Swordsmen– great, strong swordsmen, especially ones who would become the best in the world– did not fall in love.

The first time he had climbed to the top of that hill and looked out at the sea, wide and blue and welcoming, holding a million dreams and offering a millions paths to follow, wild and untamable and more beautiful than anything he had ever seen…it was infatuation. That was all. Because great swordsmen did not fall in love.

And when the pirate king to be had risen like the sun, filling the hearts of all around him with hope and joy, and had chosen him, reaching out and smiling like the damn fool he was and looking upon him without doubt or fear, only promise of adventure and action and fun and that almighty sense of nakama…it was only infatuation, because great swordsmen did not fall in love.

The navigator came next, bringing with her the reason and the rationality, and had given him direction, saving him from himself with the unspoken promise to keep him on the path, to never allow him to get lost. Coy and brazen, steady yet unpredictable, never faltering and only ever running away when it was the right thing to do…she was the glue. But it was only infatuation. Great swordsmen did not fall in love.

Then came the sniper, awkward and gawky and newer to the world of pirates than any fantasy could have prepared him for. Fear threatened to sweep him under like a riptide, but he always managed to stay abreast, and he fought with all the strength he possessed when it mattered the most. He told his lies and he tried so hard to make them laugh, and even when he did it was only infatuation, because great swordsmen did not fall in love.

The cook was last and hardest to like, foul-mouthed and lovesick, but he was strong, a fighter and a dreamer and a searcher, and he refused to give up. He insisted that women were goddesses to be worshipped, but he protected all of his friends with all of his might and never left anyone behind. He was quick, with his hands and his feet and his wit, but it was infatuation and nothing more because great swordsmen did not fall in love.

He wasn't sure when it had happened, but at some point, he had tripped over that thin line and landed hard, bruising several vital organs and concussing himself to the point that he couldn't think straight. When it happened might always be a mystery, but as soon as he stepped out onto the deck one morning and looked out at the sea, cruel and mysterious and filled with hope and dreams and boundless adventure, he knew that it was love, there was no other word, and he wondered how far behind the others were on that list.

He smiled to himself, a small and defeated grin, and allowed himself to hope, and to know, that they weren't very far.