Revamped for the third and hopefully final time, here is Dark truth for all of my ever patient readers. The stories' setting has been changed somewhat – before the War and Ace's death.
I've always felt that this story had great potential when it came to me in a dream and this time I'm really going over the plot slowly, chipping away at my memory to recapture that feeling I had when I first created this plot. The only problem that has held me back from finishing it for this long is the original ending was very cliché and corny. I still don't have an ending line up, but hopefully this rewrite will spark some ideas in me.
To all my readers, please don't hesitate to get on my case about updating. It inspires me – so long as you handle yourself in a polite and proper way when you remind me I should be updating, I really appreciate it.
Chapter 1: Broken
It was far from silent upon the Sunny-Go that night. Soft waves slapped sloppily against the ship's hull followed by the faint hiss of sea foam evaporating at the contact. The wood's creak lilted out its own lullaby as it rocked atop the ocean in a gentle sway. It was peaceful, but far from silent. Luffy enjoyed nights like this the most. The moon illuminated a devilish grin upon his round face. He crept barefoot across the galley floor, shoes forsaken beside his bed in favour of preserving his stealth. Yes, on nights like these the ship masked any sound that might mistakenly escape him as he ventured further into the hallowed ground that was the galley. Sanji's traps routine traps lay discarded, defeated behind him and as Luffy stood before the Sunny's fridge in all its glory his fingers twitched in anticipation. His stomach gave a quiet growl. Its rumbling persuasion urged him on and he closed the gap as his hand took a firm grip around the handle.
A soft squeak of the floorboards froze Luffy in place. His grin sobered to frown mixed with disappointment and the dangerous, quiet anger only his enemies saw.
"Who's there?" he called. He didn't raise his voice, though his body half turned to face the darkness that shrouded the galley. Another time he may have been curious, playful with the stranger on his ship, but in the dead of night with his crew at rest Luffy's instinct cried protect. He received no answer, and for a moment wondered if maybe he'd imagined it. Robin was on watch after all, and his archaeologist had eyes everywhere. He waited a moment more before the tension in his body visibly drained and he relaxed once more, lips curling in an anticipating smile.
A hand suddenly found itself on the back of Luffy's neck and before he had a chance to register what it was doing there, Luffy's face made contact with the fridge followed shortly by his body as he was pinned in place. He grunted and flexed his muscles in an attempt to feel out his attacker's strength, but his hands were restricted behind his back in a vice-like grip.
The metallic scrape of a blade against the fridge drew Luffy from his analysis and he gazed cross-eyed at the sword that drifted inches before his neck before closing in on his rubber skin, the blade resting there. Luffy relaxed his body. They could slam his head off the fridge a thousand times if they wanted, but if he didn't play his cards right, his Grand line adventure might just end tonight.
His captor leaned his head down (Luffy could tell from the angle he was held at, that the other was taller) and his lips brushed Luffy's ear as he spoke, "Comfortable?"
Luffy's eyes widened, his rubber neck twisting at an angle that would have been painful for anyone else. That voice had been...!
As he laid eyes on his attacker he opened his mouth to speak, but a rough hand clamped over the bottom half of his face effectively silencing him. Calloused fingers squeezed the rubbery head aggressively.
"Now we'll see what kind of man you really are, Captain."
Zoro sighed, his gaze fixed on the dark waters the Sunny-Go sailed through. It was too quiet, with an air of tension that lingered throughout the ship. It clung to the deck and sails and walls like a thick, silent smog that was slowly choking them. The usual laughter and chaos aboard the Thousand Sunny was absent; it wasn't right. Zoro's expression softened as his eyes drifted to the side and rested on the slouched form of his Captain. He couldn't keep the concern from his eyes but Luffy either didn't notice or didn't care. Zoro assumed the latter.
A constant tremor shook Luffy's frame. Zoro had grown accustomed to it over the past weeks and didn't really notice it any more. As Luffy stood against the rail though with his hands sat upon the sturdy wood, he couldn't help but stare at the shake in his Captain's loosely balled fists. It felt wrong. Those hand had carried them this far and pummelled through rock and steel and bone without hesitation or doubt. The boy behind them now was a shell of the man he had been mere weeks before. Their light that eradicated all of their shadows and nightmares now found himself lost within his own.
Zoro had no idea just what happened that night, but Luffy hadn't been the same since they'd passed over those waters. They had faced many dangers since their journey started and a lot had been traumatising. Their battles and injuries had at time brought them to their knees, but Luffy's strength always pulled them to their feet once more and here before him Zoro's Captain seemed unable to carry his own weight and looked ready to crumble before his eyes. Zoro had never seen Luffy affected by anything this way. The rubber boy had always seemed so unbreakable and invincible. It was hard to see him like this.
Luffy's eyes drifted from the shadows his hat cast over them for a moment and Zoro realised he had been staring too long. He didn't turn his gaze away when their eyes met. He had been with Luffy the longest – he could read his fiery Captain better than himself, but Zoro had barely caught a glimpse of the pain and fear in those wide eyes before they retreated once more. It felt like a physical blow, the air escaped from his gut as Luffy shied away from him. One look between the two until now could hold an entire conversation, questions could be asked and answered without a single word and now Luffy had cut him off.
Zoro couldn't help but wonder if he'd imagined in the brief moment their eyes had met, the shame he saw shining there. Luffy was hurting inside and it was worse than any physical pain to now there was nothing he could do to put a stop to it. He wanted to grab the younger boy and shake him and pull him to his chest and hold him like a child and shout at him that he shouldn't feel ashamed for anything. They all had their moments of weakness. Luffy was entitled to his and they would guard him like he had them for as long as it took to recover from whatever he'd been through. He returned his gaze to the ocean.
A barely audible sigh escaped Zoro's lips and he swallowed thickly as he caught Luffy's flinch from the corner of his eye. It made him feel sick with a worry his blood boil with a fury and desire to kill the one who had caused this if only he knew who it was. It was two emotion he often controlled without problem, but seeing Luffy like this made them rumble dangerously below the surface of his skin. He was careful not to let it show. Zoro turned his eyes skyward toward the thick grey cloud that smothered the normally beautifully blue sky. It seemed as though the world mirrored Luffy's mood.
Luffy shifted his weight from one foot to the other awkwardly. The action snapped Zoro's attention back to his quiet Captain. He noticed the younger boys breathing had become slightly more laboured, a thin sheen of sweat coating the skin that wasn't hidden behind thick bandages. The pain medication had probably worn off. A swift scrutiny of the bandages themselves told him it was about time to change them.
"Oi, Luffy," he called softly and swallowed back the bile that threatened to rise as even that gentle call caused the boy the startle. Luffy's dark eyes lifted and struggled to acknowledge Zoro by meeting his eyes. Instead Luffy looked through him and focussed on his chest. Zoro continued regardless. "Don't you think it's time you got Chopper to change those bandages?" he asked.
Luffy visibly reacted to the question as though startled from deep thought and looked down at his body dumbly for a few seconds. He stared at the bandages as though he'd noticed them for the first time. Zoro knew better; every day Luffy looked at the bandages as if he'd never seen them before, almost as if he couldn't quite accept what he'd become as much as the crew couldn't. A moment more passed in silence as Zoro gave Luffy a few more moments before a mute nod was his only response. Luffy moved without further prompting and Zoro didn't miss the gap between them as the injured boy walked around him and towards the cabin without a word.
Zoro waited until he was sure Luffy was out of earshot before he released a quiet curse. With things as they were now it didn't look like their journey would be continuing much further. Luffy seemed to be in a permanent state of shock, constantly dazed and never quite there. He hadn't spoken a word since he'd woken after that night, not a single syllable. From Chopper's examinations it had already been determined that other than swelling and inflammation, there was no permanent or dire damage to Luffy's throat which could only mean Luffy's silence was voluntary.
With a grunt, Zoro pushed himself from the railings and started his search for Nami to find out when they would be docking. They had been a ways off shore from the island they'd last set sail from for a few weeks to give Luffy time to recover before making their next move. Now they were running low on supplies and had to make a decision. Normally Luffy would decide, but Luffy hadn't been doing a lot of things he usually did, lately.
As he walked across the deck Zoro almost felt the need to step lighter, as his footfalls sounded too heavy and loud on the unusually quiet ship. He stopped as he spotted Usopp seated by the railing at the other end of the ship and contemplated going to see if the younger pirate was okay; it was his responsibility after all as first mate when his captain was unable to do such things. He watched for a few more seconds before he decided against it. The marksman seemed in deep thought. He would take the time to talk to him later, but right now he had to find Nami.
As he climbed the stairs heading towards the galley, he noted the lack of people now on deck and called, "Oi, Usopp."
Usopp's head snapped up, startled and he looked around. "Huh?! W-What? What's wrong?" he asked as he spotted Zoro.
"I'm going in." Zoro answered, a silent request for the marksman to join him. It had been decided with no knowledge on whom or what had harmed Luffy that night, that the crew would refrain from wandering the ship alone. Usopp suddenly noticed his solitary state and quickly scurried up the stairs to join Zoro.
The two entered the galley together and it was only as he inhaled the first warm scents of the night's meal that Zoro realised how chilly it had been outside. A small optimistic whisper inside his heart wondered if perhaps Luffy's trembling wasn't from the cold, but his head knew otherwise. He spotted Nami sitting at the table and moved to sit opposite her. Nami didn't acknowledge his entrance as she sat with her head in her hands and her thumbs massaged circles into her temples.
"It'll take us a couple hours if the winds are good and we take the ship." she whispered wearily, already fully aware of what Zoro wanted to know. "A smaller group could go in the Mini Merry..." she hesitated then, "But, if they came back..."
Zoro nodded, though the navigator couldn't see him as her head was in her hands. He understood her concerns. If somebody could take Luffy out without alerting any of them then they had to be ridiculously strong or smart. Separating the crew may increase the risk to Luffy in such a vulnerable state, but taking him on land was just as risky. The decision ultimately fell on his shoulders.
"You want something to eat?" Sanji asked suddenly, quietly. His movements were slow and lazy, none of his usual enthusiasm and passion in the kitchen present.
"You've barely eaten in 3 days, idiot." the cook retorted weakly, an undertone of anger lacing his tone. "You'll be too weak to fight them if they come back. Have a fucking sandwich."
Sanji's tone lacked conviction despite his words. He wasn't about to make Zoro eat if he didn't want to, but Zoro knew he was right. An affirmative grunt was his answer and the cook quickly set to work and placed the small meal before the swordsman. Zoro slowly bit into the fluffy bread and filling, tearing away a small chunk before he sluggishly chewed. Sanji cleaned up what he'd used and moved to sit at the table with Zoro and Nami. Usopp joined them shortly after and the quartet sat in silence, each lost in their own thoughts. Zoro pushed the second half of his sandwich towards Usopp wordlessly. Usopp took it with a mumbled thanks and ate in the same fashion as the swordsman had.
Sanji frowned slightly at the fact that Zoro hadn't finished even that small sandwich. At the rate he was going he was going to make himself sick. That was the last thing they needed. They had Luffy to worry about as it was.
"Did you get him to eat anything today?" Zoro asked quietly.
"Not much, but at least it was something." Sanji replied as he struck a match and held it in front of the cigarette pinched between his lips.
"Do you think he'll keep it down this time?"
"I really don't know."
A soft sigh escaped Usopp's lips as he looked across at his crewmates.
"Is… he gonna be okay?"
None of his crewmates could offer him an honest answer, and none had the chance as the silence was shattered by cries for help from their doctor. The crew moved on instinct, the urge to protect their fragile captain pumping adrenaline through their veins. By the time they got there, Franky and Brooke had already arrived ahead of them. They restrained Luffy as best they could to control his violent thrashing. Chopper frantically rummaged through his medicine supplies in search of a sedative as Sanji and Zoro moved to help restrain Luffy so he wouldn't hurt himself. Even in this state their Captain was still physically strong.
"Is it another fit?" Sanji shouted across the room to Chopper.
"I don't think so...!" Chopper replied distractedly and cursed under his breath as his search came up empty.
Luffy's care over the past few weeks had been so frantic and intense that the infirmary looked more like a dump. Empty bottles and stained bandages lay strewn across the floor and Chopper had lost track of his important inventory of medical supplies. With no trips to shore he'd had no chance to restock either.
"He's delirious – it must be another flashback!" he called back to Sanji, tears pooling in his eyes at the sight of Luffy. "I've got no sedatives..."
"Shit!" Zoro shouted as he shifted his hold on Luffy, mindful of his injuries, so that neither of them would get hurt. "Isn't it bad enough he had to go through it once?! Why the hell should he have to live through it again?!"
"He's going to hurt himself if he doesn't stop soon!" Sanji grunted as he tightened his hold on the boy's arms. Franky and Brooke each held one of their Captain's legs securely as the crew worked together to prevent him from hurting himself as he relived the nightmare of that night.
Suddenly the thrashing stopped and Luffy's body tensed before he sagged like a ragdoll in their grip. The suddenness of it almost caused them to lose their grip, but after a moment when he remained still, his wide eyes wide open yet at the same time unseeing, they slowly lowered him to the floor. Robin, who had been helping to change Luffy's bandages when the flashbacks began, stayed beside Chopper, but offered assistance with her devil fruit as several disembodied feet walked a thin mattress over to the group to lay her injured ailing captain upon. Nami stood on Robin's other side. Tears soaked her face and sobs hitched in her throat as she watched the scene unfold, hands held over her mouth in horror.
As the crew released their hold on him, for a moment it seemed as though all the life had fled from Luffy. Franky swallowed thickly and resisted the urge to shake the boy. Instead he rested his oversized hand upon Luffy's chest. For a few tense moments it didn't rise or fall and then with a strangled gasp Luffy drew in a gulp of air and jerked away from the cyborg's touch. He rolled onto his side and curled in on himself, eyes half lidded and obviously exhausted. A collective sigh of relief sounded from the crew as the ordeal came to an end, but before they had a chance to relax, Luffy's body suddenly jerked again as he heaved, and then again. Zoro and Usopp's body's moved before their minds could stop them. Aside from Nami they had known Luffy the longest and so had been tending to his wounds and whatever assistance he might've needed after his attack. Gently but swiftly they eased him into a kneeling position and supported his weight by the shoulders and middle as Luffy's arms trembled under even his own weight unaided. With a final heave he emptied his stomach onto the wooden floor beside the mattress.
Zoro ignored the sick that splattered onto the fabric of his pants and kept a firm hold on his shoulders as Usopp steadied Luffy from behind. The rubber boy panted weakly and lifted his arm and grabbed onto Zoro's muscled one. Wearily Luffy slumped forward with a tired groan onto his first mates shoulder as his eyes fell closed but less than a second later he pulled back with a strangled gasp. Zoro tried not to flinch at the action; he knew Luffy didn't mean to do it but the fact was that whatever had happened that night had deep-rooted a fear in Luffy that penetrated even the close bonds and trust between his nakama. Physical comfort only caused him distress and he couldn't look any of them in the eye. Usopp tried to offer his own comfort with a gentle rub of Luffy's back, but his rubbery best friend shied away from the touch like an anxious cat, bending his back away from the touch. Usopp tried not to let the hurt show in his eyes as did the rest of the crew but Luffy turned away guiltily, still panting softly, head bowed miserably.
"It's okay, Luffy," Usopp muttered a little hesitantly. "Don't worry, you're safe."
"We'll protect you, Luffy-san." Brooke promised, solemnly.
Luffy offered a miniscule nod, though didn't seem convinced and didn't raise his head. The motion itself was more than they'd hoped for. Franky moved to clean the small puddle of vomit as Luffy gingerly eased himself down onto the thin mattress Robin had provided. Sanji walked over to his own hammock and grabbed the blanket lying there. He flicked it out and let the thin material float down over Luffy's body. He still seemed tense with so many huddled around him, and so slowly the crew eased back, though remained in the room on watch like silent sentries. After a few moments of deliberation, Brooke fetched his violin and offered a gentle, quiet melody for the room's occupants. The tune was neither sad nor happy, but peaceful. Luffy's breathing slowly evened out as he accepted the comfort the music offered and he slowly drifted into an uneasy sleep.
The crew quietly designated their own sleeping quarters in the infirmary. If Luffy wasn't sleeping in the cabin tonight, then they wouldn't either. They would stay by his side and protect him as they'd promised. Robin bloomed a pair of eyes in the watch tower to keep an eye on the dark, calm waters as the rest of the crew settled down for the night.
Thank you for reading. Any feedback is always welcome.