The Dream Prison
Luffy opened his eyes and saw a vast sea of stars in front of his eyes. Reaching up to make sure his straw hat was still there, he sat up feeling mildly confused. He was sure he'd fallen asleep on the deck of the Thousand Sunny, so why was he laying on a huge rock? The Straw Hats' captain blinked and looked around, wondering if one of his nakama had brought him here.
He noticed someone standing on the edge of the cliff nearby, hand on the hilt of one katana, but facing away. Excitedly, Luffy leapt to his feet and looked at the swordsman earnestly. "Zoro!"
Zoro turned around, one of his eyebrows slightly furled. "Oh, you're finally awake. You know you can sleep through almost anything?"
"Huh?" Luffy looked left, then right, oblivious to what the swordsman was saying. "Where did everyone go? I'm hungry. Where's Sanjii?"
"In town, with everyone else," came the cool reply, as Zoro crossed his arms. "We couldn't wake you up to tell you, but we stopped on this island to get some supplies."
"Supplies? Town?" Luffy scratched his head. "Island?"
"Like I said, you slept through the whole thing. Let's go meet up with everyone already. I'm starved."
The captain's eyes lit up at the very mention of a possible meal. "Me too! I need food. Which way's the town?"
"This way." Zoro uncrossed his arms and began to walk towards the line of trees nearby. "Hurry up or Usopp and Robin will eat everything."
The faint smell of grilled fish was beginning to waft through the thick web of trees and plants that blocked their way to the island's small town. With boundless energy, Luffy charged right past the swordsman and into the foliage, crowing happily. To think they were on an island they never knew was coming! There could be all sorts of fun and dangerous things to do here. As soon as his stomach was full, he'd start looking for something fun to do. He wondered if Nami was still on the ship.
As soon as he saw the orange glow through the trembling wall of leaves, he bounced into a warm, glowing community with an enormous grin plastered on his face.
The seawater stung her eyes as it came splashing up from the hull of the ship, but Nami was used to this by now. Under the brilliant rays of the midday sun, she sat cross-legged on the edge of the deck, looking between the map she had been working on, and the device on her wrist. The arrow was pointed just slightly to the right, but there were some really dark clouds on the horizon to the far right, and the wind was most likely going to carry them to block their path to the next island.
Possibly. The Grand Line had no predictable climate, and those clouds might just pop up over their heads in less than five minutes, but for right now…they seemed to be going the right way. There was no east or west right now, she just had to keep the ship going straight to skirt around the storm and then start arcing towards the island from another side. It might work.
Nami inhaled deeply and tucked the map away into her pocket. Another large wave crashed into the bow of the ship, sprinkling her with a little more icy water. In less than an hour, she would see if her prediction came true.
"Nami! Hey!" She turned her head to see Franky, apparently taking a break from his crafting, sit on the railing next to her. "You've been sitting here like this for some time. Keep it up and you'll get burnt."
"No, I won't let that happen," she replied, flashing a quick smile. "I'm just worried about those clouds over there. I keep thinking that if I wish hard enough, they won't get in our way."
"Yeah, that's quite a storm." Franky shielded his eyes with one of his huge hands. "Nothing you can do about it until it gets close. Then we'll aim the cannon at them, and…boom!"
She laughed a little. "Okay, you can try. But it's my job to try and steer clear of them." She could smell Sanjii's cooking wafting from below deck and her stomach rumbled a little. "Mmm, I smell fish. I wonder when lunch will be ready."
"Anytime for you, Nami-saaan!" came the muffled cry from below deck. Nami heaved a sigh.
Had to keep going…keep crawling. His fingers stretched out, clawing at the dirt as he pulled his body along. If he got up, the bounty hunters would see him and attack him all at once. Somehow he had to get back to the ship and warn the others about Mr. 13's group and their plan to sink the Thousand Sunny. He couldn't let them do that. Captain Usopp the Invincible wasn't going to allow anyone to destroy their new ship, or hurt his nakama! Even if he had to crawl there like this, on his belly, he would do it for the sake of his pride of being a man of the sea! This warrior wouldn't let a bunch of weak bounty hunters…get the ship…
The tall grass hid him from the hunters' sight. If he kept low, they'd never know he was there. It was all up to him now, to warn the others. Reach, claw, pull, rest. Reach, claw, pull, rest. His legs felt like liquid, like they wouldn't move at all because they were so paralyzed. The hunters must have wounded him, that was it…he couldn't stand up because they had paralyzed his legs. There was no way he could move faster when he was hurt. Everyone would understand when he got back. They'd thank him for putting his life on the line, praise him for being so brave…
He continued to crawl forward, scraping his nose against the ground. It didn't smell like dirt, for some reason…with a kick, he realized that he could smell the overpowering aroma of grilled fish. Damn those bounty hunters! They were getting ready to eat and he was just trying to get away from them…how could they sit there and be so sure of themselves? If only he could stand up and teach them all how much they should be afraid of the Straw Hat pirates, to prove how strong his crew was—but his legs wouldn't move. Slowly, ever so slowly, he'd get back to the ship. Those bounty hunters would regret attacking him like that, his nakama would avenge him for sure…
Finally, the top of the slope and the edge of the cliff. Usopp pulled himself to the edge to look over at the brilliantly sparkling sea, out towards the Thousand Sunny that bobbed up and down close to shore, and—
Something clutched around his heart. Not five hundred feet away from the peacefully rocking Thousand Sunny was another ship, a smaller one with a white sail with a skull-and-crossbones adorned with a straw hat…and it struck a painful and joyous chord in his chest all at once. He'd found the Thousand Sunny all right, but there was…there was…
It was the Going Merry.
He felt like he was being torn in two.
Crimson liquid mixed with the drenching downpour as the corpse of another attacker dropped to the ground. The pillars towering all around him blocked out all light from the moon or stars, but somehow it was so easy to see the shapes of his assailants. They loomed towards him like monsters basking in the midnight fever, sword glinting mysteriously as they pursued, one after another.
Zoro wasn't even breathing hard. Some of them were harder than others to cut down, but they couldn't possibly get past him. He stood in the middle of nowhere for this, and it was his dream he was protecting. If he didn't make it, then he might as well never go back to Luffy and the others. His pride, his reason for driving forward was on the line.
A shadow dropped on him from above, and he parried the edge of a sharpened blade with two of his katanas, gritting his teeth painfully around the third. He threw the man off of him and ducked under the sweeping arc of another sword as it appeared from behind. He quickly slashed the body of the back-attacked with his left hand and leapt after the first swordsman with fire in his lungs.
Another splash of blood struck the grassy plateau, and the second body dropped. Zoro scanned the silent horizon for signs of an army, or a legion. Someone was watching him—he could feel it in his gut. Curling his fingers around the hilts of his katanas, he remained perfectly still as he trained his senses on his surroundings. The lonely, massive pillars that stood around like the trunks of so many half-shattered trees were the only things in sight.
If he kept fighting, he would finally reach the man he'd been searching for. Every last swordsman in the world would either die or be defeated, and he'd take the title from his final opponent at last. It would be a long night. A cold night. Until he met them all, there was no way he could stop. The rest of his nakama were waiting for him on the ship, and they expected a true swordsman to return to them, not a powerless wannabe. He was starving…what he wouldn't give right now for a single grilled carp…his patience was wearing thin.
"Where are you? Stop hiding and fight me!" he growled into the rain-spattered meadow. The sound of shuffling grass returned and a tall shadow stepped out from behind a pillar.
The sound drove a cold spike into his back. Zoro went rigid in shock as the light with no source cast dimly across the long-limbed structure of a familiar skeleton. The permanent grin on his face drove the spike in further as his nakama paced ever so slowly toward him, his cane hooked around one arm.
"B-Brook…" His jaw loosened and his third katana dropped, the tip slicing into the muddy soil at his feet.
The skeleton's expressionless, bony face framed by the afro, now thoroughly soaked and dripped with bitterly cold rainwater, betrayed nothing. Instead, Brook opened his mouth again and there came the usually cheerful laughter, now so chilling and ominous. "Yohohoho…ho…"
Laughter filled the ship, from bow to stern, up through the sails and deep into the cabin as the crew danced around the deck, dancing and celebrating. The sound of Brook's violin accompanied by the even more upbeat singing of 'Bink's Sake' took up the background. Chopped didn't even remember what they were celebrating, but it was so much fun!
"Hey, Chopper! Catch!" The blue-nosed reindeer looked up and caught the mug just in time as it came sailing down. Usopp leaned over the railing in front of the kitchen, smiling broadly. "Woo hoo! Great catch!"
Chopper drank from the mug in three large gulps, feeling his stomach bubble and tingle with excitement. Suddenly, he was swept up from the ground by a pair of very stretchy arms and then he was sitting on top of Luffy's shoulders, bouncing around as the captain did a jig on the top of the cabin.
Robin stood beneath them, her arms crossed. She had an amused smile on her face, and her eyes were burning with joy as she watched the pair of them twirl around. Then she was grabbed by Nami, who began to dance in circles with her as the merry tune floated around.
"Hey! Sanjii, what's for dinner?" Usopp leaned his head back and asked the slightly open door. He took a deep whiff. "Oooh, smells like grilled carp! Guess what, Luffy? Fish for dinner!"
"Whoo hooo! Food, food, food! Food, food, food!" cried a happy Luffy, still holding onto Chopper's ankles. "Hear that, everyone? Sanjii's making dinner, Sanjii's making dinner!"
"Idiot, he always makes dinner!" Zoro pointed out, grinning from the spot where he'd collapsed to rest. He had bandages on as usual, and didn't feel like dancing around so much.
"Yohohoho!" cackled Brook. "So much fun! Everyone join in this next verse!"
As the voices of the crew rose up happily to oblige, Chopper closed his eyes for a moment as he spun around on the captain's shoulders, to listen to everyone singing. Spin, spin, spin…though he felt light-headed from all the dancing, he wouldn't trade anything in the world for moments like this. Here they all were, partying under the sunset with nothing to worry about but the clear sky and the next three days of smooth sailing.
Spin, spin…then Luffy stopped spinning. Chopper giggled for another moment, only to realize that he was the only one making any noise. His eyes snapped open, just in time to see a wide-eyed Usopp clutch the railing in front of him, until his tan knuckles were white. In just a few seconds, he began to lean forward…and fell off the railing, crashing limply to the deck below.
"Usopp!" The collective cry of shock came from all of the crew members. Brook's violin slipped and clattered to the ground.
Chopper didn't know how long it took for him to get to Usopp's side, but it took only a few heartbeats for the blood to run cold through the veins of the Straw Hats.
Brook opened his eyes, or rather tried to open them, succeeding only in regaining his consciousness. Of course, he had no eyes, so there was nothing to open!
Laughing at himself inwardly, the tall skeleton sat straight up in bed, recognizing the familiar indoors of the Thousand Sunny and all of the smells that accompanied it. He stretched out his arms, hearing his bones creak and patted his afro slightly, making sure it wasn't flattened or (loathe the thought!) missing. Then he reached over and plucked his hat from the table beside the bed, and put it firmly on top of his precious head of hair.
The oil lamp was still burning on the table, as well. What a short nap, he decided. It must be morning by now; time to do his daily routine—had to keep useful, after all. No sense in getting lazy when such a magnificent ship needed so much care!
Brook stepped into the hallway and looked both left and right. Hmm, no one around. If they went to the kitchen, surely there would Sanjii or Nami. He really felt like talking to his nakama right now…he tried to imagine the thousands and thousands of mornings he had awoken inside an empty ship, with no one to speak to at all. One pleasant word or two and he'd go searching for the mop and bucket…
He used a skeletal hand to push open the kitchen door, breathing in the lingering smell of a most recently cooked meal—fish of some kind—and prepared to startle everyone with a most joyous greeting.
The squeak of the kitchen door closing behind him gave the eerie silence an even more horrible twist. Not so horrible, actually. It was empty. No one sat at the table, and no Sanjii stood inside.
It made him feel disappointed, of course. He must surely be the first one on the ship to wake up, that was all. If he went up on the deck, someone would come out eventually. Holding his cane tightly in one hand, the musician turned around promptly and exited through the door he had just come through.
The steps leading to the deck weren't many, but as the doorway grew closer, he noticed that it was still rather dark outside. How could it be? He awoke just after sunrise each and every day, how did he possibly wake up sooner than usual? A dream, maybe?
As Brook climbed the steps, and emerged onto the deck, his bones began to weight him down. One, two, three steps, and he came to a slouched halt just in front of the main mast. Fog penetrated the air like a silent monster. Very slowly, the skeleton turned his skull to look around the ship. His heart was pounding in his chest…but then, he had no heart…! Skull…joke…
His empty eye sockets landed on the body of his first nakama, and the surge of relief and joy he felt at the sight quickly became a bone-shredding terror.
Then the fog thickened, rolling over him in a wave that seemed to steal the soul from his very body.
AN: Confusion is normal. No Robin or Franky sections…don't know their characters well enough. As for Sanjii…well, you'll see.