Nimm uns mit, Kapitän, auf die Reise!
Nimm uns mit in die weite, weite Welt!
Wohin geht, Kapitän, deine Reise?
Bis zum Südpol, da langt unser Geld!
Nimm uns mit, Kapitän, in die Ferne,
Nimm uns mit in die weite Welt hinaus.
Take us with you, Captain, on the Journey!
Take us with you to the great big world!
Where does it go, Captain, your Journey?
To the South Pole, where our gold lies!
Take us with you, Captain, to the far away,
Take us with you out in the big world.)
(Nimm uns mit, Kapitän, auf die Reise)
Gol D. Roger is born in Loguetown. That’s all anyone remembers when asked about who he was before piracy, and that’s all Roger himself cares to remember, to be honest.
Because all Roger ever wanted to be, from the very moment he first drew breath, was a pirate. There had never been another path for him but this one.
He knows he had a life before the sea and the waves and the wind, but his life didn’t start until he stepped on his first dinghy and left Loguetown behind.
He meets Rayleigh when that dinghy breaks down, and it seems like fate. And just like that, he has his first mate.
Rayleigh also turns out to be much better at navigation than Roger is. Again, this seems like fate. They pick up Scopper Gaban on the next island, and Seagull on the one after that. Riza joins the crew after saving their asses from some asshole marines that had been intent on cornering them, and Roban just shows up one day and doesn’t leave. Then it’s Marian, rummaging through the ruins of some ancient Alabastan city, and that’s it for a couple of year, for nearly a decade, and then there’s Elena when she literally drops from a weather island and on their ship, and Gulliver the Giant who they pick up on a desert island somewhere in South Blue. They’re in and out the Grand Line, crossing over to the New World whenever things start to get a bit boring for them, and it’s fun. It’s freeing in a way nothing else is, standing at the helm as the ship braves waves ten times her size, and Roger loves it .
Rush hunts them down when she sees the state of their ship just so she can yell at them for not taking care of her, and Roger laughs and tells her to join them if she wants to fix it so badly. She takes one look at their weird little mix, and says she’ll be scarier than all of them put together. Roger laughs, but doesn’t doubt her.
He picks up Shanks and Buggy next, on one of the main islands in the Grand Line. One’s a red-head with a West Blue accent and an eye for quality swords and the other’s a blue-haired brat with sticky fingers and decent self-preservation instincts. One of them shouldn't even be in this part of the Grand Line when he's clearly from West Blue and how did a kid that age make it all the way here anyway and oh Roger wants to go and busts some heads right now, and the other one is warier than an alley cat and they're both scarred and underfed with eyes too old for their small bodies and neither of them looks like much but they’re both bursting with potential .
Roger sees them, sees that potential and thinks they will be my legacy and bundles them up to his ship.
Rayleigh makes fun of him for it, shakes his head and asks what the hell they’re supposed to do with two seven-year old kids, and Roger laughs.
“We teach them,” He says. “They know how to survive already, let’s teach them how to thrive.”
Rayleigh sighs, but Roger is his captain and he does as he’s told.
The kids take to sailing like fishes to water, Roger is pleased to note, and Shanks fits in like he’s always been there, laughing and reckless and strong despite his small frame. He’s going to be a power-house one day, Roger knows, and he can’t wait to see it. Buggy is different, louder but quieter too, and he learns Haki like he’s always known it. He doesn’t have King’s Haki, Roger doesn’t think so at least, not like he can feel it bubbling under Shanks’ skin, but his range with Observation is off the charts.
Buggy doesn’t like fighting, Roger knows. Buggy gets scared and worried and hides, and that’s why his Observation is so good, because he needs to know where people are so he can avoid them. The others tease him about it, roughhouse him a bit over it, but Roger just puts a hand on his shoulder and tells him it’s okay. Buggy will grow out of this after a while, once he’s taller than people’s hips, and Shanks is going to need someone to be the voice of reason, anyway, and maybe Buggy will never be Rayleigh (who never tries to stop Roger from being reckless, just sighs and joins him anyway) but he will be Buggy and that’s all Shanks will ever need him to be.
(Because Roger can’t imagine Shanks without Buggy or Buggy without Shanks, where one goes the other follows and that’s just how it is. The sky is blue and the sea is life and the marines are dumb, and Shanks and Buggy will always stand together.)
Buggy eats a Devil Fruit, is the only one in the crew who does, and there’s a moment of panic when they realise that the boy can no longer swim, until they set up watchers and make sure the Buggy is not left alone too long. It also helps that Buggy can send his upper body back on the ship as long as he’s fast enough, and then they just have to fish his feet out of the water.
(There are still moments, especially in the midst of battles, when Roger loses sight of the crew’s youngest members and panics quietly until the boy is found. For once, he is glad that Buggy tends to hide rather than fight, because it means that there’s less risk of him getting pushed overboard.)
Buggy is the first one to notice that something is wrong with Gol D. Roger.
He’s not going to be the last, they’ll all notice sooner or later, but he’s the first and he sneaks in Roger’s cabin one night after a battle and he curls up in the small space between the clothes’ chest and the wall and when Roger comes back from his watch Buggy is looking at him and there’s worry in his eyes.
“I think you need a doctor, Captain,” the boy tells him. “I think… I think there’s something wrong with your body.”
Roger doesn’t believe him, not at first, because he doesn’t feel sick or wrong , and Rayleigh, who’s been with him the longest and was the one who taught him Haki didn’t notice anything either. But Buggy is worried, so Roger resigns himself to finding the crew a half-decent doctor. They need one, anyway, especially now that they’re starting to make a name for themselves and getting into more and more fights.
Drum Island is renowned for her doctors, so that’s where they go first. Hiriluk is a quack, but Kureha, for all that she’s weird and probably an actual witch , is actually the best doctor in the world, according to Rayleigh.
She refuses to sail with them, no matter how much Roger tries to wheedle her into it. But she does agree to check them all over.
(She’s not doing it for him, she tells him viciously as she stabs him with more needles than should really be necessary. She’s doing it for the blue kid with the red nose who keeps sending him worried looks.)
When she’s done running her tests, she calls him back into her office and it only takes a look at his first mate for Rayleigh to join him. Because there has to be something wrong, for her to call him in her office rather than just kick them all out on the spot, and Rayleigh is his first mate, his first nakama .
Buggy was right.
There is something very, very wrong with Roger’s body.
“You’re dying,” Kureha tells him bluntly, and it doesn’t quite register. “You’re sick, and there’s no cure known to man at the moment. You have three, maybe four years left if you don’t find yourself a decent doctor to watch your ass. With one, maybe five years. And the last one is going to be painful. You’ll be coughing up blood by this time next year. I can give you a prescription, but it’ll only treat the symptoms. I would tell you to find a nice island to settle on and rest, because that might give you a year or two more, but I know your kind. You’ve got itchy feet and the wind in your sails.”
Roger has never thought about dying, before. Not really, not properly, not as something that might happen to him. He’s always known that the life of a pirate is a short one, but whenever he’s thought of boarding the Flying Dutchman, it’s always been in abstract terms, and always as a result of one last battle, going out in a blaze of glory to protect his crew.
Kureha is telling him that he’ll die in his bed, weakened and in pain, and Roger cannot see that. Cannot accept that.
Will not accept that.
Rayleigh thanks the doctor, gathers the prescription and asks her for recommendation on doctors that might be willing to sail with them, but Roger is already thinking ahead.
He’s sick, so what? He’s not going to let something like that stop him from doing whatever he wants. And what he wants, right now, is to become the most famous pirate in the entire world. He’s well-known already, has sailed on those seas for over twenty-five years already and has yet to lose a single crewmate to them, but he wants more than that. He wants everyone to know his name. He wants everyone to remember him as the greatest pirate who ever lived, and he knows exactly how to do it.
He exits the office and finds the rest of his crew waiting in the hall, and he ignores Buggy’s worried glances and locks eyes with Elena instead. The woman is young, only nineteen, but she’s the best navigator Roger has ever met and if anyone can get him where he wants to be, it’s her.
“I’ve got five years,” He tells her, and he pretends he doesn’t hear the twin gasps of his apprentices behind him, the sharp intake of breath. “And I want to see everything . There’s an island at the end of the world and we’ll put our names on it.”
And because she’s been sailing with him for three years now, Elena doesn’t ask if he’s alright, doesn’t ask if he’s sure. Instead she smiles , and it’s feral and dangerous and smug .
“Aye aye Captain!”
Things pick up after that.
They grab Crocus at the Twin Capes and on Kureha’s recommendation. It take a bit to convince him to join them, because he’s taking care of a whale and doesn’t want to leave it alone, but he ends up coming with them anyway.
And then they take the world by the storm.
They’d had bounties before, all of them, except Crocus and the Apprentices, but even Shanks ends up earning his first wanted poster two months into their trip to the end of the world. Roger is stupidly proud of the boy, and doesn’t notice how glad Buggy is that he doesn’t have one.
They cross swords with the marines more than once, and Roger grins every time Monkey D. Garp stands in his way.
Their ship isn’t made for the toll they put her through, though, and Rush puts her foot down and drags them all to Water Seven where a cowfishman named Tom builds them the best ship ever.
She’s called the Oro Jackson and Roger knows at first glance that she will carry them to the end of the world and back with barely a scratch. He can’t wait.
They get their ship coated and float down to Sabaody and from there to the New World. It’s been a couple of years since they went back there, and the apprentices have never seen it. Shanks takes to the complete circus that is the weather there with a laugh and a grin, and Buggy learns to tie a rope around his waist to make sure he’s not washed away now that he can’t swim any longer. His fruit is pretty cool, Roger has to admit, but he wouldn’t give up the ability to swim for anything.
(Those moments of panic still happen, even if less often now. But they still do, and Roger tries harder than ever to keep an eye on his apprentice.)
It’s in the New World that they meet the Blackjack Pirates.
More importantly, it’s in the New World that Gol D. Roger meets Blackjack D. Rouge.
Their first meeting… could have gone better, Roger admits, if only to himself. It wasn’t his fault that he had been so busy staring at her that he had bumped into her first mate and ruined their freshly bought supplies! It’s just that he hasn’t ever met someone like her before. Her Voice rings louder and clearer than anyone else’s, and he knows before even learning her name that she is a D. and a true one at that, not like that one upstart on Newgate’s crew that just screams bad news .
Blackjack D. Rouge, on the other hand, is very much good news . Roger might be smitten on sight. That’s what Rayleigh says at least, once he finishes laughing.
( All of his nakamas are laughing.)
(Roger would like to remind them that he’s the captain and that they shouldn’t be making fun of their captain Davy Jones damn it!)
The fact is, Blackjack D. Rouge is gorgeous and smart and strong and she kicks his ass one-handed with that staff of hers and okay, Roger is not simply smitten , he’s in love .
Sadly, his best attempt at wooing her has her throwing him overboard.
(Really, really glad he didn’t eat one of those Devil Fruits. He’s not a fan of drowning.)
He can wait.
Time passes as they make their way across the New World.
Time passes, and Roger starts to actually feel sick. He’s coughing up blood a year after his diagnosis, just like Kureha predicted, and he hides it as best as he can. Crocus keeps the worst of the symptoms away, and he’s working tirelessly at a cure, so Roger just ignores the blood on his handkerchief and helps Buggy with his knife-throwing, Shanks with his sword, and thinks: they will be my legacy .
Time passes, and Inuarashi, Nekomamushi and Kozuki Oden join them on the Oro Jackson for a while. They don’t stay very long, but they’re fun and they do lead them to the Poneglyph that they need, so Roger is sad to see them go.
He finds the others, the ones he needs so that Elena can trace the route they’ll follow, and he listens to the Voice of All Things and trusts it not to lie to him as it translates what is written on the stones despite Roger never having learned how to read them.
Their bounties keep growing. The newspapers are calling him ‘the future Pirate King’. The whole world has heard about his ambition to find Raftel, the island at the end of the world, and they’re saying that if he manages that he will truly have become the Pirate King.
Roger smirks and tells Elena that they’ll make it without trouble, what with her leading the way, and she rolls her eyes and kicks him out of her office. He knows she’s flattered anyway.
Their new notoriety means that they have to stop and fight more often now, and Roger revels in it like never before. When he’s fighting, he can forget that he’s dying.
His temper gets shorter the more people challenge them, though. This is his crew and he will not have them insulted in front of him. They are the nakamas of the Pirate King and the world will show them the respect they are due or he will show the world the errors of its way.
That one country never recovers from having its military decimated in a single battle, and Roger is decidedly smug about it.
Newgate starts stopping by more often too, but fights with him are fun . They’re never quite serious, because their dreams are too different to threaten each other, but Newgate is the only one other than Blackjack D. Rouge and Monkey D. Garp that can actually give Roger a challenge when they fight. And he’s not even a D., and Roger had despaired of finding a worthy opponent that wasn’t already marked by destiny. No, fighting with Newgate is fun and actually allows Roger to relax somewhat, after waves of arrogant rookies and idiot marines both trying to take his head off his shoulders.
(He knows he will not allow himself to die on his sickbed, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to let just anyone take him down!)
(He has standards , thank you very much!)
Shiki very much does not meet those standards. Trying to convince Roger to join forces with him, to give him access to the ancestral weapons, to combine them with Shiki’s own fleet and take over the world together, really . As if Roger would want to take over the world in the first place. And okay, Roger feels kind of bad for Buggy who is freaking out while everyone else is anticipating the upcoming battle, but there is no way in the seven hells that Roger is going to back down from this fight.
Roger is a free man, free to do whatever he wants, and right now he wants to kick Shiki’s ass .
So he does.
With an unexpected hand from the Sea itself, but hey, he’s not complaining!
Especially not when it helps keep his own crew safe and sound!
Raftel is… everything Roger had hoped for and more. It’s knowledge and riches and wisdom, and he comes back changed. So does his crew.
(Sometimes, he regrets it. Regrets dragging Shanks and Buggy there with him, because they are so young. Only twelve years old, and was he ever that young? So very, very young. Too young, maybe, for what they see and learn at Raftel. But at the same time he can’t imagine this journey without them, and they are his legacy, both of them, and they have the right to see this to the end.)
Roger sees Raftel and he earns the title of Pirate King and he’s so proud he could burst. Proud of himself, of his crew, of his ship, of all that brought them there, and he leads them back to the known world triumphantly.
They come back and the World doesn’t know whether to fear them or love them and so it tries to do both and Roger revels in it for a while, to drown out the pain that has settled into his bones and isn’t leaving. Crocus tries, he really does, and Roger can see how it kills him inside to know that he’s only delaying the inevitable.
They come back and Roger doesn’t stop, doesn’t stop seeking danger and adventure because if he stops he’ll never start again and he can’t afford that, cannot let the illness take over his life more than it already has. He can deal with the aches and the coughing up blood and the migraines, he cannot deal with bed rest and wasting away while the world moves on without him.
And he pretends he doesn’t see Buggy’s worried frown, pretends he doesn’t notice when Shanks takes position at his back more than usual, pretends Roger doesn’t leave himself ever so slightly more open than usual.
Gol D. Roger pretends he’s not courting Davy Jones with every new reckless stunt, and some days he even manages to convince himself.
They come back and they stop to spar with the Blackjack and the first thing Rouge says to him is ‘don’t expect me to actually call you that ’ and he laughs and laughs and laughs until he’s coughing his lungs out and suddenly she’s at his side and asking questions and Roger, who hasn’t told anyone outside of his nakamas and Kureha about his illness, who doesn’t even talk with his crew about it, tells her.
He has less than two years left, according to Crocus. He gets to decide what to do with that.
Rouge is… not exactly a surprise, though he certainly didn’t expect her to change her opinion of him so quickly, but she’s… she’s Rouge. Unpredictable and headstrong and oh so definitely a D.
He loves her.
He doesn’t know how it came to be, but she loves him as well. He’s pretty sure he doesn’t deserve her, but he’s also way too selfish to let her go.
He has less than two years left. He’s spent over thirty years with his crew. He loves them, would bathe the world in blood for them if necessary, but right now? Right now Roger wants Rouge . Wants the love she offers freely and the home she mentions on her home island and he’s been on the sea for more than half his life. He has less than two years left, and it’s the first time he wants to spend some time on the ground.
(It’s the only way for them, for Rouge-and-Roger to be more than Rouge and Roger. To take themselves away from the sea that will always be their first love is the only way for them to focus on the love they share.)
(It’s an adventure of another kind and he wants it.)
(And Roger knows it’ll be hard, knows it will hurt, knows it will hurt his nakamas , but he has less than two years left and if there’s one thing he’s always been it’s selfish.)
He stops by the infirmary the next morning and he tells Crocus, smart, clever Crocus who has been trying for years to find a cure, to save him, that it’s okay. That he can stop trying. That Roger will keep the painkillers but that he doesn’t want his doctor to exhaust himself looking for a cure that doesn’t exist.
He pretends he doesn’t see the devastation on Crocus’ face even as he calls all the crew together.
He looks at Scopper Gaban, fearless axe-man who stood by his side for thirty years. He looks at Seagull, fabulous cook and deadly with a mace, who’s kept them all fed for three decades. He looks at Riza, Bullseye Riza who earned her name perched in the crow’s nests of both the Oro Jackson and her predecessor. Looks at Roban, the fishman who had invited himself on his ship and just never left. Looks at Marian, fierce archeologist who didn’t let something as insignificant as the World Government stop her in her pursuit of the truth. Looks at Elena, no longer the fifteen-year old girl who had dropped from the sky but a young woman of twenty-three who had sailed around the world and led them to Raftel and back without faltering. Looks at Rush, tiny shipwright Rush who had kept her word and become more terrifying than the rest of the crew combined, who had taken such great care of all the ships that had passed between her hands. Looks at Gulliver the Giant, the loyal companion who had on more than one occasion carried their very ship on his back, who looked big and scary and was actually an avid reader who had been so excited when they had gone to Sky Island and found that Norland had been right .
He looks at Shanks, red hair reaching his shoulders now and a sword slung across his back, his bounty decently sized for a twelve-year old boy, Shanks who has started to come into his own these past few years, Shanks whose King’s Haki has been slowly but surely awakening, boiling ever closer to the surface since the Edd War. Shanks who is going to make a great captain one day, but who is still so tiny . Shanks who looks up to Roger and wants to be like him when he grows up. Shanks who loves him like what he thinks a father is and whose faith in Roger knows no bound.
He looks at Buggy, Buggy who is looking at him with something dark and sad and knowing in his eyes, Buggy who has never grown to like fighting, who still runs and hides when they enter battle, but who killed a man who would have killed Shanks and another who would have shot Roger, Buggy who swallowed a Devil Fruit and became an anchor and who was scared every other day but who stayed with them nonetheless, who stayed for Shanks and for Roger , who has nothing in the world but the crew and the ship and who looks at him and knows what Roger is going to say. Buggy who will stick with Shanks if the redhead stays with the crew, but who has even odds of following Shanks, settling somewhere quiet and out of the way or forming his own crew and look for treasure (treasure, never battles, not anymore) at his own pace if the other boy doesn’t. Buggy who loves him like he knows one should love a father, and who already knows that Roger will leave him too. Buggy who is stronger and smarter than anyone ever gives him credit for, even Roger.
He looks at Buggy and Shanks and thinks: my legacy, my children, mine .
He looks at them and thinks: this will hurt, for a time, but they are strong and I raised them well and they know how to survive and I taught them how to thrive and the others will be there for them. They will be fine .
He looks at Rayleigh last, because Rayleigh was there first, has been with him the longest, ever since he decided to set sail in the first place. Rayleigh has been with him through thick and thin, and it feels weird, feels wrong to leave him behind like this, to continue without him. But Roger is selfish and he wants Rouge all to himself, at least for a little while, wants her to have him all for herself too, and he doesn’t want to share. He and Rouge have already decided that they’re not going to tell anyone about them, not now, not when everything is still new and beautiful and fragile. They’ll tell the others, eventually, when Roger’s time will be close to running out, but for now he just wants to carve these few months out of time just for the two of them.
He looks at Rayleigh and thinks: he’ll understand . Thinks: if anyone will be able to understand it’s him , thinks of Shakky and half-smiles and hidden glances and hopes his old friend will take the time to carve some moments out for himself too.
He looks at his crew, at his nakama , at his family, at Crocus who is standing too stiff at the back of the crowd, at Buggy who is waiting for the hammer to fall, at the rest of them who have no clue what is coming, and he plasters his biggest smile on.
“ This is it, my friends. The End of the Line, the End of this Journey we’ve all undertaken together. We’ve seen it all! We’ve been to the end of the World and lived to tell the tale. We’ve seen the last island and learned its secrets and we’ve come back changed. I have loved every second of the time I have spent with you, have loved sailing with each and every one of you and I would not change a single moment of the time we had together. But this time is over now.
Time… I have so little of it left, now, and so much I still want to do with it before I start sailing with Davy Jones! This is not the last you’ll see of me, but for now this is goodbye.
Two years. Give me two years and we will see each other again.”
He pretends he doesn’t see the way Shanks’ face crumbles when he drops his hat on his head, the way Buggy’s face shuts down when he hands him his knives. Pretends he doesn’t see the incomprehension on his nakama’s faces as he goes from one to the other, hugging them and wishing them well. Pretends Rush’s punch in the gut doesn’t hurt when he tells her that the Oro Jackson is hers now.
“Two years. I’m holding you onto that, partner.” Rayleigh tells him when he finally reaches him, and Roger smiles.
“Two years and not a day more!” He promises.
Life with Rouge is amazing. It’s not the same as it was with his crew, and it takes them both some time to adjust to living on solid ground again, but once they do it’s amazing .
They take walks together around Baterilla. They rebuild her old childhood house, stone by stone, plank by plank, and they find second-hand furniture that they love even though they’re more than rich enough to afford new ones.
They spend entire days lying on the beach, their fingers intertwined, just enjoying being next to each other, and they spend entire days sparring, enjoying the way his sword clangs against her staff.
They spend days just being in love with each other and with the idea of each other and it’s just… right. Soothing. They both miss the seas, miss the danger and adrenaline and adventures, but this is just an adventure of a different kind.
Days go by, and then weeks and months and suddenly it’s been over a year and a half and it’s June and Rouge is glowing and when she says ‘I’m pregnant’ Roger feels like his joy will smother him.
(He does faint, once it properly registers, but as soon as he’s awake he’s shrieking with joy, twirling her around and being completely, utterly happy .)
(He cannot wait for this child to be born, to hold them in his arm, to introduce them to his nakama and to Rouge’s nakamas, to teach them how to sail and how to shoot, to have Buggy and Shanks be his child’s big brothers in all but blood and the rest of his crazies as the child’s aunts and uncles and weird cousins, with Rayleigh as his child’s godfather because there has never been anyone else Roger would even consider for the position.)
(Roger cannot wait to meet this child, but he loves them already.)
That lasts until July. July when the pain becomes unbearable, July when his feet start to itch for the rolling of the waves and his fingers for the wood of the helm, July when the images of a sickbed crop up in his head again, just as unbearable as they had been back when Kureha first told him he was going to die in pain, July when the occasional bloody cough turns into daily bloodied handkerchiefs, July when the rumours of Marines looking for him in the area start to crop up.
July, when Gol D. Roger realises that he will never see his child born. That, if he wants his child to be born at all, he has to sacrifice what little time he has left.
July, when Rouge rages and rants and throws things and calls him a coward and begs him to stay. July, when she stops, takes a deep breath and says she loves him. Says she loves him no matter what and that she would stay by his side if she could, but she can’t because their child needs her more, will always need her more, and that in this she has to chose.
July, when they hold each other tighter than they ever have and Roger wonders if this is his punishment for flying too close to the sky, for finding Raftel and knowledge that was supposed to stay lost.
July, when Roger thinks that if he’s the only one to pay this price, then it is a fair one, for he was the one his nakama had followed and thus it had been his responsibility, not theirs.
They spend the first two weeks of August together, stealing what little time they have left. They talk about names and godparents like Roger is going to be there to see it all, and they pack his stuff away until there is no sign left of anyone other than Rouge living in the house in the woods.
He leaves on the first day of the third week of August and doesn’t look back.
He leaves on the first day of the third week of August and Rouge stares at his ship until it disappears across the horizon.
There is one meeting he couldn’t avoid, one he would not have dared to, and it take place in a bar on Sabaody two days before he lets himself be found, in a hidden backroom that Shakky leads him to as soon as he crosses her door.
(Because this is Rayleigh , who was there when it started and has the right to be there when it ends. Because this is Rayleigh who stuck with him through thick and thin, who saved his life more times than he can count, and Roger owes him at least this much. Owes him the decency of saying goodbye in person.)
They talk and talk and talk, reminiscing about the decades they’ve spent on the sea, about old adventures and odd friends, and it feels good . It feels right. Roger asks about the others, about the apprentices, and Rayleigh tells him that they are away on Water Seven at the moment, because Rush wants to make sure the Oro Jackson looks her best for Roger’s return and Roger tries not to flinch. He will never sail on the Oro Jackson again, will never see his beloved ship again, and he doesn’t know if he’s grateful or not that he won’t be able to see the rest of his nakamas before he boards the Flying Dutchman.
(Selfishly, he wishes he could see them. Wishes that he could see them all together again, on the Oro Jackson. Wishes he could die at their side, fighting an enemy he wouldn’t have been able to defeat even in his prime.)
(But that would mean dragging them down to Davy Jones’ Locker along with him, and he can’t bring himself to do that, no matter how selfish he is.)
(They deserve better.)
(They deserve to know his child, even if Roger nevel will.)
(He doesn’t tell Rayleigh about Rouge, or their child. They’ve agreed that it’s too dangerous to tell anyone, for their child’s sake if not their own, and that Rouge would seek them out later, once the child is born. She had sworn on the sea that she would not keep their child from his nakama and he knows she will keep her word.)
( She is a D. )
He looks at Rayleigh who is staring at him with so much sadness hidden behind his eyes, and he laughs, because he refuses to part with his first mate and best friend by acting like he’s going to his doom, no matter how true it is.
So he laughs and he tells Rayleigh that he will never die, because he won’t . He will be gone, yes, but never dead, because one can’t die as long as someone remembers their name and Roger has worked hard to make sure that his would never be forgotten. He laughs and he tells Rayleigh to give the others his love and he leaves before he can start thinking too much about what happens next.
It’s September when he allows himself to be caught by Monkey D. Garp, September when he should have been meeting up with his nakama like he had promised he would.
He knows he will find his nakama in the crowd when they bring him out on the execution platform they are building in Loguetown. The Marines think it’s fitting, that he should find his end where his story began, that he should return to the island he hadn’t set foot on since he had left as a young man, barely more than a teenager.
Roger loathes it. He’d hated Loguetown to begin with, but even he has to admit that it has a certain dramatic tinge to it - and far be it for him to impinge on the Universe’s sense for drama.
(What he really hates is that his nakama will see him die.)
(What he really hates is that he is relieved that this is how he will die, at the blades of his enemies, but with his head held high and his body still his own rather than weak and wasting on his sickbed for weeks while his loved ones watch.)
(He’s selfishly glad that Rouge won’t be here to see this. He knows it will televised, knows she’ll probably watch it on those giant screens they’re setting up all over the world, but he feels better knowing that she won’t be here in person.)
He’s going to die tomorrow.
He’s going to die tomorrow, and he hasn’t been able to see any of his nakamas save Rayleigh, of Rouge’s nakamas, to let them know about her condition, about Ace or Ann or Ace-and-Ann, and Rouge is alone , because they didn’t tell anyone where they would be going and now they’re paying the price.
And he knows any of his men raising his kid would be too obvious, knows the marines would be looking for something like that, but it still stings that he can’t tell them about this. That Rouge is alone and will be until she manages to contact her crew and even that is uncertain given the current climate in South Blue and the sudden rise in Marine presence around Baterilla. He knows that this is what they decided, that the secrecy is their choice even if the need for it is not, but he hates the thought of Rouge being alone through all of this.
All he can do is hope he causes enough of a fuss tomorrow that their scrutiny will be lessened and Rouge will have a chance to slip through unnoticed.
It’s not much, but it’s all he has left.
He’s going to die tomorrow, and Monkey D. Garp is standing in front of his cell and he’s a D., a true one, just like Rouge and Roger himself, and Roger knows him well enough to know that Monkey D. Garp is as honorable as Marines can be, knows him well enough to know that Garp is a father himself and knows better than to put the sins of the father upon the shoulders of the son.
So Gol D. Roger decides to do something he won’t live long enough to see the outcome of, something he won’t be able to decide if it was the right choice or not, and he tells Monkey D. Garp about his future child.
(Far away, in her house in the woods in Baterilla, Rouge represses the urge to track Roger down and strangle him with her bare hands. When Monkey D. Garp shows up on her doorstep fifteen months later, just as she is about to give birth, she’ll wish she had.)
Gol D. Roger is led onto the execution platform at noon on the last day of September. He is in shackles, seastone shackles even, despite him having never eaten a Devil Fruit, but the Marines are paranoid bastards and it’s not like the cuffs are actually harming him, so Roger doesn’t care.
He can sense them, his nakama, hidden in the crowd and in the buildings around the square, all of them except for Rayleigh.
He cannot blame his first mate for this, no matter how much he would like to see him one last time, to apologize for the promise he wasn’t able to keep.
Shanks and Buggy are in the crowd, clinging to each other, all of fourteen and in the middle of a growth spurt, and Roger would spare them the coming sight if he could.
( why are they alone, why are none of the others standing next to them, they are all disguised they should be keeping an eye on the apprentices -)
Crocus is on the roof to his right, his faithful doctor, and Roger would spare him too, would spare all of them but Crocus especially, because the doctor had tried so hard to keep him alive and now Roger is going to die without letting him try any longer, and all Crocus will be able to do is watch . Marian and Elena are standing close to him, and Riza is hiding next to a chimney and Roger can see the glint of the sun on her rifle, already armed and aimed at one of the executioners. It’s child play to send a wave of haki over her, to wordlessy convey that she needs to stand down, that there will be no fight today. He can feel her distress in her Voice, but she brings the gun down nonetheless, and Roger is grateful. He does not wish for any of them to get hurt for his sake.
Rush is inside the building on his left, along with Scopper Gaban and Seagull, two of his oldest companions. Roban and Gulliver are further away, on the edge of the plaza, because theirs are the hardest features to disguise.
All of them are there, all of them save Rayleigh, and Roger loves them . Loves his crew of lunatics, the crazies that went to the end of the world with him ( for him ) and are standing there today even though their hearts are breaking. He lets that love fill him, fill his Haki, and then he sends it out, aiming for the Voices that he knows better than his own, the ones that have surrounded him for so long, and tries not to let guilt devour him when he sees the tears on Shanks and Buggy’s faces.
( They will be fine, they will be fine, the others will look after them and Rouge has promised to keep an eye on them as well.)
(They will be fine.)
There are other voices that he recognises, of course, many big names who have come along to see the fall of the Pirate King, to honour him or make damn sure he’s dead and not coming back or both, but Roger ignores them.
This is not about them, or for them.
Sengoku announces his crimes for the world to hear ( as if the world doesn’t already know most of it, as if the real reasons behind this don’t lie in Raftel and will never be uttered by anyone even remotely connected to the world government) and someone, in the crowd, yells.
“What about your treasure? Where did you leave it?”
And Roger smiles, smiles so widely it feels like his face is splitting in two. His treasure? There are so many things the word could apply to. His family, Rouge and their child, and Roger had never really understood Newgate before this, but now he does, he really does. The nakama that sailed with him for so long, who stuck with him through thick and thin, the apprentices he took in and raised and taught, the boys he is so proud of he could burst (did he tell them? Did he tell them that he was proud of them? Did he do it enough?). The riches he collected over the years, silver and gold and gems, the secrets he has learned, the sights he has seen… And yet all of them come back to Raftel. Even Rouge, who has never expressed the slightest interest in finding the island herself, is linked to it by the letter in her name, even if she doesn’t know it.
“You want my treasure? You can have it! I left everything I gathered together in one place. Now you'll just have to find it!”
He is still smiling when the crowd goes wild, still smiling when the executioners’ blades fall down upon his neck.
Gol D. Roger dies with a smile on his face, and with him so does the Golden Age of Piracy, the Age of Dreamers. But the Silver Age has just started, and Roger’s last thought before he dies is that he wishes he could see it with his own eyes.