It was raining again.

It's a light drizzle, admittedly, but it hangs in the air. Painting the air just above the ocean waves with a white and heavy mist that stretches far as the eye can see. There had been a lot of gray days recently, but she supposed that was to be expected, it was only mid-February after all.

Quinn balances on the railing, careful of the ship shifting beneath her feet, it's easier to keep balance than it normally would be- considering that they're docked and, no matter which way she fell, if she lost her footing, there would be wood from either the deck or the docks to catch her on her way down. "What's the news on the sea today?"

"Wet!"

Yeah, she can definitely see that.

She shouldn't but it gets a chuckle. "No kidding, who would've guessed?" She sips from her mug. Not coffee for once, Spice had taken to setting limits once he realized how much she consumed on the daily. Whether for health or because she was drinking them all out of house and home, she couldn't say. Either were possible. "Ugh, hot chocolate does nothing for me."

"It's not supposed to!"

"Has Ace still not woken up yet?"

"Mnh, no. Don't worry, I've got him. You can go bother Spice for breakfast."

"You sure? 'Cause I can stay by his-"

"I'm sure. You've been up since last watch, you need the rest too. Even if his is unintentional."

"Okay…" He doesn't seem convinced. He never does. "What did Spice make-?"

"Fish over rice for you!"

"Yay!"

He rushes off and she shakes her head after him, looking to the sleeping Ace laid out on the deck, a pillow- now designated specifically for him with a mimicry of his tattoo embroidered on the side. (Quinn had received a hug for that one, an incredibly quick and short one, and one that had definitely caught her by surprise because she hadn't even had the chance to return it. She pointedly had said nothing about the slightly misty-eyed look on his face.) And a blanket thrown over the top of him.

He didn't even twitch. Breath light but bordering on a snore with every rise and fall of his chest.

This was certainly the longest spell yet and she didn't know whether to be worried about it or not. She didn't know if it meant he was getting more sleep than normal or if he wouldn't be able to sleep tonight. Or if he would just be much more tired the whole day.

She just knows that he'd almost gone overboard again and she was getting more and more worried about it. And antsy.

"You're going to give me a heart attack one of these days, Ace…" Maybe she could find something to help? She wasn't sure. "Doing that on the Grand Line, it'll be a death sentence, and not just because of your Devil Fruit." Everyone in fanfics seemed to find what they needed in Loguetown, maybe it'd be the same for her? Quinn wasn't exactly holding out hope.

But it seemingly had everything, being a commercial island with a Marine Base and all.

She grits her teeth as a wolf-whistle comes from the other side of the docks.

She could definitely do without the catcalling though.

"The hell. It's just as bad as walking past a construction site." Quinn can't help but mutter, shoulders tensing and head down as she takes care to not even cast a glance their way. Even as early in the morning as it is, there's a surprising amount of sailors, dock workers, and less than savory folk up and about.

(She pointedly ignores the fact that she would fall under the 'less than savory' category and so would everyone else on the Stellar.)

Unfortunate, then, that she was also one of the few women up and about because it made her one of the prime targets for attention. Especially now that Kat had disappeared back inside the cabin to eat and help Spice clean up from breakfast.

Quinn couldn't help a shuddering shiver running up her spine as someone jeered some comment that she didn't care to repeat and even the ones that would be considered 'nice', had they been said in any other situation or context, had her paranoid beyond belief. Gods, she'd forgotten how predatory some people could be and wow- was she feeling incredible amounts of sympathy for the regular women of this world because. Ouch. They did not have the headphones on, in-a-phone-call strategy that often worked so well at getting rid of a good percentage of the calling. Or, hell, even calling a taxi or uber for a quick get away when some dumbass got it in their head to follow.

Speaking of: "Hey, doll. What'cha up to?"

She leaps off the railing and back onto the deck of the ship.

Ugh. Today was not her day, huh.

Quinn wishes for it to start raining harder, that would definitely start clearing the streets. But alas- it stays the simple drizzle that barely does more than start frizzing up her hair. Not near enough to get people to hide away.

And the man, admittedly more attractive than a good majority of those sneering but no less wolfish, if even more so, leant across the docks to try and get in closer. "Mind if I join you?"

"I do mind, actually."

She begrudgingly answers because she knows if she doesn't he'll take it as an invitation.

"Hard to get, cute."

Ooh, she's going to stab him.

"Aw, you blushin'? I like it when women blush for me-" He smirks and- and-

And then he does the unforgivable.

And something in Quinn just snaps.

It's really nothing big, but it blows all the comments he'd made and the catcalling from the others straight out of the water.

A hiss comparable to a snake slides along her tongue before she even realizes she's doing it.

"Who," it's a startling venomous syllable that has her jaw clicking in barely held in rage, and a glimmer of promised violence abruptly passes through her gaze, "gave you permission to come on board?"

Because that's what he's done.

The sheer stupidity and arrogance is astounding.

Or, really, he's only followed her example of jumping on the railing, one leg thrown over the side as he sits instead of stands, and the audacity was enough to have her flabbergasted, but the honest to god insolence is enough to have her pulling her knife from its sheath and-

The door to the cabin snaps open with a thud and Spice stalks out in all his glory, takes one look at the man that has attempted to sleaze his way onto their ship, and a hard look passes over his face. "Orders, Quinn?"

(Looking back, she'll facepalm at herself, because Spice does not simply defer to someone unless there's a reason to and, of course, there was one. Her being in-charge with Ace temporarily out of commission. But she doesn't realize it for what it is, not for quite some time still.)

She's too angry to be surprised by the question. Quietly taking satisfaction in the way the man pales drastically, eyes flicking from her to Spice and then back again, some bit of intelligence coming back to him as he takes in the knife at her hip and the massive sword on Spice's back- some part of his brain realizes the mistake that he's made because he really, really shouldn't have approached the unfamiliar woman if the man-with-the-big-ass-sword was asking her for orders. And Quinn slowly slides her knife back into its sheath, fingers twitchy and glare harsh enough that it has the dockworker scrambling back.

"Remove him before I do. I don't care how."

Quinn is immensely pleased to note that the whole thing has the previous catcallers looking away and sweaty with nerves, especially as she passes a dark look over them all.

Hm. Well, good. Seems they won't be bothered anymore.

It's funny, actually. As Spice slams the flat of his blade into the man's gut and sends him careening into the water below with a loud splash, that none of them really realize how intimidating they could come across, or the fact that, not only was no one looking their way anymore, but they were also giving their ship a wide berth.

Such was the livelihood of pirates, apparently.

That morning, or perhaps it would be more fair to say that it was last night, considering they had arrived while it was still dark and the sun had yet to even edge a bit over on the horizon, had them docking and looking curiously over the island that seemed more stone than earth.

Loguetown.

It was exactly as Quinn pictured it would be.

Which wasn't strange, One Piece was a visual medium after all, and Loguetown had been an island that stood out, even if it was simple by Oda standards. The city was honestly the most modernized place Quinn had seen between all the other islands they've visited. The buildings were tall and concrete, and while it was definitely more cobbled together by handmade work that gave it a more humble and loved feel, she couldn't help but tilt her head looking out over it all.

"Wha's got your attention?" She doesn't twitch from where she's crouched next to Ace as he stirs awake, sounding absolutely exhausted.

"This place… It reminds me of home."

"Does it?"

"Yeah. Vaguely."

Ace hums, taking in the sight of the city with a half hooded look, cramming his hat a bit deeper down on his head. "You got family back home?" It was something he'd noticed she hadn't mentioned the other night when they'd gotten her talking, that and friends. In fact, she hadn't mentioned anyone's names.

Quinn was definitely a mystery, one not quite willing to be solved either.

"More or less."

Not really an answer, that.

"Never really put much value on it. Friends are much better, don't you think?"

The eyes that flicker to her face are downright sly. "And yet, back on one island, I seem to remember you calling Kat your little brother."

Quinn stubbornly doesn't look at him, hopping to her feet, "...Not the same…" she mutters but it's enough to have Ace triumphant.

Today was going to be a long day.

They don't set out immediately.

For multiple reasons, but the biggest one that Quinn takes note of is that Ace keeps shooting the city a glance before scoffing and going back to what he was doing. Disinterest evident, to say the least. If Quinn didn't know any better she would say that he's almost personally offended by the place- Oh wait.

"Are you sure this is where we need to stop to get to the Grand Line?"

"Pretty damn sure, Ace. Stop asking." This would be the fourth time now and he was only grumbling more and more as time passed. "It's the only place I know of that's near enough to the entrance and where we can stock up on supplies. Hopefully, they'll have somewhere to get Log Poses since it's so close…"

"What's a Log Pose?"

"A kind of compass that specifically works on the Grand Line. Normal tools of navigation don't work because of the magnetic fields around the islands- or something like that, I wasn't really paying attention."

Kat perks up. "No, you're right! You know, sharks can sense magnetic fields-"

Oh?

"-but I haven't managed to figure out how that even works. I've heard of Fishman being able to navigate the Grand Line by instinct alone though!"

Quinn blows a raspberry at him. He got her hopes up and everything. "And then there's the cost of whatever else we might need." She turns to Spice. "Assume that we'll be at sea for a couple months, we don't know what problems we'll run into and we don't know what islands will have food that's actually edible."

The last thing they needed was to have a starving Ace- again, her mind quietly whispers- because it was a miserable sight to behold. And not just because of his own pain but also his frustrating 'it's not that bad, guys' even though it clearly was.

Quinn rubs the bridge of her nose, eyes scrunched shut. They had more money than they ever had before, so they could at least splurge a bit when it came to supplies, but there was still the matter of knowing exactly what they needed. Especially because she wasn't exactly incredibly experienced in having minimal access to stores and the like.

Wow.

No wonder people thought she exhibited Noble-like behavior.

Her thoughts are interrupted by a nervous sounding Kat, "Hey, what's with all these people glaring at us."

"Quinn got in a fight."

"You did?!"

"...Ah, Spice took care of it."

It didn't take a genius to note the eyes they were getting were anything but nice.

"We're going to get robbed."

She deadpanned.

Katsura tilted his head, "I mean, sure, they don't seem to like us but what makes you say that?"

There was a shout and somebody was thrown off the dock, gunshots ringing about as whoever did it fired into the water. Oh joy, seems like they're not the only pirates and criminals up and about now, either. No wonder the dock workers got up so early to get out to sea and go to work. And they'd clearly passed on rumors. "...just a guess."

Ace nodded along easily. If he had lived here as a kid he would be luring thugs into alleyways and robbing them blind. He could definitely see people jumping on their ship and ransacking it the moment they took a step off.

"We should either find a different place to dock but I don't think you'll want to-"

"Here's fine. I'm not gonna hide 'cause some guys looked at us funny." Ace confirmed that thought immediately.

"Or, and here's what I think is probably the best for us: Leave one of us to guard the ship. Preferably one that can hold their own." She paused, "Keheh. So, not me." Before continuing, "Since we need to resupply and we only have so much money we should make our trip quick and prioritize the necessities. Food, simple bare necessities, clothes. Not only that but- Katsura."

He jumped, back going rigid at attention. "Yes?"

"You need anything for nav? Tools? Supplies?"

"O-Oh, not necessarily. I would prefer picking up a few blank journals, mapping and calligraphy supplies, but that can all wait until we get more money so-"

"Nope. Needed." She immediately put a stop to whatever spiel he was going to make. The thought of going into the Grand Line without every last possible bit of supplies they could get their hands on… A shiver ran up her spine. "Then, there's… weapons. All three of you need anything?"

Quinn pointedly looked at: Ace's knife, Katsura's freshly polished claws, and Spice's sword.

"A whetstone." Spice brought a hand back to pull the blade of his sword from its sheath. It looked… duller than normal. Quinn nodded. "Otherwise I have enough cleaning and care supplies to go around."

Neither Ace nor Katsura piped up so she took that as a 'we're good'.

"Okay then. That means…" she frowned, "Since Spice is obviously in charge of food, Katsura needs to get clothes and navigation supplies, that leaves either me or Ace to guard the ship." Quinn bit her lip. And she really did not want to be left alone on the ship so hopefully Ace didn't care enough that he would-

"I'll stick around here."

It's the small things in life.

Spice and Kat, however, each looked decently taken aback, "...Really?"

"Hey- What's with that look?"

"No, just- really?"

"Yeah?"

"...You?"

"Oy."

"...You?"

He nods again, though more annoyed this time.

"Are you sure?"

Okay. Now he's openly glaring but- but c'mon! What're they supposed to think?! This is Ace they're talking about and he- they have a perfectly good reason to be in disbelief thankyouverymuch because there-

There was just no way that their Captain, Ace, was refusing to set foot on a brand new island.

"Quinn?" Kat turns to her, hoping that she might shed some light on Ace's suddenly grumpy attitude-

She doesn't seem even the slightest bit miffed or bothered. "Hey, Ace, need me to pick you up anything? We're not going to be able to stop anywhere for longer than usual probably." He shakes his head. "You sure? Not even- like, what, snack or something to do?"

"I." Ace sounds like he's about to start growling, though not really at them, eyes closed and brows furrowed downward. "Don't. Want a single thing. From this island."

Quinn hums. "Okay then."

And Katsura is flabbergasted, staring at Ace.

"What's that look for?!"

Kat blinks at him wildly. "It's... just surprising is all. You're usually the first one on shore- I'm actually surprised you haven't run off already."

"I'm not that bad."

Quinn gave him a look. "You kinda are."

"What- no I'm not!" He turned to Spice. "What about you?"

Spice just stared down at him blankly. "...Do you really want me to answer that?"

He pouted, kicking a foot against the floorboards. "Whatever, you guys are jerks…"

"Uh-huh." Quinn chuckled. "Actually… it's a good thing that you're staying to watch instead of me, there's something I need to see if I can find here." There's a smirk on her face and she seems a bit lost in thought so just does not notice the confused looks she gets for that statement.

That is until they started guessing:

"A weapon?"

"Clothes?"

"Confidence?"

Silence. They all turned to stare at Spice. "Skill? A hair brush? A life?" He stopped for a moment. Casting them a bored, bland expression. "Go on. Keep staring at me, I can go all day."

Quinn snorted, punching him in the side. Hard enough to hurt but not hard enough to actually mean it. "Keh. Shut up, loser."

Spice smirked.

Ace and Kat's mouths fell open, shocked. Spice huffed mirthfully at them, "What? Somebody gets my jokes."

"Alright," Quinn clapped her hands together. Bringing the attention back to her. "I think that's all. Well, almost. One more thing-"

She swipes Ace's hat off his head.

"How do I look?"

Quinn can't help but stick her tongue out at him as he gapes, tilting the brim and rubbing her fingers over the thread she'd embroidered. The texture was fun to feel beneath her fingers, especially since the visually simplistic design allowed for spaces between that helped it be more interesting to both the eye and to the touch.

On more than one occasion, it was a delight- at least for her standards- to spot Ace's hands running over the brim in an absentminded manner. Meant that she'd done something right at least, considering he didn't shy away from it or seemed to dislike the texture.

"Hey!"

"Not an answer but okay."

She tilts the brim of the hat, letting it catch the rain and help keep it from ruining her hair, pretending all the while that jamming the hat over her high ponytail wasn't uncomfortable as hell, and smirks as Ace sputters and goes to jump to his feet. Likely planning on retrieving his hat. "Ah, ah, ah!" He stopped. "The closest description they have is of you with this hat on, considering this island has a Marine Base… I think your hat's much safer with me today."

"Like I care about some Marines!"

"Oh, wouldn't want them to alert Garp now, would we? He is most likely still in the East Blue after all."

It's almost hilarious how Ace's face turns stark white in horror. Kat and Spice shoot them curious looks. "Tha… That's dirty…!"

"All's fair." She offers him a lazy shrug that's not at all apologetic. "Kehehe. Tell you what, I'll even bring it back better than brand new."

She really doesn't give him the chance to try and snatch it back, stalking out of his range and receiving a glare (there isn't any real heat to it) as she does so because Ace refuses to set even a foot down on the island- instead, much like a child, he falls into a seat with crossed legs and looks out at sea with a grumble, very obvious in his pouting.

"See ya."

"Yeah, yeah."

It's not long until the land-trio has gotten down the docks and pushed their way through the late-morning crowds when Spice leaned over to her, "You know, that's how you get lice."

Quinn snorts. "I'm sure I'm fine."

It gets Kat hissing at her though. "What was that all about? I thought Ace was really angry there for a second."

"He's just a grump because he doesn't like this island-"

"Why doesn't he like this island?"

Quinn says nothing.

They drop it.

"But still… Ace's hat. It's kinda weird seeing it on you."

"Really? I think I look cute." She catches a glance at herself in the window of a clothing shop with elegant dresses that she's fifty percent sure was where Nami screwed over the staff by not buying anything. The hat clashes was nearing the edge of clashing with her clothes but, honestly, didn't look half bad- Quinn especially loved the pendant and tassel in the front. "Maybe I need to steal it more often." She muses, jokingly.

"Quinn. No."

They wait for her answer and she sighs, hands tugging at the brim and hiding her face.

"It's… faded, isn't it? The orange?"

"Yeah. So?"

She chews on her bottom lip.

"Before Kat-" God, she couldn't even look at them, suddenly burning with embarrassment. "-he mentioned that he wanted to see about getting it dyed, you know, touch ups. But then things happened and, well…"

They see where she's going with this.

Kat absolutely beams at her. "Quinn, you're so sweet!"

"Stop."

"Too nice, actually. You sure you're cut out to be a pirate?"

"I ain't nice."

"You take care of us! I think that's cool."

Are her cheeks burning?

Mayhaps.

"It's nothing like that-" It is. It totally is. "-A captain has to look his best, doesn't he?"

"This may seem an odd question. But who is the Marine Captain here?"

"Oh, Captain Smoker!"

Ah, the dreaded confirmation.

Quinn chews her lip. Impossibly glad that they had yet to hoist a flag on their ship- it was still in the making after all, with both Ace and her having their hands in its creation. (Ace was surprisingly good at drawing actually. Which she, once again, thinks is a result of Luffy's own lack of skill and… endless amounts of practice in failure teaching his brother to at least color between the lines.)

"I'm not surprised you don't know. He only recently was assigned here, the last Captain was rather cruel to civilians, you see," the cashier chirps happily, "a little girl ran into the old one with ice cream and ended up attacking her out of rage. After that. We just couldn't stand it anymore."

Quinn nods along, folding the clothes she'd just bought for herself up and into her bag as Kat looked around, already having paid for his things. It was a shop- one that reminded her of Goodwill, actually, and had exceedingly cheap clothes and discounts that Quinn was absolutely in love with. Spice had long since separated from them to check out the market and look for a whetstone.

"Captain Smoker has only been here for a couple months but he's already better. He cleared out an entire group of pirates by himself!" Oh, delightful. "I don't imagine you'll be seeing much of him around town though. He's been doing a massive overhaul of the Marine training program, has them running laps and doing community service all over the place. It's funny! They're runnin' around like a bunch of chickens with their heads cut off."

"Funny."

She doesn't see much humor in people finally doing their jobs.

This is why she liked Smoker. He was always one of her favorites. It really was too bad that she'd rather not meet him in a hundred years right now.

The cashier falters at her flat reaction. "T-That should be everything. Anything else you need?"

"Mnh. You know where I could find a shop with navigational tools, we're looking for a Log Pose."

"Log Pose?" He obviously had never heard of it. "Well, if you want anything for sailing the seas, I suggest the Nav-o'war. It's a shop right next to the Sea Museum, good for tourists."

"A Sea Museum?!"

Kat perks up and Quinn can't help but chuckle. "What? You wanna go?"

He blushes and shifts from foot to foot and it's enough to have her rolling her eyes. "We should stop by the Nav-o'war first but I don't see why not."

"What do you mean you don't have any?!"

"Log Pose are commissioned exclusively by the Marines. It's illegal to sell them to anyone without permission."

"Excuse me, for one moment."

"...Miss, this is just a piece of paper that says give me what I want."

"And?"

"I will call security."

Quinn's head falls in her hands and she lets out a long suffering sigh. "Why… is it illegal?"

"The only people that should be headed for the Grand Line are pirates, Marine Officers with the clearance, or Marine-affiliated ships. Navigators have to pass a test an' everything. And, if you're a pirate," he gives her a narrowed eye look that she doesn't react to, "then it's no skin off my back whether you go in without one or not."

"Wow. You're such a noble citizen. Not at all psychotic."

She says. Sarcastically.

"I'm this close to calling security-"

"I'm going! I'm going!" She throws up her hands and stalks out of the shop, grumbling under her breath and arms crossed over her chest. "This is such bullshit. Kat, I'll be waiting outside while you pick out what you need."

He gives her a thumbs up in lieu of saying anything, looking back and forth between her and the shop keep and buried in a section of shelves that carry tools that look too complicated for her to use without hurting her hands. He's definitely trying to avoid eye contact with the both of them- not liking the confrontation and biting his tongue as the arguing had started to get a little out of hand.

Quinn's too pissed to care.

They can't leave unless they have a damn Log Pose!

The Nav-o'war turned out to be a small building shaped like a half buried ship, connected to a large building that Quinn recognized as being The Sea Museum. It was a nice shop, or it would be, if it wasn't completely useless. Hell, even Kat had gone in and immediately noted that the supplies he needed were way more expensive than they should be.

He hops back out and lands in a puddle, splashing.

"Get what you need?"

"I mean… enough of it…"

Yeah. With the explanation that the shop keep gave, she was willing to bet that all the good shit was reserved specifically for the Marines at a much cheaper price. She felt like she was being screwed from the moment she went into that place. Whatever, no use whining. "C'mon. The museum's free today, so we got lucky with that. Devil Fruit coming in clutch, huh?"

"We-" Quinn pauses when Kat doesn't move to follow, looking shy. "We don't have to if you don't want to, you know? If you're just forcin' yourself then-"

"Oh, shut it and hurry up." Words aside, it's said rather nicely, but she's still surprised to see Kat blush and tentatively trail after her. "Haven't been to a museum in years besides…"

The Sea Museum turns out to be a three-story building with giant skeletons of what Quinn recognizes as Sea King's and other monolithic beastial bodies of creatures she really, really never wanted to meet and Kat is-

Kat is almost squealing as he rushes around and she chortles as he runs over some guy flirting with the girl working the gift shop. And, unaware of the man, preparing to chase after him and give him a piece of his mind, Quinn steps in and shoves an elbow into the guys side, glaring hard enough that he whimpers, clutching at his side before running off.

"I'm… not that scary, am I?"

That was- definitely starting to get confusing. A little concerning actually. 'Cause she'd certainly never been able to do that before One Piece so what's changed?

"Quinn, Quinn! It says that there's a shell collection," Kat interrupts her thoughts, bouncing on his feet, "y-you think they might have any Esse shells?"

"Maybe, who knows."

They don't as it turns out. Much to Kat's disappointment, but they do have a display with pictures of conch-like shells and other species drawn out and a short description that's vague enough that it says basically nothing: Esse Shells. Mysterious shell-like living creatures found over the world that release odd sounds and potentially cause trouble when in contact with the are said to carry the "essence" of life, where they derive their name from. If found, shells must be turned over to the Marine's and/or Government to be researched by trusted scientists dedicated to discovering the mysteries within; and-

Kat blinks up at the pictures, eyes suddenly wet, and rubs at his face. "They don't do them justice… you know?" His eyes have noticeably softened.

"Well, it is a drawing."

"Heh. Yeah, but they could have at least added glitter or somethin'."

She laughed, especially when that got them a side eye from an employee.

Quinn leaves him to trace over the words and the small display they had featured on his dream once it becomes clear that he's lost in his own thoughts. Taking a look around herself, aside from the Sea King's and other unusual creatures of the same vein, as far as Quinn could tell, it was a normal museum with more than a little Marine propaganda thrown about.

There was even a display on the Grand Line with cartoonishly drawn dead pirates and the title 'Pirates Graveyard' up and about. The description saying nothing more than the general story of Gold Roger on the execution platform and a side note on the One Piece itself before diving into 'woest me' quotes that were obviously public responses from the Marine's.

It's honestly pretty interesting. Especially because of her outsider's outlook, she's sure, as nobody else seems to spare the display much more than a quick once oved- after all, why would they? It's general knowledge, isn't it?

And then she sees it.

Quinn's eyes go wide and she tastes something like hope starting to build.

Because on display, just beyond the Grand Line display, on a small, slowly spinning platform with a mannequin hand mounted to show off the wrist, was a Log Pose. And, interestingly enough, as it spun, the point stayed shakily attracted to some place beyond her sight but what was definitely- definitely towards where she knew Reverse Mountain lay and past it.

Most notably, however, were the snail security cameras in the corner of the walls, pointed directly at the display, where a tourist family was reading the plaque.

Log Pose. A special compass used by Marines to navigate the Grand Line safely.

This is not a model so please do not touch.

Quinn glances at Kat, who is non-the-wiser to her suddenly racing thoughts, and she feels her shoulders slump.

"Hey, Kat?"

"Y-Yeah?"

He gives her a puppy eyed look that just hurts and she smiles.

Shit.

"Once you're done, why don't you go pick out a couple things from the gift shop? Whatever you want. Doesn't matter."

"Really?!"

"Really, really."

She lazily follows after him as he checks out the rest of the museum, though she never goes too far and waves him off as he runs to the upper levels. Waiting for an opportunity to make her move because she was pretty sure that she was only going to get one shot at this and it probably wasn't going to happen before Kat's done enjoying the sights.

Thankfully, though, she spots him inching towards the gift shop just as she sees her glorious opportunity present itself.

Quinn opens her mouth and screams.

"Pirates at the entrance! Pirates at the entrance!"

And the large tourist crowd that had just made its way inside, runs to find a hiding place within the building, knocking into the displays and-

Quinn unhooks the Log Pose from the mannequin as they threaten to overtake her, successfully confusing the security snail, and hurriedly makes her way to where Katsura was standing- clutching a giant, nearly twice his height tiger shark plushie (oh, and quite literal in that aspect as well, an unnatural magenta color with bright blue tiger stripes patterned along its fins and tail) in an adorably cartoonish pirate outfit- and loops it around his wrist with a thin smile as a pair of Marines, one of which looks shockingly familiar with a sword and blue hair, came in to try and make sense of the situation and calm the crowds before dragging him back out the entrance that people were desperate to get away from.

"W-What was that all about-?"

"Oh, just ensuring the success of our journey. Sorry about that." She really is apologetic. It was nice while it lasted. "We have two places left to stop, by the way."

"Um. Okay."

She fixes Ace's hat back on her head from where it had fallen off to hang around her shoulders by its string.

-0-

"That's a cursed sword."

Spice says blankly, unable to quite believe what he's seeing. He may not be someone trained in the way of a katana- they always felt much too small in his hands and he'd wanted to take after his mother instead, ever since he was a child- and he may not be the most… sword-obsessed of swordsmen out there but he definitely knew enough.

Knew enough to say how bad of a fucking idea it was to have a cursed sword, literally known for murdering people that attempting to wield it, on display.

Well within reach of small children.

"You have the Legendary Kitetsu on display…" He says, disbelief evident. "Like it's a toy."

He could practically feel the bloodlust from here.

"You have it unsheathed and everything."

This… is beyond ignorance.

"My wife forced me to put it up, when I couldn't sell it-" Yes, because no sane person would take it off his hands. "-but with it up like that… I can't even get it back in its sheath to hide it away."

Yes, Spice can definitely see that being a problem. He doesn't even want to step close to it, lest he lose a hand, and, as a chef, his hands were his life's blood.

Still.

He looks around at the cheaper selection of swords and at the money that he has in his pocket for both food and the whetstone that he had come in looking for.

"I want this sword. And a whetstone."

The sword he selects is a simple one of an average price. A tanto with a yellow wrapped handle and a black sheath with yellow diamonds along the length. It's a far cry from the complicated and fanciful designs on the other ones but- compared to those, the blade is well made and has less imperfections to be seen.

"Oh. Let me ring you up then-"

"No."

"H-Huh?"

"It will be free. Both of them."

He sees immediately how the older man's face sours and how he takes it as a threat, even though- Spice rolls his eyes- it isn't. "Excuse me?" The older man is clearly used to the rough sorts of the way he shifts towards an obviously hidden panic button is anything to go by.

Spice points at Kitetsu. "Deal. I sheath the sword, wrap it so it won't open by itself. You give me these two items free."

Spice isn't good at bartering. Not really. But anyone who knew swords, and it was clear this man did even if he was prone to stupid mistakes at the behest of his wife, would see that he was offering up a fair deal and Spice's voice left no room for argument. He was practically telling him what was going to happen.

After all, his business would surely be ruined if the wrong person took a look at Kitetsu and ended up losing a hand or more. An ignorant person knowledgeable only in the building of swords and not in listening to them… they would surely find themselves on the wrong end of the blade sooner or later.

The man knows he hasn't got much of a choice, shoulders slumping. "With that broadsword of yours, what do you even need a tanto for? And it's much too small for a man of your stature."

He'd purposely chosen one of the much smaller ones available. Only sixteen inches. Not even close to double the size of a ruler.

"Someone I know wants to get stronger. She is a... small person." A blatant lie, she was taller than a majority of woman he's met before, but he couldn't help himself even if she wasn't here.

Truthfully, Spice didn't know what to make of Quinn. He was very much a man that respected strength and Quinn… had not shown much of that. Not really. And so he felt in an odd sort of limbo because he knew that Ace trusted her to have his back, much more so than he did Spice considering the difference in time knowing each other, but Spice wasn't entirely sure if that trust was warranted.

And he was entirely aware that he was in no position to make a judgement call like that. Lest he be accused of mutiny.

He had seen her give orders and he had followed them and they'd turned out alright- this morning, for example, where he had almost said nothing just to see what she would do before deciding that was unfair of him to do- and he had seen her on the edges of fights but never directly involved in confrontation… It didn't paint a picture that he was exactly happy with. Especially considering she'd come out with injury while no one else sustained any damage whatsoever.

Fragile, he decided. But more like a vase with a solid inside. The outside would chip and break and crack but the insides would either stay packed together firmly or loosely spill outside as a result. It was just a matter of which one she would be.

Spice… had trouble believing, based off of what he'd seen, that Quinn had killed the Mime, even though the rumors and reports he'd gotten from his home island had confirmed it. Of people having seen the Mime stabbed to death and Quinn picking up a knife from the remains, her knife- but, if it was true, as it most likely was, it had him wondering why she claimed no credit or even mentioned it. To her, it seemed as if she was acting as if the Mime had been nothing more than a figment of her imagination. Even though he clearly wasn't.

Still.

There was something to respect in a firm desire to get stronger, one that she was obviously intent on if her beatings from Ace were anything to go by. It was clear she wasn't learning much from that method of teaching other than instincts- someone like her, definitely required more finesse than what Ace could offer.

"She is too awkward for a… proper sword." He says 'proper' eyeing the katana's. He could see in the way she held herself that it would take years upon years for her to even grasp the basics. And he could just imagine her stiffly swinging the sword with no real understanding of what she was doing. She likely didn't even have the muscle capacity at the moment to wield an actual katana for long. "But a tanto may be more up her alley."

Quinn did seem rather attached to her knife actually. It was a small one though, and shouldn't be used for much more than to cut ropes or brutally murdering someone out of desperation- A tanto should at least grant her more options and a bit more range if nothing else.

Though part of Spice didn't hold out much hope for her.

"Well, Kitetsu then?"

Right. The whole point of the deal.

He has to admit, he'd never figured he'd be handling a cursed sword and he pitied the fool that would leave the shop with the sword on his hip eventually. The shop keep definitely didn't want it around if the look on his face was anything to go by.

Spice grasps its handle.

A lesser man would stumble back from the sheer bloodlust permeating the room and it may have just been his imagination but he's pretty sure it had just grown a tad darker. A pause, a second, he eyes the stand that the sword rests on and the deep gouges that cut into it without his intent and scowls.

"A sword should only cut if the one wielding it wills it so." He growls. "Submit."

It was foolish of him to leave the sword out like this.

The amount of people walking by day-in and day-out, it only worsened the damn things attitude, and he wouldn't be surprised if people had been walking away with shallow cuts that they couldn't explain.

A quick motion as something in the sword tempers for just a second and he's sheathed it, unbloodied.

"Bring me a long cloth."

The shop keep scrambles to follow his orders and comes back out with- "Will this do?" It's a dark green satin strip. And with nimble fingers Spice wraps from the middle of the sheath, upwards.

"Pull here and it will unwrap. If you do, keep the cloth with it. Don't want to have the curse taint it and then mix it in with the rest of your stock, that's just bad preparation." The shop keep nods up at him numbly and Spice raises a brow. "Is that all then?"

And when he receives nothing but a flabbergasted expression, he collects his free items and steps out of the shop. Letting a low hiss fall past his lips as he glances down at his forearm where a long shallow cut had appeared. Not enough to even bleed but just enough to sting and likely scab over later.

He sniffed.

"Wonder what Quinn and Kat are up to…"

...

...

"How long will a touch up take?"

"Your looking at an hour, maybe two. Takes that long for the dye to set and then we have to make sure everything came out right- matching colors is harder than just re-dying the whole thing…"

"Match the color."

"Yeah, yeah."

Quinn turns on heel to go sit on a waiting bench where Kat was snuggling his new shark plushie, legs wrapped around it and cheeks puffed out in a pout. "Seriously, I'm sorry about cutting the museum visit short…"

"It's not that. I could've helped you!"

"Yeah, I know, but I didn't want to completely ruin the visit." Quinn slumps back. "And you got the shark here for free! Silver lining."

"It wouldn't have ruined it…"

He pouts.

"I like doing stuff with you guys."

They sit in silence.

Only slightly aware of how comical they look with a giant shark plushie smiling in one of their arms while they both frowned and pointedly didn't look at each other.

"...You gonna name it?"

"...I don't I?"

"I don't see why not."

"What about- Garfield?"

"Like the lasagna cat?"

"What."

"What."

...

...

Probably nothing important.

Spice sighs and pulls out his journal- the one specific to the crews' nutritional needs that he'd taken care to keep out of sight- and the list of supplies he'd made for an extended journey like Quinn had suggested. They already had quite a bit of it but one could never have too much backup food in storage-

Overpreparedness is what saved people trapped on the high seas after all.

Now… where to get the best deals?

-0-

"One last stop? What else do we need?"

Kat follows behind Quinn as she hops between rocks to avoid the puddles beginning to form from the drizzle. His new plushie- belovedly named Lasagna, if only for the sheer ridiculousness- and subsequent new pillow, because there was no doubt in Kat's mind that he was going to spend his nights hugging the shit out of it, shoved over one shoulder and still- still it was close to dragging on the ground. If not the head, then the tail. It was practice in balancing.

"Oh, I just asked at the other shop, if they had them here- cause, apparently, they're not in high enough demand to be in non-commercial islands." Quinn, and Kat really does know where she had gone to even get it, slurps at a cold coffee through a bright green straw. When he shoots her a raised brow, she seems to realize that she's being vague. "Binders. The two you have are obviously not fitted properly and two is not enough in my humble opinion."

She seems to blink, then winces.

"That's… right, yes? I'm not sounding rich here? Having two is good but like- That would mean either washing a lot or wearing one multiple days and that's-"

Kat shakes his head. "No, that doesn't sound rich." And then what she says catches up to him and he beams with a giddiness that's absolutely sunny. "You asked? For me?"

"Yeah. That one you were wearing- back on the Twin Isle's, you know? That was definitely, definitely too small for you. Hurt as you were it was compressing way too much to be normal." Quinn's brow furrows. "At least, I'm pretty sure, I'm not like an expert or anything."

Yeah, he'd known that, but it was nice that someone else was pointing it out.

Had paid attention enough to notice.

The shop is a bit hidden, a back alley building in the shadow of another and they definitely get some disgusted looks but none of that matters- not really. Not as Kat preens under the bored but thoughtful help of Quinn and-

He runs his tongue over his lips. They're a bit chapped and cracked and the action has them stinging a little. "I, uh… I, uh."

"Would have suffered in silence if you hadn't brought it up? Yes, yes I know." Quinn slurps and successfully announces their presence to the clothing store- it's mixed with accessories and wigs and makeup sections as well but there's a section in the back that reads Bras, Bindings, and Binders on an old sign with faded bright colors that has his eye catching and-

They have binders in tie dye.

He completely jumps over the muted colors and skin toned ones. Unaware that it has Quinn shaking her head in amusement. "I may be a hypocrite here, but you should take care of yourself better."

"I mean, you take care of yourself, don't you?"

Quinn's turned away so he really doesn't see the face she makes. Somewhere caught between a grimace and like she'd tasted something sour. "Sure!" She doesn't think her voice cracked there.

"But, uh-" Kat licks his lips instead of biting his tongue, he's a bundle of nerves but he doesn't want to cut off his speech, "Thanks. Really." He's emphatic. Or trying to be, but he's not sure how much comes across and it doesn't help that Quinn shifts and looks away, trying to wave it off. He doesn't think she's really comfortable with the- thanks. "You- Thank you." He says it anyway.

"No problem."

She answers stiffly, awkwardly, and so Kat stops. Because she's clearly not sure what to respond with but, when he does shoot her a smile as he picks through the colorful selections, she smiles back. Before turning to an employee about bracelets that apparently double as one-time emergency flotation devices and collects several with gleaming, triumphant eyes and-

Kat heads into the changing rooms, back to the mirror as he slips on a different binder to try and find the size that suits him. It, thankfully, doesn't take very long and he discovers quickly that he was nearly two sizes off and, wow, no wonder it had started to feel like his ribs were going to break while wearing them. "Ooh, boy-" He only finds the confidence in himself to turn around to face the mirror once he's found one that fits, trying to ignore the churning in his stomach that always seems to come when he can see himself clearly. "Hnm."

Kat- He can't help it. But his hands draw up to his face and his fingers run across the torn about scars dug along his gils. Or help the disgust at the sight of green, green, green and wet shades of non-human skin that has his teeth hanging achingly close to the tip of his tongue.

He only just stops himself from biting down.

Tries to focus on the swirling, clashing patterns of tie dye and colors that shouldn't be mixed outside of psychedelic trips and-

(Kat turns away from the mirror. He's happy. He… really is. But he'd never liked looking at his reflection.)

-Kat knows that he's… cute. He's got a bit of a baby-ish face and no matter how much he works out his shoulders and arms, he still hasn't been able to get them broad enough. Not like Ace and certainly not like Spice. And he distracts himself from thoughts of frustrated jealousy over them and things they can't even control or know that they're, compared to him, lucky to have.

Kat doesn't mind being cute, in fact, most of the time he enjoys it.

But he-

He doesn't like the connotations that come with it.

(The too long eyelashes, the hips, the curve of a jawline-)

And the lack of choice he has.

(-the things that seem to scream he's something that he's not.)

His teeth snatch around his tongue, press down, but don't quite cause him to bleed. Not yet.

Kat likes long hair, likes bright colors and feminine-leaning things but he- he can choose those things for himself, if he wants. It's the things outside of his control- the ones that really catch people's eyes and have them looking twice when they shouldn't- that have his fists clenching and him unable to look and- "How many can I get, Quinn?!" He calls, trying to stomp down the high-pitched tilt of his voice that has him grimacing, and waits for Quinn to reply back.

It takes a second and she's noticeably further away than she was before.

"However many you think you need."

He collects more than he probably should and- he knows he's pushing their budget, probably, and his luck and Quinn's kindness with the amount but it's- it's something he can control when everything seems to be so hard to sometimes and something tells him that he thinks Quinn will be understanding because she has been so far and he- hopes, beyond hope, that she always will be.

She doesn't even seem to notice.

Kat's smile softens and he can't help the flush as he clutches the items to his chest like they're a lifeline.

Doesn't acknowledge the collection as she fiddles with bracelets upon bracelets stacked on her wrists. Red and white stripes, with a small, hidden switch to flip- one time inflatable rings that Quinn had the employee test for her before buying the lot essentially. "I'm gonna have to sneak some of these to Ace," she mutters, "I know he doesn't want anything from this island but these are… awesome for Devil Fruit users. Maybe I can convince him I bought them somewhere else if I hide them?"

"Well, to be fair, I'll be there to catch you both if you ever fall in!"

She laughs, "Oh, I know that, Kat." And the confidence in him has his head ducking and his cheeks flaming because she says it without a single doubt in her mind. "But what if we're without you? You can't be everywhere at once." She opens the door for him as he stalks out the shop. "Let's head back. I'm sure Ace misses his crown."

-0-

Ace lays back, eyes closed, and lets the rain drip over him without a care to even acknowledge it. There's a flicker of flames here and there, a warmth of red and glowing, before it sputters out at his command instead of weakening to the falling droplets. Quinn was right, he was definitely building up a degree of immunity to the weather, because the more he waited for something to hit, the more he started to feel it sizzle and disappear just as it made contact. Not even leaving a mark and not staying long enough that, if someone took a shot at him, that it would leave anything behind but intangible fire.

He doesn't know how to describe it in a way that makes sense, but Ace feels like a pan above fire. Like he's slowly sizzling flames and heated metal and whatever touches him- whatever goes in the pan- is just waiting to be cooked in response. Theoretically, he thinks he's going to be able to produce enough heat that the rain won't even touch him anymore, that water will evaporate before it even gets close, and he can definitely see himself already building up to it.

Oh, Ace can throw it around all he wants, could probably burn the entire island down if he really wanted to, but he's smart enough to realize that all that meant nothing if he didn't have control. A finite handle on details because, truth be told, Ace wouldn't- couldn't- describe his current powers as being "battle-ready".

(Garp would have beat his ass after laughing at him if he even thought for a moment that he was anything but a, now literal, hothead.)

Still. The power is… incredible.

"-head over to the scaffold that they executed-"

"-heard it's quite the sight to behold! Wish I was there to-"

But it doesn't help the churning in the pit of his stomach.

His scowl stretches further across his face and his brows twitch downward into angry lines.

There was one thing he learned from coming to this damned island though. That his fruit powers were somewhat connected to his emotions-

Because he'd never been able to get his flames this hot before and he's absolutely fuckin' pissed beyond belief right now. More than he has been in a good while.

He wants to punch something.

Someone.

"-oh, just imagine it on the day itself, the Pirate King's death must've been a sight to behold! It would've been such a triumph for the Marines if that monster of a man hadn't ruined the world with his talk of treasure."

Ace wants to burn this island to the ground.

He doesn't.

Instead, he snaps his eyes open, sits up, and tosses an arm over a knee, glaring once at the land laid before him before looking out to sea with a more… neutral expression. Though anyone that knew him could see the sourness in it.

A part of him wonders why Quinn had stolen his hat, 'cause he wouldn't mind tugging the brim down to cover his face and it's almost uncomfortable without its familiar weight, frankly it feels like he's forgetting something, and, on more than one occasion, he's caught his hands going up to grab it before realizing it's gone and running a frustrated hand through his hair. The water that manages to hang around long enough on his super-heated skin gets into his eyes and certainly doesn't help matters. There's another part of him that straight up doesn't care and another that's just so pent up with raw anger, frustration, and that bothersome itch that this island is giving him in the back of his head that's driving him so far up the wall that he can't even think straight on anything anymore.

He doesn't like this place.

In fact, he hates it.

He'd never planned to stop here. In fact, if it wasn't for Quinn's assistance and her assurance that it was a necessary stop to being able to access the Grand Line, at least to her knowledge, then he would've been more than content to straight up ignore it.

Even now. Something in him is wondering if the Grand Line is even worth it, but that one receives a scoff and another pointed- glaring- glance towards the island. Towards Loguetown.

"Tch."

Ace isn't good enough at his own emotions to pinpoint exactly what he's feeling.

Never has been.

Probably never will be. Grasping them is one thing, understanding is another.

Which is why it's getting to be so hard not to lash out. Because, for a long time, to the point where it's become all but ingrained, strong emotions swirling in his gut and building frustration only lead to him throwing hands or destroying something and it'd never been a habit he was hard pressed to break either. Almost encouraged, actually, if he was being honest.

But there's nothing to break, nothing to distract, and Ace just wants to leave and never look back on this place again.

Ironically, if it wasn't for his glower and the almost tangible aura he was giving off, it was very likely that Ace would've gotten his wish for a distraction. There were all sorts of pirates, petty criminals, and gangs on the edges of Loguetown that a ship with only one man left to guard it was bound to get jumped. Smoker had only been around for so long and he hadn't managed to clean up the city as much as he would've liked just yet- much too busy also kicking his Marines into proper shape.

(This is also what keeps a certain Bartolomeo from taking an interest. Because he was an experienced man and he knew when to not mess with someone out of his league.)

(Ace is scary.)

Loguetown is a place that feels like it's stuck in time. It feels like a frozen moment that's lingering in the back of his head, screaming at him, a thought of what could've been and what ended. A bygone era where he didn't matter because he didn't exist and then, all of a sudden, it was as if he was the only thing that mattered in the world. A remnant of something long gone and something wanted gone.

And it's a knowledge that only he is privy to.

Because this is an island where the world once stood still watching and listening and Ace- Ace hates it. It's a conflicting feeling because part of him curls in a cruel triumph over the death of that man but another, traitorous, part whispers and urges him to take a step onto the cobbled roads. To see that scaffolding, that execution platform, that place where disgusting blood so similar to his own spilled over the pavement and spelled doom and stories of grandeur long faded. And wonders if there would be any relief in the sight. Any sadness. Any anger. Any joy. He doesn't want to entertain that part of himself.

Ace is…

Ace is just tired.

He's exhausted, really.

There's a pitter of water and he flinches at a sudden burst of flames and quickly pats it down. He's sat on the railing of the ship now- dangerously close to a watery grave, especially if his narcolepsy hit, and something in him laughs and challenges it, dares it to see him fall; it sits uneasy in the pit of his stomach and tastes like bitter burning in the back of his constricting throat before he swallows and blinks and refuses to even bring himself to care- he doesn't remember moving, but he dangles a foot into the sea, shoes kicked off behind him. Just below where the sea would begin to sap at his energy and begin its tug into the depths. It's funny. That he would love the sea like he did and now knows that it would spell his doom if he should ever step into it- he'd always been vaguely fascinated by Luffy's own love for the ocean and had wondered how he could still love it when it could be so… pointedly cruel to him. That it would specifically go out of his way to drown him.

Ace gets it now though. It… wouldn't be the worst place to die.

A sick part of him hopes that it will kill him- that he will fall to its depths and watch the beauty of the world fade into nothing but the darkness he deserves and he would go silently, secretly, with none the wiser to the blood that runs through his veins and no one to notice.

Even now, he sits and wonders if anyone knows.

If anyone behind him who had seen the Pirate King and seen his blood spill, would notice the similarities. Would see his hair, his jaw, the shape of his eyes and nose, and recognize him for who he was. A demon, a monster hiding among the general populace. Undeserving of life.

(Ace had never really understood people who had wanted to live forever. It was… He was almost disgusted by the notion.

When someone like him, who didn't deserve a single day, got to steal and enjoy one- then another, and another- he couldn't imagine it. Living forever. When people like Sabo who had been taken too early didn't get the days that he did… He felt like a fraud. Like a joke. And he was just waiting for the day where he would see it end.

If it was possible to trade, Ace would in an instant. He'd trade every single one of his days, moments with Luffy, with his crew, for Sabo to have them instead.)

It's where his thoughts drift and he can't help it, even if he wants to, wants to stomp down the sick feeling that keeps popping up and making him want to scream, because there is something disgustingly cruel about the world that it would give him a chance to breathe his first breath. That his mother would love him against the world and something in him sobs at the thought of the life he'd sucked from her- the life he'd taken- and the disgust she must have felt when she had held him. Realizing the mistake she'd made and too late to take it back.

(It was a story that Garp had shared with him when he had first asked about his parents and one that had always stuck with Ace. It was one that he couldn't help but think about late into the night. One that makes him love her, love his mother and all that she did for him, and hate himself for all he greedily stole from her.

He doesn't deserve to share her name, he knows.

But Ace is nothing if not selfish. Disgustingly selfish and greedy and horrible. It's in his blood after all.)

Loguetown was drawing up reminders that he doesn't need- because he knows, god, does he know already- and he just feels so-

There's a feeling of dread. And his heart beats in his ears, throbbing and erratic pounding that feels like it causes his whole body to shake with the sheer force behind it, but he can't hear it. It feels like there's something simultaneously muffling it and he wonders if he really did fall into the water 'cause it feels like he's drowning and-

"Ace?"

The feeling turns to ice in his stomach and he freezes.

"You're… awfully close to the edge there," Quinn says, and either she's saying it softly or he's still muffled behind that barrier, "and without supervision." There's an edge to her words. And he turns even icier in response to it.

Because- she knows! She knows! She knows!

Knows what? He's not exactly sure.

But his heart stutters in his chest and he feels like he'd been caught. Caught doing something he'd never wanted another to find out and- he registers her hand sliding from the top of his head, where she had first placed it, and drags through his hair before finding the base of his neck and- He flinches as her fingers pinch and his shoulders instinctually go up to try and shove her off and he whips around to- Quinn's hands drag him from the railing until he's standing back on deck. And he's making excuses for something but can't quite compute for what, or why, "I wasn't doing anything! I was just sitting and- and-"

"I know that."

She says quietly. Softly.

(Quinn almost asks: "Do you?" But bites her lip to stop herself.)

And he looks up at her searchingly- (Huh. Has he gotten taller? Because he thinks they're the same height now.) -and sees something hard in her gaze that has him flinching back a step. But then her gaze flickers and the subject changes and it has his stomach unclenching and the ice slowly beginning to melt, even if she says it softer than she should. Almost like speaking to a deer. Like she half expects him to run off if she speaks too quickly or says the wrong thing and Ace… can't exactly deny that assumption. "Kat and I just got back. He's putting his stuff away. We got clothes, a Log Pose, some navigation supplies." She lists simply and the ice melts further. "And I brought your hat back. Better than it was. You mentioned you wanted to get the faded parts dyed, right?"

He blinks, slowly. "Yeah. You- You suggested it, remember?"

"'Course."

She pulls his hat from her head and places it in his awaiting hands that he hadn't even realized he'd held up. It's almost a struggle to pull his gaze away from her as he looks down to see the fixed areas and he's vaguely aware of Quinn turning on heel and walking away, giving him space.

He doesn't know how long he ends up standing there, running his hands over his hat and the fabric and thread that makes it up. A lot of things had changed, for the better, and he can't help the small quirk of his lips.

There's a shout- "Hey, if you all are done being lazy, I have groceries for you to bring up!" -and Spice hops onto the ship with a large cart of bags dragged behind him.

"Comin', comin'!"

Ace smirks. (And shoves, shoves, shoves down his disgust and second-thoughts and hatred to be ignored for later. He doesn't want it right now. Doesn't need it and definitely doesn't want Quinn to see anymore than she already had.) "Hey, hey, what'dya get? It's almost time for dinner-"

"-of course, that's where your head goes first." Spice flicks him on the forehead. "You said you like spicy foods, huh? I'll see what I can do."

Kat groaned. "Not too spicy. You guys are crazy with that!"

"Nah, you just can't handle flavor."