Title: Final Betrayal
Fandom: One Piece
Pairings: nearly gen, but with somewhat irrefutable hints of Luffy/Zoro visa-versa. Other pairings hinted at and/or mentioned.
Warnings: Rated T for swearing, violence, blood, and angst. Contains Spoilers. Additional warnings for me just making shit up, like future crewmembers, fighting abilities and whatnot.
Timeline: Future. Luffy becomes Pirate King.
Spoilers:Current manga chapters, crew and Luffy's relations. Do notread if you care about spoilers and are not up to date.
Notes: This is a gift-fic for Dethorats, who is one of the best readers an author could ask for. Multipart Fic. New chapters to be posted (hopefully) each week.
Summary: Luffy has become the Pirate King, Zoro the Greatest Swordsman, and Usopp has become a Great Warrior of the Sea. They have found All Blue, the Rio Ponegryph and One Piece. With victory under their belts, the Straw Hat crew leaves the Grand Line and return to their home sea in the East Blue. But history seems determined to repeat itself, and for the second time in twenty-five years Loguetown finds itself hosting the trial of the Pirate King…
Once again, this fic contains spoilers for current manga chapters! Don't say I didn't warn you…
Final Betrayal – Chapter One
"Let us out, you hear!" Luffy rattled the bars of his cell. "And give me back my hat!" he added angrily.
The racket weakened abruptly, probably from prolonged contact with the seastone that sapped the very strength from his limbs. Luffy must have let go of the bars, because his sandals slapped loudly as he paced around the small confines of his prison, yelling and cursing the parentage and basic hygiene of their captors. In any other situation it would have been funny.
"Pipe down, will you?" Zoro called from the next cell. He was finally fighting free from the suffocating haze of the tranquilizer those bastards shot him up with. The sudden withdraw was making his head pound, Luffy's shouts were just making it worse.
They were far, far underground in a series of caves somewhere below sea level. Saltwater beaded across the walls, trickling down and pooling together in small puddles across the rough-hewn floor. The only light came from a series of torches along the hall. The flames spit and sputtered in the damp, casting crazy shadows across the walls. Zoro didn't know what kind of power it took to carve holes into solid seastone but --however they were made-- these caves became hell for anyone cursed with the powers of a Devil's Fruit. Really, this was the most lively Zoro had seen Luffy in days.
But this place was so far removed that all the shouting in the world wasn't likely to do any good. There was so little chance of escape that their guards had set up camp somewhere upstairs, comfortably out of the cold and damp. Besides, even if Luffy's calls managed to summon them, they would probably just sedate them again.
Not for the first time, Zoro was beginning to wonder whether it had been a good idea to submit to the government's manipulations. Even if it was to save the kid, the price they had asked for was too high. The marines wouldn't have seriously shot the boy. Probably.
Anyways, it had been stupid to surrender without a fight, and Zoro was starting to regret going along with the idea. His earlier confidence was seeping away. Not that he didn't have faith, but his captain's belief in friendship certainly got them into some tight spots. A rather put-upon sounding sigh snorted through Zoro's nostrils.
"Damn…." He heard Luffy slide to the floor. They were probably sitting back to back now, zoro felt, calling upon that strange instinct that seemed to home in on his captain's location. That connection seemed muffled now, the drugs and the thick wall between them managing to dull his senses.
Luffy was starting to wear down, Zoro realized with a frown. It was a cruel torture, making his Luffy --who thrived on human contact-- sit and slowly starve in near isolation. As for Zoro, it was torture enough to have to watch his mate's unflappable spirit being bled away, bit by bit, by the press of hundreds of kilos of ocean bred rock.
Zoro shifted, his hair scraping against wall's heavy grit. His tongue darted out, licking at his cracked and bleeding lips. This place made his whole body feel parched: probably from the salt.
"You okay over there?" he called out gruffly. It took a couple of heartbeats for the other to answer.
"I'm hungry." Luffy muttered, lacking his usual guff and gusto.
Zoro grunted. "They'll toss us some bread soon."
"It's never enough."
Zoro smiled at Luffy's bellyaching. "You can have my share."
A moments pause, then Zoro heard the other take a shuddering breath.
"I don't want to die, Zoro." Luffy's voice was muffled, yet Zoro heard the desperation so sharply that the words seemed to pierce his chest.
"Luffy…" Zoro didn't know what to say.
"I can't die yet!" Luffy's voice cracked toward the end. "I've got to help my friends with their dreams! Nami still hasn't mapped the entire ocean! Chopper hasn't found a cure for every sickness! There are people that still need me!"
Right now those people were all prisoners too, Zoro thought, restraining himself from mentioning his own claim in that list of who still needed their captain. Luffy didn't need that added burden. Besides, Zoro was pretty sure the other already knew. Luffy was perceptive like that.
They hadn't heard from the rest of the crew since getting thrown in this place. How many days has it been? Nine? Ten? The easiest way to keep them from escaping, Zoro's mind supplied, was to keep them separated. He couldn't be sure whether their friends were imprisoned just down the hall, or if they were even being held on the same island.
Or if they were alive. It was possible that the government decided to take care of them first. The thought soured in Zoro's throat, so he didn't share it.
He wanted to offer some sort of reassurance. He wanted the confidence to say that they could still find a way to escape. But so much time had passed; Zoro was enough of a realist to know that their window for sudden rescue was getting smaller every second. As much as he wanted to tell Luffy that things would work out like always, he couldn't wave away the seriousness of their situation. He knew where they were, and what it meant. After running so long, this just might be the end. It was hard to accept, but it just might be true.
But Luffy said he wasn't ready to die. That in itself was a marked difference from not long ago, when he-- no, when they both were ready to go down smiling. Part of Zoro was happy that Luffy had found something else to live for now that One Piece had been found. Another part of him realized that this newfound will may make things harder at the end.
Zoro felt powerless, and he knew his captain was feeling the same. And it wasn't even that they weren't strong enough! If they hadn't fallen for that trap (now obvious in hindsight), they would have literally blown the enemy out of the water. That fact chaffed the most.
Silence stretched between the two for a long time afterwards. Neither wanted to voice their darker thoughts, yet neither was able to fake any optimism. There was no sound in their prison save for their breathing and the steady drip-dripping of forming stalactites. Zoro must have fallen asleep, because it felt like at least an hour had passed before Luffy spoke again.
"You know, I've thought it out," Luffy began in a quiet voice that carried a peace to it that set Zoro's teeth on edge. "And I think I'm okay with dying."
What if I'm not? Zoro wondered, and then felt shocked for thinking it. Luffy continued, not noticing the perturbed air surrounding his friend.
"I've already become the Pirate King, after all. I accomplished my dream. I know the others are strong enough to keep following their dreams as well." It physically hurt to hear the smile in the other man's voice. Zoro had to grit his teeth in order to prevent himself from making some scathing reply. Like how were they supposed to follow their dreams with no one to lead them towards them? Luffy fatalism bothered Zoro more than his earlier denial.
There was a scuffle and Luffy's voice suddenly sounded closer, like he was leaning against the bars, taking Zoro into his confidence by moving as close to the other as possible. "You've just got to make sure they get away from here so they have a chance to do it, okay Zoro?"
Zoro's head jerked to the side, seeing a thin arm stretched through the bars and out towards him. Zoro swallowed and pushed his own arm through the bars. He quietly hooked two fingers around Luffy's, feeling a calmness settle over him.
"Are you kidding?" Zoro snorted softly, titling his head back and smacking it lightly against the wall, perhaps imagining a dark head there instead. "They'll probably want to kill me too. Even if they don't," he shrugged, though he knew the other couldn't see it. "I'll be under such a heavy guard that they'll fill me full of holes if I even breathe funny. So I doubt I'll be much help aside from a nice, violent distraction." He finished with a grin, not adding that sky would fall into the sea before he'd leave his captain alone to his fate.
"Don't be silly." Luffy laughed. "You've only been the greatest swordsman for two months. If you died now, think of how stupid you'd look."
Zoro scratched at the healing wounds given to him by Mihawk. None were life threatening this time around, and most were nearly healed up (though Zoro guessed he wasn't doing them any favors sitting here in the dank and dirt).
"I guess you're right." Zoro forced himself to chuckle. He still couldn't believe he had beaten Hawk-Eyes. Those weeks ago seemed like a shadow of a dream. It was beginning to feel like he'd spent his whole life in this cave.
The sound of a door screeching open interrupted any further conversation. Zoro slowly pulled his hand away as he listened to the approaching footsteps. There seemed to be more guards than what was called for to throw a few stale hunks of bread. This was either the end, or the opportunity they had been waiting for. Zoro leaned back; forcing himself to stay relaxed while hoping his reflexes were still sharp enough to take care of the rest.
Six marines bearing rifles and wearing guarded expressions appeared into view, passing Luffy's cage to stand before his own. Zoro stared dispassionately into the gun barrels pointed at him but made sure not to make any sudden moves. There was no point getting wounded and wasting any chance to break free, after all.
"Roronoa Zoro. Stand up and face the wall." The chief officer ordered. Zoro raised and eyebrow but quietly did as he was told. "Now put your hands behind you and walk slowly backwards."
Zoro allowed himself to be handcuffed as a second guard took out a set of keys to unlock his cell. His breathing hitched; this is the first time that door had been opened since he'd been thrown in here. He had no idea where these marines planned on taking him but maybe they did have a chance.
And maybe this was his execution squad. Which meant that this might be their last chance. Zoro grimaced as a needle pierced his arm. Their drugs kicked in fast; he had only minutes before its effects overtook him. Zoro forced himself to stay calm, effecting to look lethargic even. His only hope was to catch these men off guard.
Zoro waited until he was pulled out into the small corridor. Three guards still had their rifles trained on him. The leader's gun was lowered as he slowly maneuvered Zoro backwards. Seeing an opening, Zoro intentionally stumbled and bumped into the guard who had opened the cell. He heard the guy curse and the sound keys dropping to the stone floor. In that split second, Zoro attacked.
In a move that would have made Sanji proud, Zoro's foot swung out and swiped the legs out from under the man fumbling for the keys. Without losing momentum his leg rose up and around and slammed into the lead guard's chest, sending him sprawling back and into his three fellows. They all went down in a tangle of guns and limbs. Quickly, Zoro's foot dropped down and slipped into the metal ring around the keys and kicked. The keys flew up into the air, brushing the low ceiling before beginning their descent. They didn't fall far before Zoro leaned in, catching them between his teeth.
"Ruffy--!" the ring muffled the name as Zoro whirled around, elation giving him a much-needed boost of adrenaline. Spying his captain, he froze, his eyes widening.
Luffy was cuffed to his cell bars, his arms twisted behind his back. The sixth guard –the one that Zoro stupidly forgot to account-- for stood behind his captain, a long dagger held to his neck. Luffy's teeth were clenched and his brows drawn down in anger. His jugular bulged out clearly against the gleaming blade of the knife. Zoro swallowed a curse. The guard was wild-eyed and shaking. One wrong move and Luffy would get his throat slit.
"D-drop them!" the man ordered, nodding to the keys to their freedom. Zoro felt the other guards finally sort themselves out and start to regain their feet. Opening his mouth, Zoro let the keys drop, his eyes never leaving the knife and its hostage.
Seeing the murderous expression on his Zoro's face, the guard hastily pulled the knife away, like a kid caught lifting from the cookie jar. Zoro's shoulders relaxed ever so slightly. He watched Luffy's head sag and couldn't tell if it was because of the seastone, the drugs, or Zoro's failure. He could only hope it wasn't the latter.
The sedative was starting to sink in; Zoro's hands and feet had become numb. His eyes suddenly felt heavy. His mind was fogging up. It was hard to think…. He needed to think, damn it! He had to get them out of here! Zoro wished he had his swords. He wished his arms were free. He wished that shitty cook had taught him that antimatter kick of his. He wished this whole goddamned series of caves wasn't made up of bloody seastone!
The man with the dagger waved it around wildly and took a threatening step forward. His mistake. Zoro suddenly darted forward. Panicking, the guard brought the knife up to pierce the pirate's chest, but somehow Zoro was quicker. He slid smoothly to the side and made a move for the knife. With a jaw conditioned to for the strength to wield a sword, Zoro's teeth clamped down on the man's hand. The guard screamed but didn't release the blade. Zoro continued his momentum and forced the arm around so the dagger now pointed towards the guard's own body.
Wide-eyed, the man shook his head, a string of desperate pleas rising up and catching in his throat. Zoro's eyes narrowed but he pressed onward, driving the blade down and deep into the man's thigh. The man gave a choking cry before collapsing.
"You're not worth it." Zoro spat, even as his anger was urging him to finish the job.
He dodged to the right as another guard hurtled towards him with a syringe of tranquilizer held tightly in one fist. The man fell heavily upon the cell, his outstretched arm sliding smoothly into the space between the bars. Zoro booted him sidewise and heard the wet crack of breaking bone as the pinned arm suddenly took on an unnatural angle. His eyes searched the guard for second set of keys, but man's belt was empty. Zoro's eyes hurriedly cast about the floor.
Zoro was tackled from behind before he could turn around. He fell under a barrage of kicks and punches, not bothering to try and defend himself, his only concern in locating the fallen keys. He spotted a glint of silver just as more guards joined in on the dog pile. Zoro took the extra weight stoically, his neck stretching out desperately towards the metal ring holding those precious keys.
An elbow slammed across his head, busting his mouth over the stone floor. A steel-shod boot kicked the keys away before strong hands grabbed at Zoro's arms and hauled him upright. The guards, cursing angrily, shoved him into the bars of Luffy's cell so hard they vibrated from the impact.
The bars were nothing but vertical blurs this close up, thin and seemingly fragile looking. Zoro's eyes narrowed.
I don't want to die, Zoro.
Right. He wasn't going to waste this chance. Zoro abruptly pulled back, as far as the restraining hands would allow, before savagely slamming himself into the bars again.
Arms cuffed behind him, Zoro drove his body against the stone bars with brutal force. Again and again he slammed himself into them, his vision narrowing to a single point before him. All thoughts fled, replaced by only the burning desire to free the person on the other side. The drugs in his system shut down his mind until it was running on animalistic instinct alone.
Bones fractured; skin broke and bled under the impact. People were shouting at him, trying to hold him back: threatening to shoot, to maim, to kill. Needles stabbed into his arms and back, but Zoro wasn't even aware of them. Like a wounded bear, he threw himself unto the stone with a tortured roar. More men came down, drawn by the commotion. They fell upon him, restraining him, holding by the shoulders, gripping him around the waist.
Undeterred, Zoro tucked in his chin and drove his forehead into the bars instead. His skull crashed against the stone over and over until blood poured down his face in such alarming amount that even Luffy was yelling for him to stop.
Something hard struck the side of Zoro's head, causing stars to explode into his vision. Everything suddenly went dark.
Luffy didn't dare to breathe as their chance to escape came and went on the edge of a knife. The cell keys dropped to the ground and Luffy's heart dropped with them.
It hurt not to be able to help, even just to defend himself. Luffy hated the seastone bars against his back and the cuffs binding his wrists. At his level, even that wouldn't normally be enough to stop him. But this place was different. The walls, the floor, the ceiling; it all gave off that same sickening aura of the cursed rock. There was just too much of it. Luffy's body was overwhelmed.
The drugs pumping through his blood didn't help. Luffy grit his teeth as he fought to stay awake. He was dimly aware of the knife being withdrawn. These guards would have been a cinch to take care of under normal circumstances. They weren't anything special, not like his crew. Any other time, Luffy could have taken them all down with one Gomu Whip. It was almost embarrassing to be held so easily. Luffy's head fell forward, his neck suddenly unable to support it.
Zoro should have just escaped without him. Zoro could have gone and freed the others and then come back for him. He wouldn't have wanted to, but he would have gone. (Captain's Orders was a play the swordsman always folded to.) Too late for that now, Luffy thought, his vision starting to fuzz pleasantly at the edges. He snapped back to the present upon hearing one of the guard's pained screams.
Luffy forced his gaze sideways, his head almost too heavy to move. The guards were back up and currently tossing Zoro around roughly. Luffy's mouth pulled into a thin line and he silently vowed that those guys would see the business end of his fists before all was done. He watched as Zoro got pulled up and thrown against his cell. Luffy felt the bars behind him shudder. He couldn't see Zoro's face from this angle. Was Zoro okay? Was he mad that Luffy got held hostage? He didn't want Zoro to be mad at him. Luffy frowned. It was getting harder to think… he just wanted to nap….
A second impact rattled the bars with much greater force then before. This time it wasn't the guards' doing. Luffy's eyes widened, the drug-induce fog lifting abruptly. He could only stare in shock as Zoro hurled himself against his prison with single-minded violence.
Any warmth Luffy would normally feel at the swordsman's regard fell away at the sheer savageness of his actions. Standing there, watching his mate injure himself in an attempt to reach him, felt like the worst torture he could ever endure. Zoro was trying so hard…. And all he could do was stand there. Luffy bit his lip, his chest heaving as he strained against his bonds.
There were more guards now, all trying to fight and force the swordsman down. Needles were stabbed into Zoro's arms and neck and legs, so many that Luffy wondered if it weren't dangerous to give a man that much of a drug. The guards had a good grip on him now but still, Zoro didn't stop. Watching Zoro's blood splatter across the floor as his head slammed repeatedly into the bars, Luffy found he couldn't take it anymore. He started screaming at the other man, not even knowing what he was saying, just that he wanted it to stop. He wanted Zoro to stop hurting himself because of him. He would rather just give up; he'd rather die than be forced to watch this.
In the end it took the butt of a rifle slamming against Zoro's temple to stop his rampage. Against that, and all the sedatives now in Zoro's system, his body finally gave out. Luffy was disturbed to find himself relieved.
"Luffy…." Zoro mumbled as he slid to the floor, his head leaving twin crimson streaks against the bars as he fell. Luffy discovered that he was shaking. His hands clenched so tightly it had strained the tendons with a stabbing ache. There were little half-moon cuts on his palms, dripping beads of blood that fell to the floor and merged with Zoro's own.
The men around them panted for breath. Some kicked at Zoro's still form angrily. But most stared in fear and horror at the bars to the Pirate King's cell. Because, underneath the gore, lay a spider web of cracks across the supposedly indestructible seastone. It probably would have killed him, but if given a few more minutes, Pirate Hunter Zoro might have actually busted through.
Why? Why had Zoro gone off like that? Luffy didn't understand. Zoro was steadfast: as unmoving as a mountain, even in the face of death. So why was this different? Luffy's chest felt tight and his eyes stung, as if his body knew what his head did not. He slid to his knees, despite the twinge of pain in his shoulders from the awkward angle of his arms. The guards' voices were a distant buzz in his ears, and Luffy had to force himself to pay attention.
"Shit. We can't take him out there like this." The lead guard cursed. Luffy watched grimly as a booted foot toed Zoro's head to the aside. The swordsman's face was a mask of blood. "We've got to clean him up."
"I'm not doing it," someone else cried. "That guy's crazy!"
"Relax." The captain barked. "It'll be fine as long as he's sedated. You three, take the injured up to get patched up. Come back with some more tranquilizers, and tell the doc not to be stingy with them. It took six shots for this guy to go down, I'm not taking anymore chances."
"What if he starts up again? He's a demon, there'll be no stopping him!"
"If he tries anything, shoot him."
Luffy's breath caught, almost choking him. He began tugging at his cuffs again, trying to squeeze ordinary flesh and bone through the gap in stone.
"But, our orders--"
"I'm aware of them. But I'm not willing to let myself, or my men, die merely for propriety's sake. If Roronoa Zoro attacks again, I'm ordering you to shoot him until he's dead. Now go rinse him off. They're expecting him at the square."
Luffy froze, that last sentence dousing him like ice water. He shot clumsily to his feet. "Wait! Where are you taking Zoro?" he demanded.
"Should we give the Strawhat another dose, Captain? Just in case?"
"Hmm, better to be safe…. Go ahead."
Luffy ignored them in favor of craning his head back to watch two of the guards lift Zoro's unconscious form and begin to drag him down the hall. A needle bit into his shoulder and he shrugged it away like a fly, whipping his head round to the opposite side as Zoro left his line of vision. The other guards filed away after them, none sparing Luffy even a look.
"Where are you taking him?" Luffy strained against his bonds, fighting against the blackness that was slowly overtaking him. His shouts echoed desolately through the empty corridor. "Stop! Bring him back! Zoro! ZORO!"
Zoro woke on his knees under a spray of scalding hot water. He was chained to a large rusty pipe, still fully clothed. His wounds stung under the assault and his skin had turned an angry red. Steam roiled around him before rising up into the high ceilings. The place was large and open; it looked to be some sort of communal shower, probably for the petty officers. Zoro tried to gather his wits about him, watching dully as the blood rinsed from his body and swirled slowly down the drain.
As much as the water burned, deep down Zoro basked in the feeling. After being shut in so long in that dank cave, he could only kneel there and soak in the heat. It was as if he hadn't known how cold he was until this very moment.
Because he couldn't move his arms to scrub himself clean, Zoro tilted his head around to let the stinging spray hit each side of his head until he felt most of the blood and dirt run out of his hair and off his face. His face felt like a swollen sponge and he knew that no amount of bathing would help the fact the he looked like he'd been put through a meat grinder, but he wasn't doing this for vanity. He had been held in a hole in the ground where the only toilet was a moldy bucket in the corner; truth be told, he was sick of smelling himself.
The water also helped wake him up, let him shake off some of the grogginess caused by the tranquilizer. Everything felt slowed down. Not the quickest thinker at the best of times, Zoro now had push his thoughts through his head one word at a time. He gave his chains and experimental tug. They felt dishearteningly sturdy. With the amount of drugs pumping through his system, Zoro wasn't even sure he could stand on his own, let alone run away. It looked like he could forget about escaping for now.
Where was Luffy? Did they take him too? Zoro hated not knowing. He wished whoever put him in here would hurry up come get him. The water wasn't getting any cooler and he was starting to feel like one of Sanji's lobster dishes. The steam felt suffocating and his legs were starting to cramp up from his awkward crouch on the hard ceramic floor.
Besides, he wasn't going to get any cleaner without a pumice stone and an industrial sized cake of soap. Most of the blood and soil had rinsed off his skin, but his once white shirt now looked like a mottled camouflage of grey and pink. Another set of clothes ruined. Damn it, he was sick of owing the wench money.
If this was all some big preparation for his execution, he wished they'd just skip the hygiene concerns and give him a nice last meal or (more preferably) a bottle of booze. The so-called bread they've been throwing them had tasted like old wood, and the water was so foul they might have been better off sucking the moisture off the walls.
Damn, he'd once went three weeks without food or water. When had he gotten so spoiled off that shitty Love Cook's food?
Had he been killed? What about the others? Were they dead: executed? Were Luffy and he all that was left? The thought caused something his chest to tighten uncomfortably. If that were true, Zoro thought darkly, he swore he'd get revenge. If he had to he'd tear this island apart until not a single marine was left breathing.
No. He couldn't do that.
That job would belong to his captain. But he'd definitely find a good spot to watch.
Zoro had stared death in the face many times, had seen his friends suddenly pull out of situations where they'd stood just a hairsbreadth from dying. Death was no stranger to any of them, since even before some crazy rubber kid pulled them all together to become pirates. But this kind of death, being coldly and systematically exterminated, it just wasn't right. Not for them.
Luffy didn't want to die. He knew the others felt the same, if they were still alive. And Zoro needed to survive long enough to keep it from happening. If it wasn't too late. If he hadn't already failed…
But Luffy was still alive. That fact alone was enough reason to keep on breathing.
A door opened behind him and Zoro twisted around to watch a single guard step in. The man met his eyes uncomprehendingly until something evidentially clicked. Looking like he'd seen his own ghost, the guard whirled around and flew back through the door, screaming 'he's awake!' at the top of his lungs. The door slammed closed behind him.
Zoro spent a few more minutes in silence, his fingers slowly pruning under the spray. When the door opened next Zoro counted no less then fifteen heavily armed men, each one struggling not to be the first one into the room. When they finally filed through, one last figure walked in, standing out from the others by the long white overcoat he wore. The man also happened to be carrying a bloody huge syringe that Zoro didn't like the look of one bit.
"Look," Zoro would have raised his hands in supplication had they not been shackled behind his back. "I swear I'll come peacefully. Just don't stick me again." It was starting to make him feel nauseous, Zoro realized as his stomach churned. One more shot and he might chuck up his boots.
In answer, fifteen rifles rose to point at various vital bits of his anatomy. Zoro sighed inwardly and tried to appear as non-threatening as possible, which wasn't too off the mark since he couldn't feel his lower extremities. But to judge by the tense faces staring down at him, even chained, drugged and soaking wet was too intimidating for a single squad of marines.
"We've got him covered, Doc," The head officer from earlier spoke up. "Go ahead and do your thing."
The doctor stepped forward, looking wary but curious. "I don't see how someone can just shake off so large an amount of sedative. But this here should be strong enough to leave him as docile as a kitten for hours. However I must warn you, Captain, such a potent cocktail could possibly stop the man's heart."
"I'll take that chance, Doc." The man stated grimly, taking too little time to think things out for Zoro's comfort. "The highest order of the World Government is sitting out there; we can't afford for this guy to go ballistic. They want him conscious for questioning. We just want him not to be a threat."
"As you wish."
The doctor approached Zoro carefully, like one would a wounded tiger. The needle was held at ready as the man murmured a soothing string of nonsense. Zoro jerked against his restraints, his fight or flight instincts overriding his common sense (which pointed out that it probably wasn't the best idea to shake up a bunch of trigger-happy marines that didn't care if he died right then and there). Despite his nerved-up fidgeting, the needle didn't miss its mark and smoothly pierced the thin skin on the inside of his elbow. Zoro didn't even feel the prick, but he hissed as the liquid burned through his veins and sped its way upward to his heart. Any relief Zoro might have felt at not dying instantly was dulled as the drug quickly took affect. The needle hadn't even left his arm before the room blurred and spun before falling away into darkness.
Vivi was trying hard not to cry. This past week had been some sort of nightmare. One by one she had been forced to watch her dearest friends get verbally crucified. Chopper, Sanji, Usopp, Nami; they had all been dragged out and cruelly interrogated. Each word was a poisoned dart, aimed to be as painful as possible. At the end of the day her friends were dragged away, their faces scarred and haunted.
Vivi's lower lip was bruised and scabbed from biting it just to keep from screaming. These were her dearest friends; they saved her country. They didn't deserve this. It just wasn't fair. It just wasn't right.
She wanted to stand up and fight, to tear down this foul city brick by brick until she had freed each and every one of the Straw Hat crew. Together with Chaka and Pell she could fight off the enemy long enough for her friends to escape. Biting her nails to the quick, Vivi sat and formed plan after plan, but in the end did nothing. She couldn't.
Her people. Just thinking about her people stayed her hands. Her country had just finished being rebuilt after war nearly tore it asunder. People were finally picking themselves up, forgetting who was rebel and who was royal and living together as a people united. It would be cruel to make them suffer through another war, no matter how righteous the cause. Because that's what Vivi would be doing if she stood up now. Instead, she sat and she watched and she hurt for every friend that was dragged forward for this mockery of a trial.
And this, this was the worst so far.
Roronoa Zoro. Mr. Bushido: A man willing to cut off his own feet in order to keep on fighting. The man who took down over one hundred Baroque Works bounty hunters; who single-handedly defeated Daz Bones, the murderer working directly under Crocodile. A man, strong and honorable. A friend, brave and true.
A man, now beaten and bloody, sitting in a boneless heap, unresponsive with his head bowed and shoulders slumped forward. What had they done to him? This was not the man she knew.
But wait. Zoro's head had just risen up in response to some question. Vivi hadn't even heard what it was, too immersed was she in her own thoughts. But it had gotten a reaction from the swordsman, however slight. Vivi prayed that the flicker of fire she saw in his eyes wasn't just her hopeful imagination. She sat there, fists clenching the fabric of her skirt. Vivi studied Zoro's face with sharp eyes, searching for some sign, anything that would tell her he hadn't given up. They asked him one last question --she paid attention to it this time-- and Zoro's lips moved ever so slightly. No sound came out, but Vivi remembered enough of her training as Miss Wednesday to read what everyone around her had missed.
Tears sprung to her eyes and Vivi had to bite the back of her hand to keep from breaking down. She got her answer. And though it broke every childlike fantasy she had secretly harbored, she found her reassurance. Love always found a way, whether it was love for a single person or an entire country. She would wait quietly on the sideline, have faith and believe in her friends.
But, Vivi wondered to herself as they came and hauled Zoro away, was her faith strong enough? Would her heart hold steady, would her sense of duty hold firm, when Monkey D. Luffy knelt before her? Looking at him, could she really do nothing?
Zoro knelt, his legs unable to hold him. Daylight blinded him, burning colored afterimages into his eyes. He couldn't move, couldn't think. The heat suffocated him. His only respite came from the crisscross of shadows that draped over him. Shadows from a platform made historic when Gol D. Roger breathed his last.
There was a table in front of him. People sat around it, foggy and indistinct. They were talking, saying things Zoro couldn't hear. He could tell by the tone that they were questions. Directed at him, most likely. But he couldn't understand them. Zoro felt someone's gaze upon him. It felt different than the rest; a friend, maybe. Zoro was too tired to tell. He knelt, staring at the ground and willing the blurry grey surface to focus into dust and rocks and broken cobblestones. Slowly, the muted voices around him began to make sense as well.
It was hard to keep track of what the voices were saying. It was like they were speaking a language he was barely fluent in; just one waver in his concentration and the meaning of the words were lost on his drug-addled mind. Even when given a question, Zoro couldn't answer aloud. His tongue felt nailed to the roof of his mouth. His vocal cords may as well have been cut. His body was virtually paralyzed, with nothing to latch on to but the rocks below him and the voices reaching his ears. But their questions stirred something within him and, even if he couldn't speak, Zoro's heart recited the words.
"Why do you fight?" a solemn voice asked.
I made a promise…
"You--" the voice broke or Zoro's concentration did, rather. He forced himself to pay attention. "--once a bounty hunter. Why turn pirate?"
…To be the strongest…
"You've—atest swordsman. Why do you fight?"
The voices had turned harsh and demanding. "Why continue this path?" they asked.
Thinking of the man sitting back in those caves, whining for food and talking glibly of death, Zoro found the strength to raise his head. His eyes focused waveringly upon the execution platform, silently promising that Luffy would never meet his end upon such a thing.
"Roronoa Zoro, why do you continue on?"
Zoro's mouth moved, still no sound came out. But, somehow, it felt like enough.
There was a chorus of frustrated voices around him, yet Zoro ceased to pay attention. He would save his strength, bide his time and then, make his move.
"He refuses to say anything," said one voice.
"He's too far gone. You young fools were too generous with your needles," spoke another.
"It doesn't matter." A different voice rose up from the din. "His day draws near."
"You're right. Take him back to his cell."
Zoro was pulled away, dragged as dead weight across the ground. His ears caught one last thing, however, from a voice that sounded as old as time and yet still strong and full of dark power. That one sentence, although he'd been prepared for it, threatened to tear his whole world apart.
"We execute the Pirate King tomorrow…"