A/N: It took me a long time to get into One Piece as a series, and it certainly wasn't something I ever thought I'd write for. However, when I got to the end of the Skypiea arc, I couldn't help feeling as if a scene was left out, a rare thing in a series that usually ties up all its loose ends. In any case, this is a one-shot moment between Wiper and Laki meant to fill that void, set during/after the end of episode 193, following the defeat of God Enel. The style is a little different from my norm, but I hope it works.
The celebration had been raging for hours. The bonfire at the center of the ancient city of Shandia was still ablaze, casting the shadows of drinkers and dancers over the ruins in weightless revelry. Not a cup in the city was empty. The bell had stopped ringing long before sunset, but the air did not suffer for lack of music—countless voices had taken up the cry in its place. We are here, they seemed to say as they echoed between the swaying bodies and the long-broken walls, which glowed red and yellow in the firelight like a city plated in gold.
Far away from the shimmer of the flames, one figure was sitting alone in the rubble of the rocks. The Shandian warrior Wiper leaned his bandaged elbow on a bandaged knee and pinched his tawny cigarette between his teeth, the pinprick of red light illuminating the bruises that discolored his face. There was wine on his breath but his eyes were clear. Too far from the fire to feel its warmth on his back, the broken warrior brought his hand slowly to his mouth and pulled away the roll of burning paper, his gaze fixed on the darkness of a city long sought and newly destroyed.
Footsteps approached him from the direction of the fire. Wiper looked up and caught the eye of the full white moon.
"So this is where you were. I knew you wouldn't go far."
Out of the thick night air, a second warrior of Shandia appeared at his side, her long black hair trailing like a shadow, separating only reluctantly from the darkness. Laki stepped level with Wiper and glanced down at his face, at the white spill of bandages that covered more of him than skin.
"You should be celebrating with everyone. This is the day we've all been fighting for."
Her words became the silence. The night air picked up to a breeze and hovered between them, dense with the moisture of clouds that constituted a world. Wiper looked at the roll in his hand, tapped it twice with his fingernail, watched the silver ashes sparkle to the ground. Half of them fell across his bare feet, another kind of dust.
"Yeah," he said.
Laki pushed her skirt flat against her knees and sat beside him on the cold limestone slab, the fabric tucked back against her skin. The curve of her shoulder brushed his through the bandages. She smiled. "It's the first day of a new beginning."
Wiper dropped his cigarette and put it out against the flagstones with his heel. The heat of the small coal made no impression on his face.
"Then why do you seem so unhappy?" she asked. The tiny glow of fire disappeared under Wiper's foot.
"Not unhappy. Just thinking," he said. The leader of the Shandian warriors lifted his left hand—the one unbroken—and slid his first finger across his throat. The bandages hissed under the movement. "Thinking I should have died in that last charge."
Laki's body stiffened against the cold stone. Her shoulder fell away from Wiper's, losing its only contact with the warmth of another body. Wiper didn't move. "Why would you say that?" she asked, her voice breathless, worried, in their pocket of the broken city.
Wiper did not answer for a long time. The silence between them stretched out like harp strings, playing a music beyond any hearing—the music of her fingers clenched into her plain blue skirt, of the motionlessness of his jaw. The moonlight covered them like a mantle, fighting the firelight to turn the city white again. At last the warrior sighed.
"The war is over," he said. He stood up from the rock but did not move away from her, the skin of his face and neck a deep brown in the shadows of his features. Otherwise he glowed—the bandages made him pale like he had never been, like a Skypiean, the same color as his right wing, silent and still behind his shattered arm. The left wing was missing and singed, black almost to the last line of feathers clinging to his back. Only a handful of those feathers swayed in the whisper of the breeze. "This is going to be a world of peace," he said, as much to the darkness as to her. "I don't know how to live in a world like that. Actually, it's people like me… who break worlds like that." Wiper shook his head, unsettling the thick red ponytail that ran down his back. "There isn't a place for me here anymore. That world… its edges and my edges, they don't line up. I don't fit."
His voice was harsh, but the words were said softly, almost too softly to carry to Laki's ears before the wind swallowed them up. Laki let them go without saying anything. She curled her hands into loose fists and her fingernails made faint crescents in the skin of her palms. Then she rose, too, and moved to stand in front of Wiper, looking up at him through the silence of the night—and in spite of the distance, her skin was golden-red in the firelight, the shadows of movement around the blaze helpless to conceal her smile.
"You don't have to," she said. She reached up and wrapped her golden arms around his neck, and stepped forward until her body was flush with his, her skin and his bandages becoming one in the moonlight. Laki pressed her face into the crook of his shoulder and breathed out slowly, cradling his broken arm against her chest. "You don't have to fit. I'll be right here. I'll be the right shape for the world, and you will be the right shape for me. We'll fit together."
Laki tightened her arms around his neck. Over her shoulder, Wiper stared into the darkness, not blinking. Not moving at all, even to breathe.
"That isn't a burden I would allow anyone to bear."
Laki's lungs were empty. Like him, she didn't breathe in. Didn't move at all, except one hand, pressing into the bent, blackened feathers at the crown of his broken wing. Smoothing them down against his back.
"What if it isn't a burden?" she asked. The question was a whisper, without an inhale. Laki shook her head against his shoulder, the loose strands of her hair soft as spider's threads on the cut of his stone jaw. "What if this space—the space between you and the world—is the only place I want to be? The only place I'll be happy?"
The warrior sighed again. His exhale took the place of the wind in her waiting ear. In the moonlight, with the fire to his back, his eyes were as black as still, deep water, as the broken ground beneath their feet.
"I want you to be happy."
Laki closed her eyes. It didn't stop the tears from sliding down her cheeks, one after another. They were silent until they touched the skin of his neck. Laki shook her head.
For a long moment, Wiper did not move. His eyes were locked on the distant shadows, specters of internal enemies made manifest in the midnight darkness. Then he lifted his left arm, pale, unbroken, and wrapped her in it, pulling her tight against his chest. His hand cupped the stairway of her ribcage, one finger to each bone. Laki leaned into him in spite of the bandages. Wiper leaned his cheek against the top of her head.
"You are the only one… who makes me feel I can fit anywhere," he said, and exhaled. The warrior closed his eyes. "I'm glad you're all right."
Laki curled her fingers into his hair. "You fit here. Right here. With me."