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Ava saw the brief flicker of pain when she asked her question. Could she really be selfish enough to walk away and never him behind? Deep down she knew the answer and she knew that she couldn't ask him to leave this behind to be with her. "I won't leave you," she whispered before kissing him back, [I You promised you'd never leave me so I won't leave you.]
"What's ifs don't change anything," Luffy grumbled, "Clove died protecting people she loved." He thought back to Ace and how he died protecting him then shook the memory away.
Sanji sighed softly as he ran his fingers through her hair. Her next question three him off slightly and even though it made his chest hurt and shook his head. "No. In the end, love, the choice is yours to make. I can't be the one to help you decide." He stood up and wrapped his arms around her. "Do what you think is best for you." He kissed her lips softly.
Owen sniffed slightly holding back her tears. "I-I know... Its just... It's all these what ifs... What if I got him harder, would that have saved her? What if I didn't get distracted by the axe guy and killed him earlier... Would that have saved her." She sighed softly and her hands were shaking once more. "That's the thought going through all of our minds... The ifs are part of what's making this so hard." She wiped her eyes hoping it would stop the tears.
"We could have stopped the second shot." Ava moved so she was right in front of him then rested get forehead against his knees. [I I know we can't change the past.] She's couldn't feel the cold from the water anymore and by that time she figured she was sober enough to get out. She carefully slid herself out of the water and reached for a towel, "Would you fault me if I wanted to give this all up?"
"Yeah," Luffy replied as he watched Zoro start stopping Owen's hair.
"We almost lost you too you know," Zoro pointed out.
Sanji sighed softly and placed his hand over hers. "Ava... From the sounds of it... Even if we got there in time... She didn't have a painful death. The second shot was instant... Even if we were there we wouldn't have been able to save her..."
Owen shook her head. "No I need some tea right now." Her hands were shaking slightly. She leaned against the counter waiting for the tea to brew. When it was done she poured herself a cup and her hands were still shaking slightly as she took a sip. She walked over and sat beside Zoro. "Everything is going to be so different." She murmured softly as she rested her head on his shoulder.
Ava drew her knees to her chest and hung her head when she saw Sanji, "She sent you here to talk to me, didn't she?" After a few minutes she finally looked at him, "If i have frozen when this men showed up maybe we would have gotten there in time. Maybe Clove would still be alive." She felt her eyes start to well up again, "What kind of doctor am I if I can't even save my captain?"
"Owen," Zoro set the bottle down, "Have Chopper take care of your leg."
Luffy tilted his head back to look at Owen, "You don't have to make more tea."
Owen smiled and shook her head. "It's fine. Just needs to be cleaned. I think being slammed into the wall did more damage than the ace did to my leg." She sat on the edge of the tub. "I'll have you look it over when you clear your mind."
Sanji listened as Raea spoke and nodded. "I'll go talk to her." He retorted before heading to the bath.
Nami nodded as well. "Lets go get her some clothes."
He gently knocked on the door before opening it. "Mind if I come in?" He closed the door behind him and smiled softly when he saw Ava. He sat next to the tub.
Owen smiled softly before hugging Ava. "I'll give you two some privacy."
When Owen headed out the door she took a deep breath then released before heading towards the kitchen. When she opened the door she saw Zoro was still in there talking to Luffy. She walked over to the kettle and started making some tea.
Raea was about to say something about Ava needing a change of clothes but just shrugged it off and carried the brunette to the bathroom. Once there, and when there was enough water, she dropped the woman in. "Snap out of it Ava!" She watched the woman go rigid from the cold but didn't hear a response. "Listen to me," she sat on the edge of the tub, her feet in the water, "I get it, it's hard. You watched Mari died and now you're stuck knowing you couldn't do anything to save Clove. But you can't sit here and say you can't do it anymore. You're a doctor, of course you're going to lose people. Even if you weren't, people dying is a sad fact of life."
"You think I don't know that?" Ava ran her fingers through her wet hair, "Being begged to bring someone back, I can't do it. I can't even think clearly around death."
"Yeah that's why you finished that bottle."
"Owen," she looked at the blonde, "How is your leg? Did Chopper get a chance to take a look at it?"
"Don't change the subject," Raea sighed. "I'll see if Robin or Nami have some dry clothes for you to change into." Getting up she left the bathhouse to go see Nami, [I Would she really be willing to have Sanju behind if she left this life?]
Zoro sat in the kitchen with Luffy, Nami and Sanji turning the empty bottle around in his hands. "Luffy, are you sure about this?"
"Mhm," Luffy nodded, "They all made up there mind to stay."
"Except Ava," Nami pointed out.
"She'll stay," Raea said as she walked into the kitchen, "She just needs time to gather get thoughts."
"How do you know," Nami asked.
"Just give her time. Do you have something she can change into? I'd feel bad leaving her in wet clothes because she could get sick." She tilted her head towards Sanji, "Maybe you should go talk to her?"
Hattori looked at Franky and then bowed her head. "C-Can you teach me how to build and tinker? I'd like to see the inner workings. M-Maybe I can help with the drafts?" She knew she would have to ask for help soon and she figured why not now.
Franky was a little surprised but smiled and nodded with a wide grin. "Of course sister. But don't expect me to go easy on your lessons because you're a novice."
Hattori nodded with a small smile. "Right!"
Raea smiled as she patted Hattori's head before lifting Ava off the ground and throwing her over her shoulder. "Owen can you go start the bath?"
Owen nodded before rushing off to the bathhouse to fill it with cold water.
Hime looked and saw Hattori head out with Franky while carrying a few boxes. She sat down on the grass again and sighed softly.
Cydi walked over and placed her hand on her shoulder.
Hime gently put her hand over Cydi's and felt the tears roll down her cheeks. "Everyone's staying so strong... I just feel like my world is falling around me..."
Cydi sighed softly before wrapping the small girl in a hug. "Don't worry... you are strong. Everyone hasn't moved on. She was a huge part of this family. We all loved her as if she was our sister too. I know it's hitting you and Hattori really hard. So for awhile you may feel like the world is falling around you, or that you feel lost and alone. But we will always be here to help you through. That's what family does."
Hime started to sob again as she clenched onto Cydi and Cydi gently rubbed her back holding her close.
"I can't do this anymore." Ava put her hand over Owen's as she hugged her, "I can't keep losing people I care about."
"None of that," Raea whispered as she knelt down and took the empty bottle from the either woman. She read the lable and sighed, "She's drunk."
Zoro looked at the bottle then took it from Raea, "Where did she even get something like this? It's not cheap booze."
"The same way she gets everything else." Shaking her head she looked at Owen, "Help me get her to the bath, the cold water will do her some good. Maybe we can talk some sense into her then."
"We'll start moving your stuff into the lounge until I can upgrade the Sunny," Franky said as he picked up a few crates. "I'll start drafting new plans tonight."
When Raea suggested going with Sanji she nodded as she taught him Clove's special tea recipe.
There was light chatter in the kitchen when they heard Ava yelling. Owen remember the look on Ava's face after Mari died. She didn't have her hearing back then but she assumed the words she said were close to the same.
When Nami rushed back into the kitchen everyone felt a wave of heat before rushing outside only to see the damned up in flames.
Nami assumed that the rest of the Devil's Damned would be furious or upset but to her surprise every single one of them had a smile on their face and tears rolling down their cheeks. The girls all walked over to Ava and Raea put her hand on her shoulder. "To a new beginning. For Clove."
Cydi nodded. "I'm going to become stronger and take down any twisted prick who tries to harm the weak."
Owen smiled. "I'll become stronger so I don't have to be protected all the time and I'll master baking and make the greatest baked good that anyone has ever tasted."
Raea smiled. "I'll help keep the sunny going and work hard to protect everyone and keep the twins in line."
Hime stood up and looked straight at the burning ship. "I'll make sea charts and sail across the world and make you proud Clove."
Hattori wiped her eyes as she cried. "I-I'll make great inventions that will help the world."
Owen placed her hand on Ava's back but then wrapped her in a hug. "We miss her too."
Ava was silent as she listened to Clove's letter and chuckled a bit before shaking her head, "A girl can dream." She looked over to the Damned, her heart sinking knowing that she would no longer call it home. She wiggled herself free from Sanji's arms and sighed, "Sanji could you make everyone some tea? I'm going to go over to the Damned for a little bit."
"Ava," Raea looked up as her friend went over to the Damned. She thought about how she reacted when Mari died and she knew there was something she was hiding. No matter how much she wanted to go after her, her main priority was the twins. "Owen, why don't you help him? You can teach him out favorite recipe."
Once Ava was back at the Damned, she thought about packing but instead went to the sick bay. She sat at her desk, then popped out the false bottom to remove a bottle, "Here's to you Clove." After removing the cork she took a big swig and slumped back in her chair, [I I don't think I can keep going now. Should I give it up?]
As she continued drinking and thinking, she went through and packed things from each room and moved them over to the Sunny. Each time she went outside, no one was on deck so she assumed they were all in the kitchen. "You can't just leave like that! It's not fair! And what's worse, you kept it from us."
"Ava," Nami went to check on the brunette when she didn't come back and saw items from the Damned had been moved. She knew what was coming and she knew that on her own she couldn't prevent it. Turning and running back into the kitchen she looked at the group, "She's going to bur...." Her words came too late as a wave of heat pushed open the kitchen door causing her to duck.
Ava slumped down on the deck, empty bottle in hand, as she watched her home go up in flames. "I'm not good at letting go," she whispered as she started crying again.
Owen was still clinging to Zoro and Cydi was clinging to Usopp both were distraught but the twins were the worst of it. They both had gone pale and the their bright pink eyes that once sparkled with mischief and playfulness were now a dull almost gray color.
Luffy sat down on the center of the lawn in front of the members of the Damned. "I promised you answers. And you all deserve them. So let's begin with the night I was on watch duty." He recalled the night like it was yesterday. And Clove's death was also hitting him with disbelief.
"I was bored out of my mind when I had heard a slam followed by Clove coming out of her Quarters. She looked worried so I had assumed it was just a bad dream or something. But then she came over to the sunny and told me she wanted to talk." He folded his arms over his chest. "She said that she'd been having nightmares that felt so real. And she mentioned that nightmares never shook her but these ones shook her to the core. She asked me that if anything were to happen to her, that I would look after you guys if you chose to continue the life of a pirate. At first I said that it was your guys choice to make not mine. But then she had tears in her eyes and she asked me again. And you all have become like family to us so of course if you wanted to join then we would gladly except but I never wanted it to have to come to that." He looked down for a brief moment. "She also told me to never mention this to any of you... So that part of the promise I'm breaking." He clenched his fists and bowed his head slightly. "I promised that we would all get out alive... So I broke that promise too. I know I can't bring her back... But I'm sorry to have broken that promise..." He reached into his pocket and pulled out the note that he had picked up. "T-This fell out of her pocket when she fell." His voice was starting to shake.
Robin placed a hand on his shoulder. "I'll read it Luffy. It's alright."
Luffy only nodded in response before Robin took the note from his hand.
As she unfolded it she sighed softly seeing the blood splatter on it. "To my girls, if you're reading this letter... it means that I'm no longer there. If it comes down to the worst. I wanted to write you something so that you got all the answers I'm sure you're looking for. After that first headline of the Ghost Pirates being in the area, I have been having nightmares. They aren't normal nightmares that I can shake off. The best way to describe them is that they seem like memories from the future. Luffy has probably already tried to explain to you about the promise but I want to tell you myself as well."
When Luffy heard her read the part about it supposed to being a secret he flinched slightly before a small sad smile came to his lips. [i She knew I would tell them when the time came...]
Robin continued. "The first night I woke up I went to talk to him about it. I know that the straw hats have become like family to us. And he is the only Pirate Captain on these seas that I have ever trusted. So I asked that if my time came, if he would welcome you with open arms to be part of his crew, if you wanted to continue living the life as a pirate. But do not, under any circumstances blame him. I made him promise me to not tell any of you because I didn't want you to worry. Because if any of your minds were clouded during the battle some of you may have perished as well... And if my life was the only one that was lost, then I am happy." Robin wiped a tear from her eye before continuing. "You all know that I love you from the bottom of my heart. And if I passed on protecting the people I love then I did not pass in vain." She took a deep breath before flipping the page. "I do have a few more things to say now not in regards to the promise. "Raea, I know it's a lot to ask but please keep my sisters from getting arrested. One of these days their mischief is going to get them in serious trouble."
Raea smiled softly and a small chuckle left her lips. "You got it boss."
"Cydi, stop keeping your relationship with Usopp strictly to the Factory. Just come out and tell the others already it's driving me nuts. And you think I didn't notice."
Cydi's face turned bright red as she looked at the paper then she smiled softly and a small chuckled escaped her lips as she looked up at Usopp. "I should have known that she knew what was going on..."
"Owen, you're getting stronger that I can tell. But don't over exert yourself make sure you take days to train your mind as well as your body. Also, sorry for picking on you and Zoro so much. I just wasn't used to a man having his hands on you. You're like a daughter to me. And don't stop baking. Your cakes are amazing."
Owen just cried a little more and nodded. "I-I'll make the best cakes in the world Clove. I promise."
"Hime, if you truly want to make detailed sea charts just ask Nami already if she would tutor you. You've always been a stubborn girl, but I know she can help you achieve your goals."
A little bit of color came back to Hime's eyes before the tears began flowing again. "I-I will... I love you sis..."
"Hattori, I know you've been working on little gadgets and whatnot and you tend to watch Franky when he invents things and Usopp when he creates new pellets. If you want to learn how to make successful inventions don't be afraid to ask for help. That's how you learn."
A little bit of color also came back to Hattori's eyes. "Sis..." Tears welled up in her eyes.
Raea gently rubbed both of the twins backs.
"Ava, try not to have sex in public, I mean I know Usopp tends to lie sometimes but the way you two have makeout sessions it wouldn't surprise me."
Robin took a deep breath before reading the final few sentences. "Now I get to party with Mari, and don't worry I know it feels like I'm gone. But I'll always be with you all. We have a strong bond. We're family. But in all seriousness. I don't want any of you to blame yourselves. I know it's hard. But I want you to move forward with your head held high. And I want you all to achieve your dreams. I believe in each and every one of you. And know, that I will always love you. Love, Clove."
Hime was the first to stand up and she slowly walked over to the note. She reached out and Robin handed it over to her. Hime's tears began falling even more. "I-It's her handwriting... We love you too sis..." Then she fell to her knees and hunched over crying into her hands.
Robin knelt down and wrapped her arms around the young girl.
"T-this isn't real," Ava sobbed as Sanji carried her, "It can't be real." She don't want to believe that Clove was gone or that she met the end that she did.
After they were out at sea once more, Luffy had the two crews gathered on the deck of the Sunny. He watched as his crew did their best as trying to comfort the crew of the Damned. He'd promised Clove to take care of them and he promised answers, so now felt the only time to explain.
"I will tell you. But as for right now. I need to keep the promise I made to Clove." Luffy put his hat back on before taking a few steps forward. "Sanji. Take her back to the ship."
Sanji was hesitant but nodded before picking Ava up bridal style and holding her close to him as he ran back to the ship.
Owen was still clenching onto Zoro's shirt in disbelief of everything that was happening. Any time she stopped to think she would just start crying again. "I-If I had been quicker... He wouldn't have lived long enough to give the order." She murmured before she started sobbing and shaking in his arms.
Cydi didn't fight she just let Usopp carry her on his back as she sobbed. Her throat felt dry but that didn't matter. She couldn't stop herself from sobbing.
Hime was still feisty and trying to get out of Franky's arms but Hattori was completely distraught. She just sobbed in Franky's arms wishing she could hug her sister. But she would never feel her warmth again.
Raea walked alongside everyone with tears rolling down her cheeks.
Nami looked up and saw that she was crying but was still trying to stay strong for everyone. [i Raea...]
Luffy walked over to where Clove had fallen and saw a folded piece of paper with blood spots on it. He opened it carefully and felt his heart sink. "I'm so sorry I didn't get here in time Clove..." He murmured softly.
Ava looked at Luffy, "You knew something was going to happen, didn't you? She made your promise something, didn't she?" She stood up, shaking and gripped Luffy's vest, tears streaming down her face. "You promised we'd all get out of this. You promised! So why?! Why did you let this happen?!"
Luffy didn't say anything, instead he have a brief nod to the crew and the too their cues to start heading back to the Sunny. Zoro picked up Owen and carried her bridal see, Usopp had Cydi on his back, Franky carried the twins while Chopper carried Clove's body. After Raea had taken out the snipers she left with Nami and Robin. The only ones left were Luffy, Sanji and Ava. "Sanji, take Ava back."
"No! You're going to tell me what you know! Tell me what she's made you promise!"
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