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Once More With Feeling

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You have seven days. Don't waste them.

Sanji looked at the vanishing figure of the strange woman and closed his eyes.

Everything hurt: his head was throbbing painfully, his right arm was twisted at an unnatural angle and he was fairly sure his left hand was shattered. His legs had been useless for the last few minutes and the dull ache of the bullet wound in his abdomen was a slow drain for his remaining energy. He didn't have much time left; perhaps minutes, perhaps mere seconds.

He didn't care, he just wanted a cigarette. He'd rather have the taste of nicotine in his mouth while he died. Defeat was a hundred times bitterer.

The water lapped at his fallen body, the Sunny sinking slowly into the ocean. Behind his closed eyelids he could see everything as it was before he fell: Robin and Nami together, beautiful even in death with their cuffed hands reaching to one another, trying to protect what they held dear. Franky, mouth open in a silent scream, speared through the chest and nailed to the main mast in an obscene display. Usopp had been the first one to die; a bullet to the head cutting off his attempts to jump overboard to save those who couldn't save themselves. Luffy, Chopper and Brooke were nowhere to be seen but Sanji could still remember the splash their bodies had made when they were tossed overboard, sea stone cuffs rendering their strength useless.

And the Marimo--that had been the worst, seeing Zoro's expression as his beloved sword was snapped as easily as a toothpick, his shock and disbelief at the blasphemy. It had been unfair, so unfair seeing the strength leaving him while the shards of his own Wadou Ichimonji were thrust into his chest.

Sanji had never felt so useless in his life, his legs unable to sustain him or help any of his nakama.

Then came the shot and the blessed relief knowing he wasn't going to survive them.

That was when the old woman appeared; a pearly shape, almost translucent, her face wreathed in deep lines of sorrow and knowledge staring at him. Her mouth had been a straight line, thin and unforgiving, but her eyes were kind and filled with compassion.

You welcome Death? You welcome me?

Her voice didn't match her looks, young and sweet and loving. Sanji had smiled, his dry throat refusing to form the words.

Yes, he had thought. Yes, take me too, take me with them.

She had stared at him hard, considering. Then she nodded her head.

I see. You can't live with your soul splintered and so many fragments missing. You don't want to. But it's not your time--it wasn't theirs either.

She appeared to be considering something for a minute and her lips curled into a smile, the years falling off her like so many layers of paint, leaving a beautiful woman in her place. Sanji stared speechlessly.

You have one chance for each of them. Choose well for when I come back to claim you I might take your whole world or only the parts you didn't manage to take back from me. There are eight fragments, seven may stay. You have seven attempts to put things back to rights.

You have seven days. Don't waste them

And with that, she was gone and Sanji was dead.