a/n: This is a modern-reincarnation-angst fic I wanted to write for ages. The basic idea is that the crew members are reborn and one-by-one, find their way back to Luffy despite not remembering their past. Nami, for reasons that will (hopefully) be clear later on, will be the only one to remember. The age, appearance, etc is intentionally vague here so let your imaginations run wild. The other crew members will be appearing in the next chapter that is still being written.
The title is from an old Chinese saying, 首丘初心(read, in Korean: 수구초심, su gu cho shim) which literally translates to: head, fox, first, soul/mind/spirit. It was said that when a fox falls (dies), it turns its head to the direction of where it was born. It signifies one's yearning for home.
They lose each other. The 'where's and 'how's and 'why's don't matter because the fact remains: they lose each other.
The first word Banchina and Yassop think Usopp gurgled is 'baba.' It was a sunny Saturday morning and the two were joining forces to tidy up their apartment. Leaving their six month toddler occupied on a cotton blanket between themselves, they were folding their laundry when Usopp, swinging a rubber toy in one chubby fist and repeatedly patting his blanket with another, said, "Baba!"
Banchina and Yassop looked up.
Usopp insisted, "Baba!"
And for years to come, his parents would argue over whether Usopp's first word was an attempt of 'papa' or an imitation of Yasopp's nickname for his wife 'Ban-ban.'
The first word toddler Usopp really gurgled is 'phee.' He repeated it again and again but his parents dismissed it as Usopp blowing raspberries. In a sense, Banchina and Yassop were right in thinking it wasn't a word.
It is half of a name.
At four years old, Nami can tell her mom if it will rain more accurately than the newscast. She can tell Nojiko to try again when her sister makes a mistake on her math homework. Nami can add and subtract and divide and multiply and has moved on to calculating fractions. The toys that Nojiko used to play with at Nami's age bore her. She is constantly looking for something else and secretly finishes Nojiko's homework whenever her sister isn't looking.
One day, Bellmére holds her hand and takes her to a place called school. Nami spends the next hour hiding behind her mother's leg and answering questions. The people tell her mother words like intelligent and gifted and by the following week, Bellmére tells Nami she will be going to school every day.
It is not the same school as Nojiko and at first Nami refuses because Nojiko always promised they would go to school together. It isn't until her sister gives Nami her orange ruler with blue pony stickers ("See? We'll be together this way.") that Nami finally climbs into the car. She is still pouting when Bellmére kisses her goodbye but the teachers at school are nice and for once, Nami isn't bored. They teach her fractions and decimals and graphs. They explain things like wind velocity and pressure and every day is like a breath of fresh air because Nami finally has the right words to explain what she always knew. She tells them about how the wind changes and pressure drops before it rains. She spends days exploring the entire school; going through classrooms and tennis courts and even the teachers' lounges. She draws the map of the school, using her orange ruler, and shyly presents it to Ms. Lola who nearly cries with joy.
Nami is brilliant for her age and her teachers marvel at her capacity to understand things with a single explanation. She is cheerful and clever and cute. This does not change as Nami grows older and people tell her things like you're so perfect and so lucky and what in the world would a girl like yourself possibly want more?
Nami wants to understand:
She always has the same dream. In it, a blue sky is stretched endlessly above her and she leans against the banister of a ship that smells like bitter smoke and tangerines. The weather is dry and a bit stifling, but this is to be expected because they are sailing towards a desert. Nami closes her eyes and listens to the comforting buzz from around her; the people on this ship are fun like Bellmére, safety like Nojiko and Nami wishes she doesn't ever have to open her eyes.
"Having a dumb little brother makes an older brother worry," Nami listens to the affection in the words. "Take care of him for me."
It's always the same request, always making her throat lock up and her heart flutter too quickly like when Nami as a child lost Bellmére in a crowd. She looks at the man who says them; he has his back to the sun for the light to cast shadows over his face but he reminds her of fire. The man raises a hand in goodbye but Nami must stop him from leaving because this will be the last time she ever sees this man. She twists around searching and trips over her own feet to reach out for the arm of a red and blue blur-
Nami wakes up. She always wakes up.
Independent music doesn't pay very well but his fans are loyal and Brook is happiest playing for people who love his songs.
Pedestrians drop coins or bills in his open violin case and Laboon, the gigantic puppy Brook took in on a rainy day, wags his tail in thanks. Street performances help Brook meet ends but more importantly, are incredibly fun. Sometimes, business men with darkness in their eyes and disheveled ties will slow down at Brook's corner in the street and walk away with a small smile. Sometimes, blushing new couples will stand side by side and grasp hands as if they'll never let go.
Brook loves his audience just as much as he loves his music. He loves all of his audience equally-and yet his gaze sometimes flickers to raven black hair.
At around midnight, Brook puts his earnings away and pats Laboon on the head. The black puppy, who always settles beside Brook's violin case, lets out a whine.
"Not today," Brook agrees. He isn't sure exactly what, but he scans through the unfamiliar faces in the street for one last time. "Not today."
"Ha! It's your loss Zoro," Kuina smirks. "Again."
"I could beat you if I could use more bokkens!" Zoro scrambles back up despite Kuina's laugh.
"That's ridiculous; it's against the rules!"
"Well screw rules," Zoro says. "If I could, I would win."
But in less than four moves, Kuina knocks Zoro off his feet and forces him to yield again. It's something like a routine for them; Zoro gets up and up and up and up. He challenges her until the dojo master comes in and orders them home for dinner. Most days Zoro follows Kuina inside but some days he doesn't. Some days, he refuses dinner to go running, end up in a darkened alley with three or so unconscious idiots who tried to mug him, and then go running again.
The dojo master murmurs teens and Kuina snorts boys but neither of them stop him because they see the strange faraway gaze Zoro gets when he is left alone under the sky too long. A strange restlessness hums in his bones, gnawing at him every so often as if to prevent him from being too accustomed to the peace and silence, to warn him to always be ready, to remind him he is alone.
Sanji is praised for his original dishes that are visually appeasing and well balanced in nutrion. The reviews in even the top magazines mean nothing to him though, when he has yet to be acknowledged by his own teacher. He takes a bite of his sticky toffee pudding. The bread is warm and moist and the custard and toffee is just sweet enough; to Sanji, it is perfect. Yet Zeff had a single lick of the vanilla custard and grunted, "You stirred it too much."
"Damn y'old man," Sanji mutters, his fork clattering against the plate. He'll have to try again.
Sanji has reached the sink when he realizes he left half of his pudding on the table and twists around.
The dessert is exactly where he left it, untouched, and Sanji wonders why in the world he thought it would be otherwise.
Nami is setting the table while her mom and Nojiko make dinner. She is old enough to rob rich men blind by poker and calculate her way through blackjack (which she does on weekends) but in her family, she will forever be the baby; Nami is always in charge of the grunt work, like setting the table. They keep the TV on to wait for their favorite quiz show and Nami is pulling out the cups when she notices the newsflash. Nojiko, who has noticed as well, rests her chin on Nami's shoulder.
"Oh my god, Portgas D. Ace was killed in a gang war?"
The foster son of Edward Newgate, CEO of WB, is like an urban legend; few know his face, even less about the man himself. The WB president is notoriously protective of his son and the complete lack of information led to all sorts of speculation. Some think that Portgas is the biological son of a mobster, others that he is an illegitimate child of a politician. Nami knew Portgas for the internet fiasco; a paparazzi shot of a shirtless Portgas' in a cowboy hat once went viral. The legendary shot was soon wiped off the internet and Nami, who had been still been in school, was one of the unlucky few who found out too late. She always jokingly considered Portgas as 'the one who got away,' and it is strange to think that a man she heard of, is dead. Nojiko clucks in sympathy as the anchor moves on to show the video they obtained, allegedly taken mere minutes before Portgas D. Ace's death.
"You don't think they're going to show him die on TV, do you?" Nojiko sounds mildly alarmed.
Nami is about to scoff at the comment but she watches as a man with freckles and an impossible grin appear on screen. She gasps, reeling backwards in shock. She never notices Nojiko staggering back to support her, or the cups slipping from her grasp and smashing on their marble kitchen floor. Portgas D. Ace is staring at the camera and though the sound is drowned by the shouts and shooting from around him, he laughs like he couldn't have a care in the world. He flips the bird to the camera and is saying something but Nami can't hear because Ace is staring at her, and his gaze is strong and steady and he reminds her of-
Take care of him for me.
"Luffy," Nami whispers. "Oh my god, Luffy."