Title: Chasing Those Shattered Dreams
They weren't like the first members. They weren't like them. Just thinking about the differences would take all day and make his heart ache. So Luffy avoids it at all costs. Still, the differences didn't need to be pointed out by anyone - least of all him. They all see it. this crew was different. Luffy, Pirate King, sits back and smiles through it all. Unswerving and only minutely dimmer, Luffy withstood every change that takes place. But sometimes, he couldn't help but to reflect.
Yes, it was surprising, but he did think.
His thoughts weren't so bright and happy though, so he avoids it. Was this how Jii-chan felt?
Zoro visits sometimes. Zoro's sense of direction has improved over the years - but only enough to find their nakama. No, not his new nakama, but the originals. And even then, Zoro could only find those who wished to be found and the ones he wants to find. Some weren't nakama any longer, for various reasons. That's another thing Luffy doesn't want to think about if he can help it.
Zoro and Law were getting along better these days. That cheers Luffy up infinitesimally and alleviates a bit of his worries. Who would have expected lighthearted Luffy could worry at all?
So, Zoro visits sometimes and Luffy is less homesick. Luffy gets homesick often. Almost every day. But he is never lonely. His crew is always with him, after all. They were nakama too, but he does get homesick. Shichibukai Roronoa Zoro, the most powerful swordsman in the world, the man who had once been his second - but that was a long time ago. Zoro travels with others though, unlike his predecessor, Dracule Mihawk. He travels with his students.
Foul-tempered and terse Zoro accepted students. But they don't stick around too long. Zoro killed some in the beginning and some just gave up after a few months of Zoro. They were too weak, Zoro explains when Luffy asks why. The two nakama smile grimly at this. The world doesn't make brats as gutsy as they did back then.
Not like themselves.
As far as Luffy knows, Zoro is still searching, searching for his own legacy to forge and leave behind. Like how Mihawk had done with him. That's why Luffy doesn't see much of his second these days. But he understands.
Nami. He hadn't thought about Nami in a while. But once he thinks of the old them, the memories just keep coming back, faces, names, voices - it doesn't stop until he relives everything, again and again. That ache...
Yes, Nami - his navigator. He doesn't know where she is, who she is or what she is anymore. Shortly after the end, she had slipped off into the night, into the sea.
Again, Luffy understands. It was harder for the newly crowned Pirate King to accept but he did understand. She had never been good with farewells. With her dream accomplished, Nami knew it was over. She had always been the most practical out of all of them.
Luffy knew. But that hadn't stopped him from waiting, waiting and waiting for her to return those first few weeks after the end.
She was the reason why the world thought he and the rest of the crew had died - again.
The headlines had been quite dramatic: The New Pirate King - finished, before He began.
But enough about then. Where was Nami now?
Even Zoro wanted to know. If it weren't for the frequent letters - threatening and very, very Nami - demanding that Zoro return her money (with 300% interest, of course), they would have thought she had died. That was a relief. Nami was somewhere out there, well enough to keep track of her assets (nakama) and that was enough for him. Zoro had something else to say about that matter, but that was between his first mate and his navigator.
A Captain had to keep track of his nakama.
Out of all of them, Usopp was the one who had his happy ending. He returned to his home as a brave warrior of the sea. The King of all Snipers had recently moved his large family to Elbaf, thus accomplishing another goal. Kaya was an amazing doctor now, health problems aside. Yes, Usopp was the happiest out of all of them but Luffy wasn't so sure. There was something about the sea and something about Usopp he had noticed during his last visit. If only the kids were older, Usopp had been saying...
Older for what? Luffy wondered.
Chopper, well, Chopper lived and gave as good as he got. But even he couldn't find a way to defeat time. He died a year after their ending. Reindeer, even human reindeer, didn't live very long. He was aching again, Luffy sighed. He always ached, ached something deep and fierce. If only Chopper was here. He'd know what to do to make it better.
"Senchou-chan." A smooth, dulcet voice brought him out of his thoughts. He was glad for the distraction.
"Robin!" Luffy smiles, one of his old smiles, old and knowing and just a bit sad too, just like Robin.
He knows Robin doesn't want to be here, with him. She's had her fill of the sea. Way before the end, she's had enough. She was one of the first to accomplish her dreams and that accomplishment was both freedom and slavery. She was tied to this ship - out of affection, yes, out of loyalty, yes, but also for her own good.
"We are being pursued." Luffy looked around. Ah, so that was why they had sped up so much. "Sailing so close to Marineford had been a very risky move."
"Shishishishishi..." He grabs his hat, the red band had been replaced by silky black ribbon since - since last summer, for Shanks. Still, he laughs.
Robin understands and she laughs as well, quietly, "Derishishishi."
Once a rubbery arm wrapped around her shoulders, Robin could breathe again. She was secure under its reassuring weight. "Zoro-san is late, it appears."
Luffy still smiles. "Yeah." The only safe place for them, for his crew, was Raftel. Raftel had served as his seat of power since his ascension but not one of his remaining nakama wanted to be there. Robin needed protection and Luffy needed home. Raftel was neither of those two things. "Do you think he's found something?"
"Perhaps..." Robin replied absently. Luffy pouted. That wasn't the answer he had been hoping for. Robin was not a woman of speculation and never had been. But over the past few years together, Luffy could see that she was more and more concerned with the facts and the facts alone. But the world wasn't dual-toned. that was something they've all forgotten. Their dreams had been too bright and the colours had run dry, it seems.
This was something Luffy didn't want to think too much about too.
That's a lot of thinking he shouldn't be doing.
All around them, the crew was scrambling to their stations. Manning cannons, adjusting this, securing that - and his first mate, not Zoro, Thames, was shouting himself hoarse at them.
Robin blinked, as if to say, their Zoro would never exert so much energy outside of a fight and Luffy only beamed. Yeah
They outran their pursuers. Sunny-go was spectacular, as always. Franky had made many modifications before he retired from this life. Water Seven had needed him and Franky was a good man, good enough to abandon his dreams for his old home and friends. Who else could possibly help Iceberg-ossan build a city-boat? So Luffy let him go. Their flamboyant and super shipwright hadn't made it to Raftel with them, but he built another boat - a city more than capable of making that trip.
But that was a poor consolation prize and they all thought it - especially Franky.
"Captain! Captain!" Shouts from his crew resounded from below and Luffy did release Robin to move closer. What was it? And who was calling him that? Luffy glowered and immediately the new recruit shrank back. "Er... L-Luffy... we're out of enemy fire..."
Luffy smiled now, pleased. "Took you guys long enough!" No one called him Luffy these days. It was always Straw Hat, Captain, Pirate King, or even just plain pirate. What happened to the good old days where his crew didn't fear him? His infamy was ruining all the fun. No one beat him up either. ...Robin probably would, if he asked but there would be no heat in her blows - not like the ones from... well, from everyone else - even Chopper. He was aching again, and again, and it was only getting worse. He really needed to see a doctor. Or stop thinking.
"They were quite sloppy, weren't they, senchou-chan?" Robin remarked.
Luffy nodded vigorously, so much so that his hat almost tipped over. "Yaa~ They don't make them like Smokey anymore..."
Vice-Admiral Smoker had retired. Just last year, actually. The old man had chased them to the ends of the world and back again - but by the end of everything, Smoker was more nakama than enemy. It was something that would kill the old man to admit, but he knew it too.
"Shall we pay him a visit?" Luffy perked up noticeably at her suggestion. They had been drifting rather aimlessly from island to island and the men were getting restless. Maybe having his unruly crew meet the infamous White Hunter would be - wait... Just as quickly, Luffy was shaking his head in abject refusal.
Was this how Whitebeard felt? Ace's old captain had made quite an impression. To see the world changing and not liking it one bit? But what could he do? He was helpless against time.
"Brooke-san has asked about you in his letter, senchou-chan." Robin was downright uncanny in her ability to sense his moods. She was like Zoro, able to ride his moods and retrace the paths he swerved.
"YES!" Luffy jumped up firmly onto the railings, his sandaled feet planted firmly into the Adam wood. "Let's go visit Laboon too! Let's go!" Luffy swung his arms out, aiming for his preferred seat on Sunny's head. Without a care, he smacked and smashed his way through the crowded deck. He only spared a moment to wonder, since when had he gathered so many nakama? Sunny wasn't Sunny like this. "JOKO! JOKO!" He waved to his navigator, "To REVERSE MOUNTAIN!"
There were people in Zoro's gym. He could see the silhouettes up there from his perch on Sunny. Zoro wouldn't like people touching his things... There was more than one cook in Sanji's kitchen and Usopp and Franky's workshops have long since been changed beyond recognition. Robin was the only one who remained. She defended her well-stocked library with fierce animosity. But if it was the old crew, Robin wouldn't have to defend anything. They all knew. Nothing of the past remains.
What was with him today? Luffy wondered, he wasn't usually like this.
And where was Sanji?
There was one place Sanji wasn't, Luffy knew, and that was in All Blue. Sanji was probably still seaching, still wandering in these vast seas, but this time, on Bonney's ship - as Bonney's nakama.
He still hadn't quite forgiven his fellow Supernova for stealing his chef, let alone marrying him.
Luffy grit his teeth.
It was wise of them to stay out of his waters.
But nothing tasted good anymore.
But he still ate.
He still smiled and laughed and did dangerous, reckless, stupid things - if only to let the world know he's alive and well. To let his nakama - wherever they may be - that he's still around, waiting for them.
For their one last adventure.
Was this how Roger felt?
They had just left the port of some no-name island when Zoro met up with them. Luffy always wanted to be found by him so Zoro had no trouble finding them. Climbing aboard and throwing himself bonelessly in a heap beside Luffy in the lounge, Zoro yawned and promptly fell asleep. Luffy wasn't tired, but it had been so long since they napped together. And for once, forced himself to sit still long enough to curl against his Zoro and nap. They remained like this for what felt like ages before Robin interrupted.
"Wha - Robin, what is it? Thames, what?" At the mention of Thames, Zoro also 'woke'.
"It seems we have a couple of stowaways, senchou-chan."
"Eeeeeeh?" Luffy didn't understand. Who had the nerve to sneak aboard his ship? He was starting to like them already, he grinned.
Knowing just where Luffy's mind was heading, Zoro callously shoved Luffy in warning. Don't like the threat. As if Luffy ever listened to that piece of advice. "Hmp." Zoro sat up. "Looks like someone has been negligent." Zoro observed and Thames bristled, just like how San - no.
Paying the two no further attention, Luffy made his way to the two intruders. They were currently tied up and restrained by Robin, but... now that made no sense. The two stowaways were looking anything but contrite or scared. In fact, one looked ready to put the meaning of fear into them. The other was awestruck, it seemed. Very familiar, the latter one. Luffy hummed contemplatively, very very familiar.
"So what do you want?" Luffy asked. "Are you lost?"
The group assembled sighed. Idiot
"I'm Bellemere and - "
"I'm Merry - "
"I'm going to - "
"- see the world!"
In an instant, Zoro had stalked his way over to the girl and bopped her a good one. Probably to spite her mother who was somewhere out there, laughing her ass off at them now. Robin smile serenely as she not so accidentally let the the one called Bellemere free. Much like her dame, she gave as good as she got. Zoro was learningthat the good old fashioned way.
Watching this, things were starting to make sense. His aching didn't hurt so much now. Chopper would be amazed - or did his doctor already know of this cure? Probably.
"Uncle Luffy! Stop laughing! Let me go!" Merry. Oh. Right.
As if he could mistake him for anyone else's son, especially with that nose.
And Luffy laughed, laughed, laughed and laughed. "You're a hundred years too early to step onto my ship!"
Was this how Shanks felt?