Disclaimer: I don't own One Piece or any of its characters.
"Silence makes the real conversation between friends. Not the saying but the never needing to say is what counts."
- Margaret Lee Runbeck
Silence Is Golden
It didn't make any sense. At least, not to Coby. They had known each other for less than an hour and had conversed with one another for less than a few minutes and yet, they were willing to risk their lives for the other without a moment's hesitation.
How Luffy had known Zoro was a good person still puzzled Coby for the days, weeks and years to come. There was absolutely no proof that guaranteed that Zoro was a good person, if not obliging enough to even listen to Luffy. If anything, most people see Roronoa Zoro as a bloodthirsty, savage pirate hunter and swordsman, who was a demon in the form of a man, and who was currently detained in a Marine base. People feared his name, trembling at the mere mention of it. Even pirates, the barbaric criminals of the sea, quivered whenever they see a dark green cloth tied around a head and three swords resting casually at his side.
Yet, Luffy automatically wanted Zoro, without knowing whether the pirate hunter would betray him at first chance or try to kill him within attacking distance, to be the first one in his crew. And Zoro didn't disappoint. With Helmeppo holding a gun to Coby's head and Morgan ready to strike his ax behind on a seemingly unsuspecting Luffy, there didn't seem to be a chance that either one of them would live.
There was no signal, no indication, no command, simply no possible way for them to communicate in that period of seconds. Zoro promptly dealt with Morgan while Luffy knocked Helmeppo away and complimented him as if he had knew all along that his new crew mate would help him out. Besides, Roronoa Zoro doesn't take orders from no one.
But because of their silent communication, he lived.
He gnashed his teeth against the steel bars agitatedly, tasting the horrible metal flavor in his mouth. They were in a tight spot. Luffy was chained and locked up in a cage. Zoro was injured, stabbed by Buggy in an unfair attack. Nami was cornered by the laughing pirates with murderous intent. They were outnumbered and surrounded. So he, as the captain of their current crew of three, made the decision.
" Run away Zoro!" he yelled.
Zoro spun around, surprised. Nami was stunned too, mouth agape. Buggy's pirates laughed harder. How can they run in this situation? They were trapped in the worst possible place to be with pirates. It was understandable though. Pirates everywhere abandoned their crew, escaping to save only their life, leaving comrades behind in the dust, forsaking the weaker ones to the hunters. It was common for a pirate to do so. It was how they survived in this world.
However, it was not what Luffy meant and thankfully, Zoro got his message. So when Zoro ran towards the cannon, heaving it in the direction of the momentarily stupefied Buggy and his crew, shouting at Nami to light the fuse, no one expected it.
Red. It was everywhere. Splattering on the wooden planks. Dashing in the water. Spewing from Zoro's chest. And currently, all he could see.
Luffy had clenched his fists, nails biting into his skin, forcing himself not to interrupt the battle between the swordsmen, one of them being his friend. Muscles taut, he grabbed Johnny and Yosaku from leaping into the battle, even when Mihawk mocked Zoro and Zoro got stabbed dangerously close to the heart. Inwardly, he wanted to beat that man to a pulp for insulting and hurting Zoro but if he did, Zoro would never forgive him.
But all that changed when Mihawk delivered the final blow. The killing blow. Everything slowed down. Zoro's body fell backwards in a graceful curve, hitting the water in a quick, fluid motion and blood - Zoro's blood - gushed forth. There was something wet on his cheeks. Whether it was merely seawater or tears, Luffy didn't care. A terrible rage engulfed him and he channeled all of it on nothing else but the man who took Zoro's life.
He screamed, both curses and a battle cry, charging forward with intentions to hurt, to maim, to kill. Mihawk, however, easily evaded his attack and he crashed into the wooden planks. Just as he unstuck his head from the planks, the man told him that Zoro was still alive and then, Luffy spotted Johnny and Yosaku pulling an unconscious Zoro up onto the boat. Mihawk was saying something but he didn't pay attention. He was too focused on Usopp putting medicine on the nasty crimson gash stretching from Zoro's shoulders to his waist. Then -
A trembling sword was raised in the air.
" Lu...Luffy, c-can you hear me?"
It was barely audible, a whisper, hoarse and faint.
He waited, confused.
" I'm sorry for making you worry about me."
Why is Zoro telling him this?
" If I can't become an invincible swordsman, you will be worried about me, right?"
It didn't make any sense.
" From now on, I won't lose to anyone ever again!"
Luffy knew all of that already.
" Until I can defeat that man and become an invincible swordsman! I won't lose again! Forever!"
He heard Zoro clearly the moment his sword was lifted.
" Do you have any problems, pirate king?"
Why was Zoro telling him a second time? This time with words? He suddenly grinned, understanding. Zoro knew Luffy had heard him but now, he wanted everyone to hear his promise. Let those present be his witness. Let the entire world and everyone in it hear his declaration. He was going to be the greatest swordsman and no one was going to stop him.
That same day, Luffy also made his own vow. He won't let anyone prevent Zoro's dream from happening. After all, a pirate king needs the greatest swordsman by his side.
He was drowning. The burning pressure of the water choked him, his lungs bursting for air but receiving none. He sank to the bottom of the ocean, his rocky anchor dragging him there. Pain was shooting through his chest, like someone was repeatedly firing bullets at his chest. He fought to hold it out, to stay conscious. If he didn't stay awake, then he really would die. And it was not his time yet. He had to beat Arlong! For Nami!
Gradually, Luffy was getting really tired. He wanted to yawn, but even his mouth wouldn't move. His whole body felt really sluggish and heavy. The water dragged him downwards, till his body was resting against the rocky bottom of the sea, hair and clothes swaying. In the cold quiet, he could hear his heart beating frantically while his struggling lungs clawed his chest for air. Somewhere above the hazy blue, he could hear Zoro's voice, surprisingly loud as if he was right next to him, a warm sigh at his ear.
Hang on, Luffy ... I'm coming ... Wait for me ... Don't die ...
Luffy relaxed, the throbbing in his chest dwindling slowly. Zoro said he was coming and he was coming. He wasn't one to back down on a promise. Especially with what happened with Mihawk not too long ago. Zoro would not let him down.
Even if he was hacked to pieces, Zoro will come.
Despite a fever that could kill him, Zoro will come.
Albeit he has one foot in the grave, Zoro will come.
Zoro will come.
That was what Luffy kept telling himself as the strange exhaustion and darkness carried him away.
If Zoro had bothered to count, it hadn't really been that long since he had met Monkey D. Luffy. A few weeks, maybe a month. Nothing more than that. Yet already, Luffy trusted him mainly with two things: one of them being his life and the other most importantly, being the straw hat.
That hat was Luffy's very soul all wrapped up in a small package: it may be small and seemingly insignificant but it carried a great prestige in it, the will of the future Pirate King. It represented the promise between Luffy and his idol, Shanks. To become as strong as Shanks and a crew just as great. To become the King of Pirates. To find One Piece. He too knew the importance of a promise with a friend and the weight carried over to the object symbolizing their promise. So Zoro would do anything to protect that hat, for it was important to Luffy and thus, important to him.
Whenever that straw hat began to fly away from Luffy's head, whether willingly or unwillingly, Luffy doesn't fuss over the matter too much if Zoro was around him. Because as soon as that hat started its elusive dance, Zoro can hear his captain casually telling him, " Make sure you catch my hat, Zoro!"
If some situation occurred and Luffy fell to some sort of body of water, he doesn't shout and panic. Because even as the murky sea dragged him down, Zoro has already listened to Luffy's cheerful request, " Don't forget to save me, Zoro!"
He swore to himself, to his very soul and to no one else, that he would never let Luffy, the future King of Pirates, down.
The water was rising considerably, now up to their thighs. Probably within minutes, it would be above their heads. Oddly enough, Luffy wasn't panicking. Well, logic and common sense said that he should be, since water was the only thing that made him vulnerable and weak. He saw that Zoro was calm, not a flicker of worry in his eyes. In fact, Zoro seemed to be enjoying fighting the multitudes of vicious Bananadiles. Which made him enjoy his brief brawl with the weird bananas of a crocodile.
However, their delight was short-lived as the walls shuddered and snapped, water greedily entering into the room. Sanji shouted a warning and the ceiling came crashing down, blocking their only road from a watery grave. A shot of water burst through, nearly overwhelming them all, including a certain, stoic marine captain.
" Hey Zoro!" Luffy waved a frantic hand at his first mate, insistently trying to catch Zoro's attention. " Help him!"
It was undoubtedly who him was. " Nah, leave him." Zoro shrugged indifferently. "He's the enemy."
" If you leave him, he'll die!" The expression on Luffy's face was surprisingly one of concern and urgency. " He can't swim!"
He rolled his eyes at the idiocy of his captain. " Uh yeah, I know that."
Luffy's smile then became more pronounced. " Then, go get him."
Sighing, not one bit happy, he dragged his feet over the waters to find Smoker, who was just itching to lock them up in a nice, cozy prison cell. Didn't Luffy know that? Or maybe he knew that, but still wanted to save that man anyways. Luffy's mind worked in weird ways to begin with. Nevertheless, a captain's order was a captain's order, whether he liked it or not. As Zoro stomped over to get Smoker, Usopp raised a quizzical eyebrow and Nami frowned.
" What are those two doing? They've been staring at each other for two minutes straight without saying anything ..."
As Luffy had expected, the first hit was just the beginning.
Bellamy's first mate joined in the fun, promptly punching Zoro in the gut, delivering a hammering blow to his back, sending the man sprawling to the ground. Laughing raucously, he proceeded to kick his victim some more, digging his boot hard against the man's back, determined to snap his spine. Bellamy grinned wildly, tongue wagging excitedly out, as he grabbed the front of Luffy's shirt, swinging him into tables, chairs and the already smashed bar, slamming him onto the shards of broken mugs and foul-smelling beer that had been deposited by the jeering crowd. He could feel the fragments of stabbing glass piercing his rubbery skin, his blood beginning to ooze from the cuts.
Glancing sideways from the floor, he could see that Zoro remained where he was, rubbing his cheek where a filthy imprint of a boot was etched onto his face. Their eyes met briefly. Luffy stared strenuously into Zoro's eyes, as if his eyesight alone could apologize for the damage done. He hated seeing Zoro being burdened with something as trivial as this matter. For every injury that Zoro endured, he winced at each one, taking the pain like it was his own.
" Look at them!" Bellamy guffawed, slapping his hand on a nearby table, almost overwhelmed with mirth. "They must be that scared to death if they aren't willing to put up some sort of fight."
" At least they know when they're fighting a losing battle," his first mate chortled, kicking Zoro hard in the face, grimacing at the flecks of blood on his boots. " Urgh, the filth is bleeding all over me. I better hope that his daydreaming doesn't infect me too."
Ignoring the gleeful snickers, Zoro grunted and pulled himself up, blinking blood out of his eyes from the gash on his forehead. In the briefest of seconds, he jerked his head towards his captain, shrugging. No less proud, Luffy stood up, casually flicking the glass pieces from his shirt.
The bar erupted with a roar of laughter. " I don't believe this! I don't think I've ever seen such fools before," Bellamy wheezed, clutching his chest. " Most would have tried to run but hey, it's your decision." Swiftly, he spat impudently on Luffy's face before backhanding him, laughing louder as Sarquiss whisked out his infamous daggers, digging them sharply against Zoro's throat, sneering and taunting.
Again and again, Luffy and Zoro got up, only to be faced by more insults and mockery. They fell and rose, hearing Nami's desperate shouts for them to fight back. But they refused. There was no point fighting people who have no dreams. It would just be a waste of their time. Those kinds of people weren't even worth a beating.
And both of them knew it.
It was only natural that the first person Luffy noticed was Zoro near the gigantic hole not too far from him. The smell of burnt skin and hair nearly made his stomach turned and it merely made him angrier that it was one of his nakama that the horrible scent belonged to.
Zoro was one of the strongest people he had ever known. There seemed to be nothing that could possibly take down the swordsman. Even when nearing death, Zoro took down opponents, who were, more than often than not, much stronger than him, whose shocked expressions were all that they could convey before they fell into a crushing defeat, their last thoughts wondering how they could be so easily overwhelmed by such a person. Whenever Luffy wanted something done, Zoro would have it done, no matter how insane or impossible it was.
Undoubtedly, Zoro was someone Luffy could always rely on. He was Luffy's silent shadow, trailing after him wherever he chose to go, always there, always with him. He never questioned Luffy's crazy antics or his ideal "solutions" that would have most likely and assuredly killed them all if they were normal - then again, none of them were normal to begin with, being in this crew. Somehow, he had the strange ability to notice which stunts of Luffy's were going to work or not, which exploits of his were just for fun or the ones that were serious (in which the rest of the crew can be thankful for). Zoro explicitly followed Luffy, trusting him, listening to his commands, even if he didn't wanted to or thought them silly.
There were numerous times when people questioned whether Zoro, as powerful as he was, was not the captain and the supposedly dim-witted boy beside him was. It was hard not to admit that they were two different people, one being so nonsensical and the other being so stoical. But it was their differences that made them so formidable together. Many, including the remaining crew members, can vouch for the terrifying might and strength shared between them. They were polar opposites yet they were inevitably tied to one another. Zoro was Luffy's composure, his equal, his moon for the darkest nights, and Luffy was Zoro's insanity, his inspiration, his sunshine when the clouds wouldn't let up. Without the other, the balance will collapse and fail.
He gently laid Zoro down. Rage boiled within him, robbing him of his sense and reason. Fists shaking, teeth gnashing, he stood to find the person who did this to Zoro. He will find them and he will make them pay dearly.
Zoro shifted on his unfamiliar bed, the blankets and pillow rubbing uncomfortably on his skin. He preferred his favourite spot on the Going Merry, wanting to stretch out on the sun-kissed wooden deck or underneath the hazy shades of Nami's tangerine trees, though he knew that would be impossible to wish for that anyways.
Had it really been only less than a day when they arrived at Water 7, the city of water, happy, cheerful and in high spirits like usual? But everything came tumbling down hard too soon. Going Merry was discovered to be dying, unable to carry them on any further. Robin had disappeared, no sign of her left in this world. Their money, their hard-earned gold plundered from Skypiea, was stolen and Usopp paid the price of a humiliating defeat by the Franky Family. And at the news of Going Merry's approaching death, he left the crew, challenging Luffy to a duel and along the way, suffering another downfall, this time, in the hands of his once-called friend.
Now, here the remaining Straw Hats were resting at a hotel, with no ship nor home to go to. Nami ordered one room for herself, one for Chopper and Sanji, and finally, one for him and Luffy. Since the battle, neither Luffy or Chopper said nothing, pulling their respectable hats over their eyes, barely nodding a good night as they obediently headed to their rooms, filing there without a word.
Craning his head, Zoro caught a glimpsed of black hair with the straw hat covering the better part of its master's face. In the deafening silence, he could hear the stifled sobs of his captain. The battle with Usopp had taken a great toll on Luffy. Probably because none of them expected one of their own to leave them just like that. No one expected Usopp to snap and boldly confront Luffy of all people. Zoro rolled over to the side, staring listlessly at the dreary wall facing him, to give the boy the illusion of privacy as to not wound Luffy's pride.
Suddenly, the side of his bed creaked and lowered and he could feel a warm weight leaning gently against him. Surprised but not shocked, Zoro peered over his shoulder. Luffy was curled up beside him, his face pressing into his back.
The silent murmur breezed through the room, brushing over its motionless occupants. A hand gripped his shirt tightly, almost desperately. Zoro merely turned his head back to the depressing wall that mocked him so. As minutes lengthened, the snivels dissolved into quiet breaths, warming at his back, Luffy's hand never once releasing its grip on his shirt.
Even if he couldn't completely ease Luffy's pain, the least he could do is pretend that he didn't hear a thing.
Of all things, Zoro hated to wait. Waiting was a near torture for him. Time was the one enemy that he could not cut or slash, an opponent that would defeat and humiliate him each time they confronted one another. This was a force he could not win against, he realized, accepting the fact that no matter what he did, whatever technique or plan he came up with, time will inevitably not bow its scaly head for him.
He supposed it came with experience. He was forced to wait for during his capture at the Marine base, enduring the sweltering sun at the back of his head and neck, feeling the scorching rays seared against his exposed skin, burning them to a nicely tanned brown. Then, there were the days when it poured rain, soaking his clothes through, the cold seeping into his bones. But he continued to wait. Even when his stomach growled and ached for food, even when the bastard son, Captain Morgan himself and his marines laughed, kicked and spat at him, even when the minutes and hours crawled by too slowly, he waited.
Maybe that's why he was the one telling the others to stay where they were when Luffy fought on top of the tower, fists flying, rock crumbling, building collapsing. " Wait for Luffy right here," he told them, even though every fiber in his body ached to join the fight of Luffy against the pigeon guy.
However, as much as he wanted, that was not his battle to fight. It was Luffy's and Luffy's alone. All he could do now was wait.
But if it came to it, he would wait forever for Luffy.
He woke up.
He tried to move but his body screamed in agony. So he gave up trying to move. He stared above him at the ceiling that seemed so distant and blurry. It was unfamiliar, not like the wooden one in the Thousand Sunny. There was almost a dull roar in his ears, like a badly tuned radio, where certain things were louder than others, voices clearer than some. Blinking back the groggy fog that occupied his mind for who knows how many days, he tried to remember what had happened before he surrendered to the pleasant darkness.
His eyes snapped opened wide when he remembered. Thriller Park. Moria. Shadows stolen. Bartholomew Kuma. The pain. Hurriedly, he turned to a side, wincing at each excruciating movement, only to relax as soon as he spotted another pair of eyes gazing back at him.
For a few minutes, they looked at each other, green blurring into black. The silence lengthened and still, neither of them said a word.
Then, Zoro smiled.
Luffy also smiled.
And that was what really mattered.