Actions

Work Header

Little White Lies

Work Text:

 “If you stay in here, you'll definitely have a chance to get out of the cage.”

Law's head swims, and he steadies himself with both hands on the rim of the treasure box. Whether it's the beating he's taken from Vergo or his growing fever that's making him dizzy, he isn't sure. Everything hurts – his entire body is a single massive ache. But it has been that way for weeks now – if he just focuses on Corazon, he can power through and stay awake.

At the moment, Cora is the most important thing in his entire world.

He lets go of the box and latches on to Cora's sleeve, fingers curling in feathers. “What about you?”

If his attention had wavered for even a second, if the focal point of his entire world had been anywhere but Cora's face and Cora's voice and Cora's hand on his shoulder, he might have missed it. It's the tiniest pause, a fraction of a second in which the painted smile freezes.

“You're leaving,” he blurts.

“Law-”

“You're leaving me.” Law's voice grates in his throat, as if he's swallowed glass shards. “Aren't you? You're gonna give yourself up to him while I get away.”

“Law, I have to-”

“No, you can't.” The hand on Cora's sleeve tightens into a fist, his fingers pale and bloodless against black feathers. “You can't – Cora, please-

“It's the only way, Law!” The hand on his shoulder moves to cup his face. Cora's smile is wavering but still fixed in place, trembling and desperate. “He won't stop searching for you, but I can cover you. I can point him in the wrong direction, I just need to-”

Please!” The heavy dread in his chest turns to ice-cold panic. “Y-you can't leave, Cora please I'll be quiet, I'll keep up, we can run away and I won't slow you down, just don't-” Law's voice breaks, and his eyes blur with gathering tears. Desperately he clutches harder at Cora's sleeve, afraid that Cora will slip away while he's half-blind.

“I know, Law, I know.” Cora's thumb swipes gently against his cheek, brushing away a tear as it falls. “I know. But he won't let down the Birdcage unless I convince him you've already escaped it. Do you understand?”

“Don't leave,” Law pleads, and he knows now what Lami felt, when he tucked her away in a closet and left her with a promise to come back. I left Lami and Lami died all alone, what if Cora leaves and I-? “I don't – I don't want to be alone again.”

He is pulled roughly into a hug, his face pressed to feathers, Cora's fingers dislodging his hat to card through his hair. “I'm sorry, Law,” Cora whispers near his ear. “I don't want you to be alone again, either.” Cora pulls back, both hands cupping Law's face now. “And I promise you, if I find a way back to you, I will come back-”

“He's gonna kill you, Cora,” Law whispers.

Cora smiles again. “Don't be silly. Doffy wants you and the power of the Ope-Ope fruit. We're blood brothers, remember? Oh, he'll be pissed of course, but he won't kill me.”

The words ring hollow in Law's ears, and he takes hold of Cora's wrists as the tears spilled over again. “Are you sure?” he asks.

“Yes.”

“Cora?” His breath shudders in his chest. “Are you lying to make me feel better?”

Cora's hands still against his face. He leans forward, slowly, until his forehead rests lightly against Law's. He's silent for a moment. “I'm a terrible liar, aren't I?”

“You're really bad,” Law sobs.

“Law,” Cora whispers. “Law, this is the only way. I've made my choices. I've lived my life the best I could. But you – you can be so much more. Please, just let me give you that chance. Let me save you.”

Law sniffles. “But... what if I want to save you?” His mind races, as much as a dazed and battered and feverish mind can race, but it's enough. There are bits and pieces in his head, switching and turning and arranging themselves into the beginnings of a picture.

“Law, trust me,” Cora urges quietly. He places his hand gently on Law's head, and Law can almost feel the tingle of energy as Cora taps into his power.

“I have an idea.” He blurts it out before Cora can cast his silence and it's almost a lie, because it's not quite an idea, only a piece of one. Barely a notion. But it's something, in the same way that the Ope-Ope fruit is not quite a cure but the first step toward being cured. Cora has given him that much, and the least Law can do is give back.

Cora hesitates, hand shaking against Law's head, and listens.


“Where is the Ope-Ope Fruit? Where is Law?”

Law's heart pounds in his ears as he presses his hands to the side of the chest. His fears had been correct – Doflamingo doesn't sound like he's talking to his brother. He sounds like he's interrogating another piece of prey.

“I let Law go.” Cora's voice shakes, wracked with pain. “You're too late, Doffy. I saw what you were doing, and I sent him away before the cage finished forming. He's probably made it to the Marines by now. He's safe. You can't twist him into another attack dog.”

Law waits on bated breath, his heart pounding as high as his throat. Cora's taunting him, and that's dangerous. There's a reason Buffalo and Baby 5 prank Cora mercilessly but would never try it with Doflamingo. People who provoke Doflamingo end up vanishing.

As if summoned by his thoughts, Buffalo and Baby 5 hail them from high above, unwittingly confirming Cora's lie with the announcement that the Marines have taken a boy into their protection. Law releases the breath he's been holding, and lets his head fall forward to rest against the wood. Whoever that boy is, he may have just saved them. Law wonders if they'll ever meet.

“And the Devil Fruit, Corazon?” Doflamingo snarls. “Where is it?”

Come on, come on... Law trembles so violently that if it hadn't been for Cora's Calm spell, the rattling of coins would have given him away for sure.

He can almost hear the smile in Cora's voice. “I ate it, Doffy. Just like you wanted, right?”

Silence meets Cora's reply. Then-

“Oh?” Doflamingo's tone brings Law relief at the same time as it brings dread.

“I made a mistake,” Cora continues, his voice tired. “I thought – I could heal Law. But I ran out of time. Couldn't figure it out. I had to let him go.”

“So you abandoned him.” Law grinds his teeth at Doflamingo's smug voice. “You sent a dying child running to the Marines. Do you really think they'll save him?”

“They did when you abandoned me,” Cora says, and cries out with the sound of another blow landing. The chest shakes with the impact.

“How does that feel, Roci?” Doflamingo continues. “You've thrown away everything for that boy. You betrayed me, and betrayed your Marines from the looks of it. And in the end, you couldn't even save him anyway.”

“I saved him from you,” Law hears Cora whisper.

“You abandoned him to die,” Doflamingo says flatly. “I want you to remember that, Roci. Did he ever end up trusting you? I hope he did. I hope he believed everything you ever said to him. I hope he dies knowing you signed his death warrant.”

Law knocks three times on the side of the box. It makes no sound, but he knows Cora can feel it against his back. Cora knocks in answer with the back of his head.

“It's not a total loss, I suppose,” Doflamingo continues. “I still have what I came here for. Thank you for stealing it for us, Corazon. Even if you are too stupid to use it. But that's all right – I thought you might be. You can still learn.”

“Doffy-”

“Lesson one,” Doflamingo says, and a gunshot rings out.

Law doesn't have time for alarm, because all he feels is pain, white-hot against the right side of his face. He falls backward against the other side of the treasure chest, clutching his head and screaming. He can see light streaming into his hiding place – there's a hole there now, and Cora's not there to block it. Law wants to writhe and kick and scream, anything to distract from the pain, but he can't now. There's a hole and if he moves too much then it won't matter that they can't hear him because they'll see.

Corazon coughs.

“Hopefully that won't kill you,” Doflamingo goes on. “Because hopefully you'll be able to 'figure it out' now. And hopefully you'll figure it out before you drown in your own blood. You have... twenty minutes until that happens? Somewhere around there. Pica, keep him moving until we get back to the ship.”

Blood trickles between Law's fingers, and his vision blurs with dizziness and tears. Doflamingo shot Cora – that wasn't supposed to happen. Doflamingo wants the Ope-Ope fruit, and if he thinks Cora ate it then he'll think the power will go back into circulation if Cora dies. Why did he have to shoot him, why, why, why?

“I have an idea. But for it to work, you need to lie. To Doflamingo.”

“My brother's clever, Law. Even to save my own life, I don't know if I could-”

“What about me, then? Do it to save me. When you see him – make sure you tell him before he has the chance to kill you. Tell him you ate the Ope-Ope fruit.”

“What? That's...”

“He doesn't know you already ate one! If he thinks you ate it, then he'll think he still needs you, and he'll stop looking for me so hard.”

“He still wants you, Law!”

“He'll chase me either way! But at least if he thinks you ate the fruit, he won't risk killing you and losing it!”

He'd been wrong, he'd been so very, very wrong.

The box bumps and jostles as it's carried along, throwing him off balance. Law wants to kick and scream and break things, he wants to throw a tantrum. Cora's in trouble, Cora's hurt, Cora needs help, and all Law can do is sit in a box and wait for someone to put it down. And even if he does escape? He can't use his power. He doesn't even know what his power is.

How is he supposed to save himself if he can't even save Cora?


Law scrambles out of the treasure chest, silent in spite of his stumbling. The arrival of the Marines has forced Doflamingo's hand – they have no choice but to leave some of the plunder behind and leave the island before they're cut off from their escape. The entire family is occupied by the arrival of a fresh warship, and it's the perfect time to get away under the cover of Cora's silence.

But he's not going anywhere without Cora.

He darts along the shoreline as the ship casts off. There are rocks to hide behind as he cranes his neck and searches for any sign of Cora. He can't be dead yet. Doflamingo said twenty minutes and it hasn't even been ten.

Law is near tears again when he spots movement at the stern railing. Bristling, tangled black feathers peek up over the side. Cora leans against the railing, sagging and swaying but still moving. No one is with him, no one is trying to stop him. Everyone's too busy dealing with the Marines. Cannons are firing and no one would be able to hear him even without them.

“Then you can use your power later. Make yourself silent and get away from him. Come and meet me. We'll escape together. We'll both live, you and me. Okay, Cora?”

“It's a risky game, Law.”

“Please just try, okay?”

Law's heart is in his throat. If Cora goes over the side, he'll go right into the ocean, where even the shallows could drown him. But if he tries to go back across the ship, he'll be caught.

“Cora!” he tries to call, but Cora already took away his voice. It doesn't matter – Cora's eyes meet his from the ship. Law can read his intentions as easily as if it were typewritten across his face. He has to jump. There's no other option.

It will take less than two seconds for Cora to reach the water. How far out do the shallows go? How deep is the water? How long does it take a man with a bullet hole in his lung to drown?

I have to get him out. I bet I can do it. He'll be lighter in water.

But wait – I'm a Devil Fruit user now. If I go in, I'll only drown too.

Cannonballs hit the water, inches from the hull. The ship rocks, and Law watches in horror as Cora pitches over the side.

He's silent, but his ears roar. His mind pitches and heaves with terror and desperation and wretched sadness, and above it all frustration burns as hot as his fever. It eats at him with gnawing fangs as he watches Cora fall and digs his fingers into the boulder he's hiding behind and what's the point of having a Devil Fruit if all I can do is hide while more people die?

He wants to scream. He tries to scream – a curse, a plea, Cora's name, anything

The world around him shifts. He blinks, and the stone beneath his hands is gone. Instead of rough rock, he grips feathers.

Cora.

At the foot of Doflamingo's ship, a boulder hits the water with a splash. The noise is lost in the din of cannon fire.

Law's world goes black.

When it comes back, there's a floor beneath him instead of snow, and Cora is talking.

“Wanna hear something cool about pirates in the old days?” Cora asks. Groggily, Law sits up. They're back in one of the many abandoned shacks on the island, probably close to the shore. Law can still hear the cannon battle between Doflamingo and the Marines.

Relief fills him from the tips of his toes to top of his head. He still hurts, but it's a good kind of hurt – if he hurts, it means he's still alive. And Cora's still alive. The Birdcage is gone and Doflamingo is leaving.

Law sits up and almost falls over again, dizzy. At the last moment he manages to prop himself up, and his hand lands in something warm and wet.

There's blood on the floor.

“Treasure wasn't everything, did you know that?” Cora lies on his back next to Law, his only cushion the filthy feather coat. Stiff bloodstains darken his shirt. On his other side, right by his hand, is one of the smaller chests from the pile that Doflamingo left behind. “Gold, jewels. That's not what – what they were going for...”

Law crawls closer, head pounding. He can hear Cora breathing oddly – short, staccato huffs of air. Cora doesn't resist as Law unbuttons his shirt to get a look.

He cringes at the sight, breath hissing between his teeth. His stomach churns. After his escape from Flevance and his time among Doflamingo's family, he's no stranger to bullet wounds and broken bones and the dark bruises of internal bleeding. But seeing them on Cora makes him sick with a horror that he hasn't felt since the White City fell.

“B-back then,” Cora continues. “Back then, you know what was really valuable? The real treasure?” He pats the chest by his hand. “Medicine. Supplies for – doctors. Hard to – to come by. On the ocean-” He breaks off, coughing, and his face twists in pain.

Law scrambles over to the chest, careful not to jar Cora. The lock is broken, and he lifts the lid back. His pulse quickens at the sight. Medical supplies. Surgical supplies. All of it still clean.

There's blood in Cora's lungs, just like Doflamingo said. If nothing is done, he'll bleed and bleed until his lungs are full, and Cora will drown on dry land. Law knows this, and he knows what needs to be done to fix this. He's been studying these things since he first learned to read, since he first went toddling at his father's heels as the latter did his rounds in the hospital.

Law looks down at his hands and finds himself holding a scalpel. He doesn't remember picking it up or popping off the protective sheath.

He knows this, and he's read all about it, but he's never done it before. A tube thoracostomy is hardly a miraculous surgery, but he's thirteen and dying and if he pulls this off then it will be a miracle all the same. If he's ever needed a Devil Fruit power before, it's now.

He needs a lot of things now that he doesn't have. Time. A clear head. A proper operating room–

His fingertips tingle, and suddenly the world around him is encased in blue. Law starts, looking around with wide eyes. It's like a barrier, a force field. A perfectly round dome, encasing him and Cora.

But what does it do?

“Law,” Cora rasps. “It's no-ot magic. They said – you have to know. Medical knowledge. Do what – you know.”

“Okay,” Law whispers, stilling the hand that grips the scalpel. “Okay. I just-” He rummages around in the chest, feverishly wracking his brain for everything he needs. “Okay. I can do this. It's going to hurt, Cora. I'm sorry.” Cora shuts his eyes, and Law blinks back tears. There's no anesthesia. All he can do is slide the scalpel between Cora's ribs and hold on to the hope that he won't make everything worse. He braces himself for Cora to move, to cry out in pain, but it never happens. He inserts the tube, and blood drains from Cora's lungs and onto the floor.

Gradually, Cora's breathing evens out.

“Are you gonna do it, or what?” Cora asks suddenly. Law doesn't mean to startle, he doesn't, but his hand jerks, and the scalpel blade slices into Cora's exposed chest.

“Sorry!” He almost bursts into tears, because that's another wound, another scar, more blood to wipe away.

“Sorry for what?” Cora asks, blinking blearily at him. “What'd you do?”

Tears prick at Law's eyes. “You didn't... feel that?”

“Feel what?”

Cautiously, Law takes a closer look at the cut he just made. It's a shallow slit in Cora's chest, just shy of the shoulder. It doesn't bleed, and as Law prods gingerly at it, the cut closes without even leaving a scar.

“Must've worked, whatever it was,” Cora says. “I can breathe okay now – Law what are you doing?

Law tests the scalpel on the back of his forearm – fewer tendons there, less of a risk of permanent damage. The blade sinks easily into his flesh, without even any resistance, and the pain that Law expects never comes. With morbid curiosity, he spreads the cut apart with his fingers and finds himself looking at layers of dermis, subcutaneous tissue, and muscle beneath his skin. It's similar to the diagrams he's seen in books, but different – mottled white with poison lead. But he doesn't bleed, and he doesn't hurt. He pinches the edges of the cut back together again, and the wound vanishes as if it had never been.

“Law?” Cora pats his knee. “Law, are you all right?”

“Miraculous surgeries,” Law whispers. “That's how.” He looks down at Cora's wounds – dark bruises over broken bones, and bullet holes that ooze blood. Suddenly, they don't seem quite so frightening as before.

“Law?”

“I've got this.” Law's eyes burn feverishly as he hunts for a suture kit. “I've got this.”


Law wakes slowly to the sound of gentle humming. His eyes are crusted, and the lids stick together, but he manages to open them all the same. The pain greets him faithfully, as it always has in recent months, but it's different this time. It's missing in a few spots, and brand-new in a few others. The side of his face in particular throbs and stings.

The sound around him is quiet but not silent. He can hear water, and creaking, and Cora's soft humming.

“Cora?” His voice cracks.

A familiar hand strokes his hair. “I'm here,” Cora says. “How do you feel?”

“Hurts,” Law mumbles. He's curled up in Cora's lap, still wrapped in his cloak. “Did it work?”

“Mm-hm.” The warmth in Cora's voice pushes back the pain and dizziness. “I'll be sore for a while and in desperate need of a shower, but... it worked.”

Law struggles to sit up, and with Cora's help he manages, propping himself against Cora's side so that he won't pitch forward onto...

The bottom of the boat.

They're in the boat again. There are a few more chests on board than there were before, stashed beneath one of the seats. Law blinks groggily and looks around to find ocean on all sides, lapping at them gently. Minion Island is nowhere in sight.

“More Marines arrived, not too long after you passed out,” Cora explains. “I decided... well... in light of everything, I think it's best if I... don't go back.”

Law can hear his regret, and huddles even closer to Cora's side. Of course he can't go back. Cora's a Marine and he just stole something from the Marines. That makes him a traitor, and if the World Government will let a city burn and die for money, then what will they do to someone who stole something that was worth five billion to them?

“Law,” Cora says. “Listen. About... about what you heard. I mean, what I said to Doffy, about being a-”

“I knew,” Law interrupts him. “Already knew. Told you. You're a bad liar.”

“O-oh.” Cora's voice shakes a little. “So, then...”

“It's fine,” Law says. His throat feels tight, and it makes his voice tremble, too. “I-it's fine. Why would you think-? I mean, you just gave it up, to help me, and...”

“You're worth it, Law,” Cora says, before Law's sluggish mind has the chance to even suggest that this might be his fault. “I wanted to do it. I'm glad I did it.”

“I'm glad you're alive,” Law mumbles.

“Oh, enough about me.” Cora ruffles his hair gently, and Law finally raises his head to look at him. A bare-faced Cora isn't something he sees often – he must have cleaned the makeup off along with the blood. “What about you? Your power? Can you use it to heal yourself?”

Law blinks slowly, thinking back to the previous... however long ago that was. It feels almost dreamlike and fantastical as he awakens further, for all that Cora says Devil Fruits aren't magic. But Cora is here, with him, wounded but treated and alive, and that's proof enough that it wasn't a dream. And if that wasn't a dream, then what he did afterward wasn't, either.

He untangles himself from the cloak, freeing his left arm. He holds it out, and Cora gasps quietly. The white patches on his arm are gone, leaving only olive skin and the faintest of scarring behind.

“I tried it, when I was done fixing you,” Law says. “'S a really weird power, but I get it. I can do it.” He looks down at his arms, one pale and infected, the other healthy and clean. “I cut things, without hurting them. I can get the poison out.”

Cora gives his shoulder a gentle squeeze. “We can find somewhere safe on the next island.”

“No time,” Law whispers. “I have to do it now, or I'll be too weak to do it at all.”

“Can you?” Cora asks worriedly. “The boat isn't exactly steady.”

“Doesn't matter. I cut without hurting.” Law's throat bobs as he swallows painfully. “It's gonna look gross and weird and creepy.”

“Will it save you?” Cora asks.

Law grits his teeth and clutches at his clean, pain-free arm. “I think so. I mean, y-yes. It will.”

Wood scrapes upon wood as Cora pulls the medical chest closer. “Then do it. I'll be right here.”

Law finds a clean scalpel. He shifts away from Cora's side, and the blue dome surrounds them once more.

It's handy, he thinks. Like carrying an operating room in his pocket, always at the ready.

He gets to work.


It's not done all at once. His sickness is generations in the making, and his power in comparison is new and unfamiliar. It's a slow process, and for all that he can't feel the cuts, it's painful as well.

But the power of the Ope-Ope fruit works in tandem with knowledge, and Law has knowledge in spades. He learned to read from medical texts, absorbing words and diagrams and information like a sponge. He sneaked looks at his parents' notes, back when there was still a Flevance and his parents were still alive and searching frantically for a cure. He knows what the poisoning does. He knows how quickly it spreads, and what paths it is likely to take. His parents knew all they could ever know about Amber Lead Syndrome, except how to make a cure. Law doesn't know how to make a cure, either, but he doesn't need to make a cure because he is a cure.

He starts with the poison that clogs his heart and his lungs and vital organs, and works outward. At least then he can buy himself more time to finish. And he needs more time – he is weak, and the Ope-Ope power saps his meagre strength. Law loses count of the times he blacks out and wakes up in Cora's arms to continue. Cora urges him to rest, but Law can't stop now. He'll rest when he's done.

The poison in his face is the last to go. It hurts when he jars the wound, the deep ragged tear left when Doflamingo's bullet grazed him, ripping from the corner of his mouth to his right cheek. (A touch to the right and it would have torn his cheek open entirely. A bit further and he would be dead.) But he carves it out, bit by bit, crying with pain as he rips the poison from his body and the years in his lifespan multiply.

Until finally-

it's done.

He hasn't tapped the full potential of his power. He's nowhere near that point. But there are little things, little hints of abilities to come. One of them reminds him of the scanners at his parents' hospital, rooting through the body to ferret out any hint of sickness, anything that isn't where it's supposed to be. It sharpens with use, and Law uses it, again and again, until he's raw and weary and firmly, utterly certain that there isn't a drop of amber lead left in his system.

There's a mirror in the medical chest. Just a small one, but it's enough for him to hold up and see his own face.

He's thin, his cheekbones sharp, his eyes shadowed with exhaustion. His dry, cracked lips sting. The gash on his face looks awful, ugly and rough and angled upward, as if someone tried to draw a smile on his face with a blunt knife and gave up before doing both sides.

His face is gray and pale, but it's the smooth, natural pallor of fatigue and stress and not enough food and sleep. The unsightly white splotches are gone.

He hasn't looked this way in years.

“Done,” is all he says, and puts the mirror back. There's a not-very-small part of him that wants to break down in tears, but he's too tired to manage even that. Instead he collapses against Cora again and sleeps.


Law wakes up to the sound of a Den Den Mushi.

He's lying on his left side, head resting in Cora's lap. The wound on his face is covered with a wad of gauze. His eyes blink open, but beyond that he doesn't move. Sitting up is too much to ask for.

“Gonna pick that up?” he mumbles.

Cora pats his shoulder lightly. “Just – give me a moment.” There's a pause, and finally he picks up the receiver. “Hello?”

Rocinante!” Law recognizes that Marine's voice, though he's confused for a moment before he remembers that “Rocinante” is Cora's real name. “Are you all right?

For a moment, Cora is silent. “I – y-yes,” he answers finally. “I'm fine.”

What is going on?” the Marine demands. “Minion Island is a wreckage, reports are saying the Ope-Ope fruit – you've been silent for the better part of a week now! What happened?

Cora's hand tightens ever so slightly on Law's shoulder, and he doesn't reply.

Roci,” the Marine says, and there's something quietly desperate in his tone. “Please. You need to tell me what happened – reports are saying that you stole the fruit, and I need your help to find out what really happened so we can clear this up before you get into serious trouble-

“That is what happened,” Cora answers quietly.

The voice on the Den Den Mushi goes silent. Law blinks blearily, lifts his leaden arm, and curls his fingers around the hand on his shoulder.

The boy.” The Marine's voice is soft now. “The one with Amber Lead Syndrome.

“Not anymore,” Cora murmurs back.

Roci, what have you done?

“Exactly what I meant to do,” Cora replies.

The Marine sighs, resigned. “All right... all right. Come back to base. I'll... we'll figure this out.

“Vice Admiral-”

Technically the fruit is still in our custody, so it's not a total disaster, we can just-

“Sengoku,” Cora says. “I'm... not coming back.”

Don't be ridiculous, Commander, you-

“I'm glad you called,” Cora presses on, heedless. “I wanted to talk to you, and... I wasn't sure I'd have it in me to call you first.”

I don't like this tone-

“Thank you,” and Cora's voice breaks. “That's – I need to say that first. Thank you, for everything. I never wanted to betray you.”

You haven't,” Sengoku says. “We can fix this. Just let me help you. And the boy – you had him eat it, didn't you? If that's the case, then the government can take charge of him.

Law squeezes Cora's hand and curls up tighter.

“I'll try to keep my nose clean,” Cora continues, as if he isn't hearing Sengoku's words. “I-I... I'll try not to create any more trouble for you.”

Roci, just-”

“Listen-” Cora says. “There's a Marine who was there on Minion Island. I didn't get his rank or code, but his name is Vergo and he's Doflamingo's man. The mission failed because of him. Find him, and keep an eye on Dressrosa.”

Roci, please.”

“You saved me,” Cora's voice breaks again. “I was so alone and – and I owe you so much. Too much to pay back. I-I'll do my best to pay it forward instead. Goodbye, Sengoku.”

He hangs up, and then he sets about removing the receiver from the Den Den Mushi's shell. Once free, the snail blinks and looks around, sliding on the boat seat of its own accord.

“We'll turn this fellow free,” Roci says at length. “Once we reach land. We can rest up, and eat, find some supplies and some fresh clothes and... well. I guess we can go from there.”

“Cora, are you gonna be okay?” Law asks.

“Oh, don't worry about me.” Cora turns to him with a wide smile. It looks almost strange without the ever-present makeup. “I'll be fine. And... now that we're not with Doffy, I guess I can't really be Corazon anymore.” With a sigh, he leans back to rest against the side of the boat. “I'm just Rocinante again.” He gives Law's shoulder a comforting squeeze. “You can still call me Cora if you want, though.”

Law mumbles wordlessly.

“Go back to sleep,” Cora murmurs. “I'll wake you when we reach land.”

The boat rocks gently in the waves, lulling Law back to sleep. He's sore and achey, but it's the gentle pain of weariness rather than the sickly pain of illness. It's pain that reminds him that he's alive, instead of pain that reminds him that he's going to die.

He's alive.

Cora's alive.

He falls asleep to the rocking of the sea with a smile on his face.