So he dreams about her, Sanji thought before paying Emmie on the head, Ava, won't you visit me just once? He was pulled from his thoughts when he heard a small gasp, "Huh?" Looking down he saw that Emmie was cradling her hand and crying. Upon closer inspection he noticed her index finger was red, almost as if it has been burned.
"It hurts," Emmie whimpered.
"Did you burn yourself," he asked as he knelt down to look at the child's hand.
"It was an accident." She watched as Sanji examined her injury, "Will you kiss it better?"
Though caught off guard by the request, Sanji obliged and gently kissed Emmie's burnt finger. When he looked back at her, he couldn't help but chuckled at the look of shock on her face. Without saying a word he turned and checked on the soup, Looks like it's done. Putting a small amount into a bowl he handed it to Emmie, "Once you're done I'll take you back below deck."
"Okay." Emmie carried her bowl to the table and sat down to eat. Several minutes later she was finished and getting. "That was yummy." Bringing the empty bowl to the sink she looked at Sanji. "Can I help with dishes?"
"Not this time. Go have a seat and I'll do the dishes quick."
While Sanji worked on the dishes, Emmie wrapped her self back up in his blanket and waited. However after only a few minutes she had begun to size off. By the time Sanji was done, Emmie was fast asleep with her head on the table. Picking the child up he carried her below deck and handed her over to Zoro. "She burned her finger. Have Chopper look at it in the morning." Taking his blanket he returned to the boys room, and his bed, where he soon feel right back asleep, hoping Ava would visit his dreams.
A few years had passed by then and Emmie was as energetic as ever. Today, regardless of the brewing storm she was climbing the mast, wanting to get a better view of the ocean in chaos. Sure she was still terrified of actually being in the water, but she still thought it was beautiful.
"Emmie get down from there," Nami yelled, though her voice was friend or by the storm.
"I'll be okay!" She lifted her hand to shield her eyes from the rain that was pelting her body. Even on calm days she would climb the mast and look out at the sea, sometimes even choosing to read up there. Turning her attention now to the dark skies she smiled, Did you do this too mom? Did you enjoy the sea and watch it with Papa?
Usopp looked up at Emmie, then to Zoro then back at Emmie, "How are you okay with this?" His eyes went wide when he felt a gust of wind followed by seeing Emmie being pushed from the mast. "Aaaah she's going to die!! Chopper!!" He began running around in a panic, "What are we going to do. Zoro!! Do something!!"
"Boom Balloon!" Luffy swelled up and Emmie collided with him seconds later then bounced into Zoro, where she was now laughing. "Sanji, I'm hungry."
"Hey Emmie you can't keep doing that during rough weather." Nami tapped get on the nose and smiled, "Come on, lets finish our game. Inside. Where is dry."
Emmie looked up at Zoro who was still holding her close. She hugged him back, whispered an apology and once he let her go she ran off with Nami. "Hey Nami?"
"One day I'm going to marry a prince!"
Zoro watched as his beloved faded away once again and he then woke up to the sound of thunder. He looked around and felt his pillow was wet. When he rubbed his face he then realized he was crying. "Ava..." He heard another sound of thunder then decided to go check on Emmie.
Sanji let her help stir the ingredients together and let her add the spices. He always measured them out first since she was still little. He watched as she threw in the spices and all the stirring seems to keep Emmie destracted so she didn't hear the thunder.
When Zoro noticed Emmie was gone from Chopper's bed he noticed Sanji was gone too. Just to ease his mind he went to the kitchen and peeked in and saw the two cooking. He walked in and smiled softly before Emmie noticed him.
"Papa! I'll get to bed soon. I promise. I was just hungry."
Zoro chuckled. "It's fine, sweetheart. I just heard the storm and wanted to make sure you were okay."
When Emmie stepped down from her stool and walked over to Zoro she noticed he had been crying. "Papa are you okay? Are you afraid of storms too?"
Zoro chuckled and shook his head. "No, I'm not."
Emmie gestured for him to get to her level then she hugged him tight. "I love you papa."
He wrapped his arms around her tight and smiled. "I love you too. Don't keep Sanji up too late. He has a breakfast to cook in the morning."
Emmie grinned. "I won't! I'll come sleep in your room when we're done."
Zoro nodded. "Be careful. G'night." He closed the door behind him and sighed softly. "I'll make you proud Ava."
Emmie jumped back up on her stool and smiled. "Okay, what's next?"
Sanji looked at Emmie and smiled but then a small frown took it's place. "Does he normally get sad during storms?"
Emmie looked up at him and shook her head. "No, but some nights he talks in his sleep. I think Mama still visits him while he sleeps. Because he talks to her. And says he's trying his best to be a good dad and he never wants me to hate him. So I try to be extra good the next day because she only seems to visit him when he sleeps after a rough day."
"I can't," Ava whispered as she kissed Zori's forehead, "You'll be waking up soon and I'll disappear. But we'll meet again, even if it's just a dream." To her dismay, she could no longer feel Zoro's arms around her and noticed that she could see through herself. "It'll be alright love. Give Emmie a hug for me," with those words, she faded.
"I don't see why not," Sanji replied as he grabbed the stepping still Emmie usually used when helping.
Zoro heard the rolling thunder and held Ava tighter. "Please stay a little longer... I love you so much, Ava..."
When Sanji and Emmie reached the main deck he wrapped her up in his blanket before picking her up and carrying her across the main deck to the kitchen. Holding her close so if thunder rolled again she wouldn't be as scared.
"How about we have some soup?" Sanji suggested once they both reached the kitchen.
Emmie grinned and nodded before she let the blanket drape down to her shoulders. "Can I help?" She grinned.
Ava listed to everything Zoro had to say and before she had a chance to respond she felt him shift and bury his face in her neck. She wrapped her arms around him in response and rested one hand on the back of his head. "It's alright. If I could, I would have stayed."tilting her head she kissed the top of his head and sighed, "She is going to grow up strong and happy and healthy."
Looking towards the window, light flashed across her eyes and she held Zoro tighter. she thought, To check on Emmie. Soon after the flash of light, the Sounder of thunder crashed. "Zoro, I love you."
Ernie continued to struggle in getting the sleeping rubber man back in his bed all while trying to ignore her growing stomach. After several more minutes of struggle she finally succeeded then made her way over to Sanji. Pursuing her lips she hesitated before gently tapping on the cook's arm, "Sanji?"
Sanji shifted a little when he heard someone say his name, followed by a touch on his arm. What actually woke him up was the sound of thunder, a small cry, and feeling someone curling up next to him. Opening his eyes he looked over to Chopper's bed to see Emmie want there then looked to see who was next to him. "Emmie? What's wrong?"
"Luffy feel out of bed so I put him back but," she looked down, "I'm hungry."
"That doesn't explain why you are in my bed and crying," the cook wiped her tears away. When he heard the thunder and watched Emmie move and cling to him, he understood. "You're scared?"
"Uh huh," she responded, "but I'm also hungry."
Sanji ran his fingers through his hair, sighed, then smiled at the child, "Let's get you something to eat then." The two left the room silently, with Emmie wrapped in the blanket from his bed.
Zoro nodded and layed down on the bed where he and Ava used to sleep but now it was where Zoro would sleep alone most nights but on occasion if there was a thunderstorm Emmie would sleep in his bed with him because she was afraid.
He wrapped his arm around his beloved and sighed softly. "Well my thoughts are still all about you. Every day I think about you Ava. I know you're doing a lot better now but it doesn't change the fact that I miss you every day more and more. And every day that passes Emmie looks more and more like you." He chuckled softly. "I'm trying my best to be a good father to her. And she asks about you a lot. Which that's fine and every time she asks about you I try to tell her all I can but then she makes me stop because every time I talk about you, I look sad. She says she can see it in my eyes. It's just so hard... God Ava I miss you so much..." He wrapped his arms around her and cuddled her close. "Nami and Robin are helping out a lot too sharing the mom roles like picking out clothes for her and Robin has been teaching her everyday about the history of the world and basic skills that she will need. And Sanji let's her help him cook sometimes too. Franky let's her watch him build stuff but he never let's her help because she's so young still. Chopper and Emmie are best friends and Luffy plays with her every day. We have a great family here on this ship. I just wish you were here too." He buried his face in her neck when he realized that tears were rolling down his cheeks. "I miss you so much."
Emmie was startled awake when she heard a loud thud. She looked around the room and noticed that Luffy had fallen off his bed onto the floor. She giggled before wiggling her way out of Chopper's bed to not wake him up and walked over to the sleeping Captain. She poked his face then when he didn't wake up she tried to pull him back to his bed. She was struggling near Sanji's bed when her stomach growled. "Aw man..." She murmured softly before trying to push Luffy back onto his bed with her little body.
"I know," Ava whispered as she hugged him back, "but I am here now and that is all that matters." She pulled away and placed a hand on his cheek, "I'm so proud of you and how well you have been raising Emmie." Leaning back into the hug she rested her head on his chest, "Please don't be sad. I'm here now and that is all that matters in this moment."
After a few minutes of staying in each other's embrace, Ava pulled away but clasped her hand around his. "Come, lay with me. Lets cherrish the time we have." She knew she was a dream and wondered if Zoro knew as well. Their time together was sparse and she wanted to make sure he would be okay when he woke. "Tell me all your thoughts and worries."
Outside the dream, in the boys room, where Emmie is sound asleep in Chopper's bed. Luffy walked in laughing loudly with Usopp about a story Usopp had just told. "Man Usopp, that sure was a funny one!"
Sanji camep behind the two and clapped his hands over their mouths, effectivity silencing them. "You two need to be quiet. Emmie is asleep."
"Well yeah but not in here," Usopp pointed out to which Sanji hit him in the back of the head. "Ow! What was that for?"
"She is asleep in Chopper's bed which you would know if you looked before opening your mouth." He released the two and sighed, "If she wakes up I'll kick both your asses." Walking over to Chopper's bed he pulled the blanket up to cover Emmie more before sitting on his own bunk.
"Hey, you know, I noticed you are kinder to Emmie than to Nami and Robin. Is it because she is a kid or because she is Ava's kid," Usopp asked.
"Shut up," Sanji replied as he lay down, "It's none of your business."
"I noticed too," Luffy agreed, "but Sanji doesn't have to talk about it unless he want to."
Zoro listened to Emmie talk more and when she brought up the memory of Sanji and Ava his smile faded. He looked down and sighed before ruffling Emmie's hair. "People make mistakes sweet heart... And if you truly love someone and they love you. You try to make things work while hearts heal." [i I'm going to kill Usopp... she didn't need to know about that so early in her life...] He thought to himself before blinking a couple times when she asked to sleep with Chopper.
Zoro chuckled and nodded. "Sure, come on let's go see if Chopper is okay with it."
About an hour later Zoro turned off the light in Chopper's room after tucking the two into Chopper's bed since they were fast asleep after his story. He shut the door behind him as he left for his own room. He yawned and stretched his arms above his head. "I love you babe... I hope you approve of how I'm raising our little girl..." He murmured softly looking up at the stars before heading back to his room to lay in his bed.
Within minutes he was fast asleep and he started to dream. Someone was entering his room. It was familiar figure but not a small one that he was used to seeing recently. When the figure approached the bed he grabbed it's wrist then saw who it was he sat up slowly. "A-Ava... is it really you?" His eyes widened as he jumped from his bed and wrapped his arms around the woman. She was a healthy weight once agian and not so malnutritioned. "A-Ava I miss you so much." He held onto her tightly.
As Zoro kept dreaming tears rolled down his cheeks while he slept.
"Uncle Usopp said mommy also did a bad thing with Uncle Sanji that made you sad and she ran away." Emmie wrapped her arms around Zoro in at attempt to hug him. "Can I sleep with Chopper tonight? Oh oh and will you tell me a bedtime story?" She wanted to change the subject after seeing the look on Zoro's face that made him appear sad. [I I didn't know that talking about mommy would make him sad.]
Later that night, in Zoro's dream, a figure entered the room. First, they stopped over at Emmie's bed and gazed at the sleeping child. She looked so peaceful and happy, cuddling the ship's doctor, who also seemed happy. Reaching out the figure brushed hair from Emmie's face and smiled. "My beautiful little girl," they whispered before turning and making their way over to Zoro's bed.
She lingered beside the bed for a moment before laying down amd facing the sleeping swordsman. Reaching out she gently touched his face and soon felt a strong hand wrap around her wrist. she thought before releasing a deep sigh, "Zoro, love, it's only me." She felt the figure shift then ssmiled softly when she saw him register it was her. "Hey."
Zoro chuckled as he gently grabbed her nose and wiggled it. "Yes. You do look like you. But you also resemble your mother." When she brought up other things about her mother that Usopp had told her he smiled softly as he watched and listened at how fondly she spoke of the stories that were told to her about her mother.
When she asked about love he smiled and nodded. "Yes. Sometimes falling in love can change people's lives drastically but also it could not change much. Your mother gave up everything to be with us here on the crew. And I'm glad she did. Because being with your mother was the greatest treasure I had ever had." He felt his heart clench before he walked over to his little girl and crouched down beside her. "Your mother was used to working alone. Never relying on anyone. We got her to trust us and make her accept that we were her friends. She never had friends before us so she wasn't trusting. But in the end it all worked out and she joined the crew." He looked out the window and sighed softly. [i I wish you could have stayed longer though...]
"Nuh uh," Emmie replied, "I look like me." She smiled at what Zoro told her about Ava and pictured what she would be like if she were alive now and how their relationship would be. She looked down and the book in her lap for a brief moment before looking at Zoro.
"Uncle Usopp said she used to be this really cool assassin." After saying this she put the book off to the side and stood up on the bed with a grin. "And how she was like a ghost because no one could ever prove it was her." She jumped off the bed and hid in one spot before 'swiftly' running to the next like a ninja. "She was the best at what she did until she met you and turned her back on all of it."
Popping her head out from behind a chair she cocked her head to the side. "Can love really change people like that? Is it really that powerful?"
Zoro had just finished working out and knew Emmie was probably reading in the room. He quietly opened the door only to hear his daughter greet him. He chuckled then heard her close the book before he felt his heart stop for a moment. Emmie was looking at Zoro intently and he smiled softly with a heavy heart. He walked over and Sat on the edge of the bed. "She was very strong. One of the strongest people I knew. She tended to try and do dangerous things on her own which would drive me nuts but I think that was one of the things that drew me to her. She was beautiful, smart, funny. She had a cute laugh. She was more than anything I could have wished for in a woman." He looked at Emmie and smiled. "You look a lot like her too."
"She will need to learn to swim at some point," Robin pointed out as she watch Emmie go off towards the bath house. "Usopp can teach her at the next island. Even if she wont go in the water again, it is a useful skill to have." She folded up the towel amd looked towards the kitchen. The only one who hadn't mentioned what Ava asked of them before she died, was Sanji.
Later that day, around Emmie's bedtime, the child was sitting on her bed reading a book that Robin had assigned her to study. When she heard the door open she looked up and grinned. "Papa!" She looked back at the book to continue her reading, however after a sentence or two she marked her page and closed it. "What was mamma like? Was she brave?"
"You acted pretty quickly earlier when Emmie fell in the water." Nami leaned against the railing and looked at Sanji. "By the time you dove in after her, everyone else had just realized what happened."
"I was only doing what Ava asked," Sanji replied as he looked out to the sea.
"Which is what? Its beem five years and the only one who hasn't talked about what Ava's last wish was for them, is you." She placed a hand on his arm which caused the cook to look at her. "We were all there that day. You broke down and she held you. What was her final wish for you?"
"Nami," he shook his head and sighed, "I don't want to talk about it. Just know that whatever happens, I will always be there for Emmie."
Zoro sighed softly as he looked out the window and was completely lost in thought. "What should I get her this year?" Ava's birthday was getting a bit closer and every year he still got her a gift and left it by the small shrine that they had of her up in the crow's nest. Every now and then when they were in a village he would pick up flowers for her with Emmeryn and they'd bring them back for Ava.
His thoughts were interrupted by the angry navigator coming to tell him that his child refused to take a bath. Zoro couldn't help but laugh. "She's a child after my own heart." He heard a splash followed by yelling and crying. He looked down at the water and his eyes widened in terror as he saw his little girl flailing in the ocean.
He leapt out of the window and grabbed onto the sail and slid down to the top deck he was about to dive into the ocean when Sanji beat him to it. He looked over the railing and saw the two swimming back. When Sanji went climb back on board Zoro lifted them both with ease making sure to grab his daughter to just in case Sanji lost his grip.
Not long after his daughter attached herself to his leg and he sighed with relief before pulling her off and holding her in his arms. "You don't want to go in the water? That's fine sweetheart. But you do have to take a bath okay? Sea monsters come after stinky kids."
Emmie's eyes widened as she wiggled out of his arms and ran over to Nami and grabbed her hand. "Auntie Nami I need to take a bath. Hurry! Hurry!"
Nami was pulled along to the bathhouse while Zoro chuckled. "Well that's one way to get her to bathe."
He turned to Sanji and gave a thankful smile. "Thank you Sanji..."
"I just did what Ava told me to." With that he turned and walked back into the kitchen.
"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."
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