PLEASE NOTE: This chapter should be considered 'non-canon' in terms of the actual storyline. Instead, it's a fun AU ending where things don't end up as they originally did. Enjoy!
"Have you made your decision?" Law asked quietly, his nodachi leaning on his shoulder casually. Lexi's eyes drifted over all of the pirates, seeing the expectant face of Penguin, the adorable and happy one on Bepo, the ecstatic one for Shachi, and the stern indifference of Law. But under that carefree attitude she could see that he was secretly hoping she'd accept his offer, the fingers on his nodachi sheath tighter than necessary.
Her heart pounded in her chest, and she swallowed dryly. She'd told herself she was ready for this moment, this decision. How could it be here already? She'd expected to have more time.
'Am I ready?' She asked herself fearfully, looking down at her legs numbly. They were shredded to pieces, and would definitely need immediate medical attention. She didn't have much longer to decide.
Her eyes briefly flicked back up to Law's gray gaze, regarding her with a sort of acceptance, an understanding of her hesitations. Even as she tried to will herself to be comfortable with the idea of leaving everything evil about this world behind, setting out for a course in what could only be the biggest and most exciting adventure of her entire life…
She just couldn't do it.
Silently, Lexi shook her head, sighing heavily as she raised her head up higher. "I belong here." Was her throaty, quiet answer. Nonetheless, she managed a small grin. "This is my home, no matter how…fucked up it may be."
Shachi and Penguin visibly deflated, and Bepo lowered his head, clearly disappointed in her choice, but they didn't verbalize it. Brittany's smile grew wider, relieved she wouldn't be losing her best friend today, and pleased that she wouldn't be in the hands of these homicidal, delusional men she knew next to nothing about.
"Thank god…" Lexi heard her whisper under her breath, slouching where she sat due the lifting of the figurative weight on your shoulders. If the others heard her, they didn't indicate it. Law, on the other hand, remained perfectly neutral, nodding slowly in acceptance of her decision. For that, she was grateful.
"Say your goodbyes, and then we'll get the two of you back to your truck." Law finally broke the silence, hefting his nodachi up onto his shoulder a little more comfortably, stuffing a hand into his pants pocket casually. He made his way closer to the back of the cave, allowing his crew to say their goodbyes.
Shachi and Penguin stepped forward, both looking quite sheepish. "We'll miss you, Lexi-chan. It was fun, getting to see your world and all." The redhead grinned in slight sorrow, trying to look chipper despite the somber atmosphere.
"I'll miss you guys too." She admitted, fist bumping Shachi before repeating the gesture for Penguin. It would make things difficult if she tried reaching up to hug them, so this would have to suffice. "Keep your Captain in line for me." She joked.
"Will do." Penguin gave a thumbs up, promising to do just that. They sidestepped and allowed the polar bear to come forward, leaning down to lick her face rather sadly.
"It's too bad there weren't any female bears around, but thanks for taking care of us." She chuckled, his tongue tickling her cheek in a pleasant way. She reached up and scratched behind his ears appreciatively.
"You'll find her someday, Bepo. I promise." Lexi gave him one last pat on the head before he too stepped off towards the back of the cave. With their albeit brief farewells out of the way, Law stepped forward again, handing his nodachi off to Bepo, who accepted it silently.
"Let's go." Law said, crouching down to lift Lexi from the cave floor. She awkwardly wrapped her arms around his neck, helping him get a better grip under her legs and back as he carried her towards the mouth of the cave. Brittany followed beside him, grabbing the fishing knife again just in case. With the events of the previous few hours, she didn't want to be caught unprepared.
"I'll be back soon." Law promised, passing through the waterfall and back into the woods, his crew mates waiting for him to return.
For the most part, the three said nothing. Lexi, predictably, was silent simply for the reason that she was falling asleep in his arms. Fearing that she'd fall into an almost comatose state, should she succeed in passing out, he had to shift his grip on her every few minutes simply to jog her consciousness.
"Stop moving so much." She finally muttered into his shoulder, too exhausted to do much more than rest against his body. He raised a brow and grinned just a little.
"You should know better than that, Lexi-ya. No sleeping just yet." Then, he turned to Brittany seriously. "Don't let her rest until you get to the hospital."
"I won't." She promised with a nod, ducking under a stray branch that stuck out over the path, holding it up away from Law as he carried her friend. "Hear that, Lex? That means we're gonna blast Nicki and Wiz over the loudspeakers the whole way there."
The exclamation left Law frowning in confusion, but it was truly meant for Lexi, who Brittany knew hated most rap music. Lexi groaned in frustration, too weak to do much more than shake her head minutely.
Again, they lapsed into an easy silence, and before too long, they reached the edge of the highway, the truck parked on the dirt turnout in front of the trail. Brittany jogged ahead and unlocked the truck doors, opening the passenger side so Law could place Lexi in the seat.
"I'm sorry…" Lexi muttered close to his ear lazily, eyes closed tightly as her legs brushed against one another. "…that I didn't go with you."
"While I may be disappointed to lose someone with your skill set, don't be." He answered quietly, too low for Brittany, who was several feet away holding the door, to hear. "It was your choice to make."
His understanding of her decision still didn't make the ache go away, knowing that after tonight, she'd never see him again, never get to see that amused smirk, or kiss those lips again. Funny. One of the best and most exciting things to ever walk into her life was now about to walk out of it. She'd once wished them gone the moment she met the four pirates, but now the same thought left her chest aching, the sting of tears behind her eyes.
"Thank you…" Finding it too difficult to talk any further, Lexi simply allowed herself to be lifted into the passenger seat of the truck, Brittany reaching over from the other side to help buckle her in.
"How will you explain the damage to her legs?" Law questioned curiously, stepping back away from door. The cuts were extensive, too much to be attributed to something simple. He wondered how they'd manage to explain the injuries.
Brittany shrugged, hopping down from the seat and shutting the door to minimize the amount of rain that got into the interior. "I'll think of something." Then, her face returning to that stern distrust, her back straightened as she faced him. "Thanks, for helping me save her."
He nodded silently, eyeing Lexi in the truck, Her head, still wearing his hat, was leaning against the glass tiredly. He grinned, wondering how long it would take for her to realize she still had it.
"Now, get out of here, you damn pirate." Brittany shooed him back into the woods, but it wasn't said in hatred. If anything, it sounded more affectionate than rude. Offering her one more sly grin, he turned in place and made his way back down the trail, disappearing behind the trees where Brittany lost sight of him for the final time.
Feeling a new sense of urgency, knowing her friend was still losing blood, Brittany hopped into the driver's seat of the truck and shoved the key into the ignition, hearing the engine roar to life.
Lexi had watched as Law made his leave back towards the trail, and felt a few tears slide down her face as she stared at his back, memorizing each step as he turned and walked away.
The images were burned into her mind, playing over and over again, as they rushed towards the hospital.
A week after that terrifying night, both legs full of stitches and bound to a wheelchair, Lexi wheeled herself down the aisle of the funeral home, one hand holding a bouquet of flowers, the other steadying her chair as she rolled between the pews.
Brittany walked behind her, making sure her brunette friend didn't accidentally crash into everything. It was tough keeping it together, considering the occasion, but she was strong for Lexi. Strong for Nana, who she knew must be watching from somewhere up above.
They reached the front of the room, where the cherry-wood casket sat closed, wreaths of flowers and ribbons adorning all around it in a beautiful display. They were her favorite, red day lilies. Draping over the casket was the American flag, something that Lexi wouldn't have forgotten for the world. Nana's love for her country was well known, and she'd be damned to not have something that represented that. As they reached the casket, Lexi placed her bouquet of roses down on a small table beside it, sniffing to prevent herself from openly crying in front of everyone.
Brittany did the same with her rose she carried, following after her friend as they went to take their seats. Brittany sat on the edge of the row, Lexi wheeling her chair right beside her.
The few dozen people in attendance, most notably Brittany's family sat in the front row beside them, several older women from the retirement home who'd known Nana years back, several people Lexi honestly didn't know, and a Veteran's Affairs advocate from the state that Brittany had insisted know that Nana had been military long ago.
Because of this revelation, Nana was granted Military Funeral Honors, complete with a two-man uniformed guard to help conduct the service.
Overall, it was a simple affair. They read her obituary, recounted stories of her life fondly, offered prayers that she remain peacefully in heaven, and in accordance with the military funeral, they played a recording of Taps over the speakers. Brittany had wanted a real bugler to be present, stating that it was only fitting for her to receive the real thing, but Lexi had stated it was more appropriate and reasonable to go for a recording.
They then folded up the flag that was draped over her casket, folding it in the traditional triangular pattern, before one of the blank-faced soldiers stepped towards her and presented it for her to keep. She timidly accepted the flag, holding it tightly against her lap, as if she was afraid to drop it accidentally.
Before she knew it, the service was over, and they trickled out of the room one by one. In the atrium outside, well-wishers stayed behind until Lexi wheeled herself outside of the main funeral room, offering their condolences and promises that if she needed anything, she could give them a call.
After awhile, everyone except for Brittany's mother and father had left, and the four of them remained long enough to watch Nana be buried in her plot, going outside in the sunshine to watch silently as Lexi saw her Grandmother for the final time.
"Lexi, sweetie, how are you feeling?" Brittany's mother crouched beside her awhile later, once they were back inside the funeral home. The plan was for Lexi to stay with them until all of the legal paperwork headaches had passed, and so she could recover from the 'car accident' she'd suffered while driving out to go for a hike on the trail.
In answer to her question, Lexi faked a small smile, nodding reluctantly. "I'm doing alright. Just have to recover and…wrap my head around things."
"Things like this take time." Brittany's dad consoled, giving her a gentle pat on the shoulder. "Just know we're here for you should you need anything."
"Thanks." She smiled a little wider, feeling the love for Brittany's parents who had done so much for her in the past week. Brittany's mom rose from her crouch and smoothed over a piece of hair on her face in a motherly fashion.
"We'll be in the truck for when you're ready to go home. But take your time here." With that, the two of them left the building, leaving Brittany and Lexi to themselves in the hall where the funeral had taken place.
"So…how are you really holding up?" Brittany asked with a sympathetic gaze, willing her not to lie about it this time. Lexi could see it clearly, the hurt and hope mixed all into that one look.
Lexi sighed, looking down at the flag still sitting in her lap. "I honestly don't know…"
"That's ok. We'll figure it out a day at a time, alright?" The black-haired beauty leaned her head on Lexi's shoulder in that way that best friend's do. Her hand reached up to rub her other shoulder comfortingly. "Just don't hold out on me. Don't shut us out."
"I won't." Lexi promised half-heartedly. Truthfully, that was all she wanted to do, to retreat within herself and begin to heal in solitude. But she couldn't tell Brittany that. She couldn't tell her that she wanted to be alone, to push her away and leave her wondering how she was doing. Besides, since she was staying with her family for the time being, it would be a bit difficult to do that anyways. Best to just stick it through until she was physically healed, and in a better place to begin that recovery process.
They sat there for who knows how long, just staring at the decorative flowers surrounding where Nana's casket used to be, her picture propped up on a stand. It was of sometime years back, before a time Lexi could remember. She smiled widely in absolute happiness, and Lexi wished she knew what had caused her to be so happy that day, what had made her smile to brightly.
It was some time later that Lexi tapped Brittany on the shoulder, and she turned in her wheelchair towards the door to the funeral home, heading towards her truck parked outside where Brittany's parents were waiting for them.
Lexi risked only one last glance behind her to see the picture, before exiting the building and into the bright light.
TWO YEARS LATER
"…No, Travis, I already have plans tonight." Lexi said into her phone which was propped up on her shoulder precariously as she dig in her purse for her apartment keys. With the bags of groceries hanging from her arms, weighing them down, this was considerably more difficult to do.
"No, I told you-No…You're not listening to me." She continued into the phone, shaking her head with rolled eyes. "I'm not going to a party, no matter how 'epic' it's going to be."
Hearing the exasperation of her boyfriend's voice on the other line, at the same time as unlocking her door, Lexi pushed through into her apartment with a heavy sigh of her own. His incessant nagging about the issue was getting on her nerves.
"So what? You don't go to my work parties because of the same reason." She countered, kicking the door closed behind her and hurrying to set her bags of food onto her kitchen counter. The room was dark, but she flicked the lights on as she passed by.
"Well, tell your friends I don't care what they think." Lexi's voice was getting more and more annoyed by the minute, hearing all of Travis' excuses and pleads for her to go. "For the last time, no."
After several moments, she shook her head, before hanging up without another word, having had enough of her problematic boyfriend for one night. It was times like this that she wondered why she put up with him.
He wasn't a bad person, he just got on her nerves like nothing else.
Having deposited her stuff on the kitchen counter, Lexi made her way to her bedroom, flinging her shoes off vaguely in the direction of her closet, before dumping her purse onto the bed. Sighing in relief, she plopped down beside it and lay back with her arms spread out on either side.
Opening her eyes, she stared up at the ceiling, painted a soft blue, her favorite color, the color of the sky, and the rolling ocean. With a groan, she rose up from her position on the bed and back onto her feet, heading towards the bathroom connected to her room.
After freshening up and changing into her pajamas, Lexi padded barefoot back into her room, turning on the tv and grabbing the remote. On her way back to the bed, she stopped by the shelf jutting out from the wall, holding her most valuable possessions.
A pristine, triangular-folded flag. The colors had faded just a little from the bright blue and white they used to be, but it still looked fresh, well taken care of, and overall loved. It was a constant reminder to her to always keep fighting, keep looking forwards towards the future, and never back down.
Beside it sat a picture of her and a black-haired young woman, smiling brightly as they scooted in for a picture. The occasion was lost in time, but the happiness that it portrayed meant it must have been some sort of special event, something out of the ordinary. The friend she long missed, having not seen her for several years, reminded her to always keep smiling.
Lastly, looking decidedly more worn than the other two items on the shelf, was a hat. Nothing fancy, just a simple white, furry, black-spotted hat. From a first glance, it wouldn't have struck you as something of extreme importance. The picture and the flag, it was foreseeable, but the hat? What made it so important?
Lexi allowed herself the brief moment of weakness, her fingers reaching up to ghost over the furry fabric, remembering the way it had kept her head warm on a particularly rainy night so long ago, and the way it's owner had to kindly let her borrow it. The fibers were soft beneath her fingers, but she was careful not to pull too hard or damage it. That was the absolute last thing she'd want to do. Because it may not look it, but it was by far the most important item on her shelf of memories.
It was her ever-present reminder that this was her home, and that even though the grass may be greener on the other side, it was best to stick to one's roots. Smiling to herself, Lexi let out a deep breath and moved off towards her bed again, laying down to watch her favorite show, pushing the memories, both good and bad, back into her mind to dwell on another day.ns 18.104.22.168da2