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lost in the northern lights

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It was a rainy night, large droplets hitting the deck with dull thuds, clouds making it impossible to see the moon and stars.

It was the kind of night that Luffy hated.

He would sit on his "special seat" and lean back, searching for even the smallest glimmer within the darkness. He would lay like that for hours; on more than one occasion he'd lay until the sun began rising, and only then move to the kitchen, where he'd be met by a warmed towel and a mug of hot chocolate.

No one could get him to explain what he would be doing during those nights – he'd simply shrug it off and give a grin that didn't quite reach his eyes.

It hurt his crew; he knew that, but he wasn't one to push his more painful feelings into the open for them to see. He needed to be strong for them. How could he be strong if his nakama knew how weak he really was?

Thunder rumbled in the distance and he was pulled from his thoughts, a fat drop hitting him in between his eyes.

Wincing, he pulled his arms up, covering his eyes. He swallowed, adam's apple bobbing, and took a shaky inhale before slowly pulling his arms away and glanced around the dreary night sky.

He hated nights like these.

He hated feeling so detached from Ace.

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We'd race each other through the park until midnight, dew covering our bare feet as the stars twinkled above our heads in the humid summer heat.

We'd hide from the storms with arms around each other, love and heat between our bodies, thunder dulled by our heartbeats.

We'd watch as birds flew through chilled autumn air, laughing as they seemed to follow the same paths one after another.

We'd travel through graveyards with light snow falling all around us, breath billowing in little clouds before our faces, trying to see how much romance we could find after death.

We'd sleep under icicles as they hung precariously from the edges of the roof, cuddled in tight bundles as the biting winter air ripped into our lungs, making us wish we had a home to return to.

Now, in the gentle spring breezes you lay with a pale face and misty eyes, rough breaths interrupting soft, gasping words that fall from your lips like the tears that fall from my eyes, blurring the black of your hair into the gentle gold of your hat and red of the ribbon.

Now, you simply laugh at them, saying with such determination that no dying man should have, "I'll wait for you in the graveyard," with your pale hand weakly ruffling my faded green hair, the dye from a dare months before still clinging just as you were to life, before it fell into my own.

You were gone, but the memories still remained.

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It started back when he was just a kid, living wild with his brothers.

It started when they fought about dumb things, leaving a hollow feeling in his chest when they'd storm off in a rage.

It's clung to him like a parasite through all those years, feeding off of his fears and growing ever larger, barely being held back under a finely crafted wall.

Before the war, he would only slip up every once in a while, but after?

After, he learned that it was much easier to let it out before it could grow into something that led to his crew being hurt, but only ever in the confines of his own quarters, away from those who looked to him for strength.

It was a rough day – they'd ran into some assholes pirates who'd made some quips about his failure at Marineford. Who rubbed his worst memory in his face as if it were nothing. Who made his mind drift back to his blood covered hands, the gasping words leaving his brother, though they were warped by the nothingness in his chest and the devastation in his heart, the hurricane of his mind and the dull ache of his hands, permanently scarred from countless fights.

He'd taken them down by himself. No one objected.

He'd excused himself to bed before he'd had dinner.

No one argued.

Once he made it to the safety of his quarters, his mask broke, tears streaming down his cheeks as he clutched his chest with one hand and his hair with the other.

Ugly thoughts whispered to him from the depths of his mind, saying how he was useless, a disappointment. How he wasn't fit to be the captain of such a loyal crew. How he was too weak to do anything right. How he should never have been born.

In such moments as these, he believed them. In such moments as these, he was a crybaby child again, alone and desperate for the emptiness to go away.

In such moments as these, he wanted nothing more than to switch places with his brother six feet under the ground.

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It was late morning, that time between breakfast and lunch that everyone tried to fill with lazy dozing and small tasks, when Marine ships flanked either side of the Sunny, immediately launching an attack on the supposedly unprepared pirates.

Well, their information was wrong, as they were beaten fairly quickly; the pirate's deck and crew only showed a little wear, a few scrapes here, a few scratches there.

Nami and Luffy were behind the tangerine trees in the "Usopp Garden", celebrating a combined takedown of a dozen or so officers, when the captain noticed a glint of sunlight on steel within the leaves. Without thinking, he shoved her roughly to the side just as the gun fired, expecting to just be able to deflect it off in the opposite direction.

He certainly didn't expect the searing pain that ripped through the left side of his ribcage, or the tearing of his skin as another hit him in the stomach.

Nami screamed as he fell backwards, scrambling towards him as he threw a punch to knock the shooter out – he really hoped Nami wouldn't be too mad for him hitting branches and such, because he didn't really have any other options.

As his back hit the wood, he could only roll to his side and whimper, breathing heavily as it seemed like his energy was being sapped from him in a matter of seconds. His ears rang and when he pulled a hand away from his stomach, he found it covered in blood. Nami was by his side, trying to help as much as she could, her mouth moving as she looked off to the side.

Barely able to curl in on himself, Luffy gripped his chest and wetly coughed, the taste of iron on his tongue. Rough hands picked him up with ease and he had to bite back a yelp as he opened his eyes to see Zoro staring blankly ahead, running as carefully as he could towards the sick bay. His eyes moved to the sky, wishing it was the clear blue he and his brothers always admired instead of a foggy, cloudy day.

The thought that maybe his foolishness had done him in was the last thing in his mind before he lost consciousness.

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The moment the rest of the crew heard the gunshots and Nami's scream, they bolted to the garden, watching as a now unconscious man went flying through the air. Zoro and Sanji were in the lead, and they were the first ones to see their captain in fetal position, blood beginning to pool around him. He was gasping, eyes squeezed shut, Nami hovering over him with tears in her eyes.

Sanji stopped dead in his tracks as he took in the scene before him, while Zoro rushed to his captain's side and yelled for Chopper.

Zoro glanced over the bullet wounds, hands nervously running over the air above Luffy's arms as Chopper ran up to him. Taking one look, he ordered Zoro to bring him to the sick bay, and took off to prepare the operating table.

As carefully as he could, he lifted Luffy and rushed off, trying to ignore the muffled sound of pain that escaped the boy's lips, or the way his eyes travelled to the sky before he became startlingly limp, head lolling back and his arm falling to hang lifelessly at his side.

He had to keep his wits about him; as first mate, he was the one that would have to act as captain until Luffy was up and running again, but the way he felt in his arms and the way Luffy's blood soaked through his clothes made his heart race and mind go blank.

Rushing, he kicked open the door to the sick bay, where Chopper quickly guided him to the cot where he needed Luffy to lay. He softly ordered him to get Robin so she could help, as he needed help getting Luffy stabilizing.

Robin, already listening in on them, walked into the room quickly and gently shooed the swordsman out, eyes portraying her apologies as she shut the door behind him.

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When he opened his eyes, he wasn't hurting any longer.

There wasn't any blood staining his hands, his clothes.

There were no holes in his shirt, in his chest, in his stomach.

And so he cried.

And so he mourned for his crew, for his brother, for the things he had yet to experience yet.

Warm arms wrapped around his shoulders, holding him close as he wailed like the child he once was. The child he never truly had the chance to be.

The smell of freshly burnt firewood didn't help to calm him any.

It wasn't his time yet.

He hadn't become pirate king.

He hadn't been able see his crew become the best they could be.

He couldn't keep his promise to Shanks.

He was a foolish, pitiful, crybaby failure.

Gentle hands held his face, and he met the shining amber eyes he'd been longing for for so very long.

And just like that, he was young once again, hat much too big for his head, scrapes and bruises from the forest creatures and fights with his brothers rather than fights for his life and desperate moves to save those he loves.

Two boys sat in the blank landscape, one grounding the other as they met for the first time in nearly three years.

"You're not supposed to be here, are you?" His voice sounded so, so far away as a tear made it's way down his cheek.

"You're meant for more. You're meant to rule the sea." Voice cracking, a hand moved from his cheek to messy black hair.

"This wasn't supposed to happen so soon."

Leaning forward, their foreheads touching, the two boys cried together.

Then, taking the other by the hand, the amber eyed boy led him towards paradise.












He didn't want to go, and so he didn't.