-Final Promise-

A fic challenge by Digitaldreamer

Okay, so Constable had this One Piece write-in thingy where she picked a character, a setting, and a topic out of a hat. I was like "OMG YAY!" and gladly joined in.

I got any pirate as the character, so naturally I chose Luffy. The setting was a church, and the topic was "Premature Goodbyes".

Fun angsty goodness ensued.

Bwah, I really hope this turned out alright...if it's OOC, please spork me! Crits and comments are appreciated! Please enjoy!

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It wasn't a large funeral. It wasn't like we could hold a large one anyway, the only place we had for this sort of thing was the small, abandoned church that the resistance used as a base. It wasn't the best place in the world, with its chipped and broken stained glass windows, and its crumbling statues of angels and Virgin Mary. You probably wouldn't have cared though; you weren't one for religion anyway.

It rained the day of your funeral. It seemed fitting, in a way. It thundered upon the roof and slid off of the stone steeple in a constant stream to form puddles below in the grass. The droplets of rain trailed down the faces of the statues outside of the church, as if those old, beaten stone angels were crying.

I thought maybe the sky was crying for me, I didn't want to have any more tears to shed for you. I wanted to be strong for you, I was supposed to be your captain after all. I had to be strong, didn't I? But it seemed that no matter how many sobs racked my body, no matter how many tears slipped down my cheeks, there were more to shed.

You hated to see me cry, yet you were always there to comfort me when I did. But you aren't here now, are you?

I didn't ask you to do it. You didn't have to die for me. But you did.

I shouldn't be surprised, I guess. You promised to protect me after all. From the very moment that the government began to place all those horrible laws, you swore that they wouldn't touch us. I had laughed and hugged you around the waist, agreeing. From the moment we formed the resistance, you swore that same promise. Once again, all I could do was smile.

Smile, and ask you to also promise not to die.

You kept all your promises but one, it seems.

I was proud of you, my swordsman, my second in command. Nothing could take us down, you know? Or at least that's what I thought.

I was wrong there.

They ambushed us while we were out getting supplies. Many soldiers against just the two of us. No big deal, right? That's what I had thought.

They shot at me all at once. Bullets aimed for every vital area, no way to dodge, no cover nearby.

So you decided to be my cover and take all those bullets for me. Shot upon shot sunk into your body, sending crimson blood spraying everywhere. It spurted into the ground, leaving a puddle of dark red for you to collapse into, a puddle of your own blood for you to lie in as you lay dying.

None of those soldiers lived to tell the tale after I got through them. But my rage wasn't enough to save you. You died in my arms, blood coating my hands as I pleaded to you not to die.

Hours later I turned up at the base, your cold, lifeless body in those same blood-soaked arms.

Now that body lies in a coffin at the front of the church as a cracked statue of Virgin Mary serenely stands watch over you. And here I am before your coffin, tears streaming down my face like the rain outside.

There were a few words said by one of the more poetic members of the resistance, but they didn't feel right. He never knew you personally after all, not like I did.

I can't really remember what he said, not that I think about it. I never was one to care about words anyway, it's the stuff that's in your heart that matters.

And now mine was too full of pain to really be aware of much else.

I do remember him saying something about finally saying goodbye.

Goodbye? But that would mean…..letting go. It felt too early to say goodbye.

The visitors of the funeral are taking turns stepping up to your coffin and saying their final respects before leaving. First one aisle, then another, then another. Before I know it we're at the last row…

My row.

I somehow manage to stand on shaky legs, trying to force the tears back as I step up to your coffin. Even so, they burn at the corners of my eyes, begging to be let free.

I'm the leader of the people here. Just because I don't have your shoulder to cry on doesn't mean I can suddenly become weak, even if everyone has left. Boys don't cry.

My fingers brush against the rough wood of your coffin, we didn't have time to make it all nice and smooth or fancy. We're at war, after all.

"Zoro..." I begin to say, and my voice cracks. I swallow, my throat is completely dry, and try again.

"You always keep your promises, somehow. You always do. You'd never lie. But you didn't this time. Why?" I bite my lip, blinking back tears. "Why? You promised that you wouldn't die protecting me! You promised!" My voice takes out a louder note as I continue to speak, fingers digging into the wood.

"Why did you lie? Why did you have to die? WHY?" By now I'm screaming, my voice ringing through the church, all thoughts of remaining composed completely forgotten.

To keep my other promise.

Somehow I hear your answer, even from here. My eyes squeeze shut and a single tear slides down my cheek.

"Why did you have to keep that promise? Why?" I sob, falling to my knees as I bury my face into my arms.

I know the answer already. But I don't want to accept it. I can't! If I do, then that will mean accepting the fact that you're never coming back. That would mean accepting that you died for me, that would mean saying good bye.

I just can't do it. I can do anything else, but not that.

Yes you can.

I suddenly sit up, eyes widening a bit. Once again I can somehow feel it, as if you're right here next to me, pulling me into your embrace. Telling me I can do it somehow. I can let go and continue on, follow the path I set for myself so long ago and that you chose to follow with me.

That path has ended for you, but I still have miles and miles to go, traveling alone.

But you won't be alone.

I slowly stand to my feet, wiping the tears from my eyes. You're right…I have to let go and move on, I have so much more to do. I can't stay here. "….You always keep your promises, Zoro. So make one more for me."

"Promise me that you'll stay with me….even now?"

There are no words for your answer, but somehow I know and turn to leave with a small smile on my tearstained face.

I can say good bye, but I won't be alone. You promised, after all.

-Owari-