What is the difference between a house and a home? Well that all depends on who you ask, and when your house is a ship that has a spirit of its own complicates the matter.
The rules regarding Klabautermann were hotly debated among sailors who believed in them. Some said that they only appeared in loved ships to help those aboard, and as such were good luck; others thought them to be unlucky because they only showed themselves on doomed ships. Some thought they had intelligence of their own, so there was no way they could be lucky or unlucky, because they were tricky buggers that only did as they pleased; while there was a faction of people that just knew for a fact that a ship's Klabautermann took on the personality of the shipwright that built him or the captain that led him (the details were sketchy). Of course the majority of sailors refused to believe in them at all, because it was obvious to them that in a world with magic fruit and logic defying oceans that ship spirits were simply impossible. The only things (people?) that knew for sure were the Klabautermann, and they weren't telling.
None of that had ever really mattered to Merry. In the beginning all she had been was a small caravel, set to sail the safe waters of the East Blue. Being a pirate ship had never really been in her blueprints, but East Blue was really that dangerous, and the ones sailing her were kids, probably just playing at being pirate anyway. Soon enough she'd get to go back to port and do what she was built for.
Slowly but surely Merry's opinion of her people changed. Despite having very little experience on the water she knew that the people on board were different, special even. The Going Merry watched (well, not watched per say, more like felt) as she was transformed from a simple little pirate ship into a home.
Usopp was first. He obviously was not a carpenter of any sort, and though he often grumbled and complained about fixing her he always tried his best. Merry knew he wasn't mad at her for not being strong enough, but was instead mad at himself for not being able to repair her adequately. In time she felt the others subtly give him the encouragement he needed to become stronger.
It didn't take Zoro long to get comfortable either. Merry knew his favorite spots to nap were the ones were he could laze in the sun, but still listen in on the crew at the same time. His absolute favorite was the one place where he could do both and be an annoying trip hazard to Sanji at the same time. The fights those two would get into always scared Merry a little (as the chances of something breaking were quite high), but after witnessing them both fight real enemies she realized that neither of them really went all out in their spars.
As for the cook, he was truly at home in his kitchen preparing something complicated and delicious for the others. It was almost as if Sanji were dancing as he gracefully went from one station to the other in a rhythm that only he really understood. And he always took the time to make sure she was properly cleaned after every meal, no matter how crazy Luffy had been, a sentiment that she greatly appreciated.
When she had just joined, Nami seemed to be very demeaning of her fellow crew members. After the first storm they sailed through together (and every storm thereafter) when she was able to guide Merry through the cold, cruel waters, it became obvious that Nami cared deeply for both her ship and crew and that she would do everything in her power to lead them to safe waters. Besides, without her unique forms of discipline Merry would have accidently been smashed to smithereens ages ago.
The little doctor, Chopper, had never been to sea before boarding. He was all excitement and enthusiasm. Despite his brilliant mind he had a poor understanding of how the world worked, and was quickly caught up in the fact that he was a real pirate sailing under a real flag. Chopper's reverence for the ship he was sailing on was second only to Usopp, and the he often attempted to help Usopp with repairs.
Merry had known ever since Vivi and her duck joined the Straw Hats that she was not going to stay forever. There had been a tug in Vivi's heart that was leading her towards her real home on that strange desert land. That had made Merry sad for a while, because Vivi always made it a point to handle things with care, as if she were afraid of breaking whatever she held in her hands. The princess had always walked quietly, but with a strong sense of purpose as she pursued her goals. Merry also knew, even as Vivi left the ship for the last time, that the princess would always be a welcome guest and the friendships that had been built would not fade no matter how many seas stood between them.
After Vivi had left a new woman, Robin, had joined. Merry hadn't liked her at all to begin with. There was fakeness about her that the sent chills through the ship. It offended Merry that Robin didn't think her as home, despite her people doing everything in their power to make her feel welcome. That too eventually changed, as Robin's façade slowly crumbled under the Straw Hat's…Straw Hat-ness. And when Robin had left, and as her people started tearing apart, Merry began to feel afraid.
Merry knew that she was just a broken little caravel, not worthy of sailing the dangerous seas around her. But she also knew she was the home of the Straw Hat Pirates, and her journey with them, being surrounded by their joy and togetherness had made her happy. The way she felt when Luffy was just sitting on her figure head, not really thinking about anything, but just being content made her proud to be his ship. All along Merry had known that the reason Luffy hadn't recruited a shipwright yet was because he hadn't found one worthy of fixing her. She was, after all, the house that his family lived in.
Now that was in danger. Now Merry was a doomed ship, and her people were in trouble. The nails that drove them together were beginning to loosen, and if they were to survive she would have to go to sea one last time.
Merry's only regret was that she couldn't take them just a little bit further on their journey, and her only wish was that she could tell their next ship everything that made her family so wonderful.
Sunny knew that he was a pretty super ship. Both his design and his materials were state of the art, and the carpenters that built him were world class. He knew he was strong, and awesome, and above all badass. He had the power of the sun, the fierceness of a lion, and the durability to last one thousand years.
He was also nervous as Hell about sailing around the Grand Line.
Because even though he could Ganon Cannon enemy ships into oblivion, that didn't guarantee that his people would like him. It was obvious to Sunny that his crew was grieving over the loss of his predecessor. He heard them talk about this Merry ship, and how she sailed herself to them when there was no hope, and how she was loved enough to actually talk to them.
Sunny was pretty sure that any attempts at self sailing would end in disaster, and he sure as Hell knew that he couldn't talk to them, no matter how much he'd really like to. How in the world had that other ship managed to do it? He was a boat, for goodness sake!
So, yeah, he had a lot to prove.
At least he was well taken care of. His designer was tagging along for the ride, it seemed. Sunny always felt really good when Franky worked on him. Franky would make sure that he was the best, and anyone that dared try harming his baby was in for a world of hurt. To Franky, Sunny was more than just a pirate ship, he was his dream.
"You're a pretty super ship, ya know that?" he would say.
And Sunny believed him.
In that same line of thought, the captain was smitten at first sight. Sunny came to learn that Luffy was never one to live in the past, so he never blamed his ship for not being like Merry. Luffy liked to goof off and go exploring, both on his ship and around the world. To him, Sunny was going to sail around the Grand Line, because he was the best ship in the world, and that was that.
"Awesome!" was all he needed to say to make his feelings known.
All it took was one look at his new weight room and one nap on the lawn-deck for Zoro to settle down into his new living arrangements.
"Zzzz." Was all Sunny needed to hear to know that he was perfectly happy with the new ship.
Sanji had a little trouble adjusting. To be completely fair, on Merry he had had months to arrange his kitchen until it had been perfect. It took the cook several weeks to get everything in the order he wanted it. The very first meal he made was accidently set on fire because Franky had gotten a little overexcited when calibrating the stove. Between his swearing and attempts to kick anyone that got near 'his stuff' Sunny was worried that Sanji would never be happy with the changes that had been made. His fears were quickly dispelled when Sanji discovered the depth of Franky's foresight.
"Sweet merciful God! The refrigerator has a lock!"
Likewise, Chopper spent hours in his new sick bay. The little doctor made Sunny feel very happy when he would squeal with delight every time he found a new reindeer friendly feature. After thoroughly examining everything there was to examine he ran around the ship with Luffy exploring. And even though Sunny knew he was mourning for Merry, Chopper still got excited about the little things.
"You mean I won't clog up the drains anymore? Sunny is just too cool!"
Nami just rolled her eyes. The woman seemed unflappable. It didn't matter how many cola based devices were shown to her, she remained unimpressed. Sunny was beginning to think she had a heart of stone. But one late night as she was up studying her charts, he heard her whisper,
"Merry might have gone ten thousand meters into the sky, but with my help you're going to go ten thousand meters under the sea."
Robin was equally unfazed by the technological wonders Sunny had installed. She was, however, quietly happy with her library. She was different from the others in that she didn't talk a lot, so it was hard for Sunny to get a read on her. Robin seemed content for the most part, but Sunny wasn't content letting her be content. He was supposed to be the best, damn it; there must be something in board that got her excited like the others.
"Once upon a time, in a far away land…" as Robin told an ancient story to the rest of the crew, Sunny understood that there was no place she would rather be. She just had a different way of showing it.
Usopp had held out the longest of them all. Even when he helped Franky with repairs and upgrades, Sunny could just tell that he was being compared to the other ship. Sunny didn't understand. He was better in every conceivable way from the Going Merry. He was going to be the ship of the Pirate King, no one on board doubted that. Why couldn't Usopp move past his loss?
Then Franky had presented Usopp with the Mini Merry. There had been that moment of initial shock, and then Sunny felt something shift inside Usopp.
"Merry…" he whispered. Then Usopp looked at Sunny as if it were his first time seeing it. And they both understood. Merry wasn't gone, not really. A part of her was continuing her journey with her family, but it was Sunny's job to be a haven for all of them. He was the lion, and he would protect the lamb. After they had that little understanding, Usopp began his tinkering with earnest, and under Franky's watchful eye improved his skill set dramatically.
After the adventures of Thriller Bark, the Straw Hats picked up a new crewmate. The eccentric skeleton-musician-pirate was boisterous and rude. Sunny liked his attitude a lot, and loved his music more. Now there was even less quiet time, and more life, which made Sunny feel proud as a ship.
To make Brook feel welcome, Franky was kind enough to renovate an old storage room into a super-special composer room, where Brook would have all the things he needed to make and practice his art (emphasis on the practice, after the incident where he found a new piece of 'modern' violin music and decided to play it at three in the morning. Nami had not been amused). Strangely enough, Brook didn't spend much time in it, preferring (when allowed) to play on deck where everyone could hear him. It hadn't made much sense to Sunny until late one night when Brook had woken up with a gasp.
"They're here," he whispered after looking (did he look? Sunny wasn't sure how that all worked) around at his bunkmates, "They're here. Not alone. I'm not alone." And Sunny suddenly felt a sadness shudder through his planks, which made him feel a coldness he didn't understand. Ever since he had been built, he had been surrounded by family, and warmth, and happiness.
Sunny did not like that cold feeling. This was Brook's new home, and whatever haunted his past didn't matter, because he was with family. This was the place where he was safe.
So Sunny gathered up the warmth that surrounded him, the warmth that came off of the other Straw Hats. He collected it until he couldn't collect any more, and let it seep into the floor, through the bed where Brook lay. Sunny let it course and circulate through his body like the currents did through the ocean, doing his best to show Brook what he had now was more important than what he had lost in the past.
The skeleton let out a sigh of relief, and sank deeper into his bed and back into a deep sleep. Sunny stopped, exhausted, but pleased with his work. He didn't know for sure what had just happened, or how he had done it. All he knew is that it had been necessary.
The next day, early in the morning, Brook woke up and locked himself into his composing room. Three days he stayed in there, only coming out for meals. The rest worried, and contemplated battering down the door to see what was wrong with him.
But on the third day, he came out, bow and violin in hand. He started a song. It was fast and slow, happy and sad, major and minor, complex in its simplicity. The Straw Hats stood slack jawed, and when he finished them were each wanting him to continue.
"Wow that was awesome! What's it called?" Luffy exclaimed.
"I call it Family. But fear not, that is only the first movement. There is much more where that came from, yohoho, if you will only let me see it, even if I have no eyes in which to see it! Skull joke, yohohoho!"
The Straw Hat Pirates quickly dissolved into a mass of laughing and shouting as they threw both compliments and insults toward one another in harmless fun. Sunny knew that it would be just another normal day for them, and he loved them all the more for it.
Because the Thousand Sunny might be their home, without them being the family that they were he would just be another pirate ship.
AN: And that's a wrap, unless we get another crewmate down the line, then I'll have to think of something. Maybe, depends on who it is.
And me starting and ending with a Brook-centric bit just kind of happened by accident, but hey, it brings things full circle.
And I don't know about the rest of you, but I would like to see more Klabauterman (men? Is there a plural form?). Because, yes, ships are people too.
For everyone sticking with me, thanks for seeing me through my first "project", I have some more things in the works, mostly One Piece but not all. Someone's gone ahead and added this to two communities, both with some good fics in them so be sure to check those out. If I didn't get back to all my reviewers, I deeply apologize. Blame my newbie status, and feel free to shake your head in disappointment.
If you review tell me who was your favorite and least favorite, and how I can improve. I'll take all constructive criticism to heart, and hopefully do a little bit better the next time.