Yeah, I know it's been a while. However, I needed to take some time for myself. My uncle just died under mysterious circumstances. That and summer jobs eat into your time a lot. The school also decided to cut my funding by four grand. I'm a poor college brat and now I need to work harder to make my money stretch farther.

Sorry.


"Damian Blue!"

The crew looked up from what they were doing. They had been surrounded by marines. A gruff looking lieutenant from the side of their ship, stepped up, once they were parallel to each other. Skye held her book underneath her robes. She was prepared to wipe the memories the marines had, or to teleport them hundreds of miles away from where they were or whatever it was that Blue – no, Sabo – ordered her to do. She had to remember to call him Sabo when she was around him. It was odd for her to get used to that when she often referred to him as Blue. He was her Captain, and she would die for him. But when she was on his ship, he viewed her as a friend, yet she still had a hard time accepting that.

"Under the orders of the Marines and the World Government, I am obliged to bring you to justice. I advise you to surrender at once," the marine ordered.

The crew parted as Sabo stepped out of his cabins. Skye walked beside him. The two made quite the pair on the deck of the ship – Skye – dressed in an elegant white dress and her robes flowing against the wind and Sabo – the picturesque gentleman of blue with a top hat and cane which Skye had altered to be his sword as well. He needed the cane to 'see' as a walking stick as many blind men often do and it fit his outfit very well. Sabo sighed to himself and took off his top hat. Young Ryou took the hat from the Captain and scurried downstairs with his brother Jun. Neither of them were allowed on the deck when Marines were around.

"And if I don't?" Sabo inquired.

"Then you should know that bringing you and your crew back to base alive is optional," the lieutenant said boldly.

"Then, sir, I must say you've chosen the wrong crew to challenge."

Suddenly marines started running towards Sabo with the intent to attack. Skye was already there. Her white cloak was fluttering behind her with the sure amount of speed that she used to get in front of Sabo so quickly. Her black book was glowing gold within her hands, illuminating her face though she was in shadows. She smirked and help up her hand. The marines who had not attacked were gasping. A barrier formed between those who were leaping in front of her. They were instantly frozen in midair, dangling and helpless, unable to move either way. Skye smirked darkly. She pushed a little harder with her hand. Instantly, they were pinned against the wall of their own ship.

"Behind you, Emeralds!" Amber cried.

Orion was there in a heartbeat to protect her, like she knew he would have. Perhaps Zoro was right. Her crew did care for her – in their own way. It was odd that she needed someone else to tell her that they cared in order to realize it but they did. She smiled to herself, hoping to one day be able to thank the green haired swordsman for making her realize it. He swung his sword. The force of swing blew the marines who had snuck up behind Skye away from her, but did not harm them. The marines were now looking hesitant. Skye and her crew had been beyond Sabaody. They were seasoned enough to be able to handle a bunch of uppity marines who thought that if they took out a major league crew they were major league marines due for high promotions and lots of money. Skye straightened her posture. Her cloak fluttered down around her and straightened. She narrowed her eyes.

"Back off," Orion grunted, "You're out of your league."

"Captain, your orders?" Skye questioned.

"Disarm but don't kill…" Sabo replied.

She and the crew nodded. They never often killed the marines unless they were corrupt. These men had nothing to fear of them. They would not die, though they would be beaten – perhaps severely. They deserved it. Plus, like any crew, Sabo's crew itched for a fight. With a single nod from their captain, they launched themselves into battle. Skye stayed by Sabo's side, ready to protect and defend but she also made sure the marines stayed where they were supposed to, making sure no one went snooping about their ship. She blasted a few of them off the ship when they tried to sneak into the lower decks and cabins.

They were just lucky there weren't any Sea Kings in this part of the ocean.


After the battle Skye spotted a ship on the horizon. She smiled at Blue and touched his hand. This was her way of telling him that it was a friendly ship nearby. It was lucky since they finally cleared the wreckage of the marine ship they sank. The men would live. They just now knew better than to challenge any random pirate crew to a battle. Orion looked satisfied with the fight and Amber was busy counting the loot she had stolen from them. There were many odd trinkets lying around like dials and eternal poses. Those would go to their collection. The gold would either be given to small villages in need or be sold to well off towns for beli.

"Pops is here…" she whispered.

"Go report to him. We'll see you at Shell Island," Blue said, "And remember, we're going out for dinner tonight so don't tell Pops you have nothing to do else he might just try to feed you."

Skye laughed. She went off to gather her things together to go visit the older man. She didn't realize that there was a look of mourning on Sabo's face. How he wished he could go with her but he felt he was a disappointment to Whitebeard so he stayed away. The Blue Masquerade crew watched as she pulled her ship up next to the Moby Dick. She climbed on board once a ladder was thrown over the side. She seized the large bottle of sake she had bought from Alabasta and climbed up, struggling only to get the bottle over the rail. Someone took it from her and offered her a hand. She looked up, smiling at Marco. He pulled her over the rails, onto the deck of the ship. He put down the large sake bottle and hugged her tightly.

"It's good to see you, Skye," Marco said.

"It's been too long," Skye agreed.

Skye let him go. She pat him on the shoulder once to show that she appreciated the gesture. She never was touchy feely and often hated letting people touch her back. Marco was one of the few who knew why. It was because of her scar. He eyed the sake bottle that she had brought him. It was huge and he was surprised she could lift it. Apparently, she had gotten stronger since the last time he saw her, which was only to be expected since she had been nothing but a brat back then and now she had grown a good foot and a half. She just smiled at him, beaming like she had on the first day when she and Sabo were treated like they were a part of the crew – just as two of Pop's children – not two runaway slaves like they were. It had been a good day for all of them.

"Now, where's the old man? I brought him a gift!"

"Skye!"

Skye smiled once she saw Whitebeard, sitting in his chair on deck. Nurses surrounded him, fussing over him and concerning medical terms in hushed but worried tones. They looked upset about something or another. Naturally, this caused Skye to be concerned. This could be a good sign or a bad sign, considering on what Whitebeard did. His health came first. And it had been taking a turn for the worse as of late. The crew was like a second family to her. She always worried about her brothers and sisters. She worried over her father as well. She walked up to the center of the deck, many of her brothers were watching her intently.

"What's wrong, ladies?" Skye questioned.

"Whitebeard replaced his IV with sake," a woman responded tartly.

The woman gave Whitebeard a pointed glare, though it would do no good because truly, Whitebeard has seen more terrifying things in his life time. The man chuckled richly, as if someone told him a funny joke, instead of acting like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Skye knew he was guilty as charged. He wouldn't deny it. He probably had exchanged his IV with sake. Perhaps Skye was throwing fuel on the fire by bringing more sake but she didn't see her 'dad' often so she liked to indulge and bring him nice things. He deserved it. He was a good man with a good heart.

"Eh? A man lives only once," Skye shrugged, "Let him do what he wants."

She picked up the large sake bottle. There were twelve gallons of Alabasta's finest sake that the King had given her. The clay jar it was in was large enough for her to put a small child inside it, though the idea would never cross her mind unless it was for the child's safety. She walked over to her adoptive father. He gave off such a staggering aura, one that at first made people fearful, but actually, seemed protective. He seemed to be surrounded by trust and unbreakable bonds. He was a truly great man, nothing like the marines had described, nothing like the lies that were spreading.

The marines were spreading lies about Whitebeard to make people fear him. The marines had lied so many times, tried to force their opinions on the people and so many of their corrupted views of justice that did little good for the people they were trying to protect. The World Government resembled tyranny more than anything else. They were ruling by fear. But Whitebeard was different. He ruled by love. She wanted to see someone else step up and do the same once Whitebeard either passed on or retired from piracy, thought the latter seemed highly impossible due to the fact Whitebeard loved the sea as much as a person loved the air they breathed.

"Gurarara! Same as always, Skye," Whitebeard laughed.

"You know, Princess Vivi and her father sent a bottle of sake with me… Now, we both know I'm not a drinker. Would you care to take it off my hands, Pops?" Skye questioned.

Skye lifted the large container of sake, to show it to her old man. The captain was more than happy to take it off her hands. She lifted the container and placed it in the palm of her father's hand. A crewmate procured a sake dish for Whitebeard to use. He waited with the anticipation of an excited child as the sake was poured. He took a big drink from it before sighing to himself in content. Skye smiled. She had made sure to check for every known poison she could find. Nothing had been placed inside the sake aside from the normal ingredients. She would never give her father poisoned sake. She would rather kill herself than do that.

"Come! Sit!" Whitebeard ordered.

Skye obliged. She sat on the deck in front of the older captain. All Whitebeard had to do was say jump and she would say how high and jump to please him. She would do anything he said. She only had that sort of loyalty towards few people. She would question things that Ace asked of her and Luffy, but Whitebeard and Sabo had her true obedience. She watched as Whitebeard poured himself some sake. He took a giant gulp of the liquid. Skye cringed. She had seen even Zoro flinch when trying Alabastan sake. It was strong stuff. Yet Whitebeard could drink it as if it were no more than water. Well, she supposed with age came the ability to do things like that. Plus, his liver was practically made of steel so that would help.

"Can I get you anything, Skye?" a nurse asked.

"No, but thank you anyways," Skye said.

"She would like something. She's just too polite to ask for it," Marco said, "Get her a peppermint tea, two sugars and a little cream."

Skye felt her face heat up. She ducked her head. Was she really that easy to read? She did have a craving for a cup of tea. But she always enjoyed a good cup of tea. Whitebeard could steal the best tea, while she was stuck with hit and miss cups of her favorite beverage. It seemed that she was not the only one to dote upon the other. Whitebeard and the others looked after her like family. Marco knew her as well as Blue and Ace did. Whitebeard just laughed at her embarrassment. She then brushed it off. Her face was slightly pink as she looked up but she was going to pretend that Marco hadn't said a word.

"I'm fine," she assured him, "Really."

The smug smirk she got in response told Skye that Marco did not believe her in the slightest. However, the tea was brought to her, precisely how she liked it, despite her protests to Marco about whether or not she wanted the tea or not. She was tempted to take a drink immediately but that would only further her embarrassment. The First Division Commander grinned and sat down next to her, wrapping an arm around her shoulder and giving her a one-armed hug. She nearly spilt the tea but she managed to keep it all in it's cup. Marco wouldn't get burned by the hot liquid if she hadn't, but she would have. She didn't have the fire powers he and Ace did.

"Now drink up, little miss," Marco teased, "We only keep tea in stock for you."

"So, what brings you here?" a nurse asked.

Skye smiled into her cup and took a drink. She set it back on its saucer and looked up. So she started explaining what she had seen once more, telling her story and regaling them all. She told of how she met Luffy, Ace's younger brother, and then how she ran into Ace who was following a lead on Blackbeard. She told of how she found out about Thatch and gave her condolences as she should have when it first happened. She went on to describe their trip to the desert and what had actually happened out there regarding Blackbeard and how Ace just vanished as quickly as he came after he found out his lead was a false one.

"Father… I… It's dangerous," Skye whispered, "Please, let Blue and I take care of Blackbeard. If we can catch him before he gets a crew, then our crew can help us finish him off."

"No, this is Ace's job."

"I have a bad fee-"

"My decision is final."

Skye felt her lips purse into a tight line. She couldn't argue with him. He was one of the few she respected but in this case, she felt he was wrong. She looked out over the night sky. It was getting late. Blue was probably waiting for her at Shell Island. She imagined him waiting for her at the restaurant, looking like someone who had gotten stood up on a date. She couldn't let that happen. She still had to figure out if he really meant what he said about her being his friend. She had only viewed their relationship as one of work but if she could get more out of it, it might stop the loneliness she felt. She got to her feet. Her empty tea glass was sitting at her feet. She then bowed to Whitebeard, only once, with her hand over her heart as she lowered her head.

"It's late, Pops. I have to be going. Blue is waiting for me."

Whitebeard waved his hand dismissively, letting her go where she felt that she needed to. She smiled to herself, recalling all of the memories she had on the Moby Dick – the good and the bad.


Ace gasped. He immediately jackknifed into a sitting position, only to groan and flop back down because of the pain. He had just fought Jimbe – a warlord sworn to protect Whitebeard for some dumb reason. He had fought the man but then Whitebeard showed up. Ace couldn't remember much after that except for the fact he was beaten into the ground by the old man. Anger coursed through his being and he clenched his hands into fists. A gentle hand was placed against his shoulder. He was pushed down, slowly but tenderly. His eyes widened when he saw a familiar face.

"Skye?" he asked.

The other pirate smiled at him. He remembered her. He had met her in the first town he had gotten his bounty at. When she found the marines were chasing after him, she had gotten him onto her ship and sailed off with him. Then she gave him his start up, helping him gain a crew and steal his own ship – the Stacked Deck. He loved that ship and took care of it. But he remembered the flames and how Whitebeard's crew destroyed the ship. The Stacked Deck was no more. It was like he had lost a part of himself in losing his ship. Fury was blinding at this point.

"Lay back down," she ordered gently, "I'm not done patching you up yet."

"W-Whitebeard! My men!"

"All fine," Skye soothed.

Ace relaxed at her words. She would never lie to him. He knew that much about her. He had created the wall between his men and Whitebeard for them to escape. He had to have been on Skye's ship now. It seemed he owed her big. She had saved him from Whitebeard, which meant that she was stronger than he thought of her if she had managed to do that much. He had never been on her ship before, aside from the minor sail boats she would often steal to get from island to island. Perhaps he would get to meet her mysterious boss – Blue. Yeah, he would like to meet Blue for the first time. It was overdue.

"W-What happened?" Ace croaked.

Skye picked up a glass of water from her side. Ace tried to reach for it on his own but he found he was completely drained of energy. The woman gave a patient smile as he had the decency to blush from embarrassment. He hated being weak in front of others, Skye knew this so she didn't push him any further than she had to. She helped Ace sit up, much to his embarrassment, to drink it. She eased him down after he drained the glass. Then she put the glass down, returning to her medicines and other tonics that he knew she carried with her.

"You lost to Whitebeard," Skye said, "You're on his ship."

Ace's eyes widened. A strangled yell escaped his lips. Energy came rushing back to him. He grabbed Skye's hand tightly. She stared at him in surprise by the horrified look on his face. A sweat had broken out above his brow. He would fight for the two of them if he had to. He had never seen her fight before, but he would defend her because she was his friend. The tweezers in her fingers dropped to the ground, as did the cotton ball with peroxide. She stared at him blankly, wondering what had come over him.

"Are you a prisoner too? Has he hurt you?"

Skye blinked in surprise. The thought seemed to horrify her that Ace had even asked in the first place. Though, he didn't know her past. She never discussed it with him because he was so dead set on killing Whitebeard that at the time, she feared he would try to kill her as well. She had hoped to dissuade him from going after the man, but it seemed all of her discouragement only encouraged him further. What vendetta did Ace have against Whitebeard? He wanted to prove he was the strongest man in the seas but why? It made no sense to kill someone who had never caused you harm before.

"Whitebeard has never raised a finger against me. He pulled me out of the ocean a year ago," Skye explained, "I'm not his prisoner."

"B-But why are you here?"

"I was sailing by when Marco called me over," Skye explained, "I'm… a doctor so they had me come over to take a look at you."

Ace grimaced. Skye had instantly sailed over the moment she heard it was Ace who was hurt. She got on board to find that Ace's crew had tried to stage a rescue but were captured, so she tended to their wounds, then to Ace. She had grown attached to the super rookie. She healed him as much as she could get away with, so that he wouldn't notice a miraculous recovery. He still didn't know about her magic and she was tentative to let him find out. There had been so many people who hated her for what she could do. She was afraid of what would happen if Ace hated her. He was a great person and she would loathe losing him. Marco said she was just being a coward.

"I'm going to kill him," Ace declared.

"Whitebeard?" Skye asked, "Why? Don't you know what that would do?"

"Yeah," Ace said, "I'll be the strongest man in the world. Then I'm going after One Piece."

Skye made a face. She looked down at the floorboards and slowly pulled her hands away from him. The idea of a world without Whitebeard? The thought left a lump in her throat and her chest felt heavy. This man, he took her in when the rest of the world hated her. He had done the same for Blue. To lose him, would be like losing her real father all over again. She couldn't imagine the pain that would bring her, not after she was still healing because of the hurt. Ace was only looking at the surface of what his action would do.

"Ace, Whitebeard has hundreds of islands under his protection! Do you have any idea what would happen to those islands if he were to die?" Skye demanded.

Ace stared at Skye in surprise. He had never heard her raise her voice before. She sounded truly terrified of what would happen after Whitebeard died. If Whitebeard were to die, it would cause a world revolution. Islands would be torn apart by pirates, seeking to have footholds in the New World and in Paradise like Whitebeard did. People would die. Battles would be fought and no one would care what would become of civilian life. It was the one thing she hated about being a pirate – battles. Battles meant death which meant losing friends and family. Had Ace really no idea what would happen because of his decision?

"They'll be fine," Ace assured her.

"Really?" Skye snarled, "Do you have any idea of half of the things that go on after Paradise?"

"Paradise?" Ace questioned.

Skye stared at him in mute shock. He was still that green? He hadn't even been to see the New World yet? Part of her was even more infuriated by his decision now because he was being unfeeling towards people who depended on Whitebeard to survive. She wanted to scream and shake him until his teeth rattled but she refrained. What was the point of yelling if he refused to listen to her? She took a deep breath, trying to calm herself. It did little for her nerves. She would have to leave soon or she may do something she regret.

"You haven't even been to the New World?" Skye gasped.

"New what?"

Skye glared at Ace. He was a tenderfoot after all and he could have started a world war because of the shift of power. Yet all he cared about was the name of being the strongest man in all of the seas. That title came with responsibility and she knew that Ace would never be able to manage something like that. Fury burned beneath her skin but then she took a deep breath. Just because she knew what lie beyond Sabaody did not mean everyone did. She was changed. Ace was not. It was as simple as that.

"The New World! It's the other half of the ocean, after you go past Sabaody Archipelago!" Skye shouted.

"No, I haven't been there. I haven't been to Sabaody yet either."

Skye took a deep breath. She ran a hand through her hair. Ace stared at her. She was just a normal woman who wanted, in her own way, to make the world a better place, and who it turned out, was willing to go to extraordinary lengths to see that mission through. She would even die if it meant bettering the world even just a little bit. She had nothing to lose but Ace didn't know that. However, this secrecy was driving him nuts. She always knew more than he did. She always came to him, precisely when she needed her and not a moment sooner. It infuriated him how she always knew what he needed and when he needed it.

"I'm going to get tell Pops you're awake…" she said, "But you won't see him until you're completely rested."

Ace frowned. Suddenly fatigue hit him like a freight train. However, it wasn't like his narcolepsy was kicking in. This felt like he was physically tired. Then he remembered the water. It had tasted funny, in a way that he knew was off. He thought nothing of it because he trusted her. Now he realized that was the wrong thing to do. Terror struck his being. He was on an enemy ship and he was losing consciousness because of her. He stared at her, horror struck. She stared back down at him dispassionately. Her eyes were closed off from the world. He had seen this look when she dealt with clients she didn't like. Did she hate him? Did she want him dead? The thought hurt.

"Wh-what'd you do to me?" Ace asked.

"Sleeping… medicine," Skye responded, "Night Ace."

Before he could try protesting again, that godforsaken medicine crashed over him. Ace ended up passing out, more warm and comfortable beneath the blankets than he'd ever admit, even to himself.