Hello again! Wow, it feels like forever since I've written something... Anyway, I hate to say it, but I'm suffering from sort of block, so I've been writing whatever strikes me, whenever it strikes me. However, those of you who are fans of my fic "Stealth," seriously deserve an update at the very least. (I'm sorry I'm such a slacker) Regarding that story, I have my own ideas about Zoro's torture (hahaha) but I realized that they've got an entire day to waste, so I need more! However, I am slightly stumped. So! If you would like to lend me a hand, or simply give me a (polite) kick in the butt to get moving, please drop me an email (seriously!) Nothing would motivate me more than to hear what you guys would like to see happen with that fic. XD
Thanks goes to both Noriko Sakuma (for listening to me rant) and The Plushie Bandit (for help with the kiss XD)! Thanks again!
Anyway, so here's the deal with THIS fic. The sixth One Piece movie, (the one about Omatsuri Island) is WITHOUT A DOUBT the best one in my opinion, but the way it ended was just begging for me to make a ZoLuish oneshot out of it. So I did. XD And that means...
SPOILER WARNING! FOR THE SIXTH OP MOVIE AND BRIEF MENTIONS OF THE FIRST FORTY OR SO EPISODES!
And with that said, I hope you enjoy it!
Disclaimer: I don't own One Piece.
You Go With Me
They were back...
His family, his friends, his nakama... Every one of them had returned to his side.
The ecstatic relief that coursed through his body was so strong that he felt dizzy, and if he hadn't already been flat on his back in the dirt, Luffy was sure he would have pitched right over.
Zoro, the first person he simply needed to see, was peering down at him with a strange, slightly reassured expression, as if concern, affection, and a desire to scold his captain for being so reckless were warring for control somewhere behind that gently quirked eyebrow.
That creased brow had become familiar to the rubber-man by now, and its appearance warmed him straight through to his core, easing the tension from his body and the pain from his heart.
Nami was the only one actually bent right over him, and as her mouth worked furiously around her chiding tone, the words never really making it to his ears, the raven haired teen had to wonder if the only reason she had moved so had simply been to lecture him from what she had decided was a more effective angle.
But even with her hands propped upon her hips, her face held with a tired, 'what-are-we-going-to-do-with-you' kind of look, the smaller pirate was tempted to pull some stunt just so she'd continue to nag him. That too was typical, one step closer toward normalcy.
The marksman's wide, goofy grin spoke volumes even when the liar's normally extravagant manner of speaking had fallen into silence. Luffy had seen Usopp's frame slouch noticeably moments after the teen's gaze had settled upon his prone form, as if finding his friend alive and well had lifted a terrible weight from his shoulders.
Seeing is believing, after all.
...But where had his funny hat gone? The memory of that vibrant cap in place of the sniper's usual bandana, along with the boy's elated smile, made it spectacularly difficult for the young captain not to join him with his own beaming grin.
But he had to see the rest of his crew first...
Sanji's face was lit with his own smirk, partly hidden by his straight blonde hair. The love cook was looking unusually rumpled for his normally collected, poised attitude.
The infamous Straw Hat was saddened only slightly when he realized that the older pirate was lacking the cigarette ordinarily pressed between his lips, the absence of his comrade's vice straying from the teen's natural composure even more so than his unkempt appearance.
Being the smallest of his crew, Chopper was near enough to truly study, and his tiny, delighted yet watery smile was the easiest to see. Looking past his blue nose, Luffy could easily read the reindeer's trembling expression.
At this close proximity, the little doctor's eyes betrayed his instinctive need to heal, mend, cure, and bandage any wound, visible or not. The rubber-man could just make out the almost imperceptible twitch of his hooves, as if his joy alone was the only thing that kept him from his medicinal tendencies.
Robin, quiet and calm as always, looked even more distant and preoccupied than she seemed the majority of each day, only pulling her focus from something over her shoulder several full seconds after she had halted between Sanji and the ship's physician.
The young captain finally felt the last of his fear ebb away. The absolute anguish, the emptiness, the ache of feeling... being so completely and undeniably alone, it all died away as the archeologist cast a small smile downward, completing the assembly of his six cherished friends, gathered in a circle around him.
Where they belonged.
Seeing his nakama slowly disappear one by one had torn him apart. Each friend had taken a piece of his body, mind, and soul with them, as if his very existence had vanished into that hateful flower with the passing of each of his nakama.
The last to fade, to slip into the unknown depths of the lily, had been Zoro.
Luffy knew that his first mate had taken the biggest part of him, and could only assume that the significant hole that had been left had once encompassed his heart, because that was what had hurt the most.
He'd felt it, as his swordsman had been drawn into that monstrous blossom... beyond his grasp.
It had been unbearable at the very, very least; an intense, burning ache that had seized his entire chest, sapping the breath from his lungs. It was as if the green haired young man had not only left with his heart in the figurative sense, but had reached straight into his body and had physically wrenched it out.
It had been then that, for the first and what he hoped was the very last time, he had felt... hollow.
There was no word that he knew of to adequately describe the extent of that awful sensation; only ones that would drain the first of its meaning.
Barren, blank, vacant... they all intended a lack of something... but not everything.
Words such as those were useless.
Because as he had watched Zoro disappear, everything was what he had lost. Everything...
Returning his attention to his beloved swordsman, Luffy could no longer contain his relief. He was back... They were all back...
Inhaling deeply as the navigator's ranting finally stalled, the raven-haired teen broke into loud, wild laughter, letting go of everything.
Each member of the crew, save for the first mate, lifted their focus from the hysterical form of the captain to share an odd glance.
"He's finally snapped," joked the blonde, tucking his hands into his pockets.
"Yup," remarked the sharpshooter, nodding in agreement before adding, "Completely lost it."
But Zoro, while the rest of the group squabbled over the state of the rubber-man's sanity, had kept his eyes locked upon his captain, and whenever possible, held the boy's gaze with his own.
And in his attention, he heard the boy's laughter gradually slowing, saw the tears of mirth clinging to his lashes become heavy, pooling at the corners of his eyes as the emotion that prompted them changed.
He noticed the smaller pirate's breath hitch, the boy's smile failing as the curve of his mouth tugged downward, his chest quaking with sobs now instead of his earlier laughter.
Attention drawn from their boisterous conversation, the rest of the crew scowled at Zoro's hostile command.
Both Nami and the love cook opened their mouths to protest, but absently followed the swordsman's lowered gaze toward the ground. The image that welcomed their eyes shocked them into silence, heated words dying upon their lips.
Once quiet, the sobs wracking Luffy's slender frame had deepened, now harsh and uncontrolled as he held his face skyward, a pained howl tearing its way from his lungs.
The boy's fingertips raked through the soil beneath them, and even before his last keening cry had subsided he was drawing breath for the next, choking as he fought to coax the air back in amidst the tightening of his throat.
Tears slipped free from his tightly closed eyes, streaking his face with dirt as they spilled across his temples.
The rubber-man had abandoned his resolve for intense relief, fear, regret... everything that had been plaguing him since the first moment that cold, bitter doubt had flitted through his mind. Everything that could have happened that day. Everything that had, hadn't, would have...
There were so many possibilities... so many 'almost's, 'if's, and 'maybe's. Too many...
Watching his captain hurt this way was almost too much for Zoro, and for a moment he had to avert his eyes from the smaller teen's quivering frame. 'What can I do?' The first mate wondered. 'How can I...? ...Luffy...'
And as if the young pirate had heard what the swordsman could not voice aloud, the boy's attention lifted, just enough for him to meet his comrade's troubled eyes with his own, red and raw from crying.
With a quiet groan and what seemed like a tremendous effort, the raven haired teen turned in Zoro's direction, rolling gradually onto his side where he paused, biting his lip as he weathered through a lancing pain, curling in upon himself as he realized he had upset his wounds.
Rooted to his spot, the first mate's eyes widened when the boy inched slowly closer, reaching out toward him with one unsteady hand. Those slender, questing fingers prodded experimentally at his ankle, as if doubting his solidity, before they moved again, curling around his leg in a desperate grip.
Now certain that his crewmate truly was standing before him, tears welled from the smaller boy's eyes with a renewed strength. Another whimper spilled from the young captain's lips, his voice sounding strangled, as if he were trying to force it back.
"Luffy," murmured the swordsman, watching as his younger friend's free hand moved to join the first in a clench about his shin, having worked its way out from where it had been trapped beneath the boy's body.
The rubber-man swallowed hard against another wail, keeping the sound down to a plaintive moan as he fought for composure. He didn't want to cry, he really didn't. Not in front of his crew... Not like this...
What he really wanted to do was laugh, because he was immeasurably grateful to have his friend's back safe and sound, every last one of them. But whenever he tried to let out a chuckle his voice would fail him, the sound leaving his body as a pitiful whimper, and he couldn't seem to stop it...
The infamous Straw Hat's breath caught harshly as he bore down upon another sob, but suddenly left him in a rush, a startled yelp as he was raised into the air without warning.
With one arm beneath his comrade's knees and the other wrapped protectively around the smaller pirate's back, the first mate slowly, carefully lifted that slender form into the air, cradling the raven haired boy close as he settled within his hold.
Apparently startled from his grief, Luffy countered the worried looks of his crewmates with a wide stare, looking quite disoriented after being swept upward from the hard ground.
But after a moment, the boy recognized the broad chest he was leaning against, the steady arms supporting him, and he couldn't help but offer his friends a tearful grin, an expression of 'I'll be okay.' before he twisted and buried his face into his swordsman's neck.
"Zoro," he sniffled quietly, not sure what it was he wanted. His hands stole their way around the green haired pirate's shoulders and he shifted slightly, hoping to fit himself even tighter against his companion.
The older of the pair let his mouth lift into a fond smile as he heard the boy's plea. Raising his arms, he invited the smaller teen to sink lower into the angle of his elbows, pulling him snug against his body. "I know," he offered, his tone low, almost inaudible to anyone but the two of them.
Feeling his friend's grasp upon him shift, pulling him flush with the green haired young man's torso, Luffy dropped his face to the teen's chest, pressing into the strong heartbeat that drummed steadily beneath his ear.
Zoro was the only one that had been there from the very beginning of his journey, above and before all the others. The first to lay his trust... his loyalty... his future behind the haphazard leadership of that boy and his brilliant, unshakable smile.
The man that held him now had been his only constant, his presence the only unwavering factor in this time of circumstance, of being lead by weather fronts and ocean currents; both of which had the potential to change in the breadth of an instant.
The raven haired boy allowed himself a quiet yawn, inching closer to his comrade as he let his eyes fall closed, feeling safe in the knowledge that his first mate would get them all back to the ship while he slept.
...Even if his swordsman didn't technically lead the way...
Somewhere between that desolate hilltop and the Going Merry, lulled by the rhythmic rise and fall of the firm chest beneath his head, Luffy succumbed to the pull of a light sleep, nestling deeper into the crook of his friend's neck.
When the rocking of Zoro's steps finally ceased, the raven haired teen was only vaguely aware of being settled upon something soft, propped upright against someone's shoulder by warm, calloused hands.
He'd almost been asleep, so close, when he was clasped by the arms and shifted again.
There were several muffled voices when he mumbled a drowsy protest to being disturbed before small, efficient hooves began working quickly over his injuries, cleaning and bandaging those that needed it.
Something soft and damp was applied to his face, the fingers behind the washcloth gentle as they cleansed the dirt from his skin, clearing away the lasting evidence of his earlier tears.
Once more, he was gently moved, and in a sudden dizzy spell his mind reeled, hands instinctively reaching out for something even though there were still two holding him firmly by the shoulders.
His palms met with the solid frame of someone's ribcage, and for a moment he prodded curiously, sleepily at the area as if unsure of what it was he was feeling. Skin and muscle pulled taut over the curved structure, tensing at the progress of his inquisitive fingertips.
Once satisfied with his exploration, the rubber-man's exhaustion returned full force, and he slumped forward, leaning heavily against the body in front of him. Seeking out the warmth of another, he distractedly scooted into the nearest available lap, nestling close once he was content.
"Zoro," he whispered fuzzily, only knowing he had been right in his guess when an answering tone rumbled from deep within the chest he dozed upon.
Whatever had been fussing over the back of his left leg suddenly vanished, and there was silence before the swordsman's voice rose again, speaking to someone behind him.
There was a very quiet, very meek reply, and then those familiar arms lifted again, carefully maneuvering the rubber-man to be raised into the air.
The smaller teen was held aloft for only a moment before he was lain out upon what he now recognized as one of the couches in the men's cabin, the fabric beneath his cheek still warm with the lingering body heat of its last occupant..
Several sets of footsteps retreated before vanishing altogether, and for a moment Luffy felt alone before his first mate's hands returned, touch cautious as he tried to make his captain comfortable.
Zoro carefully rearranged his long limbs upon the sofa, coaxing his folded legs straight with one hand clasped softly behind his knee and the other about his bare ankle.
The older of the pair settled each of his arms in turn, laying them down along the extent of his torso, hands tender beneath his elbows and around his wrists.
He felt his sandals gently pulled from his feet, and heard them being set aside with a muted clatter of wood upon wood.
His hat was removed as well, and if he hadn't lacked the energy, hadn't felt it placed just beside his head, he would have forced himself into awareness to take it back.
A few moments passing found a thick blanket carefully spread over his slumbering form, meticulously tucked around him before he gave a sluggish groan and rolled onto his side, giving his shroud a good toss as he did so.
There was a brief pause, and then a fond chuckle filled the silence as his larger friend surveyed his now disheveled cover, before he leaned over and thoroughly smoothed it back into place.
Once Zoro had finished there was a moment of heavy silence, as if he were studying his work, before he gave a soft hum of approval.
Luffy mumbled something incoherent in his half-conscious state, and sensed the green haired young man's presence as he lowered himself beside his captain's head.
Several seconds passing found a large, rough hand gently cupping his face. A thumb softly stroked across the crest of his cheek before slowing, easing as those fingers, warm and comforting, brushed upwards to ease through his hair, now free from the confines of his hat.
A few mumbled words, the older pirate's tone sounding apologetic, and the hand sifting through his unruly mop had stilled midway through its pass, as if his companion's attention had been drawn by a sudden thought.
And then warm breath was playing over his features, stirring the dark strands of hair that fell across his brow as Zoro bent low above him, halting in another show of hesitation.
At length, his first mate carried through with his motion, leaning down until the rubber-man felt a faint touch against his hairline, a pressure so subtle that he'd surely wonder later if he hadn't simply dreamed it.
With one more sigh ghosting across his forehead, his swordsman withdrew for the final time, leaving him to rest as the last of his consciousness faded with the lingering sensation of lips upon his skin.
Hours later, when Luffy finally endeavored to draw himself from his fitful slumber, he had to pause for a moment after opening his eyes, still caught in the haze of sleep as he frowned in confusion at his surroundings.
It took him no more than a few seconds to distinguish the groaning of the ship as it leveled within a large swell, and a few more to recognize the knots in the wooden ceiling above him, recalling absently that he had been settled in the men's quarters.
Sniffing idly, he blinked drowsily as he listened to the relative quiet before several noises suddenly carried down through the floorboards above.
Two voices, one loudly complementing the other as two more chatted amiably with each other. The quieter conversation stopped for a moment, one of the participants now spouting a brash statement through a bout of laughter that abruptly plunged the group into a foreboding silence.
One of the voices rose again, tone low with anger as slow, deliberate footfalls suddenly marched purposely across the deck, accompanied by a few muttered accusations and several 'Nami-san's that proved the clearly annoyed pirate to be Sanji.
There was a telltale squeak that plainly established Usopp as the one on the receiving end of the chef's wrath, and the rapid clicking of hooves signaled the crew's doctor making a hasty retreat before the ship erupted in chaos.
The young captain giggled knowing that the racket above him, the sounds of scuffling, scrambling feet, shouts of both pain and vengeance, simply meant that life aboard the Going Merry had returned to normal.
A heavy thump and a particularly alarming shriek from the sniper had the rubber-man grinning from ear to ear as he carefully levered himself upright. He heard the thundering footsteps of his comrade's trample up a flight of stairs before the galley door slammed and a hush fell over the boat once more.
Still laughing to himself, the raven haired pirate pushed himself gingerly into a standing position. Upon finding his feet bandaged, he decided to leave his shoes where they lay as he padded cautiously over to the exit, testing just how much weight his wounds would tolerate.
After a few minutes of trial and error, the rubber-man had managed to climb up the ladder and hoist himself out onto the deck, where he was greeted by the fading light of dusk
With a loud yawn, he reached upward only to pause mid-stretch, his attention drawn by a familiar black boot protruding from behind the opposite side of the mast. With a smile, Luffy tiptoed as well as his tender feet would allow to Zoro's side.
While it wasn't uncommon, not in the least, to find the green haired young man dead asleep in a shady corner of the boat, tucked neatly against the wall or railing, it was fairly rare to see him napping in such a high-traffic area, and in such a clumsy arrangement.
That was how Luffy could tell when his older friend was really worn out.
It seemed as if the larger teen's exhaustion would catch him mid-step, and the swordsman would simply drop, toppling to the deck and lacking both the will and the energy to find somewhere more comfortable.
Peering down at the snoozing form of his swordsman, jaw slack, mouth open, sprawled flat out upon the deck, the smaller pirate felt something prodding at the back of his mind.
The image of the green haired young man spread out below him, arms thrown wide to both his left and right, called to mind several significant memories.
He could recall the very first time he'd laid eyes on his crewmate, back when he'd still been known as the infamous pirate hunter. His arms had been braced wide as they were now, but had been bound so by force, secured tightly by more ropes Luffy had ever seen used on one single person before.
The scene reminded the raven haired boy of his first mate's encounter with Mihawk, his arms held open as he welcomed his opponent's final strike. He had soundlessly taken the brunt of that dark blade straight across the chest, before he'd been tossed into the sea from the drive of that same blow.
Even as the older of the two had been towed deep into the lily, his arms had been flung to each side again, as rigid in their involuntary pose as his expression had appeared.
And while his mouth was now open, the teen snoring softly as he drew steady breath, it brought to mind the way the man's face had been agape then as well, his lips pulled back in an expression of shocked rage, as if he resented the fact that he'd been caught.
It was ironic, how a casual nap, a simple choice in the way Zoro had collapsed to the floor, reminded the younger of the pair of both the first time they had ever met, and what he had feared would be the last time he would ever see his beloved swordsman.
Attempting to bring his focus back to the broad frame laying in the shadow of the mast, Luffy was suddenly hit by just how terrified he had been. His first mate's prone figure was too much like what he had witnessed not only half a day earlier, too similar...
Biting his lip, the small pirate was suddenly seized by panic, his heart pounding in his chest as he was suddenly overwhelmed, his thoughts flooded with glimpses of the lily... his nakama... how he had almost lost...
Being assailed by such painful ideas effectively drove the enduring strength from his battered frame, and he sank to his knees beside his friend.
Bowing over his companion, he took the older teen by the collar, shaking him frantically as he released everything he had wished to say before, the words he had wanted to scream at the top of his lungs.
"Zoro," he rasped, voice hoarse as he hauled desperately upon his crewmate's shirt. "Zoro! Don't leave me!" His breath sobbed harshly out of his chest, new tears stinging at the back of his eyes as he remembered...
The baron's pitiless smirk...
When his attempts to rouse his swordsman seemed to have failed, he fisted his hands against the young man's torso, pressing himself desperately over the body of his friend.
Taking a shaky breath, he continued to call out, pleading for his swordsman to wake up as he tried to fight off the terrible memories plaguing him. "Please, don't leave me!" He begged, his cries muffled by the muscular body against which he'd hidden his face.
The creak of that man's bow as he'd taken aim...
If his first mate wouldn't respond to a request, maybe he would to a threat...
"Don't you dare," he began, and he felt like his heart was breaking all over again as he gathered handfuls of Zoro's haramaki within his clenched fingers. One more hurried gasp burned its way down his raw throat.
"Don't you dare leave me..."
It was dark.
'Where am I?'
And silent. The swordsman couldn't hear anything, not even the sound of his own voice when he thought he had spoken.
'What happened? Where the hell am I?'
The last thing he remembered was being pursued... and then...
'What the hell's going on? Luffy?'
He tried to call out, but once again his voice failed him, leaving the silence as it was before another shout from his distraught comrade filled it.
Something was wrong... terribly wrong. His captain sounded scared, almost desperate... Where was he?
'Why can't I see anything? What's happening?'
"Gomu Gomu no-"
Panic lanced through the first mate's mind at the arrival of that pained cry.
'Usopp...?' Wondered the older pirate frantically. 'What is it? What's-'
"Gomu Gomu no-AH!"
Rage pulsed through his veins, setting his body on fire as he fought to gain purchase on something, anything in this strange place. His captain was in trouble, and he couldn't help... couldn't reach... couldn't even see him!
Zoro's breath hitched painfully upon hearing that faint sound. His comrade's frantic tone had weakened into a choked mumble, the teen obviously struggling with something as he spoke. 'Luffy!'
His heart lurched at the panicked emotion driving that particular call, aching terribly as he fought to respond, his pulse racing
'Luffy! What is it? What's going on! LUFFY!'
How could he be this helpless? His captain needed him, and he didn't even have the ability to get a grasp of the situation before the boy let out an awful scream, a wild, baying call that made it sound as if the teen were rallying for one final drive.
The second call was even more powerful than the one before, charged, and it struck the swordsman harder than any physical blow.
It was a desperate cry, one that rose straight from his core; angry, scared and unrestrained as he simply roared. But more than that, what weighed so heavily upon the green haired young man... his captain's voice held a demanding accusation...
A dangerous, blunt assertion of 'don't you dare...!'
What had he done to warrant such a command? The smaller pirate never used such a severe tone when addressing an ally, let alone his own crew...
Whatever had happened after the boy's final shout died away had left him without even a sound to go by, abandoning him to his thoughts.
A sharp cry lanced through the quiet and straight into his mind, filling him with dread, sending his blood cold as the wounded howl ebbed into a groan before fading entirely away.
His captain's voice was barely audible now, a faint murmur that made it seem as if the boy was completely powerless, as if he had lost everything, as if he had given up...
Was this even Luffy he was hearing? The soft, hopeless lilt of that voice sounded nothing like his friend. There was just no way this was his... the one that he...
'Alone?' Zoro echoed, fighting to remain calm despite the pain laced through his captain's words.
The boy was suffering...
'You're not alone,' the green haired young man countered, his tone pressing for an answer. 'I'm here, Luffy... I'M RIGHT HERE!'
'I'm right here with you...' Zoro offered urgently, striving to be heard, to reach his companion and soothe away the sting of loneliness that had settled over the boy's tone.
'Luffy!' Calling out, he prayed for some clue, some trace as to what had happened, a reason why his friend sounded so utterly defeated.
Why he couldn't rush to the boy's aid...
With an intensity he had never before experienced, the first mate wished to be beside his captain, to draw him into the safety of his arms, away from whatever nightmare plagued him.
Gnashing his teeth, Zoro was too wrapped up in the unknowns of their predicament, too restless to stifle the low, stricken moan that fell from his lips.
It hurt. Not being able to be there for his comrade when he was needed the most...
Oh, god, did it hurt... A fierce, unrelenting ache that flared with his guilt, his remorse, and his frustration.
Abruptly, something around him began to shift, and he felt an insistent pull, as if he were being swallowed further into whatever prison held him. An unseen force was twisting around him, constricting, rendering him immobile.
He growled as the darkness became oppressive, gathering his breath for one final shout, one more effort to make his presence known... felt...
The shadows crushed inward, and he knew no more.
When Zoro was thrown back into consciousness some time later, whether it had been hours, days, or mere seconds, he was dismayed to find himself still within that now familiar blackness.
'Back here again?' He groaned irritably, brows knitting as he noted a change in the atmosphere.
He wasn't alone...
The crew, the rest of the straw hats were there with him now, though he could not see them through the veil of shadow. But still no sign of his captain.
'What is this place?' He wondered, the words still only sounding within his own mind. Having yet to regain his voice, the first mate scowled. Maybe if he could move...
Something clenched down around his body before he even had a chance to make an attempt, a warning against the very thought of escape. 'Shit,' the young man spat, his only reaction to the threatening press being to struggle even more. 'What the he-'
His attention was caught the instant the silence had been split by that raging shout, all concern for his freedom brushed aside as relief swelled within his chest. 'Luffy,' he sighed, grinning despite himself as he recognized that voice. 'You're back...'
"I'm coming, everyone! Wait for me!"
At his captain's declaration, Zoro didn't know whether to laugh out loud or to call out for the smaller pirate, to ward him off. It was dangerous, this whole encounter had been arranged for them.
The baron had planned it all, had known just how to turn them against one another, to split them up to be taken one by one.
Simply the idea that their crew had been so easily divided was almost too painful to consider. Was their bond, their friendship, truly so shallow? So fragile?
When he thought about it, he realized that he was hard pressed to remember why they had even begun fighting in the first place, what it was that had finally driven the wedge between them.
They always argued, so what had been different? What was it about this island...
The sounds of a battle interrupted the questions lashing within his mind, and the swordsman could once again hear the determination behind the boy's tone, the resolve that chased every shout from his lips.
Smirking in satisfaction, the green haired teen chuckled internally. Whatever it was on the receiving end of the rubber-man's assault, it was seriously getting its ass kicked.
When the din of the confrontation had fallen silent, it gave way to a heavy, expectant hush that enveloped everything.
Zoro waited, senses trained upon catching any sound, any movement. After several moments nothing had changed, there was no evidence that the raven haired teen had accomplished anything.
"Where... where's my crew?"
Heaving against the unseen power that bound him in place, the first mate belted out a reply. 'HERE!' He bellowed, calling in defiance when whatever it was pinning him contracted, clenching tighter in an effort to suppress him. 'We're here, Luffy!'
"WHERE ARE THEY?"
And then his world was moving again, straining, twisting as he found himself trapped among the churning walls of his nameless cell. He was being shaped, contorting as he felt his body meld with his surroundings.
His frame bowed, arching into a position that, under normal circumstances, he would have thought to be beyond human capacity. Something... everything was shifting around him, rolling, coiling, and Zoro felt the breath being wrung from his chest.
He coughed, writhing as the pressure upon his body stole the depth from his lungs. 'Luf...fy...'
The first mate's struggle was brought up short when his comrade's voice lifted through the darkness again, tone horrified as it choked upon a gasp.
'W-what!' Zoro raved, his mind reeling from both the constant press of the shadows and the abrupt change in the younger pirate's demeanor. 'What the hell... is this?'
The quiet reigned for several long, agonizing moments, only to be broken again by the voice of the infamous Straw Hat, the stillness patterned with sharp, wounded cries.
The boy's afflicted calls passed quickly, but what followed in their place was much worse, and it sent the larger teen's heart pounding.
A weak, abrasive rasp replaced the boy's earlier groan, and his breathing was labored as he fought to inhale, to draw oxygen back into his body.
An unnatural, strangled wheeze tumbled from the boy's mouth, nothing but a faint gurgle by the time it reached Zoro's ears.
'Shit... what happened? ...Luffy...!' The swordsman panted, jaw clenching in his anger. 'What happened... to him!'
Warring with the faceless entity that held him captive, the older pirate wrestled for control of his own body, the blood roaring in his ears nearly drowning out the whisper of other voices. He froze, distinguishing the muted tones of his fellow crewmembers as they beckoned for the raven haired pirate.
"Luffy..." Zoro murmured, realizing that his voice had been restored and joining the group in their mutual attempt to reach their young leader. "Captain... my captain," he breathed, using what little strength he had left to bolster his words.
'Yes!' The swordsman felt his strength returning at the faint reply, adrenaline pumping.. 'It's working!' Pulling for an even greater response to counter with, the green haired pirate delved deeper, tapping into the last of his energy. "Luffy!"
"...crew. My crew..."
The boy's voice was weak, garbled, pained, as if each word cost him dearly...
But it was there.
"We're here!" Offered the older of the two, his shout carrying above the echoing cries of his fellow straw hats. "Luffy!"
"Return my crew... to me..."
"Return... my crew..." The rubber-man mumbled, his voice grating.
"Give me back... my crew!"
Silence fell once more, and even though he had yet to see his friend, Zoro couldn't help but smile internally. 'You're alright,' he mused. 'How stupid of me...' Laughing to himself, he shook his head as much as his restraints would allow. 'How could I have expected anything less?'
A few seconds passing found another sound playing through the darkness. The rubber-man's cry began as a shuddering growl, voice tense as if he were holding himself in check, but quickly escalated.
Growing in pitch, volume, and intensity, the boy's tone was positively savage, born solely from his unbridled anger.
The first mate felt Luffy's call reverberate deep within his chest, and suddenly found himself released, the intangible walls that bound him vanishing as breath surged back into his lungs.
For the first time since he'd initially found himself trapped in this prison, the swordsman felt whole, felt like himself again, and he did the first thing that came to his mind.
He threw his head back and howled.
He laughed at himself, at the island, at the baron, at anything and everything that came to his mind simply because he could. Because his captain had come out on top, and as long as Zoro was there to see it happen, that was where he'd stay. With a sigh, he let one last chuckle spill from his lips. "Luffy..."
And just as he'd been about to relish the fact that he could breathe normally again, there was a weight settling upon his chest, something pulling at his clothes.
With a start, the green haired young man blinked absently. Had Luffy heard him that time? "Luffy...?" He tried again, waiting with a practiced focus for some sort of reply.
"Luffy: The rubber-man's call was louder now, the sound pleading as the tugging upon his shirt persisted.
"Don't? Don't what?" He wondered aloud. "What's wrong? Luffy?" The older teen was visibly thrown when he realize his voice had eased into a half-conscious mumble.
"Don't leave me..."
With a cry that was more a tired jumble of words than an alarmed shout, the first mate bolted upright, finding himself sprawled out on the deck of the Going Merry with a body piled across his lap.
"Luffy?" His vision swam at the sudden movement, and for a moment he pressed one hand over his eyes, letting out a groan.
When he could see properly again, he dropped his arm and lowered his gaze to the form draped over his legs, the rubber-man having been thrown there in the larger pirate's abrupt toss. "Luffy, what are you doing?"
Instead of a reply, the smaller boy simply countered his focus with wide, tearful eyes, his lips trembling with the occasional sniffle.
"Oi!" Zoro barked, raising one hand to rub carefully at the back of his sore neck. "Luffy! What were you doing?" For a moment he waited, letting his focus catch up with him as he blinked the fog of sleep from his mind. "Are..." Eyes narrowing, he stared back at the smaller boy. "Are you crying?"
The miserable gaze that had been answering his own widened before the boy turned away in a hasty scramble of limbs, the raven haired teen sitting himself cross-legged upon the deck, facing pointedly away from his swordsman. "No!" His voice was unsteady, too swift in its insistent response, and he couldn't stifle a telltale whimper.
Noting the tension in the set of his friend's shoulder, the first mate recognized the boy's sorrow, the realization settling like a weight within his stomach. "Luffy..." His voice was low with conviction, his tone fraught with a warning.
At the knowing intent within his swordsman's speech, the rubber-man's shoulders hunched almost guiltily, and the stubborn silence the boy had tried to maintain was broken with a muffled sob.
"Luffy," Zoro began again, his chest aching at his companion's distress. "Don't."
"But I," Luffy whispered, pausing as he stumbled over his choice of words. "I almost..." His voice eased into quiet, breathy wail. "I almost let you all-"
"Enough," the swordsman interrupted, tone gruff as he leaned toward his comrade, frowning at the back of the smaller pirate's head. "Now look at me."
With only a moments hesitation at his first mate's angry manner of speaking, the rubber-man slowly turned, shifting around until he could lift his eyes to meet those of his friend.
"You're the reason we all survived," Zoro insisted, voice firm and resolute in its declaration. "Don't even think about trying to blame yourself." His fingertips sought out the soft, sloping curve of the boy's cheek, thumbing away the new tears beginning to well within his captain's eyes.
A few more seconds passed and the older of the pair realized that the boy wouldn't get through this without a little more time. He was responding, seeking out the comforting touch of those strong hands, but it was clear that he still placed the blame upon himself.
With one hand, the larger pirate reached out for his captain, clasping the back of his neck softly before he slowly drew the boy in, pressing the rubber-man's forehead against his collarbone in an unspoken sign of invitation.
Eyes wide with confusion as he was pulled awkwardly into his crewmate's embrace, the smaller boy froze, completely thrown by his comrade's gesture.
As he remained motionless in his shock, arched over his swordsman's lap with one hand braced upon the older pirate's knee for balance, Luffy bit his lip. His friend's offer made it even more difficult for him to hold his grief in submission.
Waiting patiently for the boy to move in answer, Zoro allowed himself a small, fond smile as he added, "I won't hear it, so save your breath."
His only response was a pair of hands clutching desperately around folds of his shirt. Luffy pressed close, muffling a plaintive moan against the broad plane of his first mate's chest. "Zoro," he keened, voice still quaking with repressed sobs.
Closing his eyes did nothing to dull the heartache this scene caused him, and the older of the two sighed, allowing himself to relax, reclining against the aged wood beneath him as he moved the boy with him, lifting one hand to that treasured hat.
Caught mid-hiccup, Luffy jumped. He choked awkwardly for a moment when he felt his hat knocked from atop his head, felt himself being shifted, but was calmed instantly when the motion was followed by a familiar hand weaving into his hair.
The swordsman brushed affectionately through his friend's untamed mop, noting that it only took several passes to soothe the boy's tears down to a manageable level, a faint whimper now and then as he continued with his attention.
"Come on," the green haired pirate mumbled clumsily.
His tone was calming but unsure as his free hand found its way around to clasp the huddled form of his friend closer, as if he doubted the ability of his words to offer any comfort.
"No more crying," he scolded gently, feeling the slender frame of the younger shift, flattening against him as the boy struggled to get closer. "I told you not to blame yourself. If you do, I'll kill you myself."
At the offer, Luffy couldn't help but reward his crewmate's efforts at calming him, gifting the older teen with a tearful laugh as he dropped his brow to the green haired pirate's collarbone again. "I know," he replied, sniffling through the slowly widening grin that had dawned over his features.
With an answering smirk spreading over his own face, Zoro released his friend, withdrawing his arms to fold them beneath his head. "Now get back to bed. Chopper said you needed a lot of rest."
"I'm not tired," the rubber-man insisted, his chin propped upon his first mate's sternum as he pouted.
Raising a skeptical eyebrow at his friend, the green haired young man snorted. "Right."
With a stubborn frown, the infamous Straw Hat opened his mouth to protest at his comrade's doubtful look. "I..."
Right before his eyes, the swordsman watched his captain stall mid-sentence to turn his head away, an attempt to hide the enormous yawn that overcame him. 'Oh, yeah, you're real sneaky,' he joked internally, giving a subdued chuckle.
"...I'm not," the boy finished, twisting back around to address his companion.
Even if he hadn't seen the boy's yawn, he'd still felt the boy's jaw widening against his ribcage. "Liar," he accused, grinning despite himself as he began to nudge the younger pirate. "Now go. Doctor's orders."
Whining when his crewmate's gentle shoving persisted, Luffy finally pulled back, settling back into a cross-legged position once he'd lifted himself from the older teen's body. "No fair," he grumped, huffing in disapproval as he sulked.
Sighing in mild annoyance when the smaller pirate simply continued to grumble, making no move to follow his request, Zoro let his eyes fall closed. That boy could pout all he wanted, it wasn't going to bother him if he couldn't see it.
There was a lengthy silence, and the larger of the two cracked one eye open to glance warily over at his captain. The raven haired teen was hunched over, lips pursed and his face set in determination as he fumbled over a way to combat his crewmember's order.
"My feet hurt," the smaller teen spoke abruptly, pinning the prone form of his friend with an expectant gaze.
Frowning in slight confusion, Zoro grunted in acknowledgement. "And?"
"I can't walk," Luffy supplied, lifting one hand to prod at his right foot in demonstration before he sat upright again. With a flourish he threw his arms wide, the gesture making him look like a toddler who wished to be held. "Carry me."
Choking awkwardly upon a laugh at his captain's childish demand, the first mate made no effort to comply. "Your feet will last you ten yards," he countered with a shake of his head. "If you don't want to walk all that way," he teased, his voice laced with sarcasm, "You can stay here."
And his captain did just that, promptly sprawling out beside him.
Eyes wide as he noted the triumphant grin lifting the boy's features, Zoro groaned dejectedly, letting his head loll back against the deck.
He'd walked right into that one...
"Chopper won't be happy," he muttered, letting his eyes drift shut again.
Giggling as he scooted close, pillowing his cheek in the crook of his comrade's shoulder, the rubber-man simply beamed. "You said I could," he defended easily.
And with another muted sigh, the larger teen nodded. "I know." 'I'll pay for this later,' he mused unhappily. He could already hear the little reindeer's scolding tone.
The ship's doctor may have been fairly timid on most occasions, but when it came to the health of his nakama, he wasn't to be taken lightly.
With that thought in mind, the first mate voiced a direct, "Sleep," and received a wordless nod in reply.
The silence lasted for an impressive thirty seconds before it was disturbed by the strangely subdued voice of the rubber-man.
The swordsman made no move to acknowledge him for several long moments, hearing the lilt of uncertainty slip back into the boy's tone. With a sigh, he felt the boy's eyes upon him, finally mumbling a quiet, "What is it?"
The smaller pirate shifted against the length of his left side, tilting his head against the slope of his arm as he lifted his gaze to study the set of his first mate's expression.
"I want you to make me a promise."
Honestly surprised by his captain's remark, the larger teen rose one eyebrow as his eyes remained shut. "What's that?" He questioned, his reply cautious, almost reluctant in its slow return.
"Promise me... that you'll never leave," came the absent reply, the younger of the pair's voice sounding distracted, plagued by the upsetting images that particular idea evoked. "Don't go away..."
Zoro felt his heart clench at the pleading quality his crewmate's voice possessed. As much as he wanted to ease the fears of his cherished friend, he couldn't lie to him. "Luffy..."
Not liking the swordsman's regretful tone at all, the rubber-man tensed. "Don't go, Zoro," he begged, his anxiety mounting. "Please? Promise me, Zoro!"
With a simple shake of his head, Zoro refused. "I can't promise you that, Luffy," he offered quietly, a wordless apology weighing heavily upon his words. "Things happen that we can't control."
"I won't feed you nonsense," he continued, finally opening his eyes. Holding his attention skyward, he watched the sails flap erratically in the wind, their movements unpredictable. "But I can tell you that as long as it's in my power, I'm staying with you. As long as I live, nothing can move me from your side."
At those words, he felt the boy relax slightly, the smaller pirate's breath ghosting across his shoulder in an inaudible sigh of relief. "But," and with one word, he sensed his comrade's frame stiffen even more than it had been. "If something should happen, I want you to know that I'll always be with you."
He felt ridiculous saying such things. Hadn't he just said something about nonsense like that? But... but he meant it... with all his heart he meant it.
The first mate sighed, shifting idly before he spoke again. "Just because I'm not visibly right beside you... doesn't mean I'm not with you in spirit." Stealing a glance at his friend, he found the boy seemingly lost in thought, mulling over what he'd offered as a response.
"Um..." Stumbling as he felt like he'd been talking in circles, he floundered for a moment before he could gather himself enough to speak. "Wherever you go, I go with you," he explained slowly, choosing his words carefully as he hoped to simplify his prior attempts. "And wherever I go, you go with me, right?"
There was a pause as Luffy digested this latest proposal, before he nodded gently, head bobbing against the swordsman's shoulder.
"So, do you see what I'm saying?"
Another pause, longer this time, and the green haired young man waited patiently. Expecting yet another careful nod, he was surprised to say the least at his captain's reply.
The raven haired pirate's response was simple, blunt, and casual, the boy completely unfazed by his lack of understanding.
"You didn't get any of that?" The older of the two cried, beside himself as he realized all those heartfelt yet baffling sentences had been for nothing. "Not a word?"
And the smaller teen answered with an unexpectedly upbeat, "Not one."
Groaning to himself, Zoro gave up. "So now what?" He wondered aloud, more than a little perturbed at the latest turn of events.
"Well," Luffy began, shifting to meet his gaze, "Since I didn't understand any of that stuff you just said, I guess you'll just have to stay with me forever." With a bright grin, he gave one firm nod, ending that debate once and for all.
With his irritation rapidly ebbing away, the larger teen was left with a bemused, albeit fond smile, and a warm weight in his chest.
Leaning toward his friend, the first mate pressed his forehead to that of his captain with a subtle laugh. "Works for me."
The arrival of dinner had noticeably lifted the rubber-man's spirits.
That is, until Sanji had barred him from the kitchen, threatening to deny him any food at all unless he went straight to bed when he was finished with his meal.
Feeling mildly betrayed, Luffy had agreed. He had tried to look hurt, to look positively wounded in an effort to coax some extra meat from the chef, but all of his resentment vanished into thin air as the first plate was settled upon the table before him.
So it was that about an hour later, feeling much more accommodating with a full stomach, he now stood in the men's cabin again, gazing with a smile about the empty room.
It was good to be home.
Halfway through a sigh, the smaller pirate was startled out of his daze by fingertips upon the side of his neck. With a gasp, he whirled around to find Zoro standing close behind him, his calloused finger brushing carefully over the wounds upon his neck.
The swordsman softly mapped out the boy's broken skin, touch gentle and apologetic even as his eyes darkened with latent anger; resentment for the man who's arrows had caused those marks, for allowing that forsaken bow to be drawn against his captain in the first place...
After a slow, thorough assessment, the first mate turned his palm inward, flattening his hand along the slope of the boy's slender throat even as Luffy turned beneath the contact.
Now facing his crewmate, the younger boy smiled at the soothing warmth that held his neck, at the thumb drawn slowly, soothingly across his skin.
His eyes locked with that of his first mate, and in that instant they shared an understanding; Luffy accepting an offer Zoro hadn't had to voice aloud.
And then they were moving, closing the distance between them as easily as if they'd been doing it for years. No more than a breath apart, Zoro bent low, gently cradling his captain's chin as the boy lifted his face to receive him.
The motion of their bodies held a natural balance, an ease that would have surprised even them had they spared a moment to consider.
Zoro's hand upon Luffy's hip. The captain's arm about his first mate's back.
With only the slightest tilt of his head, the swordsman leaned down to complement the angle of his friend's, and they met, lips joining in a gentle kiss.
Where Zoro pressed, Luffy would bow. Where Luffy pulled, Zoro would yield. When one asked, the other gave.
It could have been a simple gesture of comfort, an affirmation, a simple offer of "I'm still here," to someone who had lost and gained everything in less than one day.
It could have been, but when Zoro's lips slanted more firmly across that of his partner, Luffy's opened in answer, and the joining meant so much more.
Zoro abandoned his hold upon the boy's neck, drawing that slender body against his own in a perfect fit. With little more than a moments hesitation, he drove forward, claiming the boy's breath as he sealed those pliant lips with his.
With a gasp, Luffy felt his frame meld with that of his first mate, the breathy sound swallowed by the larger pirate as he moved, slowly, searching. The young man's lips parted above his, and the smaller boy instantly countered.
There was a moment of heavy expectance, as if time had slowed as Zoro sighed in a wordless show of appreciation, the rubber-man's hands lifting to tangle in his hair.
And then the first mate was delving between those lips, his captain's mouth held in welcome as he was tasted, as the taller of the pair nursed from his lips.
Something lanced through the smaller boy's mind at the invasion of his friend's tongue, feeling it withdraw only to return again, coaxing his own into motion. It was something akin to panic that would have had him reeling backwards in shock if it hadn't been so positively electric, winding through his veins in a way that made him feel like a fight was pointless.
In an intimate twist on a game of keep away, Zoro eluded the touch of his comrade's tongue upon his own, retreating until the boy followed of his own accord, answering his deceptive invitation and probing forward and through into the heady cavern of his partner's mouth.
Zoro's severe exterior completely disguised what lay beyond his lips, something hot and supple. Luffy had never sampled anything anywhere near as pleasing as his swordsman.
He had an essence all his own, somehow mingling the faint sting of salt with a flavor he couldn't place; one always just beyond the tip of his taste buds. And when he couldn't seem to distinguish that strange spice, he succumbed to the pull of the unknown, chasing it relentlessly as he drank from the older teen's lips..
The larger pirate tasted of something dangerous, something forbidden and absolutely feral that sent his pulse racing. It was dizzying, sapping the air from his lungs and settling like a scalding weight in his stomach and ohh...
And then, as does the steady ebb and flow of the ocean's tides, the heat and the passion waned, easing back into the soft, tender coupling they had shared at the beginning of their exchange.
It was like the weather: their once calm waters had surged into a raging tempest, only to diminish again into the tranquil pool of its origin.
Their parting was gradual, reluctant as Zoro finally drew back, pulling away only to find a subtle ache about his lips, lasting evidence of what he and his captain had shared.
Luffy was gazing up at him, his smile brighter that he'd ever seen it before as he rose up on his toes to steal one last kiss before moving away, padding silently over to his hammock and leaving Zoro to his couch in a stunned silence.
Peering down at his bed, the rubber-man paused. Suddenly, sleeping alone in his hammock didn't seem so appealing. He could hear the sounds of his swordsman settling down behind him, and glanced quickly over his shoulder in time to see Zoro kick off his boots, pulling a blanket over himself as he stretched out.
Directing his focus back to his hammock, the raven haired teen pouted. He really didn't feel like sleeping alone in his bed...
Another peek stolen back at his comrade showed the young man sprawled comfortably across the furniture, head pillowed upon his folded arms. If the smaller pirate had looked closer though. he would have realized that the green haired pirate was watching him closely out of the corner of his eye.
Eyes back on his hammock, the captain slouched. He really, really didn't want to...
This time, when he risked a look back at his first mate, he was greeted by the image of Zoro braced upon his side, one hand reaching out to hold the end of his blanket open in invitation.
It was an offer Luffy didn't have to think twice about accepting, and with a beaming smile he all but lunged across the room, seeking the comfortable warmth of his friend's embrace once again.
Zoro grinned despite himself, tucking the cover back around them both once his captain had slipped in beside him. Following the blanket, he tossed one arm around the boy's waist, pulling them flush against one another as he made himself comfortable all over again.
Still smiling, the younger of the pair felt his companion's face lowered into his hair and curled closer, tangling his long legs with that of his first mate.
It didn't matter whether they had the rest of their lives or only a day. That was then and this was now, and if it was all the same, Luffy preferred now.
If something should happen, so be it, they'd just wait and see how far something thought it could get. They'd cross that bridge when they came to it, burn it down and then laugh at the ashes.
Ta da! There you go! I hope you enjoyed reading this random little thing! Please review! It'll help me drag myself out of my slump. XD Anyway, thanks again for reading!