“Just show us where the alcohol is, and you won’t even know we’re here,” Shanks says to the village people, and they turn back to their business like they weren’t just confronted by pirates.
Roger unashamedly pouts a little at that— he’d die for a little more chaos, but, well— he’s already dead.
The sheer fact that Shanks said that after landing at the village home to Garp, the Marine hero, would already make Roger laugh hard enough to bust a lung. But from the townspeople’s whispers, Garp wasn’t currently here, so there went the wild goose chase he had been looking forward to watching since he recognized the island. Maybe it would be cruel to wish Monkey D. Garp upon the Red-Hair Pirates since they had been looking for a place to rest and resupply, but Roger can’t help it. It’s boring when there are no challengers in a place where everyone knows your name, and the most entertaining encounter that could have happened was now extremely unlikely at best.
In any case, he was looking forward to saying hi to the single person who probably hates him as much as Roger likes him. That’s exactly what made him the perfect candidate to be a godfather to his child, though Garp would definitely not spare the same leniency to his now full-grown apprentice.
He knows Rayleigh would sigh at his logic; call it asinine, maybe. And yet there was still the unquestioning acceptance— as if any words he uttered, Rayleigh could accept them as the laws of the world, and forge it to be so. (If it wasn’t in the range of what he considered absolute lunacy, anyway.)
No, Rayleigh would be fine. He’d been fine for twelve years now, if Marine information was anything to go off of.
(He cringes a little, because actually, he knows the way they twist words. Ah, whatever, the objective facts remained the same: Rayleigh was fine.)
The Red-Hair Pirates were, however, promised alcohol, so he can settle with that. If there’s anything that can make him feel better, it’s alcohol and a party. The tavern owner— Makino— relaxes and leads them into the tavern, so Roger, although slightly disappointed, follows. Makino does, however, mention something about a little spitfire who is simultaneously constantly scolded and adored by the village people, and Roger's interest is almost piqued, except for that apparently he also is not here.
He’ll find other things to amuse himself with though, if that’s what it takes. One of those things being that Shanks never fails to make neat attempts at diplomacy, because Roger is unendingly amused when people think Shanks is actually polite. Roger knows Shanks, and Shanks is most definitely not mature; he’ll expose that much the second he takes a chug or encounters a small child. Shanks is probably just as bad as himself, in fact: truly a person after his own heart. The only difference is that Shanks bothers with diplomacy when it’s necessary. Roger certainly never did— Rayleigh did that for him.
He misses Rayleigh a stupid amount.
Damn it, he worked himself into a sour mood, and a sour mood is incredibly useless in the life of a pirate. Somehow his stomach hurts even as a ghost, which Roger totally calls bullshit on, because the last time it hurt was when he was still alive and atop that platform in Loguetown. The rest of him feels nothing, and even where it hurts feels disjointed, like it doesn't actually hurt, because being a ghost is weird. But he’s reminded that he’s in the now, not the long gone, and so he brushes aside all the semantics that make his head hurt. The bottles don’t meet his hands, the walls don’t echo his cheers, and the world apparently doesn’t care that being a ghost is boring. He turns toward the tavern, though now his heart really isn’t in it at all; he's wistful now, which sucks.
He sighs. “Maybe I’ll go haunt Garp when he comes back.”
“Garp? You mean my Gramps?”
Oh hell, Garp has an actual grandchild? Aside from Ace/Ann? He didn’t see that coming. Wait, that would mean the kid is the child of Dragon, right? “The World’s Most Wanted Criminal” Revolutionary Dragon? Wait, fuck, that’s hilarious—
"If you're looking for him, he's away for now. I don't know why you'd be looking for him though, since you're a pirate." The boyish voice breaks off into a snicker. "You're weird."
Roger throws a glance at the child, and is met with a tiny, scrawny, bright-eyed little brat, bearing unruly hair and a smile emanating mischief that could possibly match his own.
Little spitfire, Roger recalls.
Must be a true brat to be talking to a nine-foot tall man unfazed, he thinks, but a sudden wave of amusement quickly overtakes him. This is infinitely better than shouting cheers to a room with people who won't hear him. Spunky kids are the most fun to mess with. “Oh?” is all he says back.
The boy laughs. "Shouldn't you join your— friends, or… uh, crewmates?"
His eyes scroll down to the boy's shirt, and he returns a laugh. "What, a troublesome-looking kid like you wants to mess with pirates? Not a good move, Anchor."
"Shut up! Don't call me that— " the boy yells in annoyance, and oh wow, Roger had forgotten how much he enjoyed messing with kids since Shanks and Buggy grew up, now laughing at the enraged child pathetically assaulting his kneecaps.
"Luffy! Keep it down with your imaginary friend or whatever there, okay?!" some man yells with a strangely playful sneer in his voice. The one who introduced himself as mayor earlier, Roger thinks vaguely, Woop Slap.
Wait, the man heard the kid —
"You shut up too, old man!" the kid— Luffy— yells back, looking like he's about to burst a vein. "I know you know I'm not imagining anything! The whole village does!" He huffs out an overdramatic "Hmph!" before plopping himself on the porch of the tavern.
That brought on unreasonably late realizations. The boy he's talking with is— solid. Alive. Not translucent in the slightest. Talking to himself, who is dead.
The kid seems to have forgotten his wounded pride in an instant, for all that he looks back up at Roger and goes, “You just realized?”
“I don’t wanna be told that by a brat who probably has to be told to wear a jacket to realize he's freezing cold," Roger sneers.
The boy's cheeks color as he murmurs something like 'That was one time with Makino! One time! ', and Roger laughs even harder, knowing he hit the nail on the head.
He doesn't want to lose the apparent single living person in the world he can talk to as a ghost though, so he decides he should probably stop pissing the kid off, at least for now. "Gutsy, yelling at a pirate," Is what he settles on as he sits down beside the kid. "I like that. Name's Roger."
"I'm Luffy! Monkey D. Luffy!" the kid chirps back, kicking his feet in the air, before he suddenly halts. "Wait, Roger? Like Gold Roger? The Pirate King?!"
"It's Gol D. Roger!" he shouts, because he can't help it. The Marines just had to do this to him, didn't they? "They fucked up my name and now everyone says it wrong, damn it!"
(Roger wonders rather belatedly if he shouldn't swear in front of a child, but he kind of figures that with a grandpa like Garp, that's a null issue already, so he brushes it aside.)
Luffy doesn't seem to care in the slightest though, with that face that screams oh, cool story that I didn't listen to at all, anyway , and he says, "Soooo...what's your treasure?"
"Ain't tellin' you, brat," says Roger instantaneously, because if there's anything he's not, it's a spoilsport. " 'M not giving a lil' fame-seeking Anchor any special treatment just 'cause he can see me." He sticks his tongue out at the kid, because he doesn't deal with cheaters.
The kid makes a face for a split second as if vaguely offended by the gesture and reoccurring insult, but then blinks back with wide, uncomprehending eyes for a moment, before, "Oh! No, I'm not talking about the One Piece," and Roger has to raise an eyebrow at that.
"Why would I ask about that? That'd ruin my adventure!" Luffy says with some odd traces of pride. "I'm going to be a pirate captain and have my own adventure! I wouldn't ask even if you would tell me."
Roger would totally give this kid an oh-really-now look if he weren't actually somewhat convinced, but he really kind of is. That's the kind of answer he likes to hear, after all; not many can say that.
"Why do you wanna be a pirate, then?"
"Mostly to spite my Gramps."
Okay, fuck, this kid is hilarious.
"The treasure is cool too, but mostly I just don't wanna stay here," Luffy continues, "I wanna be free."
It's like looking in a slightly warped mirror, feeling his very soul resonate with a child that's less than half his size.
Roger wonders if he or Shanks can push it. If someone can give this kid a push, and 'free' can turn into 'the freest person in the world.'
It'll be a spectacle to behold, he's sure.
"Ah! I almost forgot!" Luffy near-yells and breaks him out of his train of thought, "What about your treasure?" He's looping back to their earlier subject, and Roger sighs, because the kid actually expects Roger to suddenly understand his uncontrollable, incoherent stupid. Will of the King, Roger supposes. Great for ambition, but terribly irritating in an everyday conversation.
"Most ghosts have their own treasure," says Luffy matter-of-factly. "Someone or something, or maybe a lot of things, that they're watching over. So," he gestures towards the tavern, " 's that your crew you're watching over? Or is it just the red-haired guy?"
"Mostly the red-haired guy," Roger admits without shame, because Shanks was one of his, but the others are all Shanks's. "Him n' his hat."
"His hat? What about his hat?"
" 's special, to him n' me n' maybe Rayleigh and Crocus. My crown, a treasure to all of us," Roger sighs a little, "'cept Buggy, probably, and that's mostly Shanks's fault."
"Huh," says Luffy as he takes in the new information. "That's all?" he asks, and his nose wrinkles a little like he's the slightest bit disappointed.
Luffy sticks out his tongue.
"You can be greedy, sure. But y'know, you don't need to have a lot to be happy."
"Mm, I guess that's true," the kid says, looking thoughtful now. "I'm pretty happy even with Gramps tryna' to force me to become a Marine, n' all I have are Gramps n' Makino n' sometimes nice ghosts, though sometimes the ghosts leave."
"Really now?" He's seen at least a few other ghosts pass by in this village doing their own thing. Well, it's a bit odd for ghosts to be here since this village is so peaceful— less resentment and grudges and regrets left behind— but maybe it was this little troublemaker that made them want to stick around.
"Mmmmyup. Gramps tied me to a bunch of balloons once and then let me fall. The ghosts tried to catch me, but Gramps startled them and they dropped me anyway." He pauses, and then his face lights up again. "Oh! And there was that one time Gramps threw me into the forest. Some ghosts helped me look for lizards n' bugs to eat. They tried leading me out of the forest too, but Gramps kept throwing me back in, so."
Ah, right. Monkey D. Garp was still a madman. Excellent. Clearly the best choice of a godfather. It meant Ace/Ann was getting the beating they needed; Roger's never going to regret that decision.
"Most of 'em leave after sometime. Move on, I guess. Some just hang around," Luffy says, then turns back to him again, "But what about people-treasure? You were a pirate, so you musta met a bunch of people."
"I'm still a pirate, thank you very much, and I toldja already. Red-haired."
"But not only that," Luffy says with absolute certainty, oddly sharp for someone so slow-witted. "You kept talking about someone named Rayleigh earlier, and also someone named Crocus, but you also mentioned Gramps, so part of it has something to do with Gramps."
Roger doesn't like talking about people who aren't here, because then he'll think about them not being here and get into a sour mood again, but the kid is exhaustingly persistent. Hit the nail on the head, in fact , and so Roger concedes, "Yep, you caught me. Though I ain't tellin' you shit about Rayleigh and Crocus," the kid pouts at that, "I might as well tell ya 'bout the other one, 'cause they're Garp's treasure too, now. Ace, or Ann, I don't know yet. But they go by one of those names, and they're three years older than you."
You'll meet them n' Rouge soon enough, He doesn't say.
The kid beside him takes in the words with bright eyes. "Ace or Ann," he says, voice oddly hushed, like it's something breathtaking as he repeats it again, softer yet firmer: "Ace or Ann."
It's a strange kind of spark that resides in Luffy's eyes now, like he's already decided this treasure is now his own, too.
Greedy, Roger can tell. He knows it when he sees it. But it's not the grimy, unpleasant, plundering kind; more like the childish kind: mine, mine, mine. Though, they're both definitely annoying, he thinks, and it makes him want to laugh. Rayleigh had always said oh, if only you could experience yourself, then you'd know, and Roger thinks this is the closest thing he's going to get.
Fucking damnit, not again. No. Nope. He's not doing this today, no way.
It's the sudden halt of his train of thought that makes him realize how quiet it's gotten.
The noisy background ruckus of rambunctious cheers and celebration coming from inside the bar had fallen to near silence at some point, but listening closely enough, anyone could hear the soft, whispery breaths between lapses.
He glances at the kid, who meets his eyes at the same time.
Roger throws the kid an impish grin, pleased to find Luffy already mirroring the same smile.
Truthfully, Shanks awakens the moment he hears footsteps outside, because 1) he may be an alcoholic, but he's still one of the Four Emperors with dignity to protect (not that his dignity exists when he's drunk) and 2) Observation Haki is incredibly useful. The presence approaching the entrance is small and bursting with sparks, and Shanks is suddenly reminded of a certain someone mentioned by the tavern owner.
Little spitfire, huh? Oh, this is going to be fun.
His men have already noticed at this point too, if the immense shit-eating grins on their faces are anything to go off of. But no one makes any move, just lying still as statues while pretending to snore, and it's obvious what their game plan is.
Benn gives an almost imperceivable sigh, or maybe it's just a telepathic one to Shanks alone, but he doesn't make a move either, so Shanks knows he's won him over enough to play along.
The kid pops his head into the doorway and looks around, though his gaze lingers up at empty air for longer than it does anybody in the room.
Odd kid, indeed.
The kid creeps closer, and his eyes glow like they've seen gold once they land upon Shanks's straw hat, and oh hell no, Shanks is giving this kid the scare of his life if he touches his treasure.
The kid reaches for it— nearly brushes the rim— but then freezes cold in his tracks, and his head whips upward, like he was caught with his hand halfway in the cookie jar by an adult looming over his back, except no one in the room has moved a muscle.
"Huh? They're— I mean, you guys are awake? Wow, I didn't even notice! You guys had me fooled!"
Damn it, who ruined my fun?
Shanks sighs and concedes, getting up in his seat while giving Benn the stink-eye, and Benn has the nerve to look nonplussed.
Wasn't me, Benn says through eye contact.
I literally did nothing.
Suuuure, if you say so.
Benn doesn't say another word through his eyes or otherwise; just sighs and turns away.
Shanks sticks his tongue out at him.
"You caught me," admits Shanks, "But if you did touch my hat, I totally would've scared you out of your mind."
"Would not!" the kid yells, puffing out his cheeks like a spitfire, much to Shanks's amusement.
"Would too," Shanks insists, because this is amusing him greatly and he thinks he's just discovered that his favorite pastime is making fun of children— no wonder Roger enjoyed this so much— "If only someone hadn't given it away."
"Aww, quit blaming it on Benn, Captain," comes aloud from an obnoxious voice on the other side of the bar— Roux's, "It's your terrible acting that gave it away," and there's a hum of agreement from Yasopp as well— though he's still drooling with his face half-mashed on the table, so maybe it's just him drunk-mumbling about his kid.
"Mutiny! My own men, betraying me!" Shanks half-yells, half-whines, grabbing the nearest bottle to wave it around dramatically. "I regret bringing along each and every one of you."
The kid blinks, looks at Benn and then back at Shanks, looks over his shoulder, seems to consider his words for approximately three seconds, and then goes, "Yeah, it was definitely you."
That makes his crew burst into hysterics, and Shanks can't help feeling bullied. Funny to his crew, probably, since he's the victim here and not them.
"So, kid," Shanks says, trying to maintain the dignity he didn't have in the first place, "I'm Shanks, and this here's my crew." He takes the opportunity to snipe at them: "The party-pooper ponytail is Benn, the blubby beachball blabbermouth is Lucky Roux, and that drunk sap who never shuts up about his kid is Yasopp," and oh, does Shanks revel in their booing. "What's your name?"
"I'm Luffy. Monkey D. Luffy," the kid chirps back, like that isn't a bombshell.
Oh. Well, then.
"S-so then, I'm assuming you're related to Monkey D. Garp?" Shanks asks, and Luffy nods.
"Mhmm. I want to be a pirate captain, which Gramps hates. But Gramps can't do anything about me talking to pirates if he isn't here," the kid snickers.
Huh. This is something to behold; the sight of a Marine hero's grandson wanting to be a pirate, casually talking to a pirate. Actually, well, this is Garp they're talking about here. Anyone related to someone that intense would probably either become the perfect Marine or rebel out of spite, and for the few minutes he's known this kid, it's pretty obvious which side he lies on.
"Well, anyway, I was serious about the hat thing," Shanks says because it's obviously his top priority to clarify this, "It's precious to me, y'know. It's my dearest treasure, given to me by my old captain. It was his crown."
He's probably going to get some common sense response from a brat like this, like that's dumb, a straw hat isn't a crown, and Shanks is fully prepared to argue back for his hat's honor.
But Luffy's eyes widen till they fill up with stars and reflect the color of gold, and he laughs and says, "It really must be precious, huh?"
"...Yeah," says Shanks, and it surprises him how soft his own voice goes. Or maybe it's really not surprising at all.
And out of nowhere, drunk-ass Yasopp grabs him by the shoulder, saying, "Oi, oi, the fuck, Captain?" and Shanks has the sudden urge to shake him and say do not curse in front of the literal child, what the fuck .
Makino rushes to cover Luffy's ears, but from the unchanging expression on Luffy's face, it's pretty obvious that this is in no way new territory; his lunatic grandpa is probably to thank for that.
"You tell a random little kid way out here in the middle of fuck nowhere East Blue about your hat but not us?"
Roux aggressively bites into another meat-covered bone sounding somewhat miffed, and even Benn glares at him with an are-you-serious look.
Shanks remembers his crew members each asking him at some point, but he's fairly sure that each time he responded with something like not telling you! and unfortunately adults are not nearly as fun to mess with as kids; they give up too easily.
"Well, now you know."
"Literal worst captain," Benn sighs with his face in his hands, and the others nod in agreement; so rude!
"Hey! Benn gets to say that as first mate, but you guys don't get to say that as the idiots who decided to follow an even bigger idiot," Shanks huffs, and is met with intense booing, but he can see Benn hide a smirk behind his hands.
"Oh, you're the captain?" Luffy asks.
"Eeyup," says Shanks.
A headtilt, and then: "You don't really seem like it."
His crew, rather than defending his honor, proceeds to laugh at him hysterically; honestly so rude! Why did his ego need to suffer so much today? He just wanted to make fun of little children. Was that really so bad?
Shanks scans the kid up and down, and sees a bright-eyed, hot-tempered, gangly little runt, wearing an interesting choice of shirt that gives Shanks an idea to get back at the kid for his oh so deeply wounded pride.
"Well, you're one to talk, Anchor."
"Don't call me that!" Luffy flares up, and Shanks thinks that's much better, now— "That's twice I've been called that today, first by Roger and now you— "
Luffy slaps his hands over his mouth and glances at Makino, who very nearly drops the cup in her hands.
Shanks does, however, drop the bottle he'd been waving around, and it hits the floor with a clatter.
Wait. Wait, wait, wait, what.
What the shit.
Shanks thinks he may or may not have just forgotten how to breathe, but that does not mean he needs Benn leaning over to pat him on the back and ask if he's okay telepathically through his eyes, thank you very much.
Makino runs over to Luffy immediately and scolds him, but Shanks can't make out the words past the noise in his head.
What does he mean, "Roger"?
What does that —
It's exactly the kind of joke that Roger would have made, too—
Shanks knows, because he thought of how Roger used to tease him— what Roger would have said—
"Luffy, what do you mean by that?" Benn asks, calmly, patiently, but there's underlying tension now.
Luffy looks up at Makino with wide eyes and a frown, as if he just watched someone kick a puppy, or maybe he even is the kicked puppy. She kneels and they debate over whatever this secret is, Luffy waving dramatically to his side, and Makino looks just about as shocked as Shanks feels.
A petty surge of bitterness rises within him; he doesn't know why, because there's no reason for it to be there. There's a hollow pit twisting in his stomach at the mention of his former captain's name, which is stupid, becauses it has no reason to be there.
There's no reason.
Captain Roger's name is one known far and wide (most commonly in mock and scorn), and even without the odd context in this case, he's had twelve years to get over this loss, so he doesn't understand.
It's not because Shanks misses him, not really.
Their Captain Roger was such a far off person anyway, to a mere apprentice like Shanks. He was flighty and like the wind, slipping through your fingers before you realized he was even there. Gone before you got to know him, except for those who already did.
He was always some distance away, ahead at the front and fighting because he liked to; making a mess of things because he liked to. He would fight to the death over a simple insult towards one of his dear crew, because he simply loved his crew so much. Like the wind, he would always go, and like the wind, he would always come back. Back to the people he loved and the people who loved him back.
He was always there, with his dumb larger-than-life smile and dreams and his burning wish for freedom, and the freedom he gave to those who followed him and those whom he called family. Because Shanks was a part of that family, and Roger was so close. He was the wind, who drifted away and then came back as he pleased, free, and the ones whom he carried so close to him became free too.
He was the wind, far away, saying goodbye, because he knew he wasn't going to last any longer.
He was the wind, and he was gone, and never coming back, and he'd left behind only his echoes for the world to hear. The seas without the wind seem calm, collected, but maybe the calm is just the pretend-okay.
Maybe there is a reason.
It's because the sea can't carry ships or dreams forward without the wind.
It's because Shanks misses Roger, and years upon years still isn't enough to bury grief or cover the missing presence.
It's because the kid talks like he's just seen Roger, just talked to him, even, when Shanks and Buggy and Rayleigh and Crocus and everyone haven't had that for twelve years now, and they never will again.
It's dumb, Shanks thinks now. It's dumb for a wound long healed to be aching like this.
He sighs and mentally slaps himself. Now isn't the time to be getting sentimental over a name drop, of all things, he just wants to know why Luffy said it like that. Benn pats him on the back (which he does not need, thank you very much) before turning back to Luffy.
Meanwhile, the kid just keeps looking at Makino like a kicked puppy, but Makino keeps her expression firm.
Ah. Right. He was so busy being emo that he forgot about whatever was going on here.
"Um," Luffy says finally, crumbling under Makino's stare, "I can't tell you, 'cause Gramps'll get mad."
"Seriously?!" the outburst comes from Yasopp, who still doesn't look completely sober, "You can't just leave it there!"
There's murmurs of agreement from all around the bar, and Luffy turns to Makino again with a can-I-please-tell-them look, but Makino stands her ground, and Luffy deflates like a day-old balloon. Admittedly, the spectacle amuses Shanks greatly; he's not nearly as serious as he felt minutes ago.
"If I tell you, Gramps'll kill you!" says Luffy like it's an undeniable fact. That gets most of his crew to jump and turn away, and Makino breathes an apparent sigh of relief.
Shanks, for the third time that day, sighs. It's not something easy to let go, but apparently, it's not that easy to coax out, either, if it's something that would make Garp go on a murder-spree. Maybe he'll catch Luffy alone one of these days and ask then. They're not going to be leaving soon, after all.
Roger's incredibly bored.
The kid clung to Shanks every time he saw him, and he had little to nothing to do. Watching the kid was entertaining, but sometimes just watching isn't enough.
Sure, sometimes there was a perfect opportunity for him to humiliate his apprentice if he got Luffy to play along, but otherwise, there wasn't much he got to say. He didn't really want a repeat of the kid mentioning him, either.
The look on Shanks's face would probably stick with him for a while.
Ah, well, whatever.
Roger turns away from the coast and the sea he'd been watching for the whole of four minutes. Damn it, when would Garp come back?! It had been almost a year now since the Red-Hair Pirates landed here.
He wanted to see his child already.
"Hey, what is he doing?"
"Probably something crazy."
Roger looks up, attention caught, and lo and behold, there's Luffy standing on the bow of the ship with a knife in his hands, pointed at his face, in front of Shanks and his crew.
What the fuck, I left him alone for like, three seconds—
"A toast! To Luffy's craziness, and to our greatness!"
They're in the bar now; his crew is downing alcohol as per usual, and Shanks doesn't know why he's surprised at what this kid tried to pull in the almost-year that he's known him.
"Anchor, what made you think it was a good idea to stab yourself in the face? Because I've certainly never known any sane adult to do that." He makes sure to put on his most unimpressed face, though maybe the use of the insulting nickname ruins it.
"I 'unno," Luffy says half-heartedly as Makino stitches the wound under his eye with a mother's fury burning in her eyes. "Gramps has a scar here, and he's terrifying, so,"
"Don't do anything this stupid ever again, Anchor, I swear to the seas."
Luffy makes a noncommittal noise, and Shanks knows an I-make-no-promises face when he sees one.
"Hey, Captain, do you call him Anchor mentally too?" Roux's smug voice cuts in, and he ignores the way it makes Luffy scowl.
"No, in fact, I do not. I'm not that much of an asshole."
"Really? Actually— no, wait, nevermind. You'd forgot Anchor's actual name in that case," Roux says in his most innocent voice (so, y'know, absolutely vile).
" Hey," Shanks mutters, because his men are laughing at him again. "I resent that." Even Luffy has overlooked the use of the nickname in favor of laughing at him.
"You're still not forgiven for stabbing yourself in the face, Luffy," Benn says.
The subject in question freezes. Benn has apparently decided to be merciful and save him, so Shanks appreciates that.
"Literally what does Garp being probably the most terrifying man alive have to do anything with him being an adult?" Shanks has to ask, and from the look on Luffy's face, he doesn't know either.
With his ridiculous dog hat and hawaiian shirts under his Marine uniform? He can't even picture the man any way other than absolutely batshit feral. Though, maybe that's his bias speaking from his traumatic nostalgia of Garp chasing Roger and their Oro Jackson… ah, good times.
Again, another half-hearted response from the idiot: "Dunno. Couldn't think of anything else. But y'know, if you just took me out to sea—"
"Not gonna happen, Anchor," Shanks says, because he is never going to get tired at how Luffy twitches at the name, "You won't be able to handle being a pirate if you can't even swim."
"You don't know that I can't."
"Can you, then?"
Ah, this is delightful.
"As long as I stay onboard the ship, I'll be fine!" Luffy huffs, "And I can fight pretty well! My punch is as strong as a pistol!"
"I doubt you could even stay on the ship," says Shanks in his most unimpressed voice, "And wow, a pistol, huh…"
It has the desired effect, for all that Luffy looks three times redder. "What kind of tone is that?!" He doesn't deny the first part of it, so Shanks counts that as his victory.
He wants to sigh at his men partying behind him, all carefree. They've given the kid such a romantic view on the life of a pirate that he's gotten infuriatingly persistent, and as much as Shanks refuses to subject a literal seven year old to everything wrong the sea could possibly do to him, it feels a bit off since he can't say he'd give up the life himself.
"Captain, why don't you take him along just once?"
Shanks narrows his eyes. "Alright, sure. One of you get off, then."
They instantly run off to grab more drinks, which leaves Luffy dejected, angry, and screaming.
Shanks is secretly grateful for that, honestly. The seas are just so much wider than they seem. He never could have imagined half the sights he saw onboard the Oro Jackson, nor could he the dangers.
"Wait at least another ten years, and then I'll consider taking you out to sea," is what Shanks offers, not meaning it in the slightest, one reason being that Garp would chase his ass to the ends of the earth and beyond.
"I'm not a kid anymore!" the kid says, like saying it will magically change his age.
Shanks has a sudden idea to make fun of him, and says, "Don't be mad. Here, have some juice," sliding a glass over to him.
The kid reaches for it but then stops, and turns away to pout. "Hmph," is all he says, not even a word.
Ack. Maybe he really shouldn't piss the kid off so much. He can't help it; it's just too fun.
"Luffy? Hey, Luffy?" But the kid refuses to even look at him.
Ow. Okay, maybe he deserves that.
Shanks decides that Benn is probably his only hope, and gives him a pleading look.
Why? You deserve that.
Aww, I knew you would.
But if you piss him off again, I'm not helping.
Benn, pointedly, ignores the last part of their non-verbal conversation and calls Luffy's name, and Luffy, the traitor that he is, perks up and runs over immediately.
Really, he thought Benn was trustworthy. Rude, so rude. It wasn't Shanks's fault that kids were so entertaining to make fun of.
They talk about something or other, and Shanks hears 'Captain' being mentioned a couple of times. Luffy seems to calm down, neutral expression and lowered shoulders, but occasionally his gaze flickers to the side.
Shanks wonders for a bit, seeing that.
Luffy does that a lot, as Shanks had come to discover. Just seemingly stares off and waves at air out of nowhere. He's an odd kid for sure, but he also is not the type to sit still for nothing, not by a long shot; yet sometimes that's exactly what he does. The whole of Windmill village, as Shanks has further learned, watches him do this and reacts not at all. No looks, no questions, no nothing. So obviously, Shanks has determined, they're in on whatever the hell this is.
Yet whenever Shanks asks, they turn secretive. They laugh it off or change the subject or ignore him completely, and if Shanks interrogates them for information a little too hard, the immediate excuse is always that Garp would kill them. Somehow this mystery has eluded him for nearly a year, and Shanks just really wants to know why Luffy said Roger's name.
The best shot he has at figuring this out is Luffy himself, who unfortunately is also a pleasure to piss off.
(Okay, yeah, fine, it's his own fault.)
Is he finished talking with Benn yet? Shanks thinks as he realizes he'd spaced out.
He looks up, and Luffy's looking back at him. Somewhat reluctantly, judging by his creased brow, but it's better than being ignored, Shanks supposes.
The kid takes a step forward—
And then there's a slam of the tavern door, and some jackass bandit walks through the doorway.
Roger is terribly amused by this bandit with a bounty of eight-million walking in like he's the center of the world, and not in the way that he's endeared.
So amused, in fact, that he can't keep a straight face staring at said bandit's stupid strut heading unknowingly right up to an emperor.
But then there's an odd kind of quiet crunch and chewing beside him amidst the sudden drop in room volume.
He turns, and he looks.
Beside an opened chest is a fruit, purple and swirl-patterned, and half-eaten in Luffy's hand.
Roger's hand meets his face with an audible smack , not that Shanks or his men or the bandits will hear it.
No. Nope. I'm done. This is so Shanks's problem.
"It was just a little bit of alcohol," Shanks says while dripping wet, but his eyes are only on the kid shaking in front of him. "It's nothing to get so worked up over."
Luffy doesn't answer him; just turns to walk away.
"Hey, c'mon Luffy, don't go..." Shanks calls out, because the least he can do at this moment is refer to the kid by his actual name.
He grabs hold of Luffy's arm, but Luffy keeps walking.
Wait, wh —
Luffy's arm is covering the distance from Shanks's seat to the entrance of the bar.
...It sure as hell didn't do that before. Luffy looks just as mortified as everyone else.
He must have eaten the devil fruit they looted, and a pretty useless one at that. The Gomu Gomu fruit, he thinks it was. Not that rubber couldn't be useful in some unorthodox situation (maybe if you got struck by lightning?), but kids these days usually preferred fire or dragons or something. Shanks's not sure how he would react if his ability to swim was traded for rubber, of all things.
It's too late to salvage that, he supposes. He pulls Luffy back by the arm, and the kid staggers with effort but fails to get away.
Shanks prepares to heatedly explain to Luffy that he'll never be able swim again (not that an Anchor would be able to swim anyway, but maybe he shouldn't say that now), until he catches Benn staring in wide-eyed horror.
"L-Luffy," Benn says, his face unusually pale. "Is that the second one of those fruits you've eaten?"
If whatever the whole 'secret' is about involves some kind of devil fruit—
Oh, no, no, no, oh fuck
Fuck fuck fuck
"Huh? No, I've never eaten anything that tasted that bad before," says Luffy, faintly alarmed.
"Are you absolutely sure," Shanks gasps between breaths (since when did his breathing speed up that much?) "that you've never eaten another devil fruit before?" His hands that are on Luffy's shoulders, gripping like a vice and shaking more than he'd like, and Luffy looks startled and lost, but all that matters is that Luffy, this tiny, bratty, wonderful kid in front of him won't—
"Um, yeah," Luffy blinks, obliviously confused and having forgotten whatever he was mad about, "What's a devil fruit?"
His head becomes light as if the weight of the world dropped on his shoulders from fuck nowhere and then jumped off, and he sags to the floor with the lightheadedness and sheer relief that precious, precious Luffy isn't going to spontaneously combust in front of him, and Benn's hand on his shoulder really only serves to humiliate him.
"Dumbass," Shanks mutters. "Dumbass, dumbass, dumbass , you gave me a fucking panic attack— "
"Amazing, Luffy, you've single-handedly managed to bring our bullheaded captain to his knees," Yasopp laughs. "What a Conquerer!"
"You're the dumbass, captain," Lucky Roux just has to say when Shanks is genuinely concerned about someone's wellbeing, "If you thought about it, you'd have realized that Luffy would have exploded as soon as Benn finished asking his question."
Oh, shut up, I can hear your voice shaking too, Shanks wants to hiss back, but he needs to catch his goddamn breath first—
"What?! I was going to explode?!" Luffy yells before anyone can say another word, and everyone in the bar bursts out laughing. Aside from Makino, who looked both terrified and relieved.
"Seas help me, this child is so stupid— " Shanks whines as loud as he can, because he absolutely did not sign up for two heart attacks on the same day. "You— " he jerks a finger at Luffy, "—are the absolute worst, I am never speaking to you again—"
" What?! What did I do?! I was the one who could have exploded!"
"Huh?! I don't get it! And didn't you say you weren't talking to me again?!"
"I don't care, you're the absolute worst!"
"Okay, but why?!"
"You don't understand why, that's why!"
"Eh?! I don't get it!"
" Seas, it never ends— "
Shanks doesn't think he's ever had a more ridiculous conversation in his life, and his arguments with Buggy are a very hard contender.
It's the very next day when they're sailing back to the port, and Luffy isn't there waiting for them.
There's talk of bandits, too.
Benn puts his hand on Shanks's shoulder, and Shanks buries his face in his hands.
"Don't get another heart attack, Captain," says Yasopp.
"Make that joke one more time, and I'm kicking your ass to Skypiea."
If there was anything Roger was ever proud of himself for, it was always fighting for his crew, even when it infuriated them.
It felt like a joke, how tough the bandits thought they were when they walked into the bar the other day.
It feels like a joke, how useless Roger is, when he comes back alongside Shanks and everyone, and Luffy isn't there, and maybe he could've changed something if he'd been there or if he noticed.
He could've changed two things already.
Shanks is on the coast, when he sees Luffy's head disappear under the waves of the ocean.
No. No, no, no—
There's not going to be enough time —
He dives, and he prays.
Roger's there too, at Shanks's side.
But Shanks doesn't see Roger beside him, who moves faster than he could ever hope to, because he doesn't breathe, or need air, or get tired, or go against the waves, or feel water in his eyes, or even need to blink.
He just needs to be there. For once, he needs to be there.
In the deep, deep blue, he looks. He looks, and looks, and looks, and
He finds, and he grabs, and it doesn't slip through his hands the way that his treasures and bottles and the ocean itself do.
They've been down here long. Too long.
The kid's lungs are rubber. He— he should be fine even with some air compression or whatever, right?
Roger doesn't have time to think, so he grasps, and he pulls. Up, up, up, to the surface.
Luffy is only vaguely aware of what's happening around him; just that something's trying to pull him up and out of the suffocating, cold water, and that he reaches back.
He grasps, and clutches, and holds as tightly as he can, mustering his energy together to hold on.
"I don't wanna die," he whispers, wondering if anybody heard him.
God damn it, where— where is he—
He searches with his haki, Luffy, Luffy, Luffy, where—
A small blue ball of light, surfacing, beyond all laws of non-Grand Line physics, and maybe Shanks should think or care, but in the moment, he just doesn't.
He grabs hold, and just for a moment, there's a voice:
"Take him and go! There's a Sea King!"
And Shanks thinks he's imagining it, because
That's his captain's voice.
"Hurry up and go!"
That's Captain Roger's voice.
He hasn't heard that voice in twelve years, and he thought that maybe he had forgotten what it sounded like by now, but it's so sharp and clear and real—
There's a snarl, then red eyes, and sharp teeth.
Shanks processes the words too late.
Luffy is scared, when Shanks is there, red and white and solid, Roger is there too, all pale and see-through. Everything blurs together with his tears into a foggy mess, but he can tell that much.
And then the big fish comes—
And then there's only red.
Luffy hears Shanks scream.
Dumb, so stupid, so utterly fucking stupid, Shanks curses himself, because fuck, it hurts, and his head is pounding, and Luffy is crying, and he's still absolutely crazy for hearing Roger's voice but he regrets none of it, and the damn Sea King is still there.
Looking the thing dead in the eye, he communicates the one thing he wants out of many things that he perhaps needs most at the moment to sort the rest of the bullshit out:
Go. The fuck. Away.
The third price is Shanks's arm, Roger thinks to himself.
Shanks doesn't seem to mind; keeps a straight face the whole way and even smiles. Smiles even as Benn holds him and locks his eyes on a stump where that arm used to be, and the Red-Hair Pirates' crew members crowd around and set up a tent by their ship. Smiles even as Luffy cries.
Shanks doesn't mind.
Roger does, and his stomach hurts again.
He looks down, and there's blood pouring out.
"Hey, don't cry, kiddo," Shanks says to Luffy softly, before giving a grunt and twisting in pain, muttering fuck, it hurts— Luffy can still hear it. It kind of echoes in his head, but not really, because they're in a tent, and tents can't echo.
Benn is holding Shanks's hand, and Shanks lies there with his other bloody stump, only saying reassurances, and "It wasn't your fault."
Luffy doesn't believe him.
He's not sure Roger does either.
Luffy, at first, doesn't get how ghosts work.
He's always thought that ghosts were interesting. They were always just there, white and yet not white, had some color but were not colorful, and you could see through to behind them even if they were in front of you, like glass, but somehow foggy.
They sometimes have injuries, which Luffy doesn't understand, because how can you be injured as a ghost?
From what they tell Luffy, sometimes they hurt, and sometimes they don't, which Luffy thinks is weird, because ghosts aren't supposed to feel hurt.
Sometimes they bleed, sometimes they don't, which Luffy thinks is stupid, because ghosts shouldn't have blood.
But then Luffy meets Roger.
Luffy's heard the story of Gold Roger's execution; who hasn't? He told the world about his treasure, and then the metal met metal, spears to blood at his stomach.
Luffy remembers the man clutching his middle as he stared off into nothing, and then he stopped when he talked about his treasures. Rather, gesturing a smile on his face and his arms wide.
But when Luffy sees Roger seeing Shanks, he sees Roger clutching his middle, and it's red, so, so red Luffy can smell the blood, and Luffy thinks he sort of understands.
Maybe he doesn't get all the complicated stuff, but he thinks he gets it: They can get hurt because they remember how they've been hurt, they can feel hurt because they remember how they've felt hurt, and they bleed because they remember how they've bled.
It's as simple as that, and Roger is bleeding, bleeding, bleeding.
Roger is hurting, hurting, hurting.
Roger is hurting and thinks it's somehow his fault, and Luffy thinks that's dumb. Roger is being dumb, and Luffy can't watch him bleed anymore.
He grabs Roger's arm, and Roger starts yelling protests— but Luffy knows if he didn't want to, he could phase away (he's seen ghosts do that before), so Luffy doesn't listen, and drags him into the tent.
"Shanks," a voice calls. Luffy's voice, Shanks recognizes, and he opens his eyes. Luffy is standing by the entrance of the tent, one of his hands outstretched upward, like he's holding the hand of someone way taller than him.
"Hey, Anchor," Shanks responds, but Luffy doesn't react. What, not even a twitch?
"You wanted to know about that one time in the bar, right?" Luffy asks. "The one time I said Roger's name."
"Oh my god, yes, please and thank you, the village people haven't been telling me shit and then when you were drowning I think I hallucinated hearing his voice," Shanks blurts out, not really caring how it sounds, because that's what being stuck in a tent in pain does to a person like Shanks.
"Are you gonna laugh?" Luffy asks.
Ah, shit, he's gonna need to take this at least a little seriously.
"If you don't want me to, I won't."
"...It's fine. I don't care."
A deep breath, and then—
"I see ghosts, n' talk to ghosts, n' I've always been able to. Roger's one of 'em, 'cause he's here."
Luffy stares and blinks.
"........Okay. Okay, okay, that...makes a surprising amount of sense," says Shanks, and it really does, now.
It should be impossible, too crazy, maybe, and Shanks knows crazy; there are islands in the sky, giant elephants, and lands of candy, and even time travel, if one were to look hard enough.
Beyond it all, the universal truths have always been death and loss, because the dead don't come back, aside from maybe one thing: he's heard of the Yomi Yomi fruit, but that's about it.
It's the cold, hard truth that everyone knows, that many have tried to defy and failed, whether to see or talk to the long lost or uncover untraced secrets. The dead carry everything to their grave with them: secrets and memories, and sometimes the hearts of the living. And yet...
Yet here is that all casually brought to the ground in front of him; ghosts and all, and this isn't any Horo Horo fruit power, not even close.
The seas are just too wide for the impossible, and Shanks thinks that maybe he's never really known the impossible anyway.
"He pulled me out of the water. An' about you hearing his voice, that just happens, sometimes. Mostly when I'm around, I think? I dunno, I haven't figured it out yet."
"Mm. So...he's here."
"Roger's really here."
"...Why would he be here and not with Rayleigh-san?" asks Shanks, because why him, of all the grand crewmembers in their fallen-apart family?
"Well, he's here here cause I dragged him here for being sad and dumb. But he came with you 'cause you have his hat, apparently."
Shanks involuntarily splutters, "That's why?!"
" 'Not really,' he says, 'but part of it.'"
"Here I am, with a stump for an arm, and you can't even take pity on me and answer my question," Shanks says as dramatically as possible.
"He says you're a complete and utter drama queen," Luffy has to pause to giggle, and Shanks feels utterly indignated, "a person after his own heart. You're the most fun to watch; that's why."
Shanks laughs, and then hates that he can't hear Roger laugh. He missed this, so much.
"...Why were you sad?" asks Shanks after some while.
"Because he's being stupid," Luffy cuts in with his own words, "He thinks it's his fault."
"...Really? I don't ever remember you taking responsibility for things you did when you were alive," Shanks says, imagining how offended Roger's expression looks. "Why take responsibility for something you didn't do?"
"You startled when you heard his voice, he says."
"No, that was literally me being stupid," Shanks sighs. "I didn't remember about Conquerer's 'till after the stump hurt so bad I got pissed and wanted to make it go away. Would've happened anyway."
" 'You had time, and I wasted it.' "
"Oh please, Captain, you're being sappy and this is so unlike you," Shanks chokes out, and it sounds stupidly watery, "You never could handle anyone aside from yourself getting hurt."
" 'Shut up and let me talk. You haven't heard from me in twelve years, but I haven't been heard in twelve years. You tell me which is worse,' " Luffy snickers a little strange laugh after passing that along, like shishishi.
"That's the sassy captain I know," Shanks says and feels lighter, and relief floods him all at once, "What say you we make fun of Anchor together?"
Luffy bristles and puffs up in indignation, and then looks up to his side. Roger is laughing, no doubt. "If you do that, I'm not helping you talk to each other." Luffy threatens.
"Wait wait wait, I was kidding— "
"That's not what Roger says." Luffy says with the most deadpan look Shanks has ever seen. He's clearly taking this seriously. Crap.
"Oh, so you don't want to be able to talk to me, then?" His voice is shamefully high-pitched and angry like he's a child again, and Shanks would die of embarrassment if he weren't so offended at the moment.
"No, it's just funny watching you panic, according to Roger," Luffy snickers.
"So we're making fun of me, now?! I bet you were the one coaching him back in the bar!" and then the realization hits: "Wait, you were the one who gave away that I was awake!"
Luffy bursts into laughter at him, and Shanks is absolutely livid. Truly, Shanks's ego has suffered too much since meeting Luffy, and it's all a dead man's fault.
Luffy looks up to the invisible figure beside him, and says, "See? I toldja it would help," and then his hair gets ruffled forcefully, probably knocking his skull around a bit, but that was just how Roger was.
Shanks thinks about it for a bit, then asks, "Luffy, this whole village knows, right?"
"Mhmm. It just kinda became a pain to hide, after a while, but everyone here knows me anyway."
"Luffy, you need to be very careful who you tell this to."
"I know, I know," Luffy gripes, "Gramps has given me an earful about it so many times already. Stuff about how the government won't stop to either use me or kill me or whatever. 'S why I just don't talk about it."
"Because with something like this, everything they do to cover up an incident can be so easily dug up," says Shanks, and it's really kind of terrifying now that he thinks about it.
"Eh, I usually forget to mention it anyway," Luffy shrugs, and Shanks would put his hand to his face and sigh, but at this point he's not even surprised. "An' also, Gramps always said he'd kill anyone who found out to keep me safe. But I don't want him to kill anyone 'cause that'd be bad, 'specially if it's anyone I like. And I don't think Gramps wouldn't kill anyone I like, but with Gramps, I don't take chances."
Shanks does sigh, this time. A true madman, indeed.
It's long after Makino had come and made Luffy go home, and Yasopp stands at the entrance with Benn and Roux there beside him.
"Care to explain why you've never told us that your ex-captain was Gold Roger?"
"Gol D. Roger, actually, he hated when people got it wrong," Shanks says smartly.
He gets exasperated glares: Yasopp looks unimpressed, Roux looks ticked off, and Benn just looks done.
"Hey, this is what you get for asking when I'm cranky, in pain, and livid."
Roger's not leaving with Shanks, because he wants to see Rouge and their child. Garp better get his ass over here soon.
Luffy is upset about Shanks leaving, crying and sniffing nonstop, and Roger finds the sight amusing; Shanks tries to be cool and mocks Luffy for crying, but Roger knows he remembers Shanks crying about that much when he said goodbye and left the Oro Jackson. Really, pot and kettle, he thinks.
Shanks stops suddenly , and he turns around, hand on his hat—
And oh, Roger knows what's happening.
The golden, worn crown is placed on Luffy's head, and the kid goes still as a statue.
"Become a great pirate, and then return this straw hat to me someday, okay?"
The kid grabs hold of the crown and tugs it over his red-rimmed eyes, tears falling uncontrollably, but eventually he lifts his head.
And oh, Roger thinks he sees it.
The spark in his eyes has been lit, and something in the world has shifted. It's a lot of things, probably; the inheritance of a will, the passing on of a legacy.
The day when 'free' has become 'the freest in the world,' and 'pirate' has turned into 'the Pirate King.'