Note: Set sometime after time-skip, probably after Dressrosa because Law is not with them and this way the "Strawhats' return" news has had time to circulate.
I do not own One Piece. *tantrum*
The tension onboard was palpable to the whole crew. Minus one.
It had been two days since they received an unexpected visitor. Two long days of worrying and wondering. Now, but certainly not for the first time, the Strawhats wondered if they should broach the subject of the War of the Best with their captain.
But just the little they did know seemed to make the topic almost taboo. Luffy mentioned it scarcely since their reunion, a statement here and there that usually alarmed them in its implications. He had landed on the Island of Women. Almost been poisoned to death sometime before going to Marineford. Then the war. Everything thereafter was learned through the newspaper and it was days after the fact they had even heard of Ace's death and Luffy's narrow escape.
His subsequent message reached each of them and they all spent the last two years training so that nothing like that would happen again. They would be strong enough to stay together.
Then the Phoenix showed up.
Two days ago.
"Ooooi! There's a ship off starboard! It's headed this way!" Usopp called from the crow's nest, telescope in hand.
"Is it the marines?!" came Chopper's shrill cry.
"I'm not- Oh! No, it's a pirate ship! But I can't make out the mark yet! Maybe in a few- AAAHH!"
"What is it?!" Nami yelled up in alarm.
"They just launched something at us! It's some kind of blue fiery ball!"
"Blue?" someone questioned.
"Why are they attacking already? They're way too far to make contact!"
"It's-! Hang on. Wait, no, it's a bird!" even Usopp didn't seem to believe his own words.
"I think he's been cooped up with his chemicals too long." Someone muttered below. Sounded like Sanji.
"No, I can see it too. He's right, it's a blue bird headed this way!" Zoro replied as Usopp yelled indignantly.
At this point the commotion had drawn everyone on deck and preparing their weapons just in case.
Suddenly, Luffy spoke up, "It's alright! I think I know this guy!"
"You do?!" Most of them looked back and forth in surprise.
The blue fiery bird circled down to the deck. Each crewmember had the distinct impression that it deliberately made eye contact with them, as if sizing them up.
About a foot off the ground the fire died away to reveal a blond man with a large, blue tattoo on his chest.
He faced Luffy and looked him over with an air of almost relief, which puzzled most of the crew. How did Luffy know this man? His face darkened a bit as it lingered on their captain's scar, but Luffy quickly called his attention back with a lighthearted laugh.
"It's good to see you again, Pineapple-ossan." He grinned.
The man's eye twitched at their captain's choice of words but responded in a bored tone, making the crew wonder if the nickname wasn't commonplace, "It's Marco, yoi. But same to you Strawhat, I'm glad to see you're better."
At his introduction, most of the crew came to several conclusions at once.
Marco, the Phoenix. First division Commander of the Whitebeard pirates.
No, former Commander.
Suddenly that last statement took on various meanings.
Luffy just grinned wider, "Yup!" he chirped, unaware of the drop in temperature. "I got my crew back!"
Whether the statement was meant as an explanation or a blunt change of subject, it had the desired effect. Anyone else might have gotten whiplash from the sudden atmosphere change it caused, said with such nonchalance, like it was the most natural thing in the world. And to him, maybe it was.
Marco really stopped then to observe them all, most with grins or making (bad) attempts at modesty, and the remains of some long-held worry seemed to melt away. "I see."
"How's the old man's crew?" Luffy asked a little more seriously, though he still kept his smile.
"We're managing, don't worry about us, yoi."
Luffy nodded, Marco's demeanor seemed to forbid pity, "Good."
"Sorry to interrupt." Nami intervened bravely. "But what's the First Division Commander of the Whitebeard pirates doing here?" Marco looked at her curiously, then at Luffy and back, as if the connection should be obvious.
"Nothing much, yoi. Sorry to startle you all like this. Last I saw your captain there wasn't exactly time for parting words. But it also has to do with why I'm here." He turns to Luffy then and tossed a small object to him, light glinting off it briefly. Some twitch forward but Luffy catches it, unsurprised.
"When we read you were in the area we decided to come give that to you. Come visit anytime." He states kindly.
Luffy looks down at the item, a solemn, unreadable expression on his face. A few of the crew freeze in immediate understanding while the rest stare in confusion.
It's an eternal pose.
"You know Red-Hair, yeah? After you… left, he helped calm things down and we were able to recover the fallen." He gestured at the pose. "We built a memorial on the island. Only Whitebeard allies are allowed near and there's a constant guard." This was all said as if to reassure that the site would remain unsullied by enemies, marine or pirate. Not that anyone would ever doubt that.
Luffy's eyes never left the object in his hand, but his fingers slowly tightened around it protectively as Marco talked. The crew held their breath and watched their captain solemnly close his eyes and raise the fist to his chest, his straw hat slightly shadowing his face.
After what seemed a too-long silence he raised his eyes to Marco with a grateful smile,"Thank you."
Marco, for his part, seemed satisfied with whatever he saw, and nodded, a small smile gracing them for the first time.
The Phoenix left soon after that.
The same couldn't be said of the tension on board.
Luffy had spent much of the last two days contemplating the small glass sphere encased in wood. Though he had not given any indication of wanting to change their route, they sometimes caught him gazing in the arrow's never-wavering direction.
The crew had just gathered for another 'Do We Say Anything' meeting (of which Zoro was perpetually of the opinion No)and were just waiting on Nami and Franky while sitting around the galley table, Robin keeping a lookout for Luffy outside (also, in case he happened to fall overboard).
"If he wanted to talk about it, he would!" Zoro exclaimed irritably, Sanji rolled his eyes.
"He's so dense though, he probably doesn't even realize he needs to talk about it!"
"Needing is not the same thing as wanting, after all…" Chopper agreed, the meeting hadn't even officially started yet and he was already tearing up, voice quivering.
Franky walked in just as Robin nodded, but asked. "But couldn't the same thing be said for all of us?"
Silence fell at that and Franky looked around at them, "What?"
"We'd all have things we'd rather keep to ourselves. At some point, interfering would be more selfish than helpful." Zoro stated.
"The hell do you mean, Moss-head?!" Sanji growled, how could their worrying be selfish?!
"We'd just be out to ease our own guild or, worse, curiosity." Robin ventured.
A renewed heavy silence fell over them.
Then the door opened.
Some looked up with slightly guilty expressions, expecting Luffy, but it was just Nami and they relaxed. Sanji twirled over spouting sugar-heavy compliments but stopped abruptly, which caught everyone's attention."Nami? What's wrong?"
Nami took a shaky breath, face slightly pale, and waved him away before taking a seat at the table. Everyone just stared at her expectantly and, slowly, she placed something on the table.
The breath was knocked out of the room and there was a long silence as they all stared at the innocent-looking eternal pose resting on the immaculate tablecloth.
Zoro was the one who broke the silence.
"He just gave it to you?"
She nodded numbly even though the question had been rhetorical; nothing could have separated Luffy from it if he didn't will it. "He just… He just said I should hold onto it because I'm the navigator." She whispered.
"Does he want to change course?" Franky asked, but she was shaking her head before he finished.
"I asked, but he said to keep on as we are. He said-" She paused. "He said he'd go when he becomes the Pirate King."
There was another pause, but most of the tension was gone, oddly.
Sanji blew a stream of smoke to the ceiling. "Shitty captain. Now we'll have to work even harder."
There were a few chuckles and murmurs of agreement at that.
Just then the door slammed open, making most of them jump, and the straw-hatted captain came barreling in. "Sanji! I'm hungry!"
A well-placed kick caught him in the face, sending him flying back outside. "Dinner will be ready in an hour! Wait until then, you bottomless pit!"
The rest quickly scattered.
Usopp and Chopper went to retrieve Luffy so they could play a game or two while Nami and Robin left to find a safe place to store the eternal pose. Zoro went to catch another hour of sleep before dinner. Franky and Brook thought this might be a good opportunity to hear more about Ace, all they really knew about him was what Nami had written in their voyage logbooks and that wasn't much at all, so they stayed to consult with Sanji.
Reminiscing fond memories might help dispel whatever dark thoughts had been left following him, after all.
*I'm really nervous as to how I worded that third paragraph, with the back and forth. I meant that some things were learned by Luffy's offhanded comments while others were read in the newspaper. I don't think the crew knows that he went to Impel Down but they do know he was badly poisoned to the point that he has immunity. I can't imagine that bit of info hasn't made its way through the whole crew, if for no other reason than worry.
**Even though the Whitebeard pirates never met Luffy before the war, judging by their actions in protecting him I guess Ace made it abundantly clear how much he meant to him. I would think, after everything that happened, some of them would still feel responsible enough to worry about his state of mind afterwards.
I think it's so sad that Luffy wasn't able to go to Ace's funeral or visit his grave, I hope he's able to sometime in the manga T.T Also, I can kind of imagine the crew having secret meetings where they try to piece together what happened to Luffy while they were separated. I just can't believe, with how much he means to them, that they wouldn't want to know, but not want to bring it up directly in fear of hurting him. Who knows.
I kind of published this in a hurry from the excitement of having both season six voyage one and film Z out for pre-order. I just can't wait! So let me know if something's off. I kind of feel like it is.
If you enjoyed this, perhaps you'd like to check out my other fics? ;)