Morning found Fukurou, Jyabura, and Kaku lounging beneath the colorful awning of a cafe not far from their hotel.

Jyabura had his arms crossed and was grumbling to himself.

This drew Kaku out of his troubled thoughts and he stared at the older man. "What are you still pouting about?" he asked.

"I wanted to go shopping with Kalifa..."

Fukurou burst out laughing at that, but Kaku just gave him a horrified look. "Good heavens, why?"

The wolf-man was trying to cut off Fukurou's cries of, "Jyabura likes clothes shopping, chapa!" so Kaku continued.

"She used to make me go shopping with her on Water-7, " he said. "It was terrible! She makes you try things on right there in the store, and constantly asks your opinion, and if you say the wrong thing she kicks you!"

With Fukurou's mouth firmly zipped, Jyabura sat back and said, "I don't know about the kicking part, but most women are like that. They also have weird taste when it comes to picking out clothes for men." He crossed his arms and started grumbling again. "Dammit, I just know she's going to make me look ridiculous."

"She won't," Kaku countered. "Kalifa has excellent taste and you know it. You just wanted to go because you wish to womanize her."

"I don't womanize!" His chair screeched as he stood up and banged his palms on the table. The passing tourists were already giving their group a wide birth, but this outburst caused a number of them to stop and stare. "Being nice to women does not make me a womanizer! And what are you punks lookin' at!"

The audience quickly scurried away as Blueno returned with a tray of drinks and a newspaper under one arm. "You're making a scene," he admonished as he handed out the beverages and sat down. He took a drink of his own black coffee and unfolded the paper to the first page.

Jyabura plopped back down in a huff. "I wouldn't chase Kalifa anyway. I'm way to old for her, and she has her eye on someone already." He sipped at his whipped-cream topped strawberry frappachino.

"She does?" Kaku asked in surprise. He might have waited for an answer, but he noticed what Jyabura was drinking and snickered.


"That drink," he chuckled. "It's rather..."

Unable to resist, Fukurou unzipped his mouth and shouted, "Chapa, Jyabura also likes girly, fruity drinks!"

He and Kaku both started outright pointing and laughing, but surprisingly Jyabura did not freak out. Instead he serenely enjoyed another swing of his frappichino, smacked his lips, and said, "Say what you want, but this is delicious."

It only made them laugh harder.

He ignored them for a couple of minutes, then interrupted them by saying, "Oi, Blueno. Anything about us in there?"

Blueno took his time changing the page as the others calmed down enough to listen. He slowly shook his head. "They're blaming all the destruction on the unusually strong Aqua Lagoona, and there's mention that some government officials might have aided the pirates, but there's nothing about us specifically."

"What about the Straw Hats?" asked Fukurou. He leaned forward hungrily.

"Some burned wreckage of their ship was found, but there was no sign of the crew. It's assumed that they escaped." Blueno turned the paper around to show off the centrefold. "Also their bounties went up quite a bit."


Kaku and Fukurou both slammed their fists down on the wolf-man's head to stop his outburst.

Blueno went back to his reading while they bickered, and he didn't notice when a frantically cooing white pigeon landed on his right horn.

"Hunh? Hattori?" Jyabura put up a hand to stop the others from talking. He listened intently, then bared his teeth and growled.

"What is he saying?" asked Kaku.

"Lucci woke up."

They all fell silent at that, their heads lowered as they though of the implications.

Kaku was the first to speak. "How is he? Is he still in the infirmary?" he asked the bird.

Hattori cooed an answer that Jyabura translated as, "He's sitting up in bed, but he's just staring at nothing and he won't respond to me."

Rising from his seat, Kaku said, "I'll go speak to him. You should all stay here."

"What the hell Kaku?!" Jyabura also stood up. "Like you can handle him alone. If he tries to kill you, you're gonna need back up."

But the younger man was already running away, pigeon in tow.

Jyabura made to go after them, but Blueno caught his arm and said, "It's fine. I doubt Lucci will hurt him."

The door creaked as Kaku slowly opened it and peaked into the infirmary. The doctor and nurse who ran the place were on tip toes, staring shoulder.

It was just as Hattori said, Lucci was sitting up, hands fisted in his sheets, staring blankly at a point about three feet from the end of his bed. He had a piece of red liquorice sticking out of his mouth in a way that it looked like a droopy, red cigarette.

"Well I'll be," whispered the doctor.

Putting out an arm to stop them from entering the room, Kaku said, "We lost a lot in the wreck and I don't know how he'll react. Please give us a moment."

The doctor shrugged. "Hey, you're the payin' customer, but I should take a look at 'im soon."

Kaku nodded. "Thank you."

He stepped into the room and quietly closed the door behind him. Picking up a chair, he made his way over and settled himself next to his partner's bed. Hattori arrived in the window as he was examining the candy in Lucci's mouth.

"I'm guessing you did this?" he asked the bird. Hattori responded with an unblinking stare.

"I'll just," he carefully reached around, took the end of the liquorice between his thumb and middle finger, tugged it loose, and placed it on the night stand, "put that there."

Hattori continued to stare at him, and Lucci didn't react at all. Kaku was growing worried now so he pointed one long finger at his partner and gulped.

He was not scared of Rob Lucci normally, but he knew that prodding an unresponsive assassin, no matter who they were, was as stupidly dangerous as doing the same to a sleeping tiger... or leopard. However, caution was not one of his strong suits. He took a moment to reflect on his life, then gently poked Lucci in the shoulder.


"Lucci?" Poke, poke. "Hello?"

He froze. His wrist was suddenly caught in an iron grip that felt more like a bear trap. He was sure he was about to lose his hand.

Ever so slowly Lucci blinked and looked around the room, his eyes finally falling on the one who's arm he was trying to wrench off. "Oh... Kaku." He let go.

Kaku rubbed his wrist and sat back with a relieved smile. "Good. I'm glad you're finally awake. How do you feel?"

Lucci began examining his bandaged body, clenching and unclenching his fists. His eyebrow twitched, he shut his eyes, bared his teeth, and leaned forward. "Like I've been beaten to within an inch of my life," he said. His voice was slow and grave. He was panting, covered in sweat, but he still managed a small smirk, "What an interesting sensation."

With a chuckle, Kaku said, "You should try laying back down. You'll feel better."

Lucci stared at him owlishly, face full of doubt, but he did as suggested. Once he relaxed back on his pillow, he let out a shaky breath. "Yeah... this is much better."

Kaku chuckled again, then crossed his legs, laced his fingers together, and rested his chin on them.

It took a few moments, but Lucci gathered himself enough to say, "So. Did the Straw Hats escape?"


"How many?"

"All of them."

Lucci's eyes drifted closed. It looked like he was about to fall asleep. "Even Nico Robin?"

"Robin, Cutty Flam, the whole lot."

"And I suppose Spandam blamed it all on us?"

Kaku straightened at that. "He told the Marines that one of us went rogue. We're being hunted. How did you know?"

"Why else would we be in St Poplar and not the hospital in Marineford." Lucci sighed. "This is bad for you, isn't it?"

Shoulders stiffened, Kaku lowered his eyes and didn't answer.

"What will you do?" Lucci's eyes cracked open and he shifted his head to level a curious gaze at his partner. "Will you go back where you came from?"

"No." Kaku answered, his voice hard. "That would be the worst course of action." He was quiet for a long beat. "What about you? You can't be pleased with all of this. The others feared you might go on a rampage."

Lucci stared up at the ceiling, his eyes distant with that expression he had when he first woke up, the one that Kaku didn't recognize. His partner posed that like a question, so he answered. "No. I'm tired."

"Then will you try to rejoin the Government? Or seek revenge against the Straw Hats?"

A thoughtful pause. "Why would I want either of those things."

Kaku's brow lowered in confusion. "Why wouldn't you?"

Again the answer was slow in coming. "Justice is defined by those in power. I never doubted that the World Government's power was indisputable, and I've never been proven wrong until the Straw Hats. It's... refreshing." He closed his eyes. "I think I'll do my own thing for now."

"God help us all," Kaku said with a grin.