Title: Now Comes the Night
Pairing: ZoSan ... really... I need to try something else one of these days
Rating: PG-13 for swearing
Warnings: EH... blood... that's about it
Spoilers: Nope ... Unless... you don't know who Kuina is... but I don't think that will be a problem. XD
Summary: Eh... Inspired by a song... and I don't really know why... but GEEZ! Do you know how hard it is to have a plot bunny hit you at work and you're DESPERATE to write it, but you won't be off for 7 more hours!? XD Anywho... song by the same name by Rob Thomas. Go find it!! it's absolutely GORGEOUS!!
Warning: PRE-slashy - Zoro/Sanji
It was a freak thing really. There was no reason for him to have found himself so off guard. The Marines they were battling were nothing special. The island itself wasn't even that impressive. Well… except for the freakishly large ravine that cleft it in two. The freakishly large ravine they'd been fighting alongside for hours.
He knows he was fighting near the shit-cook. He's sure he was doing just fine. Nothing was impairing him, he hadn't even broken a sweat yet. Boring battle, really, when you think of it. He'd been about to take on another dozen Marines … maybe two dozen… the cook was spinning and kicking like a bloody whirligig behind him and … there was a pause. What was the pause for? Couldn't remember now.
One strong kick. One bulky Marine. One swordsman who'd somehow been caught unawares. He remembers being hit from behind by the heavy body. He remembers being shoved forward, nearly off his feet. He remembers starting to turn and curse at the shit-cook and his aim. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he acknowledges that there was a sound not unlike the crumbling of earth, but he paid it no heed.
Then he remembers the feel of air beneath him and the sudden gut-wrenching knowledge that he was falling. For a moment, though, it was like he had paused in mid-air. Paused just long enough to look over and meet the gaze of the cook. The normal steely blue of that one eye, usually so cool and collected, suddenly looked so stunned and … terrified. So much so that the falling man is not sure if it's the same blonde nakama he's looking at.
Then gravity was sucking at him, at the very core of him, and he was staring at the edge of the ravine getting further and further away. A desperate call of his name split the silence and he watched as a long, rubbery arm shot over the edge and towards him. Praise for his salvation was short lived when the arm and hand were suddenly snapped back and away.
Funnily enough, the only words that echoed through his mind at that moment were 'well' and 'shit'.
As the space around him seemed to darken, the man released a heavy sigh and sheathed his swords. Glancing to his side, taking notice of the walls of the ravine, realizing it was too far to reach, accepting his fate. Less than a minute to move through each emotion and settle on the idea of saving his swords.
A well placed throw of three beloved katanas and a green haramaki, and they were safely caught on an outstretched root and swinging back and forth as if waving goodbye to their plummeting master. Pleased with himself, he finally turned to meet the blackness rushing up to greet him.
There is no memory of pain. No recollection of the sudden stop. Just a slow to manifest understanding that his eyes were somehow open and he could make out the ravine floor around him. Dark, wet stones and dancing shadows greeted his gaze. Ground littered with undistinguishable clutter and currently painted with the bright red blood from his own body. There's a strange shape slowly making itself known before him and he has to focus all his attention on it to make out what it could be.
A pair of feet, bare and small like a child's, standing not two feet before his face. Odd … that a child, or anyone would live down here in this place. But his thoughts travel no further as the owner of said feet leans down to meet his gaze. He wonders if his eyes widen. Perhaps he even gasps … but at this point he isn't sure.
She looks exactly like he remembers her. Exactly as she appears in his dreams. Dark hair, and darker eyes, petite body on the edge of womanhood. She smiles so warmly at him.
"Kuina", he says. Or tries to … but can only hear the gurgling rush of fluid and breath leaving his mouth. She grins again and settles herself to sit before him. Patting his head once with her hand she leans forward, conspiratorially
"Zoro … why are you here?"
Because the shit-cook knocked me off a cliff.
Again, the words in his mind ring clearly, but the only noise in the echoing area around him is a rasping, struggling breathing that surely must be his own. She sighs dramatically and shakes her head.
"It was an accident … and that's not what I meant."
His mind is foggy and a little hazy at the edges, but he figures he understands what she means.
To be the best. To keep our promise.
The smile she bestows upon him now has such a warm emotion behind it, he finds himself a little embarrassed.
"You don't need to be the best in the world to keep your promise to me. That's not what would make me the happiest."
He blinks his eyes once and has a difficult time opening them again to meet her gaze. A little surprised that she's still there.
What … what would?
She closes her eyes and tilts her head back, as if basking in the rays of the sun, although they don't reach the stone floor of the ravine.
"To see you grow old. To see you happy. For you to live a complete life like I never could."
In his mind he scoffs the notion.
Swordsmen don't live to a ripe old age. Not how it works.
Her smile saddens as her gaze meets his again.
"I already died too young, Zoro … I don't want the same for you. You could find another way. I'm sure you could."
A heavy wave of nostalgia hits him then. This Kuina … this one … she is so much like her father. More at home and at peace with what life has dealt her. He wonders if that knowledge comes with death and moving out of the trappings of your physical body.
He supposes… he'll be finding out shortly.
"No … there are too many people who need you. Now isn't the right time for you to leave."
He thinks that he may have tried to smile, but he can't really tell if it was successful. Probably not, considering the sadness in her eyes seems to increase.
They'll be fine without me. Luffy's strong, he can protect them. They'll be fine.
She reaches down to put her hand softly against his forehead. A soft cooing noise rumbles from her throat and nearly startles him … as much as you can be startled with a body like a broken ragdoll. Her voice was soft and emotional … something he can't get his mind around. He's never heard her like this before.
"Zoro … I wasn't talking about protecting them … they NEED you."
He tries to close his eyes to escape her scrutinizing gaze, but his eyelids aren't responding to his request.
Kuina scoffs softly and moves away from him to sit at a distance more comfortable for him to see her. She cups her chin in her hands, props her elbows on her knees and grins knowingly at him.
She wiggles her eyebrows suggestively.
"What about love?"
If he could move, he may have laughed … or possibly had his jaw hit the floor.
She grins slyly again.
"Do you remember why you fell off the cliff?"
Because the shit-cook hit me with a Marine?
"Because you were caught off guard?"
Because I paused?
"And why did you pause?"
"Don't you remember what you were doing?"
"Don't you remember what you were LOOKING at?"
The … the Marines I was slicing up?
"The cook's ass."
… excuse me?
"Do you really not remember? You were checking out the blonde cook's butt."
… I …. Um….
"It was kinda cute, really, you blushed at little … like maybe you were thinking… impure thoughts? Eh, Zoro?"
I WAS NOT LOOKING AT HIS ASS!
"Were ….. TOO."
A deep weariness suddenly settles over him, and he realizes that for the last twenty minutes he's been arguing with a dead girl while his life blood was flowing out all around him.
For a dead person … you sure are annoying.
Kuina smiles sweetly at him … then her face turns serious.
"Funny though, I never figured you the kind to fall in love with another man … not that I think it's wrong. He's really strong. I like him."
"Oh, I forgot… you're both still in denial. Really… you men are so stupid."
I'm not the one saying incredibly stupid things around here.
She laughs softly and he wants to smile … he desperately wants to smile at her. No matter if she is a figment of his dying mind's imagination, or a god of death come to take him away … he is just really happy to see her.
His muscles, however, are not responding to his desires so he can only hope that perhaps the smile makes it into his eyes. That she can see it and know it for what it is. Kuina lifts her head out of her hands and wipes at her face. He can't tell if perhaps she was drying away tears. The clarity of his vision has been fading steadily, along with his body temperature.
She sniffles and clutches her own shoulders as if she is cold.
"Zoro, just a little longer … he's almost here."
His vision is sliding in and out of focus, although his eyelids seem unable to close.
Am I going to with you? Wherever you exist now?
She shakes her head slightly but he can't really make the motion out anymore.
Will I like it there? Will they let me have sake?
Kuina raises her head to stare at the sky above her. A rattling of stones echoes throughout the darkness.
"Almost here … hold on for a few more moments."
Can we spar there? I bet I can beat you now.
Her gaze returns to him. He thinks maybe she was crying again. Slowly she stands from her spot and walks over to kneel before him. Carefully she lowers her head to place a gentle kiss across his brow.
"I know you would."
And just like that … she's gone. Vanished right before his eyes so suddenly there wasn't even a displacing of the air around him. Blinked right out of existence in the dim ravine.
He doesn't have much time to consider this change before there's a mighty rumble of stones around him and two black-clad knees are sliding into existence right before his eyes. He's not sure what is happening until he hears the voice.
"S-stupid idiot… you better not be sleeping."
The words are followed by an awkward, stilted laugh that carries a hefty note of desperation with it. It sounds unnatural coming from the blonde, and the swordsman tries to lift his eyes to see what is wrong with the man … but they refuse. There is no more feeling in his body at all. No movement. He's not even sure he is still breathing, save for the fact that he's alive. Well, he's pretty sure he's alive.
A gentle touch on his elbow and someone is shaking him slightly. The voice cries out again, bouncing of the stone walls and dancing with echoes in the darkness. He almost doesn't recognize it as the cook's, so different is the tone of it.
"Shit. Fuck. Come on you muscle-brained moron… wake up… s-stop s-sleeping."
Another clattering noise greets him and a soft voice calls the cook's name. Inwardly, Zoro smiles. He's always held a fondness for the little reindeer-man.
How strange. Chopper's voice is broken with sobs and hiccups. He wonders why. There is a scuffle of some kind and he is once again being shaken by the cook's strong hands.
Really. What is wrong with him?
"WAKE UP, ASSHOLE! Wake up! What kind of fucking moron falls of a cliff!? HUH? What kind of goddamn GREAT SWORDSMAN falls off a fucking CLIFF!?"
Then the hands are gone and something warm, heavy and shaking suddenly collapses on top of him. For a moment he thinks that the cook may have possibly been crying … but quickly reconsiders. There was no way the other man would be crying over HIM. A ruined soufflé, perhaps, but definitely not a shit-for-brains moss-headed idiot.
Chopper's soft voice is close this time, and a small hoof gently grazes his hair.
"S-Sanji … there's no way someone could have… it was too far … we have to stop Luffy … he's going crazy … S-Sanji…we… we'll come back for Zoro … and … and find him someplace … nice… someplace …………….quiet."
Well … this is new. Perhaps he really is dead. But shouldn't he be floating above his body instead of still seeing out of his eyes?
"Just leave me here."
The voice is muffled and seems to vibrate throughout his body. The blonde must have his lips pressed against his back. He might have been able to feel them moving … if he could still feel something.
"Just … leave me here for a minute, Chopper. For a minute, then I'll be up and kill Marines and help stop Luffy, and figure out what we're going to do … but for a minute … just … just leave me here."
Another soft touch of a hoof across his hair and then a slow retreating of footsteps. The man lying across his back suddenly grips his shirt with both hands like it was a lifeline.
"You idiot. You asshole."
Sure, Kuina … love … listen to all that love.
"I can't believe you'd let yourself die like this."
M'not sure I'm dead, really.
"I can't believe you'd let a little fall end your dream of fighting Mihawk."
S'okay … Kuina said so.
"I can't believe …. I …. I can't believe it took something like this for me to realize…"
" … and now it's too late and it doesn't matter."
"… so who's the bigger fool, then? Huh, Zoro? You? Or me?"
The blonde moves away slowly until he is sitting on his haunches once again. He thinks the other man may be slowly moving his fingers through his short green hair, but he's not entirely sure.
"So what kind of luck do I have, eh? To realize there was something I wanted only AFTER I've lost it?"
Lost? Am I lost again?
"Not that I'd say this if you could hear me, asshole. Not that I'd ever admit this to you in person."
Oh … wait.
"Not that I'll ever get the chance now, anyway."
Wait … wait … wait.
"Probably for the best, huh? That you'll never know, I mean? Might've tried to kill me … call me a pansy, or some such shit."
Wait … this is important.
" … might've … might've decided to give it a go, though."
I need to respond to this. I need to let him know I hear.
"Might've admitted you wanted me, too."
The cook suddenly scoffs at his own rambling and moves to stand. He sniffles quietly and wipes his face with both hands.
Wait! Wait! Don't let him walk away. I've…wanted to hear this. I … I WANT this! Stop him! Stop him before the chance is gone forever!!
A surge of energy shoots through the prone man's body. He can't just lay here and do nothing. He can't just die here, now, when something new and possibly perfect is being dangled in front of his eyes. He can't just slip away into the nothingness. He's Roronoa Zoro, DAMMIT! He doesn't DO soft and silent departures.
The cook turns slowly on his heel begins walking silently away, with a defeated sag to his posture. The swordsman rages at his own body to move. To come back alive and let the blonde know he is still aware. He rages at himself to take this chance. He has to move! He has to call the man back!
It starts slowly as a rumble deep in his gut and moves up into his sandpaper throat. He manages to move his tongue enough to push the thick, coppery pool of blood out of his mouth to dribble down his bruised face.
The figure before him is still moving away at a steady pace. He attempts to swallow and work his throat enough to suck in a shallow gulp of air. It's accompanied by a gurgling noise that actually seems to reach the blonde's ears, because the man has stopped moving. He turns his head slightly backwards, as if waiting to see if the sound repeats itself.
The swordsman works his throat furiously, cursing his body for its agonizingly slow return to life. He takes another breath, this one a little deeper, and it is followed by a cough strong enough to expel more blood from his mouth.
His nakama's arms fall to his side in shock and his head whips all the way back to face him. Finally, he manages to close his burning eyes for a moment and feels his fingers twitch along the stone floor beneath him. When he opens his eyes again, the blonde is looking at him in utter disbelief. Motionless.
Slowly licking his lips and trying not to flinch at the horrific pain that is beginning to radiate throughout his body, Zoro meets the other man's shocked gaze and endeavors to whisper his name.
The ravine then echoes with the thunderous trill of another name being called.
X fin X
FYI - there IS a companion piece in Sanji's POV to follow ... eventually.