Prompt: Create a story or poem inspired by a line in a David Lehman poem: "Death was last seen in the auction room, looking worried."
"Yes! Thank you fate! Thank you God! Thank you!"
"Oi! Don't give'm credit's 'at mine! Thank me!" Mercy bellowed in the disease-ridden man's face. He growled and pushed him gently towards the exit. The man, unfrightened by Mercy's gruff demeanor, smiled and laughed to the empty roof.
"Thank you Mercy!"
Those still seated in the auction room tittered among themselves. Mercy had been making more purchases than usual- no, that wasn't what made everyone so apprehensive. It was Death they were worried about. Mercy, Chance, Youth, and countless others had been doing their best to make Death's job more lenient.
And that made Death cranky.
Death snorted and jerked forward, skeletal knees crashing against the wooden bench in front of him. He scowled at Resignation. "Whaddya want?"
Resignation wordlessly pointed one dusty finger to the stage. Two new lots were being brought up by the cloaked man with the giant key. They were a man and a woman, each seemingly completely relaxed in the ethereal auction room.
"Oh great." Death's features twisted like putty. "Them."
"You know them?" Curiosity asked. She wasn't there to purchase- she just wanted to take a look at today's batch.
"Yeah, I do." Death coughed uncomfortably in his sleeve and slouched down. A few rows over, Humiliation was whispering to the entity beside him and snickering. Death glowered and looked at the cloudy floor.
"Lot numbers 2926 and 7717. Nico Robin and Roronoa Zoro. We will begin the price at a hundred thousand Grasps."
"What?" Death bolted upright. "That's not even half of what one of them is worth!"
"Better act fast, I think Chance has his eye on both of them." Curiosity whispered. Death growled and looked over at the vibrant arm waving in the air.
"One hundred thousand."
Death glared at the two perfectly content humans up on the stage. "No. They're not getting away this time."
"Do you think the others are worried?" Robin murmured, watching as the bid escalated higher and higher.
Zoro snorted. "I doubt it. Or not. Yeah, I wouldn't be surprised if they were freaking out."
"This isn't my first time here, actually."
"Really?" Zoro glanced at her. "When was the last time you visited the Auction House?"
"On the Bridge of Hesitation." Robin said. "Strength got me out of here. Then there were those times I was stabbed, shot, poisoned, half-drowned-"
"Strength? Yeah, he's a pretty nice guy. So's Luck. I don't see Mercy here though." Zoro frowned, scanning the crowd.
"Mercy? You were once bought by Mercy?" Robin stifled a giggle.
"Oi, we don't get to decide who gets us out. I remember when Death nearly got me." Zoro grinned fondly at the memory. "He was just a hundred Grasps short of Fate's offer."
"Fate can be beaten?" Robin looked mildly surprised.
"Yeah. Here, it's just about the bid."
"A hundred fifty thousand Grasps!" Torture cried out shrilly.
"Two hundred." Amnesia called out hesitantly. Death tightened his grip on a handful of his musty old cloak. He swiveled around to look at all the other bidders nervously. Everyone knew how valuable those two were. After all, not every human escaped Death more than thrice.
"Five hundred thousand!" Death called out on a whim. Disbelief- another spectator- gasped. The crowd began to murmur.
"Five hundred thousand, we have five hundred thousand." the Voice declared. "Anyone else?"
"Now should we be worried?"
"He's never offered that much." Zoro said incredulously, playing with the filaments around his neck.
"Death must be especially determined this time." Robin said lightheartedly.
"Five hundred thousand, going once, going twi-"
"Six hundred thousand." Life quietly spoke up. Everyone stopped conversation at once. Life never bidded. Never. It wasn't that he was the same as Mercy or Chance or Fate, all of whom could be intercepted by Death, it was that he was Life. The only being who stood in Death's way.
Death cursed under his breath.
"Who is that?" Robin asked.
"I have no idea."
"Do you think he will help us?"
"What did I just say?"
"Six hundred fifty thousand." Death shouted, sending one of his special glares at Life. Life calmly stared back at him in the eye and turned back to the stage.
"Nine hundred thousand."
Death slowly sat back down in disbelief, deaf to the commotion around him.
"That guy's loaded!" someone whispered.
"No kidding, he's probably been saving up since forever."
"Why's he trying to buy those two? S'nothing special 'bout them."
"Life's just weird like that."
"Yeah, he is."
"Nine hundred thousand, we have nine hundred thousand, going once, going twice, sold!"
Death buried his face in his hands and groaned. He was so sure he was going to get them this time.
Robin and Zoro said nothing as their bidder slowly brought them down from the stage, his entire figure obscured by a blinding glow. He wordlessly led them to the exit at the end of the aisle, away from the dimly lit stage and the whisperings of the spectators.
"Who are you, anyways?" Robin finally asked as they reached the end of the Auction House.
"You should know. You once called out for me." the figure said as the filaments around their necks disappeared and the Auction House slowly began to fade away.
Death spat at Life's feet, but the otherworldly being took no notice. The cloaked entity growled and clenched his fists. He'd get those two next time. He'd guarantee it.
Nami looked to the side just in time to see a stray bullet pierce Robin's neck and Zoro clubbed in the back of the head by a brute with an enormous mace. She screamed at the same time Luffy pummeled Zoro's attacker overboard and Sanji dove across the deck to catch Robin.
Zoro stumbled, the sword in his mouth slipping out. There was blood trickling down the back of his neck.
"Robin! Zoro!" Nami screamed. Chopper roared with fury and swept six pirates into the air with his antlers. Franky blasted a dozen away with his ammunition and Usopp started a fire on the ship beside the Sunny. Brook was already sheathing his sword, the remaining pirates spurting blood from surgically precise cuts.
Luffy grabbed Zoro's arm and pulled him upright just as he was about to fall foward. Sanji was roaring for Chopper while trying to staunch the blood pouring from Robin's bullet wound.
Nami staggered over, her breathing heavy. Zoro's eyes were rolled back in his head and Robin's were glazed over.
"... What the hell are you guys screaming about?" Zoro muttered after three strained seconds, the sword finally falling out of his mouth and clattering to the deck. He straightened up and gingerly touched the blood on his head. "Damn, must have cracked my skull or something."
"Chopper." Robin blinked and her eyes cleared. She winced as she registered the pain in her neck. "It's just a graze, really."
"Don't move! You too, Zoro!" Chopper ordered as he carefully took Robin from Sanji's arms in Heavy Point to take her to the infimary. "I don't know how you're still conscious, but... just come with me, okay?"
Zoro looked over and saw the tears brimming in the reindeer's eyes. He closed his mouth just as he was about to protest that he felt just fine. "Yeah. I got it."
Luffy sighed out in relief and grinned brightly. "So everyone's okay!"
"You idiot, Robin-chan's hurt!" Sanji ran to the railing, shouting curses after the retreating pirate ship with their flag on fire.
"That was too close." Usopp sighed.
Nami laughed weakly. "But... it's Zoro. And Robin. It's going to take much more than a scratch and a bump on the head to take them down."
Death sat huddled in a corner as a new lot was brought up to the stage. He quickly shuffled the Grasps in his hand, counting them up.
Next time, he'd be ready.