The Quest for the Gomu Gomu no Mi

Disclaimer: I don't own One Piece

Chapter 12: Conflicts


Okay, first off, I'd like to apologise for the long wait on this, but I got really stuck on this fight scene. Secondly I'd like to send out a huge thank you to Wishing-for-a-Zoro-Plushie for all her help with this chapter. She pretty much rewrote the entire fight scene for me, which I couldn't seem to do at all. Thank you so much, Plush. This chapter couldn't have been done without her!


Zoro was first to attack, swords glittering in the sun as they swept wide before coming back together to form a neat scissor cut aimed straight for his captain. Beside him, the ship's chef lit a cigarette and narrowed his eyes as he swiftly flipped onto his hands, keeping pace with the swordsman as he slammed his heavy shoe down towards Luffy's shoulder. Dark eyes darted between the two, assessing the distance to impact as Luffy jumped back, dodging Zoro's swords effectively, and then rolled to the side, eyes widening slightly as Sanji's foot crunched down on the deck. These guys were going all out... Good.

As Luffy jerked back to his feet, he had to give the two men credit. Out of battle, they couldn't stand to be in the same room without starting a fight with one another, but during a fight they were one of the best teams there was. Their movements synchronised perfectly, sending an onslaught of attacks with no mercy or reprieve. The young captain weaved in and out; his lips pulling back in a grimace as he barely dodged the ferocious attacks from his chef and first mate.

Luffy was quickly reminded of who was directly behind him though, as six arms sprouted from his sides and snapped his own arms behind his back. Robin. He grunted softly as his spine was slowly rolled back and snorted in frustration; another reminder that he was no longer rubber. Had he been, this would've been easy and painless. But as things stood now, he was starting to get into trouble. He was bent back further and grunted painfully at the unfamiliar pressure on his spine.

Too late, he realised he'd been easily distracted from the fight by Robin, and he looked up just in time to see Chopper's fist heading straight for his face. The reindeer was in his heavy point, his most human form and Luffy knew that if this impacted, it was going to hurt. He twitched a little and flexed his muscles, frowning as Robin gave no leeway. Chopper fist ploughed forward and at the last second he jerked his head to the side and his eyes widened slightly when he felt Chopper's fur brush his throat; too close. Not wanting to risk such a close encounter again, Luffy did the only thing he was able to. He twisted his head and sank his teeth into Robins arm, quickly drawing blood from his shocked archaeologist. Chopper roared, now directly in front of Luffy and thrust an uppercut into his captain's gut, tears shining in his eyes. Luffy choked around Robin's arm and struggled in the limbs grip. Without warning, eh suddenly crunched down harder, and Robin screamed, releasing her hold in a flurry of petals as she clutched her arms to her chest. Luffy almost grinned at his dastardly escape, but he was fighting his Nakama. This wasn't the time to be happy.

As soon as he was free, he ran to the side in an attempt to gain some ground o his advancing crew, but before he got the chance to get away, his ankles were grabbed by two disembodied hands, and Luffy sprawled to the deck with a yelp as his ankles twisted awkwardly. Apparently Robin had recovered rather quickly. He shouldn't have expected any less from her. Yanking his feet, he almost managed to pull free, but was quickly held down again as another pair of arms bloomed beside the first two, and snapped onto his lower legs, holding him firmly in place. He was trapped on his knees.

"Namari Boshi!"

A searing pain exploded in the middle of his back a moment after Luffy heard the attack name. A simple lead ball, and as he was now human, it felt like it was triple the size it actually was. Turning, he spotted Usopp reaching into his bag for more ammo, a determined but grim line forming his mouth. Ignoring Usopp for the moment, Luffy twisted and his eyes widened slightly as he saw Zoro was back on the offensive. Zoro's eyes were shadowed, his mouth drawn into a tight, frowning line as he darted forward, sword held to the side and in a position as if he was making to cut his captain in half. In the background, Sanji had moved to help Robin up while Chopper fretted over her. Robin waved them off with a smile and the three turned their attention back to the fight.

Luffy tensed, heart racing in anticipation of the deadly oncoming attack. The rest of the crew had blocked off any retreat, and so he did the only thing he could think of. He forced his body over backwards and felt his muscles strain and then scream with a stiffness that definitely hadn't been there when he'd been rubber. The evasive moment had always been natural, and with it, his body had always propelled itself back, ready to continue fighting. Now he felt his stomach muscles clench with the effort to pull himself upright again. It was just another reminder that he was only human now. Another reminder of what had been taken from him. Growling slightly as Zoro's sword slashed over head, he jerked himself forward and groaned quietly at the effort it took. Not. Good. Almost overbalancing, he huffed when he caught himself again and saw Zoro turn and move to attack from the side.

Luffy twisted and felt his back pull a little but ignored it for the moment as he drew his arm back and jabbed it forward, allowing himself a small smile as Zoro grunted and jerked back, not having expected and prepared for the attack. Still, Luffy hadn't realised how hard Zoro's body really was. The swordsman's stomach, though slightly cushioned by his haramaki, was as hard as solid rock and as rubber, once again, Luffy had never realised that. The young captain shook his aching hand and flexed his fingers, trying to shake off the gathering aches and pains in his body. Zoro smirked a little before darting off to change his plan of attack and allowing the other members of the crew their chance at the captain.

By now, Sanji and Chopper had returned to the offensive, ready to bring their captain down as if he were just another common foe. After locking eyes with the cook, Robin nodded in understanding. A moment later, Luffy blinked as Sanji suddenly dropped from his vision, and realised a second later what was going to happen. It was a second too late though, as Robin's hands holding him, suddenly released, and Sanji's sweep kick took him down easily. The chef bounced back from the sweep kick and onto his hands, leg coming down already in a slamming attack. Luffy managed to roll out of the way with a grimace, avoiding a ruptured stomach from the attack and stumbled to his feet.

Pulling his arm back with a yell, he was preparing to punch Sanji in the gut as it was the area most exposed to him now due to the chef recovering from his attack. Instead, Luffy's arm was held in place as another arm sprouted from his back and grabbed his elbow, effectively preventing him from attacking. While Luffy wasn't rubber anymore, his natural strength and power still remained, therefore one hand wasn't quite enough. He was still snapping the punch forward when three others sprouted and yanked his arm back, almost throwing him over backwards again.

Taking the obvious opportunity, Sanji twisted his wiry body and landed a solid kick to Luffy's stomach. The boy's eyes widened and he coughed, hunching forward and taking gasping breaths. The cook seemed to almost hesitate for a moment, a concerned look in his eye before it hardened and disappeared in an instant. Luffy knew Sanji didn't want to hurt him, he never had, but he had told them not to hold back, because he wouldn't. If he could ever land a hit, that was. This was the only way to make them understand personally by showing them just exactly how strong he still was. He was still their Captain. With his resolve firmly in place, Luffy took the half a second of Sanji's hesitation to see who he needed rid of the most. A slight tightening of the arms holding his punch back, told him right away.

With a shout of attack, he ploughed forward, jumping over the kick a now steely Sanji aimed at his feet and continuing on his way to dodge to the left of Zoro, who had pulled back a little so that he didn't end up slicing into his fellow crewmates. By now, the fight was just a mad scramble of simply trying to land a hit, and there was no structure to it, no thought; all of the crew's usual teamwork was shot to Hell as Luffy weaved in and out of their attacks, using his speed to his advantage leading the crew attacks onto each other with his dodging. This was now just a fight with one purpose.

Take down Luffy.

Chopper was taken care of first as Luffy continued to run towards his target and ran headfirst into the Heavy Point reindeer, landing a paralysing head butt into his stomach. In the chaos now swarming over the deck, Robin struggled to keep focus on Luffy's location, the battling bodies blocking him from her view. She attempted to bloom another pair of eyes to gain a better vantage point, but by then, it was already too late. Luffy's free hand gripped one of Robin's holding him back and brought it to his teeth again. With no mercy, he chomped down onto the same bleeding spot on her arm, and winced as he heard her scream. The captain dodged around another kick from Sanji as his restraints once again vanished and tensed his right arm. The punch that had been held back by Robin thrust forward, and with a cry of frustration, Luffy released it, now landing squarely on the archaeologist's cheek.

Time seemed to slow down as Robin reeled backwards, hair flying over her face before she landed on the deck with a heavy thud. It was obvious to the rest of the crew, that from the amount of force Luffy had put into that punch, he had rendered the archaeologist unconscious. Chopper gaped for a second, before he darted forward, transforming into his smaller form and giving the woman a 2-second check. He transformed back to heavy point again and picked her up, so she wouldn't get caught up in the battle. He scrambled for the galley, leaving the rest of the crew to soak up what had just happened.

Luffy breathed slowly, hands clenched by his side as he stared at Merry's boards with eyes overshadowed. Nobody seemed to be moving or breathing around him, and the air seemed to have stopped flowing. Time stood still, but at the same time still moved around them as the waves crashed gently against Merry's sides. The ship rocked heavily from all of the commotion that had just been going on, and now that everything was still and silent, it seemed so much heavier than before. Luffy's eyes narrowed a little as he looked over his shoulder at the crew. He hadn't wanted to hurt any of them. Not one. They were his Nakama, his friends, family, but he had to show them that this was serious. He just had to! He couldn't take it anymore! The worried glances his way, the looks of guilt, sorrow, pity, all directed at him! It twisted his gut and made him want to punch a wall and scream at them that he was their Captain, he was their friend, and he was still Luffy! It had to end. Here. Now.

The dark haired boy noticed that none of the crew were making a move, all of them too stunned, watching where Chopper had disappeared with Robin. Luffy took the moment of hesitation to his advantage. With speed that he always had, no matter whether he was rubber or human, he dashed forward and planted a nasty right hook on Zoro's jaw. The swordsman, not expecting the attack, grunted heavily and swung out of his way, hissing in annoyance. Ignoring him, Luffy used his current momentum to his advantage, letting the punch follow through and instead tucking his head under and falling into a neat shoulder roll that brought him back up to Sanji, who blinked in surprise down at the kid. Without a sound, he twisted and used the same attack the chef had used on him. The blonde hit the floor with a grunt and coughed a little.

"Damn..." the chef muttered to himself as Luffy continued on his way.

Nami moved further back away from the fight, clutching her clima-tact with white knuckled hands. She had done basically nothing so far, constantly hesitating and waiting for the right moment or simply refusing to attack the captain she'd come to care so much about. She saw Sanji hit the deck, and she saw Luffy's eyes turn to her and a shiver of cold fear surged down her spine at the look the boy gave her. Luffy was in fight mode, and he was looking directly at her.

Luffy surged forwards and pulled his fist back again as his next target came into view; it was Nami. He saw her eyes widen as he ran at her and he quickly lowered his arm moving instead to simply use his body in an attack, trying to minimise the damage. He knew he'd told them not to hold back and he'd promised that he wouldn't, but she wasn't a physical fighter, she used weapons like Usopp; he could never throw a punch like that at her. But then why hadn't she attacked yet?

Hunching forwards, he grabbed onto her and flipped over, watching as she was tossed into the air and landed back on the deck with a harsh thud. He knew he'd done no more than bruising, minimal damage, but he couldn't bring himself to truly hurt any one of them; he could hit them and he could fight, but not really hurt them. Nevertheless, it got the reaction he'd been waiting for.

Sanji shouted out in anger, charging at him with no intent on holding back at all. Luffy watched as Zoro joined him though the swordsman still held a neutral expression obviously not as affected as the cook by his attack on Nami.

Luffy adopted a stance he hadn't stood in for what seemed like years, a nostalgic feeling washing through his body as he sucked in a deep breath and released it again. The teen's fighting style was usually frenzied, freestyle, and had no rules to follow or guidelines. He fought each battle like he lived each day, but that didn't mean he didn't know fighting styles. He'd assimilated them all into his own unique blend of madness, but now he needed to utilise all of the things his Grandfather, Ace, and everybody else had taught him. He raised his hands and waited for the attack which came, and was easily deflected. Sanji's eyes widened in shock as he watched his Captain deflect his kick as if it was nothing with his mere hands and spin to avoid Zoro's attack in less than a second with speed and grace he never would have though the boy to have.

Luffy then twisted again moving to crouch before him. To Sanji, it was as if he was moving in slow motion and there was nothing he could do to stop the attack he knew was coming. Luffy coiled his body like a spring, and released the energy, thrusting himself upward, ploughing headfirst into Sanji's stomach. The attack sent the chef flying through the air, and he collided roughly with the stairs as he felt a few snap underneath the impact of his weight.

Where the hell had that come from? It was similar to how Luffy attacked with his rubber abilities, and yet he'd done it without them.

Zoro and Usopp didn't have a chance to think it over though as Luffy's attention was now on them. Robin, Nami and Sanji were down and Chopper was distracted making sure each of them was okay; that left Usopp and Zoro. The swordsman could see Luffy was breathing heavily now. Obviously both the attack on him and everybody else's had taken a lot out of him, but he wouldn't be given the chance to recuperate in battle so Zoro wouldn't give it to him now. That's what Luffy had ordered, and that's what Zoro would do.

Luffy watched as Zoro charged towards him, swords gripped tights in each hand. All he knew now was that he had to deflect or dodge Zoro's oncoming attack or he'd show a remarking resemblance to a chicken kebab skewer. His stomach rumbled at the thought, and he wondered if maybe Sanji would cook him a meal after all this was done. He didn't have time to think on it though, as Zoro reached him. He was about to make his move, when six hands bloomed from his body, immobilising his movement.

"Seis fleur!" Robin called, and Luffy's eyes widened turning to face the now conscious Robin. He turned back to face Zoro, who had been mere inches away. Robin grip tightened as he struggled and suddenly Luffy couldn't move. It was nothing to do with Robin, as images suddenly flashed before his eyes.

Hands all over his body…

It was the same feeling…

He couldn't stop them … another needle … they took something away…

Cold sweat ran down his body…

Make them stop … it was his … they were talking to him…

The memories plagued his mind…

What? Gone? Impossible! Nobody could take his powers away! They were his!

His breath hitched…

Wild panic shot through is body and he tore free from the restraints, thrashing out at anything in his way … he had to get out – had to get out!

His struggling stopped … it was too late to dodge…

He ran into the open, grabbed his hat, saw his crew … they had to get out!

And then all the thoughts stopped and his mind went blank as a blazing pain shot through his body. The panic vanished and he was brought back to reality. Zoro was looking at him as if he was a ghost from the past, his white hilted sword noisily clattering to the ground as his mouth hung open and eyes widened impossibly wide. He felt light headed suddenly and the pain ebbed away bit by bit. He followed Zoro's gaze downwards to his abdomen where two of the swordsman's three swords were pierced straight through him. That might be why.

"Why didn't you dodge?!"

It was the last thing he heard before his world went black.

Zoro watched as slowly Luffy fell to his knees and then to the deck, sliding off of his sword like hot butter from a skewer. Robin's arms caught him to alleviate damage from the fall and Zoro watched numbly as Chopper and the rest of the crew fussed frantically over their fallen Captain. His swords had just slid out of his captain's body as the boy fell and for all the power he possessed, Zoro found he couldn't move a muscle.

Chopper started work on Luffy immediately, barking orders for his supplies, as the rest of the crew prepared their makeshift infirmary. Zoro simply stood there, holding his swords and staring at them as the red coated blades glinted in the evening sun. Had they really been fighting that long?

Normally he would grin; blood meant victory after all, but that blood, it was Luffy's. He felt hands on his own and looked to his left and then right. Nami and Sanji were pulling the swords from his hands; he let them go, he didn't want to hold them right now.

His gaze fell to his unconscious captain, now firmly being wrapped in tight bandages as the little doctor worked diligently to keep the damage to his body minimal. Zoro knew he would survive, he had survived much worse, but that wasn't what worried him. That haunted look in Luffy's eyes before he's attacked. He knew Luffy could have dodged. He saw the boy's body move to do so, and then as if somebody had hit a pause button, he'd just stopped, and it was too late. Taking a shaky breath, he nodded to his crewmates, to let them know he was alright and hesitantly took his swords back, sheathing them. He'd clean them later. For now, they simply focused on getting their captain to the infirmary where he could be tended to, before resigning themselves to a settling hot drink, or in Zoro's case, a hard drink in the galley.

Once they were all settled in the galley silence reigned. None of them had really intended for it to go that far, but Luffy had definitely got the point across that he could fight. All doubts about that had been firmly laid to rest. Zoro stared blankly at the table, he just didn't get it. He knew Robin had restrained Luffy, but from her grip he could tell the boy could have broken free. Why didn't he?

He recalled the look on his face. The panicked look, the same one he showed after one of his nightmares when he thought they were all asleep. Had something distracted him so badly he had forgotten where he was? Zoro had known Luffy would dodge it – it was the only reason he had attacked so viciously in the first place. Sanji voice brought him from his musings.

"What the hell just happened?" he whispered.

"In case you didn't notice," Zoro replied, wincing as his voice cracked slightly. "I just skewered our Captain."

"Damn it! I know that,asshole!" Sanji replied, "I mean why the hell didn't he dodge?! We all know he could have!"

"He was distracted." Nami whispered. "I saw it in his face – he looked scared."

"He didn't seem so scared when he sent me flying, or threw you down, Nami-san." Sanji reasoned, his voice softening as he addressed the ship's navigator.

"I guess we'll just have to ask him when he wakes up." Robin spoke, and winced gently as she applied too much pressure to the cloth over her arm.

"Are you okay Robin-chan?" Sanji asked, concern lacing his voice. "And you Nami-san?"

"I'm ok cook-san, though an ice-pack would be nice."

Sanji grabbed an ice-pack from the freezer and brought it to Robin. The dark haired woman wrapped the pack in the cloth she had been using as Sanji turned his attention to Nami.

"I'm fine, really." she replied, smiling weakly. "He held back with me. I could tell."

"But I saw him barge into you!" Sanji protested.

"It was more like throwing me in the air than hitting me." Nami explained, and rubbed her sore shoulder from the rough landing. "He used the momentum of his run to send me over, and that's it."

"So he held back after all." Robin muttered, seemingly to herself.

"It's all my fault!" Usopp moaned from the side suddenly, as he dropped his face into his hands.

"What are you talking about?" Zoro asked bitterly. "You're not the one who did it!"

"If I hadn't shouted those things he would have never … and we wouldn't be…"

"No." Sanji answered firmly. "I was feeling the exact same way. We needed to see for ourselves and this really was the only way. It would have come down to this eventually anyway, and I don't know about all of you, but I'm ready to get on with things now and stop worrying about our idiot captain."

"Cook-san is right – I no longer hold any doubt or worries for Captain-san." Robin agreed. "Other than his hesitation, which we can speak to him about when he wakes up."

"Me either." Nami admitted "Usopp?"

"No, none." Usopp admitted, "But, you shouldn't blame yourself either, Zoro."

The swordsman nodded his head, though the others knew he wouldn't be satisfied until he saw Luffy up and about again. They would be the same if it had been them to injure him. They also knew that Zoro would have demanded to stay with Luffy if not for the shock of moment and the fact he knew Chopper would work better with no distractions.

Sanji took note of the depressing mood, tried to change the subject even if only slightly.

"Did anyone catch those wicked moves he pulled off?" he asked.

Suddenly and the room seemed to come alive with excited chatter of what Luffy had demonstrated. Even Zoro joined in the conversation and it went on for the majority of the night. It seemed that finally the crew were returning back to normal and when the little doctor entered the galley (having moved Luffy to the men's cabin) and told them that their captain would be fine, things livened up even more. There was even a joke or two passed around when the cook asked what they wanted for dinner and Usopp had replied Luffy kebabs. Needless to say, Zoro was none too pleased with that joke. Though knowing his Captain was going to be fine, as always, he cracked a reluctant smirk.

After dinner they all headed to bed, thoroughly exhausted from the day. Zoro watched the rise and fall of his captain's chest in the dark from his spot on the floor, and a soft, silent sigh escaped his lips. He still felt guilty for hurting the boy he had sworn to protect. He'd have to talk to him when he woke up. Luffy's reaction before his defeat was worrisome. If he did that in a real fight, he might just end up getting himself killed. With another sigh, Zoro rolled over and closed his eyes.

---

Luffy had slept through the morning, tucked up on the sofa with heavy blankets and one crew member at any time keeping an eye on him. By early afternoon, he had started to rouse, and by the time he had fully woken, the crew were all there and waiting. To his groggy delight, the crew seemed to be acting normal again, and a dopy grin crossed his face as Zoro yelled at him for not dodging. At first he had been a little surprised as he had expected anger, resentment or even awkwardness after the fight yesterday but if anything, it seemed to have drained all of the tension away and returned things back to normal. Chopper had given him some pretty heavy pain medication, as besides the puncture wounds, he also had several bad sprains and was covered in bruises. They made him pretty drowsy, and the crew had dissipated once again across the ship, seeing his lack of focus and need for rest. They could question him on his hesitation another time.

Zoro though, had stayed behind. He had a long talk with Luffy, in which the younger boy had constantly reassured the swordsman that it was in no way his fault that Luffy had posed as a shish kebob the day before. Though he knew his first mate was far from okay with it, he accepted his captain's forgiveness. He had tried to bring up Luffy's hesitation, but by that point the boy was already half asleep again. Zoro wondered later as he was training though, if perhaps Luffy had used it as an excuse to avoid talking about it. Luffy was a social creature by nature, always seeking company, but when it came to talking about his own issues, he shut up tight like a clam. Zoro knew the event would have to be breached, but for now he would let him rest.

Luffy had been forced to stay in bed for at least the rest of the day or until they arrived at Taizen which was predicted to be around the early afternoon. That wasn't much of a problem, since the painkillers knocked him out for a good few hours. The ship seemed to have finally been restored to its former peace and the crew were finally relaxed, but as always, it never really stayed that way for long.

Usopp was on watch duty, but his mind was wandering. He was thinking, as like the rest of the crew, back to the way Luffy had hesitated, ultimately causing his own defeat. He wondered what had caused his captain such a distraction. He wanted to talk to him about it, but the last time he had tried that it had ended up in a ship-wide free for all brawl.

He blinked, snapping out of his daydream and scanned the oceans. His eyes widened as he spotted a black blob on the horizon and Usopp lowered his goggles to get a better view. A very familiar and very unwelcome sight came into view, and he resisted the urge to scream like a girl and instead ran from the crow's nest to the deck below, calling all hands to deck. When they had all arrived, he shared the news and more than one face paled. After all, it wasn't exactly an appealing idea to face off against Captain Smoker in their current condition. Luffy had barely managed to escape from the marine in full health, let alone now.

The ship fell into pandemonium as they did everything they could to escape the marine ship giving chase, but they could never seem to shake them off. Luffy, who had been roused and readied for battle or escape – whichever they would end up doing – watched helplessly as the enemy ship slowly but surely gained ground on them. Their best bet was to dock at Taizen and run for it, but then Merry would be captured and Luffy didn't know if he could let that happen; he didn't know if he could stop it. He knew he wouldn't stand a chance in his current condition, but he really had no choice in the matter right now. He would decide what to do when they docked. The island was in sight now and they had a good chance of beating Smokers ship to it.

Within half an hour they had docked and the crew watched in bewilderment as worker rushed around their ship, inspecting it and towing it forward until a ramp was in line with the railing, allowing them to walk straight onto the island. The crew, reluctant to leave their ship exposed, but having little choice, scrambled off of the Going Marry and onto land. With Smoker and the marines now close to docking themselves, the crew made hasty arrangements to split up and meet back next day. They were all about to depart when a familiar voice stopped them in their tracks.

"Luffy?"

Luffy spun around, eyes widening in disbelief as he saw who was in front of him. Now maybe they would stand a chance. His body relaxed at the familiar sleepy eyes and childish freckled spattered over the smiling face. There were a million things that he wanted to say but only one word came out.

"Ace!"


Whoa Nelly! That chapter was an absolute bitch. I hope you guys enjoy it though. Once again, huge thank you to Plush for all her help with this. Her changes were absolutely fantastic and you have her to thank for this chapter. Also, thank you all for being so patient. I hope you enjoy the update!