This fic is a special 'thank you' gift to DigitalDreamer for offering me so much encouragement and really understanding the OP characters for the way I write them! I hope you like this! it's got that whole Luffy-pain, Zoro-love feel that we like so much.

Everyone else, this is an angsty, emotional story, so don't expect perfect in-characterness.

Coral Reef

Part the First: Reef

Napping conditions were decent where Zoro lay on aft deck. As far he as was concerned, anyway. It was sunny and freezing cold. Had there been clouds, it probably would have been snowing over the ocean, but the sky was clear, and as the sun dropped, so did the already-low temperature. Robin had suggested that they were just in a cold patch.

The winds were blowing strongly, carrying the Merry along at a nice pace. Dinner had been good. He had seen Luffy playing a card game incorrectly with Sanji and Usopp somewhere on another deck, and he didn't care where anybody else was, so that meant he had nothing to do really but nap in the waning sun.

They had finished that stupid Davy Back Fight and Luffy -covered in bandages- was recovering nicely two days later. His burns had really been the crew's only concern. Luffy liked to stretch and Zoro was constantly having to remind his captain not to, lest he really hurt himself. Every time he tried, his burns would get pulled and then sting like crazy even after Chopper rewrapped all of them.

Zoro was laying there, reflecting with his eyes closed when it happened. A huge SPLASH followed by the telltale cry of "WAAAA! SOMEBODY! LUFFY FELL IN THE OCEAN!"

Zoro sprung up at Chopper's cry and darted around to the stairs where he saw Chopper standing on the Port side rail in tears, pointing to the stream of bubbles rising up from the water beside the boat. No one else was in sight.

Where the hell is everyone? He thought as he took a deep breath and jumped overboard from the higher rail at the top of the stairs. That would give him a deeper dive and hence more depth to start with.

Because of his excellent response time, he knew that Luffy would not be hard to find this time. The water was very clear here. How many times a day do we have to go through this? Honestly! He had been hoping that, with Luffy being kept busy with the others, his captain would manage to keep himself safe for the rest of the afternoon. He didn't know what was so special about this section of the Grand Line that made Luffy feel the need to fall into it three and four times a day, but it was really starting to become a bit much. Couldn't he restrain himself at all?

Though it was kind of bothersome, Zoro couldn't help the small surge of panic that overtook him every time he heard that splash. That particular splash was like the start of a stopwatch. It meant that his captain was helpless and in danger of dying very soon unless someone did something to save him quickly, and Zoro felt the small pain go through his chest every time at the very thought. Even on a calm day like this, when fetching him out was no real hardship, it scared him.

No one knew what kind of creatures could be right beneath the boat at any given time! While none of them would be a threat to Luffy normally, when he was helpless he could be killed by one! Or he would be eaten alive, and then Zoro would have to fight the thing quickly, and cut it up to get the boy out before time was up. That would scare the hell out of the kid, no matter how he tried to play it off. Luffy had told Zoro a story once that had left the swordsman damn sure that if Luffy were attacked by a creature while he was helpless in the water, that would revive too many memories and make the incident traumatic for the kid.

This time it wasn't too long before Luffy appeared in his vision, totally limp and sinking fast. Zoro had the boy wrapped in his arms and was back up at the surface just as his lungs started to burn. As soon as their heads broke the water, Zoro pounded Luffy's back a few times to help him get lost air back into his lungs.

Luffy gulped a few deep breaths and choked for a few moments. Then he started making tiny pained noises. Zoro was sure they would have been loud cries of pain had they been out of the water and had Luffy the energy. His bandages had come unraveled in the water and exposed his burned skin and barely-closed cuts to the salt of the sea, and that had to sting bad.

"Great job, captain." Zoro said to the boy, hiding his relief with irritation as he towed himself through the water with his one available arm.

Luffy only continued to moan in pain, and struggled to raise his arms to hold himself to Zoro. It didn't work, of course, but Zoro caught on and paused in the ocean to turn Luffy and help him achieve his intent, lifting the powerless arms around his neck and holding him closely for a moment. Though he would have liked to hold the boy safe for a little longer, the wind was still carrying Merry well today. He had to get to get on the ship before it was out of reach and Chopper had to lower the anchor for them.

Zoro unwrapped one arm from around Luffy to grab the rope that Chopper had tossed overboard. Then he watched his captain as they waited for the reindeer in man-form to tow them aboard. "Luffy, you gonna be okay?"

"…hurts." Luffy moaned weakly back to his first mate.

Zoro sighed. "I shouldn't wonder."

Chopper was towing them up the ship, now, and the two were over the rail quickly. Merry was a small ship that rode low in the water, after all, and Zoro had been grateful for it every time he had to be pulled back in thanks to something his careless captain had done.

As soon as the two had collapsed onto the deck, Zoro rolled Luffy onto his side facing away, laying beside him and holding him like that so the boy could keep breathing okay until he could move on his own again. After about a minute of this, Luffy's energy returned enough that he could roll himself onto his back and wrap his arms back around his best friend's neck.

Zoro let the boy do this for a few seconds, supporting his head, and feeling relieved that he was going to be okay… again. Once the relief had passed, however, the anger settled in. He gently pulled the boy away from him, sitting up. "What the hell were you doing? That was the third time today, Luffy! The third time!"

Luffy sat up tiredly as Chopper fussed over him with his stethoscope. "Sorry, Zoro. I was looking at something and I-"

Zoro wouldn't hear any more excuses. "What if something happened once -just once- and no one could get to you in time? Think about it, Luffy. I know you don't fall in on purpose, but it's like you don't care if it keeps happening."

"I care!" Luffy got a little heated at this, and then hissed as Chopper unwrapped the rest of his chest bandage, exposing his wounds.

Zoro looked at the scabbed-over burns and the sickly skin and it only angered him more. Why did Luffy keep doing this to himself? He would be healing well if he would just stop falling in and irritating his wounds. "No, you don't care. If you cared, you would stop being so reckless about it."

Luffy grinned at him, "I don't need to worry about that! Nothing will stop you from reaching me, I know it!"

Zoro paused. "That's true. I won't let anything stop me from saving you, Luffy, but what if I'm not there?"

Luffy bit his lip and didn't answer. Zoro took his point home, "You need to stop taking it for granted that I'll always be with you during that five minute gap that makes the difference whether you live or drown."

Luffy looked at his lap as Chopper began to bandage him. The small Xoan had become very efficient at doing this quickly, but not painlessly, because Luffy winced several times. Zoro almost felt that he deserved it for putting him though so much daily stress.

He worried more about this kid than anyone in his entire life, and he wasn't stupid; he knew why. Luffy was his captain. This kid was his world. And if anything ever happened to him…

Zoro sighed and ran his hand over his face. "Just… be careful, okay?" Then he went inside.

Chopper continued to wrap his wounds, "He's just upset, Luffy. Don't let it bother you."

Luffy didn't answer. He hadn't meant to make Zoro mad. He had just seen that shiny thing in the water and couldn't help but lean over to get a closer look and then that wave rocked the boat and the deck was wet and… he just fell in again. Why did he keep falling in today? …I'll bet Ace never falls in.

He felt a little jealous about that, though he'd never admit it out loud, and flinched as Chopper tightly taped down the last of the bandage around his chest. His burns hurt. They hadn't been so bad after Chopper had bandaged them the first time, but his skin felt all wet and nasty when bandages first came off, and when they kept coming off in the sea water, it hurt! And they looked kinda gross. But the doctor insisted that the salt water was actually good for them - if only he could stop getting the gauze wet with the wounds, instead of taking it off first.

With the new gauze on, Luffy thanked Chopper and went over to the rail again to dangle over the side and look at the water. He supposed he could go inside and play another game with the others. They had all gone in because it had become to windy to play cards on the deck anymore. But the captain decided, once again, to stay out here.

Some of the neatest things swam under the boat. If Zoro could only ever be here to see them with him, he'd understand why he kept looking. And it was a good thing he did, too. Had he not been avidly staring at the water like he was, no one would have noticed that the reefs beneath the boat were starting to get kind close to the hull.

He leaned closer to see better, because it was getting pretty dark. Yeah, those coral formations were really close, actually. Like, on-the-verge-of-scraping-the-hull close.

Without another thought, Luffy ran up front and dropped the anchor. It didn't take long for the ship to lurch to a stop.

There much a bunch of noise and some shouting in the galley when this happened before Nami and Sanji threw the door open to see what the hell had just happened. "Luffy?" Sanji spotted him on the fore deck and called to him, "Did we just hit something?"

"No! I dropped the anchor! Nami, come here!"

"Dropped the anchor? Already?" Nami was totally thrown as to why he had just taken it upon himself to stop the ship so early for the night. That wasn't the only reason it didn't add up. She quickly crossed the deck of the leaning ship, calling, "Luffy, the sails are still unfurled. You know not to drop anchor with the sails out! Do you want us to capsize?"

Luffy barely spared the sails a glance. "Usopp, Sanji! Bring up the sails!"

Everyone was out on deck by now and wondering why Luffy was suddenly behaving so oddly, but those selected went to follow orders. Obviously something was up.

Nami made it up to her captain, "What is it?"

Luffy pointed to something a little over and behind the Merry. "What's that?"

Nami looked at the small glob of land sticking up out of the ocean. It was too small to be an island. Obviously no one could live on it. How did we all miss that?

Well, not all of them had if Luffy was pointing at it. It was a patch of land sitting out of the water, and the only thing that made it not just another rock poking up was that it was surrounded with a small beach and had a dense cluster of trees and ferns in the middle. Trees meant fresh water, and that was something random rocks in the ocean didn't have.

Nami was kind of stumped. "I don't know… it wasn't on the map, whatever it is… Is this why you dropped the anchor?"

Luffy shook his head, "Oh, no. Look down there." he pointed to the water, where the coral reefs were still very close to the boat.

At first Nami looked surprised, then she appeared to become a little perturbed, and a moment after that, she groaned. "Oh, you've gotta be kidding me… Luffy. How did we get here?"

Luffy shrugged. "We just sailed in. And we're surrounded, I checked."

Up top, the boys had finally finished tying off the main sail, and Chopper and Zoro had gotten the rear one already and were walking back up front to join them.

Luffy looked at his navigator, "How do we get out?"

Nami put her hand to her forehead and thought a little bit. After a minute, she sighed. "It's probably not as bad as it looks. We must have gotten surrounded as low tide came in. We should be able to sail out slowly by just maneuvering how I say, but we'll need full light and the tide back in for that. It's too late now, the sky's barely even pink anymore and the water's turning black. We'll only hit if we move now. It was actually a good move dropping the anchor, captain. We'll have to wait until morning."

Luffy smiled at her praise and nodded decisively. "Then that's what we'll do."

Night had settled over the ship. The moon was new, so the sky was black save for the blanket of beautiful stars. Everyone had gone to sleep hours before. It had to be around midnight.

The crew had stayed up pretty late, which was a little unusual for them. Sailors rose and set with the sun, typically, for when the sun was gone, no more sailing could be done on the Grand Line. It was just to dangerous. But since Nami had said they would need full daylight to even make way through the reefs, that meant that they would be able to sleep in late. It also meant that they could play games all night! …or until ten thirty or so…

Anyway, they were sleeping now, and had put Zoro on watch, since it was his turn and all.

Now the swordsman sat in the crows nest, trying to stay awake but not really succeeding very well. He was sure Robin was up reading. Every now and then a candle flickered in the galley.

Down in the hold, Luffy woke groggily in his hammock. Nature was calling again, so he swung himself out of the hammock and stumbled his way over to the ladder, lazily dragging himself up and sliding the hatch over. He put it back out of habit before proceeding over to the rail to do his thing.

Just as he was opening his fly and getting into position, he thought he saw something move under the water. Something thick and pale, and kind of an odd shape. What the…? He waited for a moment, and when he didn't see it again, he proceeded his evacuation.

He had just finished reassembling his pants when he saw it again. Okay, now I know there's something there.

…But again it was gone.

There was almost no glare from the starlight and the water was calm and dark. He leaned down a little more to see if it would move again. It did!

It was white-ish, (well, the part he could make out was anyway) and hiding down in the corals. Luffy couldn't really make out how big or small it was, or even what it was shaped like.

Luffy stretched his neck a little to get a closer look. It looked kind of long… or something. It was weird how pale it was, it almost looked slimy. Glech, bet it's really gross…I wonder if you can eat it?

It had to be just under the surface, whatever it was. How interesting! He stretched even closer.

He pulled back too late as a long, thick tentacle shot out of the water, wrapped around his neck, and pulled him under. Luffy didn't even have time to scream.

Way up on the mast, a not-quite-asleep Zoro had heard one of the boys come out of the hold a few minutes before. He knew it had been Luffy when said boy had started answering nature right off the side of the boat. Zoro didn't get why the others -especially Nami- had an issue with that, but the point remained that Luffy was the only one on the ship who actually made it a habit to pee in the nearest body of water when he had to go.

Which was why he shot up so quickly when he heard the loud splash. It hadn't sounded like one of Luffy's normal falls; there had been no shout accompanying it. Luffy usually yelled as he fell in the water to let someone know that it was even happening to him. Luffy may have just been tired, but still this scared Zoro a little more than he was willing to admit to even himself.

As he reached the bottom and crossed over to the rail. In his sprint, he heard Robin's voice call after him, "Luffy?" from where she now stood on the balcony.

"Ocean." He gave the one-word answer, trusting that she knew what to do, just before he dived into the water after the boy.

It was almost totally black under the surface. The only mercy was that the corals werejust underneath the water(he'd carefully minded them in his shallow dive), so what little light there was did seem to make the them glow… for the first four yards.

That wasn't enough, however, because he couldn't make out anything beyond that. It all went by feel after that point, and he knew hew was on a time limit.

When Luffy sank, he sank straight down and Zoro would have seen him right away if he had been stopped short on the way down. While Zoro was relieved that Luffy hadn't been speared by a coral stalk, it served as a double-edged sword, because that meant that the hammer had a good twenty second start on him. So he had to go deeper and deeper into the lightless pit of freezing water.

He could only imagine all the dangerous things that lived in conditions such as this. The most dangerous forms of sea life were night-feeders, and this coral reef was probably swimming with them. Zoro sped up his dive. It was getting colder, and the pressure was increasing. How deep was this area? He was obviously over the ledge of the reef and down in the deeper corals by now.

Luffy, where are you? Zoro pulled himself down deeper. Something bit his leg, but it didn't have sharp teeth. It startled him more than anything and he moved for his swords… only to remember that he didn't have them with him.

He let out a strong kick and the thing -whatever it was- went away. Good. He didn't have time right now.

He'd already been under for about a minute now. It didn't hurt yet and personally, he could go longer, but he knew that whatever time he spent moving down, he'd have to spend again in getting back up again because of Luffy's weight. Those cursed with the fruit of the devil were heavy in water, and it took almost as much time getting them to the surface as it took in swimming down alone. Luffy, come on!

What had been driving Zoro the hardest was the knowledge that the smaller boy couldn't work to hold his breath after his energy was gone. But now, since Zoro hadn't felt the trail of bubbles that his captain typically left behind him, the swordsman began to realize that Luffy mustn't have had time to take a breath in the first place, and that was a scary thought. In fact, if Luffy hadn't inhaled or yelled before he fell in, that probably meant-

Zoro felt a sort of fear set in. That meant that something had grabbed his captain.

Zoro sped up, breaking a tip of coral off it's stalk as he went, so as to have some sort of a make-shift weapon in case he needed it. He was moving as fast as he could now. He was at a minute at a half now, and he was starting to feel it. Luffy, where are you!

Suddenly he was stopped as he hit the ocean floor. This was it. There was no deeper, and there was no Luffy.

For the first time in his life, Zoro felt true panic settle inside his chest. Luffy wasn't where Zoro had expected to follow him to, and he knew that the time he could allot to searching was almost up. He began to move around, swimming across the bottom, feeling for anything that could lead him to his best friend.

He had to find Luffy. There was no question in his mind about that. He wouldn't resurface without his captain! Luffy was too important to the world -important to him- to lose. Not this night. Not this minute. He had to see Luffy smile at him every day. He hadn't realized how much he truly depended on that smile, on that endless determination and confidence, until he had felt for him, and he wasn't there. To Zoro, Luffy was like a drug that he couldn't get enough of. He was completely dependant on being with his captain, and if he lost that drug now, he would die.

If I can't find him… I NEED to find him! Zoro thought in a panic as he frantically twisted in the water to feel all around himself.

If something had grabbed the younger teen, it was likely that it had taken him into the shallower part of the corals, where it was more likely to live. He picked a direction and prayed (for the first time in his life) to whoever was listening that it was the right one. It had to be. He would have no second chance at this.

He vaguely registered that his lungs were now starting to hurt. He didn't have any more time to spend down here, dammit! He should be moving Luffy toward the surface by now, if he wanted the helpless boy to be okay.

Zoro towed himself as quickly as he could across the corals, moving his arms in wide, searching sweeps. Something suddenly moved beside him, and he closed in on it.

It felt like a giant muscle, and from what Zoro could tell, it resembled some type of freak octopus. It seemed to hold no interest in Zoro, however, and the swordsman followed along the arm to feel that it already had a prize.

As soon as one hand grazed across Luffy's face, the other one raised the coral piece that it still held, and drove it hard into the animal. Fucking let him go! You can't have him! The creature had been wrapped about Luffy's neck and squeezing it like a boa constrictor, and now Zoro could tasted that it had sprayed ink into the water in defense as he worked to uncurl the tendril from Luffy's tender throat.

Within ten seconds, he was swimming for the surface harder than he ever had before, his captain held against him. The smaller boy had to have been down for almost three minutes already, but if that thing had been cutting off Luffy's circulation, then there was a good chance that more would be wrong with the captain than a lack of oxygen.

He broke the surface with a loud gasp of air and immediately focused all his attention on his captain, who had not taken a gasp. "Luffy! Luffy, breathe!"

He tilted Luffy's head against his shoulder and tilted the unconscious boy's face toward his own. Luffy was so pale. The kid was white as a sheet, and he wasn't breathing.

Panicked, Zoro looked around for the ship. He saw it, but it was way over there! They were closer to the patch of land now! He must have gone further across the bottom than he thought.

He couldn't think about that, though, because he had to get Luffy out of the water. He swam for the shore, not remembering to dodge the corals and hitting his legs painfully several times.

The land was even closer than it had looked in the darkness. He soon reached it and laid Luffy out on the sand before him. "Luffy! Luffy wake up." He grabbed him by the shoulders and shook, "Wake up, Luffy! Come on!"

Nothing. Zoro laid his ear to the boy's chest. There was no pulse, so he started CPR straight away.

As Zoro repeatedly covered Luffy's mouth to give him air and then pumped the smaller chest, all he could feel was his world slipping away from him. Everything that was important to him. Everything that mattered was here in arms, and if he lost that, there would be nothing left. He would just be a shell. And Luffy still wasn't breathing.

Angry tears blurred his vision, and he began to shout as he pumped the injured chest, "Damn it, Luffy! I swore I would never lose again, and that means you, too! You told me you had no problem with that, Pirate King! So don't you DARE die on me! Don't you fucking DARE! BREATHE!"

For the first time he could remember, he felt his chest choke up in emotional agony. He had to struggle to keep the CPR going as silent sobs wracked his body. He just couldn't quit. He just couldn't! Growing desperate, he finally began to plead with the stillness around him when he wasn't giving Luffy air. "Don't take him from me. You can't have him… I still need him, please don't take him away from me…"

The captain hadn't breathed in what had to be going on over five minutes now, and Zoro's emotions were making his arms weaker as he continued to try so hard to bring Luffy back. His pumping slowed to a stop, and he felt like he would collapse as his desire to live leave with the soul of the boy laying in the sand.

His captain was dead. He was gone.

When the realization hit home, Zoro's tears stopped flowing. His expression went blank, his eyes empty. He felt nothing inside. He felt dead. The pain would be so intense for him to feel, that his mind had just completely shut down in defense to it all.

Slowly moving his eyes over his captain's pale body, the lost first mate leaned over one more time to give his captain some air. Just one more time.

His hand slid behind the boy's neck, and he closed his lips over Luffy's, filling those lungs with air in one last, desperate attempt to resuscitate the person he had entrusted his soul with, and never even told…and pulled back suddenly when the surge of air fought it's way though Luffy's form and the smallest pirate began to choke and shake violently. Acting on instinct, because it was the only thing still working clearly, Zoro rolled the boy in his side and steadied him as the water choked from his lungs.

Luffy coughed water up onto the sand and made small gurgling noises, his hands clenching spastically as he seized up. Zoro wrapped his arms around the boy and lifted him a little away from the sand so that he wouldn't inhale it in his throes. Luffy's chest suddenly heaved more purposefully, and Luffy seemed to be reflexively try to position his arms to try to weakly hold himself as well. Zoro knew immediately what was happening, and could tell it wasn't going to work; that he would aspirate in this position. He quickly moved the boy so that he was more face-down right before the contents of his stomach came up onto the land beneath him. Luffy wretched four times, getting up all of the sea water in his system.

Zoro held one hand to the boy's forehead to support his head, because the muscles in his neck didn't seem to be letting him hold his head up himself. The other arm wrapped around his chest like a sash to hold him up with Luffy's shoulder laying in his inner elbow, and his hand down at the boy's waist.

When he was sure Luffy had finished, Zoro gently rotated the boy and lowered him into his lap. There was no use worrying about getting away from the vomit. Most of it was just water, and they would have to get back into the water again soon, anyway.

Zoro cradled Luffy to himself and rocked back and forth. He's alive, he's gonna be okay. He ran his fingers through the boy's hair as he tried to stop the tears from falling. He had never felt so strongly toward anyone as he did toward this boy right now. He'd almost lost him. For a moment, there, he had.

In his arms, Luffy tried to open his eyes and look at his first mate, but he was too dizzy and unfocused to distinguish shapes in the darkness. He could feel Zoro crying, but he wasn't sure why. He swallowed and let out a moan. His throat and chest were in so much pain. Breathing hurt like he couldn't describe. Had he regained the energy he would have played it off like anything else, but he simply had no strength. He was cold, and he knew this drained feeling, so he must have been in the water… but he felt so strange.

He parted his lips to speak, but his voice wouldn't work, so all that came out was a weak moan that sort of sounded like the swordsman's name.

Zoro couldn't help but sigh with relief when Luffy tried to speak. He could tell the boy wanted to talk, but just wasn't coherent enough. "Yeah, Luffy. I'm here. Don't try to talk, just take it easy for a minute."

Though he desperately wanted to know what was so scary that it had made Zoro cry, Luffy took the advice. He couldn't have moved if he wanted to. Why did it hurt so much? His chest was so heavy. He could vaguely tell that his bandages were coming undone and there was sand creeping into his wounds, so that would sting like hell later. He also registered that he wasn't wearing anything but his shorts, so Zoro's arms were warm and holding him skin-against-skin, and that actually felt nicer than wet clothes would have.

Luffy relaxed and laid still in Zoro's arms, waiting for the fog in his mind to clear. He could so easily fall asleep, but every time he felt like he was almost there, Zoro would rock him a little to pull him back. It took more than a couple minutes, and he still couldn't make his body listen to him, but he stabilized enough to open his eyes and blink a few times at his swordsman, who was watching him with an expression Luffy had never seen him wear before. It took him another few seconds to realize that if there was sand around them, then they weren't on the ship… so he had no idea where they were.

Luffy swallowed painfully, and tried to speak again. "Zoro?" he asked in a whisper. He didn't know why, but he knew that it hurt him to use his voice, so he wasn't going to do it.

Zoro ran his hand across the boy's cheek as Luffy pressed his face against that hand, seeking the warmth it held. That strong emotion hit him hard again as he spoke, "Hey, Luffy. You with me now?"

The boy moaned softly and tried to look around him, but his neck hurt too much to really move it for some reason. Zoro's hand against his cheek was giving his head extra support, and he was grateful. Slowly he became aware of his position, and that he had never been there before.

Zoro was holding him and didn't seem to want to put him down. In fact it felt to Luffy like if someone tried to take him away, Zoro might just cut their arm off. The pieces slowly came together in his mind. I didn't just fall in, did I? My energy should be back by now. Something's actually wrong with me.

His own body was shaking and he couldn't control it. He took a few deep breaths (that had Zoro tensing up), and then relaxed again and tried to speak. "…where…?"

"Safe. We're on that bit of land sticking up out of the water," Zoro spoke to him clearly, "Remember, we got trapped in those corals? We're by the ship."

"…hurts." the boy said, and Zoro noted that his color was starting to come back, which was great. The kid had been blue when he'd gotten him out of the water.

"What hurts?"

Luffy weakly raised his hand above his throat, but didn't touch it.

Zoro nodded, "I'm not surprised. Do you remember what happened at all?"

Luffy made a sound that Zoro took as a 'no'. the swordsman nodded, this time to himself, and thought for a moment before telling his captain, "Don't worry about it right now. It's over, and that's all the matters."

In the meantime, Zoro was growing increasingly troubled by how Luffy continued to shake in his arms. He had to get the boy back to the boat before he got hypothermic. It was below freezing out here now with the sun on the other side of the world. "Luffy, I know it's not fair, but I have to take you back into the water."

The boy let out a small, sobbing breath at this news. His energy was just coming back, and that water was freezing!

Zoro held him closer at the noise. "I know, buddy. But I gotta get you back to the ship. As soon as we're there, you can go to bed and sleep for a week if you want to, alright?"

Luffy sniffled, but nodded. He really couldn't take this right now …but he knew Zoro was right. They had to go home.

Zoro slowly stood and lifted the boy with him, positioning him over his front. Those corals were still under the surface and he wasn't going to risk hurting Luffy on them. Once Luffy was ready, Zoro waded out into the water and pushed himself onto his back. He held Luffy tightly on his chest, legs dangling in the water and head resting just below Zoro's shoulder so his face was out of the water. And he started kicking his feet to propel them toward the ship.

The second part will pick up right where this left off. EXACTLY where this left off, actually. There won't even be a break in the flow.