Y is about Chopper, and his troubles between being a doctor and being the Straw Hat's doctor.
Z... I wanted closure since this is the last chapter for this series and I actually went to the beach and just stood there for a full hour just thinking because of this. I wanted a deep Luffy, struggling between the world's hostility towards Ace for being the son of the Pirate King, and his own memories and feelings towards Ace as a brother. Enjoy! This is my last chapter but if anybody has suggestions, prompts, ideas for one-shots, multichapters, AU, anything and everything, don't hesitate to tell me! I'm sososo bored. And always, love to everybody who reads and reviews and favs and alerts!
Y is for Yes, the answer Chopper must not give
Momento mori, was the first rule Chopper learned while growing up in the silent castles of Drum Island. Remember mortality, Dr. Kureha had never stopped warning him, and it was one of the hardest to heed because Dr. Kureha wasn't telling him to remember his own mortality. It was the others' mortality Chopper wasn't supposed to forget, the fact that some days, sometimes, no matter how skilled the doctor was, and how hard the doctor tried, some people couldn't be saved. Some people died.
("Remember mortality, and accept that you cannot save them all Chopper. Or else, it will destroy you."
"Yes, Dr. Kureha.")
Acceptance stood its hold against the guilt that dropped onto Chopper's slender shoulders the rare cases he did lose his patients(the grey flecked falcon that had broken its wing and starved for too long for anything Chopper gave to help, the snow-white fox that died of a broken heart after losing its mate) if only barely. On the sleepless nights Chopper would whisper to himself under the cover of thick cotten blankets, until the words blurred into each other and were worn out around the edges, until they became an overused mantra he could murmur in his dreams.
He couldn't save everybody and though that would never stop him from trying, it was the irrefutable, undeviating truth that he just couldn't.
And yet, that changed, his truth changed, when he joined the Straw Hat crew.
Because Chopper may try hard to deny but in the face of blood and death and frantic shouts, the truth boils down to this: Luffy may slip and Zoro may fall but Chopper, he must always succeed. The games they play are dangerous and the stakes are impossibly high but all of them dance to the meticulous tune with the unwavering faith that if they miss a step, Chopper will save.
So now, in the face of blood and death and his captain's frantic shouts for his doctor, Chopper reminds Luffy their truth.
"Yes," Chopper meets his captain's silent gaze and answers fiercely. "'l'll save him."
(One day he will meet Dr. Kureha and he will have to tell her what he did, does and will always do. She will be angry and he may be wrong but Chopper will not be sorry.)
"Did'ja hear that Zoro? Chopper's here," Luffy pats his semi-conscious swordsman's uninjured stomach and the grin is blinding and the faith is unshakable. "You're safe."
(Chopper will never be sorry.)
Z is for Zoro. It just is.
(Luffy remembers Ace, standing before him with a hand outstretched, his back to the sun and the glare throwing shadows over Ace's grin. The light was too bright and Luffy was blinded. He closed his eyes.)
When a hand latched itself on Luffy's shoulder, despite his having been sleeping, Luffy did not lash out. He only opened his eyes and looked at his swordsman as if it were not in the dead of the night and the others were not snoring in their sleep. Luffy rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand as the lean swordsman, never removing the firm grip on Luffy's shoulder, told him.
"I have shift in five."
It was an invitation, and Luffy accepted. He slid off his hammock and tucked his bundle of blanket and pillow under his arm, before trailing after Zoro to the crow's nest. Together, they relieved Chopper of his shift and settled down to face the windows. They needed no light tonight; the sky was clear and the moon was bright against the dark sky. Luffy gazed at it, hugging his blanket closer like a cape when he wondered outloud.
"You woke me."
"...You were going to have a nightmare," Zoro said a beat later. He had pulled his swords to his side and one, Kitetsu, was out of its sheath for the careful and fond attention Zoro reserved for his weapons.
At that answer, Luffy plucked his hat off his head and placed it between themselves and his gaze returned to the sky. He did not mind the wakening; if Zoro said so it must be true. However... The soft brushing of cloth against steel was what filled the night until Luffy admited.
"I was dreaming of Ace."
The slow movements from his left never paused, and Luffy was glad because he did not know if he could say this in silence. He wondered if that made him a coward.
"He was still alive," Luffy forced himself to continue instead. "He was just smiling and…"
Strangely enough, Luffy's nightmares were not of Ace's last moments, not of the blood and tears and pride. His nightmares were not nightmares at all, they are the moments of Ace as what he thought the world saw Ace to be; sunshine, laughter and fierce love.
"But they killed him," Luffy cannot understand. "They wanted him dead."
It wasn't that Luffy didn't know pirates were crimminals who most considered were better off dead. He always knew that was what a pirate's life was about; that there may be fame and fun but there would always be more enemies. Luffy could accept that. He could accept the fights and battle because it was just a sort of rule. Pirates against marines. The important part of this however was, that it was just that, pirates against marines. Luffy had friends in the marine, like Coby and Smoker and there even used to be his own grandfather, but Luffy didn't mind because friends were friends but pirates and marines were pirates and marines. To Luffy, they fought, not out of malice but out of duty towards each other. It wasn't specific, and it wasn't personal.
"They wanted him dead."
But it became personal.
The world had wanted Ace dead, and it wasn't because they wanted pirates dead in general. They wanted, specifically, Portgas D. Ace, dead. The world singled him out and bated for his blood. And of course, Luffy would gladly take any and all risks to save Ace, yet, when it came down to the end, and he stood to shield Ace from the world's hate and spite, he couldn't help but think.
"They wanted Ace dead," Luffy looked down into his hands and protested softly. "But Zoro…"
He did not say that Ace was the one who dusted his knees when he fell, or the one he ran to when he had nightmares as a child. Luffy did not admit that Ace was one of the men he looked up to, always strived to catch up with. He did not, or at least tried not to, but what was left, the single, unshakable, absolute truth meant the same thing: "He's my brother."
Zoro slipped his sword back and straightened up. His reply was quiet and heartfelt.
Luffy, clenched his fists and despite it, could not stop the trembling.
"Zoro," Luffy twisted around to look at his swordsman and there was raw anguish and pain laid bare. "He was my brother. "
Because the world could turn its back all it wanted to, Luffy would stand by his brother's side and he did. But this time, their enemies had hated Ace not for what he became or what he did, but for who he was and that, Luffy thought, that hurt. Ace was Ace, his big brother who ruffled his hair and watched his back, Ace was Ace-how could they not see? How could they not love? Instead, the world ripped Ace from his honor and tainted him in sins that were not his and Luffy was left struggling, why?
There was a horrible strangled shake in his captain's words, but Zoro did not flinch. He had long ago abandoned his swords for the single more important thing and watched over his captain, close enough to brush sleeves though he does not. When he finally spoke, Luffy looked up, borrowing the strength he lent. Zoro was, like always, unwavering, sure and strong as the blade he bore.
"Ace was born as a sin and he died as a pirate," Roronoa Zoro, one of the bravest men Luffy knew, reminded him. "But he lived like a man."
Zoro promised quietly.
"They may have killed him, but they can't take that away."
(if Zoro said so it must be true)
Zoro watched his words soak in, and when he heard the deep sigh-the sound of Luffy finally relaxing-Zoro stood to offer his captain a hand.
"C'mon captain. Let's raid the kitchen and piss ero-cook off."
Zoro's back was lit by the moon high in the sky, and though Luffy couldn't see it, he felt the ex-pirate hunter grinning. Luffy broke into a matching grin of his own and took the hand.
(They too, shone, but like the moon; they did not blind. It meant Luffy would never have to turn away.)