Nine Minutes

Summary: During the final fight with Crocodile, Luffy makes a mistake and ends up dead. His heart stops beating for over nine minutes, before he is finally resuscitated. Who knew what a difference those nine minutes would make?

This story begins during Chapter 209, or Episode 126, and provides an alternate take of how the Alabasta Arc could have ended.

My challenge for this story was to write one with multiple romances, a good plot, and believable character development.

Disclaimer: I do not own One Piece.

Rated for violence and future lemons.

Chapter 1: The Death of a Straw Hat

His body was beaten and bloodied. He had lost so much blood that it was a miracle he was still moving, and Luffy could feel the poison creeping through his body. Even rubber bones could still break, and the beating he had received in the last hour would be enough to kill most men, several times over.

Still, Luffy never stopped. There was no rational thought involved, just primal instinct. He knew that if he paused or hesitated, then he would collapse.

At this point in the fight, Luffy was being powered more by pure determination and rage rather than flesh or bone.

With a wordless scream of fury, he slammed his fist straight into Crocodile's chest with a sickening crunch. In the previous battles, the Warlord had fought with an air of arrogance, as if there was nothing that Luffy could do to hurt him. That was gone now. Both fighters were injured and sluggish, and it had turned into a pure tooth and nail fight till the bitter end.

Crocodile's teeth clench as he felt the impact rupture something. It had been years since anyone had pushed him so far. Still, he didn't give an inch. For all Crocodile relied on his Logia abilities, he could still slug it out with the best of them.

But Luffy wasn't done. Before Crocodile could react, the pirate was pulling his leg back and smashing his foot into Crocodile's jaw with concussive impact. Luffy followed through the attack relentlessly, stretching out his arm like a whip and slamming the Warlord's face straight through the solid stone of the temple tomb.

Crocodile was coughing blood heavily now, but he recovered like a monster. After years of breezing through weaklings, he was finally in for the fight of his life. Luffy was panting heavily but still going strong, and despite everything Crocodile started to feel begrudging respect for the young pirate.

But I will still kill you, Crocodile vowed silently, releasing the spring-loaded blade from his prosthetic hook.

He was up on his feet in seconds, thrusting the blade straight at Luffy. The young pirate barely dodged.

"I don't know where you came from!" Crocodile growled with unconcealed hatred. "But do you have any idea who I am? You are an insect to me!"

Luffy took every blow and dished them out with payback. Between the adrenaline and the numbness of the poison, he couldn't even feel pain anymore.

"I WILL EXCEED YOU!" Luffy roared with fury, before slamming his foot upwards at breakneck speed. The impact hit Crocodile straight in the chest and took him off his feet, sending him flying upwards.

Around him, the temple was collapsing, but Crocodile didn't care. This time, he would watch Luffy die. "Disappear with this building!" Crocodile snarled, before creating a miniature sandstorm in the palm of his hand.

The sandstorm expanded in a second. Suddenly, raging sands were flying through the air, disintegrating everything in to dust. Solid stone withered into sand in seconds.

The erosion nearly flayed Luffy's skin off his body, but he forced himself forward. More pillars were collapsing and the roof was following down faster, but he didn't care. He was seconds away from being buried alive, but there was no room for hesitation. The poison was pumping through his body, but he had to push on.

With an unhuman gasp of air, his body suddenly expanded into a balloon, and his flexible muscles twisted himself around into a corkscrew. He used the force to lift himself off his feet, and suddenly he was rocketing up into the air, ready to finish this battle once and for all.

Towards the side, narrowly avoiding the falling debris, Nefertari Cobra could only watch in amazement as the two superhuman pirates batted it out. His kingdom had collapsed, his subjects were killing each other, and his daughter might well be dead, but he still could only watch with awe as Luffy refused to give any ground.

On the other side of the temple, Nico Robin was having an equally bad day. The true history, one which she had spent years searching for, was being lost underneath a mountain of rubble. She had lost the Warlord's protection, and it wouldn't be long before the World Government renewed their interest in her. She was back to being one of the most hunted people alive.

Still, she was also staring at Luffy with an amazement she hadn't felt in years. Suddenly, Nico Robin was eight years old again, watching a huge giant laugh even as he fought to his death…

The final exchange only lasted a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity. Both Crocodile and Luffy were colliding in mid-air. There was no running, no avoiding this attack. One final blow, both parties promised themselves; I'll end this in one last blow.

Luffy pulled back his arm, stretching it as tight as a rubber band as he prepared to unleash everything he had left. Crocodile gathered the sand across his body, releasing a wave of four razor-sharp blades of sand with deadly accuracy. The blades cut across the air, and Luffy knew that this was the end.

There was no way to avoid it. Luffy gathered up all the might he had left; he was powering through.

Time seemed to slow down. Luffy could feel everything; from the blades of sand eroding his skin to the burning anger in his soul. His muscles were as tight steel wire, ready to spring.

Still, just as he was about to unleash, Luffy made the greatest mistake of his life. Suddenly, the image of his friends popped into his head, and he couldn't help but wonder if they were still safe. For half a millisecond, Luffy hesitated.

That was all it took. Razor blades of sand, as sharp as steel, hit his body straight on; biting deeper into his flesh than anything ever had. He barely had time to glimpse the smirk on Crocodile's face, before suddenly the man was dropping down on to him viciously.

"I win," Crocodile snarled, pulling back his prosthetic hand and slamming the metal blade straight into Luffy's chest.

He expected the knife to feel cold or sharp, but it didn't. All Luffy felt was a dull impact as the blade cut through his ribcage.

He barely even felt himself hit the ground. His vision was already blurring and his body felt cold. So much blood was pouring out of his chest; much more than any man could afford to lose. Crocodile landed straight on top of Luffy, twisting the blade and pulling it out to leave a huge gash over Luffy's heart.

The life was fading out him quickly, and strangely Luffy felt like he was floating. All of the anger and fury that had kept him going simply evaporated, and left him with nothing but pure despair. The last thing he remembered was the faces of his friends flitting across his vision, before one final thought pulled him into darkness:

I lost.

Crocodile was panting heavily as he stood over the body of his dying foe. His muscles were screaming with pain, but at the same time he felt an elation that he hadn't felt in years; the joy of vanquishing a worthy foe.

Somewhere, deep in his bones, he knew how close he had actually come to defeat.

"It was a pleasure, Straw Hat." Crocodile murmured wearily, pulling himself to his feet. For once, there was no sign of arrogance or condescension in his voice. The young pirate had earned that much. He paused only to pick up Luffy's straw hat, holding it tightly.

Around him, the temple was creaking dangerously. It was a wonder that it had lasted so long. Too many pillars had been destroyed; the roof was about to collapse in a mountain of rubble.

Crocodile chuckled as he looked at Nefertari Cobra, who was watching him with pure shock.

"Your majesty," Crocodile said sarcastically, already walking away, carrying the straw hat with him. "I think my business here is done."

Crocodile smiled as he glanced around the collapsing ruins of the temple. "You know, I honestly can't think of a better death for you," he muttered. "The last king of Alabasta, buried alive in the ruins of the Tomb of the Kings; it does have a certain elegance to it, don't you think?"

Cobra didn't respond. He was feeling totally hollow; all of his emotions had been muted by a sinking certainty that everything he held precious was doomed.

"Now, if you excuse me…" Crocodile mocked, before disappearing in a whirl of sand. "I'm going to destroy what's left of your kingdom."

Up above, in the capital of Alubarna, the civil war was raging strong. Between the loyalists and the rebels, there were millions of men killing each other in plaza in front of the Alabasta Royal Palace.

There was too much anger and resentment for the battle to stop. Not even the growing sandstorm could stop the battle. Nefertari Vivi had the worst seat in the house for the conflict; she was left standing on the clock tower, screaming hopelessly for the fighters to stop.

"Please…" She begged, the tears streaming down her face. "Just stop the fighting…"

Never had she felt so helpless. Her friends had fought and bled to save lives. Her childhood guardians had sacrificed everything to save the country. But despite everything, she was left standing on the clock tower, watching the country that she held most dear destroy itself.

"Very touching, your Highness," a sarcastic voice drawled from behind her. It was a voice that sent shivers through her spine.

At once she turned around, her Peacock Slashers in hand. She barely had time to react before suddenly as a strong hand gripped her by the neck and held her over the ledge.

"You…!" She could barely speak though the grip on her throat, but she still managed to spit out as much hatred as she could.

"Who else?" Crocodile smirked, tightening his grip. "I'm actually really impressed. You managed to stop my bomb. Commendable, Miss Wednesday."

Vivi struggled feebly, but Crocodile was too strong. His face was covered in blood, but the arrogant smile was back. Vivi was left kicking in mid-air, suspended over a fifty foot drop.

Crocodile's grin widened. "Commendable," he praised. "But ultimately futile."

Without warning, he let go, and Vivi felt herself dropping. She only just heard Nami screaming out in shock from below, and suddenly strong hands caught her in mid-air and she landed on the ground with a dull thud.

Sanji was looking down at her with open concern, but Vivi was shaking with terror, looking upwards at the clock tower. Sanji put her down gently, and as one the Straw Hat Pirates turned to face their opponent.

"Oh no…" She heard Nami exclaim with dread. Around her, Zoro had unsheathed his swords and Sanji was preparing for a fight, but there was a flicker of uncertainty in both of their eyes. Anybody who didn't know them better, might even think they were scared.

With a whirl of sand, Sir Crocodile materialised at the base of the clock tower. He was glaring at the pirates with open disdain.

"So you managed to defeat my subordinates," he said foully. "What a bunch of pathetic miscreants. They never even managed to fulfil a simple order…"

The seven pirates were all nervous. Usopp looked like he was about to faint. Chopper was trembling so much his hooves clattered across the cobbled stones. Nami wanted to run, but refused to leave Vivi's side.

Crocodile's gaze darkened. "I suppose if you want something done right, you've got to do it yourself."

Around him, a sandstorm was brewing with renewed intensity. There was a fury in his eyes as he looked down on the pirates. The sand was churning so fast that they all had to cover their eyes.

"It doesn't matter if you stop the bomb. It doesn't matter if you defeat every other member of Baroque Works!" Crocodile growled. "I'll bury this whole goddamn city in sand!"

The sandstorm was growing so strong it started to drown out every other noise. Even the echo of the war couldn't compare.

"Get ready!" Zoro screamed, but they were all injured. He wasn't sure how much fight they had left in them. Hell, even if they were at their peak, he wasn't sure if they could take down the Warlord.

"Luffy will be here, right?" Chopper was screaming frantically, his high-pitched voice even more so. "There's no way that Luffy would let him get away!"

The chuckling was the most sinister thing that any of them had ever heard. Crocodile was laughing with genuine, evil, pleasure.

Wordlessly, with a smug smile on his face, Crocodile held up a dirty straw hat that they all recognised.

Vivi felt her heart stop. Nami collapsed to her knees. Usopp was left speechless. Even Roronoa Zoro, normally so composed, looked like he had just seen a ghost.

They all knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that there was no way that Luffy would ever allow someone to touch his hat.

Not while he was still alive.

"I doubt think your captain is coming." Crocodile replied with satisfaction. The looks on their faces made him feel so much better about today's events. It had been a close thing, but he had still come out on top.

And, just to pour salt in the wound, Crocodile took great pleasure in wrapping a miniature sandstorm around his hand, and proceeding to shred the straw hat in to pieces.

Tiny wisps of straw were engulfed by the sand.

In the Royal Tombs, the place was still collapsing. Huge chunks of granite threatened to crush them, but Nefertari Cobra didn't care.

For over a millennium, throughout the Void Century, the Nefertari Royal Family had protected the country. It was their duty, and their privilege. Now, under Cobra's rule, his country had fallen. He had lost everything.

Perhaps he should have treated to run, or escape the falling rubble, but he didn't. Instead, the king of Alabasta just sat quietly in the doomed temple, wallowing in his grief.

A few metres away from him, Nico Robin slowly stood up and walked towards the unmoving body of Monkey D. Luffy. She was quiet for a moment, before suddenly arms sprouted out of the floor and pulled Luffy into the relative safety underneath a large piece of rubble.

Wordless, Robin started to work. She pulled Luffy on to his side, and tried to bandage up the huge gash across his chest. She injected an anti-toxin into his body. More hands sprouted out from the surroundings, keeping pressure on his wounds while she tried to keep what little blood he had left in his body.

Cobra watched her silently for a while. Neither of them seemed to care about the collapsing ceiling.

"He's dead," Cobra said finally.

Robin nodded. "I know."

His heart wasn't beating. Still, she moved Luffy out of the recovery position, and started to perform CPR.

The minutes dragged on uneasily. Huge lumps of rubble continued to collapse, but the ruins of the Royal Tombs were holding up better than anyone had expected.

Robin didn't even pause. She didn't cry or show any emotion whatsoever; she just kept on trying to push life back into the pirate's body. Even as the minutes dragged on, she didn't relent. A dozen hands sprouted from the ground, trying desperately to tend to the many wounds.

Eventually, Cobra could watch no more. It was painful seeing the woman trying to bring the pirate back to life with quiet desperation.

"Why do you care so much? What the hell is that boy to you?" The king demanded harshly. "Why does his death affect you in the slightest?"

"I don't know," Robin admitted, without hesitation. Her voice was quiet, but there was uncertainty in it. "I just don't think I could survive watching another person I admire die."

Cobra was silent for half a moment. Then, without comment, he stood up and staggered over to Luffy's side, and helped the woman perform CPR. Together, the king and the outlaw worked to bring the pirate back to live.

Cobra took over the defibrillation, while Robin tried to get his lungs working again. With a deep breath, she tried to breathe life back into his body.

As their lips met, it was like a spark of electricity.

Meanwhile… somewhere else…

Luffy felt himself floating. That was the best way to describe it. There was no light or sound, but that didn't matter because he didn't have eyes or ears. There was a complete lack of attachment as his consciousness simply drifted away. He had no idea where he was going; he had no idea where he had come from.

Luffy had never been one to think about death. He had never been bothered by it. Suddenly, he wished he had gave it more consideration.

Struggling seemed pointless. There was nothing to struggle again. It was like trying to swim against a current when you didn't have arms or legs.

A timeless moment later, Luffy felt himself reach some sort of boundary. It was a like a waterfall pouring down into a void. He didn't know where it led, but he suspected that he wouldn't be coming back.

All he could think about was his friends, and his family. Everyone he cared about, and everyone he had failed.

I'm so sorry, he thought with regret.

Suddenly, he felt his consciousness stop moving. His spirit lurched, as if something had grabbed a hold of him.

Although he would never tell anybody about the experience, Luffy was convinced that he heard voices whispering in the background, like a prickling in the back of his mind.

"…not right…"

"… what am I supposed to do about …"

"…whatever… shouldn't be happening…"

"…take it up with…"

"…there will be consequences…"

"….it can't happen like this…"

Somewhere, some cosmic entities were arguing about him. Suddenly, Luffy felt himself accelerating backwards. A bright light came into view.

"… can't happen now… he's not smiling yet…"

Author Notes:

First chapter up! I'm going to be uploading the first few chapters quite quickly. I'll probably be uploading the next one tomorrow or the day after.

Thanks to everyone reading; reviews and comments are always much appreciated!