Author's Note: This is a rewrite! It's been years, and I've been stringing you all for the promises of getting this story on, but I would be a big fat liar. This story will be a slow progress due to several reasons: the first being work, I need money to pay for my car and its gas (along with feeding myself). The other reason is that I'm going to start school, so this is pretty much gonna go in hibernation. Third reason being I gotta go back and rewrite whole new chapters, my grammar is getting better! The last reason is reading through the manga at the very beginning! It's been awhile and some of the plot has passed over my head because I've been focused on the new manga updates. Anyway, I won't give you promises of early updates of chapters and what-not, so... without further ado, I present you this new one!

p.s. Please accept any or all apologies I can only type. ;^;

p.p.s. For any of you new to this story, I hope you like this. I mean, I like me a good SI-OC or girl-falling-into-OP fic, but I actually liked to try the GUY-version of it. Yes, to be clear, I am a female, but some of the stuff I read about guys kinda gets... I dunno, weird? Like it suddenly focuses on the guy's love-life with Nami/Robin/Vivi or any other girl out there in general or how fucking hardcore and edgy he is, or how he's suddenly more powerful than Luffy and the rest of the monster trio. I just want to take a story where it focuses on the guy going on an epic road(?) trip with his new-found buddies (*cough* crew mates *cough*), how normal he seems out of everyone, and how helpless he feels at times. Sorry if this sounds offensive to anybody who writes those sort of fics, but I'm seriously sick of reading those. Thanks for listening and read on!

p.p.p.s. THANKS for not giving up on me and/or this story!

Disclaimer: One Piece and its characters belongs to the ever talented Oda-sensei, my only feeble belongings are Reuben and Original Character(s)!

Warning: The story contains strong language and explicit descriptions of violence, viewers discretion is advised!

prologue —

People said that life had to mean something.

Life was a Greek tragedy, Shakespeare often displayed in his theatres; life was a pursuit to find inner peace against all odds, said Gandhi.

I was young. And foolish. I didn't know anything beyond the gum hanging off the underside of my shoe. Even at a young age, I understood that whatever answers I had about life didn't mean squat, 'cause really? What the heck would a nine-year-old know about the meaning of life? There was someone, beside my mama and daddy, who I thought knew about everything and anything when it came to my questions. Whatever stuff that bothered me, he would find the right words to say, even if he had to wrack his own brain for hours just to find the best answer to my queries.

'Course, it was like trying to start a lazy engine that took time to finally get the truck moving.

"Ain'tchya a little too young to be askin' those sorts o' questions, Rube?" my uncle chortled as he fondly ruffled my untamed black locks, making them look even more wilder than they already were (much to mama's chagrin).

Sitting on a crummy rowboat that my uncle bought some years ago (he swore to me that this little thing could tough it out in bad weather, could take him across the ocean and to the other side of the world if he really wanted to), he and I waited for fish to nibble on our baited hooks in the open bay we rowed ourselves into. The seagulls flew overhead, their cries heard for miles as they swooped around, looking for something small enough for them to pluck and eat. I smiled to myself, remembering when I saw that one movie from a year ago where they were like a bunch of babbling idiots that went crazy for two fish.

"C'mon," I tried again, pleading with him. I started pushing his side, jostling him into answering me. "Ya know the answer, don'tchya?"

"Jeez, Rubes, settle down, will ya! Yer gonna get us both thrown off the boat with yer rockin' it an' all!" my uncle shushed me, grinning like a madman.

Mama once called him a cat, all lazy and quiet, but then all mean and annoying the next moment. Daddy just ignored him, said it was the only good thing to do when the blasted cat was on the prowl for some trouble. My uncle laughed himself crazy, not minding at all about the name being thrown at him, some of his pals even thought the comparison was appropriate. I looked out at the bay, waiting for his answer because I knew that he was going to tell me, he and I liked to talk about things a lot, didn't sometime matter what they were about. The white birds were still flying, still crying, and I almost lost myself for a moment. Then his fingers buried themselves in my messy bush of a hair, a small hum coming from deep within his chest, almost like hearing a cat's purr.

"Well," he spoke after forever, his nails scraping my scalp in a nice way. "A lotta people wanna know the same thing yer wonderin' yer lil' noggin for."

He laughed as he caught my scrawny wrists easily with a single wide hand, stopping me from getting to his ribs that he would lose hold of his stupid fishing pole. After a moment, I simmered down. He lets me go to put his hand back into my black locks, continuing with raking his nails through my hair.

"Life is different for lots of people from lots of places. Life is, to a lot of people, nice and fun and somethin' to always look forward to. Some nice fancy-shmancy job, a good roof over their heads, fillin' their pantries with all sorts of food to keep their tummies fat, and closets lined up with nice clothes that lead to 'nother dimension! Like that one story where the little girl meets the goat man, 'member Rubes? Life is kind to them, people have all the time in the world to have fun and be happy, nothin' stoppin' people travelin' across the oceans to see all new sights we only see in picture books or movies, and they keep on goin' at it. And ya know, the best thing people do sometimes is just go out and get crazy, too! Like, people jump from way up in the sky and all the way back down to earth, it's scary stuff but it's a load of fun for them! Then there's people who like it quiet, who like to live life without stuff to own, just to be closer where there was no guns, no cities blockin' out the sun and moon and stars, no noise but the animals, the raindrops off the leaf of a tree, and the smell of the air rather than the smog.

"... But sometimes... life don't shine bright on other people who really need it. People can't be just as happy, can't be as smart to have those fancy-schmancy jobs, can't have homes or food, can't get away from things that bother and hurt them, can barely keep the clothes on their backs. Sometimes life leaves people angry, so angry that they let the angry spread around like a disease. Life makes people fight because the world didn't give 'nough for them, didn't leave 'nough for them. Life hurts people so bad that those people ended up hurtin' these people, and these people end up hurtin' so many other people because it's all they really know: how to hurt people. I... I don't really gotta say much, do I?"

I wished, God how I wished, that I never asked him this question. He didn't have to go in depth about how horrible human beings went so far to treat each other. It brought back the bad things me and my uncle and my folks would rather keep behind us. Talking about it made me sad, made my uncle sad. My uncle liked to believe that he could walk just as tall, have his head high in a proud and goofy way with his chesire grin-like face, and feel brave as his big brother. He was young, but he was older, too, and daddy always told my uncle was in a weird place when around that age. I would rather he be loud, rowdy, playful, and angry than looking so sad from just thinking about dark days that weren't quite millions of miles away from us, no matter the passing of years.

I smile at the feeling of him pulling me closer to his side, his fingers back into my hair as they scraped along my scalp very nicely. With my nose pressed against him, I could smell the cologne and after-shave smell I usually caught from my daddy (which I later found that my uncle was stealing from behind the older man's back). The smell always made me feel right at home beside him.

Being around my uncle was great. He was like the coolest big brother and second dad a kid like me could ever ask for: he would sometimes let me stay up late with him to watch stuff playing on the TV, he would sneak a candy for me in the shops while mama was looking for groceries to take home to make supper with, he'd help me with my arts and crafts projects for school, and he would always help me if I was ever in a bind. Some people in town talked about him as if he was a living legend of sorts, like one of the world's greatest mystery living amongst them. Daddy just called him an alley cat that liked to wander through the back streets behind buildings, always getting into a fight before coming back home after a big butt-whoopin' (half of which ended up him getting his butt kicked), yet he'd never seem to have the smarts to run from a fight. Mama and daddy said they were never gonna think about gettin' another pet cat, one was troublesome enough.

"Lotta people wanna know what life's suppose to mean, they spend so many years thinkin' about it, Rubes," he murmured, so quiet that I could barely hear his words over the waves that rocked against the boat like a cradle. "So, let me tell ya what life means. What it really means to you and me, the only way it would make sense for people like us who live the way we do. All the good, the bad, and everything in between, let me say this to you."

A sound, high-pitched and beautiful that broke through the sound of the seagulls overhead, made me look up. I found his eyes, shaded by his hat, staring straight down at me. The hat tipped back, threatening to be blown away by the small blustering wind.

I reached for the hat just as he was ready to tell me—

"Reuben! I swear to GOD Himself if ya don't get yer lazy ass up from that bunk I will personally throw ya off my goddamn boat!"

Ugh, Captain Godzilla was wreaking havoc and spewing fire as he opened his mouth.

My groggy eyes unwillingly opened from the false depths of security that was most commonly known as sleep. I forced myself up on the comforts of the small bunk bed, grabbing what I thought was my blue plaid shirt hanging off the side. Yanking on faded blue jeans, I did quick work in pulling on my boots before hopping off the bed and heading for the nearby sink where a pile of toothbrushes and barely any toothpaste were situated. I kept my toothbrush away from everyone else's since there had been times when someone would accidentally pick up another out of confusion.

My teeth squeaky clean, my face washed, and my mind awake, I stomped out of the men's quarters. Waiting for me in the hall with a map pulled open, a burly man in his mid fifties with a face that needed a good shaving after weeks out in the sea, looked up and shot a glare at my directions

Like everyone else on the Monte Blanc marlin fishing boat, Clant Hansley was not a happy morning person.

"'Bout damn time! Get yer ass movin', Rubes, we got a lot of hauling to do before we head on home!" he snapped before heading up the stairs on the main deck where everyone was.

I had been fourteen, all knobby-kneed and bony fingers, and I could barely lift a net alone without some extra help. There was restrictions of children working on a marlin ship, but people around these parts often looked the other way as long as they didn't say anything or made a big deal out of it. But somehow, I was able to work, feeling incredible at the end of the week when I got my first paycheck of a couple hundred dollars that soon turned to thousands. The next seven years, I would do whatever I could to help at the warehouse after school, cleaning and organizing with the guys, and during spring break or the holidays, I would go out to sea and help when I could fit the time before I had to head back for class.

It worried my folks, especially mama since she thought that I was growing up too fast from immersing myself in work rather than trying to make friends my age. Dad, though, didn't mind much since he himself had grown up without any friends for awhile, but he did tell me to slow down when I would return home with bruises and sore muscles doing heavy-lifting and non-stop work that made my scrawny body beg for respite. I had to admit that, sure, it got lonely being surrounded by a bunch of adults... and it got real tough when I would walk home and watch the parks and school yards brimming with kids my age hanging out and having fun...

But I really didn't want a repeat what kept happening over and over again as I grew. I could still feel the holes burning down my back when I walked through the school halls, the snickers and whispers as I knew people were replaying the image over and over in their heads about the stupid kid who thought he was part of something.

(Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice—)

Besides, the need to do something important overcame the need to let myself loose and be another teen who leeched off his parents money. A couple years after my high school graduation, I was finally about to head off somewhere to do more with my life just as my folks wanted me to: college.

I was going to be the first in my family to go and find a higher education with the money I saved up over the years. All that hard-as-hell money earning was gonna be put to good use.

And if that wasn't enough of a surprise, mama's announcement of her pregnancy floored us all. She was now happily four months along with the baby safe in her belly.

Pulling on the dark yellow rain gear since there was a small drizzle, I slapped my sou'wester on top my head and moved up to the deck of the fishing boat. There was a few greetings here and there from the crew mates, all of them in the process of fixing a couple lines that snapped to throw back into sea. The other half, which I belonged to, worked on sawing off the sharp noses of the marlin we caught before handing them off to be stuffed in the giant ice box.

Jesse, big, blond, and bearded, waved me over to his station and handed me a butcher knife. I wordlessly began the bloody process, avoiding chopping off fingers and pushing the fish to be replaced by another. I watched some of the left over meat get used as bait before one of the guys threw the line in the sea for a fish to get a whiff of...

I shuddered at last week's memory of pulling in a shark that got caught on our lines and nearly biting into one of the crew member's legs. Poor Mr. Turnbull had suffered a fractures bone, but he was lucky that the teeth didn't get to him. It was a well known fact that if the shark didn't kill you, the germs and bacteria in its teeth would.

"Here," Joshua said as he dropped another fish on our table. Wearing only the yellow rain pants, the red straps clung to his beefy shoulders. I was a little jealous that even after some years of doing some heavy-lifting that my body still held more of an athletic build than a wrestler build. "You ready to head home, Reuben?"

I nodded. "Yeah."

"Yep!" Jesse said loudly as he slapped a hand against my back, making me stumble against the table. "This boy here is gonna go to those frat boy parties, pick up chicks, and party like a porn star!"

I groaned at the roar of laughter that erupted all around me, wishing that Jesse would shut the hell up and keep his dirty fantasies to himself. I ignored the slap of hands against my shoulder and back, and even of one asking that I give them numbers of the pretty girls I would come across in the campus.

I couldn't wait to get back home because it meant I didn't have to be stuck with the same people any longer than I had to. Sure, everybody got along here fine, but there had been some tension that rose when two people kicked up a fuss and it only went downhill from there when there was not enough space for them to separate and cool their heads. That, and I missed seeing my family after being away at sea for several weeks, making me wonder if mama was pushing herself or if dad was finally finished with making that baby cradle that we both had a hard time trying to figure out how to build.

I could almost picture it in my head, walking up the sidewalk where a tall, white house stationed at the corner of the street. The blue picket fence that surrounded it was infested with vines that dad cursed up and down about since it grew faster than he could cut it. Mama's rose bush planted neatly around the porch with the swinging bench, the colorful wind chimes hanging off the side of the ceiling as it gave musical tinkles every time the breeze brushed it. The door opening to reveal mama, in her pregnant glory, smiling and glowing like the sun, telling me to hurry up inside since she went through the trouble of making me my favorite pie. And dad was at the shed, pulling out his tool box and telling me gruffly about damn time I arrived now that I could make myself useful and help him with the freaking baby crib.

I remembered what it was like being one of the people that awaited eagerly for the arrival of the person who had spent away from what seemed forever ago.

… I also remembered what it was like to find someone else waiting outside the door, telling me that the person I was waiting for would never come back through the picket fence full of vines up the porch with the wind chimes and through the door where food wafted through the house.

"How's yer mama, boy?" Cooper, older than Captain Hansley but still working like he was forty years younger. "Heard there was a bun baking in the oven."

"Oh, that's right!" Allerdyce, an asshole, but a harmless guy, pointed a glove finger at me from where he was knee deep in the ice box. "Yer gonna be a big brother!"

I nodded in confirmation, earning another round full of claps on my back with congrats told to me. A smile spread at the warmth in my chest and the genuine words that came out of the mouths of everyone in the Monte Blanc. Phil, round and tall, passed by my station with arm full of basket nets and decided to offer me an advice about baby siblings.

"Remember to buy yerself earplugs, kid. Trust me, those little suckers got a set of lungs like ya wouldn't believe."

Hours we spent of work by talking, joking, laughing, gossiping, and many more among other things. More fish brought up on board, more to cut up, more to stuff in the growing ice box, and more lines to throw back in the water to repeat the cycle. The mood was light, but the more I stood, waiting for another marlin fish to come to my table, the more I would look over to Hansley who stood over the ice box, talking with Allerdyce's small group.

The fish were a lot, but they were not enough like the ones we had caught from a previous trip.

I didn't like the grim lines on Hansley's face.

The higher ups at port were not going to be happy about this when we delivered the goods to the warehouse. The fish were becoming more scarce as of late, and there was nothing we could do about it when we went along the usual fishing routes. We weren't the only fisherman in our harbor town to go out and catch marlins.

"Reuben, get back to work!" Hansley snapped, having caught my staring.

"Yes, sir." I muttered as I looked at the bloody table, waiting for Joshua to dump a fish that Cooper and the others had hauled on board.

We worked through the drizzle (that turned into a downpour later on) until nightfall. With the day gone, we backtracked the Monte Blanc to pick up the line we left, some hooks holding a marlin but most of them ended up being empty. With that done with, Hansley directed the ship homeward and took to radioing in a check-point to give the message that we were coming home.

I settled back in my bunk after stripping off my boots, pants and shirt before flopping back down on my bunk bed. I heard other bodies flop down as well, the guys groaning as they ducked under the covers with every intention of getting whatever hours they had to sleep. Just because we were heading home didn't mean our work was completely done with. Tomorrow we had to throw a big net out on the back of the ship to catch fish. We always did this last when the crew was heading back home; my guess was that we were trying to make up for the lack of marlin meat that we resorted to grabbing whatever else we could get to appease the people holding our paychecks.


"Pack up! We're coming to port in thirty minutes!" Hansley bellowed from the intercom, making everyone one wince at the volume.

"Jesus!" Jesse hissed as he poked at his ears. "And I thought Margie was gonna make me go deaf with her screechin'..."

"You still datin' her? I thought she dumped yer sorry ass." Joshua laughed, earning himself the withering glare of the blond beside him.

"That's just her ex causin' us grief from his bullshit lies he likes to spread across town just to make her miserable for leaving him broke! An' besides, my mama told me she liked Margie just fine."

"A mother's opinion is always the best opinion." Allerdyce agreed as he threw his duffel bag over his shoulder.

"That's why yer mama's sick of seeing your face everyday at her diner, Al!" someone ahead shouted that made everyone roar with laughter. Allerdyce only growled and flipped everyone the finger as he stomped up the stairs.

Shaking hands with some of the guys that were taking off further west to visit relatives (and to get away from the storm season that was fast approaching), I watched the harbor town grow bigger with several boats honking their greetings and giving a wave in our direction. There was a small crowd waiting on the docks, the people catching the ropes to pull in and secure the boat while Hansley shut down the engine and everything. With the walking platform set up, everyone on the Monte Blanc strode down and were welcomed by familiar friends. Mr. Turnbull was guided off the ship by his other crew mates before his two older sons took over to take him to the nearby hospital to get his poor leg checked out. Other than that big scare with the shark, everyone was fine and dandy.

It almost felt like a hero's welcoming when we came back after weeks of fishing.

I followed the crowd that was eager to see home, loved ones, and get an actual shower when everyone had little opportunity to use it. I almost stumbled over a gaping plank that caused me to drop my bag because I was distracted by what Allerdyce was talking about. I ignored the snickering ahead of me and reached for my bag, and that was right when something moved at the peripheral of my vision. I looked back and saw Hansley with Creedy "the greedy" Campton: the man holding the paychecks of all main nine fishing ships in his grubby hands.

Hansley looked angry, like, really angry. Creedy waved a clipboard, looking displeased (and when had he ever shown any expression other than displeasure and disdain for us fishermen?) with whatever was printed on the paper. I continued to stand there, feeling like I was watching something that I shouldn't as I watched the scene silently unfold before me. Hansley was pushing fingers in his short hair, looking frustrated by the oncoming onslaught of whatever Creedy was unleashing upon him.

It couldn't be about the amount of fish we brought back... could it?

"Reuben!" I startled and whipped my head around to see Joshua waving at me. "C'mon, man!"

I turned back to Hansley and Creedy and froze when I saw the two older men looking over at me, no doubt hearing Joshua's loud mouth. I cringed from the reprimanding look Hansley threw my way as he said something to Creedy before grabbing his things and heading towards me. I winced when his thick hand wrapped around my arm, pulling me along to head for mainland and join everyone.

"Sir, I—" I tried to say something, but Hansley cuts me off.

"Just go home to yer mama and daddy, Reuben." he growled before pushing me forward and going another direction. I stared after his retreating back, unsure and confused of what I had been watching. I looked back to where we were but found Creedy no longer there.

With a heavy feeling in my chest, I do as I was told and head for the bus waiting to send everyone to their neighborhood stops. The world was in a quiet somber that I couldn't hear the cheer and see the happy looking faces, too busy thinking about Hansley's angry face and Creedy's confrontation. So caught up with my own world that I was shaken back to awareness when Cooper pointed that the bus was half empty and that I was at my stop.

Saying a half-hearted farewell to everyone with the reluctant promise to meet up at the bar, I climbed out of the bus and watched it leave me to carry everyone else back home.

I walked two blocks down the wet sidewalk, waving at an elderly couple that gave their greetings in seeing me while dodging a few kids on their bikes coming my way. Just as I pictured in my head, as I made for the corner of the street, there stood a white house with a picket fence with crazy vines wrapped around the four corners. I unlocked the small hatch and swung it open to enter before swinging it shut behind me, walking towards the porch where the familiar old wind chimes swung and gave pleasant sound when the metal and glass brushed against one another.

I opened the door, calling out, "I'm home!"

Mama came around the corner, her hands wiping against the apron wrapped loosely around her round tummy, and I grin at her as I hurried to remove my boots and dump my bag on the floor to take her in my arms and hold her.

"Hey, mama," I kissed her cheeks, holding her close and smelling her coconut-scented shampoo. "How are ya?"

"Hey, baby," mama whispers as she presses a kiss of her own against my cheek and holding me more tightly. I frowned. Usually she was more cheerful and upbeat than this.

"Mama...?" I pulled away enough to look and find her head bowed. "Mama, what's wrong? And where's dad?"

She was silent for a minute, her fingers on my waist fidgeting and digging into my shirt. Finally, she looks up to me, her light brown eyes wet with unshed tears that threatened to escape as she stared up at me. That tight feeling in my chest that had stayed with me since leaving the port grew heavier, my worry increasing as I waited for an answer.

"Yer daddy... had a stroke." she choked out, her words a whisper like she couldn't truly accept if she said it out loud.

Thunder rumbled in the distance as dark clouds and strong winds began to approach the little harbor town.

-¤-¤-¤{Dulesday Beach Hospital}-¤-¤-¤-

I entered through the automatic sliding doors, passing the busy doctors, nurses, and patients that swarmed the place. My clothes were wet from the rain that poured outside, but the cold droplets were largely ignored as I made for the receptionist lady sitting on the other side of the tall counter. The receptionist, Mrs. Shaw, a plump black woman who used to give me candy when I was waiting for mama to be finished with her usual check ups at the maternity ward, gave me a sympathetic look.

"Second floor, room 244." she told me.

I wordlessly head to the elevator and pressed the second floor button, thankful that I was alone in the box. A lump formed in my throat but I held it back, I just hoped that nobody asked me anything before I made it to my dad's room. The door slides open and I step out, avoiding a wheelchair bound man and his daughter as they enter the elevator. I walk down the stark white halls, a tunnel vision encasing me that it ignored the people in scrubs and the patients in gowns all around me.

I reached room 244 and slowly opened the door, hesitant to see what was on the other side. The door opens and I step inside and turn around.

A lot of people told me that my dad was the definition of what a man should be: hard-working, tough-as-nails, and strong enough to take on whatever the world dished out at him. He had come to Dulesday Beach as an outcast but became something and made a name for himself as he grew. The town accepted him, mama fell head-over-heels in love with the older man, and had me that I grew admiring that I had such a tough daddy.

Now, he looked weak that he couldn't fight off a baby, his eyes drooping and twitching, and just out of sorts that it broke me to see him like this. I breathed in sharply before letting it out heavily as I took a seat next to his bed. I wiped the corner of my eyes, not wanting to break down because, like mama, I didn't want to believe this picture to be real. My dad was tough, he wouldn't let anything like this keep him down... which there lied the problem.

"When didjya get back?" his words slurred like he was drunk from heavy drinking (one of the reasons that got him in this bed).

"Just this afternoon." I told him, my voice slightly cracked from the lump still stuck in my throat.


It got quiet with the machines being the only things making noise. I stared at the knees of my jeans, noticing that they were starting to dry.

"Joel says," dad rasps out tiredly. "He says he's comin' soon to... to pick you up an—"

"Dad! No!" I snapped. "Are you crazy! I ain't gonna leave ya like this!"


"Forget it! I can go another time in the next semester! Until then, I'm gonna take care of you and mama—"

"Reuben!" dad snapped hoarsely, the heart meter machine making a high jump that the noise startled me into silence. Dad's tired face was morphed into unspeakable, cold fury as he glared my way.

"Dad..." I tried again, but the finger he points in my face shuts me up.

"I'll have no son o' mine throw away his future just 'cause his daddy went an' fainted." he growled, anger barely restrained. "Yer gonna go to college, I'm gonna be released and go back to work—"


"—And that's the end of that!" he snapped fiercely.

I stared at him with wide eyes that didn't hold back the tears that fell, my throat tighter than a wound up spring, and my body numb from the shock of dad's refusal for help.

The whole town saw dad as the definition of being a man: strong, tough-as-nails, and taking whatever the world dished out at him, never taking account that he was growing tired and weary from all the stress it would do to his body. It left my dad with a limp when he had an accident from a fishing expedition that he had been laid off when the injury became permanent. Construction was the next option, not much moving around for his job, but there was accidents. Worried for his safety, he was once again laid off to find another job. He found one in the form of a meat market distribution, simply driving around a forklift to load boxes full of meat into waiting trucks. The money wasn't much, but it was enough.

Until he collapsed from his stroke after doing too much overtime. With so many believing him, it started to get to his head that he was going to get up out of this hospital bed and expect to go back to work the next day.

My dad was strong, but he was only a man.

"Go home," dad ordered, facing the window where the storm continued. "Jus' go home."

I got up from the chair and left his room, tears continuing to fall as the lump came out in quiet sobs.

-¤-¤-¤{Shipwreck Den Bar}-¤-¤-¤-

I stared at my untouched glass, rolling the cup in my fingers as I sat at the far side corner of the rowdy bar. Joshua had a cute girl sitting on his lap while Jesse and Margie were snogging in some corner they thought was private enough (it wasn't). Allerdyce and Cooper were cheering in front of a flat screen for the Superbowl they missed, cursing and making bets of whose team was going to take the lead.

Clant Hansley was sitting in another corner with Edmund Buchannon, Helen Tiffin, and Marcus Thane, respective captains of the Black Baron, DeLuise, and Pale Rider. Elden Kontch, a secretary of Creedy's in the office (and was an all around good man in our book), was with them as they talked amongst themselves with whatever captains talked about.

I looked back to my drink and stared blankly at it.

Cowbells rang at the entrance of the bar but it was largely ignored. Just a bunch of men and women who worked their asses off all week taking a break by breaking out the Jack Daniels, Jaegermeisters, and Smirnoffs to make it a good night. A few stools away from me sat the newcomer at the corner of my eye and I couldn't help but look over to see who it was.

Creedy Campton.

Feeling eyes on his person, the old man glanced my direction before giving me his usual stink eye. I was too shaken up from my visit with dad to feel the effects of Creedy's glare.

"Somethin' wrong, boy?" he growls.

"I dunno," I answered monotonously. "Is there?"

Creedy huffs, swiping the bottle before the bartender, Molly, would pull it away after pouring him a glass. The blond only glared at him a moment then moved on to serve the next patron wanting another refill. He took a huge gulp of the liquid without flinching before roughly placing it back on the bar.

"With yer half-assed efforts of catchin' barely enough of the goddamn fish, yeah, I'd say there's somethin' fuckin' wrong with ya!"

'So it was the shortage of the fish,' I thought dimly.

It took me a moment to realize it got quiet behind us. Almost everyone in the bar was staring at us, some curious while others were angry at Creedy's jab. I saw Phil stand up, his eyes glaring holes into Creedy's head as he stepped up, Joshua and Allerdyce standing behind him just in case. The captains were also watching, and I saw Molly's hand trailing over a phone, ready to call for back-up in case this whole establishment exploded into another nasty brawl.

"Whatchya tryin' to say, Creedy?" Phil snarled, fingers folding like claws as a deep rumbling noise erupted form the base of his torso.

"I'm sayin' that I'm beginnin' to wonder if you asshats are even TRYING!" Creedy didn't hesitate to deliver.

Phil lunged at him but Allerdyce, Joshua, and I, along with some few, grabbed him before he could reach the asshole who busied himself by sipping his drink while watching this with a gleam in his eye. I roughly pushed the bigger man away to a safe distance before turning to the other man.

"What would you have us do?!" Phil demanded, screaming at the top of his lungs over the people telling him to get a hold of himself. "Go back to the ocean?! In case ya haven't notice, you stupid prick, there's a big storm comin'!"

Creedy shot up to his feet while grabbing for something tucked in his coat. Whipping out a graph paper, he showed it to us, waving the paper for everyone to see what it was.

"You see this? This is the estimated rise of fish from the storm throwin' off the current!" he hollered as he walked around the room, showing off the graphs.

I stared after Creedy, my mind taking in the picture of the 91% rise of fish being swept away from their usual currents and into our territory. Storm season was where fishermen got hit the hardest with double the wages, but it was a life-risking task to go out with the possibility of never coming back. That's why they got paid a lot more than the usual income earned.

It was a risk someone I loved took to help the family when dad's leg injury was still fresh and hurting for him to properly get back to work. People didn't want to hire a crippled man, and mama's work at the local diner, no matter how many hours she stayed to earn extra, was barely enough to pay for the bills and put food on the table. Now, with dad needing time to recover from his stroke and mama having a baby...

"How much?"

My mouth had a mind of its own before my thoughts could catch up to it.

"Reuben?" I heard someone behind me mumble but I was looking straight at Creedy.

"How much and where do I sign?" I repeated as the stunned silence from all around me grew.

Creedy broke out a crooked, nasty grin that made me feel like I had just shook hands with the devil.