Zoro looked around in a haze; there was a sway of images and he saw the feet of someone carrying him.
"Hang in there, Zoro! We'll find Luffy and the others, I swear!"
"Back off! Don't make me fight; I don't have time to waste!"
The voice was so familiar, he could almost place who it was. Before he could figure out the identity, gunshots rang out around him followed soon after by the sound of bones snapping. He still could not look any higher than the feet of the person carrying him.
"Nami? NAMI! OVER HERE!"
The voice was clearer now; Zoro knew he knew who it belonged to, but his mind was so warped and distant that the name was as far away from him as the face he couldn't see.
Was that who it was? Oh… right, Robin and he had been together all this time, it wouldn't be that far of a stretch for her to be carrying him, right?
"Holy shit! Is that Zoro? What happened to you guys? Are you shot, Robin?"
The new voice was also feminine, it had to be Nami.
"Where's everyone else?"
"Follow me, I'll take you to them."
"Nami-san! You found them!"
"Yeah, it's bad though. Robin's been shot and Zoro's… well…"
"What the fuck? What did they do to him?"
"What does it matter? Where's Luffy and the rest? We need to get Zoro back on the ship now."
"Not sure, but after you got separated we found some den-den mushis; I'll let everyone know we have Zoro and Robin and that we should regroup. Here, Robin-chan, let me."
Zoro felt a strong pair of hands take him out of Robin's grasp. He was draped over a shoulder and soon after his face was buried into a fancy suit that reeked of smoke.
"WHAT HAPPENED TO ZORO?"
"Calm down, Chopper, we don't know yet. You have to fix him up though... what took you?"
The voices were so familiar to Zoro but entirely undistinguishable. He knew one belonged to Chopper, at least, but that's only because his name was mentioned. Whatever was going on right now, the swordsman had no comprehension.
"The way I came was blocked off; I had to take a longer route. Bring him to my room and put him on the bed, we can't put his body through any more stress or he might die."
"Will he make it?"
"If you do what I say, then probably. He's in such bad condition right now that as a doctor I'm stunned he can even breathe. We have to treat him immediately."
Was he really in such a sorry state? What was happening?
"How is he, Chopper? Is he going to be ok?"
"I don't know. We're through the worst at least; right now it entirely depends on how strong of a will he has. There's nothing more any of us can do other than wait."
"Knowing Zoro, I'm sure he'll pull through."
"Yeah… I hope so…"
"Can you hear me, Zoro…?"
It was that feminine voice again; the same one that had been constantly talking to him on and off for a while.
"I'm sure you can, even if you can't respond."
He tried speaking out, as he'd done every time before, but like the others no sound came. Attempts to move were just as fruitless; all he could do was lie still and listen.
"Look, my arm's healing much better now. Well… I guess you can't really see it but it's gotten much better, trust me. I wonder if it's going to leave a scar… Chopper said it shouldn't leave anything too noticeable. I wouldn't mind if it did, though, as long as you wake up soon."
"It's strange… isn't it? You'd think I would hate any reminder of that place, but I can't help but think that I'd wear it with pride. I wonder what it's going to be like from now on here on the ship. Things probably aren't going to be the same, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing as long as you're still here. Look at me… prattling on by myself. Good thing nobody else is here or they'd think I'm crazy."
"Who knows… maybe I am..."
"Please wake up."
Zoro awoke to a pounding headache and excruciating pain covering his entire body. This was being awake… right? He'd been dreaming for so long that the distinction between the two had become blurred. The swordsman tried to sit up, but at best he could get his shoulders off of the bed he laid on.
"Oh, you're finally up!" a masculine voice said in a startle.
"Ugh," Zoro groaned. "Why do you have to be the first voice I hear, damn love cook."
Sanji chuckled softly. "We've been taking turns watching over you ever since you got fixed up. Well… most of us have, anyways. Robin's hardly left your side since the two of you got back to the ship."
Zoro craned his neck up and looked around the room. The archeologist was absent.
"I made her leave a few hours ago to get some much needed rest, but she's going to be pissed when she finds out you woke up when she wasn't around."
Sanji took out a cigarette from his coat pocket. "Both of us, probably."
Both strawhats laughed somberly. Silence filled the room afterwards for a few minutes while Sanji lit up and smoked his cigarette and Zoro tested his ability to move.
"Good job, by the way." Sanji said after taking the last hit from his cigarette and putting it out in the ash tray next to Zoro's bed. The swordsman saw that the ashtray was pretty much overflowing with cigarettes.
"Good job?" Zoro repeated distastefully. The last thing he wanted to deal with was Sanji giving him shit.
"No, seriously. While I'm not going to ignore the fact you managed to get your sorry ass caught, I will admit you did well."
"I don't really follow…"
Sanji sighed. "You're sorta dense, you know?"
"Bite me," Zoro snarled.
"Whatever," Sanji shrugged. "I mean that you protected Robin and somehow managed to not get yourself killed." The cook narrowed his eyes at the swordsman. "I don't know what kind of things they did to you in there, Zoro, but I can only imagine what you had to go through to keep Robin from harm. It's something you'll only hear from me this once but I respect what you did in there."
"How is she, anyway?" Zoro asked, a distant look in his eye.
"Doing just fine; was she shot while you were in captivity?" A large sign of concern crossed the cook's face.
"What? No. Why, was she shot?" Zoro felt his chest tighten; he couldn't imagine what he'd do if the archeologist had been seriously hurt.
"Just a flesh wound, friend. Got her in the meat of the arm but it's nothing a few weeks won't cure. Might be a scar, Chopper said, that's about it."
Gunshot? Scar? These were words that stuck out to the swordsman, though he couldn't place why. Something related to the dreams he just had, he knew that much, but of what he couldn't think of.
"Yeah, nothing too serious, at least. Anyways, both of you guys were starting to show signs of malnourishment when we found you so I'm guessing your captors didn't put much effort into keeping you fed. I managed to get her to eat, though, so you don't need to worry about that."
Sanji walked to the other end of the room. "However, you can imagine that it's not easy feeding a person who isn't awake." The cook returned, a plate of food in his hand.
Zoro realized just how hungry he was when he saw the food.
Sanji placed the plate of food on the table next to Zoro's bed before walking towards the door. The green haired swordsman noticed that his blades were resting against the table.
"I'll give you 15 minutes to eat up and gather yourself before I let everyone know you're awake."
Without another word the cook left the room.
Zoro finally sat up and stared hungrily at his plate for a few seconds before noticing something missing.
"Damnit, love cook, would it really kill you to—" the swordsman felt something pressing against his back and reached behind him. Hidden behind a few of the pillows that he rested on was an unopened bottle of sake. "Not bad." He silently wondered how Chopper would react if the reindeer saw the bottle of alcohol in his hands.
Not wasting any more time, Zoro grabbed the plate of food and tore into it ravenously, allowing himself generous intakes of the sake between each mouthful. It was a good thing Sanji had left; Zoro wasn't being very elegant. He knew the cook wouldn't have been bothered, but it was still nice to have the privacy.
Zoro made quick work of the sizable serving and finished it off with an extra long swill from the bottle and an audible sigh of satisfaction. He looked at the bottle and scowled, seeing that he'd already downed more than half of it. There was hardly any left for enjoyment and he doubted that there'd be a second bottle stowed away somewhere.
It wasn't long before Zoro heard excited voices from outside the room. It had only been around ten minutes and Zoro was surprised he'd even gotten that much. The rest of the crew would naturally be curious about Zoro's condition when Sanji left and he wasn't a very good liar.
The door flew open and Zoro saw Sanji desperately trying to hold back various members of the crew, most notably Luffy. It was only delaying the inevitable as it was nearly impossible to stop Luffy from doing something when his mind was set to it and it didn't take long for the rubber captain to break through, flinging himself into the room and landing in front of the bed.
"ZORO!" Luffy cried out happily, relieved to see his first-mate awake.
"Yo," the swordsman responded with an amused smile.
Luffy stood up and began laughing, rubbing his nose with a finger. "Man, you really had us worried there for a sec, you know?"
Luffy dusted off his pants and walked over to the side of the bed. "Also…"
Zoro felt a fist bury into the side of his face. It wasn't hard enough to knock him out or off of the bed, but definitely hard enough to hurt and send the message.
"DUMBASS! How did you manage to get caught? It's embarrassing and it makes our crew look bad!" Luffy was seething. "What would have happened if we didn't find you in time? What would we have done?"
"… Yeah, I get it," Zoro said, rubbing his cheek.
"LUFFY, YOU IDIOT!"
Nami, who had just walked in, reached back and slugged Luffy in the back of the head harder than Zoro had ever seen her do.
"What the hell is your problem?" She asked wildly. "He hasn't even been up for 15 minutes and you're already trying to put him back into a coma?"
"Owww," Luffy whimpered, rubbing the back of his head. "What was that for?"
"I'm the captain," Luffy responded defiantly. "It's my duty to punish those who endanger the life of another crewmember."
Zoro watched the two quarrel with growing irritation.
"He saved Robin as well, or do you forget what he looked like when we found them?" Nami argued.
The swordsman imagined he must have looked like a sorry mess when they rescued him and began recalling the voices from his dreams. Maybe they weren't as much of dreams as he thought they were.
"And who was it that was carrying him?" Luffy snapped.
Nami paused for a moment. She opened her mouth to continue arguing but Zoro decided he'd had enough.
"That's enough, Nami." He waited until the orange haired navigator turned to him before continuing. "Luffy's right, I put both of us in danger by telling the rest of you to go on ahead. There's no excuse for that."
"But…" Nami slumped her shoulders. "Alright."
"How long have I been out, anyways?" Zoro asked. "I forgot to ask Sanji when I woke up."
Nami and Luffy looked at each other, Nami with a look of apprehension and Luffy with no change in features.
"Well…" Nami began awkwardly. "The thing about that is… well… you've been out for kind of a longer time than anyone really anticipated."
"A week." Luffy said nonchalantly.
Zoro raised an eyebrow. "A week, huh? That's a new record."
"This is no joking matter!" Nami berated. "You may have made it out ok this time, Zoro, but there's a limit to how much your body can take without giving it enough time to heal."
"Geeze, Nami," Zoro mumbled, rubbing the back of his neck. "You're starting to sound like Chopper."
"Who's starting to sound like me?" a high pitched voice asked at the edge of the room. Chopper trotted in with medical supplies in his clutches. "Sanji told me that you'd woken up, Zoro, so I came right aw—HEY! What's that in your hand?"
The blue nosed reindeer pointed angrily at the bottle of sake in Zoro's hand, the tip in his mouth with him downing a considerable portion.
"Huh?" Zoro asked, taking the bottle out of his mouth. "Oh, it's sake."
"WHAAAAT!" Chopper exclaimed. "How did you get that? You shouldn't be drinking anything but water for another week at least!"
"A week?" Zoro repeated distastefully.
"Yeah, so give it to me and I'll go get you some after I check up on your injuries."
"Don't wanna." Zoro stated and took another swig.
"Hey, I'm not joking!" Chopper said, running up to the side of the bed. He jumped up and down, trying in vain to grab the bottle from Zoro's hand. The swordsman raised the bottle just barely out of the doctor's reach each time he jumped.
The reindeer stopped and began sulking.
"Fine," he said sullenly. "I guess you can finish just that—GOT IT!"
Chopper jumped for the sake bottle yet again, trying to use the element of surprise to trick Zoro. It didn't work and Zoro kept the bottle out of his reach. Luffy erupted into laughter.
"Don't just laugh you guys, help me!"
Nami sighed and Luffy simply continued to laugh.
"Fine," Nami gave in. She gave the swordsman an even look. "Zoro, we'll let you keep that bottle and—"
"That's not helping!" Chopper interrupted.
"Calm down, Chopper, this is us making some compromises. You can understand that, right?"
Chopper nodded reluctantly after a moment.
"Good. Okay," the navigator continued, looking back at Zoro. "We'll let you keep that one for today, and in return you drink water strictly for the next couple of days." She gave him an overly obvious wink and the swordsman guessed that it was her best impression of a 'we'll smuggle you some alcohol' look.
"Why?" Both Nami and Chopper yelled.
"Because I'm not going to be staying in this room any longer."
"No way!" Chopper ordered. "You're not in any condition to be moving around. You need to get a lot more rest before I'll allow you to leave here."
"More rest? I've been out for an entire week. That's more than enough rest."
"That isn't how it works! You were out for a week because your body was in such bad shape that being conscious wasn't even possible. You need at least four more days of rest, and that's me being generous."
Zoro sat up and threw his legs off the side of the bed. The deep bruising in his legs he'd gotten from the beatings hadn't healed fully, but they were good enough where he felt confident to walk. The swordsman took a deep breath, chugged the rest of the bottle of sake down, and forced himself up onto his feet. He staggered immediately from the mind-numbing pain that shot through his legs, almost falling even, however managed to recover his balance by steadying himself on the bed.
The entire room was silent as his crewmates watched him grab his katana and try to walk, all but Luffy with a look of awe on their faces; the captain instead wore a more solemn expression.
After getting used to the pain, Zoro righted himself and began walking towards the door, slowly at first but with increasing speed. The effects of the sake were beginning to kick in and helped to null the pain a little while simultaneously relaxing the swordsman. Zoro had a nagging feeling that Sanji knew he'd immediately get up and leave when he got the chance to. The cook had, after all, left Zoro with a bottle of alcohol and showed him where his swords were before giving him15 minutes alone.
I'll have to thank the bastard later, Zoro thought.
Zoro made his way to the door uninterrupted and opened it. The sound of the door opening must have knocked Chopper out of his daze because he decided then to raise his objections.
"Zoro. As a doctor, I can't and won't let you leave this room, even if it's by force."
Zoro looked back at the reindeer for a moment, then again to the door.
Zoro heard the sound of a hand hitting a hat.
"Let it be, Chopper." It was Luffy, finally saying his piece. "He's going, regardless of what you do."
"You'll understand one day."
Zoro smirked lightly. Despite all his stupid bullshit Luffy was frighteningly knowledgeable at times. It was one of his better traits.
The swordsman left and closed the door behind him, leaving the other three to talk amongst themselves. He was immediately greeted with a refreshing cool breeze and the warm feeling of sunlight over his body, something he hadn't been sure he'd ever feel again while in captivity. His body hurt all over, however it was nothing a good afternoon nap wouldn't cure. As much as he'd have liked to resume his training, Zoro knew that he wouldn't be able to do anything for at least another day. More than anything else, Zoro also knew that everybody on the ship was going to want to talk to him once they discovered that he'd woken up, so the swordsman decided to go to a place nobody else would go to.
Zoro looked over the deck and curiously saw nobody in sight. The Crow's Nest was definitely off limits for the time being, and even if he'd wanted to go up there Zoro doubted he'd be able to climb up on his own just yet, so he began thinking of other places.
There was the aquarium, among other places, but Zoro was not about to go back indoors any time soon; he was enjoying the fresh air far too much. With only places on the deck left to choose from, there really was only one choice; Nami's orange bushes. Nodding to himself in satisfaction, the swordsman headed towards the spot.
Zoro made his way up the ship and almost got to the spot without running into any crewmates until he was just outside the ship's library, located directly across the orange bushes. Without warning, he found himself face-first with Robin, the last person he expected to run into. She must have just woken up since she was rubbing her eyes, a cup of coffee in her free hand. He looked and saw her right arm's bicep was wrapped with a bandage; likely the spot she'd been shot. Everything suddenly clicked; the voice that had been constantly talking to him in his dreams was Robin's. Zoro couldn't believe how stupid he'd been to not put that together until then. His eyes also widened as he recalled the comment Sanji had made about how mad she'd likely get that he woke up without her around.
"Uhh…" Zoro began awkwardly, not beginning to know what to say. "Hey?"
Robin stood there and stared at him peculiarly. "I see you're still up, Zoro, despite what Sanji told me. That's a relief."
Zoro gulped. Shit, Sanji, what did you tell her? Zoro doubted that the archeologist was anything but pleased that she'd been lied to.
"Uhh, yeah, I am, I… guess…"
Robin gave him one of her trademark smiles. "That's good, now I can catch up on my reading without worrying."
"Your… reading?" Zoro repeated confusedly to the back of Robin's head. She'd turned away from him while he responded and he watched her dumbly as she walked across into the ship's library without another word, pouring out her coffee on the deck before she entered.
"Wait…what about your arm?"
It was too late; the archeologist was out of earshot.
That was… weird. What was that all about?
Zoro wasn't quite sure at what had just happened, but Robin seemed like she may have been mad at him; definitely mad at the cook, though, whose coffee was setting into the wood outside the library. Speaking of, the library was definitely off limits for the time being, at least until he resolved things with the archeologist.
Zoro yawned and suddenly realized how exhausted he really was. Chopper hadn't been joking; Zoro's body was definitely in no condition to be walking around like he was. The swordsman shrugged to himself; it didn't matter if his body was in the right condition or not, he didn't have any more time to be wasting in a bed.
Zoro walked past where Nami's orange bushes were, grabbing one of the fruits for himself, to one of his favorite spots by the main mast, sitting down against it. He used the bushes as cover to prevent anyone who hadn't seen him come up there from finding him to prevent his nap from being disturbed. The fact that they provided great shade was just an added bonus. Nami would probably notice him up here but he doubt she'd disturb him, all things considered.
Yawning one last time, Zoro peeled away a part of the orange and bit into it before falling asleep with the fruit still in his mouth. It was easily one of the best naps of his entire life.