And old Chopper reflects on his life and relationship with Robin.
After a moment more of examination, and asking a few questions, he concludes that there's probably nothing seriously wrong with the child. He advises the mother to give him lots of water and rest, and to bring him back in if he gets worse, or hasn't gotten any better in a week's time.
The boy's mother thanks him, pulls a shirt over the boy's head, and walks him towards the door. The boy has just enough time to blurt out a 'thank 'ou, Docta Choppa' before he is pulled outside. Chopper hobbles over to his chair by the window to watch them go.
The years have not been kind to Chopper's body. His back twinges more each day, and the arthritis in his joints makes every movement painful. His fur is greying, slightly, although his reindeer side is saving him from the worst of that. Unfortunately, no matter how hard he tries, he cannot grow a beard. For whatever reason, no matter how old he gets, his facial hair remains uniform, which sometimes makes him feel out of place. At this point, even Luffy has a beard!
He watches as the mother embraces with her husband, who had been waiting for them right outside the door. He really should have retired years ago, but he didn't have the heart. Not only would that leave this small village without a qualified doctor, but it would also mean not seeing all these people. He was far too old to be out and about at this point, and he only had people to visit when another one of the Straw Hat Pirates blew into town, which was becoming less and less common. The rest of the time, it was just him and Robin in their small little house at the edge of town, and she was asleep most of the time, nowadays. If he abandoned his practice, it would be just him and his memories.
He watches through the window as the family walks off together, and he remembers...
He remembers when he first realized that he loved her.
He was so unbelievably young then. Fifteen years of age physically, and an old man intellectually, but little more than a babe in arms as far as his behavior was concerned.
They had been walking back from a book store. Whenever the Straw Hat Pirates made port, Robin and Chopper always made a beeline for the nearest bookstore, hoping to find something interesting. Robin picked through the books on ancient cultures and civilizations, while Chopper browsed the latest medical journals and textbooks, keeping his information up to date. From time to time they would stumble across a book on the medicines of ancient civilizations, and the cost would be split.
This was not to say that their excursions were limited to the non-fiction section. Although tales of swashbulking pirates were a little too close to home to offer much in the way of entertainment, the rest of the fiction section were inspected, and a few gems taken home for some late-night reading.
Chopper would sit in her lap, for he was so small, and they would take turns reading aloud to each other. Sometimes they'd read scary stories(Robin always wound up shouldering the heavier load with these, as Chopper was too busy cowering against her to read), and sometimes they'd read romantic stories(Chopper feigned disgust, but was secretly fascinated). But every time, no matter what they were reading, Chopper spent the whole day looking forward to doing this with her. He did not recognize the feelings that were developing within him; As far as Doctor Hiluluk had been concerned, any questions about women fell firmly into 'I'll tell you when you're older' territory. With Doctor Kureha, the topic had never come up.
As they were walking back to the ship, Robin was flipping casually through her purchase. It was a stout tome titled /Journey Into Vision: Uncovering The Ruins of Lost Cultures/. Chopper looked up at her and said:
"I bet that book'll teach you a lot about those old civilizations!"
Robin chuckled and closed her book, making eye contact with him.
"Oh, it's rare for one of these books to actually tell me anything I didn't already know about. I read them because it's refreshing to someone else's perspective."
Chopper blushed, and somehow, for no apparent reason, the tangleknot of emotions that was steadily growing in his chest untangled, just for a moment, and he could see it clearly for what it is.
Oh, he thought dumbly, that's all right, then.
Chopper slides a key into the lock and twists. There is a click, and then his office is completely sealed up for the night. He hefts his ever-present backpack onto his shoulders, takes his walking stick in hand, and then sets off hobbling across town.
"Good evening, Doctor Chopper!"
Chopper looks up at the young woman who had spoken to him.
"Oh, hello there, Maria! How is young Norbert doing?"
"He's been doing much better since you had a look at him, thank you very much. You really are a miracle worker."
"Oh, saying stuff like that won't make me happy, you asshole!" Chopper said, grinning ear to ear and blushing deeply beneath his fur.
"I mean it! Here, take these," Maria said, handing him a bag. "I just finished this batch, and I wanted you to have some as a thank-you."
Chopper peeks inside the bag, and his heart skips a beat. Cinnamon buns. Maria's cinnamon buns, no less. That girl is to pastries what Sanji was to...all foods, really.
"Oh, you really didn't have to-"
"No, you take them. It's the least I could do. And be sure to give some to your wife."
"Okay," Chopper says, throwing the bag over his shoulder. "Thank you for the buns, Maria. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to be getting home."
"Any time!" the young woman said. Chopper nods at her, and then continues walking forward.
Robin will like these,/ he thinks, and then grins despite himself. After all these years, and all these miles together, there is still nothing that makes him happier than making her happy. He fixes her image in his mind and focuses on it as he walks home, and as he thinks about her he remembers.../
He remembers their first kiss.
It was an awkward, bumbling affair. Chopper had less experience with women than a roomful of priests, and although Robin had more experience with the opposite sex, she was hampered by his strange reindeer anatomy.
Of course, that problem could be easily resolved if Chopper had shifted into Heavy Point, but Robin didn't want that. Heavy Point was just the shape Chopper took on when he needed to lift something heavy. It wasn't really him, not the way Brain Point was, and for their first kiss at least Robin wanted it to be with him in his true form.
After a few moments of fumbling, they separated with a vaguely defined sense that somehow, they had done it wrong. They looked at each other, slightly embarressed, and then burst out laughing as the absurdity of their situation struck them.
A couple tries later, they got it right.
Chopper pushes the door of his home open, and steps inside.
"Robin! I'm home!"
Chopper places the bag of cinnamon buns on the table, then wanders off in search of his wife.
"Robin? Are you here?"
Chopper opens the door to the bedroom with a creak, poking his head inside. Just as he'd expected, Robin is in there, lying on the bed, sound asleep. Robin slept a lot these days. Chopper wishes she was more lively; he is beginning to worry that she is wasting away. But she isn't sick. She's just old, and there was nothing at all that even a famous doctor like himself could do about that.
He quietly walks over to the bedside to look into her sleeping face. Her raven-black hair has turned grey with age, and her skin is deeply wrinkled, forming a series of canyons across her face. She is beginning to look a little gaunt.
None of this prevents her from being the most beautiful woman that Chopper has ever seen.
He leans forward and kisses her lightly on the cheek. Then he turns and walks away from her bedside, heading back to the kitchen. There are cinnamon buns to be eaten.
At the door, he turns back to look at her, and the sight of her lying on their bed like that reminds him of so many other times, and he remembers...
He remembered the first time they had made love.
It was their wedding night. Somewhere else, the wedding party was still going on without them. It had been one of the largest weddings in recent history. When two of the Pirate King's companions get hitched everybody turns up, if only for the biggest party of the year.
The Straw Hat Pirates were in attendance of course, but so were various people they had met throughout their journeys. The Alabastan Royal Family and their guards took up a full head of one of the great banquet table. A delegation from the peoples of Skypeia took up the other, dressed in their finest tribal garbs and ceremonial robes. The Galley-La foremen were there, along with most of the Franky Family. The king of Drum Island was in attendance, with an old doctor at his side. Nami later swore she saw Commodore Smoker and his second-in-command at the wedding, incognito. Zoro confirmed Tashigi's presence, as she apparently forgot about the disguise when she began to drunkenly hit on him towards the end of the party.
The ceremony was overseen by Gan Fall, the God of Skypeia, and the food was the finest that any of them had ever tasted. Sanji had contacted Zeff, and the whole staff of the Baratie Restaurant was engaged in catering for the night's revels. Reunited in the kitchen at last, Zeff and Sanji cooked side-by-side, astonishing all the other cooks with their proficiency and skill.
But as the party raged on, becoming louder and louder, and the night grew older and older, at some point the bride and groom slipped away to a small, dark quiet room with a bed where they could be alone, and their clothes began to fall away.
If their first kiss had been awkward and bumbling, then this can be called nothing but an utter catastrophe. Robin was thrown off by his strange anatomy, and Chopper can only be described as the ultimate virgin. Even in Heavy Point, which is far and away Chopper's most human-like form, it took them a full ten minutes to find a workable position.
And even once they had gotten started, it was awkward. The movements required by humanoid form didn't match up with the ones that Chopper's animal instincts were screaming at him to make. The whole thing felt like a big, sticky, confused mess.
It also felt glorious.
/Chopper chews noisily on a cinnamon bun as he peruses the most recent edition of /Grand Line Medical Journal. A new study recently published by the Drum Island Medical Institute was suggeting a variety of new treatments for tumorous diseases, and Doctor Kaya from East Blue had discovered a new medication that could stop bleeding instantly in minor wounds, and slow it in major ones. For a moment, Chopper wishes dearly that he had had something like that when he was travelling with Luffy. That would certainly have made his job a lot easier.
He looked up from his reading as the door creaked open, and Robin stepped through.
Her steps were hesitant and weak, and she gripped the counter like a banister for support. Chopper shifted into Heavy Point, then stood up and moved forward to help her. He guided Robin over to her chair, and sat her down.
"Hello, my love," RObin said softly. "I'm sorry I didn't greet you when you came home, but I was having a nap and I think it got a little out of hand."
"That's all right, Robin," Chopper said as he walked over to the medicine cabinet. "You need your rest."
Chopper opened the cabinet up, and pulled out Robin's pills. He passed them off to her, along with a glass of water. She took them graciously, and began swallowing.
"Ropperine sent us a letter," Robin said between pills. She sprouted an arm and pointed over to the counter, where a small opened envelope lay.
"Oh? Anything interesting?"
"You'll see," Robin said mysteriously. Chopper pulled the letter out, opened it up, and began reading:
Dear Mom and Dad,
I know it's been a while since I've written, and I'm really sorry that it's taken me this long. I've just had so much going on! My research for the Institute is going very well, and we expect to have a permit to dig in the Alabastan desert within a week's time. I don't want to bore you with the details, but let's just say that if I'm right, you'll be reading about it in one of those journals Mom loves so much.
On the home front, I'm sure you'll both be shocked to hear that I've met someone. Yes, that's right, little loner me has got a man in her life. His name's Barthol D. Robert-
Chopper does not spit his drink out. For one thing, that's the sort of thing that only happens in cliche-ridden novels. For another, he isn't drinking anything. His jaw does, however, drop several inches. Robin chuckles softly.
"Yes, it's quite astonishing, isn't it?"
Chopper composes himself and continues reading.
-and he is just the sweetest man I've ever met. We've been seeing each other for just over a month now.
Have you heard anything from Dasher recently? If you see him, smack him upside the head for me and tell him that his sister misses him: he hasn't written me in over six months.
I need to go now. I'll be sure to write again soon!
PS: I'm including a picture of me and Robert. Hope it makes it to you in one piece!
Chopper puts the letter down and reaches into the envelope again, pulling out a small photograph. It's of his daughter, a reindeer-woman with an incredibly happy expression on her face, goofing around with a man about the same age. And, indeed, the man's face is split with the ear-to-ear grin that is typical of someone bearing that mystical middle initial.
"She certainly looks happy, doesn't she?" Robin asks as she downs her final pill.
"Yep, she does," Chopper says with a grin. "Reminds me a little of us, way back then."
"A little," Robin acknowledges. She stands up, and walks over to his side. She presses herself against his chest, and then asks him the same thing she asks every day. And he responds in the same way he does every day. They walk away together.
They stop only once on their way to the bedroom, to pin the photo of Ropperine to the wall beside all the others. Chopper looks down the series of pictures, detailing her growth from infancy to adulthood, and he remembers...
He remembers the day his children were born.
He had been so incredibly anxious about them. He and Robin had tried for children for such an incredibly long time with no success. They had begun to wonder if perhaps it was his reindeer nature, or their Devil Fruit abilities that were interferng. very little research had been done in the area.
But then, just as they had begun to give up hope, Robin found herself pregnant, and a whole new set of worries erupted.
Robin didn't seem too concerned about it: she seemed to be of the opinion that things would work out alright, no matter what. Chopper, of course, couldn't stop worrying. Would Robin be able to deliver him properly? What sort of food would she need? What would he look like? Would it be a child at all, or just a horrifying, mutated lump of flesh? Most worrying to Chopper was the size of the child in Robin's belly. It was much larger than he was expecting, and that concerned him.
Chopper subjected Robin to a barrage of tests until she lost patience and made him stop.
When it finally came time for his wife to give birth, he was so anxious that he could barely deliver the child. A flood of relief poured over him as he realized why Robin had swollen so much:
And not just twins: good, healthy twins. They looked like Chopper, but he could clearly see where Robin's genetics had influenced their development.
They named the girl Ropperine, and the boy Dasher.
"Their cutlasses clashed together as Captain Dackery fought to regain his footing, but his leg was caught in a loop of rope and he stumbled once more," Robin reads. "'You'll never take me alive,' he growled as the Commodore bore down on him roughly."
Robin sits in a large, reclining chair. In front of her, propped up by multiple arms is a book: Treachery and Honor: Adventure on the High Seas. In her lap sits an elderly reindeer-man, his eyes closed contentedly as he takes in both her voice and the feeling of lying close to her. Despite all their years they had been together, despite all the nights spent this way, they would still never tire of it. Just one room, a book, and the two of them, forever and ever.
"'You will stand down at once,' the Commodore said with a sneer, 'or I will run you through.' Dackery jutted his jaw out proudly and stubbornly refused. 'Never! I'd die before surrendering my freedom to the likes of you!'" Robin continued. "The commodore thrust forward angrily, but Dackery was too swift..."