Thanks to LaFia and Hell's Angel-Heaven's Demon for the suggestion and inspiration for this. The title is a beautiful quote by Lord Byron.
*Ivankov, in the Japanese version uses vatashi instead of watashi or atashi so I went liberal with the v's and z's.
** Happy Seol!
The front page was like a slap to the face, a stinging, echoing pain that Usopp felt he deserved.
Damnit, Usopp angrily rubs his eyes.
During all this time, Luffy had fought and lost and suffered and Usopp had done nothing. The sniper had known nothing and done nothing and now, he wasn't even allowed to race back to his friend's side and pick up the pieces of his best friend's broken heart.
Luffy, Usopp thinks fiercely as he looks at newspaper in his hands and carves his friend's determination and grief into his soul. This should have never happened.
Heracles is watching warily from the other side of the fire and Usopp, in a gesture of gratitude to his new mentor, decides to tell him the truth.
"You see, they're really strong guys. Luffy and Zoro and Sanji," Usopp gazes into the bonfire. "Throw in a mad Robin and well… They may act pretty weird most of the time but when it's time to fight, they change. I'd never seen anybody like them. I thought they were invincible…. I relied on them too much you know?" Usopp frowns. "I wanted them to fight my battles because I believed that they could."
But the morning's front page was proof that they couldn't, that not even Luffy could, and Usopp is ashamed. His friends had never been invincible. He had only hoped they would be in an attempt to shy away from the responsibility they bore, and this is the result; a star burst scar embedded into his captain's chest.
It is a mistake Usopp will never make again.
"I know what I have to do," The shame melts into something different and Heracle never realizes he's holding his breath. "And I'm going to do it. I may be no good at it and it may make no difference, but hiding," Usopp's eyes harden as he vows.
"Hiding, that ends today."
Franky stares at the blueprint spread out before him. The designs are done and the materials necessary have been gathered. Minor adjustments will have to be made but the overall plans are finally perfected with the help of Vegapunk's superior technology and Franky's designing touches. With this, he will have technology that nobody else in the world will be able to compete with.
With this, Franky will be more machine than human.
The cyborg takes a deep breath.
It is strange because if he says it out loud it is bound to sound stupid and yet-
Franky breathes out.
(He is afraid.)
He's being not-supa, Franky tells himself; even now he has more artificial parts than any normal human being. For years, he has had steel for skin and metal in place of muscles and he has never regretted it. Then, the modifications had been unavoidable-Tom had been taken away and Franky was in danger of permanently losing mobility in his arms-and so pain and fear had been mere chemical reactions that were overruled by burning desire.
Even now, the modifications are necessary because the explosion at the Vegapunk lab burnt his skin and destroyed most of his weaponry and all he has for protection is the fur of a dead tiger.
And yet Franky is hesitating because he is human as much as he is cyborg but it is going to be harder to prove that. His vital organs like his heart, will stay but the protection around it will double and the steel wrapping it will thicken and the beating of his heart and warmth it radiates will not be strong enough to make it through. Franky will be cool like metal because in essence, he will be metal.
He will be cold.
"Not-supa," Franky mutters to himself again as he, in a new habit that has formed during the past few months, reaches for the compartment closest to his heart, where he puts his treasures in. He pulls out a faded newspaper clip that is crumpled around the edges and carefully unfolds it.
It has been about three months since he's read the paper his captain sent the message in. Three months since he has seen the scar and realized Thousand Sunny wasn't the only one who needed protecting.
Franky stares silently at the tired lines in his captain's face, the familiar determination and the not-so-familiar darkness lurking in his captain's eyes and painfully simply, he knows.
This is the boy who asked for a ship and gave Franky the world in return. There is nothing he will not do for this boy and this boy is alone because Franky is not strong enough to stand beside him yet. That must change.
Franky sets to work.
(Besides, he thinks of afternoons spent wrestling on the deck and jostling elbows during mealtimes and remembers. It isn't his own warmth he is missing.)
As an archeologist looking for the hidden past and forgotten truth, there is nothing more Robin appreciates than honesty. If she were to give an objective assessment, in the safety of her own mind and silence, on the empty deck of the Revolutionists' ship, she might tell herself.
She is surrounded by enemies, and she has no allies of her own. Every second she is in danger and the only person who can get her out of it is herself; she is alone.
Therefore her time here is technically no different from the years Robin spent as a child. Adjusting should not be hard at all.
(But like a bird that is once tamed forgets how to fly, she has been touched by kindness and warmth and so no matter how much her head tries to forget, her heart cannot.)
Robin wishes she were home.
("You're leaving already?"
"Oh, Haredas-san. Yes I've found the books I was looking for so I'm going to head-")
Nami viciously swipes across her desk, and fragile cups holding her quills, the bottles of ink and piles of the maps she drew crash to the floor. The cups shatter instantly against the cold marble floor but Nami has already proceeded to her shelves. Her books, neatly organized by title and author, by size and color, are instantly knocked out of their places and scattered along the floor with a strangled sob.
("Yes I've found the books I was looking for so I'm going to head-"
It is not enough, it is not enough. The rage burning in her blood, pure and violent in its path leaves her room in devastation, destroyed and irreversibly damaged.
Just the way Nami wants it to be.
Because she tried to say-
She almost thought-
("Yes I've found the books I was looking for so I'm going to head-")
The pirate's knees buckle, as if in weight to the sobs she keeps buried in her chest, and she crashes to the floor. Shards of broken glass is scattered all over the floor but Nami cannot feel them digging into her skin as she curls into herself. Her knuckles are white and every line in her body is trembling in rage and shock and guilt.
Home. She tried to call this place home.
A small voice somewhere in her mind tries to rationalize, that it's been nearly a year, a lonely and endless string of dawn and dusk, and it's unfair to expect anything else. The rest of her screams don't you dare.
The sobs try to bubble up but she swallows them down, shoves them down with the same ferocity she has shown to her desk; Nami will not cry. She will not shed tears nor will she let out a single sob that is not meant to deceive. Because those tears are the truth, and there are only eight people in the world who get to hear that truth from her and none of them are here.
So Nami screws her eyes shut and stifles her sobs and when she opens her eyes, she will be the strong, beautiful and coy liar they expect her to be. The rest will be tucked in her broken heart where no one else can see.
It has been exactly a year.
"If it zaddens you zo, vhy don't you go vind them?"
The answer is immediate, fierce, and heart-breakingly quiet.
"He asked us not to."
The cook takes a deep breath of his cigarette before looking up to the sky and breathing out. Ivankov stands beside him, silent for once, perhaps in respect for this painful anniversary. It is a while before the okama breaks the stiff silence again.
"A captain'z order eez ab-zolute?"
Yes, Sanji supposes it is. They had their scuffles from time to time but between Luffy's stubborn streak and Zoro's quiet and unwavering support, if Luffy orderd it, it was done.
But this is beyond that. This is about much much more than that. The reason Sanji doesn't jump off this damn island and swim back to his friends, the reason he is here despite that he has to hide how much he is shaking inside is because...
"He asked us not to." Sanji repeats simply.
Luffy, the stupid rubber idiot, who would sneak into their hammocks on cold nights, who couldn't cook, heal, navigate, the idiot who didn't know how to survive a day without his crewmates, asked them to stay away.
Sanji understands how much that request must have took. So he will do that.
He's breaking and bleeding and dying a little more inside every day, but Sanji does that.
The cook grits his teeth and tries to breathe through the pain.
"Having a dumb little brother, makes an older brother worry." Fire Fist chuckled but they are all struck silent at the raw emotion evident in that single statement. It held the weight of a brother.
"He probably gives you guys a lot of trouble too." The pirate dipped his head. "Take care of him for me."
The commander of the Whitebeard Pirates looked at all of them in turn and when he met his eyes, he nodded ever so briefly. He promised-
With a harsh choke, Zoro flinches awake.
("Take care of him for me."
He doesn't fall asleep again that night.
Chopper looks at his hooves that can now, hurt as much as they can heal and his heart aches a bit, because sometimes he fears it's not the way it's supposed to be. He's supposed to be a doctor.
However, the reindeer shakes his head and reminds himself that he is a doctor but he is also a pirate and most importantly, he is Luffy's. For his captain who is hurting in a way no medicine can hope to cure, Chopper must be stronger.
The price is already paid, Chopper decides as he shifts into his new form, 'Horn Point'. The next time they meet, he will fight along them and if others choose to stand in their way, he will bring them down.
In some way, he's really become a monster, yet Chopper's not too ashamed. He learned it's another word for man.
It's not fair, the way they loved Going Merry, that they still felt a twinge of pain whenever they saw the figurehead that wasn't a lamb. But even in the midst of murmured goodbyes, they found space in their hurting hearts for a new ship and a new home and Thousand Sunny loved them for that, the fleeting touches and fond whispers they took the time to give.
But it has been long since Sunny has set sail, too long since any of them stepped foot on the deck, and the ship doesn't understand why. Why is it silent and where did they go, are questions Sunny doesn't have the answers to. There are only unfamiliar men who stand guard nearby and while they are not enemies they are not them. Them are the ones who would roll along the deck and hang from the balustrades, the ones who would break the pillars during the day and pat the boards in apology at night.
However, Sunny is not too worried; the Straw Hat pirates loved, and clumsy it may have been, fake it was not and they gave a promise to come back.
So Sunny waits because Sunny remembers.
Brook abandons his crowd, and rides on the back of the fish. He laughs in mirth; the day has finally come. (silence)
When he catches sight of Thousand Sunny, waiting at the edge of the island, he doesn't realize the sharp intake is his. There are oh-so-heartbreakingly-familiar figures standing on the deck. (silence)
"Yohohoho!" Brook shouts. "Usopp-san! Nami-san! Robin-san!" He can't hold the excitement in his empty chest any longer and he sings. "Fraaaankyyyyy-saaaaaan!"
As one, his friends turn around in surprise. (silence?)
They break into identical grins. (no)
(after two years of silence, his heart starts to beat again)
and all that is left now, is forever