Author's Note: spoilers for up to chapter 582 of One Piece.
Disclaimer: I own nothing recognizable from One Piece.
Usopp was losing weight.
Not that this bothered him. He had definitely gained an unsightly amount of weight since reaching this strange island. It was a good thing that he was returning to his formerly thin self.
The problem lay in the reason why he was losing weight.
He couldn't eat. Anything he tried to bring near his mouth smelled nauseating. Anything he swallowed he regurgitated.
He asked the locals if he was sick. They showed him to a doctor, who remarked (in considerable surprise) that Usopp merely seemed to be under high amounts of stress—for no apparent reason.
Usopp's stories were choppy. No one listened to them like they used to, and even Usopp himself couldn't stand telling such half-decent stories. Even Luffy wouldn't have enjoyed such disconnected stories.
On the third day of his unexpected weight loss, after having spent an entire night with tearing eyes and sobs choking him for no apparent reason, Usopp made a monumental decision to leave this strange yet wonderful land. He had comrades who were waiting for him—searching desperately, no doubt.
If anything, that had to be the source of his stress.
With that decision, Usopp began his journey to find the sea.
It came to Chopper in a sudden burst of calmness.
Chopper was not generally a calm person—reindeer, rather. Chopper tended to panic at the possibility of danger, cry at the sight of a crying stranger, freeze when questioned by a stranger…and overall, the only thing that could calm him was the knowledge that there was a patient, right there, who needed his help.
There was no patient in sight, so this was a very strange occasion.
"Is anything…off?" Chopper asked the birds that were carrying him in their talons, having promised to find and return him to his comrades.
"Of course not," squacked the birds. "Best weather we've had in a while. Mating season's right around the corner. And no predators in sight!"
Chopper was proud—he was finally growing up! He couldn't wait to tell Luffy!
But there was an undercurrent of dread, the likes of which he had never felt before, and that was simply something he could not explain.
Brook had not been around very long.
Certainly—being a skeleton—he had been physically present longer than most. However, he had spent most of that time pining for dead crew-mates in the middle of a deep, deep fog, and that could hardly be considered being "around."
So he let himself be a little insecure about his new comrades and what they might (and might not) go through to find him. He knew, however, that Luffy simply was not like that.
He therefore followed his instincts and did his best to find the missing girl. He fought her assailants—though it was terrifying and made him wet his pants—with the villagers, and returned the girl to her family safely.
This was the point at which, normally, he would have delightedly beheld the girl's panties.
Unfortunately, he had this nagging feeling at the back of his mind—someone was gone, he knew instinctively. Someone important was gone.
He couldn't explain how he knew, or even who that someone was important to. His temporary death did this to him sometimes—he knew things without knowing why.
That didn't explain why it was suddenly imperative that he find his comrades again. Someone was devastated—who? Perhaps one of the ladies? He hoped it wasn't that poor little reindeer. The boy was far too young to suffer the loss of another precious person.
Whoever it was, Brook knew that once they were together again, Luffy would be himself and make things half way better. But first they had to get back together.
He looked up and declined the view of the young woman's panties (not without a pang of regret) and asked for a ship.
It wasn't like Sanji inherently liked cross-dressing. He liked women, damn it, and he was not a pervert who got off on wearing woman's clothing.
Yet he couldn't deny that dressing in woman's clothing with a bunch of other guys who dressed in woman's clothing was…relaxing. Disinhibiting, even, for suddenly he was revealing things about his life that he had never intended to reveal to other people. And it felt so good—like suddenly he was just himself, and nothing else mattered. He hadn't even thought of women—or sex at all, for that matter—in days.
And then came the morning when he woke up and inexplicably could not return to the blissful oblivion of being a cross-dresser.
He dug through his drawer furiously in search of his usual clothing, and on finding it, promptly threw it on and stormed out of the room.
He figured that common sense had finally caught up with him, and his fury was to be directed at the cross-dressers who had turned him against his nature.
"What's wrong Sanji- Oh my heavens!" screamed the women who were men when Sanji kicked a table across the room. Then they screamed and ran. Sanji roared and chased.
Yet after having beat the life out of every last one of them, the fury in Sanji had only heightened.
Right, he had been away from his darling Robin-chan and Nami-san for weeks! That must be it! Luffy had better not find them first!
He ran towards the docks, trying to convince himself that that was all it was.
"How beautiful!" exclaimed Nami enthusiastically, admiring the newly invented machine.
"Yes, we thought you would appreciate it," nodded one of the elderly scientists behind her with a smile.
"I must say, I wondered about her when she first arrived, but I've never felt so rewarded about teaching my craft to someone," commented one scientist to another.
"Yes," agreed the second scientist, "Nami-san is indeed boundlessly more intelligent than anyone I've ever met. With her to learn our craft, we'll never have to worry about what might happen to it after we're gone."
The scientists were under the impression that they were whispering to each other under their breaths, their conversation incoherent to Nami. However, the scientists were all very elderly, so it is quite understandable that Nami heard each and every word.
Normally, Nami chided herself, this was the part where she would spin around and charm them into showing her more of their craft.
Yet such charm required the right mood. Nami, for some reason, had a weight in her chest that was keeping her from doing anything as thoroughly, diligently, or happily as she usually would. This was more than just a problem for charm. This also implied an emotional weakness—what kind of person got so anxious and depressed without even knowing why unless they were exceptionally weak in their mindset?
Nami took a deep breath and shoved her bothersome emotions away. The monthly ship to earth would arrive in another week—it would be fine. She would get on that ship and set out to find Luffy, and he would be silly like usual and make it all better.
Somehow, she couldn't believe that, and that made things worse.
She found a pause in the scientists' conversation to spin around with a smile and say, "Now what? What's next? Oh my, I can't wait to see everything!"
The scientists smiled and nodded and led the way.
"She's so…hyper today," whispered one scientist to another.
"Yes; more excitable than usual," replied the second bemusedly.
Nami pretended not to hear and continued to smile. As long as they couldn't perceive that her smile was painfully fake, all would be well.
Robin had spent all her life knowing that the people around her would eventually forsake her. This meant that she was unfamiliar with the whole "comrade" thing.
This did not, however, mean that she had ever doubted her comrades for a moment since landing on this island. Certainly, she was in a bad situation, but she would eventually make it through, as she had with all other bad situations throughout her life. And she had indeed made it out of slavery with the arrival of the revolutionaries.
Initially, she had agreed to help them rebuild a community—everyone else had gotten tossed off somewhere far away just like she had, after all, and she knew there was no rush to find them. They'd find each other eventually.
Then, about a week ago, she had begun to wonder. What if, in searching for all their former comrades, Luffy gave up before they found her? What if something happened to them and she never knew? What if they decided that they were better off without her? What if...
She shook the thoughts from her head. Ridiculous.
Yet eventually, she simply couldn't help but ask for a ship and all but beg to be taken to somewhere from which she could begin to seek out her comrades.
It wasn't like her, and it didn't feel good.
Not at all.
"How are you?" asked Perona, setting down the firewood and the basket of mushrooms.
"That fight took too much out of me," Zoro growled, swinging the tree trunk (his current substitute for a weight) even harder. "I need to be stronger."
"Whatever you say," said Perona with a sigh, starting a fire. "Just as long as that guy keeps his promise and gets us off this island."
"He'd better," Zoro said with far more vehemence than he had intended.
Perona looked around to stare at him. "Not that it's any of my business, but you've been very…off today. Are you alright?"
"Nothing's wrong. Nothing's different about today." It was true. He had won a victory against that swordsman three days prior, and the swordsman had agreed, owing to his defeat, to lead them to his ship on the coast and sail them to a place where Zoro could begin to seek his comrades.
By all standards, Zoro ought to be feeling better about the situation than he had when he had simply been stuck on an unknown island with a former enemy.
Yet for the past day, Zoro had been unable to shake off a terrible uneasiness. Something was wrong—terribly, horribly wrong, and Zoro knew it. He wanted his captain near—his captain, who would no doubt have a solution to anything.
What would Luffy say about Zoro's uneasy feeling, Zoro wondered as he began swinging the tree trunk double-time. (Perona shook her head and muttered something about obsession and men and shallowness as she set a pot of water over the fire and scolded the approaching swordsman for being late with the basket of apples.)
"Hahaha, so silly, Zoro! Nothing's wrong! Sanji, more meat!" Yes, that would be his captain, Zoro assured himself.
The assurance rang hollow in his chest.
Zoro didn't sleep that night.
If Franky had been bothered when he had first been tossed off into the sky, such worries had been dispelled as soon as he learned that the place he had landed was Vegapunk's hometown.
Even Franky knew of Vegapunk's achievements for the Navy. It was such a shame that such an amazing scientist was under the employ of the World Government, but then again, most "decent" people were unless they had a reason to be otherwise.
He had not actually met Vegapunk, but it was wonderful to get to walk around the city and hear all manner of stories from everyone in the town. Franky felt almost as at home here as he had with the Franky Family, and the very thought was enough to make him cry.
And then, one day, he was sobbing incessantly.
At first, the villagers laughed, assuming it another quirk of his.
Days passed, and it wouldn't stop.
The villagers started treating him like a psychotic case, leading their children away from him and whispering to each other not to make eye contact. No inn would let him stay anymore.
Franky continued to sob.
He was lonely, he told himself. His new comrades were suddenly far away, and he was just lonely.
He resolved to set to sea alone. He would find Luffy, and all would be well.
Luffy had not spared a thought for his comrades in days. He didn't remember them being taken from him, or that it was imperative to get back together. Actually, he didn't remember much of anything, really.
No—he remembered too much. He remembered heat—the smell of burning flesh. The sound of sizzling flesh. The sight of blood, and melting skin.
His brother's last words, and his brother's death.
If his eyes were running, and his nose, Luffy never noticed.
Luffy raised his head to the empty sky and screamed.
He didn't notice.
He didn't care.
Everything was gone.