They have lowered him low o'er the vessel side,
Above him has closed the dark cold tide,
Where to dip the light wings the sea bird rests,
And the blue waves dance o'er the ocean crest,
Where the billows bound and the winds sport free,
They have buried him there in the deep deep sea.
(The Ocean Burial)
Shanks throws Rockstar at Buggy’s stolen ship as soon as Buggy accepts that they’re coming with him. It’s been over a decade since they last sailed together, and Shanks is not letting this opportunity pass him by. Rockstar can handle the little ship just fine - Shanks is sailing with Buggy and not taking no for an answer.
He’s a bit worried, at first, that this might bring back memories of the time when they were being hunted by Captain’s enemies, but then Buggy is smiling , and Shanks remembers that not all of those days were bad days. Some of them were good days, when the weather was nice and the sea was calm and they would find it in themselves to laugh at silly things like ridiculous looking fishes or weird clouds. The calm before the storm, too often, but that’s what had kept them going, back then.
They fall back into their old habits easily, effortlessly adapting to Shanks’ missing arm. The red-head takes the helm while Buggy takes care of the sails, and then they’re off.
They sail in silence for a while at first, just basking in each other’s presence.
“I missed this,” Buggy says, softly.
“Me too,” Shanks answers.
Of course, because they’re Shanks-and-Buggy and Buggy-and-Shanks, they start bickering less than an hour in.
But that’s fine, Shanks think even as he teases his friend and watches as Buggy turns redder and redder before launching himself at him, clearly intending to throttle him. Because underneath the bluster, Buggy is smiling and Shanks is laughing even as he dodges.
They’re going to be fine.
"This is not something I missed!" Buggy yells at him from where he's desperately trying to adjust the sails in order to deal with the storm that just came out of nowhere without the ship capsizing on them.
And Shanks laughs, laughs and laughs and laughs, because truly? This is something he missed, working on a ship together with his best friend, dealing with the crazy weather of the Grand Line, only the two of them. He loves the Red Force, but now that his crew is bigger he rarely has a chance to do some actual sailing. He takes the helm, sometimes, but most of the work is done by his nakamas and he hadn't quite realized how much he'd missed it.
But it's easy to fall back into old habits, and he's quietly relieved to find out that his missing arm does not actually hamper him that much. He can still climb the ropes like the best of them, can still bring in the sails without trouble, just has to adjust his stance and get creative with the ropes, but he can still do it.
(Shanks still has some issues with his missing arm. He doesn't regret losing it, because that would mean regretting saving Luffy and that's never been an option, but... the adjusting period was not easy.)
(The look Mihawk gave him, the fact that the swordsman has refused to spar with him ever since... Well. That didn't help.)
(Buggy did, though. Buggy helped.)
(Because Buggy showed up six days after the Akagami had left Dawn Island, because Benn had called him, even though Shanks hadn't wanted to worry his friend.)
(Buggy had shown up and then proceeded to yell at him for three hours straight, furious and worried and terrified because he could have lost Shanks and that was something he would never be ready for, just as Shanks knew that he would never be prepared to lose Buggy.)
(Three years without knowing if Buggy was alive or not, and Shanks does not want to remember those.)
(Buggy had yelled at him and hugged him and then dared him to become a Yonkou anyway, to prove everyone wrong, to prove Mihawk wrong.)
(Had offered to find a way to inconvenience Shanks' rival, because there's no way I can take the guy in a fight but I can damn well make his life complicated, and stop laughing you moron I'm serious!)
(Shanks had nearly taken him up on his offer. But instead he stopped moping and started training again, and he hasn't had the chance yet to challenge Mihawk again but Buggy is already planning on selling tickets and filming the whole thing because You're going to pound him into the ground and it's going to be glorious and flashy and there's no way I'm not getting a memento of that.)
(Buggy had never doubted that Shanks would be able to make it to the top. Not a single second. Two arms, one arm, what difference did it make? None, in Buggy's eyes. To Buggy, Shanks was Shanks and could be whatever he damn well wanted and the rest of the world would just have to deal with it.)
(So okay, maybe Benn had been right to call him.)
Shanks is torn out of his memories by ice-cold snow hitting his face.
"When the hell did it start snowing?!" He splutters, wiping it off his face and looking at his smirking crewmate.
"Probably while you were off daydreaming instead of helping me, idiot!" Buggy snarks back. "It's Grand Line bullshit, don't you remember? Come on, help me sweep this crap off before it melts and rots your ship."
Shanks looks around. There's snow all over the Red Speed's small deck, piling up already despite the fact that it had to have started only moments ago. Then he looks back at his friend, and suddenly Buggy is backing away waving his arms in front of him.
"No. No. No - don't you dare!"
But Shanks is already crouching down and gathering snow in his hand and throwing it, hitting Buggy straight on the nose.
Buggy stares at him, gaping, and then he smirks, an evil glint in his eyes.
"Oh, it's on now!"
And really, there's nothing Shanks can do but laugh at that.
He really did miss this.
They’re not laughing when they dock on Tortoise Island at dusk, anchoring their ship in a small, hidden creek.
“Sure you don't want me to stay, Okashira?” Rockstar asks, and Shanks waves him away.
“Probably best if you stay away. This is not going to be easy, and it's probably better if there's no outsider, no offense.”
They haven't told the younger man what they're here for, what made Buggy cross into the grand line again, but Rockstar is smart enough to have at least an inkling.
And smart enough to simply nod and head for the other side of the island while Buggy and Shanks make their way towards the Stenographer.
(Second favourite after Benn for a reason, Buggy thinks, even as he braces himself for the upcoming conversation.)
“Permission to come aboard?” Shanks calls ahead as he knocks on the half closed door. The bar is nearly empty, the last patrons having been shoved out unmercifully not ten minutes ago.
Buggy and Shanks had waited for that, because this is not something anyone else should witness, this is about respect and honour and memory and keeping Ace safe , and they're not taking any risks this time.
Buggy could have done without Shanks announcing their presence like that, though. He knows it's tradition, knows it's good manners , even if it's a bar and not a ship and there is no captain to receive them, but it also means that now they have to face the music. No more dithering.
Buggy takes a deep breath even as he hears rustling inside.
Seconds later, Yadomaru Lisa throws the door open and looks at them.
Standing there, with her arms crossed and her glasses and her dark hair that hasn't started greying even though those are definitely age lines around her eyes, an eyebrow raised at the two of them, and it feels like being thrown back in time and Buggy hates it.
“Well well well,” the Blackjack's first mate drawls. “Look at what the cat has dragged in. Eighteen years since I saw the last of the two of you together, and now, of all the bars in all the Blues, you show up in mine. Give me one good reason I shouldn't kick your asses back to Silver's?”
Buggy can't quite help the flinch at that, and he feels more than he sees Shanks’ glare (because of fucking course Shanks notices, and of fucking course he would take offence and really, Buggy appreciates it, but this is not the time !).
“Because you know we wouldn't be here without a reason, Queen of Clubs”, Buggy answers before Shanks can get started.
“Given that last I heard you were staying firmly in East Blue while Tomato-head somehow managed to become a Yonko and spends most of his time in the New World?” Yadomaru eyebrow rises slightly. “It better be a good one.”
She takes a step back into the bar.
“Permission granted - for now. You start anything in my bar and I will kick your asses, big scary Yonko or not. I remember when you were barely waist-height - I am not scared of you.”
“And we remain properly terrified of you and your entire crew of lunatics,” Buggy sighs, resting his hand briefly on Shanks’ shoulder before he follows her inside.
The bar is a nice one - Buggy has never been inside the Black Maria back when the Blackjacks were still sailing, but he would bet that the decor is at least slightly inspired from that. It certainly feels like he's in a ship, despite the sea being over two miles away. It's the dark wood on the walls, and the round windows, and the curtains that look more like sails.
There's a couple of people hanging around, cleaning the tables or washing the glasses, some of them just sitting by the fire playing cards, and it's oh so easy to recognise them.
‘Ballbuster’ Kuukaku. The sharpshooter with a disturbing tendency to aim for the family jewels when pissed off.
'Quicksand’ Ganju. A trap maker of the greatest caliber.
Kyoraku of the two swords. 'White Ghost’ Ukitake. Two swordsmen able to fight seamlessly side by side no matter the situation.
'Smirking’ Shinji. A spy master that rivals Shakky.
'Earth-fist’ Tsunade. 'Poison’ Shizune. The scariest doctor Buggy has ever met and her apprentice.
'Crazy’ Urahara. The Blackjack's resident shipwright and mad scientist.
'Trident’ Kaien who has earned his name wielding that exact weapon with deadly competency.
Even their former shipbrat, Nanao something, Ise, that's it, is there - she's what, twenty-five now? - and
Buggy squashes the jealousy he is feeling.
(All of them are here. They stuck together. No one got left behind. Not even the apprentice.)
(Buggy can't afford to think about that now.)
The Blackjacks look up at their entrance, and Buggy sees more than one raised eyebrows.
“What are Roger's brats doing here?” Tsunade asks, already halfway drunk and losing badly at the poker game taking place in front of her. Some things never change, apparently.
He tries not to wince at what she calls them. It's not that Buggy doesn't want to acknowledge his time under Gol D Roger - but he would very much prefer if the rest of the world could let it go.
(Buggy sailed under Gol D Roger for six years, and without him for over thrice that. He is no longer the cabin boy of the Oro Jackson. He is a captain in his own right now, with his own crew. He is more than what they remember, and so is Shanks.)
“They better not try and make trouble on this island!” Kuukaku laughs. “Or we'll have to teach them a lesson again!”
But they don't see it. They look at Buggy an Shanks and they don't see the grown men, the captains, the Yonko. They see two little boys who argued over anything and everything and followed Gol D Roger everywhere like little ducklings. And it stings.
“Yare yare,” Shanks drawls, and his tone is perfectly polite but Buggy can feel the tension in his frame. “How about we all remember that we have manners, hm? And that the time you’re speaking of is nearly two decades past?”
Kuukaku bristles, looks ready to stand up and earn her name all over again, and Buggy takes a deep breath.
“There is a rumour on the waves,” He starts, and his eyes are locked on Yadomaru who is paling by the second. “Of one who once sailed aboard this ship.”
The words are words he learnt by heart, all those years ago back when he and Shanks had just joined the crew and Roger had taken it upon himself to try and give them their first look into a pirate’s life. They are instinct and tradition and old and Buggy hates that he is the one speaking them today.
The silence in the bar is deafening. By the fire, Kuukaku, Ganju and Tsunade have laid down their cards. Shizune, Kyoraku and Ukitake are pale as snow, as is Kaien. Shinji and Urahara are looking at him with the intensity of a thousand suns, and Buggy does not falter.
“There is a rumour on the waves,” he continues nonetheless, because this is important and they deserve to know. “Of one who now sails with Davy Jones.”
Yadomaru is frozen in place, hands braced against the counter, fingers digging deep into the wood.
And she is utterly silent.
“What say the waves?” It’s the Black Maria’s former cabin brat who speaks up instead, the faintest hint of a sob in her voice, but she does not falter as she continues the ritual her mentor is unable to pursue. “What tale do they tell of the captain of this ship?”
Buggy swallows heavily.
“They tell the tale of one who stood strong and fierce and was felled by no enemy yet her death was at their hands. They tell the tale of one who hid to protect one who was not but who would be. They tell the tale of one who made time do her bidding and turned nine months into twenty. They tell the tale of one who faced trial and pain alone, not by choice but by necessity. They tell the tale of one who loved and lost and decided that love mattered more. They tell the tale of one who now sails with Davy Jones.”
“What says the foam? What stories does it brings of the captain of this ship?” Kuukaku picks up the ritual again, previous snark long gone and skin ashen pale.
“The foam brings the stories of one who evaded her enemies and outwitted them at every turn. It brings the stories of one who put another's life above her own and did it gladly. It brings the stories of one who went home and was trapped there, yet was not caught in the trap. It brings the story of one who was found by one who should have been an enemy, and yet was not. It brings the story of one who hid long enough and yet too long. It brings the story of one who now sails with Davy Jones.”
“What says the wind?” Ukitake continues, voice steady even as his haki screams his grief. “What news does it whisper of the captain of this ship?”
“The wind whispers the news of one who named another in her last breath. It whispers the news of one who gave another away because there was no choice. It whispers the news of one who should have watched another grow and whose life was cut too short. It whispers the news of one who should have survived, had her enemies not cut off all aid. It whispers the news of one who remained free and unbowed. It whispers the news of one who now sails with Davy Jones.”
“What says the sea?” Kyoraku of the two swords asks, his face set in stone and his had lowered to hide his eyes. “What knowledge does she have of the captain of this ship?”
“The sea knows of one who sailed upon her for years and sailed true. She knows of one who knew her well, at her worst and at her best. She knows of one who loved her and was loved by her in return. She knows of one who should have been given back to her, and was given to the earth instead. She knows of one others have tried to make the world forget. She knows of one who now sails with Davy Jones.”
“What says Davy Jones?” Yadomaru croaks out before anyone else can. “What says he of the captain of this ship?”
This is the last part of the ritual, and it takes all Buggy has to speak the words aloud.
“Davy Jones says of one who now sails with him that she died on the Island of Baterilla in the Blue of the South, and that there she was buried. He says of one who now sails with him that she died on New Year’s day, eighteen years ago. He says of one who now sails with him that she loved her crew and that she loved a Pirate King. He says of one who now sails with him that she gave birth and name to a son before she came aboard his ship. He says of one who now sails with him that she was great, and deserved more than what she got. He says of one who now sails with him that her name was Portgas D. ‘Blackjack’ Rouge.”
“There is a rumour on the waves that Blackjack D. Rouge now sails with Davy Jones.”
The bar is utterly silent, save for the creaking of the wood as Yadomaru slowly, one by one, removes her fingers from where they’ve embedded themselves in the countertop.
Buggy bows, feels Shanks do the same next to him, and then they leave, leave the bar and the Blackjacks who look like their world has come to an end and Buggy knows exactly how they’re feeling right now and he knows he wouldn’t want another to watch as he fell apart. So they leave, quitely, respectfully, and they walk into the darkness until they reach the small beach where they’ve laid anchor. They don’t return to the ship, not yet.
Because as soon as the Blackjacks have put themselves back together again, all ragged edges and broken pieces, they’re going to want answers and Buggy is honour bound to provide them.
So they sit down on the sand instead, looking out at the water, and Buggy takes a deep breath and then another, until he feels like himself again.
Shanks says nothing, but he is sitting close enough for their shoulders to touch and that is enough. The reminder that Buggy is not alone in this grounds him, helps him find his equilibrium.
“I never want to have to do that again,” Buggy says softly. “Never again.”
He hadn’t even known Rouge that well. Certainly hadn’t been close to her, or to her crew. But for all that Yadomaru and her people had probably been looking for their captain for nearly two decades, Buggy had been the one to stumble upon her fate and thus he had been honour-bound to be the one to inform them of it.
Buggy might sometimes feel like a sorry excuse for a pirate, but he has lived and breathed by that code since he was seven years old. He will not betray it now.
“I know.” Shanks says, and he does.
Kyoraku is the one who comes for them, less than half an hour later.
They follow him back to the bar without a word, falling into step just slightly behind him. Kyoraku is not a captain, but this is his crew’s territory and Buggy and Shanks know better than to test any of the Blackjacks. Now is not the time for a pissing contest.
Yadomaru is waiting by the door when they arrive. She is pale and there are hastily wiped tear tracks on her face, but her back is straight and her head held high.
“Permission to come on board?” Shanks asks again, and there is no flippancy, no humour in his tone.
“Permission granted,” Yadomaru replies, and moves aside to let them in.
“Our thanks,” Buggy inclines his head as he steps over the threshold.
The door closes behind them. The Blackjacks have regrouped by the fire, and all of them have a bottle close by. Buggy relates - he too is entirely too sober for this situation.
Yadomaru locks the door before heading to the bar and throwing two bottles their way. Then she points them toward two empty chairs by the fire.
“Talk.” Is the only word she says.
Buggy takes a long swig before he even sits down.
He is not drunk enough for this.
“ Monkey D. Garp?!”
“ He didn’t even know she was a pirate?!”
“He told a child WHAT.”
It’s nice to know that they’re not the only ones who want to rip Monkey D. Garp’s head off his shoulders, Buggy muses as he downs his third bottle.
At least they’ve stopped cursing Gol D. Roger, at least for now. That particular tirade had turned the air blue, and revealed that the Blackjacks hadn’t known about their captains’ relationship either.
Which means that the question of how the hell those two had gotten together will probably remain unanswered until they join their respective captains in Davy Jones’ locker. Too bad. Buggy had truly hoped that the Blackjacks would have been able to shed some light on what had happened, but given the way Yadomaru had been cursing her captain’s taste in men, they had been just as blindsided by that information as he had been.
Finally, after what feels like hours, after he’s been squeezed of all the informations he could possibly give them (not as much as they would have liked, clearly, but Buggy had gotten all his information third hand, only knows what Ace told him and Ace only knew what little Monkey D. Fucking Garp had been willing to let slip), Yadomaru leans back against her chair and takes a long swig from her bottle (her eighth, Buggy thinks, and wonders if she’s from the same island as Shanks, with a liver like that).
“What now?” she asks, and Buggy sighs, drinking from his own bottle.
“I told the kid where he could find you guys, but I don’t know when he’ll try and contact you. He's barely been out at sea for two months, and hasn’t left East Blue yet. You guys are pretty far down the Grand Line, so it might take him a while to reach you.”
“He mentioned wanting to head down to Baterilla soon. To pay his respects.”
Yadomaru hisses in a breath.
“She was buried. In the earth ,” She spits out like a curse. “By a Marine who did not give her body the respect it was due, who did not give her back to the sea.”
“Is he planning on giving her a proper send-off?” Kyoraku asks softly, from his spot in the shadows of the fireplace.
Ace had told him of his plans before Buggy dropped him off on the Piece of Spadille, had told him he was free to mention them to the Blackjacks, but Buggy still feels like he is betraying the kid’s confidence when he replies:
“He says that it’s not his place to do that. But that he would be grateful if you allowed him to be there for it.”
“Not his… he’s her son!” Poison Shizune protests
“One who has no memories of her and didn’t even know she had been a pirate,” Buggy points out.
One who still thinks he is responsible for his mother’s death, who worries that her crew will hate him for it, he doesn’t say, because t hat had been said in confidence, in that too quiet voice that barely even qualified as a whisper, and Buggy will not give the Blackjacks anything they might use against the boy who had, for some unknown reason, decided to trust him with that information.
He hasn’t even told Shanks half of what the kid had ended up telling him that night as they worked their ways to black-out drunkness. There’s no way he’s telling the Blackjacks about it.
“Do you have any way to contact him?” “White Ghost” Ukitake asks, staring at him with a quiet intensity that put Buggy on edge and has Shanks bristle protectively next to him.
“No. I gave him my number and told him he could call me if he wanted to know more, but that it was up to him.”
“Yeah right. Like hell you didn’t make sure you could keep track of him when he’s your captain’s son. Cough up, clown brat!”
It’s Buggy’s turn to bristle, and maybe if they hadn't spent the past two hours interrogating him and insulting his captain and treating him like a child he would have managed to keep a lid on his temper but as it is Buggy is just completely done with today.
“Or maybe I just happen to have a brain that is not completely soaked in cheap sake and thought that I would respect the boy’s wishes when he clearly has not wish to be associated with Roger in any way. Maybe I thought it would be best to give him some space to come to terms with what he had just learned. And maybe I was smart enough to realise that asking for a way to keep track of him was a really fucking dumb thing to do when it would only take one person realising whose son he is for him to be hunted down like a fucking dog!”
He’s standing, he realises distantly, his fingers tight around the neck of the bottle he’s holding tight enough for minute cracks to have formed, and he’s panting like he’s just raised all of the Oro Jackson’s sails by himself.
The Blackjacks have fallen silent, and the sudden quietness is deafening.
“Gol D. Roger’s enemies have already proven that they had no qualms taking their anger out on children,” Shanks says evenly, voice so calm Buggy wonders if anyone else can feel the barely restrained fury coursing through his friend’s veins as he stands up and starts heading for the door, Buggy automatically falling in step next to him.
(Always next to him, never behind or ahead, because they are Buggy-and-Shanks and Shanks-and-Buggy and one may be a simple low-bounty pirate who would very much prefer to never leave East Blue again, and the other may be a freaking Yonkou who stands on equal footing with monsters like Whitebeard and Big Mom, but at the end of the day they’re still just Shanks-and-Buggy and Buggy-and-Shanks and such titles have no meaning amongst themselves.)
“So don’t you dare let that young man down,” Shanks goes on even as he reaches for the door with his remaining hand. “Too many people already have.”