notes: Bit of trivia - in Japan, a dress is called a "one piece." I'm just sayin'.

"The King Is Dead; All Hail the King"

After many adventures and close brushes with death, Luffy and his companions finally found the One Piece. It was in a dank, dark cave on a windswept island. Human skeletons, in various stages of decay, littered the cave entrance. Other people might have been daunted, maybe even scared off, but Luffy had dreamed of this day for the better half of his life and was not to be deterred.

His perseverence was rewarded. At long last, the One Piece was there in front of him, glowing in all its fabled glory.

It was big. It was shiny. It was glittery. It had a built-in support bra.

"I like the sequins," Nami said critically, "but Luffy, you're really more of a size 8."

Luffy, for his part, was standing speechless with his superstretchy rubber jaw crashed down on the sandy floor. He appeared to be in shock.

It was out of this concern that Usopp waved a hand in front of his captain's glazed eyes. "Luffy?" he said. "Uh, I understand this must be an emotional moment for you, but...aren't you going to say something?"

"Agh." After a few failed attempts, Luffy managed to snap his jaw back in place. "The One Piece," he managed to squawk, "It's a dress?"

"I can't believe it either," said Zoro, shaking his head. "I thought for sure it was gonna be Gold Roger's fake eyelashes."

"How is that better!"

Nami cuffed the rubber boy lightly on the head. "Oh, Luffy, don't tell us you didn't know. Gold Roger had hundreds of dresses. That's why he plundered so much; the money to pay the dressmakers' bills had to come from somewhere." She clasped her hands together. "He must have really loved this one, though, if he made it the One Piece. Do you think it was the one he was wearing when he declared himself King?"

"I thought it'd be treasure!" Luffy wailed. "Or at least a really big Doubleloon! Or a sword, or a will, or maybe a never-ending pile of meat! Not a, a," he sank to his knees. "A dress!"

"Mind you, they never called him the Pirate Queen," Sanji mused. "Not more than once, anyway."

"You're not helping!"

"I think it's kind of nice," Chopper said mildly, reaching out a hoof to touch the sequined silk skirt. "Ooh, look, you can see where the dressmaker widened out the shoulders so it'd fit a man! That's really neat!"

"First class work," agreed Sanji. He stubbed out his cigarette on a nearby rock. "Not that Roger would've settled for anything less."

Luffy twisted his neck around to glare at his friends suspiciously. "Wait a minute," he began. "How do you guys all know?" An even more terrible thought hit him before they could answer. "Did everybody know? Shanks and Don Krieg and everybody?"

Nami sighed and passed a hand over her temples. Clearly, it was time to have The Talk with her clueless captain.

"Listen, Luffy," she said. "Remember how, when you told other pirates that you were going to become the Pirate King, they all kind of laughed and didn't believe you?"

"Yeah? So?"

"There was a reason for that."

"Why?" Luffy immediately turned defensive. "They thought I wouldn't look good in a dress or something? It just so happens that red is my color!"

"No, stupid!" Nami smacked him again. "Because they knew it wouldn't fit you! It'd slide right off! Gold Roger was a big man, and no offense, Luffy, but you're not exactly what they call 'broad-chested.'"

"It takes a real man to wear a woman's dress," Zoro agreed, crossing his arms. Maybe Luffy's not broad-chested, he thought smugly, but I sure as hell am. And I don't look bad in red, either. A vision of himself, three swords buckled at his silky, softly swishing red side, emerging to address an adoring pirate empire, flickered through the swordsman's brain. For the first time since he'd met Luffy, Zoro was close to mutiny.

"Actually, it's technically a man's dress." Usopp's voice jolted Zoro out of his pleasant yet treachous fantasies. "The dress was obviously made specially for Gold Roger, and Roger always identified as a man. He was the most fearsome human on the high seas, for crying out loud! He was just a big scary man who enjoyed haute couture and a bit of musical theatre. Why, when I was the most successful fashion designer in West Blue..." The rest of Usopp's call for a more critical examination of gender politics went largely ignored.

"But...a dress..." Luffy said weakly, not entirely convinced. Were the gods making fun of him? Was this really what he'd spent a lifetime dreaming about, fighting for, eating restaurants out of business for, almost dying for? Was a red silk dress to be his only inheritance from the Pirate King?

As if guessing his thoughts, Robin spoke for the first time since entering the cave. "Mr. Captain," she said quietly. "You have a choice to make. Either you walk away from this place and leave the One Piece for another to claim, or you take up the mantle of the Pirate King and all the resonsibility it entails. But," she warned, "if you turn from this prize, you must never breathe a word of your coming here to another soul. Other pirates have also been searching for the One Piece, and with full knowledge of what it is. You must not make them feel it was given to them like some poor hand-me-down. Remember the Pirate Code."

The Pirate Code. Yes, of course; how could he have forgotten?

Luffy scrambled to his feet again, his face set. Robin was right. All of his friends were right. Take it or leave it, this was the One Piece that Gold Roger had left. And if Luffy was really worthy of being the next Pirate King, he would take it.

With a firm tug, all hesitation gone, Luffy snatched the dress from its peg on the wall. He raised his arms and slid the smooth, fiery gown over his own clothes. As Nami predicted, the One Piece was too big. It hung off his shoulders like a curtain and puddled shapelessly around his feet. That didn't matter. Luffy would grow, and then he'd have other dresses of his own made, to fit just him.

Swirling the skirt around him, Luffy turned and started back towards the mouth of the cave. His crew followed him, silent and a little awed. A new era was beginning. Sure enough, as Monkey D. Luffy, the Pirate King, strode out of the cave and to the sea to greet his kingdom, the sun was just beginning to rise.

-------

notes: Alternate ending!
His perseverence was rewarded. At long last, the One Piece was there in front of him, glowing in all its fabled glory.

It was big. It was shiny. It was glittery. It had a built-in support bra.

"I like the sequins," Luffy said approvingly, "but I'm really more of a size 8."

It was a debate, but I decided to make Luffy the straight man (haha, get it?) because I wanted to get in Sanji's line about the Pirate Queen. This isn't just a cheap shot at Gold Roger's treasure, I swear! Every time I talk about shopping with Japanese friends, we're both horribly confused. They don't know what I mean by 'dress' and I've got no idea what this 'one piece' they're referring to is. I am secretly convinced that the One Piece really is a dress and it will be the best gag ever at the series' conclusion. Or maybe I'm just touched in the head.