards, fingers twitching in anticipation.

Ace shook his head a second time, vehement. “Marco, I’m serious. I really am. They called Pops and are talking to him right now.”

The blond bit his lip, canines digging into the flesh painfully. Without another word, he sprinted past the other commander and in the direction of the captain’s quarters, Ace in tow.

When they arrived, he threw the door open, briefly cutting Whitebeard off. The old man nodded to him, words ghosting past his lips carefully.

“Where are you now, (name)?” The old man’s voice rumbled. He swung a bottle of sake back and forth, the contents inside swishing quietly.

“I’m safe,” Your voice - your voice - cut through the silence, peppered with static. Or maybe that was his hearing. “And in Enies Lobby right now.” Marco sidled up to Whitebeard, shoulders drawn back.

“Pops… ” Whitebeard grunted, glancing at Ace, who nodded as he exited the room. They were to set course for that island straight away, it seemed. “Is Marco there with you?”

Yes. He thought desperately, I’m here. I’ve always been here.

“He is. I’ll let you two speak.” The old man handed the speaker to Marco, who gripped the thing for dear life.

“(name) ~yoi?” He began shakily, voice low and disbelieving.

He thought he heard a sniffle on the other side of the line. “I’m here.”

The man let loose a long, suffering sigh as he sank to his knees, not trusting them to function for a while. “ God , (name), it is you. It’s… it’s you .” He raked his fingers through his hair, eyes scrunching shut. “How is it you, (name)?” Beside him, Whitebeard shifted on his bed, grabbing his enormous coat. Marco was too focused on the call to notice the old man slip outside.

The laugh that reached his ears was watery and depressing. “I don’t know, Marco. I don’t know.” There was a pause as you both gathered your thoughts, then, “I missed you.”

“I missed you, too.” Marco rubbed his eyes, heart throbbing. “How’d you even get to Enies Lobby?”

“Well, first, I made it out of the wreckage-”

“Wreckage ~yoi?” He cut you off, voice quiet but firm.

“The marines we fought that day, their ship sank.” Oh, now he remembered. It appeared his own mind had betrayed him and tried burying the memory. “I was below deck fighting when a cannon ball blew part of the wall. I was caught under the debris and so were some other marines.”

“Why were you there alone?” Marco hissed, angry at you, himself, whoever shot the cannon, and the whole damn world, but also miserable. “Why didn’t you tell me you were there?”

“I thought I could go down there and be done with the enemies quickly. And the group I was with all went their separate ways.” You retorted weakly. “How was I supposed to know that was going to happen?” That much was true. Marco restrained the anger; there was no point in such emotions now. It had been a year, damn it.

“But we didn’t find you afterwards. I couldn’t find you.” He murmured, adjusting his body so he could sit against the wall. He picked up the snail and placed it in front of him, watching it mimic your expressions. It had tears in its eyes.

“The part of the wreckage I was in ended up in a surface current, sweeping me away from the ship.” The snail’s tears dripped onto the floor. “I managed to make it out before I ended up in the deeper currents and used a piece of wood as a raft.”

Marco scratched his chin, staring at the floor with a faraway look in his eye. Part of him wanted to blame himself for what happened to you. Part of him wanted to curl up and talk to you until you crossed paths again. Every fiber that made him who he was wanted to cradle you in his arms and never let go.

Marco sighed.

“Any major injuries?” He inquired, gently lifting the snail off the floor and setting it in his lap. It stared up at him with moist eyes.

“Somehow, the worst of it was a badly dislocated knee. It never healed properly, so now I have to use a walking stick. Uh… and a piece of wood pierced my shoulder, which also left a mark.” You shuffled a little, probably checking for anything you might’ve forgotten. “Other than that, I’m still alive.”

“Yeah, thank God for that.” He mumbled. The little snail grinned up at him.

“We’ll see each other soon.” Your tone of voice was resolute, a determination he’d never heard from you. In fact, your whole demeanor had changed, strikingly so.

“We will.” Marco agreed, “And, (name)... how are you feeling?”

The snail smiled widely at the question. It was a habit of his to ask, since he did that nearly every day when you were on the ship. “Still fighting, but doing a hell of a lot better. I remembered everything you did for me and used that as a reason to keep going. I still need to thank you properly.”

This time, Marco was the one to chortle. “I’ll hold you to that.”

The conversation lagged awkwardly. Thoughts still circled inside both your heads, persistent and loud.

Softly, you piped up once more. “I don’t want to hang up.”

“Me either,” He admitted, lips pursing. “I… this still feels like a dream.”

“Then, if it is, let’s not wake up just yet.”

Marco smiled. “Right ~yoi.”

(x)

You coordinated with the rest of the crew, travelling to an island near Enies Lobby, carrying with you what little belongings you had. While healing physically and mentally, there’d been little room to form attachments to many things. Most of the time, you were so drained you barely left the house. A few months into your stay though, you decided that maybe heading out once in a while was for the best. It helped tremendoulsy, especially during the most gruelling part of your stay, which was learning to walk a second time in your life.

Now, you awaited their arrival, lingering by the beach every day until the sun hid behind the horizon. You carried the transponder snail everywhere you went, communicating with Marco and telling him about anything that dawned on you. Memories and stories were the dominant part of your conversations. Often, you asked him how he was doing, which surprised him the first few times. You’d listen to him ramble on about his day, nodding, humming, and speaking when prompted.

It was the first step to thanking the man that kept you grounded for so long.

“Ace wants to talk to you, ~yoi.”

You grinned down at the snail, looking on as its face changed from droopy blue eyes to bright silver and animated. “(name)! We haven’t talked in so long!!”

“It’s been a few hours since we last spoke, Ace.” You chuckled softly, padding down the beach. You’d removed your shoes and left them - and your walking stick - in a little hut you’d built. The sand sunk with each tremulous step you took and waves lapped at your ankles. The sun was beginning to set, painting the sky in a multitude of shades, all of them orange, purple, and dark blue. It set the ocean alight.

“A few hours too many!” The man replied, and you hear another voice in the background. Your snail struggles slightly, face changing to accommodate each new person. Haruta, Izo, Thatch, and other commanders along with many crew members voice their thoughts in the background.

“Everyone, please, calm down or my snail will end up having a stroke.” You laughed through your heartbreak, gripping your shirt. Even though you tried to wipe them away, the tears kept flowing steadily. “I’ve missed you all.”

A cacophony of voices echoed your last statement. Rakuyou seemed to be the most thunderous, with an “goddamn it, don’t cry or I’ll start sobbin’, you! Pops! Tell them not to cry!”. It urged another round of laughter from you. The image of all of them crowded around Whitebeard and the tiny transponder snail was an interesting one.

When your snail’s complexion matched that of the captain’s, you acted more respectful.

“Good day, Pops.” You smiled softly, eyes scanning the sea and spotting a familiar whale-head. Its massive grin was the most relieving sight you’d laid your eyes upon. Your throat tightened, the dam preventing the water-works cracking as you rasped, “Good day.”

“Get ready to leave, (name).” The captain replied, amusement and subdued elation apparent in his words. “You’re almost home.” After that, the snail fell silent, eyes slipping shut in exhaustion. You made a note to regale it with food when it was time to eat.

Even from your position, you could hear the cries of your name emanating from the gigantic ship. Men and women leaned over the railing, waving and flailing excitedly as the ship finally docked. Even though Whitebeard had ordered you to gather your belongings, you hadn’t moved from your spot, entranced with the view.

A blur of brilliant blue and yellow swooped down from a crow’s nest, and your knees buckled.

“Marco,” You whispered, feet - oh, the stupid things - glued to your spot. The phoenix descended even lower, its glow reflecting off the waters as it sped towards you. One last graceful arch upwards allowed it to land a few feet from you, flames receding. The person you’d longed to see mirrored your expression. You couldn’t hear him, but you knew he’d mouthed your name, just like you’d done with his.

And then you were running.

It was more of a crazed hobble, but you didn’t care. He was right in front of you; why should you care?

Marco’s gaze flitted between your leg and your face, but he didn’t scold you or tell you to slow down. He jogged, legs eating up the distance separating you two easily. When you were within arm’s reach, you leaped, tackling him to the ground. A shocked grunt was the response to your sobbing, then a hand on the back of your head and another on your back.

Quickly, you calmed down, wanting to do more than cry in his presence. You propped yourself up on your elbows, gazing down at the blond, who grinned up at you.

“This is real.” He breathed, reaching up to caress your cheek. You laughed, ecstatic, and hugged him. People were piling out of the ship by now, stampeding.

Marco helped you up, large palm on the small of your back so you wouldn’t topple to the floor. He glanced at your leg, but a swift yet feather-light kick to his shin reassured him you were fine. You clasped his hand, shocking him again, and rushed to meet the crew halfway. The man trailed along, heart warming when you laughed at Ace’s scrambling.

Releasing his hand, you hugged the younger man, who lifted you off the sand. You kicked your legs happily then tapped his shoulders when you couldn’t breathe. Ace placed you back on the ground and you moved to greet everyone else.

There were tears, smiles, and a thousand voices welcoming you back. Everywhere you turned there was a jolly roger - the one you donned even after all this time - in sight. Whitebeard stepped off the ship with his bisento, a few nurses trailing after him. His guffaws shook the whole island, sending birds fleeing into the sky.

Eventually, the crew calmed down and gave you room to breathe. The questions kept coming, but it was mostly happy babbling.

“Where in the hell have you been, you?!” Rakuyo sobbed as he swept you into his arms. It took Bleinheim and Speed Jiru to pry him off, and even then he hadn’t stopped crying. They both nodded and waved, which you gladly returned.

“This calls for a party!” Haruta declared, pointing at the sky and stance wide. People cheered and whooped.

“Oh, no, that’s not-” You started, only to be interrupted.

“Nonsense!” Someone yelled, “It is absolutely necessary!”

“Okay, okay,” You relented, raising your hands in defeat. Marco snaked an arm around your waist, and you did the same, resting your head on his shoulder and looking up at him. He seemed to think about something momentarily. You found out when he pressed a kiss to your forehead.

(x)

The party lasted for a good seven hours. Or at least for you and Marco. Both of you grew tired of the noise and dancing and retired to his room.

Inside said place, you ventured back and forth, examining and finding it hadn’t changed at all. Just like him. Marco had sat down on the chair by his desk and had taken to observing you.

“It’s this room I thought about.” You mused, fingers dancing across the bookshelves. Your cane was propped up against the wall by the nightstand. Even though it was a necessity, you didn’t like relying on it too much. “The place I missed the most.”

Marco didn’t respond, but you didn’t mind.

“I remembered this book in particular.” You tapped on the book’s binding twice, biting your lip as you rested your hand on another one. “And this one. They were always my favourite.”

Slowly, you turned back to him, eyebrow raised inquisitively. “Will you let me read them sometime?”

Marco stood, crossing the room with three steps and enveloped your hand with his. His eyes were half-lidded as he placed your hand against his cheek. “You know you don’t have to ask ~yoi…” He murmured, closing his eyes.

“Yeah, but…” You tried defending yourself, smiling fondly at his actions. “It’s polite? I don’t want to take things and not let you know.” Marco chuckled and inhaled deeply. The exhaustion was really starting to settle.

“How long has it been since you’ve had a good night’s sleep?” You prompted, resting your other hand on his shoulder. You guided him to his bed and urged him to lay down.

“Since you left.” He answered truthfully, albeit hesitantly, and met your eye. You froze, scanning his face for anything hinting at a joke, then sighed.

“I’m sorry.” You mumbled, eyes downcast guiltily. Marco sat up, scooting closer to you until your hips touched. He lifted your chin with a finger and simply stared at you, waiting for you to raise your eyes.

When you did, he spoke, “I didn’t say that to make you feel bad ~yoi.”

“I know.”

“It was not your fault, (name).”

“I know that, too.”

“I said it because communication is very important in a relationship.”

“Yeah- wait, what?” You blurted. The corners of your lips twitched in mirth when you saw him grin mischievously. “Oh, so this is how it’s going to be?”

Marco put some distance between your faces, smile still on his face but tone serious. “If you want it to be ~yoi.”

You forced him to lay back, shifting until you were sprawled on top of him, elbows bearing your weight by each side of his head. “Yeah, I really do.” Your words came out rather shy, and you flushed when Marco’s eyes softened. His hands settled on your waist and you let out a breath, nonplussed.

“Now that I’m not a mess, we can actually- mmf?!

A pair of lips swiftly cut you off, drowning out whatever it was you were planning to say. They moved against yours, insistent on keeping you from carrying on with your sentence. The kiss, while chaste and regrettably quite short, left you dizzy nonetheless. You blinked down at the man, eyebrows furrowing and mouth opening and closing.

“What?” You managed. Marco barked a laugh at your face - you looked like an angry cat with your nose scrunched up and eyes narrowed.

When he sobered up, he replied, “I’m going to do that every time you talk down to yourself ~yoi.” Then, cheekily, he stuck out his tongue. Your cheeks heated up again.

“You were saying?”

You squinted at him, mulling over your words - not like you minded his actions, quite the contrary, but you didn’t want him to do that every time you spoke.

“Now that I’m not acting like an id-” Again, the man put an end to your sentence, fervent and even more persistent. Your hands curled into the sheets as you reciprocated, body relaxing and eyes slipping shut. Realizing what you did, Marco pulled away with a huff and chuckled.

“That’s not what you’re supposed to do ~yoi.” His striking blue eyes shone with amusement. You stuck your tongue out, copying him.

“Now that I’m… feeling better,” Your giggles bounced off the walls when he nodded, satisfied with your wording, “we can actually get down to business.” That took him a moment to process, a moment you used to swipe the pillow from under his head. Without a second to lose, you buried his face in the pillow.

“(name), really?” Marco struggled against you. When you grew tired, you rolled off him and stood at the foot of the bed. He pried the pillow away from his face with a scoff, about to chide you when he noticed you unbuttoning your shirt. The words died at the tip of his tongue when you threw your top off.

"Really."

Chapter Text

Soulmate AU in which every time you’re touched by your soulmate, a blotch of colour appears on that place. How long a mark stays depends on the emotions behind each touch. Sometimes the colours stay for a couple of minutes, sometimes for hours. Touches brought on by really strong feelings have the chance of lasting years, but that’s rare. And, depending on the other person's mood, the colour that shows up on their skin varies. So if soulmate A is happy, colours like yellow or orange show up on soulmate B's skin when they are touched.

Luffy:

  • Colour on him constantly. Usually, his face, arms, and legs are covered in blotches of reds, oranges, and yellow. This is due to how infectious his happiness is and how keen he is on clinging to you. It's hard to feel sad for a long period of time when he's there.
  • Draws ridiculous patterns on your skin for a laugh and sort of, kind of tries to draw something nice for you. He's not an artist though, so the attempt falls flat.
  • But it’s okay because you might not be good at drawing either! The two of you make a game of guessing what the heck the other has drawn.
  • “Is it a dog?”
  • “No!”
  • “...then, what is it?”
  • “...a man wearing a dog costume?”
  • This often happens if Luffy ends up bored, which is common, so you two emerge from rooms looking like you poured buckets of coloured powder over your heads.
  • If you're an artist, though, he runs around showing off whatever you came up with. Sometimes the drawing comes out sloppy because Lu just doesn't stop moving no matter how sternly you scold him.

Zoro:

  • Rare for him to have colour on his skin since the guy is not too big on affection, but he won't push you away if you do feel like you need a hug.
  • Colour most often appears on his shoulders and chest, and in turn, the other person’s hands.
  • Sometimes in the hair, if he ends up asleep with his head on your lap. It looks quite strange afterwards because of his natural hair colour, which earns a few laughs from the rest of the crew. He's not too fond of those moments.
  • Both of you would have a different coloured hand like all the time because of his poor sense of direction (soulmate would have to lead the way forcefully).
  • You'd think that judging by the way his hands look half the time, he'd learn how to not get lost or at least listen. But no. The guy's hands literally look like a mini rainbow exploded on them.
  • “Oh my God, no, it’s this way.”
  • “No, it’s not!”
  • “The sign is literally right there!” You grab his hand, reviving the faded colours on his palm and fingers. Zoro is about to retort something when he notices the brand new colours and huffs fondly to himself.
  • The colours that show up on his skin tend to be tranquil ones, all due to the fact that you just can't feel unsafe around him. 

Law:

  • Rarely has colour on him.
  • But sometimes, while he's treating injuries, a band of colour around his wrist or arm will show itself. It brings a small smile to his face and makes him feel a little lighter. These discoveries help when he's particularly stressed and ground him without fail. Especially when a crewmember's injuries aren't so minor and he's already thinking of losing them despite being amazingly skilled.
  • At times, he draws an imaginary line over the streak with his finger, wishing it wasn’t so faded but also glad it's not too noticeable. He's afraid of what could happen if his enemies or the marines were to find out about your relationship, but also knows you can handle yourself.
  • When you two are alone, he doesn't mind as much. Some areas are off-limits because of his past, but he's pretty okay with whatever. If the other person gets creative from time to time, he might end up dozing.
  • The colours that show up on your skin tend to be dark blues and purples, but sometimes lighter colours will make an appearance. This often happens when he's with around the crew and, more importantly, you.
  • Whenever happier marks appear on your skin, you send him the goofiest smile you can muster, grasping his hand.
  • One time, during breakfast, someone noticed an orange mark on his temple. When they pointed it out, he stared at them blankly, not understanding why it should be questioned. It was in that moment that you walked in, lips tinted the same shade. You were both teased relentlessly until the colours finally faded away.

Ace:

  • Doesn’t bother hiding the colours. Sometimes the blotches will make him feel insecure because he believes he is undeserving, but he appreciates them a lot.
  • Back when he was attempting murder and attacking WB left and right, you despised each other. It was on one of those days that you lost your cool and punched him off the ship. When the rest of the crew fished him out of the ocean, they found what they thought was a bruise at first, but nope.
  • It was hard starting over and moving past that, but after Ace settled down, you apologized and things went on from there. This was roughly a month after you punched him. The mark was still there. 
  • When he tattooed the jolly roger on his back and he showed you, you outlined it with a finger. The yellow that appeared as you did made it appear like it was glowing. Then, without warning, you kissed his shoulder. He startled so badly, a flame started on the spot, which earned him a light smack as you rubbed your nose. 
  • Thankfully, you'd pulled away before you lost your nose.
  • A year into your relationship, he sat you down in his room and told you about his father. He was terrified and the disgust in his eyes made you so sad, every touch afterwards was a rich blue and purple. You told him what WB had always told all of you and made sure to hold him for at least half an hour, listing the things that you loved about him and drawing tally marks for each one.
  • By the time you were done, he had lots of stripes. They went from blue to lighter colours, almost like a gradient.
  • "And... you're really caring," You mumbled, drawing a stripe where his heart beat steadily. It was red. "Remember that story you told me about your younger brother?" Ace stared at you, searching your face, then nodded once. "You saved him, no?" You drew a horizontal line over the older one, smiling. "You have a good heart. I know, your brother knows, the crew knows. You should, too."
  • You were inseparable for a week after that night. He was that grateful.

Marco:

  • Colour on his hands constantly when he's alone with you. You're also covered in stains, mostly because he likes how the hues contrast with your skin.
  • This old dude definitely likes to dance with you when you're in his quarters, humming random tunes as you move to a beat only you can hear. VERY intense colours end up on both of you because of how much fun you have together.
  • Sometimes, if the day is rather exhausting, you both pass out on his bed. Your appearances are quite striking when you wake up. 
  • Not only that, but he makes it worse by not letting you leave if you both wake up early enough.
  • “Let go, you big oaf.” You grumble, struggling to pry his hands off. You huff when they wound up tighter around your stomach, to the point of squeezing. “Okay, fine, just a few more minutes.”
  • Has a palm-shaped mark on his right shoulder from the time when Whitebeard was really sick and things were very bleak. It’s been there for at least a year. You were there, comforting and reassuring him. Every time he sees it he feels more thankful for your presence in his life.
  • Thatch likes to poke fun at you both, making comments that can be... well, too much.
  • A good ol' glare from the two of you puts an end to that, but your face still flushes and Marco still lets out a long, suffering sigh.

Chapter Text

“You’re going to catch a cold.”

Two warm hands envelop your freezing shoulders, coaxing a tremulous sigh from your lungs that makes you pause, breathe, purse your lips. A shudder shakes your whole body, threatening to throw you off balance, but you stand, steadfast.

This isn’t new to you. It’s a memory you’ve relived a multitude of times with no one but him as a witness.

You’ve both kept the other above the water, but he was the one doing most of the saving. On all the occasions you could have lost the battle, he was there hauling you back to reality, jerking you awake, urging you to push on.  

The weight of his jacket is comforting, but also a reminder of where you are. The wind nipping at your cheeks and the clouds rolling overhead have been your companions for long hours, now. Far below, ghosts of headlights and people wander, their journeys winding endlessly before them.

Smoke curls upwards as he sidles beside you, wrapping an arm around your smaller frame - a brave attempt at keeping the sickness weighing your body down at bay. You rest your head on his shoulder, eyes trained forward. What your eyes had found would forever be confined inside your mind, never voiced, never mentioned. Keeping him up tore your heart to miserable pieces each time this happened. You couldn’t drag him further into your mess.

He lays a hand on the railing, bringing you closer until it feels like you’ll become one. The smell of cinnamon permeates the air surrounding you two, a testament to his constant fussing in the kitchen earlier.

You reach up, stealing the cigarette from him and placing it between your lips. With one deep exhale, you watch the smoke disappear, blinking away the haze of sleep. You’re tired – too tired, but there is nothing in your mind ordering you to hide your head under the covers.

It’s always the same.

No matter what hour, he’s always been by your side. You never understood why or how he chose to remain by your side – his tendency to fawn over women has not left him. Not one bit.

You inhale again, the butt of the cigarette burning up. Your lungs complain and you cough, shutting your eyes against the breeze. He reclaims the cigarette with a soft chuckle, a sound that brings the barest hints of a smile to your face.

“Come on, let’s get back inside.” Sanji murmurs, guiding you to the entrance. You pad across the tiled floor of the balcony, entering your abode once more. Inside, on the coffee table, there’s a tray with a mug of tea and one of the pastries he’d baked.

“You don’t have to stay.” You whisper. “Go back to bed, Sanji. You’re tired.”

He shakes his head, blond locks bobbing along with his actions. His blue eyes soften considerably when they meet yours, but his voice is adamant. “I’m not going anywhere.”

This time, you do smile.

Fondly, you huff and gently take the pastry and the mug of tea into your hands. The cold in your palm is chased away by the heat radiating off the porcelain. It spreads to the rest of your limbs, spreading a sense of lethargy and heaviness.

“Come sit with me, then.” You say, settling down on the couch. His bag and keys are still by the door, the latter on a small stand nearby – a sign that he had not stopped until he’d reached your side.  “You look tired.”

He flicks the lights off, manoeuvring through the living room with a skill and ease that baffled you. Gently, he sits down beside you, arms encircling your waist after throwing a blanket over you both. You’d already finished the small pastry. Now all that was left was the tea, which you drink swiftly.

When the mug is emptied, he pries it from your hands and sets it on the table, then returns to holding you. A comfortable silence hangs over your heads, and, finally, you close your eyes.

Sleep doesn’t take you instantaneously – the blond clinging to you snores lightly by the time you’ve counted to a hundred – but it does come. It’s a gradual process, but eventually, your eyelids droop, your shoulders lose the tension and pitch black darkness clouds your vision.

Chapter Text

Life was odd.

In your twenty years of existence, never would you have expected someone would have the guts to stand you up. This sort of thing only happened in movies – the very movies you watched whenever you needed to kill time. Sure, you probably weren't the most interesting individual, but you thought that you'd made a connection. This wasn't your first date with this person. You'd had fun and enjoyed your time together, and yet...

Here you were.

You lift your drink and make it swirl, watching the small tornado that formed inside, contained and controlled within the frail glass. You could say emotions can be handled in the same manner.

Odd.

Life was odd.

Tucking a stray lock of hair behind your ear, you check the time. Doubt had set in approximately an hour ago. Then, half an hour later, denial. Five minutes after that, acceptance.

But it had been twenty minutes since that, and the waitress was growing impatient. The most you'd ordered were a few drinks while you waited and waited. But this person never crossed the threshold. So what were you doing?

It would have been easier to leave. The utter shame and embarrassment of the situation had passed already. Occasionally, it'd flare up again when someone glanced in your direction. Other than that, you felt numb. There was nothing but a dead weight in your stomach keeping you seated.

“Screw it,” You whisper to yourself, raising a hand when you spot your waitress. Forcing your face to cooperate, you smile wryly. “I'd like to order now, if that's all right?”

The woman nods, pen and notepad ready for your order. Her impassiveness almost throws you off, but you truck through the discomfort. After jotting down your order, she disappears swiftly, leaving you alone again. A sigh shakes your entire body as you slouch, rubbing your thighs anxiously.

These things happen. You tell yourself, observing and listening to the hustle and bustle of the restaurant. It was pricey - the reservation itself had made you cringe inwardly - but it was lovely nonetheless. More than once, you'd heard commotion from the kitchen, and then a blond would step out with a tray. You don't know why a chef would make the effort to serve when there were plenty of staff handling that job. Still, it was an entertaining sight. He was clearly passionate and the way he acted was interesting.

His presence filled the room easily enough, too, no thanks to his appearance. He was handsome. 

You shake your head, admonishing your brain for going that way.

Buy yourself a nice meal and then go home.

Your food arrives minutes after ordering. You're too busy telling your date to go hug a bloody cactus to care about who is serving you. But when the smell reaches your nose and you look up, you can't help but pause.

The same blond is there. He's staring down at you with a sympathy you'd just about had enough of. Patrons had been sending you that look for the entirety of your stay. Why would you need him to- 

“Your food, miss.” He says, chin lowered respectfully. You snap out of your daze, swallowing hard and smiling. 

“Thank you.” You return gratefully, tucking your phone into your purse. The message yet to be sent taunts you. 

The fact that he hadn't kneeled and shoved the plate of food under your nose was troubling. It meant even the people in the damn kitchen knew about your failed date. Lovely.

“You're very welcome!” He exclaims suddenly, voice rising in volume. Were those heart eyes? You never found out.

You nod, acknowledging him.

“Is- is there an issue?” You ask when he doesn't leave. The hair covering his left eye shifts as he tilts his head. 

“Ah, no.” He replies, lips curled up just so. “Just trying to figure out why someone would not attend a dinner with such a lovely lady.” That makes you pause.

“Oh,” You breathe, then laugh heartily. What a turn of events, huh? “Well, you know, don't think too hard. You'll be wasting time.” The man frowns, troubled by your answer for a reason unknown to you. Averting your gaze to your food, you clear your throat.

“May I sit?” He asks politely, eying the chair across yours. You pick up your fork, humming. If he wants to sit, you won't stop him, but...

“Aren't you working, though?” You ask after a minute, voice small. 

“The old man won't mind.” He leans forward, resting his elbows on the table. “Besides, we need to deal with the mystery at hand.” 

You stare at him, eyebrows furrowed as you analyze him. If what you can glean is to be trusted, he doesn't look like a bad guy. Still, you're too hurt from tonight's failures to put up a flirtatious front. You don't think you're capable of that anymore. 

“Okay,” You inhale deeply. “But if we're going to be detectives, we might as well introduce ourselves, no?”

The blond grins, blue eye lighting up. “Vinsmoke Sanji.” He extends a hand, palm open. You grip his hand gingerly, giving him your name. Before you can release his hand, he places a kiss on your knuckles. Heat invades your cheeks, and you laugh to hide your embarrassment. You're sure your blush is easy to see, though.

“Well then,” You state, thumb rubbing over the spot his lips touched. Odd. “Any ideas?” 

Sanji hums, faking a pensive expression. You almost laugh again when all he has to say is: “He's a dumbass.” 

“You seem very sure,” You reply, carefully biting into your food. The flavour makes your tastebuds sing. Your elation and shock must've shown, because he straightens up proudly. 

“My own recipe,” He points to the dish, delighted. “And yeah, I'm very sure. Why else would he miss out on this?” Sanji gestures to you, then him, then the room. 

“I don't know,” You chuckle, rubbing at your cheek with your free hand. Damn your traitorous body for being so transparent. It was likely your blush had reached the tips of your ears by now. 

“Because he's a dumbass.” He reiterates and you can't help it. Peals of laughter tumble out of your mouth, and you brace a hand on the table. The other hand you use to hide your smile, mindful of your lipstick. 

“Because he's a dumbass.” You parrot, raising your glass and downing your drink in one go. That might not have been too polite, but you don't really care. Sanji looks thrilled you're having fun, anyway.

“I'm afraid if I stay any longer the old man will kill me.” He murmurs, leaning closer to you. You do the same, a small frown on your face.

“That's fine.” You reply, dismissing his apologetic gaze. Then, hastily, you add while he stands, “This is really good, by the way.” 

“Thank you very much!” 

And then he's gone.

Unsurprisingly, your mood sours with his departure. You finish your meal fast after your stomach growls loudly, mulling over your conversation. That had been more fun than all the other dates you'd been on. You'll admit you wouldn't mind seeing him again. Lips pursed, you glance down at your napkin. 

You couldn't write your number on that. It was far too fancy.

Rummaging through your bag, you find a pack of tissues and tug one free. Then, with no pen in hand, you grab the lipstick you're currently sporting and scribble your phone number down. It's messy but readable. 

And if he truly meant all those compliments, you'd be hearing from him again. 

You catch your waitress' attention, concealing the paper from her. She brings you the receipt and you pay without thinking twice. Then, you stand, collect your belongings, and leave the tissue on the table.

You're out the door without a second glance, sniffling and ensuring your makeup remains in its place.

Later, hours after flopping down on your bed and changing into more comfortable clothing, you get a message with your name. After confirming it's you, the conversation carries on from there.

>Do you plan on coming back?

You answer quickly, butterflies fluttering in your stomach. The more pessimistic side of your brain deflects any daydreaming, though. This message can mean many, many things.

>My wallet might not be able to handle it, but... hm... yeah. I'm thinking of going back.

((Sanji waves off a nosy co-worker, ordering him to clean up the place. He tells him that the kitchen is already clean. Grumbling, the blond marches out of the room, thumbs typing a reply.))

>Regulars do receive cheaper meals!

>You're making that up. Lol

>But would it get you to come back for sure?

>...yeah.

You giggle at the barrage of emojis that fills the screen.

>I'll wear the same shade of lipstick so you can recognize me.

>I'm more than capable of recognizing you without it.

>Really? How?

>I'm not a dumbass! ( `⌒ ´ )

You drum your fingers on your thigh, teeth worrying your bottom lip.

Contact saved.

New contact: Sanji (Not a Dumbass!)

 

 

Chapter Text

A gentle, feathery touch on your shoulder rouses you from your deep slumber. You refused to budge at first, content with smushing your face in your arm. A hint of a vexed grunt escaped your lips, followed by a soft chuckle that was not your own.

Shifting slightly so that your cheek presses against your forearm, you crack your dry eyes open. Your vision is blurry from the fatigue that pins you to the table, but some squinting out a porthole clears it eventually. The clinking of crockery to your right disturbs the comfortable silence in the room, and you smile secretly.

You'd ask her why she's parted from her bed and entered the kitchen, but your brain is foggy and your lips won't form the words. It's not a rare occurrence for her, anyway, so you're not alarmed.

The calming aroma of her favourite tea permeates the kitchen. It washes away all coherent thought and almost lulls you back to sleep. Swallowing down the bitter taste in your mouth, you sit up and stretch, biting back a groan.

“I did not mean to wake you,” She says, voice hardly above a whisper. Robin cranes her neck and studies your face closely. You prop your elbow on the table and rest your forehead in your palm, eyes shut.

“It's fine, Robin. I shouldn't have fallen asleep here, anyway. My back is killing me.” You reply, smiling to soothe whatever worries might be circling her mind. She hummed under her breath in acknowledgement. Robin summoned an extra hand to assist with her task of carrying the tray of tea. Then, like a phantom, she moved over to you and placed a steaming cup of liquid under your nose.

“Thank you,” You say earnestly, removing your hand from your face and meeting her eye. Her lips stretch into an easy smile as she sits down with her own drink. Sipping your drinks, you use this moment of silence to scrutinize her. She's in her pyjamas and her hair is tousled from sleep. Reaching over, you gingerly adjust a stray lock of silky hair. Robin doesn't react, focused on her drink, though she does give you an amused glance. Your cheeks grow warm at your sudden actions, which only provides her with more entertainment.

You chuckle lightly to disperse your embarrassment and avert your gaze. “Sorry...” You mumble without much thought. Robin pats you on the hand reassuringly, finishing her tea. After five minutes, she rises from her seat.

“Are you up and about for any particular reason?” You ask suddenly. Though you did find each other at night often, you sensed there was more to this than she let on. Robin spared you the briefest of looks.

“No,” She replied calmly, voice flat. Long ago, you would have believed her and carried on as usual. But that was before. Now, after having her presence on the ship for so long, you'd learned to read her. Though, she could still be extremely elusive and tricky. Life had moulded her to be that way as a means of survival, that much you knew. 

Still, you hope you'd made your well-meaning intentions clear to her. With you, there was no judgement or hatred towards her or anybody she affiliated with in the past. Not because you held no opinion, but because she had yet to open up.

And, well, Robin liked it that way. She didn't enjoy keeping you in the dark, per se, she just.... she just found it easier to be who she was now than to revisit the person from two years ago. And telling you meant going through the tidal wave of emotions that surfaced every time she remembered.

Robin will admit she was surprised that you hadn't asked the rest of the crew. It was something that puzzled her for a while, but she understood swiftly. 

You wanted to hear it from her. 

She sighed lightly when you appeared by her side with your empty cup and tray. You set your items on the counter of the kitchen, then gripped her hand. Curious to see what you were up to, she allowed herself to be led outside into the frigid night. 

You didn't really know what you were doing, grabbing her hand and taking her outside. It was cold and there wasn't much to see when it was pitch black, but... Something was bothering Robin. And while you were determined to hear her story, you didn't want to be overbearing. 

You don't have to tell me, Robin.” You mumbled, leading her down in the direction of the aquarium. The older woman didn't mind that. She was planning on heading down there with a book, anyway. “But just know that I'm here for you, alright?”

Of course, [name].” Robin squeezed your hand, fondness settling in her heart when you straightened happily, grinning. “Thank you.”

No problem,” You opened the door to the room, the rippling of the water lighting up your features. The blue hue of the room and the muted thrumming inside felt unreal. It was this room that always gave you a sense that the ship truly was alive. When you looked back at her, you locked eyes with her brilliant blue ones. Your heart rate stuttered momentarily and your previous embarrassment only worsened. Robin knew this, too. She was always aware of everything, it seemed.

You both settled on the couch, choosing to observe the fish in captivity as they floated to and fro. There was one large fish that appeared to glare at you both as it swam past you. 

Huh... Someone's angry...” You mused aloud, blinking when Robin chuckled.

Zoro had a difficult time with that one.” She said, eyes fixed on the topic of your conversation. It was currently attempting to terrorize a school of smaller fish. Robin regarded you again when you huffed, mirthful.

Don't let him catch you saying that...” You joked, smiling crookedly at the thought of Zoro's indignant excuses at such a statement. “You'll wound his pride.”

Robin giggled, fingertips touching her lips as her eyes slipped shut. Funny, she usually did that with her left hand. Then it dawns on you.

I haven't let go of your hand.” You state dumbly, about to do just that when she stops you. 

It's alright, [name]. I'm quite enjoying the feeling.” She squeezed your hand again, this time with more zeal to keep you from moving. This time, the blush reached the tip of your ears as you blinked rapidly. Mortification and delight mixed together in your stomach, causing butterflies to flutter. 

You laughed, resting your head on her shoulder to hide from her sharp eyes. The crystalline water of the aquarium and the creatures within it became your new interest. 

Robin smiled down at you, using her free hand to caress your cheek once. The heat radiating from your face warmed her chilly fingers. The memories threatening to overthrow her serene facade slunk into the recesses of her mind. Her demons, subdued by your innocent presence, could wait another night. Then she'd face them once more.

For now...

I'm gonna fall asleep again...” You murmured into her shoulder, realizing just how tired you were. Robin rested her head on top of yours, blue eyes slipping shut. She feared if she chortled you'd scurry off somewhere. It usually occurred when your embarrassment reached its peak, and she didn't want that. She wanted you to stay.

Then rest.” She replied, feeling sleep tug at her consciousness as well. You barely shook your head, releasing her hand and wrapping your arm around her waist. “We're going to have some serious back pain in the mornin'...” You feel the press of... of something on the top of your head, insistent yet so, so tender.

Robin hummed, the sound echoing in the room. It trails off into non-existence as exhaustion begins to claim her consciousness.

She wills her eyes to open if only to catch that sleepy expression on your face. Robin carves it into her memory and, before she drifts off, thinks, o ne day I'll tell you everything.

For now, she finally sleeps.

 

Chapter Text

Carefully, the man inserts the shiny new screw into his most recent creation, tongue poking out between his lips in concentration. He'd hardly had time to tinker away in his factory with all the – ahem – adventuring they had partaken in lately. Now, with the ship swaying rhythmically along the ocean, he could finish this.

He grabs a screwdriver from the set up laid out on the table, using it to tighten the bolt into place. When that's done, he leans back in his seat with a satisfied sigh, stretching languidly. His back pops loudly at the sudden action, and he grunts, laying there boneless and listening to the ambient sounds of the ship.

Distantly, he hears the soothing hum of a violin and a steady thump-thump rising above each note. The off-beat pounding and the violin clash horribly. He wonders why Brook would even think of adding such a thing to a song, then understands, though a second too late.

USOPP!!!

Said man shrieks at the booming voice and the slamming of the door against the wall, startling so violently he tumbles off his chair. He falls on his back with a dull thud, his leg kicking the table, and groans in irritation at his captain's intrusion. 

“Luffy,” He calls, already resigning to whatever fate te exciteable man has in store for him and whoever else has fallen victim to his antics. Still, it doesn't mean he's getting away with the scare. Sitting up, Usopp points an accusing finger at his captain. “What did I say about barging in like that?!”

“Oh, right, sorry!” Luffy exclaims in a manner that doesn't sound too apologetic, tittering afterward. But, having been with him for so long, Usopp was used to it. The sniper waves a hand dismissively, flopping back in his chair tiredly.

“Ooo-” Luffy hurries into the room, planting his hands on the backrest of his seat and leaning over Usopp to gawk at his project. “What's that, eh?!”

“Ah, this?” Usopp immediately straightened, puffing out his chest proudly before explaining whatever the object on his desk was. Luffy only half-listened, as expected, and reached out to touch it while Usopp spoke. The action was met with a defensive smack on his hand. Luffy whined at the attack, pouting at the sniper, who wiped his hands on an old rag.

“Anyway, what do you need?” 

“Oh, yeah! I forgot about that!” Luffy brought a fist down on his other palm, remembering his previous quest. “Where's (name)? They missed lunch!”

“(name)?” Usopp says your name, arching an eyebrow. He hums, thinking back to the early morning then to Sanji's lunch. “I dunno, actually. I haven't seen them either.”

Phooey .” Luffy's pout returns, and he taps his foot on the floor, trying to figure out where you could be.

“Why don't you go look in the crow's nest? They're usually up there, no?” Usopp muses, tapping his chin thoughtfully. Luffy brightens at the idea, nodding excitedly. 

“Alright!” He runs out of the room, remembering to thank Usopp. Said man relaxes into his seat once more, laughing to himself when he hears a crash and Chopper's surprised yell.

(x)

You tugged at your hair, biting back a frustrated noise as you glared down at your sketchbook. The offending object, sitting innocently in your lap, brings you no comfort in the small space of the crow's nest. In the time you'd been in here, you'd done absolutely nothing that was even worth acknowledging as art.

Heaving a sigh, you toss your pencil and book to the other side of the crow's nest and bury your face in your hands. 

When was the last time you actually drew something decent, anyway?

Suddenly, you hear your name from below. Hoping that if you ignore whoever is trying to get your attention they'll leave you alone, you don't reply. You're not in the mood for talking, either way. With how angry you've been lately, you don't want to lash out at any of your friends. Especially Luffy. 

Silence greets you after a few seconds, which you're grateful for, curling up even more. The sails dance noisily in the breeze pushing the ship forward. You listen to the quiet music emanating from the deck, thankful for Brook's impromptu music sessions throughout the day.

“(NAME)!”

You jump, gasping and punching the wall behind you in shock as you glance up, seeing Luffy's upside down face grinning at you. 

“There you are! I've been looking all over for you!” He yells, using his arms to flip himself upright and landing in a crouch in front of you. Then, oddly serious, he states, “You missed lunch.”

You take a second to compose yourself, inhaling deeply as you struggle for a reply. “Did I? Sorry. I must've...” Abruptly, you stop, deciding to keep things simple. “I'm sorry, Luffy.” You say genuinely, smiling a little at your concerned captain. He whipped his head back, urging his bangs to move to the side. Despite his efforts, the strands fell back in place. Your smile grew at the innocent display.

“That's okay! You can just come down and get some. You're gonna have to ask Sanji to make more though; I ate it all.” He grins, chuckling in that manner that was strictly unique to him. You think you feel better just by having him around. After all, if there's one person you know wouldn't judge you, it's him. Not that you think the others would judge you – far from that, really – it's just rare to find somebody as accepting as him.

A hand enters your line of vision, and you shake your head, blinking rapidly to clear your mind. Luffy had been waving a hand to get you to come back to reality again. You shrink a little at that, forcing a laugh.

“Sorry, I haven't been sleeping too well. What did you say?”

“What were you doing up here all by yourself?” Luffy repeated, adjusting the straw hat on his head. Your eyes darted around then zeroed on the scar on his cheek anxiously. When Luffy rubbed at his cheek with a confused sound, you covered your face again. “(name)?”

“I... was trying to draw.” You admit quietly, embarrassment colouring your cheeks a deep shade of red. Shyly, you separated your fingers and stared at your captain through the gaps. Luffy blinked.

Really?! ” He asks, bouncing in his spot. “Can I see? Can I?” 

Before you can even reply, he snatches your sketchbook from the ground. Your body reacts automatically. Gripping his wrist, you protest, “Wait, no, Luffy! They're so bad!” Unfortunately, that only seems to spurr him on, outrage written on his features at the mere prospect of you being bad at something. You wrestle with him, though you're severly outmatched, and eventually he manages to push you far enough to take a look. Your heart lurches in your chest when he flips it open, and you stop, averting your gaze as you slump backwards with a thump

The silence that follows is defeaning, only interrupted by the flipping of paper as he sifts through your art, lips pursed.

Just when you think you can't handle the quietude anymore and open your mouth, he gasps in delight.

“That's me!! And Usopp! Oh, and there's Nami, too!” He points at each and every person on the page, smile stretching more and more with each discovery. Your cheeks feel so warm you can feel the heat radiating off them. You hide your face for the third time today, desperately hoping that something else will distract him. Still, you can't help but feel flattered at the fact that even he could recognize the people you'd sketched. 

“There's me again!” He turns the page, eager to find more, but pauses at the big 'X” drawn in the middle of the paper. Another flip, and he finds a messy sketch of Zoro, with a sad face drawn in the corner. He backtracks to the X. “What's this?”

Knowing what he's referring to, you reply, voice muffled. “I tried drawing today... but I couldn't. Those drawings you saw are from months ago.”

“Ohhh...” He nodded, “But why'd you cross it out? It was good!”

You laughed despite your bitter mood. “You can't even see it, Luffy.”

Your captain frowns at your words. “I don't need to.” 

You squawk horribly loud at his statement, waving your hands before reclaiming your sketchbook. He doesn't fight you this time, only watching as you hug it to your chest. You count the lines etched into the wood of the crow's nest, teeth worrying your bottom lip 'til it turns red.

“The truth is,” You begin wearily, scratching at the bridge of your nose in order to busy one of your hands. “I haven't felt inspired for a long time. I don't even know if I like drawing anymore, Lu. I mean, the things I draw are usually so pretty but I make them so ugly and bad I just don't know if I- ugh, I don't know.” 

You're about to continue rambling when Luffy butts in, jutting his chin out. “I like them.”

“I know,” You say, “But-”

“No buts!” Luffy cuts you off again, then, much to your utter dismay, steals your sketchbook and leaps. You gasp, not for his safety but because you knew exactly what that rascal was up to now. 

No , you think anxiously, not rascal. He's just doing what he thinks is right.

You begin climbing down, hissing when your foot slips off the rigging, feet dangling loosely for a heart-wrenching moment. Catching yourself, you carry on down, knowing that the effort was futile but wanting to try nonetheless. If I can just catch him before he-

“Sanji! Nami! Look!” 

“No!” You yell from your elevated spot on the rigging, “Luffy, stop! Don't you dare!” 

Even if he was trying to help you, you knew he was, it was still embarrassing! God, you haven't even doodled in months! Whatever else they find in that thing is subpar to everything before you hit this ugly bump in your art journey.

You forgo the ropes and jump down the rest of the way, landing with a roll. When you rise to your feet, you stop, groaning at the sight. 

The entire crew was marvelling at your drawings – even Zoro, who you thought had been asleep, was nodding along with whatever Luffy was saying. Nami held your sketchbook for Chopper to see, who hopped happily when he saw your doodle of him. You remembered drawing him on his favorite chair, so that must be the one. Sanji is beyond impressed when he sees your drawing of him cooking, snapping his fingers as he remembers that day. 

Yeah, that day where you sat and practically stared at him for hours trying to figure out how to get his eyebrows right and ugh why, lord, why?!

Robin glances up from the art show to send you a smile, amusement in her eyes. You shake your head, spinning around to hide somewhere in the ship.

“And look, they drew the Thousand Sunny and Franky on this page and- ne, (name), where are you going?!” 

You don't even flinch when an arm snakes around your waist and pulls you back. What you do is drag your feet the entire way, grumbling to yourself.

“(name)! (name)!” Chopper tugs at your sleeve, “You really drew these?” The reindeer is as amazed as everyone else. You falter at the question, half-shrugging, half-hiding. 

“....yeah.”

“They're suuuper well done, dude!” 

“...thank you.” You say earnestly, smiling up at the cyborg, even if it pains you. “But most of them are really old.”

“Oh, there's newer ones?” Nami is the one to ask. She delves further into your little secret world, eyes brimming with interest. You can see the similarities between her and Luffy, to be perfectly honest. When they are both intrigued by something, it's impossible to keep it from them. Like peas in a pod.

“Yeah, but,” You reclaim your sketchbook before anyone can utter a complaint. “They're bad.”

“No, they're not!” Luffy yells in your face, eyebrows furrowed. You blush at his proximity, shoving his face. With your hand on his cheek, he carries on. “I shaw them! They're really good, thoo!”

“No, they're not!” You parrot right back, shame slithering up your spine. “I told you, I haven't drawn anything good in months.”

Luffy whirls around, regarding you with a fire in his eyes that wasn't there a second ago. He looks mad, but you know it's not at you. It's your stubbornness that's ticking him off and how you won't listen to him. What's funny is that his face is all smooshed up from your hand, so his lips poke like a fish's would.

Your shoulders sag.

“They're not bad, I guess. ” You admit defeat, knowing that your captain can go on for hours if he doesn't get his way. He still doesn't look happy though, so... “Okay, fine, they're decent! The effort is there and... gosh, please, don't be so mad!”

Hearing this, Luffy grins, nodding approvingly at your defeat. “See? I told you.” He opens the damn thing again to show them your most recent Zoro sketch. “And here you are again!”

“Just like the real thing,” Sanji claims sarcastically, which sets off skirmish number twenty-seven between Zoro and the cook. 

You take the chance to flee, forgetting the object that rained down so much embarrassment upon you. Luffy moves to chase you, but a warm hand on his shoulder keeps him from doing so. Robin calmly shakes her head. “They need some time by themselves, Luffy.”

He frowns, but otherwise understands.

(x)

You still hadn't left your room.

So flustered by the ordeal, you hurried to your bed and buried yourself under the covers. You guess it's been a good few two hours since judgement hour, but you'd barely recovered. Having something so private shown so openly was mortifying, especially since you weren't proud in the slightest.

A knock and the sound of the door opening rouses you from another train of thought. You grunt, covering your head again, already knowing who it is.

“Luffy... what has Usopp told you about knocking?”

“But I just did it!”

“You're supposed to do that beforehand, not while you're opening the door, Luffy.”

“Oh...” 

You sigh, kicking the covers off you and shifting to gaze up at him. Luffy appears sheepish, at least. Sitting up, you motion for him to sit on the bed, rubbing the back of your head. He joins you on the mattress happily, flopping down on it with a giggle. You grin at his actions, unable to remain moody with him around. 

“What can I do for you, Lu?” You ask, wriggling your feet. It was colder than you thought it'd be. He stares up at you, his head right by your left knee, feet dangling off the edge. 

“You forgot your drawings.” He says, lifting your sketchbook and giving it to you. You set it down on your nightstand without a word, patting him on the forehead as thanks. Before you can withdraw, he grips your wrist gently but firmly. “Why do you say bad things about yourself?”

You freeze, mouth going dry. That was unexpected. “...what?”

“You're always saying bad things about yourself.” He explains, poking your palm. “Even if you are good at something. Why?”

“I... I don't know, Lu.” You admit. “I guess I'm just not as confident as you.”

“Huh.” He pokes your wrist this time, frowning and humming as he sorts out the thoughts running through his mind. You settle down into a more comfortable position, leaning against the wall, the light from the hall as your only source of illumination. 

“I like your drawings.” Luffy speaks up after a short pause in his endless humming. He meets your eye, smiling. “You and Usopp are both good.” 

You feel warmth bloom in your chest at the sight. 

“I like yours more than Usopp's though.” Then, in a hushed voice. “Don't tell him I said that!” Well, as hushed as your noisy captain can be. It coaxes a laugh out of you.

“Okay, I won't.” You move closer to him, feeling better. It feels like he has more to say about the topic, but... well, you've never talked about you for so long. It's odd.

Feeling cheeky, you lean down and press a kiss to the tip of his nose, cheeks burning. He makes a noise of confusion, then laughs. You chortle along with him, carding your fingers through his hair. He still hasn't released your wrist, but you don't mind.

“Luffy?” You call softly. He looks up at the sound of his name.

“Thank you.”

Luffy stares up at you for another second, then beams, closing his eyes. “Yeah!”

You shake your head fondly.

Chapter Text

He stands, alone, his companions the water stretching as far as he can see and the sand shifting to accommodate his weight. Waves lap at his weather-worn boots, soaking the soles, before retreating moments after. Much like most aspects of a person's life – his life. The conquest, the power, the glory. His sons and daughters and what have you, as well as the aches in his bones and the throbbing of his heart.

It all disappears when he's alone.

Or so he thinks.

The sand sinks beneath him as he lowers himself to the pale white sand. He feels the bones in his knees creak as he kneels, leaning heavily on his bisento. His heart, traitorous in his day to day life, beats its rhythm steadily against his ribcage. Finally, he sits, his coat pooling around him as if afraid to cling to his body.

Out of the corner of his eye, he notes when you carefully enter his line of vision, soundless. He keeps his gaze trained on the horizon, where the sun is now joining and become one entity with the amber water.

Newgate feels a finger ghost his shoulder, gliding down until you grip one of his hands in yours. He sits there, arm braced on his knee with his palm open as you study his the limb, humming to yourself.

Your song plays in his brain, the words you mumble carved into his bones and breathing life into him again. The exhaustion deepening the wrinkles carved into his skin sloughs off him, evening out his complexion. Newgate allows his eyes to slip shut as he relaxes, resting his weapon on the ground. He loses himself, relishing the moment.

You croon softly, drumming a beat into his loose palm, gentle like droplets dripping from stalactites in a cavern. Each word fills his empty mind, echoing and resounding until he too mumbles the lyrics. If your voice is like rain, light and pleasant, his is the storm brewing in the distance. A deep rumble, foreboding, nowhere near as melodic as yours.

It doesn't matter. Newgate sings anyway, letting you carry the tune, the beat of your fingers tethering him to you so that he doesn't fall behind. The final cadences of the song approaching, he sits up, straightening his spine, puffing his chest slightly. He would sing.

He lets you sing the last note, opting to listen instead, lips curling into a small grin. The last raindrops fall and fade with the grumble of thunder.

You're both quiet.

Newgate knows what comes after this. He's relived it enough times to make his own predictions as to who would disturb.

Vaguely, he senses his presence, but remains in his place, needing to stay for as long as he's able to. He doesn't want to leave, but he does not ignore his son, who calls to him tentatively.

Whitebeard opens his eyes. The horizon tucks away the remaining rays of sunlight, leaving him and his son in inky darkness. Stars glitter in the sky, twinkling in greeting. He glances down at his hand, clenching it once before letting it fall to his side.

(He ignores the sudden chill scaling his arms, though cannot avoid the goosebumps that dot his skin.)

When he faces Ace, his son is wearing an expression of both concern and subdued elation – the latter being more common now that he was part of the family. Whitebeard stands, salt-water and sand clinging to his clothing, and wordlessly begins the trek back to his ship. His son trails after him, re-telling the day's events and reporting to him what some of the others had already done.

He smiles, listening and nodding when the time deemed it appropriate, the ocean waves brushing his feet one more time.

While his son is busy, Whitebeard cranes his neck to glance behind him, gaze far away.

Everything disappears when he's alone. The pain, the past, the present, the future.

But you're always there, your once buried voice escaping the confines of his memories and lulling him again and again.

He doesn't need to look back at Ace to know that his son is curious as to what has captured his attention. Many wonder, many would swallow their trepidation and ask, and once, he would have answered readily. Once, he would have motioned to you – you, his destined – and declared the answer to the world.

(“What are you thinking about?”

Light or no light, your smile is radiant, bright – so bright he still sees it in his dreams. You blink your eyes owlishly, expression changing to one of confusion when he shakes his head, lips sealed. Huffing, you do the same, sorting through the papers in your hands to stamp your curiosity. Newgate can see your eyebrows pinch in concentration, cheeks rosy from the cold. You look up when a crewmember shouts your name and respond accordingly, quick and to the point. 

When they leave, you lift your chin and stare at him expectantly. He chuckles.

I thought you already knew,” Newgate replies, eyes crinkling in the corners as his smile grows. Your lips quirk as you roll your eyes, hitting his arm with the stack of papers.)

Now, the most he can do is say your name, answer that one burning question, hide the grief behind a grin, and chortle when the curious brat begins apologizing frantically.

(“Are they your destined?”

Yes, they were.”)

You were.

 

Chapter Text

Like any other day, you go fishing.

You set out to sea, angling supplies and other resources tucked into your boat. The heat of the sun is heavy on your back, like a boulder, but it's a weight you've learned to bear. Sweat trickles down your temple and beads at the nape of your neck as you push, your tiny ship scraping along the sand. The steady beating of your sandals on the ground is soothing, as is the water wetting your throbbing feet.

With one last mighty heave, your boat enters the vast ocean. You hop on before it strays too far, gripping the edges as it wobbles from your actions. Then, with a resolute sigh, you settle down and begin to row. You moved with the oars, breaking the surface of the water and propelling your boat. Back turned to the horizon, you watched the island, measuring in your mind how far you'd traveled.

When you were out far enough, you released the wooden paddles and flexed your hands. Your fingers, no matter how strong or calloused, never ceased to ache after twenty minutes of rowing.

Huffing slightly, you shook off your exhaustion and threw yourself into your usual routine of preparing your fishing tools. Your hands moved on their own as you lost yourself in thought, wondering, analyzing the waters. When the fishing rod was ready, you propped your elbows on your knees, inhaled, and waited, closing your eyes.

The ocean rocked your ship gently, which bobbed along merrily. It was calm, and with no storm looming overhead, you didn't have to worry about wandering too far from home. And so, without meaning to, you relaxed, barely hanging onto consciousness as you sank deeper into bliss. With the blue skies and fairy tale-like clouds practically crawling by, it was hard not to.

Fortunately, after years of fishing and scrambling for the rod at the slightest tug, it was just as easy to tear yourself out of your stupor.

You seized the fishing rod, tensing immediately when you felt an insistent pull. Then, without a second thought, you begin the usual fight with whatever fish you've caught. Usually, you can remain seated, but it seems whatever you've caught is as stubborn as you. Carefully, you stand, widening your stance for better balance as you continue to tug. This was always your least favorite part. While most people found excitement, you felt both irritated and embarrassed. Mostly because of how utterly ridiculous one can look when your catch is the size of your pinky finger after struggling for what feels like years.

What you were not ready for, though, is for the fish to suddenly begin ascending at incredible speeds. And you didn't make things better by realizing a second too late, when the creature finally tore through the water angrily.

Yelping, you forgo the fishing rod in order to protect your face from the salt water with your arms, face scrunching up. You don't spend too much time like that, because moments later, you hear a woman's voice.

You can't hear what she says over the sounds of disrupted water and fishing equipment being tossed around. If you had, you'd probably find it very shocking, but what surprises you the most is the tail peeking out from the water.

Gasping, you dare a step backwards and regret it instantly when the boat topples beneath you and you fall. Ice-cold water surrounds you, the taste of salt on your tongue. Even so, the woman hasn't stopped talking.

Oh dear Neptune, I'm sorry, human-person! I didn't meant to scare you!” The rest of her words are cut off as you swim up, breathing labored from the sudden adrenaline coursing your veins.

You flop onto your upside down boat, watching your supplies bounce and sway around you. Sighing, you rest your cheek on the wood before remembering the-

Are you all right, human person?!”

On the other side of your boat, arm's reach away, is...

A mermaid.” You breathe, blinking stupidly at the green-haired woman resting her hands on your pathetic vessel. And she was... really pretty. And she was wearing a shirt, which was a bit odd. But, hey, you're not judging.She mirrors you, eyes shining, and at last you process her words and reply. “I'm – me? I'm fine. Yeah, I'm okay. You?” Cursing your stammering, you struggle for purchase on the slippery wood.

Uhhhh... kind of?” The mermaid lifts her pink tail, offering you a good look at the hook clinging to one of her scales.

Shrinking a little, you mutter a soft 'oh' then beckon her to you with a hand. Her tail is long enough to reach you without her needing to move an inch. Gingerly, you remove the hook and then stare it down. Seeing as the rod is already in the water, you toss the hook aside. Not like it'll go far, anyway. “I'm sorry.” You say, returning your hand to its previous perch. “If- If I had known you were a mermaid I wouldn't have done something like that – not like I could have known, but – well, there's never been a mermaid out here before.”

Really?!” The woman gapes at you, jaw slack as she regards you in such a bewildered way it almost earns a laugh from you. You find yourself smiling a little at her surprise, no matter how out of place it may seem.

No, never.” You confirm, shaking water out of your eyes. “What are you doing all the way out here?”

Oh, you know, I was just-” Again, her jaw drops comically, and she gasps dramatically. “Oh, no! Where did it go? I almost saved it, too!” You look on as she twists one way, then another, searching for what you can assume is another creature.

Just as you're about to speak, she points, splashing water in your face. “There!” Then, she disappears, tail arching over your head. You remain where you are, wondering if you should even attempt to gather your lost items, when she returns, sending water in your direction again. You sputter for a good five seconds, salt on your tongue, then gaze down at her.

In her hands is a small manta ray the size of your head. It's a deep navy blue with white dots covering its body. You dodge the tail that swings about violently as it flops about in the mermaid's arms.

I was trying to get this thing off of it!” She explains, gesturing to the hook embedded in its body. You note the fishing line tangled and knotted in odd places and wince.

Ah,” Lips pursed, you glance at the disaster around you again and make up your mind. “I can get it off with the right materials, but I need to sit down. Can you – can you help me flip this?” You request shyly. After all, you did try to catch her mere minutes ago.

Okay, sure!” Her enthusiasm throws you off, especially after what you did, but you don't question it. Sliding off the boat, you and the mermaid flip it over. You heave your dripping wet body onto it, sighing in relief now that you're in a place safer for a human.

I'm also going to need my things...” You state, shrugging helplessly. Again, she surprises you by laughing and getting your items for you. More specifically, your knife. “Thank you so much.”

No problem, human-person! Now please help it!”

You nod, accepting the manta ray from her and leaning over the edge so that it is still close to water. The last thing you need is for it to die. Then, when you're sure it won't fly out of your hands, you set to work.

Fingers hooked on the rim of your boat, the mermaid rests her chin on her hands, observing you. There's a crease in her brow, a clear sign of her concern for her fellow ocean-dweller. It makes your hands shake a little. You feel heat invade your cheeks.

The mermaid is quiet as you work, mumbling to yourself and trying to figure out the knots. You dip the manta ray in the water several times, cleaning away the blood staining the hook. At a particularly harsh cut, it begins thrashing endlessly, and you struggle to keep it from escaping. A pair of hands reach for the animal, appeasing it again. You look up at the mermaid, who sends you a smile, then resume your work even more tenderly than before.

It takes a while, but eventually the fishing line is cut from the hook and you can finally extract the metal. When you do and the manta ray is free, you and the mermaid cheer as it swims away.

Thank you so much, human-person!” She exclaims, grabbing your hands and shaking them vigorously. The corners of your lips curl up as you chuckle.

Of course, any time. I'm sorry about earlier.”

Oh, wha- that!” She lets go of you in favor of waving dismissively. “No problem. I'm just glad we could help the poor thing! What's your name? I'm Camie!”

You give her your name. She repeats it excitedly, then grasps your hands again, bringing her face so close to yours you can count the light freckles dusting her cheeks. Feeling much more comfortable now that you're both past your differences in species, you chortle at her antics.

“By the way, what were you doing out here?” She inquires, examining your boat and soaked tools. You hide a cringe behind a forced smile, inhaling deeply in preparation. You can't really lie to her, considering how obvious it is, so you might as well be ready for her to drown you or something.

“Fishing.” You admit quietly. “Though... I haven't had much luck these past few weeks.” As if that would make it any better. She just freaked out over a manta ray with a hook stuck in its body.

“Oh, why?” Shockingly, she doesn't appear bothered by your words, so you slowly will your body to relax. She's let go of you, but she's still really close, and you don't know if moving away would be rude.

You shrug sheepishly. “Who knows. Could be luck, could be my skills. I don't know.”

Before she can feel bad for you or question you further, you add, “It doesn't matter though. I've got food back home. I mostly go fishing as a hobby. But today I got to meet you, so I guess it does kind of matter.”

When you process your own words, you smack a hand over your mouth, eyes searching her features for disgust. Instead of that, though, you're presented with the sight of her lowering herself into the water so that it reaches her chin. She tries to hide a grin but fails miserably, cheeks red. However, she recovers quickly.

“Well, I'm glad I got to meet you too, (name)-chin! You're really nice for helping out that manta ray!”

“You think so?” You smile. “I'm glad. Though... I should be heading back home. Humans get sick easily and this,” Peeling your shirt from your body, you squeeze water from the cloth, “is not helping that.”

“Oh!” Camie heaves herself back up. “Okay...” You think you hear disappointment in her voice, which leads to that awful feeling of guilt in your stomach. To appease her, you place a hand on her shoulder, hoping you sound reassuring.

“I was thinking of coming back out here tomorrow, if you'd like to swim by and visit.” You offer, eyebrow arching.

"Really?” Her tail sways back and forth excitedly, glittering in the sunlight. You hum, happy that you hadn't scared her off with your hobby. “Okay, yeah! I'll see you tomorrow, then, (name)-chin!”

Camie aids you in your journey to the shore, pushing your boat as you row. You insist she doesn't need to assist you, but she shakes her head, persisting and brushing off your concerns. To make sure she doesn't exert herself, you do your best to row strongly.

When you reach the shore, you sit in your boat, staring at your cabin sitting at the edge of the jungle. You don't want to leave, to be perfectly honest. But you do have to eat and get other things done.

Facing your new friend, you speak, “Well, I guess this is it, then. Thank you for helping me get back home.”

Camie grins wide, “No problem. I will see you tomorrow, (name)-chin!”

You nod, waving her goodbye as she dips her head underwater and swims away. You observe the waters, hoping to catch a glimpse of her, but she's truly gone. Raising a hand to your lips, you laugh to yourself, hurrying to your home.

 

Chapter Text

You've had it with this man.

Lips set into a firm scowl and eyes burning literal holes into your red-headed captain's back, you clench your fists. Like usual, he laughs loud and clear, rubbing the back of his head where some fool had clobbered him. Said jerk, who had previously worn a triumphant expression, stared at Shanks, confounded.

Off to the side, both crews observed the scene, some more at ease than others. You think you're the only one in your crew offended by the man's actions. Benn and the rest are still sipping at their drinks, chortling into their mugs. The other crew appeared just as puzzled as their captain, who drew his sword with less confidence than before.

Why you laughing, fool?!” He pointed the sword at your captain, and you damn near tackled him to the ground. You would've done more than just entertain the idea were it not for Lucky Roo and his paw on your shoulder. It's as if they sensed when you were reaching your boiling point, which was not far from the truth. What you can't understand is how the can sit idly and watch their captain be disrespected. Didn't they know who he was? Apparently not.

You shake off the hand, crossing your arms and digging your nails into your palms. Lucky Roo tries to coax you back into your vacant seat, placing the chair back on its legs. You'd knocked it aside after slamming your hands on the table and rising, shoulders squared and ready to throw punches.

Scoffing, you plop down in your seat and down the rest of your beverage, gaze fixed on the opposing crew. Their moods ranged from amusement to uncomfortable glances to their friends.

You didn't bother listening to whatever Shanks was saying, too focused on making sure nobody else stuck their head up their asses and attacked him. Any more and you might burst.

You're not usually this angry,” Benn comments calmly, sliding another mug in your direction. Where he'd acquired another drink was beyond you. You ignored it in favour of responding.

No, I'm not.” You grumble, swinging a leg over the other and bouncing your foot up and down. “Guess today is just a bad day for me, huh.”

Benn wasn't bothered by your sass. You doubt much can bother him after spending so many years with the captain of your ship. That man was, simply put, chaotic. And yet it didn't stop you from catching feelings. Fucking great .

Oh, come on, [name].” Lucky Roo brings a chunk of bread to his mouth and takes a large bite. “You know they're nothing compared to him.”

I do.” You huff. The dumbass has retreated considerably now that he sees that Shanks is not going to fight back, put off by the redhead's amiability. His sword clicked as he slid it back into its sheath. Then, without another word, made a beeline to the exit, his comrades trailing behind him.

Seizing the moment, you cup a hand around your mouth and holler, “Yes, please fuck off, already.” No-one in your crew reacts to your words, but that doesn't mean the enemy captain doesn't. He stops by the entrance, hand inching towards his weapon as he faces you. If it took you , the only woman in the crew, to rile him up and actually force his hand... well, his worldview doesn't surprise you in the slightest. 

You don't belong with the Red-Hair Pirates, yadda yadda. You'd heard it all before. The only person that could get you to leave was the red-head himself. Everyone else went unheard.

Standing up again, you move to the centre of the room, ignoring Shanks' call of your name.

Your brand new opponent shuts the door to the pub again, eyes narrowed into slits. You're unfazed as you draw your own sword, thumbing the hilt. Before anyone else can even blink, your swords are clashing.

Both of you grunt, expressions dark. The idiot's sword slides closer to your hilt, even though it's pointless due to the guard that protects your hand. You grip his collar and yank him closer to your face, hissing, “He might not have a problem with you hitting him, but I do.” 

The man opens his mouth to retort, but you shove him back before he can utter a word. At this point in time, both crews are on edge. Some of the other losers brandished their weapons, pointing them at you threateningly. Your mind is fixed on one man, though.

You prepare to swing, widening your stance and raising your arm, ready to propel yourself forward. Just as you're about to attack though, a tanned palm latches itself to your wrist, preventing further action. Already knowing who it is, you growl, trying to free yourself to no avail.

Head swivelling to glower at Shanks, you snap, “Damn it, Shanks! What the fuck !” You keep tugging, this time with your other hand. “Let me go, already!”

Shanks ignores you, raising his chin and staring down his nose at the enemy. One silent conversation later, the idiots leave the pub without another look over their shoulders. The man's hold on your arm loosens, and you tear yourself free, glaring at the exit.

You shouldn't have done that, lass. They were already leaving.”

I don't care.” You snarl. “And I don't care that you don't care about them hitting you, because I care.”

Shanks grins down at you and you hear your crew chuckle amongst themselves at your peculiar wording. You know you sounded like some petulant child, but you've had it with him disregarding those that poke fun at him or worse. Did he not realize what he could get himself into?

Now, you don't doubt him. Far from it, really. You'd never had more confidence in someone in your life. But you could only be hit with so many bottles before an injury caused an infection. You could only let so many things slide before others caught wind of it and stepped up and-

Hey,” Shanks bent down so that he was eye-level with you, but you avoided his kind gaze and stomped off. You knew you couldn't change his ways. The guy, despite his career choice, was a real pacifist. Fighting without reason was not something he did. And yet the rage kept flaring and festering. 

You decided to head back to the ship. It dwarfed a lot of the surrounding ships moored to the pier. Those casting the large ship curious and cautious glances seemed to inconspicuously return to their work. Like usual, you ignore the world and hurry onboard, rushing off to the one place you could find peace.

Though you'd been concerned before, the crew had given you your own room. Kind, but unnecessary, you thought. Yet you caved when Shanks assured you it was all right for you to take it.

Of course, you did. You think bitterly. There was little resistance you could put up when it came to your captain. Though, half the time, it felt like you were all watching over a child with an alcoholism problem. 

Shutting the door, you cross your room in two steps, kick off your shoes, and flop down on the bed. You're not going to be able to fall asleep, you know that much, and if you do it won't be for long enough. Either way, you appreciate the silence and the gentle bobbing of the ship. You could feel the negativity sloughing off you now that you weren't in and a danger.

(x)

You managed to sleep for an hour.

As it was early evening, the room was now completely dark. Despite the hour, the ship was still bustling with activity. Footsteps and voices echoed down the corridors. A distant laugh you recognized all too well reached your ears.

More than once, after a brave attempt at shutting down and allowing the adrenaline to leave your system, you forget why you were mad. With how easily you fell into your chores and spoke with your friends, it was no surprise.

But not this time.

The sound of his laugh only grated on your nerves. It irked you to no end.

Why do you have to be the angry one? Why did everyone else carry on with their lives as if nothing was wrong?

You groan, burying your face in your pillow. What's worse is that you're beginning to see how you were in the wrong. How your actions were not of an adult, but a little child. Like Benn said, you never felt that angry. You've never let it guide your hand until now.

Might as well act like an adult now. You muse, sitting up slowly. Better late than never, right?

Right.

Pushing aside the anxiety and fear, you put on your boots and fix your appearance. Not much needs to be corrected, considering how little you slept, but you do so anyway. After a few more checks in the mirror, you're out the door.

Shanks is probably in the captain's cabin since it's late. It's not uncommon for him and Benn to share drinks and play a game of cards. You were hoping they'd finished by now, though.

It's quite a walk from your room to the captain's quarters. You spend it evening your breathing, counting your steps, flexing your hands. It didn't help that a haunting realization happened to wash over you while walking.

Never had you walked away from him before. You'd always dutifully listened to him explain over and over again why he was fine, why there was nothing wrong, why you should just relax, etcetera. You were quick to calm down once the threat was gone or taken care of, but this time... this time you left.

You rub your temples, breathing in deeply once your eyes are on the door. There are no voices or outraged cries emanating from within, which means Benn must have retired for the night.

Gathering your courage, you rap your knuckles on the door, waiting five seconds before opening it. You'd normally wait for him to call you inside, but today you're not in the mood for letting your worries get ahold of you.

In the centre of the room, a large table with maps haphazardly tossed on it greets you. There's a lit lamp sitting on it as well, which means that your captain has not fallen asleep yet.

Looking around though, you realize that he's not in here. The bed nestled in the corner, while a complete mess, was vacant. You approach it, running your fingers along the mattress and reaching a conclusion. It was cold, meaning he'd stepped out for more than a few minutes.

Should you wait, then? He doesn't really mind when people enter his room, only when they snoop, something he notices without pause. You'd only scoured it a single time, and that was for a map Benn had requested. Even though you barely touched anything and moved what you had to, he brought it up anyway. The crease in his brow and the slight frown showed he wasn't mad, just curious. Still, it shook you. He was extremely observant.

Moving to the table, you lift a couple of maps and watch them glide back into place. And then, when you think he's not going to show and sigh, a voice cuts the silence.

Finally decided to leave your room?” You turn around, locking eyes with your captain. He has a bottle in one hand and a stack of cards in the other. Without pause, he crosses the threshold and places the items on his bed.

Nodding, you step away from the table, hands balling into fists at your sides. You know he doesn't mean anything bad by his statement. Half of your conversations drift towards flirting from his end and multiple eye-rolls from yours. This is just more of his teasing.

You've seen him angry and this was not it.

With that thought in mind, you speak, “I... came to apologize, Captain. I know it was immature of me to attack that man when he was leaving.” The mere memory of today's regular douchebag leaves a sour taste in your mouth. Soon enough, you're rambling again. “But- but, he literally punched you in the back of the head and dumped your drink on you. You were hurt and- and I know you can hold your ground if you have to. I know I don't have to defend you – hell, you were completely fine without me around, and-”

His steady footsteps escaped you. You were too preoccupied with your explaining that you didn't notice him close the distance between you two. Your hands moved and gestured wildly in front of you, unable to remain by your side. It was impossible. The more you elaborated, the angrier you got.

One particular swipe almost hit Shanks' nose, but he cranes his neck and dodges it. You yelp at his proximity.

Fuck, sorry, I'm sorry.” Your attempt at scurrying away to the other end of the room is thwarted by his hands capturing yours. There's amusement in his eyes as he holds you still.

You think that will be the end of that, but then he snorts, hands travelling up to your upper arms and tightening their hold. The hair framing his tan face hangs in front of his eyes as he laughs, shoulders shaking. You're far too mortified to budge for a solid ten seconds. Then, when your brain finally begins functioning, you start struggling.

Shanks! Shanks, this is the second time you've grabbed me today! Get off!” You can't see his face anymore; he's hunched over now. His cackling is so loud you fear the entire crew will be able to hear him. Even so, you're fighting a grin, so much that your cheeks ache. “What's so funny? Shanks, why are you laughing?!”

Dahahahaha!” 

He shakes his head, clearly unable to restrain his guffaws.

Shanks,” You begin, shoving him lightly, “Shanks, put a lid on it, already.”

It takes him several minutes, but eventually, he settles down. There a few fits of giggles here and there, but he's facing you fully now. You're composed enough now that you don't grin at him. 

Are you calm, now?” You prompt, crossing your arms and arching an eyebrow at him. 

Heh, yeah, I am... I, uh -- hah, whew!” He wipes a stray tear with a finger, then goes right back to holding you.

Good, good.” You say without any real excitement, shrugging. Shanks notices your mood hasn't changed and sighs audibly.

Listen, lass,” He starts seriously, squeezing your shoulders. When did he move his hands, anyway? “What happens to me isn't that big of a deal.” You open your mouth to object, ready to list off a million reasons why it does matter. A million minus the most embarrassing, which ties in with your ridiculous feelings. “I know, you don't believe that, but you gotta. I mean, look at me.” You do. You look at him and you see a bruise forming on his cheek, right below the three scars marring the skin. He never really explained how he received them, only mentioned a man. Probably from falling off the stool. “I'm here and I sure as hell ain't going anywhere.”

I just don't understand why you let people hurt you, let alone think they can best you.” You argue, at a loss as you escape his hold carefully.

What can I say?” He grins at you. “I'm a pacifist.”

That... okay, sure. You'll take it.

I'm still going to throw a fit if it goes too far, though.”

Which it didn't, not this time.” He points out, watching you grimace as you remember. “You're usually a lot more laid-back, lass.”

Bad day,” You mumble, looking away. Shanks hums, blinking owlishly as he thinks of a reply. What he says is the last thing you would expect from him.

Lady problems?”

What?” You blurt, heat invading your cheeks. “What? No! Shanks!” It's inevitable, you start laughing, bracing your hands on your knees. “No, no no no. Sheesh. I- wow, now it's my turn to laugh.” Giggling, you thumb the maps on the table, closing your eyes to control your amused sounds.

No,” Shanks still doesn't appear convinced, probably because he's extremely sharp despite what his actions might suggest. You roll your eyes. “Not that. It's something else.”

Before the conversation can go down that road though, you derail it and turn so that your back faces him. “It's not worth talking about, though. It's stupid.”

It's not stupid if it's botherin' you this much...” He muses, stacking up the maps you're so busy admiring and laying his hands on the table, fingers splayed.

Just – it's better to leave it, Captain.” You smile at him, realizing you'd pulled out the title, you backtrack. “...Shanks.” ...Not like it makes things better, though.

Shanks, like usual when someone isn't ready to open up, doesn't press. Instead, he claps you on the shoulder with a patient gleam in his eye. “All right, lass.” He glances out the window, “It's getting late. Should probably head to bed.”

Unless you're up for a game?” You nod your head towards the items he'd discarded on his bed earlier, smiling cheerfully and burying your sadness. It's for the best. If, by some miracle, he happened to feel the same way and it didn't work out... well, life would be quite unbearable. You'd leave the crew to save everyone from the pain of dealing with the embarrassment.

But, then again, Shanks would make it so that you two remain friends somehow. He wouldn't even have to try.

Now we're talkin'!” He grabs the bottle and cards and puts them on the table, procuring chairs out of nowhere and gesturing for you to sit.

You do so gladly, laughing when he pulls out two shot glasses and pour you a drink. As time passes, you bury your feelings under the happiness of spending time with him. It's not difficult once you knock back a few drinks. Your words slur, your tongue loosens, and eventually your eyelids droop. You have to admit it's fun if you ignore the downsides. How can Benn and Shanks do this almost every night? Wait, nevermind, Benn doesn't drink much. In that case, how does Shanks do this almost every night?

Unfortunately, you underestimated the strength of the liquor. Shanks is drinking the stuff like it's water and doesn't seem the least bit affected. When you laugh at a particular joke, you rest your forehead on your forearm and exhale deeply, feeling sleepy.

Time passes, and you believe you blackout for an embarrassing amount of time, because the next thing you know, you're in bed.

The light in the hallway outlines a figure walking away from you. A soft mumble to somebody else tells you that it's the red-head himself.

You want to speak, but your tongue feels like lead in your mouth and your vision is blurry. Not to mention your head. It's fuzzy as all hell. You have a feeling you're going to regret drinking at all in the morning.

Oh well.

That's a problem for future you.

 

Chapter Text

The light filtering in through the porthole shines upon your face, bright, unforgiving, and most of all, annoying. Behind your closed lids, all your eyes can see is a too-bright shade of red that burns your retinas.

Rolling over in bed, you tug at your bed sheets and cover your head with a loud groan, one you immediately regret when pain flares in your forehead. It pounds against your cranium as if some beast inside your head is demanding for its freedom. At this rate, you think it might win. You hope it will. Then you won't have to deal with it's incessant clamoring.

Regardless, it's morning and you have to rise from the dead again. The reason why you had put your bed in this position is so that the sun would hit your face and wake you. That way, you're never late to anything.

Unlike a certain someone you know. Your brain kindly throws your way, and you would have grinned and huffed to yourself if laughing didn't worsen your headache. Thinking of your captain brings a strange flutter to your chest, one that is greatly unappreciated since all it does is awaken your nausea.

Ugh. I drank too much.

The bitter taste in your mouth combined with this sensation is sickening. Still, you inhale deeply, attempting to soothe the sickness roiling in your stomach. It's all you can do, really. Anything else and you fear you might empty your stomach in your bed. Gross.

And so, that's how you spend the first twenty minutes of your morning, eyebrows pinched and features twisted into a grimace. The pain was steadily spreading to the rest of your head, and your tongue felt like a dried leaf.

Deciding that your condition is not going to improve if you lie there, immobile and in agony, you carefully peel your covers off you. A chill clings to your body despite the sunshine warming the room. Shivering, you force your body into a sitting position, biting back a gag. You wrap your arms around your middle, eyes slipping shut as you will your stomach to be strong for just a little while longer.

Throwing your legs over the side of the mattress, you bury your hands into your sheets, releasing a small gasp. Come on, already.

Lips pursed, you count to ten, and push yourself off the bed and into a standing position. It's all your stomach needs to cop out and give in to the queasiness. You clap a hand over your mouth and rush out of your room in record time, barely making it to the upper deck.

Gripping the railing, you puke, lungs burning as you cough violently. The vague taste of cheap liquor burns the roof of your mouth.

And then you feel it.

At first, you think it might be food, but then you realize you hadn't eaten dinner yesterday in favor of sleeping, banishing your anger. Then, after practically crawling up your esophagus, you taste it and all you can think is shit. Your heart lurches in your ribcage as you cough, expelling what you can now see are flowers in all colours.

Bewildered, you watch as the glide down and down, some sinking underwater, others floating and swaying with the waves. Hot tears cascade down your tears, those unshed blurring your vision as you pluck a petal from your lips. A rose petal.

No.

You throw it into the sea, reaching into your mouth and pulling out more flowers. A lilly sits between your clenched teeth, its pollen like grime on your teeth. Spitting it out, you make sure there are no more flowers in your mouth. When there's nothing, you inhale deeply, eyes narrowed as tears continue rolling down your cheeks.
There are flowers in your lungs. You- you can feel them.

No, no, no, no, no this isn't happening it can't happen why is it happening why is it-

“Lass?”

Flinching, you whirl around, hands struggling for purchase on the railing. Shanks stands in front of you, bottle in one hand, and you feel a pang of jealousy. Of course, he doesn't feel hungover. But, then again, now you have something to blame for your predicament.

“You all right, [name]?” Shanks starts, and you realize you hadn't even responded. Inching towards you, he raises a hand to do something, but you don't allow it to happen. Side-stepping, you force a loud laugh out of your system, even if it's physically taxing and excruciating.

Ignoring your agony, you wave your hands. “Sorry, Shanks.” Your headache throbs and you bring your fingers to your temple, lowering your voice. “Just... hangover, I'm afraid. Real nasty, this time.”

Why is this happening? Why?

He doesn't love me. He doesn't love me.

Understanding crosses Shanks's features, and he extends his hand again. You step closer to him, dragging your feet, heart hammering an unsteady rhythm, and allow his arm to slip around your shoulders. He tucks you close to him, jokingly raising his drink to your face. You push his wrist away, grimacing.

His fingertips rest on the place where your heart resides and you purse your lips, hoping that if he does feel it, he thinks it's because of the nausea. Please, don't ask me anything.

“Come on, let's get you some crackers and water. Try and take it easy today, lass.”

But how?


 

Hiding your agony and the flowers was incredibly difficult, so much that you considered giving up on several occassions and just confessing. You don't think it would get rid of the flowers, but then you wouldn't have to come up with some bullshit excuse as to why you needed surgery on your chest.

Every day is a struggle. Your sleep is interrupted by random fits of coughing which you have to muffle lest someone asks you about them in the morning. You hide the flowers and petals under your bed, no matter how disgusting it is, because if you sweep them up someone might find them. In the morning, when you eat, you drink numerous glasses of water to get rid of the dry feeling in your throat. If you can't keep it down, you spit it out, pollen polluting the water.

You have to excuse yourself multiple times throughout the day, offering excuses if you can't weasel or sneak out of a conversation. The entire crew had approached you at least once to ask why you were so skittish or coughing into a handkerchief, which you dismissed. Feeling a cold coming on, Benn. Don't get too close – unless you want me to get you sick? Then you won't have to babysit our captain.

Cue affronted sputtering from the alcoholic child sitting at the head of the table.

You laugh, smile, brush off people's concerns...

All while feeling your body being consumed by the damn flowers. It's gotten so bad you can't help but scratch your skin, waiting to see a leaf or a petal burst through. The colder weather in this part of the ocean gives you the perfect cover-up. Literally. You wrap a scarf around your neck and don't take it off unless you're alone.

Today is another one of those days. You're in your restroom, washing your face, scarf hanging from the towel holder. Scratches littered the skin of your chest, some deeper than others, some already healed or on their way to become scars. You fill your mouth with water and spit it out, cleansing it of the pollen stuck between your teeth.

Braving the stranger in the mirror, you bare your teeth and stare at the person glaring back at you.

Not a pretty sight.

Sighing, you allow your facial muscles to relax, using a nail to dislodge a petal. You rest it on the marble counter, sniffling. Burying your face in your hands, you bite your lip in an attempt to quell the tears brimming in your eyes. You want to cry – need to, actually, if only to release the negative emotions you've kept bottled up for weeks.

But you can't do that. If you cry now, you doubt you'll be able to bounce back and recover. You'll spill, and with your emotions, the flowers will break free.

And so, you shove the cork down the neck of the bottle, tightening it, subduing those ridiculous emotions, and stretch your lips into a smile.

Much better.

You carry on, spinning a web of lies around you, so strong you can't possibly break free. Life is... it's hard, but you learn to overcome and hide when you need to. Social outings with your crew are cut short most of the time, since the flowers seem to grow stems when around your captain. And you really don't feel like puking up green spaghetti with your flowers.

It's unlike before. Everything is. You don't lash out at people. You fight only when you need to and do your tasks aboard the ship without complaint. You and Shanks become a little distant. Since your condition worsens around him, you spend as little time with him as possible. There are days where he catches you off guard and you two talk, usually late at night, when everyone else but you two are asleep.

There are nights when he is so intoxicated, he doesn't remember anything that happened the night prior. It both liberates and tears your heart, the fragile organ you thought you'd muffled successfully, apart. You lie in bed, gaze fixed on the ceiling, listening to it weep, watering the plants already growing inside you.

Your mind is hazy, memories are a blur, and your body slouches every time you slide out of bed. Every day, you count how many steps it takes you to get to the bathroom and watch, powerless, as the number rises with each day. Breathing normally is a luxury at most. Inhaling deeply only made your throat itch and your lungs hurt.

You're not you, anymore. Whoever you were before this disease had wilted with each petal you picked off your tongue.

A voice in the farthest corner of your mind whispers warnings to you, never unheard but never actually listened to. Like your heart, you stamp it down, bury it under the flowers, ignore it until it goes away.

Ignore it until it goes away.

Another day, another night. You can't hide the petals in your room anymore.

Ignore it until it goes away.

Your body aches with each step you climb, petals slipping through your throbbing fingers.

Ignore it.

The breeze ruffling the sails and blowing through your hair feels refreshing, but you don't stop to appreciate it. You stumble, reaching for the railing, knees buckling as they struggle to carry your weight.

It will go away.

The odd splinter bites the skin of your fingers as you crumple, shuddering and convulsing. The roar of blood rushing to your ears is deafening, the moonlight is too bright for your eyes, your throat raw and tender from heaving. Swallowing, you wipe the sweat off your forehead and rest your cheek on the floor, reaching for the flower tickling your nose.

A substance drips from one of the delicate petals, tainting its every fibre, the same shade as your captain's famous red hair.

It has to go away.

You rise to your knees, blood dribbling from your chin, and collect the flowers pooled on the floor. Hands trembling, you crawl the rest of the way, nails engraving crescent-shaped marks into your palms. It hurts, so much, so much you wish you could just die already. Let it all end before something else on this miserable excuse of a planet does it for you.

Raising your arms, you blindly toss the petals into the water, then collapse against the wood, breathing laboured.

Finally, you sob.

It's weak. The fear of being caught still lingers in your mind like a demon, but it's mostly due to the fact you physically can't wail. There are petals lodged in your throat, still, surrounding your vocal chords, choking whatever sounds made it past your lungs.

You wheeze, dropping your chin to your chest, unable to keep your head up. Whatever vestiges of energy you had clutched to your body had escaped at last.

And, even now, you can feel the flowers blooming again. They sprout, extending from your lungs, up into your mouth again. Your eyes slip shut as you feel them fall into your lap, lids and mind heavy with the need to sleep.

Please, go away.

 

Chapter Text

You drift in and out of consciousness throughout the night, head lolling to the side and body limp against the railing. There are instances where you'll tense, swallow past the flowers in your throat, sink back into your previous position, and pass out again. If you're awake for more than a few minutes, you try to lift your weary body, only to topple to the floor.

After trying for what feels the 20th time, your resolve falters, and you think over your options. The tears had stopped, but the tightness in your throat and the burning of your cheeks had yet to fade. You were so exhausted you could feel the bags under your eyes, lids heavy from how puffy they were after trying to smother your sobs.

Coughing weakly, you dig your nails into the wood, blowing air through your mouth as pain blooms inside your chest. You begin counting down from a hundred, hoping to coax your mind away from the pulsating throbbing. When that doesn't work, you fight the weight holding you down and push yourself to your hands and knees. Blood drips from your mouth and you bring your sleeve to your chin, wiping it. Most of it is dried, which pulls on the skin painfully.

You can barely move, you realize, smiling ruefully. Each one of your limbs tingles, either from lack of use or the awkward position, and when you wriggle your fingers they ache.

You've dealt with worse.

The voice in your brain hisses and spits venomously, ordering you to get off the ground already and clean your mess before someone finds you. And, yes, you have dealt with worse. Fights, storms and winds so bad the masts creaked with the effort it took to not fall, your captain's wrath.

For God's sake.

Even while you're dying, you think about Shanks.

Spitting out a rose petal, you wipe your mouth, scowling at the offending floral leaf.

Yeah, you're dying. That conclusion had been easy to reach when you could hardly feel your heartbeat when you laid a hand on your chest. Despite how many flowers you removed from your system, there were at least double that number still inside you. What once invoked unbridled terror was now a simple reminder that lived and breathed with you. You couldn't alter fate, so you accepted it. All you had to do now was pass in the privacy of your bedroom.

It would be a shock to the crew, but at least they wouldn't be able to ask questions. They wouldn't have to bother asking if they could help or eye you worriedly, wondering what was plaguing you.

Rising to your feet takes you longer than you would ever like to admit, and even then you wobble unsteadily. Spreading your arms, you fix your gaze on one of the masts and manage to remain vertical.

You feel a spark of triumph at that, thankful that you could still at least move on your own, if only a little. Now all you had to do was make it to your room without hacking yourself to death and you would be fine.

Sluggishly, you turn in the direction of the stairs that lead below the upper deck, shuffling towards it. Your shoes scrape the floor annoyingly, and you pause, biting your bloodied lip. There was no way around that problem, unfortunately. You were far too drained to sneak through the ship. Either hurry back while making some noise or risk getting caught.

With a soundless sigh, you hug your middle and grimace, bracing yourself for the trek down the stairs. That was going to take a while.

You carry on, counting your steps to minimize the pain of walking, dragging your feet. It's difficult, especially since your vision is blurred from lack of proper sleep, but you make it to the top of the stairs.

It's dark, far darker than it was while you were climbing them. If anything, it feels like you're walking into the mouth of a beast as it waits for you. You suppose death is like that.

Ignoring the burgeoning anxiety, you will your legs to function and place a foot on the first step. It doesn't make any noise. You silently thank whatever deity is watching over you and pray that the rest are just as merciful.

You make it five steps.

Then you have to stop.

Not because the wood of the ship betrays you, or because your knees buckle and you have to rest, or because you lose your courage. No, not because of that.

Shanks is awake.

It's not hard to tell when the man isn't in bed. The lights in his quarters go on and he drinks himself stupid – well, most of the time. On a rare occasion, when his brain is far too active for his liking, he walks outside and drinks on deck. And you had just heard his door's typical squeal – one he was too lazy to address, claiming it didn't bother him. Rockstar and you had taken advantage of that noise whenever he roped you into pranking him.

No. You mouth the word, heel bumping the steps as you inch back, blindly searching for the previous stair. No, Shanks, no. Go back. Go back.

You repeat the thought endlessly in your mind as you whirl around, hobbling back the way you came. The tell-tale itching in the back of your throat returns full force, and you slap a hand over the lower half of your face, blocking your breathing. Your chest cavity tightens, and you gag, but otherwise succeed in staying quiet.

The upper deck and you spot the mess you had forgotten to clean. Your stomach flips and your heart thunders. The breeze bites your skin now, further disheveling your hair, and you follow its whispers. It takes you up to the palm trees swaying on the quarterdeck, where you hide, stifling your coughs.

Each sandalled footfall is like a drum in your ears, striking you in your very core as you spit out petals, try to even out your breathing, curl up, disappear.

Please, please, please.

You're well aware that running from him is pointless. If he doesn't see the mess you made, as soon as he senses a disturbance, he'll come and find you.

Lowering your head and concealing your face, you hold your breath, throat itching with the need to cough. Petals tickle your lips, urging you to set them free, and you bite down on as many as you can. Your jaw locks into place, face scrunching up at the paper-like texture on your tongue. Features twisting into an irritated grimace, you wait, listening past the sound of your heart.

There's hardly any sound aside from the rasp of his sandals on the wood. One traitorous cough ghosts past your efforts, and you tuck your knees closer to your chest.

Now, look what you've done.

You dig your fingernails into your scalp, biting back a pitiful whine.

A few additional leisurely movements, and then, finally, an abrupt pause.

He's found the flowers.

And, despite the cover of obscurity, despite the tree you're pressed against, despite everything, you feel the moment his alarmed gaze penetrates the darkness as he locates you.

The second you hear the hurried footsteps heading in your direction, you stand, concealed by the tree. You wait for him to make it to the top of the stairs, then tear off in the opposite direction, covering your mouth.

Lass!

You skip several steps in an attempt to put some distance between you, stumbling as you reach the main deck. The slip up forces you to spit out whatever was in your mouth, and you vaguely note the stems as they float away. You toss an orchid with an absurdly long stem behind you, heedless to the droplets that trail after it.

“[name]! Stop!”

He's going to wake up the entire ship. You think bitterly, a sad smile creeping onto your face.

You prop an elbow on the mainmast, heave for a fraction of a second, and keep running.

It's a lost cause, you know, and yet it doesn't stop you from considering the idea of hopping onto the dragon figure-head and jumping into the bottomless depths of the ocean.

We won't always agree on everything, lass.”

You push off the foremast, hand soaked with blood, pumping your legs harder.

Don't I know it.”

The arch of the figure-head enters your line of vision. Shanks, having forgone orders and commands, is catching up to you now that he's dead-set on stopping whatever you have in mind. White petals shimmer in the moonlight, blocking your vision, gluing to your cheeks.

If that's ever the case, we'll have to go our separate ways. You know that, right, lass?”

Your fingers flick the tears blearing your sight into the night. Shanks screams at you when you haul your body onto the railing. You're too tired for the climb up to the dragon's head, so this – this would have to do.

Oh, Shanks...”

Your captain latches onto you, easily thwarting your efforts to wrestle him off you, grunting when you elbow him in the side. Thoughts mesh into an incoherent mess as he drags you away from the ledge, kicking and choking on orchids that pile onto the floor messily.

Writhing, you use your weight to unbalance him, struggling to pry his arms off you. Shanks widens his stance, forcing you to face him and grabbing your wrists while repeatedly mumbling stop, hey, [name], stop.

The fight drains you of your strength, and, without any more options available, you give a long, piercing cry expressing your frustration and anguish. You grip his shirt, clawing at the fabric, and weep as he holds you.

“You're not getting rid of me that easily.” He rests his chin on the top of your head, rocking you back and forth and shushing you. His fingers card through your knotted hair as he waits for you to stop crying.

“I-I...” You gently push and shake your head when he refuses to release you. “Shanks, I can't- can't breathe.”

Instantly, you're free, though he keeps doesn't let go of your shoulders. You avoid his overly concerned gaze, hands scrubbing the mess on your face despite how useless it may be.

“[name],” You tug your sleeve over your hands and keep trying. “[name], who is it.”

Flinching, you attempt to backtrack into the nearest corner. You can feel your shoulders begin to bruise as his hands clamp down, unforgiving.

“[name], tell me who it is.”

Your breath stutters and catches in your throat. You struggle, shaking your head adamantly.

[name]-

Why do YOU want to KNOW?!” You punch his shoulders, voice breaking near the end of your outburst, tone watery. Shanks eyebrows pinch together, frown deepening as he fixes you with a look you've never seen before.

“Because you're dying! Have been for who knows how long!” His voice crescendos as he remembers the days you would flee from him, a handkerchief pressed to your face. How could he have missed that?

“It doesn't matter!” You sob.

“Yes, it does, [name]!” He shakes you slightly, bringing your attention back to him, even if you refuse to meet his eye. “You're part of my crew and one of my best friends, I-”

“And that's all I'll ever be, won't I?!” You scream, ignoring the lights flicking on in the background. “A friend, when all I wanted was- all I ever wanted was...!” Your words lose their anger as you realize what you just said, gaze finally locking with his.

Both of you are speechless for an ungodly amount of time; the seconds that tick by feel like hours, years, millennia. You search his face for a reaction, but his face is frozen in a state of shock, jaw slack. His brown eyes, unfocused, remain steady, unwavering.

Taking advantage of his lowered guard, you shove him off you, furiously wiping your face.

“You want to know who it is?” You demand, spitting the words as if they were the very flowers poisoning you. “It's you, Shanks.” Giving up, you drop your hands to your side, oddly numb now that the truth has reached the entire ship. The crew linger in the back, unsure, but you don't care. “Always has.”

Wrapping your arms around your middle, you chuckle weakly. “But, don't worry, I know personal conflicts are not your thing. I'll be gone when we reach land. You won't have to deal with me anymore.”

With that, you stomp past him, eyes trained forward as the crew parts in the middle and create a path for you. You hurry down the steps, ignoring the thoughts begging you to go back and say it was all a joke, a lie. Just some elaborate prank you've pulled on all of them for the hell of it.

You don't.

 

Chapter Text

You'll get your mark when you turn eighteen, Coby.

That's what his mother had told him, her long rope of hair tied into a messy bun as she brushed her knuckles over the skin of his cheek, gentle eyes crinkling in the corners. She would smile fondly at his excitement, chuckling when he tried guessing what his soulmate would say to him first. Most were odd, childish thoughts he'd be too ashamed to admit at his current age, but none compared to the writing he'd found this morning.

The one thing he knew about his soulmate is that they spoke English.

After celebrating his 18th birthday with Helmeppo, Luffy, and his many friends, the young man had headed home to his apartment, resolve wavering as he fiddled with his shirt.

He knew his soulmate's words were on his chest. Coby had been too afraid to read them, but a few quick peeks let him know that the writing was weird. It looped and rose in strange ways, so very unlike what he was used to seeing on other people.

Now, staring down at the words scrawled on the skin beneath his collar bone, Coby frowns, finger tracing the strange handwriting. He... didn't know much English, to begin with, aside from the basic greeting and farewell, and that was one of the words on his chest, but...

What does it even mean?

He could attempt reading it aloud, but the embarrassment of struggling and stumbling through the words – words that would be laced in a heavy Japanese accent, no less – was too much. Shyly, he tried a few of the words, finger following the arch of each letter. He made it to the middle of the sentence then quit, raking his free hand through his lilac tresses, still damp from his shower. The scar on his forehead moved as his eyebrows furrowed, eyes narrowing pensively.

He supposed he could spare a few days brushing up on his English. Maybe even ask Garp for assistance, if he couldn't figure it out by himself. The man knew English well enough after travelling for years.

Yeah, he thought, resting his hand over his heart and feeling it beat steadily. Coby grinned confidently, drawing his shoulders back and straightening his spine. He would learn English and his soulmate's way of living and do his best to impress them.

Many days later and a few visits to both Garp and the local library, Coby deciphered his soulmate's odd message. And...

Oh, boy.

He had thought it was weird before, but now, saying it out loud in the privacy of his apartment... well, it certainly was not something he'd feel comfortable showing his friends. Helmeppo would keel over laughing, Garp would clap him on the shoulder, a drink in his large hand, and laugh, and everyone in the world would laugh.

Not that he thinks ill of you! Coby hadn't even met you, for goodness' sake. For all he knew, you could be the most lovely person. He just... He just... well...

“Geez...” He mumbled to himself, glancing down at his chest for what felt like the millionth time that evening. Your words, partially covered by his tank top, stared back at him, inky black and too bold for his liking. Rubbing a hand over them, he sighed, sinking further into the cushions of his couch, laptop balanced on his lap.

It could be years before you two met. Was he really going to live his life ashamed of what his soulmate would say to him first? Half the people he knew couldn't read English, and the other half didn't see him without a shirt on, so there really was no problem.

Yeah, there's no problem. He reasons with himself, scolding his mind for doubting his mysterious soulmate, and keeps filling out the document he'd opened on his computer. If anything, he should be glad that he finally has an idea of who his destined one is. The stories on social media, the stories, the gossip... it all made it appear unreal, almost. It was dizzying to hear people's stories regarding the subject. And now it was actually happening to him.

Coby grinned, hiding his eyes behind his hand. He had – has a soulmate. Him.

Yeah, he keeps typing, heart fluttering happily in his chest. No problem at all.


 

You're so fucking lost.

And, normally, that would be no problem at all. Fish out your phone, go on the internet, input the address, and voilà ! You survived another day as an... almost-adult. Except this time, your safety net that was the lovely Google Maps had been removed from underneath you, so that was a no go. Your phone had been flipping you off since it hit the fifteen percent mark and you decided to stop trying to get it to work. If not, you might just chuck it across the globe.

You curse your luck, trying to find a spot for you to relax for a minute so you can plug in your phone to your portable charger.

“Goddamn it,” Teeth clenching, you rub your shoulder after someone bumps into you. It's the middle of the day and the seething mass of people in the streets is damn overwhelming. Every face blurs as you march past, dragging your heavy suitcase behind you, exhausted.

The one time you go on vacation alone and you can't even find your way around. Great. Neat.

“I'm never trusting a single advertisement, ever again. Jesus...” Face practically glued to the screen of your phone as its percent drops to twelve, you keep walking. Nope. It really doesn't like you right now, does it? You might as well just enter a random shop at this point if it's going to be that more stubborn than your high-school ex.

Sighing, you decide that it would be worth it, craning your neck so that you may see over the crowd. You spot what looks like a gift store and head in that direction, feet aching from all the aimless wandering.

You notice people giving you odd looks, their gazes flickering to the neck pillow proudly on display around your shoulders. Remaining heedless to people's questioning eyes, you enter the store with a quiet exhale, listening to the soft jingle of bells above the door. It's far quieter in the store, thankfully, and you feel your shoulders sag reflexively.

Inside, there are few other tourists, gushing and prodding the items lining the shelves. An old man with an air of god-like patience stands behind the counter, hunched over with his hands splayed on the counter. You feel better already.

Bowing to the point you form a right angle, you smile at the old man. He returns the gesture with a nod, a kind smile on his face. When that's done, you drop your backpack to the floor, out of the way of the exit, and plug your phone in. Heaving a sigh, you remove your neck pillow when the screen and LED light turns on. The portable charger is low on battery itself, which is fine. As long as your phone gains some power back, you'll be okay.

A mother and her child stroll into the store. You keep your eyes fixed on your phone screen, holding the device with both hands and praying that it works soon. You haven't longed for a bed so much before this very day.

After a while, your phone reluctantly begins functioning again, and you almost let out a loud 'whoop!' in excitement. Glancing around, you note that nobody is glaring at you, and grin at your phone.

And then a pair of tiny feet enter your line of vision.

You look at the light up shoes, blinking once, then trail your gaze up to the owner's face. It's the child from before, a large lollipop in his mouth. He smiles around the candy, free hand stuffed into the pocket of his overalls. You mirror his expression and he scurries off to find his mother.

He comes back a few times, curiosity shining in his eyes, and each time you grin or smile, he edges closer to you. At one point, he tries to see what you're doing on your phone, and when you show him, he giggles and runs off.

Shaking your head fondly, you direct your attention back to the map you're engraving into your memory, then realize something's missing.

“Larry?” You mumble, searching the surrounding area for the blasted neck pillow. Where did you...?

When you look behind you, you see the child running out of the store. With your neck pillow.

“No way... are you fu- ugh!” You stuff your charger and phone in your bag, throw it over your shoulder, grab your suitcase, and run outside. “HEY!” Hurrying after the child, you keep yelling, “Hey! Small child, that belongs to me! That's my neck pillow!”

If people were merely eying you before, they're full-on staring now, puzzled.

You huff, grimacing when you feel a nasty ache in your lower back. Of course, your back had to betray you as well. “Stop! Hey!”

He weaves through the crowd expertly, dodging people while giggling to himself, Larry bouncing along with his movements. In the meantime, you're apologizing and lugging a suitcase behind you, panting like a dog with asthma.

When you almost lose him, you wonder if this dear item of yours was really worth all this trouble. Then you remembered how you've had it for almost nine years, and conclude that, yes, Larry was worth saving.

Up ahead, you see a man not really paying attention to where he's going, too lost in his own brain. If you could get him to help you, you might be able to stop the child. Sucking in a mouthful of oxygen, you force your vocal cords to work and holler, “Hey! Hey, Pinkie-Pie! Stop the ankle-biter with the lobster!”

At your yelling, he looks up from his ruminating. Pointing at the child, you sincerely hope he understands what you mean, and almost trip when the kid runs past him.

“No! Thief!” Your voice gives away your desperation. The word thief seems to trigger something in the man's brain because he spins around and catches the youth by the shoulder.

You laugh out of pure relief, willing your body to carry you just a bit farther, hair sticking to your forehead from the sweat.

You make it just in time for the man to start scolding the child in Japanese. Behind you, you hear a female voice and realize the mother had been hot on your heels the entire chase. Watching her grab her child, you attempt to smile through your panting and wave your hands in front of you when she immediately tells him to apologize, doing the same herself.

“No, no, it's fine.” You say in heavily-accented Japanese, fighting back a cringe. If only you had studied the language better. “We have him to thank, really.”

At that, the young man straightens and starts politely dismissing the mother's thanks, wagging her finger at her son. The sight makes you laugh a little harder, and the man's wide eyes flit to you, bright with an emotion you can't place. His cheeks are alight with a deep red blush, which worsens when he meets your eye, and you tilt your head.

The woman eventually leaves with her disgruntled child, who blows a raspberry at you when her back is turned. You wave anyway, breathing even now that things have settled.

Now, it's just you and the young man.

Smiling at him, you bow and hold out your hand when your spine is straight again. “Thank you for that. You didn't have to.” Ugh, your Japanese sounds so bad compared to his pleasant lilt

“N-no! Please, it was nothing! I didn't do that much...” He says, rubbing his nape as you release each other's hands. Strands of hair brush his forehead, where a scar mars the tanned skin. You idly make note of his simple outfit: a white t-shirt under a worn jean jacket hoodie, black leather pants, and a pair of brown boots. “Although, I didn't expect my soulmate to show so soon after my eighteenth birthday. It hasn't even been a week!”

Freezing as you listen to him speak, you subconsciously mouth pieces of his sentence with him, running a hand along your hip. He's too preoccupied to notice how transfixed you are, inching towards him a bit.

You'd recited his first words enough times to memorize parts of it, wondering who it could be in Japan. And here he is. Here he is.

“We're... soulmates.” You clarify, staring up at him in disbelief.

“Y-yeah... I...”

But wait.

Please don't tell me that those are the words you have!” You gasp, hiding your lips behind your fingertips. The young man lets out a nervous, half-hearted laugh, and you flinch. “I am so sorry.”

“Oh, no no, please, it's fine!” He says, grasping your hands with a slightly shaky smile. “I like them. They're weird but cute. And besides, they're not that obvious.”

Your jaw drops.

And then you start cackling.

Realizing your position, he instantly backtracks, spewing more apologies than you can count. You shake your head, trying to reassure him but find you can't through the laughter. Of all things, he had to deal with that! Oh, you feel so bad, good lord.

“Hey, hey,” You put an end to his rambling, resting a warm palm on his shoulder. He's much taller than you, and, now that you're getting a good look at him, really strong. Sheesh. “It's fine. I'm glad you're okay with them. So... uh, how about we start over?”

“Right!” He blurts, nodding firmly, arms stiff by his sides. It's quiet as you both try to muster the correct words to say, a time you spend studying his features. You slowly grab one of his hands and shake it up and down, introducing yourself softly. His blush bleeds into the tips of his ears, and he shyly provides you with his name.

“Coby,” You test his name, trying to make the syllables work. His lips quirk when you repeat it a few times, features evening out, no longer panicked. “That's a nice name. Suits you.”

“Hah,” He shrugs. “Thank you...”

Chortling, you inhale deeply, biting back a yawn that would surely scare him off. Rubbing your eyes, you breathe, “Well, I... I think I need to get going.” Coby cocks his head to the side, eyebrows furrowing in confusion and, dare you say, disappointment, and you vaguely motion to your luggage.

“O-oh, right.” He says, “How about I walk you to your hotel?”

Oh, he's too sweet. “Wow, very smooth. Where'd you learn that one?”

He responds with more sputtering, your teasing remark reviving the blush that had been dormant for a few minutes. “I-I didn't mean it like that!” Shaking his head causes his pink hair to swing about wildly. He rakes his fingers through his hair, mussing it further and disrupting his middle part. Luckily for him, it all falls back into place easily enough, rendering his efforts to clear his face quite fruitless.

Anyway... You might be paying too much attention to his peculiar hair colour. Might.

Was it natural?

Banishing those thoughts, you laugh openly again, patting him on the shoulder. “I know, I know. I'm only kidding.” Relief washes over him like one huge waterfall and, to save from blushing himself to death, you refrain from commenting on that. Yeah, he's really sweet. “If anything, I have to thank you again. I've been out here for too long.”

“Are you staying here for long?” He offers a large hand, and you gently relinquish your suitcase. Now that he's all recovered and able to help, he's more confident.

You shrug, feeling a bit awkward. “I'm staying for a week or two.”

Oddly enough, you were hoping you could meet your soulmate, but also hated the idea of it. You only had two weeks here and who knew when you were returning. Both of you were too young to uproot yourselves from your homes, so living with one another was no go. And two weeks was not enough time for you to settle down with each other, for obvious reasons. This would surely be the most bittersweet two weeks in your life.

“Well, then, let's make the most of it, okay?” He says, grinning.

Worries temporarily swept away, you nod.

“Okay.”