Angel of Death Fruit
Book One: Deadline
By Dixxy Mouri
Epilogue and Author's Notes - March 6, Early Afternoon
"YOSH! Exploring time!"
"Hold on, Luffy, we're not ready to go yet," said Zoro, grabbing his captain's shoulder. Luffy whimpered, but decided to listen to his swordsman. Still, he looked longingly into the woods with a frown – they weren't doing anything fun at the ship. There was still so much more exploring to do! So much meat to eat!
After taking the previous day to recover from the incident with Elizabeth Stoker, the Straw Hats had re-organized their efforts to get supplies, this time taking Robin on the gathering expedition and leaving Sanji, his sister, and Nami with the Thousand Sunny. Once the group returned, Sanae would leave the island with the crew and eventually head towards Cold Stone Island to be with her other brother.
The boys were standing near the entrance to the woods as the last minute preparations were being made. Sanae was standing near her brother, who was giving the rest of the crew a more detailed list of the kinds of supplies they were going to need to bring back. Luffy tried to sneak away into the woods again, only to have Zoro grab his shoulder. Nami sighed at her captain, shaking her head at Robin as the two stood alone on the shoreline. "Are you sure you want to go with them? I mean, all that time alone in the woods with them . . . No quiet for who knows how long. . . You don't have to go, you know . . ."
Robin smiled. "I want to go with them."
"Something on your mind?" asked Nami.
"When you almost lost Cook-san it, it made me think," Robin said.
Nami blushed at the comment. "I wasn't the only one who almost lost him. . ."
Robin chuckled. "I believe you declared him to be 'your man'. And you did spend last night with him in the lounge." Nami's face turned pink. "It's a bit obvious, Navigator-san. You didn't return to our room last night and when I woke up this morning I found the two of you sleeping on the floor together."
"Nothing happened! We went to sleep. That's it."
"He had his arms around you."
Nami narrowed her eyes. "You know what I mean by 'nothing happened'."
"I believe you."
Nami closed her eyes. "As long as we understand that . . ."
The archaeologist shook her head. "I think you've cared about him longer than you realize, Navigator-san," she said. She frowned. "But it took something like this to make you see that. You could have lost him, and I think you would have discovered you loved him after he was gone, but it would have been hard on you."
"I know," she said. "For a while. . . it did look like he was gone. And then when I felt him breathing and I saw his eyes were open . . . I can't tell you how relieved I felt! I guess you guys must have felt pretty relieved, too, but. . . Robin, I've had to watch someone I love die before. I thought that it had happened again. I just didn't know that until. . ."
Robin hugged her, patting her on the back. "All things considered, it's a miracle he's still alive and doing so well after what he's been through. He's a clever young man, though all the wit in the world wouldn't have saved him if he hadn't found that sliver of sea stone while he was rifling around that building."
"Sanji's still got it, too," said Nami. "He tried making a pendant out of it."
"I had to help him finish it. He's been wearing it under his shirt."
"Regardless, you almost lost him before you had a chance to tell him how you felt," said Robin. She sighed. "It made me realize that maybe some things shouldn't be put off. What if I never get the chance myself? Seeing what the two of you went through made me wonder if that was a pain I was willing to endure."
"Robin, what are you talking. . . about. . ." Nami saw that Robin wasn't looking at her anymore. The older woman's eyes were focused on the shipwright, who was writing down a list of Sanji's food supply demands. Nami's jaw dropped as Franky looked over at Robin, grinning stupidly and waving at her. She returned the gesture and seemed to glow.
"I. . . had no idea," said Nami.
"He makes me laugh, and I prefer taller, slightly older men," said Robin. She crossed her arms and turned her attention back to Nami. "I had been considering it for some time, just to see if it would work, but I always had an excuse to put it off. Either he was too busy, or it wasn't the right time to say anything. Well. . . I don't want to put it off anymore. Even if we are completely incompatible, I would rather know this for certain than never have the chance to find out for myself."
"Seriously, though? Franky?" asked Nami.
"Is something wrong
"No, I just wouldn't picture you going after someone like him, that's all."
Robin bent down to whisper in her ear. "Well, I already had the chance to size up his-"
"DON'T TALK ABOUT THAT! I'M STILL TRYING TO FORGET YOU DID THAT!" Nami said a bit too loudly. Everyone stared at her strangely, which Nami covered by coughing politely into her fist. "Have a good trip, Robin." She narrowed her eyes and lowered her voice. "Never mention that to me ever again." Robin smiled, giving Nami a hug and a pat on the head.
"All right, I won't talk about that again," said Robin. She grinned playfully and flicked Nami's nose. "However, if it would be of any use to you, Navigator-san, I have some negligees and protection you can use in the top drawer of my dresser if you should decide to lock Butterfly-chan out of the women's quarters and invite Cook-san to spend the night."
Nami felt her face flush red. "ROBIN!"
No one was paying attention. Sanji and Zoro had started bickering (Nami slammed her palm into her forehead – not again – but at least no one was staring at her). Luffy, Usopp, Franky, and Chopper were watching from the sidelines with Sanae, who had a wide-eyed look of shock on her face with a little bit of fear. "Well, it looks like we have a little entertainment before we leave, Navigator-san."
"I'm TELLING YOU which plants are safe to get!"
"I can figure it out on my own!"
"No, you can't! I'm not going to have you poison everybody!"
"I'm not going to poison everybody!"
"You couldn't tell the difference between a strawberry and a watermelon!"
"Yes I can! Watermelons are big and green and strawberries are small and red!"
"Ooo, the big lug can identify fruit, let's give him a hand!"
"Shove it, dartboard eyebrow!"
"Not you, Sanae. The eavesdropping I'm letting slide, so I've got nothing against you."
"You better not have anything against my sister."
"And if I did?"
"You're lucky I let you inhabit the same island as her!"
"What the – who
the hell says I need your permission?"
"My right foot up your ass does!"
Sanae groaned, sliding to the ground. "Great. BOTH of them want to play that game."
"Game? What game? Can I play, too?" asked Luffy.
"Onii-san and Onii-kun are too protective. . ."
Sanji sighed, slamming his palm to his forehead. "Look, Marimo, Chopper said he saw some olive trees while you guys were parading around this stupid island. They would be very, very useful to me if you brought some back. I could use the olive oil – I'm almost out." He sighed. "It'll be a pain in the ass to make but it would be nice to have it fresh."
Zoro grinned. "Oh, I get it. Extra VIRGIN olive oil."
Sanji's eyes widened and his cheeks started to turn pink. "You did not go there."
Nami sighed. It didn't take a genius to figure out that Sanji hadn't exactly had any "opportunities" to sleep with a woman yet. If he couldn't kiss one, how was he going to bed one? Sanji had formally confessed this to her the night before, seeming almost ashamed of what he was telling her.
"I know your first time was . . . but with men it's like a rite of passage, and I can't say I'm not a little curious about what it's like to make love to woman – and that's what I would do, I'd like to think. I don't want to put a woman through what you had to go through – I'd want her to want to be with me," he'd said. "I heard stories about it when I was still on the Baratie from the other chefs. And I just-"
"Sanji-kun, it's fine, I know you're – as you put it - curious."
"Oh I get that, just . . . please don't tell Zoro. He'd never let me hear the end of it!"
"If he says anything to you it didn't come from me. Okay?"
"All right. Because if he finds out I'm a virgin. . ."
"Don't worry about it. Let's just go to sleep, okay?"
"I just did, you stupid cook." Zoro's hand went to the hilt of Wadou Ichimonji.
Sanji lifted a leg. "THAT'S IT! YOU'RE GOING DOWN!"
Sanae's eyes widened in fear. "What?"
Sanji and Zoro launched themselves at each other, screaming and kicking and exchanging blows while Luffy and his crewmates laughed on the sidelines (sans the women of his crew – Nami was getting annoyed with their battle and Robin was looking on in mild amusement). Sanae was looking frantically between the two men.
"No! What are you two doing!? You're going to hurt Onii-kun!"
Luffy tapped on Sanae's shoulder. "They do this all the time."
"Huh?" asked Sanae.
Sanji growled. "The only one getting hurt is the shitty swordsman!"
"You'll be bleeding out your ass, dumbass cook!" Zoro clinked his swords together.
"Chopper, prepare the infirmary – Marimo's going to be having an extended stay!"
"I'm bringing you with me, extra virgin!"
"THAT'S IT! YOU'RE GOING DOWN!"
March 13, early evening
"Why do they fight like that?"
"Ne, Sanae-chan?" asked Sanji, sitting down across the table from his little sister. He had a tray of drinks with him, which he handed to the two women, saving himself the glass of wine. He swirled the alcohol around in his glass before taking a drink, eyeing the young blacksmith. "What's on your mind, baby sister?"
"Why do you and Zoro fight like that?" asked Sanae. The three of them were sitting down to dinner, made from some of what was left of the food supply, some fish Nami and Sanji had caught off the side of the ship, and vegetables Sanae had foraged from part of the forest near the ship.
"Because he's stupid."
Nami shot a glance at Sanji, who stood his ground on his statement and didn't respond to her glare. She sighed. "I think they started flinging insults at the Baratie and never stopped," said Nami. "I'm getting this second hand, but I was told Sanji thought Zoro was an idiot for trying to fight Mihawk – and to Sanji's credit that scar across his chest came from Mihawk because our swordsman was getting in over his head – but Zoro was upset that Sanji questioned his dream. Things just kind of went downhill from there."
Sanae shrugged. "Meh. Boys can be stupid."
"It's true," said Sanae.
"Oh? What about the 'teddy bear' you found? You almost got me and Akito killed!"
"What's so dangerous about a teddy bear?" asked Nami.
Sanji grumbled. "She found a bear cave and dragged me and Akito to it."
Nami's eyes widened. "Oh dear."
Sanji stood up, raising and spreading his arms. "This big-ass bear comes by and Sanae was only, like, four, so she just points at it and goes 'teddy bear, teddy bear' and starts laughing and smiling like it's no big deal even though it was a fucking BEAR," he said. He glanced sideways at Sanae, who looked at him innocently. "I KNOW you remember that."
"Leave me alone, I was four!" said Sanae, taking a drink of her daiquiri.
"And you didn't know to avoid a fucking BEAR!?"
Sanae stood and slammed her hands on the table. "Well, what about the time you and Akito tried going after that stupid ball into the crazy old lady's house? Neither one of you came home that afternoon with the ball or the seats of your pants because of that stupid dog!" Nami started to laugh.
"THAT was a good ball! You know how far I could kick that sucker? It was crazy!"
"And that's how it ended up in the old lady's yard!"
"You were always that good at kicking?" asked Nami. "I thought Zeff taught you."
Sanji shrugged. "Well, he did, but there's only so far lessons can take you. I already had a lot of potential – he just recognized it, that's all." He glared at Sanae. "But as I recall YOU'RE the one who distracted me! That ball was SUPPOSED to go straight but you started yelling about something and it took a hard right!"
"Bull shit! That was one hundred percent your failure!"
"It was not my fault!"
"It was too your fault!"
"Was not times a million!"
"Was not times infinity!"
"You can't multiply by infinity!"
"And you couldn't kick a ball straight!"
"Yes I could!"
Nami sat back and wondered if she and Nojiko were ever this bad. She crossed her legs and continued to observe as they transitioned back into the "was not/was too" portion of their argument. Well, even though Sanji won't hit a girl, it looks like he has no problem arguing with his little sister.
Sanji looked angry and was clenching his fists, but then he grinned and raised a finger. Sanae watched him in confusion as he started to wave the finger around her body. "I would like to bring it to your attention, my dear little sister, that at this moment, I, your older brother, am not touching you."
Nami raised an eyebrow. "Hmm?"
Recognition lit up in Sanae's eyes. "Oh, don't you dare think you can-"
He waved his finger around her face. "I'm not touching you. I'm not touching you."
"But I'm not touching you! See? Not touching you."
"I'm not touching you, I'm not touching you. . ."
"EEEK! GET AWAY!"
"Not touching you!"
Nami watched as Sanji proceeded to chase his sister around the table, the whole while Sanae threw various threats at her brother that he just laughed off. And through the entire chase, not once did the cook touch the blacksmith, which he kept reminding her of. Nami started to laugh soon enough, covering her mouth with her hands. Eventually they tired themselves out, laughing and coughing a little as they collapsed back into their chairs.
"Remember, Sanae-chan," Sanji said, lifting a finger. "I'm still not touching you."
Sanae stuck her tongue out at Sanji.
March 13, Late Evening
"I think your sister had a little too much grog tonight," said Nami. Sanae was passed out in the lounge, curled up underneath the aquarium. The navigator felt the Iron Butterfly's forehead. "She's not exactly drunk, but I think she's out for the night – I don't think she's done a lot of drinking before." Sanji nodded, but paused to wave his hand in front of his sister's face.
Sanae shifted in her sleep. "'mon 'Kito, gimme ice cream. . ."
"Yup. Take this one out of the oven – she's done."
"Should we move her back to my room?" asked Nami.
Sanji tilted his head. "She looks comfortable."
The Iron Butterfly rolled over. ". . . wan' ice cream . . ."
Nami nodded. "I've slept here before – it's not so bad."
"Yeah, Franky did a nice job with this room. I've taken some naps here myself."
Nami laughed, taking his hand. "When do you get to nap?"
"I can nap whenever I can ward off Captain Bottomless Pit."
"Well, I can't say that's an inaccurate description of Luffy."
"You don't have to cook for him." Sanji squeezed Nami's hand gently but firmly.
The navigator chuckled, briefly breaking away from Sanji to grab a throw blanket Robin used when she was reading in the lounge. She draped it over the Iron Butterfly's body (". . . mm, chocl' fudge . . . strawberry . . . whip cream. . . sprinkle . . .") and turned back to her boyfriend. "Let's go."
"Somewhere that's not here," said Nami, gesturing to Sanae. The two left the lounge, holding hands, and closed the door behind them. Nami kissed Sanji's cheek. She then placed her hands over his lips. "Let's not wake her – she might still have a hangover tomorrow morning, so we should let her get the rest."
"Yeah," he said, taking her hand to kiss her fingers. He continued to hold her hand as they moved out onto the deck. Nami started to step towards the side rail, still holding his hand. Sanji followed, letting go only for Nami to hoist herself up onto the railing. He joined her, their legs dangling down towards the grass.
"The rest of the
crew is due back sometime tomorrow," said Nami. She rested her head
on his shoulder, sighing. "Then it's back to the usual. All the
fighting, bickering, and pirating we can handle." Nami closed her
eyes. "It's been nice having this past week to ourselves. Having
the ship stay quiet for a change – at least compared to when Luffy
and the others are here."
Sanji nodded, thinking about this little reprieve they'd had from the normal chaos of the ship. No Luffy demanding food every time he tried to have a moment to himself. No Usopp causing small explosions across the ship or getting into trouble with Chopper. No Franky hammering away at something. No stupid swordsman period. "It has been nice, hasn't it?" Sanji said. He took her hand. "We won't get this often."
"No." Nami lifted her head and reached up to kiss him.
"Nami-chan. . ." Sanji pulled her close.
The kiss was good, but maybe a bit too forceful for a pair sitting the way they were on the railing. Sanji felt himself beginning to lose his balance. Nami clung to him as she, too, began to teeter closer and closer the watery side of the railing. Both of them started to flail their arms and legs, trying to regain their balance.
"Whoa, whoa, whoawhoaAHHH!!"
Both navigator and
cook resurfaced, coughing up sea water. Both felt their hair clinging
to their respective faces. They stared at each other for a few
moments, gasping for breath and spitting to get the salty water out
of their mouths. "Are you okay?" Sanji asked, treading water.
"I'm so sorry, I lost my balance!"
"No, it's okay, I lost mine, too!" she said. "That wasn't what I had planned!"
Sanji shook his head, sending water flying in all directions. Nami shrieked. "It's just a little water, Nami-chan!" he said. Nami looked him in the eye with a pout on her face before proceeding to splash him. Sanji yelped and dove back under the water. Nami looked around, trying to figure out where he was going to come back up. She heard a splash behind her and felt two arms encircle her.
"Sanji-kun!" she cried, laughing as he started to swim towards a place on the ship where they could climb back on deck, tugging her along. Nami let herself go limp, enjoying being dragged through the water – not like there was much she could do in that position, anyways. When they got to a rope, Sanji signaled for Nami to climb onto his back.
"Can you get us both back on deck?" asked Nami.
"Not a problem," he said, starting to scale the side.
"We're both soaked," said Nami.
"Water tends to do that, my little tangerine," said Sanji.
"When did we move on to pet names?"
Sanji gripped the railing. "It just seems like a good one for you." He pulled them up and over the side, giving Nami a chance to get down before he took off his jacket to wring it out over the side. He flopped the jacket over his shoulder. "That didn't really help much, did it?" Nami shook her head. Sanji sighed, draping the jacket over one of the lounge chairs to dry. He untied his tie and tried to wring it out as well, frowning as he stared down at his shirt – the dye from the tie had run all over it.
"We can see about getting you a new shirt at the next island," she said. Sanji nodded and pulled off the shirt, holding it in front of him to get a better look at it. Nami looked at him, biting her bottom lip. It was dark out, but the moon was shedding enough light onto the boat that she got a very good look at him.
Now, this was not the first time she'd seen Sanji without a shirt – at one time or another she'd probably seen most of the male Straw Hats shirtless – but this time was different. Now they were involved. Her mind flashed back to Robin's invitation to raid her top drawer and she felt her face flush. Maybe she could . . . maybe not. She crossed her arms and started drumming a finger on the side of her arm. But, then again, the others weren't on the ship, and Sanae was sleeping in the lounge. . .
Nami cleared her throat. "Y'know, Sanji-kun. . . we should probably get out of these clothes. It'll probably start to get cold soon and it wouldn't be a whole lot of fun to stand out here like this if a breeze blows through, you know? We should probably get a little warmed up." She felt her heart begin to beat a little faster.
Oh, ho, ho, what are we up to now?
Shh . . . I've got this one under control.
Are you sure?
He loves me, I love him, and I trust him. I've thought about it.
Yes, you certainly have.
. . . oh shut up.
"That's probably a good idea," Sanji said, nodding. "We'll probably want some dry clothes – we might get sick out here." He hung his tie next to the suit jacket, and then looked at his shirt in disappointment. "Oh well, guess this'll be a really expensive dish rag or something." He sighed. "I still can't believe that dye ran like that. I really liked this shirt, too."
Nami frowned. "Sanji-kun, who said anything about dry clothes?"
"So that way. . . we. . . oh. . . you mean. . . no. . . oh. . . OH." Sanji's eyes went wide and his jaw dropped in realization. Collecting herself, Nami reached up to flick under his chin and started walking backwards towards the girl's quarters. "You mean . . . tonight? Now? Right now? Us? You? Me? Alone?"
Nami grinned. Sanji was convinced he might die right then and there.
Nami stood in the door frame for a few seconds. "It wouldn't be good if we stayed in these wet clothes all night. Better go someplace warm and dry. My room is nice and cozy." She turned to go inside, swaying her hips as she disappeared through the door. Sanji almost fell to his knees. Nami poked her head out and grinned. She was driving him crazy. "What do you say?"
Sanji barely squeaked a 'mellorine' before scurrying after Nami towards the girl's room.
March 14, Mid Morning
Sanji was humming to himself as he washed the breakfast dishes. He and Nami had been the only ones who awoke at a reasonable hour that morning (though he did sneak into the lounge to make sure Sanae was all right – she was breathing and a small puddle of drool hand collected on the back of her hand, so in his mind she was fine), so he'd scraped together what he could to make a nice breakfast for just the two of them.
Nami was sitting at the kitchen table with a book. She'd offered to help Sanji with the dishes, but he'd insisted she let him take care of them. She said she wanted to at some point, promising she'd let Sanji help her out if he was worried she'd miss a spot or something.
"We're back! FOOD!"
Sanji turned his head to see Luffy entering the kitchen, dragging a few fowl behind him. Mr. Acorn was sitting on his shoulder, chipping away at a nut of some sort. The cook smiled, raising his spatula. "Good morning, captain!" he said with a salute and a grin. "How was the hunting expedition?"
The captain dropped the birds over by the fridge and raised his hands into the air. Mr. Acorn moved to the top of Luffy's hat. "It was awesome!" said Luffy. "We got to eat almost nothing but meat for a whole week and we've got even more meat for the next voyage! I know you made us get some plants, too, but it's okay because there's tons and tons of meat!"
"Fantastic!" Sanji said. "I'm sure everything will be great!"
Luffy scratched his head. "You're in an awfully good mood this morning."
Sanji just shrugged. "It's just a beautiful day, that's all!"
The captain tilted his head to the side. Usually Sanji got grumpy whenever he started talking about meat like that. Now he was just . . . unbelievably happy. Luffy wondered why until he heard Usopp calling him from outside about bringing more food onto the ship. This was all it took to distract the captain, who darted out, shouting about the food.
"Oi, stupid cook, I got you olives for your EXTRA VIRGIN olive oil." Zoro had an olive branch in hand, which he was waving over his head. Sanji closed his eyes and took a deep breath, but continued to wash the dishes. Nami stopped reading but didn't put her book down. She needed to observe this.
"Thank you, put them over there," said Sanji, though he wasn't even looking at Zoro.
Zoro glared at Sanji, placing the olive branch down. "Aren't you gonna say something?"
Sanji shrugged. "No."
"What do you mean 'no'? I said got the olives for the EXTRA VIRGIN-"
"I heard you the first time, Marimo. I'm not deaf."
Zoro grunted. "What are you up to?"
Sanji turned back to look at Nami, who closed her book and nodded at him. She cleared her throat. "Well, you see, Zoro, it's like this," said Nami, throwing her hands into the air. She had a huge grin on her face. "Somewhere between dinner and falling asleep, well, gosh darn it," Nami placed a hand to the side of her face in mock shock, "it seems we've misplaced it!"
"Eh?" asked Zoro, crossing his arms.
"Yeah, it's just like Nami-chan said," said Sanji, putting the dish he was working on back into the soapy water of the sink. He closed his eyes and started to shake his head, though he was grinning the whole time as he started to walk towards Nami. He stopped behind her chair, his hands on her shoulders. "It's gone! I had it most of yesterday but last night I lost it!""Cut the crap, stupid cook. What did you lose?"
Sanji smirked, folding his arms. Stupid swordsman walked right into it. "My virginity."
Nami nodded, sticking out her tongue. "It's true! I was there! It's gone!"
"Not a trace."
"Never to be seen again."
Zoro turned on his heel, walked out, and slammed the galley door behind him.
Nami shook her head, laughing a little. "He'll get over it."
Sanji kissed her forehead. "You do realize I'm going to miss you every night, right?"
"You do realize that's the last time you get to brag about sleeping with me, right?"
Nami looked up at him. "Zoro had it coming. But that was it. No more bragging."
Sanji nodded. "That's fine. But now that I know what I'll be missing. . ."
"You'll get used to it."
The cook sighed, rolling his eyes. "Unfortunately," he said. He wrapped his arms around her and sighed. "At least you get a sane roommate – Robin-chan's quiet and polite, right? I get to sleep in a room full of . . . them. They're. . . well. . . THEM!" Sanji laughed. "You've gone and spoiled me, Nami-chan."
Nami nodded. "Oh, I'll miss you, too. But you know you'll see me during the day, Sanji-kun, and whenever Robin takes watch at night you can come over and visit if you'd like . . ." Nami let a playful grin onto her face as she winked at him. Sanji felt his heart race a little and loosened his tie a bit.
Their conversation was interrupted by a yawn and a sleepy, hung-over Sanae plodding into the galley. She blinked and rubbed her eyes. "What's for breakfast?" Unfortunately for Sanji, "breakfast" was the cue for most of the crew to come piling into the galley, demanding said meal from the cook. Chopper, Usopp, and Luffy crowded around Sanji, looking at him eagerly.
"GIMME, GIMME, GIMME!!!"
Sanji gave Nami a shrug – they'd continue that conversation later.
March 14, Mid Afternoon
"Please don't call me that, Luffy," Sanae asked. She was standing on the deck of the Thousand Sunny, looking out at the ocean. Luffy hopped up onto the railing next to her, gripping the edge of the ship with one hand and holding his beloved straw hat with the other. Mr. Acorn was sitting on his shoulder – Luffy had wanted to take the squirrel with them.
"What are you thinking about?"
"Hmm..." said Sanae. "Just thinking."
Sanae smiled. "A lot," she said. She turned to face him, her hands behind her back as she leaned against the rail. "You know, Luffy, I've seen lots of awful pirates over the course of my bounty hunting career. There are men and women out there who've done terrible things to innocent people. Pirates who do awful things to each other. . . even their own crewmen." She laughed. "But you guys. . . you're not like those pirates."
"Why would they hurt their own nakama?"
"Some pirates just don't value the lives of others," said Sanae. "But you do."
"They're all my nakama," said Luffy. "I would never hurt them or our other friends."
"I know. That's why I'm glad Onii-kun's with you."
Luffy nodded enthusiastically. "Me too! He's an awesome cook and a good guy!"
Sanae crossed her ankles. "And you'd protect him and everyone else on this boat."
Luffy nodded. "Uh huh!"
The Iron Butterfly nodded. "Good. I'm glad."
Luffy slapped a hand on her shoulder. "So, what's your next move?"
"What do you want to
do now? You only became a bounty hunter to rescue Sanji,
"Well, that and hunt down my uncle."
"So are you still
going to be a bounty hunter?"
Sanae shook her head. "Nope. I'll probably go home to Cold Stone and be a blacksmith."
Luffy nodded. "How are you going to get there?"
"Well, I'll probably leave the ship when getting to Cold Stone seems safe," said Sanae.
Luffy scratched his head. "Where is Cold Stone?"
"It's on the first half of the Grand Line – not a lot of people go beyond it without an Eternal Pose, though, because we re-direct to Fishman Island through the Florian Triangle, just like Water 7 does. Most folks buy an Eternal Pose to Strawberry Isle, which takes the long way around the Florian Triangle to get to Fishman Island."
"We just left Water 7! So we're probably close by!"
"Actually, there's a small chance that's where we're headed anyways."
Sanae and Luffy turned to see Robin standing behind them. "What do you mean?"
"The Log Pose didn't necessarily set itself back to Fishman Island," said Robin. She smiled. "Although I'm sure we'll reach it eventually, there's no telling where we're headed right now. Wild Isles are very unpredictable in that sense." She cleared her throat. "Depending on how close Butterfly-chan's island is to the Wild Isle – considering we came from Water 7, it can't be all that far – then we might be headed there."
Luffy shrugged. "Okay."
Sanae turned to face the captain. "This means you're off course. Aren't you worried?"
"Nah. It means we have another island to explore!" Luffy laughed, crossing his arms.
The Iron Butterfly leaned against the railing again. "It means Onii-kun could see Onii-san, too," she said. She stood up straight, her eyes wide. "That's right! Onii-san and Onii-kun haven't seen each other in years!" Sanae tilted her head to one side. "It'll probably scare Akito to see Sanji at first but they'll probably be real happy to see each other, what where Sanji's supposed to be dead."
"Huh? Why?" asked Luffy.
"Because if we hadn't intervened, Cook-san would probably be dead," said Robin.
"Oh yeah. Good thing we stopped her."
Robin placed a hand on Sanae's shoulder. "And you aren't worried about the bounty?"
Sanae lowered her eyes. "Oh yeah. I almost forgot Onii-kun's a wanted man."
"Why is that a problem?" asked Luffy. "Isn't that how you found Sanji?"
"I didn't start looking for him until after I'd cried and punched a few walls," said Sanae. She closed her eyes. "I know how you pirates view bounties. It's like a status symbol or something. 'This is how much I'm worth. I'm worth more than you.' But you must understand by now that there are a lot of pirates out there who do horrific things."
Luffy nodded. "Yeah. I guess so."
"Well, I've seen some pirates do awful things to each other and to innocent people. I was afraid that Onii-kun might have been one of those pirates," she said. "I didn't know what kind of life Sanji led up until I saw that wanted poster. I was clinging to this hope that he was out there somewhere living quietly, maybe having already completed his Mercy Task, found himself someplace to be safe. When I saw that he was a pirate I. . . like I said, I cried and started hitting and throwing things. I didn't know what to do with myself."
"You were hoping to bring him back home with you."
"That was the idea when I first set out, yes, but now I see that's not an option," said Sanae. Much to Luffy's surprise, she smiled. "He's happy here. He's in love with Nami. I have no right to take that away from him. It would have been nice for the three of us to live on the same island as a family again, but as odd as it sounds I feel like Onii-kun is going to be safe with you guys."
"But you are family," said Luffy. "He's your brother. How does his bounty change that?" He put his hand on Sanae's shoulder. "I've got a big brother, too! We're both pirates, and we're on different crews. He wants his captain to be the Pirate King, but see, I'm going to be the Pirate King, so that's kind of a problem but that's okay. It doesn't stop us from being brothers."
A scoff came from behind. Sanae turned to see her brother standing behind her, a cigarette in hand. "C'mon, Sanae, you're smarter than that, or did 'Kito and I suck all the smarts out of the family tree before you fell off the branch?" He looked at Luffy and Robin. "May I step in and take care of her?" He blew out a smoke ring and smiled at Luffy. "I've even got a leftover leg of something for a certain captain if he goes away."
"MEAT! WHOO-HOO!" Luffy darted off in the direction of the kitchen. Robin smiled and nodded politely before heading towards the library. Sanji sighed, turning to his little sister. He placed a hand on her head and gently rubbed it. Sanae looked up at him, a sad look in her eyes.
"We both know that I can't stay on Cold Stone with you and Akito. If circumstances were different I might, but I can't do that," he said. Sanji looked over the rest of the boat. "I don't know if you've heard the legend or not – living on the Grand Line you might have – but I want to find All Blue. I heard about it after I left home and I decided I wanted to see it."
Sanae nodded. "Robin and Nami told me about that."
"That's why I'm staying on this ship."
"And you like it here."
Sanji nodded, taking a drag on his cigarette. "I guess I do."
"You're part of this crew and you need to protect each other, right?"
He shrugged. "I suppose so."
"And you love Nami."
"Very much," said Sanji, sighing dreamily. He stood straight and coughed into his hand. "However, that doesn't mean that I don't plan on paying our dear elder brother a visit – if we are, indeed, heading for Cold Stone." He turned around to lean against the railing. "In that event, I'm going to make us a big dinner and the three of us can have a nice evening – just us. I know it's not much, but I want to see him again. I'm glad our shitty uncle didn't kill him but I'm worried that he can't walk anymore. I need to see him for myself."
"And you aren't worried about how he's going to react to the pirate thing?"
Sanji shrugged. "I don't care if he rejects me. I just need to know he's okay and I need him to know that I'm okay, even if he does . . . well, let's just say I hope he doesn't." He crossed his arms. "I'll make sure I write to you guys. I write to the old man on the Baratie once in a while, you know, to let him know I'm all right. If I can write to that geezer I can spare a few lines for you guys."
"I'd like that. Besides, you need to tell me about all of your adventures!" said Sanae. She looked up at him with excited eyes. "Tell me everything that's happened to you! How you left North Blue, how you met Luffy and the others, and all of the stuff you've done as a pirate! I wanna know everything!"
Sanji nodded. "Well, all right," he said. "I'll make us a pot of tea and I'll meet you in the lounge. But you need to tell me about how you and Akito ended up in the Grand Line, met your master, and how you got your Devil Fruit. Do we have a deal?" Sanae nodded and scurried off towards the lounge.
Sanji smiled. It was going to be a good day.
And after twelve years, he finally had a whole lifetime of good days to come.
Somewhere on the Grand Line . . .
For the most part, Grand Line sailors wouldn't have given that colorful boat so much as a second glance, Jolly Roger or not. It certainly didn't belong to someone as powerful as one of the Four Emperors or one of the Seven Warlords, or even a crew as notorious as the Foxy Pirates or the Straw Hats.
No one amongst Buggy the Clown's ranks seemed to care at that moment.
There was liquor and entertainment for everyone on board. Certainly they weren't very close to finding the Straw Hats. The last Buggy's crew had really heard was that the bounties of Luffy's crew had gone up – again – and attracted the attention of some bounty hunter girl with a butterfly tattoo on her back. But she didn't seem to know where the Straw Hats were, either – she was asking around to find them.
Buggy the Clown was enjoying his time with his crew until he saw something on the horizon. Putting down his bottle of whiskey, he squinted his eyes to try and get a better look. It was definitely a ship, but he wasn't exactly sure what kind of ship it was. Marine? Pirate? Passenger?
"Mohji, hand me that spy glass," he said quietly. The murmur caught the attention of both Cabaji and Alvida, who eyed their captain in curiosity as the beast tamer gave Buggy the instrument. He put it to his eye and looked through, studying the ship and its sails carefully. It was flying a Jolly Roger, so it definitely wasn't a Marine or a passenger ship – barring some kind of trick.
Then he saw the skull of the flag was blank – no eyes, no nose, no teeth.
Buggy froze. Could it possibly be that person?
"Cabaji. We need to leave. Right now."
"Captain Buggy?" Cabaji asked, confused by the order.
"Don't question my order – just do it. Do not let that ship get near us."
Cabaji nodded, heading into the crowd of the pirates to give the order. Although they complained that their party was ending so soon, they soon made quick work of setting the ship to sail far, far away from the vessel that had spooked their captain. Cabaji returned to Buggy's position, where Mohji and Alvida were exchanging looks of confusion.
"Buggy? What's wrong? Why are you so afraid of that ship?" asked Alvida.
Buggy swallowed as the ship faded from view. They were probably going to escape, but the knowledge that the ship was that close made his skin crawl. "I've only heard of that man. But I knew that I would never, ever want to meet him face to face. Even the great Gold Roger would have been wary of him."
"What?" asked Mohji.
"That flag. . . is the symbol of an Angel of Death Fruit user."
First and foremost let's do some thank-yous!
Da Beta Readers:
-Su Na, for being a primary beta reader during the early phases of this fanfiction and an early plot discussion person
-Kago, an old college roommate from most of freshman year, basically all of sophomore year, and half of junior year, and for helping with drawing related stuff
-Triple C, who doesn't even LIKE One Piece
-feenix, for the epilogue
-flying glove, also for the epilogue
-Bronze Tigress, for multiple drafts of the epilogue, LATE plot discussion and the olive oil joke
Da Artists (artwork can be found on DeviantArt):
-Olafpriol, for her depictions of Sanji's "good bye" scene
-Silverwings, for her depiction of a spoiler-free Sanae
And of course, everyone who read and reviewed Deadline, as well as those who added me or this story to their Alerts and Favorites lists.
Well, that's about it! Except. . .
COMING SOON TO A NEAR YOU!
The saga continues as the Straw Hats and their companions head for parts unknown onboard the Thousand Sunny. In the middle of the night, Pirate Hunter Roronoa Zoro spots intruders boarding the ship. Confronting them, he learns far too late that his opponent has eaten the second Angel of Death Fruit, making the swordsman his latest victim!
Will the Straw Hats stop this newest plot?
Will someone from the Straw Hats' past return?
Find out all this and more!
More Straw Hats!
More Mr. Acorn!