A/N: …. Hi there…!
Let it first be known that it was not in my plans to write a sequel. Most of this was written two or three years ago and hasn't aged particularly well but I did edit for basic quality. And hey, I wrote 'em so might as well share? I just realized like, last week that I could finish this off for posting on the 5 year anniversary of the fic. And hey, why not?
May this be a reminder that I do get through my projects. Eventually.
Special shout out to JustHopeForHope for the Sabo vs Luffy pipe fight scene and Spider . Exe for the Law scene. ngl they are the best parts of the second chapter and people wouldn't miss much if they just zoomed down to about halfway through and started there. Ctrl+F for Law.
Now have some chronologically ordered scenes!
LUFFY IN A ROWBOAT
"Ahhh… I can't wait to find somewhere to land." Luffy sighed, leaning forward and back into the motion of rowing. "It was exciting a couple hours ago, setting sail for the first time, I've never even been off the island! 'Course you know that… But now it's just open ocean and I don't know where I'm going and the only thing to talk to is you." He glanced pointedly at the pipe, propped up against the bench across from him. "And I like talking to you, but you don't talk back, right?"
"Right, see? So when I find a nakama, we can have long conversations, where we both say things! That'll be fun…"
Silence pressed close, and Luffy flexed his arms, pulling the oars through the water with ease.
"I miss my brothers. Ace is out there waiting for me, and Sabo is somewhere, watching us both... I bet he's proud that I kept you with me. He always said I'd hurt my hands, just punching. But I think I'll just find someplace to keep you, to have you around. Just in case. I can beat anything but swordsmen without a weapon. Eh, I can probably do that too, but you aren't any good against swords anyway." He wrinkled his nose. "They'd cut you in half." He glanced over the side of the boat, eyeing the fish that darted beneath the surface, yearning to reach in and catch them. With his devil fruit powers he'd probably lose his energy and fall in. His pipe couldn't save him.
"You can't even help me fish," He pouted and glared accusingly at the pipe. "You're not very good for spearing."
Unsurprisingly, the pipe doesn't answer.
"I should find a swordsman first, cause neither of us are much use against them. My fists can do anything you can do, same reach." He sighed "A swordsman could catch me fish."
The waves crawled up the sides of the boat, losing purchase and sliding back into the blue.
"He could talk too. Probably."
"I guess I'd rather talk to you then my fists, I don't want to talk to myself."
Once more there was no reply.
"It's a sheep! A sheep!" Luffy crowed and raised his arms in the air, suddenly ecstatic and grinning ear to ear. Not that he didn't usually grin or be excited, but finally! A ship. A real bonafide pirate ship, at least it would be as soon as he boarded. He'd wanted a pirate ship since he met Shanks and he'd been saving for one since he was seven. Now he'd gotten one for free! All he'd had to do was beat up the weird cat butler guy, and he was gonna do that anyway!
"Kaya are you sure?" Nami turned to the smiling blonde girl that stood next to the hull, "This is a beautiful ship, you don't mind if we just take it…"
"No, no! The Going Merry doesn't get much activity nowadays, and you more than earned it for defeating Klahadour… I mean Kuro."
"I designed her myself, and built her years ago, but there's no more need for her to be around here. She'll be happier out adventuring, sailing like a ship is supposed to." The man with the sheep horns said, bowing. Luffy wasn't listening much anymore, just marveling at how easy it suddenly was. He had his ship, he had two nakama, wait, no, three. Usopp was coming, he'd make sure. And now that he had the ship he could fly his flag. Oh, he couldn't wait to fly his flag, he already knew what it was gonna look like, all proud and fluttering. Just like Shanks', just like theirs from when he was younger... He'd fly his own pirate flag, like he'd always wanted to, even though it was kinda nice, sharing that one with his brothers.
But this ship was his, and it'd shelter his crew and they'd sail the oceans and finally, finally, he'd be a real true pirate captain, with a crew and a flag and a ship.
He stepped closer to the hull, placed his hand on the wood and splayed his fingers so that they ran vertical against the grain. He shivered at the feeling of the future, thrumming beneath his skin, beneath the roughed up, already sea-splashed wood.
"Just tell me how to steer it." Nami explained to Merry. "Luffy is Captain, but he's too idiotic to understand navigation."
He turned and stepped over to the little dinghy he'd been in since meeting up with Coby. Nami's vessel moored beside it, they were leaving both ships here now that they had a larger, hardier ship. Leaping into the boat so it wobbled, and wrapping his arm around two barrels, he bent over and reached beneath the middle seat. The pipe came loose from where he'd crammed it into the woodwork in search of more space for Zoro and his meager belongings. He gripped it tight and reached with a stretched limb to his new ship. It warped and wound around the mast and Luffy couldn't help but grin, knowing that this was going to be a familiar action before too long.
This was exactly where he was supposed to be.
He let his arm retract and landed neatly beside the mast, setting down the two barrels and turning to look over the deck. It was small, but so was his crew, so that was fine. A cannon and a pile of cannonballs were off to the port side of the deck, pointing out of a gap in the railing. He'd have to try that out later. The figurehead drew his attention at once but he needed a full look through before he did anything. He wanted to scope out the best places and know his ship.
That and he needed to put his pipe somewhere safe.
He wandered around the deck for a minute before peering inside the kitchen. The table looked homey, and the counters were clean. Big fridge, that was good. He shut the door and stretched to look on the upper portion of the deck. It had another smaller table, and a few chairs. Nami would probably like that. Luffy jumped off the balcony and threw open the next door. A gun deck! There were a few stacks of cannonballs, another two cannons, and some other weapon-looking stuff. And another door…
Luffy leapt across the room, but when he pulled this door open it was only a bathroom.
Undeterred, he returned to the deck. There had to be more space on board, where would they sleep? Besides they needed storage, and maybe a second kitchen or something so they could make more food... He tapped his foot and looked down at the hollow sound. A trap door! He whooped and tugged the door open, ignoring the ladder and just jumping down. The room was dark, but Luffy stumbled around until he felt cloth and then he ripped open the curtains. It was already cluttered, and Luffy knew it would remain that way forever. The green couch looked comfy and there were a few hammocks bundled in the corner. A round table was in front of the couch and there were another two couches against the walls, a nice green rug on the floor. There was another trapdoor on the wall and when he slid it open to stick his head through he found another room. This one was a little smaller, and much neater. Nami'd want it.
He wanted this big one! And Usopp and Zoro could stay in here with him. It'd be a little crowded for a hiding spot, but maybe he could make it work.
It was a strange thought, deciding on a place to hide something. Luffy had never found himself to be the type that hid things… But the pipe didn't feel like everything else that he shared so freely. It felt a little like his hat, a reminder, but not for a promise, nor anything he needed reminding of. After all, he'd never forget his brothers. Whatever it was to him, why ever he wanted it, he wanted it to himself.
Thinking for a moment he dropped to the ground and looked under the couch. There was space! He tipped one end of the couch up and slipped the pipe up a few inches into the couch. Safe and sound, and it'd be close too!
"Merry, thank you so much. For carrying us this far." The little Klabautermann sniffled as Luffy lay his hand on the wall of the men's quarters, saying farewell. "I'd have never had the adventures I did without you. No other ship could have taken me to Sky Island or over Reverse Mountain. So... thanks."
"Luffy… I don't want you to leave!" Merry stumbled forward and wrapped her arms around his legs, but she had no substance and when he stepped away her arms blurred as he stepped out of her hold. She whimpered at the reminder and scrubbed at her eyes. "I know I can't take you any further, but I'll miss you so much. At least don't let my weakness hurt you like it is!" She cried, but still, Luffy could not hear her. "Don't let Usopp leave!" He leaned down, picked up the edge of the couch. Merry gasped "Your pipe… I don't…!" She sobbed quietly, wailing into her hands as she clasped them over her face. That was the secret she'd best kept for him. When he got upset or worked up and sitting on her figurehead wasn't enough he'd go to his pipe and pull it out and sit with it on her figurehead, and talk to her, talk to it. She couldn't feel anything special about it. It didn't have a soul, like she did, but it was important to Luffy, and she'd done her best to keep him separate from the crew at these times. He'd told them both that he was a little ashamed that he talked to a pipe when he felt overwhelmed.
And of course she'd known he'd be taking it but it felt like such a final straw… His pipe was going, which only meant… Luffy was leaving too. For sure. For good.
Robin didn't know what he was hiding, but there was something off about the library today, and it wasn't just that Luffy was present.
She peered over the top of her book curiously, leaning back in the chair Franky had built that reclined should she fall asleep reading.
Her captain had come into the library only a few minutes ago and was carefully looking through the shelves. Not the books. The shelves. She'd done the first often enough to see the difference.
Currently, he was leaning against the wall, staring, with furrowed brow, at the space behind the bookshelf. After a moment he shook his head and tracked across the room, checking behind another shelf and then meandering over to the other bench, inspecting the cushions.
"Luffy." She shut her book and he jumped, glancing at her warily. She almost laughed at his expression, like his hand had been caught in a cookie jar. "What are you looking for?"
"Ah, nothing, Robin." He denied nervously, edging towards the door.
Well, that hadn't been the effect she'd been going for.
She pursed her lips as he made it to the door and pulled it open, clearly ready to flee. At the last moment, however, he paused and looked back at her with a stern gaze. It was most disconcerting; he hadn't looked at her that way since he was deciding whether or not to let her on his crew. The look simply dug into you and pulled your insides out.
"Do you know any good places to hide things?" He finally said, turning back into the library and shutting the door behind him. "Like, long things."
"Long things?" She repeated back and he nodded earnestly.
"Long, thin, metal things." He said firmly.
Long, thin, metal things.
"Would your long, thin, metal object in need of hiding perhaps blend in among the objects in the broom closet?" She suggested.
"It's not mine," he quickly denied. "It's, uh, Sanji's. And no, the closet didn't work."
"I'm not entirely sure I understand the circumstances," She elected to pursue a diplomatic approach, "Perhaps if you could tell me just what Sanji's long, thin, metal object was I could suggest a better hiding spot-"
"Nuh-uh!" Luffy shook his head so hard that his neck stretched, adamantly refusing her suggestion. "It's a secret, I'm good at secrets so I'm not gonna tell!"
Despite the fact that he'd already divulged a great deal of useful information she nodded as though such an argument made perfect sense.
"I see. Well, despite not being privy to the same knowledge as you and Sanji, which would be very helpful in providing a useful answer…?" Luffy shook his head, his chin jutted out like a child being stubborn.
"I do still have a suggestion. Try to hide this object in a place where it would normally belong. Like a person blending into the crowd, or hiding a specific book in a shelf full of others. People are less likely to notice that something is being hidden at all and they will likely just ignore its presence, considering it commonplace."
"Hide it with stuff like it…" He said to himself and Robin picked up her book again as he turned back to the door.
"Thanks, Robin!" He called brightly and she smiled.
"Not a problem, captain!" Not a problem at all.
Later that day while she was reading in her lawn chair while Nami sunbathed she watched over the rim of her glasses as he snuck back into the library with something behind his back she didn't ask any questions. If it weren't the library, and if she hadn't been watching him more carefully than usual, she likely wouldn't have noticed at all.
Rather impressive for her loud, clumsy captain.
Sanji was used to Luffy bursting in to demand snacks, and perhaps it is the sheer shock of him opening the door slowly and almost inching inside in an attempt at sneaking that keeps him from yelling at him and kicking him out while Sanji tries to focus on preparing dinner.
He doesn't look behind him, keeping his gaze narrowed at the pot of soup he's stirring on the stovetop. Luffy creeps along the back wall, with worse sneaking skills than Chopper (why is he not surprised) and when he gets to a certain point he ducks down low and crawls beneath the table.
For some reason, he isn't expecting to roll into the chair legs and make a big ruckus. But he does and it all clatters together. Made even louder by the captain shushing himself.
Alright. That's enough.
"Luffy," He sighs and half turns away from the stove. From beneath the table there is another round of clatters, a thick 'THUNK' and desperate 'shhhhhh!' sounds. "What are you doing in my kitchen?"
"Ahhh…" Luffy's voice warbles out, "Asking for food…?"
"I can't even see you and I can tell you're lying."
"No, no, I'm not! Sanji! I really want food, I can have meat, right? Right, Sanji?" He pokes his head out from beneath the tablecloth, gleefully eager and Sanji boots it back under there as soon as he can.
"No way, bottomless pit. If you want anything extra you have to catch it yourself. Now, what did you really come in here for?"
"Nothing from you, really Sanji," Luffy's face reappears, looking surprisingly sincere. "I just came in looking for something."
"What was that, exactly. Not a free meal, I hope."
"No!" His face contorts into desperation, trying to avoid another kick. "Pipes, I was looking for pipes!"
"Pipes?" Sanji repeats like it's the strangest, most foreign thing he's heard all day and, frankly, it is. "What are you looking for pipes for?"
"I just am." He says stubbornly. "Are there any in the kitchen?"
"There's the stove pipe," Sanji jerks his thumb over his shoulder, "But I don't think that's what you're looking for."
"No, there's only one." Luffy agrees.
"Under the sink?"
"It's small under there, I need a lot of space!"
A lot of space… Sanji turns back to his cooking, giving the soup an extra vicious stir to get it moving again. If it burns because Luffy distracted him he won't give Luffy the fifth serving tonight. (That'll just mean the rubber man gets double later for Midnight Snack but it still would serve as a good warning for the future.)
"Have you tried the bathroom? That's all plumbing up there, the bathhouse has got a lot up by the ceiling, they come out of the wall and run down to the faucets."
"Ah! That's right, thanks Sanji!"
"No problem, but Luffy, really, why are you looking for-"
He turns again and finishes to an empty room and a swinging door.
The timer goes off for the cake he'd popped in earlier and he shifts his attention away from Luffy's newest strange endeavor. He promises himself that he'll figure it out later (maybe while doing the dishes), but he never really gets around to it.
It happens in a moment. Law's room is flickering blue across the expanse of the deck; two subjects are in his sights where he's about to switch their souls to create some confusion. But a moment before he does, as his fingers are already in motion, his lips already shaped around the command-
Monkey D. Always Where He Isn't Supposed To Be Luffy trips through the blue dome, slams into one of the men Law'd marked for removal, and immediately goes rigid as the other guy's soul, which had been tensed for an attack, slips into the pirate captain's body.
"Ara?" The random grunt halfway across the deck says, looking at the sword in his hands and the surroundings that are so different from where he'd been a moment before. Meanwhile, 'Luffy' panics as several other members of the attacking crew decide to attack the suddenly hesitant pirate captain.
"Traffy, was that you?" The random grunt that is actually Luffy shouts in astonishment, but has to duck beneath a high kick that caught several other enemy fighters before he could say anymore on the subject. "AH, Sanji, watch it!"
"That's Blackleg to you," The cook shouts in response as Luffy stumbles back a few steps to avoid a follow up attack, which is just enough to put him out of Law's room.
"Straw-Hat-ya!" Law commands, "Get back in the roo- Where are you going?"
"I can't fight like this!" Luffy responds as he chucks the sword he was holding over the side of the ship and turns through one of the doors that led belowdecks.
Law should just expand his room a few extra feet and fix it, but the dome has been up for several minutes already and his stamina usage is coming too close to his budget for this fight. Instead of trying to catch the runaway captain's soul, Law swaps Luffy's body with a weapon lying nearby on deck, disassembles it (to the dismay of its current inhabitant) so it won't go anywhere while he's trying to defend himself, and then dismisses the room. Kietsu alone will serve him fine for the remainder of the fight and he can save his room energy for when Luffy reappears. The sailor cussing that spills out in Luffy's voice is a little unsettling but Law manages to block it out with the shrill shrieks of the straw hat navigator who wants to know why he's turned traitor.
"I didn't hurt your captain, Nami-ya, he got in the way of my attack and I swapped him with one of the enemy."
"Why don't you swap him back!"
"I will when he comes back on deck. He ran off. Not used to fighting without his devil fruit abilities."
"Luffy is perfectly capable without using his abilities, thank you very much!"
"If you're not going to listen to the explanation don't ask for one."
"I didn't ask where he went or why, I asked why you didn't swap him back! I know you ca-ah! Gust-sword!" A new wave of enemies draws her attention back to where it should have been the whole time and even when she's dealt with the thick of them she doesn't continue her thought. Law doesn't follow up.
The battle lulls for a moment and he spends the time bisecting one enemy and then another, picking his prey from the brighter spots of aura that play across his eyelids when he tunes into his observation haki. None of them really constitute a challenge. This crew is either newcomers to the New World or else a group dulled by the shelter of one of the four emperors. The straw hats shine far brighter than the enemies, and that is one reason he notices Luffy's return a moment before it happens. With his eyes still closed the scene is lit with lights of the souls around the deck. Luffy's exuberance is obvious in the glint of his aura; it's easy to ignore that the shape of the soul doesn't match that of the body.
Law opens his eyes, a sigh gusting past his lips and an admonishment at the back of his throat as he raises his hand to summon the room. But the full, physical- now visible- scene gives him pause.
Perhaps it would have been stranger to him, were it Luffy's own body moving through practiced forms and smashing through skulls with a staff. As it was there remained a distinct disconnect. He knew that no matter how good with a staff the original body might have been, Luffy would not have been able to access those skills with such ease if he could at all. It was all Luffy, doing those moves of obvious discipline and care in such stark contrast to his whirlwind brawling style.
In the past, Law had doubted on multiple occasions that Straw Hat Luffy operated on any sort of skill level past luck and instinct. His attention span had always seemed too miniscule to accomplish anything more complicated than basic conversation and perhaps reading. The mental image of Monkey D. Luffy moving through katas or practicing any kind of precision strike was laughable. And with the strength of his fists there was no real reason to expand his armory to include something that could hit harder. (Anyone would be hard pressed to find something harder- exempting Luffy's own head).
There is no reason at all to believe that Straw Hat Luffy is able to do what he is doing now.
But Law believes it. He accepts the fact and moves on with his life. Perhaps life on the Thousand Sunny has finally fully desensitized him to improbability.
"Straw Hat!" he yells over the carnage and dutifully, Luffy's borrowed body twists in a way that Law knows isn't good for the human spine.
"Traffy!" He calls back and turns to face him fully. A stray fighter who hasn't realized that his apparent comrade has switched sides rushes past, too close. Luffy swings his pipe out and catches him in the gut, flinging him over the side with reversed momentum. "This is fun! Like on Pump Hamlet!"
"Punk Hazard-" Some nearby and tireless Straw Hat corrects.
"And it wasn't fun." Nami screeches.
"It's not supposed to be fun." Law grumbles and raises his hand, the energy for his room manifesting in the palm of his outstretched hand. "I need you to stay still. For two seconds."
Luffy only laughs and whips the pipe around to nail another enemy in the back of the head. The dome stretches out to close around him and the various pieces of the disassembled rubber body and for half a second Law holds two souls in his hands. Luffy's is vibrant, obvious, and unmistakably his. It, like everything else about the man, makes sense in a nonsensical kind of way.
And then things are back in their proper place. With a snap of his fingers Law has Luffy's various pieces swirling back to their anatomically correct location. The younger captain is across the deck with his fist buried in the face of his previous body before Law has fully dismissed the room. The pipe is rescued from the stranger and Luffy grins the way only he can before giving the weapon a twirl and returning his attention to the fray.
Still, it didn't seem strange. Rather it felt as if some secret piece he hadn't known needed placing had materialized in the exact spot it belonged.
Monkey D. Luffy wielded a metal staff as a secondary fighting tactic. Why shouldn't he?
"Alright Luffy," Sabo spun his pipe in a slow circle and set the tip down in the ground firmly, claiming the space as his battleground. "You ready to lose again?"
"No way!" Luffy denied with a laugh and a shake of his head. He seemed cheery usual- as though he wasn't about to face off with the Revolutionary Army's Chief of Staff who had routinely beat him into the ground, once upon a time. Sabo would call him unsuspecting if it weren't for the sharpness in his younger brother's eyes. It told him that this fight might be a bit more challenging than the last time they had clashed. "I'm gonna beat you," His smile twitched an inch wider in anticipation. "Sabo!"
"I can't believe they're actually doing this," Usopp muttered to Zoro as he fidgeted nervously in the lawn chair Nami had let him borrow, legs crossed underneath him. "Luffy is pretty good with that pipe, you didn't see him Zoro," ("Wish I did," was the almost unintelligible grunt that no one expanded upon) "But even if he used to use it all the time I don't think it's gonna work well against Sabo, it's a part of his fighting style everyday, I've only seen Luffy use his once."
"I saw it twice," Nami offered, seated in her own lawn chair, wearing a pair of sunglasses and holding an open sun folder. "It wasn't really using, but it was pretty expert handling. He's comfortable with it."
All of the straw hats were lined up on the sidelines of the battlefield that Luffy and Sabo had agreed upon for their spar
"Sabo-kun has been using that pipe in his missions since he first joined the revolutionary army," Koala piped up cheerily. "It was a staff at first, but on one of our missions he broke it in battle and picked up a pipe as a replacement. Hasn't switched back to a staff since, but he did get a new reinforced pipe rather than keeping the thing he found on the street." Her eyes twinkled as she leaned in, eagerly, as though telling the straw hats a secret. "It has sea stone imbued in the ends."
"Ah, what!" Usopp stood up cupping his hands over his mouth and shouting to the battlefield- "Watch out, Luffy! The pipe has- Ack!" He collapsed back into his seat as Zoro hooked a finger through his belt loop and pulled him off his feet. "What, Zoro?"
"Let him figure it out," Zoro grinned, "I don't think it'll be a problem anyway."
"Zoro's right, long nose." Sanji quipped. "If Luffy can't win it without knowing that then it doesn't matter anyway. If it matters he'll figure it out."
Cowed, Usopp sat back down, shifting nervously in his place.
"Are you both ready?" Robin asked, standing in between the pair. In actuality it was a clone and the real Robin was in another lawn chair pulled out of storage, Chopper in her lap.
Luffy looked odd, standing straight with both hands wrapped firmly around the pipe. It was so foreign to his usual stance. Still, he nodded stiffly and none of them doubted for a moment that he was ready, that this was a different kind of ready to what they usually saw before a fight.
"And ready," Sabo grinned and tightened his grip, spreading his feet an inch further apart.
"Ready… Start!" Robin's clone dissipated into a flurry of petals as the two surged forward, pipes bared and drawn back, reaching to clash.
But they never truly did.
All of them could tell, as blows glanced off and metal clanged sharply but not harshly, that this was a testing period. The two were trying to get to know each other again, after so long. Luffy's forward strike was dodged by Sabo with ease and Sabo's sideways swipe was likewise jumped over and countered. The two rods knocked each other away like jousting lances.
The testing period didn't last for long. Both fighters jumped back for all of a split second. No one missed the pleased smile on Sabo's face, or the beam shining forth from Luffy as he wasted barely a second in swinging his pipe over his head and running forward in a charge, complete with a loud, guttural battle cry.
"Sabo isn't going to hurt Luffy, right?" Chopper asked anxiously. "Not even by accident?"
"Of course not," Koala dismissed and Robin patted his head in agreement. "Sabo-kun is very good at what he does, and he'd never land a blow by accident."
At that, the two crashed into each other and flew off in separate directions. Luffy smacked face first into a tree trunk on the other side of the field and Sabo flipped in mid air to land in a crouch, feet skidding through the dust as he slid back towards them.
"You could have avoided that!" He called to Luffy who was shaking leaves out of his hat ribbon and getting up.
"Shishishi, I wanted to see how hard Sabo could hit!" Luffy waved his pipe ecstatically. "It's really hard!"
"... Sabo!" Koala screeched. "I'm losing credibility over here thanks to you!"
Robin laughed and Chopper crossed his arms, deciding to watch the rest of the bout very carefully so he'd be prepared to treat anything if something went wrong.
It was a dance, one that Zoro knew a dialect of. His own style included drawing murals across each other's bodies with slight cuts and long carves but this was a splattering of color to shine just beneath the surface in every hue of bruise. Still he could tell when a routine was performed between two lifelong partners.
The way that Luffy knew when to pause so that the hit would strike strongest, the way that the pipes never made true harsh contact, the way that Sabo always struck for Luffy's core because anything else would undoubtedly just stretch out of the way.
It was all evidence, to Zoro, of a long standing partnership and practice that remained even after years apart. They each knew the other's part as well as they knew their own. If there did end up a winner, which he doubted, it would be because of this familiarity and one's ability to take advantage of it.
Luffy couldn't help but smile. The entire fight felt like something out of a dream. For so long it had seemed that this scenario- him and Sabo, trading blows like they always used to- could only be a dream. When he made stupid mistakes Sabo didn't even take advantage of them, like Ace used to, but he pointed them out.
Like, when he made his stance too wide Sabo stepped in with a kick, easily knocking Luffy into a roll he wasn't prepared for- but he didn't follow up while he was still on the ground. He waited for a moment till the younger found his footing.
Likewise, Luffy didn't do anything with the moment of vulnerability when Sabo's eyes went distant at the sight of his own fire lacing up the ends of the pipe, trying out a new technique.
The two never slowed, every pause appeared practiced, every lull natural to the battle. They were having the time of their lives, anyone could tell. But still, at some time it had to end; it had to stop being a reunion and start being a real spar to prove which one of them was stronger. The moment was palpable. Luffy hit in with a pistol, the pipe braced against his arm so that it would be metal not knuckles meeting Sabo's skin but with Sabo's deft block the pipes clanged loudly where they connected.
Sabo spun his pipe around in a wide arc, and, while Luffy was still reeling his own weapon back in, landed an unexpected hit with the end of his pipe in Luffy's gut.
The sea stone drained Luffy's strength out of his stance and without the usual rubber skin to stand as defense the blow hit home and dug into his midsection, sending the young captain flying. He tumbled head over heels backwards, yelling as he scuffed against the grass and bare dirt, dug his feet into the ground for purchase and ended up in a crouch.
"Is that all you can take?" Sabo called jokingly and Luffy shook his head with an almost feral grin.
Sabo moved forward in a blur, pipe raised and flames ignited at the tip. Luffy didn't hesitate for an instant. His skin shifted from tan to red and he raised his own pipe, dropping into a dead sprint as he ran to meet Sabo's strike.
Their weapons and bodies blurred, hit, made contact, thudded into flesh, fought but also felt. They were at odds, yet a part of each other; everything was seen from the other's point of view.
Until, almost predictably, Sabo swirled his pipe around and bowled Luffy over. The young captain landed flat on his back and the revolutionary set the end of his pipe in the ground, close enough to Luffy's exposed neck that the tension in Luffy's body was forced out of it, sapped by the seastone.
"And that's my win!" Sabo grinned and leaned forward on the pipe, holding out his hand to help his little brother up. Luffy shot back a wavering smile and took the offered hand, letting Sabo do all the work with pulling him up. "Jeez Lu, can't even pick yourself up?"
"I'm alright!" Luffy argued immediately and indeed an instant later, the seastone safely away from his skin, his usual bounce came back into his step. "Sabo didn't used to have sea stone on his pipe anyway so that was unfair, let's have a rematch!"
"I don't think so, Lu. One is plenty for now." Their audience was approaching, Koala looking prideful and every straw hat varying from disbelief to resignation. He even thought he might have seen some hands exchange money. "We figured it out anyway, didn't we? I'm still stronger."
"Just cause I didn't beat you this time doesn't mean I won't next time, Sabo." Luffy declared and Sabo ruffled his hair, because wasn't that the truth? "Just wait, I'm gonna get stronger than you, I'm already really close!"
"Seeing as how you're not punching yourself in the face with the rebounds anymore I'd say you're right. Congratulations Lu, you're stronger than when you were seven." Luffy pouted and several straw hats laughed, the long nosed one, Usopp, came forward and clapped his captain on the back, explaining that once he'd lost a battle to a great man but had then met him again as an old man and beaten him thoroughly. Luffy perked up at the thought until he realized that Garp was old too and that that helped no one.
With Koala at his side and his little brother's crew milling about, Sabo felt completely comfortable sliding his own pipe to rest against his back and, with a call of 'Luffy!', he swept the other up from the ground and tossed it over their heads, watching Luffy shoot out an elastic arm to catch it with barely a glance.
No rebound problems and perfect aim.
It was very different back on Dawn, when anything Luffy did with his devil fruit powers had to be carefully watched to make sure nothing bounced. It was one of the reasons they'd made him learn to use the pipe despite his insistence that his devil fruit was gonna make strong attacks. For Ace and Sabo it was a way to get some reach and power into their hits. For Luffy it was more like training wheels on a bike- something for him to use until his gum gum powers were fine tuned.
Part of Sabo wondered why he kept the pipe at all, clearly he didn't need it.
Then again, he considered as fire leapt to life across his fingertips. At this point neither of them did.
Luffy hums and bobs his head to acknowledge Zoro's approach, but his gaze doesn't stray from the paper in his hand. The waves lap eagerly below where his feet hang between the rungs of the railing. Zoro slides himself down and rests his swords against his shoulder.
"How's it looking?"
Luffy's fingers tighten around the paper in his hands. It's not burning, but the texture looks ashy and is flaking in some places. It's no surprise given its owner's occupation.
"It looks fine." his captain mumbles. "Sabo's fine."
The wind coming off the water is stiff and abrasive. The force of it sends Zoro's earrings knocking together and he reaches up to run his fingers over each of them, thoughtful.
"You know my swords are important to me." He waits for Luffy to make a tiny sound of acknowledgement. "This one, Wado ichimonji. She was a gift from my sensei." He makes the low hum noise again. "She's a symbol of my promise. I swore I'd make my name heard in heaven and on earth." He shifted Wado from her resting place and ran his eyes down the familiar length of her sheath. "She's a symbol of my dream to become the greatest swordsman in the world."
The knowing silence that balances between them both drifts beneath the ambient noises of the ocean.
The New World breaks things. It breaks ships, it breaks weapons, it breaks people. Even Sunny's Adam's Wood needed replacing sometimes. Even Zoro's legendary swords needed constant care and upkeep. Luffy's pipe… it was old. He'd never strengthened it and it had been through a lot. He could only ram it against the might of the strongest sea for so long.
The fight wasn't anything new. The enemy wasn't particularly strong. But the pipe just… broke.
And their captain is strong, he didn't show it much, but all of them could see. When the pipe snapped, the end of it cracking off with a sound like a gunshot and ricocheting off to land in the sea with a soft plop, Luffy broke a little too.
Luffy doesn't ascribe the same sort of value to material things that most people do. But meaning? Significance? He's always understood the importance of pirate flags. His hat is his most prized possession. Why wouldn't the pipe he used when he lived with his brothers lack that sort of memorial status?
"It's okay to miss it. And to miss him. He's important to you."
"Of course I miss Sabo!" Luffy huffs. "Doesn't mean I'm worried. I know he's doing great- the paper says so!" He holds up the vivre card but his fingers are tense around the crumpled paper and his legs swing in their familiar way- drumming rhythmic patterns against the hull with his heels.
"I've got a piece of him, right here." Luffy mumbles, holding up the card. "I don't need a pipe."
You don't have a card for Ace, Zoro doesn't say, because he's not an emotionless ogre no matter what the stupid cook says.
"Of course you don't need it." He grunts because that's true at least. "Doesn't mean you're not allowed to hurt."
Luffy hums to acknowledge that too and folds the paper into a smaller square before reaching up to tuck it securely into his hat band. Zoro pushed himself to his feet at the same time Luffy did and adjusted his swords while his captain wiped sea spray from his eyes. Before the younger man could escape though, he caught his gaze and held it, to make sure he knew.
"Symbols can be weaker than the promises they represent. The symbol of something breaking doesn't mean that anything has changed."
Luffy's smile breaks out clean and effortless. Zoro isn't saying anything new, it's only a reminder, but that's enough to brighten his captain's face.
"Come on. That lame cook said he was making dessert."
"Dessert!" Luffy cheers and bounds ahead across the grassy deck. Zoro smiles to himself and follows sedately as his captain throws open the door to the galley and-
"SURPRISE!" The rest of the crew greets him with open arms and Luffy doesn't miss a beat in joining in with the festivities. Sanji hands him an extra serving left over from dinner and Luffy beams from ear to ear.
"What are you all doing! We passed my birthday already!"
"We know." Nami sighs. "But we have a gift for you anyway. Franky?"
"A SUUPEERRRRRRR…" Franky whips out something long and clunky, extending it in his smaller palms for Luffy to take. "New pipe staff!"
"Whaaat!" Luffy shouts, taking in the monstrously colored and strangely shaped piece of machinery. Sanji lets out a groan of exasperation.
"It's got a rocket launcher that I repurposed from BF 28," Franky explains, "And if you twist this here it releases toxic spores that Usopp bro donated to the cause-"
"It's also got a scope right here," Usopp reaches in and turns some dial, "So you can aim if you use it to ground your slingshot-"
"That's the wrong pipe!" Nami yells, "Give him the real one, Franky. I vetoed this yesterday!"
"Yohoho," Brook sidesteps into the angry navigator's path as Franky rummages around for the real gift. "There's nothing wrong with two pipes, Nami-san."
"Hmph, there is when one is a joke of a staff." She mutters. But Franky is holding out the replacement and Luffy is shifting forward to grab it. His smile is stretched so wide it makes his face look too small. "This one I helped get the balance right on."
"And I left you some flare seeds in this compartment here," Usopp gestures, "And I thought you could put a piece of Sabo's vivre card in there- as a backup-"
"And I used this SUPER new smelting technique I've been working on to make it!" Franky lurches into his pose while Nami shakes her head at his antics. Robin steps in from the back and gently takes the rocket launcher staff so that Luffy has both hands to test out the reinforced pipe they'd all agreed would be a good gift.
"We don't expect it to replace anything," She explains softly. "But it can serve as a reminder, and a useful weapon besides."
"Thanks everybody." Luffy grips the pipe tight in both hands and gives it an experimental swing, nearly knocking off one of Chopper's antlers. "This is great!" He looks down at it and his smile turns a shade softer.
Zoro doesn't pretend to know anything about what Luffy's pipe means. They never got more backstory than what Sabo told them in a tiny hut in a flower field on Dressrosa and what they learned over the course of a few days spent in the desert with a man made of fire. But they don't need the whole story. Having the staff is important to Luffy, and while they can't bring it back, they could give him something new to help however they could.
"Hey, hey!" Luffy snaps his head up, grinning at them all with his usual vibrant ferocity. "Does anyone wanna spar?"
A/N: Luffy uses the Franky and Usopp collab pipe just as often as he uses the courtesy of Nami balanced pipe but he wanted to test the latter out first because, while immune to poison, he's not immune to nostalgia.
Gold star for anyone who can guess which of these scenes I wrote in its entirety today. Two gold stars for anyone that leaves a review ; ) Have a great day!