DISCLAIMER: I do not own One Piece, or any of its characters. All are the property of Eiichiro Oda and whoever else owns the licenses/copyrights.
SPOILER WARNING: This fic was inspired by the "Thriller Bark" arc currently running in the One Piece manga. While this story takes place between Thriller Bark and Enies Lobby, there is potential spoiling ahead all the same.
THE PATH TO BECOMING SIXTH
Nicknames… for many, they are the sign of a bond. The ultimate drop of formality. A way to be open as only true friends can be. That wasn't true for me. For me, nicknames were the opposite. A sign of my distance. I used them to avoid being casual. By not using their proper names, I stood apart from the rest. So that I wouldn't let myself get close to them. Or they to me.
That ends now. After all they've done, they deserve better. In truth, they deserve more than I can give. But I can, at the very least, call them by their true names. They shouldn't be Captain, Swordsman, Navigator, Long-nose, Cook and Doctor. Not any more!
"What do you think?" I asked the man I had related my problem to. He was the newest addition to our crew. Perhaps that's why I could turn to him with this dilemma. We had gotten to know one another recently, and with him there were no preconceptions getting in the way. He hadn't said a word, but I knew our shipwright was listening to me as only he could.
"BWAAAAHHH!" he wailed when I had finished, "That's beautiful! Dammit I ain't cryin'!!" he shouted at no one in particular.
"Fine then." he said, once he'd regained his composure, "You need to start using names. Simple enough. Just say their names."
"It's not that simple." I replied, "I've spent all my time on this crew using titles. To just suddenly switch, with no warning… what will they…"
"They won't care. Look at this crew, they'll accept damn near anything! Including me!"
He was right. I knew it, too. I knew that they'd accept what I did without comment. But, I also knew that, even if it was only for an instant, they would look at me oddly. They would think I was doing something strange. I knew in my head that it shouldn't stop me. They'd accept it whatever strangeness they felt at first. Yet, minor as it was, my heart absolutely dreaded that one instant.
"You tried practicing in a mirror?" the shipwright asked.
"Yes." I told him, "In front of a mirror I'm fine. But that's hardly the same thing as saying their names to their faces."
"All right, then, how's 'bout this? Practice on me. Say my name, right here and now."
"Very well." I said. This shouldn't be too difficult. I took a deep breath, "Fu… Fura…"
"Franky…" he said.
"Frank… Fur… Fran… Fa… Fu…"
"Oh come on, already!" he yelled, losing patience. Any further words on his part, or reply from mine, were halted by a long leg kicking him in the side of the head.
"Franky, you bastard!!" yelled the Cook, "What the hell do you think you're doing to your dear Robin?!"
"Stop!" I yelled as I got between the cook and carpenter, "Everything is just fine. We were only talking, Sa… San…"
"Hm?" the cook looked at Robin with that look. The one that asked, "what is she doing?"
"Sandwiches sounded good to me for lunch today." I said at last, kicking myself with every syllable, "He was merely disagreeing…"
"Sandwiches?" the chef asked, his expression changed instantly, from perplexed to ecstatic, I could almost picture his curly eyebrow changing into a heart, "Very well, my darling Robin! I shall prepare for you sandwiches beyond your wildest dreams! I'll go and begin preparing them this very instant!"
He left, joyfully chanting "mellorine." The shipwright picked himself up off the deck and looked at me.
"Wuss." he said.
I sighed, wishing I could disagree. The navigator was suggested as my next attempt.
"You and her are pretty close, right?" my companion asked.
"Yes. I suppose." I replied.
It was true that I was friendlier with the navigator than most of my other crewmates. We had even shared a room on our old ship, the Going Merry. I wondered if it was because, as the only two women aboard, we felt we had to stick together.
"Um…" I tried, "She seems to be busy at the moment. Maybe I should try later."
"Nope! It's because she's busy that this is such a good time!" the shipwright insisted, "She's in there workin' on her maps. Chances are she won't even listen to a word you say."
"But the whole point of this is to have them hear it." I explained.
"Yeah, but you haven't gotten that far yet. Have you?"
"So doing it while she isn't paying attention is perfect. You can slip it in a couple times, get yourself used to it, no one's the wiser."
"Hmm…" I had to admit that sounded like a good idea, "Okay, I'll do it."
"Go for it, Nico Robin!" the shipwright cheered as I walked to the navigator's quarters and knocked on the door.
"Come in." the navigator called out.
"Good morning." I said, steeling myself. The navigator was bent over a drafting table, going over some maps and charts she had drawn.
"Morning." she said. It was unusually curt. When she focused on her work, I'd learned, little else registered. The fact she was acknowledging my presence at all was something of a surprise.
"I apologize for interrupting your work, Na… na…" No! Not again, "That is… na…"
"Hm?" No! Don't turn around! Keep looking at your work! Please!
"Nice weather…" I could hear the shipwright groaning from here, "The weather outside is very nice right now. I wanted to ask if you thought it would last throughout the day. I felt like a little sunbathing…"
"Don't let Sanji hear you saying that." the navigator replied.
"I-I have him distracted with making sandwiches."
"Good thinking. That'll keep him occupied. He'll make absolutely sure they're just perfect for you." She stepped up to the door to take a look outside, "Hm… yeah, I think we'll be like this all day. A nice summer climate at the moment."
"Thank you. I-I'll see you later." I said, leaving. I found myself unable to look the shipwright in the eyes as he offered his next suggestion: the swordsman.
"He's asleep." I pointed out. He was on the starboard deck sleeping against a rail.
"Precisely." he said to me, "Do it now. Just say the name while he's asleep. Better than a mirror; and since he's unconscious, you don't have to worry about his reaction."
The logic seemed sound enough. If my fear was the initial reaction, then I could potentially bolster myself by using his name when there wouldn't be one.
"All right. I'll do it." I said.
"Go, Nico Robin!" he cheered. I took a deep breath, and walked over to the sleeping swordsman.
I treated carefully, not wishing to wake him up. As I got closer I began to question whether this was a good idea. When asleep, I'd learned, the swordsman could be surprisingly alert, or incredibly difficult to wake up. I sincerely hoped it was the latter.
"Zo… Zor… Z-z-z-zo…"
"Come on…" the shipwright said, "You can do it, Nico Robin."
"Ah…?" the swordsman muttered, his eyes opening, he saw me, "You need somethin'?"
"Uhhh… that is…" I stammered, "Zo… Zo… Sorry to disturb you. It's really nothing important."
"D'AAAHH!!" howled the frustrated shipwright.
"What's with him?" The swordsman asked me.
"I-I don't know. I'll go find out."
I quickly left, pulling the shipwright with me. He had managed to calm down by the time we were alone again.
"Okay, okay…" he said after a moment, "Maybe we've been goin' at this from the wrong angle. Let's try Straw Hat, next."
"I'm starting to think we've been wrong-headed about this whole thing." the shipwright explained, "A lot of the reason you're so spooked about the name thing is because you never used them before, right?"
I nodded. It was that, and the others' response to it that kept scaring me out of doing it.
"That's why we try Straw Hat, next. I know for a fact you've already said Straw Hat's name."
I nodded. I'd used it several times during the ordeal at Enies Lobby. Of them all, he'd probably be easiest.
"So, where is he?" the shipwright asked.
"Most likely the figurehead." I answered, "On our old ship he would often sit on the ram figurehead we had. He called it his special seat."
"All right then, to the figurehead."
The captain was right where we expected, atop the Thousand Sunny's lion figurehead. It seemed to me he was trying out different positions. He would sit one way for a moment before trying another position.
"Must still be breakin' it in." the shipwright mused, "Well, go on."
Once again preparing myself, I went to the captain.
"Oh, Robin! Hi!" he said cheerfully when he saw me.
"Good morning. Getting comfortable?"
"Trying to." he replied, "But Sunny's head is way different from Merry's. I haven't quite gotten it yet."
"Anything I can do?" I asked.
"Nah, I think this is something I gotta work out myself."
"All right… L… Luffy… I'll leave you to it. "
Yes! Finally! I did it!
"Okay." he replied. He didn't seem to realize what I had done. That was all for the better. I walked away feeling wonderful.
"I did it…" I told the shipwright.
"Great!" the shipwright said, "I knew it. All we had to do was pick the right target. I don't know why we didn't go with him in the first place!"
"I did it." I repeated.
"That's right!" he said, "Now we just gotta get the rest of 'em named!"
"Right!" I said, ready to take on anything now.
"So, who next?" the shipwright asked, "The girl? The cook?"
I considered it.
"No. I'll try someone I haven't approached yet."
With that, I headed for the Sunny's infirmary. The doctor opened the door before I had even knocked twice.
"Welcome to sick bay!" he said happily, "Please come in and take a seat."
He didn't give me much choice. He practically shoved me into the room and towards a chair.
"What can I do for you, Robin?" he asked cheerfully, "Are you not feeling well? Does it hurt anywhere?"
"Nothing like that." I told him, "I wanted to see how you were doing. You seem to be enjoying yourself."
"Oh yeah!" said the little reindeer, "Having my own quarters like this makes me feel more like a doctor than ever before!"
"I'm very glad to hear that, Cho… Cho… Ch…" No… Why can't I do it? "Show me around?"
"Sure!" the little doctor said. He showed me all the medicines and tools he had purchased in Water Seven. He had also had the shipwright install equipment for performing surgery in a room next door if it became necessary. He explained everything, up to and including his system for organizing it all.
"Scent can sometimes be clearer to me than sight. So with strong smelling medicines I made sure to line them up so that every item is next to something with equally distinctive smell. I can find things very quickly this way."
I wasn't really listening. Not like I should have been. My mind was elsewhere. Why? Why couldn't I say his name?! I did it with the captain! Why not the doctor, too?! I got up to leave, the doctor watched with a sad expression.
"Leaving?" he asked.
"Yes, I-I just r-remembered something I need to do. Thank you for the tour… Cho… Ch…"
I didn't even bother to hide what I was saying. I went out the door and walked away as fast as I could. The shipwright watched me leave. He must've realized what had happened because he approached me looking concerned. Before he could get close, however, I ran away. Where to, I had no idea. Big a ship as this was, there were only so many places I could go.
I wound up in the lounge. An area the shipwright had created for relaxation. The furniture was comfortable and the aquarium was nice to watch. A few moments of calm thought helped. My inability with the doctor's name had left me rattled. To fail after success was never pleasant. I sat quietly watching the fish, when suddenly a large one splashed into the aquarium. That could only mean one thing. Any moment now…
"Let's get a good look!" a voice called out. That was when the crew's sharpshooter and sniper ran into the room. He excitedly watched the new fish he'd caught and put into the aquarium swim around. He seemed to take no notice of me. I stood up, hoping the leave the room before he did notice, but he caught my reflection in the glass.
"Oh. Hey, Robin. Didn't see you there." he said.
"H-hello." I said. I didn't dare attempt even a nickname now.
"Are you okay, Robin? You look kind of upset."
"It's nothing. Really."
"Don't give me that." he said, eyeing me, "Franky's looking for you, you know? He seemed worried."
"Really." he said, "What's bothering you? I can tell there's something."
"Nothing, I said! Nothing at all U… u… us… Damn it!!"
All pretext abandoned, I ran out of the room, slamming the door behind me. Long Nose called out after me but I ignored him.
Sometime later I was in hiding outside near the kitchen. Tears ran down my face. I wasn't sad. I was frustrated. Furious with myself. Why?! Why couldn't I do it?! They're only names, aren't they?! No… they aren't… they're far more than that. These people have accepted me. As I am, after seeing me at my worst. For me, saying these names was my way of truly accepting them.
"So why can't I do that?!" I sobbed. I don't know how long I sat there for. I do know it was some time later when I noticed several shadows standing over me. I looked up and saw the rest of the crew. They were all staring at me, as if in disbelief. All but one. Behind the others stood the shipwright, observing from the side lines.
"You… did you…?" I asked him. But the crew answered for him.
"Sandwiches…" the cook said.
"Nice weather…" muttered the navigator.
"Sorry to disturb you…" the swordsman whispered.
"Show me around?" the doctor asked.
"Luffy…" the captain finished.
"Robin!" Long Nose said, "Why didn't you say something?"
"I… that is…"
"It's like I said. She was worried you'd find it strange if she did it so suddenly." the shipwright answered in my place.
"Robin…" the navigator said sadly.
"We wouldn't find it strange at all!" the doctor said.
"And even if we did…" Long Nose said, "Robin, if just saying our names means that much to you can say them! Forget how weird it may be. To us, or yourself."
"That's right, sweet Robin!" the cook exclaimed, "I for one would be ecstatic to hear my name pass through your sweet lips."
"You'd be pleased even if she told you to f-"
"Watch your freakin' mouth, cabbage head!" the cook suddenly screamed. The swordsman blocked the kick sent his way with the sheath of one of his swords.
"Look," the swordsman said as he pushed the cook's kick away, "Whatever you want to call me, go ahead. I don't really care."
"But… I… I've tried…"
"Don't try." the captain said, "Just do it."
"No!" Long Nose said, "Robin's having too much difficulty doing this herself. This needs more extreme action!"
Everyone, myself included, looked at him.
"I say none of us leaves here until Robin's said all our names at least once!"
The crew brightened at this idea.
"That's right!" the doctor proclaimed, "If you can't do it yourself, then it's up to us to help you!"
"That's what a crew's for." the captain added.
"No buts!" the navigator said, she stood me up and made me face everyone. Holding me firmly by the shoulders she called out, "Okay, guys! Line up!"
The cook enthusiastically got in front of me first. I looked at his expectant face. They were really going to…
"Okay now," the navigator pressed, "Say 'Sanji.'"
"S-s-s-…" I stammered, "San… Sa…"
"We aren't going anywhere until we're finished." the navigator told me, "In fact, we're not even going to have lunch until you've said all our names!"
"WHAT?!" the captain screamed, "Robin! You gotta say our names! Right now! That's an order!"
"You heard him, Robin." Long Nose said with a grin, "You can't disobey the captain's order!"
Finally I took a deep breath, "SANJI!!"
All was quiet for a moment. The cook stood there, grinning.
"Sanji…" I said, again.
"YYYYYYEEESSS!!!!" the cook cheered. Everyone joined in. To my surprise I started to blush.
"Next!" the navigator called out.
The little doctor leapt up and down, as if he thought he had to get my attention.
"Say me next! Say me next!"
"Chopper!" I said. Another cheer and Long Nose came up next.
"Now it's my turn!" he said.
"Usopp!" I said. He didn't step aside immediately. He reached into his bag and pulled a mask out of it.
"Now, who am I?" he asked in a deeper voice, with the mask over his face.
"Soge King!" I said with a laugh.
"Okay, Okay, Okay," he went on, ready to do something else, but the swordsman pushed him away.
"Give the next guy his turn, Usopp!" he told him, then turned to me, "Well?"
"Zoro." I said. Now that I'd started it was getting easier. The captain stepped up.
"Luffy." I said.
"Can we eat now?" he asked the navigator.
"Not yet!" she turned me around to face her. She waited.
"Perfect. And finally…"
She turned me around again, this time I was face-to-face with the shipwright. He actually looked a little sheepish.
"Hope you ain't mad I told them everything."
"I'm not." I said, "I'm glad you did. Thank you, Franky."
"Super job!" he said as way of congratulations, he struck a victory pose on my behalf, "That's all of us!"
"Yes!" the captain cheered, as did everyone up until he said, "So can we eat now?!"
"Yes, we can eat now." said the navigator. With that everyone headed for the dining room for lunch. I hesitated briefly, elated with what had happened. No longer were they captain, swordsman, navigator, long nose, cook, doctor, and shipwright.
Smiling, I went to enjoy a meal with Luffy, Zoro, Nami, Usopp, Sanji, Chopper, and Franky.
AUTHORS NOTE - TITLE: The story's title is a reference to the manga's tendency to title chapters where a character officially joins the crew things like "The First Person" (Zoro), "The Fourth Person" (Sanji), "The Second Person" (Nami) and so on. With Zoro being "First" and most recently Franky being named "Seventh," this makes Robin the "Sixth Person." However she has yet to actually receive the title in-manga, which means she's still on "The Path to Becoming Sixth."