Title: Never Meet Again
Rating: Pretty tame, actually, PGish
Spoilers: None
Author Note: I wanted to write something truly depressing. (Cuz I've been in the mood for it). So I got this CD while I was in England and this song was on it ... and ... well... it's about a dolphin, but ignore that for now, cuz it just REALLY struck a chord with me. I listened to it about a million times and started imagining it through Luffy's eyes. Well... I got myself pretty darned depressed that way and so "EUREKA!" I wanted to write it!

XOXOX

It hadn't taken as long as everyone expected it would. Not that long to catch the trail of One Piece. Not that long to sail the expanse of the Grand Line. Not that long for some strange, scrawny kid to become King of the Pirates. Not so long in the grand scheme of things. Not so long in the eyes of the world watching a fairly small ship with its fairly small crew.

To those who lived upon that ship, however, it seemed to take forever. Especially after a very certain encounter on a very specific day. A seemingly normal day, with a quite ordinary battle, until it came time to count heads at the end. Until they discovered they were one less straw hat pirate. One less important nakama. One less irreplaceable first mate.

It never took long to scour such a small ship, but each crewmate did it three times that night anyway. Every board, every rope, every inch of their home was inspected. No prize rewarded their search. No sword, no scabbard, no black cloth was found. Not even a single green thread could be seen to prove a certain man existed there mere hours before.

Desperately their combined voices skipped across the waters. Calling a name. Calling an honorific. Calling an expletive every now and then. Days went by. Each island in the area was searched. Each ship they came across investigated. Through it all, the man they each called Captain grew quieter and quieter. Soon, the only time he would speak was late at night, when the moon was at its peak. When his crew pretended to be asleep. When they pretended not to hear him desperately call out to the inky blackness of the sea. When they liked to assure themselves their missing nakama would show up soon. When they still had faith.

Dreams called to each of them. Dreams they had each sought separately, yet together. Ships full of dreams cannot stay still for long, and so they ventured off. Continued their course. Continued their adventures. Continued believing their missing swordsman would find them eventually. Then they would celebrate and rejoice and tell him of all the things they had seen and done since he had gone. They continued looking to the far horizon for a familiar shape, while their Captain continued to call into the night, and they continued to pretend that they didn't hear.

At each port their Captain would wander the streets, desperately seeking out every hint of green, every glint of a sword, every heavy tred of a boot. At each port they would find themselves shopping for someone who wasn't there. Perhaps he would need a new whetstone when he returned. This islands special ale would surely appeal to him. One could never have too many white shirts. With loving care each package was tucked into a trunk, now rarely used, and stored away for future use. For the future when their crew would be complete once more.

Years rolled slowly by. Years which found each nakama's dream realized. Years that found lost fathers, world maps, great medicines, All Blue … and One Piece. Until there was only one dream left. One dream that couldn't come true without the person who sought it. One dream that suddenly meant more to each of them than all of the others. One dream that made them seek out a lone man with a black sword.

He found them first. Found them during a blood red sunset. Sidled up to their ship with his small raft and flickering torches and determined eyes. Giant black sword strapped to his back and a smaller, more familiar, white one held reverently in his hands. Gently he laid the katana into the arms of the Pirate King. Gently he placed his hand on the younger man's shoulder. Gently, he spoke of finding the sword, neglected, in a shop that did not know its value. Carefully, he mentioned the shop keeper knew nothing of its rightful owner. Silently, he expressed his regrets and left them for the sea.

Grief spread slowly through the ship like a virus. Each member dealing with it differently. The maybes, and one days, and what ifs of many years past … dissolved into tears. They turned into words like never, and forever, and gone. Through it all, the Captain held tightly to the sword and only gazed into the sparkling sky. That night, for the first time in as long as they could remember, their Captain was silent. No cries echoed off the rolling waves. No mournful wails made them cover their ears and screw their eyes tightly shut.

The next morning a polished and gleaming sword was found secured in a dusty trunk, wrapped carefully within clothes not worn in years. The next morning they approached their Captain, weary and distressed and unsure of their next action. The next morning they turned to the man they had each witnessed blossom into the King of Pirates. The next morning they simply said 'what now?'.

The next morning they were greeted with a dazzling smile that could rival the sun, and a brief but cheerful answer.

"Whaddaya mean, 'what now'? We go find Zoro, of course."

X fin X