Like A Rolling Stone

A Post-Piracy Robin Side Story

By Aoikami Sarah

Chapter Seven

Every year on Diego's birthday, Robin made certain she could make it to Guraba if only for a day. Usually she was able to drag Smoker with her. After they were married, she managed to get him to come every year without fail.

Diego was a bright boy from the start. He was walking at about nine months and reading before he was two. He attended school in Guraba but soon shot through the grades until he graduated at the age of only 12. He disliked his fellow students for the obvious reasons of being constantly teased for his smarts and his youth but unlike most children in his situation, Diego felt justified. He knew he was smarter and loved to remind those that would laugh at him at every chance he got.

The boy loved his parents Coby and Alice. He loved that his father was a good, honest man and a prestigious member of Guraban society due to his military rank. He loved that his mother was a gifted painted, also well renowned in the area for her work. She was, however a terrible cook. Coby did most of the cooking and the birthday cake was always bought from the local bakery and brought to the party by Auntie Madame.

Diego loved his Auntie Madame. He knew that it was her genes he shared his intelligence with, rather than her 'sister'. Whenever he saw her he would question her all night about her research and history in general. Rather than math or science, the hunt for the lost century was what drove Diego's curiosity. On his 12th birthday his Auntie handed him a piece of paper for his present. It was an application to the World History Academy. He could hardly believe his parents would let him go away to school so soon but they were all for it. It was so far his favorite present.

On his 14th birthday, his Mother, Father, Auntie Madame and Uncle Smoker had a party for him as they usually did. It was a Friday and that morning Diego paced around the house impatiently. Alice finished putting up some crepe-paper decorations and laughed at him. "You're going to wear a hole in the carpet, Diego!"

He blushed and sat in the window seat so he could stare out at the walkway. "Sorry, Mom. I just can't wait for Auntie Madame to come!"

Alice slowed her movements and stood still on the stool for a moment. "Of course," she said quietly, finished up and went to find her husband.

Coby was having his coffee in the sun room on the other side of the house. He was surprised when his wife sat down with a thud beside him but knew instantly why she looked troubled. "It's ok. He'll be fine. He knows how much we love him. Everything will work out," he said rubbing her shoulder with the hand that wasn't holding the coffee cup. Alice drew a deep breath but seemed unconvinced. She jolted when she heard Diego cry out that they were here and kissed Coby quickly before heading to the front of the house to greet them.

Coby could see the tension that strained Alice's face was only thinly veiled on Robin's face as well. She hugged Diego tightly as she stood in the doorway. Behind her, Smoker held the cake and tried not to look uncomfortable. They chatted and went through the motions of a typical birthday party. The attention was all on Diego so this was fairly easy. He talked a mile a minute and nearly constantly until he started asking Robin questions about her latest field research. This was also easy, just like reporting to Director Weimaraner. She went on and on until it was time for lunch, then cake, then it was time for presents.

From his mother and father Diego received a handsome pen set that must have cost them a full month of Coby's salary. The boy nearly cried they were so beautiful and thoughtful. Smoker and Robin then presented their gift, a small, ratty looking book. This Diego handled far more carefully than he had the pen set. Gently, he turned the faded cover. "This is in the Grand Library!" he exclaimed.

"I found this copy in a ruin on the island of Captival. When I found it I could hardly believe my eyes and I thought instantly that you should have it."

"Thank you," Diego whispered in awe.

The room grew silent. Smoker cleared his throat but when no one seemed to want to take the hint he spoke up. "That's not the only thing we have for you, Diego,"

The color fell out of Robin's face so that it nearly matched the color of her hair. She looked to Coby and Alice who looked just as pale but nodded in agreement. Alice clutched Coby's hand. "Yes," Robin said. "I have the gift of the truth to give you."

"The truth?" Diego asked, astonished. "Did you find the secret of the lost century?!"

Robin lowered her eyes. "No. Not at all. Not that sort of truth. Diego, many years ago I had a child but as you must know I was not able to keep him, so I gave him to a nice couple I knew who wanted a child of their own to love." Her lip quivered and although she had managed to get all of that out in nearly one breath she found she could hardly speak at all anymore, especially when she looked into her son's eyes.

"What…?" he asked, tearing his eyes from hers to his so-called parents. "You? You adopted me from… Madame?" Alice was crying but she nodded and the two of them tried to explain further but their words fell over each other. He turned back to Robin "I'm really your son?!"

"Diego, at the time…" she tried to explain.

"I worshipped you and you didn't have the decency to tell me I was yours?!" he shouted and jumped to his feet. He clutched the book he had just been given tightly. He held it up and scowled at it as she stuttered, trying to find all those words she'd rehearsed since the night Alice and Coby told her it was time he knew. "I wasn't good enough to be yours well fine, you're not mine!" he cried and threw the book at her feet before turning and running out the door. Smoker made to leap up after him but Robin grasped his hand and held him fast.

"No," she said quietly with her head bowed. "Don't."

The door slammed shut and Alice burst into tears.

.x.

[The following is also in Chapter 30 of Treasure Hunters

Four months later, Diego had still not spoken to his birth mother. He hardly spoke to Coby and Alice but they were patient and he was back at school. They prayed he would get over it soon and return to his former exuberant self.

Since Robin was a field agent he didn't have to see her ever again if he played his cards right, but the one thing he was now more desperate than ever to do was to best her. There was an opening for the field-agent position as Weimaraner wanted to get more experience folks out there to get more answers faster. One Thursday afternoon Diego wound his way through the halls of what had been officer's quarters on Enies Lobby and entered a large room where the other applicants were already seated and waiting for Weimaraner to appear and give them his decision.

Diego took a seat between a couple of the applicants and lifted his chin as high as it would go while some of them talked about 'the little kid' in hushed whispers. Shortly, WHA Director Hartman Weimaraner entered followed by his only current field agent. Diego's chin lowered but his eyes burned holes through Madame Curator as she took a seat next to Weimaraner behind a large desk. The applicants waited for the Director to stop whispering to his associate and give them the news.

He cleared his throat. "Thank you all for your patience. I have reviewed each of your applications for the position of Field Researcher and after conferring with the head of this division, our own Madame Curator," he said, indicating to Robin. "I am ready to make my decision."

One by one starting from Diego's left, Weimaraner addressed each applicant. The first and second men were accepted. The third was not because he had not passed an essential test in deciphering runes, but was told he could study and retake the test next year. He was only a little disappointed. The director then turned to Diego who held his chin high again, confident that he had the job in the bag. "Diego, I'm sorry to say that we cannot accept your application at this time."

The boy's chin dropped. He glared at his mother. To his double shock, Weimaraner had already moved on and began to address the last applicant, a young woman to Diego's right. The young man stood up suddenly, commanding everyone's attention. "Director, you gave this man a reason for his failure. Why do I not deserve the same courtesy?"

Weimaraner looked nervous. "Well, you see, Diego…"

Robin rescued him. She looked upon her son coldly. "You have yet to graduate from the Academy and you have never once had to survive on your own. You are only 14 years old. When you have some life-experience, we will reconsider your application."

The other applicants tried not to laugh. Diego glared at her. "I see." He sat back down. "Thank you for the explanation, Madame Curator."

Robin looked pale. She nodded her head. As the next applicant was accepted, Diego continued to stare at his mother. When it was over, she was the first to leave the room. Diego remained. Weimaraner made excuses to hang back and when the room had cleared he approached the young man.

"I know you're disappointed…" he began.
"Oh, you don't know the half…" Diego muttered.

"Your Auntie Madame is only looking out for…"

"She's not my auntie!" he said, raising his voice and sneering at his mentor and friend in a way that made the old man's stomach turn. "She's my mother!" Diego pushed his chair back so hard it fell over and stomped from the room, unhindered by a shocked Weimaraner.

The boy returned to his dormitory room and proceeded to destroy it. He emptied his drawers and cabinets and threw the contents to the floor. After his rage subsided he sat on the edge of his bed, surrounded by books, papers and clothes. "Why…?" he hissed. "Is this her revenge? Because of the way I treated her when she told me the truth?" He punched the bed with his right fist causing nearby papers to flutter to the ground. One of them was the cover of a report he'd drawn up after researching something for his mother. His name, 'Diego' appeared as the author, and hers 'Madame Curator' appeared as the mentor. She had been essential to him before he knew that his Auntie was not who she said she was. She was his friend, his inspiration, his idol. But she had lied to him and tossed him aside when she could have raised him herself.

"Madame Curator…" he muttered. "What kind of a name is that? Does that mean my name is Diego Curator?" The boy scoffed at this. "That's not a name, it's a title."

Suddenly he leaned over and grasped the cover page. "It is a title, isn't it?" His eyes grew wide and he rummaged through his strewn belongings for his satchel. When he had located it, Diego burst from the room and headed towards the largest building on Enies Lobby which used to house the courthouse, now the WHA's main archives.

Hour after hour Diego pulled cards, located books, delved into the archives, searching for the earliest piece of work by or mention of Madame Curator. It all stopped almost 20 years in the past. He made note of yet another mention of the name and stared at his pages of notes. "She appears at the same time the WHA does, but what…?" The sound of footsteps alerted Diego and he pulled another unrelated book on top of his notes and pretended to be reading.

The footsteps stopped and Weimaraner dropped tiredly into the chair beside him. "There you are," the old man said with a sigh. "You know, Madame is really only looking out for you."

Diego didn't ignore him, but he didn't react either.

"She cares very much about you. It makes sense, that she's your mother. You have the same drive, the same passion for history. It's in the blood." When he didn't get a reaction, the old man sighed again. "I'm sorry you didn't get the position because I know how much you will enjoy it. Please wait and study with us here for a few more years." He stood and made to leave.

"Thank you, Director," the boy said quietly. Weimaraner smiled and let him be. When he was sure he was gone, Diego pushed the decoy book back out of the way. He noticed something wasn't right. Next to his notes near where Weimaraner had been sitting was a newspaper Diego hadn't retrieved. He made a face and pulled it over for closer inspection. "Pirate King Straw Hat Luffy Executed…" he read the twenty year-old headlines. Under a large picture of a young man about to be beheaded in Rogue Town was an article and the bounty posters of his crew. One of them, the image of a young girl worth 79 million Berrie had a thin X over it. "Devil Child Nico Robin… No way…"

His hand scrawled into his notebook almost on its own and his feet hurled him back to the card catalog. "Nico Robin, Nico Robin…" He jotted down decimals and ran to the stacks. Back at the table, he splayed out the materials he had collected and flipped pages as if possessed. When it was done he sat stunned in his chair. "The devil of Ohara, Nico Robin, daughter of famous scholar Nico Olivia, wanted by the World Government at age eight for destroying Marine ships. Escaped the Buster Call on that island as the last surviving member of the Scholars of Ohara, the largest group of people trying to decipher the Poneglyph and expose the Lost Century," he whispered breathlessly. "Executed at Enies Lobby during the Revolution twenty years ago." He flipped his notes. "Twenty years ago, Madame Curator began working for the newly founded World History Academy, on Enies Lobby." He juxtaposed the wanted poster of eight year old Nico Robin and 30 year old Madame Curator (who still had black hair at the time) and grinned like a lunatic. "And not only are they the same age, they have the same face!"

"Unreal. My name is Nico Diego." Slowly, the boy's smile fell. The information he had gathered was sinking in to his consciousness and becoming real. This wasn't some historically significant person he was researching – it was his own mother. The woman who had given him to a good, loving couple who desperately wanted children who she made certain raised him well while she roved the globe doing what she needed to do. His mother had lost everything as a child and was hardly allowed to live by those who would capture or kill her. He stared at the wanted poster of the eight-year-old girl who looked so much like him, her sad eyes and thin nose looking off away from the camera and even at such a young age, looking determined to do what she must.

When his tears hit the newspaper Diego gasped. "I'm crying?" he asked himself. His lip trembled and he growled lightly. He leapt out of his chair and charged out of the library. After an hour's worth of searching, Diego stood on the train platform and watched Puffing Tom depart Enies Lobby, carrying his mother away from him. He balled his hands into fists.

It would be another few months before he would see her again and the threat of losing her would push him to accept what she had done, to save him, to do what she must.

Author's Note:

Sorry this cuts off so abruptly! The rest of it is in the last few chapters of Treasure Hunters, so please read that!