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"Sanji," Ava looked down, "I want you to promise me, don't get jealous. No matter what you see." She knew that she would have to use her talents at some point during this battle and knowing Sanji would be around to witness it, bothered her.
As the group slowly got closer to the burning village, something felt off but Ava couldn't put her finger on it. "Stay on your guard!" Once they reached the village, they scrambled to find any survivors, even going to far as to dig through the rubble of buildings where there was no chance of anyone surviving. [i Something isn't right.]
Owen saw the smoke off in the distance and took a deep breath. "Now or never."
Clove put her hand on her shoulder and sighed softly. "You've gotten stronger. But don't get cocky."
Owen nodded. "Yes Ma'am."
The twins came out in matching outfits and grinned. "We're like the dual death squad."
Raea walked over to the Damned and grabbed her battle hammer. "Time to kick some ass."
Cydi looked at Usopp and smiled. "Ready?"
Usopp's legs were shaking but he nodded. "Ready? Pff I was born ready."
Cydi chuckled. "Yes of course. How could I have forgotten."
Franky looked at Robin and smiled softly. "Be careful out there. I'll have your back regardless."
Robin smiled as she patted his cheek. "You always do."
Sanji looked at Ava and kissed her cheek. "You look lovely."
As they docked the ships everyone got off together except for Clove. Clove looked at the sky and a chill ran through her body. [i Something doesn't feel right. It's the same feeling I had that night from that nightmare...] She thought back to the night when she woke up from the nightmare and went out on the deck to get some fresh air.
[i Luffy had been on watch duty that night so she decided to go talk to him.
"Oh hey Clove." He looked up at the green haired woman.
"Luffy... I need to talk to you."
Luffy cocked his head to the side and nodded. "Sure. What's up?"
Clove sat down beside him and sighed as she looked out at the sea. "I've been having these dreams at night... well more like nightmares... And... usually when I have nightmares they don't really get to me. But these... they feel so real... Look... the fight that we're going into... I have a bad feeling about it. So if anything happens to me... please... will you take care of my girls? Will you take care of my family?"
Luffy's smile faded. "What are you talking about nothing is going to happen to anyone. We won't let it."
At this point Clove had tears in her eyes. "Please! Just listen. I know everything might be fine. But these dreams feel so real. So please... just promise me you will take care of them. If they want to continue the life of pirates... They'll need a captain. And you're the only pirate Captain I've ever met that I trust."
Luffy was hesitant but he nodded. "Of course. But if they don't want to be pirates anymore I'm not going to force them."
Clove nodded. "That's understandable. Thank you Luffy."
Luffy nodded then patted her shoulder gently. "It'll be alright though."]
Clove looked up and saw Hime and Hattori with their hands on their hips. "Come on! We're heading out!"
Clove nodded before hopping off the ship then running to catch up to everyone.
Ava had made sure over the past week that Owen was taking care of herself while training. She was also being careful to not let on that she was still worried about how things would end, even if Sanji said he wouldn't let her go. Looking at Owen she nodded, "We know what he is looking for."
"And we're going to stop him," Luffy pounded his fists together.
"Hey look you guys," Chopper called as a thick cloud of smoke could be seen several miles off.
"Looks like its time to change," Ava sighed as she went over to the Damned. Several minutes later she returned and was pulling on a pair of fingerless gloves, "What a pain."
"Ava," Raea raised a brow, "You said you'd never wear that again."
"Yes well," she shrugged, "I have the most flexibility in this outfit."
Sanji nodded. "There should be some in the back of the fridge."
After Robin thanked him he watched her leave and then turned his attention to Ava. "If you're worried about what happens after. Don't worry." He smiled and kissed her lips softly. "There no way in hell I'm losing you. And Zoro I'm sure feels the same about Owen. Our crews won't part ways. We've all basically became one big family. Plus Clove isn't after Luffy's dream so they won't ever be rivals."
About a week had passed since they saw that headline and everyone had been preparing for the upcoming battle.
"Guys!" Nami ran to the lawn where almost everyone was gathered. "Another headline. He just razed another village. It's not far from where we are now. Should we go and see if there are survivors or if they're still there?"
Owen heard Nami yelling and looked out the window of the crows nest. She clenched her fist when she heard he had razed another village. "Dammit... I will kill that sick bastard..."
Clove sighed softly. "We will. Come. One more sparring match. Then we can go discuss what to do."
After one more sparring match Owen bowed before heading down to the main level. "We should go see if there are any survivors. And if there aren't he may have a clue to his next victim."
Ava sat on the counter while Sanji went back to doing the dishes. There were hundreds of thoughts going through her mind but the one that bothered her the most is how things would end. She was afraid that something might happen during the final fight that would set the two crews back on separate paths. [i Am I willing to walk away from it all if it comes to it?] She hadn't said anything for a while and she knew that Sanji would likely ask her if something was wrong if she remained silent.
"Sanji I..." Her words fell short as Robin entered the kitchen.
"Don't mind me," Robin said, "I'm just here for some water." She grabbed a glass out of the cabinet before stopping and turning to Sanji, "Do you happen to have any Cola left?"
The words rang through her head. [i The final battle... what will happen after it?] She pondered the thought but shook her head and smiled. "So, this is it then. The final battle. We will end his twisted ways." She looked up at Zoro. "So I need to train more now! I need to be ready."
Sanji chuckled. "Don't burn yourself out though. Because that won't help if we encounter him as well."
Robin nodded. "And you need to stay hydrated."
Franky laughed. "You sound like a mother, Robin."
Robin smiled. "Do I? Well maybe there was something I was neglecting to tell you."
Franky's face turned red as his eyes widened. "W-Wait what?!"
Robin chuckled. "Oh calm down. I'm only teasing you. That's what you get for trying to tease me."
Franky sighed then chuckled. "Woah... you totally got me there."
After a bit more chatter everyone went their separate ways to prepare in whatever way they had to.
Owen went back up to the crows nest to train and Clove went with her to spar.
Hime went to sharpen her daggers and Hattori went to craft more of her arrows.
Sanji and Ava flirted and kissed in the kitchen when everyone was gone.
Cydi went to help Usopp with some new pellets he was making.
And Robin went to keep Franky company while he was working on something in his shop.
Robin was chatting away but then everything went silent for a bit. "Franky? Is everything alright?" She asked concerned.
"Yeah... I mean... Sort of yeah."
She stood up from where she was sitting and walked over to him and gently placed her hand on his arm. "Franky... you know you can talk to me right?"
Franky nodded. "Of course I know that... it's just... about earlier."
Robin raised an eyebrow then realized what he was talking about. "Dear, I was just teasing you. I'm sorry if I worried you." She apologized with a wary look on her face.
Franky shook his head once more. "No I'm not upset over it... It just... got me thinking." He turned to face the raven haired woman with a serious look. "Robin be honest. Do you want kids?"
Robin's face turned red at the sudden question. "W-Wah?" She took a breath in then sighed softly. "Well... of course. One day I would love to have a family of my own. A loving husband, and one or two kids running around the house. It's been a dream in the back of my mind since I was young. But... it's sort of a hard to have a dream like that when you're a pirate. A pregnant woman on the seas is probably a nightmare. And with the trouble that we get into being part of the straw hats... We'd be putting our child in danger just by being who we are." She sighed softly. "So, I've sort of... given up on that dream." She looked up at him and smiled the best she could but her smile was filled with sadness. "But it's fine. You don't need to worry. I'm just grateful that I have you." She leaned up and kissed his cheek before taking a step back. "I'm going to get a glass of water. Do you want anything?"
Franky looked at her worried but knew better than to pry any further. "Cola if Sanji has any in there."
Robin nodded. "Okay." And with that she left and headed to the kitchen.
Luffy shook his head and crossed his arms, "I already said I'd help." For a moment he was frowning then quickly grinned, "But you aren't going to die, we wont let you."
"He has a point," Usopp said, "Thats really the only reason we're still traveling together. It started out as just helping Ava then Clove mentioned the Ghost Pirates and why her and Cydi left the Marines. Luffy said he'd help no matter what."
Ava looked away knowing that what Usopp said was true, and deep down her heart ached. Would they go their separate ways once the Ghost Pirates were taken care of? "So this is it then? The final battle."
Owen felt her heart quicken in pace once more but this time it wasn't because of Zoro it was because she was nervous. She looked at Zoro nervously but then took a deep breath. "D-Did you guys see the paper today?"
Robin could tell she was nervous and smiled softly. "Yes, the article about the Ghost Pirates?"
Owen nodded. "The leader of the ghost pirates is a marine... He was actually the marine captain in charge at the base we broke into to get that fruit for Ava." She sighed softly. "He knows I'm the only survivor from one of his attacks. And he tried to kill me when we were on that base." SheShe looked up at Zoro again. "Zoro saved me from him that time because I froze. But he's no longer just hitting villages when he gets bored. It looks like he's going on an all out frenzy on any village he sees." She looked down and ran her fingers through her hair. "And... I think it's because he's looking for me. I know his identity so I'm a threat. He wants me dead. I can't keep hiding. I can't keep getting protected. I want... I want to stop his reign of terror. I don't want anymore innocent lives lost. S-So... what I'm asking is... can I please ask for your help... I know I won't be able to take on his crew alone. But I will put an end to his reign even if it costs me my life."
"Yeah," Zoro nodded as they went to join the others in the kitchen. He made sure to grab the empty plate so the Sanji wouldn't go ape shit because they didn't bring it back. Once they were all in the kitchen, he looked towards Owen to fill everyone in completely.
Ava stood by the counter with another cup of coffee and watched as everyone ate while enjoying some random morning conversation. "Guys," Ava sighed, "Stop talking, we have something important to discuss."
Owen took a deep breath then let it out. "Well... its now or never." She murmured softly before hugging Zoro tightly to calm her nerves. She pulled away and kissed his cheek. "Will you come with me?"
As everyone filed into the kitchen Sanji chuckled before kissing Ava's cheek once more before standing up to go make everyone else breakfast. "Coffee should be done if anyone wants some."
"Why don't you guys fill them in," Ava suggested as she stood up, "I'll go make sure that the rest of the Damned is awake." While Hime and Nami filled in Robin and Franky, she went over to the Damned and began waking everyone up, telling them to get over to the Sunny.
"Probably." Zoro looked out the window and saw the remaining Straw Hats leaving the lower deck and heading into the kitchen. "Looks like they are," he noticed Ava leaving the Damned with the rest of the crew, "and so are the rest of your crew."
Owen shook her head. "Yes it's okay. But I'm not going to back down. Not this time. It's time to stop running." She looked up at him and smiled. "I need to talk with the others. Do you think everyone is awake by now?"
"What's up brother and sisters? Talking so quietly in the morning." Franky yawned as he walked into the kitchen after Robin.
Robin chuckled. "So did I hear something about an incoming battle? I noticed the paper outside. Am I to assume it has to deal with that?"
"Hime!" Ava couldn't believe what her friend just said and used her free hand to cover her mouth. "If you know whats good for you, you'll stop talking right now. If you don't," her voice dropped to a whisper, "I'll smother you in your sleep."
"So you're saying there is a possibility of an upcoming battle," Nami asked as she placed her elbows on the table and leaned forward.
"Thats exactly what I'm getting at." Ava released Sanji's hand and uncovered Hime's mouth, "The one thing that worries me is if she'll be able to go through with it."
Zoro wrapped his arms around Owen and held her close, "Its okay to be afraid though."
Owen thought for a moment. Then stayed silent processing Zoro's words. She took a deep breath then exhaled. [i I need to do this... No more running... It's now or never.] She looked up at Zoro and moved her plate to the side before wrapping her arms around his neck so she could kiss him. "Thank you Zoro."
Sanji nodded. "I'm sure she's talking to Zoro right now. She seems to trust him the most."
"Or they could just be having another round of crow's nest fun." Hime retorted. "Besides I would hope she trusts him... I mean... I'm pretty sure he's the only guy to ever see her naked."
"You wont know until you face him." Zoro wiped the tears from her eyes then sat back, arms crossed thinking of how to comfort her. Nothing came to mind other than what he knew was true, "Even if you are afraid, you have to face your fear. We'll be there to back you up."
"This time, it isn't our choice to make." Ava sighed, tightening her grip on Sanji's hand, "One thing is for sure, if Owen does go through with it, I'll stand by her."
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