Holy crap. I'm really sorry for how long it took me to get this up. I really appreciate the lack of messages or anything like that urging me to continue (although it probably would have lit a fire under my slow moving ass).

So without any further unimportant stuff, here's the conclusion of Above and Beyond.

A Hopeful Farewell

Coby was out of bed and moving by the next evening and, while the resident doctor wanted him to stay for a little longer, he couldn't take another second of lying around and opted instead to search for a place to stretch his limbs and catch up on the training he had missed.

After much searching and frequent stops to ask for directions, he eventually found the training grounds for the Marines stationed at Mariejois. The area was deserted save for a few men sparring with each other or firing at straw dummies.

Deciding to practice his Soru (it was still the only power he knew of the Rokushiki), he scratched out two places in the dirt approximately 100 yards apart and prepared to shuttle between them.

Before he could take off though, he was interrupted by a familiar, inquiring voice: "What are you doing?"

His concentration lost, he stumbled and fell forward, eating a large amount of dust.

Spitting out pieces of earth, he turned his head to look in the direction of Nefeltari Vivi, hands on her hips and a frown on her face.

"Training," he said matter-of-factly, getting up and dusting himself off.

Vivi rolled her eyes. "I assumed that much. I mean, what are you doing out of the medical ward? Your wounds can't have gotten better that fast."

Coby shrugged. "It's not that big of a deal. Like I said, I've had worse and kept going regardless. And if I let this slow me down then I'll only fall further behind my goal."

Vivi seemed desperate now. "That's no excuse to push yourself when you're injured! What if your wound opened up while you were out here! If no one found you, there's a chance you-"

"Don't worry about it," Coby assured, cutting her off. "It's none of your concern."

"IT IS!" she yelled, shocking Coby. She was silent for a while, rubbing her shoulders and glancing around. She finally looked back at Coby and he noticed the tears welling in her eyes.

"You got injured protecting me," she said shakily. "If something happened because of that, even after the fact, I'd feel responsible."

She was quiet again, reaching up to wipe away her tears. Coby took that opportunity to reassure her once again.

"There's no reason for you to feel guilty because of what happens to me," he said quietly. "I took this mission knowing the risks involved, and I jumped in front of that pirate aware of the possibilities."

He smiled at her. "If I had the choice, I'd do it again, without a second thought. And not just because I had to."

Vivi gave him a warm smile in return. "I'm not sure how to feel about that, but thank you."

She turned to go. "Well, as long as you promise not to overdo it, I'll allow you to train."

Coby made a show of bowing deeply. "I thank you for your benevolence, Princess."

Vivi turned around long enough to stick her tongue out at him. "Don't call me that. My name is Vivi, and I'd much prefer you call me that."

Laughing slightly, Coby put up his hands as a sign of surrender. "Good night then, Vivi."

"Good night, Coby," Vivi responded.

Alone once again, Coby began to train, acutely aware of the silence, and missing the sound of a certain princess's voice.

The following day marked the end of the Council of Kings. There was no celebration, merely a call to assembly and a general acknowledgment of the event's end.

Less than an hour later, the ships of the various dignitaries had already departed, and only a few remained.

Vivi, her father, and their bodyguards were preparing to leave as well, albeit in a far more cordial and polite manner.

Garp had arrived unexpectedly, cornering both Coby and Helmeppo. He congratulated them on a job well done, giving Coby a particularly hard thump on the back in recognition of his actions, threatening to topple the boy and causing his wound to spasm in pain once again.

Coby, Garp, and Helmeppo escorted Vivi and the rest of Alabasta's representatives to their ship. Cobra and his bodyguards climbed aboard, offering Coby and Vivi one final chance to say goodbye.

She approached him, clothes as beautiful and expensive as the day she met him. They smiled at each other, aware that time was short.

Coby scratched at the back of his head sheepishly, unsure of what to say. "Guess it'll be hard to see each other."

Vivi nodded in agreement. "Yes, but I'm sure we'll meet again."

Coby smile widened. "Yeah. I'll try and keep in touch with-"

He was silenced when Vivi stepped forward, bending slightly to cover his lips with hers. Her hair fanned out, giving them only marginal privacy from their very aware audience.

Vivi pulled away, blushing slightly. She smiled, whispering, "See you soon," before turning to step onto the ship that would take her back to her country.

Coby was unable to move, his face an as yet unknown shade of red that clashed horribly with his pink hair.

Garp seemed torn between congratulating the boy or hitting him for taking such liberty with a royal figure, while Helmeppo made his jealousy clear to anyone within earshot.

As the ship began to pull out and both Garp and Helmeppo tried to pump Coby for answers, the only things he was conscious of were the tingling in his lips – coupled with the taste of strawberries – and Vivi's promise still ringing in his ears.

Well that's that. It was a fun ride, and I hope you enjoyed it.

Depending on how I feel, I'll most likely incorporate this into my main One Piece story Questions, so keep an eye out for that.

Thanks for reading.