"I understand," he says, legs trembling so hard his entire body quakes. "Let's — nngk —" and he collapses to his knees, fists pressed against the deck. He's gasping for air. It hasn't been twenty minutes since he was immovable on the edge of death, and nothing has really changed in those twenty minutes except the removal of immediate danger. Ten minutes ago, Sanji leaned over the railing and cursed the lack of any sort of food in the galley. "I'd give the goddamn world for a steak right now" were his exact words, and while Zoro knew the man was hungry — they all were — he saw Sanji's eyes linger on Luffy.
Who now pushes Uso— Sogeking's helping hands away, then grabs the railing near his special seat and hauls himself, shaking, back to his feet. He coughs. Zoro waits with a good idea of what the next order will be, and wonders if he's really prepared for it.
"Everybody. Abandon ship," Luffy says in a strong voice, and pushes himself along the railing to starboard to stare down into the crevasse in their ship. Nobody else moves. Luffy's serious face whips up to stare at them, and he looks a little angry, but then he closes his eyes and lets out a shaky breath.
"Abandon ship," he repeats, gently. "That's an order. Let's go."
Robin is the first to act. She nods to Luffy and takes Sanji and Sogeking's hands, leading them to port. The Galley-la members have rowed a boat over, and Sanji catches the rope ladder they fling up to the broken deck. Nami leaps across the divide and stumbles a little into Franky, who steadies her. Robin pauses on the first rung, gazing over the beloved wreck.
Her beautiful, slim hands suddenly bloom on every visible surface and stroke the wood and rope and metal patchwork that make up their precious caravel. Then they disappear in a flurry of petals, and Robin disappears below the railing.
Sniffling loudly, Chopper runs and follows her down. Sanji gestures for Nami to go next, and she does, still stumbling a little, but she's let her hair fall into her face so Zoro can't confirm it's because she's crying. Sanji leaves next, with a sad glance around the ship and a pointed look at Zoro, who responds with a pointed look of his own. Sanji nods, and goes down.
Franky gestures for the old drunk woman and her kid to go next, and once they're off, Luffy's legs collapse again. "Shit!" he groans, and claws back up the railing until he's standing again.
"Luffy…" says Usopp behind the mask.
With one eye squeezed shut, Luffy glares at Zoro until he understands. Zoro grimaces back at him, then puts a hand on Usopp's shoulder and nudges him toward the ladder.
"Oi!" says Sogeking. "Uh."
"Come on, Hanaking. Captain's orders."
"But…" Usopp whispers, so Zoro wraps his hand around the other guy's arm and walks him to the ladder.
"Don't be stupid," he says quietly. "Let's go."
"What is Luffy doing?"
Zoro looks back at his captain, who is gasping for air and barely on his feet. Usopp is staring at him too.
"He's not gonna… stay…?"
"What'd I just say? Don't be stupid." He places one of Usopp's hands on the railing and nudges him again. Then he sighs, and looks at Franky.
Franky's gaze is fixed to the deck at his feet, and a frown pulls at his mouth. "Never in my life," he says. Then he wanders over to them and, glancing back at Luffy, lifts Usopp over the rail.
"Alright, alright!" he squeaks, so Franky will let him go, and as his feet touch the top rung, his hands curl around the rail. "Merry, I…" But he shakes his head and says nothing more, simply starts climbing down the ladder.
Zoro peers over the side. Everyone is standing in the boat, looking up, waiting. "Be down in a minute," he says to Franky, who nods and swings over the rail. He hears the shipwright say, "Damn good ship," to Usopp, and grins a little. His hand, he discovers, has found the rail — the wood is worn, warm, and weary. He's not a shipwright, but he's starting to get an inkling as to how very strong Merry has been this whole journey.
"A lamb traveling through lions' dens." He rubs at the wood with his thumb. "Damn good ship." His eyes flick to Luffy.
The trembling is embarrassingly bad, so Zoro meanders over and stands close by.
"Ngah, Zoro," Luffy grinds out. He inhales raggedly, then holds the breath as he takes a few steps toward the ladder, both hands gripping the rail. "Th-thought I g-gave order t-to leave sh-ship… ngah…" He coughs. There's blood. He's had worse, Zoro lies to himself. He matches his captain's pace, but doesn't offer support; it's not wanted, or necessary. He's not sure yet how Luffy intends to get over the rail without him, but the man hasn't let him down yet.
Since it's just the two of them, Zoro rumbles, "Musta got lost, captain. But I've got my way now." He's pretty sure Luffy's pained grimace is more of a smile. They've reached the ladder. Luffy holds tight to the rail and looks expectantly at Zoro, who hesitates for only a second before hopping over the side and onto the ladder. He looks up at Luffy, then climbs down.
They all wait.
Luffy's face and hands flop over the side. "Guys, catch," he rasps, and Zoro barely has time to roll his eyes before the idiot is sliding down the rope ladder towards them.
"The moron's gonna hang himself on the —!" Sanji yells, but Luffy's already in the boat, held up by Nami and Franky. Zoro folds his arms. Sanji steps over seats to stuff a sandwich into Luffy's mouth.
"Sanks, Sanri," Luffy says. Blood soaks into the bread hanging between his teeth. Nami makes a choking noise and pulls him into a really tight hug. Her hands press and curl into his back.
"Thank you thank you thank you thank you," she's murmuring as he chews, and when he tilts his head to rest against her neck, his grimace is gone. Zoro can't seem to resist putting a hand out and mussing his captain's hair. Sanji copies him almost immediately, and then everyone on the little boat is shifting to do the same. Finally Luffy giggles and pushes away from Nami.
"Okay, okay, shihi, guys, I need a boat."
"Luffy-aniki," says Franky uncertainly, "we're in a boat."
But the crew solemnly comprehends. "Usopp isn't here," says Luffy, "so I think I'd better do it. I need a boat. Any complaints?"
"No," says Sogeking. He turns to the two Galley-la rowers. "Please swiftly take us back to your ship. We will need a second rowboat, to send off our — the Straw Hats' nakama." His voice quavers and cracks, and Sanji puts a hand on his shoulder.
"You could do it," Sanji mutters to him, and Zoro wonders that Luffy doesn't hear, but he's being led by Nami over to another sandwich cooler set aft, so the conversation is safe. Did she and Sanji plan this? He wouldn't put it past her.
"I couldn't," Usopp whispers back.
"If you told him who…"
"Even if I did," Usopp says, and looks back at their ship. "Merry knows. I should've known."
Sanji blinks. "What?"
"Luffy is the captain."
Zoro takes a deep breath and sighs. Well. Okay then.
I have no idea why Oda-sensei didn't put this scene into the manga. Of Luffy giving the order. But I have a lot of emotions re: captains and ships, so I had to make it exist.
Anyway, the bit at the end is kinda headcanon Zoro, because he's a real distrusting guy, and I imagine that out of all of them he feels the most betrayed by Usopp, so I gave him a head-start on forgiveness. It also makes Usopp a little more sincere than a last-minute teary apology, which any five-year-old worth her salt can give, does.
Lemme know what you think ok a y