[just so you know, I did go back and slightly edit ch5. I said "room" too many times...basically, there's no need to go and reread it (it was mainly for my own sanity), but you're welcome to do so...]
Usopp puffed up gleefully, "It was actually Robin's suggestion to Chopper, Luffy, and me. But, obviously, I'm the one making it happen!" He uncrossed his legs and walked over to crouch by Zoro. "Did I do alright? It's obvious which game piece is for who, right?"
Damned onna's frickin everywhere. Zoro shrugged. "I can tell. Dunno if you should make extras though in case Luffy swallows his game piece."
"That's why I didn't make his a piece of meat, but I'll probably have to make him another straw hat." Usopp sighed and opened his toolbox, rummaging around in it for something. Zoro coughed awkwardly.
"I, uh...I don't really care if you tell the crew about your crazy dreams. Even if they're stupid," he added stubbornly.
Usopp laughed, "Oh, don't worry about it. I haven't decided yet if I'll tell everyone else what really happened in my 'dream.'" He made a quote sign with his fingers and settled back in front of his paints.
"You know what I'm talking about," Usopp looked up, a slightly offensive expression on his face. "Didn't I walk in on you and Robin canoodling?"
"What's canoodling mean?"
Zoro froze. Usopp blinked, "Luffy, what are you doing in here?"
"Hmm~" he tilted his head. "Dunno! Chopper and I were gonna play hide 'n seek. What're you doing in here?"
"What are you talking about? This is my– Ah! UH. Wait! Luffy, what are you doing in here?"
"Ge– What the hell, Usopp!"
"Ahahahaha! you guys're weird!"
"What's happening?" Chopper leaned his hoof against the wall, a confused frown on his face.
"Gah! Chopper, you found me, damnit! Why are you so good at this game!"
This could not get any worse, Zoro thought as he frantically tried to disentangle himself from a panicking sniper. Suddenly he felt a hand shove inside his haramaki, Wha–
Shhh! Usopp hissed and pulled Zoro's ear towards him. Keep the game pieces a secret. It's supposed to be a surprise for Luffy's birthday!
Oh. Was that coming up? Zoro shoved Usopp off of him, "Yeah, yeah, whatever. Just get off."
"Nah, Chopper. What does noodling mean?"
Ugh. Thank heavens Luffy was still an idiot at the end of the day.
"Uhh," the doctor looked a bit taken aback. "Isn't that what Sanji does?"
"Oh, you mean making noodles."
"Well, not ex–"
"Zoro, why were you making noodles with Robin? Is that bad? Were you not supposed to?"
"What?" Chopper looked at the swordsman, completely lost. "You were– " and then it dawned on him and a horrified expression settled on his face, "Why would you and Robin noodle like Sanji? ...Wait. What does that even mean!"
At this point, the situation was completely out of Zoro's hands and he was very tempted to just fall on his sword and end it at that. This scenario shouldn't have even happened in the first place, shouldn't have been able to get worse, but somehow–
Sunshine poured in through the hatch and the sound of metal on metal had everyone turning to look. "OW! Usopp, how's it going with your–" he blinked, "Luffy~ What are you doing down here?" Franky looked distinctly uncomfortable.
Great. One of the resident perverts decided to drop by. Even worse, it would seem that the cyborg had almost let the secret slip. To Zoro's left, Usopp breathed out a sigh of relief.
"Oh shit. I guess now wouldn't be a good time," came a mutter from behind the metal-man.
...This is definitely not my day, Zoro growled. What the hell was the love-cook doing down here?
"Yes!" Usopp and Zoro yelled simultaneously. Then, at least, their obnoxious captain wouldn't be in everyone's hair and, if Usopp even dared to squeak, Sanji would be nowhere close-by.
"Moss-head? The hell are you doing down here?"
"No! For the last time, no! Any questions?"
Luffy stared, wide-eyed with that faux innocence plastered onto his grinning features, practically vibrating in anticipation.
Sanji glared, "What."
"Teach me how to make noodles!"
"N–...why?" Only Luffy could surprise Sanji like that.
"Because!" Luffy pouted, "Zoro and Robin made noodles– "
"You did what with Robin-chan?" Sanji whirled on Zoro.
"I did nothing," he snapped.
" –and that's not fair. I wanna make noodles too– "
"How dare you waste Robin-chan's precious time! I should bash your head– "
"I'd like to see you try!" Zoro snarled.
A frantic Usopp, worried for his game pieces still shoved around Zoro's torso, attempted to stall. "Wait! This isn't– "
" –for ramen and pho and stir fry and chips and noodles and– "
"Luffy, you can't use noodles for noodles– "
" –shitty marimo! Muscle-headed bush– "
" –kinky, curly love-cook– "
"Uhm, guys?" Chopper shivered, hiding behind Usopp's workplace the wrong way, "We should stop... "
~ meanwhile, on deck... ~
Nami lay out on her lawn chair by the main mast, soaking in the rays and breathing in the scent of her mikan trees. "Neh, Robin?" she mumbled, "What're you laughing about?"
"Laughing?" Robin calmly turned another page.
Nami half-glared at the archeologist and leaned her cheek into the palm of her hand, "Is that book really so amusing?" She'd seen Robin hold a hand up to her mouth and stifle a fake cough every now and then. There was no way that trick would work on her anymore.
"If you are referring to my reaction to the fallacious conclusions reached by this so-called archeologist at a dig site in ancient–"
The navigator waved a hand, "If you're not going to be honest with me, I don't want to hear of whatever prehistoric dead people you may or may not be actually reading about." Her magazine crackled as she yanked it open, exaggerating her annoyance.
"Of course." Robin held back another laugh and delicately turned another page.
Nami frowned but let it go. She wasn't being entirely honest either. For the past half an hour she had found herself rereading the pages in her hands over and over until she wasn't reading any longer. Her body was so warm...her eyelids began to droop and just as the magazine began to slip from her grasp, a figure jumped– "Yohohoho!"
Nami's breath hitched in her throat. "Brook!" she screeched and punched the skeleton out of his hiding place. "What the hell were you doing with my mikan trees!"
"...Surprise!" the musician yelped, half of him flung over the railing. "I would not dare to even touch your precious fruits. Yoho! Though I–" he cut off when Nami dared him to finish his sentence. He leapt to his feet, coaxing various twigs and leaves out of his afro, and swept into a deep bow, "Lovely afternoon, is it not? I'd like to tan as well...but I have only bones to bleach! Yohohoho!"
"I swear, I–"
"Eek!" Brook shuffled quickly out of Nami's reach. The redhead groaned and collapsed back into her chair dramatically, too lazy to go after him though she was definitely awake now.
A moment of silence passed, but this was too good to be true. "Ano...May I–"
Nami whipped out her Clima-Tact threateningly. When Brook's teeth clacked together, she snapped, "Thought so," and settled back down, ankles crossed and magazine spread. Brook stared. A tick mark appeared on Nami's forehead, "Yes, Brook? Do you need something?"
"May I–" he cut off when Nami's eyes began practically drilling holes into his soul –hah– and cleared his throat. "I was wondering if you'd seen where everyone went."
She blinked. "Now that you mention it," she sat up, suspicious, "it's fairly quiet right now." And not an idiot in sight, she noted. Not even at the helm. She groaned. "Brook, do me a favor and make sure we stay on course. I'm going to find out what those morons are up to." She shot a look at Robin who remained stubbornly "engrossed" in her book and wondered if her friend wasn't laughing at whatever the rest of the crew was doing.
~ in the belly of the Thousand Sunny... ;p ~
"...like I said, it's all a misunderstanding!"
"Okay then. What did I misunderstand?" Sanji grit out between the cigarette clenched between his teeth. The two rivals were stuck in a standstill–his foot was locked against Zoro's blades–and Usopp hurried to explain himself in the few seconds he had before the first mate and cook were back at it.
"First off, I did not say that Zoro was noodling of all things—heaven forbid it—"
Zoro snarled and gave Usopp the evil eye. His bandana was still tied in its usual position underneath his bicep, but the lights were kind of dusky this deep in the Sunny and lent the swordsman a shadow not so unlike the one he wore with his bandana around his head.
Usopp stumbled a bit with his wording, "But think about it, Sanji!" he laughed nervously. "Was any flour or rice or whatever missing from the pantry?" When the cook began to look less sure of himself, the sniper stuttered on, "So no one could have made any kind of food–especially noodles of all things–if nothing is out of place!"
"Alright," Sanji agreed. Usopp sighed, exhausted. "Then why are you overreacting, kuso-marimo?"
"I'm not overreacting!"
"Right. You're acting like a–" Sanji never finished his insult as Zoro took the bit, and the the two were at it again.
Usopp moaned between his fingers, then shrieked when he saw Luffy rummaging around in the tool box. Thank God he'd hid those games pieces in Zoro's haramaki. He yelled at Franky who was casually sitting cross-legged on the ground with a cola in hand, "How can you be so calm!"
"Just chill, bro," the cyborg grinned back. "Cola?"
These loons are impossible, Usopp grabbed at his head. How could he be chill when those game pieces could fall out at any moment! Come to think of it...he counted all the people in the room... "Franky, is Brook at the helm?"
He was met with a blank stare. "Oh cra–
"What the hell is going on in here!" Everything froze except for the two in the center of the workshop. Of course. "Would you two just shut up and not fight for once?"
Usopp heard Franky mutter behind him, "I thought she was cat-napping a second ago..."
Sanji began wriggling—noodling, really—"Nami-swan! I–"
"Why was no one at the helm!"
"Gya-ha!" Chopper squealed. "We're off course! Are we gonna die?"
"No one's going to die, Chopper. Luckily, the weather is pleasant right now but there's going to be a storm any moment now– and I was making use of the perfectly good weather until you idiots decided to have an impromptu party– "
Usopp slapped his forehead. He bet that the only word in Luffy's mind at the moment was party, obviously meaning meat. Nevermind that he probably had no idea what 'impromptu' meant.
"Luffy! Listen to me when I'm talking to you–"
"Damn right, shitty gomu! Listen to the beautiful Nami-sw–"
The navigator rubbed her temples, "Really, I should–"
"Excuse me, Navigator-san," Everyone looked to the face blooming on the wall. "I do believe that you should come up on deck and look at the sky."
Zoro cringed inwardly, Creep.
"Argh! Everyone get out on deck!"
Distracted by the ensuing chaos, our friends forgot all about game pieces and misunderstandings...temporarily.
Damnit. It had slipped his mind. Zoro scratched his head, an enormous weight slung over his shoulder. He couldn't work out like this, not with these— these things stuck in his haramaki. Usopp probably hadn't revealed anything still, but— well, he had to return these game pieces or whatever. He set the weight down and jumped from the crow's nest.
Now, to find Usopp...
~ to Usopp ~
"Usopp~" Luffy pouted. "Where'd that bastard go. He tricked me into coming out of my hiding place!"
No way he'd find me here, Usopp sniggered as he watched his captain run around the barrels of cola. Chopper usually had the advantage because of his size, but he often hid the wrong way. Usopp wasn't small or made of rubber, so he had to be especially resourceful. He clamped a hand over his mouth when Luffy passed him. Putting an empty barrel in the supplies was a great idea for this game of– game...– "Shit!" he stood abruptly—or tried to—and hit his head against the top of the barrel. "Woah, woah, woahh~"
"Blegh..." Usopp rubbed his head and fought the bout of dizziness, pulling himself out of the barrel that had tipped and rolled into the wall.
"Tag! You're it!" Luffy dashed out of the room.
"Wait, Luffy. This isn't–..." Oh well. He heard Chopper squealing faintly above him as feet thundered around. Leave it to Luffy to come up with a nonsensical version of hide-and-go-seek-tag. Regardless, he needed to find Zoro and get his game pieces back. When he was sure that the game was more or less over, the sniper snuck up to the Crow's Nest. Except Zoro wasn't in there.
"Where the hell did he go?" Usopp rubbed his head and walked into his designated space.
"Yo!" Franky leaned back and grinned widely at Usopp. "What's up?"
He sighed, "Just finished a game of...I don't even know what it was," Usopp laughed.
"Ah, the usual!"
"Hey, have you seen Zoro?"
"Zoro-bro? Hmm...nope! He wasn't in any of his usual places?"
"That's the thing!" Usopp sprawled over his workplace, "I couldn't find him anywhere."
"Weird. Well," Franky stood, "I'll let you know if I see him. I'm gonna head up and check the window shutters. Nami mentioned that one of them was loose in the library and it could have been damaged more in that super storm we had earlier."
Usopp nodded and turned back to finish cleaning up the mess Luffy had made. He was just about done when he heard a ruckus in the back. "What the..."
Someone swore a blue streak and began tramping down the stairs. 'Kuso' was not uttered every other word and Sanji had no reason to be down there, so it must be... "Zoro? What the heck were you doing in the cola storage?"
"Dunno. Cursed rooms won't stay put. One moment I was in the library and then I was back there," the swordsman jerked a thumb behind him.
"That's not even...whatever," Usopp ignored the fact that such a venture was not even possible. This was Zoro, after all. "I was looking for you, but I couldn't find you. You have my game pieces?"
"Oh, yeah," Zoro rummaged in his haramaki.
"Are they broken?" Usopp swiped at them but fell flat on his face. "Oi! What's the deal. Give 'em back!"
"No way in hell! Not until you promise not to go around spreading obvious lies about Robin and I."
"You mean 'me and Robin.'"
"Whatever. I've had enough of the stupid drama you're trying to make it out to be, so I suggest that you man up and swear you'll never say anything about it."
"Well– then you have to tell me exactly what you two were doing! I thought you were making out!"
"We were not–" Zoro gagged. "Give me your word and I'll give your damn figurines back."
"They're not–... Even if I don't tell anyone, I'll still be stuck with my same suspicions– do you want that!"
"You're turning red, Zoro-kun~"
"I am not!"
The swordsman groaned, "Forget it. I said something and Robin thought it was the funniest thing she'd ever heard and I got mad and tried to get her to stop and she wouldn't and then you walked in!"
Usopp blinked. That my have been one of the longest rants I've heard from Zoro... And again with her given name! "What did you say to her that made her laugh so hard?"
"How should I know?" Zoro glared. "S'hard enough trying to figure out what she's thinking all the damn time, that damned onna!" He stared blankly as Usopp began laughing hysterically. "Now what?" he spat.
Now that's the Zoro I know! "Nothing, nothing!" he snorted. "I swear I won't say anything–"
"Really..." Wado Ichimonji slid out of its sheath and gleamed in the dusky light.
"Hai!" Usopp squeaked. "I swear, I swear! Just give me my– woah!" he scrambled to catch the nine pieces tossed his way and looked up in time to see Zoro walk up the stairs. "Uhh, Zoro?" he stood and followed him, "You can't go out that–..." But there was no one there.
And with that, our fine warrior, the great Captain Usopp, hunched over to put the last finishing touches on his game pieces, a broad smile spread on his face. Some place above him, a woman dressed in purple placed a hand over her mouth and casually turned a page of the book on her lap.
Author's note: And~ that's a wrap. Sorry that the chapter lengths varied. I'll try to do better next time! Also, thx for bein patient and stickin around. I've learned that I can still churn out a decent chapter in 3 hrs and that I shouldn't be so insecure about my writing. (I was feeling pretty down after the last update, but I got encouraging reviews and I went back and reread it all with a clear mind.) And I know it isn't May, but I thought making it a surprise early birthday gift for Luffy was plausible. -makes face- Hopefully it doesn't seem like I half-assed that part. R&R, plz&ty!
[the actual definition of "noodling" is "to play; to toy with; to improvise or experiment (often w/ music)...I used it as slang to refer to Sanji's...uhh...gyrations... XD]
I'm now going to put all my energy into the sequel for "The Name-Basis" [and beta'ing for two people...and my new Naruto fanfic "Disappearance"...dangit]. I'm planning more ZoroxStrawhats. In other words, he'll be interacting more with the entire crew on an individual level...or so I've planned. I even planned a chapter mostly dedicated to ZoroxSanji (nakama –LOL chill out, people...– which is why I'm so excited about this sequel...there really isn't enough of that out there). I can't give you a date, but I'm aiming for around the beginning of summer. I want to get it mostly written out before I post because I made you wait so long this time around. heh... (btw, expect the new chapter for my co-written fanfic w/ shinjojin, Shadow Blossom, in the next few weeks!)
Well! That's it for now, I guess. Thanks for supporting me! This is Misa-kike-chi, over and out!