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For Better or For Worse

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"There is no world for me without them."

A young child was standing alone on the pier of Foosha Village and staring at the open sea before him. The soft wind ruffled his black, unruly hair. The warm sun shined on his unprotected head. Obsidian colored eyes watched the horizon with unyielding determination.

The child's lips split into wide, toothy grin. In the future everybody will recognize it as the trademark smile of the second Pirate King, but now it once again belonged to the unknown 6 year old boy from the backwater island in East Blue whose name was Monkey D. Luffy.

Already 6 years old, he reminded himself. And that's why Luffy was in a hurry. As much as he wanted to climb up Mt. Colubo and tackle Ace and Sabo into history's longest hug, he knew that they were safe for now. As much as he didn't want to miss Shanks' arrival to Foosha, there were more urgent matters Luffy needed to attend to.

The problem was how to get to the place he wished to reach, in time. He could take one of the villager's fishing boats, but Luffy was way too small and currently too physically weak to sail on his own. He could probably hijack a ship, preferably a pirate vessel, but it might turn into too much trouble.

Luffy's gaze shifted onto the Foosha's bay. His face lit up from a sudden thought. This will be perfect!

The boy glanced at the distant horizon once again. "Just wait for me, guys," he said in a firm voice, reaching for his hat just to remember that he still hadn't even met Shanks this time around. Luffy giggled. It felt so good to be back at the beginning!

The world better be prepared for the child with the will of the Pirate King's magnitude and who wanted to achieve his wish at all cost.

-in the future (past?)-

Luffy walked through the forest in light steps, following a path he already knew so well. The warm, gentle breeze softly rustled leaves of trees and bushes around him. Birds were singing their melodies, bringing a pleasant and harmonious feeling to the surroundings. Brilliant early morning sun was shining through the branches, causing shadows of leaves dance around on the ground as the wind brushed over them.

The 32 years old Pirate King spotted a small clearing ahead, and tightened his grip on the large nodachi sword, propped on his shoulder. Soon he left the playful shadows of the Raftel's forest and stopped in front of the vertically standing stone in the middle of the clearing. He glanced over the various items, lying around it.

"Guys, I'm back," Luffy said, smiling softly.

He looked at the blue cap with the white X symbol on pink. "Don't worry, Chopper, my wounds are not that bad this time."

Luffy shifted his gaze on several books. "Ah, Robin, I accidentally found one more stone you were searching for."

The Pirate King chuckled. "I bet you would have liked that island where I found it, Usopp," he said, glancing at the black slingshot and goggles next to it.

"But," Luffy sighed at the blue metallic Bo staff, propped against the stone, "it was really hard to come back here without you, Nami."

Luffy turned to the three katanas, resting on the other side of the stone, and smiled. "It wasn't because I got lost on the way here like you would have, Zoro."

He patted his stomach, looking at the pack of cigarettes. "Don't worry, Sanji, I ate properly. I miss your delicious food a lot, mine tastes like crap."

The Pirate King looked at the purple cane, propped next to Zoro's swords. "Brook, you would be proud of me, I learned a new song."

He lightly chuckled again. "But I'm sure that song would make you cry, Franky," he admitted to the sunglasses and light blue metal plate with blue star painted on it.

"Ace," Luffy said softly, staring at the orange cowboy hat, "I'm sure I made you worry." His eyes drifted at the black top hat right next to it. "You too, Sabo."

The Pirate King sat on the ground, crossing his legs, still holding the nodachi tightly. He thought about 10 years back, when everything started to snowball down. When his first nakama died. And then the second. The third… until none was left. He lost them all one by one during several long years full of fighting war with the Navy who wanted to make the world to submit itself to them.

But the Pirate King and his nakama would have never agreed to bow down to anyone. They were free spirits, wandering the seas driven by their own dreams and desires.

When the first of them died, they created this grave to honor the memory of the fallen. It was Luffy who brought here the memento of his last nakama 5 years ago.

"They still can't find my dad, Sabo," he finally said quietly. "No one knows where he is, or even if he's still alive. Shanks and Marco are dead, though." Luffy fell silent again before he sighed. "Jinbe too. And so many others…"

The Pirate King lifted his head and looked at the sky. "Law and I were on the run from the moment we left Raftel when I brought Robin here after that battle 5 years ago, but…" he paused, gripping the nodachi harder. "Well, that's why I'm back. He will be joining you now, guys."

Luffy lifted the sword and put it down carefully right in front of the gravestone. He gently caressed its sheath. Law was his ally, his partner, his friend, his nakama, his…

A sole tear ran down the Pirate King's cheek, but he brushed it off quickly. Luffy closed his eyes, feeling the soft wind and warm sunshine on his skin.

"Yohohoho~ Yohohohoo~" he sang silently before smiling. After so many years it still was his favorite song, and the only one which could at least if only for a while, elate his tired soul.

"Going to deliver Binks' Sake~
Following the sea breeze, riding on the waves~
Far across the salty depths, the merry evening sun~
The birds sing as they draw circles in the sky~"

The Pirate King kept singing as salty tears rolled over his cheeks.

"Going to deliver Binks' Sake~
Let's all sing it with a Don, a song of the waves~
Doesn't matter who you are, someday you'll just be bones~

His voice cracked, abruptly stopping the singing. Luffy was silent for a while, staring at the bright blue sky.

"Never-ending, ever-wandering, our funny traveling tale…" he finally finished in a whisper, closing his eyes again.

But even after the last word of the song, he hadn't moved, just kept sitting there, in front of the grave of his most precious people.

"Hey, kid."

Luffy was familiar with that voice behind him. They met the first time he came to this island and took the man's title from him. "Roger," he acknowledged the ghost presence, but didn't turn to face him.

"If you had to choose, what would you save: the world or your friends?"

The Pirate King couldn't hold in the laughter which welled up inside him from hearing that. Ah, it was such a long time from the last time he truly laughed.

"That's a silly question," Luffy replied finally. He took his beloved straw hat off, stared at it for a bit and then placed it on Law's nodachi into the collective pile of mementos for the departed. "There is no world for me without them."

The ghost grinned. He knew that it was not without reasons this man became his successor and the owner of One Piece. The Will of D was burning strongly in him.

"If your will is strong," Roger said, putting his hand on now bare head of the Pirate King, "you'll be able to save them. For better or for worse."

-back in the past (present?)-

Garp downed another shot of sake, slammed the cup on the bar and looked at Makino. "One more, please... No," he shook his head before rubbing his face with his hands, "give me the whole bottle."

Makino stared at him with worry written all over her face. She never saw the old marine drink so much and in such messy manner. She put a bottle in front of him, but kept her hand on it, preventing the man to just grab it and down it with one gulp.

"Garp-san, what's the matter?" Makino asked.

"It's just…" the marine hero ran his hand across his hair. "My grandson…"

The barmaid blinked. "Something happened to Luffy?" she hastily questioned.

"Bwahahaha!" Garp burst into laughter, startling the woman and throwing her into confusion. The man grabbed the bottle out of her hand, and took a long gulp. "No, he's alright," he said, falling deep into thoughts.

-few hours ago-

Garp observed his 6 years old grandson sparring with the monkeys while smiling in satisfaction. Luffy made a good progress from the last time he forced him to fight these beasts. He was right by thinking that it was a good training for a little boy.

Suddenly Luffy stopped moving, and the old man's smile faltered. He motioned to the monkeys to stop their attacks. Apparently his grandson needed some Fist of Love to remind him that this was necessary to make him into good marine.

Garp stood up, and only then noticed violent shivers running over Luffy's body. Before he could question what was wrong, there was an unexpected explosion of the Supreme King's Haki with the boy at the epicentre. The wave of dominant will swept through the area, rendering all the animals around unconscious, bending the trees and leaving deep cracks in their trunks and across the earth.

Garp himself felt his hair stand on end, sweat rolled across his forehead, and he gritted his teeth, kneeling down, unable to fully withstand the enormous pressure of this overpowering Haki. He had to summon all his willpower just to stay conscious, then suddenly the pressure vanished.

"Shishishishi! I'M BACK!" Luffy screamed at the top of his lungs, fist-pumping the air.

Garp groaned and sat on the ground, feeling weak in his knees. The boy turned around and peered right into him.

"GAH!" he suddenly yelled, recoiling from the man in shock. "Grandpa?!"

"Luffy…" The old marine was so confused on what was happening. Chills from getting hit by Conqueror's Haki still raced up and down his spine. "Do you know what you just did?"

His grandson only stared at him for a while. "Ah," he smiled softly, "sorry, grandpa. I think you got caught up into the after-effect of the travel." His expression suddenly shifted into a determined one, the eyes hardened. "I guess it's even better, because I need to tell you something very important, so listen carefully," he said. It sounded more like an order than a request.

So Garp listened.

And that's why now Garp was emptying Makino's bar, because his young, only 6 years old grandson, suddenly spun such an unbelievable and incredible story that the old sea dog had no other option but to actually believe him.

Everyone knew that Luffy couldn't lie to save his life, but he told his story with such intense details, including many of the Navy secrets which only the highest in ranks knew about. It was mind-boggling! His grandson was a time traveler?! It topped out even the Grand Line weirdness.

Garp took another long gulp from the bottle. "I guess anything could have happened at Raftel…" he mumbled under his breath. After all, nobody knew exactly what secrets the last island of the Grand Line held as the only person who ever reached it was the Pirate King. Kings, he corrected himself.

Makino sighed. Now she was worried not only about Garp, but about Luffy too.

The door burst open and breathless man tumbled inside. "Garp-san!"

"Hm?" Garp turned to look at him.

"It's horrible, Garp-san!" screamed the villager in panic. "Luffy..! Your grandson! He… He took off to the sea and… and the Lord of the Coast...!" he explained in half coherent sentences.

Makino paled, placing her hand over her mouth in horror.

"Bwahahaha!" the old marine bellowed with laughter, confusing both people who just stared at him. "Did he now?"

Garp stood up from the stool and went outside. He casually strolled to the pier where a huge group of villagers were trying to decide the course of actions.

"Garp-san!" the mayor called him. "Luffy just–"

"Yeah, I know," the man interrupted him, glancing over the bay where he spotted the lone dinghy swaying on the waves. "So, where is my grandson?"

"Luffy took one of the small boats and drifted in the middle of the bay," recalled the events one of the people from the crowd.

"And then Lord of the Coast suddenly jumped from the water and attacked him!" continued another.

"But suddenly an incredible thing happened!" shouted a third, flailing his arms around. "The beast stopped!"

"Luffy jumped onto its head, and the Lord swam away together with him," finished Woop Slap.

"Bwahahaha!" Garp burst into jolly laughter, his eyes tearing because of it.

"We need to do something!" panicked Makino who had followed him from the bar.

"There is no need, he will not go down so easily," the marine hero grinned at the distant horizon, completely ignoring the shocked people around him. "I'm just interested in where that brat wandered off to."