Herein lies the last chapter in the epic story of Luffy in-Rumble.
Includes movie spoilers.
The Untold Story
"You saw a warning about the future in a Magic Mirror."
Nami repeated Luffy's statement slowly, just to make sure she'd heard it right.
The captain had just finished regaling the crew with the story of his day while they'd sat around the kitchen table and eaten dinner.
"Yep. We need to set sail as soon as the Log Pose is set."
"…Luffy, there's no such thing as a Magic Mirror."
"Sure there is. I saw one today. Anyway, how would you know?"
Nami worked her mouth like a fish for a few moments. No matter how used to dealing with Luffy she was, she still got stumped sometimes.
"Luffy, I'm telling you-"
"You also once told me that there was no such thing as Akuma no Mi," Luffy reminded her.
"Yeah, but that was… and this is…"
Robin placed a hand on her shoulder and smiled at her. "Perhaps we should just give him the benefit of the doubt." She turned to Luffy. "Sencho-san, you haven't told us what the vision was of."
Luffy frowned and looked uncomfortable for the first time since he'd started talking. "I can't… tell you guys that. They old man told me not to! He said it would be bad."
"Right," Nami scoffed.
"Really! But I will. Eventually. I promise. I just… don't really know how to yet."
Usopp quirked a brow. "Oi oi, how hard can it be? I think if you're going to have us sailing off to stop some catastrophe from happening then we should be allowed to know what it is!"
"Yeah," Chopper's voice dripped disappointment. "I wanna know, too…"
"Especially if any of us are in it," Sanji grumbled, holding his head.
"I know, it's just…" Luffy licked his lips, eyes darting around as if searching for a script. "I-I'm not really sure… what everything was that I saw. I mean I KNOW what I saw! But there were things that happened that I don't know how to describe. If that makes sense…" he trailed off lamely.
"Does Zoro know?" Nami challenged.
"No more than you do," Zoro said.
"And you didn't see a thing?" Nami asked Zoro, slightly incredulous. "I seems to me that if a mirror had really reflected a scene bad enough to have Luffy telling us to pull up stakes, you would have noticed something."
"I saw it, Nami," Luffy clearly repeated.
Nami opened her mouth to reply, saw the look in Luffy's eyes, and shut it again.
"It wouldn't surprise me to learn that everything Luffy saw was real," Robin said. "Or that they would have this type of power. Sencho-san did describe a shop of questionable nature. What convinces me, however, is that the old man confessed to it not being completely reliable, and it seems to me that if he were pulling a hoax, as Ken-san had originally thought, then he wouldn't have admitted to imperfection and eventually gotten Sencho-san to quote a high price as a way of conning him into purchasing something he was only pretending he didn't want to sell. He didn't do that. I believe he saw a real vision."
Nami sighed. She looked at Usopp, who nodded.
"Okay. So what are we going to do about it?"
"W-well, we're gonna stop it." Luffy looked at her, confused.
"Luffy," Usopp sat up straighter, "what about Merry? We have to fix her. We can't just expect her to take us through another insane voyage without giving her some help, first."
"He's right, Luffy," Sanji consented.
"Yeah," Chopper piped.
"I know it," Luffy nodded. "I know. And that's fine. We'll take care of the Merry Go and get a shipwright first. But after that we need to go."
"Wait," Zoro spoke up. "How far into the future was this vision, then?"
Luffy shook his head. "A little ways. I think. I need to go over it again tonight. We have to fix the ship, though, because we don't have a choice. But I-we can't wait longer than that."
"Okaaaay, then what do we do now?"
Luffy let out a rush of air and let his shoulders slump tiredly. "Now… we sleep and wait for the Log Pose to set. Did you ask anyone how long it would take?"
"Two days," Robin answered. "That'll give us a chance to scout out the island some more. And I kind of want to see this shop."
Everyone looked at Luffy, who was shaking his head. "I don't want anyone going there, got it?"
"Why not?" Nami was perplexed. "Luffy, we can go and-"
"Don't," he repeated. "Just don't. That old man… the shop felt weird. I don't want anyone else going in there. I don't really know how safe it is."
"He's right," Zoro seconded. Luffy was starting to wind down (he sometimes did this at night when he was really tired), and Zoro knew they might brush him off because he rarely remembered things he said in this state.
"That place is full of all kinds of weird crap. It's not safe. Stay away from it. Don't even go in groups."
Luffy smiled gratefully at his first mate anyway, then sighed and rubbed his eyes. It was rare that he let signs of wear show during a serious conversation, and they all took it as a signal for the subject being closed for the day.
It was quiet for a few minutes as people thought to themselves about future possibilities. Usopp gathered the dishes and filled the sink with water without being asked to and Robin started to help him wash all without being asked. Luffy looked ready to fall asleep on the table, and Zoro was very tempted to walk around the table and lead him to bed. In fact, he couldn't see why he shouldn't, after what Luffy had been through that day. He could go for ages under physical duress, but when fear was brought into the mix, Luffy felt the after-effects hard when they finally hit him.
It was Nami who finally broke the silence.
"You're right, Luffy. Why don't you sleep on it, and when you're ready to tell us what you saw, then tell us. We can all use some sleep, I think."
This was her gentle way of shooing them to bed. The other way she did it was a bit more… aggressive, and they were all eager to get moving before she fell back to it.
Despite exhaustion, the last to leave the room in the end were Luffy and Zoro, Luffy with his head cradled in his arms on the tabletop, staring listlessly at the wall, and Zoro unwilling to leave him like that.
Zoro wanted to put Luffy to bed, and the frankly didn't care who saw it anymore. This was new to Luffy, perhaps, but Zoro had gotten used to babying Luffy when the situation called for it, and he didn't care if the boy was bigger now. The idea of it excited him, in fact, because there were several more ways to pamper his baby now that he was back to normal, if only Luffy would accept him when he told him about his feelings.
Luffy was actually thinking much along the same lines. After what he'd seen happen, and with all it had awakened in him, he wanted to be babied, but he was much to afraid to ask for it yet. Soon. Maybe. Even if Zoro didn't want him in that way, and if Zoro didn't mind it, perhaps just once in a while he could still go to his first mate for some tender attention.
He wanted to talk to Zoro. He needed to. But not at that moment. He was too tired to figure out what to say. He just… really wanted to curl up with Zoro right here in the galley and fall asleep, he was so tired. But he also knew he was overly emotional and quickly becoming cranky, and that was NOT something he wanted Zoro to have to deal with.
Finally Zoro met both of them halfway. After a few more moments of comforting silence, the swordsman pushed himself to his feet and walked around the table. He placed his hands on Luffy's shoulders and leaned down to whisper, "C'mon, Luffy. Time for bed."
He then helped Luffy away from the table and guided him to the door, though he was walking fine on his own, before letting him go and turning back to the sink.
"Zoro? You coming?"
"You go ahead. I'm gonna put these dishes away and I'll follow."
I need a distraction or I'm gonna overdo it, Zoro thought to himself.
Trying not to show his disappointment, Luffy turned back to the door and headed for their bedroom.
The galley door closed behind him and he walked past what he recognized to be Nami's silhouette before his name caught his attention.
Her voice was soft--for his ears only.
He stopped, but didn't turn around.
She pushed away from the wall and moved to lean against the railing, looking out over the deck below.
"I think you're right. To think it out carefully before you tell us what you saw. It can't be easy. I mean, maybe I'm thinking too much, but I'm kind of getting the feeling that the reason you don't know how to tell us now might be because in this horrible warning you got, something really, really bad happens to one of us. Or to all of us. I don't know. Maybe it's not about us at all…"
Luffy had pulled his hat down over his eyes as she spoke and was now looking at his hands, betraying nothing.
"But when I wrack my brain, that's the only thing I can think of that's ever made you act so… protective. If that's the right word for it. But we trust you, captain. So if this is something you think we need to do, then we'll do it."
Luffy stood for another moment in silence. Then he continued to his bedroom as if he'd never stopped.
Nami watched him go, never having expected an answer. But she knew he was grateful, because she rarely gave him her blind support like this, and he needed it badly.
He swaggered to his hammock, expecting to be thrilled about getting to finally sleep in it again, but surprised to discover upon reaching it that he wanted to snuggle up in the futon again with all it's blankets and cushy softness. He knew he wouldn't be able to sleep, despite how tired he was.
"Luffy!" Usopp sang, and Luffy couldn't help but smile for him.
Everyone handled pressure differently. Usopp did it by pretending it didn't exist when he was in his own bedroom. Their room was like a haven to all of them, though one would never guess without living on the ship with them. This was their place away from the open sky and the big world outside. It was a place where each of them could act like there was not a thing in the world wrong, and the others would play along with the atmosphere. It was also the same place where having a meltdown was perfectly acceptable for a man. Luffy had felt that especially over the last week. Nothing 'unmanly' that happened in this room ever went beyond its four walls, though Luffy had the feeling that Nami had heard more than one late-night talk through her wall while they'd been in East Blue, back before they'd learned to whisper at night.
"Usopp!" Luffy sang back, clapping him a high five.
"Glad you're okay again, man. It was cool having you small, but I missed ya."
Luffy's smile grew. "Thanks man. It's good to be back, cuz lemme tell ya, being small wasn't cool at all. It's nice not to be freezing all the time, you know?"
"Yeah. Though at least you could trust that the ship was in good hands. I make an excellent captain, you know."
"I'm the captain." Luffy said.
Usopp laughed and clapped him on the shoulder before climbing back up to the deck to put his tools away.
Luffy's smile faded some. At least his relationship with Usopp hadn't changed, but he was starting to get a creeping feeling that this whole 'Captain Usopp' thing was going to cause the two of them to come to a head soon. A major one. He just hoped there wouldn't be a huge fight…
Fixing the Merry Go will help things, he told himself. Usopp's more concerned about her than even I am. He'll settle down once she's better.
He looked back at his hammock, and then over to where the futon was rolled up, wondering if there was a way to get it made up without people asking questions.
Luffy looked over to where Chopper was swinging nervously in his own hammock.
"It's nothing for you to worry about, Chopper. Not yet, anyway."
"The thing we talked about at dinner."
"Oh," he looked surprised that Luffy was even talking about it. "I know. It's not that."
Luffy stopped fluffing his pillow and sat in his own hammock. "Then what's up?"
The reindeer looked up at him, and Luffy smiled reassuringly.
"You can tell me."
Chopper nodded. But he didn't say anything.
He didn't need to.
"How is Sanji, really?"
Chopper looked down sharply, making little noises that betrayed the start of tears.
"I know I'm his doctor and it's a secret… but…" He hesitated again.
Luffy leaned forward to look him in the eye. "Chopper, If there's something I should know about Sanji, something I can fix, you need to tell me."
Chopper wiped his eyes and nodded while Luffy used his power to reach clear across the room for the tissue box.
"Then there's something I need to tell you."
It was a still night. The sea was calm and the wind was dead. When Nami had dismissed them, the whole crew had gradually and obligingly left to get ready for bed, except for Sanji, who was on First Watch. He'd gone to fetch his coat as soon as the words had left her sweet mouth, and had come to Aft deck. Then he'd lit his first smoke of the night and relaxed to enjoy the peace and think to himself about a few things. It was nice.
The cook had enjoyed his Stressful Situation Cigarettes the entire time Luffy had been injured, and was enjoying a second one when he heard Luffy approaching him.
"Hi, Sanji. Got a minute?"
Sanji, who had watched the sunset and was now counting the stars as the came out, didn't bother glancing back at him. He had been dreading this moment.
"Sure." He leaned more heavily against the railing and took a draw off his fag. "How're you holding up?"
"I'm fine. I bounce back well. You know me."
Sanji almost laughed, and offered a smile over his shoulder. "Yeah. I know you. What about Zoro?"
Luffy took a seat on the deck beside Sanji's legs, allowing his own legs to dangle over the side as he looked out through the railing. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, how are you with Zoro?"
"Fine. …Not fine. I don't know. I'm not sure what to think. He was with me all day, but he didn't say much to me."
Sanji blew smoke. This was great. If he could distract Luffy's mind with Zoro, maybe he wouldn't get the talk he knew was coming.
"Did you say much to him?"
Luffy nodded. "I did! He just… didn't answer. Which is pretty normal, really, and I didn't really read anything into-- Wait a second. How do you know?!"
Sanji almost swallowed his cigarette laughing. "Took you long enough!"
Luffy continued to look scandalized, and Sanji smiled down at him. "Luffy, I've known for a long time. We all have. I think you're actually the last one to figure it out. 'Cept for Zoro. I don't think he knows how you feel yet."
The look of horror that had been creeping onto Luffy's face vanished in an instant. "Oh. Okay. …Am I that obvious?"
"You both are."
Sanji snickered and shook his head. "Nothing."
But Luffy wasn't as clueless as they often treated him, and Sanji noted the slight smile he was soon trying to hide.
"Oh," Luffy finally said, looking back out to sea.
It was quiet for about a minute, and Sanji figured with much relief that he'd lost his captain to (unbelievably enough) thought.
"What about you?"
"What about me what?"
"Are you okay?"
He took a slow drag. "Who do you think you're talking to?"
Luffy smiled sadly. "You're smoking again."
Sanji closed his eyes. Here we go, he thought.
"Well, it was kinda hard finding you dead, Sencho. And it wasn't much easier living through the surgery afterward. Maybe I lost it a little."
The guilt trip! Guilt trips worked on everybody.
"I'm not dying now."
Sanji searched for another obstacle, but Luffy didn't give him the chance to find one.
"You told me that you didn't quit because of me. You promised. …So how come as soon as I got better you started smoking again? Nami told me that it was like, within the same hour."
"I just… I… I…" Sanji grew quiet for a moment and collected his thoughts.
Luffy pulled his feet in and turned to look at him as the chef turned and sat down against the railing beside him.
"…I'm not as strong as you, Luffy. There. I said it. I'm not a man without weaknesses. And I'm sorry, but a week of being tiny and having your true love catering to your every need just isn't the same thing as what I'm feeling, okay?"
All this time Luffy's face had remained unreadable. He chose his words carefully.
"Sanji. I had a talk with Chopper a few minutes ago." Sanji groaned, but Luffy was undeterred. "I needed to talk with him. I… I kinda pushed him away while I was in-Rumble, near the end there. And I just… needed him to know a few things…" Luffy trailed off in thought for a moment, then shook himself back. "Anyway, I asked him about how you were really. Now that I'm better, he can't sugar coat things for me. I know that you're sick, Sanji."
"Why that little-" Sanji threw his cigarette over between the rails even as he jumped up and made to march straight down to their bedroom to teach Chopper that it wasn't okay to tell other people's secrets, but Luffy was right behind him, summoning some last-reserve of energy and grabbing him. He managed to pin him back to the railing before Sanji could get a chance to take out his anger on the unsuspecting little doctor.
Sanji sputtered. "That was supposed to be doctor-patient confidentiality! How could he just-!"
"I didn't leave him a choice. I made him tell me because I know you never would have."
He let go, and Sanji turned back toward the ocean to glare and end the conversation right there, but Luffy refused to let it go.
"Chopper told me that you could take it slowly. He can roll you some with only a little nicotine in them, and then some with none at all as you got better. They wouldn't be the same, but they would still be therapeutic, and they'd help with the cravings. How can you keep doing this to yourself?"
"How can I?! How can I not?!" Sanji spun on him, growling, "If you had ANY idea how HARD-!"
"IF I HAD ANY IDEA?!" Luffy suddenly exploded at him. "Me. Not know how hard it is to give something important up? You think I don't know anything about addiction? About what it's like to crave something so bad your willing to kill to keep and protect it? About how it feels to want to die when it's taken away?! How a part of you does? News flash, Sanji. I do."
Sanji stared at the boy, searching for something in his eyes. He wasn't talking about the RumbleBalls. "Luffy… What…?"
Luffy took a shuddering breath and got right up in Sanji's face. "I lost you ALL. On that Matsuri Island with that ridiculous Baron and his insane man-eating plant. None of you remember how you got out in the middle of nowhere that morning, or how you'd lost most of that night, or how I'd gotten so hurt."
Sanji's voice was soft now. "You never wanted to tell us. We asked, but you never said…"
"I couldn't tell you." Luffy's eyes burned with tears he refused to shed in his anger. "I couldn't tell you because I never, EVER wanted to relive it. But if you're going to be an idiot and force it out of me right here tonight then so be it, Sanji."
Sanji couldn't bring himself to react at all, though he had made out Zoro and Nami-san on the deck behind Luffy, half hidden behind the wall. They had arrived as soon as Luffy had first raised his voice, and had surely heard it all. It wouldn't have surprised Sanji to know that Robin-chan had bloomed an ear somewhere and was listening in secret, as well.
Luffy took a deep shuddering breath and spoke slowly, forcing the words out like it was the hardest thing he had ever done in his life. "I…I got injured that night fighting the Baron to get all of you back, because he'd taken you away from me. But it wasn't just… He didn't just TAKE you. He beat me until I could barely move, and then he forced me to watch each of you die, one by one." Luffy swallowed hard. "I watched each of you… I screamed your names as he counted you off and made you vanish from my sight forever. I reached as hard as I could… and I fell short. I couldn't reach as everything that makes me who I am disappeared in seconds."
Tears fell, but Sanji was sure Luffy was unaware of them at this point, so caught up was he in just trying to make his vocal chords keep working.
"And once you were all gone, he turned to me and he asked me if I wanted to die. But he was mocking me… because he knew that inside, I was already dead. I was a shell. There was nothing left. He came to give me a finishing blow that I wouldn't have felt, and in truth, was longing for, when that goat man stole me away and hid me. But he didn't save me. Not then. I felt and heard nothing until a little girl told me that you were all still alive."
Now Luffy wiped at his eyes and looked down at the deck. Sanji was still unable to take his eyes off him.
"I got you back. I did. But not before believing completely that you were dead, and I was dead for a while, too. …I lost you all."
It became deathly quiet on the deck. Even the sea wind was still, leaving Luffy's confession to hang in the air.
When the broken captain spoke again, it was in a low, tired voice.
"I know what it's like to need something more badly than your own soul. And cigarettes have nothing on that. You're life isn't just yours anymore. None of our lives are just our own. We're pirates, and dying in battle is one thing, but this, Sanji… this is preventable. This can still be corrected. You said that you didn't quit for me before, and you might have believed it… but you did quit for me. You're not smoking again because you're weak; you're doing it because you don't have the right motivation."
He sighed sleepily, looking ready to collapse, and Sanji unconsciously positioned himself to catch him quickly just in case it happened. Behind him, Zoro took Nami's hand and led her away, sensing the near-close of the conversation.
"I'm telling you this story because it looks like you won't stop for yourself, but you did do it for me when I was down, because you know that my life isn't just mine, either. So I'm hoping that maybe if you know…."
He sighed again, struggling to remember the words he needed.
"I believe that everyone should live the way they want to, but when you do… just… remember us, okay? Because I can't go through that again. I'll die. Our greatest strengths become our greatest weaknesses when we lose them. And I lost you all. So don't you stand in front of me, and tell me that you know true weakness."
With that, he turned slowly around and headed for their room to get some much-needed rest.
Before he reached the corner, he turned slightly.
"Never tell anyone."
Then he was gone.
Once Luffy was out of sight, Sanji's legs gave out. He'd had no idea. Gods… Luffy had been living with that for months, and none of them had even known. It did explained Luffy's reaction to the terrible warning; why he was so very adamant about stopping it at all costs. It had to be about them. His worst nightmare.
Sanji wished he knew, wished he could be sure that he was right. What had Luffy had seen in the Mirror of Warning that had left him so volatile?
He picked his cigarette box out of his shirt pocket and threw it into the sea.
Two hours later Zoro was awake and staring at the darkness, going over what he'd heard in his mind. He could understand why Luffy had never told them all about what had happened that night, but he couldn't figure out HOW Luffy had kept such strong feelings about it inside himself for so long. It scared him.
What caused him to feel like he needs to hide things from the rest of the world in the first place? What the hell happened to him?
A little sound caught his attention. Shuffling. Someone was trying to sneak across the floor toward him.
What the hell--?
Slightly incredulous, Zoro laid still and simply waited for the 'mysterious figure' (who could only be one person, Zoro was positive) to finish making his way over to him.
When Luffy got beside the couch, sat there for a moment, unsure, and Zoro assumed he thought him to be sleeping. He continued to lie still for several long seconds, waiting, but Luffy didn't do anything but start fidgeting in the darkness. Realizing that Luffy was having difficulty figuring out the best way to wake him, Zoro decided to throw him a rope.
"Luffy?" he whispered. "What's the matter?"
The fidgeting stopped. Then a quiet, insecure whisper-- "…can I sleep with you tonight?"
Forgetting that Luffy couldn't see him, Zoro creased his brow in confusion. What was this now?
Before he could ask, however, Luffy's nerves got the better of him and he began to explain… nothing, actually. He launched into what was actually an unsuccessful explanation of something, but he did it so distraughtly that he got points for effort. Zoro would later be unable to recall exactly what he heard, but it went something like:
"It's cuz, I know it's late and it's cold and you wanna sleep now and you finally stopped needing to do this with me but I don't wanna… I- Every time I close my eyes there's… things and they're bad and it gets heavy and you said that when it gets heavy I had to not get scared but it happens anyway and I don't know how to make it go away and it won't stop and please Zoro, I just really wanna… can I sleep with you tonight? Just tonight? Please? If you don't want to then I can go back, it's okay, I just wante--!"
His fluent babbling was cut short by two arms reaching around him and lifting him onto the couch. Giving in to his instinctive calling, Zoro had wrapped himself around the smaller pirate in an instant and was rocking the trembling boy protectively. Luffy struggled to get his arms around Zoro and hugged him tightly.
"Quiet down before you wake everybody up," Zoro whispered, and got a soft laugh in return.
The two readjusted to compensate for each other while Zoro pulled the blanket around them. When he was on his back with Luffy snuggled under his chin in a position not so unlike the one he'd curled into when he was four inches tall, Zoro took a deep breath and relaxed, running his hand absently up and down Luffy's arm.
Luffy inhaled his swordsman's scent deeply before shuddering into steady and slow breathing. "Thank you, Zoro."
"I'm surprised you're still awake," Zoro whispered. "You just about collapsed at dinner."
"I know. I'm kinda still having bad dreams…"
"Then I guess I'm gonna get to keep sleeping with you for a while longer."
Luffy blushed. "…If it's okay?"
"Always. You know you can always come to me," Zoro said.
Luffy laughed a little and snuck his arm around Zoro's waist to see if he'd be pushed away. He wasn't.
"…To tell you the truth I've kinda missed this. Having you here with me, I mean."
Luffy smiled, picking up on all the hints. "Me too."
Zoro slid his hand up from Luffy's arm to run it up and down his side beneath the blanket. "Yeah?"
"Yeah. When I changed back, I missed you."
"I was right here."
Luffy snuggled closer. "But it wasn't the same as it had been."
Zoro smiled. He felt surprised that the same darkness Luffy feared so much was the very thing giving them this chance, but then realized that was wrong. This had been a long time coming.
"Would you…" Luffy stopped short and started over. "Do you think that you could ever……want more than this with me?"
Zoro's hand stopped stroking his side, and Luffy immediately backpedaled.
"I'm sorry, I'm tired and I'm talking nonsense and you can ignore me. I should really just go to sleep an--"
This time it was Luffy who froze.
After thinking for days about what he would say if this moment ever presented itself Zoro had come up with nothing. So he just swallowed, and started talking. "Luffy…when you first shrank, I panicked. I was scared to death because I know what kind of trouble you get into when you aren't small enough to fit into coffeemakers."
Luffy couldn't help the small smile, knowing Zoro couldn't see it.
"So I decided right away that I wouldn't let you out of my sight. But then as things progressed, I realized that it was more than just worry I felt. That there's a reason I can't let anything terrible happen to you, and it isn't because you're my friend or my captain."
Luffy relaxed fully, the happiest he'd ever been. His chest was swelling with that wonderful feeling again, and he let it as he listened to Zoro finish his story.
"And I'm not proud of it, but I'm guilty of not wanting you to get big again… because you being small meant that I could finally spend time with you in a way that I couldn't otherwise. Because you were finally opening up to me and letting me in. Because I… because I could hold you anytime I wanted to." Zoro wrapped his arms tightly around the boy. "You asked me if I'd like us to have more than just this. The answer is yes."
Luffy's smile was enormous. "Really?"
"Yes. More than anything. I know I don't know exactly what you're looking for, but if you--!"
He was cut off by Luffy pushing himself out of the embrace and kissing him hard. It wasn't a perfect kiss. But it was a telling kiss. As one kiss followed the next, and the next, and the next, they began to slow down and become increasingly gentle and meaningful. When Luffy finally let his last lingering kiss break, Zoro knew everything he needed to.
He reached up to cup Luffy's face and brushed away the tears he felt.
"I just want you," Luffy whispered seriously. "I don't need anything else, but I need you."
Zoro squeezed him tightly before relaxing again. "Me too," he said.
Luffy's smile returned and he leaned in for another kiss, letting Zoro direct this one. Then Zoro wrapped his arms around Luffy's sides to guide him back to lying against him.
"Everyone kept indicating that we could have this, but I never really believed them before now," Luffy softly admitted. "I didn't believe you could ever love me like that. Even when I was small. It was hard not to tell you everything, because I wanted to so badly. But I also wanted to hear it back."
Zoro smirked. "So how long have you felt this way?"
Luffy struggled to remember yet again, then sighed, "I've tried to remember when things changed, but…"
"It's okay." Zoro kissed his head. "You're tired. Go to sleep, buddy."
"Heh," Luffy laughed. "You haven't called me that for a few days. You made up a lot of little names for me when I was little, didn't you?"
Zoro groaned and tried not to turn red as he said, "It was hard not to. You were so damn cute."
Luffy stifled a laugh. "Men are not 'cute', Zoro. They can be handsome, or sexy, even, but not cute."
"No, you're cute. Tough stuff if you don't like it. But there might be other words that work, too."
Luffy blushed harder, not sure what to do with that piece of information.
"Well, I kinda like some of 'em."
Zoro blushed. "I'll make up a few you won't like if you don't go to sleep."
Luffy laughed, then let out a deep breath and laid still.
Zoro's hand went back to rubbing his side.
Three minutes passed.
"…What?" Zoro sounded half-asleep.
"You believe me don't you?"
"That I really did see something?"
Zoro's hands stopped moving again.
"Luffy… Not tonight, okay?"
"I need to know," Luffy said, reading his mind. "I know it sounds crazy, but you were with me. You watched me see it."
Zoro was quiet, but understood why Luffy needed to feel substantiated. "…Okay then. To be honest I did think at first that maybe you'd been drugged, because to be fair, you have hallucinated before. But I know he never touched you until afterward, and anything airborne would have reached me, too."
"…So you do believe it?" Luffy implored. "Because I believe it."
Zoro gave Luffy a squeeze before giving him the substantiation he needed. "Luffy…you totally freaked out in there. You couldn't even hear me calling you. Of course I believe that you saw something. The one I doubt is that guy with all that weird voodoo crap. He wasn't normal."
"I know," Luffy said. "I don't even think he was human."
"…I actually don't think he was, either," Zoro admitted.
"What if he was trying to discredit me? You know, make himself appear unbelievable so that we wouldn't take anything we saw seriously. Only it didn't work on me. Didn't you feel it? The way he changed when I looked in the Mirror?"
"So you believe it," Luffy said. "You believe the Mirror is real, and in what I saw? Even though some of it might not be true?"
Zoro nodded. "I'm not sold on that Wish Stone, yet, though."
Luffy smiled. "That'll be easy enough to test if the time comes."
"Right. Now," Zoro said, re-tucking the blanket around them, "go to sleep, okay? I know you need it."
Luffy nodded against the swordsman's chest.
"Okay," he sighed. "Don't go away in the morning without waking me up first, okay?"
Zoro chuckled. "I planned on sleeping in, anyway."
"Good," Luffy sighed.
Then he was finally able to take a few deep breaths and fall asleep, confident that he would not be alone when facing whatever was coming.
He would see that the Going Merry got fixed, and he'd find them a shipwright.
And then they would have to find Ace and save the world.
But that's not this story. This story is finished. And the next is just beginning.
AN: It's done! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. And I ended up writing most of the first chapter of the sequel while I was at it since i'm not really good at just stopping at the end and writing 'the end'. I had a lot of things to do over the beginning/ending of these two books, and it took me two days to figure out what scenes to squeeze into the end of this book and what scenes to put in the beginning of the sequel. In the end I decided that Ace will get his grand opening at the start of the next book, since this one is just not about him and it would have been weird to made the end of this long story close on a scene with Ace miles away, no matter how badly people want to see him now (myself included). Anyway, the two don't have an enormous scene at the end or anything, i know. They're relationship is going to evolve and be addressed a lot in the next book, so no worries.
As soon as HH is complete on this site, the sequel is going to start getting regular postings. I haven't decided on a name for it yet.
I want to thank everyone who stuck with this story till the end from the bottom of my heart.