Shanks leaned up by the bow of the Oro Jackson, squinting against the sun as he stared at the gleaming blue vastness of the open ocean. It was his favorite spot on the ship, especially when Buggy was elsewhere so nobody was there to pester him. Buggy had got someone to teach him how to gamble today, so Shanks had the tip of the bow to himself.
Or, mostly to himself, he corrected, when he heard footsteps come up behind him and some hand press a shadowy weight onto his head. He glanced up to see a brim of worn straw like that hat Captain Roger liked wearing, and then glanced behind him to see Captain Roger standing right there without a hat on.
“Is this your hat?” asked Shanks. He took it off and stared at it. It definitely looked like Captain Roger’s hat.
Captain Roger grinned at him. “It’s your hat now, kid.”
“But Captain Roger…”
“You need it more’n I do, the way you stand out here in the sun all the time.” Captain Roger took it from Shanks’s grasp and put it gently back on Shanks’s head. “Take good care of it, Shanks. That’s my favorite hat, you know!”
“Okay, Captain!” said Shanks, an uncontrollable smile pulling at his cheeks. He pulled the edges of it down beside his face. “I’ll do my best!”
Shanks huddled with Buggy under a third-floor balcony, far enough from the execution platform that Captain Roger wouldn’t be able to see them. That was good, because captain’s orders were that they weren’t supposed to be here, but it was bad, also, because it meant the last Shanks would get to see of Captain Roger was a blurry dark-colored dot on a distant platform.
Buggy was ignoring him to stare at some paper in his hands, folding and unfolding it, which was just fine by Shanks, because it meant he could ignore Buggy back and squint against the roaring crowd and the sunlight to watch Captain Roger be marched up to the platform.
Someone below them yelled out obscenities, close enough to be heard despite the noise. Shanks had heard far worse — living with pirates would do that, especially once Rayleigh-san had decided it was okay to swear around him and Buggy — but he still found his hand moving to Captain Roger’s hat. To Shanks’s hat.
No, Captain Roger’s hat. It would be Shanks’s hat when Captain Roger was dead.
And then everything went silent as they forced Captain Roger to his knees.
Silent enough that the air felt heavy, that dust made haze like seaspray, that the shouted question of one of the audience members made its way forward even to Captain Roger, backwards even to Shanks.
(Ha, audience members. Shanks wanted to strangle Fleet Admiral Kong and all of his subordinates for daring, for daring to think, for daring to decide to make Captain Roger, Captain Roger who brought him on board and showed him adventure and gave him his hat, Captain Roger who everyone was calling King of the Pirates, Captain Roger who Shanks would die for in an instant if orders didn’t keep him back, Captain Roger who Shanks loved like a father, for daring to put him up like cheap entertainment before a crowd.)
“If you want my treasure,” said Captain Roger, not yelling but loud in that way he had that pulled. His voice carried out over the stilled crowd, and Shanks felt a spray of his captain’s conqueror’s haki pull tears from his eyes and tug his focus to Captain Roger on the platform, gentle enough that none of the crowd even trembled but compelling enough that Shanks could feel the words deep in his chest and all the way to Raftel. “You can have it! I left everything I gathered together in one place. Now you'll just have to find it!”
The words echoed, hanging crystalline in the air like a sudden frost.
“We won’t have to,” muttered Buggy. His head was down so that Shanks couldn’t see his face when he glanced over, his paper shredded into pieces.
Shanks knew that, but he tamped down his own Will, let his captain’s Will sweep over him one last time and carry him away to places unknown, to adventures untold, to knowledge unheard.
Buggy choked on a sob. The crowd exploded into noise. Shanks gripped the straw hat’s brim in tight fists.
The blades fell.
It was still Captain Roger’s hat.
“I’m not saying goodbye to you,” said Buggy, turning his head to the side.
Shanks crossed his arms and didn’t look at him. “Well, me either.”
They stood there like that for a good minute, neither of them actually willing to take the step and leave.
“Maybe we woulda found Rouge-san if we hadn't gone with your idea,” sneered Buggy eventually.
Shanks narrowed his eyes and controlled a bitter blast of conqueror's haki. Nobody could make him angry like Buggy. “I remember it as your idea, actually.”
“I thought we should take the treasure and switch ships way before you and your stupid flashy unpiratey principles ever got around to agreeing with me.”
Someone shouted at them to get out of the middle of the road, but neither of them moved. Instead, Shanks reached up and pulled Captain Roger's hat low over his eyes.
“Well, we didn't find her,” he said. “And we both saw those articles about the manhunt. She's either dead or hidden so well we'll never find her.”
“Rouge-san is clever like that,” acknowledged Buggy, “which is why I'm staying in East Blue. Look where flashily going to the Grand Line got the rest of us, huh?”
“So you're a coward, then?”
“Are you calling Rouge-san a coward?”
“What?” Shanks almost turned to stare at Buggy in outrage, but stopped himself when he remembered he wasn't looking at him. “Why would I do that?”
Buggy breathed out through his teeth, a loud, irritated sound like the hissing wind. “Nevermind, you wouldn't get it anyway.”
“Well, I wouldn't need to, ‘cause we're going our own ways,” retorted Shanks. “But I'm sure it's stupid.”
“You're stupid,” said Buggy. “And if we ever see each other again, we'll fight flashily to the death, got it?”
“Yeah, ‘course I got it, I'm the one that came up with it.”
“Fine!” said Buggy.
“Fine!” said Shanks.
He sniffed dismissively and walked away, heard Buggy's footsteps behind him going the opposite direction, and tried to ignore the familiar threading of grief growing roots beneath his anger.
“So, what's with that hat?” asked Benn.
They were standing at the prow of Shanks's new ship, Shanks staring at the horizon and leaning into the sting of wind on his face, Benn doing whatever he did when his face got all thoughtful and he started fidgeting with his gun.
“Oh, this?” said Shanks. He took it off his head and looked at the way the straw was fraying at the edges. “My old captain gave it to me. It's a memento, you might say.”
The wind picked up, trying to tug it from Shanks’s hands.
“That's not all,” said Benn, after a moment. Shanks wondered if he should be alarmed that someone he had only known for a week could read him that well, and then just decided it made him a good Vice-Captain.
“No, it's not,” he said, closing the topic.
Benn didn't ask again, which was another point towards his suitability for Vice-Captain, really.
Shanks and Rayleigh left the Red-Haired pirates in Shakky’s bar, with Rayleigh’s promise that she wouldn’t rip them off too much not reassuring Shanks nearly as much as Rayleigh seemed to mean it to.
As soon as they were out of sight, in some hidden little place Rayleigh was apparently fond of, Rayleigh turned his eyes on Shanks. “I thought you trusted your crew?” His tone wasn’t accusing, just curious.
“I’d die for them,” said Shanks frankly. “But that’s different than, than,” he waved a hand, “this.”
Rayleigh made a considering noise and sat down on a protruding mangrove root. “Congratulations, by the way,” he said, as Shanks imitated him. “You’re making quite the reputation for yourself.”
Shanks wasn’t entirely sure if that was a compliment. “Nothing like Captain Roger’s.”
Rayleigh just looked at him sideways until Shanks felt twelve years old again and on the receiving end of a lecture.
He sighed. “Yeah, I wouldn’t want it to be anyways, I know.” He scratched at his stubble and wished not for the first time that he could grow impressive captainy facial hair. “I couldn’t possibly be Pirate King. Not when my captain… It’d be, it’d be mutiny or something.”
It wasn’t a question of physical capability. Shanks knew that, and Rayleigh knew it too. Shanks had sailed with the Roger Pirates. He knew what monsters the New World contained, he knew the principles of haki, he knew the location and purpose of the Poneglyphs, he knew all the secrets hidden on Raftel. Getting there would be entirely within his abilities.
But there was no point.
And there was no King for Shanks beyond Captain Roger, anyways.
“So what’ll you do in the New World, then?” asked Rayleigh, when they had passed a good minute nonproductively watching bubbles.
“Dunno,” said Shanks. “Hadn't really planned that far.”
Rayleigh grinned. “Neither had Roger, so you're in good company.”
“He hadn't?” said Shanks. “I mean, of course he hadn't, but he always seemed to know exactly where he was going even if he got lost.”
“He was like that, wasn't he,” reminisced Rayleigh, as his smile dimmed to that soft, infinitely fond one that always made Shanks realize no matter how much he loved Captain Roger, Rayleigh-san loved him a thousand times more. It was almost humbling. “‘Course, we also didn't want to worry the children too much.” He paused. “Yes, that means you, Shanks.”
“Not anymore it doesn't,” protested Shanks.
Rayleigh raised an eyebrow. “I'll be the judge of that, thank you.”
“I'm totally an adult. I'm the captain of a whole crew, how does that make me not an adult?”
“I have a feeling that very nice and sensible Vice-Captain of yours would say otherwise,” said Rayleigh. “Roger was the captain of a crew too, and that didn't stop him acting like a five-year-old when the mood took him.”
Shanks tracked the path of a bubble upwards, watched it burst into prisms under tarnish-green leaves. “Rayleigh-san, I miss him,” he said, his voice suddenly a child's plaintive whine again. Okay, fine, maybe Rayleigh-san was right about him not being an adult. The sudden blur in his vision was totally from staring at bubbles, not from tears. “I miss him, Rayleigh-san.”
Rayleigh put his arm around Shanks's shoulders and pulled him close, like Shanks really was still twelve. “Me too, Shanks.”
“I miss Captain Roger and I miss Rouge-san and I miss you most of the time and I — I saw Crocus on the way here, he says hi — and I miss Oden and Cat Viper and Dogstorm and I miss being friends with Buggy and I miss Oro Jackson and I miss everyone, I miss the crew…” Shanks shut his eyes against the tears he could not longer deny and buried his face in Rayleigh's shoulder. Good thing he'd thought to have this reunion away from the crew. He trusted them with his life, but some things were private to only one of the closest things he had ever had to a parent. “I miss the crew.”
Rayleigh held him, and let him cry.
Eventually, Shanks looked up and swiped at his eyes with his sleeve. “It’s not fair,” he complained.
“No, it isn’t,” said Rayleigh. He produced a bottle half-full of some alcohol from somewhere. “We’re pirates, though. We didn’t really sign up for fairness. Drink?”
“Please,” said Shanks, snatching the bottle. He took a swig and passed it back, managed a wan smile.
Rayleigh took a drink himself, then tipped the bottle out onto the mossy ground. “For Roger,” he said unnecessarily. “And Rouge. You know, Shanks,” he added, staring at him now, “it’s still strange to see you wearing that hat of his.”
Shanks reached up and felt the brim of it. “I’ve gotten used to having it on, I think,” he said, “but not to the idea that it belongs to me. It’s Captain Roger’s hat, not my hat.”
Rayleigh put a comforting hand on Shanks’s thigh. “Not many of his things survived into this new era he decided to create, you know. I won’t say he had a purpose for everything he did, because,” his eyes crinkled, “that would be a lie, but I daresay you can find a good use for that hat of his.”
“It’s special,” said Shanks. He pulled the brim of it low over his eyes. “But maybe… Ooh, Rayleigh-san, maybe I'll visit Zou!”
Rayleigh-san seemed unperturbed by the abrupt change of topic, or maybe grateful. “You did get along so well with that kid Pedro, didn't you?”
“I think you might need a stronger word than get along, Rayleigh-san,” said Shanks. “I was begging Captain Roger to let him on board by the time we left.”
Rayleigh smiled that small sly smile that everyone who knew him quickly learned to hate. “I suggest looking up the Nox Pirates, then. You may find something interesting, who knows.”
“...I’ll keep it in mind,” said Shanks warily. He wiped at his eyes one last time and stared for awhile longer at the bubbles, then glanced over at Rayleigh and said, “I’d best be getting back to my crew before they decide I’ve been kidnapped and try to burn down the entire archipelago, I think.”
“What, by me, a law-abiding Navy-supporting civilian coating craftsman with absolutely no bounty on my head?” Rayleigh made an innocent face. It looked like he’d tried to eat a lemon. “I would never!”
Shanks doubled over in sudden laughter, which sent Rayleigh laughing too until Shanks was on the floor and Rayleigh was wheezing like the old man he was.
“You seem to have picked up a good crew,” remarked Rayleigh eventually, when he could breathe again and they’d stood back up to walk back to Shakky’s bar.
“They’re the best,” said Shanks. He grinned and made a wide gesture with his arms. “The best crew in the world world!”
Rayleigh smiled back at him, and Shanks just barely managed to duck away from an attempted hair-ruffling thanks to a warning from his observation haki.
“And you’ve grown into an excellent captain.”
Shanks blinked away more tears, and forgot to avoid the next attempt at ruffling his hair.
“Anchor's making it to Raftel,” said Shanks to his best friends, as Dawn Island receded behind them. He was at the Red Force’s figurehead again, leaning back on it this time to watch the bustle of his crew as a content smile tugged at his lips.
“Oh?” said Lucky Roo. He waved his empty meat bone and raised an eyebrow. “And your reasoning is?”
“I'm not sure if I should blame you or his grandfather for Luffy's eating preferences, Roo,” said Shanks. “Either way his crew’ll have a hell of a time feeding him.”
Lucky Roo ignored his concerns completely, which was totally rude. “That's not an answer, Boss.”
“It really isn't,” said Benn. “And I know how attached you were to that hat. I'm very curious to know what made you part with it.”
“I’m still attached to it, I'll have you know,” retorted Shanks. “The Anchor's giving it back to me as soon as he's done outdoing us.”
That promise had had the faintest touch of conqueror's haki behind it, beneath the spite and the pettiness and the resentment, a steadiness like the sea floor and an ambition as wide as the world, a magnetic certainty like a sense-memory of Captain Roger. Shanks knew, in that moment, that little Luffy, their little anchor with the letter D set carefully between his names like a sword yet unsheathed, that reckless lonely little Luffy would be King, knew that the boy from Dawn Island would bring the Dawn of the World. It wasn't simply the way a Conqueror could draw people and pull them under, inexorable — Shanks would like to think he was able to win a battle of wills with an unawakened seven-year-old, thank you. No, there was something else there. A future, sketched out in the white edgings of waves.
And so Shanks had taken the hat from his head, and crowned the future Pirate King.
“Sooo….” said Yasopp. “What was the rationale there again?”
Shanks glanced up, at his flag fluttering dark against the sky. “I told you my captain put that hat on my head,” he began, “but I'm not sure I ever mentioned who Captain Roger actually was.”
“Roger…” said Benn, and Shanks watched him put the pieces together in his head with no little amusement. “Roger. Your captain was Pirate King Gold Roger?”
“Gol D Roger,” corrected Shanks. “He was always so annoyed at people getting his name wrong.”
Yasopp's eyes bugged out. “Boss! You have to tell us these things!”
“I just did!” Shanks made his most innocent face. It only lasted a few seconds against his laughter.
“Captain, please,” said Benn.
“If you could see the looks on your faces!”
“I can't believe we've been sailing with him for years and he just never mentioned that,” said Lucky Roo. He stuck his bone in his mouth just to have something there, and Shanks was reminded of Luffy eating a devil fruit from sheer frustration, which sent him back into gales of laughter.
“I can,” said Benn. He was giving Shanks his very best unimpressed look, which Shanks liked to pretend he was immune to.
“Bastard was probably waiting for the perfect moment to spring it on us,” added Yasopp, who seemed to have settled into a kind of grumpy shock. “He spent the past year discovering that his favorite pastime is making fun of small children.”
“You know, you have a point,” said Lucky Roo.
Shanks decided to stop laughing so that he could feel properly attacked. His crew was so rude.
“‘Course we do, “ said Yasopp. “Everyone knows the captain's a flighty bastard.”
His crew was the worst.
“A flighty bastard who still hasn't answered the original question,” agreed Benn.
“I'm standing right here, you know,” said Shanks.
“We know,” said Lucky Roo, because he was terrible.
Shanks ignored him. “And I was getting there.”
“You were? When?” Yasopp's fake innocent face was worse than Shanks's.
“Now, actually,” said Shanks, and then ignored him too. “Captain Roger lent me that hat, but I wasn't ever anything more than a regent of sorts.” He shrugged. “I figured it'd better make its way to the next Pirate King at some point, given it's not like I'm going back to Raftel anytime soon. Emperor's a lofty enough title for me, thank you.”
“Of course you've been to Raftel,” said Benn. “I don't even know why I just bothered to be surprised.”
“He still hasn't answered the question,” pointed out Lucky Roo.
Yasopp sighed dramatically. “At this point I can't even remember what the question was .”
Benn huffed a laugh. “It was why he decided to give his precious keepsake he got from the fucking Pirate King to little Anchor.”
Shanks glanced around at his three closest friends, his three most trusted crewmates, and knew that however much he missed Captain Roger, and Rayleigh-san, and Rouge-san, and Buggy, and everyone on the Oro Jackson, he wouldn’t miss this for the world.
“I didn’t actually forget, Benn,” complained Yasopp. “And you know that perfectly well!”
“Why’d I give Monkey D Luffy that hat?” Shanks paused for an appropriately suspenseful length of time, and then grinned, unrepentant. “I just felt like it!”
“ALSO NOT AN EXPLANATION!”
Shanks returned from his very nice East Blue vacation to find Kaido deep in his territory, ransacking one of his most isolated islands.
Or, more accurately, getting drunk on one of his stockpiles of booze.
“Looking for Poneglyphs?” said Shanks, when he was in Kaido’s line of sight but hadn’t yet been noticed.
Kaido startled dramatically, flickered form into a dragon, and spilled his gigantic mug of Shanks’s best alcohol all over himself. Shanks smiled innocently at him.
“You’re back, Red-Haired,” growled Kaido. He shook himself like a dog, spraying all that wasted alcohol all over the island.
“I am,” said Shanks. “You’re drinking my booze.”
“This island is mine now, upstart.”
Shanks tilted his head. “You know, I don’t think I agree.”
“Finders-keepers, Red-Haired,” said Kaido, narrowing his big dragon eyes. “That’s the law of the New World. You weren’t here to protect it.”
“Yeah, I found it,” said Shanks, putting all the conqueror’s haki he’d had to keep pent up in East Blue behind his words, “and I’m keeping it.”
Kaido countered, and the ground (and several bottles) cracked around them as Shanks sharpened his Will to a swordpoint with narrowed eyes. Kaido and Big Mom both, their haki was powerful but clumsy, unfocused, and the both of them not keen to use it except as a mark of status or in a murderous rage. Shanks had been taught better than that, though, by Rayleigh-san mostly, and his smallness in the face of Kaido’s dragon form did not matter before the weight of his claim and the depth of his authority.
His haki was a weapon, and he used it as such.
Eventually, to the sound of falling boulders and trees creaking under pressure, Kaido said, “You lost an arm.”
Mutually, they pulled in their haki. No need to start a war right now.
“I gave it away, actually.” Shanks felt a tiny smile quirk the corner of his lips. “And yes, before you ask, I gave away that hat, too.”
Kaido’s body undulated rapidly, which Shanks figured probably meant he was agitated. “The weak die in the New World, Red-Haired.”
“...are you trying to give me advice?” Shanks tilted his head to the side and stared. “You’re not Rayleigh-san.”
The pressure of Kaido’s haki spiked as he roared. “Ì am issuing you a warning, impudent brat.”
Shanks held up a finger. “Okay, first of all, I’m in my late twenties, only really old people like Garp and Rayleigh-san can call me ‘brat’ these days. Secondly…” He raised a second finger and glared, throwing conqueror’s haki right back. So much for the truce. “I’m issuing you a warning right back, then, and that warning is if you don’t get the fuck off my island and out of my territory as fast as your ships can carry you, we go to war. And I promise you, I’ll win.”
Kaido undulated some more. Hopefully he was deciding that going to war against another Emperor, however weak and one-armed that Emperor might seem, was generally an unwise move for them both.
Shanks wondered when he would turn back into a human, because all that undulating was getting very distracting.
“You said there was a Poneglyph on this island?” growled Kaido eventually.
“I never said that.” Shanks rolled his eyes and nudged harder with his haki, infusing it with his deep and possessive desire for Kaido to get off his island. “I just know what would send you hunting deep in my territory like a dog after scraps when my back was turned, is all.” He shrugged. “Not that you accomplished anything other than drinking all my booze, so it’s water under the bridge, mostly. As long as you leave right now.”
Kaido narrowed his eyes. “And what will you do if I don’t?”
“We’ll have a war, and I’ll win,” said Shanks simply. “Do you really want me in Wano?”
Kaido considered that, undulating more slowly. Then he flicked form back to human and landed hard. The already-ruined stone cracked some more. “I believe you meant that I will win,” he said, towering at full height, and then flicked right back to dragon form like he’d just realized he couldn’t fly otherwise. “Next time I see you, brat…”
He flew away.
“Yeah, yeah, whatever!” yelled Shanks at his retreating form.
When the dragon had disappeared from the range of his observation haki, he sighed and brought his gaze down to stare at the wasted alcohol pooling on the ground.
“Ugh,” he whined. “Can’t believe that bastard didn’t even leave enough for me to get drunk on.”
“They named him after it,” cackled Shanks, more delighted than he'd been in years. “Oh, the Marines are idiots, they named him after it!” So maybe he was drunk, but there was no way this could possibly be any less hilarious sober. “They named him after his crown!”
“You've been saying,” noted Mihawk drily. Forget the Marines, that man's ability to stay serious even once Shanks had got some drinks in him was Shanks's worst enemy.
“Mihawk, they named him after it,” insisted Shanks. Maybe repetition would get him to understand?
“Yes, I heard you the first time.”
“Mihawk,” complained Shanks.
Shanks huffed a breath back.
They made faces at each other.
“That swordsman Roronoa of his was making oaths and calling your kid Pirate King even with them just being East Blue rookies,” said Mihawk, as he put his mug distastefully on the ground. “Looking back, I should have laughed, but…”
“But you believed it too, huh?”
“Shut up,” muttered Mihawk. “It was ridiculous. They'll be dead the second they hit the Grand Line.”
“You, my friend,” said Shanks, gesturing sloppily with his mug, “are making excuses.”
“We are not friends.”
“Aha!” Shanks pointed triumphantly in Mihawk’s direction. “But you are making excuses!”
Mihawk rolled his eyes, but said nothing. Shanks took it as a victory.
“Fine,” said Shanks. “I will bet you twenty bottles of an alcohol of your choice — so wine, obviously — that Anchor makes it to Raftel and that crewmate he picked up kicks your ass.”
“You’re drunk, Red-Haired. And I am not making bets with you anyways.”
“Ha-HA! So you admit that I would win!”
Mihawk put his face in his hands.
Shanks's personal snailphone was ringing. Curious, almost nobody had his number, which meant it was either an emergency or something really dumb.
He picked up.
“SHANKS!” shrieked Buggy's voice, directly into his eardrums.
“Whoa, chill,” laughed Shanks. “It's good to hear from you!”
“I hate you, and I hate that stupid hat, and I hate that stupid kid you gave it to, too!”
Shanks grinned. “Isn't Luffy great?”
“No!” fumed Buggy. “No! He flashily is not!”
“Wow, how many of your feelings did he hurt this time?”
Buggy ignored him, which was rude but also kind of fair. “He stole my best mercenaries for his stupid fleet, is what he did!”
“I'm so proud, a fleet already!” gushed Shanks, because really that was the important part. “Did you see the World Economic Journal article? Little Anchor, all grown up and getting declared an Emperor, just like that!”
“Ugh, I knew you wouldn't care about my problems,” grumbled Buggy. Shanks didn't say anything to let him fume a bit more, and also because he really actually didn't particularly care about this specific problem of Buggy's, given that his old friend was actually doing pretty well for himself, all things considered. “...but yeah, okay, so it was pretty hilarious to hear Big Mom got what was flashily coming to her.”
“I know, right?” Shanks leaned in, grinning his excitement. “Word is he's going for Kaido next. I can't wait to hear how that one goes.”
“You do realize he's just gonna die a flashy death, right,” said Buggy flatly. “It’s Kaido.”
“Oh come on, have some faith in our future Pirate King!”
“He's not my anything.”
“Sure, that’s why you chased him into the Grand Line even though you swore you’d never come back here.” Shanks couldn’t keep the singsong teasing out of his voice.
Even if he kind of wanted to, when Buggy was silent for a few seconds too long.
“Listen, just… stay alive, okay.” Shanks turned his head away so the snail wouldn’t catch his face. He didn’t need to be seen having an emotion over Buggy of all people, and especially not by Buggy. “You’ve always been good at that.”
“And you think you’re so much better than me, huh?” spat Buggy. Wavespray splashed up, and Shanks tasted salt.
“Hey, I didn’t mean it as an insult. Alive is good. Pretty rare, too, considering.” He blew a breath through his lips. “Seas, Buggy. It’s been… good to see you, recently.”
“For you, maybe,” said Buggy, which Shanks knew meant he agreed.
“We watched the end of one era together,” said Shanks, still staring at the waves instead of the snailphone. “I wouldn’t say no to inaugurating the the next one that way either.” It would be nice. Symmetrical. A way to remember when times were simple and the world was vast in front of him and he had a captain to love and to trust and to follow.
“What, by crying?” If Buggy was anything like he’d been at age fourteen, the jab meant he wanted to hate Shanks but couldn’t quite bring himself to. Shanks would like it, if he was still like he’d been at age fourteen.
He grinned. “I’ll see you at Raftel!”
And then he hung up, without waiting for Buggy to reply. He had a Reverie to crash, and anyways, the answer was obvious.
Luffy was tall, now. Sure, he’d been about this height at Marineford, but unconscious and bloodied and defeated against the world he had been made small, and Shanks had kept superimposing his image with the one of him at age seven, childishly lonely and childishly indignant.
But here, now, the presence of a conqueror coiled snugly around him, red dawn like an omen splashing out behind him, all the radiance of his new-won title shining from him, he looked every inch the King of the Seas, present, commanding focus despite his small stature and tattered clothing and beaten body. Even Shanks had to brace himself with Will to avoid being drawn in and pulled under at the sight of him, inexorable.
Shanks ignored the waves washing over his feet, the surf ruining his boots. He looked at Luffy and waited.
That hat, Captain Roger's hat, Luffy's hat, the Pirate King's crown glowed molten gold in the dawnlight, cast long shadows from the rising sun. Luffy looked up at the sky, at the world, and grinned a grin under it to match the sun in intensity.
"Shanks!" he said, and his crew all clustered around him in celebration parted to let him through.
"Anchor," said Shanks. "Luffy. Pirate King."
Luffy took his hat from his head, stared at it one long moment, and then grinned that grin again, that same grin Shanks remembered from his captain, wider even with rubber and freer than even the wind.
"Here's your hat," said Luffy. He held it out, worn and precious.
And Shanks smiled back at him.