Blinking, Robin emerged from sleep. Taking a quick inventory, she sighed. It was back, after years. That not quite empty pit of self-loathing, deep inside. Even after the events, her rescue from Enies Lobby, she would sometimes wake up, and wonder why. Why these wonderful, joyful, hopeful, and promising people cared for her. Despite Luffy and the others assurances, she still saw herself as a dark stain on their journey.
Still, the day did not stop its cruel march forward. Gathering herself in her robe, she quietly slipped out of her shared room, careful to not wake Nami. The salty air followed her progression to the Sunny's bathroom. The quiet noise coming from the kitchen assured her of a splendid breakfast to come. A quiet presence had her glancing towards the boy's room, nodding a greeting to a sleep-ridden Zoro. As she continued to the bathroom, she did not notice Zoro's odd look, or his stare following her until she was out of sight.
By the time Robin was clothed and clean, the Thousand Sunny was alive with the sounds of the Stawhats, scrambling to get breakfast. Slipping into the rush, she smiled as she watched them greet each other, whether with a call of a name, a kick to the head, or a grumbled hello. It fell slightly, as her doubt and loathing whispered in her ear. Why do you continue to drag them down, it called. They don't deserve to be cursed with you, it cried, louder by the second. Her smile slipped, a cold imitation sliding into place, hidden by her raised coffee mug.
"Sanji-san, I thank you for this meal. I'm afraid it is larger than my appetite today, though." She called, hunger damped by the turmoil in her mind. As Sanji crooned his apologies, she felt a sudden need to be outside, away from these too vibrant people. Robin excused herself, missing the piercing gaze the swordsman leveled on her as she exited.
Sitting by her garden, history book in lap, Robin still felt uneasy. With a sigh, she snapped her book shut, placing it on the table beside her. Hearing a small squeak, she turned her gaze to find the young doctor, hiding behind the railing.
"Chopper, do you require something?"
"I-I wanted to give you something!" He said, scooting to her side. Robin looked on in confusion.
"Me?" She asked, bafflement increasing as he nodded shyly. He shuffled, staring at his feet, before producing a large tome from its cover behind his back.
"I found it at the last town, and got help keeping it a secret from you. Y-You always sound so happy, talking about history, a-and I wanted to kinda be a part of it. I never really gave history any thought, before you explained why it was important." He confessed sheepishly.
With Chopper's wide, hopeful eyes watching her reaction, she received the book, gasping as her hand traced the spine. 'A History of Medicine' stared up at her, warming her heart as the young doctor's words rang out in her mind. 'I wanted to be a part of it.'
"Chopper…. This is marvelous." Robin exclaimed, delighting in the joyful dance he broke out into, exclaiming how her happiness doesn't make him happy you bastard. Sliding over, she offered to read it with him, much to his delight.
After parting ways with a gleeful Chopper, so he could restock on Rumble Balls, Robin meandered, no destination in mind. Her feet took her into the kitchen, observing Sanji's skilled work silently.
"Oh, Robin-chwaun, you startled me! This humble slave of love was just about to go looking for you!" Sanji cried as he saw her, moving happily towards her place on the bar, small domed tray in his hand.
"You were?" She asked curiosity peaked at his enthusiastic nod. With a flourish worthy of the most dramatic performer, Sanji place the tray in front of her, whipping the lid off.
"For my lovely Robin-chan, a drink that might finally be worth to touch your beautiful lips." He claimed, bowing, beaming in pride. A glass, filled with a brown, icy substance stood on the tray. Topped in a netted pattern of chocolate sauce, a dollop of whipped cream stood. Under it, a peculiar golden treat rested on the drink.
Raising the glass, a rush of sweet chocolate and rich cinnamon hit her taste buds. Much to Sanji's delight, she perked up; bits of what seemed to be gingersnap cookies mixed into the drink coasting down her throat.
"This is wonderful, Sanji-san. Is this a new recipe? I do not believe you've ever made it before."
Twirling with delight, Sanji exclaimed,
"Of course, Robin-chan! I wanted to capture your essence, in a form you could savor~!" As he described the love, care, and work he put into this small drink, just for her, Robin felt the tears well up. Reaching across the counter and wrapping a hand around his neck, she pulls Sanji into a hug.
"Thank you…Sanji." Planting a kiss on his cheek, she stands, excusing herself from the shapeless blob on the floor, previously known as Sanji. Rubbing her eyes feverishly, she crosses towards the aquarium bar, to collect herself.
Pausing at the entryway, she hears the now familiar strains of 'Bink's no Sake', alerting her to Brook's presence.
"Oh, Robin-san. Is anything the matter, with your eyes wet like that?" Politely queries Brook, sweeping himself off the round couch and into a low bow. Taking a seat, she confides in him the tale of her day.
"Hm. Robin-san, you are so very hard on yourself." Smiling absently, he states,"I've learned, both in my time with this crew and away, that everyone is a harsh judge of themselves." Glancing over at her, "You especially so, it seems. It must have been a rough life." Gritting her teeth, Robin manages a nod.
"Maybe one day, you will tell me. Robin-san, I believe we were all made for this, this crew. We all need it." Tapping his cane, he gently says, "It will be rough, but we can help you." At her confused glance, he cheerfully clarifies, "Help you learn to love and value yourself, as much as we do."
Smiling weakly, laughing in a voice full of tears, Robin thanks Brook. Sweeping out of the room and setting a path towards the girl's room, Robin carefully avoids anywhere she might run into her crew-members. Despite the effort, the archaeologist is surprised to see Franky in Nami and her room, bent over and working away.
"Franky-san, might I ask what you are doing here?" Robin questions, bafflement written on her face.
"Ow, Robin! I SUPER came to fix the dresser leg you had mentioned was wobbly!" Cries the cyborg, arms clashing together in his signature pose. Ushering Robin over, he says.
"You and Nami have a lot of clothes, and they put stress on the legs." He shakes his head, and then grins at her, thumb held high. "Still, I SUPER have it covered! Behold! The Super Extra Durable Ultra Dresser! I reinforced it all the way around, so you don't have to worry about the weight. Pile those clothes in, this baby can take it!"
"Of course, I'll keep that in mind. Thank you, Franky. You're very considerate. Would you like me to inform Nami-chan?"Robin asks, chuckling happily. She waves her goodbyes, as Franky loudly mentions how 'SUPER' it is of her to offer. Heading to the library, Robin idly wonders if Franky's mannerisms will ever stop being amusing. She supposes not.
Knocking, she peers into the library, eye catching Nami's hunched over form. Giggling, she moves the sleeping girl into a more comfortable position. As she shifts Nami, the book caught under the crook of her arm catches Robin's eye. Careful not to wake her, she eases the book out from underneath Nami's unconscious weight.
"This is… our journey's log book?" Robin mutters quietly, immersing herself in the memories painted on the page. Flipping to the most recent entry, a startled laugh escapes her lips. It's about the time, mere days ago, when Luffy and Usopp had managed to convince the naive doctor that the galley was haunted. They worked poor Chopper up, into a horrid frenzy, ultimately laying a trap for Sanji. A bucket of salt-water to the head will get rid of that ghost, Usopp had proclaimed to Chopper, and oddly enough Luffy's awe. Suffice to say the 'ghost', Sanji, was not pleased.
The entry is filled with rants about the crew's stupidity, courtesy of an angered navigator. Chuckling, Robin's heart is filled with happiness, as she sees Nami-chan's handwriting identify her as Nami's, 'sole ally against the contagious stupidity of this crew.'
Smiling tenderly, Robin uses her power to relay a blanket from the storeroom, into her arms. Covering Nami, she brushes a stray hair from her face. Nami stirs, muttering something incoherent, the words 'rubber' and 'Beli' evident. With a wide smile, Robin carefully slips out.
Energetic cries from the deck catch Robin's attention. Looking over the railing, she comes just in time to see Luffy and Chopper scattering, leaving Usopp with His back towards them, facing the tree. Gliding down the stairway, she approaches him with a giggled query of 'Hide and seek?'
Giving an exasperated sigh, Usopp claims;
"Third time today!" Grumpily, "Chopper always beats me, it's not right! The great Captain Usopp should always triumph!" He declares, fist hitting the bark emphatically. Chuckling, Robin offers;
"Remember, Longnose-kun that Chopper knows of your fear of dark places." She watches with amusement, as he goes to complain before a metaphoric light bulb goes off, and he streaks with a vengeful glee towards the hold. Smiling mysteriously, Robin heads off to where she knows her thick-headed captain will be.
Robin's suspicions prove correct, as she finds Luffy cowering happily behind one of Nami's precious tangerine trees.
"A very daring hiding spot, Luffy." He looks up, cackling happily.
"Isn't it?! Usopp won't look here, he's scared of Nami!" Throwing his arms wide, declaring, "I'm a genius!" before collapsing in a fit of laughter that Robin can't help but follow him into. Catching their breath, he tilts his head curiously, staring at her.
"Huh? You OK, Robin?" Blinking, Robin slides down, sitting under the tree with him.
"I should expect no less, Captain." She admits, "I was feeling bad, when I woke up today. I… was wondering, why I am surrounded by wonderful people like you, despite being so horrid."
"You're wrong!" He shouts, shocking her out of her sad recollection. Startled by his fierce look, she manages a quiet 'Luffy…' before he continues.
"Listen up, Robin! There aren't any bad guys in my crew!" Pointing determinedly at her, he states, "You're a good guy! And you can't not know it." Nodding sagely, he declares, "I've decided."
Luffy pouts as Robin breaks out into laughter. As he whines that he wasn't being funny, she giggles breathlessly.
"Luffy… your happy, energetic ways can always brighten my day." Shaking her head, with a big smile, Robin says, "I won't forget, Luffy."
"Shishishi! 'Course you won't!" He laughs. Making a startled noise, he suddenly crouches in front of her. "Oh yeah, Robin! That reminds me."
"…What is it?" She asks, blinking rapidly, eyebrows joining at his sudden grin.
"Did they help?" At Robin's request for an explanation, he merely says;
"Whatdya mean? What Zoro said he was gonna do to make you happy, of course!"
"What?!" Robin says, the air gone from her lungs. Luffy merely grins.
"He told me, after breakfast that you looked, 'Dark'. He went off, saying he was gonna get all of us to make you happy, but he wouldn't tell me what he was doing."
Hands trembling, Robin shakily stands, headed towards where Luffy says Zoro is. Someone noticed, after all…
Robin's hand slid up the smooth railing, eyes set on the form hunched over the bow. Quietly approaching, she took a place beside him.
"How did you know?" With a snort, his eyes snap over to her.
"You didn't hide it as well as you though." At her silent urge on, he rolls his eyes before elaborating. "Your smile. It was like before."
"Yeah. It would grow, whenever one of us did something that'd draw you closer, before it got twisted up, stifled." His gaze turns toward the sea again. "Like you didn't want to get too close."
"I… no matter what Luffy and the crew say, it's nearly impossible, to erase decades of hating myself." Hands turn upward, helplessly. "I love it here. This is where I belong, this crew, by you all. But sometimes, it just feels selfish."
Turning towards Robin, Zoro says quietly;
"I know. You feel too dark, for this bright crew, right?" He chuckles, "I do too. We have a lot in common, other than being the only killers on-board."
"I've seen you, Swordsman-san. The gentleness you handle Chopper with, the pride when you speak with Longnose-kun. Dark may you be, but you are far from a stain in this crew." He smirks, eye narrowing.
"Same goes for you. Robin, this crew is bright and happy, but naive. The way I see it, we're here no matter how dark, to keep that light. Someone's gotta protect them from the darkness, do the dirty work." He smiles.
"That's my job. I have to keep you from it too. Luffy brings smiles by living, Sanji brings joy by the food he makes, Chopper keeps us safe another day, Franky keeps us going, Brook keeps us light, Usopp keeps us dreaming, and Nami keeps us on course. You, keep us open, to new ideas and places, and to the fact that we'll always have a place here, no matter what." Zoro laughs, loudly and happily.
"I'm the one who fights to keep you happy, and soaks in all of your guy's joy. So…" He grin, offering her a hand, "Next time, tell someone. Me, or Luffy, on Nami, let one of us fight away the shadows."
As Robin takes Zoro's offered hand, the tears she held in finally fall, filling the hole inside her, until next time. But then, she'll be prepared. Her wonderful, loving crew will be with her, ready to take it on.