"No one knows where the soul goes when we die, when we die,
Some say to nowhere, some will say the sky, to the sky
It’s all the same, and surely some will find it strange,
But I prefer the mystery remains,
Unexplained, unexplained, unexplained.
Oh my God,
I will hold my tongue and I’ll breathe,
If anyone can say with any sort of certainty,
That there is something to believe.
Did you ever think that we’d be three steps from the ledge,
Contemplating awful things and thinking about the end?"
Toh Kay, With Any Sort Of Certainty (x)
The thing is- Robin's not used to having friends.
(The only one she ever had was Saul, and- well, that was a long time ago.)
When she joins the Strawhats for the first time -exhausted and disillusioned and just, just wanting it all to stop-, when she joins them for the first time, she carefully observes every single one of the Strawhats, and hesitantly labels each of them as an ally.
And- it stays that way for a fairly long time, all things considered. She explores a multitude of little islands with them, and then the captain decides he wants to go to a sky island.
So they do, because Luffy could order his crew to set the world on fire and they would.
(Back then, she doesn't let herself linger on the fact that it doesn't sound nearly as crazy as it should.)
They arrive in a paradise that reveals itself a hell- and, well, of course, Luffy can't let that go, not when someone cried.
So they beat a god, because Luffy would stop the sun itself from shining if that was what it took to solve his friend's problems.
And at that moment- or a little before that, or a little after-, the label shifts, and the Strawhats, in all their insanity and daring happiness, go from allies? to friends.
And here- here is where things start to get blurry.
BeCause- Robin's been alone for a long time. She's been alone and running from the world, and she's not used to having a home or something even remotely stable in her life.
(Sometimes she wakes up and wonders, for half a second, if this is the moment she discovers that it was all a dream.)
She's used to having few belongings, if any. What she values isn't material- it's the sound of Saul's laugh, it's the memory of what Ohara looked like when it wasn't burning, it's old books she won't ever be able to read again.
(They say survival is a skill, and perhaps that's true; perhaps it is something she has learned along the way, perhaps she is only alive today because she has looked over her shoulder so many times, has abandoned all she had the second it began looking like what she had lost on Ohara.
They say survival is a skill, and a good one to possess, but Robin isn't sure that's true.
Survival is all-encompassing, all-consuming; survival demands all your attention, all your energy. Survival doesn't leave time for dreams, or idle thoughts, or rest, or levity. Survival is running away from what you never even thought to call home; survival is abandoning people whose name you've forced yourself to forget.
Survival is running until you can't even remember what you're surviving for; but at that point, it's engraved in you, and it'd have been pointless to get so far to give up now, wouldn't it?
They say survival is a skill, but really it's a lifestyle, a philosophy, and it's not a good one to adopt.)
Robin has lost so much, so many times; and yet she has lost so little, compared to others.
She has learned -painstakingly, very quickly- not to care about things, that are so fragile and so easily annihilated.
She has learned not to care about people, for the same reason. It's a lesson she knows well, that she follows without thinking, as much as she ever doesn't think.
It's a rule she'll never deviate from- at least that's what she thinks, until someone threatens her crew.
(The city around her is full of life and noise, and she feels out of place. That in itself is not an unfamiliar feeling, but the fear is.
She is never really scared.
Well- she must be, she thinks. Maybe it's too distant for it to register; maybe it's just so familiar she doesn't know how it feels not to be scared.
It's not a pleasant thought, either way.)
"CP9", someone whispers, and for a moment she is angry.
Won't they ever leave her alone? Does knowledge really mean that much to them?
(Does it mean that much to her?)
She is angry- but she is tired; most of all, she is tired.
And then- it hits her.
She remembers embers, and the inside of a sand prison, and a bloodstain, and drowning in what was not water- she remembers threats and promises, ink and engraved stone.
They're not threatening her. No, of course, why would they? When has she ever complied when they threatened her?
They're threatening- they're planning to kill-
(And Aokiji warned her, but he is only kind in the cruelest of ways.
Lazy justice, he says. She does not think justice is lazy; (she does not think justice truly exists.)
Lazy justice, he says, and maybe his way will succeed in the end; because for all that Robin has endured, she does not think she could bear to lose the Strawhats.
He won't have to do anything, in the end.)
She imagines, for a second, all of them in Impel Down, for the rest of their life, because of her; worst, she imagines them lifeless and unmoving, Luffy's ever-present smile gone, Zoro unable to realize his dream, Nami's precious maps tainted with blood and forever unfinished, Usopp's dial fractured, Sanji's kitchen knives rusty, Chopper's medicine books burned- all of it because of her.
And that it is when she realizes-
Oh, but if Ohara must die for them to survive, then it will. Ohara isn't comforting anymore, a reminder that she once had a home and a friend- no, it has become a burden, a legacy she needed to carry, no matter how heavy it became. But the Strawhats- the Strawhats are laughter and levity and safety and all she thought she'd never get to experience ever again, and if the world must forget its history for them, if she must abandon her dream and her life and stop running away for them, then she will.
She has seen countless organizations collapse because of her, has abandoned so many people that could have become her friends. Now that she has found some, now that she has something, something other then memories and ashes, tears and ice, she can't- she can't destroy it.
She can't destroy the world for them, like Luffy would promise he would- but she can destroy herself, and all that she carries. She can burn it all away and hope that her sacrifice will be enough.
(But she forgets, then-
They can do the same for her.)