Title: 30 Wounds
Author: roseveare
SUMMARY: Prompt #8 - Whipped. Because sometimes Luffy is also full of fail, and he really ought to face consequences for that more often than he does. Gen. 1000 words.
NOTES: 1000 word-ish ficlets from the 30_wounds lj challenge community prompt table.

8. Whipped

"He's through here," the under-priest says, subdued. He won't meet Zoro's eyes, turning too quickly to lead the way. "You can take him back now."

"You didn't ask them to go easy." Says it matter-of-fact, because he hadn't thought it a possible promise at the time.

"I... couldn't." Anguish in his old voice. They'd made a lot of friends here, before the incident.

"It's fine," Zoro grunts, sketching a dismissive wave. Not their fault. They all know whose fault it is. "He understands he screwed up." And if he hadn't before, he would now.

There are drops of blood on the elaborate tiles that line the corridor floor.

The swordsman doesn't know what he's expecting, but when he's led into the guarded chamber, things are oddly calm. It's airy and light, like the rest of the temple, and nothing like a cell. Luffy is lying on a bench, on his front, looking reasonably alert with his chin rested on one arm, the knuckles of the other in his mouth -- but pensive, not biting down. There's a thin white sheet draped across his back to hide the offensive marks from sight, but it's starting to spot with red.

When he raises his head to Zoro, his eyes are puzzled, pain a distant haze pushed to the back of them. "I thought it wouldn't hurt," he says blankly, "because I'm made of rubber. But it hurt a lot."

Zoro catches a corner of the sheet in his fingers and flips it over. Luffy grimaces and cranes his neck but doesn't flinch or make a sound. There's no need to count the stripes to know there are twenty of them, these people are good as their word. Each one is stark and clear across his captain's back. Whatever they used, they made sure it would mark rubber skin... because they'd know all about that. Their crew have been here enjoying the hospitality of this island all week. Welcomed by these people with open arms.

"Luffy..." Zoro sighs and sinks down by the end of the bench, leaning his arms next to Luffy's. "You're an idiot."

"Don't sit down," the miscreant protests, shifting. "'Cause I'm getting up. I'm gonna get up." He tries, arches his back slightly to gain the leverage to stand, then his mouth widens in silent agony and he slides back down again. "In a minute."

Zoro wraps his fingers in his captain's and holds him like that, forearm to forearm, attention sliding over and choosing to pay no further heed to the marks circling the slightly narrower wrists. And he sits quietly and waits, because the under-priest's still there, still watching, and the temple guards on the door might be the ones who doled out the punishment and they might also be the ones they all got drunk with the day before yesterday, and he doesn't want either himself or Luffy to give too much away.

It's impossible to articulate how unsettling this all is.

A few minutes pass, the silence awkward, until Luffy licks his lips, preparing to try again. "I think..." Gets his knees under him despite the curl of his back. "...That we should go." Slides his legs sideways off the bench, so awkwardly, trying not to show the pain. Plants his feet and wavers onto them, hair falling to shadow his face.

There's a sink in one corner. He crosses to it, mechanical lurching steps, and splashes water on his face. With his painted, crusted back to Zoro, he collects more water in his hands, raising them and drinking in audible gulps for what seems a long time. And when he turns again, his neck is straight. He picks up his shirt from a stool, but doesn't put it on. He's not hiding anything as he crosses to the under-priest, who lingers by the door, and bows his head and shoulders deeply without sparing the criss-crossed wounds. "I'm very sorry."

The priest bows back but says nothing. Zoro grimaces, and half-nods to the man himself as he follows his captain from the room.

He wonders why he follows Luffy at all, sometimes, and this occasion, like so many, has become a demonstration of both sides of the argument.

He gets further excellent view of Luffy's back as he's following it down through the crowds that still linger outside, near the rig on the temple steps, where most of them probably watched what he declined to and, recognising Luffy, they scatter to clear a path. Follows through the leafy avenues of the town, where the familiar faces react with shock, or start to call out to them, or turn away having heard the story in full. Follows, finally, down the grassy path to the bay where the Going Merry waits.

All the way, Luffy's shirt only dangles in his hand. He could easily put it on and hide his back from view. It's not the pain of cloth against torn skin that prevents him.

Finally, they're close enough to see the others. They've prepared for this, Chopper practically dancing on the spot with anxiety, bandages and supplies at his side, everyone else there too, waiting in their concern. The last of their curious or begrudging or apologetic entourage peels off as Nami hails them. The crew's expressions are all still a little shocked at the sight of their captain's dragging steps, even though they knew what was coming. Perhaps they still didn't believe these people meant to go through with it -- or understand that, as civilised, generous, happy and welcoming as the islanders here are, they made their rules to be obeyed.

Zoro turns to Luffy, but he doesn't need to voice the words on the tip of his tongue; "Next time, damn it, don't eat the temple offerings." Luffy's there first with his muted, "Sorry, Zoro." And louder for the rest, "Sorry, guys. I was stupid. I really made a mess of things."

"Luffy..." Nami begins, and she's the one that anticipates and runs forward to catch him, before Zoro can reach out, before Chopper can switch to heavy point. "Luffy." Her hands are fixed around the back of his slumped neck and below his waist, where the marks of the lash stop. Her legs waver under his weight, but all of the others are moving forward to help. "You idiot. Shut up and let us take care of your back."

...29 more to follow...