Chapter 6: Showdown
Dinner that evening was enjoyable, and again quite normal, though this time it was actually Zoro, Robin, and Brook making most of the noise, continuing their game of tag between courses. Dinner and dessert passed, the dishes were finished, and the old folks shambled off to bed: it had been a busy day for them. Franky especially looked dogged, as he had run almost 36 hours without a prune juice refill. Fortunately he had filled up just before he had been pinched from his timeline. Sanji and Nami again went off to bed together, while Franky and Luffy went below to the boys' room. Chopper had already been sleeping there for some time.
Usopp stood from his seat at the dinner-table with the deliberate movement of a man whose stomach had been quite satisfied. "Come on, you kids," he said to Zoro, Brook, and Robin, "time for bed."
"I'm not tired," Zoro sulked.
"We still want to play tag!" Brook added. Usopp looked to Robin, hoping to find in her the more sensible opinion that her adult self would have asserted, but she simply nodded in agreement with her child nakama.
Usopp sighed. He thought for a second of what to do. Everyone should be asleep soon, according to his timetable, so that they would all be safely out of the way when Bonney came calling, which could be any time soon. Again, he utilized the surefire option for dealing with children: bartering. "If you go to bed now, I'll tell you a special bedtime story," he said confidentially.
Zoro, self-nominated spokesman for the kids, responded. "What kinda story?"
"A ghost story," Usopp said, his voice taking on a sinister tone. "About our terrible adventure on the zombie island of Thriller Bark!"
"Zombies?" Brook yelped, "eeek! The living dead give me the creeps!"
"What about walking skeletons?" Usopp said. This was an odd turn for Brook.
"Skeletons are awesome!" Brook shouted, "but scary!"
Usopp resolved to take them to the boys' room. He removed the cushions from the low-lying couch and crafted somewhat of a make-shift futon for the kids to sit on (with the idea that they could fall asleep there), then set a lantern in front of him. He lowered the oil feed on the lantern so it flickered eerily. This was Usopp, the teller of tall tales, one hundred percent in his element.
He told the tale of Thriller Bark from beginning to end, filling in the parts that he did not experience personally with fanciful exaggerations of what actually happened to the others, part of which ended up with Luffy being eaten by Cerberus the guard dog. Brook was thrilled to see that a three-headed zombie dog had actually existed.
"But Zoro was captured second, and nobody even noticed," Usopp said of Zoro's capture and shadow-removal.
"Feh," Zoro said. "I told you my future self was a wuss!" Robin stuck her tongue out at him, but in a friendly way.
The night dragged on and the tale continued. Zoro found a new faith in himself when he heard of his defeat of the zombie samurai, Ryuuma. Brook marveled at his future as a skeleton man. Zoro and Robin argued fiercely over the implications of Robin's fight with Zoro's shadow-zombie, Jigoroh, and whether that meant she was stronger than him. They were awestruck by Usopp's description of the fight against Oz.
"But just when we thought you had Moria under control," he said, indicating Robin, "bam! He slid up to you and snip-snap! Tore your shadow right off!"
Robin gasped, clutching Zoro's hand, which prompted an arrogant smirk from the boy. She realized her error and retracted her hand, sticking her tongue out at him again. But Zoro received his due comeuppance soon.
"Then Moria began to suck all the shadows from all the zombies into himself! 800, 900, 1000 shadows! He was bigger than this ship, and totally invincible!"
Zoro now grabbed Robin's hand in fear, and he was embarrassed in turn. Brook giggled.
"What's so funny?" Zoro said, with an edge to his voice that was all too familiar.
"Karl says you two should get a room," Brook said. "Karl!" he said again in mock embarrassment, "that's a horrible thing to say!"
Usopp finished the tale, and the children nodded off, falling asleep on the futon with Zoro in the middle and Robin and Brook on either side. Usopp placed a small blanket over all three, enough that it barely covered the length of their bodies. At that moment, as if it were right on schedule, he heard a shout coming from outside.
"Straw-hats! You're not gonna get away with this! Show yourselves!"
It was time. Usopp grabbed Kabuto and stepped outside. First he moved over to the control panel on the heating pit and turned it off. Then they came into view. For a supernova's vessel, the ship was largely unremarkable, something that could blend in anywhere. Indeed the most notable thing about it was the supernova herself, with her flowingly flamboyant pink hair and provocative style of dress, standing at the prow of her vessel. Usopp knew that if looks could kill, he'd be six feet under by now, given the glare on Bonney's face that had blind fury etched on every inch of her otherwise pretty face.
But, for the first time in a long time, Usopp was unafraid. Even with all his nakama sleeping and otherwise incapacitated, he knew he had absolute control of this situation.
"Hey," he said, his voice lowering into the tone he often used while lying. "Have you come looking for something? Because we probably have it."
"I know you have it!" Bonney snarled. "You… you…" she searched for a particularly vicious word, but came up empty, "you… people stole all the pizza in town!" She cracked her knuckles, "I was going to leave your crew alive to wallow in your weakness, but since you were stupid enough to try and get revenge on me, I'm just gonna destroy you all."
"Thanks," Usopp replied. "I was just going to ask if you were the one who did this to my nakama."
A vein twitched in Bonney's face, her anger deepening at having fallen into Usopp's trap. "Keep talking, smartass," she said scathingly. "In half a minute, you're gonna be an old-ass man with every bone in his body broken!"
In response, Usopp whipped out Kabuto and fired a shot at the balloon above the hoarded supplies. Upon impact, the balloon exploded into some sort of clear, viscous fluid, which splattered onto the pizzas and ingredients.
Bonney snarled. "What did you do to them?"
"Oil," Usopp replied smoothly. He loaded a firebird star into Kabuto, and fired it straight up into the air, its brilliant flame lighting up the nighttime cove. Bonney's eyes widened as she finally understood it all, and Usopp loaded another firebird star. "Have you ever tasted burnt pizza?" he asked. "Because that's what you'll get if you don't fix my nakama now!" He stretched Kabuto back and took aim, ready to fire.
"And what'll stop me from just killing you where you stand?" Bonney said, though there was an undertone of fear in her voice.
"Kill me, age-change me, whatever," Usopp replied. "I'll let go of the firebird star, and you'll get burnt pizza anyway."
Bonney's entire crew had gathered around their captain, observing the odd exchange. They all assumed that Bonney was simply toying with this odd young man until she finally crushed him utterly, and were there to watch the fireworks. Usopp knew better, however. In all his time at sea, he had been able to study the attitudes of obsessive gluttons, and knew the grip that this sort of thing had on her mind.
"Fine," Bonney relented. "I'll fix your nakama."
"What?" her crew roared incredulously.
"Captain, you can't be serious," said one crewmate specifically. "Just kill this guy!"
In some deep corner of her mind where her pizza-lust had no dominion, she knew her crewmate was right. She was going to restore the straw-hats, the most dangerous pirates she had ever encountered, for pizza. But as she thought about it, she knew it was worth it. "I'm serious," she said, turning to her crewmate with a look of pure madness in her eyes. "Deadly serious."
Her crew nodded slowly in unison, stepping away carefully. They knew what she was like when she got in a mood like this.
"Come on over," Usopp said. "Alone."
Bonney's ship pulled in closer to the Thousand Sunny, and she leapt aboard. She walked carefully through the ship, terrified that she might do something to provoke Usopp and see the pizza ruined. "Where are they?" she asked.
Usopp shifted his stance slightly, so he could motion in a general direction while still keeping the menace of Kabuto prepared. "Through those doors there."
"Right," Bonney replied. "This will take a couple minutes." The tone in her voice was deferential, a tone that hadn't crept out of that throat in many a year.
"Okay," Usopp said, taking advantage of that tone, "but I'll know if you're deceiving me." He kept Kabuto trained on the pizza as he watched Bonney scrunch her face in concentration and hold that stance for some time. About three minutes in, he felt compelled to ask. "Are you okay?"
"It takes longer than that!" another crewmate yelled from Bonney's ship. Finally, Bonney's expression returned to normal.
"Done," she said.
Usopp nodded slowly. He moved carefully, walking backwards as he kept Kabuto aimed at the pizza pile. He walked backwards through the door into the boys' room and cast a cursory glance around. Three pairs of long legs stuck out from well under the small blanket, there was no silver to be seen in Luffy's bunk, Franky had no wheels, and Chopper had his distinctive hat back. He then walked forward, going even more carefully up the stairs to the girls' room. A quick glance inside yielded a patch of blonde and a patch of orange.
"Thanks for cooperating," he said confidently.
"So I get the pizza now?" Bonney asked.
"Sure, sure," Usopp said. He set Kabuto down and stepped behind the pile of pizzas. There he secretly pulled out his impact dial. He knew he was pushing his luck with this, but he was utterly confident. "Here's your pizza!" he shouted, slapping the impact dial against the cargo-net full of pizza. The whole sack flew off the Sunny and into the sea.
"The pizza!" Bonney roared in dismay, then the devil-fruit user leapt over the side in pursuit of her favorite food.
"Captain!" her crew shouted, as some dived in after her.
"Yosh!" Usopp said, rushing belowdecks. With his stunt, he had bought a few minutes before the wrath of Bonney would descend upon him. It all returned to the special thing that he had had Franky set up for him: the Coup de Burst. It wasn't something he could run on his own, but Franky had rigged it so that a simple flip of the switch would set it off. In an instant and with a deafening bang, the Sunny was sailing through the air. In minutes, they were a few kilometers away.
Once they had landed, Usopp emerged on deck, assuming that his nakama would be milling about, wondering what had happened, but they were not there. He cautiously made his way into the boys' room to find that they were all still asleep. Perhaps it was a side-effect of the age-changing, but Usopp never knew. He was pretty exhausted himself, and clambered into his bunk to sleep.
Sanji awoke first that morning, lying in an unfamiliar bed. Curious, he opened his eyes. He had only been inside this room once in his entire life, but he had long dreamt of being here: in the Promised Land. He rose to a sitting position and saw in the bed next to him an angel, a vision of beauty slumbering peacefully with orange hair like a fiery halo. Overjoyed, he stood, leaning over her sleeping form. Her gentle breathing was enough to make his heart burst. "Nami-swaaaaaan," he whispered softly. "Good morning."
Nami's shriek tore the morning calm asunder, reverberating across the ship. As the most alert of their nakama, Zoro and Robin snapped awake first, sitting up on their cushions and tossing the blanket aside.
"Zoro!" Robin said in shock. She began to blush. "What are you…?"
"I wasn't doing anything, woman!" Zoro said, blushing as well.
"What are you doing in my room?" came another shriek from above. "Get out!"
"Nami!" Zoro and Robin said simultaneously, and rushed towards the door. The others woke up as well.
"We're under attack!" Chopper said, freaking out entirely.
"Wait, Nami-swan, I just…" more loud bangs were heard from above, then Sanji flew out the girls' room door, landing face-first on the lawn.
"Ugh, Nami-swan," he moaned.
"Nah, it's just curly-cook," Franky said, calming Chopper.
"Why was I on the floor?" Brook asked. "Did we have a slumber party?"
Luffy awoke as well, staggering out of the boys' room. "Oi, Sanji, wake up," he said, standing over Sanji's prone form. "It's breakfast time!" Then he looked around himself, seeing the bright, sunny morning. "Hey. Where did the mist go?"
"And the log pose reset!" Nami shouted in alarm. "Usopp, what the hell happened last night?"
Usopp did not answer, simply shrugging. He did not tell the wondrous tale of the Thousand Sunny Day Care and Rest Home, the story of how the brave sniper Usopp single-handedly bested one of the Eleven Supernovas. His nakama would never know.
He was a brave warrior of the sea, and brave warriors did not need to brag about their feats.
Author's Note: So that is the end of this one. I was under a bit of deadline pressure this time, as I must soon depart to a Washington DC Internship, which could absorb a lot of time, though I also want to try my hand at a timeskip speculation fic. A little more ZoRo in it than might be proper, but I think I can be excused for that, eh? Reviews will be treasured!