Kaizoku wa Kaizoku desu… A Pirate is a Pirate

Part 1 of a 4 part series

by Aoikami Sarah

Chapter Nine – Shanks Says Goodbye

A week later, Shanks had recovered and was up and directing his crew as they prepared to leave Fuchsia Village for the last time. He looked around, trying to imprint the surroundings in his brain. He scanned the pedestrians for familiar faces. The Mayor was observing the proceedings from a distance. His eyes met Shanks' and he nodded once before looking away.

"Ah well. I can't expect him to shake my hand, I suppose," Shanks mused. "Better than nothin' though." He grinned and motioned for one of his crewmembers to bring a crate on board with his remaining arm.

"Captain Shanks?" Makino asked as she approached him. "I want to thank you for your patronage. Please accept this as a token of my gratitude," she said as if she had spent all day rehearsing the line and indicated to a crate being wheeled up to the pier. "It's the least I can do."

"Whoa!" Shanks grinned wide, noting the label read 'finest 180 proof rum'. "Thanks, Makino! We had a blast thanks to you," he said with a wink. The tavern owner blushed, bowed and hurried away. "Heheh, even with one arm, I still got it!"

"Hey! You're still here!" an enthusiastic voice piped as feet pounded towards him.

Shanks bit the inside of his lip to keep from smiling too wide. "Yeah, got a problem with that?"

The boy stuck his tongue out at him. "So you really won't be coming back here again?"

"Yup. We've been using Fuchsia for a base for a while, maybe too long. Does that make you sad, Luffy?"

"Well, yeah but I'm not gonna ask ya to take me with ya. I'm gonna become a pirate on my own!"

"That's no good, you're still too little!" It was Shanks' turn to stick his tongue out at him. "There's no way you'll become a pirate!" he taunted him. 'Come on, kid. Show me what you got…' he thought.

"Oh yeah! I will too! And I'll have a better crew than yours and we'll have the biggest treasure in the whole world!" As if he wasn't shouting loudly enough already, Luffy took a deep breath and cried out "I'm gonna be the Pirate King!"

His ability to hide his feelings slipped. Shanks smiled proudly. "You're gonna be better than us, eh? Well then…" he said, taking off his straw hat that had been his brother Shep, Luffy's father's hat. "Do me a favor, will ya? Keep this hat safe for me." He placed it on his nephew's head. The boy kept quiet, but Shanks could see the tears rolling down his cheeks from under the brim. "This hat means the world to me," he said, walking away. "Promise me you'll give it back one day when you've become a great pirate." He gave him one last look. Luffy nodded, his face still concealed by the straw hat. Shanks was glad that he didn't raise his head. He wasn't sure if he could keep it together much longer anyway and seeing the boy who looked so much like his brother wearing that hat would have put him over the edge.

Shanks walked up the gang plank and passed his first mate. "That kid's gonna make something of himself," Beckman commented.

"Yeah," Shanks said, his eyes on the ground as he walked. "He acts just like I did when I was a kid…"

Beckman nodded, took his own last look and followed his captain on board. "Weigh the anchor!" he commanded. "Raise the sails! We're off with the tide!"

Luffy stood and held Makino's hand and watched the ship sail into the setting sun. He rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand and smiled, daydreaming of the day when he would do the same.

Shanks was determined not to look back and for the first ten minutes, he did fairly well at it. As the shore fell into the distance and the sea opened up before them he sighed and leaned against the starboard rail. He had spent a year with his nephews and the only woman he had ever loved had forgiven him. He was starting a new chapter in his life, but still, his heart ached. They had almost cleared the sloping cliffs to his left when Beckman approached him. "Captain?" he asked quietly.

"Ya know," Shanks said, letting out a slow breath. "I never actually said good-bye to her."

"I think that's why she's there." Ben pointed to the cliffs. Shanks followed his finger and saw the long flowing red hair and signature oversized green coat of his former captain. Marina stood on the cliff alone and did not wave. Her coat billowed in the sea breeze. Shanks stretched his right arm up over his head and waved it back and forth a few times until she bowed, turned and walked back home.

.X.

Epilogue

Eleven years later, Shanks and his crew were making merry in a large bar, blending in well with the other clientele. Lucky slapped him on the back and grinned. "Come on, Cap'n, this round's on me!" he shouted. The barmaid passed him another huge mutton chop over the bar which he tore into, taking half of it in one bite.

"Thanks, Lucky. I could use it."

Beckman looked to the calendar on the wall. "Ohhhh…" he groaned. "It's that day again, is it?"

"What day!" Lucky shouted, oblivious and intoxicated. Beckman slapped the side of his head. "Oh… The day we left Fuchsia Village. Uh… Sorry, Cap'n."

"Excuse me," a man seated at the bar to Beckman's left asked. "Did you say Fu… ZZzzzzzzzzz…" His head dropped down onto his plate.

"Whaaaa! He fell asleep!" Lucky shouted.

Shanks leaned around his portly comrade and stared at the orange cowboy hat. "No way…" he whispered.

Before they could try to help him, he woke up and straightened, brushing rice off of his face. "Did you say Fuchsia Village?" The three men gawked at him. Slowly, recognition came over him. "No way! Shanks!"

"Ace!" Shanks jumped down off his stool and laughed. "Holy crap how ya been!" His eyes grew wide when Ace stood up, a few inches tall than he.

"Can't complain," he grinned and bowed respectfully. "It's good to see you again." At Shanks' urging, Ace joined them for some serious drinking.

Shanks watched Beckman pretend to not pass out and Lucky dance with Yasopp. He leaned against the bar and drained another beer. Ace narrowed his eyes and imagined that he was a child again. He pouted slightly.

"Have you seen Luffy lately?" Shanks asked.

"Yeah, actually. Just a little while ago in Arubasta."

"I heard he took out Crocodile, even though the Marines are claiming responsibility. He's becoming legendary. Since I haven't seen him since we left, I can't imagine the little boy I knew beating the crap out of a Shichibukai. It's mind blowing."

"He's something else," Ace grinned and handed Shanks another brew. They silently toasted the future Pirate King. "So. I suppose it's my duty then to inform you of my mother's passing."

Shanks took a long draught of his beer before answering. "Seems that way. I'm sorry for your loss," he said simply.

"Thank you." Ace put his hat back on.

"Your mother told me to tell you…" Shanks looked Ace up and down. His physique, tattoos and body language all told Shanks that he was doing just fine as a pirate, especially since he wore the mark of White Beard on his back. "She's just as proud of you as I am."

Ace grinned with his eyes closed, nodded and sucked down the last of his beer. "If I see Luffy again, shall I say hello for you?"

"Please."

Ace nodded, waved to Beckman, Lucky and Yasopp and left the bar. Shanks watched him go. He tried to picture the young Ace he once knew, but the image was fading. He could almost see what Luffy must look like now, tall and grown up. He was surely no longer a boy, but a man strong enough to defeat one of the seven greatest Pirates in the world. As Ace turned, smiled and waved before disappearing into the night, Shanks pictured Luffy's face, so much like his father's, smiling from under the straw hat.

END To be continued in Part Two - "A Pirate's Life For Me - We Need A Musician!" which takes place just before Skypeia.