Disclaimer: One Piece not mine.

Summary: He's a friend of the future Pirate King and that makes even the weakest, most cowardly runt believe. [Coby]

Sails Unfurl

Coby knows he's not strong. He's never been strong, not like Luffy, who is still everything he wishes he could be and so much more. He knows exactly what he is – weak, cowardly, runt. He hates these labels for how right they are, and how readily he'd been willing to accept them in the past. No more.

He might never be Luffy's Nakama (even the thought dazzles him, makes his chest hurt like after one of Garp's infamous punches) but he's been acknowledged as a 'friend' and that's one label he's proud to bear. He's a friend of the future Pirate King and that makes even the weakest, most cowardly runt believe that there's something in himself – small perhaps, buried perhaps – that Luffy has seen and he has missed. Coby is willing to train until all his bones break, until pain is all he knows, to do justice to this faith, even if he sometimes fears it is misplaced.

He'd once thought his way of surviving was practical. Excruciatingly humiliating, but practical all the same. After all, what other options did he have? What was a boy, born plump and soft-willed, to do? It'd taken one Monkey D. Luffy to slap him back into harsh reality. And the reality was that the effort of holding onto a scrap of dignity, of being able to look himself in the eye without flinching, was wearing him thin to the bone. The price of being a coward was high, far higher than he'd ever dared to contemplate. He might have kept his life, but for that, he'd traded away everything else of value. Pride, ambition, conscience.

Coby finally understands. Luffy makes it look easy because it should be. To stand tall and unyielding beneath an open sky, that is the way Coby wants to be, for always. It might be a short life, but what a life.

The fear is still there, but it is not Coby's jailor anymore. He's free now, wandering, still far too weak and soft-willed for his liking, but inching his way towards becoming someone he could respect. In the quiet, solitary moments, he is no longer repulsed by the company he keeps.

Coby's self-proclaimed goal is Admiral, and he desires this with an almost frightening intensity and a trace of lingering shame. But when he dreams of the distant future, there is an image that inevitably comes to mind – faded like a liberally handled and well-loved photograph. It is of a boy-man with an old straw hat (seen many a storm and many a battle), a tattered and triumphant pirate cape thrown across his thin shoulders. He might be smiling. His hand is extended, sunburnt fingers reaching.

Coby is waiting, training, counting down the days until he is finally worthy of clasping that hand. Wait for me, Luffy-san.