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Watashitachi wa Roger kaizoku desu (we still stand proud)

Chapter Text

Come all you young sailor men, listen to me,

I'll sing you a song of the fish in the sea 

(Fish in the sea)


 

Crocus of the Twin Capes, they call him. He who sits at the bottom of Reverse Mountain and greets all who venture to the Grand Line.

Some laugh. Some stare. Some stop to chat. And some he grabs by the ear and drags into his house for a medical exam.

The young man with an eerily familiar face and an even more familiar name is one of the laters.


 

“I’m one of the best doctors in the damn world, brat, and you’re not leaving my house until I’m damn sure that you’re not going to die on your crew!” Crocus decrees, glaring at the young man in front of him. “I swear on Laboon’s head I mean you no harm, but you’re not getting out of a complete examination. In fact," he turns to the rest of the crew. "All of you are getting a free check-up, and do me a favour and find yourself a damn medic soon!”

He then turns back to a fuming Portgas D. Ace.

“I know exactly who you are, young man, and trust me when I say I have good reasons to want to give you a check-up. Now, do we do this the easy way or do I have to knock you out? I swear to Davy Jones, you D’s are going to drive me nuts…” He mutters.

In the end, it's the Spade’s second in command who convinces his captain to at least humour the doctor, pointing out that they had all been roughed up by their arrival in the Grand Line.

“Who the fuck are you and what do you know about me?” Ace spits out as soon as he is alone with the Doctor.

“My name’s Crocus and I was the doctor on the Oro Jackson. Sit on the table, please. Your father had an incurable disease and these kinds of things have the bad habit of being genetic. I’ll be damned if you have to chose between dying on your sick bed or giving yourself up to go out in a blaze of glory like that moron did.”

Biting back a retort, Ace obeys, paler than he had been when he entered the room. “Disease?”

Humming as he readies a needle, the doctor nods.

“Hm. It started about four years before we got to Raftel. That’s why he recruited me, originally. I managed to extend his life expectancy by a couple of years, but in the end it was either a prolonged agony or a pirate’s death. He didn’t want to put the crew or your mother through the former, so he chose the latter. What happened to Rouge, anyway? I didn’t even know she had a kid, and I would have thought she would have brought you here to make sure you didn’t have that fucking disease.”

He regrets asking as soon as the words leave his mouth.

“She died the day I was born. She extended her pregnancy to twenty months in order to avoid the purges."

Crocus winces even as his medical curiosity tries to figure out how the hell she had managed such a feat. “Damn. Sorry, kiddo. I met her a few times. Tough as nails and one of the most stubborn pirate I’ve ever met. Reckless as hell, too, drove her crew mad.”

Ace gapes.

“My mother was a pirate?” He yelpes, causing the doctor to frown deeply.

“Are you kidding me? Who the hell raised you, kid, that you weren’t even told that?”

Ace shrugs. “Garp dropped me off with mountain bandits when I was like two months old.”

It's Crocus’s turn to gape.

Garp? That’s it, I’m going to kill Roger again when it’s my time to join Davy Jones. There’s no way in the seven seas that Rouge would have let that stand if he’d told her about it beforehand. She loathed Monkey with a passion. I mean, I can see Captain’s reasoning, screwed up as it is, but come the fuck on. He didn’t tell anyone in our crew! I bet the Blackjack’s don’t know about you either! And then he goes and leaves you with Marine Hero Ironfist Garp. I can’t even blame the illness, moron was always making stupid decisions like that…” He rants as he takes a few blood samples. “Do me a favour and actually listen to your ship’s doctor when you get one. We are not paid enough to deal with D’s on a daily basis."

He puts the samples away and takes out a stethoscope.

“Deep breaths please. Anyway, you probably don’t want to hear me curse your old man in the grave, you want to hear about Rouge. Cough twice. Again. Blackjack Rouge, the Queen of Spade - that’s why I thought you knew, what with your crew’s name. I bet that gave Monkey a heart attack - captain of the Blackjack pirates and certified menace. She was of the adventuring sort, always getting herself in trouble. Reckless as hell too, as I said. She fought with a bo staff most of the time, but her hand to hand was pretty good too. Decent bounty, I’m pretty sure I still have one of her posters somewhere for old time’s sake. We used to get into small skirmishes with them every few months or so, never seriously though. More like training exercices than anything, really.”

“What were her nakama like?” Ace asks hesitantly, opening his mouth wide to let the doctor check his throat.

Crocus’ mouth twitches.

“Fucking terrifying, the lot of them. I don’t quite know how she managed it, but she surrounded herself with some of the strongest, scariest women of our era, and the men were nothing to scoff at either…


Crocus smiles as he sends the Spades on their way. They’re good guys, decent nakama too if their immediate reaction when he had taken one look at their captain before dragging him to his examination room was anything to judge by.

The kid had fought him all the way, but the old doctor had dealt with worse patients before.

Yes, Crocus thinks as the ship disappears on the horizon. The kid would be alright. He had tested negative to the disease that would have killed his father if the moron hadn’t chosen Marines as cause of death, he had a good crew and as good a head on his shoulders as any D would ever have.

He eyes an inconspicuous notebook sitting on a shelf. He had told Ace that no one knew where the rest of the Oro Jackson crew had gone, and the kid had been more interested in the Blackjacks anyway, but that wasn’t exactly the truth.

He’d told the kid to seek out Shakky in Sabaody. If he happened to meet Rayleigh there, well. And the boy had mentioned tracking Shanks down to thank him for something, so that’s two down.

There’s no need to sick the rest of the mob on him, at least not now, especially with Ace being so susceptible about his father.

(Oh captain, what did you do?)

Still, he thinks as he sends a message to the Newspaper office, it’s always a good idea to keep them somewhat informed. If only to limit the collateral damage before one of them opens their big mouth.


 

Harried Gardener to Stubborn weeds.

Found out that two of my rarest flowers crossbred. Unexpected results, but I think I’ll leave it alone and observe for now. This could be interesting.

 

Chapter Text

Unser Schiff gleitet stolz durch die schäumenden Wogen, (Our ship proudly glides through the foaming waves)

jetzt strafft der Wind uns're Segel mit Macht. (The wind now tightens our sails with might.)

Seht ihr hoch droben die Fahne sich wenden, (See the flag turning up above,)

 

die blutrote Fahne, ihr Seeleut, habt acht. (The blood-red flag, you sailors take heed!)

(Wir lieben die Stürme)

 


The call comes from their archeologist slash spymaster, Marian.

Portgas D. Ace has been defeated by Blackboard and handed over to the Marines to be executed for ‘being Whitebeard’s second commander’.”

The tense tone of her voice lets him know exactly what she thinks of the whole situation and of the reason behind the scheduled execution.

“I’m hoisting the colours.” He announces. “Where?”

Marineford. in a month. The official announcement will come out a week before.

“Noted. Meeting point is Shakky’s, three days before.”

The DenDen nods.

I probably would still want to do something if he truly was to be executed for his actions as a Spade or as a Shirohige Kaizoku, but this is unforgivable, ” The archeologist spits out. “ I’ll try to contact the Blackjacks, unless you have their number? I think I know where to find some of them at least, they can call the rest.”

“You do that. It’s going to be enough of a pain tracking everyone else down.” Crocus mutters as he throws a few things in a bag before looking at his medical supplies and grabbing another bag. “The Oro Jackson is still in Water Seven with our favourite Shipwright, so I better call them first.”

Ironic, isn’t it, that no one has noticed it in over twenty years? Marian snickers. “ People are idiots. Anyway, I’m going to get Yadomaru and tell her to get her people moving. See you at Shakky’s, old man.”


Ace is going to hate this, Crocus thinks as he rings up the newspaper office and places another ad.There will be no hiding whose son he is after this, and Roger’s crew coming to his rescue would just add to the public reveal Sengoku was no doubt already planning. But this is Captain’s son, and they will be damned before they let the kid be executed just because his father had been a pain in the marine’s ass. If anything, they should be coming after them, the Roger Kaizoku, not Newgate’s second commander.

Assholes, all of them.


Harried Gardener to Stubborn weeds.

The neighbourhood association is trying to get rid of some of my rarer plants because they offend their aesthetics. Will be at the usual place in three weeks to see if anyone wants to take them off my hands. Any help is welcome.

 


At the news office in Alabasta, one of the editor frowns before requesting an assignment to Sabaody.


On Elbaf, a giant stops his fight to grab the newspaper, then knocks his opponent out and steals his boat.


On Weather Island, an elderly woman gets a call and packs her bags.


On Conomi Island, a former sniper hands her prize to the girl who just got bullseye at her carnaval booth, then turns away the next customer. Her denden mushi just rang five time before falling silent.


Somewhere in Paradise, a one armed, red-haired drunkard takes a look at the newspaper and puts the alcohol away regretfully. There’s not enough alcohol in the world to deal with this kind of crap anyway.


On the Baratie, somewhere near the Calm Belt, a cook sighs before turning in his apron.


On Water Seven, Iceburg gapes as one of his oldest shipwrights hands in his resignation without warning. The woman had been working there for over twenty years, but she leaves without looking back. Underneath her house, the Oro Jackson is ready to sail.


On Fishman island, an Orca-man nearly crushes the DenDen in his hand. It’s time to swim up again, it seems.


In a bar in Sabaody, two old friends gaze at each other.

“I’ll prepare the rooms and stock up on the good stuff, then,” Shakky says, exhaling smoke. “Try not to get sold as a slave again until then?”


All over the seas, on both sides of the Red Line, bags are packed, weapons polished and ships heave their anchors.

It’s been twenty-two years since they last sailed together. They’re retired, as much as people like them can be, but it doesn’t matter. This is important. This is their captain’s boy, a son they stayed away from to protect, a young man condemned not for any action of his own (they wouldn’t intervene if that were the case, it would have been an insult towards Ace’s achievements and choices) but for the blood that flows through his veins, for the crimes of a father he has never met and a dream he isn’t even chasing. This is about honor, about respect, about justice even, the sacrosanct “justice” the Marine wave as a flag even as they twist its meaning.

It’s been twenty-two years, and the Roger Kaizoku will remind the World Government that there’s a reason they could never catch any of them until their captain gave himself up.


(In a cell in Impel Down, a pirate keeps to himself as he wonders if the rest of his crew managed to escape the marines.

He doesn’t think about the Roger Kaizoku. None of them have thought about him in a long, long time, with one exception. He is done hoping.)

 



The meet up in Shakky’s bar three days before the scheduled execution. All of them are there, except for Gulliver and the cabin brats. But the giant would be here soon, and Shanks had warned them that he had to put the fear of him into Kaido before coming, as the youngest Yonkou was making a try on Whitebeard’s territory, and that he might not get there until the last minute. Special mention was made of a false D that needed a thorough ass-kicking followed by an old-fashioned beheading and burning of the body for good measure. Marian had been detailed in her description of Blackbeard’s devil fruit, and such power could not be left unchecked.

Buggy, Crocus learns, has been in Impel Down for a few months now.

It’s the first time in twenty-two years that all of them are together again. It feels good, even if the reason is dire and Roger’s absence direly felt. The Oro Jackson is moored not far away, camouflaged to look like a normal ship. Seagull commandeered Shakky’s kitchen as soon as he got there, while Scopper Gaban polishes his axe in a corner. Marian is talking animatedly with Bullseye Riza as she counts her bullets, the archeologist sharpening her knives. Elena, their navigator, is arguing with Shakky about the best routes to take while Roban does kata to one side. Rush, their shipwright, is assuring Rayleigh that the Oro Jackson is in top condition despite over two decades of disuse.

As if any of them had expected any differently. The steadfast ship had lived through the Ed War with little to no damage, and Rush had always been meticulous in her repairs. The ship Tom had built them was still a masterpiece, and he can’t wait to be onboard again.

“Gulliver just arrived,” Rayleigh says, standing up. “Let’s take this to the ship and plan our course of action.”

“Aye aye sensho!” The crew roars in delight.

It’s good to be together again, Crocus thinks, and he smiles.


The plaza was filled to the brim with Marines. Over a hundred thousand of them had been recalled, fifty battleships surrounding the island, cannons everywhere. It wouldn’t be enough to prevent Whitebeard from coming, but as long as the fight stayed on the ground the marines had the advantage.

Around the world, people watched with anticipation as Portgas D. Ace was brought up to the execution platform three hours before the scheduled time, and Sengoku took a speaker Denden to address the crowd of marines. And, with them, the rest of the World.

“Men, I have something crucial to tell you all. Something about the true meaning of Portgas D. Ace... meeting his end here today...!”

He pauses dramatically.

“Ace. Tell me the name of your father.”

“My father?” Ace chuckles dryly. “Huh. At a time like this... My father... is Whitebeard!”

“He is not!”

Ace raises his head, eyes burning.

“Yes he is! Whitebeard is my only father! I have no other!”

Sengoku ignores his answer.

“Back then, we searched as though our lives depended on it. Searching for the possibility that there existed on that island a child of that man. Based on nothing but the tiniest of leads from Cipher Pol, we investigated all newborn children, all children who were yet to be born and all of their mothers, but ultimately found nothing. Or so we thought. But out of pure obstinacy, your mother had risked her life to perform a certain trick with regard to your birth! And it was this trick that deceived our eyes! In the South Blue, there lies an island by the name of Baterilla. Your mother's name was... Portgas D. Rouge! She performed a feat that we could never have hoped to imagine and, out of devotion to her child, bore him in her womb for a full twenty months! And when the birth finally came, her strength all but spent, she left the world as you entered it. One year and three months from the father's death... a child was born bearing the most accursed blood to be found in this world. That child is you. Do not claim you are not aware!”

 


Hidden in the water, in front of Whitebeard’s incoming allies, the Roger Kaizoku wince as one as they watch Sengoku’s speech.

“Oh boy.” Elena mutters. “If the Blackjacks weren’t already furious, this would do it. No mention of Rouge having been a pirate at all? Reducing her to Ace’s mother and Roger’s piece on the side?”

Crocus nods in agreement. Yadomaru was going to explode about this. They could only hope the Blackjacks would stick to the plan, at least for now.

 


“Your father is none other than pirate King Gol D. Roger!” Sengoku announces loudly, shocking people all across the seas.

 


“Drama queen” Riza spits out. “Rush, you’re on.”

Their shipwright nods and grabs a denden.

 


“So what?” A voice yells, seemingly from within the crowd of Marines. Sengoku frowns, but goes on, ignoring it.

“Two years ago, it was... choosing to take your mother's name... you had risen with frightening speed and remarkable power to notability as captain of the Spade Pirates. It was then that we finally realised... that Roger's blood still lived on! But Whitebeard, who came to the same realisation just as we did, chose to take in the son of his old rival onto his own ship, so that he might raise him to be the next pirate King!”

“No! I joined his crew so that I could make HIM the pirate king!” Ace protests, but Sengoku barrels on.

“You are the only one who believes that. We were unable to lay a finger on you from that moment forth. You were being protected by Whitebeard himself! And if I were to allow you to roam free for long enough, you would be sure, slowly but surely, to obtain the necessary calibre to stand at the summit of a new era of piracy!That is why it is absolutely imperative that we take your head here today! Even if that means going to war with Whitebeard himself!”


Just as he finishes his speech, the same voice interrupts again.

“Not that we would dare to deny Newgate his right to kick your ass,” It resounds around Marineford, carried by the multiple speakers originally meant to project Sengoku’s voice only. “But it seems that you forgot to include some important variable in this equation.”


The Marines are looking around frantically now, trying to pinpoint the speaker. Their panic rises further when the Gates of Justice open seemingly on their own, revealing Whitebeard’s allies.

“Where is Whitebeard?” Sengoku roars. “We need confirmation!”

“Wild Knight Doma! Thunder Lord McGuy! The Decalvan brothers! Vortex Spider Squardo! A terrifying group, all of them captains who have made a name for themselves in the new world! There are 43 ships in all! Whitebeard’s division commanders are nowhere to be seen, but these are, without a doubt, all pirates affiliated with Whitebeard!” One of his underlings replies. “Do we attack?”

“Not yet!” He barks. “Whitebeard is sure to be nearby! He must have some kind of plan! Scan the seas!”

“The speaker must be on one of these…” Kizaru muses.

Just as he says that, however, bubbles start to appear in front of the armada, at level with the now opened Gates of Justice.

“Could it be…” Sengoku starts, only to be interrupted again.

“We would like to set the record straight on a few things. Most notably the fact that the Pirate King was never actually captured. He gave himself up because he was dying anyway and wanted to go out with a bang. Oh, and the fact that Portgas D. Rouge was better known as Blackjack D. Rouge, the Queen of Spade and captain of the Blackjack pirates.”

Even more bubbles were rising to the surface now.

“But most importantly.” The voice gains a heavy dose of sarcasm. “ What the fuck made you think we would let you execute our captain’s son?”


The Oro Jackson breaks through the water, Jolly Roger flying high, her crew standing tall on the bridge, arms crossed and face closed.

“That’s Dark King Rayleigh!” Someone yells. “Scopper Gaban, Seagull, Gulliver, Bullseye Riza… It’s the Roger Kaizoku!”

Pandemonium descends on the plaza, not helped in the least by Rayleigh taking a step forward and unleashing his King’s Haki on them, causing half of the marines to collapse, foaming at the mouth.

“If you want to execute Newgate’s second commander, at least do it for his actions as a Shirohige Kaizoku.” The Dark King chides the fleet Admiral in a condescending tone, as if talking to a small child. “That would be acceptable. A stupid move, certainly, as it would gain you Newgate’s ire which is never a comfortable thing, but an acceptable one.”

He pauses, eyes locked on Sengoku’s despite the distance between them.

“But if you want to get rid of Gol D. Roger’s legacy, at least have the balls to come after us who sailed with him rather than condemn a young man for the actions of a man who died fifteen months before he was even born.”

The remaining marines are shaking now. Behind Ace, the three admirals stand up, ready to intervene. Monkey D. Garp makes his way back to the platform, staring at the Oro Jackson as if seeing a ghost.

Surprisingly, or not, Ace is the one who breaks the silence. In a very D. way.

“What the fuck are you doing?!” He roars. “I told Crocus I wanted nothing to do with your crew!”

“Oh, don’t worry brat, we’re leaving the actual rescue to Newgate and his people.” Said Doctor waves Ace’s words away. “We’re mostly here because these guys didn’t have the guts to come after us and chose to use you as their yearly publicity stunt instead, so we decided to remind them why, exactly, they never managed to catch any of us. Besides, it’s been ages since most of us were in a good fight, we simply couldn’t resist the opportunity to shake off the rust a bit.”

As if to prove his point, Riza shoots the Marine flag with an exploding bullet.

“Are we going to fight or what?” She complains, eyes locked on the execution platform.

“Just a few moments of patience, Bullseye,” Rayleigh chuckles. “I do believe the Shirohige Kaizoku have first dibs.”

Just as he finishes his sentence, the Moby Dick and three other Whitebeard ships break the surface inside the walls. All the commanders were standing on the deck, along with their infamous captain.

“I hope you’re not planning on absconding with one of my precious sons, Rayleigh.”

Despite having his back to the Oro Jackson, Edward Newgate addresses them first, though his eyes never leave Ace.

“My patience has already been severely tested.”

“Maa maa, don’t worry Newgate. As we just told Fire-Fist, we’re leaving the rescue to you. We’re just here to express our disappointment and remind the Marines of what happens when you piss us off. Portgas is all yours. We’re here because we’re Roger’s legacy, the ones who sailed to Raftel and saw the One Piece, and it’s insulting that the World Government thinks that a boy who has never even met our captain is a bigger threat to their precious order.”

“And we’re here because some fucker insulted our captain by insinuating that she was just an ordinary civilian girl who was deceived by their captain’s non-existent charm!” A woman growls from inside the plaza, appearing on the platform just behind Garp, a massive pole in her hands. All around the plaza, people begin to appear as if an illusion had been lifted, all of them bearing the mark of the Blackjack pirates.

“We’ll meet up with you later Whitebeard, to ensure that your kid gets at least some stories about Rouge and to talk about the good old days with some quality sake, but for now I have a Marine Hero to castrate and you have a Nibantai taicho to rescue.”

And with that, she swings her pole around, catching Garp in the stomach and sending him flying.

As if that had been the signal everyone had been waiting for, all hell breaks loose. Everything starts happening at once, and Crocus struggles to keep track of it all.

Newgate creates a tsunami, which Aokiji promptly freezes, then regrets when the Division Commanders use his ice to get to the plaza. Kizaru goes for Newgate’s head, but is intercepted by the first commander, Marco the Phoenix. Akainu rushes towards the Oro Jackson, magma fist at the ready, only to lose it to a haki-infused axe swing from Scopper. Yadomaru, Rouge’s former first mate and now the captain of the Blackjacks by default, is clearly relieving some tension on Monkey D. Garp by beating him to a pulp while the rest of her crew has some fun with the run-of-the-mill marines still standing.

Crocus himself is dealing with Vice-Admiral Tsuru, and trying his very best to avoid getting transformed into laundry, swearing all the while. The woman was old guard, and only sexism and the limited number of Admiral positions kept her at her current rank.

Speaking of Admirals, Aokiji, the last one, is locked in a three way fight against Elena, one of Newgate’s commanders (the short one, Haruta if Crocus’ memory isn’t failing him) and the blonde medic of the Blackjack’s who hadn’t even eaten the Strength fruit and could still punch craters into concrete if she wished.


Then a ship falls from the sky, revealing Straw Hat Luffy and a bunch of prison escapees, and the chaos only grows bigger. Because why not?

“Fucking D’s” he mutters under his breath, catching the commiserating glance Tsuru sends him.

Fuck. He doesn’t like agreeing with her. But still.

“Fucking Monkey Ds.” He adds, and she snorts.

Wait.

Is that Buggy?

In the lull cause by the falling ship, Crocus tries to catch the former cabin’s boy’s attention.

But Buggy is looking at the Oro Jackson as if he can’t believe it’s there, then visibly steels himself as he turns away to make a grand declaration, standing with Strawhat Luffy, Emporio Ivankov (what even was the Revolutionary doing there?), Fishman Shichibukai Jinbe and former Shichibukai Crocodile.

He doesn't look at any of the Roger Kaizoku.

“Luffy!” Ace yells over the sound of battle. “What the hell are you doing here?”

“I finally found you!” His brother replies just as loudly, a wide smile on his face.


The sound of Garp having an apoplexy is music on Crocus’s ears at this point. But a second glance at the young man has him ready to kill Dragon once this mess is over. Because the brat is sporting all the signs of one of Ivankov’s “miracle cures” and not matter his fruit, the okama queen is NOT a qualified medical professional and the Strawhat should still be resting if he's been inject with the damn thing. And because the Chief Revolutionary has left his son to be raised by Garp , despite having grown up with the man himself, without having Roger’s excuse of being terminally ill when he made that decision and then too dead to rectify it.

For fucks’ sake, is no one on this planet capable of being a decent parent? Newgate adopted over 1600 “sons” and “daughters”, and apparently did a stellar job of it given how capable and loyal they all were. So why is it that those who were lucky enough to have their own kids can’t be arsed to take care of them properly?

Thankfully, the Monkey brat is very much not his problem. Nope. Shanks made him is responsibility when he gave him Captain’s hat and then proceeded to talk Crocus’s ear off about the damn brat.

And Ace has Newgate - for how long, Crocus can’t say, because the man is pretty damn old and his life-style and love of alcohol means that his chief nurse is definitely keeping a close eye on him, a good hint that the old man didn’t have long left. But that crew is strong, united, their bonds stronger than most of the crews Crocus had ever heard of.

 

They will be fine.

 

Meanwhile, Crocus has a fight of his own to get back to, a crew to keep in one piece (no pun intended) and, once this is mess is over, an apprentice to track down.

 

Because Buggy has not looked at any of them since he got there.

And Crocus has a nasty feeling that this talk is not going to go well.

Chapter Text

Leave her, Johnny, leave her
Oh, leave her, Johnny, leave her
For the voyage is done and the winds do blow
And it's time for us to leave her

(Leave her Johnny)


 

The past few days had been a rollercoaster of highs and lows for Buggy the Clown. But then again, that was to be expected when in the company of the menace known as Monkey D Luffy. How the boy had survived so long is a complete mystery, given how reckless he is. Buggy doesn’t think the Strawhat even knows what self preservation means.

It is yet another uncomfortable reminder of his former captain. Buggy could have done without it.

At least he had been true to his word and had gotten them all out of Impel Down. And somehow, in the middle of their escape, Buggy had found himself with over a hundred people calling him ‘captain’ and worshipping the ground he walks on. It’s flattering. It’s everything he’s been pretending to want for the past decade.

He hates it. Hates that these men have put their lives on his shoulders, hates that he is now responsible for them when he has never agreed to be, hates that they look at him like he hung the sky when he has done nothing to warrant it. Hates that they aren’t the men he left behind when the marines captured him, the ones who actually know him and follow him nonetheless. Hates that he still doesn’t know if his men managed to escape or not. Hates that this will put an even bigger target on all their heads when all he had ever wanted was to be a small-time pirate that could gather treasure without being chased by the marines.

Buggy isn’t Gol D. Roger, never has been, never wants to be. Even without a devil fruit, his captain had been a right monster. So had the rest of the crew.

Oh, most of them had been perfectly decent people, most of the time, but Buggy remembers all too well how his captain had once utterly annihilated the military force of one country over a perceived insult. The others had been all too happy to join in. All of them had lived for battle, in a way, though they didn’t always look for it (there was no need, not with their captain’s uncanny ability to land himself in trouble time and time again). And all of them had been true monsters in strength.

Not many knew that none of the Roger Kaizoku had eaten a devil fruit, except for Buggy and even then it had been an accident. Losing the ability to swim had been terrifying, even if being basically invulnerable to non-haki enhanced bladed weapons had been reassuring. But the fact remains that the Roger Kaizoku had been monsters in their own right, without needing the crutch of a devil fruit. Roger’s and Rayleigh’s King’s Haki alone had been weapons of mass incapacitation in their own right, and the others had all had their own frightening strengths. Even Shanks, who had already been developing into a feared swordsman back then, and whose own King’s haki had awoken at a young age.

But Buggy? Buggy has always been average. His capacity to survive anything thrown at him is more a reflection of his self-preservation instincts than anything else. Back on the Oro Jackson, he had been both the youngest and the weakest, surrounded by monsters who would happily fight other monsters head-on while Buggy cowered inside the ship. Rayleigh had despaired of him even as he beat the two lower branches of haki into Buggy. He had taken to them like a fish to water, but that hadn’t changed his behaviour during battles in the slightest. The only times he would join a fight had been if he hadn’t had any other choice or if one of the others was in mortal danger (that had only happened twice, once with Shanks and once with his captain, and both had thanked him but none of the others had noticed and Buggy didn’t bring attention to it. Not when Riza and Marian were comparing scores, not when Elena was busy barking orders to get them away from the wreckages before they dragged them down to the seafloor with them, not when Rush was still cleaning her bloody wrenches next to Scopper who was doing the same with his axe).

And Roger had never judged him for it. His captain had simply told him that everyone fought for different reasons, and that it was fine if Buggy hadn’t found his reason yet, or if his reasons were different from the rest of the crew. Had squeezed his shoulder and told him to remember that, for Roger, Buggy was one the things he fought for, so he was fine with Buggy fighting to protect himself first and foremost.

(And then their captain had gone and left them all behind, left everything he had fought for behind and handed himself over to the Marines, and Buggy, who had just begun to think that this man was someone he could try fighting for, had to watch as the closest thing he had ever had to a father was beheaded right in front of him.)

(Buggy would never forgive Gol D. Roger for that.)

But here he is now, with newly escaped prisoners thinking him a great pirate captain and swearing to follow him, when all he wants to do is to get off this ship and back to East Blue, back to his crew who has better be intact, back to their calm little part of the world where there were no monsters ready to pounce on you as soon as your back was turned.

But of course he can’t, not with Strawhat determined to rescue his beloved brother (how the heck are they related anyway, him and Fire-Fist? And what is all the fuss about anyway? Yeah the brat is Whitebeard’s second commander, but that shouldn’t warrant such a spectacle). And Ivankov has decided that he and his revolutionaries would help, for whatever reason, and Buggy and the others had been brought along without so much as a by-your-leave. He’s trying to make the best of it, he really is, but right now he is seriously considering throwing himself overboard. He hadn’t signed up for getting involved in a war between Whitebeard and the Marines, Davy Jones damn them all! He’s way too much aware of his own abilities for that!

Buggy doesn’t have anything against Portgas per se. He’s as much a menace as his little brother, true, and had kicked Buggy’s ass before he left East Blue, but he had seemed rational enough, for a D at least. It had been clear even back then that he would grow up to be a monster, though, and Buggy had had enough of those for three lifetimes at least. He had heard on the grapevine that he had refused a Shichibukai title, and then his next bounty had reported that he had joined the Whitebeards and Buggy had stopped caring. That was another bunch of monsters that he wanted nothing to do with.

(He had tried not to think of the previous bunch of monsters, the ones who had made it clear that they didn’t want anything to do with him anymore now that captain was gone.)

So he has no particular attachment or grudge to lay on Portgas’ door. Buggy has no reason to want anything to do with either side of the war that is about to begin. But life is a bitch and he doesn’t get a choice in the matter.

Story of his fucking life.

That doesn’t mean he plans on getting involved more than he has to to keep himself alive. As soon as he sees an opening, he’s going to be out of there before anyone notices his presence. And if he has to sacrifice a few of his new ‘followers’ to do so, well. Most of them had actually deserved to rot in Impel Down. The world wouldn’t miss them much. Buggy certainly wouldn’t. There were a few of the younger ones who had just been at the wrong place at the wrong time, and those are the ones he’ll try to take with him to work the ship he’s going to steal and then drop them somewhere for them to reconsider their life choices, but the rest of them can die in a ditch for all he cares.

 


 

Fucking D’s.

It starts with Ivankov letting it slip that the Strawhat’s father is Revolutionary Dragon. Which is bad enough, even if Buggy wants to laugh and point at Garp’s face at some point because really? The son of the Hero of the Marines went and became the leader of the Revolution and his grandson wants to be the Pirate King? The part of Buggy that will never forgive Monkey D. Garp for arresting his captain is bathing in schadenfreude. Another part of him is trying to figure out how the hell someone as smart as Dragon can be related to either Garp or Strawhat, the later in particular given how fucking dumb the brat is.

And then Strawhat reveals that Portgas is not Dragon’s son.

He is Roger’s.

‘Firefist’ Portgas D. Ace is Gol D. Roger’s son and Buggy doesn’t want to believe it, doesn’t want to believe that his captain had a son and didn’t tell anyone about it, until he remembers the Baterilla slaughter, Shanks’s face when they heard about it in a bar, how they had tried to get people out, but arrived too late, how his fellow former cabin brat hadn’t been sober since as he drank to try and forget the horrors he saw in South Blue. The Marines had been looking for a child back then, for Roger’s child he realises now though he doesn’t think Shanks had, back then.

(Because, as reluctant as he is to admit, Shanks is his best friend, his brother in all but blood, and as much as the man irritates him he wouldn’t have kept that from him. Not so soon after Captain’s execution.)

Fuck. Captain had a kid. A kid that is about to be executed for his father’s sins, if what he’s hearing is true.

And, fuck. Buggy doesn’t want to fight in this war, doesn’t want to get involved, but this is Captain’s son. Whitebeard and Strawhat and their allies will be there too, will be trying to save him, and Buggy cannot, will not interfere with that unless there is no other way.

But he can’t leave either, now, not until this situation is resolved one way or the other. He owes it to the man who basically raised him to at least witness his son’s last moments.

No matter how terrified he is. No matter how much he hates being here, no matter how much worse it’s going to be to see his Captain’s son on an execution platform.

(Aviva had been the one to choose Loguetown’s execution’s square as the location for their attack on Strawhat. Buggy had only been there because the anniversary had been approaching and he had wanted to give his respects, no matter how much he resented the man for abandoning them and giving himself up.)

He can do this, Buggy thinks. He can be a witness, maybe trip someone discreetly if necessary, and then leave without anyone seeing him.

 


 

And then a giant wave heaves them up, but freezes before hitting the water again, and they’re stuck on top of the ice. Then Strawhat does something stupid again and suddenly they’re flying and then falling right into the bay. Buggy barely has the time to register some vaguely familiar haki signatures ( but no that is not possible why would they be here ) before he hits the water and starts sinking. Thankfully, Jinbei is quick to gather all the anchors (and there’s a lot of them too, what with Strawhat, Ivankov and his second, Crocodile and Mr 3) and bring them up to the surface, where they gather on a piece of ballast.

And that’s when he sees it.

The Oro Jackson, floating between the Whitebeard Allied Fleet and the Moby Dick itself. And scattered on the plaza and on the ice, their fights momentarily interrupted while everyone stares at the new arrivals, are people he hasn’t seen since his captain was executed.

 


 

He doesn’t even needs his eyes to find them, his Observation haki locking on them as easy as breathing (because it’s always been easier to escape a situation if he knows exactly who and where the people around him are, Observation Haki had been the first thing he had unlocked and he had always found it much easier than Armament. Because one needs to be in battle to use Armament and Buggy would rather avoid that altogether).

There’s Silver Rayleigh, locked in a duel with Sengoku himself. There’s Scopper and Rush, protecting their ship from a furious Akainu. There’s Riza, up in the crow’s nest, felling soldiers left and right. There’s Gulliver, supporting Whitebeard’s own giant commander. There’s Marian, knifing whoever is stupid enough to get near her, and there’s Elena fighting against Aokiji alongside one of Whitebeard’s commanders and a woman he only vaguely recognises, until she punches a crater in the ground and he flinches at the memory of a medic on the Black Maria (and then wants to slap himself for not realising the obvious. How the hell had Captain managed to score with Blackjack D. Rouge?). Yadomaru is there too, playing whack-a-mole with Monkey D. Garp, and Seagull is keeping Shichibukai Moria busy. Crocus, the old fart who looks exactly the same save for the grey in his hair, is standing across Vice-Admiral Tsuru.

He’s staring at Buggy.

 


 

Buggy inhales.

Crocus never leaves his lighthouse. Rayleigh rarely leaves Sabaody. He hasn’t heard from any of them in over twenty years, but he knows, from the information Shanks shares with him, that none of them stayed in the same place. There hasn’t been more than two of them on the same island in over two decades.

And yet here they are, all gathered together, and that means that this is planned . That they knew Captain had had a son and that that son was scheduled for execution.

All of them had known.

And none of them had told him. None of them had thought that maybe he deserved to know that his captain had left a legacy. Not a single one of them.

And that. That hurts .

But not as much as their surprise does.

Because it’s his presence they’re surprised by. Not the prisoner’s uniform he’s still wearing.

Which means that they’d known he was in Impel Down.

They had gathered here ready to fight for a boy most of them had probably never met before. But none of them had cared that he had been thrown in Impel down and left there to rot.

 


 

The thing is, Buggy can’t even bring himself to be surprised. Not anymore. Not after the past twenty years where only Shanks had tried to stay in touch.

(And Buggy will never ever admit it, but he is grateful, so grateful that the redhead hadn’t abandoned him, hadn’t left him behind like all the others did. Because Buggy doesn’t think he would have made it, if Shanks hadn’t stuck with him these first two years after Captain’s execution, barely fifteen to Buggy’s fourteen. He still doesn’t know how he managed to survive the following three years on his own, after they got separated in the Hell that they call the New World. By the time they found each other again, Shanks had already assembled the beginning of his crew and Buggy had still been on his own.)

(Shanks had offered him a place on his crew, as his second even, and Buggy had refused. Because Shanks and his crew were going to be monsters, and Buggy had long since learned that his place would never be amongst them.)

Buggy had been fourteen when he had lost the closest thing he’d ever had to a father, when the crew who had stuck together for the two years before that, even without their captain, had disbanded for good and left the two apprentices to rot. None of them had looked back. None of them had tried to keep an eye on the two youngest. It was as if they had forgotten about them.

Well, Buggy could testify that his Captain’s enemies hadn’t, for all that Roger had done his best to keep his apprentices out of the limelight.

(Buggy still doesn’t know how he survived these three years. He does know that he wouldn’t have if he hadn’t had his devil fruit. Some days, he doesn’t know of it is a blessing or a curse.)

Shanks has been in touch with them, he knows that much. The redhead came across Rayleigh during these three years and got some additional training, and a few of the others have sought him out since.

No one had tried to contact Buggy in twenty years. And it isn’t like Buggy had been hard to find. He’d stayed in East Blue, had made a small name for himself, had earned a few bounties. It had been child’s play to find him, as his red-haired friend had proved multiple times. They could even have asked Shanks about him.

They never did. Shanks had offered to tell them about him, but Buggy had declined, refusing to beg for attention and care that should have been freely offered. Shanks had nodded and never mentioned it again.

(Baterilla is not the only reason the red head hasn’t been sober in twenty years. Buggy will never ask, but he knows. Shanks might have accidentally stumbled upon Rayleigh after they got separated, but he had been on his own until then. And none of it had been pleasant. He knows just as well as Buggy does that none of the others even tried looking for them.)

 


 

He tears his eyes away from his former home the Oro Jackson, says something witty and tries to find somewhere to look at that is not any of the Roger Kaizoku.

They reformed to rescue a young man they had never met, who already had his own crew of monsters ready to save him, but not one of them could be bothered to spare a thought for a teenage pirate who had sailed with them for four years and who had been horrendously out of his depth.

 


 

He exhales.

At least it’s nice to know for sure where he stands with them.

He doesn’t let his eyes stray on any of the Roger Kaizoku, instead spits out something vaguely witty and watches as Crocodile makes a go for Whitebeard’s head, only to be stopped by Mugiwara.

Information is the mother of survival, and Buggy lets one of his ears fly closer to the Moby Dick.

“We had an agreement did we not? Why do you defend Whitebeard?” The former Shichibukai raged at the rubber idiot.

Said idiot looked up at Whitebeard.

“So this guy really is Whitebeard, huh? Then you're not touching him! This is the one guy Ace really cares about!”

Buggy wants to facepalm. Has the brat never read a single bounty except his own, not to recognize the King of the Oceans?

“Boy... that straw hat you wear... It bears a strong resemblance to the hat Red Hair once wore…” Edward Newgate mentions, and Buggy holds back a snort.

That fucking hat. Shanks had gotten it from Roger after he disbanded the crew, along with a pat on the back and a cheerful smile and no answer to his begged pleas to stay. He had worn it as a reminder of their captain, Buggy knows, but also as a reminder of what not to do, of his promise to never ever take children or teenagers in his crew unless he had absolutely no other choice, and unless he could guarantee that he wouldn’t leave them behind before they were ready to face the seas on their own. Leaving it with the youngest Monkey to annoy the oceans had been something he had thought long and hard on, something he had even called Buggy to discuss, because of the conflicting feelings they both held towards that piece of headwear. In the end, Shanks had given it to the boy both as an acknowledgement of potential, and as an incentive to become strong enough to survive the hell that was a pirate’s daily lot in life.

“Oh, hey! You know Shanks, huh? I'm borrowing this hat from him.” Strawhat brightens, tugging on the brim.

“Are you here to save your brother?”

“That's right!”

“I hope you understand who you're up against. You will simply be throwing your life away!”

“Shut up! It's not your job to decide that! I've heard about you... you want to be the pirate king, right? Well the one who's going to be the pirate king is me!”

Fucking Ds.

“Well I'll be damned... Seems like Old Roger’s Ghost isn’t going to leave me alone today…” Whitebeard mutters. “First that lot on the Oro Jackson, then you… You'd better not get in my way, Greenhorn!”

“I'll do this however I damn well want! I'm saving Ace myself!”

Buggy gives up. He doesn’t understand how Ds work, and he doesn’t even want to try to anymore. The boy hasn’t even recognized the Oro Jackson for Davy Jones’ sake!

Buggy’s comrades of misfortune, however, have.

“Is that…” Jimbei stares in shock.

“My my my “ Ivankov twirls around. “Those are some very familiar faces here!”

The pirates who have unilaterally decided that he is their new captain are harassing him with questions as they too have recognised the Jolly Roger floating high above the ship. Buggy ignores them, throwing an angry glare when they insist, somehow managing to cow them into silence even though most of them have higher bounties than he does. Instead, he focuses on the conversation between the Yonkou and Shanks’ protege.

“Ace's execution is to be moved up? You're sure that is what they said?”

“They mentioned getting something ready, but it was all in code so I don't know what they were talking about. We both want to save Ace, so I should tell you that at least!”

“I see. That is important information indeed. I'm sorry.”

“No problems! I'm coming Ace!” The younger one yells as he throws himself into the battle.

“I guess schedules don't apply when it comes to pirates. The question is, what exactly are they getting ready?” Whitebeard muses, studying his counterpart on the Marine’s side intently.

The phoenix lands next to him, retaking his human form.

“Boss! The marines received orders to proceed with Ace's execution ahead of schedule!”

“Yeah, I know. Just remain calm. Their plan is to make us panic. There's no way they would be so careless and let us overhear their plans. He is just that kind of man!”

As if Buggy needed a reminder that Sengoku is also a monster.

Fuck his life.

He vaguely registers the Strawhat getting in a verbal fight with his brother while also physically fighting off multiple marines, too focused on Whitebeard. He does hear Sengoku loudly proclaiming the boy’s parentage for all to hear, and notices Fire-Fist finally calming down, resigned, ready for whatever fate is left in store for him, acknowledging his fleet’s effort in trying to save him.

Then he hears Whitebeard’s quiet voice directed at him (well, at his ear at the very least), and he freezes.

 


 

“Well well... if it isn't one of Roger's brats. It's been a while. I see you're still alive. Why did you bring all those convicts? Are you after my head, Red-Nose? Or here to join your fellows in interfering with my affairs?”

The voice is quiet, deliberately pitched so that only Buggy’s dropped ear can catch it, but the tone is deceptively light.

(And fuck, why is it that Whitebeard can remember that Buggy used to sail on the Oro Jackson, but his own fucking crew can’t? How fucking unfair is that?)

Buggy takes a breath, makes sure no one can see him, and then sends his mouth to join his ear.

“Don’t call me that, Whitebeard.”

The man raises an eyebrow, too perceptive for Buggy’s own fucking good.

“Roger’s brat? Or Red-Nose?”

“Either. Both. Take you fucking pick.” Buggy snorts. Adrenaline is running through his veins, but Newgate has always been fair , has never deliberately attacked anyone that wasn’t asking for it, and always had a sweet spot for loud mouthed idiots. “And to answer your question, neither. I didn’t even know Roger had had a kid until I landed here. Call it collateral damage from that moron with the Strawhat deciding to infiltrate Impel Down to try and get his brother back before the execution - I know better than to get myself involved in a situation I’m so fucking outclassed in.”

“You didn’t know?”

“Does it look like any of them bothered to call me?” Buggy spits out, more bitter than he intended to let show.

But Whitebeard has always been able to make him spill more than he intended to, hasn’t he? Even back when he had been a cabin brat on the Oro Jackson, the man had had the uncanny ability to get Buggy to rant about whatever was bothering him whenever their two crew met up semi-peacefully to drink a lot and spar semi-amicably. No wonder the man had gathered over a thousand ‘children’ -  he had the parenting voice down to a T from the get go.

And Buggy doesn’t even like the man!

“Anyway, I’m off to find somewhere out of the way until I can get my ass of this clusterfuck. Good luck getting Hiken back. Have fun messing with everyone.”

And without giving Whitebeard a chance to reply, Buggy recalls his appendages and proceeds to make good on his statement.

Crocus’s eyes remain fixed on him until Tsuru forces him to pay attention to her. Buggy deliberately ignores him.

They’ve been doing the same thing to him for years, after all.

Instead, he goes and finds the one Denden who hasn’t been frozen by Aokiji (probably as soon as they identified the Oro Jackson, they wouldn’t want the rest of the world finding out that the Roger Kaizoku were not as dead and gone as they had been pretending for two decades) and sets out to record and transmit the entire battle. No matter what happens today, he will make sure that no one will be able to brush it under the carpet, not unless they’re willing to murder every single person who has gathered in front of the giants screens that the marines themselves put on every island under their control.

Unless they’re willing to have another blank century, the Marines will have to deal with the consequences of this war, not matter how it ends.

Buggy has never been more than an inconvenience in the Marine’s eyes before today. He doesn’t want to rise to a threat level, doesn’t want to put his crew through that, and he’ll do his best to stay out of the camera’s range, and he won’t fight unless it’s to protect himself, but he will be a witness and he will testify, exposing the lies being paraded as the truth. He’s not doing it for the kid, who even now is trying to renounce all relations to Roger, claiming loud and clear that Whitebeard is the only father he knows. He’s not doing it for Whitebeard either, for all that he respects the man even if he will never understand him and will always consider him a monster level with Roger (at least Whitebeard will never abandon a nakama, will go to war to get them back, and Buggy is not jealous, he’s not ). He’s not doing it for his Captain either (because he left, he abandoned them, Ace and Rouge and Buggy and the Roger Kaizoku equally) and certainly not for the crew who has made it clear that he is no longer one of them.

Buggy takes the Denden and holds it high, records the battle that will mark the end of an era and the start of a new one, and he does it for himself .

Buggy the Clown used to be a Roger Kaizoku. That still means something, even if only to him.

Chapter Text

Ja, wir sind Piraten und fahren zu Meere, (Yes, we are pirates and sail the seas)
wir fürchten nicht Tod und den Teufel dazu, (We fear neither death nor the devil himself,)
wir lachen der Feinde und aller Gefahren, (We laugh at our enemies and at all danger,)
am Grunde des Meeres erst finden wir Ruh. (Only at the bottom of the sea will we find peace.)

(Wir lieben die Stürme)


 

Crocus loses sight of Buggy when his own fight starts again, Tsuru taking offence to him ignoring her in favour of the Oro Jackson’s former cabin boy. By the time he can afford to take a look around, the man is nowhere to be found and he has to repress a swear. Great. If the brat has decided to hide, finding him is going to be a pain in the ass. He had taken to Observation Haki like a duck to water, and had always been scarily good at hiding his own voice when he wanted to disappear.

And while part of him understands very well why someone might want to hide after being literally thrown into the mess that is this battlefield, the rest of him is trying to figure out why there had been no reaction regarding the rest of them.

Buggy has always been impulsive, prone to speak without talking, quick to anger and loud . Crocus hadn’t expected Buggy to suddenly appear in the middle of Marineford, but once he had seen him he had expected an outburst, one of these tantrums he used to throw when something surprised him or annoyed him, something .

Instead, Buggy hadn’t spared them a single glance. He had stared at the Oro Jackson in shock, then had pointedly looked anywhere but at it, getting in a argument with the younger Monkey and then disappearing as soon as Crocus looked away.

The doctor doesn’t like the implications behind that. He doesn’t like it at all, and his resolve to catch the clown before leaving doubles.

Hopefully, Shanks would get here soon. Something tells him he’s going to need all the help he can get if he wants to catch the youngest member of their crew.


He keeps an eye on Shanks’ protegee even as he focuses on his own fight, but thankfully it looks like the Revolutionary is keeping an eye on that D, even if it means getting between Kizaru and his prey. A medical professional the man is by no mean, but he’s a decent fighter even if a very disturbing one.

Not as disturbing as the Shichibukai, Moria, though. Zombies? Controlled by their shadows?

No. Crocus doesn’t even want to know. Fucking devil fruits making a mockery of the laws of Nature.


 

Meanwhile, Ace is still trying to dissuade his brother from trying to save him. Moron , Crocus snorts inwardly. He’s a D, and he raised the boy himself from what Crocus had been able to find out, he should bloody well know by now that there was no changing a D’s mind once it’s made up.

“Stay away, Luffy! You should know better! We are both pirates! We have both sailed the seas! I have my own adventures! I have my own nakama! You shouldn't but in! You're such a weakling! You think I'll forgive someone like you for rescuing me? This is humiliating! Go home, Luffy! Why did you come?!”

“I am your little brother! I don't care about the rules of pirates!” Said other D replies with a glare for his older brother.

For all that Ace is Roger’s son, Crocus is once again hit by how much Luffy resembles his former captain in that moment. It’s not just the Straw Hat and the dark hair, though that doesn’t help either, it’s the posture. The attitude. The implications that nothing and no one will stop him from doing what he has decided to do, from protecting what is precious to him. It’s bittersweet, painful with a dash of wry anticipation. Monkey D Luffy isn’t Gol D Roger, not even close, but… One day, he could be just as great. Ace will never take his father's crown, has no interest in  it for himself. He might try and get it for Newgate, but the man has no particular desire for the title either, his ambition satisfied with being 'father’ to that ridiculously huge crew of his. Luffy, though… the Strawhat has potential, and something tells him that the younger man is going to take the New World by the storm if given half a chance.

Crocus is looking forwards to that.

“You don't get it…” Ace yells back, a sound nearly drowned by the wave Jimbei uses to blast the zombies away, coincidentally cutting their link to Moria because of… salt?

Nope, still doesn’t want to know. Devil fruit users are to normal people what the New World is to East Blue, and he’ll only give himself a headache trying to apply logic to them. The fact that Moria claims to be a scientist as well is mind boggling and Crocus really really wants to research Devil fruits users in-depth to know how to treat them when they defy the laws of anatomy . He just knows better than to actually attempt it, and tends to stick with the true and tried “cuff them with seastone before you bring out the needles” method.

“What are you doing, allowing a rookie to beat you up?!” Sengoku roars in anger, having managed to escape his duel with Rayleigh while the man was busy with other vice-admirals. “This man is another danger for the future! He isn't only raised together with Ace, but... he is also the son of ‘Revolutionary Dragon’!”

Crocus snorts as he watches the marines run around like panicked chickens. Really. What do they even know about Dragon? The man is so bloody secretive even Shakky only knows for sure what he is even doing most of the time, and she isn’t sharing.

“You should be more worried about the dangers from the past who are here to kick your ass!” Yadomaru yells, punting Garp towards the strategist. “Rather than rookies who aren’t even old enough to shave!”

There goes the BlackJack captain, stealing words from his mouth. Ah well. Ladies first and all that (not that he’s ever going to say that in her face, he likes being alive thank you very much).

Garp manages to catch himself with difficulty, but it is obvious that he has taken quite the beating. Crocus would be rather enjoying the sight if he wasn’t busy fighting for his life. A shame, really. Hopefully, someone is recording this mess. Something tells him that he’ll want to rewatch it at some point, if only to understand what happened when everything inevitably goes to shit.

(He’s being realistic, not pessimistic. Everything is going too smoothly and Murphy doesn’t give a shit that pirates fall under Davy Jones’ domain when it comes to fucking shit up. Especially when there’s a D involved, and right now there’s at least three of those on the island. There’s tempting Fate and then there’s ringing her doorbell, mooning her when she opens the door and running away while ruining her flowerbeds.)

“I don't care, there is no need to hide it anymore. Luffy has already gained such power and infamy that such labels may as well mean nothing!” The marine hero yells out.

Crocus would beg to differ, but it’s not like anyone ever listens to a medic when a D is concerned, is it? Yeah, the kid has potential, that’s why Shanks took an interest in the brat in the first place, but he’s also seventeen and hasn’t even attempted to cross to the New World yet.

Rayleigh had told him all about the fight with the Pacifistas and Kuma, about how the kid’s nakama have been flung around the Grand Line to places unknown. Hell, the kid doesn’t even look like he knows what Haki is! Shows how shitty of a trainer Garp is, that his own grandson doesn’t even know the basics of Observation or Armament!

Sure, he had become infamous in his own right, but at least he had only had to contend with the consequences of his own bullheaded actions! And yes, the Ennies Lobby thing had been huge, but now people would be trying to get at him to get at Dragon, and that would not end up well for the kid. Dragon has always been an ambitious asshole, and has pissed off quite a lot of influential figures for someone who tries his best to pretend he doesn't exist. People on both sides would be gunning for the brat, and Crocus is not looking forward to that mess.

Especially given that Dragon had handed him over to Garp in the first place, despite despising the man and cutting all ties with him. Odds were, if it came down to his son or his Revolution, Dragon wouldn’t even hesitate. Asshole.

Ah damn it, now Crocus wants to kick Dragon’s ass too. He already has a mental list of grievances ready to justify it, too, starting with leaving a kid with Garp ( despite having experienced the man’s sorry excuse for parenting first hand) followed by allowing Ivankov to stab random people with unstable hormones cocktails and calling it medicine. Not to mention the forced sex changes. That technique has so much potential for people who desperately need medical intervention for their body to reflect their actual gender, and Ivankov’s cavalier attitude infuriates Crocus to the highest degree, especially given how badly that attitude is impacting the image of the transgender community in particular (and the Queer community as a whole, let’s be honest here). The okama Emperor is just handing the more close minded assholes heaps of material and Crocus can’t stand it anymore. He had been glad when news had reached him that Ivankov had  gotten himself thrown in Impel Down for Davy Jones’ sake! Of course that was apparently just one of Dragon’s ploys, but still.

“Ace! I don't care what you say! I'm going to save you even if it kills me!”

Yeah, and at this rate it might just kill him, too! The doctor in Crocus is screaming to send the moron off the battlefield and to a proper hospital were he could start fixing up the mess that Ivankov’s hormones have done to his body, but no one ever listens to medical professionals when it comes to Ds, do they?


He takes his frustration out on some random grunts, as Tsuru has finally given up on him and is currently laundering some lower grade Whitebeard Pirates trying to get past her and to their second commander.

“Marco... I won't forgive you if you let that boy die!” Said captain proclaims for all to hear.

Of fucking course. Great. The boy has impressed Whitebeard now. Shanks is never going to shut up about this, Crocus bemoans inwardly, his protegee earning Whitebeard’s respect before he even made it to the New World will have the redhead crowing about it for months . That’s two Yonkou down on his side, at least for now (though why they decided to give his former cabin-boy that title is still beyond him, especially given that the man spends every waking hour drunk or drinking, interspersed with the occasional flirting and, apparently, deciding to tweak Monkey D Garp’s nose by becoming his grandson’s hero and inspiring him to become a pirate, just, why?) and that is huge , especially for a rookie like this, even for a D.

The last one to get that respect had been the very man they’re here to save from the axe, Portgas D. Ace. Though, really, he only had to mention being Luffy’s brother for Shanks to like him, and Whitebeard liked his spunk enough to basically kidnap him even when the guy had been trying to kill him constantly, so is it really that high of an honour?


Crocus shakes himself out of his random musings in time to catch an incoming sword with one of his harpoon, sending its owner flying into another marine. He really should stop allowing himself to get lost in thoughts in the middle of battle, he thinks, but it’s been so long with only Laboon for regular company that he just got in the habit, and it’s going to be a pain to shake.

At least Ace looks to be calming down. He’s not yelling anymore, and though Crocus is too far away to hear what he’s saying to Garp, he’s sitting up straight now, head held high as he overlooks the War that is being fought in his name. His entire posture radiates calm acceptance of whatever happens next, and in that moment he reminds him of Rouge more than he ever has Roger.

Stupid Ds. Crocus misses that menace. Sure, he’d questioned her taste in men because she had been so far out his captain’s league it was hilarious , but the woman had been one heck of a pirate. She would probably have beaten them to Raftel if she had been the slightest bit interested in getting there in the first place, but she had always enjoyed making fools of the Marines and of the World Government more. Yadomaru had told him once about the debates her captain used to get into with Dragon, back when his Revolution was still in the infant stages. The bickering would go on for hours apparently.

Shaking himself out of his nostalgia again, he focuses back on the present and makes sure to stick close to the Strawhat. Professional deformation -  the boy is a patient waiting to collapse, Crocus just wants to put him on a stretcher already. That, and Shanks would never shut up if something happened to the brat under his watch. Though, really, if the Red-head liked the kid that much, he should just have taken him on the Red Force to start with, keep him where he could keep an eye on him himself. Oh well. Too late for what-ifs now.


 

At least he doesn’t need to interfere in the boy’s battles - but Boa Hancock? Shichibukai Boa Hancock, from the man-hating island of Amazon Lily? How the hell had the kid managed to get her as an ally?

(Is she swooning at him? No. Nope. Crocus doesn’t want to know.)

(Lucky bastard.)


To the side, Ivankov is desperately trying to reason with Kuma, to no avail. The bribes of conversation that reach Crocus’ (the Okama Empress has no notion of volume control) seem to indicate that the Shichibukai has had his entire memory erased, as well as everything that made him a person in the first place. Ouch. That does not sound pleasant, and Crocus’ medical curiosity really, really wants to know more about it, itches to know how to fix it , but Mihawk is rushing for the brat and the doctor knows where his priorities should be.

It’s so frustrating, though, because today keeps throwing things at him that make him twitch for his instruments and not being able to do anything about any of it pisses him off .

Thankfully, the insanely lucky brat appears to awaken his observation haki just in time to avoid getting sliced to pieces by the best swordsman in the world long enough for Whitebeard’s fifth commander, Floral Blade Vista, to interfere.

Then the Pacifistas arrive and Crocus wants to swear. He gives in and really does colour the air blue when he hears Sengoku’s yell.

“At the same time as Ace's execution, wipe them all out at once!”

Ha! As if he even could!

A quick glance backwards is enough to tell him that the Pacifistas won’t be a problem much longer, not when Gulliver and Little Oars seem to have make it a challenge to see who could get the most of them. On the battlefield, Whitebeard’s commanders rush out to create an opening towards Ace.

A look at the Moby Dick shows their captain in conversation with a man Crocus can vaguely recognise, but whose name escapes him. Then again, given how freaking big Whitebeard’s crew is, that’s really no wonder.

Then the world turns upside down and Crocus has to blink twice to make sure his eyes aren’t deceiving him.


Whitebeard, Edward Newgate, he who treats all his nakamas as his own children, has just been stabbed through the chest by one of his own.


 

It’s only Marco’s enraged cry that tells him that what he just saw is real as the Phoenix rushes towards the man and slams him into the ground.

Everyone has stopped, everyone is staring, gaping, at what is happening on the Moby Dick.

“Shut up!” The aggressor screams, loud enough to be heard by everyone  involved in this war. “It's your fault this had to happen! Stop this stupidity Whitebeard! I have talked to the marines! I know that they promised to spare the lives of you, your crew and even Ace!”

Crocus raises an eyebrow, disbelief clear on his face. What the hell?

As if Newgate is even remotely capable of that! But the man isn’t done.

“We were tricked! I had not idea that Ace was Gol D. Roger's son!  When you found me, I was all alone! You know the reason, don't you? It was because all my friends, my comrades for so many years, were all killed by Roger! You know how much I hate Roger!”


 

Ah. Shit. Now Crocus knows why the guy seems so familiar. Vortex Spider Squardo. The lone survivor of one of Shiki’s allied crew that Roger had personally dealt with during the Edd War before the storm had taken care of the rest. They hadn’t been angels, none of them, on either side of that War, but Crocus had never really come across anyone holding that kind of grudge for that long before, Marines excepted. People generally hating their crew in general and Roger in particular for the reputation they had gained, yes, and he has always been quietly grateful that his name never really made it in the papers, nor his bounty, but he’s never been confronted by someone who has personally suffered under their hands.

It’s not a nice feeling.


 

“So you should have said something!” Squardo is roaring. “You should have told me that Ace was Roger's son, and that you were guiding him to be the next Pirate King! But no! And then you even agreed to work with them!”

He gestures angrily at the Oro Jackson.

“That was already a betrayal! What a fool I was for treating Ace like a friend! And then when your precious little Ace was captured... You sold us out! You traded the lives of the 43 captains under you for Ace's life! Your crew and Ace will be spared! You made a deal with Sengoku! It's true, isn't it? And we had no idea! We've been fighting for you and for Ace! Look!”

He points at the destroyed ships behind the Moby Dick.

“Who are the Marines targeting? That's right, us! We are trapped by the ice! We have nowhere to run! It is a miracle you allowed me to get a blow in... but now I am ready! Just kill me!”

Crocus wants to snort, wants to laugh at how ridiculous the whole thing is, because really? How could anyone believe that Edward Newgate, the most noble motherfucking pirate to ever sail this world, one who really should have been born in a different era, the man who has repeatedly stated that his greatest treasure was the family he had built, could ever sell out even one of them?

But he doesn’t, because he can hear the whispers around him, coming from the crews that are allied with the Shirohige Kaizoku.


 

“No way, it can't be! But come to think of it, we are the only ones being attacked!”

“I didn't want to believe it... I even doubted my own eyes!” Squardo continues.

“You fool! You were tricked! Why didn't you trust the boss!?” The phoenix is furious as he forcibly holds the traitor face down to the ground.

“Don't give me that Marco!”

“It's true that Ace is Roger's son…” Whitebeard states calmly, as if uncaring of the sword planted in his chest that makes Crocus’ fingers itch for his kit. “They manipulated you, knowing how that information would affect you... they are one step ahead of us…”


 

It’s Crocodile who breaks the silence that follows, spitting on the ground in fury.

“You are pathetic, Whitebeard! You weren't this weak when you defeated me!!”

He has a point, Crocus knows. Whitebeard should have been able to avoid that strike as easily as breathing, especially with his Observation Haki. That he hadn’t… well, that says a lot about his current physical state, doesn’t it?

Crocus manages to catch the eye of the tall and imposing woman standing a few meters behind her captain. Her face is set in stone, her fingers gripping the medical satchel at her side as if she wants nothing more than to rush over and take care of the injury. But the ‘Terrifying Nightingale’ doesn’t. And Crocus’ heart tightens when he realises why.

The old man isn’t planning on coming out of this alive. He just wants to go out in one last fight, one last stand against the Marines and for the family he had painstakingly pieced together.

Fuck.

Fuck this shit. He knows exactly how his counterpart on the Moby Dick must be feeling right now. And it’s a really, really shitty feeling. Fuck their captains for doing this to them.


 

“Squardo... you dare to raise your sword against your father... my foolish son! But though you may be a fool, I still love you…” Newgate declares, bending down to embrace the man who had just stabbed him, uncaring of the bleeding wound in his chest.

“You must be joking! You sold us out!”

“Who was it? Who turned the heart of one as loyal as yourself into the darkness?” Whitebeard demands, and yes, Crocus wants to know too, because this is fucking beyond the pale. Trying to turn Newgate’s children against him? That is a low blow, and one he had thought Sengoku to be above.

But the end justifies the means, eh? Anything to get rid of the Pirate King’s legacy, no matter how shameful the action. And if you could get rid of one of the Yonkou at the same time, all the better!

Fucking Sengoku. And to think Roger had respected the man, once, had respected his intellect and his strategies and the way he genuinely cared about his men. Becoming Fleet Admiral has ruined him, and Crocus hates it . Hates what is happening to all the bright lights of his generation, how they are all going out one by one, either snuffed out by the ravage of time or enemy action, or dimmed until unrecognisable by the corruption eating them alive.


 

“It was one of the marines, a member of a rebel faction! He said if I killed you my crew would be spared!” The poor man doesn’t look like he knows what to believe in anymore. Sucks to be him, but Crocus is not exactly feeling compassionate right now.

“So it was Akainu, was it? I know how much you hate Roger... I'm painfully aware of it. But Squad, it's ridiculous to hold children accountable for the sins of their fathers... what has Ace done to you? Be friends with him... Ace is not the only special one... you are all... my family. You really think I would sell out my children?”

Roaring, Newgate breaks the ice that was blocking them in, giving the pirates an escape route, and Crocus inhales sharply.

Dying and bleeding out the man might be, but he even so he remains the strongest man on the Oceans for a reason. It’s exhilarating, seeing him there, bending the world to his whims even as he straightens himself to stand proudly in front of his men, in front of the man who betrayed him and whom he has already forgiven.

“If you call yourself pirates!” Whitebeard roars out, his voice heard by even the most distant ships. “Then choose for yourself what to believe! Those who would follow me... be ready to lose your lives! Come with me!”


 

Crocus trades glances with the rest of his crew. Well, they had come here for a good fight, and despite his current condition, Newgate is clearly itching for one as well. How long has it been, Crocus muses as he grips his harpoons tighter, since this world has truly seen that man fight? Too long, probably, since they had dared to try and pull that shit on one of Whitebeard’s own.

How long has it been since any of them were able to let loose? He can see Scopper Gaban leaving Rush and Riza to guard the Oro Jackson as he runs to join the charge, axe at the ready, Marian and Elena standing back to back with Haruta and Yadomaru, Seagull rushing forward alongside Diamond Jozu, Gulliver fighting side by side with Little Oars, Rayleigh keeping Kizaru busy.

How long have they waited to unleash their grief upon the marines who took their captain from them?

Too long, no doubt, is the answer he reads in their bloodthirsty smiles.

Crocus twirls his harpoons in front of him, well aware that his face is sporting the same. He is a doctor, always has been, always will be, and he dislikes killing if he can avoid it.

But he is also a Roger Kaizoku, whom many have called monsters, and today his blood is roaring in his ears and singing for battle.

But today the world won't him be a doctor, won't him stop and heal and fix people, and Crocus is a doctor, always has been, always will be, and he will not kill any of the rank and files marines if he doesn’t have to, but he can’t be a doctor today so he gets to be a monster Roger Kaizoku instead and his smile is wide as he charges alongside his comrades.

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Loguivy de la mer, Loguivy de la mer
(Loguivy of the sea, Loguivy of the sea)
Tu regardes mourir les derniers vrais marins
(You're watching the last true sailors die)
Loguivy de la mer, au fond de ton vieux port
(Loguivy of the sea, at the bottom of your old port)
S'entassent les carcasses des bateaux déjà morts
(are piling up the carcasses of ships already dead)

(Loguivy de la mer)

 


 

 

The marines are being even stupider than usual, Buggy thinks. Making a spectacle of this had been a mistake in the first place. If they had wanted to ensure Firefist’s death (C aptain’s son Captain’s son Captain’s son) they should have executed him in secret and revealed the entire thing afterwards. This is a production, a show put on to prove their superiority after getting their ass kicked by the Strawhat. The destruction of Ennies Lobby in particular had been hard to explain, and so they had been in a desperate need of a publicity stunt to regain the trust of the general population of sheep.

It was always going to backfire, what with basically declaring war on Whitebeard and passing the sins of the father down on the child, but this? This is one massive clusterfuck and Buggy doesn’t want to be in Sengoku’s shoes when the old Buddha explains it to the higher ups after this. The odds of him keeping his post if the brat dies are extremely low. If the brat survives, that won’t even be a question.

All of this is rubbing him the wrong way. This entire situation. Teach capturing Firefist in the first place. The announcement in the newspaper that Strawhat had mentioned. This fucking production. Blackbeard not showing up , despite his shiny new Shichibukai title. The Roger Kaizoku showing up . This whole thing is a fucking mess, and Buggy wants no part in it, but it looks like he won’t have a choice.

Story of his life, isn’t it?

Odds are, someone is going to call for an immediate execution of Firefist soon, instead of waiting another three hours. And that! Why the hell would you bring the prisoner out four hours early? Some Marine tradition or protocol apparently, but really. That is just begging for someone to come and rescue him.

The whole thing just reeks of trap, one quite obviously meant for Whitebeard and his men - and maybe the Strawhats too, if the marines had known of their bond beforehand.

(But not for the Roger Kaizoku, because no one expected them, no one thought they would show up for Firefist when they didn’t for Buggy)

Sengoku is a genius strategist, anyone who’s anyone on the sea knows it. There is no way he would have set this up this way if he doesn’t have something up his sleeve. And there’s no way he’s not already thinking about how to use the sudden appearance of the Roger Kaizoku to his advantage, either.

 


 

Buggy keeps his eyes on the battlefield, mentally tracking the position of his former nakamas before he can stop himself.

Most of them are still busy with their own opponents, as are the Blackjacks (who are still just as terrifying as he remembered them, and he could have gone another lifetime without meeting them again), but Roban is apparently sticking to the water, close to the ship, though that’s not stopping him from sending the occasional burst of water out to hinder the marine Devil Fruit users, and there’s one signature that’s sticking close to the Strawhat - Crocus.

Well, given that the Okama Empress had done something that probably shouldn’t be called medicine to the brat, the medic is probably making sure the kid doesn’t die on his watch. First time for everything

Good, that means Buggy doesn’t have to bother.

(Because the damn Monkey is Shanks’ protege, and Buggy may not care for the kid but he cares for Shanks.)

(He never wants to see him like that anymore.)

(Even if it means putting up with the brat.)

 


 

(Part of him is angry, is hurt, because why does Crocus care about a kid he probably only met briefly when he crossed the capes, when he couldn’t be bothered to give a damn about Buggy?)

(He crushes that part of him without hesitation. They don’t care, so he will not.)

 


 

No one has come to bother him, his hiding place still secure and his haki signature completely contained. Being able to do that while still maintaining his observation haki had taken him a few years of hard work, but the benefits have far outweighed the time it took.

His range is a lot wider than it had been when he had been a gangly teenager, too. He can feels the ships further back, around the plaza, and he knows the fight is not going well for them, for all that the pirates seem to be holding their own on the plaza itself. There’s a group of Marine warships coming around from the other side of the island, ready to fall upon them from behind.

The visual denden mushi is still recording, hidden some way away from Buggy so as not to give away his position, but it’s easy enough to literally keep an eye on it, so it’s no trouble.

And that way there’s little chance of anyone identifying who is filming, which is exactly what Buggy wants. He does not want to get involved in this bullshit if he can avoid it, thank you very much.

(He knows Crocus at least wants to talk at him. At and not to, because that’s always how it goes with him, because he’s older and the doctor and so they have to listen to him but he can happily ignore them if they’re not actively bleeding out. Nevermind that Crocus had joined the crew two years after Buggy and Shanks, shortly before the Edd War, had only been with the crew for the last leg of their journey, once the crew had already earned its fearsome reputation, they had always been lowly cabin brats in his eyes.)

(Well fuck him. Fuck him and fuck the rest of the Rogers who had left them behind . They didn’t need them, Shanks and him. They had stuck together when they could and then managed to survive somehow when they couldn’t. They had needed the Rogers then, but had quickly learned not to count on them for anything. Everything they are, everything they have become, Shanks and him, they earned it themselves and he won’t let anyone take that away from him, or judge him for not being good enough.)

(He’s good enough for his crew, he’s good enough for Shanks, he’s good enough for himself, for the life he wants for himself and his crew, and that’s all he need.)

(He doesn’t need their approval. Not anymore.)

(So why does it still hurt?)

 


 

He takes a breath, then another. On the platform, Sengoku has managed to escape Rayleigh temporarily at least, and is loudly proclaiming Strawhat’s parentage for all to hear.

Frankly, Buggy doesn’t quite know what to think about that one.

He had always vaguely known that the Revolutionary was related to Garp in some way, it had been hard not to when Gol D Roger had liked to tease the Marine by asking after the man’s son, but had never really made the link. For damn good reasons, too. Dragon was nothing like his father, be it in appearance or in ideals. The only thing they had in common, really, was that they were both monsters. Buggy dearly hopes the littlest Monkey won’t manage to reproduce, he’s not sure this world can handle four Monkey D’s at once. The Revolutionary's name was weird too, probably one he chose himself when he left his family name behind but Buggy wasn’t a hundred percent sure about that. Even Garp used Dragon, for once, and the Marines weren’t usually shy about blasting someone’s true identity for all to see.

If Garp had named his child dragon, knowing perfectly well how ridiculous it sounded with his already animal-based family name, he only had himself to blame for his son turning against him.

Name aside, Dragon set himself apart from the rest of his family by being scarily smart and efficient. He had built his Revolution himself, amassing the people and funds necessary while remaining hidden. No one had had any idea anything was brewing until the Revolutionaries blew up three auction houses in a row after freeing the slaves

Buggy has never heard who Dragon’s mother is or had been, hasn’t even heard of Garp having been married at any point in his life, but something tells him the Revolutionary takes after her rather than his father. He wonders who the hell Strawhat’s mother is, and if he should be grateful that Dragon’s cold rationality and intellect had not been inherited by his son. The brat is bad enough as it is.

 


 

Buggy is stalling, and he knows it, focusing on everything but the matter at hand.

He knows it.

Doesn’t mean he wants to stop doing it, though.

Because this clusterfuck is going to go to hell in a handbasket.

But because Buggy is smart , no matter what anyone else says, and because there has never been anything wrong with his survival instincts unlike some others he won’t name, he forces himself to refocus on the battle in front of him.

Battle. Heh.

For all that it’s concentrated in one place and one fight, this is nothing else than a war and Buggy knows it. Doesn’t want to acknowledge it, certainly, and definitely doesn’t want to be in it because, again, functioning survival instincts here, but it is a war and there’s nothing he can do to change that fact.

It’s a war between the pirates and the marines, between Freedom and Justice, a war that will decide who is right and who is wrong in the eye of the world when Buggy knows very well that all that a war decides is who is left .

 


 

(Edd War at ten. Buggy will never be able to forget that, no matter how much he tries. It still haunts him, that memory.)

(He remembers, all of ten years old, standing on the Oro Jackson as it faced off against Shiki’s fleet, over thirty ships, terrified out of his mind and clearly the only one feeling so.)

(Remembers begging his captain to reconsider, to leave, to agree to Shiki’s terms even if only to appease him, anything to get out of this alive because “ Surely our lives are more important! ”.)

(Remembers begging Crocus to find a medical reason for Captain not to fight. Remembers turning to Rayleigh, to Scopper, to Shanks, anyone, for help and getting turned away with a laugh.)

(Remembers Rayleigh telling him to trust in Tom’s ships, Scopper that no one ever got Captain to stop when he got like that, remembers the man condescendingly patting him on the hat as he did so.)

(Remembers Shanks, so excited about the fight, nonetheless trying but failing to reassure him because in what world is “ Ah, c'mon. It's not like you're going to die no matter how much they slice you up, so what's the problem? " supposed to be reassuring? but at least Shanks had tried .)

(Remembers shaking in terror and hiding as best as he could after Rayleigh threw him out of his way and told him to move it, remembers holding his knife with a death grip and plunging it in the back of a man he never learned the name of because he was going to kill Shanks and throwing up as soon as he managed to get to safety again.)

(Remembers the hurricane that started up, remembers holding on a rope for his life because he couldn’t swim anymore and the others kept forgetting and they were still fighting and no one was helping him .)

(In retrospect, it’s surprising that it took him until after Captain’s execution to realise that most of the Roger Kaizoku didn’t give a damn about him)

 


 

War is hell and Buggy had prayed to Davy Jones to never ever be involved in one again but this is just his luck, isn’t it? And he’s not surprised that it’s all the Roger’s fault that this is happening to him again.

(Dead captain and crew both. If Roger had just kept it in his pants, none of this shit would be happening!)

 


 

 

Buggy takes another deep breath to chase away the nightmares memories (it seems like it’s all he’s doing these days), braces himself and takes another look at the battlefield.

The Shichibukai are not holding back anymore, actually stepping in the battlefield instead of remaining on their viewing platform now that it looked like the pirates might have a chance of reaching Firefist. Said young man has finally stopped begging his rescuers to stop sacrificing themselves for his sake and is now watching, silent and solemn, waiting to see on which side the coin with fall, apparently at ease with both possible outcomes. Buggy hates him a little, for that.

(In that moment, Buggy sees how Newgate’s second commander is truly Roger’s son. But he also sees Rouge, what little he can remember of her, in the boy’s freckles and curls, and he loathes that image because Blackjack D Rouge was a fucking menace who would never have tried to convince her nakama to give up on her because she knew damn well they wouldn’t, because she trusted them and they her, and he wonders how bad it was, Ace’s childhood, being Roger’s child,  that he can’t even bring himself to believe Edward fucking Newgate when the man calls him his son and tells him he belongs with the Shirohige Kaizoku, and he doesn’t want to think about that because it makes him angry, it makes him furious , at Roger for handing himself in, at Garp for obviously fucking up when raising the kid, at the Roger Kaizoku for not intervening when they had obviously known about the brat for a long time, at the Marines for blaming the son for the father’s sins, at the world for being such a fucked up place to start with.)

(At himself for caring when he had promised himself he wouldn’t.)

 


 

 

Moria is facing up against Jimbei, using zombies apparently manipulated by their shadows of all things (nope, Buggy does not want to know, and he is perfectly happy to stay as far away from that bullshit as he can thank you very much).

(He’s definitely going to remember the salt thing, though. You never know when that kind of information is going to be useful, and it could very well save his life or that of his crew one day.)

The Revolutionary Ivankov and his army of more or less willing Okamas are wreaking havoc on their own, and Whitebeard has apparently managed to rally the other escaped prisoners to at least help distract the marines, which they appear to be doing decently at.

(They are no longer his responsibility, then, if they’ve accepted to follow Newgate’s orders, and Buggy can feel that weight slip off his shoulder. Davy Jones be thanked, their lives are no longer his to worry about when he never wanted them to start with.)

Shanks’ brat is up against that annoying logia from Loguetown, Smoker something, with the seastone jutte, but before Buggy can even start to get concerned about the brat on the redhead’s behalf, another Shichibukai decides to enter the scene.

And not to help the marine.

Boa fucking Hancock. The Snake Empress of Amazon Lily has just kicked Smoker away from Strawhat and is calling him her “beloved”.

Buggy blinks.

What the fuck? How the hell did a boy who isn’t even old enough to shave yet manage to win the heart of one of the male-hating Amazons, much less their fucking Empress? Then again, Buggy still doesn’t understand how the fuck Roger managed to convince Blackjack D Rouge that he was worth her time, and Strawhat looks like he’s cut from the same clothes as the hat’s original owner, but still .

Lucky bastard.

 


 

 

Buggy’s attention is diverted by Ivankov, the okama now facing against Bartholomew Kuma and looking pretty angry as he does so. No, not angry. Betrayed. Davy Jones knows Buggy knows the difference between the two

He allows one of his ears to hover discreetly next to that particular fight when he sees Doflamingo joining in. The guy is an asshole, and it’s always better to know what the fuck he’s up to. And Buggy dearly wants to know what has the flighty okama so worked up.

It’s even worse than what he thought it could be.

Fuck Vegapunk. Fuck anyone twisted enough to conduct experiments on human beings.

Fuck Kuma for apparently agreeing to it, fuck the World Government for ordering it and fuck anyone who thought it would be a good fucking idea to turn someone into a walking corpse that had to follow every command coming from the World Government.

Fuck them for taking away a pirate’s freedom . Buggy might not have believed in all of his Captain’s ideals, but that one? That one that they had shared.


Just when it looks like Ivankov doesn’t know how to react to that news, the newly turned Pacifista PX-0 fires a laser blast from his mouth, sending the okama and the Strawhat flying away, before appearing in the middle of the former’s okama army and laying waste to them. That’s enough to rise Ivankov, apparently, and he reacts with vicious vengeance.

At least the creep cares about his people, Buggy thinks bitterly, recalling his ear back to its proper position. He could not say the same about other people. Sengoku has disengaged from Rayleigh and is simply watching as his men die by the dozen, some of them hit by “friendly fire” even.

 


 

 

There’s a scuffle over by Newgate’s side as Crocodile makes another attempt on the man’s head, but he’s quickly punched back by ‘Diamond’ Jozu and lands by Doflamingo. Buggy flinches when Whitebeard’s third commander is caught by the Shichibukai’s puppeteering strings, but Crocodile proves useful for once and manages to break them without intending to when he sends both Devil Fruit users away from himself.

And because Shanks’ stupid brat can’t keep out of trouble for five fucking minutes, by the time Buggy is looking for him again he’s off facing against Dracule fucking Mihawk .

He was soooo telling Shanks. Let the redhead deal with his dear rival if the man harmed his protege. It would serve the swordsman right, Buggy should not be the only one of Shanks’ friends to have to keep an eye on the kid for Davy Jones’ sake!

Thankfully, Whitebeard’s order to keep the brat safe seems to be working, and the Fifth Commander, ‘Floral Blade’ Vista, is quick to intervene on the brat’s behalf.

But not fast enough to stop Hawkeye from drawing Strawhat’s blood… nor to stop the brat from awakening his observation Haki, if Buggy’s own is reporting the truth.

(What the fuck, Garp? How the hell could the old fucker not teach his fucking grandson how to use Haki? Buggy has known how to use both Armament and Observation since he was eight , and he knows he wasn’t the best student out there! There is no excuse for Garp not teaching the brat when he knew the boy would need it at some point, marine or pirate! Especially with who his fucking father was! The boy should not be awakening his on accident in the middle of a fucking war!)

Then his Haki catches something that has him physically turn around and send one of his eyes to look over the wall he’s hiding behind, because this is… not right. Not quite Voices yet the presences seem familiar nonetheless. He understands when he sees the looming forms, identical to Bartholomew Kuma in all but Voice .

Pacifistas, Doflamingo called them. They had apparently been meant to drive Newgate’s ally into the bay and corner them there, but the wily old man had ordered them to scatter a few moments earlier, foiling Sengoku’s plan, according to what Buggy’s dropped ear managed to gather (also the person leading Vegapunk’s monstruous creations apparently answers to Kizaru and calls the man a mafia-version of Boss, which is weird but also really not something Buggy should be focusing on right now when there are literally over two dozen war machines marching towards him).

War machines that do not give a damn for the marines getting caught in their attacks, apparently. Buggy winces as the lasers hit, the entire plaza shaking from the sheer force of it.

Then Little Oars roars, followed by Gulliver, and both giants rush for the Pacifista with wicked smiles on their faces, and Buggy stops looking that way because the monsters are taking care of the monstrosities and that’s good enough for him, he doesn’t need to watch it happen.

On the battlefield, Shirohige’s commanders are rushing to create a path towards their Second Commander, blasting Kizaru away from Strawhat as they do so.

Despite the Pacifista’s arrival, everything seems to be going well for the pirates.

Too well.

 


 

There’s something at the back of his mind that is screaming at him to pay attention, and Buggy has survived this long because he has always listened to that voice and he’s not about to stop know. He expands his haki again, focuses on it more than on his eyesight, and listens.

There’s something wrong wrong wrong wrong on the Moby Dick.

Buggy can’t quite figure what, exactly, but if he were a betting man he would bet on it having something to do with the spider guy, Squardo, that he notices hanging back behind Whitebeard. His Haki is fluctuating weirdly for someone who is not currently fighting, and the glares he sends towards the execution platform are a. full of hate and b. not directed at the marines. And given that the main reason Buggy remembers the guy’s name is because the Roger Kaizoku destroyed the crew he had belonged to before forming his own, back during the Edd War...

There is no way any of this is going to end well.

And there’s nothing Buggy can do to change that. This is a war of giants, a war of monsters, and he has learned long ago that he does not belong with them. A quick double-check with Haki tells him what he already suspected.

Whitebeard is aware of Squardo’s suspicious behaviour. And he’s not going to do anything about it.

 


 

 

Because Whitebeard is already dying. He has been for a while, from what Buggy can gather, and he knows it. His doctor knows it. His nurses know it. His commanders know it - except maybe Firefist.

Whitebeard, the last great captain of the Pirate King’s era, is dying.

And this is how he wants to go out: fighting alongside the pirates he calls his children to save a son who will always be his more than his rival.

Buggy thinks it’s stupid.

Buggy thinks it’s brave.

But mostly, he thinks it’s right . It’s right for the kind of man Edward Newgate always has been, the man for whom the greatest treasure has always been his family of choice rather all the gold of the world. It’s right for him to die protecting them, surrounding them, even if it will also hurt them more than anything else the world could throw at them.

Buggy doesn’t like Whitebeard. He’s an asshole and a monster and he’s been making fun of his nose ever since Buggy first met him.

Buggy doesn’t understand him either, doesn’t understand how he can open his heart to all these people, how he can deal with shouldering all of their lives without faltering, how he can have so much faith in them.

Buggy doesn’t like Whitebeard, doesn’t understand him either. But, he thinks as he meets the man’s eyes from his hiding place, Buggy has always respected him. And right in this moment, Buggy thinks he respects Whitebeard more than he ever has Roger.

Edward Newgate had set out at sea to find a family. Gol D. Roger had set out at sea to find adventure.

Both of them found themselves sick, dying, and both of them had a choice to make.

Roger chose to go out in one last burst of glory, unable to accept a slow and painful death, choosing instead to ensure his name would be remembered for all eternity (cursing his own son to a miserable life before he was even born, leaving Blackjack D. Rouge to die in childbirth, Rouge the pirate forgotten by the world and Rouge the lover hunted by it, leaving his ‘cherished’ nakama behind without an explanation, abandoning two kids who saw him as their father). Gol D. Roger had been selfish, when choosing his death and Buggy will never forgive him for it.

Newgate has made his choice, Buggy knows. He will die in this fight, not for one last burst of glory, but because it is the best way for him to protect his family one last time, before the illness leaves him nothing but a burden on his ‘children’, before his decaying state leaves them worried and strained and weakened in front of their enemies. He will die protecting them, probably by covering their retreat once they get their hands on Firefist, and he will tell them to live, because that is the kind of man he is, and they will, because those will be his last orders, his last wishes, and none of them will dare to disobey them. They will leave and they will live, and they will grieve, and then they will come back, led by the Phoenix who had been at Whitebeard’s side the longest.

Edward Newgate has always been extraordinarily selfless when it comes to his children.

Being close to death doesn’t change the man he is. It magnifies it, maybe. Buggy can feel it on his Voice, the strong love and pride and protectiveness for those children who the world had rejected and who had become his.

Buggy can’t help but think that his death will be more meaningful than Roger’s, for all that it had sent the world into a new piracy age.

And so Buggy holds Whitebeard’s eyes, and he nods carefully, his right hand on his heart in a small bow, and he forces himself to watch as Squardo suddenly moves in front of Whitebeard and stabs him through the chest.

 


 

Fushichō Marco roars and slams the offender into the ground, but it’s too late. The sword might not have hit Newgate’s heart, the Squardo guy is not nearly tall enough for that, but every single fighter , pirate and marine, has stopped to stare as the unthinkable happened.

In the silence that follows, the Vortex Spider’s accusations ring loud and clear.

“It's your fault this had to happen! Stop this stupidity Whitebeard! I have talked to the marines! I know that they promised to spare the lives of you, your crew and even Ace!”

Buggy glares at the man from his hiding place, knows it’s useless but does so anyway because Newgate is one of the biggest monsters out there and at his most fearsome when he is protecting those he has named his children, a monster strong enough to take on every single marine out there and win and Buggy knows, knows that this is a trick, that one of the marines (Sengoku, probably, or that hothead Akainu) lied to the guy to convince him to turn on his father to save his own crew, has managed to convince someone that Edward fucking Newgate would turn his back on his allies, and this is Ace all over again except Firefist “just” believes he’s not worth it while Squardo believes he’s been betrayed and Buggy doesn’t know which one is worse.

“We were tricked! I had not idea that Ace was Gol D. Roger's son!  When you found me, I was all alone! You know the reason, don't you? It was because all my friends, my comrades for so many years, were all killed by Roger! You know how much I hate Roger!”

Called it , Buggy thinks, and he hates it, but his Haki catches Crocus’ surprise and unease at that declaration and he can’t help but feel vindicated.

How does it feel to be confronted by the consequences of your actions? he thinks viciously, and can’t bring himself to feel bad about it.

“So you should have said something!” Squardo is roaring. “You should have told me that Ace was Roger's son, and that you were guiding him to be the next Pirate King! But no! And then you even agreed to work with them!”

He gestures angrily at the Oro Jackson, and, yes , Buggy gets it, he really really does, but Newgate doesn’t seem like he had a fucking clue the Roger Kaizoku were coming and actually seemed pretty pissed off about it when he talked to Buggy earlier, so Squardo should really not be blaming the old man for that, especially when he could just try and use the chaos of the battle to get his revenge on the actual crew who killed his friends instead of, you know, the guy who never knew Roger and had actually sailed with Squardo and been one of his friends?

“That was already a betrayal! What a fool I was for treating Ace like a friend! And then when your precious little Ace was captured... You sold us out! You traded the lives of the 43 captains under you for Ace's life! Your crew and Ace will be spared! You made a deal with Sengoku! It's true, isn't it? And we had no idea! We've been fighting for you and for Ace! Look!”

He points at the destroyed ships behind the Moby Dick.

“Who are the Marines targeting? That's right, us! We are trapped by the ice! We have nowhere to run! It is a miracle you allowed me to get a blow in... but now I am ready! Just kill me!”

Everything Squardo just said is true, Buggy knows it. He’s been keeping track of what was happening ever since he got catapulted onto the plaza. Whitebeard’s allies have taken the heaviest losses. They’re the ones who have been targeted the most by the marines.

Of fucking course it’s true. Sengoku would have given the orders specifically so they would coincide with the story whichever underling he sent to con Squardo had been told to tell. It had to be believable .

And that’s the worst part, isn’t it? It is being believed. The whispers have started already, so many of them that Buggy can’t even keep track, even with both ears in different places.

“No way, it can't be! But come to think of it, we are the only ones being attacked!”

“I didn't want to believe it... I even doubted my own eyes!” Squardo continues.

“You fool! You were tricked! Why didn't you trust the boss!?” Newgate’s first commander is forcibly holds the traitor face down to the ground.

“Don't give me that Marco!”

“It's true that Ace is Roger's son…” Whitebeard states calmly, as if uncaring of the sword planted in his torso. “They manipulated you, knowing how that information would affect you... they are one step ahead of us…”

Buggy holds back a snort, because no kidding . The only thing Sengoku probably didn’t plan for today was the Roger Kaizoku deciding to suddenly come out of retirement.

 


 

It’s Crocodile who breaks the silence that follows, spitting on the ground in fury.

“You are pathetic, Whitebeard! You weren't this weak when you defeated me!!”

He wasn’t fucking dying when he defeated you, asshole, Buggy mutters under his breath at the former Shichibukai. Does no one know how to use Observation Haki anymore? The old man feels like he’s been dying for a while now, actually, like he’s been walking side by side with Davy Jones for months if not years and has just managed to keep the captain of the Flying Dutchman interested enough in his antics to convince him not to drag him down to his locker yet.

Buggy wouldn’t be surprised if Davy Jones was sitting on the Moby Dick’s railing at this very moment, drinking merily as he watches this clusterfuck unfold. Sea knows Davy Jones probably hasn’t had that kind of entertainment since Roger got himself executed.

At least someone is enjoying this mess.

 


 

Of fucking course, not even getting stabbed by his own son will get Whitebeard to stop being a fucking bleeding heart.

Nooooo. Now he’s a literal one on top of being a figurative one, and that doesn’t stop him from hugging the man who just tried to kill him.

Fucking monster, seriously.

“Squardo... you dare to raise your sword against your father... my foolish son! But though you may be a fool, I still love you…” Newgate declares for all to hear.

“You must be joking! You sold us out!”

“Who was it? Who turned the heart of one as loyal as yourself into the darkness?” Whitebeard demands, and yes, Buggy wants to know too, even if he can guess.

Fucking Sengoku, seriously. Turning a man against his father is bad enough, but trying to tarnish Whitebeard’s reputation like that, when the old man is on the verge of death already?

To be expected from a fucking marine, admittedly, they did the same to Roger and neither man were exactly saints, but this is turning Newgate’s treasure against him and that is low.

Outlaws they might be, but pirates have their own honor and this is spitting on Newgate’s before pouring Sea-King shit on top of it, then inviting people to piss on it.

 Roger might have respected the strategist, once, but Buggy has only ever considered him a monster and today is definitely not changing his mind.

 At least Whitebeard’s a honorable monster, and so’s Garp to a lesser extent even if the man is a fucking asshole who Buggy will never forgive for allowing Roger to let himself be captured by him.

“It was one of the marines, a member of a rebel faction! He said if I killed you my crew would be spared!”

 Called it. Again. For once, Buggy very much dislikes being right. 

“So it was Akainu, was it? I know how much you hate Roger... I'm painfully aware of it. But Squad, it's ridiculous to hold children accountable for the sins of their fathers... what has Ace done to you? Be friends with him... Ace is not the only special one... you are all... my family. You really think I would sell out my children?”

Newgate is panting as he finishes his tirade, but he stands tall and proud even with blood pouring out of his chest as he clenches his fist and shatters the ice blocking his allies’ ships in a thousand pieces, freeing them all in one go.

 


 

 

Definitely a monster still , Buggy thinks, and he can’t quite help the small, sad smile that forms on his lips. Definitely a monster, and one Buggy has never wanted anything to do with either as an enemy or as an ally, but…

“If you call yourself pirates!” Whitebeard roars out, his voice heard by even the most distant ships. “Then choose for yourself what to believe! Those who would follow me... be ready to lose your lives! Come with me!”

The sea will be lesser without his presence.

 

Chapter Text

Oh, blow the man down, bullies, blow the man down!
To me way-aye, blow the man down.
Oh, Blow the man down, bullies, blow him right down!
Give me some time to blow the man down!

 

(Blow the man down, Songs of American Sailormen, by Joanna Colcord)


They charge on the ice, running towards the steadier ground of the plaza, and Crocus feels more alive than he has in years, adrenaline running through his veins.

Whitebeard himself is on the move, stepping off the Moby Dick and onto the battlefield proper, onto the ice, and Crocus has to remind himself to breathe.

It feels like being back in time, or nearly so, preparing for a massive clash of titans. Except that Newgate had never fought the Roger Kaizoku with the intent to kill, or even to permanently harm anyone. His captain had just enjoyed having a good fight with one of the few people in the world who could truly keep up with him. But this, this is different. Because Newgate is done waiting, is done waiting for others to stop being morons.

For the first time in over a decade, Edward Newgate joins a battlefield.

It’s not that he hasn’t fought in all that time, of course. But most of these had been single opponents, arrogant wannabes trying to take his head, and most of them had ended up joining his crew afterwards, Ace being a prime example of that. Fights for his honor or that of his crew, Newgate had never backed down from. But when it came to the everyday skirmishes with the marines or smaller pirate crews, he had taken to letting his crew deal with them. Crocus hadn’t thought much about it, at the time, but in hindsight it was obvious that the older man had been forced to take a step back by his failing body.

Crocus will probably never know for sure, because the Nightingale will never agree to tell him or let him have access to that information in any way or shape, but he doesn’t think that Newgate is sick like Roger was. But the man is old, over seventy already, and Crocus might be the same age but he’s led a much healthier life than the Yonko. If he were a betting man, he would bet that Newgate’s liver was on its last few cells, given how much he drank on a daily basis. And with how stubborn he has always been, Crocus doubts that he would have given up on his precious saké.

But no, he thinks, looking back to the Nightingale again. She wouldn’t have allowed that to happen, would have disobeyed even a direct order if it meant keeping her Oyaji alive a little longer. Whatever Newgate has, it isn’t something she can treat.

Crocus can relate. When this bullshit is over, he’ll need to see if she would be up to go for a couple of drinks to rage about stupid Captains not having the decency to catch something treatable and deciding to die in front of their doctors anyway. They could start a club, he thinks bitterly, pretty sure that the Blackjack's medic masquerading as a tank would join them. He shakes himself. He needs to stay in the here and now, and here and now Whitebeard is still standing, and standing strong despite the bleeding wound on his torso.

He does not look diminished in any way, be it by old age or illness or injury, and the Marines on the ice in front of them take a step back.

“Get ready! The world's strongest man is about to attack!” Sengoku roars as Whitebeard takes a step, then another.

Next to Crocus, the Declaban brothers are busy shouting orders.

“Open a path for our old man! Squardo, that idiot! He let marines trick him and he actually stabbed the old man! There can be no greater shame! Just how tough must this be for him to bear! We'll never forgive you, Marines!”

Fucking Shirohige Kaizoku. Squardo just betrayed them, raised his sword against the one he called Oyaji, and yet here they are, more insulted on Squardo’s behalf than angry at him. If it weren’t for assholes like Teach, they really would be too good to be true.

John Giant suddenly appears in front of the rushing pirates, and Crocus swears as he quickly dodges the giant’s katana even as younger pirates go flying around him. Their own giants are still occupied with the Pacifistas, Gulliver and Oars apparently having a friendly competition on who can take out the most. The mechanical bodies are piling up on the edge of the plaza in two distinct piles. Well. At least they’re having fun, Crocus muses wryly, before having to dodge again as katana and bisento clash over his head.

He takes a moment to catch his breath as Newgate pushes the giant away, then turns the air blue when he notices Whitebeard’s stance. Quickly, Crocus grabs on the closest stalactite, swearing again as his fingers make contact with the ice, but it’s worth the discomfort when Newgate decides to tilt the entire freaking island and the block of ice around it. Fucking inconsiderate Devil Fruit users. Just because his crew is used to his antics doesn’t mean his allies are for fuck’s sake!

Another punch from Newgate and John the Giant is out of the fight, possibly of the living realm.


That’s a lot of broken bones , Crocus muses, morbidly fascinated by the effect of the Quake Quake fruit on living beings. The next wave of powers tears down buildings all around them, proving that the fruit’s effects are actually quite versatile, really.

For a moment, it looks like the Yonko has succeeded in bringing down the execution platform, but Crocus can’t even muster the energy to be surprised when it is revealed that the three admirals managed to shield it. None of them are anywhere near Sengoku’s level, wouldn’t be able to take down Whitebeard in his prime, but Crocus has to admit that they’re good. Working together to repel that kind of attack is not an easy task, especially when the people involved don’t get along.

(The three of them are fucking bickering, or that’s what it looks like from Crocus’s spot on the ice that is still riding the aftershocks of Newgate’s first quake. They’re in the middle of a battlefield, facing down the Strongest Man on the Seas, and they’re bickering like children. Overconfidence or really that skilled? Both, Crocus thinks. And true dislike for each other, too - that Aokiji fellow looks like he’s the only one with a hint of ethics left in his body, and the other two have clearly left that behind decades ago.)

A quick glance to his left reveals that Strawhat somehow managed not to get himself killed or grievously injured during the showdown. Ah, Jimbei is standing next to him, that explains it. Good. The brat made a promise to Laboon and he better keep it. Plus, if anything happens to the kid under his watch, Shanks would never shut up about it. He misses the days when he could put that brat on cleaning duty when he got too loud for Crocus’ tastes.

Around him, Whitebeard’s men, emboldened by their father’s actions, are rushing towards the stone of the plaza. But Crocus is still watching Strawhat as the boy stretches his arms toward the execution platform and thinks this is too easy .

He is proven right when the boy’s hands are swept away as a massive steel wall rises all around the plaza, encircling the ice-bound pirates and preventing them from accessing the dry grounds. The Blackjacks are the only ones who remain on the other side of the wall, and from the furious tint to Yadomaru’s haki, they’re outnumbered and they know it.

Sometimes, Crocus really, really hates being right. He grips his harpoon anyway and follows the Whitebeard pirates closest to him. Sengoku might have had a plan, but Whitebeard is a wily one. That, and Rush had smirked knowingly when the Shirohige ships had surfaced, so odds were that there was a plan to get out of this shit.

Wait.

Is that…?


Crocus laughs. Loudly. Loud enough that pirates around him turn to see who is making that noise, and take a step back when they recognise him.

(It’s nice to be famous, he thinks, and laughs even more)

The encircling wall rose in sections, covering most of the plaza… except that two sections haven’t been able to come up. Two sections just slightly to the left of the execution platform.

They’re blocked by the piles of Pacifista that Gulliver and Oars are still adding to.

The Marine’s secret machines are preventing the full deployment of the Marine’s other secret machine and it’s hilarious.

Until Sengoku orders Akainu to destroy the very ice Crocus and the others are standing on. To his right, Elena swears.

“Magma hail was not on the forecast for today!” The navigator complains, and swings a haki-covered Jacob’s staff, punting a ball of magma back to its sender.

But not everyone is so lucky, and Crocus can’t help but wince as the screams reach him. He tries to help where he can, drags people away from the edges of boiling matter, but already he can see that the water might be their only chance of survival.

The water which is currently going from ice-cold to boiling hot. This is not going to be comfor… is that asshole aiming for the Oro Jackson?!

He is. For the Oro Jackson and the Moby Dick. The latter is destroyed in an instant, and Crocus swears. That ship had sailed the sea for the past forty years. Fucking Marines. No respect at all for good craftsmanship.

Fuck. Crocus is pretty sure that the Moby has a Klabautermann. It’s that kind of ship, that kind of crew. He hopes the being will be able to move onto one of the smaller ships until its crew can get a new mothership built.

(The Oro Jackson had one too, Crocus knows. He’s never seen it, but there were times when the ship had moved on her own to save them, when Rush had woken up in the morning to find that repairs had been made overnight. Crocus tries not to wonder what happened to it after the crew disbanded, if it’s still there or not. He hopes it is. He’s terrified it’s not.)

At the Oro Jackson’s steering wheel, Rush is glaring daggers at Akainu even as she expertly manoeuvers the ship to evade the flying magma. Around her, the Adam Wood is glowing darkly, the shipwright’s haki seeping into it to reinforce it. Rush is hardening the entire ship with her Armament, and Crocus wastes a few precious seconds gaping at the sight. He didn’t know she could do that! Heck, he didn’t know anyone could do that! Their shipwright has suddenly become even more terrifying that she already was, and Crocus does not know how to deal with that!

“Don’t you dare scratch my fucking ship! ” said tiny shipwright roars, her voice easily heard even over the pained screams. “I’m going to tear you to shreds for what you did to the Moby! That ship was a fucking fine piece of craftsmanship! She was a work of art, you heathens!”

Well. At least Akainu wouldn’t be a problem for much longer if Rush got her hands on him. She looked furious, and Crocus has made it a point to never get on the wrong side of a woman who looks like that. Rush is five foot nothing of grease monkey and rage. He knows better.

Around him, the struggling Whitebeard pirates are staring at what little is left from their home with devastated faces, but quickly shake themselves out of it, trying desperately to make it to the few remaining blocks of ice. Someone fires a cannon at the wall, but the payload rebounds straight in their gut.

The wall is, apparently, slightly elastic. What. The. Fuck. Not even Whitebeard’s power makes a dent in it.

Oh well. The pacifista path is still open, though the ice leading to it has been destroyed. They’ll be bottlenecked there, easy prey for marine snipers, but it was better than being boiled alive.

Fuck. Looks like he’ll have to swim anyway. He’s getting too old for this bullshit. How does Sengoku stand it? That asshole is pushing what, seventy-seven now? And still a Fleet Admiral in charge of this clusterfuck. That man needs to retire for fuck’s sake.


As if wanting to prove him wrong, the strategist grabs a denden to make another announcement, loud enough to be heard by everyone around them.

“Almost everything is going according to plan. We will now proceed with the execution of Portgas D. Ace!”

That. That, right there, is pure provocation. It’s going to piss everyone off and Sengoku knows it . Is counting on it, on them making mistakes. Well, joke’s on him, Crocus thinks, because he knows that the Roger Kaizoku showing up was definitely not planned for. And if there’s one thing they’ve always been good at, it’s foiling someone else’s plans in the most chaotic way possible.

But in the meantime, the Shirohige are rushing to the openings Oars and Gulliver have so gallantly provided, and Strawhat is leading them. Crocus swears, looks at Elena, who nods. He runs straight at her and she cups her hands together. He jumps, sets his foot in her palms, and she throws him to the next ice block in one swift motion.

By the time he makes it to where Ivankov is standing, the fucking moron had the time to get blown back (literally blown back, that was one heck of an explosion, seriously) and get himself thrown back in, courtesy of Jimbei.

What. The. Fuck. How the fuck is that brat still moving?! Why the hell is no one sitting down on him to make him stop and get proper medical treatment?!

(Oh. Right. The brat seems to think that Ivankov is an actual medical practitioner, and no one listen to their fucking doctors anyway. Fuck his life.)

(Fucking D’s and their stupid charisma, making people listen to them even when they should really know better.)

Crocus can’t see him, but his observation haki tells him that Strawhat is facing off against all three admirals. At once. On his own.

There are less painful ways to commit suicide, Crocus wants to scream, and fuck he’s responsible for this kid, because Laboon and Shanks and he’s too old for this shit! His nakama are too far away, even Rayleigh who is currently running across the ice faster than Crocus thought him capable off. None of them will make it in time if the Admirals decide to stop playing around and decide that Garp’s wrath will be worth it.

“Get me over there!” He screams at Jimbei instead, ignoring how the fishman startles upon recognising him.

Seriously, get on with the program Jimbei, Crocus has been here since the whole fucking thing started, it shouldn’t be that surprising, surely?

Before Jimbei can shake himself out of it, Crocus feels the boy hit the ground, hard, and Sengoku’s voice rings over the battlefield.

“Proceed!”


Over Crocus’ head, Marco the Phoenix is flying as fast as his blue wings will allow him, desperation clear in his every movement. From where he’s standing, Crocus can just about make out the execution platform, Ace’s still form, the two Marines on each side, the raised swords…

Not again , he begs Davy Jones. Please, not again , and then Strawhat’s voice breaks through the air.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” Shanks’ protegé screams, and then there’s movement, too fast for Crocus to see, and the two soldiers fall from the platform, knocked out or dead Crocus can’t bring himself to care.

That’s his captain’s son, sea damn it!

The movement reappears, a column of sand gathering to form a human being.

“You!” Sengoku rages. “Because of the grudge you hold against him, you are the last person we expected to assist Whitebeard! Crocodile!”

The former Shichibukai looks way too smug, but for once Crocus is glad to see his face.

“I can finish the old geezer off later... but seeing you scum so cheerful makes me sick!” The Sand user spits, before losing his head.

Literally.

Doflamingo just came out of nowhere and decapitated Crocodile with his strings.

And that’s not even enough to kill the bastard. His head just dissolves into sand and reforms on his body. Crocus wants to know so badly, but he also very much does not want to know. Ever.

Fucking Devil Fruit users, seriously. Let them fight each other, Crocus does not want to deal with either of them.

He has enough to worry about with the Gomu Gomu idiot, who is about to be killed by Aokiji until the Phoenix interferes.

Crocus breathes out in relief. Fuck. That kid is going to give him a heart-attack.

“You’re doing this for Laboon” he mutters to himself. “For Laboon and to save your ears from Shanks’ complaints.”

He’s pretty sure Ivankov and Jimbei are looking at him like he’s finally lost it, but he doesn’t care.

(He’s also pretty sure he lost his last marble when he agreed to join Gol Fucking D Roger’s crew, anyway.)


Around him, the Whitebeard pirates have started moving again, swimming hastily towards Oars who is batting away cannonballs like they’re flies. The marines start to notice, but before they can act on it and target the swimmers, a dark shape rises from the waters and Crocus wants to laugh again even as he jumps from the ice to join the Shirohige in the water.

That’s another Moby Dick, smaller than the original but equipped with paddles, and it picks up most of the swimmers in one go before moving surprisingly quickly in Oars’s direction.

Gulliver, who has just finished turning the last Pacifista into scrap metal, catches on quickly. Oars grabs the left side of the ship, Gulliver the right, and together they heave it through the opening they’ve made and straight onto the plaza.

Crocus waves at Gulliver even as he hurries towards where he can sense Strawhat’s too weak Haki. In the background, he’s aware of Whitebeard’s unmistakable presence, shining strong as ever despite his current strength, blowing away hordes of marines with a single swing.

“The time has finally come!” The strongest man in the world roars. “We're going to rescue Ace! And take out the whole Naval force!”

“Geez,” Crocus mutters, but he’s smiling. “Could you be any louder, old man?”

On the platform, Sengoku is standing, saying something to Garp even as he rolls his sleeves up.

“Looks like this war... insists on the two of us participating!” Crocus hears, but doesn’t focus on it except to roll his eyes briefly, still searching for Strawhat.

Well duh. Of course we’re going to insist on the two of you participating, you moron, you’re the one who planned this fucking mess! It also looks like Sengoku forgot he had been fighting Rayleigh less than thirty minutes ago, even though he’s still sporting the cuts from that particular fight.Or do the Rogers no longer count as valid opponents these days? Senile asshole.

Despite Sengoku’s words, the admirals are the ones who confront Whitebeard first anyway, Aokiji leading the charge  Crocus wishes them luck as he keeps an eye on their battle and another out for a stretching idiot. Quakes cannot be frozen and the man is a natural disaster all by himself.

He finally locks in on Strawhat’s location, but it’s too late, Kizaru gets there first and Crocus can only watch in horror as a ray of light pierces the boy’s body.

Crocus watches as Monkey D Luffy collapses on the ground, somehow still conscious despite the pain and the bloodloss, single mindedly focused on his brother even as Kizaru approaches him, and rages.


Crocus is a doctor, first, last and always. He was a doctor before he became a pirate and he has never stopped being one. This day has been testing the last of his patience, smothering the healer to let the fighter through, but this is the straw the breaks the seaking’s back.

Not. On. His. Watch!

The asshole in a suit kicks the kid away, propulsing him straight into Whitebeard, who thankfully manages to catch him.

“For the great Whitebeard to make such an error in judgment... the mighty have indeed fallen!” He drawls, and Crocus’s fingers itch to strangle him. “For a man of your stature to be so reckless... you let your emotions get the better of you when you allowed this pile of garbage to lead the charge…”

Kizaru doesn’t see him coming, gets hit by a haki-darkened harpoon in the face that wipes off his stupidly smug grin and breaks his precious glasses, all in one go.

Better yet, the momentum carries the admiral right into Rayleigh’s sword. The Oro Jackson’s first mate’s face is set in stone, no traces left of the kind old man who helps the rookies who make it to Sabaody.

“That,” Rayleigh says calmly even as Kizaru tries to move away from the sword piercing his shoulder, “was a mistake, Borsalino.”

And, fuck, this is not Rayleigh being pissed off about an allies injuries, or about Shanks’ charge. This is Rayleigh taking it personally . Rayleigh got attached to the little brat, Rayleigh thinks the kid’s got potential and Rayleigh quite possibly thinks the kid is the second coming of Roger and that means Crocus will be seeing a lot more of Monkey D Luffy in the future than he has a ever wanted to. Because Rayleigh will want to make sure the brat is ready for the New World, will want to train him personally to make sure he makes it to Raftel, and he will ask them for help.

And Crocus will answer, like the idiot he is, because twenty years is a long time and fuck but he missed this, missed them, the crazies that he had gone to end of the world with, and he’s not sure he can go back to his quiet life at the Twin Capes after this. He’ll have to make arrangements, bring Laboon over somehow, and…

Fuck. Crocus had sworn he would never do this again, had stayed away for a reason because his Captain was dead and he hadn’t been able to heal him and it hurt , it still hurts to this day that Roger stopped letting him even try . So he had said never again, had fucked off to the twin Capes and that selfharming whale waiting for people who would never come back and tried not to feel like he was looking in a mirror everytime he went to heal Laboon. Had sworn to never again get attached to lunatics with too fucking big smiles and too fucking big dreams and too fucking big hearts because they left too fucking big holes in his chest that he’ll never be able to heal.

And yet. Here he is. Trying to save yet another lunatic with a too big smile and too big dreams and a too big heart, trying to save the son of his previous bespoke lunatic, too, and he can tell already that he won't be able to stay distant, that he’ll let them in and get attached to the damn brats.

(Who is he trying to kidd, he’s the one who brought them all here to save one boy, the one who got attached to a boy with his captain’s eyes and a menace’s freckles. He has no room to talk, really.)


Crocus leaves Rayleigh to it no matter how much he wants to hurt the bastard. He has a patient to treat, and patients always come first. So instead he runs up to Whitebeard’s side where the man’s doctors are trying to bandage Strawhat.

Trying, because of course the moron is fighting them, despite his condition, trying to get to his brother.

“I don't need to be taken care of! We're running out of time! I said move it! Ace... Ace is the only brother I've got in this world!” The words are heart-wrenching, but don’t stop Crocus from making his way to him, already rummaging through his satchel for the necessary supplies. “I'm coming... I'll... save you!”

The youngest Monkey on the battlefield finally collapses, and Jimbei goes frantic. When the hell did the fishman have time to get attached to that menace? What is it about Monkey D Luffy that makes old timers like Rayleigh and Jimbei throw their weight behind him like that?

Crocus scratches that line of thoughts. The brat is a D and that should be explanation enough for all this bullshit, really. That, and Crocus has sworn decades ago to never again try to figure out what made the D.’s so special. Never again. Never ever again. He’s learned his lesson. There are things normal people are not meant to try and understand and that’s one of them.

“Luffy! Doctor, please do what you can to revitalize him!”

Crocus snorts even as he elbows Whitebeard’s people out of the way. The only one he would even remotely trust with a brat that both Shanks and Jimbei have taken an interest in is the Nightingale, and she’s sticking close to her captain. He’s starting to suspect that she might have eaten a healing fruit, given that Newgate’s wound should be bleeding a lot more than it currently is.

“Jimbei!” Said injured captain says. “This kid has heart, but he's too reckless. He's full of spunk but nothing but talk! Still... I've always had a soft spot for idiots like him!”

“You’re one to talk,” Crocus scoffs, getting to work on his patient now that he is conveniently too out of it to protest. “You and Roger, I swear. You’re both assholes who should have listened to your ship’s medic more often. I don’t know how she puts up with you if even half the things I’ve heard in the past few years are true.”

“Gurarararara!” Newgate laughs, then winces when the Nightingale pinches him sharply. “Focus on the brat, you old fart. He needs your help more than I do.”

“You’re older than I am, you fossile!” Crocus snaps back, but doesn’t look away from his patient.

In the background, the battle resumes.

 

Chapter Text

Fire on the waters, fire high above,
Fire in our hearts for the friends that we love.
Fire, fire, fire down below,
Fetch a bucket of water,
Fire down below.

(Fire down below)


 

Buggy watches, silent and still, as the Whitebeards rally around their father, opening a path in the crowd of marines for the older man to pass through.

He watches, silent and still, as the Roger Pirates follow the rallying cry.

He watches, silent and still, as Scopper Gaban leaves Rush and Riza to guard the Oro Jackson as he runs to join the charge, axe at the ready.

He watches, silent and still, as Marian and Elena stand back to back with one of Whitebeard’s lieutenant and Yadomaru

He watches, silent and still, as Seagull rushes forward alongside Diamond Jozu, as Gulliver fights side by side with Little Oars.

He watches, silent and still, as Crocus throws himself into the fray with what feels like glee, harpoons at the ready.

He watches, silent and still, as Rayleigh keeps Kizaru busy, distracting him from the charge.

(He watches, silent and still, as the Roger Kaizoku go to war for Portgas D Ace in a way they never did for him.)

He watches and watches and watches, and he makes sure that the denden is watching too, because this needs to be witnessed by all.

Buggy watches, but he listens too, his ears floating discreetly on both sides of the battle.

He listens to Sengoku roaring orders, telling his men to brace themselves. He listens to Whitebeard’s people, to their rage on their brother’s behalf even when he just attempted to murder their father, and ignores the jealous twist of his stomach when confronted to that kind of loyalty.

(Did they ever have that? That kind of faith in each other, that kind of loyalty, of family? Or was it just Roger, holding them together by sheer charisma, that made the others tolerate him for a couple of years?)


 

The battlefield, and with it the entire island, shakes Buggy out of his thoughts. Quite literally, too. The whole island tilts to the side, and Buggy barely has the time to hold onto something as John Giant’s broken body passes him by.

Stupid Whitebeard, using his powers with no considerations for his newest allies who aren’t used to his monster bullshit. The denden nearly gets squashed by falling stone, and Buggy has to send his hand to move it to a safer location when buildings start to fall around him.

At least Whitebeard didn’t target the one Buggy is currently staying on, or Buggy would have pitched a fit. He has no plans whatsoever to reveal his presence at this stage, or at all if he can help it (which, with his luck, he won’t be able to but he’s trying very hard not to think about that right now thank you very much).

There’s so much dust and debris flying around that, for an instant, Buggy thinks Whitebeard might have succeeded in bring the platform down. But then the dust is blown away, and the three admirals are standing in front of it, hands raised, as they use their combined haki to shield it.

Roger would have managed that on his own, Buggy wants to say, but he keeps his mouth shut because that’s just a reminder that Roger didn’t even try, and Buggy will never forgive him for that.

That, and needing three people to do the job Roger had been able to do on his own does not mean that any of them are weak at all. Roger had been a monster even amongst the other monsters of his era. That did not mean that the others hadn’t been monsters in their own rights. There’s a reason Buggy has been staying the fuck away from the other big names of that era.

The fact that the admirals are bickering in the middle of a battlefield is just another proof that they are amongst the strongest people here and they know it .

(Buggy is very much not part of that group. He knows that too, hence why he’s not going down there until he absolutely has to.)

Strawhat is also very much not part of that group...yet. There’s potential, definitely, and if given the chance to grow up the brat is going to be one hell of a monster. But right now? Right now the brat is so fucking out of his league that’s it’s ridiculous. Especially since the boy does not seem to realise it, leading the charge as he is, overconfidence rolling off him by the bucket. And none of his allies seem willing to point that out, for all that Jimbei is sticking close to him. Even Whitebeard just encouraged him, finding the brat’s stubbornness to be endearing no doubt.

Crocus is also sticking close to Strawhat, much closer than he did to Buggy when Buggy had been a child that couldn’t swim , and Buggy looks away before he allows himself to start thinking about that too much.

Which also means that he’s the first to spot the walls that rise to protect the plaza, preventing pirates from stepping foot on it.

Well, most of them. Some were already there, like Buggy himself, and he can hear Yadomaru swearing up a storm when she realises that her crew has been isolated and is now facing very, very unfavorable odds.

Eh. Buggy would still bet on the Blackjacks. They had been vicious buggers way back then, and something tells him that none of them are the kind to have mellowed with age. Odds are, the marines will end up regretting the day they decided to erase Rouge’s past as a pirate. As if that woman had ever been anything other than terrifying. The fact that she died in childbirth is just. So fucking unfair. She should have lived to raise her child and hell against anyone trying to harm the blood of her blood. She should have died with her head held high and a staff in her hand, after making Davy Jones beg for the privilege of escorting her to his locker. That she had to extend her pregnancy, that she was denied the option of medical help, is a heresy that Buggy will never forgive.


 

(You can be scared shitless of someone and still respect the fuck out of them.)

(Blackjack D Rouge was one of them.)


The wall is rising, except for two sections where Gulliver and Oars have been piling up Pacifista corpses, their not-voices fading one by one.

(Thank fuck. That had been disturbing to the highest degree.)

The irony of the Marine’s secret project literally being the cog in the machine that prevents the walls from rising completely is not lost on Buggy. He just wishes he was in a better position to enjoy it. This may be a complete clusterfuck, and things are definitely going to get worse because that’s just the kind of day this is shaping up to be, but he shouldn't let that stop him from enjoying the sight of the Marines getting their proper comeuppance.

Then Sengoku the Asshole in Chief orders Akainu to destroy the ice the pirates in the bay are using as footing, and Buggy winces. With Akainu’s magma, even diving in the water won’t save them for long before they get boiled alive. And there’s definitely a couple of Devil Fruit users in that lot - the water won’t do them any good.

( Would you rather drown, or be burned alive? And no no no nonononononononono Buggy does not need to remember that right now, he can’t afford to, he never ever wants to remember that.)

(Three years on his own after getting separated from Shanks, and Buggy still doesn’t know how he survived. He knows he wouldn’t have if it weren’t for his fruit, though, and still can’t decide if that’s a good thing or not.)

(Edd war at ten, Raftel at twelve, Loguetown with Shanks at fourteen, adrift on his own at sixteen, Marineford at thirty seven and a whole lot of bullshit in between.)

(Blessing or curse?)


Buggy frowns, focuses his haki to the bay and smirks, unseen. Looks like Sengoku was not the only one who could make contingency plans.

The smirks disappear when Buggy realises that Akainu is not just aiming for the ice. He’s aiming for the ships .

Fury rises in Buggy’s chest, and he doesn’t even try to contain it. While he no longer has any faith in the people he sailed with, Shanks excepted, that is not true of the ship he sailed on.

For all that he can’t think back to his time on her without flinching, the Oro Jackson still means home . She had carried him, protected him, taught him, and while he will never admit it to anyone except possibly Shanks, he loves that ship dearly.

The Moby Dick goes up in flames, and Buggy winces, but keeps his eyes firmly on the Oro Jackson. Fuck. He does not want to interfere, but he does not want to lose her either, but there’s nothing he can do and he wants to kill Akainu with his bare hands.

Buggy isn’t sure if the Moby has a Klabautermann, but he knows that the Oro does. He also knows that he’s probably the only one who’s ever met it, with the possible exception of Rush, late one night after the Edd War when nightmares had driven him out of his hammock and onto the deck.

(Oro had smiled at him from its faceless face, had let him stay close and watch as it repaired the ship Tom had built so carefully, and Buggy had fallen asleep to the sound of a falling hammer, and his sleep had been dreamless.)

Buggy does not want to lose Oro, or the ship, and he holds his breath as Rush performs evasive maneuvers after evasive maneuvers, directing the ship all by herself even though that shouldn’t be possible, and coats it in her own Armament Haki, the Adam wood glowing darkly, and that shouldn’t be possible either, but Buggy spots a small figure standing by the mast and lets out a breath of relief. The Oro Jackson would escape this, just as she had escaped from the Edd War without a scratch.

He had never needed that reminder to trust the ship Tom had built for them.

“Don’t you dare scratch my fucking ship! ” said tiny shipwright roars, her voice easily heard even over the pained screams. “I’m going to tear you to shreds for what you did to the Moby! That ship was a fucking fine piece of craftsmanship! It was a work of art, you heathens!”

Buggy can’t prevent a small smile from blooming on his lips. Akainu better watch his back, because Rush looks ready to tear him apart with her bare hands. Such a small woman should not be that terrifying, but Rush had taken one look at the other monsters in the crew and had decided that she was going to be the scariest of them all. So far, she’s succeeding.

The Voices of the Shirohige are filled with grief as they watch their ship sink, but Akainu doesn’t allow them the time to grieve, pursuing them relentlessly until they have no choice but to chance the water.

( Would you rather drown, or be burned alive?)

Neither canons nor Whitebeard’s power seem to work against the wall, and the only way left into the plaza is through the pile of pacifistas that prevented the wall from rising up completely.

Which is going to leave them completely to the mercy of marine snipers. That path is a bottleneck, and the marines are already taking up positions on the other side, ready to slaughter any pirate that tries to make it through.

Of fucking course, Strawhat immediately has to prove that he lacks the survival instincts Davy Jones gave to fucking jellyfishes and rush through the opening.

How the hell can Shanks believe the brat will live long enough to become Pirate King? Scratch that, how the hell had the kid made it to the double digits when he regularly proves that he is too dumb to live? Had he been that reckless when Shanks had met him, or was it a side effect of being gifted Roger’s hat?

Fuck, but he actually feels bad for the brat’s crew. He knows exactly what it’s like to deal with a captain like that, and you couldn’t pay him enough to do that again. Once was more than enough, thank you very fucking much.


 

“Almost everything is going according to plan. We will now proceed with the execution of Portgas D. Ace!” Sengoku announces, and Buggy snorts. He’s pretty sure the Roger Kaizoku showing up was definitely not something the lauded strategist had predicted. Same for the Blackjacks. Both of their crews had been known for being unpredictable as fuck, back then.

(Mostly because not even the crew themselves had any idea what would happen from one day to the next, what with their captains being who they were.)

Strawhat gets thrown back towards the Okama emperor and Jimbei, and the later immediately sends him back in, only for the brat to find himself facing all three Admirals. By himself.

Lacking the preservation instincts Davy Jones gave jellyfishes, seriously. Shanks owes him so much alcohol for this bullshit. And not the cheap bullshit either - quality alcohol .

Thankfully, Strawhat’s survival is currently in the hands of people Buggy wants nothing to do with, but who will keep him alive for Shanks’ sake if nothing else, so Buggy can afford to look around and keep an eye on other things. Like Sengoku ordering the execution, the flaming chicken trying desperately to reach the platform, and the swords coming down towards FireFist while Strawhat terrified cry rings out across the battlefield.

Fuck. Buggy does not want to intervene, but this is Captain’s son and he doesn’t deserve to die like this no matter what kind of monster his father was, and Buggy readies himself, gathers Armament Haki in his lower body, prepares to blow his cover, and then Crocodile is there, moving too fast for Buggy to see him but he’s not trying to hide his haki, and the two executioners fall to the ground, dead or unconscious, and Buggy settles back, allows the armament to fade from his limbs, the shakes to leave his hands, the breathe to leave his lungs.

“You!” Sengoku rages. “Because of the grudge you hold against him, you are the last person we expected to assist Whitebeard! Crocodile!”

“I can finish the old geezer off later... but seeing you scum so cheerful makes me sick!” The Sand user spits, before losing his head.

Literally.

Why Doflamingo would think that would work on a logia without even trying to use haki on his strings, Buggy doesn’t know. Or maybe the Shichibukai is just playing around. That’s always a possibility, given what Buggy knows of the asshole.

But either way, the impromptu decapitation has no effect other that pissing Crocodile off, and Buggy happily leaves the two of them to it. Crocodile might have just saved Firefist’s life, but Buggy does not care enough about the man to worry about his survival.

Meanwhile, the Whitebeards are moving again, trying to reach the two giants playing dodgeballs with cannonballs, and by the time the marines stop gaping at Crocodile and Doflamingo, the smaller ship that Buggy had sensed before is surfacing, picking up the swimmers and paddling at full speed towards the giants. From there on it’s a simple matter of Oars and Gulliver picking the ship up and carrying it through the opening they’ve made, and suddenly there’s a shitton of Shirohige inside the plaza, much to Yadomaru’s relief if her screams of ‘You’re late!’ are anything to go by.

Crocus is on that ship, intent on joining Strawhat, and Buggy is quick to turn his sight somewhere else. He can’t afford to get distracted by his anger, not now.

He focuses on Whitebeard instead, watches as the strongest man on the seas blows away legions of marines with a single swing of his bisento.

“The time has finally come!” The man roars. “We're going to rescue Ace! And take out the whole Naval force!”

That’s a goal Buggy can get behind, and he fully plans on cheering the old man on from his hiding place, especially when Sengoku starts moving to challenge the Earth-shaker.

“Looks like this war... insists on the two of us participating!”

Buggy snorts. As if there had been any other possible outcome than this after Sengoku had ordered the execution of Portgas D. Ace. As if Whitebeard was the kind of man to let that kind of slight against one of his precious sons slide.

Really. And the guy is supposed to be a genius. Buggy has known since he turned seven that messing with Whitebeard’s people is the best way to earn someone a quick and painful death.

It looks like the marines have forgotten that, over the years.

Just because Whitebeard doesn’t fight much these days doesn’t mean he’s lost any of his strengths, as Aokiji discovers quickly when he stupidly tries to freeze an earthquake. Ice breaks just as easily as earth, if not more.


Buggy’s intuition is screaming and he whirls around just in time to catch sight of Kizaru piercing Strawhat with his laser.

Fuck. Shanks is going to go berserk when he learns about this.

(Even that is not enough for the boy to lose consciousness. What the fuck is he made of, seriously? Rubber does not work like this! Blood loss should still affect the brat, as should concussions! He should not be trying to stand up and reach for his brother!)

(Survival instincts of a fucking jellyfish!)

(Fucking D’s. If the brat lives through this, Buggy is sicking Shanks on him. Maybe the Yonko will be able to pound some sense in Strawhat’s head. Buggy isn’t holding his breath, though.)

(The boy is too much like Captain Roger, always rushing headfirst into danger on a whim, especially when their precious people are on the line, but at least Roger had been strong enough to afford it.)

(Edd War at ten, and no, Buggy does not need to think about this right now .)

(Since the execution, Buggy had wondered more than once if his captain had actually been suicidal. He had made it clear that he didn’t want to die on his sickbed, weak and in pain, and Buggy wonders how much of Roger’s recklessness was due to wanting to die in a burst of glory.)

(Sometimes, he wonders Loguetown was Roger realizing that if he continued to pursue Death like he had been doing, he was going to drag the entire crew down to Davy Jones locker along with him since they weren’t about to let him get himself killed on their watch.)

(He never told Shanks about his suspicions, but knows his friend thinks about it too.)

(Shanks hasn’t been fully sober in over twenty years.)

(If Buggy’s liver had the same resilience, if Buggy wasn’t terrified of not being in full control of his body and wits, Buggy would be the same.)


Kizaru kicks Strawhat straight into Whitebeard’s hands, who does the smart thing and immediately gives the brat to one of his doctors (not his personal one, though, Buggy notes. The Nightingale is not leaving her father’s side, and the pinched expression on her face makes him commiserate with her. He knows what it’s like to know that your captain is dying and that there’s nothing you can do to change it.)

“For the great Whitebeard to make such an error in judgment... the mighty have indeed fallen!” Kizaru mocks. “For a man of your stature to be so reckless... you let your emotions get the better of you when you allowed this pile of garbage to lead the charge…”

The admiral is so busy mocking a man who was already one of the strongest pirates in all the seas long before he was born that he doesn’t see the haki-darkened weapon coming before it collides with his face.

Crocus is furious , Buggy notes detachedly. And so is Rayleigh, on whose sword Kizaru impales himself as he stumbles back from Crocus’ attack.

“That,” Rayleigh says calmly even as Kizaru tries to move away from the sword piercing his shoulder, “was a mistake, Borsalino.”

(They were never this angry on his behalf, Buggy thinks, even though he actually sailed with them for years, even though Rayleigh had been his teacher and Crocus his doctor, they had never stepped in like that to protect him unless they absolutely had to, and even then it had always been followed with lectures about how he should never have allowed himself to get into such a situation in the first place or how he should have been strong enough to deal with it himself and Buggy thought he had managed to distanciate himself from them enough that such a reminder wouldn’t hurt so much but obviously that hadn’t worked and he needs to stop thinking about this because if he doesn’t he won’t make it through this bullshit alive and he refuses to die because of them.)

Buggy needs a fucking drink.


What he gets instead is someone trying to sneak up behind him. Gotta give the guy points - he had his Voice smothered down so tightly that Buggy probably wouldn’t have noticed it if he wasn’t using his Observation Haki so precisely to keep an eye on everything that’s happening around him - and to make sure no one could sneak up on him and stab him in the back.

“Man, this is such a clusterfuck…” Someone sighs from behind him, and Buggy is whirling around, knife in one hand and gun in the other, only to bring them down when he realizes who it is.

“Rockstar,” he greets Shanks most recent crewmember. “I could have killed you, you moron! What the hell does Shanks teach you guys, that you think it’s smart to sneak up on someone in a battle like this one?!”

What the hell is Rockstar doing here? Buggy can’t sense Shanks anywhere in the vicinity, and the redhead is shit at hiding his presence, unlike Rockstar whose presence rarely rises over that of a mouse. Ironic, really, that the guy with such a showy nickname was actually the sneakiest of all the Akagami Kaizoku. Especially since, when he wasn’t actively trying to hide, Rockstar did actually live up to his nickname, making sure no one could overlook him. Red hair styled in huge spikes that stands out in a crowd, taller than most and with clothes in the unlikely combination of purple, orange, red, yellow and light blue that really shouldn’t work as well as it does, and the green saber to top it up, no one would look at him and believe that this is Shanks best spy.

Is it any wonder that Buggy finds himself getting along with the man on the few occasion he and Shanks meet up?

The Akagami Kaizoku drops to sit next to him.

“Sorry,” he replies. “But you’re a hard man to find, Captain Buggy. I mean, Okashira did tell me that you were damn good at that, but jeez. It’s not often I find someone who can completely hide their presence like that. Hell, I can’t bring mine down that much yet.”

Buggy gestures at the battlefield in front of them.

“I think that’s reason enough to want to hide and hide well,” he snarks. “If anyone else finds me because of you, I’ll string you up by your balls, Shanks be damned. What do you want, brat?”

“Weeeell,” Rockstar drawls. “I was supposed to infiltrate Impel Down and see if you wanted me to get you out while the Red Force made a distraction. Took me weeks to finally slip inside, and then Firefist got arrested and they raised their security even more, and then Shanks’ Anchor decided to fuck things up and the rest is history.”

Buggy startles.

“You were there to get me out?” He asks, trying to hide his disbelief.

“To offer you a way out if you wanted one,” Rockstar corrects. “Okashira didn’t want to overstep since he knows you don’t take well to that, but since it was Luffy’s fault that you got sent to the damn thing, Okashira figured he owed it to you to at least offer.”

“I got sent to fucking Impel Down because Smoker was pissed that he couldn’t arrest Strawhat and because Monkey Fucking D Garp took offence to me taking a shot at his grandson,” Buggy deflects, even as he tries to process what Rockstar is saying.

Shanks had sent one of his men to get him out of Impel Down. No, to ask if he wanted help in getting out of Impel Down, because Shanks knows that Buggy hates charity, hates being indebted to someone, and doesn’t trust anyone to come for him if he’s in trouble.

(Anyone except Shanks himself, that is, though sometimes it seems that the redhead forgets it. But he cared enough to send one of his men, respected him enough to ask if that was alright, and knew him well enough to send the most discreet of his men to extract him without anyone noticing, without painting a target on Buggy’s back.)

(Fuck but he misses Shanks. As soon as this mess is over with, Buggy is dragging him down to East Blue to get absolutely shitfaced.)

“What about my crew?” He asks, because he hasn’t been able to get any news from them while in Impel Down, and they’re his , Davy Jones damn it, they’re his responsibility and he had sworn that he would look after them like he had wanted someone to look after him and he will never forgive himself if something happens to them.

“They’re safe,” Rockstar tells him, and Buggy can feel the weight fall from his shoulders. “They managed to get away after your arrest, and your first mate, Mohji, is the one who let Okashira know what happened when Okashira called your denden. They’re staying on one of our islands in East Blue for now, waiting for you.”

They’re safe. That’s all Buggy can hear right now. His men are safe , they weren’t arrested and they are waiting for him. He hasn’t failed them. They still trust him.

Shanks has made sure his men are safe. Shanks remembered, Shanks knows how Buggy feels about his crew, how hard he tries to do right by them, and Shanks had stepped in to make s Buggy would have a crew to come back to this time.

Buggy is getting Shanks the best sake he can find for this.

“Where’s that captain of yours now?” He asks instead, because he is not going to talk about feelings with one of Shanks’ men.

“I haven’t managed to reach the Red Force yet, but from what I’ve overheard the Marines saying, they’re on their way here. They’ll be here in less than two hours. Apparently they had to kick Kaido’s ass first since the little shit thought he could make a move on Shirohige’s territory while the old man was busy dealing with this.”

Rockstar paused.

“He’s going to be so fucking pissed off when he sees this mess,” he sighed, watching as Crocus joined the team of medics tending to Strawhat, who has finally lost his battle against unconsciousness.

“Did you ever met the kid?” Buggy asks him, curious and because he needs to change the subject.

(Needs to stop wondering if Shanks knew about Firefist, if he knew about the others gathering here to save Captain’s boy, if he knew and didn’t tell Buggy.)

(Buggy doesn’t think so, not when Shanks sent Rockstar to Impel Down to get him out practically as soon as word got out that Buggy had been captured, if he’s reading Rockstar’s words correctly, not when Shanks made sure his crew would be okay.)

(But doubt is like a weed, and it’s hard to shake it even after all these years, even when he knows, knows that Shanks would never betray him like this. But old hurts linger, even when he knows that Shanks wouldn’t do this to him.)

(Two years together on their own, and Baterilla in the middle of that, and they know they can count on each other to have their backs even when the rest of the world is hunting them, even when no one else will, because this is exactly what happened after Captain Roger’s execution .)

“Firefist? Or Strawhat?” Rockstar asks, proving once again that he’s smarter than most people give him credit for.

“Either. Both.”

“Yes to the first, no to the second, I joined a few years after they left East Blue behind that time. But I’ve heard all the stories, of course. I did meet Firefist a few years back. He tracked us down to this winter island we were restocking at. Thought he was looking for a fight at first, but turns out he wanted to thank Okashira for saving Luffy back then. Was very polite about it too, bowing and proper manners and everything. I had no clue he was actually Roger’s son before today, though. Don’t think Okashira knew either. He kept track of Firefist after that meeting, but it was always more of a ‘look at what Anchor’s brother is doing’ thing than anything else.”

“Yeah. I had no clue either,” Buggy admitted. “Tested him a bit before he left East Blue, but didn’t realize who he was. He doesn’t look much like Roger. Takes after Rouge a bit more, but then again I had no idea Captain had somehow managed to convince Blackjack D Rouge that he was worth her time so I didn’t make the link either.”

Rockstar then cements his place as Buggy’s favourite Redhair pirate after Shanks and Benn (the man is the only one with common sense on that crew and he’s been keeping Shanks alive for the past decade and a half without giving in and strangling his captain. Buggy is pretty sure the man is an actual saint and has made a point of sending him high quality cigars regularly) by very deliberately not pointing out that the rest of the Roger Kaizoku had obviously known for a while, if they had been able to mobilize that quickly without anyone noticing.

Buggy wonders if they called Shanks up too, and what he said.

He doesn’t wonder if they would have called him, had he not been in Impel Down. He already knows the answer.


 

“Not going to intervene?” Buggy asks, nodding to where the doctors are working on Strawhat.

Rockstar shoots him a dry look.

“And get involved in that mess? No thank you, I know better than to interrupt doctors when they’re working. I like my life, thanks. Besides, I’m not sure how well old man Whitebeard would take someone else butting in on his rescue attempt, especially after Okashira tried to warn him that letting Firefist go after Blackbeard was a really fucking bad idea.”

“Didn’t listen, did he?”

“Thought he knew better than ‘Roger’s brat’,” Rockstar snorts. “Was an arsehole about it, too. Called Okashira a ‘snivelling kid’ and a fool. He didn’t want our help back then, he can do without it now. I’ll step in if I absolutely have to, if Firefist of Strawhat look like they’ll die without my intervention, but otherwise I’m staying the fuck out of it and taking notes so Okashira can decide who he’s going to kill when he gets here.”

Buggy stares.

“What?”

“I’m not used to seeing someone other than Benn actually demonstrate common sense when it comes to your crew,” Buggy points out.

Rockstar laughs.

“Don’t go giving out my secrets now,” he teased. “It’s easier when people underestimate you, after all.”

And insightful on top of that. Shanks truly does know how to choose them, doesn’t he?

“Well, it’s your turn to keep an eye on the brat then. This is the last time I agree to babysit him. I swear, Shanks owes me so much sake for this bullshit…” Buggy grumbled.

Next to him, Rockstar laughs.

“You and me both,” he agrees. “Something tells me that no matter what else happens today, the hangover will be epic.

Chapter Text

Ho-hisse et Ho ! Miséricorde !
Pour nous tenir au bout d'une corde,
Faudra d'abord nous attraper,
Faudra d'abord nous aborder...
Ho-hisse-ho ! Pavillon noir !
Ho-hisse-ho ! Pavillon haut !

(Le chant du Pirate, Edith Piaf)

Ho-hisse and ho! Mercy!
To see us hanged
One must first catch us,
One must first board us...
Ho-hisse-ho! The black flag!
Ho-hisse-ho! The flag raised high!


 

Crocus is busy trying to heal Shanks’ brat, but that doesn’t mean he’s not keeping up with what is happening around him. A good doctor has to be able to multitask, after all. You’re no good to your patient if you take a stray bullet to the head because you weren’t paying attention.

So. Crocus is busy, but he’s still keeping track of what’s happening around him and, especially, around Ace. He chances a glance towards the platform long enough to see Garp punt the Phoenix away when he tries to free Ace, and very deliberately keeps the swearing that wants to break out for himself. His patient doesn’t need to hear him turn the air blue right now, no matter how much he would like to.

Captain entrusted his kid to Garp, trusted him with Rouge’s location and Ace’s entire existence, and the man proclaimed himself Ace’s grandfather and yet here he is, standing between Ace and those who want to save him, between Ace and freedom, between Ace and life and he still has the galls to boast.

Crocus wants to make him very, very dead. In a very, very painful manner. He might even let Phoenix help, because the zoan is glaring at Garp the way he used to glare at Roger before he got creative and Crocus very much wants to aim that creativity at a deserving target.

Sadly, his patient takes priority, so he focuses on that and listens to the chaos around him even as he bandages Strawhat.

The kid is in bad shape, no kidding about it. Ivankov’s hormones have wreaked havoc on his body, and he did himself no favour whatsoever by challenging the admirals.

Even unconscious, though, the brat is still weakly trying to fight him off, to get to his brother, and really, Crocus admires his dedication, he does , but he also has no qualms whatsoever turning the boy in a mummy to keep him from bleeding out.

(There’s a seastone tipped needle by his side, filled with the strongest sedative Crocus could get his hands on, ready to be used if necessary. Better safe than sorry, and Crocus will not let his patient out in the fight again if he can help it.)

(He has the good drugs on his side. He can help it.)


 

Whitebeard is trying to motivate his troops, whose moral took a step back when Garp decided to step up, but is soon busy fighting against Akainu.

Crocus hopes Whitebeard will get rid of the bastard. If Rush gets her hands on him, it’s going to get messy and Crocus very much does not want to deal with that.

To Crocus’s left, Rayleigh is quickly and efficiently putting Kizaru through the wringer. The admiral, already sporting a nice big hole in his chest from where Crocus pushed him on top of Rayleigh’s sword, is now missing an arm and limping heavily. Blood loss alone will have him dead in fifteen minutes unless they have a healing devil user on staff that can get to him on time.

Which they won’t, because Kizaru had wandered too far from his fellow marines and no one would risk such a valuable devil fruit user getting killed in a battlefield like this one.

Plus, there’s that nice little poison Crocus had coated that particular harpoon with. Asshole is not getting out of this alive, even if he manages to get away from Rayleigh, which looks more than unlikely given how pissed off the old man is.

Crocus quickly sews one of Strawhat’s numerous wounds shut, grateful once again that he brought the seastone kit with him. It hadn’t been needed often, back in the days, what with only Buggy having eaten a fruit and his ability making him basically immune to cuts, but Crocus believed in being over prepared and had made sure to have one on board no matter how much Elena had bitched at the cost. He’d grabbed it when he left the Twin Peaks, thinking it might be useful in case Ace had gotten injured and couldn’t flame it away, but now he’s grateful he had. Normal needles would have done fuck all when confronted with Strawhat’s rubber skin.

Speaking of Captain’s son.

On the platform, Ace’s emotions are rollercoasting all over the place, which is never a good sign, especially when it comes to flaming young men barely out of their hormonally challenging teenage years with severe self-worth issues.

Crocus is too far to hear what’s being said on the platform, but whatever it is, even Sengoku seems stricken by it.

Good. Crocus would very much like to strike Sengoku in the face , but he’ll settle for someone else emotionally punching him in the guts, as long as physical punching happens soon enough. Or kicking. Or stabbing. He's not picky.


Crocus’ hand shoots out, scalpel glowing darkly with haki leaving a thin red line across Ivankov’s hands.

“Ivankov, if you touch the boy I will kill you myself.”

“I’m trying to help!” The Okama protests, and Crocus silences him with a glare.

“You’re trying to kill him, more like! If you inject any more of your ‘miracle cure’ into this boy, he. will. die . No if or buts about it. His body is at its limits, he’s bleeding out from far too many wounds, and he’s still recovering from your violent purge of the poison in his body. Residues of that poison might still be in his bloodstream. Any change in his blood chemistry right now might set it off again, stronger than before. I’ve said this before and I will say it again: You are not a medical practitioner . You have no idea what the fuck you’re doing. You play God with people’s bodies without their consent, when you have never studied medicine or what exactly your fruit actually does. You will stay away from my patient or I will end you , not matter what Dragon has to say about it. Are we clear?

“Need... to save… Ace…” Crocus’ patient opens his eyes weakly, grabbing for his arm. “Need… the miracle cure…”

“You need a new fucking brain” Crocus tells him. “You are in no way knowledgeable enough about medicine to know what you’re asking for. Do you want your brother to have your death on his conscience? Because the way you’re acting, that’s what’s going to happen!“

Strawhat freezes at that, and Crocus has no compunctions whatsoever about using that lapse to continue stitching him up. Without anaesthetics, because they're in the middle of a battlefield and the moron was fighting as if he couldn’t register the pain anyway.

“But… Ace…” Luffy croaks out.

Crocus sighs. Davy Jones save him from idealist, naive idiots.

“Ace has people looking out for him, people who are not already on Davy Jones’ doorstep. Do you want your brother to be saved or do you want to kill yourself trying and fail to save him, and probably get him killed in the fallout? Because that’s the only way you attempting anything in the state you’re in will end, brat. You’ll only be a distraction to the people who can actually do something. Have some faith in your brother’s nakama. Whitebeard’s the most annoying, honorable bastard on all the seas, and his brood are just like him, that third grade reject Teach excepted. And the Blackjacks have a vested interest in keeping him safe as well, because his mother was their captain. And we old timers may have told Newgate that we would be leaving the rescue to him, we’re still going to step in if it looks like they won’t get there in time. But we won’t be able to do that if we have to worry about you getting yourself killed, so stay fucking put! Davy Jones, but I pity your medic. Fucking D’s I swear!”

Luffy looks like he’s been sucker punched (which, admittedly, he has been, multiple times, just not by Crocus) and any other time Crocus might feel bad about putting that expression on the face of a usually happy go lucky person, but right now he doesn’t give a damn. The sooner the brat realises that throwing his life away without stopping to think about the consequences (or, hell, that consequences are a thing, period!), the better.

“Look, kid,” Crocus tries, gentler this time. “We’re not going to let anything happen to Ace if we can’t help it, but how do you think he would feel if you got yourself killed trying to save him? Hell, how do you think he feels right now, knowing how much you’ve just been hurt?”

He pauses.

“You made a promise to Laboon, brat. Do not make me have to tell him that you won’t be coming back for him either.”

Luffy doesn’t reply, and Crocus cuts the thread he used to stitch up his shoulder. He’s about to start on one of the brat’s other wounds (he’s got plenty to choose from) when he hears a loud rattle from behind him.


Coughing, blood in the lungs what the hell -


Whitebeard has stopped, his entire frame shaking, and there’s blood on his lips and the Nightingale by his side, and Akainu rushing towards them, and the Phoenix is distracted just long enough for Aokiji to hit him and-

A haki covered wrench flies through the air and hits Akainu exactly between the eyes.

For a second, everything seems frozen. Akainu’s eyes are crossed, as if trying to comprehend what just happened, and then, as if in slow-motion, he falls back, hitting the ground, hard.

“THAT WAS FOR THE MOBY DICK YOU ASSHOLE!”

Rush is standing on the Oro Jackson’s deck, arm still extended from where she threw the wrench. In the crow’s nest, Riza’s shots keep Aokiji away from the phoenix long enough for Marco to regain his bearings and avoid the seastone restraints that had been heading his way.

“Oyaji!” “Old man!”

Whitebeard looks like he’s about to protest Rush’s involvement, but her declaration that this was revenge for the Moby Dick stops him in his track. Hard to protest people butting into his fight when they were actually avenging his ship  Next to him, the Nightingale nods in the Oro Jackson’s direction. She looks like she would like nothing more than to stomp off towards the fallen admiral and kill him with her bare hands, but her patient takes precedence.

Crocus knows the feeling. He just hopes someone will make sure the magma bastard is actually dead and not just knocked out. He would do it himself if he could, but he also has a patient that takes precedence.

Fucking D’s.

“KEEP YOUR DISTANCE!” Whitebeard bellows when it looks like his men want to rush to him, despite the marines honing in on his perceived weakness. “They think that something so insignificant ! I do not need assistance! I can hold out a bit longer! I am Whitebeard! My death... it's significance is not lost on me. And I am well aware of just what that would entail! That is why... that is the very reason why I cannot die just yet! Not until I can secure the future of my sons with these very hands! Isn't that right, Ace?”

Newgate’s words leave a bitter taste in Crocus’ mouth. From the look on her face, it’s the same for the Nightingale. And for the rest of Whitebeard’s kids, given the way the commanders gather at his back.

“What formation are those pirates taking up behind Whitebeard?” Some random marine asks loudly.

Crocus snorts. How can someone not understand ? The Shirohige are protecting their father’s back, and with it his honour and his name, as the short commander, Haruta, is quick to point out.

“Its meaning is beyond the likes of you! We're defending the name of our father!”

Seventy odd years old, over fifty of those spent on the seas, most of them during the first great era - and yet Newgates does not sport a single scar on his back that is not an exit wound. He has never run from a fight, never turned his back to his enemy and have them actually hit him - not when his children have always stood between their father and whoever tried to kill him from behind.

“My foolish children!”

As if Newgate is really surprised by their actions, Crocus snorts. He's the one who 'raised’ them, he only has himself to blame, seriously. He just stormed Marineford to save one of his sons - and yet he's surprised that they would try and save him? Moron.

“You say you cannot perish until you secure the future of your children?” Sengoku roars over the noise. “I shall show you their future right here and now! Whitebeard!”


At some point during the past half an hour, the executioners around Ace have been replaced without Crocus noticing, and he swears a blue streak when he notices their raised swords. Rayleigh is running, having disposed of Kizaru, and Marco the phoenix takes to the air, but there’s no way they’ll make it in time and fuck, Crocus does not want to be proven a liar just minutes after having pointed out that nothing would happen to Ace!

“Watch closely, Whitebeard!”

“STOP IT ALREADY!” Crocus’ patient screams , and a wave of power rushes across the battlefield, knocking out the more weak-willed marines, just as multiple bullets impact the two executioners.

King’s haki. The kid has fucking King’s Haki. Fuck. No wonder Rayleigh got attached. A D. with that haki? And completely untrained? Fuck, but Garp has so much explaining to do for not making sure the kid could at the very least use the other two!

Fuck. There’s an untrained D. with King’s Haki roaming around the seas. No wonder the past few months have been weird as fuck. He should have guessed, really, after Enies Lobby.

Fucking D’s, seriously.

Without turning around, Crocus knows Riza was one of the shooters, just as he knows that the Blackjack’s sharpshooter, Kuukaku, was the one who aimed for both men’s crotches while her brother hit the one on the left with a cannon ball.

Subtlety, thy name has never been Blackjack.


“Now that vas something!” Ivankov enthuses, and Crocus feels no remorse whatsoever for literally kicking him away. He has enough on his hands trying to get his patient to lie back down when said patient has apparently forgotten everything Crocus just told him and is struggling to stand up.

“Now I’m coming to save you!” The boy screams, and Crocus swears.

Time for the good drugs it is. Crocus reaches for the syringe, but by the time his hand closes around it Luffy is gone and Crocus is going to kill him .

He shouldn’t even have been able to move so much as a fucking finger! Let alone run off in the middle of the closest thing to a war this decade has ever seen! The only reason the kid hasn’t been killed yet is because half the marines are out cold from the brat’s Haki wave and the others are still shellshocked.

FUCKING D’S!


“Go for Whitebeard first!” Someone shouts from the marine’s side as they finally start moving. “He's a monster, so don't take him lightly! Do whatever you can to take him down!”

By Whitebeard’s side, the Nightingale straightens.

“Over my dead body!” She hisses, twirling her scalpels.

“Men!” Whitebeard shouts. “Use all you’ve got to back up Strawhat!”

“OH HELL NO!” Crocus screams at Newgate. “The kid is in no state to do anything but collapse right now! You want to help him, you get him back here right this fucking second!”

Apparently, at least one of the Shirohige has some sense, or feels like he owes the Rogers because of Rush’s earlier actions, because the Phoenix suddenly changes target and grabs Strawhat in his claws. Seconds later, the zoan is gently dropping the struggling teenager in front of Crocus before rushing off towards the platform. This is the second time the proper ceremonial beheading has been prevented. Any moment now, Sengoku will say to hell with procedure and ceremony and kill Ace himself if this goes on any longer, and no one wants to take the risk. Crocus doesn’t even have to look to know that Ace is the Phoenix’s next target.

Crocus takes one look at his newly delivered patient who’s still struggling to get back to the fight and stabs him with the needle. There. At least now he’ll stop trying to get himself killed before Crocus can finish healing him!

His patient finally sedated, Crocus can finally afford to take a look at what’s happening around the plaza. Most of the marines (and some of the weaker willed pirates) are on the ground, frothing at the mouth, unconscious from their first clash with King’s Haki.

Hu. That shouldn’t have felled so many of them. Had the standards for marines fallen that much? Or had they just thrown together a bunch of wet behind the ears newbies to bulk up their numbers and have some cannon fodder at hand? Both were equally possible, honestly.

Roban is sticking close to the edge of the plaza, where he has plenty of water at his disposal to make sure no one comes too close to the Oro Jackson.

(Not that anyone is even attempting to come closer. Apparently, Rush’s glares are more than enough to dissuade them. The shipwright is going to be gloating for weeks after that.)

Riza is still taking potshots at whoever looks like they’re trying to make things difficult for the pirates, and from the way she’s calling out numbers, Crocus has an inkling that she and Kukaku have resumed their usual competition.

Seagull and Scopper are somewhere in the middle of the fray, and sound perfectly happy to be there, so Crocus moves on to Gulliver… who has taken to using the last Pacifista corpse as an overgrown bat to hit people with. It’s working, so Crocus leaves him at it.

Clearly, it’s been too long since any of them have had a proper fight, so it’s only natural that they get some fun.

Marian is playing around with Hina, and Crocus will not get involved there, thank you very much. Let the ladies have their fun, he’ll stay out of it.  Elena has managed to make her way across the platform, and is actually sticking pretty close to Crocus, her Jacob staff breaking bones left and right - good, he might need help getting the brat out of this mess, especially since Jimbei still looks shell shocked and Crocus is not letting Ivankov so much as touch his patient ever again.

Rayleigh is still heading for the platform, for Sengoku who looks this close to going full Buddha on them, and Crocus wishes him good luck with that.

Kizaru down, it’s easier for the Phoenix to make his way to Ace unimpeded (dodging a few cannon balls and letting non-seastone bullets pass through his body harmlessly does not count as a hardship in Crocus's eyes, not when the man is currently pretending to be a flaming chicken), though Monkey D Garp still stands in his way.

Has Crocus mentioned already that he dearly wishes he could kill the man himself? Because he does. He really, really does.


“I won't move” Garps proclaims, loud enough for all to hear. “I am the vice-admiral of the marine headquarters! Since long before most of you were ever born, I've been fighting with pirates! If you want to get through here, you'll have to do so after killing me! That's the path you have chos- urk!”

Revenge is sweet and it comes in the form of a tall, dark haired women with a bo-staff Crocus recognises as Rouge’s. Revenge from beyond the grave for what her son went through because of Garp - Crocus can appreciate this fine bit of poetic justice, especially when it nails Monkey D Garp straight in the crotch. The pain filled shriek that resounds over the battlefield is music to his ears. At least it’s unlikely that any of them will have to worry about the old marine siring another child ever again - three Monkey D is already three too many. And it’s not even his birthday! He’ll have to make sure to do something nice for Yadomaru after this - is smutty literature still the best way to show her his appreciation?

Next to him, Elena throws her head back and laughs.

“I am sooo taking Lisa out for drinks for that!” She says with glee, punting away a marine that had been getting slightly too close for her taste. “Hell, I’m so taking her to bed for that if she’s willing. That was hot !”

“TMI, ‘lena. TMI,” Crocus protests.

She snorts.

“Doc, you’ve seen us all naked and in compromising positions more than once, you can deal. I may be old, but I still have eyes!”

“If you’re old, what am I then?” He grumbles, because Elena is barely pushing forty-five, whereas he is on the wrong side of seventy.

“Positively ancient!” She replies without pause, a beaming smile on her face and, okay, he had set himself up for that one.

“Youths those days, no respect for their elders!” He complains half-heartedly. “Make yourself useful then, you upstart! Get this moron to the Oro Jackson and shackle him to a bed in the infirmary - I’m pretty sure we still have some seastone shackles somewhere. I’m not taking any risks with this brat. I do not  want to deal with Shanks’ whinging if he dies on us, and you’ve seen the boss - Rayleigh’s gotten attached . I am not dealing with that either. Anything happens to the brat between here and whenever we’re off this rock, it’s on you, capisce?”

“That’s a low blow, Doc!” Elena protests, but she carefully picks up the boy anyway. “Oi! Jimbei! Snap out of it and make sure we don’t get attacked on our way out!”

Thankfully, the fishman manages to shake himself out of his shock and dutifully follows the Oro Jackson’s navigator as she takes off. Good. That’s one patient off his hands. Now he needs to be ready for a new one, because Ace still isn’t off that damn platform despite the phoenix being there already. In Marco’s defence, he’s also fighting against a pretty pissed off Sengoku, but really. This should not be taking that long.

Crocus sighs, and starts making his way towards the platform. Best to be close by when things start going to shit again. They’ve been going too well in the pirates’ favour - something is bound to snap soon.


He has to bat away a few marines who think that because he’s old and a medic he’s an easy target (which, rude much? He’s the one who clubbed Kizaru across the face with a harpoon, and he’s a Roger Kaizoku! What exactly about him screams ‘weak’?) but doesn’t stop until he’s close enough to hear what’s happening on the platform.

“Hold on Ace, we’ll get you out of here!” the Phoenix is saying even as he has to dodge Sengoku’s fist.

“He’ll be executed by my hands!” Said Marine commander counters, and proceeds to triple size as he goes full Buddha.

Aw fuck.

See? This is why they can't have nice things. As soon as they do, the marines try to take them away or break them.

Crocus had predicted that Sengoku would have to try and get rid of Ace himself at this rate. He had also predicted that things would start taking a turn for the worse again, and you can’t exactly get much worse than a taste of Sengoku’s full Buddha mode to the head, as the Phoenix narrowly avoids finding out.

“SENGOKU!” Whitebeard calls out to the Marine Commander. “Leave my sons alone!”

Yeah. As if that’s going to work. It does distract Sengoku for a fraction of a second, which is enough for Rayleigh to finally get his ass on the platform and catch Sengoku’s next punch with the flat of his sword, so it's not completely useless at least.

“We still have a fight to finish, I believe,” The Roger’s first mate smiles politely at Sengoku. “I’ve been waiting for over twenty years to finish that particular spar - surely you won’t begrudge an old man his pleasure, won’t you ?”

Crocus winces. Shit. Rayleigh is definitely in a mood. That’s going to be a pain to deal with later, if he doesn’t manage to get it out of his system. Crocus would usually pity Sengoku, but right now he’s of the opinion that the marine deserves whatever is coming his way. Bastard shouldn’t have targeted their captain’s son.


(Fuck, but Crocus misses his captain. Roger had been the epitome of a D, reckless and foolish and crazy, but he had been his captain and Crocus had followed him proudly, had worn his colours and stood beside him when they reached Raftel and he had never been more certain that his place had been there, on that ship, with that crew, with that man as his captain.)

(Had never felt more useless when attempt after attempt at a cure had failed, when Roger had started losing weight and coughing up blood, until the day Roger told him to stop trying . Until the day Roger had gathered the crew and told them that this was the end of the line, this was as far as they would go together. That he had only so much time left and that there was someone else he wanted to spend it with.)

(Until the day he stood on a roof in Loguetown and watched his captain taunt the world one last time before his head hit the ground. Until the day he couldn’t even give his captain the burial at sea that he had deserved.)

(Fuck, but Crocus misses Gol D. Roger and he will be damned if he has to watch his captain’s son die before his eyes. Not again. Not this time.)


Crocus heaves himself up on the platform while Rayleigh keeps Sengoku busy, and makes a beeline for Ace. The Phoenix is there too, back to human form and struggling with the chains.

“What’s the problem?” Crocus asks, because those restraints should have fallen off by now. “Hey, I’m just here to assist, remember?” he adds when Ace glares at him. “Leaving the rescue to the Shirohige, just as promised, but I also promised your moron of a brother that I wouldn’t let you die so deal with it.”

“Seastone chains!” The phoenix spits, just as Ace rushes out “Is Luffy okay?”

“No, but he will be as long as he doesn’t injure himself further and actually lets me do my fucking job,” Crocus says bluntly. “I’ve sedated him so he would stop trying to get himself killed by doing dumb things like charging headfirst into an admiral when he’s bleeding out like a stuck pig. I swear that kid has no self preservation instincts - and neither do you, by the way. How the hell did the two of you make it for so long without getting yourself killed?”

“Hey!” Ace protests.

“Kid, you were asking us to leave so they could execute you. Not exactly shining with self preservation instincts here,” Crocus snorts, coating his scalpel in haki and testing the chains himself. “Hu. These are high quality ones,” he admits when the blade comes away without leaving a scratch. And I don’t suppose anyone has the key?”

“That would be too easy,” Marco the Phoenix grimaces. “And they’re anchored to the platform too.”

Crocus looks over the battlefield, finds the people he’s looking for and turns back to Marco.

“Then we take the platform with us,” He declares. “Get that swordsman of yours, and the diamond guy too, and get them to cut away the platform where the restraints are anchored. You’ll just have to take them with you until you can cut them away.”

They state at him in disbelief.

“What?” Crocus asks, annoyed. “Do I have something on my face?”

Marco sighs.

“Do you need new glasses that badly, old man? The whole platform is resting on a seastone pillar, and the shackles are built in the bloody thing! We need the bloody key!”

Crocus draws himself up, because he's not going to let Whitebeard's brat dismiss him like that, he's not ! But before he can there's a huge sigh from behind them.

“Davy Jones be my witness, you guys are useless .” Someone complains behind Crocus, who whirls around in surprise.

There's a young man standing behind him, in his early thirties at most, with bright red hair arranged in spikes. He looks familiar, though Crocus can't place him.

And he's twirling a set of keys in his fingers.

Ace and Marco, however, have no trouble recognising him.

“Rockstar?!” Ace gapes while the Phoenix winces. “What the hell are you doing here?”

“Oh sorry, is this a private party? Am I butting in?” Rockstar - and what kind of name was that , seriously? - mocks. “What a way to greet an ally.”

“Your captain's last visit wasn't exactly peaceful”, Phoenix points out, eyeing him warily. “You can't blame us for being surprised, especially since you seem to be here on your own.”

The newcomer laughs.

“Geez, I wonder why. Was that the time when Okashira came to warn you to call Firefist back because Teach is an asshole that was up to something? The time when your captain called him a fool and an upstart and told him to get lost? You guys are so lucky Okashira doesn't hold grudges when it comes to personal insults. Sadly for you, he does hold grudges when you get someone he cares about hurt because you're too damn prideful to listen . And since Firefist has made it on the list on account of being an interesting person who managed to keep Okashira's protégé alive for seven years, which, given what I've seen today, is a fucking miracle… yeah. You're lucky Okashira still decided to step in when Kaido decided to be a brat and try for your territory. You're welcome .” He adds, crouching next to Ace.

Okashira's protégé…

“You're one of Shanks’ men?” Crocus realises.

“Congrats on having eyes, though I can't say the same for your memory if it took you that long to recognise me,” Rockstar smirks even as he twists the key in the first lock. “You okay there, brat?”

For his part, Ace looks flabbergasted.

“What the hell, Rockstar?”

“What? Did you really think Okashira would let something happen to Anchor's brother? You're the kid's family, and the kid is family to us, ergo you are family to us as well. Deal with it.”

And it’s weird, how Rockstar keeps referring to Ace in regards to Strawhat, never to Roger, even though Shanks is one of them, has also sailed under Roger’s banner. Why would one of Shanks’ men not acknowledge that? Didn’t Shanks tell them anything ?

“Though to be fair,” The redhead continues, “I wasn't even here for you to start with. I had something to do in Impel Down, and then Strawhat decided to storm it and here I am. I was going to let the Shirohige take care of it, since they'd made it clear that our help wasn't wanted, but since that lot would rather argue all day than, I don't know, check your brother's pocket for the key Hancock gave him earlier, someone had to be the adult here.”

Crocus draws himself up, incensed. How dare that brat…

“Shut up, you,” Phoenix tells him without even looking at him. “He's right. This is not the time for bickering. And Rockstar? My thanks. To be conveyed to your captain in case I don't see him today.”

“Oh, he should be here soon,” Rockstar smirks even as he twists the last lock and takes a step back. “Kicked Kaido's ass and now he's on his way here. That will be fun.”

“Any other people going to show up when I never asked them to?” Ace grouses.

“Your pals from Wano probably won’t be able to make it in time,” Rockstar responds glibly, but the restraints are loose now and as Ace stands up they fall to the ground.

In a matter of seconds, an inferno stands in Ace's place as the flames that had been restrained for so long finally break free.

There's movement from within the flames, and suddenly they shoot up in the air to form the Shirohige Jolly Roger.

“I'm back in business!” Ace grins as the flames fade from his body.

“You're a menace, that's what you are,” Phoenix tells him, and before anyone can react, Whitebeard's first commander transforms, grabs Ace in his claws and makes for their father.

How rude! Crocus wants to yell, especially when he turns around and sees that the Rockstar kid has left too. He's going to have words with Shanks about that one! No respect for his elders!

(And if Crocus forgets that he has never had any respect for his own elders, well. No one has called him out on it in twenty years.)

He turns his attention back to the battlefield just in time for everything to go to Hell.

Chapter Text

Prends le large mon gars
C'est le vent qui t'appelle
Prends le large mon gars
Il est temps de partir
Prends le large mon gars
C'est le vent qui t'appelle
Eho ! Les gars, au vent de la mer
Eho ! Les gars chantant

(Prends le large mon gars)


 

 

Buggy really, really wishes he had some booze on hand. Because this, this entire thing, is just one huge fucking mess. It’s going to take him weeks to make heads or tails of what happens here, and he’s a first hand witness!

Thankfully, Rockstar has taken over Strawhat’s babysitting, and thus Buggy can focus more on what’s happening around the battlefield and on the platform.

Garp is being his usual asshole self, he notes, sending Marco the Phoenix flying with one hell of a punch.

Buggy really, really wants to kill the man. He’s got a shit-load of reasons, too, and no jury of his peers would condemn him for it. Impel Down alone would be enough, but Buggy has never forgiven the man for being the one to bring Roger in, even knowing that Roger basically handed himself over. Especially knowing that Roger basically handed himself over. And now, learning that the marine had not only kept Roger’s son away from the Roger Kaizoku (which, honestly, was probably warranted, the Roger Kaizoku should never ever be left in charge of children ever again), but then had the galls to raise the boy as his grandson (or, more likely, have the boy be raised by someone else and drop by every so often to play grandpa), to try and turn the boy into a marine of all things, and then not stand up for the kid’s life.

Family is commitment , especially when it’s family of choice. If Garp hadn’t been willing to go the full mile, he should have handed the kid to the Blackjack’s instead. They, at least, could be trusted with children!

(Why, Captain, why Monkey fucking D. Garp of all people?)

(Yet another thing Buggy will never understand about his Captain, yet another thing he’s not sure he’ll ever be able to forgive the man.)

(How the hell had Blackjack D. Rouge allowed that to happen? She loathed Garp with a passion, for Davy Jones’ sake!)

(She definitely kicked Captain’s ass when she joined him on the Flying Dutchman, Buggy thinks. Because there’s no way the Queen of Spade agreed to this.)

(He hopes she made it hurt .)

Anyway.

So, Monkey D.Garp is facing off against the Phoenix, who looks ready to flambe him, and Buggy wishes the Shirohige good luck with that. Whitebeard is trying to rally his troops, who faltered somewhat when Garp decided to get off his ass and actually join the fight, but then the lava asshole, Akainu, challenges him and the Yonko has to divert his attention fully to the fight if he wants to make it.

Akainu would never have managed to so much as scratch Edward Newgate if the man had still been in his prime, Buggy knows. Even now, even with a sword in his chest and losing blood slower than expected -  the Nightingale’s work, surely - Newgate remains a fucking monster. Still, he’s very much not in his prime anymore, and the Red Dog of the Military is yapping at his heels something fierce. Buggy keeps a metaphorical eye on that particular fight with his haki, if only to avoid getting caught in one of Newgate’s stupid earthquakes, and moves on, focusing on the other admirals.

Kizaru won’t be a problem much longer, Buggy notices. Not when he’s already sporting his own hole in the chest, and has just lost his right arm to Rayleigh’s sword. A quick check with his Haki confirms it - the admiral is a dead man walking. If the blood loss doesn’t get him first, Rayleigh will, or the poison Buggy can barely feel will do him in instead. Slightly overkill, really, but no less than what he deserves, really. Condescending asshole. Buggy hasn’t really faced him before, he’s smart enough not to provoke an admiral if he can avoid it, but some of his cellmates had talked about him, and what he had seen today just confirmed their description. Beside, one less monster admiral can only be a good thing, really.

If he’s lucky, either Whitebeard or Rush will get rid of Akainu and then there will only be Aokiji to deal with, and the ice-man is soooo much easier to put up with. Mostly because he’s a lazy ass who prefers to take people alive than dead, and happens to be one of the only marines with something resembling a conscience.

Buggy can only hope.


He winces when he caught sense of Portgas’ Voice. The boy is a Mess with capital M, radiating guilt and self-loathing and disbelief and Buggy wants to punch someone. He doesn’t even know the kid, has only met him that one time way back then when the brat had only just started and Buggy had decided to test his resolve, but no one should be made to feel like that. And it’s not because he’s captain’s son (or, at least, not just because of that), Buggy is aware that the kid doesn’t consider Roger his father for very valid reasons, and it’s not because he’s Rouge’s son either (even if the very idea of someone being of that menace’s bloodline having so much trouble believing that they are worth something seems impossible), and it’s not even because he’s one of Whitebeard’s.

It’s because, twenty one or not, Portgas D. Ace is just a fucking kid . And that kind of internalised self-hatred? That takes years to build up to those levels. Which means that this has been happening for a long time. And Buggy is an asshole, and a coward, and a thief and many a thing beside, but he will never, ever put a child through what’s he’s been through if he can help it. Children should be protected, prepared for the world out there but never thrown to the wolves like that.


(Buggy mentally adds another line to his list of motives for Monkey D. Garp’s murder, and crosses his fingers that he might get a chance to off the man himself during the chaos at some point.)

There’s a sudden pinpoint burst of armament Haki from where Crocus has strong-armed the other doctors into staying away from his patient, but Buggy doesn’t look. It’s Rockstar’s job, now, and the least he has to deal with that headache the better.

And then of course he’s distracted because Whitebeard’s haki flares up suddenly, the distress inside it well hidden but still perceptible to Buggy’s finely honed senses. The man has just taken another step up the Flying Dutchman’s ladder, and there’s blood on his lips as he shakes, body caught in a sudden attack of his mysterious illness, and it’s only a handful of seconds but it’s enough for Akainu to rush toward him, magma fist at the ready, and Buggy braces himself for the Death of the Lord of the Oceans, barely notices the Phoenix getting hit by Aokiji who managed to drag him away from Garp and the way the Nightingale is rushing to Whitebeard’s side, knowing that she will be too late.

And then there’s a Haki-covered object rushing through the air at high speeds and it hits the Admiral straight in the head.

Buggy gapes, one eye watching as Akainu falls back, knocked out in one hit, the other eye flying out of his socket to look towards the Oro Jackson, where Rush is still standing at the helm, left arm still Haki-darkened to show that she had been the one to throw the… wrench. Of course she threw a fucking wrench at a magma devil fruit user. It had to a seastone one, though, because even reinforced with Haki it shouldn’t have been able to one-hit-KO like that, Buggy thinks, but it’s fuzzy, a background noise compared to the reminder that, five foot nothing or not, Rush had definitely managed to become the biggest monster in the crew.

( Captain would be so proud)

“THAT WAS FOR THE MOBY DICK YOU ASSHOLE!”

Of course. Of fucking course. What else could prompt that kind of proactive protective action from the gear head but the damage to one of her precious ships?

( Davy Jones knows that teenagers under her care didn’t qualify)

In the crow’s nest, Riza’s shots keep Aokiji away from the Phoenix long enough for Marco to regain his bearings and avoid the seastone restraints that had been heading his way.

“Oyaji!” “Old man!”

Buggy feels a wave of simultaneous frustration and humour emanating from Newgate. Apparently, as much as the old man doesn’t appreciate a Roger Kaizoku butting in on his fight, he’s still able to see the humour in it. Especially when it’s in defence of the Moby Dick.

(And Buggy might not be as much of a ship nerd as Rush, but even he is furious that such a ship met her end like that. The Moby had been older than the Oro Jackson. She deserved better.)

To be fair, seeing Akainu get knocked down like that by a wrench of all things was hilarious . Buggy is so glad he’s filming this. He’ll definitely have to get his hands on a recording afterwards, because that image is definitely going on the Big Top’s Wall of Laughter.

The Nightingale, the doctor that hasn’t left Whitebeard’s side except so as to not find herself in his way while he was fighting, is quick to give him a short assessment before she lets the man stand up again. The glare she throws the unconscious admiral’s way indicates that she would like nothing more than to end him there and now, but the fight around them starts up again and some reckless marine form a wall around the mad dog, and so she stays with her captain instead.

“KEEP YOUR DISTANCE!” Whitebeard bellows when it looks like his men want to rush to him, despite the marines honing in on his perceived weakness. “They think that something so insignificant ! I do not need assistance! I can hold out a bit longer! I am Whitebeard! My death... it's significance is not lost on me. And I am well aware of just what that would entail! That is why... that is the very reason why I cannot die just yet! Not until I can secure the future of my sons with these very hands! Isn't that right, Ace?”


Davy Jones save him from moronic captains! Buggy grinds his teeths.

He’s jealous. He knows it, and he hates it, but he’s jealous because Whitebeard is doing what Buggy had wished Roger would have done. He knows he’s going to die and he says his goodbyes. He reassures his men that they are loved and that he wants the best for them. He tries to ‘secure their future’.

Captain Roger had promised that they would meet again, and Buggy had lived for that day, had endured for nearly two years on a crew that felt less and less like home every day. But then they had come back from Water Seven to Sabaody to find that Captain had stopped by to talk to Rayleigh, and that he hadn’t waited for them to come back.

The sting of that particular betrayal would never fade away.

Then had come the news of the upcoming execution of the Pirate King and Buggy’s world had fallen to pieces.


(Standing in the crowd, clinging to Shanks with all he had because it was the only way to know he wasn’t going to fall apart, disguised as best as they could, staring up at the wooden stage where their father captain was kneeling, that last wave of haki that rushed over them, full of Captain’s love and pride that couldn’t dispel their despair, their fears. The fall of the executioners’ blades, being unable to look away even as Captain’s head hit the ground smiling. The tears streaming down his face, being dragged away by Marian while the crowd celebrated.)

(Getting back to the ship, sailing away to that little island near Loguetown where a much younger Roger had once met a much younger Silver Rayleigh, to give their Captain one last send-off  even if they didn’t have his body, even if they couldn’t give him back to the sea like they should have, like he deserved because this was Gol D. Roger and the Sea had been his home and his life.  

(Leaving that island with heavy hearts and being completely blindsided when Old Man Rayleigh had started drawing up the drop off order, the other crew members rattling off their destinations. Looking at Shanks with growing dread as they realised that the crew was disbanding completely, that their nakama were leaving them behind to fend on their own.)

(Being dropped off on a busy island in the New World with what little belongings they could carry and their share of the Rogers remaining treasure.)

(Trying to drown their pain in alcohol)

(Buying a ship and setting out on their own.)

(Dangers at every corner, realising that their Captain's enemies were hunting them down now that the object of their ire was dead and gone.)

(Baterilla)

(Two years of being hunted, of running scared and trying to survive both the seas they were in and the hunters at their back, and then a freak storm and losing Shanks)

(Loneliness, crippling and fierce and it hurt , there had been a part of him missing and the world,old and new, was even more terrifying without Shanks by his side.)

( Would you rather drown, or be burned alive?)


A pebble hits his leg, dragging Buggy away from the torment of his past. Rockstar is giving him a worried look, but doesn't say anything. Doesn’t try to touch him either, and Buggy is glad. Between the memories and the reality, he’s wound up tight enough that he would have stabbed first and asked questions never.

Yep. Definitely one of Buggy's favourite. He would have to remember to teach the guy how to hide his Voice even more once this message was over with. It wouldn't do for Shanks to lose such a skilled nakama, after all.

While Buggy had been busy wool gathering, the Shirohige division commanders had taken position at their father's back, protecting him from anyone cowardly enough (or smart enough) to try and stab the man in the back.

Fucking Whitebeard's. Always have to make a production out of every single thing.

Stupid honourable fools. The only reason they had survived for so long was because all of them are monsters in their own way. Anyone else with that kind of bleeding heart and strict honour code would have died a long time ago.

And Buggy can't help but admire them for that, if only a little bit.

“Damn,” Rockstar whistles. “If that picture doesn't make it in all the black market history books, I'll have words with some people. I had forgotten how terrifying the Shirohiges can get.”

Buggy snorts.

“That's because you're still wet behind the ears. Newgate has always been one scary motherfucker when someone harms what's his, but people always forget that his men are just as protective of him. The man has been sailing these seas for longer than I've been alive, getting into fights left and right, pissing powerful people off as easily as breathing. And yet not a single one of his enemies managed to so much as scratch his back. Sure, he’s that good and has never once even thought about running away, but most of that is due to his people having his back and making sure no one would try and stab it. They’re just usually more subtle about it, for a given definition of subtle.”

Because the only one who even remotely knows what subtlety means on that crew is Haruta - another one that wears the mask of the fool very well, Buggy knows. Though he has his suspicions about the Spades’ former first mate, Deuce. And the fact that the man is nowhere to be seen while his captain is on the scaffold just confirms them. Buggy doesn’t remember the man’s Voice well enough to find him in this chaos, but he’s pretty sure that Deuce is quietly setting things up in the background.

Things are about to get even more interesting, if Deuce is still the same kind of guy he had been back when Buggy had challenged Fire Fist before he left East Blue as a rookie. Buggy is definitely glad to be filming this, and he’s pretty sure at least one of the former Spades is hiding somewhere with a visual Denden mushi too - that crew had turned blackmail into an art form.


“You say you cannot perish until you secure the future of your children?” Sengoku roars over the noise. “I shall show you their future right here and now! Whitebeard!”

Buggy is snapped out of his thoughts by Sengoku’s proclamation, and he lets out a swear as he sends haki-covered fists rushing towards the platform to try and knock out the executioners. He can feel Rayleigh running, the Phoenix flying, but they won’t get there in time and if Buggy can be just slightly faster ...

“STOP IT ALREADY!” Strawhat screams , and a wave of power rushes across the battlefield, knocking out the more weak-willed marines, just as multiple bullets impact the two executioners.

Buggy is quick to call his limbs back, not wanting to get caught in the fallout. Well. One of his limbs. This is the second time the kid nearly bit the dust because Buggy was too slow. There won’t be a third, not if Buggy can help it, and he leaves his left hand hidden just next to the younger man, and he tries not to think too much about what Shanks’ brat just did.

Of fucking course the brat has King’s Haki. As if he needed another reason to be reminded of Gol Fucking D. Roger. And he clearly has nothing even remotely resembling training in it. That’s it, Buggy is making him Shanks’ problem as soon as the Yonko shows up, no one needs an untrained D with King’s haki running around aiming for the Pirate King’s throne. No one.

Fucking D’s!

“Did he just…?” Rockstar asks, gobsmacked.

“Welcome to the bullshit that is Strawhat Luffy,” Buggy grumbles. “And D’s in general. And D’s with King’s haki in particular. Get used to it, odds are you’ll be seeing a lot of him in the next few months, if not years.”

“What… you want Okashira to teach him how to use it?”

“Who else is going to? That Shanks would trust to do so?” Buggy adds, knowing Rockstar is about to mention Silver Rayleigh.

Like anyone with any kind of sense would trust Rayleigh or any of the other Roger Kaizoku with a kid (and, yeah, seventeen or not, Strawhat is still a kid. A very naive one at that.).

(How the hell is the brat still alive, seriously? The trouble he gets into is ridiculous, and Buggy sailed with Gol D. Roger for fuck’s sake!)

“Shiiiit…” Rockstar groans. “Better warn Ben, this is going to be a pain in the ass I just know it… Ah shit!” He swears, and Buggy turns back towards the brat they’re talking about.

Fucking D’s. The kid is rushing ahead, running in front of Whitebeard’s men even though he’s clearly in no state to do so. Crocus’ Voice is furious , the man feeling ready to kill (or, at least, forcefully sedate) his patient.

Buggy is secretly pleased that someone else is giving Crocus some ulcers, but still, there’s a time and place for it, and the middle of this bullshit is neither of those.

“Go for Whitebeard first!” Someone shouts from the marine’s side as they finally start moving. “He's a monster, so don't take him lightly! Do whatever you can to take him down!”

At least someone knows who the biggest threat is. Buggy had started to despair about the Marine’s collective intelligence, Sengoku excepted. The Nightingale definitely takes offence to that, and Crocus takes offence to Whitebeard encouraging Strawhat’s bullshit.

Buggy hates agreeing with Crocus on anything, but yeah. The brat belongs in a sickbay, not leading a charge. Apparently, Marco the Phoenix agrees (didn’t he use to have some medical training too, back in the days?) because he goes full bird and picks up the brat before dropping him back at Crocus’ side.

Ah. That particular needle brings some memories back. Buggy represses a flinch, even as Strawhat finally gives in to the sedative. He had managed to avoid the seastone needle for most of his time on the Oro Jackson, but he had some very vivid memories of the few times he hadn’t.

Those had never been fun.


The battlefield is littered with unconscious marines (along with some of the weaker minded pirates who collapsed when Strawhat let his haki loose, some of whom are being trampled by both sides as they rush at each other, and Buggy does winces at that, because he’s been there before and it sucks) and it’s easier now to see the major fighters.

The Roger Kaizoku are busy, as are the Blackjacks, and Buggy leaves them at it because yeah. Monsters. He doesn’t need to know. As long as the Oro Jackson stays in one piece, he can focus on something else.

Like the fact that Monkey D. Garp is still alive and conscious and being a massive asshole and Buggy really, really wants to kill him because he’s standing between Marco the Phoenix and Portgas D. Ace, between Roger’s son and his freedom, between Garp’s grandson and his death .

Someone needs to kill him, and Buggy’s hand is itching. Sadly, Yadomaru gets there before him. He can’t exactly begrudge her, and the staff to the balls is satisfyingly vicious, but still. He hopes he’ll be able to get his own hits in at some point.

(That particular Bo-staff is also disturbingly familiar, and Buggy is trying very hard not to think about the last time he had seen it.)


“Aw shite!” Rockstar swears next to him.

“What?”

“The old doc sent the woman - Elena? And Jimbei off with the brat!”

“So?”

“So the brat has the key to the other brat’s shackles! Hancock gave it to him back then, when she hugged him”

“What?!”

“Fuck!” Rockstar curses even as he stands up. “They won’t be able to get rid of the shackles without it, they’re fused to the seastone pillar holding the whole thing up!”

Buggy grimaces.

“Guess that means you have to get involved now?”

“Yeah…” Rockstar sighs even as he starts walking away. “Okashira owes me so much sake for this bullshit…”

“I’ll make sure he pays up,” Buggy waves him away. “Have fun riling the bastard up!”

“You know it!”

Buggy tries to follow Rockstar’s Voice, but the man is skilled and it’s easy for him to hide amidst the chaos.

No matter. Buggy’s pretty confident in Shanks’s spymaster’s abilities to follow through. And in the meantime, he has his own tasks to focus on. Like making sure no one he actually cares about dies today.


 

(Whitebeard is a lost cause, was one even before stepping onto the battlefield. But if there’s a chance for Firefist to get out of here alive, Buggy is going to make sure it happens. Preferably without anyone else being the wiser, but if he has to show himself, he will.)

(And pray for Shanks to show up and save his ass, because Buggy knows he’s nowhere near strong enough to survive this otherwise.)

(But for this, for this kid he’s only met once before and didn’t particularly like, for this kid who probably doesn’t even remember him, for this kid who never knew the closest thing to a father Buggy has ever had, for this kid who never asked to be born, for this kid who never had the right to live according to most of the world, for this kid who was never given a chance to prove them wrong?)

(For this kid who has been hunted before he had even been born, who had been damned for a father who never got to hold him?)

(For a kid whose life Buggy could all too well imagine?)

(To give him a chance amongst people who had accepted him for who he is, neither for nor despite his parentage but because he was one of theirs, because he was their brother?)

(Like Shanks had done for him, like he had done for Shanks, like their crews had started doing for them?)

(Like the Rogers hadn’t done for either of them?)

(Well.)

(Buggy owes it his fourteen years old self to at least try.)

(But he really, really hopes Shanks will show up before that’s needed.)


 

Which is complicated by Sengoku finally deciding that enough is enough and going full Buddah. Because things were not complicated enough yet, apparently.

Some days are truly not worth getting out of bed for (or out of Impel Down, for that matter).

But Rayleigh finally makes himself useful, distracting Sengoku and drawing him away from the platform, leaving the Phoenix free to try and get Firefist out of his chains. Buggy ends up sending one of his ears and one of his eyes closer to make sure he doesn’t miss anything.

Crocus is still just as aggravating as Buggy remembers. And Firefist is more worried about his moron of a brother than about himself, which is apparently normal enough that the Phoenix rolls his eyes but otherwise ignores him, too busy trying to get rid of the seastone chains.

(Yeah. Those are a fucking pain in the ass, Buggy can attest to that.)

Also, Crocus is apparently going senile with his old age because even with only one eye Buggy can see that there’s no way the doctor’s plan is going to work.

“Davy Jones be damned, you guys are loud .” Rockstar suddenly complains, appearing out of thin air just behind Crocus, making the old man jump in surprise, and Buggy has to suppress a chuckle.

Damn. That entrance was perfect .

(Second favourite Red-Hair pirate for a reason .)

Crocus is obviously getting forgetful in his old age too, because he doesn’t seem to recognise Rockstar at all. Which, rude? Rockstar has been one of Shanks’ men for nearly six years now, and Shanks is a Yonko and a former Roger (for all that seems to be worth in said crew’s eyes…), you would have thought Crocus would at least try to keep an eye on the most important crews.

Firefist has no such trouble, however.

“Rockstar?! What the hell are you doing here?”

“Oh sorry, is this a private party? Am I butting in?” Rockstar mocks. “What a way to greet an ally.”

“Your captain's last visit wasn't exactly peaceful”, Phoenix points out, eyeing him warily. “You can't blame us for being surprised, especially since you seem to be here on your own.”

Rockstar laughs, and Buggy kind of wants to join him. From what Rockstar told him of said visit… Well, he can’t blame the Phoenix for being wary.

“Geez, I wonder why. Was that the time when Okashira came to warn you to call Firefist back because Teach is an asshole that was up to something? The time when your captain called him a fool and an upstart and told him to get lost? You guys are so lucky Okashira doesn't hold grudges when it comes to personal insults. Sadly for you, he does hold grudges when you get someone he cares about hurt because you're too damn prideful to listen . And since Firefist has made it on the list on account of being an interesting person who managed to keep Okashira's protégé alive for seven years, which, given what I've seen today, is a fucking miracle… yeah. You're lucky Okashira still decided to step in when Kaido decided to be a brat and try for your territory. You're welcome .” He adds, crouching next to Ace.

“You're one of Shanks’ men?” Crocus says, finally catching on.

Someone give the man a medal, his two non-medically inclined brain-cells have managed to spark a somewhat intelligent thought! Buggy thinks, mind dripping with sarcasm.

“Congrats on having eyes, though I can't say the same for your memory if it took you that long to recognise me,” Rockstar smirks even as he twists the key in the first lock. “You okay there, brat?”

“What the hell, Rockstar?”

“What? Did you really think Okashira would let something happen to Anchor's brother? You're the kid's family, and the kid is family to us, ergo you are family to us as well. Deal with it.”

Shanks’ men know him well indeed, Buggy muses. And Rockstar is also smart enough to understand that the last thing Firefist has ever wanted is to be linked to Roger in any shape or form. The bonds he chose , however, are another matter entirely.

(That Rockstar also picked up on the fact that Firefist does not value his own life, but values his little brother’s happiness above anything else, no matter how hard people have tried to convince him that he matters and is smart enough to make it look like he’s only saving Ace for Strawhat’s sake? Not surprising. That Crocus still hasn’t picked up on that? Not surprising either, for a whole lot of other reasons that Buggy will not think about right now because if he does his hand might slip and now is not the time to let old hurts fuck things up for the younger generation.)

“Though to be fair,” Rockstar continues, “I wasn't even here for you to start with. I had something to do in Impel Down, and then Strawhat decided to storm it and here I am. I was going to let the Shirohige take care of it, since they'd made it clear that our help wasn't wanted, but since that lot would rather argue all day than, I don't know, check your brother's pocket for the key Hancock gave him earlier…”

Buggy is definitely getting the man some high/quality booze once all this is over. Crocus’ face is priceless .

Crocus draws himself up, ready to ripost.

“Shut up, you,” Phoenix tells him without even looking at him. “He's right. This is not the time for bickering. And Rockstar? My thanks. To be conveyed to your captain in case I don't see him today.”

“Oh, he should be here soon,” Rockstar smirks even as he twists the last lock and takes a step back. “Kicked Kaido's ass and now he's on his way here. That will be fun.”

“Any other people going to show up when I never asked them to?” Firefist grouses.

“Your pals from Wano probably won’t be able to make it in time,” Rockstar responds glibly, but the restraints are loose now and as Portgas stands up they fall to the ground.

In a matter of seconds, an inferno stands in Firefist's place as the flames that had been restrained for so long finally break free.

There's movement from within the flames, and suddenly they shoot up in the air to form the Shirohige Jolly Roger.

Show-off. It would have been so much easier if they could have just snuck away with the brat, but noooo. He had to be a fucking D about it, Buggy grouses.

Some days, he’s pretty damn sure that the D stands for “Dramatic”. He’s got years of experience to back it up, too.

“I'm back in business!” Ace grins as the flames fade from his body.

“You're a menace, that's what you are,” Phoenix tells him, and before anyone can react, Whitebeard's first commander transforms, grabs Ace in his claws and makes for their father. Rockstar disappears into the crowd as soon as Crocus’s back is turned. and Buggy has a split-second to enjoy the outraged look on the doctor’s face before everything goes to hell.

 

Chapter Text

Hé, garçon, prends la barre,
Vire au vent et largue les ris
Le vent te raconte l'histoire
De ces marins couverts de gloire
Il t'appelle, et tu le suis

(Garçon prend la barre)


“How far away are we?” Shanks asks, not letting his eyes stray from the screen.

“An hour at most, boss,” Benn assures him.

Shanks grits his teeth, but nods, suppressing the urge to scream at his first mate, to tell him to make it half that time or else . Benn is already pushing the Red Force as much as she can be, already using every gust of wind and every current to their fullest, rushing to bring them to Marineford.

And to War.

Because this is what is, a full-on War declared on the legacy of the Pirate King, on the last Giant of his Era, on the entire concept of Piracy as Roger and Newgate saw it.

Shanks had been furious when he had seen Luffy’s brother in the newspaper, the announcement of his pending execution. He had liked the brat well enough, that one time he had met him, when Portgas had come to thank him for saving Anchor’s life, and he was Anchor’s brother. He’d seemed like a good person, too, with a decent crew and a well-deserved D that was going to carry him far if he stuck around long enough - Shanks had been looking forwards to the kind of havoc the Spades were going to wreak. He had been a bit surprised to hear that he had joined the Whitebeards, but then again the kid had clearly been craving acceptance and family, so maybe it hadn’t been that surprising. He had clearly been thriving there the one time Shanks had stopped by before this entire mess with Teach had started.

So maybe Shanks doesn’t know the kid well, maybe he hadn’t really had a time to get to know him, but he had liked him, had seen the potential in him, had wanted to see what he would become. Seeing the kid thrown to the wolves for the Marines’ yearly political stunt had left a bitter aftertaste in his mouth, especially with Blackbeard being named a Shichibukai in the aftermath - that man was Trouble.

Portgas’ announced execution had clearly been a declaration of War, and Newgate had responded in kind, gathering his forces and his allies and charging towards Marineford, leaving his territory with only the barest of defences. Kaido was an annoying brat with a superiority complex, and Newgate was sort of his ally, even if the old man still treated him like the child who had followed Roger and not like the Yonko who had earned his title, and didn’t listen to him when he really should have, so Shanks had decided to make sure to curb-stomp the brat’s delusions of grandeur before heading for Marineford himself.

He had even contacted Rayleigh briefly, just a message telling him that he was on his way to Marineford but would be delayed. Not that he had actually wanted to interact with his former mentor that much, but Sabaody was Shakky’s territory and not telling her he would be coming would be both insulting and useless, as the information specialist would have known the second he came within fifty miles of the undersea city and would have had Rayleigh right there waiting for him. He had just been unlicuky enough that the Oro Jackson’s former first mate had been the one to pick up the denden. He hadn’t stayed on the line long, basically just ranted for five minutes that Kaido was a pain and that Teach needed to die before hanging up without letting Rayleigh get a word in, but he had heard familiar voices in the background and had started to wonder if he had somehow missed the memo about a Roger Kaizoku reunion or if they simply hadn’t invited him (and the second option was probably the most likely, and so he hadn’t asked questions and had hung up before Rayleigh could talk - if the older man wanted to tell him something, well. Dendens worked both ways, not that the man apparently knew that since he never bothered to call.)

He’s dearly regretting this decision now, had regretted it the instant he realized what Sengoku was talking about, the instant the name Gol D. Roger was uttered.

Captain’s son. Captain had had a son, and hadn’t told anyone. Captain had somehow managed to seduce Blackjack fucking D. Rouge and convince her to have his child and hadn’t told any of them and

Baterilla. Fucking Baterilla. There had actually been a valid reason for the marines to be looking for Captain’s hypothetical child on that particular island because apparently Captain hadn’t known subtlety or discretion and Captain hadn’t told any of them and hundreds of women, hundreds of children had died because of it, Blackjack D. Rouge had died because of it, because no one had known that she needed to get out, no one had known where she had disappeared to, not even her own crew, and fuck but that means that Roger had handed himself in knowing he had a kid on the way, had abandoned Rouge and his unborn child [ just like he had abandoned Shanks and Buggy] and…

Shanks wishes he could punch his captain one last time.

Because this is captain's son and Shanks had met him and hadn't known! Hadn’t recognised either side of the boy’s heritage, too busy celebrating the news that Luffy had found a brother, and okay, odds are that the kid on the scaffold denying any and all connections to Roger would much rather be known as Luffy’s brother than Roger’s son, Shanks can’t help but curse himself for not seeing the signs earlier.

But someone else must have.

Because then the Oro Jackson surfaces and Shanks goes deadly quiet, grips the railing in front of him with enough strength to dent the wood because what .

They had known. All of them, they had known about Captain’s son before today, probably ever since Portgas D. Ace had crossed the Twin Capes and stumbled upon Crocus (not before that, because for all that Shanks would never ever trust any of them with a child ever again, he knows they would have stopped at nothing to find Captain’s son if they had known about him back then), who had managed to recognise him, and he had told the others, and none of them had told him .

All of them had known, all of them had gathered together to save this one boy when they couldn’t be arsed to save two kids that had grown up on the same ship as them and none of them had told him. Or Buggy.

Buggy who is in Impel Down, thrown there by Monkey D. Garp because he had tested Luffy’s mettle like he had done with nearly all the Rookies that came through East Blue, like Shanks himself had asked him to do because while he loves Luffy, he is also very much aware that the kid only has a very naive idea of what a pirate’s life was like. Buggy who had ended up in Impel Down, ended up taken from the East Blue he had sworn to never leave again, ended up separated from his crew, ended up dragged through the Grand Line by the very person who had brought their captain to the scaffold.

(Monkey D. Garp is going to die . It's too bad that Luffy seems to hold some affection for his grandfather, but if a single hair on Buggy’s head has been harmed by the Hero of the Marine, heads are going to roll .)

The Roger Kaizoku had known about Portgas D. Ace. They had known and hadn’t told him, hadn’t reached out to him even as they gathered to storm Marineford, showing themselves for the first time in over twenty years. Fighting for a boy most of them had probably never met, if the boy’s own reaction was anything to go by, while one of their own has been stuck in Impel Down for months without any of them lifting so much as a finger to get him out. Shanks can only hope that Rockstar has managed to find Buggy - his nakama has been incommunicado since he had started to infiltrate the fortress a couple of weeks ago, and Shanks is worried. Very worried.


His worry is not abated in the slightest when a fucking ship falls from above and reveals two of the people he most decidedly did not want anywhere near this brewing war .

Of fucking course Luffy would get involved, would try to save his brother. Of fucking course the kid would attack Impel Down and break out the prisoners. Including a former Shichibukai and some Revolutionaries, apparently, and Shanks can already hear his doctor curse at the fact that Ivankov had been unleashed on the general population again, is already readying his own collection of curses because Luffy is in the middle of a war and has no clue what he’s doing and he’s being a reckless idiot but he pushes all that aside when he sees Jimbei drop another familiar figure out of the water.

A very, very familiar figure, who does not look happy to be there at all. One who freezes at the sight of the Oro Jackson and very, very carefully does not look at any of the Roger pirates, who only exchanges a few tense words with Newgate before disappearing, and Shanks has to take a deep breath to rein his haki in lest he knocks some of his own people out.

Buggy.

Buggy who is out of the frying pan of Impel Down and into the fire of Marineford, and he has no one there to watch his back, except maybe Rockstar because the odds are good that his spymaster managed to sneak on that ship even is he has yet to make contact with Buggy.

Buggy who is definitely the one who managed to snatch the last remaining visual denden mushi before it could be frozen like the others, who is definitely the one who keeps recording and transmitting and showing the entire world just what is happening there.

Buggy who has to be freaking out because what the fucking hell . What a mess.

Even sailing with Roger had not prepared either of them for this kind of bullshit. It's not quite Edd War (which was a nightmare and a half and if Shanks hadn't been busy pretending to be a 'real pirate’ and trying to prove to the rest of the crew that he wasn't just a kid, he would have been right by Buggy's side pleading with the grown-ups to take a step back and actually think because who the hell takes two ten years old kids to war ?) But it has the potential to be even worse . Between the similitudes to that and the ones to Roger's own execution (or, rather, his suicide by marines), and the talk of Baterilla , Shanks is hovering on the edges of a flashback. And he's still an hour away, watching through the denden's feed.

Just how bad is it for Buggy?


It's not that Shanks doubts Buggy's ability to survive this clusterfuck or to come out on top of most battles he might find himself in, because he doesn’t . Shanks knows, better than anyone else, just how strong Buggy is.

For fucks sake, Buggy survived a childhood on the Oro Jackson and teenage years on the run, some of it on his own even. In the fucking New World. With Roger's enemies from both side gunning for him and nature himself trying to get rid of him. Shanks was there for most of it, yes, but Buggy definitely saved his life at least as often as the reverse, if not more. His friend certainly hadn't coasted on anyone's coattails to survive for this long!

But Shanks also knows, better than anyone, just what kind of toll those years have had on his friend. Knows about the nightmares and the panic attacks and the times you can't sleep for weeks at the time because of what awaits you in the dark.

(There's a reason he hasn't been sober in over two decades)

And he knows how hard Buggy has worked to try and put all that behind him, how hard he tries to avoid being put in situations that remind him of that time, how badly it sets him back when he has to face them head on.

They each have their way of dealing with the remnants of the memories.

Shanks fights them, literally and figuratively, with the help of enough alcohol to kill a man, making his way to the top so that no one can hurt him anymore, so that he can protect those he loves.

Buggy hides from them, avoids triggers and traps with deceptive ease, worked hard to be able to survive, no matter what, to get out and live another day, and to get those he cares about out if he can.

Their ways of dealing are different, but they both work. And sometimes Shanks will see something coming and step away, remove himself and his crew from the situation instead of making it worse, and sometimes Buggy will step in, fight against someone who he should be running from because there’s something he has to protect.

(Because that’s how they are, Buggy and Shanks and Shanks and Buggy and Buggy-and-Shanks and Shanks-and-Buggy, different but complementary, two pieces of the same puzzle that fit seamlessly together)

Shanks takes a deep breath. Then another. Next to him, Benn is watching him warily, and Shanks doesn’t even have the energy to spare him a reassuring smile.

“We’ll get there in time, boss,” His first mate promises him.

Shanks can’t help but worry that they won’t.


Shanks tries to keep track of everything that is happening, but it’s hard. The battlefield is large, and the single denden can’t cover all of it. Instead, someone ( Buggy ) set it up to record a global view of Marineford, with the scaffold on the right and the pirates ships to the left, allowing him to keep an eye on the most important figures. Sound is another matter entirely, too much noise preventing him from getting anything other than the few times one of the bigger names decides to roar a statement for the entire world to hear, and even Yasopp’s lip-reading wouldn’t help when the people he’s trying to read are too small for him to see their faces properly. Besides, the sharp-shooter is quietly fretting about his own son, since Luffy showed up on his own, without any of his nakamas, without Usopp , so Shanks doesn’t even ask him to.

Shanks can still follow the gist of it, but the details are lost to him.


(The Blackjack’s presence is not one of those details, and Shanks winces at the sheer fury that seems to radiate from Yadomaru. Yikes.)

(Neither is the fact that one of Newgate’s own sons turns against him, again because the old man had considered Teach one of his too, once upon a time, and fuck but it makes Shanks want to gut whoever managed to manipulate the guy into raising his sword against his father, because that’s low .)

(Also that’s Vortex Spider Squardo and fuck, Shanks remembers him and can guess what was used to convince him.)

(Fucking Edd War)


He focuses on the image instead, tries to keep an eye on Luffy who seems determined to give him white hair before the day is over, tries to spot Rockstar and Buggy somewhere, to no avail.

He tries not to worry too much about it. His nakama is a skilled spy, hiding himself in such chaos is child’s play for him, and Buggy’s the one who helped him hone those skills the last time the Red Force was in East Blue. They are fine. They have to be fine.

Luffy is very much not fine at all, however, and the railing Shanks is grasping is going to need replacing once this is over.

Shanks tries to take comfort in the fact that Luffy is being treated by an actual doctor who doesn’t seem willing to let his patient go. Tries.

Because that doctor is Crocus, and while Shanks can agree that the man is one of the best doctors out there, the fact that the Roger Kaizoku are apparently starting to take a personal interest in his protege is not something he wants to think about.

Rush’s one-hit KO of Akainu is a very nice distraction, and Shanks is very glad that Benn had started recording the whole thing as soon as the broadcast had started. He’s definitely going to rewatch that a couple of time. And make sure that this particular segment would reach the biggest audience possible. That had been golden .


Shanks spots Buggy the second time Sengoku tries to have Ace executed. Or, at least, he spots his friend’s fist, glowing darkly with armament haki, as they rush to the platform to try and save the younger man.

But he doesn’t even have the time to be relieved that his friend is still alive, or worried that he’s being forced to show himself for all that he’s being very discreet about it, because that’s when Luffy decides to reveal to the entire world that he has a King’s disposition. By knocking out about half of the fighters, on both sides. Including, thankfully, the two marines who had been in the process of bringing their swords down on Portgas D. Ace while Monkey D.Garp just watched .

If no one else manages to kill the man before the end of this clusterfuck, Shanks is going to have to arrange for an accident to happen. If Yadomaru doesn’t call dibs, because if she does Shanks is going to let her have it. She has the greater claim, and also she is terrifying and he would rather not piss her off if he can avoid it, especially if the Blackjacks decide to stick around and remind the world of their existence after this.

But fuck. Luffy has King’s haki. Shanks had suspected it, all the way back then when the kid had first stumbled into Makino’s bar, but it’s another thing altogether to see him actually use it.

It’s uncontrolled, raw, and it’s obvious the kid has no clue what’s he doing or even that he’s the one doing it, that he’s imposing his will on others, and fuck, but he can’t go in the New World like this and hope to survive, not like this, not when he’s already beaten black and blue and bleeding from too many wounds, not least the hole the laser that Kizaru had used had torn through him.


“Have we heard anything about the whereabouts of his crew?” Shanks asks, and Lucky Roo, who’s manning the radio station, looks up at him.

“Scuttlebut has it that they faced off against Kuma back in Sabaody and that he used his fruit to send them away. Given what happened earlier with the Snake Empress, I would hazard a guess that Anchor was sent to Amazon Lily and somehow managed to worm his way into her good graces, most likely by complete accident knowing the brat. I haven’t heard about the others yet, sorry Yasopp, but Rockstar’s contact within the Revolutionaries is being suspiciously quiet so odds are they know and won’t tell us yet.”

Well. Shanks needs to have a talk with Dragon anyway.

“I hear Baltigo is dreadful this time of the year,” He muses. 

"We'll have to stop by and check," Benn agrees, immediately catching on.

Luffy needs a teacher, after all, and Shanks can’t afford to take him on the Red Force, not just yet. It’s not about their promise, because for all that it is important to him Shanks would break it in a heartbeat if it meant saving Luffy’s life, but because life on the Red Force is too dangerous for him to take Luffy on, to allow himself to be distracted. He wouldn’t be able to simultaneously train the boy and maintain his title as Yonko, and there are too many people who depend on him having that title for him to carelessly throw it away.

But Dragon has a base of operations, has some of the world’s greatest minds and greatest fighters working under him, has training facilities and teachers galore. Shanks doesn’t exactly like leaving Luffy with his biological father, but he trusts the man with Luffy’s safety more than he trusts the Roger Kaizoku. Even if Garp had been a real fucking dumb choice as a caretaker, leaving Luffy behind in the first place had protected Luffy more than Dragon, building up his Revolution from the ground up, could have at the time.

Dragon would make sure Luffy was trained up enough to face anything the New World might possibly throw at him. Shanks is not going to give him a choice.

(Shanks is also not going to let Dragon alone with Luffy either. Ryu had mentioned wanting to take a break to allow his most recent injuries to heal up a bit, so Shanks is going to drop him off on Baltigo and put him in charge of making sure Dragon doesn’t fuck up again . The Revolutionaries will just have to learn how to cope.)


 

After his use of King’s Haki, Luffy tries to rejoin the battle again, because of course he does. He even manages to escape Crocus’s needle, at least until Marco the Phoenix shows some of the brains Shanks knows he has under that stupid haircut and hands him right back to the doctor, who promptly sends him off to the Oro Jackson via Elena and Jimbei.

Shanks grits his teeth. It’s not that he doesn’t want Luffy away from the battle, because he does , or on the Oro Jackson, the ship is amazing and home still, for all that he rarely allows himself to think about her ( hasn’t been sober in twenty years and there are good reasons for that) , it’s just… He doesn’t like the idea of the Roger Kaizoku taking Luffy under their wings.

Not when they failed spectacularly when they were needed the most.

(Not when they didn’t even try when they were needed the most)


He spots Rockstar for a quarter of a second, hurrying after the trio, and something in his chest settles, knowing that his nakama is alive and well.

Whitebeard is drawing attention to himself, trying to win some time for his first commander to free his second, with Rayleigh keeping Sengoku occupied and Yadomaru taking out her very valid fury against one of the main culprit, thus finally taking Monkey D. Garp out of the way. Crocus makes his way over there too, Shanks notes, and seems to be arguing with the Phoenix about something. Until Rockstar suddenly appears, making them both jump visibly on the screen. Shanks can’t hear what his spymaster is saying, but given the expression on the Phoenix’s face, he can hasard a pretty good guess.

Rockstar had not been impressed by Whitebeard’s behaviour during their last meeting. Not at all.

Neither had Shanks, to be honest, but he’s used to it by now, tries not to let it affect him because those who matter know his worth. But his men always take that kind of treatment personally, and SHanks had been making damn sure not to come too close to Whitebeard’s routes these past few months in order to avoid this kind of situation. Oh well. Hopefully he would get to tell Newgate “I told you so” in person before the aged Yonko boarded the Flying Dutchman. Which is looking to be sooner rather than later, from what he’s seeing.


“How much longer?” He asks Benn.

“Fifteen minutes,” his first mate replies, moving towards the coating activator. “Diving in two minutes!” He adds in a roar, warning the rest of the crew to get to their positions instead of lingering around the screen that had been brought up on the deck.

They would have to put it away by the time they made their appearance, but until then Shanks did not want to risk it. This was his only way to know what is going on in Marineford, what is happening to his friend and nakama and protege.

This is the turn of the era. And until Shanks can stand on that battlefield, he’s going to pay witness to it.

Chapter Text

Loudly the bell in the old tower rings,
Bidding us list to the warning it brings  
sailor, take care -  sailor, take care

Danger is near thee, beware, beware,  beware, beware
Many brave hearts are asleep in the deep,  
so beware, beware
Many brave hearts are asleep in the deep,
so beware, beware

 

(asleep in the deep http://www.sailorsongs.com/asleep_in_the_deep.html)

 


Everything is going well. Elena had taken his most recent stupid D. of a patient up to the Oro Jackson to lock him up in the sickbay (and had apparently missed said patient being pickpocketed by another of Shanks’ brats), Kizaru is dead, Akainu is still unconscious, Sengoku is busy facing off against Rayleigh, Yadomaru is taking care of Garp and Aokiji is kept busy as well. Whitebeard is still alive and holding strong despite his state, and Shanks’ rude brat had managed to free Ace, whom the Phoenix had promptly taken up in the air to try and get him away from the battlefield and back with his crew.

Everything is going well, until it very much isn’t .

Even though he’s a first hand witness, Crocus will end up needing to watch the footage of the battle to be able to pinpoint the order in which everything went wrong, but it turns out that there are quite a few things wrong with Crocus’ take on the situation.


Kizaru isn’t dead, not quite yet. He’s dying , and there’s a difference. It’s not yet time to go through his pockets and look for spare change.

Akainu was unconscious, but a young marine hoping to gain his favour has hurried at his side as soon as he could. He won’t be that way for long.

Elena had indeed taken Monkey D. Luffy to the Oro Jackson… but she hadn’t been able to get him inside the ship as the marines had upped their attacks against their ship and she had been forced to join the defense, leaving Luffy in the care of Jimbei.


But Crocus doesn’t know that yet, and so his first inkling that something is wrong is when a beam of light suddenly springs up from the ground and pierces through the Phoenix’s right wing, causing him to suddenly careen towards the ground in an uncontrolled twist.

The Zoan and his charge hit the ground violently, creating a small crater even as they hasten to pull themselves up, Ace’s fists lighting up as he took a guard position in front of his injured nakama.

His second inkling that something is wrong is a shout coming from the direction of the Oro Jackson just before his idiot of a patient launches himself in the air and towards his brother. Despite the fact that he should have been unconscious for at least two days with the amount of sedatives Crocus had pumped into him!

FUCKING D.’s!

He’s jumping down from the scaffold before the youngest Monkey even lands, but the boys are on the other side of the battlefield from him and he knows he won’t make it fast enough. Not with people fighting left and right, not with the ground littered by dead and unconscious bodies (stupid D’s and their stupid uncontrolled King’s Haki!).

He still tries.


He’s still too far when he sees Strawhat somehow managing to stick a landing next to Ace (and if he wasn’t made of rubber, Crocus would be wincing for his knees, but Devil Fruits make a mockery of his hard-earned medical knowledge and no, he’s not bitter about it at all).

He’s still too far when he sees Ace turn to yell at his brother (and Crocus feels for him, he really does, he doesn’t even want to imagine what kind of hell raising that kid must have been).

He’s still too far when he sees Strawhat pause, falter, and start to list sideway.

He’s still too far when he sees Ace panic, caught between trying to catch his brother and trying to protect his healing friend, sees the Phoenix sending him towards the younger boy.

He’s still too far when he sees Ace catching Strawhat right before he hits the ground, sees him putting down a knee to do so even as he yells frantically for a medic, his voice heard even above the chaos of the battle.


Crocus is still too far when there’s a furious roar from behind the boys and the fighters around them are suddenly thrown aside by a charging monster who does not care for his own allies, his magma burning friends and foes allies.

Crocus is still too far when Ace throws himself over his prone brother in a desperate attempt to save him from their impending slaughter.

Crocus is still too far when others around the boys realize what is happening and start to move.

(But they are too far away too, too slow, too weak.)

Crocus is still too far when Whitebeard starts swinging his bisento left and right, trying to open himself a path to his second commander.

Crocus is still too far when Garp starts roaring about cowardice and treachery and those are my grandsons get the fuck away from them  (and it’s a bit late to develop a conscience, too little too late is how it’s always been when it comes to Monkey D. Garp, isn’t it?).

Crocus is still too far when Akainu bears down on his captain’s son and on his first mate’s protege, and the only thing he can do is watch and scream as the magma fist descends upon the two boys.


 

Crocus is still too far when Akainu’s head suddenly goes flying backward as if from a powerful, haki-infused kick to the face.

Crocus is still too far when Akainu suddenly bends in two, magma covered hands going to cover his stomach as if to protect it from more attacks.

Crocus is still too far when Akainu suddenly startles and uncurls, hands moving from his stomach to his privates, face torn in pain as he tries to find his invisible attacker.

Crocus is still too far when he realises what exactly hit the Mad Dog of the Marine.

Crocus is still too far away, but he stills stops and stares because what.


There’s a haki-darkened left foot hovering, level with the Admiral’s face, just out of arms’ reach.

There’s a haki-darkened right fist, bloody knife clenched tight, darting in and out of Akainu’s reach.

There’s a haki-darkened right foot settling down on the ground just far enough from Akainu’s position to be able to get a running start for its next kick.

And that’s it.

No arms or legs, no torso, no left fist, no head or neck.

Just two feet, a hand and a knife.

Three disembodied limbs have just brought the man who is arguably the strongest admiral of this generation to a stop when no else would have gotten there in time and it’s so unqualifiably weird that time seems to stop as every fighter stares in disbelief.

There’s movement from the side, a hint of blue and white and red, and suddenly the disembodied feet take a literal step back and reunite with their main body even as the hand with the knife continues to hassle Akainu, keeping him distracted as he tries to bat it away through the pain.


There’s a man standing in front of the two kids, his back to Crocus as he faces Akainu. He’s wearing the same prison uniform as the escaped prisoners Strawhat brought with him from Impel Down, with some additions -  a belt with two pistols in their holsters, five knives, what looks like a short sword probably picked up from a defeated marine.

There’s a man standing in front of the two kids, his back to Crocus as he faces Akainu. He has blue hair half hidden under a hat and wears white gloves on his hands (even if one is currently turning crimson, dyed by Akainu’s blood).

There’s a man standing in front of the two kids, his back to Crocus as he faces Akainu.

And Crocus knows him.

That does not make this entire situation any more believable.


 

Buggy.

Buggy, little Buggy who is a crybaby, little Buggy who is scared of fighting, little Buggy who would rather run away than face someone even slightly more competent than a civilian, is standing in front of the two kids, his back to Crocus as he faces Akainu.

Buggy, tantrum-throwing Buggy, who has just stopped Akainu in his charge, who has actually managed to hurt him by physically hitting him, without relying on a distance projectile like Rush had done, is standing in front of the two kids, his back to Crocus as he faces Akainu, and the world has officially stopped making sense.


 

It’s not that Crocus doesn’t like Buggy. Sure, the kid had been an annoying little brat back when Crocus had joined the Oro Jackson, but he had been what, ten years old at the time? So Crocus had cut him some slack. Beside, his tantrums had been hilarious , and sometimes, when his latest attempt at a cure had failed miserably, winding Buggy up had been a great way to bring Crocus’ spirit up again.

So, it’s not that Crocus doesn’t like Buggy.

He just doesn’t understand why the hell he became a pirate, much less why he stayed one.

Rayleigh and the others had told him all about it, about Captain coming back one day with two seven years old kids in tow and telling the crew to meet their newest nakama. They told him of how Shanks had taken to piracy like a fish to water, how quickly the boy had learned how to fight, how eager he had been to rush in battle alongside the rest of them, how fearless he had been even in the face of the worst kind of bullshit that the New World liked to throw at them.

But they had also told him of how Buggy had always been anxious, of how he would shy away from conflict, how he preferred hunting down treasures to getting into skirmishes with the marines. How he always stuck very close to Captain and Shanks whenever he had no choice but to fight, how often he had had to be rescued by others. How, despite being the only one in the entire crew to eat a devil fruit (on a dare, nonetheless!), he had utterly failed to come up with any combat related techniques for it, instead using it to avoid battles even more than before - and this despite the fact that his new powers basically made him immune to knife wounds!

And by the time Crocus had joined the crew, none of that had changed. If anything, it had grown worse and worse, especially after Edd War (and, okay, that had been harsher than their usual fare, but none of them had gotten seriously hurt and none of them had died either, which was far better than Crocus could say about the other side.)

So, when they had decided to disband after Captain’s death, Crocus had expected Buggy to retire from piracy as soon as he could find himself a nice a little island to settle down on. He had known from the start that Shanks would go on to form his own crew, and had expected the redhead to keep the clown with him for a couple of months since, despite their constant bickering, the two had always stuck close together, and that Buggy would eventually realize that a pirate’s lot wasn’t for him and go back to being the petty thief he had apparently been before Captain picked him up. He had certainly never seemed to actually like being a pirate in all the years Crocus had sailed with him, and had never demonstrated the kind of strength one would need to have to live long as one. Why would he continue to try now that Captain wasn’t there to push him to?

So Crocus had gone back to his lighthouse and his whale, and had kept the occasional eye out for news on his former nakama, even if he knew most of them had planned on retiring, at least for now, in order to grieve properly and give the marines some time to get tired of chasing after shadows.


 

(Okay, so Crocus had gone back to his lighthouse and spent the better part of the next three years so deep inside a bottle that he can barely remember them.)

(He had not taken his Captain’s, his friend’s, his patient’s death well, okay?)

(Asshole hadn’t even let him try to save him.)

(Who asks that of the doctor they specifically hired to try and cure them? Assholes, that’s who!)

(The thing is, doctors don’t usually let themselves get that attached to their patients. That’s why it’s such a bad idea to have someone do surgery on a loved one - the stress of the situation might make them nervous enough to make mistakes.)

(The thing is, doctors don’t usually live full-time with their patients . The thing is, doctors don’t usually have to deal with D.’s and their stupid charisma and ability to draw everyone in .)

(The thing is, doctors don’t usually have to deal with the unstoppable force that is Gol D. Roger.)

(The thing is, Crocus never stood a chance.)

(So no, Crocus hadn’t taken Gol D. Roger’s death well. At all . That he had even climbed out of the bottle was a miracle that had taken Rush stalking into his house and beating him black and blue until he dumped all his booze down the drain.)


Anyway, by the time Crocus had been in any state to keep an ear out on rumours about his former crew-mates, most of them had disappeared from the radar, but Shanks had begun making a name for himself and assembling his own crew - the Akagami Kaizoku, how Crocus had laughed when he learned that the lazy brat had chosen to name his crew for his hair colour (then again Captain had just given them his name and then pretended that they were named for the Jolly Roger and not for Gol D. Roger, so maybe Crocus shouldn’t throw stones when he lived in a glass house, but still .). There had been no mention of Buggy sailing with him, though, and so Crocus had shrugged and assumed that the kid had found himself a nice treasure island to settle down on and left it at that.

Until, three years later, six years nearly to the day after Captain’s execution, a bounty had popped up in the East Blue papers. It had been a fairly low one, lower even than the one Shanks had had when he had gotten his first one back on the Oro Jackson, but the name had caught Crocus’ attention.

“Buggy the Clown”, plastered under a picture of a gangly teenage boy with blue hair and a red nose yelling at the photographer.

Crocus had been surprised, at first, but then had shrugged. Maybe Buggy had felt like he had to stay a pirate because Captain had wanted him to be one. He had quite obviously settled down in East Blue, though, which wasn’t known as the weakest of the Blues for nothing, and his bounty was so small it was obvious that the boy must only be paying lip-service to piracy, so Crocus had let him be. The Rogers were staying away from each other in order to draw less attention to themselves, anyway, especially to the lesser known ones like Crocus himself and the Apprentices. No need to bring the marines down on the kid’s head when he was just starting out, after all. And the kid could take care of himself - the Rogers had made sure of that, even if Buggy had apparently hated every lesson. Besides, if Buggy ever needed anything, it wasn’t as if Crocus was hard to find.

So Crocus had pushed the matter out of his mind as he focused on getting himself back together, on keeping Laboon alive when the whale decided to have yet another fight with a mountain. He had kept an ear out for news, but Buggy rarely if ever made it in the newspaper. Instead, Shanks was in it nearly every other day, or so it seemed, and Crocus had been inordinately proud of the boy even if he still couldn’t believe that the kid who used to get into arguments about which pole was colder had somehow managed to become a Yonko of all things.

They grow up so fast.

Anyway, Crocus hadn’t thought much about Buggy over the years that followed. In fact, the first time he actually learned what had become of the rowdy apprentice had been when Shakky had informed them that he had somehow managed to land himself in Impel Down, which Crocus had had trouble believing. How would Buggy have managed to gain enough of a reputation to get thrown in there?

By pissing off Monkey D. Garp, apparently, at least according to Shakky’s network. The former cabin boy had apparently decided to try and kill the Marine’s grandson, Shanks’ protege, and had gotten thrown in prison for his trouble. Crocus hadn’t quite known what to think about that, about Buggy trying to kill a kid, especially one that was dear to Shanks, so had resolved to think about it once the current situation was over and done.

He certainly hadn’t expected the man himself to fall out of the sky and onto Marineford right alongside his former target.

He hadn’t expected Buggy to take one look at the Oro Jackson and ignore the rest of them either.

He had, however, correctly predicted that he would run and hide the second the opportunity presented itself to him. Apparently, even the years gone by hadn’t managed to shake Buggy out of his scaredy-cat behaviour. Really. If the boy had to remain a pirate, he could at least have tried harder to show that he had once been deemed worthy of sailing with the Pirate King!

He had not, never in a million years, expected Buggy to actually step in and fight.

Especially against the worst of the admirals, the one who had earned his “mad dog” moniker.

And yet.

And yet.


 

And yet there Buggy is, standing in front of the two kids, his back to Crocus as he faces Akainu, and Crocus still can’t quite believe his eyes or his haki as he exchanges a disbelieving glance with Gulliver who had started to run towards the scene before stopping dead in his track just like Crocus had.

He starts moving again, swerving to avoid the people staring dumbly, and by the time Buggy opens his mouth to speak, Crocus is close enough to hear it.


 

“Attacking people from behind, Akainu? And here I thought you people had an image to maintain. Then again, we both know that the Marines have never stopped to think about how despicable their actions are.”

There’s a growl from between clenched teeth as Akainu continues to attempt dodging the knife-hand who refuses to leave him alone.

“After all,” Buggy continues, and Crocus is surprised by the cold fury in the clown’s voice. “It was the marines, not pirates, who slaughtered hundreds of children, mothers, and unborn children because they were so afraid that the Pirate King might possibly have fathered a child. How is that Justice?”

Behind Buggy, Ace is staring at him, his face having lost all colour when he realised what he was talking about.

“Two hundred seventy eight children under the age of three - one hundred fifty six little girls, one hundred twenty two little boys, some of them just hours old. Three hundred forty two pregnant women and at least that many unborn children, as some of them had been pregnant with twins or triplets. That’s how many innocent people died under Marines hands on the Island of Baterilla. That’s without counting the damage done to their remaining families, the children who grew up without their mothers or siblings, the spouses left grieving, the relatives who lost a member of their families.”

Buggy’s voice is ice-cold, his words mechanical, and Crocus has to take a step back as the numbers registers. He had heard of the Baterilla Massacre, of course, even if he hadn’t known the truth behind it until much later (and had promptly jumped back into the bottle for a few weeks after that), but the sheer scale of it had never quite hit him.

And Buggy speaks as if he had been there. As if he had witnessed it.

“They had to dig a new graveyard, just for them. The “Lost Generation”, the people there call them. The Martyrs. So tell me, Akainu, Admiral of the Marines, defender of the Absolute Justice : what was their crime?”

The silence that fell over the battlefield when Buggy started speaking is deafening. Even Sengoku has stopped fighting, for all that Raleigh is keeping a wary eye on him. Garp is face down in the dirt, stopped by Hina and Smoker when he tried to tackle Akainu before he could reach the kids.

Crocus can’t tear his eyes away from Buggy.

Who waits for an answer all of a handful of seconds before scoffing.

“Fire-fist” he states, not looking away from Akainu who has finally uncurled from his previous position and who seems to be preparing himself for another attack if the heat haze around his arms is any indication. “Take Strawhat and get the fuck away from here. Shanks would never forgive either of us if the kid doesn’t make it. He’s hurt enough as it is - I would rather spare myself the additional lecture. And I don’t think your father would enjoy seeing you dead either, and I would rather spare myself the pain of Newgate’s anger.”

Strange sentiment from someone who supposedly tried to kill the boy himself not so long ago, Crocus thinks, baffled, even as Ace stares at the clown, shell-shocked.

“They are enemies of the World!” Akainu roars, drawing himself up to his full height. “I will not allow their tainted blood to live any longer!”

Buggy ignores him.

Faced with the worst of the admirals, the most bloodthirsty, and Buggy is ignoring him!

“Phoenix! Get those idiots out of here before they get each other killed!” He yells at Whitebeard’s First commander who had tried to throw himself over the two boys when he had heard Akainu approaching but had been slowed down by his injury - an injury that is now completely healed, Crocus notes, slightly envious.

For a moment, Crocus thinks the Phoenix is going to protest, say something about being ordered around by one of Roger’s cabin brats, but the man gives a terse nod at Buggy’s back instead before moving faster than most people can follow, transforming in one swift movement and grabbing his frozen nakama in his claws, Ace holding onto his brother. Seconds later, they are in the air again, and Crocus tries to follow their trajectory but he still can’t tear his eyes away from Buggy, who hasn’t moved an inch even as Akainu punches his hand away with a magma infused fist. The boy barely even flinches, even though that must have hurt like a bitch, haki or no haki!

What the hell? Who is that man and what has he done with the Buggy Crocus had known?!

“You worm!” Akainu is roaring, and Crocus belatedly realizes that the admiral has started moving, charging towards the one who had let his prey escape, and he swears. “I won’t let them escape!”

Buggy still doesn’t move, his right hand merging back with his arm, and Crocus starts to run. He doesn’t know what the hell is going on with Buggy, but he knows that, without the element of surprise and faced with a furious admiral, the brat is no match for his opponent and Crocus will be damned if he lets one of his nakama die on his watch again !

But Buggy isn’t moving, and Akainu is and Crocus prepares to throw his harpoon because he knows he won’t make it in time and none of the other Rogers are close enough to try anything.

He misses. His harpoon flies through the air right where Akainu had been a fraction of a second before, grazing the man but not stopping him at all, and Crocus is cursing with all he has even as he runs faster than he ever has, hoping against all hope that he’s not about to witness the death of the former cabin brat who had finally found enough courage to stay and fight rather than run away even if had chosen a damn inconvenient time to do so!

There’s a single gunshot, and Akainu falls backward, as if in slow motion, magma disappearing from his limbs, a single bullet hole in his forehead, right between his eyes.

Crocus turns around instinctively, looks at RIza to thank her, only to find her looking as surprised as he is, and then he looks back at Buggy to find him with his left arm raised, gun still smoking.

“Seastone bullets. You really shouldn’t leave stuff like that just lying around, Marines aren’t the only ones who know how to use them,” Buggy speaks up, deceptively calm, as if he hasn’t just killed the man who had arguably been the strongest Admiral of his generation.

What. The. Fucking. Hell?



Chapter Text

 

So manchen von uns sah'n wir sterben,
Doch keiner von uns hat geweint,
Scharfe Klippen sie brachten Verderben,
Der Kahn ging zum Teufel derweil.

(And some of us we saw die
But none of us cried
Sharp cliffsides brought ruins
The ship went to Hell meanwhile)

Auf einem Seemannsgrab


 

It goes to hell so fast that the only reason Buggy is not surprised by it is because everything had been going too well for it not to go to hell at the worst moment and he had kept his Observation Haki turned up to the maximum even if the death and suffering assaulting him was this close to overwhelming him.

(It’s yet another reason he has always hated large scales battles like this one, because his Observation Haki has always been too sensitive, too prompt to pick up on people’s feelings rather than just their presence, and he had only found that particular tidbit out when Roger had decided to slaughter an entire army over a perceived insult. That had been fun. Not.)

(Hundred of Voices snuffed out, their sudden absence absolutely deafening and Buggy had been eight years old and had nearly gone mad, had nearly thrown himself overboard in the hopes that the sea would drown out the noise and it had only been Shanks Voice, so loud and unashamed and worried and so uniquely Shanks that Bugge could recognise it even amongst the chaos around them, that had anchored him back into reality.)

He senses Kizaru gathering the last dregs of his strength just as the Phoenix takes to the air with his charge held in his claws, and his left hand is rushing towards the fallen Admiral to try and stop him, but it’s too late: his knife hits the man’s jugular seconds after the light beam pierces the Phoenix’s wing.

Even as his left hand is twisting the knife to make sure that the Devil fruit user stays fucking dead , Buggy is already sending his right hand towards where the Phoenix is falling.

When he senses Monkey D. Fucking Luffy regaining consciousness despite the amount of sedative Crocus must have injected him with, Buggy swears and sends his feet away for good measure, calling his left hand back so as to not leave himself defenseless. He loathes being limbless like he is right now, but his Haki tells him that there is no one close enough to see him right now so he can cope with it for a few seconds instead of turning into a gibbering anxious wreck like he usually would.

(He’s trying to push that away for now, but as soon as Shanks shows up and takes him away from this place Buggy just knows he’s going to have a complete breakdown. He just refuses to have it here, or anywhere where anyone other than Shanks might see it. Especially the Roger Kaizoku, much as he longs for the strong walls of the Oro Jackson right now. Oro, at least, he could count on to watch his back if he needs it, to protect him as he breaks down, to comfort him in their own particular way instead of mocking him for his moment of weakness. The rest of them? Not so much.)

Fuck but Shanks needs to get his ass here yesterday , Buggy thinks as he watches Strawhat propel himself away from the safety of the Oro Jackson and right back in the middle of the fray, landing right next to his brother in a manner that has Buggy wincing from the strain that must have put on his knees. Had no one ever taught the brat how to land properly? Rubber or not, that could not possibly be good for his knees!

And then he freezes because fuck, that is Akainu’s Haki and why the fuck had no one offed him while he was unconscious, why , and now the man is up and charging towards the two kids and the Phoenix is too injured to do anything and everyone else is too far away and Buggy can’t sense where Rockstar is right now but he can sense that no one else will make it in time, can sense the moment Firefist realizes that and decides to throw himself over his faltering brother, can sense Whitebeard’s rage and despair, mingled with the rest of the Whitebeards and the fury of the Blackjacks and the desperation of the Roger Kaizoku and the sheer grief and rage emanating from Monkey D. Garp as he tries to get to his grandsons but is stopped by other marines and fuck but it’s too much, too much and it feels too much like Edd War and Loguetown and Baterilla and Buggy can’t stand it.


He hadn’t wanted to step in, had kept hoping that he wouldn’t need to, that the Whitebeards would manage to free their second commander while the Blackjacks and Rogers ran interference and that he could allow himself to remain a simple witness, to simply make sure that the Marines would not be able to sweep all of this under the rug.

Not because Buggy doesn’t want the kid to survive, but because Buggy is very much aware of his abilities and knows that he will only be able to act as a literal meat shield, to win the kid some precious seconds but not much more, and that if none of the heavy hitters on the boy’s side were able to come to his help, if they had to rely on Buggy to get them out, then that would mean that they were screwed anyway.

And it’s not that Buggy doesn’t want the kid to survive, because he does , because the kid is a kid and doesn’t deserve any of this bullshit and he’s captain’s kid and he’s Shanks’s kid’s brother and he’s Blackjack D. Rouge’s son and he hasn’t raised nearly enough hell yet to join Davy Jones this soon, but Buggy can’t allow himself to throw his life away either, not like he might have done a decade or two ago when he had just wanted everything to stop . Not when he has his crew to think about, his crew who is waiting for him in East Blue, who has enough trust in him to know that he will always come back for them, his crew who can’t afford to lose him or for him to gain too much attention from the Marines because they are not ready , not strong enough to survive that .

(Because he had never wanted them to go through what he had, had never wanted to take them through the Grand Line much less to the New World, because they didn’t deserve that, didn’t deserve to go through the hell that he had gone through)

(Because none of them even wanted to , all of them were happy to remain small-time pirates in the calmest of the Seas, and Buggy didn’t see any reason to change that since he had been perfectly happy to never ever leave East Blue again.)


But Akainu is rushing towards the two brothers, magma encasing his fists, and Buggy remembers being small and hiding in Captain Roger’s cabin during a particularly bad storm, remembers Captain Roger holding him and comforting him after Edd War, never quite apologizing but helping him through the nightmares and the panic attacks, his haki tainted by what Buggy would later recognise as quiet guilt for putting him through this in the first place, remembers reaching Raftel and the things he had learned and how Captain Roger had let Shanks and him stay in his cabin for two weeks, never breathing a word of it to the rest of the crew as the two tried to deal with what had happened on that island at the end of the world, remembers Captain Roger’s last embrace that day he had disbanded the crew and he remembers his father’s Captain’s last goodbye, that wave of Haki filled with love and pride and he remembers the graves he had helped dig on an island in South Blue and he remembers Shanks and he remembers burninganddrowning and he remembers wishing for an adult to save him, to help him, to tell him things would be alright and that he was just a kid and that he shouldn’t have had to go through all of that, and he remembers the broken look in Firefist’s eyes, the stunned look on his face when he had realised that his crew, his family cared enough about him to go to war for him and…

And Buggy hopes his crew will forgive him, hopes that they are safe on the island Shanks had told them to hide on, hopes that he will still be able to go back to them after this, hopes that Shanks will take care of them if he can’t, hopes he’s not about to bring down the full might of the Marines on their heads, hope he will survive this, hopes that Shanks will be there soon because he has no idea how long he will be able to keep this up, and he takes a deep breath and he moves .


His limbs are far from him but they are still his and it’s as easy as breathing to coat them in armament Haki, to direct his feet and his hand to where he wants them to go and…

His left sole rises up to collide with Akainu’s face with the strength of a fifteen meters running start. His right hand stabs a serrated knife straight into Akainu’s stomach and twists it for good measure. His right foot has its own target and Buggy feels a short moment of intense satisfaction as it impacts with Akainu’s crotch with a force equivalent to that of a cannonball, hopefully crushing any chance the man had of ever reproducing (because Davy Jones knows the world does not need that on top of everything else that is already wrong with this fucking world).

His left foot. His right hand. His right foot. It doesn’t amount to much, individually or together, but somehow it’s enough to stop the marine in his tracks as he bends in two from the sudden, unexpected pain, and Buggy doesn’t allow himself to think about what he’s just done, he uses his feetless legs to take a running start and jump from the roof he had been hiding on, throwing himself over the battlefield and letting his feet call his body back to them instead of doing the reverse and suddenly he’s on his feet again, standing between the Mad Dog of the Marine and his prey, his back to the children (because they are still children Davy Jones damn it, no matter how old they are, they are children who should never have been thrown into this situation, who should never have had to bear the sins of their fathers, who should never have been the victims of decades old grudges held by men who lost their chance at vengeance against the ones who had been their targets in the first place), to the children and to Crocus whose disbelief he can feel (and he doesn’t know if that hurts or not and he can’t afford to think about it right now and adds it to the pile of things he will have a breakdown over later) and he takes a deep breath and tries not to shake.


( what the hell am i doing i am going to die shanks is going to have a fit what is going to happen to my crew shanks better take care of them i am too young to die i should have died long ago oh shit he’s pissed what the fuck am i doing why are they not moving they need to run now i am not going to last long  fuck fuck fuck fuck davy jones have pity of me i don’t want to die i can’t do that to shanks not again i don’t want to die i don’t want to burn please please please i don’t want to burn alive i would rather drown-)


He’s absolutely, completely terrified, and yet he braces himself and forces himself to stand tall.

He’s absolutely terrified, and yet there Buggy is, standing in front of the two kids, his back to Crocus as he faces Akainu.

He’s absolutely terrified, and yet there Buggy is, standing in front of the two kids, his back to Crocus as he faces Akainu, and he straightens his shoulders and raises his head and doesn’t let anything show because he can’t afford it .


His right hand is still attempting to stab Akainu, the movement easy to keep up despite Buggy’s focus being very much on not pissing himself and asking himself what Shanks would do in this situation.

Buggy is neither a swordsman nor a yonko, and he doesn’t have a King’s Disposition either, so sarcasm is the only thing he can fall back to. Thankfully, that is one thing he does have experience with.

“Attacking people from behind, Akainu? And here I thought you people had an image to maintain. Then again, we both know that the Marines have never stopped to think about how despicable their actions are.”

There’s a growl from between clenched teeth as Akainu continues to attempt dodging the knife-hand who refuses to leave him alone.

“After all,” Buggy continues, and once he’s started it’s easier to keep going, to work himself up to a good rant because he’s wanted to say this for over twenty years, to put the blame for this right where it actually belonged, and the Denden that he managed to hide in his hat is filming this, facing Akainu rather than Buggy himself in a last-ditch attempt not to end up on the Marines’ most wanted list, is hearing this and is sharing this with the entire world. “It was the marines, not pirates, who slaughtered hundreds of children, mothers, and unborn children because they were so afraid that the Pirate King might possibly have fathered a child. How is that Justice?”

He can feel the startled intake of breath behind him, the flash of grief unending from the boy who never knew his mother, and he feels a stab of guilt for hurting the kid but the truth needs to be told, needed to be told years ago and maybe if Buggy had been less of a coward back then all of this could have been avoided.

“Two hundred seventy eight children under the age of three - one hundred fifty six little girls, one hundred twenty-two little boys. Three hundred forty two pregnant women and at least that many unborn children, as some of them had been pregnant with twins or triplets. That’s how many innocent people died under Marines hands on the Island of Baterilla.”

He knows the number by heart, because he counted them, because he and Shanks got there too late to save anyone but not too late to bury some of them, and they had dug graves for what seemed like weeks, too small graves for too small coffins for too small lives snuffed out too soon.

Sometimes, he thinks he can still feel earth under his fingernails and he spends hours trying to wash it off.

“That’s without counting the damage done to their remaining families, the children who grew up without their mothers or siblings, the spouses left grieving, the relatives who lost a member of their families.”

Yet more graves they had had to dig, for mothers and fathers and spouses who could not take the loss of their daughters and wives and grandchildren and children and chose to join them in the ground, and Buggy has tried very hard not to remember but now it’s all he can see, the rows and rows of new graves with too small tombstones because there hadn’t been enough slabs for so many names, and he feels himself grow numb as he tells the world. A buster call would have been kinder, he thinks sometimes, because they would all have gone together at least.

“They had to dig a new graveyard, just for them. The “Lost Generation”, the people there call them. The Martyrs. So tell me, Akainu, Admiral of the Marines, defender of the Absolute Justice : what was their crime?”


The silence that fell over the battlefield when Buggy started speaking is deafening.

Everyone around him is staring, but Buggy tries to ignore it. It’s easier, now, because he’s so angry about the whole Baterilla thing that it’s pushing his fear down, at least for now. He’s going to pay for it later, he knows, but hopefully by then Shanks will have shown up to save the day.

(If he doesn’t, well. Buggy will probably be too dead to care.)

(Buggy is aware that his thoughts are all over the place, that he goes from terrified to numb to angry and back again, from being certain of his upcoming death to knowing that he’ll live for at least a couple more minutes, from hoping someone else will step in to knowing he can’t count on anyone but himself (and Shanks, but Shanks is still too far, still hasn’t made it into Buggy’s sensing range) from being terrified of death to being ready to welcome Davy Jones like an old friend,  but he can’t stop it, can only hope that his adrenaline frazzled brain will somehow get him through this long enough for Shanks to show up.)

Akainu doesn’t answer, of course, unless you count snarling in rage as an answer (which Buggy probably should, given the way Akainu is clearly preparing to run him through with a haki infused magma fist and Buggy should probably be more worried about this but he’s reached the point where he has no fucks left to give and anger is still clouding his mind too much for terror to take over) and so Buggy decides to ignore him for a few seconds in order to get the stupid kids behind him to fucking leave before he’s too dead to be of much use to them.

If he’s going to die anyway, he would much rather it not be for nothing, thank you very much, and oh, that’s surprisingly cynical even for him, isn’t it.

“Firefist” he states, not looking away from Akainu. “Take Strawhat and get the fuck away from here. Shanks would never forgive either of us if the kid doesn’t make it. He’s hurt enough as it is - I would rather spare myself the additional lecture.” Shanks will never forgive Buggy if he gets himself killed either, though, and Buggy really, really hopes his friend makes it here soon, preferably right now. “And I don’t think your father would enjoy seeing you dead either, and I would rather spare myself the pain of Newgate’s anger.”

Because Newgate is going to die today and Buggy has a feeling the man would also prefer it if his death wasn’t in vain and wow, he had never thought he would ever be able to relate with the Strongest Man in the world and yet here he is.


Distantly, in a part of his brain that isn’t as scrambled as the rest of it yet, Buggy wonders, hysterically, what his father Captain would say if he could see him now. What he will say when Buggy joins him on the Flying Dutchman, probably much sooner than either of them would have liked him to.

(Buggy is going to punch him in the face . Because this clusterfuck is all his fault and if his captain had known the meaning of subtlety and not decided to trust Monkey D. Fucking Garp with his kid, Buggy wouldn’t be in this situation today.)

(He’s pretty sure Blackjack D. Rouge did that already, though, but that’s not going to stop him. Stupid Captain should have known better)

(Should have told them from the start, should never have kept them in the dark to begin with, should have trusted them enough, should never have left them in the first place, should have had the decency to say goodbye first, should have left him to die in that gutter )


“They are enemies of the World!” Akainu roars, drawing himself up to his full height. “I will not allow their tainted blood to live any longer!”

Buggy tries to ignore him, even as his minds tries to bring him back to the hundreds of too small graves dug in the name of not allowing Roger’s blood to taint the world any longer , to the sleepless weeks he and Shanks had spent running away from people determined to make sure Roger’s legacy would not live on . He manages it, barely, and focuses on the Whitebeard’s first commander whose wing has finally healed enough for him to start moving again.

“Phoenix! Get those idiots out of here before they get each other killed!”

Because Davy Jones knows neither of the boys is in any condition to do it themselves, Strawhat unconscious in his brother’s arms (but his Voice is still there, Buggy can still feel it loud and clear, Davy jones be thanked Shanks will not need to grieve him just yet) and Firefist himself going into shock (which is understandable given everything that has happened to the boy in the past few weeks but also very much not the time ) so hopefully the older man will be able to get them away from here before Akainu is done tearing him to shreds.

For a short (too long) moment, Buggy wonders if the Phoenix is going to protest being ordered around by “one of Roger’s cabin brats” like his captain had, but the man gives a terse nod at Buggy’s back instead before moving faster than most people can follow, transforming in one swift movement and grabbing both boys in his claws. Strong wings beat loudly behind Buggy, and seconds later he can feel their Voices moving up and away from him.

He doesn’t move from his spot, not even when his right hand is punched away by one of Akainu’s magma encased fists.

( fire fire too hot too hot no no no no would you rather drown or be burned alive)

Instead, he allows his left hand to find the handle of one of the two guns he had grabbed from a fallen marine, the one he had nearly left behind because the feel of it had made him queasy, had told him exactly what kind of bullets the chamber held.

(He’s been hit by his fair share of them, can recognise them easy enough, and has never grown used to the feeling of his strength getting sapped away, never wants to grow used to that feeling because for all that he’s trained himself to never be helpless without his devil fruit again - would you rather drown, or be burned alive? - doesn’t mean he ever wants to be in that situation ever again.

“You worm! I won’t let them escape!”


 

Buggy still doesn’t move away, his right hand merging back with his right arm and his left hand drags the pistol out of its holster, and he represses a surprised startle when he feels Crocus starts to run toward him, worry and desperation radiating from his Voice.

Is he trying to save me what the hell since when does he care he didn’t last time or does he only worry about having another dark mark on his resume, of being the doctor who let two of his nakama die on his watch?

But Buggy has long since stopped believing that anyone other than Shanks will ever bother trying to save him, and he’s not about to start again anytime soon.

(Not when they never tried to save him when he needed them, not when they proved that they could rise up together again if they cared about something enough and hadn’t done so for him, not when they had left him to rot in Impel Down)

(Some hurts are too great to heal, and Buggy will never trust anyone other than Shanks to save him ever again, so he learned to save himself instead.)


 

There’s only one bullet left in the pistol and Crocus throws his harpoon at Akainu and Buggy knows before the weapon leaves the doctor’s hand that it will miss, and it does, and Buggy should be wetting his pants in terror, should be running away or at least scattering his body to make himself a lesser target, but instead the world has shrunk down to the charging form in front of him, the rest disappearing in a chatter of white noise, and Buggy’s mind, for the first time in years, is completely, utterly silent as he raises his arm.


 

The slightest pressure of his finger on the trigger and the seastone bullet is exploding out of the barrel.


 

He only has one shot. He’s never been the greatest marksman with a gun (knives are another thing entirely). Akainu is a marine admiral and a logia who has far more battle experience than Buggy has.


 

The bullet strikes true.


 

There’s a single gunshot, and Akainu falls backward, as if in slow motion, magma disappearing from his limbs, a single bullet hole in his forehead, right between his eyes.


 

“Seastone bullets.” Buggy says, his own voice distant, as if speaking through a fog, as if he hasn’t just killed the man who had arguably been the strongest Admiral of his generation, as if he’s not freaking out now that the white noise is wearing off, as if he’s not suddenly very much aware that he’s just killed his second admiral in less than ten minutes because for all that Kizaru had already been half-way to Davy Jones’ Locker, Buggy had been one who had given him the killing blow, as if he doesn’t know very well what this is going to mean for him and his crew if he makes it out of Marineford alive. “You really shouldn’t leave stuff like that just lying around, Marines aren’t the only ones who know how to use them.”

He needs to get out of here. Now.

Chapter Text

Sur la mer et sur terre,

Au pays comme à l'étranger,

Marin, sois fidèle à tes frères,

Car tu as promis naguère

De servir et de protéger.

(Garçon, prend la barre)

 

On the sea and on the land

At home and abroad

Seaman, be true to your brothers

Because you swore long ago

To serve and to protect


Shanks swears as he watches Marco the phoenix crash, hit by what seemed like Kizaru’s last ditch attempt at thumbing his nose at them, swears as Ace stumbles to his feet, immediately putting himself in front of his nakama, swears when he sees Marco’s bleeding form.

Then Luffy jumps straight back into the battle because he has the self-preservation instinct of a jellyfish and Shanks curses the air blue before he has to take a deep breath or risk losing control of his haki.

“Eight minutes out, Captain,” Benn tells him, and Shanks tries to tell himself that he’ll make it, he will get there in time, but then Luffy is collapsing and Akainu is standing and rushing towards the kids and no one is moving what the hell are they doing?!

And then Akainu's head is snapping back and Shanks’ eyes catch the foot that slammed into it and he forgets how to breathe. There’s a hand with a knife that lodges itself in Akainu’s stomach, and another foot that hits the admiral in the crotch and Akainu is stopped in his track and the world stops and stares .

Shanks knows that foot. And that hand. And that other foot.


Buggy. Buggy .


The wood splinters between his fingers. His Haki flares.

The image shakes, twirls, as if picked up and thrown around, and when it stabilises again it is facing Akainu.

“Attacking people from behind, Akainu?” A familiar, achingly familiar , voice, incredibly loud in the deafening silence. “And here I thought you people had an image to maintain. Then again, we both know that the Marines have never stopped to think about how despicable their actions are.”

“Is that…” Benn starts next to him, then stops and starts yelling at the crew to start rowing, to do anything they can to be faster .

Shanks barely notices him, or the Sea Kings floating belly-up around the Red Force, unconscious or dead, too busy staring at the screen.

Buggy is standing in front of Akainu, staring him straight in the face if the position of the Denden is anything to go by. Ace and Luffy are behind him, Buggy is standing between the mad dog of the Marines and its prey, between the mad dog of the Marines and Ace and Luffy,  Whitebeard's son and Shanks's protégé, the legacy of the dead Pirate King and the future Pirate King and he’s standing there alone .

The railing he had been gripping disintegrates . It’s all he can do to focus his raging King’s Haki away from his crew.

“After all,” Buggy continues, and he may seem calm but Shanks knows him , knows from the tone of his voice, one that he hasn’t heard from Buggy since his friend decided to remain in East Blue, that he is panicking, that is freaking out. So is Shanks, but how much worse is it for Buggy? Fuck but Shanks needs to be there yesterday. “It was the marines, not pirates, who slaughtered hundreds of children, mothers, and unborn children because they were so afraid that the Pirate King might possibly have fathered a child. How is that Justice?”


 

Shanks breathes out, forces himself to unclench his hand before his nails can do more than mark his palm.

Baterilla.

Buggy is talking about Baterilla and neither of them have so much as spoken that name in twenty years, except during sleepless nights when the memories become too much for them and they find themselves grasping for the denden just to hear each other’s voice, to remind themselves that they are alive, definitely more than a little broken but alive .

Baterilla, one of his worst nightmares, all of fourteen and on their own for less than six months when they first heard the rumors and high-tailed it there, because if there truly was a woman pregnant with Roger’s child then they owed it to her to get her out and if there wasn’t then they owd it to the people being hurt in their captain’s name to at least try and put a stop to it.

(He still doesn’t know what they would have done, had the marines still been there when they arrived, if they had found themselves faced with a literal army hell-bent on erasing any possible heir ot Roger’s Kingdom, them, the two apprentices Roger had taken under his wing and taught the ins and outs of piracy to.)

(He tries not to think about it, tries to drown those thoughts in alcohol like he does with most memories of that time.)

(He’s an alcoholic and the first to admit it, but at least he’s a high-functioning alcoholic and not a nervous wreck.)

(Most of the time.)

(He’s completely sober for the first time in two decades and he would much rather not be.)

Fucking Baterilla.

Too many graves for too many bodies who were far too young and Shanks can still see them, everytime he closes his eyes, the children and the women who died because his Captain could neither keep it in his pants nor keep a secret and he can’t look at his hand, too worried he might find dirt under his fingernails.

His fingers clench once, briefly, wishing for a bottle, but Shanks can’t afford to be drunk right now, no matter how much he wishes he was. Not when Luffy and Ace and Rockstar and Buggy are in danger, not when they need him, not when he needs to be at his best to make sure the people he cares about survive this clusterfuck.


“Two hundred seventy eight children under the age of three - one hundred fifty six little girls, one hundred twenty-two little boys. Three hundred forty two pregnant women and at least that many unborn children, as some of them had been pregnant with twins or triplets. That’s how many innocent people died under Marines hands on the Island of Baterilla.”


They had counted them, the graves, the too small graves for too small coffins for too small bodies, because someone had to, someone had to know, to remember, even when the marines had done their best to shift the blame, going as far as to dress the soldiers up as bandits and pirates after the first two weeks, making sure that no one on the island would talk by threatening them with a buster call.

So they had counted, him and Buggy, they had walked from grave to grave to apologize for what had happened because of their captain, of their father in all but blood , to beg for a forgiveness they knew they didn’t deserve, to pray that wherever they were now, they could find the peace that the Marines had not given them the chance to find in life.


“That’s without counting the damage done to their remaining families, the children who grew up without their mothers or siblings, the spouses left grieving, the relatives who lost a member of their families.”

More graves they’d had to dig, just when they thought they had buried the last of the Massacre’s victims. Yet more nightmares that had kept them awake for weeks on end, screaming and drowning in sweat.

“They had to dig a new graveyard, just for them. The “Lost Generation”, the people there call them. The Martyrs. So tell me, Akainu, Admiral of the Marines, defender of the Absolute Justice : what was their crime?”

Nothing. They hadn’t done anything wrong, and neither had Ace, neither had any of these children who had died before they even got to really live.


The silence that fell over the battlefield when Buggy started speaking is deafening.

And Buggy. Still. Isn’t. Moving!

To be fair, that’s probably because the children behind him, in the Denden’s blind spot, aren’t moving either. Luffy had looked quite bad, before the denden moved, and if Ace tried to catch him...

No one is moving, actually, and Shanks wants to scream , because what the fuck people! Buggy is standing alone between Akainu and his targets and no one, not even Whitebeard, is moving to protect the children!

Story of his fucking life.

Buggy needs help, needs someone to stand by his side because he’s facing the worst of the three admirals, and he’s definitely freaking out even if he’s doing a fantastic job of pretending not to be, and yes Buggy is stronger than anyone else knows, stronger than he knows, Shanks knows that , is usually the one trying to convince Buggy of it, but fuck this is doesn’t mean that Shanks wanted him to have to prove it!

Akainu is glaring straight at the Denden ( straight at Buggy) and Shanks can’t do anything.


He’s not sure what is worse: not knowing what Buggy was going through, if he was alive or dead, these three years after they got separated, or this, watching, helpless, as his best friend, his brother, his Buggy  faces off again a monster.

(The three years. Because here and now, at least, he knows Buggy is still alive, still alive and breathing and that is more than he had back then.)


 

“Firefist” Buggy speaks up again, head still not moving, still not looking away from Akainu. “Take Strawhat and get the fuck away from here. Shanks would never forgive either of us if the kid doesn’t make it. He’s hurt enough as it is - I would rather spare myself the additional lecture.”

Shanks will never forgive Buggy if he gets himself killed either, and he hopes Buggy knows that. Screw the lecture, he’s going to grab his friend and never let him out of his sight ever again .

“And I don’t think your father would enjoy seeing you dead either, and I would rather spare myself the pain of Newgate’s anger.”

And, yes, ouch, a furious Whitebeard is not a fun thing to face either, but really, would it be too much to ask for Buggy to worry about saving his own hide? Or for Whitebeard to, you know, actually do something?! The man is dying anyway, he can afford to take some risks and turn the Red Dog into dog chow for Davy Jones’ sake!

“They are enemies of the World!” Akainu roars, drawing himself up to his full height. “I will not allow their tainted blood to live any longer!”


How his teeth have not yet grinded each other to dust, Shanks doesn’t know, but the words are ringing in his ears, echoing memories from the months of running and hiding and fighting when the whole world was gunning for them, to erase all traces of Roger’s legacy, and he doesn’t know how Buggy can stand there and not move, how he can remain calm (at least externally, because Shanks knows Buggy, knows how his mind work, and that makes this even more astonishing, and Shanks would be so fucking proud if he wasn’t so busy panicking ) when faced with both the monster that Akainu is and the trauma they had both gone through.

But Buggy does, Buggy’s doesn’t move, he stands his ground and in front of a man that would give even Shanks a pause, that would probably have given even Roger some trouble at the end (when illness had started robbing him of his strength, when tiredness had settled in his bones and in his limbs, when even his unending energy had seemed to wane), and Buggy stays.


“Phoenix! Get those idiots out of here before they get each other killed!” Buggy snaps, and Shanks winces, because that means neither of the boys is any state to get away on his own, and fuck but Shanks is going to kill someone these kids don’t make it.


(He’s not thinking about what he might do if Buggy doesn’t make it.)

(He’s not. )

(Three years of not knowing if Buggy was alive or dead, and Shanks remembers enough of the first two of those years to know that he spent them either training or at the bottom of a bottle and often both.)

(He remembers enough to know that he doesn’t want to remember those years.)

 

(A world without Buggy in it?)

(Shanks would probably survive it.)

(But he doesn’t want to. )

 

(Captain was terrifying when he was angry, and he had never been more furious than when one of his had been hurt.)

(Shanks knows himself enough to know that he definitely takes after his captain in some things.)

 

(If Buggy gets hurt, if Buggy dies? )

(Marineford will drown.)

(But the Marine? The Institution, the people in charge, who have become synonymous with it?)

(The Marine will burn .)


Thankfully Marco is smart enough to know when it’s better to retreat (something Captain never learned, and Shanks is not sure he’ll ever forgive Roger for that), and though the Zoan is in the blind spot of the Denden, Shanks can see the blue light signalling his transformation, can hear the beating of strong wings and finally manages to breathe a bit when he realises that the kids got away. Luffy got away, Ace got away, hopefully carried somewhere safe where a doctor is waiting.

Buggy still doesn’t move, not even when his right hand, the one who had kept trying to stab the admiral, is punched away by one of Akainu’s magma encased fists and fuck but if Buggy doesn’t kill the man Shanks will.

“You worm! I won’t let them escape!” Akainu rages, and then he’s moving, running towards Buggy, and Shanks holds his breath even as his nails dig into his palm.

A harpoon surges from behind Buggy, rushing towards Akainu ( Crocus? Is Crocus finally, for once in his life, actually going to help Buggy, help the cabin brat who depended on him and who he abandoned? Something happened, Shanks knows, knows that out of all the Roger Kaizoku Crocus and Rayleigh are the ones Buggy can’t forgive, the ones who hurt him the most, and with Rayleigh it’s because he was the first mate, their teacher, their mentor, the one who should have protected them in Captain’s absence, but something happened with Crocus after Shanks and Buggy got separated, and Buggy never told him what, but Shanks knows something did, knows that Buggy has made damn sure to never go anywhere near the twin capes ever again) but the weapon misses and Akainu is still moving and Buggy is still not moving and fuck but Shanks needs to get there right now!

(And fuck, Buggy’s crew, his nakama, they will be watching this too, hidden away on one of Shanks’ island in East Blue, and how panicked are they? He needs to call them, needs to tell them that he’s nearly there, that he’s going to get Buggy out, that he’ll make sure their captain gets out of this in one piece, that Buggy gets back to them, but he can't afford to do it right now, not when he cannot take his eyes away from the screen, not when he cannot afford to miss a single second of what is happening. And fuck, but what is going to happen to them after this, the marines are going to want Buggy’s head on a platter and Shanks is going to be damned if he lets them do that, he’s going to sink them all to ocean’s floor before he allows them touch a single hair on Buggy’s head, but fuck, this is going to be messy and Buggy is going to hate it, Shanks knows, is going to think that he’s going to put his crew his crew through the same hell that being on the Pirate King’s crew put him through when it's not.)

(Well, anyone who tries to go after Buggy and his nakama will have to go through Shanks. Buggy has always been his ally, they’ve just kept it on the down-low until now because neither of them wanted to bring too much attention down on Buggy and his crew, but that’s going to have to change now. He’ll have to discuss it with Buggy, of course, can’t take a decision like that all without consulting him, not when Buggy has had his right to decide taken away from him so often, but Shanks is planning on offering his unconditional protection to his friend’s crew and he hopes Buggy will take him up on it.)

(Even if he doesn’t, Shanks is still going to rain hell on anyone who even thinks about hunting down the Big Top after this.)

(As soon as they get out of there, he’s grabbing Buggy and not letting him go, and he’s locking them in his cabin so they can both have the breakdown they’re staving off.)

(Buggy comes first, and Shanks can keep his own breakdown at bay for a little longer, can give Buggy the space and the safety and the support to let his mask fall and collapse, to break and rebuild himself.)

(Benn and the others can keep an eye on things for however long it takes them to get themselves back together, however long it takes Shanks to get Buggy on an even keel again, however long it takes Buggy to reassure Shanks that he’s alive, that he’s still breathing and that he’s not planning on stopping anytime soon.)

(However long it takes Buggy and his crew to reassure each other, to make sure everyone is alive, to decide what is going to happen now.)

(The rest of the world will just have to fucking deal with it.)


Buggy is still not moving but his arm is and there’s a gun held in his left hand, in his dominant hand, and all Shanks can do is watch and pray , beg Davy Jones to watch over his friend, beg Lady Luck to guide the bullet, because Buggy has never had the best aim with a gun, has always felt better with knives in his hands and this is the one shot he can’t afford to miss.

(Because Akainu won’t give him a second chance, and that bullet has better be seastone because Shanks refuses to watch his best friend die on live television, he refuses!)


The bullet, ever so slightly tinged with the dark shadows of Haki, strikes true.

There’s a single gunshot, and Akainu falls backward, as if in slow motion, magma disappearing from his limbs, a single bullet hole in his forehead, right between his eyes.


“Seastone bullets.” Buggy says, and ouch Shanks hasn’t heard him sound that dissociated since he found him collapsed against the wreckage of a dinghy on that little stone beach on Depa, and fuck Buggy just killed an admiral, the worst of the admirals and Shanks is so proud he could burst, so relieved it feels like he can finally breathe again, except this is just the beginning of the end because Shanks knew he could do it but now the rest of the world knows it too and Buggy is stuck in the middle of the closest thing this Era has seen to a War with no one save Rockstar he trusts to watch his back and Shanks is still four minutes away and anything can happen in four minutes, all of this just happened in four minutes. “You really shouldn’t leave stuff like that just lying around, Marines aren’t the only ones who know how to use them.”


 

Shanks is terrified. Shanks is terrified because his best friend has just killed an admiral in front of a literal army of marines and there’s still one admiral left and there’s still Sengoku the Fucking Buddha left and Garp the fucking Hero even if he is still being restrained by two vice-admirals and has been since Akainu first started to charge towards Luffy and Ace, in front of thousands of people and in front of the millions of people currently watching the news, and maybe Buggy’s face hasn’t been shown on the Denden yet but everyone in Marineford knows who he is and there’s no way the marines won’t put a target on his head after this.

But right now, Shanks is also really fucking proud .

(He’s still not letting Buggy out of his sight once he gets there. Buggy will just have to deal with it.)

 

Chapter Text



Oh, don't yiz hear the old man say?

Goodbye, fare-ye-well! Goodbye, fare-ye-well!

Oh. Don’t yiz hear the old man say?

Hoor-raw me boys! We’re homeward bound!

(Homeward bound)


 

 

Crocus can’t stop staring. Because what. the. fucking. hell?

Buggy just killed an admiral and is acting like it’s perfectly normal.

(Captain would be so proud )

What happened to the boy he remembers hiding from battle whenever possible? When did Buggy become a man who stands in front of a charging, magma-armed Admiral without flinching, and proceeds to kill him without batting an eye?

Hell, Crocus can’t remember if Buggy ever killed anyone during his time on the Oro Jackson, period!


 

He spares a glance towards his nakama, not quite sure whether he should be comforted or not by the fact that they seem just as shocked as he is. How have they all missed this?

One thing is for sure, however. They really need to have a talk with Buggy once this is over.


Crocus is moving towards Buggy again, intent on getting some answers and protecting the younger man from the clusterfuck that is sure to follow now that everyone is slowly coming out of their shocked state, but someone beats him to it.

Well.

Multiple someones.

Newgate has somehow managed to make his way to Buggy and is standing next to him, staring down a furious Sengoku who is still standing by the execution platform and looks ready to go berserk at any moment.

Shanks’ brat, Rockstar (and what kind of stupid name is that , honestly?!) has shown up from nowhere to take position at Buggy's back and seems to be bantering with him, too low for Crocus to hear.

There are others, too, some of the Shirohige commanders, Jimbei, Ivankov even! All of them, standing next to Buggy when none of the Rogers have made it to his side yet, and Crocus doesn't know how to feel.


There seems to be conversation going on between Buggy and Newgate, but there's none of the annoyance and condescension that often taints Newgate's interactions with the Roger Kaizoku.

(Newgate is standing next to Buggy , next to him and not in front of him, and he's talking to him like an equal when Crocus has just heard Rockstar complain about how the man treated his captain, a Yonkou , like a dumb brat and Crocus does not know how he's supposed to react to that either)


And then there's movement by the waterside and suddenly there's a ship running on the plaza, bowling marines over left and right.

What. The. Fuck?!

“Uwaaah!” A random marine screams. “Everyone get out of the way, the enemy's ship has started moving! Don't get near it! It's running on the ground using its paddles! Hey, someone's riding it!”

Crocus does a double take. Yes, that is Vortex Spider Squardo and his crew using the paddles to 'walk’ the mini Moby Dick and that should not be possible but apparently it is, and it makes the marines who had started to move again stop and stare.

Fucking Whitebeards.

“Old man! Please let everyone get away! We'll undertake this battlefield!” Said man yells.

“Squardo!” Another Shirohige pirate screams. “It's the Maelstrom spider pirates! Those bastards... Don't be a fool Squardo! Do you have a death wish?”

And ouch, that is hitting too close to home and Crocus pushes the thought away before it can bring the associated memories to the forefront of his mind. Now is not the time.

“Hell yeah I do, after what I did to the old man! Even if it doesn't atone for my sins! This is the only thing that will satisfy me! You have Ace, now get outta here, everyone!”

Oh for fuck's sake! Someone punch that moron and get him to see sense. There is no fucking way Newgate will let that slide.

Almost as if he'd heard him, Newgate's voice rings over the battlefield even as the strongest Man in the world stops the advancing ship with one hand, his eyes never leaving Sengoku.

“Do you know how disobedient it is for a child to die before his father? Don't you get it, Squardo? Don't be so full of yourself! That little stab of yours didn't shake my life one bit! Everyone has their own life span... We've done what we came for. Now, there's no more reason for us to be here! What I am about to tell you now... is my final "captain's order"! Listen carefully, Whitebeard pirates!”


Oh for fuck's sake. Someone save him from melodramatic captains (or at least give him hi s melodramatic captain back).

(Crocus really, really wants his captain back, okay?)


“Final... wait a minute old man! Don't say such a thing!”

“We don't wanna hear stuff like that!”

“We're all going to return to the New World together, right!?”

It's a cacophony as all the Shirohige try to talk at the same time, try to convince Newgate to change his mind, and fuck but this brings back too many memories, and fuck Roger for not giving them a chance to say goodbye properly and fuck Newgate for doing that to his crew and fuck this shit, Crocus is done with today.

Just. Done.

And then there's a voice Crocus is starting to get familiar with, coming from further away yet easily audible even above the noise.

“Old man!”

And fuck but the heartbreak and guilt are palpable in Ace's voice and Crocus is feeling particularly murderous today but he really wants to kill someone right now.

But Newgate doesn't reply to his men, to his children, doesn't look away from Sengoku as he stands tall and proud, a beacon of an Age that is coming to an end.

“This is where you and I split up! Every single one of you! Stay alive at all costs! Return to the New World in one piece!”

“O... Old man?! You're planning on dying here?”

Seriously, how far down in denial have the Shirohige and their allies been ?! Newgate must have been ill for years now, and his symptoms have probably worsened in the past two or three weeks, and yet the man still came out to fight and took a fucking sword through the stomach.

And this is Edward fucking Newgate, for Davy Jones’ sake! Of fucking course he had been planning on dying if it was necessary to get his crew out of here!

“I'm a remnant of my era! There ain't no ship that's going to carry me out to the new one! Go on! All you bastards!”

“Nooo! Old Maaaaaaan!”

(Crocus wants to hurt them. All of them. At least they get a chance to say goodbye, to hear their captain's voice directed at them one last time before his death.)

(Crocus didn't get that. None of them did, and Crocus still hasn't forgiven Roger for that.)

“That's a captain's order! Get outta here!”

“Uncle?!” That's Crocus’ patient, Strawhat, and he and Ace aren't on the plaza anymore, have been dropped on a ship he vaguely recognises as the Piece of Spadille by Marco the Phoenix who is now flying as fast as he can towards his father, and there are eerily similar triplets of undefined gender holding them back from where Ace looks ready to jump right back into the fray.

“Old Man!”

“Whitebeard!” Sengoku roars, probably dreading another Roger-level inspiring speech that would have hordes of rookies taking to the seas.

He's probably right to dread it. Davy Jones knows Crocus is going to need a drink after this.

“This ended up being one hell of a long journey... What do you say we settle things once and for all... marines!”

“Pops!”

“Don't leave us alone, Pops! Let's go back together! Pops!”

The Shirohige are wailing and Crocus understands them, he really does, but he's also trying to repress some memories and they. Are. Not. Helping!

“Did you not hear it is a captain's order?! Go now! Idiots!”

They’re crying and sobbing and screaming, but the Shirohige obey their captain, running back towards their remaining ships while the marines are still reeling from the many shocks that have been thrown their way today.

Crocus can sympathize. He is too.

“Hurry! Follow Pop's words! Pops!”

Crocus chances a glance at the Piece of Spadille. Ace is still trying to rejoin the battlefield, but his nakama hold him back.

“OYAJI!”

Newgate chuckles, and it’s fond, full of affection and acceptance.

“No need to speak. Just answer me one question, Ace... Am I... a good father?”

“Of course!” Ace roars back, and there’s tears in that voice and Crocus would very much like it if people could stop pushing him towards a flashback, thank you very much.

“Gurararara!”

Sengoku is moving now, rushing towards Newgate - no, towards Buggy , and fuck but Crocus doesn’t care that Newgate is there and ready to intervene, he’s running before he even realises it, and so are the others, Riza raining a hail of bullets in the marine’s direction, Rayleigh leaping through the crowd, but Newgate is faster and grabs empty air, and the ripples nearly throw Crocus off his feets as buildings around the plaza start to collapse.

This time, though, Crocus doesn’t stop. Not again, not this time.


“You’re as much of a relic as I am, Sengoku!” The Earth-shaker calls out. “At least have the guts to fight someone from your Era!”

A second later, Sengoku is back in full Buddha mode and Newgate is laughing like the lunatic he is as he raises his bisento. Next to him, back to back with Rockstar, Buggy is pale, but unbowed, and his eyes are fixed on the scaffold.

“We seem to have uninvited guests,” Buggy says just as Crocus comes to a stop a few steps away from him, joined seconds later by Rayleigh.

“Oh? So someone finally noticed us?” Someone guwaffes. “Aren’t you an interesting one?”

Crocus sees Buggy tense, sees Rockstar grip his katana tighter.

(Sees the way Buggy does not look at him, or at Rayleigh, or at any of the others even though they’re standing right there )

There’s a giant hiding behind one of the now destroyed towers, and a rag-tag group of pirates standing on the scaffold and looking down at them. But Crocus focuses on the man standing in the centre,the one with the scruffy black beard and the wide girth and the open mantle over a hairy torso, a large mouth and a crooked nose and long black hair under a tricorn hat.

Marshall D. Teach, aka “Blackbeard”. The fake D., the one Roger had had a bad feeling about, the reason behind this whole clusterfuck, the one who had captured Ace and handed him over to the marines in the first place.

Crocus recognises some of the others as well, of course, but none are as big of a danger as Teach right now.

Sengoku has stopped to yell at his subordinates, and Newgate himself is glaring at Teach in a way that makes Crocus want to wince. Ouch. Newgate is not just pissed off. He is livid , and Crocus has never seen him like this and would have been happy going to his grave without seeing it.

“Hahahaha! Long time no see! Sure am glad I was able to make it in time to see you die, Old Man!”

Does the newcomer have a suicide wish or something? Even Roger would have hesitated to taunt Newgate in these conditions and Roger had a fucking death wish!

“Teach!” Newgate roars . “You are the only scum I would never call my son, Teach! You broke the one and only iron-clad rule on my ships... you killed your Nakama!”

Crocus flinches even as the remaining Shirohige pirates take positions at their father’s back, careful not to get in his way even though it’s obvious each of them wants their pound of flesh.

Especially the Phoenix, who has to be restrained by his fellows.

“Don't you interfere, Marco!” the one who dresses in kimonos, Izou, reminds the first division commander.

“In the Fourth Fleet's Commander's Thatch name, I'll take this idiot's life and settle things myself!” Newgate proclaims, and Crocus believes him even as he braces himself.


His eyes find Buggy again. With great difficulty: the former apprentice has used the distraction of Teach’s appearance and Newgate’s rage to step away, trying to hide in the thinning crowd, not that he was succeeding very well, what with everyone having witnessed him killing an admiral in cold blood just minutes ago.

(Yeah, no, Crocus has still not come to terms with that one either.)

(They are going to have a conversation after this Davy Jones damn it)

(Crocus should not be feeling like their former cabin brat is a complete stranger damn it!)


“Zehahahaha!” Teach laughs as he jumps down from the platform, narrowly escaping its collapse as Newgate’s attack hit it straight on. “That's what I was hoping for! Black hole !" he shouts, sprouting dark shadows that engulf the ground as he lands. “Thatch died... and Ace nearly died too, didn't he, old man! From the bottom of my heart, I respected you and I aspired after you, but you've gotten old! You couldn't even save one member of your crew from being executed, could you? Even though I brought him here from Banaro island alive! You had to rely on an outsider to do it for you!”

Teach pauses, ducks under Whitebeard’s swing, and then continues.

“A very surprising Outsider at that Zehahahahaha! How does it feel, Old Man? To be unable to save one of your men, again , and have to watch as one of Roger’s left-over did the work for you? And not even one of the famous ones! Mind you, that Devil Fruit of his is really interesting, I wouldn’t mind taking a better look at it!”

And with that the pirate suddenly switches target, and Crocus curses but one of Teach’s men is in front of him before he can get to Buggy’s help, and Rayleigh is facing off against the former Impel Down Jailer and so are all of the Rogers that would be close enough to help, and Newgate is turning around but Teach has already crossed half the distance towards Buggy and…


 

And then there’s pressure , heavy and dense and crushing , so much that Crocus finds himself having trouble breathing, and it’s a good thing that all but the commanders have regained the ships by now because there’s no way a common pirate would have been able to withstand that kind of pressure, not if the way nearly every single marine is suddenly unconscious on the ground and frothing at the mouth with the exceptions of the vice-admirals and of Sengoku himself, not with the way even some of Teach’s newest recruits, fresh out of Impel Down, look like they’ve just been hit in the face, and there’s a flash of red and black and silver, and Crocus knows this feeling, recognise it even if just barely, even if he has never before had the chance to feel its full blast, and it’s not like Rayleigh’s or even Rogers’, but it’s definitely King’s haki and this King, no, this Emperor , is not playing around like his captain used to, like his first mate still often does, and there’s a slice in the air and a loud thud in the dudden silence as a severed arm hits the ground.

There’s the rustle of a dark cloak, the flash of a white shirt, and that unmistakable red hair -

“Where I’m from, we look with our eyes, not with our hands, Marshall D. Teach ,” a cold voice states as the dust settles. “Forget yourself again and you'll lose the other one.”

Chapter Text

Au moindre coup de Trafalgar
C'est l'amitié qui prenait l'quart
C'est elle qui leur montrait le nord
Leur montrait le nord
Et quand ils étaient en détresse
Qu'leurs bras lancaient des S.O.S.
On aurait dit les sémaphores
Les copains d'abord

(At the slightest hit from Trafalgar

It was friendship who took the helm

She was the one who showed them the north

And when they were in danger

When their arms waved S.O.S.

They looked like like semaphores

Friends first)

 

Les copains d’abord, Georges Brassens


 

Everyone is staring at him and there’s a dead body in front of him and Buggy wants to be anywhere but here.

Akainu is dead and the kids are safe for now, dropped on the Piece of Spadille by the Phoenix who is even now flying as fast as he can back towards his father, and Buggy is glad , glad that his intervention wasn’t for nothing, even as it takes all he has not to break down in the mother of all panic attacks right there and now.

Because he’s just killed an admiral in front of the entire world , and it’s only a matter of time until they figure out that he had a hand (literally) in Kizaru’s death as well and he will never be able to get back to his normal life now. Not after this.

He won't be able to stay in East Blue any longer, will have no choice but to face the horrors of the Grand Line and the New World even though he had sworn them off for a fucking reason , Davy Jones damn it, and he's going to be hunted again and...

It’s going to be those five years after Captain’s execution all over again, except this time he has people who depend on him, people he is responsible for, who didn’t sign up to be hunted down with prejudice, who are not ready for this, for the clusterfuck Buggy has just unleashed upon them, whose lives rest upon his shoulders and fuck but what are they going to do because he knows his crew, knows their strengths and their weaknesses and they're good for East Blue but they're not ready for the Grand Line never mind the New World and if they try to stand up to the might of the marines they are going to get slaughtered and…

He locks these thoughts away as black dots starts dancing across his vision, reminds himself to breathe . He can’t afford to have a breakdown now. Not until he’s safely away from this place.

( All the planning in the world won’t help anyone if he’s too dead to set it in motion )


(Once, Buggy would have turned to the ocean to drown out the cacophony in his head, would have sought solace below the surface, allowed the water to muffle the sounds and wash away his anxieties enough for him to be able to function.)

(He never used to think of the ocean as being dangerous to him before.)

(It’s the one thing Shanks will never forgive himself for, Buggy knows, even though Buggy himself forgave him long ago.)


Everyone is still staring at him but some people are moving too, and suddenly there’s a familiar presence at his back, and an imposing one at his side, and bright Voices surround him in an instant.

Rockstar is guarding his back, saber drawn and Voice still locked down tightly, and Newgate has finally gotten off his ass except that instead of making his way back to his crew and his anxious children the Earthshaker has decided to stand on Buggy’s left, like an equal, and that is a mindfuck and a half and yet another thing that Buggy will endeavour not to think about until he’s out of there. Because the implications are mind boggling and terrifying and Buggy does not need to add that to his pile of things to freak out about, thank you very much.

Then there’s the commanders too, Namur and Flower Sword Vista and Diamond Jozu and Water Buffalo Atmos and Izo and Haruta - some of whom Buggy had met way back then when he was still sailing with the Oro Jackson, others who had gained their captaincy in more recent years and that he only knows about from reading the newspapers and checking out the new bounty posters - all taking positions around him, and Jimbei and Ivankov and fuck, he knows he has just saved Firefist and Phoenix and Strawhat but why are they doing this? Why have they decided to protect him when he has given them the perfect opening to grab their people and get the hell out of here?


 

(It’s not that he’s complaining about the fact that they’ve apparently decided to protect him, because he was very much not looking forward to facing down the furious looking Sengoku all by himself, it’s just that…)

(He’s not used to people protecting him anymore.)

(Except for Shanks, because it’s Shanks , and that’s why he isn’t too surprised to find Rockstar at his back even if part of him wants to yell at the man for putting himself in the limelight because of him, even if part of him is panicking because this is Shanks’s nakama and if he gets hurt or worse protecting him Buggy will never forgive himself.)

(But Buggy has never had so many people stepping between him and danger since he was still in the single digits and learning his way around a ship, since Gol D.Roger still shook the very seas with his existence, since Buggy still believed that his captain would always be there to protect him.)


 

There’s a shift behind him, deliberately loud enough to shake him out of his thoughts, and Buggy is not surprised that Rockstar is the one to speak first, voice deliberately pitched low enough that he’s the only one who can hear him despite his newfound entourage.

“Are you okay, Captain Buggy?”

And Buggy has to smother a laugh at that, because really? That was the best Rockstar could come up with?

“What do you think, brat?” He replies sharply, eyes not leaving the seething form of the Fleet Admiral of the Marine.

A self-deprecating laugh.

“Yeah, that was a stupid question, wasn’t it? Urgh, Okashira is probably flipping his lid right now…”

“Tell me about it,” Buggy groans, because this, this he can do. “Freaking mother hen is never going to let me live this down…”

Shanks is never going to let him out of his sight again after this and to be honest right now Buggy does not see a single thing wrong with that.

Because Shanks is Shanks , is safety , is home and everything that implies, and right now Buggy needs him more than he needs the air he’s breathing.

“He’s going to slaughter anyone standing in his way until he gets there,” Rockstar cheerfully agrees, though there’s a darkly satisfied edge to his voice. “I will be very surprised if there’s anything left of this island once he’s through with it.”

Because Shanks is nothing if not an overprotective bastard who does not take lightly to his precious people being threatened. Buggy would wonder where he got that from, except he knows it all too well.

(He was there, after all)


(Shanks got it from a gutter in a dirty city on a crowded island, from learning the hard way that if you couldn’t protect something it would be taken from you.)

(Shanks got it from the gutter, but he honed it by watching a man that was bigger than life itself when he stood between those who were his and those who would harm them, by watching as their father captain slaughtered an entire army after three of the generals tried to force themselves upon the children he had chosen as his. )

(Shanks honed it by watching Gol D. Roger, but he mastered it after the man’s head hit the ground, after the crew that was supposed to care for them abandoned them instead, after the world decided that Gol D. Roger’s legacies would not be tolerated any longer.)


“He’s such a drama queen,” He whines instead, because bantering like this is familiar, is easy enough that he can do it without thinking, but engaging that it distracts him from his impending freak-out nonetheless. “He won’t let us hear the end of it for leaving him out of the fun.”

There’s a low rumble from next to him, from the tall figure Buggy had been doing his very best to ignore up until now.

“I take it your captain is on his way as well, brat?” Edward Newgate asks Rockstar.

“Duh.” Said pirate deadpans. “Firefist is Luffy’s brother. There was no way Okashira was going to stay out of this, if only so he could tell you that he fucking told you so .”

Buggy wants to facepalm at that, he really does. And here he had thought that Rockstar was one of the more level headed ones… well, compared to the rest of that crew he might be, but that bar is very low . Benn Beckman doesn’t count. Buggy is still low-key certain that the man must have been a saint in a previous life for managing to both put up with and keep that particular band of idiots alive and in one piece for so long.

Pun not intended.

Thankfully, Newgate doesn’t take offence to that, or at least not outwardly. His Voice is agitated enough that Buggy can’t make out the specifics, but at least the anger he’s currently feeling is not directed at either of them.

Good. Buggy would much rather avoid getting in an actual fight with an Emperor on top of all the bullshit that happened to him today.

“Garararara!” The man guffaws instead, because of fucking course he would. Ugh. Fucking monsters and their fucking unpredictable behaviour: they’re giving him a migraine just to think about it. Thank Davy Jones Newgate wasn’t a D. on top of that: the man is bad enough as it is. “You’ve got guts, brat, I will give you that. Better watch that mouth of yours, though, it will get you in trouble one day, no doubt about that!”

“I will take that under consideration, old man,” Rockstar replies cheekily, and Buggy sighs.

“How does Benn put up with you?” He asks wearily.

“Alcohol. Loads and loads of alcohol,” Rockstar grins, and Buggy is about to snark back when he is interrupted.

“Doke no Buggy.”

Buggy does not freeze as Whitebeard addresses him directly for the second time that day, but it’s a close thing. Especially since this is probably the first time in his entire life that the man has called him by his actual name.

“Newgate.”

The old man isn’t looking at him, both of them keeping their eyes locked on the platform where Sengoku is finally starting to move, barking orders left and right as he tries to shake his men out of their shock.

“You saved my precious sons’ lives. You have my thanks.”

There’s the faintest rustle of movement, and Buggy’s haki is supplying him with the information before he can even register it.

Edward Newgate is inclining his head respectfully towards him, the closest to a formal bow a man of his position will ever come to.

“I didn’t do it for you ,” Buggy snaps at him, because he does not need the added complication of earning an Emperor’s respect on top of everything he’s already dealing with.

(He knows he's already got the respect of the only Yonkou he cares about. Better yet, knows he's got the friendship of the only Yonkou worth a damn and that's more than enough for him.)

“I just didn’t want to deal with Shanks’s whining if his protege got himself killed on my watch! Or with Blackjack Fucking D. Rouge fighting her way out of Davy Jones’ locker to kill me herself if I allowed her son to die without even trying to save him!”

He shudders at the very thought.

(Because he does not for a single moment doubt that she would be capable of doing so.)

(The woman had been terrifying in life, he does not doubt that she is even worse in death and he’s not signing himself up for being haunted by that particular menace, thank you very much!)


(He doesn't say it, but he did it for Captain too, not for the pirate king but for the man who let him hide in his cabin when he was scared, for the man who stood between him and danger more than once, who held him when he had nightmares and rocked him back to sleep when he woke up screaming , who would have loathed what has become of the world, how the marines slaughtered children in the name of riding the seas of his legacy, how they hunted down his apprentices because they couldn't kill him twice.)

(He did it for Ace, for the boy who grew up knowing the world wanted him dead, who fought to earn himself a family when it should have been a given, who finally found one only for the marines to attempt to rip him away for him, for the boy who just wanted to know that he deserved to live .)

(He did it for Shanks, for the brat his friend took under his wing but also for the brat his friend used to be, all of fourteen and trying to make a brave face as his world crumbled around him, left behind by those who should have protected him and hunted by those who wanted him dead, for the broken teenager who fought tooth and nail to keep what little he had left, who pieced himself back together as best as he could, who rose to the top through desperation tinted determination, who hasn't been sober in two decades because old scars hurt the longest.)

(He did it for himself, for the five year old boy who was left to die in a gutter, for the seven years old thief who found himself a father to love him captain to follow, for the eight years old cabin brat who cried when he realised his father captain was dying , for the ten years old apprentice who crawled in his father's captain's arms and sobbed after the Edd War, for the twelve years old pirate who saw Raftel and too much and hid in his father's captain's cabin until the world made something vaguely resembling sense again, for the twelve years old child who watched his father captain walk away and knew they would never talk again, for the fourteen years old orphan who watched as they beheaded his father captain and could do nothing , for the teenager that was thrown to the wolves with only his best friend for company and barely made it, who shattered in so many pieces it's a miracle he managed to put himself together again, for the young adult who found himself all alone and burned-and-drowned and still doesn't know how he survived, for the man he is today, because he can be the adult he wishes he had had back then and he refuses to fail like his crew failed him .)


 

Newgate laughs again, and Buggy is sorely tempted to kick him in the shin, no matter how childish the urge. It’s about the only part of the man can reach without detaching his limbs, and he’s not weakening himself for any reason right now.

“Aye, she would, wouldn’t she? Though I do believe her crew is currently enjoying giving the marines a reminder of just why they shouldn’t have erased their captain from the narrative.”

Buggy winces at the thought, even as he finds himself checking the whereabouts of those particular hellions with his Observation Haki, relaxing only minutely when he locates them closer to the edge of the plaza, far away from him, wreaking havoc and keeping the remaining Shichibukai busy as they make for the Black Maria now that Firefist has been extracted from the battlefield. Which coincidentally means that the Shichibukai are far away from him , so that's two birds in one stone and he's definitely not complaining.

Then he gapes when something elses registers to his senses.

Is that…

Yes, it is a ship running on the fucking plaza , paddles working as legs to move across the stone as easily as across the waves, mowing through the assembled marines who had only just begun gathering their wits again.

And there’s people standing on top of the bloody thing, because of course they are, and of fucking course it has to be Vortex Spider Squardo and his crew, because that’s his life now.

“For the record,” Buggy states, voice completely flat. “Your kids are insane , Newgate.”

There’s no reply from the Strongest Man in the World, but the way his Voice twists and turns when Squardo opens his mouth is answer enough.

Fucking Whitebeards. Fucking over dramatic bastards, it's a freaking miracle that there's only one D. in the lot because they're certainly all acting like one.

(Roger would have been howling with laughter right now, Buggy thinks, as it's both nostalgic and bitter.)

(Fucking D.'s!)

“Old man! Please let everyone get away! We'll undertake this battlefield!”

“Squardo!” Another Shirohige pirate screams. “It's the Maelstrom spider pirates! Those bastards... Don't be a fool Squardo! Do you have a death wish?”

More like a guilt eating him alive, Buggy muses even as he keeps his attention focused on the execution platform where he can literally feel Sengoku’s blood pressure rise by the second. Idly, he wonders if he might be lucky enough to have the Gensui die of a heart attack on the spot. That would certainly make things a lot easier, and that one he could definitely shift the blame off onto the Shirohige. Then again, with the way his luck has been yanking him around lately, he probably shouldn't count on it. Too bad.

“Hell yeah I do, after what I did to the old man! Even if it doesn't atone for my sins! This is the only thing that will satisfy me! You have Ace, now get outta here, everyone!”

Called it, Buggy sighs. Idiot. As if Newgate is going to let him do something like that, stupid bleeding heart that he is.

And yep, there the man goes, standing even taller than before as he stops the ship with one hand and bellows for the world to hear.

“Do you know how disobedient it is for a child to die before his father? Don't you get it, Squardo? Don't be so full of yourself! That little stab of yours didn't shake my life one bit! Everyone has their own life span... We've done what we came for. Now, there's no more reason for us to be here! What I am about to tell you now... is my final "captain's order"! Listen carefully, Whitebeard pirates!”


Aaaand now Buggy wishes he could turn off his hearing because he does not need to hear this.

(Because this is what he never got the chance to hear from his own father captain’s mouth)

(Because this is bringing back images of another scaffold, of another man standing before his crew as Death walks beside him, of a one last burst of Haki that washed over him and carried things forever left unsaid)

(Because Gol D.Roger never got to give his final captain’s order and Buggy still hates him for it.)


“Final... wait a minute old man! Don't say such a thing!”

“We don't wanna hear stuff like that!”

“We're all going to return to the New World together, right!?”


 

(Because those are words Buggy never got to say, because his father captain promised he would come back and never did.)

(Because Buggy’s grief has never quite abated, and the despair and sorrow in the Shirohige’s Voices only serves to fan its flames.)

(Because Buggy can’t afford to turn down his Observation Haki and so has to keep feeling everything they do.)


 

“Old man!” And that’s Firefist Voice, and he’s easy to find, clinging to the Piece of Spadille’s railing even as those eerily identical triplets hold him back.

“This is where you and I split up!” Newgate proclaims, standing proud with his back to his children, a testament to the strength of an Era that will not go quietly into the night. “Every single one of you! Stay alive at all costs! Return to the New World in one piece!”

“O... Old man?! You're planning on dying here?”

Of course he is, Buggy wants to scream. He has been dying for months if not years already, has been holding on because he could not bear to abandon his children, but if the choice is between his life and his children? This is Edward Newgate, for fuck’s sake. There is no way he would chose his own life over theirs.


 

Buggy really, really wants to punch him. The old man had had the perfect opportunity to leave with his children and he had wasted it, and Buggy is seething .

(Can’t he see that they need him? Can’t he see that they’re not ready to be left on their own? Can’t he see that they’re not ready to live in a world without him?)

(Can’t he see that he’s hurting them?)


“I'm a remnant of my era! There ain't no ship that's going to carry me out to the new one! Go on! All you bastards!”

“Nooo! Old Maaaaaaan!”


Their pain is resonating all around him, and Buggy has to brace himself, to ground himself by focusing on Rockstar’s steady presence behind him, on the hints of Shanks’ haki that still cling to the man, to avoid drowning in it. Rockstar, thankfully, notices it and presses closer, their backs touching, the contact one more anchor to stop Buggy from losing it.

(Second favourite for a reason.)


“That's a captain's order! Get outta here!”

“Uncle?!” And that’s Strawhat, awake again despite his previous loss of consciousness because D's are bullshit like that, clinging to Firefist’s arm even as he stares at Newgate.

“Old Man!”

Newgate looks over the battlefield, over the marines who are scrambling to get back into something resembling order, and Buggy takes a deep breath and steadies himself. He knows that tense set in the man’s shoulders, recognises it from his own captain, knows that there’s a speech coming and that he needs to be ready for it.

“Whitebeard!” Sengoku roars, recognising the signs as well and trying to stop it before it can start.

But Newgate is not called the Earthshaker for nothing, and nothing can stop a tsunami once it has begun.

“This ended up being one hell of a long journey... What do you say we settle things once and for all... marines!”

“Pops!”

“Don't leave us alone, Pops! Let's go back together! Pops!”


Buggy breathes deeply, in and out and in and out again, chases the images of the last time his captain stood on the Oro Jackson and told them he was leaving.


“Did you not hear it is a captain's order?! Go now! Idiots!”

They’re crying and sobbing and screaming, but the Shirohige obey their captain, running back towards their remaining ships, the commanders the only exception as they hold their ground around Buggy and Newgate, while the marines are still reeling from the many shocks that have been thrown their way today.

“Hurry! Follow Pop's words! Pops!”

“OYAJI!” Firefist is not giving up, screaming for his father at the top of his lungs, and Buggy’s heart breaks a little more.


(He had wanted to scream so badly, that day, but he couldn't, couldn't risk the marines recognizing them, had bitten his lips so badly he had pierced the skin, can still feel the scar in his mouth, to stop himself from making a single sound, torrents of tears rolling down his face.)

(He never got the chance to scream his grief rage pain anger fury loss loneliness . )

(He still feels like screaming now.)


 

Newgate chuckles, and both of his voices are tinged with the deep love he has for his children.


(One last wave of haki, rushing over him even as the swords come down, one last wave full of love and pride and then nothing.)


“No need to speak. Just answer me one question, Ace... Am I... a good father?”


(A good father doesn’t die in front of his kids, Buggy wants to yell. A good father recognizes that his life stopped belonging to him the day he agreed to take in a couple of street rats over a hundred souls and call them his .)

(A good father doesn’t leave his children with the guilt of not being able to save him.)


“Of course!” Ace roars back, and there’s tears in that voice and he feels so much that it’s all Buggy can do not to break down then and there. Guilt and grief and sorrow and self-loathing, and it’s too much .

“Gurararara!” Newgate laughs, and the pride he feels for his children is enough to at least buffer Buggy somewhat, steadies him enough to notice that Sengoku is done waiting and has taken matters in his own hands, is jumping down from the platform and rushing straight towards them - no, not them, towards him , because Buggy is the one who just killed an admiral and interrupted the execution of the Pirate King’s son so of course he has to die first.

And Sengoku is not the only one moving, Buggy can feel Crocus and Rayleigh and Gulliver and Seagull fight their way through the crowd and there are bullets raining down the sky in Sengoku’s path and Buggy does not know how to react because why why now why do they suddenly care but then Newgate is moving to, warping the air in front of him and collapsing buildings by the dozen.

“You’re as much of a relic as I am, Sengoku!” The Earth-shaker calls out. “At least have the guts to fight someone from your Era!”

A second later, Sengoku is back in full Buddha mode and Newgate is laughing like the lunatic he is as he raises his bisento.

Urgh. Fucking Monsters. But far be it for Buggy to step in if the two biggest monsters currently on the battlefield want to fight each other.

 

No.

 

Not the two biggest monsters.

 

There’s another one, hiding behind the tower behind the scaffold, and Buggy has never met him before but some of the Voices around him he recognises from his time in Impel Down and he very much wishes he didn’t.

Because there’s one man who should have been there since the beginning and yet hasn’t shown himself yet, one man who was dangerous enough to put three scars across Shanks’ face, one man without whom none of this would be happening.

Marshall D. Teach. The false D., Shanks had called him, and his Voice feels slimy and slippery, dark and twisted and it makes Buggy feel sick just from glancing at it from a distance.

They've been there for a short while now, not since the start though, but as they've been content to just watch until now Buggy had kept a metaphorical eye on them and focused on more urgent matters. But they are getting agitated, bloodlust tinging their Voices, and he can't afford to ignore them any longer.


“We seem to have uninvited guests,” Buggy warns because Newgate needs to know about this if he hasn’t felt them yet, just as Crocus comes to a stop a few steps away from him, joined seconds later by Rayleigh, Seagull and Scopper Gaban appearing on his other side.

Every single one of them is staring at him like they've never seen him before, like they want to grab him and shake him and ask him a thousand questions.

Buggy ignores them, focuses on the cluster of Voices that is now stepping up onto the scaffold proper instead.

(He is so not dealing with that right now. )

(Nope nope nope.)

(He has more important things to focus on.)

(Chief amongst them the group of monsters coming into sight.)


“Oh? So someone finally noticed us?” Someone guwaffs. “Aren’t you an interesting one?”

Buggy feels Rockstar tense at his back, feels the cold fury that courses through Newgate's veins, and braces himself for the fallout.

Great. Fucking great.

Marshall Fucking D. Teach finds him interesting . And just when he thought this day couldn’t possibly get worse, too!

He does not need that kind of attention Davy Jones damn it!

Firefist’s Voice is a roaring inferno, but thankfully Buggy can also feel the Voices of the boy’s crew around him, physically restraining him, and Strawhat is obviously in no condition to get back to the battlefield if only because there’s a giant cat sitting on him making sure he’s going nowhere. Good. One less thing to worry about. Blackbeard defeated the brat once already, no need for Firefist to go and get himself captured again.

There’s a giant hiding behind one of the now destroyed towers, and a rag-tag group of pirates standing on the scaffold and looking down at them. Buggy recognises most of them, from their wanted posters and the rumors in Impel Down, and he has to repress the urge to take a step back.

Fuck fuck fuck fuck!


‘The Supersonic’ Van Augur, a tall man with a weird hat, cape and a rifle on his shoulder. One of the best snipers in the world, probably on par with Benn Beckmann and Yasopp, loath as Shanks would be to admit it.

Jesus Burgess, a mountain of a man and a wrestler with the habit of throwing buildings at people when bored.

A guy in a tap dancing outfit, eerily pale and smiling like one of those damn mimes that Buggy hates, complete with top hat and wooden cane.

A sickly looking old man wielding a double bladed scythe who Buggy doesn’t recognise either, sitting on a horse of all things.

Shiryu of the Rain, the former head jailer whose horrors stories had been amongst the first Buggy had heard when he arrived at Impel Down, in uniform and smoking a cigar with no care in the world, one hand on the pommel of the sword hanging at his side.

‘Colossal Battleship’ Sanjuan Wolf, ‘Heavy Drinker’ Vasco Shot, ‘Crescent Moon Hunter’ Catarina Devon, ‘Corrupt King’ Avalo Pizarro.

Fuck, but Blackbeard had recruited monsters. And this time Buggy means it literally. Those people had been erased from history for a reason, even the pirates who remembered them, few as they were because the marines had been very thorough, were glad to see them behind bars for Davy Jones’ sake!

And their fucking captain should have been locked up in the deepest level of Hell too! This might be the first time Buggy sees the man in person, but he’s just as creepy as Shanks described him. Buggy needs a fucking shower just from being on the same island as him, that's how disgusting the man’s aura is.


Beside him, the two behemoths have stopped their fight. Sengoku is yelling at his subordinates, wanting to find out how the hell the Blackbeards had managed to get inside Marineford without anyone noticing, as if that is the most important thing to worry about right now, but at least that means that the Gensui has moved away from Buggy, which is good news, and Newgate has gone completely still as he glares at Blackbeard in a way that’s terrifyingly reminiscent of Captain’s expression right before he mowed through an entire army on his apprentices’ behalfs.

(It’s simultaneously reassuring and terrifying.)

( Fuck but Buggy misses him)


“Hahahaha! Long time no see! Sure am glad I was able to make it in time to see you die, Old Man!”

Fucking D.’s. Especially this one.

No fucking self preservation instincts and being an asshole like that should have meant that evolution would have made sure that he wouldn’t survive to adulthood, but noooo, D’s are too fucked up for even Darwin’s laws to have any effect on them.

Fucking D.’s.


“Teach!” Newgate roars . “You are the only scum I would never call my son, Teach! You broke the one and only iron-clad rule on my ships... you killed your Nakama!”

Buggy feels his blood boil again at the mention of Teach’s crimes. Nakama-killers… the Rogers had left him behind and never looked back, but at least they had never actively tried to kill him ( a door slamming shut even as he begs for help doesn’t count ) . To betray his comrades, especially in a crew as tight-knit as the Shirohige, where they are more than nakamas, they are family

Well. If Buggy thought he had a chance and was stupid enough to step between a furious Newgate and the man who killed one of his children, he might have tried to take his own pound of flesh out of the bastard’s hide. The other commanders certainly look like they want to try, from the way two of them have to physically restrain the Phoenix to keep him from rushing at the traitor.

“Don't you interfere, Marco!” the cross-dresser from Wano, Izou, reminds the first division commander.

“In the Fourth Fleet's Commander's Thatch name, I'll take this idiot's life and settle things myself!” Newgate proclaims, and Buggy uses the distraction to try and slip away from the centre of attention, Rockstar staying close to him.

It’s harder than it should have been, because everyone just witnessed him execute a fucking admiral moments ago, but Buggy is willing to take whatever he can get at this point.


He keeps an eye on the advancing enemy, but his attention is quickly caught by something at the edge of his range, something moving very fast and straight towards him , and he does his best to repress the overwhelming surge of relief that runs through him as he recognises that Voice.

Shanks Shanks SHANKS ShAnKs sHaNkS

He is there he is he here i am not alone not anymore not this time thank whoever is up there


“Zehahahaha!” Teach laughs, forcing Buggy to focus on him again as he jumps down from the platform, narrowly escaping its collapse as Newgate’s attack hit it straight on. “That's what I was hoping for! Black hole !" he shouts, sprouting dark shadows that engulf the ground as he lands. “Thatch died... and Ace nearly died too, didn't he, old man! From the bottom of my heart, I respected you and I aspired after you, but you've gotten old! You couldn't even save one member of your crew from being executed, could you? Even though I brought him here from Banaro island alive! You had to rely on an outsider to do it for you!”

Teach pauses, ducks under Whitebeard’s swing, and then continues.

“A very surprising Outsider at that Zehahahahaha! How does it feel, Old Man? To be unable to save one of your men, again , and have to watch as Roger’s left-over did the work for you? And not even one of the famous ones!”

Buggy sees red at that, because he is no one’s leftover damn it , he might not have wanted to be as famous as the rest of his crew but he is his own person, not just an offshoot of Gol D. Roger and...

“Mind you, that Devil Fruit of his is really interesting, I wouldn’t mind taking a better look at it!”

And then Buggy is backing away as fast as he can because Blackbeard has switched target and his men have spread out around him, preventing anyone from coming to his help, even Rockstar who is facing off against the Corrupt King himself, and Blackbeard is nearly on him, dark shadows curling around his hands and Buggy should be freaking out but he isn’t because...


(He isn’t alone anymore)

(This is still a clusterfuck and he still hates it and he’s still on the cusp of a breakdown but)

(Shanks is here.)

(And Shanks is safety is home is Shanks is there and Buggy finally feels like he can finally breathe .)


A presence, warm and comforting wrapping itself around him even as it slams into the people around him like a tsunami, bowling them over, pressing them into the ground through sheer pressure, felling the weaker marines in one blow and leaving only the vice-admirals and higher standing. There’s rage and worry and fierce protectiveness all mixed together, a whirlwind of emotions condensed into a titanium Will that will tolerate no opposition.


(The world sees Shanks and they don’t think dangerous . They see him and they think drunk harmless ridiculous how the hell did he become a Yonko? )

(They don’t see the Emperor, they see a fool and a joke but the joke’s on them.)

(Just because Shanks rarely shows it doesn’t mean he’s not capable of being completely ruthless when he deems it necessary.)

(And if there’s one thing Shanks has managed to get through Buggy’s hard skull in all the years they have known each other, it’s that Buggy being threatened is a sure way of bringing the Emperor to the forefront.)

(Gol D. Roger may have been the Pirate King , content to do what he wanted and bringing his crew along for the ride, but Akagami no Shanks is an Emperor , a conqueror hidden under an easy going facade, and he will guard his Empire with all his might.)


A familiar Voice curling around him and Rockstar, shielding them from its effects as red and black and silver fly over him, landing noiselessly between Buggy and Blackbeard, followed seconds later by the deafening thud of a severed arm hitting the ground as a sabre flashes through the air.

Akagami No Shanks is standing between Buggy and the man who had been aiming for him, his Voice a mess of fury and worry and anger and guilt and protectiveness, screaming mine mine mine don’t you dare touch them they are MINE and Buggy knows that Shanks too is hovering on the edge, can read him perfectly despite the cold facade his friend is putting on, knows that this is the first time in over two decades that Shanks is completely sober , knows just what kind of toll that must be taking out of him, knows that they’re both going to shatter once this is over, but that’s okay because they’re Shanks-and-Buggy and Buggy-and-Shanks, and they have survived worse things, have made it through hell and walked out bleeding and battered but alive and they know how to put each other together again.

They will be alright.


Buggy can feel the shock radiating off everyone on the plaza, the resignation coming from a certain sword wielding asshole Shichibukai as he turns around and makes for where his ship is moored on the other side of the island, refusing to even entertain the idea of fighting against Shanks because he’s an ableist asshole who thinks that just because Shanks lost an arm means that he’s not a swordsman anymore and Buggy knows he’s rambling in his own head, high on relief and hysteria as he takes in the strong back of his best friend, the brilliant red hair, the crimson blood on the haki-glistening sword, the shell-shocked gaping form of Blackbeard as he stares at the stump where his arm used to be, sliced off cleanly halfway between elbow and shoulder, not quite comprehending what just happened.


(Shanks just happened.)

(Buggy is so relieved he feels like he could burst into laughter. Or tears. Either or.)

(It’s been that kind of day.)


 

There’s a smattering of familiar new Voices dashing towards them, still at the edge of his range - and fuck but did Shanks ditch them and use Soru and Geppo to get here faster? Buggy wouldn't put it past his friend right now -  but Shanks’s sheer presence muffles them, wraps around them and hides them with his own, making it hard for anyone not as sensitive to Haki as Buggy is to pinpoint their exact location.

Not that anyone is trying, too busy staring at the Yonkou that appeared out of nowhere.


“Where I’m from, we look with our eyes, not with our hands, Marshall D. Teach ,” a cold voice states as the dust settles. “Forget yourself again and lose the other one.”

Despite himself, Buggy finds himself grinning widely.

You always have to make an entrance, don’t you?

(And if his smile is a bit watery on the edges, well.)

(Who gives a damn?)

Chapter Text

Wir treiben die Beute mit fliegenden Segeln,

wir jagen sie weit auf das endlose Meer.

Wir stürzen auf Deck und wir kämpfen wie Löwen,

hei unser der Sieg, viel Feinde, viel Ehr!

 

(We chase the prey with flying sails,

We hunt her over the endless sea.

We board her and we fight like lions,

Here our victory, many enemies, much honour!)

(Wir lieben die Stürme)


Behind him, Benn is barking orders, preparing the ship for resurfacing.

But Shanks doesn't take his eyes away from the screen, from Buggy who is standing tall against the world, alone for only a couple of seconds before Rockstar suddenly appears behind him, and in any other circumstances Shanks would be annoyed that his spymaster revealed himself so casually, but these are not not any other circumstances and all Shanks can feel is relief that someone he trusts has Buggy's back.

Of course Shanks can't actually see his nakama, or his friend, what with the visual denden facing the other way, but he would recognise the sound of Rockstar's sabre being drawn anywhere. Then the denden turns around slightly, and Shanks draws in a breath at the sight. Newgate is standing on Buggy's left, level with him, neither in front of him nor behind him, but next to him like an equal , and Newgate's commanders are there too, and Jimbei and Ivankov, all of them forming a barrier around Buggy.

Fuck. Buggy must hate this, Shanks knows, even as Shanks himself is bursting with relief that someone is looking out for Buggy until he gets there.


(He knows Buggy, knows how little he values himself despite all of Shanks effort to prove him wrong.)

(Knows how much Buggy hates being in the limelight, how hard he'd worked to build up his image of an eccentric but ultimately unthreatening pirate, easily forgettable, not worth the trouble of hunting down.)

(He knows why, too, and that's why he knows that Buggy is hating himself for this, for bringing this kind of attention upon himself, upon his crew, and why all those big name pirates taking a stand around him is not helping. )

(Shanks knows all this, but right now he's mostly relieved that Buggy is not standing alone until he gets there.)


“Are you okay, Captain Buggy?”

Rockstar. Shanks wants to smile. Trust his nakama to ask after Buggy's wellbeing despite the obvious.

“What do you think, brat?” Buggy's voice is sharp, even as the denden remains focused on the Gensui.

A self-deprecating laugh.

“Yeah, that was a stupid question, wasn’t it? Urgh, Okashira is probably flipping his lid right now…”

This time, Shanks does laugh. It's tense and harsh, but he does, because of course Rockstar would say that while on live denden. Of course.

“Tell me about it,” Buggy groans in reply. “Freaking mother hen is never going to let me live this down…”

Buggy's tone is wry, not quite as tense as it was moments ago, and Shanks is so glad that Rockstar is so good at distracting panicked people without looking like that's what he's doing.

(Davy Jones knows his crew has had practice over the years.)

He still needs to be there yesterday , but at least Rockstar will prevent Buggy from getting stuck in his own head until then. Shanks will take what he can at this point.

“He’s going to slaughter anyone standing in his way until he gets there,” Rockstar cheerfully agrees, though there’s a darkly satisfied edge to his voice. “I will be very surprised if there’s anything left of this island once he’s through with it.”

His nakama knows him so well, Shanks muses, fingers clenching on the hilt of his sword. Anything happens to these two, or to Ace and Luffy, before he gets there and heads will roll.


(Once, Shanks had been scared of himself, of how angry he could get, of how ruthless he became when something threatened what he held dear. He'd tried to bury that part of him, to never let it see the light of day again, because for all that he had loved Roger like a father the man had been utterly terrifying when angry and back then Shanks hadn't wanted, hadn't needed to be terrifying, because Roger had been there to protect them.)

(And then Captain was gone gone gone and the others left them behind and they were being hunted and then Shanks had lost Buggy and Shanks had never ever wanted to go through this again and so he had learned how to be ruthless, had unleashed that darker part of him when it was needed and played the foolish drunkard when it wasn’t, to make sure people underestimated him until the moment they fell to his blade.)

(Shanks had learned ruthlessness at Gol D. Roger's knee, but he had learned subtlety at Boke no Buggy's side.)


“He’s such a drama queen,” Buggy whines, and this time Shanks' chuckle is lighter because that's an insult they've been trading back and forth for three decades now. “He won’t let us hear the end of it for leaving him out of the fun.”

More like he's never letting any of them out of his sight ever again if this is the kind of bullshit that finds them when they're not actively looking for it, Davy Jones be damned. He's going to maim Monkey D. Garp for this.

There’s a low rumble from the left of the denden, a familiar chuckle that makes Shanks want to strangle a man for his stupid pride and stubbornness.

All of this could have been avoided if Newgate had just listened , sea damn it!

“I take it your captain is on his way as well, brat?” Edward Newgate asks Rockstar.

“Duh.” Shanks' spymaster deadpans, because Shanks' nakama had not taken Newgate's attitude towards him well at all and was more than willing to make it known. “Firefist is Luffy’s brother. There was no way Okashira was going to stay out of this, if only so he could tell you that he fucking told you so .”

Shanks hears Buggy's groan even as chuckles erupt around him, his men laughing even as they hurry around the ship.

"You tell him, Rockstar!" Yasopp yells even he makes for the crow's nest, the sniper taking position to be ready to shoot once they break the water.

Behind him, Benn sighs, longsufferingly, and Shanks knows without looking that his first mate is desperately wishing for a cigarette right now.

Newgate, meanwhile, simply throws his head back and laughs, because that's the kind of man he is and usually his reluctance to take personal insult is something Shanks admires in the old man.

Right now, though, he desperately wants to punch said old man in the face for being too damn prideful and letting this happen in the first place. Ugh. At least the kids are safely away for now. How long that's gonna last when it's not one but two D's they're talking about here is anyone's guess

“Garararara!” Newgate guwaffes. “You’ve got guts, brat, I will give you that. Better watch that mouth of yours, though, it will get you in trouble one day, no doubt about that!”

“I will take that under consideration, old man,” Rockstar replies cheekily, and Benn sighs again, just as Buggy speaks up.

“How does Benn put up with you?”

“Alcohol. Loads and loads of alcohol,” Rockstar replies before Benn can do more than glare at the screen, and then Whitebeard is talking again and this time it's not Rockstar who he's addressing.

“Doke no Buggy.”

“Newgate.”

The Denden turns its head again, focusing on the behemoth of a man standing next to Shanks' best friend.

Newgate isn't looking at Buggy, hasn't taken his eyes off the execution platform where Sengoku is apparently starting to make his move.

“You saved my precious sons’ lives. You have my thanks.”

And, in front of the denden, in front of the marines, in front of the world , Newgate inclines his head respectfully toward Buggy.


Emperors do not bow, not to anyone, but this is the closest thing to a formal bow any of them has ever given, and Newgate is doing it towards Buggy . Towards one of Gol D. Roger's cabin brats , of all things, when he had been deriding Shanks not half a year ago.

Hu. Looks like you could teach an old dog new tricks, after all. Who knew?


“I didn’t do it for you ,” Shanks hears Buggy snap, and knows from the tone of his voice alone that Buggy is just. Completely done with all of this.

His best friend has just won the respect of the oldest Emperor still sailing the seas and he hates it . Hates it because it will bring even more attention upon him, even more people gunning for his head, and Buggy had worked so hard to be invisible, just one low level pirate amongst many, and all his hard work has just gone up in smoke.

“Benn.” Shanks speaks up, the single word heavy in his mouth.

“Got it, Captain.”

Buggy’s crew would need all the protection the Akagami could give them until Buggy figured out what he was going to do. And afterwards, because the Akagami do not abandon their allies. And they are allies, have been since the very beginning for all that they operate in completely different weight classes.

“I just didn’t want to deal with Shanks’s whining if his protege got himself killed on my watch! Or with Blackjack Fucking D. Rouge fighting her way out of Davy Jones’ locker to kill me herself if I allowed her son to die without even trying to save him!”


Shanks represses a shudder at that. Yeah, no, he doesn’t doubt for a single second that if anyone were able to bust out of the Flying Dutchman to wreak havoc on anyone who hurt her son, it would be Blackjack Fucking D. Rouge.

How in the seven seas had Captain managed to convince her to put up with him? How? The woman had been a menace of the highest order, a D. in all the worst ways for all that she was surprisingly reasonable most of the time, and she had been so much out of his Captain’s league that it wasn’t even funny anymore, it had been flat-out hilarious to watch her turn his frankly ridiculous advances down with no mercy!

Okay, so maybe Shanks is secretly wishing that she would break out of the Flying Dutchman to kick ass and take names because there are a few people on that plaza who definitely deserve it.

(Garp.)

(Sengoku.)

(Newgate himself.)

Plus, if she broke out odds are Captain would follow her and that…

Shanks inhales.

(That would be… something. He’s not quite sure what but…)

(Having a chance to say goodbye? Finally, twenty-two years too late, getting the chance to tell Captain all the things that he hadn’t been able to back then?)

(Beating his moron of a father captain black and blue for dying on them?)

(Hugging him, one last time?)

(Looking him straight in the eyes and telling him just how much his death had hurt , how it had destroyed them, how the rest of the crew had left them behind without a word ?)

(Actually telling him that he had been Shanks' and Buggy's father in all but blood, that they had certainly loved him like one and grieved him like one?)0

(There are a lot of things Shanks would tell Captain if he had the chance.)

(He never got to say any of them, and he’ll never forgive Gol D. Roger for that.)


Shanks exhales, slowly, eyes still fixed on the screen.

No, Buggy didn’t save the kids for Newgate’s sake. And not just for Shanks’, or to avoid Rouge’s wrath either.

And yes, of course Buggy did it for Captain, for the man who did protect them, for a time, who took them in and taught them and loved them for all that he never said the words out loud, for the man who let them sleep in his cabin for two weeks straight after Edd War, after Raftel , for the man who gave them so much and never asked anything in return, for the man whose death is still a gaping wound in their souls, for the only real father they've ever known, but he didn’t do it just for him.

Buggy did it because Ace and Luffy are children , they are just kids and they didn’t deserve to have the world gunning for them like it did, didn’t deserve to pay for their father’s crimes, either of them.

Buggy did it because he knows exactly how it feels, being hunted down for something you didn’t do, with nowhere and no one to turn to, when you’re still so young, when you should have been protected by the adults around you and yet only found indifference or pain at their hands.

Buggy did it for them, for Shanks and for Buggy himself, two teenagers thrown bleeding into the sea and told to sink or swim when all the sharks in the world were homing in on them, who never had any adult they could rely on after their captain’s head hit the ground, who swore to Davy Jones and to the Seas that they would never turn their backs on children who need help, that they would be better than that.


Newgate laughs again, and Shanks really, really want to kick his ass because Newgate doesn’t understand .

“Aye, she would, wouldn’t she? Though I do believe her crew is currently enjoying giving the marines a reminder of just why they shouldn’t have erased their captain from the narrative.”

Shanks has no trouble imagining that, for all that the Denden is facing in the wrong direction. Davy Jones be damned, Shanks is offended on their behalf for that. That was seriously low, even for the marines.

And then the snail is moving its head again and Shanks is treated to the sight of one of the Mini Moby running on the fucking plaza , Vortex Spider Squardo and his crew on top of it, paddles being used as legs as they plow through the assembled marines who look like they can’t believe their eyes.

Fair enough. Right now, neither can Shanks.


“No.” Benn states before he can even ask. “You can’t have one.”

“But…”

“No.”


“For the record,” Buggy states, voice completely flat. “Your kids are insane , Newgate.”

And Shanks has to laugh at that, because yes, they are, they really, really are, and Captain would have been laughing his ass off if he had been here, wouldn’t he?


“Old man! Please let everyone get away! We'll undertake this battlefield!” Squardo yells, and Shanks shakes his head, because yeah, no, that’s not gonna happen, not when Newgate is still alive to stop them. Stubborn bastards, all of them.

“Squardo!” Another Shirohige pirate screams. “It's the Maelstrom spider pirates! Those bastards... Don't be a fool Squardo! Do you have a death wish?”

More than probably, Shanks thinks. This is disturbingly similar to the stunts Captain used to pull shortly before he disbanded the crew, and Shanks knows for a fact that Gol D. Roger had been flirting with Davy Jones at the time, for all that no one else on the crew save for Buggy had been willing to acknowledge it.

“Hell yeah I do, after what I did to the old man! Even if it doesn't atone for my sins! This is the only thing that will satisfy me! You have Ace, now get outta here, everyone!”

Called it, Shanks thinks, watching as Newgate stops the ship with a single hand before tearing his son a new one.

“Do you know how disobedient it is for a child to die before his father? Don't you get it, Squardo? Don't be so full of yourself! That little stab of yours didn't shake my life one bit! Everyone has their own life span... We've done what we came for. Now, there's no more reason for us to be here! What I am about to tell you now... is my final "captain's order"! Listen carefully, Whitebeard pirates!”

Shanks hand closes into a fist, nails digging into his palm. Fuck. Does Newgate really has to do this now, in front of an execution platform and the world, in front of the people who remember all too well the day their own captain stood on one and who didn’t get a chance to hear his final order?

Fuck but he needs to be there yesterday, because if he’s feeling like this while still too fucking far away , how is it for Buggy, stuck at ground zero?

“Final... wait a minute old man! Don't say such a thing!”

“We don't wanna hear stuff like that!”

“We're all going to return to the New World together, right!?”

Shanks holds back a sigh. 

Newgate is getting on the years, Shanks knows that, but it’s more than that. It’s the way that Newgate has slowly but surely stepped back in the past couple of years, giving Marco more and more responsibilities, letting his crew do most of the fighting. It’s the way his doctor has been sticking close to him, the way he had been hooked up to an oxygen cannula when Shanks had stopped by to warn him.

Newgate is dying. Slowly but surely, the old man has been putting his affairs in order, preparing his crew for the inevitable, and that means that Newgate has made his peace with his upcoming death.

But Newgate is also a father and the strongest Man in the world, and too much like Roger in so many ways, and Shanks knows that the man is looking for a way to protect his children while simultaneously going out in a blaze of glory.

Asshole.

His kids don't give a damn about glory: they just want their father to come home with them.

They still might get their wish, if Newgate gets his head out of his ass and steps away.

The Rogers never got that chance.

(Shanks will never forgive Roger for that.)


“Old man!” And that’s Ace's voice, coming from behind Buggy, but the snail doesn't turn this time.

It's fixed on Newgate instead, of the last pillar of an Era that is slowly but surely coming to an end and was never going to go down quietly.

“This is where you and I split up!” Newgate proclaims, standing proud with his back to his children. “Every single one of you! Stay alive at all costs! Return to the New World in one piece!”

Shanks grits his teeth and knows that Buggy is doing the same. Because Newgate doesn't have to stay. Ace is off the battlefield, so are the rest of his children, and the Blackjacks and Rogers are still there, in much better shape than he is, and could cover his retreat of needed.

Newgate could go home with his children if he let go of his fucking pride

“O... Old man?! You're planning on dying here?”

Of course he is, because he's an asshole , Shanks thinks, unwilling to be charitable when he's busy fending off a flashback.

“I'm a remnant of my era! There ain't no ship that's going to carry me out to the new one! Go on! All you bastards!”

“Nooo! Old Maaaaaaan!”

“That's a captain's order! Get outta here!”

“Uncle?!” That's Luffy's voice, recognisable despite the years, and Shanks doesn't know if he's glad that Anchor is well enough to shout or pissed off that the brat is still conscious, despite the state he's no doubt in, and thus liable to head straight back into trouble.

He loves the boy, but the kid has the common sense of a fucking jellyfish.

Fucking D's.

“Old Man!"

The snail is still focused on Newgate, and Shanks catches the tightening of his shoulder, the tension in his frame, and has to bite back a groan.

Death row speech.

Fucking great .


“Whitebeard!” Sengoku roars, no doubt just as familiar with the signs as Shanks and equally unwilling, though for very different reasons, to allow it.

But Newgate is a legend for a fucking reason, and doesn't falter.

“This ended up being one hell of a long journey... What do you say we settle things once and for all... marines!”

“Pops!”

“Don't leave us alone, Pops! Let's go back together! Pops!”

Not even when his children beg him.

Asshole .

(Shanks tries very hard not to think about the fact that his own father captain had not even allowed them to try to change his mind.)

(He has never forgiven Roger for not seeking them out for one last goodbye before handing himself to the marines.)

“Did you not hear it is a captain's order?! Go now! Idiots!”

They’re crying and sobbing and screaming, but the Shirohige obey their captain, running back towards their remaining ships, the commanders the only exception as they hold their ground around Buggy and Newgate, while the marines are still reeling from the many shocks that have been thrown their way today.

“Hurry! Follow Pop's words! Pops!”

“OYAJI!” Ace is not giving up, it seems, and Shanks really really wants to punch Newgate for putting his kids through this, for putting Luffy's brother and his mountains of self worth issues through this. Can he not see that this is going to destroy the boy?

Newgate chuckles, and it's impossibly fond.

“No need to speak. Just answer me one question, Ace... Am I... a good father?”

You would be a much better one if you stayed alive, you old fucker!

“Of course!” Ace roars back, and there’s tears in that voice and fuck but Newgate better not die before Shanks gets a chance to punch in the fucking face .

“Gurararara!” Newgate laughs, and then the snail is turning around, towards the platform where Sengoku has reached the end of his patience and is heading straight towards Buggy .

And Shanks is still too fucking far away!

Thankfully, for all of Shanks's ire with the man, Newgate is quick to step in, using his powers to stop the Buddha's charge.

But not before the denden catches a glance of some of the Rogers rushing to Buggy's side.

If Shanks' wasn't so fucking relieved that someone was standing between Buggy and danger, he would be frothing at the mouth.

Now?! Now they decide to give a damn?


“You’re as much of a relic as I am, Sengoku!” The Earth-shaker calls out. “At least have the guts to fight someone from your Era!”

Sengoku switches back into full Buddha, and Newgate clashes against him second later, laughing like a madman.

(Like Roger used to, in the same situation.)


And then Buggy is talking again just as the Red Force prepares to resurface behind Whitebeard's armada, and the snails switches its focus back to the execution platform and the day takes an even worse turn.

“We seem to have uninvited guests,”

“Oh? So someone finally noticed us?” Someone guwaffs, the voice unfortunately familiar enough that Shanks barely manages to suppress the wave of haki surging inside him as his scars start itching like fire ants crawling under his skin. “Aren’t you an interesting one?”

Marshall Fucking D. Teach.

Marshall fucking D. Teach finds Buggy interesting and that's the last fucking straw.

"Benn."

"Surfacing in thirty seconds!"

"I'll be going ahead."

Benn just nods, knowing him well enough not to ask any more questions.

Shanks keeps half an eye on the screen, focusing on the rapidly approaching water surface even as he quickly take note of the various pirates and former marines standing at Marshall's side.

"Yasopp. Get rid of as many of them as you can once we surface. Headshots."


Those are the worst of the scum of the oceans, not deserving of the title of pirate.

And Shanks is done being merciful.

He is an Emperor, and it looks like it's more than time for him to remind the world of what that means.

(Gol D. Roger may have been the Pirate King , content to do what he wanted and bringing his crew along for the ride, but Akagami no Shanks is an Emperor , a conqueror hidden under an easy going facade, and he will guard his Empire with all his might.)

"Teach is mine if Whitebeard doesn't get rid of him first," he adds, though his crew already knew that.

Teach is the one who handed Ace to the Marines, is the one who put Shanks' precious people in danger and is even now directly threatening Shanks' best friend.

Marshall D. Teach is a dead man walking, he just doesn't know it yet.


They surface just as the nakama-killer starts speaking, and Shanks is moving as soon as the bubble bursts, jumping up into Soru and Geppo as soon as he's off the ship.

He knows he's crossed into Buggy's range by now, but he reigns his haki in, bottling it up until the right moment even as he perceives the beginning of a fight between Whitebeard and the asshole.

He is close enough now to feel Buggy's haki, because even if Buggy is hiding his Voice completely Shanks has always been able to find him, no matter what, and as such he catches the moment Teach switches his focus to his best friend. Buggy's haki rises up, first in anger and then in panic, and that's it, Shanks is done .

“Mind you, that Devil Fruit of his is really interesting, I wouldn’t mind taking a better look at it!”

Because Teach is heading straight towards Buggy, dark energy coating his hands and there is no doubt whatsoever that he’s aiming to kill and that is not. acceptable.


The Haki Shanks has been holding back ever since Buggy showed up on the battlefield erupts .


The wave it makes is visible, at least to Shanks’s eyes, rushing over the plaza with the violence of a tsunami, bowling over anyone it deems an enemy and yet warping itself carefully around those who are his .

His nakama, his spymaster, his youngest crewman, Rockstar, his.

His best friend, his brother in all but blood, his fellow apprentice, Buggy, HIS.

(It doesn’t wrap itself around Rayleigh, around Crocus, Rush, Roban, Elena, Gulliver or the others.)

(They are not his, and he is not theirs, not anymore)

(was he, were they, ever? )


 

Marines fall like flies around him even as he takes one last geppo-enhanced jump, and his sword is flashing even as he arches over Buggy, her target the arm outstretched toward his best friend’s face.

Gryphon slices through flesh and bone like butter, her haki-imbued blade effortlessly separating the limb from the rest of the body, and Shanks feet hit the ground.

Buggy is right there, right behind him, and he’s alive .

It’s the only reason Marineford is still standing, and Shanks wants nothing more than to grab Buggy, grab Rockstar and Luffy and maybe Ace as well and hightail it out of here, lock them all in his cabin and never let them out again, but he can’t .

Because Marshall D. Teach is still breathing.


(He barely notices Mihawk’s Voice, already retreating and leaving without even attempting to face him, and any other day he would be furious that the other swordsman would refuse to fight him again , but right now all he can think about is that it’s one less enemy to get rid of.)

(He barely notices the shock emanating from the Roger Pirates as they stare at him. As long as they don’t stand in his way, they do not matter.)

(He barely notices the sudden silence over the battlefield, as anyone still conscious instinctively hold their breath, waiting for the other shoe to fall.)

He notices Buggy’s Voice, the sheer relief as it curls around his own, the imperceptible way his body relaxes ever so slightly now that Shanks is there.

He notices Rockstar’s Voice from where his spymaster is fighting against ‘Corrupt King’ Avalo Pizarro, strong and steady and so freaking glad that his captain got there in time.

He notices Luffy’s Voice, at the very edge of his range, on a ship that he thinks belongs to the Spades, staring at him in a mixture of awe and confusion and relief and guilt and panic.

He notices Ace’s Voice, right next to Luffy’s, so very different from either of his parents and the father he chose for himself, so uniquely his , a fierce storm of guilt and relief.


He notices all that, but his attention doesn’t falter from the man in front of him, staring in shock at the stump where his right arm used to be, his arm that now ends slightly before his shoulder, blood flowing freely from the wound.

“Where I’m from, we look with our eyes, not with our hands, Marshall D. Teach ,” Shanks says, voice calm and even and ice-cold . “Forget yourself again and lose the other one.”


You’re going to lose the other one anyway , Shanks doesn’t say, and your head with it .

See how he likes executions, when he’s the one whose head hits the ground.


Shanks takes a deep breath, lets it out slowly. Turns his focus to the man behind him, even as his eyes do not leave the piece of trash in front of him.

“I do hope you don’t mind me stepping in, Buggy?”

There’s a short, half bitten back chuckle behind him.

“You’re late, asshole! And your protégé is a fucking menace!

“Maa, maa Buggy, I had to put little Kaido back in his place before he plundered Newgate’s territory, and he’s a persistent little brat, I’ll give him that. Besides,” he adds, giving him a knowing look “I knew you had things well in hand. Literally so, from what I’ve seen.”

“That was the worst pun ever you moron!” Buggy yells, and his Voice finally laughs against his own.


Buggy’s Voice is tethering on the edge of a breakdown, but its anchored against Shanks’ own for now and they’re keeping each other afloat for the time being.

There will be time for breaking later, once they’re away from this hellhole.

(And they will break, the both of them, Shanks knows. They will break and they will pick each other’s pieces up and painstakingly put themselves back together. It won’t be the first time and it won’t be the last and they will keep doing it as many times as they need and they will survive . They will survive and they will fucking thrive if only because the world does not want them too and they’ve always been contrary bastards.)

(It will take time and it will hurt, but…)

( They will be alright .)


Shanks wants nothing more than to grab Buggy and check him over for injuries, to grab him in a bear hug and never let him go, but there are things he needs to deal with before Buggy and Rockstar and Luffy and Ace are safe and they include the quivering man in front of him.

“Wh… how…”

“Haki.” Shanks cuts him off. “Having a Devil Fruit does not make you invincible, third-rate .”

“Red-Hair…” Newgate starts, but Shanks is having none of it. Not this time. Not after everything that happened, not after Newgate dismissed his concerns, not after witnessing Newgate being willing to sacrifice himself, to die in front of his children, not after seeing his captain’s son, his anchor’s brother, kneeling between the executioner's blades on the scaffold, eerily reminiscent of another D. who did not get allow himself to be rescued.


(They could have done it, Davy Jones damn it! If Roger had given them a chance, if he had let them try - )

(There had been a lot less marines that day, the three admirals had barely started their training, the Marine had not had the manpower it does today.)

(They could have saved him and gotten away before anyone could react, but Roger had not even given them a chance to try, and none of them will ever forgive him for it.)


“Get the hell out of here, Newgate. This is not your fight any longer.”

The old man glares at him, opens his mouth to protest.

Shanks silences him with single glance.

“I did not think you a cruel enough man to force your children to watch, helpless, from afar, as you die while they get away, Newgate.”

In the silence of the plaza, his words are incredibly loud. Shanks does not give a damn.

“At least have the decency to give them a chance to give you a proper goodbye and to be with you when Davy Jones comes to collect his dues.”

Seas knows he wishes his own father captain had had that decency.


 

Because his nakama have perfect timing, shots ring out just as he finishes talking.

One by one Marshall’s men hit the ground, only Van Augur somehow managing to avoid Yasopp’s bullets.

Not that it matters, when Lucky Roo is suddenly right behind him, grabbing his head and twisting it sharply.

The resounding crack of a broken neck is very satisfying.


“This war is over , Newgate. Do not be so quick to throw your life away when you’ve given it to those you chose as children.”

On the ground, Marshall is still shell-shocked, though he has regained enough coherence to start panicking when his men fell around him.

Shanks takes a step in his direction, then another, and Marshall desperately tries to scuttle back.

“I quite liked Fourth Commander Thatch. He was a good man, and a much better pirate than you will ever be, Marshall D. Teach. You talk big because you have a D. in your name, but you’re not one of the men Gol D. Roger waits for, one of the men who came to fight for this world. You’re not even a footnote in the history that they are writing! Still, had it only been him your treachery had hurt, I would have left Newgate to decide your fate.”

He takes another step even as his nakama fall into position at his side, incidentally creating a barrier between Buggy and the remaining marines, who are still staring at him, unable to tear their eyes away from the shipwreck that is happening.

Even Sengoku and Garp are frozen in place, while Rockstar has discreetly started to usher the few remaining pirates and Revolutionaries towards the bay and ships. Of the Shichibukai, Boa Hancock has regained her ship already, as has Doflamingo. Moria’s body is lying in pieces to the left of the plaza, Mihawk left already and Kuma is a fucking robot apparently. Jinbei is making his way towards Luffy’s Voice, and Crocodile is gathering his fellow escapees onto another ship.

Aokiji is wisely staying away , instead using his ice to steady some of the buildings after Newgate’s earlier attack.

Shanks ignores the whispers to his left, the way the commanders are pleading with their father to just leave, Oyaji, Ace and the others are waiting, come on please .

He takes another step.

“I would have,” He continues, his haki still blanketing the area. “Had you not decided to involve some people I am fond of.”

He twirls Gryphon in a lazy circle.

“And I do not take kindly to that kind of things, Marshall D. Teach.

Marshall scrambles back, but the blood loss is already starting to affect him and it’s clear to all that he’s panicking.

Good.


(Once, Shanks had been scared of himself, of how angry he could get, of how ruthless he became when something threatened what he held dear.)

(But today?)

(Today Shanks embraces that side of him in order to make damn fucking sure that no one will ever dare touch those he holds dear ever again .)


Gryphon flashes through the air once more, painted black by Shanks’ Haki, and this time it’s Blackbeard’s head that hits the ground.

“If any more than this is sought for, pointless damage for both sides will only increase! If there are any guys out there who still want to go wild, then bring it on! We'll take care of every single one of you! Well, Sengoku, Garp?”

He stares them down, the last remaining heroes of the Marines, daring them to challenge him.

They look away first.

Chapter Text

What of the storm when the night is over

There is no trace or sign.

Save where the wreckage hath strewn the shore

Peaceful the sun doth shine.

(Asleep In The Deep)


Crocus is still fighting one of Blackbeard's minion, still dodging his attacks and giving just as good as he gets, but he can still afford to stare at the newcomer.

And stares he does.

Davy Jones be damned, he can actually see why they made Shanks a Yonko now. That was one hell of an entrance, though he's sure that Rayleigh will want to have some words with the brat about controlling his haki and not bludgeoning allies with it.

Damn. The red head really had grown, hadn't he? Roger would be so fucking proud if he could see this.

“I do hope you don’t mind me stepping in, Buggy?” Shanks asks airily, and Crocus is torn between grinning and groaning.

No. He does not want to deal with this. He did his time already, he does not want to deal with their bickering right now Davy Jones damn it!

(Except maybe he does , because Shanks and Buggy bickering about everything and nothing is familiar, is normal , is reassuring, and maybe if they do Crocus will stop feeling like he doesn't know Buggy at all, like the children he watched grow up aren't complete strangers to him now.)

(Denial is not just a river in Alabasta.)

“You’re late, asshole! And your protégé is a fucking menace!

Called it . Crocus thinks, jumping out of the way of a knife and swinging his harpoon. The two of them are so fucking predictable. And just when Crocus had been thinking about how much they had matured since their cabin brats days, too! But it's nice even if it's annoying, because it's familiar , a throwback to better days, and a much nicer one that this whole execution business, really.

“Maa, maa Buggy, I had to put little Kaido back in his place before he plundered Newgate’s territory, and he’s a persistent little brat, I’ll give him that. Besides,” Shanks adds, and Crocus can see the smirk on his face even if Buggy cannot.“I knew you had things well in hand. Literally so, from what I’ve seen.”

“That was the worst pun ever you moron!” Buggy yells, and Crocus allows himself a long suffering groan, echoed to his right by Rayleigh.

Really? Now? Here? Really?

Brats , he thinks fondly. This is certainly not the time or place for their antics, but he's glad to see that they haven't changed that much .

( River in Alabasta.)


Crocus watches as Shanks switches his focus back on the bleeding asshole in front of him when Blackbeard finally managed to open his mouth in shock.

“Wh… how…”

“Haki.” Shanks cuts him off. “Having a Devil Fruit does not make you invincible, third-rate .”

Apparently, Rayleigh haki lessons stuck with both of their cabin brats, Crocus is pleased to note. Even if Shanks could definitely do with some remedial lessons in conqueror's, given how he had nearly bowled the Roger's over with that wave, and Crocus is pretty sure some of Whitebeard's kids got knocked out by it as well.


(Buggy didn't even flinch , Crocus notes in the back of his mind, in the part of his brain where he's been shoving everything that hasn't made sense today.)

(Even Rayleigh flinched when Shanks' haki rolled over the battlefield, but Buggy didn't .)

(That's important , Crocus knows, but he doesn't know why and he can't think about it right now because of all the bullshit happening around him.)

(They really, really need to have a talk with their youngest apprentice.)


“Red-Hair…” Newgate starts, but Shanks shoots him down with a glare that would have made Roger simultaneously jealous and proud.

“Get the hell out of here, Newgate. This is not your fight any longer.”

No brain to mouth filter had made its apparition in the past twenty years, apparently. Crocus is torn between sighing and laughing, because Newgate does deserve to be lectured, but it's weird as fuck to have Shanks be the one doing it.

(Yes, he knows he had just been thinking that he could finally see why Shanks was a Yonko, but that didn't mean that it wasn't weird as fuck to have someone he knew as a gangly teenager stare down the strongest Man in the Oceans and win .)

“I did not think you a cruel enough man to force your children to watch, helpless, from afar, as you die while they get away, Newgate.”

Crocus' fists clench even as he dodges, because Shanks is right . Newgate should know better, should know better than to try and pull a fucking Roger and yet that's what he's doing.

And also, ouch, because Shanks is not pulling any punches, is revealing far more of the Roger's grief than Crocus is comfortable with right now, but he can't really complain when he's been waiting for a chance to yell at Newgate himself for the same reasons, can he?

(He's still going to, of course.)

(Complain and yell at Newgate.)

(Asshole, trying to die in front of his crew, in front of his doctor , without giving them a chance to save him.)

(Damn it but Crocus needs a fucking drink.)

“At least have the decency to give them a chance to give you a proper goodbye and to be with you when Davy Jones comes to collect his dues.”


And then, just as Crocus is bracing himself for Newgate's reply, is preparing to insert himself in the conversation, not giving a shit about his own fight, gunshots ring out in the sudden silence of the plaza.

They're not coming from the Oro Jackson, where Riza is still in position in the crow's nest. They're not coming from the Blackjacks either, for all that Kuukaku is hurrying back into position now that the crew has regained the Black Maria.

No. The shots are coming from a ship Crocus only recognises from the newspapers as Shanks' Red Force, a ship that has suddenly appeared on the left side of the island, somehow avoiding all the other ships and wreckages and leftover ice blocks in the process.

(Hu. That must be one hell of a helmsman and navigator, Crocus thinks, and then he doesn't because suddenly his fight is over and he's looking at a corpse .)

By the time the (surprisingly few) gunshots stop, all but one of Blackbeard's men, Crocus' own opponent included, are laying on the ground, a single hole between their eyes.

And the last one, the one with the Cape and the weird hat, is quickly and efficiently disposed off when one of Shanks' men (Lucky something? Crocus can't remember right now and he hates it) suddenly appears right behind him and snaps his neck without blinking before he has a chance to react.


What. The. Hell.

Crocus looks over at Rayleigh, who despite looking unruffled is just as baffled as he is.

That was…

Ruthless.

Cold.

Not at all Shanks' usual approach. They had expected a great battle, Shanks and his men proving their strength against Blackbeard's crew like the Roger's used to do with their own enemies back in the days. Even with Shanks' obvious anger, Crocus had not expected him to act like this.

(He had expected something more like Roger would have done, even at his angriest: a challenge, a duel, giving the enemy the illusion of having a chance before crushing them beneath his feet as he proves that they should never have dared to touch what was his.)

(Had expected to fight side by side with Shanks, maybe, the crew together once more like in the good old times.)

(He had not expected this cold, calculated and clearly premeditated execution , not even giving them a chance to fight back.)

(He had not expected Shanks to interrupt other people's battles, to interrupt the Roger's battles as if he doesn't trust them to finish their opponents off soon enough.)

(He had not expected Shanks' crew, described in the papers as easy going drunkards, to be capable of killing like this, in cold blood and with no warning.)

(It's… odd.)

(Crocus doesn't know how he should feel about this.)

(On the one hand, this is clearly the most efficient solution to get rid of Blackbeard's men but…)

(It's not Shanks's way, not the Roger way, there's no flourishes or grandstanding or great duels that make the world shake.)

(It doesn't fit .)


“This war is over , Newgate. Do not be so quick to throw your life away when you’ve given it to those you chose as children.”

Shanks' voice doesn't fit either, none of the nonchalance and humour Crocus remembers. Instead it is calm and steady and cold and Crocus had never associated Shanks with coldness before and he doesn't like it.

In front of the red head, Blackbeard is desperately trying to get away, but his severed arm is bleeding severely and Crocus knows with a single glance that unless he finds himself a doctor in the next ten minutes, the man is done for.

He also knows that Blackbeard is not going to get that chance, not with how Shanks is calmly walking towards him, sword in hand.

(Because for all that Shanks is using none of Roger's usual flourished, this is exactly how Roger looked the rare few times he utterly loathed someone's existence and decided to do something about it.)

(Crocus is not used to thinking of Shanks as terrifying either.)

(He doesn't want to get used to that.)

“I quite liked Fourth Commander Thatch." The Yonko says, conversationally, and if it wasn't for the undertone of coldness in his voice Crocus could be fooled into thinking that Shanks' usual nonchalance is back but it isn't and it's wrong wrong wrong.

"He was a good man and a much better pirate than you will ever be, Marshall D. Teach. You talk big because you have a D. in your name, but you’re not one of the men Gol D. Roger waits for, one of the men who came to fight for this world. You’re not even a footnote in the history that they are writing! Had it only been him your treachery had hurt, I would have left Newgate to decide your fate.”


Because Blackbeard is a D as well, but not, and Crocus has to agree with Shanks there, a D like Roger had been, like Rouge had been, like Ace and Luffy are. Not a true D, and Crocus is glad for it, because that would have been… inacceptable.

Crocus would never be able to explain how or why he knows this, but he does .


Shanks takes another step, his crew taking position around him, a strong wall standing between the fleeing pirates behind them and the remaining Marines in front of them.

(Crocus, Rayleigh and Gulliver are level with them, neither protected by their wall or faced like enemies.)

(Crocus would like to believe that it is because Shanks knows they can take care of themselves but…)

(Something is off. )


The Shichibukai are either gone or dead, Crocus notes distractedly, and the last admiral is staying as far as possible from their group.

(Which, fair enough really, given what happened to the other two.)

Sengoku and Garp, the highest ranking marines left, are still too busy staring at the shipwreck that is Blackbeard trying to escape to actually intervene. Newgate is being held back by the pleading voices of his children, who are desperately trying to convince him that he should leave with them, that there is no shame to retreat now that Ace is safe.

Crocus wishes them luck.

(Stupid captains determined to go out in a bang rather than a whisper.)

(Davy Jones damn them all for putting their crews through this.)

Shanks takes another step.

“I would have,” He continues, his haki still blanketing the area, a tangible weight on Crocus' shoulders. “Had you not decided to involve some people I am fond of.”

Oh.

And now Crocus can't unsee it, can't unsee the resemblance with Gol D. Roger, because Roger had always been at his most terrifying when his people were targeted but even then his rage had always run hot , not cold like Shanks, who is twirling his sword in lazy circles as he prowls towards the downed man.

If that's how far he's willing to go for the Monkey brat, why in Davy Jones' name had he not taken the kid on his ship where he could keep an eye for him for fuck's sake?! That's what Roger had done with Shanks and Buggy, after all!

“And I do not take kindly to that kind of things, Marshall D. Teach.

There is something, in the way that Shanks spits out Blackbeard's name, something dark and fierce, and Crocus can't quite put a word on it, but it sends shivers down his spine nonetheless.

Blackbeard keeps trying to back away, but to no avail.

And then, with no further warning, without giving Blackbeard even a glimmer of a chance to defend himself, Shanks strikes once, and strikes true, and before Crocus can understand what just happened, Blackbeard's head hits the ground, and the sound is one that has been carved in Crocus’ memory for over two decades now, one he still hears in his nightmares , and Crocus flinches violently at the reminder.


( Another man on the scaffold, a massive grin on his face, one last wave of haki washing over Crocus, one last defiant declaration shouted at the world, and then two swords coming down, the light reflecting off the razor-sharp blades, and then red red red red, blood splattering everywhere and two thumps, the body hitting the ground on one side and the head on the other, and Captain’s Voice is gone gone gone gone nowhere to be found never to be found again and -)

(And it's different, it's not on a scaffold and it's not his Captain but it's still an execution , still a decapitation and Crocus' heart aches with remembered grief.)

(And despite this, despite it all, Shanks stands tall and proud, blood spattered on his white shirt and dripping from his sword and Crocus can only watch, frozen on the spot.)


“If any more than this is sought for, pointless damage for both sides will only increase! If there are any guys out there who still want to go wild, then bring it on! We'll take care of every single one of you! Well, Sengoku, Garp?”

He stares them down, the last remaining heroes of the Marines, daring them to challenge him, daring the world to defy him, and fuck but when did Shanks become someone who can glare his enemies into looking away first, when did he become the kind of person that makes cold sweat form on onlookers foreheads just from looking at him, just from being in his presence when he's angry ?

(When did Shanks become someone who makes Crocus repress the instinctive urge to step back, to cower and hide, when even Roger had never elicited that reaction in him?)

Shanks doesn't look away until Sengoku looks back him again, eyes dark and angry and resigned.

"You are down two admirals and two warlords, and the rest of them left as soon as we showed up, Gensui. If you care even a little for the lives of your men, you will not squander them further. Back. Down."

And Sengoku the Buddha… does. He looks at his men, the few left standing and the many on the ground, bleeding and foaming at the mouth, at the many whose lives have already been lost, and he does .

"Fine! Red-Hair... I'll take responsibility for this." Sengoku says, and he glares at Garp when the man tries to protest. "FALL BACK! Hurry and tend to the wounded! Get them to the ships! This War is finished!"

Behind him, the conscious marines hurry towards their fallen comrades, a rose haired kid leading the charge, and behind Shanks Newgate is finally conceding to his children's pleas.

"Akagami!" He thunders nonetheless, glaring at Shanks. "I should like to speak with you after this!"

"Are you going to listen or are you going to dismiss me as nothing more than one of Roger's brat again?" Shanks snaps back, not even turning around to look at the man. "Or are you going to get your head out of your ass and finally notice that it's been over twenty years since Roger was executed and that I have been a captain in my own right for longer than I have sailed with him? And that maybe I happen to know what I'm talking about when I tell you that that piece of trash was bad news and to call your son back?"

Crocus can see the flinch that courses through Newgate's body at that, even as he has to refrain from gaping at the sheer venom in Shanks' voice.

(No brain to mouth filter at all .)

(And he wonders, again, why Shanks doesn't acknowledges that Ace is Roger's son, Roger's, not Newgate's, why Shanks refuses to claim a direct link to the boy.)

(He wonders, but he can't think, not with everything that just happened, can't try to figure out this puzzle blooming before his eyes, and it pisses him off.)

When Newgate talks again, his voice is… not humbled, not exactly, but certainly more respectful than before.

"I would like to talk," he repeats, again, quieter this time.

Shanks hmms.

"We will follow and make sure no one gets ideas ," he replies, still glaring at Sengoku who hasn't moved from his spot. "We shall join you wherever you decide to lay anchor after this. I need to have a talk with my brat anyway. Now listen to your fucking kids and get the hell out of here. Ivankov!" He adds, at the revolutionary who is heading towards one of the leaving ships. "My doctor is currently heading to the Piece of Spadille to make sure Anchor remains alive long enough for me to have a talk with him, but he has expressed his desire to have words with you, and I have words to have with your leader. You will be a guest on my ship until we rejoin with the Whitebeards.”

“Do I not get a choice in the matter?” The Okama protests, but goes quiet at the glare Shanks directs at them. They don’t cower, not quite, but...“Vine.”

“Good.”


There’s some shuffling behind them as the Whitebeard commanders finally manage to drag their father towards the ships, and suddenly the only remaining people on the plaza are the Akagami, Crocus, Rayleigh, Gulliver, Scopper Gaban and Seagull, and the marines. The rest of the Rogers are on the Oro Jackson, kept there by Rayleigh's signal when it looked like they were going to jump into the fray after Shanks showed up.

And yet, despite that, Shanks still hasn’t so much as looked at them. Hasn’t moved at all, actually, still standing between the retreating marines and the shore.

“My my,” Rayleigh speaks up, breaking the silence with a smile that doesn’t quite reach his eyes. “That was quite something, Shanks-kun.”

“Rayleigh.” Shanks’s answer is short. “Crocus. Gulliver. Scopper Gaban. Seagull.”

His eyes still don’t leave the marines. Is he that worried that they might try something underhanded?

“Kind of nostalgic, isn’t it?” Rayleigh goes on. “The old crew, back together?”

There’s some muttering behind them, and Crocus is sure that it’s that brat Rockstar even if he can’t hear what he’s saying. He's also pretty sure it's nothing complimentary.

“A bit,” Shanks acquiesce. “Though if you don’t mind I would prefer to keep the reminiscing for later. This is neither the time nor the place for it.”


Crocus doesn’t want to keep the reminiscing for later. He wants answers, and he wants them now , because Buggy is already leaving, headed towards Shanks' ship, flanked on each side by one of Shanks men who appear to be joking lightly with him, because Buggy is still not looking at them, still not acknowledging that the Rogers are even here , but Rayleigh is still the first mate, still the boss when the captain isn’t there (and never will be again, and Crocus is still not okay with that ), and Rayleigh simply nods so Crocus keeps his mouth shut, much as he would like to do otherwise.


“That seems reasonable,” and that’s another thing, since when has Shanks been reasonable? Since when? “Shall we help you make sure the marines will behave?”

What few of them are left, anyway. Most of the marines have been evacuated by now, and only Sengoku, Garp and the last admiral, Aokiji remain on the plaza itself.

The rest of the pirates are leaving, with the Blackjacks at the rear, and only the Oro Jackson and the Red Force are still in the bay.

The smirk on Shanks’s face, which Crocus can barely see since the brat still hasn’t turned to face them , is positively diabolical .

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that too much,” the redhead smirks. “Something tells me that they are going to be too busy to even think about pursuing us.”

Crocus is treated to the rare sight of Sengoku the Buddha actually paling .

“Red-Hair!” The man snarls just as an ominous music starts playing through the handful of speakers still functioning. Music . What. The. Hell? “What. Did. You. Do?!”

“Me? Nothing. Yet. The Spades, however?”

The Spades? Ace’s crew?

“Well,” Shanks drawls. “One should remember that that particular crew specialises in sabotage. And that they don’t take kindly to attacks on one of their own. Especially their captain."

“And yet,” Rockstar says, and Crocus turns to look at the younger man, who is juggling with what looks suspiciously like a detonator. “They were kind enough to allow someone else to press the button as long as they got to watch the show.”

Wait.

What?

“So, if I were to give you any advice, Sengoku,” Shanks continues, and this time there are teeth in his smile. “It would be to run .”

And with that, without further warning, Rockstar grabs the detonator and presses it.


All around the plaza, the few buildings which hadn’t quite collapsed yet explode simultaneously.

And in music. Which had gone from ominous to epic the second the button was pressed. Who the hell decided that this needed a fucking soundtrack?!

“Oh, nice touch!” Rockstar cackles. “ Nine’s doing, you think Lucky?”

“Definitely,” The man who had snapped one of Blackbeards’ men’s neck earlier confirms even as the Akagami begin to walk back towards their ship, turning their backs to the fuming Sengoku without a care in the world.

Then again, given that the man in question is cursing the air blue, but running towards the few marine ships still capable of sailing and grabbing the few marines that hadn't been evacuated yet, followed closely by an equally cursing Garp while the ice user does his best to shield them from the falling rubble, maybe they’re right to act like they do.

They have, after all, just single-crewdly ended this war.

Captain would have liked them , Crocus thinks as he watches them walk away. That image is quite impressive, them walking calmly as the island explodes behind them. They’re rude and headstrong and they obviously think the world of Shanks.

If Rockstar is any indication, they're also all insufferable brats. Of course Captain would have loved them.

Crocus sighs even as he falls into step next to Rayleigh as the man leads the way back to the Oro Jackson.

"Why do I feel like this is only the calm before the storm?" He asks his old friend.

And Rayleigh, for once, has no answer to give.


They've just reached the Oro Jackson (and damn but it feels good to be back on this ship, after so long, and Crocus konows he’s the one who spent the least time on the Oro Jackson but damn it if it doesn’t feel more like home than the Twin Capes ever did), jumping up and landing on her deck with a well executed Geppo, when Crocus hears Marian's call.

"What the hell is that brat doing now?"

Crocus whirls around, turning back towards the Red Force. Shanks is standing on its figurehead, sword still unsheathed.

From this far away, Crocus can't hear what Shanks is saying, but there is no way he misses what happens next.

Shanks's sword slashes through the air for the third time today, but this time it doesn't cut through any limbs.

No.

This time, the sword cuts through the entire fucking island , a massive gouge coursing straight through the still exploding island.


There's a moment where the only noise is that of the explosion.

And then, with a deafening crack, Marineford is collapsing on itself, cut in two, the two parts already starting to sink into the churning waters.

Elena barks orders behind him, roaring at them to get their added moving before the Oro gets dragged down with the sinking island, but Crocus can't drag his eyes away from the red haired man still standing on his ship's figurehead, calmly watching as Marineford, the Marines’ stronghold in Paradise, succumbs to fire and water both.

Next to him, Rayleigh is staring at well.

“Did you teach him that? ” Crocus asks him.

“...” Rayleigh turns away, heading for the helm. “No.”

Crocus takes one last look at the sinking island and then heads towards the sails before Elena guts him for dwadling.

Damn. The little brat had truly grown up, didn’t he?

Captain would be so fucking proud if he could see him now.

(In the back of his head, there's a little voice screaming that he is missing something, something big that he will regret later. But that voice is drowned by the memories of this crew of lunatics, of his madman of a captain and of the day all of their lives were forever changed, and Crocus cannot hear it.)

Chapter Text

But when the wild raging storm did cease, 
Under the billows two hearts found peace
No more to part  no more of pain 
The bell may now tell its warning in vain. 

(Asleep in the Deep)


Shanks is there, Shanks is standing right in front of him, his back to Buggy, standing between him and Blackbeard, between him and the Marines, between him and the Rogers, and Buggy’s chest feels like it might burst.

He’s aware of people collapsing around them, unable to withstand Shanks’ haki, but he can’t be arsed to spare them even a glance, too busy taking in the sight in front of him.

Everyone is staring at them, staring at Shanks like they can’t believe he’s here, can’t understand why he came, and Buggy wants to laugh and yell and cry because this is Shanks . Even if Buggy hadn’t been here, he would have come, even without knowing of Firefist’s heritage he would have come. Because Firefist is Strawhat’s brother, because Whitebeard is an ally even if a pain in the ass one, because Firefist is just a kid when all is said and done, because it’s the fucking marines putting on another public execution for Davy Jones’ sake! There was no way Shanks would have stayed out of it. No fucking way.

“I do hope you don’t mind me stepping in, Buggy?” Shanks asks airily, and Buggy can hear the concern behind it, can hear the unvoiced are you okay are you hurt who do i need to kill that his haki is screaming .

Shanks has never dealt well with threats to his people, and Buggy knows it better than anyone else. So he sends his own haki out, grounding himself with Shanks’, using his friend as an anchor to keep himself steady, and he barks out in an annoyed voice that is just a cover for the sheer relief coursing through his veins:

“You’re late, asshole! And your protégé is a fucking menace!

And Shanks smiles, and Buggy can’t see it because his friend is still facing away from it but he can feel it and that’s enough for him.

“Maa, maa Buggy, I had to put little Kaido back in his place before he plundered Newgate’s territory, and he’s a persistent little brat, I’ll give him that. Besides,” Shanks adds, and Buggy can just imagine the smirk on his face now.“I knew you had things well in hand. Literally so, from what I’ve seen.”

“That was the worst pun ever you moron!” Buggy yells, because it is , Shanks’ limb puns are always terrible, and he ignores the long-suffering sighs coming from Crocus and Rayleigh off to the side because he’s been doing a fantastic job of ignoring them so far and he’s not going to stop now, and also fuck them , they don’t get to judge how Shanks and he talk to each other, they lost that right two decades ago when they fucking abandoned them, okay?

And then Blackbeard opens his mouth, and really, he should now better, because there’s nothing the man can say right now that will convince Shanks not to kill him.

“Wh… how…”

“Haki.” Shanks cuts him off. “Having a Devil Fruit does not make you invincible, third-rate .”

A lesson Buggy had never needed to learn (nearly drowning seconds after eating his fruit had certainly showed him that), through the world had certainly seemed to enjoy reminding him in the most painful ways possible.


 

Shanks’ haki is still wrapped tightly around him, around him and Rockstar, and Buggy relaxes minutely in its hold. He just wants to get out of there, to get away from this clusterfuck and this island and these people, and he knows Shanks is this close to just grabbing them and the kids and making that happen, but they both know that they need to take care of the opposition first if they want to be able to make a clean getaway.

That's okay. Buggy has been holding back his breakdown for a long time now. He can keep it together a little longer. Maybe.

(Shanks is here now. He can do this. He can .)


“Red-Hair…” Newgate starts, because apparently the old man has forgotten how to read the mood and when it’s best to keep one’s mouth shut, but Shanks is having none of.

“Get the hell out of here, Newgate. This is not your fight any longer.”

And, really, Newgate should have left as soon as Firefist and Strawhat were off the battlefield, should have listened to his fucking kids and left with them, but noooooo, Newgate just had to be the ‘hero’ and pull a fucking Roger on them, in front of the ones Roger pulled that fucking stunt on.

Buggy still really, really wants to punch the man, but he will settle for Shanks verbally eviscerating him. Shanks is really, really good at that, for all that he uses that particular talent only rarely.

“I did not think you a cruel enough man to force your children to watch, helpless, from afar, as you die while they get away, Newgate.”

And yep, called it, here’s the verbal evisceration and it’s glorious .

“At least have the decency to give them a chance to give you a proper goodbye and to be with you when Davy Jones comes to collect his dues.”

Glorious.


(Even if the memories are pressing in the back of his head, even if his shaking hands are getting harder to hide, even if he just wants to be away from here, Buggy stays still and watches his best friend lecture the strongest man in the world without a hint of fear, and he is so fucking proud of him. They’ve come such a long way from the two gutter rats they had been, the two of them, and Buggy doesn’t care that the rest of the world doesn’t seem willing to acknowledge it, he’s going to bask in this moment anyway.)


And then Yasopp’s proves to anyone still doubting it that Shanks and his men didn’t become Emperor by mistake, gunshots ringing out absurdly loud in the shell-shocked silence of the plaza, Blackbeard’s men falling to the ground one by one with bullet holes between their eyes, not a single bullet wasted. Only Van Augur manages to avoid the kill-shot, but not the bullet in the shoulder, and then the haki signatures Buggy had been keeping track of are suddenly right there, and Lucky Roo’s hands are around Van Augur’s head and the crack of a broken necks follows the cracks of the gunshots as the last of Blackbeard’s pirates hits the ground, dead.

Quick, clean and efficient.

Buggy fucking loves the Akagami, even if they’re just as fucking crazy as their captain.


 

He can feel the Roger’s complete and utter shock at the move, and part of him wants to snort at their bafflement, but he pushes it back, still refusing to acknowledge their existence when they’ve been ignoring his for the past two decades. Instead he throws a quick smile at Damian, Shanks’ doctor who is already giving both him and Rockstar a quick once-over as he and the rest of the Akagami join their captain on the plaza.

“Nothing that can’t wait, doc," Rockstar tells the man quietly. “Might want to give the kids a check-up, though. Anchor didn’t look too well, and neither did Fire-fist. Fair warning, Anchor was injected with Ivankov’s miracle-cure after being poisoned in Impel Down, and barely escaped a second dose.”

The sung-glass wearing long haired blond man scowls fiercely. “Tell Captain I want a talk with the insult to medical professionals once this is over,” he demands as he starts stalking off towards the Piece of Spadille. “And don’t think I’m not giving the two of you a complete check-up as soon as possible!”

“Wouldn't dream of it, Doc!” Rockstar promises, slightly gleeful at the idea of seeing the doctor tear Ivankov a new one.

To be fair, so is Buggy.


 

“This war is over , Newgate. Do not be so quick to throw your life away when you’ve given it to those you chose as children.”

Shanks’ voice is calm, steady, cold, and Buggy hates it, hates it because the only times Shanks is like this is when he’s both sober and furious and hurting, for all that no one else would be able to pick out that particular cocktail of emotions from it.

Blackbeard is still trying to scuttle away form Shanks, but his severed arm and the bodies of his comrades around him are hindering his escape. Not that he would be able to escape anyway. Not with Shanks as he is now, not surrounded by so many people who would be overjoyed to stab him through the heart at the slightest opportunity. Hell, Buggy would do so himself if he had to, even if he is very glad he won’t have to, because he is this close to a breakdown and sensing another Voice disappear because of him would definitely push him over the edge at this point.

“I quite liked Fourth Commander Thatch." Shanks says, and his voice is still icy, and Buggy winces.

Thatch has been a decent sort, from what Buggy can remember of the few times he had met the man over the years, one of Newgate's first sons, who had already been sailing on the Moby Dick back when Buggy and Shanks were just apprentices on the Oro Jackson. Buggy mostly remembers the man's amazing cooking, to be honest, from the few joint parties the Rogers and the Whitebeards had had back in the days. But he knows Shanks is Newgate's ally, knows that his friend has had regular meetings with the various division commanders over the years to exchange information and coordinate joint strikes on the Marines, and that means that he had been more familiar with the deceased cook. Enough to count him as a friend, if not necessarily a close one.

"He was a good man and a much better pirate than you will ever be, Marshall D. Teach. You talk big because you have a D. in your name, but you’re not one of the men Gol D. Roger waits for, one of the men who came to fight for this world. You’re not even a footnote in the history that they are writing!"


 

Fucking D's. Really, Buggy could have done without the chaos that bloody letter brings into the world.

(Except no, he really couldn't have. Because that would have meant doing without ever knowing Captain and that… is inconceivable.)

(And the World needs the D, he knows, he remembers .)

(Raftel at twelve, and a shitton of knowledge dumped into his head without so much as a by your leave.)

(He's tried to forget it, and most of the time he succeeds at keeping it at the back of his mind, but…)

(Not today.)


 

"Had it only been him your treachery had hurt, I would have left Newgate to decide your fate.”

And he would have, Buggy knows, because Blackbeard was Newgate’s son , was one of his and betrayed him and Shanks understands the need to deal with traitors yourself (just, not the need to do so stupidly, on one’s own, like Firefist did . Traitors should be dealt with quickly and efficiently, and above all in a way that won’t endanger the rest of the crew, for Davy Jones’ sake!).

Shanks takes another step.

“I would have,” He continues, his haki still blanketing the area. “Had you not decided to involve some people I am fond of.”


But Thatch hadn’t been the only one hurt by Blackbeard. No.

Blackbeard had targeted Portgas D. Ace , had targeted Captain’s son .

Blackbeard had targeted Monkey D. Luffy, had targeted Shanks’ protégé.

And, worst of all (because even if Buggy's self-esteem issues have self-esteem issues, even if he has trouble thinking of himself as someone important , he knows he is important to Shanks , has seen what three years of thinking him dead had done to his best friend and he is not going to do Shanks the insult of doubting his attachment to Buggy), Blackbeard had targeted Boke no Buggy .

In front of Akagami no Shanks.

It’s been years since the last time that happened, over a decade , but the result is going to be the same.


 

(Two years together before that freaky storm separated them, hunted down by the worst kind of scum on both sides of the law looking for revenge against a dead man, looking for ways to draw the rest of their crew out of hiding, and Buggy and Shanks had survived that .)

(Two years and too many close calls, too many times when they feared the worst, when one would be held at sword point or gunpoint and the other could only watch , too many times when they refused to let the world break them, too many times where they came too fucking close, too many times they did break.)

(Two years, and too many times they had to step up and turn themselves into monsters to save each other. Too many times they had to snuff out loud Voices that had threatened their own.)

(Two years together, and then three without knowing if the other was alive.)

(Buggy is no Emperor, had no Conqueror’s disposition. But he is a pirate, and he is selfish , and he will guard what is precious to him, no matter what, as more than one pirate, more than one Marine, had found out when they dared to harm Shanks.)

(They are Shanks and Buggy and Buggy and Shanks and they protect each other. Always.)


 

Marshall “Blackbeard” D. Teach might be a D., might , but that isn’t going to save him now. Not after this.

Shanks moves toward the dead man crawling on the ground, and his nakama move with him, flanking him as they form a barrier between the retreating pirates and the flabbergasted marines.

(Monstar has left Capu behind to climb on Buggy’s shoulder, and Buggy is grateful for the little monkey’s presence, sparing a hand to pet her head gently, not missing how Castor and Capu himself had taken position just a step behind the rest of their crew to stand on either side of him.)

(Blackbeard’s men are dead, and he will be soon. The Shichibukai are either dead or have left already, and the Marines currently look like a stiff breeze would blow them over.)

(The danger is mostly passed.)

(The Rogers are still here but Buggy is trying very hard not to think about them, and the danger from that quarter would mostly be psychological rather than physical anyway.)

(And still Shanks’ nakama have taken position at Buggy’s sides, ready to protect him if necessary.)

(Fuck but Shanks’s people are good people and Buggy will inconvenience whoever says otherwise for the rest of their lives.)


 

“And I do not take kindly to that kind of things, Marshall D. Teach.

It’s been over a decade since Buggy last saw Shanks like this, incandescent and furious and controlled, but for all that he knows that Shanks looks terrifying when he’s like that, Buggy has never felt anything but safe and protected when that cold look overtook Shanks’ usually easygoing features.

(Oh, he hates it, hates that circumstances have caused Shanks to don that mask again, but being scared of it? Never. )

(Because Shanks only takes up this particular mantle when he is protecting those who are precious to him, and Buggy was the first of those, the first to experience that fierce protectiveness,and he will never forget it.)

And so when Gryphon swirls through the air in a graceful circle, Buggy is not at all surprised when Blackbeard’s head hits the ground.

(And maybe it reminds him of Roger’s execution - it would be hard for it not to, given everything - but it’s also different enough that it doesn’t add to his impending mother of all breakdown.)

(He didn’t lose anyone, this time. This time, the blade is in the hand of someone he trusts, has just cut through an enemy’s neck and made damn sure he wouldn’t be getting up to harm anyone again, and Buggy feels a flicker of dark satisfaction when Blackbeard’s Voice is snuffed out without fanfare.)

(Good.)


 

There’s blood dripping from Shanks’ sword, there’s probably blood splattered all over his friend’s clothes, and everyone is staring at Shanks, who doesn’t seem to give a damn.

“If any more than this is sought for, pointless damage for both sides will only increase! If there are any guys out there who still want to go wild, then bring it on! We'll take care of every single one of you! Well, Sengoku, Garp?”

Shanks’ back is to Buggy, but he knows the look on Shanks’ face, the strong glint in his eyes as he stares down two living legends, two Marines who had a hand in the execution of the First Pirate King, as he stares down the world and dares it to take him on.

He’s oh so tempted to send an eye in that direction, to get a glimpse of his friend’s face which he still hasn’t seen, to send the Visual DenDen Mushi to record it for posterity, but he doesn’t.

(That is not how Shanks wants to be remembered, he knows. Shanks hates having to be terrifying, hates having to let his darker side show like this, and Buggy respects that.)

"You are down two admirals and two warlords, and the rest of them left as soon as we showed up, Gensui. If you care even a little for the lives of your men, you will not squander them further. Back. Down."

(Besides, live-streaming as Sengoku and Garp look away first ? As Sengoku the Buddha concedes? That’s priceless .)

"Fine! Red-Hair... I'll take responsibility for this." Sengoku says, and he glares at Garp when the man tries to protest. "FALL BACK! Hurry and tend to the wounded! Get them to the ships! This War is finished!"

Behind him, the conscious marines hurry towards their fallen comrades, a rose haired kid leading the charge, and Buggy keeps his Observation on them, noting as the flickering Voices are carried away by slightly stronger ones. Most of them would live, he knows, and he doesn’t know whether to be glad or not.


 

A much stronger Voice, though by contrast one much closer to Davy Jones’ embrace, straightening and glaring at his fellow Yonkou even as he finally gives in to his children’s pleas.

"Akagami!" He thunders nonetheless, glaring at Shanks. "I should like to speak with you after this!"

And yeah, no, that is not going to go over well, really. Dying or not, Newgate could definitely use some remedial lessons in politeness.

"Are you going to listen or are you going to dismiss me as nothing more than one of Roger's brat again?" Shanks snaps back, not even bothering to look at the man. That’s okay: Buggy is watching him for both of them, and the minute twitches of Newgate’s face are perfect. "Or are you going to get your head out of your ass and finally notice that it's been over twenty years since Roger was executed and that I have been a captain in my own right for longer than I have sailed with him? And that maybe I happen to know what I'm talking about when I tell you that that piece of trash was bad news and to call your son back?"

Called it, again . Honestly, can no one else see that Shanks is so completely done with this bullshit? Even a saint’s patience would have worn thin at the way others have been treating one of the four strongest pirates in the world, for Davy Jones’ sake!

(And Buggy knows it’s not just Newgate that Shanks is angry at, for all that the man is currently a very convenient, and very deserving, target of a rant that has been building up for years . However, the odds of the Rogers finally getting a clue are so low that not even that gambling addicted medic on the Black Maria would bet on it.)

"I would like to talk," Newgate repeats, again, quieter this time, and a lot more respectful. Good . Buggy has no qualms about making what little time the old man has left absolutely miserable , but he would have hated to deprive the man’s children of their goodbyes. Sins of the father should not be paid by their children, after all.

Shanks hums in a way that has Buggy bracing himself. Shanks is nowhere near done yet. And Rockstar’s Voice has a giddy feel to it that Buggy has learned to associate with mischief, mayhem and explosions.

He chances a look at the very smug-feeling monkey on his shoulder.

Is that a detonator in Monstar’s fingers?

When did the Akagami get the chance to set up explosives?

No, wait. Not the Akagami. The Spades. Fire-Fist’s crew specialises in sabotage, if Buggy remembers correctly, and he had been wondering where the hell they had been until Phoenix dropped Fire-Fist and Strawhat on their ship. The real question was, had the Spades handed over the detonator or had the very, very smug looking monkey grabbed it herself? Honestly, knowing Monstar, both were equally possible and Buggy decides that he really, really doesn’t want to know.

He does give the monkey a good scratch under the chin, though. Good girl.

"We will follow and make sure no one gets ideas ," his friend replies, still glaring at the veteran marines who haven't moved from their spot. "We shall join you wherever you decide to lay anchor after this. I need to have a talk with my brat anyway. Now listen to your fucking kids and get the hell out of here. Ivankov!" He adds, at the revolutionary who is heading towards one of the leaving ships. "My doctor is currently heading to the Piece of Spadille to make sure Anchor remains alive long enough for me to have a talk with him, but he has expressed his desire to have words with you, and I have words to have with your leader. You will be a guest on my ship until we rejoin with the Whitebeards.”

“Do I not get a choice in the matter?” The Okama protests, but quickly goes quiet at the glare Shanks must have directed at them. They don’t cower, not quite, but Buggy has enough familiarity with that particular tone of voice coming from Shanks that he knows the Okama will not be able to get out of this. The fact that Shanks wanted a word with Dragon after this is very much not a surprise, not with him being Strawhat’s father (Buggy still can’t wrap his head around that, but then again he still can’t believe Dragon is Garp’s son either, so it stands to reason that the newest generation of Monkey D’s would just as hard to comprehend), and Buggy has an inkling of what his friend is going to do about his protege’s training. Though Buggy’s pretty sure that Shanks would send one of his men along to keep an eye on the brat as well. Dragon handed his kid over to Garp to raise, after all, even after living through the man’s definition of parenting himself. It’s too bad that that part of the conversation was said too quietly for the marines to hear. Garp’s face would have been fabulous . “Vine.”

“Good.”

There’s movement behind Buggy, Newgate’s kids finally managing to drag the stubborn old man away and towards their remaining ships, and then all that’s left are Shanks and his people, the Rogers and the few remaining marines, with Garp and Sengoku remaining to cover their injured’s retreat, the ice user lurking further behind (and, Buggy is half-amused to note, keeping well away from both Buggy and Shanks’ reach).

(Well. That he knows of. Buggy’s range these days is… much bigger than anyone would guess.)


 

He’s still stubbornly ignoring Crocus, Rayleigh, Gulliver, Scopper Gaban and Seagull. The rest of them are already back on the Oro Jackson, but Buggy can feel their eyes on them.

Shanks hasn’t acknowledged their presence either, and Buggy has to repress a snort when Rayleigh is finally the one who cracks first.

“My my,” The Oro Jackson’s first mate speaks up, breaking the silence with a smile and a Voice that does anything but. “That was quite something, Shanks-kun.”

Shanks-kun , like Shanks is still a kid and not a grown man who fucking earned his Yonko title.

“Rayleigh.” Shanks’s answer is short. “Crocus. Gulliver. Scopper Gaban. Seagull.”

Shanks is just as furious with them as Buggy is, maybe even more because he’s mostly angry on Buggy’s behalf . The redhead could have let it go if he had been the only victim (because he’s a moron and a hypocrite who lectures Buggy on not letting anyone push him around but is perfectly fine with other people pushing him around as long as they leave his people alone, but that’s okay because Buggy is furious for both what they did to him and on Shanks’ behalf as well), but his friend has been livid about their treatment of Buggy for decades , and he’s done keeping his mouth shut. Buggy knows him well enough to know that he won’t say anything in front of the marines (you don’t give your enemies even more ways to hurt you, after all), but if the Rogers decide to tag along and have a conversation after this?

Well, Buggy is going to sit back and ask Lucky Roo for popcorn and throw a few choice words in from time to time while watching as Shanks tears them to fucking shreds .


 

(He would be much happier if they left them the fuck alone, after all that’s what they had been doing for two decades and they certainly never bothered to care before now, but life is a bitch and it doesn’t look like he’s going to get his wish. Not with the way Crocus is staring at him.)

(Too little, too late, much too late, should have thought about this before slamming the door in Buggy’s face when he had dragged himself, bruised and burned and bleeding, to the Twin Capes and what he thought would be help.)

(Well. Some lessons only need to be learned once.)

(This is the one thing he hasn’t told Shanks about, the one secret he’s kept.)

(Because Shanks would have headed straight for the Twin Capes and killed Crocus himself, and Buggy will not make his best friend a nakama-killer.)


 

“Kind of nostalgic, isn’t it?” Rayleigh goes on. “The old crew, back together?”

Slightly to Buggy’s right, from where he’s standing along with the rest of his crew, Rockstar mutters something uncomplimentary about senile old men who need better glasses, and Buggy is tempted to agree with him.

There is no old crew, hasn’t been one since Captain’s head hit the ground (since Captain announced he was leaving, since he left them all behind). And if there’s one now, it’s obvious that neither Buggy nor Shanks belong to it any longer.

(They have their own crew now, Davy Jones be damned, why can’t anyone acknowledge that? They aren’t two lost brats hanging on Gol D. Roger’s coattails anymore, they are grown ass adults and captains in their own right, and it stings that no one can be arsed to acknowledge that, to give them the respect they are due as both adults and captains).

Capu’s grumble of “He has a new crew now, asshat” brings a small smirk to Buggy’s lips even as he catches a flicker of Shanks’ fingers on the pommel of his sword, a gesture he recognizes easily.

Regroup on the ship .

Castor and Capu haven’t missed it either, and they seamlessly move with him as he turns around and starts heading towards the Red Force, ignoring the twinge of temptation from the Oro Jackson.

He misses Oro, he really does, but he cannot deal with their passengers right now (or ever).

And Shanks knows that, is giving him the opportunity to escape while he distracts the others, to get away while his mask is still intact, and Buggy is so very grateful for that.

He still leaves one of his ears hidden under the collar of Shanks’ cloak, though.

And if he sends the visual Denden up in the air, carried on three fingers, well.

He knows Shanks is going to do something memorable, and he will be damned if he doesn’t record it for posterity.

(Shanks might not be a D, but he’s fully capable of being just as dramatic as any of them, after all.)


 

“A bit,” Shanks lies through his teeth as Buggy walks away. “Though if you don’t mind I would prefer to keep the reminiscing for later. This is neither the time nor the place for it.”

It’s obvious from Crocus’ Voice that he very much minds, but Rayleigh speaks up before he can, and apparently the old doctor still respects the Dark King’s position as first mate, because he backs down.

“That seems reasonable,” Rayleigh says, “Shall we help you make sure the marines will behave?”

Buggy snorts quietly, drawing his companions’ attention.

“Old people being delusional,” he explains quietly, and they chuckle as well.

As if the Akagami of all people needed the Roger’s help in keeping a bunch of half-dead marines from following them, especially with the Spades somehow involved. Davy Jones be his witness, but they really needed to get on with the program.

Had any of them so much as opened a newspaper in the past twenty years? For fuck’s sake, Rayleigh supposedly lived with Shakky, aka the best informant in all of the seas! How had he managed to miss so much? At this point, it has to be willful ignorance.

Shanks’ Voice takes on a positively predatory tone.

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that too much,” the redhead smirks. “Something tells me that they are going to be too busy to even think about pursuing us.”

Sengoku’s Voice, however, takes a right turn on panic lane.

“Red-Hair!” The man snarls just as an ominous music starts playing through the handful of speakers still functioning. That must have been the Spades’ doing, Buggy thinks. Their musician, Nine, had made quite a name for herself for insisting on proper background music during her crew’s fights. Buggy likes her style, and her choice in music is, as always, absolutely spot on. “What. Did. You. Do?!”

“Me? Nothing. Yet. The Spades, however? Well,” Shanks drawls. “One should remember that that particular crew specializes in sabotage. And that they don’t take kindly to attacks on one of their own. Especially their captain."

“And yet,” Rockstar says, and Buggy is not surprised when his Haki tells him that the younger man is juggling with the detonator. He had noticed Monstar throwing it at him right as they left, smart little thing that she is. “They were kind enough to allow someone else to press the button as long as they got to watch the show.”

Buggy takes a moment to bask in the sheer dread emanating from the Gensui. It’s so nice to be on the other side of this, for once.

“So, if I were to give you any advice, Sengoku,” Shanks continues, and Buggy can feel the teeth in his smile as he climbs up the rope ladder and onto the Red Force, turning around on the deck to face the plaza just as Shanks finishes speaking. “It would be to run .”

And with that, without further warning, Rockstar grabs the detonator and presses it.


 

All around the plaza, the few buildings which hadn’t quite collapsed during the earlier battles explode simultaneously.

And in music. Which had gone from ominous to epic the second the button was pressed, because Nine and her Devil fruit are top-notch like that. Damn. If it weren’t for the fact that they would all be hunted down after this, and that the brat probably wants nothing to do with him, he would be tempted to ask Firefist if he wanted to meet up with the Big Top somewhere to put on the mother of all shows.

“Oh, nice touch!” Rockstar cackles. “ Nine’s doing, you think Lucky?”

“Definitely,” The cook confirms as the Akagami begin to walk back towards their ship, turning their backs to the fuming Sengoku without a care in the world. Buggy reads their Voices easily enough, knows that they are still tense and wary and keeping an eye on everything around them, but he knows he’s probably the only one not an Akagami who does.

The Gensui has finally lost his famed composure, cursing the air blue and running towards the last marine ships, picking up the few surviving marines that hadn’t yet been evacuated. Buggy learns a couple of new words, both from him and from Garp who is running just as fast, shielded by the last living admiral.

The Red-Hair Pirates have just single-handedly ended this war that should never have started in the first place, and they did with panache .

And Buggy got it all on camera. He moves the snail along with the crew, knowing without having to watch the recording that the image of them walking away with explosions in the background is going to be burned into history.


 

The Rogers are heading to their own ship, and Buggy spares a moment to admire the fact that the Oro Jackson is still in impeccable shape despite the two decades she had spent hidden away, before focusing on his best friend who has just jumped up on the desk with a well-controlled Soru. The rest of his crew immediately heads for the sails and ropes, getting the Red Force moving within seconds, but Buggy can’t bring himself to move.

He wants nothing more than to grab Shanks and never let go, but it’s clear from his friend’s expression that he isn’t done yet.

And Buggy is not willing to break down in front of the Okama Empress or the world, and his denden is still recording because Shanks isn’t done yet , so he takes a deep breath, calms his shaking hands and watches .

He watches as Shanks steps upon the figurehead, sword in hand, facing the island they’ve just left.

“This island has been an eyesore long enough.” Shanks says quietly, yet loudly enough to be heard by everyone on the ship. “It’s time for Davy Jones to collect his dues.”

Gryphon slashes through the air again, blade dark with concentrated armament haki, and Buggy stares as the cut travels through the air and towards the island, a wide beam of force that bisects it in two perfect halves.

There's a moment where the only noise is that of the explosion.

And then, with a deafening crack, Marineford is collapsing completely, cut in two, the two parts already starting to sink into the churning waters, and it’s beautiful.


 

Shanks finally turns around, and Buggy finally gets a good look at his face.

Outwardly, he seems fine, a bit tense maybe but…

Buggy has never been deceived by appearances when it comes to Shanks, and he sees the too tight shoulders, the lines of his face, the grim set of his lips, and his dark, wild eyes, and knows that Shanks is a fucking mess. 

That’s fine. So’s Buggy.

Shanks takes a breath, then another. Buggy turns off the Denden and hands it to Rockstar.

“Benn. You have Marco’s denden. Coordinate with him for the meeting place, but their closest island is a good two days away. You’re in charge. Keep an eye on our guest .”

And without waiting for his first mate’s answer, the redhead strides towards the inside of the ship, and Buggy falls into steps next to him as if it’s easiest thing in the world.

(it is.)


 

The moment the door of Shanks cabin closes behind them, Buggy grabs Shanks and is grabbed by Shanks in a desperate embrace, fingers clenching in the other man’s cloak, uncaring for the blood staining his clothes. Shanks’ one arm is holding him just as tightly, and Buggy buries his face in the crook of Shanks’ neck, finally allowing his limbs to shake like they’ve been threatening to all day.

He’s barely aware of his legs giving up, collapsing from under him, but Shanks seamlessly manages to catch him even as he lowers them to the floor, and they end sitting against the wall, still clinging to each other as tightly as possible.

They’re going to have bruises, but Buggy honestly doesn’t give a damn.

He’s off the battlefield and on Shanks’s ship, in Shanks’ cabin, and Shanks is right there , is holding him , Shanks came to save him like he always does , and it’s too much, and Buggy can feel the tears building up in his eyes and he doesn’t have the strength to hold them back anymore, doesn’t have to hold them back anymore because he is safe , he is with Shanks and he is safe and he can break now because Shanks is there to catch him and put him back together again.

“I’ve got you,”, Shanks whispers, his one-armed grip tightening even more than Buggy thought was possible. “I’ve got you, Buggy.”

And that’s it, that’s all it takes, and suddenly Buggy is shaking violently, heavy sobs wracking his body as tears cascade down his face and onto Shanks shoulder as everything catches up to him, as everything he’s spent the past few hours mercilessly repressing hits him like Old Tom’s fucking sea train, and Shanks holds him and doesn’t let him go. He doesn’t let him go when Buggy’s finger dig into his arm as Buggy tries to ground himself, doesn’t let go when Buggy momentarily loses control of his devil fruit and his right arm suddenly splits into five pieces, doesn’t let go even when Buggy suddenly turns green, just uses his foot to bring a bucket closer and allows Buggy to turn slightly so he can throw up, but Shanks doesn’t let go, doesn’t stop touching Buggy, just moves his grip so he can keep Buggy’s hair out of the way as he empties what little had been in his stomach and a whole lot of bile into the bucket, and Buggy is an ugly, shaking, crying mess and he’s never been so glad for Shanks’s presence.

When he’s done throwing up, Shanks coaxes him gently into the small washroom attached to his cabin, makes him sit on a stool in front of the sink and lets go of him only long enough to grab a glass and fill it with water, but even that loss of contact is too much, too soon, and Buggy’s left hand moves without him even needing to think about it, latching onto Shanks’ wrist, and he notices the way Shanks relaxes as he does, and he knows he’s not the only one who needs this right now, who needs to reassure himself that the other is really there , alive and breathing.

Shanks hands him the glass and Buggy mechanically rinses his mouth and spits it out in the sink, and then Shanks’s hand is on his arm again as he leads him into the running shower (and when had Shanks turned it on, how had Buggy missed this?), fully clothed. The warm water washes over him, over them, for Shanks is right there next to him, his arm around him again and Buggy leans into him, lets his head fall down in the crook of Shanks’ neck again and cries until he has no tears left, until he feels empty and wrought up and his shaking finally subsides somewhat, until he finally feels like he can think again and not immediately work himself into another panic attack.

He blinks.

They’re still in the shower, the water now lukewarm as it washes over them, their clothes thoroughly soaked, and Shanks is running his hand over his hair soothingly.

“Back with me?” Shanks asks quietly, and Buggy doesn’t trust his ability to use words right now so he nods in Shanks’ neck instead. “C’mon, let’s get you dried out.”


 

Shanks leads him out of the shower, Buggy’s hand held tightly in his own. They have to let go of each other in order to peel their drenched and dirty clothes off (and the look Shanks gives the prison uniform promises that Buggy will never see it again), dry themselves off and put on some dry clothes procured from Shank’s chest. They’re too large for him, but they’re clean and comfortable and warm and they feel like Shanks and his friend is never getting them back.

Their hands find each other again as soon as they’re both dressed, and don’t let go until they’re sitting on the floor, huddled between the bed and the clothes chest as they used to when they were children, three blankets wrapped around them and two more thrown over them in a makeshift blanket fort. Buggy is practically sitting on Shanks’ lap, face buried in his friend’s chest, Shanks’ arm wrapped tightly around him, holding him close.

Buggy is still shaking.

So is Shanks.


 

They stay like this, holding each other in silence, for what might be hours, until Buggy finally manages to make his words work again.

“My crew?” He asks, voice hoarse, because he has to know.

“Alive and safe on one of my islands in East Blue. Waiting for you. Probably freaking out right now, and ready to tear me a new one for not getting here sooner.” Shanks attempts to joke, but it falls flat.

“You go there in time, Shanks. You made it . We’re alive. Strawhat and Firefist and Rockstar and I, we’re alive because you made it.”

“You nearly weren’t.”

“But we are!”

“You were fighting alone and I wasn’t there! ” Shanks yells, and Buggy goes quiet. Shanks’ grip is so tight he’s definitely going to have bruises, but he doesn’t give a fuck.

“I was so fucking scared,” Shanks whispers. “I was watching everything and I was still so fucking far away, wasn’t sure we would make it in time. I thought I was going to watch you die in front of my eyes without being able to do anything …”

Buggy is the one who tightens his grip this time.

“If I hadn’t asked you to test Luffy’s resolve…”

“I would have done it anyway, and you know it. It’s neither of our fault if Monkey Fucking D. Garp is an asshole who decided to throw me in Impel Down for it, and it’s your brats who got me out in the end, so I say we’re even,” Buggy tells him, even though the simple thought of Impel Down is enough to make him shudder.

Shanks notices, of course, and presses him closer, and Buggy lets him, leaning his head against his chest and listening to the strong heartbeat beneath it, the regular thumping grounding him, reminding him that he's alive, they're alive, and that's all that matters right now.


They stay like that for a long moment, and then Shanks speaks again.

“Buggy, are you…”

Buggy knows what Shanks wants to ask, knows he wants to ask him if he’s okay even if the question is stupid, because of course he’s not and they both know it.

He stays silent, for a few moments.

Shanks doesn’t let go.

“I never wanted to stand on a battlefield ever again,” Buggy whispers, and his fingers tighten on Shanks’ shirt. “I had nearly managed to forget how loud it was, you know? And how quiet it got when all the Voices went out.”

Edd War at ten, and so many other battles before and after it.

Awakening your over-sensitive observation haki at age eight had not been fun. The things he had gone through since had not helped.

(Davy Jones knows Buggy had loved his father Captain, but he’ll never not resent him for dragging two kids into wars - and for not noticing that one of them had over-sensitive haki when he himself had the same condition.)

“They’re right, you know?” He goes on, because now that he’s started he cannot stop. “Impel Down. It’s hell . On multiple levels. There’s some people there who really shouldn’t have been, who were just at the wrong place at the wrong time, but the others?”

He shudders at the memories.

“Their Voices… they were…”

Disgusting. Slimy. Wrong .

“And they were everywhere , Shanks, and I couldn’t… I couldn’t afford to turn my haki off, because the moment I let my guard down…” He gulps.

If he had let his haki down, even for a moment, he would have died. So he had done what he did best, cowered and hid and been on his guard twenty four seven, and he had survived .

“And then your brat comes running through the prison, wreaking havoc as he goes, and against all odds he manages to win. Nearly kills himself in the process, too, because he’s a moron and decided that fighting a man made of poison barehanded was a great idea, but somehow he manages to win anyway! Fucking D’s, I thought I was done with that bullshit after Captain’s death, but I swear they get worse every generation!”

There’s a sound from Shanks that halfway between a chuckle and a sob, and Buggy continues, barely noticing how tightly he’s clenching Shanks’s shirt between his fingers.

“And then we’re out of that hellhole and the only thing I want is to get as far away as possible but Strawhat insists on going to Marineford and the ship is stuck in the currents and there’s no way to leave and all those prisoners have somehow decided to make me their captain, even though most of them had higher bounties than I do, but I didn’t want them to, Shanks, I didn’t! Some of them were just stupid kids who didn’t deserve to be there in the first place, but the others, the others should have been executed decades ago ! But if I said anything they would have turned on me, so I played along, and I was planning on grabbing another ship and hightailing it out of there as soon as we got to Marineford, but then Strawhat told us that Firefist was Gol D Roger’s son and…”

He’s shaking again, full body sobs tearing out of his throat.

“And then I couldn’t leave, because if this was real, if this was truly Captain’s kid… I just couldn't! And then we got there and the Oro Jackson was there, and they were there, they were there for Firefist but they never came for us, and I just, I couldn’t, couldn’t handle it, not all of it, not all of it at once and I hid and I grabbed a denden because the world deserved to see what was happening and I could do that even if I couldn’t bring myself to actually fight. I could be a witness, I did it once already and I hated it but I thought I could do it again, and I tried to stay out of it, I tried, but fuck Shanks, he’s just a kid, they’re just kids, and they were going to kill them because of who their fathers were and that’s just… they’re just kids, Shanks.” Buggy says, helpless, tears running down his face. “They’re just kids.”

Shanks holds him even closer, which Buggy didn’t think was even possible, but he doesn’t complain.

“I know, Buggy, I know…”

“They didn’t deserve any of this - I couldn’t let it happen, not after what we went through, and Rockstar was there and he got Firefist free but then Kizaru happened and I killed him but it was too late and they were falling and then Strawhat jumped back on the plaza and Akainu was running towards them and no one was moving and then…”


 

Buggy is hyperventilating and he knows it, but he can’t breathe, can’t get enough air in his lungs, and he’s going to suffocate and how stupid will that look on his eulogy, survived Marineford only to die of a panic attack afterwards, but Shanks’ hand on his back and Shanks’ voice in his ears and Shanks’ heartbeat under his head ground him, drag him back to an even keel.

“In and out, in and out. Breathe with me, Buggy, follow my lead,” Shanks is saying somewhere above his head, and Buggy focuses on the rise and fall of the chest he’s resting against, tries to synchronize his feeble attempts at breathing with it, and is relieved when the black spots disappear from his sight.

“Sorry,” he whispers once he feels like he can actually talk again.

Shanks lightly pinches his side.

“Stop apologizing for having a normal sentient being’s reaction to the clusterfuck that just happened, Bug.”

Buggy stifles a snort, reluctantly unclenching one of his hands from Shanks’ shirt to wipe his eyes.

“Clusterfuck is definitely the right word for it,” he says.

“That it is,” Shanks says. Then: “Wait, Kizaru? You killed him?”

“Knife to the throat, since none of the others had bothered to check that he was actually completely dead. I was not going to let him attack us in the back again.”

“And then Akainu. Two admirals in a row. Damn.” Shanks whistles, and this time Buggy does chuckle, even though he wants to hide away in Shanks’ cabin and never come out again.

“I killed two admirals, the second one in front of the entire fucking world. Fuck. They’re never going to stop hunting me down after this," He whispers, clinging to Shanks' shirt again.

“I just sunk their Marine Headquarter to the bottom of the Ocean. I think that might distract them enough for the time being, and hopefully serve as a warning of what is to come if they target you or yours,” Shanks replies evenly, and Buggy blinks.

“What…”

“Your crew was our first allied crew, Bug. Just because no one else knew about it before today doesn’t make it any less true. Anyone tries to touch you, they’ll have to answer to me .”


 

And… Well, Buggy knows that, of course, has always known that Shanks would always have his back, but to hear it confirm it, after everything that just went down?

Well. It’s a good thing that Buggy has absolutely no compunction about crying in front of Shanks because he wouldn’t be able to stop the tears if he tried.

“Yeah well. Right back at you, idiot. If anyone tries to mess with you let me know and I’ll make their lives miserable .”

Because he might not be as powerful as Shanks, as intimidating or as strong, but Buggy is smart , and he knows people, and he’s not above using his network to ruin someone’s day. Or entire existence.

“Wouldn’t dare forget it,” Shanks chuckles in his hair, and Buggy laughs despite the tears and then they’re both laughing and crying simultaneously, hysterically, and it feels good .

The world is still awful, Buggy has still just managed to earn himself a spot on the Marines’ most wanted list, but right here, right now, things are okay.

We’ll be alright, Buggy thinks. We’ll be alright, eventually.

Because with Shanks by his side, Buggy has no doubt that he can take on the world.

(Which he might have to. Because of the whole “killed two admirals and prevented the execution of the pirate king’s son while live-streaming the entire thing” thing.)

(And he’s definitely not looking forward to the fallout of that mess, but…)

(Shanks is there.)

(They’ll be alright.)

 

Chapter Text

Wherever I may roam

On land or sea or foam

You will always hear me singing this song

Show me the way to go home

(Show me the way to go home)


 

 Garp and Sengoku look away first, but Shanks doesn’t.

He doesn’t, even though he wants to, even though he wants nothing more than to turn around and look at Buggy, to make sure that he’s unharmed, to get an idea of just how badly Buggy is going to breakdown once they’re safe, but he can’t. He can’t afford to, not when he has to make sure that the marines don’t try to do anything stupid, not when he has to make his displeasure known at the attack against his people, not when he has to make sure the Marines and the World Government are focusing on him and not on Buggy.

"You are down two admirals and two warlords, and the rest of them left as soon as we showed up, Gensui. If you care even a little for the lives of your men, you will not squander them further. Back. Down."

Marineford will drownburn before the day is over.

He might leave them a chance to escape with their lives. Might.


 

(If any of his precious people don’t make it?)

( It will be a bloodbath.)

(This is not how Shanks wants to remembered, a bloodthirsty monster who slaughtered thousands, but if it protects his people?)

(He will dye all four blues in crimson in a heartbeat)


 

It must show on his face (and Shanks is so, so glad that he’s facing away from Buggy, because he doesn’t want Buggy to see him like this, to see this expression on his face, the one he had sworn he would never again don unless he had no other choice left) because Sengoku the Buddha backs down

"Fine! Red-Hair... I'll take responsibility for this." Sengoku says, and he glares at Garp when the man tries to protest. Too bad. Shanks would love an excuse to plow the famed hero of the Marine’s face into the ground. "FALL BACK! Hurry and tend to the wounded! Get them to the ships! This War is finished!"

Behind him, the conscious marines hurry towards their fallen comrades, a rose haired kid leading the charge.

Most of them will live, Shanks thinks, if they can get to the ships in time.

He can’t bring himself to care right now.

"Akagami!” His fellow Yonkou barks from behind him. “I should like to speak with you after this!"

Nor can he bring himself to care enough to turn around when Newgate demands to talk to him even as he finally allows his children to start leading him to their remaining ships.

"Are you going to listen or are you going to dismiss me as nothing more than one of Roger's brat again?" Shanks snaps back, not even bothering to look at the man. He is done with Newgate’s posturing. Just done. There are more important things on his mind right now. "Or are you going to get your head out of your ass and finally notice that it's been over twenty years since Roger was executed and that I have been a captain in my own right for longer than I have sailed with him? And that maybe I happen to know what I'm talking about when I tell you that that piece of trash was bad news and to call your son back?"

(And if he’s not only addressing Newgate when he tears him a new one, well.)

(That’s for him and Buggy to know and for the Rogers never to get a clue, apparently, given how they react to him yelling at the old moron.)

(Punching them in the face has never been so tempting, and they have yet to attempt talking to him. This is going to be fun. Not .)

"I would like to talk," Newgate repeats, again, quieter this time, and his tone is better suited to talking to an equal this time. Hu. At least this fossil knew when he had pushed too far. Not that Shanks is going to make it easy for him, of course. He still owes him a punch or two for being so fucking stupid .

Behind him, he can feel his nakama get ready, can feel the low thrum of amusement emanating from them. Can feel Damian move towards the Piece of Spadille, move towards Luffy and Ace. Can feel the way Buggy braces himself when Shanks starts humming, familiar enough with that particular tune to have a good idea of what is coming next.

A quick look at his sword and he catches Buggy’s reflection, his first glance at his friend’s face since this whole thing started for real.

Buggy looks… better than he expected, which is really just credit to his acting talents. But nothing is showing on his face, and it’s only because Shanks knows him so well that he knows just how close Buggy is to a complete breakdown. Yet another reason to make it very clear that his people are off limit.

Monstar’s sitting on Buggy’s shoulder, chattering animatedly in his ear even as she plays with what looks suspiciously like a detonator.

Good girl. So that’s what the Spades had been up to during this mess. Shanks can work with that.

"We will follow and make sure no one gets ideas ," Shanks says calmly, eyes still not leaving the veteran marines who haven't moved from their spot. "We shall join you wherever you decide to lay anchor after this. I need to have a talk with my brat anyway.” 

Because he does not like the way Luffy looked when he was carried to the Piece of Spadille, does not like the way his Voice felt when Shanks showed up, and he’s pretty sure the kid is beating himself over the fact that this is somehow beating the promise they made. Because apparently, according to what Ace had said, Anchor thought that “ when you become a great pirate in the future, you'll return that hat to me " meant “ I refuse to see you again until you become Pirate King ”, and Davy Jones, Shanks loves the kid but Luffy can be dumb sometimes.

(Like hell Shanks would ever want to spend who knows how many years without seeing Luffy. The brat is his in all the ways that matter, and the past ten years have been painfully long, and if Luffy thinks he’s getting away from him so easily he’s got another thing coming.)

(Another thing including a fucking denden mushi with Shanks’s number memorised and standing orders to call him at least every two weeks. At the minimum.)

But that’s for later. Right now he’s got other things to deal with.

“Now listen to your fucking kids and get the hell out of here. Ivankov!" He adds, at the revolutionary who is heading towards one of the leaving ships, and no, that won’t do. "My doctor is currently heading to the Piece of Spadille to make sure Anchor remains alive long enough for me to have a talk with him,” - and Shanks will have talk with his brat, no matter how many people he has to bring down to make it happen -  “But he has expressed his desire to have words with you,” - and Shanks has learned a long time ago to never disagree with a doctor when they’re using that tone -  “And I have words to have with your leader.”

And he will have those, as well. Dragon will take responsibility for his son’s training, and he will let Ryu stay there, whether he likes it or not.

“You will be a guest on my ship until we rejoin with the Whitebeards.”

“Do I not get a choice in the matter?” The Okama tries to protest, but a glare is enough to quiet them.

No. No he doesn’t.

Monkey D. fucking Garp is just far enough away not to have heard what Shanks just said, and Shanks isn’t quite sure whether he’s glad for it or not. Garp knowing Shanks’ plan would be bad… but the odds that the old bastard would have an apoplexy upon realising what Shanks intends to do are high .

Then again, that sort of death would be too kind .

 “Vine.”

“Good.”


 

There’s movement behind him, Newgate fin-fucking-ally leaving the battlefield and heading towards his remaining ships, children in tow, and now it’s just Shanks and Buggy and his crew and the Rogers and the last couple of Marines, with Garp and Sengoku remaining as rear guard. Aokiji hasn’t left yet either, but the last Admiral is being careful to stay as far away from Buggy and Shanks both as he can without being too obvious about it.

Someone learnt his lesson, apparently.


 

Unfortunately, others haven’t.

He’s been careful not to so much as look in their general direction since he got here, but obviously some people really can’t take a hint

“My my,” Rayleigh speaks up, and Shanks is still not looking at him but he can just imagine the smile on his face and it makes him want to introduce it to his fist . “That was quite something, Shanks-kun.”

Shanks- kun .

Shanks- kun .

Shanks- kun , like Shanks is a fucking kid , like he’s not on the wrong side of thirty, like he’s not a freaking captain in his own right, like he’s not one of the four strongest pirates in the fucking world according to the Marines and the World Government .

Like he hasn’t just torn Newgate a new one for still treating him like Roger’s tag-along.

Fuck but Shanks is so done with all of them already and Rayleigh hasn’t even uttered ten words yet.

“Rayleigh. Crocus. Gulliver. Scopper Gaban. Seagull.”

Not Rayleigh-san. Not Doc. Not any of the nicknames he routinely bestowed upon the rest of them.

They’ve lost that privilege a long time ago.


 

The thing is, Shanks wouldn’t be half as furious with them as he is now if he had been the only one hurt by their (in)actions. He would still have been angry, of course, but it wouldn’t be the glacial fury currently coursing through his veins at the thought that the Roger came together to save a twenty-year old boy they had, for the most part, never met, when they couldn’t be bothered to even look out for two young teenagers that had grown up on their ship. That they gathered without hesitation to rescue Ace from death when they never even attempted to help Buggy escape Impel Down.

But most of all Shanks will never forgive Rayleigh for what he said when Shanks, all of sixteen years old and freshly separated from Buggy by a freak storm, had begged him for any information about his best friend’s whereabout, for never attempting to look for him.

(“Buggy? That loud-mouthed brat is still a pirate?”)

(He still has no idea what Crocus did, but he knows it’s bad, because Buggy won’t tell him and the only reason Buggy wouldn’t tell him is that his friend is worried about Shanks’ reaction, which is already pretty telling.)

Shanks could have dealt with it if he had been the only victim of their negligence. But he only has to remember how wretched Buggy had looked when they had finally found each other again, all those years ago, to remember Buggy's face on the screen when he had seen the Oro Jackson, for his blood to be boiling again.

This wasn’t the time or place for him to tear them apart, not in front of the marines and with so many people watching, but it was only a question of time now.

After all, it didn’t look like the Rogers were simply going to let them be after this.

(Too little, too late. Twenty fucking five years too late.)


“Kind of nostalgic, isn’t it?” Rayleigh goes on. “The old crew, back together?”

And Shanks wants to punch him so badly , because really? Really? That’s what Rayleigh is leading with? They haven’t been a crew since Captain’s head hit the ground (since Captain announced he was leaving, if Shanks has to be honest, and he makes it a point to avoid lying to himself if at all possible).

Behind him, he can hear Rockstar’s muttering about senile old men needing better glasses, can hear Capu’s grumble of “He has a new crew now, asshat”, and he’s tempted to agree.

Seriously, what the hell is wrong with them? Have they just forgotten the past twenty four years or something? Or slept through them without bothering to open a newspaper?

Because Shanks and Buggy stopped being Rogers when Roger’s head hit the ground, when the crew disbanded, when two young teenagers were dropped off on a random island in the freaking New World without so much as a by your leave.

Because Buggy is a captain now, has his own crew and his own ship, and they’re good people , his nakama, and his ship is a good one as well, one that was already starting to develop her own Klabautermann when Shanks saw her for the first time.

Because Shanks is a captain too, has his own crew and his own ship, and they’re his and he’s theirs in a way nothing else has ever been save for Buggy ( and Captain ), and his people may be crazy like Buggy is fond of pointing out, but they’re his nakama and so is the Red Force and her Klabautermann would be the first to brain you with an anchor if you dared to suggest otherwise.

Because Shanks is a fucking Yonkou now, and you would think that would mean something, but apparently it doesn’t, not to those people who look at him and Buggy and don’t see two grown men who raised themselves up to become captains in their own rights, but two lost little boys following Gol D. Roger around like little duckling.

Well, fuck them. Shanks is completely, a hundred percent done with today’s bullshit and he’s not willing to tolerate the Rogers on top of it.

And he’s definitely not willing to force Buggy to tolerate them right now (or ever).

He’s not willing to tolerate the Roger’s bullshit, but he’s more than willing to distract them long enough for Buggy to make his escape, guarded by Castor and Capu (because Shanks is not taking any risks with his best friend’s life, not after coming so close to losing him again , and if he can’t watch his back he’s damn well going to make sure his people will).

(He doesn’t miss the ear that lodges itself in the collar of his cloak, nor the denden flying around.)

(He hadn’t expected anything less.)


 “A bit,” Shanks lies through his teeth as Buggy walks away. “Though if you don’t mind I would prefer to keep the reminiscing for later. This is neither the time nor the place for it.”

The time is never and the place doesn’t exist. Unfortunately, he gets the feeling that he’s not going to get his wish.

They quite obviously mind, from the way Crocus is bristling, but apparently, and despite all proof to the contrary, Rayleigh does still possess some remnant of ability to know when not to push and the rest of them still respect him enough to back down.

“That seems reasonable,” Rayleigh says, “Shall we help you make sure the marines will behave?”

Shanks represses the unbidden snort. Ha. As if.

Shanks has his crew and his best friend, and the Spades were obviously preparing something quite explosive before his arrival. Like Hell they would need the Roger’s help.

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that too much,” Shanks smirks, and delights at the way Sengoku pales . “Something tells me that they are going to be too busy to even think about pursuing us.”

“Red-Hair!” The man snarls, and the Spades prove that they have excellent timing because ominous music starts playing in the background. He vaguely remembers their musician, Nine was it, who had a true ear for music and insisted on proper background music and had the devil fruit to make it happen.

(That had made for an interesting evening, that time the Spades had tracked him down so Ace could thank him for saving Luffy.)

He’s definitely buying the Spades a drink after this.

“What. Did. You. Do?!” Sengoku rages, and Shanks’ smile is anything but nice when he replies.

“Me? Nothing. Yet. The Spades, however? Well. One should remember that that particular crew specializes in sabotage. And that they don’t take kindly to attacks on one of their own. Especially their captain."

Seriously, the Spades had been infamous for the shit they used to pull back then. They had been a bit quieter since joining up with Whitebeard, but their antics had been hilarious . Shanks had kept some of the newspaper articles just so he could have a good laugh from time to time! The marines only had themselves to blame for forgetting to keep an eye on them, really.

“And yet,” Rockstar says, and Shanks doesn’t need to look behind him or in the reflection of his blade to know that his spymaster is juggling with the detonator, having gotten it from Monstar before the monkey left with Buggy. “They were kind enough to allow someone else to press the button as long as they got to watch the show.”

Shanks doesn’t know if the Spades willingly surrendered that detonator or not, and honestly he doesn’t give a damn. The panic on Sengoku’s face is priceless and Shanks is definitely going to have a picture of it framed.

“So, if I were to give you any advice, Sengoku,” Shanks continues, and his smiles has too much teeth and he grins anyway as the music rises to its peak. “It would be to run .”

And with that, without further warning, Rockstar grabs the detonator and presses it.


An epic symphony shakes the entire island even as the few remaining buildings collapse around them. Nine has excellent taste. Shanks is definitely buying her a drink after this, he thinks as he turns away from the explosions and starts heading towards his ship. Towards Buggy .

“Oh, nice touch!” Rockstar cackles. “ Nine’s doing, you think Lucky?”

“Definitely,” The cook confirms as his nakama fall into step behind him, seemingly oblivious to the furious Gensui who is too busy cursing the air blue and trying to evacuate the few marines still on the island before it's too late, Garp at his side.

Tssk. Shanks had hoped he would have a chance to settle some things with the older Monkey, but it looks like it would have to wait.

So would the rest of the old geezers, he thinks as he walks away from the gawking Rogers.

The War is over. His people are safe . Now he just needs to get them away from here.

(And it aches, that Luffy isn’t on his ship, that he can’t check with his own eyes that his brat is still alive and breathing, that he can’t make sure Ace is unharmed, but Damian is with them and Shanks trusts his doctor to take care of them until they meet up with the Whitebeards.)

(Besides, he thinks, glancing up towards the deck of the Red Force as he readies himself for Soru. Luffy is with Ace. He will be fine for a little while.)

(Buggy, however? Buggy needs him now .)


 

Shanks’ nakama are quick to head for the sails and ropes, to get the Red Force moving and away from Marineford, and Buggy is right there and it take all Shanks has not to grab him into a hug then and there, but he can’t, can’t because Ivankov is there, and they’re still within view of Marineford, and of the Oro Jackson, and if he touches Buggy right now he’s not going to let him go and neither of them can afford a public breakdown. Not now.

Besides, Marineford is still standing and that won’t do at all.

So Shanks takes a deep breathe and he doesn’t head straight for Buggy no matter how much he wants to. Instead, he makes his way to the figurehead, jumping up and landing soundlessly on her head. Gryphon is still unsheathed, and his sword is as eager as he is to send this travesty straight down to Davy Jones.

“This island has been an eyesore long enough.” Shanks says quietly, yet loudly enough to be heard by everyone on the ship. “It’s time for Davy Jones to collect his dues.”

Marineford is already burning, a combination of Ace’s flames and the Spades explosives.

Now it’s time for it to drown .

It takes him but a second to focus, to gather his haki into his blade and let it go as he swings, and then the slash cuts through the air and through the very island, two perfectly equal halves collapsing against each other and into the churning waters in a deafening roar.


 

Shanks allows himself half a moment to watch as the ocean starts to swallow the sinking island. Half a moment to reassure himself that the Marines are definitely leaving, fleeing away from them and from the sinkhole trying to drag everything to the bottom of the ocean.

Half a moment, and then he turns around, and his eyes finally meet Buggy’s and fuck but his friend looks wretched and it makes Shanks wants to destroy Marineford a second time, makes him want to go back to that Marine ship and slaughter Monkey D. Garp in the most painful way possible, because he hurt Buggy and that is not something Shanks will ever tolerate, not now not then not ever , but Buggy is right there and his shaking even if no one else has noticed it yet and there’s a wild desperate look in his eyes and his skin is three shades too pale, so Shanks boxes it all in, the anger and the rage and the fury, because Buggy needs him to be right here with him and not miles away making Garp regret all his life choice, needs him to be his rock and keep him from drowning and Buggy will always, always take precedence.

Shanks takes a breath, then another, flicks the blood off Gryphon and sheathes her back, mentally promising himself to give her a proper cleaning later. Buggy turns off the Denden and hands it to Rockstar.

“Benn. You have Marco’s denden. Coordinate with him for the meeting place, but their closest island is a good two days away. You’re in charge. Keep an eye on our guest .”

Because Shanks is in no state to do so, because he doesn’t want to and Buggy needs him, and this is Benn , so there’s no need for an explanation because Benn knows him, knows him and knows Buggy and knows that there are things no one else can help them with, knows that what Shanks needs of him is to be exactly who he is, an extremely competent first mate with a protective streak a mile wide and a good head on his shoulder.

Shanks does not doubt that Benn will make sure that Ivankov stays away from them, will probably keep him on deck using his unusual size as an argument. He does not doubt that Benn will leave them alone as long as they need it either, nor does he doubt that his first mate will make sure that food and drinks are left outside his cabin for later, when the very thought doesn’t make him want to throw up.

Shanks knows Benn will do all that and more, and so he doesn’t wait for his answer, just strides towards the inside of the ship, and Buggy falls into steps next to him as if it’s easiest thing in the world.

(it is.)


As soon as the door of his cabin closes behind them, Shanks is clinging on to Buggy with all his strength, his one arm wrapped tightly around him even as Buggy’s fingers clench in his cloak, desperately holding on as if Shanks is the only thing holding him upright right now.

Shanks’ clothes are covered in blood, in Marshall D. Teach’s blood, but neither of them give a fuck, too busy holding on to each other. Buggy’s face buries itself in Shanks neck, and he can feel the tears gathering in his friend’s eyes and presses him closer still as Buggy’s limbs start shaking like a leaf in the storm, the adrenaline rush finally deserting him.

His haki warns him seconds before Buggy’s legs give out underneath him, and it’s the easiest thing in the world to stop Buggy from falling and lower them both to the floor so they can sit instead of stand, never letting go of each other, holding on so tightly that they’re both going to have bruises later.

Shanks doesn’t give a fuck about bruises right now.

All he cares about is that Buggy is right here, in his arm, alive and breathing when he very nearly wasn’t and Shanks is not ready to live in a world where Buggy doesn’t and today he came much to close to finding out what kind of world that would be, but now Buggy is here, in Shanks’ cabin, in Shanks’ arm, where Shanks can keep him safe and never let him go, where Shanks can hold him as he shatters and help him put himself back together again afterwards, and he can feel Buggy reaching his limit, and so he tightens his grip around his friend’s shoulders.

“I’ve got you,”, Shanks whispers, and he has and he always will . “I’ve got you, Buggy.”

And then the dam breaks and Buggy’s shakes turn into violent, heavy sobs, his fingers digging themselves into Shanks’ back as his friend finally allows himself to break down after everything that happened to him since they last saw each other, allows himself too fall apart, secure in the knowledge that Shanks is there to catch the pieces, and Shanks holds him and doesn’t let go. Not when Buggy’s fingers move from his back and start digging into his arm, not when Buggy’s right arm breaks into five different pieces, not when his haki warns him that his friend is about to throw up. Shanks just uses his foot to bring the bucket he usually uses as a trashcan closer, shifts his grip so he can hold Buggy’s hair up while he vomits, then moves his hand to rub his friend’s back gently as Buggy sobs and heaves and shatters, and Shanks doesn’t even try to stop his own tears from falling, he just pushes them aside to focus on Buggy.

It takes some gentle coaxing to get Buggy to stand up and follow him to the small private bathroom Shanks’s status as captain allows him to have. Convincing him to sit down and drink some water is slightly harder, if only because Shanks is just as reluctant as Buggy to let go, to stop touching him, but Shanks only has the one arm and Buggy’s in no state to get himself a glass of water on his own, but then Buggy solves the problem by latching his left hand ( his dominant hand, Shanks knows) to Shanks wrist and that helps, because if Shanks is touching Buggy then he knows Buggy is here, alive and breathing and safe , and so Shanks takes a second to turn on the shower as well because they’re both covered in blood and shaking and going into shock, and warm water can only help with that.

Buggy rinses his mouth, mechanically, in a way that worries Shanks, because the only times Buggy falls back on such mechanical movement is when his mind is this close to blacking out and he doesn’t think Buggy can afford to lose consciousness right now, not when his brain is going a thousand miles a minutes, going over and over and over the clusterfuck that just happened, so Shanks takes him by the arm and leads him into the shower, fully clothed, and drags Buggy closer when he sees the blank look in his eyes, lets him lean into him and is stupidly grateful when Buggy shakes off the blankness and buries his face in the crook of his neck. The tears that had subsided somewhat when Buggy had followed him to the bathroom come back with a vengeance. Shanks still doesn’t give a damn, because it’s better for Buggy to get it all out than to allow them to fester longer than they already have, and he holds until the tears stop again, until Buggy stops shaking like a person-shaped earthquake.

The water turned lukewarm a few moments ago, but Shanks knows they’ve still got a couple of minutes before it turns cold, and he’s running his fingers through Buggy’s hair in a way he hasn’t done in a long time, but still has the same soothing effect, when he feels Buggy shift minutely.

“Back with me?” Shanks asks him quietly, and Buggy nods minutely against his skin. Shanks moves his hand, gives his neck a comforting squeeze. “C’mon, let’s get you dried out.”


Buggy clings to Shanks’ hand as he leads him out of the shower (but then again, Shanks is clinging just as hard, so he doesn’t mind it at all ). Letting go of Buggy’s hand to change into clean, dry clothes is excruciating, and Shanks is not surprised when their fingers tangle again as soon as they’re done. Buggy looks better, he notes, his eyes no longer fogged over by the unnerving blankness, some color back in his cheeks from the warm shower.

He’s still much too thin, and looks like Shanks clothes are swallowing him, but he no longer looks one step away from fainting and at this point Shanks will take what he can get. 

It’s easy to nudge Buggy towards the bed, to encourage him to grab the blankets that Shanks can’t take due to his only hand not being willing to let go of Buggy’s, and within moments Shanks has them sitting on the floor, half-hidden in the space between the bed and the clothes chest with three blankets cocooning them and two others thrown from the bed to the chest to make an improvised blanket fort.

(They haven’t made one in years, but… it helps. It’s a reminder of the times they would hide in Captain’s cabin after a nightmare or a battle, after Raftel and during storms, of the times Captain would let them in and never say a word to anyone about it, of the times they would build forts together, all three of them, huge, elaborate affairs that took up the entire cabin and all of the spare blankets and cushion, and they would huddle together underneath the covers and Roger would hold them and tell them stories to distract them.)

(Roger isn’t here today, will never be there again, but blanket forts still mean safety and home and care , even two decades later.)

Buggy is still shaking, curled up on Shanks’ lap, limbs wrapped around him like a koala, his face pressed against Shanks’s chest, and Shanks’ arm is around his friend’s shoulders, keeping him close.

Shanks is still shaking too.


 

(This was too close, way too close.)

(Never again)

(Shanks never wants to find out what a world without Buggy in it is like)

(Never)


 

They stay like this, holding each other in silence, basking in each other’s presence and in the fact that they’re here and alive and together for what might be hours, until Buggy finally manages to make his words work again.

“My crew?” He asks, voice hoarse, and Shanks is not surprised that this is his first question, because this is Buggy and he cares , cares too much sometimes, but his nakama are good people and Buggy is a great captain, so of course he cares, and they care right back.

“Alive and safe on one of my islands in East Blue. Waiting for you. Probably freaking out right now, and ready to tear me a new one for not getting here sooner.” Shanks attempts to joke, but it falls flat, because he should have been there sooner, should have made the trip to Impel Down himself, should have stormed the prison with all his might because they dared to imprison Buggy and...

“You go there in time, Shanks. You made it . We’re alive. Strawhat and Firefist and Rockstar and I, we’re alive because you made it.”

Because of course Buggy knows him, knows that Shanks is beating himself up over this, and is trying to comfort him, never mind that Buggy found himself in the middle of a freaking war because Shanks wasn't fast enough, because Shanks wasn’t there!

“You nearly weren’t.”

“But we are!”

“You were fighting alone and I wasn’t there! ” Shanks yells, and Buggy goes quiet. Shanks’ grip is so tight that Buggy is definitely going to have bruises, but he can’t bring himself to relax it, not when his mind is still flashing with images of Akainu’s magma fist tearing through Buggy’s chest like paper, of Marshall D. Teach wrapping his shadow around Buggy and spitting out a withered husk of what had once been his friend, of Sengoku crushing Buggy to paste underneath his Buddha fists, of Monkey Fucking D. Garp taking yet another of Shanks’ precious people away from him and...

“I was so fucking scared,” Shanks whispers. “I was watching everything and I was still so fucking far away, wasn’t sure we would make it in time. I thought I was going to watch you die in front of my eyes without being able to do anything …”

Buggy is the one who tightens his grip this time, but Shanks can’t stop, not now, because this is his fault, his fault and he wasn’t there to stop it and...

“If I hadn’t asked you to test Luffy’s resolve…”

“I would have done it anyway, and you know it. It’s neither of our fault if Monkey Fucking D. Garp is an asshole who decided to throw me in Impel Down for it, and it’s your brats who got me out in the end, so I say we’re even,” Buggy tells him, even though Shanks can feel the way the simple mention of Impel Down is enough to make him shudder.

Shanks presses him closer, and Buggy lets him, leans his head against Shanks’ chest to listen to his heartbeat the same way Shanks’ hand is resting on the pulse point on his neck, on the constant reminder that Buggy did make it out of there, that he is alive and breathing and here.

And that’s all that matters right now.


They stay like that for a long moment, and then Shanks can’t take the silence any longer, has to ask even if he knows the question is stupid but there’s no way to phrase what he wants to ask in a way that doesn’t sound trite, and he has to ask it anyway even if he knows that Buggy is anything but alright, they both know it, but he still has to ask.

“Buggy, are you…”

He trails off, and Buggy is silent, for a few moments.

Shanks doesn’t let go.

(Doesn’t think he’ll ever be able to let go, at least not for the foreseeable future.)

“I never wanted to stand on a battlefield ever again,” Buggy whispers, and his fingers tighten on Shanks’ shirt. “I had nearly managed to forget how loud it was, you know? And how quiet it got when all the Voices went out.”

And Shanks’ observation Haki is nowhere near as sensitive as Buggy, can’t detect half of the quarter of what Buggy perceives without even trying, but Shanks grew up next to Buggy and saw just how much it affected him, how much it hurt him.


 

(Buggy had been eight when he had awakened his Observation Haki, three whole months before Shanks, eight when three grown men had tried to hurt them and Captain had saved them and slaughtered an entire army in his protective rage, eight when he had thrown himself overboard, eyes firmly shut and hands plastered over his ears in a vain attempt to shut out the screams that only he could hear, eight when Shanks had jumped into the water after him and dragged him back to the shore, because despite not having eaten his fruit yet Buggy hadn’t even tried to swim, had been ready to drown to escape the Voices, eight when Shanks had had to literally scream Buggy back to reality.)

(And that had only been the beginning.)

(Shanks loves Roger, will always love him even if he’ll never forgive him for leaving them like he did, but he’ll never not hate him a little for dragging two little boys into the kind of battle that he reveled in, for not realising that Buggy’s Haki was different from the rest, that this was too much , that they had needed more help than the others had known how to give or even wanted to give, that they had needed him more than they had known how to say back then.)

(Shanks knows that the first thing he’ll do when his turn comes to board the Flying Dutchman is to punch Gol D. Roger in the face and scream a torrent of grievances at him.)

(And then he’ll probably fall into his captain’s father’s arms and bawl his eyes out.)


 

“They’re right, you know?” Buggy goes on. “Impel Down. It’s hell . On multiple levels. There’s some people there who really shouldn’t have been, who were just at the wrong place at the wrong time, but the others?”

Buggy really shouldn’t have been there, had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time but had ended up in Impel Down nonetheless because Monkey D. Fucking Garp is an asshole who better pray that Shanks doesn’t get his hand on him anytime soon.

“Their Voices… they were…”

Buggy gulps, shudders, and Shanks moves his hand up to cradle Buggy’s head closer to his chest, runs his fingers through his hair.

“And they were everywhere , Shanks, and I couldn’t… I couldn’t afford to turn my Haki off, because the moment I let my guard down…” He gulps.

Because the moment Buggy had let his guard down he would have been slaughtered, and they both know it, and neither of them wants to think about it, but it means that Buggy’s Haki had been working overtime for months now, and Seas, no wonder Buggy looks exhausted , there is no way his friend has slept more than half a handful of hours since he was dragged to Impel Down.

Shanks is going to eviscerate Monkey D. Garp.

“And then your brat comes running through the prison, wreaking havoc as he goes, and against all odds he manages to win. Nearly kills himself in the process, too, because he’s a moron and decided that fighting a man made of poison barehanded was a great idea, but somehow he manages to win anyway! Fucking D’s, I thought I was done with that bullshit after Captain’s death, but I swear they get worse every generation!”

Shanks lets out a noise that’s halfway between a chuckle and a sob, because Luffy . Stupid little brat taking on a poison fruit user and nearly dying, and he’s not even surprised that the brat did that, because it’s Luffy , Luffy who has the self-preservation instincts of a fucking jellyfish and the righteous anger of a mother bear when his people are insulted, and Shanks is partly to blame for this, he knows, even if the seeds were there long before the two of them met, because Luffy is a D. with all the bullshit that it entails.

Buggy is right. 

They do get worse every generation.

(The Sea wouldn’t have it otherwise)

“And then we’re out of that hellhole and the only thing I want is to get as far away as possible but Strawhat insists on going to Marineford and the ship is stuck in the currents and there’s no way to leave and all those prisoners have somehow decided to make me their captain, even though most of them had higher bounties than I do, but I didn’t want them to, Shanks, I didn’t!”

Of course Buggy didn’t, Buggy had never wanted this, never wanted to be the captain of such a huge crew, to have so many lives resting on his shoulders, so many people he cannot trust being so close to him.

“Some of them were just stupid kids who didn’t deserve to be there in the first place, but the others, the others should have been executed decades ago ! But if I said anything they would have turned on me, so I played along, and I was planning on grabbing another ship and hightailing it out of there as soon as we got to Marineford, but then Strawhat told us that Firefist was Gol D Roger’s son and…”

Buggy is shaking again, full body sobs tearing out of his throat, and Shanks moves his hand down to his back, rubs comforting circles even as he bites back his own sobs, remembering how he had felt when he had heard Sengoku’s proclamation, when he had realised that this was real , that Captain had had a kid he hadn’t told them about, that there had been a reason behind the Baterilla slaughter, that it had been Captain’s fault, at least in part, that so many women and children had died because of their fatherCaptain.

“And then I couldn’t leave, because if this was real, if this was truly Captain’s kid… I just couldn't! And then we got there and the Oro Jackson was there, and they were there, they were there for Firefist but they never came for us, and I just, I couldn’t, couldn’t handle it, not all of it, not all of it at once and I hid and I grabbed a denden because the world deserved to see what was happening and I could do that even if I couldn’t bring myself to actually fight. I could be a witness, I did it once already and I hated it but I thought I could do it again, and I tried to stay out of it, I tried, but fuck Shanks, he’s just a kid, they’re just kids, and they were going to kill them because of who their fathers were and that’s just… they’re just kids, Shanks.” Buggy says, helpless, tears running down his face. “They’re just kids.”

Shanks holds him even closer, and he’s never ever going to forgive the Rogers for this, for abandoning Buggy to Impel Down, for abandoning the two of them right after Captain’s death, for never so much as looking for them even once in twenty-four fucking years, for breaking Buggy’s heart and Shanks’ own as well.

“I know, Buggy, I know…”

Of course Buggy wouldn’t have been able to stay out of this, Shanks wouldn’t have been either, not when this situation mirrors their own past so much, not when children were involved, especially these two children.

“They didn’t deserve any of this - I couldn’t let it happen, not after what we went through, and Rockstar was there and he got Firefist free but then Kizaru happened and I killed him but it was too late and they were falling and then Strawhat jumped back on the plaza and Akainu was running towards them and no one was moving and then…”

Buggy’s breathing is ragged and stuttering, like he can’t get enough air to breathe, and Shanks recognises the symptoms of one of Buggy’s panic attacks immediately, falls back into old patterns, forcing his own breathing to even out, digging his fingers into Buggy’s back to anchor him in the real world, keeping his voice soft and encouraging as he tries to drag his friend back from the edge before he can black out completely.

“In and out, in and out. Breathe with me, Buggy, follow my lead,” and it takes a few moments, too long, much too long in Shanks’ opinion, and then Buggy is taking a few shuddering breaths, synchronising his inhales and exhales with Shanks’ own, until he’s breathing easily again.

“Sorry,” Buggy whispers, and Shanks doesn’t need to see his face to know that Buggy wouldn’t be meeting his eyes anyway, would be looking down as if ashamed of himself for having a panic attack after everything that happened today, and yeah, no, that won’t do at all .

Shanks lightly pinches his side.

“Stop apologizing for having a normal sentient being’s reaction to the clusterfuck that just happened, Bug.”

The old nickname slips out without him quite meaning to, but he doesn’t regret it one bit, especially since it makes Buggy snort and relax the deathgrip he has on Shanks’ shirt enough to raise a hand to wipe his eyes.

“Clusterfuck is definitely the right word for it,” he says.

“That it is,” Shanks says. Then what Buggy just said finally catches up with his brain. “Wait, Kizaru? You killed him?”

When? Shanks had been watching the entire thing, how had he missed this? Then again, it must have been right after Kizaru shot down Marco, and Shanks had been busy focusing on Ace and Luffy when that happened, but still . Fuck. That means Buggy killed not one but two admirals today, no wonder Aokiji had been staying way away from him! Then again, if Shanks hadn't noticed Buggy getting rid of Kizaru, odds were that no one else did, especially since Crocus and Rayleigh had already done a number on him.

“Knife to the throat,” - and shit, that meant that someone was going notice that Kizaru hadn't just succumbed to the sword and harpoon wounds Crocus and Rayleigh had inflicted upon him - “since none of the others had bothered to check that he was actually completely dead. I was not going to let him attack us in the back again.”

“And then Akainu. Two admirals in a row. Damn.” Shanks whistles, because even if the consequences are going to suck and even if he had been nearly sick with worry at the time, that’s really fucking impressive and there’s no one else on all the Seas that can boast about single handedly killing two admirals in less than hour, and it makes Buggy chuckle, which makes it worth it anyway.

And then Buggy goes very, very still.

“I killed two admirals, the second one in front of the entire fucking world. Fuck. They’re never going to stop hunting me down after this," He whispers, clinging to Shanks' shirt again as his voice breaks and he starts to shake again.

And yeah, no, that won’t do either.

“I just sunk their Marine Headquarter to the bottom of the Ocean. I think that might distract them enough for the time being, and hopefully serve as a warning of what is to come if they target you or yours,” Shanks replies evenly, and Buggy blinks, looking up at Shanks..

“What…”

“Your crew was our first allied crew, Bug. Just because no one else knew about it before today doesn’t make it any less true. Anyone tries to touch you, they’ll have to answer to me.”

And if any of them give him the slightest reason, he’s going to show them that he fucking deserves his title.

Buggy is crying again, softer this time, and Shanks continues to rub his back gently.

“Yeah well,” Buggy hiccups through his tears. “Right back at you, idiot. If anyone tries to mess with you let me know and I’ll make their lives miserable .”

And Shanks has to chuckle at this, because this is Buggy , Buggy who doesn’t want to fight but will find ways to inconvenience people who offended him or his, and Shanks has watched him do just that time and time again, and it never ceases to amaze him how many people Buggy knows, how seamlessly he can ruin someone’s day, or entire existence depending on how much he despises them.

(Shanks remembers how Buggy had offered to unleash his particular form of Wrath upon Mihawk, when his fellow swordsman had refused to ever again cross blades with him.)

(There is no doubt in his mind that Buggy would have managed it, either.)

(Somedays, he wishes he had let him.)

“Wouldn’t dare forget it,” Shanks chuckles in his hair, and Buggy laughs despite the tears and then they’re both laughing and crying simultaneously, hysterically, and it feels good .

Today has been horrible and it’s not even mid afternoon yet, Buggy just earned himself a place amongst the Marine’s most wanted enemies, Shanks still has a breakdown of his own looming above his head and nightmares are definitely going to be the norm for weeks if not months for both of them, and they still have to deal with Newgate and Ivankov and the Rogers but…

They have each other. They have each other and they have their crews, and Luffy and Ace both made it out alive and with Damian on the case they’ll stay that way or else .

They’ll be alright. Not right now, not right away, but they’ll be alright.


 

It takes them a long time to calm down after this, chuckles and sobs persisting for a long moment until they fall quiet again, Buggy still curled up in Shanks’ lap, Shanks’ hand playing with Buggy’s hair again. He thinks Buggy might be falling asleep when his friend speaks again, his face still hidden in Shanks’ shirt.

“So… Captain had a kid.”

Shanks sighs, rests his chin on top of Buggy’s head.

“Captain had a kid,” he confirms.

“And he didn’t tell us.”

“He didn’t. I don’t think he told the others either,” Shanks says, because he doesn’t think any of them would have let their Captain’s kid be raised by Monkey D. Fucking Garp if they had been aware of the child’s existence. “From what I’ve gathered, it sounds like Crocus recognised him when he crossed the Twin Capes.”

And while it hurts that Captain didn’t tell them, Shanks takes comfort that in this at least all the Rogers had been in the same boat. Or at least they had been until Crocus recognised the kid and decided to tell everyone but them, and Shanks is still absolutely furious about this, but he breathes deeply and adds it to the list of things he will punch Crocus in the face for.

It’s getting quite long.

“And we didn’t,” Buggy whispers, and Shanks can hear the guilt, the self-flagellation in his best friend’s voice, and he won’t stand for it. Not now, not ever if he has any say in it.

“We didn’t,” he admits, and it’s true, even he who spent more time with Ace than Buggy did, who had the chance to actually talk with the boy in a more relaxed setting, hadn’t seen the resemblance, too busy asking about Luffy to try and compare this boy, this kid who wasn’t even the right age, to his dead Captain. Too busy caring about the living, about the future , to allow the past to slip over the present. “But we also didn’t spend the last twenty four years staring at Gol D. Roger’s wanted poster and ignoring the world around us, so I like to think Captain wouldn’t be too angry with us .”

With the rest of the crew, on the other hand…

(Yes, Shanks knows he sounds bitter, and he doesn’t give a fuck, because damn right he’s still bitter about the Rogers fucking off and leaving them to fend for themselves in a world that wanted nothing more than to rid itself of Roger’s legacies in any way possible.)

(He’s bitter and he has every right to be.)

“I don’t give a fuck if he’s angry with us or not, I’m still punching him in the fucking face when it’s my time to board the Flying Dutchman,” Buggy all but spits, and Shanks had been thinking the exact same thing earlier, so he nods and says:

“And I’ll be right there next to you with a punch in the guts and a kick in the nuts” - because fuck, Captain had fucked up massively, by not telling the crew, by allowing rumours about his child to start, by turning himself in to the marines in the first place, by not having the guts to face them and tell them about it, by not giving them a chance to say goodbye to change his mind, by abandoning them because he wanted to go out in one last burst of glory, and Shanks loves his Captain, always has and always will, but he hates him too sometimes and he hates hating him but some things he’ll just never be able to forgive and he knows Buggy is of the same opinion - “And it better not happen for a fucking long time, Bug, because you are not allowed to die on me, you hear me?”

Shanks is not even trying for a playful tone any longer, and his fingers are digging into Buggy’s shoulder in a way he knows is going to leave bruises and he hates hurting Buggy, doesn’t want to be hurting him, but this is important, he has to make sure Buggy knows it is, knows how important he is, how much Shanks doesn’t want to ever experience a world without Buggy in it, and Shanks knows there’s something broken and desperate in his voice but - 


 

(Three years without knowing if Buggy was alive or not.)

(Watching Akainu rushing towards Buggy, magma fist ready.)

(Watching Sengoku and Garp heading straight for Buggy, murder in their eyes.)

(Watching Marshall D. Teach prepare to suck Buggy into his shadow vortex.)

There’s only so much more of this Shanks can take before he breaks.

(A world without Buggy in it?)

(Shanks would probably survive it.)

(But he doesn’t want to.)


 

And Buggy must hear it, the fear and despair and heartbreak in Shanks’ voice, because his tightens his embrace and digs his fingers into Shanks’ back just as strongly.

“Not planning on it,” he says, but he doesn’t make any promises just as Shanks knows he wouldn’t. “And you better not find your way to Davy Jones’ locker any time soon either, Red. You’re not allowed to die on me either.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Shanks says, and it’s not a promise either, but it’s enough , at least for now, and he squeezes Buggy’s shoulder a little before letting his grip relax ever so slightly.

He closes his eyes, rests his head against the wall for a handful of moments, then lets it fall forwards against Buggy’s.

“You okay?” Buggy asks, so very softly.

“No,” Shanks answers honestly, because this is Buggy and he’ll never lie to Buggy. “I’m really, really not. But I will be. Eventually.”


 

They doze off after this, or at least Buggy does, falling into a fitful sleep while Shanks holds him and tries to keep the nightmares at bay. It’s too easy, falling back into old patterns, one of them always awake while the other sleeps, keeping watch and being ready to wake the other up if the nightmares get too much (they always do). It’s reminds him painfully of these two years after Captain’s execution, and Shanks tries to push these thoughts away.

(The three years that followed were so much worse)

He focuses on the present instead, on what they’ll need to do in the coming days.

If Newgate is heading to his closest island, they’ve got at least two days before the meeting, more if the old man decides to put more distance between him and the Marines, which Shanks certainly wouldn’t begrudge him. He’ll have to check with Benn later, see if his first mate has heard from Marco yet.

Newgate wants to speak with him, but Shanks is not going to do that until he’s had a chance to talk with Luffy.

(And by talk he means ‘grab the kid in a bear hug, check him over for injuries, yell at him for scaring the crap out of Shanks, hug him some more, yell at him for not contacting him at all in the past ten years and then hug him some more’.)

He’ll also introduce him to Buggy officially, which will hopefully help and get Luffy another ally that he knows of, instead of a secret one, and then he’ll hug them both some more before sticking Yasopp with babysitting duty while he and Buggy go and talk with Newgate. 

He doesn’t quite know what Newgate wants to talk about, but there better be a couple of apologies in that conversation. Shanks hasn’t forgiven the man for what he said about Buggy when Shanks went to warn him about Marshall D. Teach (for all the good that had done, stubborn asshole).

“Did that funny red nose kid who was with you die yet?”

Newgate should consider himself lucky that Shanks hadn’t killed him on the spot for this. If he and Buggy hadn’t still been pretending to have cut ties after Captain’s execution, he would have.

He’s hoping to get a chance to talk with Ace as well, not (just) because he’s Captain’s son, but because he’s Luffy’s brother and an interesting kid in his own right, and Shanks wants to make sure that he’ll eventually be okay after all this shit.

(At least the Whitebeards are pretty decent at taking care of their own, so Shanks isn’t too worried. He’s still going to suggest that Ace gets some training in King’s Haki, though, because the brat definitely has it no matter how much he’s trying to pretend he doesn’t.)

(Yet another thing that ties him to Gol D. Roger, to the Pirate King, to the one man the brat obviously wants nothing to do with.)

(Not that Shanks can blame him, given, well, everything .)

(Therapy. They all need so much therapy.)

(All of them.)

(And yes, Shanks is including himself in the lot here.)

Speaking of communication and therapy and crews taking care of each other, he will need to make sure Buggy can call his crew as soon as possible and make sure they’re okay - which mean he and Buggy need to talk about how to protect them. Which is going to take time and maps and forethought: he better include Benn in this conversation, and Rockstar as well.

Odds are that the Blackjacks will be there as well, what with Yadomaru proclaiming loudly that she was going to make sure Ace knows about his mother, and Shanks expects at least one shared hangover with them. They both lost their captain and nearly had to watch as their captain’s legacy died in front of their eyes before they even got a chance to know the kid. Yeah, none of them are going to want to talk about any of that sober.

Also, Shanks really wants to ask them if they had known that their captain had had a thing going on or if they had been as blindsided as he had been when that had been revealed.

(How in the seven seas had Captain managed to convince Portgas D. Rouge to give him a chance? The last time Shanks had seen them together, Rouge had drop-kicked Captain away from her ship and into the sea, for Davy Jones’ sake! When had that changed and why hadn’t anyone informed him?)

So. Talk with his brat, talk with his brat’s brother, talk with Newgate, organise the protection of the Buggy Pirates, get blackout drunk and gossip with the Blackjacks, who had hopefully brought some of their stock from their bar with them because damn those people knew their sake. Then what?

Luffy. Training. Haki.

Right. Ivankov. The Okama who is currently on his ship when Shanks very much doesn’t want them there, but Ivankov is his best bet when it comes to contacting Dragon and the Revolutionaries (though Shanks is still very much fond of the idea of showing up on Dragon’s doorstep with Luffy in tow, honestly), which means that Shanks will have to deal with him, preferably before they meet up with the others, as Damian called dibs on pounding some much needed notions of consent and bodily integrity and ethics and the importance of having actually studied medicine before injecting people with chemicals willy-nilly , and odds are even on the Okama coming out of this roughed up or dead, if Damian decides that his fruit has too much potential to be wasted on such an asshole.

Honestly, knowing how much his doctor had struggled with his own medical transition, Shanks is willing to back him up in both cases, and to help him hide the body if necessary.

But still, this means that Shanks will have to talk with the idiot soon. Though if he sees those hormone charged fingernails anywhere near his nakama, near Buggy , Damian will have to make do with lecturing a corpse and hunting down the fruit afterwards.

He’ll need to check on Rockstar as well, make sure his youngest nakama is okay after infiltrating Impel Down and landing himself in the middle of the Marineford bullshit, but his spymaster is surprisingly stable for a pirate, and actually has healthy coping mechanisms and no problem talking things out with Benn when he needs to, so he’ll probably be fine. And even if he’s not, Rockstar can handle this kind of bullshit as long as he has something to do, so Shanks is going to set him on finding where the hell Luffy’s nakama have disappeared to, starting with Usopp because Yasopp is going frantic . Bad enough that the sharpshooter had only found out about his wife’s death years after the fact, when Banchina’s last letter had finally reached him, Shanks is not sure what losing Usopp would do to him and he doesn’t want to find out. And Rockstar is the best at what he does. If Shanks can convince Ivankov to cough up some intel on Kuma’s fruit, since apparently the Shichibukai had been a revolutionary all along… Yes, he’ll set Rockstar on that particular problem, and maybe shake down Ivankov until a permanent log pose to Baltigo falls out.

And fuck, they will have to deal with the Rogers as well, won’t they? Because there’s no way the Oro Jackson isn’t following them at this very moment, no way that they aren’t going to lay anchor on the Whitebeard’s island as well. And much as Shanks would like it, Newgate is not going to tell them to fuck off, not after today, and that would only delay the inevitable anyway. Fuck. Shanks really, really doesn’t want to talk to them. Because it’s going to be messy and ugly and there’s going to be too many witnesses and no way to avoid making a scene, because it’s been over twenty years and they still don’t fucking understand. Because it’s been over twenty years and Shanks is still fucking furious , because it’s been over twenty years and Shanks and Buggy still have nightmares , because it’s been over twenty years and they came for Ace but not for Buggy, and that’s the last straw.

A quiet rap on the door breaks him out of his thought. In his arm, Buggy stirs, but doesn’t wake.

“There’s soup and bread by the door, Captain,” Lucky tells him softly through the closed door. “Just leave the plates by the door when you’re done with them.”

“Thanks,”Shanks whispers back.

Soup and bread, something light but filling, easy to digest and not too painful to throw up later. Easy even on the weakened stomach of an escaped prisoner, and edible even when cold in case they didn’t get around to eating just yet.

Shanks really, really loves his crew.


 

Shanks has a million things he needs to do before reaching the rendez-vous point. He needs to talk to Ivankov, to talk to Rockstar, to Yasopp, to the others. He needs to make sure Buggy gets to talk to his crew, to reassure them. He needs to start planning for his meeting with Whitebeard, for his meeting with Dragon. To prepare for the no doubt emotional confrontation with Luffy. To prepare himself for the asskicking he needs to give the Rogers. To...

He looks down at Buggy, still asleep even if his face shows that nightmares are near, holds him tighter.

The rest of the world can wait a little longer.

 

Chapter Text

Sont des hommes de grand courage,

Ceux qui partiront avec nous

Ils ne craindront point les coups,

Ni les naufrage

Ni l'abordage

Du péril seront jaloux

Tous ceux qui partiront avec nous.

(Le Chant des Corsaires)

 

(They are men of great courage,

Those who will leave with us

They’ll fear neither hits,

Nor shipwreck

Nor boardage

Of the danger they’ll be jealous

All who will leave with us)


 

It takes about an hour for Elena to be satisfied that they’re not going to be dragged down with Marineford after Shanks’ island sinking stunt, but once she’s sure that they’re out of the woods, Seagull drags the good stuff out of storage and they all gather together on the deck. There's no other ship within sight, the Shirohige kaizoku having left before them, and Shanks' ship having been the only one to anticipate him turning Marineford into a fucking sinkhole and thus being able to get away from it faster than anyone else. Newgate's allies had scattered on his order, making it harder for the Marines to attempt to track them down. Not that they had actually tried: the last Crocus had.seen, they had been busy trying to get as far away from the armada of pirates and the giant sinkhole where their pride and joy had once been as they could, thus proving that some of them apparently had a couple of brain cells left.

Too bad. Crocus would have paid good money to watch Monkey D. Fucking Garp and Sengoku fucking Buddha sinking along with their precious Marineford. Alas, that was not to be this time. They would just have to make sure to get a rematch sometime soon: Crocus dearly wanted his pound of flesh when it came to these two.

“Damn.” Elena says after a long moment of silence, downing her bottle in one single gulp. “I don’t know what I expected when we got there, except a clusterfuck of massive proportions because Marines VS Newgate was never going to end well, nevermind once you add us and the Blackjacks to the lot, and it certainly was a clusterfuck of truly epic proportions, but… this was not it. Damn. I really did not expect whatever the hell just happened…”

“Show of hand,” Scopper says, taking a long sip. “Who here had any idea that either of the brats could do what they just did?”

Except for the creaking of the mast and the twapping of the sails, none of them moves a muscle.

“That’s what I thought…”

“I thought you trained them, Rayleigh,” Gulliver start from where he’s sitting against the main mast. “Are you telling me you didn’t teach Shanks that last move? He certainly couldn’t have done something like that last time I saw him.”

Rayleigh’s face is grim, Crocus notes, a stark difference to the rest of them who are still high on adrenaline and the sheer joy of fighting together once again after so long apart.

“I didn’t.” Rayleigh’s voice is even, too even, and Crocus puts his bottle down to focus. That tone has never been a good sign in all the years he’s known the man.


(The little voice in the back of Crocus’ mind grows stronger.)

(He pushes it further back. Now is not the time or place.)

(The time is never and the place doesn’t exist.)


“The last time I saw Shanks was… Eight years ago? Shakky had heard his crew had just stopped in Sabaody on their way to the New World, and that he was apparently missing an arm, so I tracked him down to find out what the hell had happened. That’s how I found out about the brat,” He added. “As for Buggy… I haven’t seen him in over twenty years, not since…”

Since Captain had died, Crocus completes mentally, and he still hates that this sentence exists, hates that he couldn’t prevent it from happening.

And what does Rayleigh means, he had to track Shanks down? Why hadn’t Shanks come to see him on his own? Even if he had been injured in East Blue, that should have been healed by then!

(And why hadn’t Shanks stopped by the Twin Capes to get that seen to? Davy Jones knows Crocus had patched the brat up often enough as a kid, why wouldn’t he have come to him this time? Or even just to talk? How many times, Crocus wonders suddenly, had Shanks crossed the Red Line without his knowledge? As a Yonkou with Conqueror’s Haki, the Calm Belt was nothing to him of course, he didn’t have to go through Reverse Mountain, but for the man to never, not once in the past twenty-four years, have passed by Crocus’ house?)

(That screams deliberate , and coupled with Shanks’ attitude earlier?)

(It paints a picture that Crocus can’t quite identify yet, but already knows he won’t like.)

(At all.)

“I wasn’t even aware the kid was still a pirate until we all met up,” Elena admits slowly. “I was staying on a sky island and we only ever got the big bounties, and he never showed up in any of them, unlike Shanks - and let me tell you, finding out someone had gone and made that one a Yonkou? Not completely a surprise, but definitely unexpected - so I figured he had given up on piracy altogether...”

“That’s because he stays exclusively in East Blue , ” Crocus scoffs. “Where he apparently delights in being a small-time pirate. His bounty was what, 15 millions beri when he got sent to Impel Down? I swear we taught that boy better…”

Marian is frowning. Crocus does not like this. Marian is the oldest in the crew, older even than Rayleigh, and is one of the few people who can make them all feel like unruly children when she gets angry .

She’s also one of the smartest of the crew, and that expression on her face? It has never meant good news.

“Did none of you check up on either of them after we disbanded?” she asks, and there’s a twinge of something in her voice, something that is not quite reproach but similar enough that it makes Crocus feel ill at ease. Like someone is walking over his grave.

He pushes it away. It’s just the stress of everything catching up to him, he thinks.

(In the back of his head, the little voice is furiously trying to strangle him, to no avail.)

“Have you tried  keeping track of either of them when they don’t want to be found?” Seagull complains half-heartedly. “Slippery little buggers, the both of them. I mean, that’s what we kind of counted on when we disbanded, that the brats would be safer on their own since they were less recognisable than any of us, but trying to keep track of them was like trying to find a grain of salt in the sea.”

“And none of us were at our best back then,” Rush adds, looking at the Jolly Roger floating above their heads, avoiding their gazes.

Because Captain’s death had crushed them, had turned them into wrecks , and it had taken decades for them to become functional sentient beings again.

(Rush is also very deliberately not looking at Crocus, which he appreciates.)

(Three years drunk out of his mind until she came and slapped some sense in him.)

(She never told anyone else about it, and he’s stupidly grateful for it.)

(Sometimes he wonders if she did it for the others too, but he will never ask because she will never tell.)

(Some things he is better off not knowing.)

“True,” Marian admits, but there’s still that something in her tone, and Crocus doesn’t quite know how he feels about it.

(He hasn’t known how to feel about a lot of the things that happened today. He very much doesn’t like it, but that doesn’t stop him from pushing the thought away in that box at the back of his mind marked “to deal with never later”)

(That box is getting quite full, and the voice stuck behind it is very much of the opinion that its label should really be changed to “to deal with now before it explodes in our faces” at this point.)

(But that would require Crocus actually admitting that he’s not dealing with any of this, and that would definitely be the last straw that would force the box open, and force him to actually deal with its contents and that’s not happening anytime soon.)

“Anyway,” he says, because anything is better than continuing on this topic. “What’s the plan, Rayleigh?”

And it stings, still, to be asking Rayleigh about this, despite the two years without Roger before his execution, but at least Rayleigh had always been the voice of reason behind their captain, always been the one they had looked to for instructions when Roger had been unavailable or unreasonable, so it’s familiar even if not ideal to have him decide now.

From the way Rayleigh’s shoulders sag slightly, Crocus gets the feeling that his friend would much rather not be the highest authority on the ship either.

(Rayleigh is the only one who got to say goodbye. Some days, Crocus can’t decide if he’s jealous of it or not.)

“We follow Newgate to wherever he plans on setting anchor. It’s not going to be Sabaody, not after this, but they have a couple of islands around here that he might chose. Elena, try and get in contact with Marco to arrange matters. I would rather not start a war right now, and tempers are high. Best warn them that we will be stopping by for a talk instead of just showing up out of the blue.”

“Think we’ll get a chance to talk to Captain’s kid?” Scopper asks, inspecting the axe that had gotten slightly dented during the earlier fighting. “He certainly didn’t look like he wanted to talk to any of us.”

“The boy was raised by Monkey Fucking D. Garp , Scop. From what Croc’ told us, he didn’t get the best image of Captain growing up, and then he nearly got his head cut off for the sole crime of being Captain’s kid. It’s no fucking wonder he’s not feeling positively inclined towards us right now,” Marian snorts. “Best let Yadomaru and her lot get a chance to talk to him first, not that that’s going to help Captain’s image much, but at least they’ll paint him as a hapless idiot rather than a monster.”

“And he certainly was a hapless idiot whenever it came to Blackjack D. Rouge,” Roban chortles. “Seriously, we need to find out how the hell they got together because that’s certainly not something any of us saw coming.”

Crocus has to agree to that. While he could personally attest to Blackjack D.Rouge having had strong feelings for Gol D. Roger, he had been rather convinced that these feelings had been anything but positive. She had certainly looked ready to strangle him the last time their crews had gotten together…

(Then again, there probably wasn’t a single soul on the Oro Jackson who hadn’t wanted to strangle their captain with their bare hands at some point or another, and yet that there wasn’t a single soul on the ship that hadn’t loved the man just as strongly.)

(Which is exactly why they were all going to kick Gol D. Roger’s ass the second they boarded the Flying Dutchman. Asshole had no right to die on them without giving them a proper goodbye.)

(He had no right to die on them, period .)

“Let’s get drunk with the Blackjacks and exchange theories,” Elena suggests with a smirk. “I certainly owe Lisa a drink or ten for that magnificent hit on the senile monkey, and they have the best booze around.”

“You’re just hoping you’ll get laid,” Riza points out, not even trying to avoid the bottle thrown at her head and catching it instead.

“That too,” Elena admits shamelessly, as if she hadn’t just tried to brain the sniper. “That woman is fantastic in bed.”

“TMI, again ,” Crocus complains half-heartedly. 

“I’m pretty sure Earth-Fist Tsunade is still single, Doc’, no need to be jealous,” Rush teases him, and then continues before he can retaliate. “And don’t I get free drinks for knocking out Akainu?”

“Eh,” Elena waves her hand. “That was great, but then little Buggy came out of nowhere and kicked him in the balls before offing the bastard. Sorry, but he wins the free booze.”

“Upstaged by the freaking crybaby ,” Rush wails. “What has the world come to?”

“By the way, I meant to ask,” Crocus interrupts before the conversation turns to whatever the hell happened to the two apprentices again. “Was I hallucinating or did you seriously armour the entire freaking ship ?”

The smug smile he gets in return is answer enough.

“Nope, you haven’t gone completely senile yet! I saw a lot of weird shit in Water 7 - and believe me, if you think Strawhat is crazy you don’t know half of it, and their shipwright is just as insane if not more -  and decided to experiment a bit. Glad to see it actually worked in proper combat situation!” She scowls suddenly. “And good thing I did, too! Did you see what that heathen did to the Moby Dick? That ship was a fucking piece of art , a masterpiece of engineering and carpentry! Couldn’t hold a candle to the Oro, of course, but definitely leagues above the rest, and that fucker turned it to ashes ! Hell, at this point I’m going to have to buy Buggy a drink for getting rid of him!”

“If you manage to corner him long enough for that,” Scopper points out what Crocus had already observed on the battlefield. “Because in case you hadn’t noticed, that brat certainly didn’t look like he wanted to acknowledge our existence, let alone talk to us either.”

Because Buggy had avoided so much as looking in their direction, had taken one glance at the Oro Jackson and then pretended the rest of them didn’t exist. Buggy had talked to Newgate, to Akainu, to Shanks, to Blackbeard , but he hadn’t even greeted any of the Rogers, and Crocus doesn’t know what that means but he knows he won’t like it either.

(Both of their cabin brats have been avoiding them like the plague for the past two decades.) (Neither of them had looked happy to see them on the battlefield.)

(What in the Seven Hells is going on here?)

“You leave that to me,” the diminutive shipwright cracks her knuckles. “That brat won’t know what hit him by the time I’m done with him!”

Rayleigh lets out a sigh, but there’s the faintest hint of a smile on his face.

“Aa. It’ll be good to have the whole crew together again.”

It will.

It really will.

Even now, even with Captain’s absence a glaring hole in all of their souls, even with the missing apprentices, this is the happiest Crocus has felt since the day Gol D.Roger’s head hit the ground. Here, back on the Oro Jackson for the first time in over two decades, with his nakama around him and fresh off a battlefield, fresh off kicking Marine’s ass and curb stomping the execution of the son of their beloved Captain, Crocus is happy .

(He really, really missed this.)

(He knows their plan had been sound, that going their separate ways after Roger’s execution had kept them all safe, had allowed them to hide better, but…)

(He really, really missed them.)

(A letter here and there, the occasional, very rare, visit, the messages in the newspapers…)

(It helped, but it hadn’t been enough. Not after four years with these crazy people.)

(He loves Laboon, he really does, has known him for much longer than the Rogers, but…)

(It just wasn’t the same.)

 


Crocus hadn’t really had time to walk around the Oro Jackson before getting to Marineford, and now that the party is winding down - except for Elena, Rush, Roban and Gulliver, still in the middle of their drinking contest - he slips away from the main deck and into the ship, trailing his hand against the wood as he does.

Damn but he missed her.

He nips into the library, just long enough to take in the bookshelves covered in everything from maps to romance novels - Scopper’s stash, these - then check in on the kitchen where Seagull is happily puttering around, preparing what will no doubt be a fantastic feast.

Elena’s office door is open, and a quick glance inside tells him that it’s in the same state of organised chaos as it has always been. Good to know that even twenty years stuck on a Weather Island hadn’t managed to change that, he chuckles to himself.

He’s not surprised to find Riza in the armoury, carefully cleaning her guns and inspecting her bullets. He leaves her to it - experience taught him long ago that interrupting her while she’s handling weapons is a very bad idea. That’s fine: he can wait until later to ask her what she’s been up to these past few years.

Because there will be a later, because they are here , on the Oro Jackson, all of them except no, not all of them, but it’s the best he’s going to get , with him, and that’s not something he thought would ever happen again, and he’s so freaking glad .

(He really, really missed them)

They all need to talk at some point, to figure out what each of them has been doing until now, to figure out what they’re going to do now that they’ve reminded the world that they exist.

Crocus doesn’t think he’s the only one who hopes that they’ll stick together this time. It’s in the way they lean against each other, the way Rush grumbles proudly shows off the good care she took of their ship, in the sheer joy in Elena’s haki when she ordered them around, in the way Gulliver hasn’t stopped smiling since he stepped foot on the Oro Jackson.

Twenty-two years is a very long time to be alone, Crocus thinks, and he’s so very glad that he’s not alone anymore.


The sickbay is towards the back, and it’s the only room Crocus had visited before their arrival to Marineford, wanting to make sure he had everything he could possibly need.

( He was not going to lose a nakama again, not this time, never again)

His own room is connected to the sickbay, to allow him to keep a better eye on his patients whenever one of them needed to spend the night (and that had happened, quite often, too often for Crocus’ peace of mind sometimes, after battles and storms and ice and weird islands with even weirder indigenous diseases fucking Little Garden seriously ), and stepping inside feels like stepping back into time. 

None of them had expected Captain to surrender himself to the marines, and not even Rayleigh had been told of this when Gol D. Roger had paid him one last visit. By the time they had heard about it in the press, there had been barely enough time for them to get to Loguetown before it was too late.

Crocus knows it was deliberate on Roger’s part, and he’s never going to forgive him for it.

(And then the asshole had refused to let them save him, and Crocus will never forgive him for that either.)

Rayleigh had stayed on the ship, had refused to step foot on Loguetown to watch Captain die, and Crocus sometimes wishes he had done the same.

(He’ll never get the image of Captain’s head hitting the ground out of his head, will never forget the sound of the swords slicing Captain’s neck.)

(But at the same time he knows he would have regretted not being there, not bearing witness to this, not feeling his Captain’s last wave of Haki rushing through him.)

(It doesn't make the nightmares any easier, but…)

(It’s something.)

Crocus still doesn’t know how they had made it out of Loguetown without being recognised, can’t quite remember anything between Captain’s head hitting the ground and climbing back on the Oro Jackson, but he remembers collapsing against the railing, tears streaming down his face, remembers getting absolutely wasted , remembers that it had done nothing to ease the gaping void in his soul where his bigger than life Captain had once resided.

Remembers Rush, red-eyed and fingers clenching and unclenching around the neck of a bottle, asking “What now?”

Remembers the heated debates, the long discussions, the pros and cons lists papering Elena’s office as they tried to figure out how to make this work.

Remembers Rayleigh, no longer First Mate but Acting-Captain and failing miserably at hiding his devastation, officially disbanding the Roger Kaizoku, noting down the drop-off order as, one by one, their nakama had walked away from the Oro Jackson and towards a different life, leaving behind the safety of numbers and of the ship that had carried them to the end of the world and back, in favour of the safety of invisibility and hiding.

Most of them had had no real destination in mind, had been dropped off on random islands in the New World and had been planning on making their way from there, but Crocus had had Laboon and the Twin Capes waiting for him and, despite his four years on the crew of the Pirate King, no real bounty to show for it. The marines had been different , back then, slightly more honorable, and doctors got shown more leniency than others for their crimes.

(And then they had turned around and decided that anyone who had helped Roger get to Raftel was just as guilty, and Crocus had raged when he had heard about Tom, about what they had done to him for building their ship, for building their home , their nakama who had carried them to the end of the world and back, who was still carrying them to this day.)

(Fucking assholes! )

Rayleigh had decided to stay on Sabaody, with Shakky, and any other time Crocus would have been the first to tease him about but not then. Not when his duty to the crew had been the only thing keeping Rayleigh from falling to pieces.

Rush was always going to be the last to leave, was always going to keep the ship that Captain had entrusted her with, and had made it clear that they would always be able to find her on Water Seven.

(They had dropped Rayleigh off as soon as they crossed the Red Line, making sure that Shakky was there to pick him up and piece him back together, and then Rush and Crocus had sailed all the way back to the beginning of the Grand Line, to his little lighthouse and to the not-so-little whale waiting for him there, and that had been the last Crocus had seen of any of them until Rush showed up on his doorstep three years later to dump all his alcohol down the drain and drag him back to sobriety kicking and screaming.)

(He tries not to think about that time. He can barely remember it, but he knows that the state Rush found him in had been anything but glorious.)

The apprentices had been silent, silent and pale, and Crocus had looked back at them when they had dropped the two of them off on one of the first islands of the New World, with enough money to get a decent ship and some last minute words of advices and encouragement for the future, had looked at the two gangly teenagers who had still been reeling from the execution of their Captain, and had wondered, if only for a moment, what their future would be like.

He certainly hadn’t expected this, a Yonkou and an admiral-killer, that’s for sure.


Shanks had always had potential, sure, and his King’s Haki had practically guaranteed that he was destined for great things, but to be on par with Newgate and Big Mum? With Kaido?

To actually have the guts to call Kaido little , when the man is both older and taller than him?

No. If only because he never thought the boy would ever be motivated enough to actually reach this point. A Shichibukai, maybe, though in strength only and not in title since the odds of anyone who ever sailed on the Oro Jackson willingly working with the Marines were astronomically low, especially after Captain’s execution, but not a Yonkou.

And Buggy?

Crocus starts puttering around his room again, trying to put his things and thoughts in order but always stumbling upon the same roadblock.

Buggy .

Little crybaby Buggy who ran away from fights and cared more about treasures than fame. Little Buggy who they had all been so sure they wouldn’t have to worry about because surely, surely he wouldn’t continue on the road to piracy on his own and as such would be safe from marine repercussions.

Buggy, little Buggy, who used to hide in Captain’s cabin when things got though, who hid behind Shanks and preferred the safer roads to the interesting ones.

Buggy, little Buggy, Boke no Buggy, who had gone on on the road of piracy despite all their expectations, but who had laid low, become a small-time pirate with an eccentric crew, more focused on treasures than adventures, who had elected to stay in East Blue for some Davy Jones forsaken reason.

Buggy, little Buggy,  Boke no Buggy who had landed himself in Impel Down for assaulting Monkey Fucking D Garp’s grandson and Shanks’ protege, Buggy who had escaped from Impel down against all odds, Boke no Buggy who had landed on Marineford right next to Mugiwara no Luffy and stood his ground in front of Edward Newgate before hightailing it to hide somewhere away from the danger.

Buggy, little Buggy, Boke no Buggy, who had then proceeded to shatter all their expectations as he jumped between Akainu and his prey, between Akainu and their captain’s son, between a freaking admiral and a boy he had never met before, who had stood his ground and fought and won and killed a fucking admiral .

Buggy, little Buggy, Boke no Buggy, the man Crocus couldn’t reconcile with the boy he had known, who hadn’t spared any of the Rogers so much as a single glance during this clusterfuck.

Just…

Crocus doesn’t understand. He knows he’s missing something, and it’s driving him crazy, but he can’t figure it out. His head is a mess, has been since they arrived at Marineford and he had been assaulted by the memory of Roger’s execution, and he can’t focus , no matter how hard he tries.


(In the back of his head, the little voice is seriously considering trying to break that box of repressed thoughts open by beating its head against it.)

(It would also like to stage a mutiny for complete control of the shared body since obviously the main consciousness is no longer up to the task.)


He shakes his head, shakes away the thoughts and the memories, and looks around his room once more, taking in his old bedsheets, the various books and instruments scattered on the shelves, the shirts still neatly folded in the clothes chest.

He hadn’t taken much with him when he had left, had he? Only the bare minimum, the things he couldn’t do without.

(But that’s a lie as well, because he couldn’t do without this crew, without his captain, and he hadn’t been able to take any of them with him when he left, hadn't he?)

Things he now takes out of his bag with care, putting them back in their proper spots.

(But some will remain empty, will never be filled again.)

A log pose (Elena had insisted that everyone keep one on their person, just in case, and it had admittedly come in handy more than once). His back up glasses, the case a present from Riza for a birthday long past. A ship in a bottle, a perfect replica of the Oro Jackson painstakingly made by Roban. His collection of vivre cards, one for each member of the crew. The bounty posters of his nakama, carefully tacked over his desk.

His photo album, on his bed stand. His medical bag, right by the door and ready to be grabbed on his way out. His harpoons, right next to it for the very same reasons.

He leaves his duffle bag with his clothes on the bed, to be unpacked later, and then he’s back in the corridor.

The women’s cabins are next door, on one side of the corridor, with the men’s on the other side, and Crocus takes a quick look inside them, noting that his nakama have also started settling in again, and then he moves on.  

There’s the apprentices’ cabin, with the two hammocks still hanging from the walls, a couple of books lying on the floor, left behind when an ashen faced Buggy had stumbled off the ship twenty-two years ago, and Crocus doesn’t linger.

(Doesn’t feel welcome. )

He inspects every inch of the ship, from the larder to the workshop, from the top of the crow’s nest to the bottom of the hold, and only stops once he assured himself that everything is just as he remembers it.

(He doesn’t push the door to Captain’s room. Not now. Not yet. One day, maybe, when he’s willing to accept that Roger is truly dead, he’ll come inside this room and face his ghost. But not today.)

(Not anytime soon either.)


He's not surprised that it's Rush who comes to find him, later that night, when it's his turn to keep watch. 

"Hey."

He spares her a small smile.

"Hey."

She sits down on the railing next to where he's leaning against it.

"How are you feeling?" She asks, and it would surprise most people to know that the terrifying, foul-mouthed shipwright is the closest thing this crew has to a therapist, that she's probably the most well-adjusted of all of them, but Rush has always been down-to-earth (or rather down-to-deck), preferring the logic of shipbuilding to the confusion of humanity yet still able to keep them all on an even keel of necessary.

(Davy Jones they had needed that, needed her, all of them.)

"I don't know," he answers honestly, his voice quiet. "Part of me is overjoyed at being with you guys again. I… I hadn't quite realised how lonely it would be without all of you."

Because Rush is also capable of tact, another thing most people wouldn't expect of her, she gracefully doesn't remind him that she told him so, multiple times, before dropping him off at the Twin Peaks, and again after her intervention three years later.

"Part of me is also hurting as hell, because I keep expecting him to come out of his cabin or the library or the kitchen, even though I know he won't," he goes on, fists clenching where they rest on the darkened wood. "And then there's the part of me that is screaming that there's something going on with the brats but for the life of me I can't lay my finger on it and it's driving me crazy! "

His fingernails are digging into his palms, and he hadn't even realised he had raised his voice until he sees Rush's raised eyebrow.

"Sorry," he mutters. 

"Don't apologize for being human, Doc. It's been one hell of a couple of weeks, and the past few hours alone would have been enough to shake any of us. And they did, let's be honest here. I don't think any of us will have nightmare free nights for a while. Might want to keep a couple of sleeping pills ready in case anyone needs them."

Left unsaid is the fact that she's keeping the key to the alcohol stocks, and it's probably for the best. Crocus has been doing well these past couple of years, hadn't completely given up on alcohol but had limited himself to sake and beer, and never when he was alone, but recents events have had him longing for something stronger, though he knows better than to succumb to that particular temptation again.

(Three years spent at the bottom of a bottle, and he barely remembers any of it because he had been that far gone.)

(Never again.)

Being with the crew helps. It helps a lot, because he knows that once his watch is over he can slip into the men's cabin and ask Roban about his latest model, or head to the kitchen and listen to Seagull tell him all about the new recipes he had learned in the past two decades, or knock on Elena's door to see if she had finished planning their route to an island called Greyapples that Marco the Phoenix had reluctantly agreed to give them the coordinates to, or stop by any other of his nakama and that they will welcome his presence.

And that?

That is priceless.


The next two days are spent just basking in each other’s presence, falling back into old habits as easily as breathing. Even the random extreme weather changes don't give them any grief, not with Elena at the helm barking orders left and right like they haven't spent twenty years in different corners of the world.

Of course they still worry about the impending meeting with Ace, about the talk they need to have with their cabin brats, about the fall-out from Marineford, but mostly they just… talk. About everything. About what they’ve been up to these past decades, about the old friends and foes they’ve come across or heard about, about the lovers come and gone. About memories and inside jokes that they’ve had no one to share them with for too long.

About Captain, too, even if none of them mention his execution, or the hole he left in all of their souls when he died. They talk about the crazy shit he used to drag them into instead, exchange theories about how he and Rouge may have gotten together, because none of them can wrap their heads around that no matter how much they try, about how proud he would be of his son.

But most of all, they just enjoy being here . Being together again, after so long spend apart. And it’s amazing , to the point that, when Elena announces that they will reach Greyapples in less than an hour, Crocus can’t help but wish that the journey had been a slightly longer, that they could have gotten just a couple of hours more to just be .

But reality has never bent to Crocus’ wishes before, and it isn’t going to this time either. So he gathers with the others on the upper deck instead, shoulders brushing against Rayleigh’s on one side and Gulliver’s knee on the on the other, and watches as the island gets closer.

Now they just need to grab Shanks and Buggy for a talk and they’ll really be whole again.

(They will never be whole again, not without Roger. But this is the closest they will get, and it is enough. It has to be enough.)

Chapter Text

Son capitaine et ses mat'lots

N'étaient pas des enfants d'salauds

Mais des amis franco de port

Des copains d'abord

(Her captain and her sailors

Weren’t assholes’ sons

But friends no matter their port

Friends no matter what)

Les copains d'abord, Georges Brassens


 

Buggy sleeps, truly sleeps for the first time in months, curled up against Shanks in a makeshift blanket fort that should definitely not be as comfortable as he finds it, but after Impel Down anything is comfortable.

(He doesn't think he would have been able to handle the softness of the bed anyway, which is the very reason Shanks dragged them to the floor instead.)

The nightmares aren't a surprise. Neither are their subjects. Captain's head hitting the ground. Akainu's fist tearing through Firefist and Strawhat like tissue paper. The devastation on Shanks' face, devastation but never blame because not even in his nightmares can Buggy imagine Shanks turning against him. Akainu rushing, magma fist at the ready, but his target isn't Firefist, it's Shanks and then it's Buggy's crew and then it's Firefist again but this time Captain's head is there as well and telling him it's all Buggy's fault, that this happened because he's too weak and that Roger should just have left him to die in that gutter all these years ago, and then it's Baterilla except Buggy isn't just burying the bodies this time he's watching as they kill them, as they slaughter all these kids, as Akainu burns them alive in front of his eyes, but everytime the nightmares get too much, too real, too horrifying, Buggy can feel a sword-calloused hand on his face, in his hair, a familiar familiar safe safe safe haki wrapping itself around him and the images recede if only for a moment, chased away by the unyielding presence watching over him.

Despite the nightmares, it's still the best sleep he's gotten in over half a year, even when images of Blackbeard's shadows swallowing Shanks alive as his friend tries to reach for him have him awake and hyperventilating in Shanks' embrace in a way that makes it clear he's not going back to sleep anytime soon, not after this. 

"Bug?" Shanks' arm tightens around him, and Buggy manages to open his eyes and gives the redhead a weak smile.

"Marshall was a monster and I am very, very glad he's dead," he says, and it's explanation enough for Shanks, who rubs his back in soothing circles and doesn't ask for details.

"Think you'll be able to fall asleep again?" 

Buggy shakes his head.

"That unwelcome burst of adrenaline won't let me," he takes another look at Shanks, at the paleness of his face and the bags beginning to form under his eyes. "Thanks for watching over me."

Shanks smiles, a bit sad. 

"Anytime."

"Now get some sleep you idiot, I'll keep watch," Buggy chastises, lightly punching his friend in the side. "You don't look so hot either."

"Lies," Shanks protests, but there's no heat in it. "I'm always hot!"

"Uhuh," Buggy makes a dubitative sound. "That doesn't mean you're not running on fumes. Want to switch positions so you're more comfortable?"

Because he's pretty sure Shanks' legs must have gone to sleep by now, to say nothing of the fact that he's been sitting on the floor for hours with Buggy in his lap, and that can't possibly have been very comfortable despite the cushions they put down when they made their blanket fort.

(And it seems unreal, somehow, that all of this happened and that he is curled up on Shanks' lap inside their improvised blanket fort, but it did and he is .)

Shanks' grip on him tighten, and yeah, Buggy had expected that. 

"Okay. Not moving it is," Buggy nods. "Try and get some sleep anyway. I get the feeling we're going to need all the energy we can get."

Shanks sighs, but doesn't make any move to lean back and rest, and Buggy sighs.

(He should have expected this as well, really, because Shanks always takes this the hardest, when something happens to his people and he is powerless to stop it. He always goes into paranoid mother hen mode afterwards, not that Buggy can blame him when he is made from the same stock.)

"Shanks. I'm on your ship, surrounded by your scarily competent nakama , in your cabin, which is locked , with you inside. I'm safe. Anything that tries to get to me has to get through your crazy ass people, including Benn Fucking Beckmann , your crazy ship and you . When your sword is within arm's reach. I am safe ."

And the thing is, he doesn't even have to fake this, because he truly believes it. Shanks' people are crazy , they have to be to keep up with him in the New World, but they have earned every single beri of their bounties. There's a reason the Akagami's collective bounty is higher than any of the other Yonkou's crews, despite they being by far the smallest of them. Even Rockstar, his newest recruit, has a bounty on par with Kaido's and Big Mom's top lieutenants (not Whitebeard's, though, but that's because the Phoenix has been around for a long time and his devil fruit is highly sought after which increased his bounty, so he shouldn't count, really.)

And the Red Force would probably have one hell of a bounty as well if the Marines ever got off their asses enough to realise just how often the ship seems to act on her own and decided to acknowledge the existence of Klabautermänner. 

Which is never going to happen because the Marine and the World Government are idiots .

Either of these would have been enough for him to feel safe, but when coupled with Shanks ? Well, Buggy had been facing the Gensui and the Hero of the Marines and Blackbeard and yet, as soon as he had felt Shanks' haki at the edge of his range, he had know n he would be okay, that nothing would touch him while Shanks was still standing and even then. Even if Shanks' crew hadn't been there, even if the Red Force hadn't been there, even if it had been just the two of them against the world, Buggy knows he would have been safe . Because it's Shanks, and, really, that's answer enough.

So, no, Buggy isn't worried for his safety at all right now, and Davy Jones knows it's been a long time since he's been able to feel this way. Oh he's still worried about the future, about his crew, about what will happen now, but for his safety? No. He knows nothing will happen to him on this ship, with these people, with Shanks

(It's the only reason he was able to sleep at all.)

And Shanks knows it as well, Buggy knows. It's the leftover adrenaline, the remnants of the fear he felt earlier today that are causing him to fret like this, not a lack of confidentiality in his men or his ship or his skills or Buggy's own abilities to protect himself in case of attack.

It's just that Shanks came way too close to losing him for him to be willing to let him out of his sight, and honestly, Buggy doesn't mind.

(Because it's a reminder that Shanks cares , that he worries, and Buggy has always known that, had never doubted that, but after seeing the Roger's again, after having their lack of care thrust in his face again, after having his past wounds dragged to the surface again, the reminder is… helping .)

Sleep ,” Buggy insist. “I’m not going anywhere.”

“There’s water and food behind the door,” Shanks says, ignoring him. “Lucky brought them earlier. You should eat something.”

Mother Hen,” Buggy sighs, but obligingly sends one hand to open the door, drag the platter in and close it again. “ Fine. I’ll eat something if you do the same and get some sleep. I’m the closest thing this ship has to a medic right now and I’m not afraid to use healer’s order if I have to.”

“That’s cheating !” Shanks protests, but Buggy knows it’s more for show than anything else and he shows a bread roll in the redhead's mouth to silence him.


It takes some more coaxing, but finally, finally Buggy can feel Shanks’ breath evening out behind him, can feel the tension slowly dissipate from his limbs as his friends allows himself to slip into sleep.

Buggy already knows that it won’t be peaceful, that it won’t be anywhere near the amount of sleep Shanks really needs, but it’s still better than nothing, and he’ll be there to wake him if the nightmares get too much. And they will. They always do.

He sighs, then uses one of his hand to grab one of the water bottles Lucky Roo had thoughtfully left them. He would have prefered booze, but he knows better. He drinks slowly, small sips at the time to avoid making himself sick, and then does the same with the soup. It’s cold by now, but still tasty, and he makes a mental note to thank the cook when he sees him.

To thank all of them, really, because he knows that getting here from the New World with Shanks in that kind of mood could not have been easy.

Once he’s done eating, he finds himself left with nothing to do but think , which… well, it’s something he would much rather not be doing right now, but it also happens to be something he has to do.

Ugh. 

That’s basically sums up his life these past couple of months.

Bleh.

So. Thinking. And planning.

Because much as he would rather just hide in Shanks’ cabin for the next twenty years, he’s realist enough to know that they have too much they need to do before getting to wherever they’re meeting up with Newgate and his people.

Starting with him calling his crew and making damn well sure they’re okay. It’s not that he doubts Shanks, but more that his friend hasn’t had a chance to check on Buggy’s crew since this mess started blowing up and Buggy knows his nakama well enough to know that they have to be freaking out, even if one of Shanks’ people probably reassured them of his survival by now. 

Calling the Big Top will definitely be his first priority, Buggy knows, and then… 

Then they’ll have to deal with the rest of the world and Buggy very much does not want to do that.

Being a responsible adult is terrible .

Step one, call the Big Top. Let them know he’s okay, and that he’s going to figure out what to do next, and that they are to stay wherever Shanks stashed them until then. Give them the choice to stick with him or disappear into anonymity because they certainly didn’t sign up for this bullshit, and make contingency plans to make sure that those who chose to leave will be safe and cared for.

Step two, hang up and probably have a good cry again because fuck but he misses his crew, and then talk with Shanks about what to do next. Shanks already assured him that he will make their alliance official and make it damn clear that anyone thinking of hurting the Buggy Pirates will have him to deal with, so that should take care of the immediate problems.

Step three, call the rest of his allies to tell them he’s not dead yet - and he better call Water 7 first to check if his little side trip in Impel Down reached them yet or not, and oh he forgot to tell Shanks about that, didn’t he? He’ll have to fix that soon - though odds are some of them will already have called the Red Force by now, since everyone saw him leave with them.

Step four, hang around the Red Force and catch up with Shanks’ band of crazies as they sail to the meeting point. Maybe give Shanks a hand in shaking down Ivankov for information and making sure the okama won’t be able to run before Damian gets his hands on them for a long overdue lecture in how not to be a fucking asshole. Maybe add his two cents in that lecture, because fuck it, some of Buggy’s people could have used Ivankov’s ability, and the fact is that Buggy has had more medical training than Ivankov at this point so he can damn well join the lecture if he wants.

He’s getting the feeling that it’s going to turn into all the actually medically qualified people on that island yelling at Ivankov. He can’t wait to see that.

Which brings him to step five: get to Newgate’s island, check on Shanks’s brat and on Firefist, not that he would begrudge the guy from wanting nothing whatsoever to do with either of them. 

And Newgate wants to talk with Shanks, so Buggy is probably going to be in on that as well if only because he doesn’t think either of them is ready or willing to let the other out of their sight right now. Which means step six is going to be dealing with the Shirohige.  And potentially the Blackjacks as well, because odds are that they will be there as well since they made it clear that they were going to talk to Firefist about Blackjack D. Rouge. Ugh. At least there will be good booze.

And step seven will be dealing with the fucking Roger Kaizoku, because much as Buggy would prefer it if he never had to see them again, he knows it’s inevitable at this point. It’s a confrontation that’s been coming for over twenty years, and it’s certainly not going to be pretty.

He’s definitely letting Shanks take point on that one, though. And asking Lucky Roo for popcorn.

He feels Shanks tense next to him, and instinctively sends one of his hands to run his fingers through the red-hair. It takes a few minutes, but Shanks settles again, much to his relief. While Buggy is aware enough that he’s the worst off of the two of them, Shanks still looks like death warmed over and needs all the rest he can get, especially with everything they’ll have to do once he wakes up.

Buggy sighs, lets his head fall gently against Shanks’ shoulder.

It’s going to suck, majorly, but now that they’re together again he knows there’s nothing they can’t deal with.


Shanks manages to get around four hours of agitated sleep, which is honestly three more than Buggy had expected, and wakes up shortly after sunrise. It’s a good thing that they’re both used to function despite their exhaustion, because the day is going to be long and they won’t be able to take a nap midway through without fucking up their chances of getting back into a reasonable sleep cycle. Well. As reasonable as they can manage, what with both nightmares and Captain’s responsibilities to deal with.

“Awake yet?” Buggy asks quietly when Shanks’s haki curls around his.

“Yeah…”

They stay like this for a while longer, not saying anything, just basking in each other’s presence and grounding themselves, each loathe to let go of the other.

“I need to call my crew,” Buggy finally says. “They… I need to talk to them.”

“Tell them they’re welcome to stay on Ridfield as long as they need,” Shanks runs his fingers through Buggy’s hair. “No matter what happens next, it will take us a while to reach them and they will be safe there while we figure something out. Feel free to use the island as a base if there’s any of yours who would prefer to lie low after this - or any of mine, really. My people will take care of yours.”

Buggy burrows his face further into Shanks’ shirt, heart fit to burst, and he just. Breathes. He knows, of course he knows that Shanks will always be there for him and that he will take care if his crew as well, has already done just that by getting his crew to Ridfield and making sure they would be alright, and that Shanks knows him, knows what he needs and what kind of people have decided to follow him, and Shanks is a Yonkou and one of the strongest men in the seas and yet there is no judgment in his voice when he says that any of Buggy’s nakama who doesn’t want to stay on the ship now that the world will be gunning for Buggy’s head can hide in his territory, no accusation of cowardness or betrayals, just understanding , understanding that Buggy’s nakama are good people , who follow and respect him but who haven’t signed up for this, who are not ready for this and may never be, and that’s okay .

And so Shanks doesn’t offer judgment, he offers concern and care and safety and fuck but Buggy missed him so fucking much, loves him so fucking much, and he doesn’t know what he did in a past life to deserve someone like Shanks in his life but he’s so very very grateful for it.

“Hope you don’t mind some of them setting up a circus on your territory, then,” he half-jokes, his voice rough, because he knows his people and their backup plan has always involved pretending to be a civilian circus and they already have all the necessary skills anyway.

“Eh, it’ll give me an excuse to stop by more often to see the show,” Shanks laughs, even as he reluctantly lets go of Buggy to allow him to stand up. “I wouldn’t want to miss a party like that!”

Buggy chuckles and offers Shanks a hand up, deliberately not letting go of said hand once Shanks is upright. 

Yes, he knows he’s being clingy, thank you very much. He also very much doesn’t give a fuck, and neither does Shanks if the way his fingers twine with Buggy’s is any indication.

“Do we have to?” His friend whines, but there’s no real annoyance behind the tone. They both know they have responsibilities they need to take care of. “I could just ask Rockstar to get us a denden and we could hide in here a little longer.”

Buggy chuckles, though he quite likes the idea as well.

“Lazy ass,” he teases, fully aware that his fingers are clenching around Shanks’ and betraying his thoughts. “Come on, we’ve got stuff to do.”

His masks fall back in place as he crosses the door, his tumultuous emotions pushed back until it’s just him and Shanks in the safety of the cabin again, where he will fall again and again, secure in the knowledge that Shanks will always catch him, always .


They stop by the kitchens first, because Buggy insists on returning the tray and because neither of them have eaten anything since Shanks went to sleep and they’ll definitely need the energy if they want to get everything done. It’s lunchtime now anyway, as it had taken them that long to convince themselves to finally leave the cabin.

“Captain Buggy, boss,” Lucky Roo greets them with an easy smile, already taking the tray from Buggy’s hand. “Good to see you again. The others have already eaten, but I set some plates aside for you.”

“You’re a life-saver, Luck’” Shanks groans as he drags Buggy to the small table where two covered plates are indeed waiting for them. “Did anything interesting happen while we were busy?”

Lucky snorts. “Boss, you made everything interesting before making yourself busy. The rest of the world is still running around like headless chicken and odds are they’ll still be doing so by the end of next week. Benn will catch you up on the specifics, but the flaming chicken called three hours ago, they’re headed for Greyapples. We should get there early-ish tomorrow if the winds hold, and Benn says they will. Damian stole the denden and passed on the message that Anchor was pretty messed up but that he and one of the other supernovas are busy fixing him up - apparently the Law brat decided to sightsee or something and was hanging around Marineford with his submarine when shit went down, and decided to offer his medbay in exchange for information on recent medical innovations and research in the New World and a non-aggression agreement with both the Whitebeards and us.”

He what?! The supernova had decided to just… cruise around Marineford during the closest thing this decade has seen to an all-out Pirate/Marine war? To sightsee ? What the hell is wrong with this generation? Did they all get their common sense surgically removed at birth or something? That’s D-Level Stupidity, and yes, the capital is necessary!

“Damian was cursing up a storm because the Whitebeards medbay had gone down with the Moby Dick and the Piece of Spadille didn’t have the equipment he needed, so he called medic’s privilege and agreed. Anchor’s still in surgery, but he should be awake and well enough for you to pound some self-preservation instincts into his head by the time we get there, and Damian’s not moving from his side until then.”

Shanks lets out a sigh of relief, even as Buggy stifles a chuckle. Yeah, Shanks’ nakama know him well. Because of course Shanks is going to lecture the brat, probably alternating between a thorough scolding and bone-crushing hugs all the while. Mother Hen.

“Ivankov is confined to the main deck, ostensibly because his head wouldn’t fit inside the ship, mostly because we can’t be arsed to deal with him right now and because Damian called dibs - Benn asked about the pronouns since we had never met him before,” the cook adds, ladling more soup into Buggy’s empty bowl. “He’s been whining a bit, but mostly he’s been quiet. I think whatever happened to Kuma shook him. Wants to talk to you as soon as you’re available, but we’ve told him he would have to wait his turn.”

“Good call,” Shanks agrees. “I can’t be arsed to deal with him right now either and I have other things to do. How’s Rockstar?”

“You know the kid, boss. Got a couple of hours of sleep, was up and at it again as soon as he woke up and got some food. Benn put him to work in the communication’s room and he’s been there ever since, last I heard.”

“Yasopp?”

“Still fretting, I’ve got instructions from Damian to convince him to take something to sleep tonight if I can, but getting rid of those scums earlier took some of the edge off, especially seeing Anchor - no way the kid would have looked like that if his nakama were dead, so that’s what he’s taking comfort in right now. Damian is going to try and ask, but Anchor is too out of it right now to answer, so odds are it will have to wait until we actually get there.”

“Benn?”

“Glad to see you out here, boss,” comes the reply from where Buggy had sensed Benn’s haki. “Captain Buggy,” the man nods. “Good to see you again, despite the circumstances. Thanks for putting up with this mother hen and saving us from the endless clucking.”

Shanks sputters in outrage next to him, but Buggy laughs .

Favourite Red-Hair pirate for a reason .

He really, really likes the Akagami.

(Neither Roo nor Benn have commented on the fact that he and Shanks are still holdings hands, and that’s another reason Buggy likes them.)

“Always happy to help, Beckmann,” he assures the man, finishing his soup and pushing the plate away. “Speaking of mother hens, any way I can contact my crew?”

“I was hoping you would say that,” Benn says. “Given that they’ve been calling every ten minutes without fail to check on you.”

Buggy makes a show of rolling his eyes, but can’t deny the warmth that statement brings to his chest even as he stands up to follow the first mate, dragging Shanks along by the wrist.

Fuck but he misses his band of crazies. Not that Shanks’s people are not just as crazy (actually, even crazier), but they’re not his .


Benn leads them to the communication room, a small cabin next to the medbay. Rockstar is inside, as Roo had suggested, looking slightly harried as he speaks to the snail in his hand, one of the many dendens resting on the shelves around his desk.

“... look, I’m telling you I don’t know when he’ll be available, he and Okashira haven’t been out yet and -”

“And I’m done waiting, grow a pair and go and get my captain before I let Richie eat you!” Mohji roars into the denden, and yeah, that’s his first mate alright, and Buggy ignores Benn as he strides into the room, grabbing the other chair and stealing the denden, not caring that this leaves Shanks standing awkwardly next to him since he has yet to let go of the man’s hand and isn’t planning on doing so anytime soon.

“Stop pretending you didn’t sense my arrival five minutes ago and let me talk to my first mate, Rockstar, before he makes good on his threat and gives Richie an indigestion,” he scoffs.

There’s a moment of silence on the other end of the denden, and Buggy makes use of it to brace himself for the incoming explosion of noise.

He’s not disappointed.

“Captain! Captain, are you alright?!”

“Captain Buggy!”

“You’re alive! Thank whoever is up there, you’re alive!”

“That was so badass captain!”

“ROAR!”

“That was a damn good shot captain, can you help me with my aim when you get back?”

“Shut up you morons!” Mohji’s voice is easily the loudest. “There’s no way we can hear Captain with the racket you’re making! And Funan-Ichi, for the thousandth time you are not to pick up any kind of projectile weapon, ever! Stick to your damn needles, it would take an act of god to help your aim with a gun and Davy Jones has better things to do!”

“Seconded,” Buggy says dryly, because no, Ichi really needs to stay away from guns because they can’t hit the broad side of a barn even when they’re standing less than a foot from it. He’s not taking the risk. “Alright you louts, what’s your status?”
“Safe and sound on Ridfield, Captain,” Mohji reports. “Exactly where we’ve been for the past three months now please answer our questions!”

“Bossy,” Buggy complains halfheartedly, and hears Shanks snort next to him. Benn and Rockstar have left the room, leaving him to his reunion, but Shanks is staying. “I’m as good as can be, given the circumstances. What happened to Alvida?”

“Ditched her right after Loguetown when she tried to boss us around,” Mohji replies without pause. “Seriously Captain, are you okay?”

“Good riddance to her, then. I’m physically unharmed and have the chief mother hen himself keeping an eye on me, Mohji,” Buggy smirks at Shanks’ indignant squawk. “I could be better, but as things are I’m doing fine. Now listen up you lot, the Akagami’s are letting you stay on Ridfield as long as necessary. I don’t know yet when I’ll be able to meet up with you: it’s gonna depends on what happens next, both on the marine side and on the pirate side, but I’m sticking with the Red Force until we figure that out. Meanwhile, I want you guys to lay low, you hear me? Odds are that the Marines are going to be on our asses like hemorroïds once they get their wits together again, and I don’t want any of you to get caught in the crossfire. We’re East Blue, there’s no way we can stand up against a marine offensive as we are, so don’t be stupid. I expect you to train your asses off and stay alive: Mohji, Cabaji, I’m counting on you for that. Anyone who doesn’t feel like being hunted down by Marines for the next decade or two, Shanks has offered sanctuary on any island on his territory, no question asked, as long as he can visit the circus from time to time, so you better put up one hell of a show. Some of you better take him up on his offer because I damn well would if I could and I want to live vicariously through you. Cabaji, we’re going to be flying the Akagami flag next to ours next time we set sail, so make sure it’s in top condition or Shanks will whine about it for ages. Any questions?”

“You better give us regular updates, Captain, or we will track you down personally,” Cabaji threatens from down the line. “I’ll check on the flags and make sure the Big Top is fully functional and ready to sail when you need her.”

“Good. Then you can take the rest of the lot outside and get them started on their training regiment while I talk with Mohji.”

“Aye aye Captain! Captain Shanks, you damn well make sure we get him back or we’ll find a way to make you pay, Yonkou or not!” Cabaji adds as a parting shot, and Buggy facepalms even as Shanks chuckles next to him.

“Will do Cabaji!”

There’s the sound of a door opening and closing, and when Mohji speaks up again he’s alone.

“You gonna be okay, Captain?” his first mate asks quietly. “I mean, the whole Impel Down thing was bad enough, but this? We watched the whole thing, and it’s one hell of a clusterfuck.”

Buggy sighs, letting go of some of the bravado he had been using to reassure the rest of his men.

“Not gonna lie, Mohji. It’s bad. If the marines weren’t currently dealing with the loss of their headquarters, a good portion of their forces, two of their admirals and a couple of their Warlords, coupled with Firefist’s escape, Newgate’s survival and the return of both the Rogers and the Blackjacks, I would be ordering all of you to disband and hide in Shanks’ territory to make sure you guys survived the oncoming storm. As it is, I was serious when I said I expect some of the men to step down and you better make sure no one gives them shit for it: there’s a reason I never took the Big Top out of East Blue, and that’s because the Grand Line is crazy and the New World is even worse and we’re not even remotely ready to contemplate surviving some of the monsters out there. There was no fucking way I was going to put any of you through that, especially since I had sworn never to go there ever again. From here on it’s volunteers only, and those who step off the ship will have their share and a safety net in case they need help. We’re not abandoning them just because they’re no longer sailing with us, they’re still our nakama.”

Shanks is looking at him with a raised eyebrow, and Buggy scowls back. So what if he’s been coming up with plans to avoid what happened to them happening to his men all night? The Rogers had given him the perfect example of what not to do, he’s simply doing exactly the opposite of what they did.

“Not asking me if I’m leaving?” The denden’s eyebrow is raised as well, and there’s a small smirk there too. Smartass. 

It’s half the reason Buggy made the guy his first mate, of course.

“I know better than that. You and Cabaji wouldn’t listen even if I made it an order and I would have to resort to ordering the others to knock you out and tie you up to get you off the ship in the first place. And even then I would probably end up with a mutiny on my hands. Option’s there for you two as well, obviously, but I don’t see either of you taking it just yet.”

They’re idiots , but they’re his idiots and they’ve been with him for nearly fifteen years now. 

He knows he’s not getting rid of them so easily. Besides, out of all his men they’re the two most likely to survive the shit coming their way. There’s a reason they’ve stayed for so long, and that’s because they use the same smoke and mirrors as Buggy himself to appear less threatening than they actually are. Sure, they’re not New World level yet, and barely beginning of the Grand Line, but they have potential and they’re properly motivated now.

Which doesn’t mean that Buggy isn’t going to give them plenty of opportunity to jump ships if he sees the situation worsening, but they’re adults and he has to respect their choices.

He’s still going to make damn sure they get out of this clusterfuck okay, though. No matter what.

“Too right,” Mohji laughs, and the sounds eases something in Buggy’s chest. “I’m not expecting too many to jump off, though. We’ve not exactly been idle since the old fucker dragged you off to Marineford, and some of them have been downright vicious in what they would like to do to the Marines. Besides, you’re our captain. We’ll have your back as long as we can, Captain.”

“Yeah yeah, I know” Buggy sighs reluctantly. “Speaking of, anything happen since Loguetown that I need to know about?”

The silence on the other end is worrying .

Mohji.”

There’s a scramble.

“Mohji, what did you do?”

Shanks is full out laughing next to him, which means that the asshole knows and hasn’t told him yet, which is something Buggy will definitely get him back for later.

“Well…” the animal tamer starts hesitantly. “The men might not have been the only ones feeling like they wanted to get some revenge on Monkey Fucking D Garp, and you might have left your contact book next to your white denden so I found it when I was trying to contact the Red Force after Loguetown. And I might have made some other calls that day.”

Buggy stares at the denden, disbelieving.

“You didn’t .”

“I did.”

“Mohji you magnificent bastard. You set the network on the old bastard?”

“Let’s just say that his life has been… interesting… since he had the brilliant idea of locking you up.”

His first mate sounds smug as fuck , and yeah, Buggy understands why. He only regrets not getting to witness it firsthand.

“You get first pick of the next loot we get,” he declares, wiping away the tears of laughter forming at the edges of his eyes. Damn but he had needed that.

“Thanks Captain! Oh, and speaking of phone calls, we’ve gotten quite a lot of them in the past couple of hours. Mostly from the network, but a few other interested parties as well.”

“Tell the network I’m fine and will contact them when things have quieted down a bit,” Buggy instructs. 

“That’s what we’ve been telling them, boss, but there’s two callers who are quite adamant about you calling them back, and they’re on the priority list.”

Buggy frowns. Who…

“One of them’s listed as ‘witch’ and the other as ‘old hag’ in your contact book,” Mohji helpfully specifies, and Buggy groans. 

The old hag he had expected. The witch not so much.

“I’ll deal with them, thanks for letting me know. Anything else before I give Shanks his communication room back?”

“Not that I can think of right now,” Mohji admits reluctantly, and it’s clear that his first mate would prefer to keep talking to him for a while longer. “Just… stay alive, okay? I really don’t want to become the captain of these human disasters, and neither does Cabaji, so please remember that we took a vote and that Richie is next in line for capitancy if anything happens to you.”

“How drunk were you at the time?” Buggy can’t help but ask, morbidly curious, and why is this the first time he’s hearing of this? “Hell, how drunk was I because I don’t remember any of it!”

“It was shortly after Loguetown, so to answer your question: in my case very and yet not enough ,” he says shortly. “So you better stay alive and get back to us soon before I decide to throw the towel and let Richie eat all the ingrates.”

And with that Mohji ended the call.

Only for the denden to ring again immediately.

“And Loyal says that you better get checked out by a competent doctor as soon as possible and that he expects a call with all the information as soon as that is done!”

Click!

Buggy is left to stare at the denden in disbelief as Shanks howls with laughter.


It takes the redhead a good ten minutes to calm down, which is admittedly partly due to Buggy’s muttered rant about mother hens and worrywarts. 

“Not. A. Word,” Buggy threatens him as the door opens again and Rockstar pops his head in.

“Anyone ever tell you that your people are the right kind of crazy, Captain Buggy?” Shanks’ spymaster asked idly, setting his captain of again.

Buggy looks from him to Shanks and back again, expression telling, and Rockstar chuckles.

“Fair,” he admits, sitting down at his post again. “We who live in glass ships shouldn’t fire the first cannon. Anyway, get a grip Captain ‘cause Benn asked me to give you a sitrep of what’s been going on since we left Marineford and there’s a lot to go through.”

Shanks straightens immediately, and Buggy kinds of regret it, because the moment of levity had done both of them a world of good.

“Talk.”


 

Rockstar’s report is… well, it’s not good , but it’s not bad either. The Marines are currently busy trying to keep the survivors from Marineford alive, and rumours had it that Sengoku himself had told the Elder Stars to go and fuck themselves when they tried to summon him while he was getting his remaining men to the medical attention they desperately needed.

If there had been any lingering doubts about the man somehow managing to keep his post after this mess, they were now thoroughly destroyed. Though that posed the question of who would take over as Gensui…

“Aokiji is the only admiral left, and it looks like it’ll fall on him, which… yeah, no, I really can’t see it,” Rockstar admits when Buggy asks. “Though he at least gives a damn about his people, unlike the other two, but he’s just… he’s a genius, yes, and a decent strategist though nowhere near Sengoku’s level, but he’s unmotivated .”

“The Marine just got its ass kicked in front of his eyes and he could barely help with damage control,” Shanks points out. “That’s motivation, Rockstar. Even for someone like him.”

“Eh, maybe, guess we’ll have to wait and see,” the younger man shrugs. “Garp is expected to somehow not land himself in Impel Down for having concealed Firefist’s lineage from the world, as well as Anchor’s, and being Dragon’s father in the first place, and I really, really want to know what the hell happened in Gods’ Valley all these years ago to give him that kind of leeway, but no one who was there or knows about it is talking. Forced retirement or teaching position are the most likely outcomes for him, if the Blackjacks don’t get him first - Yadomaru has made it clear that she would be gunning for him.”

The Blackjacks are also sailing for Greyapples, Buggy learns, and would probably get there shortly before them due to their slight head start, and had extended a formal invitation to get, and Rockstar was quoting here, “absolutely shitfaced as we try to figure out what the fuck happened to Rouge’s standards”. That she had extended the invitation to Shanks as Captain of the Akagami Pirates and to Buggy as Captain of the Buggy Pirates instead of simply including them into the group invitation she had no doubt sent the Rogers makes Buggy more inclined to accept it, but it’s definitely going to depend on how long they have before the Rogers arrive.

“Anywhere between twelve and twenty-four hours after us, according to Benn at least,” Rockstar answers. “And I’m not going to doubt him when it comes to navigation, I like being alive. We have a headstart on them, and they’re going to be slowed down by a storm we just avoided. That, and the grilled chicken hadn’t told them where to go yet when we called him, so it’ll take them a bit to catch up.”

He pauses for a moment, counting on his fingers.

“No news from Dami yet, he’s going to call once he is out of surgery, but he said Anchor was no longer in critical condition and that he was going to make sure he wouldn’t be able to run away before you get there to lecture him. Firefist was going into shock, and is severely malnourished and suffering from long-term seastone exposure, but nothing some TLC won’t take care of. I asked about Whitebeard himself and got told that he was Nightingale’s problem and that Dami wasn’t touching the asshole with a ten-foot pole. He’s currently using Trafalgar Law’s submarine - that supernova rookie they call the Surgeon of Death - and deemed its medical facilities ‘some of the best he’s ever seen’, so there’s that.”

“Dami?” Buggy notes, turning to look at Rockstar, left eyebrow raised. “Did the two of you finally get your act together?”

If so, Davy Jones be thanked. Watching them pine over each other the last time they had visited East Blue had been painful . And hilarious, of course, but Buggy had seriously been tempted to lock them in a cupboard more than once.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Rockstar huffs, but is interrupted by a gleeful Shanks.

“They did. Last year . After three fucking years of pining.”

“Captain!”

“Who won the pot?” Buggy asks, glad to see the smile on Shanks’s face. His friend had been turning gloomy as Luffy’s injuries had been mentioned. Teasing Rockstar about his love life wasn’t much, but if it helps Shanks keep his head above the water Buggy will not hesitate. “Stupid question. Benn won, obviously.”

“Actually, he didn’t. There was a tie.” Shanks tells him with a wide grin, and Buggy does a double-take.

“Who…”

“Monstar.”

“The monkey won half the pot? What even did she do with the money?”

“Made Capu buy her half a dozen cute outfits, and has been buying herself fresh fruits on every island we’ve stopped on since then, looking delightfully smug each time.”

Of course she did, Buggy thinks, suppressing a laugh on his own. Atta girl.

Anyway, ” Rockstar says loudly, “That’s it for the general news. We’re still trying to track down the rest of the Strawhats, starting with Usopp, but no dice for now. My contact with the Revolutionaries knows something but they’re not telling, so I didn’t tell them that we would be stopping by soon enough and would get our answers one way or another. Oh, and there’s this one old lady who been calling every hour and demanding to talk to either one of you, preferably Captain Buggy, but she wouldn’t tell me her name or how she got the number. She should be calling just about now.”

Buggy is pretty sure the little shit had timed his speech precisely so that the denden would ring just as he finished his sentence.

It works.


The denden’s face is already adjusting, triangular nose and blond curls, and Shanks does a double-take.

“Granny Kokoro?!” he asks Buggy even as he goes to accept the call. “Why would she…”

“Boke no Buggy you little brat! You better be in one piece or I swear to Davy Jones I will track you down myself!”

“Granny Kokoro, how nice to hear from you!” Buggy greets her, ignoring the look Shanks is giving him. “I take it you got my present?”

“You little shit!” The voice on the other end is strangely fond despite the words, and the denden’s eyes are filling with tears. “You better bring that ship of yours here for a tune-up before you set sail again, you hear me? On the house.”

“Buggy, what happened?” Shanks asks him again. “What do you mean, present?”

“Ah…” Buggy rubs the back of his head. He knows he should have mentioned this to Shanks earlier, but it had completely slipped his mind, pushed aside by his breakdown and need to check on his crew. “Remember how Old Man Tom was heavily injured and taken to Impel Down, and said to have died there?”

Shanks stills.

“Yeah, they lied,” Buggy nods. “I came across him during our escape, after I got separated from Strawhat for a bit. He didn’t look good, but he was alive and I helped him slip away in the chaos. Told him to swim away and get back to Water 7 if he could, rather than stick around for whatever madness your brat had planned. I didn’t think he would make it there so fast, he was in a pretty bad state when I found him…”

“Idiot got some swordfishes to help him along the way,” Kokoro interjects, and yes, these are definitely tears in her voice. “Nearly gave me a heart attack when Yokozuna found him and dragged him to my house, let me tell you! Iceburg is beside himself, he’s been trying to reach Franky but he’s not answering his phone and we didn’t see him with Strawhat at Marineford…”

“We’re currently looking into what happened to Luffy’s crew,” Shanks tells her, and he still looks shell shocked but a delighted smile is slowly creeping up on his face. “I can’t believe it. Old Man Tom is alive! Bug, you should have told me!”

“Honestly? I forgot,” Buggy admits sheepishly. “So much crap happened between getting him out of Impel Down and now…”

“Fair,” Shanks grins, moving their linked hands so as to sneak his arm around Buggy’s shoulders in a hug. “How’s he doing, Granny?”

“One of his leg is probably going to need a brace for the rest of his life, and he won’t be running around making a mess in the workshop anytime soon, but he’s a pretty hardy fish, he’ll be fine. He’s knocked out right now and I’ve got Iceburg sitting on him to make sure he doesn’t try anything stupid, but he’ll want to talk to you when he wakes up.”

She pauses, takes a breath.

“We owe you one, Buggy. You need anything, anything , it’s yours.”

And Buggy wants to protest, because he doesn’t want them to owe him anything, Granny and Old Man Tom have done so much for him when he was just starting out on his own, they built the Big Top for him and refused to let him pay the full price despite needing the money at the time, and he had failed them, hadn’t been there when the Marines had come for Tom, was in Impel Down when he heard about CP9 and their infiltration, and how Strawhat had saved Cutty - no, Franky now, not Cutty Flam, he needs to remember that - and…

“I can hear you thinking from here, and I’m telling you right now to stop that shit,” the denden scowls. “You and Red-Hair were kids back then, it wasn’t up to you to try and protect us from the marines questionable life choices. You needed to take care of yourself first and we would have kicked your asses if you hadn’t, you hear me? What happened to us sucked, not gonna lie, but it was not your fault and not something you could have prevented. Rush helped where she could, but neither of us could afford for her to make too many waves so she had too keep her head down more often than not and couldn’t actually intervene without making things worse than they already were.”

Buggy very much does not want to talk about Rush right now. He had been lucky enough to manage to avoid her when Shanks had brought him on Water 7 after Depa, after Buggy had decided to head back to East Blue and never leave it again and Shanks had insisted on him getting the best ship available no matter what, even lending him the money so Buggy could afford it, and he had done his best not to think about her or the other Rogers since. That had worked quite well until today.

“Tell the old man to take it easy and lay low, the last thing he needs is someone recognising him and deciding to throw him back there,” He says instead, changing the subject.

“Don’t you worry about us, lad. You two take care of yourselves and each other, you hear me?”

“Always have, always will, Granny,” Shanks grins, and Buggy leans a bit more into him, soaking him the quiet confidence. “Give us a call when Tom is awake, it’ll be nice to talk to him again.”

“Will do!”

And with that she hangs up.

“What is it with people hanging up on me today?” Buggy whines half-heartedly, trying to deflect attention from what just happened.

Rockstar is staring at him, mouth gaping.

Tom the Shipwright?” He squeaks. “ The Tom? The one who built the Oro Jackson?”

“And the Red Force,” Shanks nods as the wood of the cabin creaks happily. “And the Big Top.”

He made the Red Force?!”

“Jeez, and here I thought you were Shanks’ spymaster,” Buggy pokes the flabbergasted man in the side. “How did you not know that?”

“I was usually more busy trying to figure out what was happening somewhere else!” Rockstar hisses, face red.

“I still can’t believe it,” Shanks says. “Old Man Tom is still alive, and now he’s free!

“I barely recognised him,” Buggy admits, voice going quiet. “He’s skin and bones now, he lost so much weight… He’s the one who recognised me first, called out to me. Getting him out of his cell was easy, but I was really worried he wouldn’t make it all the way to Water 7. I thought he would stop and rest on the way, so I didn’t want to call Granny Kokoro and give her false hope in case he didn’t…”

Shanks squeezes his hand.

“So,” the redhead says, changing the subject. “I’m gonna take a wild guess and say that Granny Kokoro was the one Mohji was talking about when he mentioned ‘old hag’. But who’s the “witch”?”

Buggy shudders.

“Someone I will not be calling until I’ve had an actual doctor give me a full exam,” He says firmly. “And someone I very much do not want to talk about right now because she’s terrifying .”


They leave the communication room after that, leaving Rockstar to continue trying to locate the various Strawhats, and find their way towards the mess hall, where most of Shanks’ crew is gathered.

Buggy greets each and every one of them, and laughs when Monstar is quick to perch on his shoulder again, raising his free hand to scratch the monkey’s head.

(No one is commenting on the fact that he and Shanks are still holding hands, and this is why he loves the Akagami.)

“That was some damn impressive shooting,” He tells Yasopp, sitting down at the same table as the man.

He gets a tired smile in return, takes in the concerned lines on the man’s face and the worried fingernails.

“You as well, Captain Buggy. Didn’t know you could shoot like that.”

Buggy wrinkles his nose.

“I can’t. There’s a reason I stick to knives and bombs most of the time, but I guess life or death situations can make miracles happen. Believe it or not, I’m usually a crap shot.”

“Damn,” the sharpshooter whistles. “Here’s to dumb luck then!”

“Preach,” Buggy snorts. “Preach.”


They chat for a while, deliberately forgetting their various responsibilities as Shanks’ nakama gleefully catch him up on all the stupid things their captain has done recently, much to Buggy’s amusement and Shanks’ loud protests. It’s… nice, to be able to just sit down and pretend nothing is wrong in the world, to pretend that Shanks drunkenly trying to serenade Benn is the most interesting thing that happened in the past year, but unfortunately reality has a way of catching up to you.

“Captain?” Capu asks, passing his head through the open door. “Ivankov heard your voice and is insisting on talking to you. And he wants a denden to call Dragon.”

Shanks groan even as he stands up, tugging Buggy with him.

“I’d hoped I would be able to avoid dealing with that particular headache for a little longer,” he complains. “Ryu, tell Rockstar not to let any of the Dendens out of his sight. Dragon wants to talk to anyone on this ship, he’ll talk to me , and he will do so on my terms.”

“Aye aye Captain!”

“Coming with me?” Shanks asks Buggy, and the tone is deliberately carefree, but the way his friend’s fingers clench minutely around his is a give-away.

Shanks doesn’t want to let go, and neither does Buggy, but they can’t afford to show weakness in front of the okama. Not now, not ever.

“Someone needs to make sure you don’t get turned into a girl,” he deadpans, because yeah, no, he’s not letting Shanks out of his sight thank you very much. “And I wouldn’t say no to some actual sun.”

It’s been a long time since he’s been able to enjoy feeling the sun on his skin. Impel Down doesn’t exactly have much in the way of fresh air and natural light, and Marineford very much does not count.

The handholding is going to have to go, though, but Buggy needs the grounding, the comfort of touching Shanks and he knows his friend needs the same.

Good thing Buggy has just the solution for that.


As they exit the mess hall, Buggy allows his hand to separate from his arm, before reluctantly letting go of Shanks’ fingers to rest again the redhead’s upper arm, hidden under both the shirt and Shanks’ trademark cloak. He stuffs the end of his handless arm into a pocket, and ta-da! No one will be the wiser.

Shanks doesn’t say anything, but the way he gently bumps Buggy’s shoulder is answer enough.


Ivankov is waiting on the deck, pacing impatiently from one end to the other, but Buggy ignores him in favour of taking a moment to bask in the sunlight, of taking deep breaths of fresh air, of inhaling the salty smell of the ocean.

He is free. He is out.

He is free .


Shanks lets him, waits patiently by his side until Buggy feels like moving again despite Ivankov’s aggravated rumbling. Buggy shoots him a grateful smile, before schooling his expression as he follows his friend towards the Revolutionary.

“Ivankov,” Shanks greets the man, and Buggy leans against the mast to observe the situation, not intending on getting involved. This is Shanks’ ship, Shanks’ turf, and it’s about Shanks’ brat. Buggy is there to watch his back (and because neither can bear to be separated from the other right now), and that’s it. 

“Red-Hair,” The reply is curt. “I have questions.”

“Ask away.”

Ivankov seems taken aback by the easy acceptance, and Buggy represses a snort.

“Vhat do you want with Dragon-san?” Straight to the point, hu?

“That’s between me and him,” Shanks replies in an even tone. “I’ve been wanting to have words with him for quite a while now, this simply gives me an excuse to actually do so.”

“And how do you plan on doing so, vhen your men vill not give me the means to call him?!”

Shanks smirks. 

“Now why do you think we need you to contact him? I know exactly where to find your so-called leaders, and I plan on making a stop there as soon as my business with Whitebeard is done with. We will, of course, take you along so we can drop you off with your fellow Revolutionaries.”

All of that is said in a perfectly calm tone, and Buggy takes great pleasure in cataloguing the different expressions crossing over Ivankov’s giant face. The okama looks like steam would be blowing from his ears if it was physically possible for him to do so. It’s amazing.

“Vhat do you mean!?”

Shanks shrugs.

“I know people who are very good at what they do. Baltigo is not too far away from here, so it should only take us a week or so to reach it once we leave Greyapple.”

Panic crosses over Ivankov’s face briefly, and Buggy doesn’t bother hiding his own smirk. Shanks’ intel network is great, but mostly based in the New World. But when it comes to Paradise? Buggy might have stayed in East Blue, but he had made damn sure his own network extended to the Grand Line and the South Blue as well. No one wants to be ambushed by some overlord wannabe who decided to cross into the so-called ‘weakest sea’, after all.

He and Shanks have basically divided the seas between them, and their combined networks are a work of art if he does say so himself.

“Then vhy take me with you instead of letting me leave vith my people?!” The okama explodes.

Shanks raises a single eyebrow, unimpressed.

“Because, as I already told you, my doctor wants to have words with you and would be very cross with me should I fail to allow him to do so. And I try to avoid pissing off the person who has extensively studied how the human body works and is thus perfectly able to take it apart in the most painful way possible if necessary.”

“But vhy? ” The okama seems genuinly confused as for why an actual medical professional would want to talk with him, and yeah, Buggy is definitely looking forward to that particular conversation. He’ll need to make sure someone records the entire thing, because something tells him it’s going to be memorable.

“That’s for him to tell you,” Shanks says firmly. “We will be arriving on Greyapple tomorrow morning, you can find out then.”

“... I still vant to call Dragon-san.”

“And I don’t want to arrive on a empty island, so that’s a no . Your leader no doubt has my ship’s number somewhere in his many files. If he needs to talk to you so urgently and can’t wait a few days, he can certainly call himself.”

“But…”

Shanks’ expression turns to ice.

“I said no .”

He turns around, starts heading towards the stairs leading to the helm.

“Someone will be up to bring you supper. We also have some books if you’re bored. I will remind you that while you are a guest upon my ship, and not a prisoner, if I see so much as a drop of your special hormones heading for anyone on this ship, this will quickly change. Are we clear?”

Buggy has a pretty good view of Ivankov, and as such is able to see the way the colour drains from the okama’s face at Shanks’ tone.

“Yes.”

Good .”

And with that Shanks walks away, and Buggy is quick to fall in step beside him as he makes his way towards Benn who is currently manning the helm.


“Everything okay, boss?” The navigator asks, eyes not leaving the horizon. 

“Yeah, just tired,” Shanks sighs, slumping down against the railing. Buggy joins him, sitting down next to him, shoulders and knees touching, his hand still curled around Shanks' upper arm. “This is going to be a pain in the arse.”

“Greyapple?” Benn asks. “Or the Revolutionaries?”

“Both,” Shanks groans, letting his head thump lightly against the wood behind him. “Newgate wants to talk to me and will probably have someone try to intercept me as soon as I set foot on the island.”

Benn chuckles. “As if you’re gonna do anything other than checking on Anchor first thing.”

“Exactly!” Shanks throws his hand in the air. “If anyone should understand that, it’s him, honestly. Though given that the old fucker just tried to pull a Roger on his crew, I’m wondering if he doesn’t have a few loose screws in that hard head of his.”

“Want us to run interference?”

Shanks takes a moment to think about it, and Buggy stays silent. Just like with Ivankov, this is not something he will take part in. It is Yonkou business, and Shanks has never needed anyone’s help to deal with that.

“Maybe,” the redhead concedes. “If it looks like they won’t take no for an answer. Feel free to tell the old man off if necessary: we will talk, but only after I’ve seen Luffy. I am not his subordinate, nor one of his many children: I am a Yonkou in my own right, his equal, and he does not command me. And I will be expecting a couple of appologies.”

Benn nods. “Will do, Captain. And the other relics?”

Buggy tilts his head. Does he mean…

Shanks snorts. “They can bloody well wait their turn as well. After all, they’re retired. It’s not like they have anything to say that might be urgent. How long do we have until they show up? Rockstar said half a day or thereabout?”

“Thereabout, yeah. They won’t have escaped that storm last night like we did, so it will slow them down a bit. Then again it’s the Oro Jackson, and Elena is one of the best navigators, so I wouldn’t count on more than ten to twelve hours between our arrival and theirs.”

Yep, he does. Benn Beckmann calls the Roger Kaizoku relics and it’s hilarious .

“So, Anchor first, then Whitebeard, then the relics?”

“The tolerable relics first,” Shanks corrects, nudging Buggy’s side. “Yadomaru is providing the drinks and I’ve been sober for too long.”

“As long as you don’t start dancing on tables and singing again,” Buggy nudges him right back. “Drunk you can’t carry a tune in a bucket and I’m not putting myself through that again.”

 “Liar!”

“I’m siding with Captain Buggy on this, boss,” Benn disagrees, causing Shanks to pout and complain of betrayals and mutinies, and Buggy leans against the railing, face turned up to soak in the sun, and basks in the comfort and comradry that surrounds him.


 

Tomorrow there will be Newgate and the Blackjacks’ and Strawhat and Firefist and the Rogers, and it’s going to be a fucking mess, but right now, right here, Buggy allows those worries to fade, allows himself to focus on the movement of the sea beneath the ship, on the sound of the seagulls high in the air, on the smell of the ocean, on the feel of the wood and on the feel of Shanks’ skin beneath his fingers, on the warmth of the sun shining down on him, on the relief of no longer being locked down in the underground prison of Impel Down. Right here, right now, Buggy is okay . He is safe and Shanks is there and that means that part of him is home, even if he’s not on his ship, not with his crew, but he is with Shanks and so he is home nonetheless

Tonight, he and Shanks will lock themselves into the later’s cabin again. There will be nightmares and tears and shattering, and there will be hugs and gentle touches and careful rebuildings and whispered words, and when the sun shines again they will put their masks back on like armour and step out to face the world. Together.