Disclaimer: One Piece belongs to me, really. –snort –

Persuasion is Better Than Force

"It's all the meat he's been eating," Chopper decided, as he took the wooden stick back out of the rubber captain's mouth. "Too much of it, and he barely washes down his meals with an equivalent amount of water – too heaty for his system."

The five other crew members stared at the doctor, who had perched himself in the captain's lap to diagnose him. Luffy had been reduced to hacking, coughing and flam-spitting in the past couple of days, and when he spoke his voice was low, hoarse and scratchy. ("Kinda sexy," Nami had mused, at which Sanji immediately disappeared into the kitchen and started stuffing his own face with meat.)

Said captain coughed thickly. The cough sounded wet and sticky, like there was a net of flam stretching all the way across his esophagus, so when he coughed the sound went through all the layers of flam and came out in that horrible echoing squishy cough sound. He told his crewmates so.

"Well, that doesn't matter." Zoro shifted, leaning back against the wall where they'd gathered in Nami's cabin. "The question is how Luffy's gonna get better."

"Meat!" Luffy said. "Meat makes everything better – "

"NO!" all six roared at him.

Chopper scratched his head. "Well… I have the cure for it…" He hopped off Luffy's lap and started rummaging through his store of medical supplies, before pulling out an amber-colored glass bottle half-full with thick liquid. "It's a regular cough syrup – Luffy's sickness isn't that serious. But he'll need to take it for five days at most, for the entire cough to subside."

"Is that medicine?"

Luffy had stiffened, staring at the bottle as though uncorking it would release a volley of arrows at his head.

"Er…"

Chopper never got to finish as the captain bolted from the bed.

Chaos erupted inside that small room ("Grab him! Don't let him escape!") as the rubber boy flailed and trashed, all the while laughing as his crewmates tried to hold him down ("You idiots! My room!"), unsuccessfully, of course; the area was far too cramped for anything to actually happen ("Ahhh! Don't step on the medicine!"), and everyone mostly kept grabbing the wrong partner. ("Quit groping me, you Marimo bastard!" "Then let go of my arms first, Magic Eyebrow!")

"Guys!" Usopp yelled, flattened against the wall in the commotion, "let him get out – there's more room on the deck to chase him – and we're all stuck on the ship anyway – "

With a whoop, Luffy found himself suddenly unrestrained, and he shot out of the cabin in an instant. "Can't get me, can't get me!" he yelled.

The other four wrestled their way out of the door, each eager to escape the storm that was the navigator shrieking over their heads for messing up her room while Robin trying to placate her by using her many arms to restore things to their former position.

"Pain in the ass bitch; don't offer your room the next time then!" Zoro roared back.

Sanji was on him in an instant. "You dare call my fair Nami-san such a crude name, bastard?"

"You wanna wash out my mouth with soap water, Princess?" The swordsman smirked, the current situation forgotten as both he and the cook settled into one of their daily arguments.

Meanwhile, Chopper and Usopp were racing around on deck, the reindeer in his human form, while their rubberized captain began launching himself from mast to sail to deck and back again in hopes of evading capture.

"Dammit, Luffy!" Usopp yelled, panting as he chased their captain across the deck for the umpteenth time, "it's just medicine!"

"Medicine's yucky!" Luffy launched himself back to the other side of the ship and laughed as he watched the marksman scramble into a U-turn, slipping and nearly rolling off the side of the ship as he did so. "I'm not taking it!"

In an attempt to knock the boy unconscious, Chopper took chance of Luffy's distraction to leap up and ram his shoulder against the rubber boy. He grinned in success as the boy was propelled forward, until –

"Ah! Where the hell were you pushing him to, Chopper!"

"Ahhh! I pushed him off the ship! Hang on, Luffy!"

"Idiot, you can't swim either – DON'T JUMP! CHOPPER!"

"Help us!" screamed two nearly identical voices from the waves below.

"Dammit! Zoro, Sanji, quit fighting and help me over here! Hang on, you two!"

x x x x x x x x

Half an hour, several curses, repeated hits to the head and five soaking wet men later, all the crew were back on deck.

Luffy, Usopp and Chopper sneezed in synchronization, shivering under their towels. Zoro was wringing his shirt dry over the railings, and Sanji had already changed, through his blond hair still dripped messily. Nami and Robin had come back up, the navigator massaging her temples. Only the archaeologist seemed impervious.

"Listen up, Luffy," Nami growled – Luffy, Usopp, and Chopper flinched at the tone of voice she was using – "you either take the medicine, or we strap your rubber body down to various parts of the ship and force-feed you the thing. You're sick, and all of us want you to get better, and as soon as possible."

"Not sick," Luffy mumbled defiantly before breaking into series of wet coughs.

Nami's right eye had developed a dangerous tick. "Luffy."

"Try me." He jutted his lower lip at her, challengingly.

Zoro was now using his shirt to towel-dry his hair. "Force-feeding it is, then," he grumbled, ignoring the chef as he purposely sprayed drops of seawater all over him.

x x x x x x x x

Robin went first.

It appeared to have been an instant victory, as multiple arms sprouted from the deck to firmly hold the rubber boy down while another arm grew from his chest, holding a spoonful of the medicine. However, since she couldn't very well strangle their captain, he still managed to evade her by stretching his neck, staying out of range of the spoon.

The other crew members stared as their captain's head went bouncing along the floor, his neck trailing behind like some overgrown leash, screaming all the way.

Robin surrendered half an hour later. It took another fifteen minutes for Luffy's neck to unwind, un-stretch, and return to its former position atop his shoulders.

x x x x x x x x

Chopper knocked Luffy out with a sedative.

When he tried to open the boy's mouth, however, he discovered that his jaws had been locked shut. No matter how hard he tried or what object he used to pry the two very straight rows of teeth open, he couldn't get the medicine in. Even in sleep, Luffy seemed determined not to let a drop of the substance get past his lips.

Nami shook the doctor and demanded why, if he could hit the captain with a sedative, he couldn't just load a shot full of the syrup and give that to him instead.

x x x x x x x x

Nami later discovered that loading cough syrup into a dart gun would jam the entire conception and worse, that when forced, would fire backwards. Chopper shook his head as Sanji carried an unconscious navigator back to her cabin.

x x x x x x x x

Sanji had stared at their captain, still asleep from the effects of the sedative, his jaw still firmly clenched. Then he had raised a leg to smash the boy's face in, and Chopper shrieked and demanded to know what he intended to do with his patient.

Sanji had replied that since Luffy wouldn't open his mouth, he'd just knock a few teeth out, then they'd have an opening to get the medicine through with.

Zoro had to drag an unconscious, hoof-imprinted Sanji back to his hammock.

x x x x x x x x

Luffy woke up.

Zoro didn't know of any non-violent, Chopper-rage-inducing way of making his captain drink the medicine. So he proposed a simple staring contest. If Luffy blinked first, he'd have to drink the medicine. Knowing Luffy wouldn't be one to back down from a challenge, he sat down across the rubber boy, knocked foreheads, and on the count of three they started staring.

Thirty seconds had gone by and both their eyes had started growing noticeably bloodshot. Zoro gritted his teeth and reminded himself that he was doing this for the sake of their captain, that it would be just a little while more, he had to hang in there…

Then Luffy's eyes had suddenly shot out, bulging a good ten centimeters from their sockets, almost smacking into Zoro's own eyes. The swordsman had yelled, flailed, and crashed over backwards, and of course, he'd blinked.

Both Chopper and Usopp had to stop the first mate from killing their captain, while Luffy rocked on his heels and laughed about how amusing his Gomu Gomu no Eyeballing came in incredibly useful at times.

x x x x x x x x

Finally, it came to Usopp's turn.

Chopper was still wrestling with Zoro, outside the room. Usopp licked his lips nervously, bouncing on the balls of his feet while Luffy studied him with equal curiosity. He could always try to shoot the medicine into the captain's mouth, but Luffy was already on guard against that after having tasted his Tabasco sauce before. He couldn't fight against him either, since the winner of that was predictable, and all his other crewmates were out cold or busy fighting or else very reluctant to come near the captain again, so he had no chance of teaming up with someone else.

Usopp sighed, and sank to the floor in a heap. He picked up the medicine bottle absently, turning over the amber glass container in his fingers, watching the liquid slosh about inside like little tidal waves.

"Usopp?" Luffy sounded cheerful. "All of them couldn't give me the medicine, and I don't think you will be able to, too. I really hate medicine." There was silence for a few seconds before he started coughing again.

The sniper nodded glumly, shaking the contents of the bottle a bit, watching as the liquid splashed up against the sides a bit more. Luffy was right. There wasn't really anything he could do to…

"…"

Usopp blinked. Then, just as suddenly, a huge grin spread over his face, and he sat up straight. "Hey, Luffy! Wanna hear one of the Great Captain Usopp-sama's adventures?"

"Woohoo!" Luffy sprang forward from his slouch instantly, throwing both feet over the edge of the bed and looking at his marksmen with wide, excited eyes. "A story, a story!"

"Yosh!" Usopp settled the medicine by his side, then faced his captain again. "Luffy, I should inform you that you're not the only one who's ever gotten ill on an adventure! Why, back when I was traveling all over the world, I happened to chance upon an island whose inhabitants were all ill and sick and coughing!"

"Like me?"

"Yeah! Everyone in that village was sick."

"What was this island?" Luffy had started bouncing on the bed, coughing a little between words.

"Er… They called themselves the Back Tee Rhea, and they hailed from the Island of Koff ." Usopp sweated. "But anyway! The Island of Koff did not belong to them. The Back Tee Rhea were actually people from another sea, and they'd gotten themselves stranded on that island. When I was there, the island was completely dead, filled with rotting bushes and fallen trees and with ash littering the floor with every step I took. The people were too sick to talk, too – kept coughing at every word they tried to speak."

"Wow, Usopp!" Luffy's eyes were shining with admiration. "But wait, if you said the Back Tee Rhea couldn't talk, how did you know all that?"

"Well… I was fishing, since I couldn't eat anything there, and a little golden fish popped out of the water to tell me."

"Really? Coooool!"

"So I learnt all about the Island of Koff from the golden fish. And it told me a horrendous tale – that whoever stopped by the Island of Koff , if they stayed too long, they would eventually become like the Back Tee Rhea themselves! They'd start feeling worse and tired and start coughing all over the place, and become too sick to do anything else. I was enraged! How many innocents had lost their lives and dreams by getting stuck on that island, and falling ill in turn themselves? And that included me, since I'd stopped there as well!"

"What did you do? What did you do!"

"So I said to the fish, 'Tell me how to stop this great devastation, for I am the great and mighty Captain Usopp-sama, and I can do anything!' The fish looked sad at that, and it said… And it said…" Usopp wibbled his lip a little for effect.

"What did it say!" Luffy gasped, at the edge of the bed, his fingers knotted in the sheets from the suspense.

Usopp lowered his voice dramatically. "It said… that I had to kill it, and then grind its scales into power to form a medicine that could cure all of the Back Tee Rhea!"

"Nooooooooooo!" Luffy wailed, hugging his knees and coughing simultaneously. "The poor little fish! You didn't - !"

"I protested, of course! I couldn't do such a thing to such a beautiful creature! But the fish only shook its head solemnly and said it had to be done. He had wanted to save these people for a long time, it said, but there was nobody who had the heart to cut him up." Usopp swallowed, regretfully. "So… I… did it."

"Noooooooooo!" Luffy wailed again.

"But, but!" Usopp hastily waved his hands to get the captain's attention. "I held a grand funeral for it, with fire crackers and fire works and sent out invitations to rich people from all over the world to attend its funeral, so it was really okay. In the end, there were three thousand people to mourn its death."

"Hm. Yeah, that doesn't sound too bad." The captain grinned. "Usopp, you're awesome!"

"Of course!" Usopp grinned - if Luffy had really been paying attention, as he had to all his other fables, his plan was working. "So, with the bag of powdered golden fish scales in my hand, I set off to the Island of Koff to give the cure to all the sick Back Tee Rhea."

"But you can't eat powder! It'd stick in your throat and choke you and all that."

"Precisely! So, out of kindness, I trekked long and deep into the neighboring jungle, where I found the Honey Plant – a magical plant whose stems flow with the richest, purest, sweetest honey – and I cut off a stalk to make syrup with, so I could mix in the golden fish scale powder and make it nicer to drink."

"But, Usopp, you said the Island of Koff was a dead island. There couldn't have been a jungle."

"Well, it was on another island nearby!"

"Oh! Usopp, you're so cool!"

"So after I mixed the golden fish scale powder with the syrup, I went back to the village of Koff and administered the medicine to everyone living there. They didn't want me to feed them at first because they were afraid it would taste yucky and all, but I forced the thing into their mouths, because if they didn't drink the medicine, they'd get sicker and weaker and would eventually die." Usopp crossed his arms and nodded self-righteously. "And guess what happened after that?"

"What? What!"

The marksman flung his arms wide. "Everyone was cured!"

"ALRIGHT!" Luffy pumped his fist into the air.

"And so everyone thanked me, the great Captain Usopp-sama, for saving all of their lives. And because the people were well enough to set sail again, they did, most of them leaving to return to their own homes. Soon the island was vacated, and no one really knew what happened to the original people who lived on Koff. It's said that the island started getting sick because the original people had died there, and their illnesses floated around in the air, ready to claim new victims who arrived. But now that there was nobody, everything became alright again."

"Usopp is so awesome!" Luffy crowed. But then his voice gave way to a series of hacking, drawing deep-throated sticky coughs as he covered his mouth with his hands.

"Ah, but my story hasn't ended!" Usopp waggled a finger. "Do you remember that weird island we dropped by last week?"

"Eh? Yeah."

"That was the Island of Koff !"

"Ehhh!" Luffy clapped his hands over his mouth. "So that's how I got sick? Not because I ate too much meat?"

"Errrrrr, well, maybe it's both!" Usopp grabbed the medicine off the floor and held it out to Luffy to look. "Fortunately, I still have some of that golden fish scale medicine I made. Luffy, you have to take it, or else you'd die. And I don't want our precious captain to die!" He made a great show of wiping his eyes, nose, and wibbling his lower lip. "Luffy! Please take the medicine that the great Captain Usopp-sama used to save the Back Tee Rhea!"

Luffy was staring at the bottle again, looking ready to bolt. "You sure it's not yucky-tasting?"

"Well… maybe a little, but it's all well if you get better in the end." Usopp uncorked the bottle, and leveled out a spoonful before holding it out for Luffy to drink. "Besides… the poor little fish sacrificed himself to save whoever got ill from that island. Surely you don't want to put his efforts to waste…?"

That did it, Usopp thought proudly, as the captain snatched up the spoon and finally, finally, got his first dose of medicine down his throat.

Cheers and hollers suddenly erupted from behind them, and Usopp whirled around so fast he nearly cricked his neck. "You guys…! How long have you been standing there!"

Zoro and Chopper had settled themselves at the foot of the doorway, with Nami, Robin and Sanji standing at the back. All five had huge grins on their faces.

"Even since the great Usopp-sama started his little tale about the Back Tee Rhea," Sanji said, chuckling.

Luffy was coughing again, rubbing at his throat and making faces at the now empty spoon. Then he stopped, blinked, swallowed a few times. "Hey," he said, sounding surprised. "That didn't taste so bad."

"I told you!" Usopp beamed. "Combined with the purest, sweetest, richest honey from the Honey Tree and the powder from the golden fish – "

Zoro was laughing. "At least we won't be chasing him around the deck trying to force feed him the medicine anymore."

"Usopp-samaaaaaaa!" Chopper wailed, flinging himself at the marksman, "You'll make a better doctor than me someday!"

"I feel better already!" Luffy hopped out of bed, grinning widely, before sprinting past the crowd at the doorway.

"Where're you going, Luffy?" Nami asked.

He shot her a grin. "To thank the golden fish!" And he was out, sandaled feet clapping noisily across the wooden deck.

The group began to slowly dissipate, chuckling as they each headed back to their individual tasks. Robin lingered behind, waiting for the sniper to catch up before giving him a brief pat on the back.

"An excellent tale, marksman-san," she said, smiling genuinely, before heading back to her cabin.

"Nothing the great Captain Usopp-sama can't do." He waved her off, but was unable to keep the smile – and the blush – from reaching his ears.

There was a distant splash and someone screaming from the deck. "Luffy fell overboard again!"

"Ahhh! Luffy!"

"NO, CHOPPER, YOU STAY RIGHT THERE!"

Splash. "Ahhhh! I can't swim!"

"Idiots!"

"Don't worry, Luffy, Chopper! The great Captain Usopp-sama is here to save you!"

"I'm not ruining another shirt for those morons."

"Yeah, go right ahead, keep your dainty little Princess feet clean and dry – "

"What was that, Cabbage-Head?"

"Quit fighting and save them already, morons!"

"Yes, Nami-san!" Splash.

x x x x x x x x owari