I sigh as I stir the pot of soup I am making for Luffy. With our childish, yet skilled, Captain sick, the ship was so much quieter. Never thought I would miss Luffy's constant requests for food or Skye's intense training. Skye...I frown as I think of our vampire scout. Ever since we had safely left Little Garden with the giant's help, Skye has been different...no it was actually sometime after Luffy had collapsed. I think back over the past couple of days.

Skye had stayed inside the ship even as the giants had helped us by defeating the Island Eater, but had rushed out when Luffy had collapsed with a high fever a little while later. Though snappier than usual, she had been pretty normal giving us orders and directing us on how to help. After Skye had found the source of Luffy's fever and we had done all that we could, everyone had settled for the night, with her watching over Luffy.

I nod to myself as I realize that was when she changed. When I had walked into the women's cabin, where we had settled Luffy, she had been colder and distant. She softened for a moment when she had looked at Luffy, but then shifted back. After giving me a few instructions, she had left and as far as I know, she hasn't returned to that room.

Earlier today we had run into a pirate ship that could go underwater. Skye didn't bother waiting for an introduction, she rushed onto the other ship and blasted a man off the ship with a geyser of Water. I can only presume that he was the captain as the other pirates quickly left us alone to go after him.

"I wonder if he survived. With the distance the guy was sent flying, Skye hit him with a lot of power," I mutter as I check my soup.

"He's most likely alive. Until I see a body, I always presume they're still alive."

I jump at Skye's unexpected comment, nearly knocking over the pot. I quickly recover and turn around to face her , clearing my throat as her statement sinks in. "That's an interesting policy."

She shrugs, face blank, mask over her mouth, and her hat pulled low, shadowing her eyes. "Better that way. You're not surprised when they appear once more."

I nod in agreement. "Makes sense. So...why are you here?" She has been keeping herself pretty much separate from everyone, so it was surprising to see her in the lounge.

She tilted her head, studying me. After a long few minutes she finally speaks, "Stop watching me. I can feel it every time you do and it's annoying." Even though she said it was annoying, her voice remained even and precise. Not a hint of emotion in her words or eyes.

It's now my turn to study her. She meets my gaze without any reaction. "This is why I've been watching you. Just a couple of days ago, you would have given me a scowl or smirk. Now you're just...blank. You're also constantly wearing that mask."

She doesn't say anything. After a few seconds she turns around and heads to the door. She puts her hand on the doorknob, but doesn't open the door. "I need the mask. I've been working more with my elements and it's draining me. The snow has been making your heartbeats faster and it's made me restless."

Before she could open the door and leave, I ask her, "Is that why you've been so cold to us, Skye? "

For the first time in awhile I see a reaction. She flinched at her name.

She's silent for a long minute that felt like hours. "No." With that one word she opens the door and leaves.

I feel a pang in my heart at her answer. What is it then? What changed in just a matter of hours? I turn back around to the stove and stir the soup. I hope we reach the next island soon and get Luffy healed. I think he's the only one who can get an answer out of Skye and get her back to normal.

Luffy POV

Heat and pain. That's all I can feel right now. I never thought a day would come where I didn't want to eat or fight. Yet, here is that day. Or couple of days.

I do my best not to curl up in a ball and slowly sit up as Vivi walks into the room with a bowl of broth. I try my best to smile at her, but I think I fail as she just looks at me, worried.

I look at the bowl she sets down. There isn't a lot of broth, but it still seems like so much. Vivi slowly feeds me spoonfuls, but I can only finish barely half the bowl.

Vivi sits back in her chair. "Well, that was more than earlier."

I start to lean back and she quickly fixes the pillows, so that I'm propped up. " How is everyone? " More specifically, how's Skye?

Vivi thinks for a minute. "Everyone is worried about you, of course, but seems to be carrying on like normal." She looks at me, confused. "I couldn't help noticing that everyone is looking at Skye with worry. She seems normal to me."

I frown as the change I had sensed, even with my fever, was starting to be confirmed. "She's separated herself from the others, hasn't she?"

Vivi looks at me in surprise. "Yes, how did you know?"

I give a tired wave of my hand, not wanting to explain. "Eh, too long to explain." I want to ask her more, but my eyes keep closing and I just feel like sleeping.

"I'll come back later. You need to rest. We're almost to the island. It was barely spotted when I came down here." Vivi tells me as she stands from her chair.

I nod in agreement, my eyes closing. As I fall asleep though, I can only think of Skye. I need to get better soon, then I can learn why you are trying to close the heart that I worked so hard to open.

I wake up as I feel a sense of urgency. Have to get on deck. I get out of the bed and collapse on the floor. Shaking as I stand up, I lean on the bed. Looking around, I see one of my shirts on a table. I slowly stumble to the table, the sense of urgency getting stronger. I grab the shirt and quickly put it on.

Seeing my boots near the ladder, I go to them and shove my feet in them. Weakly grasping the sides of the ladder, I climb up. Reaching the storage room, I lay on the floor. Have to get outside. Can't let whatever, happen. I force myself to get up and head to the door.

Leaning heavily against it, I turn the doorknob. It swings open and I fall onto the deck. Not my best idea. My haki kicks in and I can sense it. A bullet heading straight towards me. I close my eyes, waiting, knowing I have no strength to move. I used it all to get up here.

After a minute or so, when nothing happens, I open my eyes to see Skye kneeling down next to me and glaring at me. "Idiot. Care to explain why you are here, when you should be in bed?" She puts a hand on my chest and I feel a warmth surrounding me.

It was different than the heat from my fever, more comforting. I look at Skye's eyes. Even though she wouldn't look at me and they're mostly shadowed by her hat, I could see they're a storm of emotion. The most notable ones I could see and sense, are rage and guilt.

I reach up and gently push the brim of her hat up, so that her eyes could be seen clearly. The urgency is gone and I know it was somehow connected to Skye. "You were about to do something that I know you'd regret later."

Her eyes close and she takes a deep breath before she whispers. "Something was said, that brought me back to 8 years ago. 'He should just die. Pirates, and anyone associated with them, should all be gone.' Replace pirates with vampires and you almost have exactly the words of the one who killed my uncle. Didn't help that you remind me of my uncle."

I place my hand over her hand that was still on my chest. I didn't say anything, just gave it a squeeze as best as I could. Her eyes opened and met mine, and I gave her a smile, wanting her to know I am still here.

A shaky sigh and then she pulls her hand from mine. She waves her hand in a 'come here ' motion and Zoro is soon by my side, helping me sit up. He gives me his jacket as I was starting to shiver without Skye supplying her Fire.

I lean against Zoro and fall asleep.

I wake up to Skye tying me to Sanji's back. "What are we doing?"

Sanji answers and I could hear frustration. "We're climbing a mountain, while you have a fever, and it's snowing."

i let out a weak laugh. "Shishishi. Sounds fun."

Skye speaks as she finishes tying the knots. "We're in luck. The doctor we're going to is over a hundred years old. Of anyone, she seems like the best, considering where you got that tick bite." She carefully slides her mask onto my face. After she secures it, I hear a click and everything goes darker like wearing sunglasses. "There. That will protect your face from the increased wind when we use Soru."

"That's great." I mumble as sleep overtakes me again.

Skye POV

I frown as I feel the heat coming from Luffy. "His fever is starting to rise. We need to hurry. Getting to the mountain will be easy. Climbing it? Not so much."

It'd be easier if I had learned Geppo by now." Sanji comments.

I shrug. "Perhaps. We both know Soru though. That's enough for now." I double check everything and then turn to the others, except Zoro, he was watching the ship. Deciding not to say anything I turn to the door.

As we left my eyes met Dalton's. While I was still wary of him, after the welcome we received, I could tell he was a good leader. He is still on edge around me, though. Probably because his devil fruit enabled him to sense the hunter in me. While he wasn't weak enough to be prey normally, a vampire exceeds many predators.

I nod to him, and we leave his home. Sanji and I quickly walk to the edge of the village. Reaching it, Sanji nods to me and speeds off with me quickly following. I vaguely sense the animals Dalton warned us about, but we quickly pass them.

We reach the base of the will and stare up.

"Can't even see the top." Sanji comments.

I swear, as I realize my original plan wasn't going to work. It was a sheer cliff, I had been hoping there would be a small incline. "I had hoped I could use Air to get us up in one go. Would've been draining, but doable. Now though, with the strength of that wind and it's direction, looks like we are going to climb."

"You got equipment for that?" Sanji asks, unconvinced .

I pull out a gauntlet from my Shadow storage. "There is a reason I've been using my elements more. I had hoped to make a gauntlet like I used to use that had a grappling hook. Air and Geppo make it useless, but it's good for when I'm tired or want to hide my skills."

"I am sensing a 'but'," Sanji comments .

"Right now, it's a work in progress. The cord is shorter than I'd like and it won't hold 3 people. Plus, I have to reattach a new hook each time and fire it pushing the button with my other hand." I grab Sanji's arm and put the gauntlet on. He opens his mouth ask say something, but I cut him off. "Shut up. I need to concentrate to get this to fit you properly. Wouldn't do to have it snap or slip off while climbing." I soon finish making the adjustments and step back.

"What about you?" Sanji asks.

"Taking 3 people up using Air? No way. Myself? Easy." I instruct him on how to use the gauntlet and step back as he fires it up the mountain where I told him to. "Jump and tug to pull yourself up." He does as I say and I quickly follow. Jumping in place to keep Geppo going, I couldn't resist smirking at him. "Not bad. You didn't slam into the mountain."

"Shut up. Now how do I re-fire this thing without falling off the mountain?" Sanji grits out through clenched teeth.

I carefully form a platform under his feet from the mountain, then tell him to press the release button. He does as I say, and land on the platform next to him and motion to his arm. He holds it up and I attach a new hook. "So tedious. Better than what I first made though," I mutter as I work.

We do this again a few more times, till we reach near the top. Once there, I carry us the rest of the way using Air as the distance is short and the wind is weaker.

"Well we made it." Sanji starts walking to the castle Dalton told us about.

I follow him. "Yeah, except no one is here."

Sanji whirled around and looks at me in alarm. "What?! Are you sure?"

I give him a blank look that screamed 'what do you think?' and walk past him.

He coughs embarrassed. "Right. Sorry."

"Figures, we choose the time she's not here to arrive." We enter the castle. "Stay here. No use wandering around. I'll find the main area the doctor works." I tell Sanji.

He nods in agreement and I rush around the place. Opening and closing doors. I caught a whiff of ashes, and rushed in that direction, ignoring other doors. Reaching the source, I find a room with bookshelves and beds and a fireplace with banked ashes. Glancing in other rooms nearby confirmed that I'd found the right area.

After getting Sanji, I started browsing the shelves of books, looking for one that might hold a cure. Sanji settles Luffy on the bed, removing the mask, his coat, shirt and boots.

"Shouldn't we wait for the doctor to return?" asks Sanji.

I shrug. "Maybe. I can at least try to find out what it is before she comes back, though. That way she doesn't have to diagnose him as well as treat him."

Sanji walks up next to me and starts scanning the titles handing me my mask. "You've softened. You're actually talking to me."

I freeze, then sigh. "I guess so." I think back on the past few days. After seeing Luffy ill and that I couldn't treat him, I realized how much I cared for him. The boy who has an impossible dream, and can still pull people into his crew that had their own dreams. The one who welcomed me with a grin, despite everything I have done and my diet. The one who reminded me so much of my uncle, in that he cares for me no matter what.

Seeing those similarities, it being the anniversary of my uncle's death, and realizing the level of care I have for him brought me straight back to reality and out of the dream I had been living.

I lose everything I care for. My parents. My siblings. My best friend. My uncle who was more like a dad. The little girl who gave me a name when I no longer had one.

I want to believe this world would be different, but I really doubt that it will be. I turn and look at Luffy, who was sleeping fitfully, his fever starting to rise. One way or another, I'm going to lose him. I turn my head and look at Sanji. All of you.

Feeling my heart clench painfully, I bring my hand up and rub my chest over my heart, even though I know it won't help. With a scoff at myself, I look back at the book I had been scanning and realize I had turned to the correct page.

"Kestia." I read.

"What?" Sanji asks.

"Kestia. I found the ancient tick. Apparently, it'll burrow under the skin and go dormant, releasing bacteria in the host." I scanned the list of symptoms. "Summed up, the person is in pain and has a rising fever for five days, then dies."

"Wonderful. So, if we hadn't stopped, Luffy could've died?"

I shrug as I read more. "Maybe. Since I removed the source, he only had to fight a small amount of bacteria...he may have fought it off eventually. Who knows how long that would've taken, though."

Sanji hums in agreement. "Does it list a cure?"

"Yes. Some things I have never heard of, but I can gather the ingredients from the doctor's supplies, if they don't already have a prepared antidote. Which I doubt they do."

"Alright, what do I do?"

I pull out a packet of preserved meat from my storage. "Prepare some soup with this. Luffy adores meat, but I've noticed that it helps him heal faster. Mostly broth, but keep some of the meat in."

He takes the packet. "Okay, and how about vegetables?"

"Whatever the doctor has around. No rotting stuff." I glare at him. He shrugs and gives me a unrepentant smile while agreeing. He goes to make the food and I call out, "Thank you, Sanji. I really appreciate it."

He starts doing his noodle dance of happiness. "You're welcome, Milady!"

I smile for a moment. It fades away when I look at Luffy. How much longer? How long till I lose you all? Till I lose you?

Taking a shaky breath, I push those thoughts away and head to the doctor's storage space. Seeing all the jars of herbs and medical stuff, I quickly go through them and grab the ingredients for the antidote.

I am done pretty quickly, so after stopping in the kitchen to get my gauntlet from Sanji, with a lot of protest from him, I settle against a wall near Luffy's the gauntlet on, I first readjust it to fit my arm. I had finally learned how to forge. While it isn't perfect, some things still break, I am getting there.

Closing my eyes, I focus on the gauntlet and imagine certain spots shrinking or expanding, depending on the areas I want to change. Much like my ice crystals, the things I make with my elements are extensions of me. While this gauntlet wouldn't be a constant connection like the crystals or my Shadow storage, it was still basically a part of me.

When I am satisfied with the fit, I begin focusing on the cord, extending it. Made with an alloy that is light, but strong, it was thin so that I could have a longer length and not have to enlarge the compartment that held the cords spool.

My attention turns from the cord to Luffy as he begins mumbling. Realizing he was just dreaming, I go back to my work. After a while I am satisfied with the length and attach the hook to the end.

After making sure it's ready to fire, I stand up. Seems like a good time to test this out and make adjustments. I walk to Luffy's bed to check on him.

He is still dreaming, his face twisted in pain. "Ace...Sabo...where are you? Skye, come back. Where are you?"

I freeze as he mentions my name. Why...why did you mention me? Just moments after your brothers, too.

Before I could do anything more than think that, I sense a presence rushing to where we are. It was a curious mixture of animal and human. A...deer? No...that isn't quite right. Interesting, a perfect mixture of human and animal aura. Far more melded than even Dalton with his Devil Fruit. A mutant? I shift into a defensive position, ready to attack if needed.

A large humanoid animal bursts through the doorway. He stares at me and I stare back. I scan him with my eyes, from his antlers poking through a pink hat with a white X, to his blue nose, to his red shorts, and finally to his feet that are shaped like cloven hooves.

"What in the world are you?" I couldn't help asking.

He jumps. "I should be asking the questions! You aren't supposed to be here!"

His voice was higher pitched than I thought it would be. Even though he was huge, all I could hear and sense, is that this was a child. I relax from my stance and tilt my head, staring at him. "Perhaps, but we need a doctor and she lives here." I wave my hand, indicating the room we are in, then point to Luffy. "His fever is rising."

He gives me a wary look, but inches out of the room and calls out, "Doctorine! You have a patient." He looks back at me. "Do you know what caused his fever?"

i nod. "A bite from a tick. I looked through your books and found out it was a Kestia."

His eyes widened. "We need to get the tick out. If it-"

I hold up a hand, making him stop talking. "I already removed it, but the bacteria is still in his system. We were able to get the fever to stay at a steady level, but it's risen since we had to climb a mountain in the freezing wind and snow."

"Good to know," an older woman says as she walks in. She walks to Luffy and places a finger on his forehead. After mumbling his temperature she turns to the creature. "Chopper, go prepare the antidote."

'Chopper' nods and heads to the supply room.

I call out to him, "I already gathered the ingredients. They are on a table in there."

He looks at at me in surprise. "I see. I'll be able to prepare it faster."

I shrug. "That was the idea."

He leaves and I turn my head and stare at the doctor. Based on her clothes, you would never guess she was a doctor. Even without stereotyping, she didn't indicate 'doctor'.

"What? Are you wondering what the secret is to how I stay so young?" She grins at me before walking over to a nearby table and grabbing a bottle of some sort of drink. She takes a gulp then looks at me. "I'm not telling."

I shrug. "Fine with me. I don't care. I am wondering about Chopper, though."

"Ah yes, he's just a blue-nosed reindeer."

I look at her, skeptical. "A blue-nosed reindeer who is the perfect blend of human and animal."

She sighs. "He ate the Human-Human Fruit. He's a reindeer who gained the humans' abilities. I taught him everything I know about medicine."

I could detect a hint of pride in her eyes for Chopper. "We need a doctor on our ship," I tell her.

"I'm not interested in the sea. A ship...are you pirates?"

I hear Chopper whisper the word pirates in a longing tone. I look at the doorway even though I couldn't see him. "I wasn't thinking of you when I was thinking of a doctor, and yes we are pirates." I point at Luffy, "This one wants to be king of them all."

"King of the Pirates, eh? A foolish dream and you want to take Chopper with you." She takes another gulp from her drink.

"If he's as skilled as you say, then he'd be a good addition to the crew, if he's willing to come."

Doctorine stares at me. "If you can get him to agree."

I stare back then shrug. "Is that so? Well, Luffy can be pretty convincing."

Sanji walks in with a pot of soup at the same time Chopper walks in holding a jar of something. I couldn't help staring at him.

"Stop staring at me, human!" Chopper yells at me.

"I can't help it. You shrunk and well, you are adorable," I tell him.

Chopper does Sanji's noodle dance, smiling and blushing. "Shut up! That doesn't make me happy at all!"

I chuckle. "If you say so." I look at Sanji. "If you need me, I'll be outside. Need to test the gauntlet."

Sanji nods and I walk out of the room and eventually the castle. For the next hour or so, I do tests. Adjusting it so the line fires correctly and with proper power to embed into a surface. After writing down some notes in a booklet I keep in my satchel, I reenter the castle.

I enter the room I had left everyone and see Luffy sleeping. After studying him for a minute or so, I could see that his fever has broken and is going down. I let out a sigh of relief. I knew that would be the case, but there was still a part of me that was doubtful.

I look around the room and see that no one else is here. Using haki I scan the castle and sense Sanji wandering around the castle, Chopper not far behind. Doctorine is in a room nearby.

Not feeling like going to any of them, I walk to the bookshelves and scan the titles. Taking one that was about blood, I sit in a windowsill, near Luffy's bed, leaning against the cold glass.

I barely start reading when I look up to see Chopper walk into the room with a frown on his face. He looks around the room, and then stares at me. "Are you human?"

I smirk. "I think you know the answer to that." At my answer, he hides himself behind a doorway or at least tries to. "You're doing it wrong."

He slowly moves so that he's hiding correctly. "How are you up and about? Your heartbeat is so slow you should be dizzy or fainting."

"I should also be dead, considering I have had this for years." I tell him. I close my book and contemplate taking it with me when we leave. Hmm...I think I will. I need to restart my research. I turn and mimic putting the book on the windowsill, but actually put it into my storage. I turn back to Chopper. "Why the sudden question?"

"Your captain offered me a chance to join your crew and be his friend and a pirate. He said other things as well. I refused, because I'm a monster. Then he said, 'Cool, Skye is one too!' What does he mean?"

I walk to him. When I am close I kneel down, one knee on the floor. For a long moment I look into his eyes, then close mine. Taking a breath, I focus on my thirst, letting the ever present need that I push back, come to the forefront. I open my eyes and look at Chopper, "Of the two of us, there is only one monster and it isn't you."

"You're eyes are now gold," he stares at me, and I can sense his fear. "and you now have fangs. A-a..vampire. You're a v-vamp-pire. The slow heartbeat, pale skin, and fangs. Don't drink my blood!"

I reach out and tap the brim of his hat. "Don't worry. It's my policy to never drink directly from someone or from kids." I stand up, taking deep breaths, trying to calm down the thirst. Hmm...how annoying...I will have to replenish sooner than I thought.

"I-if he can accept you...can I really go with you and become a pirate?"

I open my eyes and smile at the hopeful look in his eyes. "Luffy is an idiot who runs headfirst into danger, but he cares for his crew. We could use a doctor like you. Better than me draining my energy healing every injury the foolish men on our ship get."

" Oi. Moss-head and Luffy are the only foolish men on our ship. I am not like them. " I turn around to see Sanji standing in the other doorway in the room.

I shrug. "Maybe, maybe not. We haven't gotten into a situation where you really had to fight yet. We'll see then."

Sanji opens his mouth to protest or something, but I hold up a hand, silencing him.

"There is a vaguely familiar and annoying presence heading our way, up the mountain with two others." I tell him and Chopper.

The two run outside, and I follow. We all gather at the edge of the cliff to see a rope connected to the mountain and a carriage on the rope slowly approaching.

I focus on the auras of the passenger and realize, "Hey, that's the guy who had the underwater ship and the one I blasted. He's got two annoying subordinates with him."

"Why are they annoying?" asks Sanji.

I shrug. "Don't know, it's just a feeling I have." I jump and using Geppo, I see where the line is connected to the mountain. "You know, I could save us the trouble and just cut the line." I tell the pair as I land next to them.

"No. I don't know why, but let them come."

I look at Chopper in surprise, then nod. "If that is what you want, it's your home." I walk closer to the castle, If you need me, call for me. I'll be leaning there against the wall meditating. "

I had been so busy developing the gauntlet and avoiding everyone, I hadn't meditated for a while. As I let the world fall away, all I hope is that I'll finally have some answers to the questions swirling around in my head and heart.

So here it finally is. I apologize if it's terrible. My life has become a mess with health issues in my family and writing has been difficult...*sigh* oh well. Thanks for sticking with me.

To the guest who wrote me such a wonderful review: Thank you so much. I'm so glad you are enjoying my story and my OC. Thank you for taking the time to write a review even though it must have been difficult. Don't push yourself too much, just take one step at a time, sometimes a step back, but always pushing forward afterward.