"Hey Zoro," Luffy noticed the sun glint off something in Zoro's hand and got curious. He go a little closer to get a better look a grinned when he saw the photo of Ava asleep on Zoro's lap. "I remember that day. It was after we got Ava back." His smile faded when he remembered that he wouldn't see them napping together anymore. "Take your time."
Nami sat with Luca and took a glance at what Cortena was working on. "That is really pretty. Is it for a new clothing line?"
"No." Cortena looked at the dress sketch she had been working on and sighed, "Ava asked me to design a wedding dress for her. It was before she got sick," she chuckled a bit, "Guess she had hoped he would ask and she would get a chance to wear it." It was when she felt strong arms wrap around her that she realized she was crying again. "She would have been beautiful in it."
"I'll tell you who could wear it some day," Luca began before pointing to Emmeryn. "That girl right there."
"He is right," Milo agreed, "Don't let something like that go to waste."
Nami let out a laugh, "You'll have to convince Zoro to let someone get that close to her."
Emmie continued to hug Zoro the best she could. Then she began to look around for a face that wasn't there. A face that she would never see again. "Momma?" She continued to look around a little more trying to find Ava but to no avail. "Momma?"
~~Five Years Later~~
"Wait! Emmie come backe here," Nami yelled after the child who kept running from her, "You need to take a bath!"
"I don't wanna," Emmie yelled back as she continued to run around. "I wanna keep playing with Luffy." When she found the rubber man she jumped on his back and giggled while stretching the sides of his face.
After a while longer of trying to catch Emmie, Nami finally gave up and made her way up to the crows nest where Zoro was. When she finally caught her breath she glared at hom, "Come down and make your daughter take a bath. She keeps running away." Pushing his disheveled hair from her face she sighed, "Chopper wants to test the cure out today as well."
A few minutes later Nami heard a splash but didn't think anything of it until something tapper her on the shoulder. Glancing to her side she noticed Robin's hand pointing to the window where little Emmie was splashing in the water trying not to drown and Luffy was looking around clueless as to what happened. "That idiot!" Quickly leaving the crows nest she was about to jump into the water only to be beat by Sanji, who brought the child back on board.
Emmie coughed up some water and soon began crying, "Papa!" While she cried for Zoro, Robin came over with a towel and started drying her off.
"Lunch is ready," Sanji muttered as he wrung out his now soaked shirt. "Came out to tell you guys and saw Emmie in the water."
"What happened," Nami barked as she glared at Luffy.
"Boom balloon," Luffy replied as he started to slowly move away from Nami.
"Papa," Emmie cried again as Zoro finally came down and she ran over to him. As soon as she was close enough she latched onto his leg and continued crying. "I don't wanna go in the water again."
Zoro looked at the gravestone with the name of the woman he fell in love with. The fresh flowers on the fresh grave made his heart sink further and further down. The past few weeks that Ava had been gone made his heart sink every day that passed. He just kept hoping that one day she would pop her head into the room with a grin on her face saying, 'Did you miss me?'
When Zoro heard the small reindeers voice he nodded and took the envelope from his hooves. "Thanks Chopper. Could you help watch Emmie a bit longer. I want to say my farewells to Avalon."
Chopper nodded before heading back to the ship.
Once the small reindeer was out of sight he opened the envelope and instantly felt a picture. He felt the tears stream down his face once again at the picture of Ava and Zoro taking a nap on the deck. He pulled out a second picture which was taken after Emmie was born and it was of Zoro holding Emmie and Ava supporting Emmie's head.
He tried to wipe his tears so he could read the letter that was also inside the envelope. When he pulled out the letter he felt his heart sink.
I know that I promised you forever. And I'm sorry that I can't keep that promise. By the time you read this letter I will already be gone from this life. I know you may be hurting inside, and I wish I could have stayed with you and Emmie forever. But that wasn't the fate that was chosen for me. I'm writing you this now because I'm hoping you'll listen to my final wish. Please. Please don't blame Emmie. My getting sick wasn't her fault. I was born with this sickness but the virus didn't kick in until a little over a year ago. Also, please try your best to stay strong. I know it will be hard. But if Emmie asks about me please, don't get mad or stay silent. I want her to know about me. Everything about me. The good and the bad. I want you to trust her like you trusted me. She's your family. And she's going to grow up with a single parent. Yes she will have the rest of the crew. But she won't have a mother. So you'll have to play both roles.
If it feels like the rest of the crew is smothering you. It's because they care. They'll be worried about you while you mourn. Don't be angry. Just appreciate it. It's not easy losing the one you love. Keep Emmie and the rest of the crew close to your heart. They'll help you heal.
And remember, I will always be with you.
I love you Zoro.
When he read the last sentence he cried harder than he had in awhile. "I miss you Avalon. I don't know how I'm going to raise her without you. But I'm going to try my damn best to be a good father for her and for you. I love you." He kissed his fingers before touching the tombstone and making his way back to the ship. His tears never stopped flowing. He made it back on the ship and watched as Emmie was playing with Chopper. When Emmie noticed Zoro her eyes lit up as she wobbled her way over to him. "Papa!"
Zoro smiled and knelt down keeping the envelope with the letter and pictures in his hand. "Hey baby girl." When she hugged him he hugged her back and felt his heart lift a little.
A few days later the crew was gathered on a small island, with Ava's family present. After Ava's death, Franky had made a headstone for when they buried Ava. It was silence as everyone said their farewells one more time. One by one everyone left the grave until it was only Zoro left. They had decided to leave him be considering how he had been since Ava passed.
Chopper fiddled with the envelope that he had been carrying around for several months now and knew that this was the time to give it to Zoro. He wasn't sure what it contained but he knew that Ava had asked him to hold onto it until she was gone. Silently he approached the mourning swordsman and placed the envelope on his lap. "She wanted me to give this to you." He turning to look down the hill where the crew was, "Luffy said we will wait until you are ready."
Robin sat next to Franky and let Emmie wander around the area while keeping an eye on her. Though everyone else was filled with sadness the child was filled with joy and giggling every time she fell over. When it looked like she was going too far off Robin would use her powers to steer her back towards them. "We should take a page from Emmie's book and try smiling again."
Emmie continued to stumble around for a while until Chopper returned. The moment she saw the reindeer she made her way over to him and hugged him. "Koppie," she giggled.
When Ava shifted so she could hug him Zoro wrapped his arms around her small waist and cried into her neck as she spoke to him. "I'll never blame her. I know this isn't her fault. I'll cherish every moment with her. Just like I cherish every moment I've had with you." He kept her in his arms for a little longer before she shifted back into her original position and when Chopper and Ava both nodded the tears flowed even faster from his eyes.
When she asked him to watch the sunset with her he only nodded since he couldn't even try to get words out since they got caught in his throat. He felt her breathing hitch a bit as he grabbed her hand and watch as her body went limp after she said those three special words. He picked up her body and held it close to him. "Ava... Ava!" It finally clicked in his head. That she was gone. He sobbed over the woman he loved looking at her limp body and holding it close to him. "Ava...." He held her close praying that it was all just a nightmare but deep down he knew he would never get to see her again in this life.
Ava looled at the ring for a brief moment after he placed it on her finger. She knew what it meant and she shfted so she could hug him. "Don't blame her," she whispered, "Cherish her and let her see the world." She didn't know if Zoro was going to blame Emmie for what happened to her, but she wanted to maoe sure he wouldn't. She held him for a bit longer before going back to her original position.
Chopper took a deep breath when Ava nodded to him signalling that it was time. "Ava," he began as he prepared to give her the drug, "I'll miss you."
"I'll miss you too Chopper." She turned her attention back to Zoro, "Watch the sunset with me?" Even though she knew he wouldn't leave her side, it was nice to ask. When she felt the need pierce her skin she looked to the sunset. "I love you," she whispered with a faint smile.
Chopper back away after injecting Ava and watched as she slowly began to fade away. Unable to keep his composure he ran over to Usopp where they cried and held each other. Robin stood with Franky, holding Emmie, as they watched Ava's final moments. Luffy held Nami as she cried, fighting off his own tears and failing. Sanji took several deep breaths as he watched Ava go limp in Zoro's arms, and how the swordsman held her close after that.
[I I hope you're somewhere nice Ava,] he thought as he lit a cigarette and blinked away the tears. [I You deserve it.] Before pocketing the lighter he looked at it, the same one Ava had given him to replace the one she kept. He let the tears flow now, after realizing one of his closest friends, was now gone. "Goodbye Avalon."
Zoro's tears never stopped flowing. He knew she was in a lot of pain. And he knew her condition would never get better. Even if Chopper found a cure miraculously before tomorrow more than likely the effects of the cure wouldn't kick in quick enough to save her. He held her close to his body as he cried knowing today might be the last day he ever got to hold her in his arms.
Hours had passed and no ones tears had stopped flowing. When Ava had awoke again Zoro had shifted her body to a more comfortable position for her leaning against him while in his lap. When he felt her move and open her eyes it only made his tears flow more when he saw Chopper walk over to them. He knew... this was the end.
When Chopper said that it was done Ava was going to protest but soon knew what she had to do. She stood up from Zoro's lap and Walked over to Usopp first asking him to play with Emmie and never stop being goofy but also help protect her. Next was Sanji who was devistated about all of this but so was the rest of the crew. After him she went to Franky. Who she asked to teach her how to build things and figure out different ways to solve problems but also play with and protect her. After that she walked over to Robin who she asked to educate her on the world and all the knowledge that Robin had to offer. Robin nodded and cried.
"Of course Ava. I'll teach her all about the world. You have my word."
After she said goodbye to her baby she walked over to Nami and hugged her. "Please teach her about fashion and navigating. And protect her and be like a second mother to her." She noticed Luffy sitting beside Nami and he stood up and hugged Ava tight but not tight enough to hurt her. She smiled and hugged him back. "You will become king of the pirates. And when you do. I want Emmie to be with you too. Please keep her close to you. And protect her until you reach your dream." After she let go of Luffy she wrapped one arm around Luffy and one around Nami and smiled softly. "And please. You're both the closest to him. When I'm gone, he might be lost for a bit. Please. Protect him. Listen to him when he needs to talk and above all else. Be there for Zoro. I don't know how he's going to act after this. But... He means a lot to me."
Nami and Luffy both nodded and cried even harder than before. And in unison they said, "Of course."
She made her way back over to Chopper and Zoro and said her final wishes before sitting in Zoro's lap again.
When she spoke Zoro cried harder and wrapped his arms around her. "I'm glad I met you too, Ava." He took the ring from his pocket that he was going to give to her on their wedding day and slipped it on her finger before kissing her lips softly. "I love you Ava. No matter what I will always love you." The tears were streaming down his face as he pressed her forehead against hers saying his final goodbye to the only woman he had ever loved.
Chopper nodded when he heard Zoro's response. "She asked me to give her something to end it. I told her she needed to tell the crew first." He turned back into his smaller form and moved Ava's arm so it was laying in her lap rather than sticking out. "It will take a few hours to make it."
"I'll call Luca," Nami sniffled while still hugging Luffy. She saw Usopp wipe his tears away roughly as he turned to go get the transponder snail. A short while later he returned and held it up, it clearly already ringing.
"Luca," Nami began, followed by a sniffle.
"Nami? Whats wrong? Why are you crying?
"Its Ava, she," she didn't get a chance to finish as she started crying and Luffy hugged her tighter.
"What about her?" Luca began to feel panicked, "Nami answer me."
"She is dying," Franky said, "From the same thing that killed your mom."
The line was silent for a bit before the sound of two other voices began speaking. "How far along," Milo asked, "Tell me! How much time does she have?!"
"Few months," Usopp looked over to Zoro and Ava, "maybe. From how Chopper is acting, she wont make it through the week."
"She wont last," Oden began, "The pain is bound to be too much for her. We wont make it in time."
Usopp jumped a little when he heard the sound if something breaking in the other line followed by Oden trying to calm Milo down. The line went dead shortly after and he just sighed before rubbing tears away again. He set the transponder snail down followed by taking a seat. "What should we do now?"
Robin sat down at the table with Emmie who was still crying but not as much as she had been. "Its alright Emmie," she whispered as she smoothed the child's hair and held her close. She glanced up at Sanji and watched him work, "How long have you known?"
"Six or seven months," Sanji replied, not taking his eyes off the stove. "I overheard her and Chopper one day when he tried getting her to tell us she was sick. She was stubborn about it and after a few minutes she was crying. She sounded so scared." He lifted his arm and wiped the tears away, "A month or so later I confronted her about it. She passed out and almost hit her head on the corner of the counter."
"And you kept it from us?"
"She asked me to."
A few hours later Ava woke up and it took her a moment to figure out where she was. She felt like she was being held and so realized she was sitting in Zoro's lap, held a against him. "Zoro," she whispered as she lifted a hand to his tear stained face and gave a soft smile. She didn't know what to say so she just looked at him.
"Ava, its done." Chopper said as he approached the couple, "Whenever you are ready."
"But I," she looked away from Zoro to Chopper then the other crew members, "I understand." She gently unwrapped herself from Zoro and stood up before slowly making her way towards the rest of the crew. Stopping at each one she whispered something to them, a final wish for each one, followed by a hug.
When she got to Sanji, he embraced her and shook his head, "Don't say anything, please."
"Sanji," Ava whispered as she placed a hand on the back of his head. She felt him hold her tighter, followed by her shoulder becoming wet. "I know it hurts."
"And I know you don't want to say goodbye."
"But you have to. And I want you to do something for me." She could feel him shaking and soon the two sunk to the floor with her more or less holding him. "I want you to love Emmie as if she is the only girl in the world. As if she is the only one you will ever love." She tilted her head down so it was in the crook of his neck, to hide that she was crying too. "I want her to know that she is loved no matter what."
"I promise," Sanji whispered back, "I promise." He felt Ava pull away then, followed by a kiss on his cheek. As he forced himself to stand again, he watched her go over to Robin and Emmie. He had no idea what she said but he saw Robin nod with tears streaming, and Ava cuddling Emmie one last time before handing her back.
"My sweet baby girl," Ava muttered as she ran a ran over the child's head and through her hair. "I'm sorry I wont be around to see you grow and watch you experience the joys of life. But know that the people that surround you are some of the greatest people you will ever know and that they love you and will protect you."
Chopper stood by Zoro and watched as Ava and the crew said farewell to one another. When she finally returned and sat across from him he cocked his head to the side. Moments later he was pulled into a hug. "I know she adores you Chopper."
"Don't be angry if she wants you to nap with her as she gets older."
Chopper was confused as to who Ava was referring to until he looked towards Robin and Emmie. "I understand."
"Keep working on that cure, okay? She deserves to live a long and happy life. And continue keeping Zoro and the others alive for me. It would be a shame if they didn't reach their dreams."
Ava released him and returned to her position on Zoro's lap. She couldn't look at him for a bit and looked up at the sky, where the sun was beginning to set. Finally when she looked at him, even though she was crying, she was smiling. "My silly swordsman," she touched his cheek and laughed, "I'm so glad I met you."
When Ava collapsed Zoro instantly held Emmie in one arm and Ava in the other trying to keep her from hitting the deck. But the sudden movement scared Emmie making her cry.
Robin instantly rushed over and took the small toddler into her arms before rocking her trying to calm her down.
When Chopper spoke in a hushed tone Zoro held Ava close to him noticing her breathing even seemed irregular. "None of us can even imagine the pain that she's in right now." He murmured while tears rolled down his cheeks. "She's been losing weight rapidly. She in pain..." He felt his chest clench and the tears came down faster. "Chopper I love her more than anything in this world. She's the best thing that's ever happened to me besides becoming part of this crew and having Emmie be born. But... that's the same reason why I don't want her to live like this either. Chopper it's her life it's her decision. No matter what she chooses I'll support her. Even if it may kill me emotionally." He pressed his forehead against the woman he loved and cried.
Chopper noticed how Ava didn't respond when Zoro touched her or Emmie kissed her. He also noticed that her eyes looked panicked followed by them closing and her body crumpling to the ground as she fell unconscious. He watched as Robin quickly grabbed Emmie while Zoro kept Ava from hitting the deck. "Zoro, she doesn't want to keep going like this," he whispered while checking Ava's vitals.
Robin focused on soothing the now screaming Emmie while Nami hugged Luffy and the other crew members looked away. None of them could bear to Ava in the state she was in. "Shh," Robin cooed as she rocked Emmie and started to move away from the scene, "It'll be alright." She stopped for a moment and looked at Sanji, "Could you prepare something for her?"
Sanji didn't bother to wipe the tears away as he nodded, "Yeah. Shoule probably make something for the rest of the crew too." He began walking with Robin to the kitchen, casting a momentary glance at Ava, Zoro, and Chopper.
Zoro heard a familiar voice and walked over to her side but when he noticed that when Luffy spoke it struck a cord he heard skin against skin and held Emmie closer to him. He noticed Ava's eyes go wide and he felt the tears begin to flow down his cheeks again. He walked over to Luffy and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Ava has the same illness that killed her mother. There's no known cure yet."
Luffy looked at Zoro and shook his head. "But she... she can't... She..." He looked down and pulled his hat down a bit further. "Isn't there something we can do...?"
Zoro shook his head. "She just told me this morning. Chopper has been working with her since before Emmie was born. And so far there's been no leads to a cure."
Luffy's eyes began to well up and just like Zoro he felt weak. Because no matter how strong he or any of them were their strength couldn't save Ava from this fate.
Zoro walked over to Ava and smiled softly trying his hardest to stay strong for her. He moved Emmie so she was now facing her Mama. Emmie grabbed at Ava and he wrapped his arms around the woman he loved as Emmie gently grabbed her face and gave her an open mouth kiss on her cheek while saying "mwah!"
After Zoro left the room and Ava was situated so she was more confortable she turned her head to look ar Chopper. Tears were still falling as she began to speak, clearly still in a lot of pain. "C-chopper," she gasped, "I don't want to live like this."
The reindeer simply nodded as he admisteres the drug to help ease Ava's pain. Once the medicine was fully injected into her bloodstream Chopper held one of Ava's hands in his hooves. "You need to tell them Ava. I'll do what you ask but you need to tell them," he pleaded.
"I will," she breathed, "when the pain subsides."
"I can carry you out," he suggested, knowing she would just put it off until it was too late. When he saw her nod he shifted into his human form and lifted her gently off the bed. "Have the hallucinations started yet?"
"No." She leaned into his fur and shook her head, "Not yet." As they made their way to the uppder deck she shielded her eyes from the light. Once they adjusted, Ava saw the sad gazes of the crew upon her, and Zoro, crying, near Robin. From the corner of her eye she saw Sanji turn away and she knew he was crying too. "I'm sorry, but, it looks like my journey with your guys is coming to an end."
"No," Luffy responded, "You can't leave. You are part of the crew." It waa clear the captain was in denial about Ava's fate. "I wont let you. What about Zoro and Emmiie? Are you just going to leave them behind?"
Chopper felt Ava start to squirm and knew that Luffy had struck a cord. He helped her into a standing position then followed as she walked over to him. His eyes went wide as he heard the the sound skin hit skin when Ava slapped him. "Ava you can't just...."
"You think I want to die?!"
"Luffy stop," Nami shook her head at the captain as she wiped tears away.
"So you are just giving up," Luffy asked.
"She isn't," Chopper defended, "We have been working on a cure."
Ava looked at Zoro and Emmie, "Its all for her." She narrowed her eyes a moment when it looked like the wind was blowing her surrounding away like dandelions. Every solid bit around her beginning to dispate. Deep down she knew, this was the final symptom and her days were numbered. "I don't want to die."
Even though the way that Ava worded what she said made it sound like it was Emmie's fault he knew that Ava didn't blame Emmie for any of this and neither did he.
But when she mentioned that Sanji knew about it it stung a little but when she explained he nodded silently and held her closer the tears still streaming down his face.
But when she cried out from pain and started sobbing he only held her closer and cried more. He never had felt so useless. He had to watch the woman he loved and cared about more than anyone die right in front of him and there was nothing he could do to stop it.
But when he heard the door open the tears ran down his face even faster. "Chopper! Please! Help her!"
Chopper rushed over and asked Zoro if he could move just a bit so he could administer the medicine.
Zoro was hesitant but figured that maybe Ava might want to see her baby girl so he decided to go find her. He kissed Ava's forehead and gave her a sad smile. "I'll be right back."
He walked out of the room while Chopper helped Ava and walked by plenty of crewmates.
Nami was the first to notice his swollen red eyes and his wet cheeks. She grabbed his shoulder and looked at him with worried eyes. "Zoro, is everything alright?"
Robin walked over as well. But when Zoro shook his head and started crying again. They both instantly knew. Something deep inside both of their guts had told them previously.
Franky walked over with Emmie in his hand who was teetering back and forth giggling. When she saw her papa she made grabbing motions towards him with her hands.
Zoro smiled seeing the toddler and picked her up holding her close to him. "Your mama and papa love you very much, Emmeryn. Don't you ever forget that." He rubbed his nose against hers as he felt her grab his face.
Ava could feel dropplets hitting her head but didn't look up because she knew what they were. "I didn't know how to tell you so I didn't say amyrhing." She curled up into him and sniffled a bit but made no attempt to wipe away the tears. "Chopper thinks it was triggered during the pregnancy." Those words made it sound like it was Emmie's fault she was dying, but if she had the choice, she would do it all over again and not change a thing.
"The only ones that know are Chopper and Sanji." She knew how he would react to find out Sanji knew before him and decided to explain why. " He overhead an appointment with Chopper and was there when the hotflashes started. He's known for months now." She curled up into Zoro, still feeling the drops hit her head, [i I don't want to die.] In the next moment she was in so much pain she cried out before sobbing.
Chopper had been on his way to see Ava to administer the pain medicine he had created for her when he heard her cry out from down the hall. [I That was loud, the others probably heard it too.] He rushed down the hall as the crew poked their head out of their respective rooms to find out about the noise. When he reached Zoro and Ava's room he quickly entered the room. The sight before him was enough to shatter his small heart, one of the strongest men he knew, crying, and Ava clutching onto him for dear life.
Sanji was in the middle of getting ready when he heard Ava cry out. To continue to see oblivious to what was going on he looked out the door with the others. When he saw Chopper rush by he knew what had happened. Slipping back into the room he finished getting dressed and pushed by the other men on the crew. "Its nothing to worry about."
"But that sounded like Ava," Luffy complained.
"Whatever caused it Chopper and Mosshead are there, she'll be fine," he lied as he went to prepare breakfast.
"No way! Something is definitely wrong with her," Luffy yelled after Sanji.
"Luffy let it go," Usopp began, "If something is wrong she will tell us when she is ready."
Zoro was lost in thought just watching the sleeping baby girl that he could call his daughter.
But something caught his attention when he heard someone say Nami would be a noble. He snickered then turned his attention towards the group. "It took me a bit to actually believe that Ava was a noble. But seeing Nami as a noble... I think I'd be struck by lightning before that happens."
When Ava winked at him he smiled softly with a small blush on his cheeks. [i How did I ever get so lucky...] He watched as Ava kissed Emmie's forehead and then heard Usopp mentiont he incident again and he grew irritated as he glared at the long nosed man.
Months had went by since Emmie was born and the crew all took turns watching her so that Ava and Zoro could still have time together. She was a quick learner and her first word was Mama followed by Eyebaow. She was the sparkle in Zoro's eye. He was over protective of course but he still let the rest of the crew have time with her because as months went by Zoro noticed changes in Ava. And they weren't good changes. As he held her at night he could tell she was getting thinner and thinner. He tried to ignore it because he didn't want to hurt her feelings if he brought anything up. He thought about talking to Chopper about it but he decided against it.
It was a little over a month before Emmie's first birthday and she was toddling about the ship Luffy had a hawk's eye on her and so did Nami. Zoro was sitting beside Ava because as the months passed by something deep inside him knew something was wrong... really wrong. Whenever she got hot flashes and played them off just by being the weather he knew she was lying. Because he would see her flinched and look like she was in pain and normal hot flashes didn't have that effect.
A couple more weeks passed and it was two weeks before Emmie's first birthday. Zoro was asleep in his and Ava's bed and he heard the rocking chair move. His eyes fluttered open to see Ava's pale face and smiled softly. "Morning, beautiful." He spoke groggly as he watched her walk over to him. He heard her speak but then she ran her fingers though his hair and her hand stopped at his cheek. When she began speaking again his hand reached up to hers and held it softly before he sat up and looked at the woman he loved with all his heart.
She was silent for a moment and his eyes widened and a silent gasp left his lips when he saw the tears fall down her cheeks. When she spoke again he felt his heart clench and he wrapped his arms around the small woman and pulled her close to him. He held her in his arms and soon realized he had also began crying. "I-I had a feeling something wasn't right..." He murmured softly. "You have what your mother had don't you...?" He felt the tears flow even more from his cheeks. And for once he was glad that the other crew members were watching Emmie because he wouldn't want this to be one of Emmie's early memories. Finding out her mother was dying.
Ava continued to smiled as she watched Zoro with Emmie, just enjoying the view. She noticed Luffy peering over the swordsman from time to time to see the sleeping infant. Each time he had a different face, hoping the baby would be awake and giggle at him. "Luffy stop, you're going to wake her up." She covered her mouth as started to laugh in an attempt not to wake Emmie.
Robin returned to the upper deck and took a quick photo of Nami and Luca, making sure to get a good angle. "Now what caused the bliss between you two?"
"Nami said she would marry me," Luca replied with a laugh. "Doesn't matter how long it takes, I'll wait."
Robin smiled, "Congratulation!" She heard the rest of the crew cheer at the news but noticed a slightly sad look cross Luffy's features before fading into a grin. While everyone was distracted by the news she snapped a quick photo of Ava, Zoro, and Emmie, both looking like endearing parents.
"You know Nami," Usopp grinned, "If you marry Luca you will be a noble."
"What does that have to do with anything," Ava asked as both her and Nami turned to Usopp. "I'm a noble."
"You also kill people."
"I could kill you too if you aren't careful," she threatened.
"What I am getting at is," he noticed both women glaring at him, "Wont it be hard to be a member of the crew and be a noble at the same time? How Ava has managed to get away with it for so long is beyond me."
"Our family has ties to the underground. The underground has ties to the World Government," Milo pointed out. "On top of that, Ava has remained basically under the radar until she met you guys. Sure the world knew about her but she was like a ghost and took assassinated people the world was best without."
Ava glanced at Zoro with a sly smile and winked, "Oh but it was so worth it." She gently caressed Emmie's head before kissing the top of it and looking back at Zoro with a smile. "Well worth it."
"Even the Sanji incident," Usopp asked to which Nami hit him on the head. "Ouch!"
"Shut up you jerk," Nami snapped.
Over the course of the next few months the crew shared babysitting duties, Luffy's being supervised. During this time, Nami noticed that Ava would be sick off and on. This caused her to be concerned, mostly because she caught Ava watching Zoro with Emmie with a sad look. Today was no different, other than noticing the sun glisten off a tear rolling down Ava's cheek. [i Ava?]
Ava sat in one of the lounge chairs on deck watching Zoro taking a nap with Emmie in the shade. Upon hearing approaching footsteps she looked away from them and saw Nami come to a stop next to her. "Whats up?"
"Are you okay," Nami asked as she occupied the seat next to Ava. "You look sad every time you look at them and you are crying."
Ava quickly wiped the tear away and shook her head. "I'm fine."
"Are you sure?"
[i No, but I can't tell you I am dying.] She nodded and put on a fake smile, "Positive, everything is just fine." She watched Nami relax into the other chair and nod before doing the same. "Promise."
"Alright, but stop looking so sad when you look at them. Zoro is bound to notice sooner or later and it will only worry him."
A few months after that Sanji had overheard Ava talking to Chopper in the infirmary while on his way back from Franky's workshop. It all started with hearing Chopper shout at the woman for not listening to him. Leaning against the wall by the door he listened in on the conversation out of concern for why the reindeer yelled at her. [i What is going on?]
~In The Infirmary~
"Don't yell at me. I can't very well keep acting like I'm not dying if I do what you tell me to." Ava sat down on the bed so Chopper could check her vitals.
"You could at least try and be more careful," Chopper scolded as he listened to her heartbeat and lungs. "If you aren't then they will notice."
"I doubt that."
Chopper sighed and went about weighing the woman before shaking his head. "They will. With your weight decreasing, Zoro is bound to notice soon." He watched Ava shift uncomfortably at the mention of having lost weight. "You can't go on pretending like it isn't happening. Have the hot flashes started yet?"
"No," Ava's voice cracked causing Chopper to look up from the file he had on her. "Chopper," she muttered as she drew her legs to her chest, "I don't want to die. I don't want to leave my friends. I don't want to break my promise to Zoro and I don't want Emmie to grow up without a mother."
~Outside The Infirmary~
Sanji felt something wet on his cheek and realized he was crying. Was Ava really dying and was she really that scared? He knew, before Emmie was born, when they saved her from execution, she was ready to die. But this, this was different. [i Ava why wont you say anything?]
In the month following overhearing that Ava was dying, Sanji made sure to add extra nutrition in the food he made Ava. Of course he knew it wasn't going to do anything. He'd read up on the disease she had, just to make sure there wasn't a cure, and he knew that her body wasn't taking in the nutrients it needed to survive. That wasn't going to stop him.
There were times he would see her laughing and smiling on deck and he would think to himself that there was nothing wrong with her. Then there were times when he saw her like that and he knew, seeing her like that was limited. One day he found himself crying why doing dishes from dinner and wished that he didn't know the truth.
Today was no different. He was doing the dishes from lunch and thinking about whether or not a cure had been discovered yet. The crew had docked on an island prior to lunch being finished so they crew ate then went and explored. The only people still left on the ship were Franky, Chopper, Ava and himself.
Chopper had said he needed to check was he needed to restock and Franky was working on some new project. He wasn't sure why Ava had stayed behind but he suspected it had something to do with her not feeling well. His attention was pulled from the dishes when he heard someone knock on the counter, pulling him from his thoughts.
"Hey," Ava said with a smile, "Everything okay? I didn't interrupt any thoughts, did i?"
"No," he lied as he turned to the woman.
"Would you be able to make me some tea? Peppermint if possible, just to settle the stomach."
"Is that why you stayed behind?"
"Uh huh. Zoro and Robin took Emmie to see the island."
Sanji dried his hands and put the kettle on the stove to heat for Ava's tea. Then he turned to her and lit a cigarette before sighing. "You can't keep pretending forever."
"What are you talking about?"
"I overheard you and Chopper talking about a month ago. I know you are dying."
"I," Ava shook her head, "No I'm not."
"Stop lying. Its obvious that something is wrong. You're thinner than you should be. You are tired a lot and the symptoms from you [i cold] haven't gone away since Emmie was born." He could see that Ava was uncomfortable but he wanted to hear her confirm it, not cover it up.
"I'm not," Ava defended until she saw the hard stare coming from Sanji. She knew she couldn't keep this up forever and he knew but she was confused as to why he hadn't said anything until now. "Okay, you caught me, I'm dying and have maybe six months left. But you can't tell anyone."
"You need to tell mosshead. He deserves to know at least. And sooner or later you will need to tell the crew."
"I know, its just," she gripped the counter and placed a hand on her head. Her gaze shifted about trying to find something to ground her and it finally landed on Sanji. She noticed his cigarette drop from his mouth before darting forward. [i I don't understand,] she thought before the feeling of being caught followed by his voice shouting her name. [i I feel so hot.] Moments later consciousness left her.
When he realized that Ava was completely unconscious he picked her up bridal style and carried her out of the kitchen. On his way to the infirmary he ran into Chopper and explained why happened. Following the doctor to the infirmary and putting her on the bed he was soon handed a piece of paper.
"I need you to go get everything on this list," Chopper instructed. "I would do it myself but with Ava in this condition I can't leave her alone."
"Okay." Taking the list and giving one last look to Ava he left the infirmary and went into town to get what was on the list.
Chopper began checking Ava's vitals and made note that her breathing was labored. [i If this hot flash doesn't pass soon I'll need to get her into a cold bath.] In an attempt to bring her body temperature down he removed some of her cloths and placed a cold damp cloth on her forehead. [i The hallucinations and pain are next. If only there was a way to know when they would happen so I could be prepared.]
Three months after the initial hot flash, they had become sporadic and occasionally as intense as the first one. However Ava always played it off as it being due to the weather and it being too hot. Of course, after the first few times the crew slowly stopped believing it and grew concerned. Ava knew that Zoro had noticed too but hadn't said anything about it yet.
The day she decided to tell Zoro she woke up early and asked Robin if she would mind watching Emmie for the day. The older woman happily obliged and went about reading to the infant well into the morning. Ava sat in the rocking chair Franky had constructed for when Emmie was being too fussy to sleep. She watched Zoro shift in his sleep before waking up and noticing her.
"I need to tell you something," she admitted as she got up and walked over to the bed, taking a seat next to Zoro. She ran her fingers through his hair and down his face, stopping at his cheek before pulling her hand away. "I know we said forever but I can't give that to you." She could feel her voice begin to crack as she spoke and she wanted to stop, but knew she had to tell him.
There was a moment of hesitation. A moment when fear of how Zoro would react caused her to freeze up. It was that moment she felt tears begin to fall. "Zoro, I'm dying." She looked down at the ring he had given her which only caused more tears to fall. "I only have a few months left."
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