Disclaimer: My quest to gain control the world of One Piece is not complete yet. On to Plan W!

Dye

A One Piece Fanfic

There are some things you get used to in life. They become routine. A mess of fortune and misfortune that are no longer questioned one has grown so desensitized to the twists and turns. Though, this is not always the case. Some annoyances never disappear and build to a tumultuous peak. This was one of those times.

"I think it's grass."

"Really?" the little doctor asked in awe.

"It looks like it and grows, right? Shishishi!" Luffy laughed.

"Oh… yeah!"

"There's no way that couldn't be dye." Usopp cast a furtive glance and inserted knowledgeably as he tinkered near Luffy and Chopper. Though, he listened in attentive interest. "I mean, I've never seen green as a natural color."

The object of their fascination twitched in his previously undisturbed sleep. Yet, now his veins coursed with rising irritation and an interesting tick pulsed in his temple.

Sanji chose this moment to pass by his crewmates. He looked down at the swordsman surrounded by Luffy and the rest with considerable distaste.

He blew out a wisp of smoke while lifting his cigarette from his lips. "Nah, it's just a marimo."

"DAMN IT! THIS IS MY REAL HAIR COLOR!" Zoro yelled, springing unexpectantly to his feet.

Startled, Chopper and Usopp clung to each other in highly justified fear. An angry Zoro was not one you wanted to be around. However, the sharpshooter caught some courage by Luffy's grin as he sat back to enjoy the daily show.

It wasn't very smart, but Usopp showed them a can of spray paint and asked, "Then how do you explain this?"

Cook and swordsman swiveled to each glare respectively at him, but it was the cook that may have unintentionally saved the sharpshooter from an early death.

"Whatever," he smirked. "Moss-head here is too stubborn to admit it."

And he would have been, if you didn't include the fact that this was his natural hair color.

"Ero-cook…" Zoro growled and Sanji tensed.

A sword had already been drawn so it seemed like they would skip the traditional parry of insults and go straight to exchanging blows.

They collided like wild beasts, kicking and slashing at the other whenever an open spot presented itself. Their fight appeared a little one-sided though, as Zoro's fury showed through.

0~0~0

Later on, the fight in their blood had winded down. When in all actuality, Nami had had enough.

"Bakas!" she stood victorious over the two men. "Can't you do anything better with each other than bicker like an old married couple?"

No reply was given, though that was understandable as Zoro and Sanji were incapable of speech at the moment.

Franky peered over his sunglasses. "I can think of a few."

"Pfft!" Usopp tried to hold in his laugh, but it spilled out anyway.

Chopper didn't understand the implication, but must have found something funny because he joined in. Soon, most of the male members of the crew were laughing. Nami rolled her eyes and stomped away to her study.

In a twirl of hearts, Sanji promised to make up for his mistake by making her favorite snack. The swordsman didn't even react when a dirty look was sent his way.

He stood up stiffly, only to retrieve his swords and move his earlier position from the mast to the railing of the ship. Zoro was too preoccupied with his own boiling thoughts.

As he settled down again, as far from his loud crewmates as possible, he slowly started to turn his anger into something productive. Usually, he would deal with the remarks about his hair, and if he didn't ignore them his natural reactions of cursing, striking out, at Sanji in particular, or both were half-hearted. But, Zoro was growing weary.

Sick and tired of the constant joking, he stopped sulking halfway through dinner that evening. A means to prove a point developed in his mind. It may have been below the cunning standards of their resident thief or former assassin, but he was a swordsman and neither of those.

If it were direct it would work, was Zoro's reasoning for most matters in life.

He didn't realize that he'd been smiling until Robin pointed it out.

"That's quite a wicked smile you have there, Swordsman-san," she remarked casually. "What is it?"

Taking a swig of sake, Zoro merely smirked a little more.

"Nothing."

And maybe it was. Maybe he was going to take this too far, but he had to be strong in body and mind to master the sword completely. He would consider his manner of diverting the crew's teasing as a test and opportunity.

Or simply put, revenge.

Then, his annoyance would fade into the background again. It would combat the attempted strikes at his pride and Zoro would go back to being uncaring.

Because he didn't care… did he?

It was just poking fun. Though that had gone on for as long as he could remember. Crazy captain, crazy ship, and crazy people…

Well, the swordsman would sit back and see how it played out.

Soon after and no one was the warier. Zoro drank the evening away with his nakama without actually being with his nakama.

That spur-of-the-moment decision was all it took, but he knew what he was going to do.

If only he knew how it was going to turn out as well.

0~0~0

Night…possibly the one instance where the Straw Hats were almost completely quiet and with a combination of the day's exhaustion and the gentle rock of the Thousand Sunny it was difficult to fight heavy lids. But this night, one person remained awake, only feigning the pretense of sleep.

Most of the others would remark that he shouldn't even need to sleep at night due to all the napping he did during the day. It didn't matter to Zoro. As long as he waited out until his crewmates were snoring, he would lie there and think.

The clock ticked on the wall of the men's quarters and the swordsman jumped off his hammock, landing lightly on the balls of his feet. He forwent putting his boots on, they might wake one of his nakama.

Purposefully and with effortless stealth he'd gained from his days of pirate hunting, Zoro headed towards the two workshops in the lower reaches of the ship. Then he heard a scratching sound and paused. He held his breath as he peered around a corner. Had his cover already been blown?

But the only other beings that were up at this ungodly hour were a couple rats. They scurried past Zoro's feet and he sighed in relief.

However, when he resumed walking, he noticed that he no longer recognized this stretch of hallway. Scratching his head, he turned in a circle, not knowing quite how he'd lost his way.

Eventually, the swordsman conceded that it would be better if he backtracked.

Ten minutes later, he ended up in front of the bathroom door. Zoro stood there uncertainly for a second, before he shrugged and walked in.

Usopp was known for leaving odds and ends lying around in strange places. A habit the shipwright was trying to break him out of, especially when some screws caused some sore feet and a very pissed Nami.

With this is mind, Zoro walked in and made a beeline for the sink. Carefully, he opened the cabinet above the counter and scanned the shelves. Nothing. Then, the cabinet below was tried.

His gaze alighted upon a can that looked a little like the one the sharpshooter had been using that day and out of place among the other toiletries.

He took it out and read the label. It was filled with black dye. Zoro shifted it in his hand. It could be used for hair. He grinned triumphantly as he popped the cap. Luck was with him that it wasn't some toxic substance and he wasn't about to question why the ship had hair dye in the first place.

Those kinds of things were better left unknown.

Zoro swiveled to face the mirror, can in hand. The stuff had a pungent smell and a sliver of doubt made him reconsider what he was about to do for a second.

Taking a deep breath, he glanced at his familiar reflection for the last time. Change was coming and Zoro could only smirk ruefully.

It was time to take a plunge into the unknown and satisfy his growing curiosity. How would this turn out? There was just one way to know.

He brushed his hand through his green hair.

"See ya."

0~0~0

The next morning most of the crew was on the deck, meandering around until breakfast, even though it had been ready for almost an hour.

Luffy was sprawled on the deck, with his tongue hanging out.

"Ugh… I'm hungry…"

Chopper was sitting next to him, looking a little weary himself.

That was when the cook opened the door to the dining room, but slammed it just as quickly.

"Where's that shitty swordsman?" Sanji shouted, both cross and irritable from keeping the food warm for the one missing member.

The navigator gave him a smile and waved his worries away. "Calm down, Sanji-kun. It's no big deal…"

Yet, Sanji was hardly placated. "If he isn't here soon, we're going to eat without him!" he growled.

Usopp looked around. "I didn't see him this morning. Maybe he got lost?"

There was a slight pause where everyone considered that was a very likely story. The Sunny was much bigger than their previous ship, after all and the swordsman was known for his horrific sense of direction.

In his hunger, Luffy merely raised his head a little to see his nakama better.

"I saw some weird guy in Zoro's hammock…"

"Eh?" they collectively asked and stared at Luffy.

"Why didn't you tell us sooner?" Sanji tried to wring the boy by the neck.

Their captain's head lolled and he moaned, "Too… hungry…"

They were still recovering from Luffy's comment, when a figure emerged from below deck.

Zoro yawned and stretched his arms behind his head. He had actually gotten a lot of sleep the night before. Strangely, no one had woken him up this morning with vicious punches or screaming in his ear. Not that he minded, but it sure wasn't the normal routine.

He scratched the back of his head of ruffled hair. He wasn't used to the stuff, yet and it was itchy. So far, it seemed more of a bother than anything.

Caught up in his thoughts and the fog after waking from a deep sleep, Zoro climbed up the steps and onto the deck with the sun shining overhead in oblivion.

After he let his arms fall by his sides, he squinted into the sudden light. Only after did he notice he was the new center of attention.

When they saw the unfamiliar man walk forward casually, they were at a loss. Even the women were surprised and unsure of what to do. It wasn't every day someone came from the inside of your ship as if they'd lived there all their life.

Or, opened their mouth and asked touchily, "What?"

At first sight, Luffy had had to be pulled back to keep from rushing forward as was his impulse.

It was Sanji who spoke. He'd gone inside the kitchen to check on breakfast again and heard the assumed ruckus from the swordsman's appearance. He was lighting his cigarette when he muttered. "It's about time mari-"

He glanced up from his original preoccupation and the smoke tumbled from his fingers before it reached its target. With wide eyes, the cook stared uncomprehendingly.

The Straw Hats finally got their voices to work.

"WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?"

Zoro stood where he was, stupefied. His shock worked its way through his blank expression along with sheer confusion.

No longer could Luffy contain his excitement and jumped over to the swordsman.

"Who are you, weird guy?"

Blinking away his surprise, Zoro grew irritated instead. "This isn't funny Luffy! Everyone!"

It didn't take Robin long to catch up.

"How do you know our captain's name?"

Sanji glared at Zoro with an intensity that was tangible. "He must be an enemy."

"Maybe…" Franky muttered, but the entire situation struck him as off.

Curious to no end, Luffy tried to clamber around Zoro.

"Are you a good guy?" he wondered and the others tensed. That was part of the criteria when Luffy recruited nakama, which wasn't always a good thing.

"Damn it Luffy!" Zoro burst out and swatted him away. "It's me! Are you blind?"

A dead silence ensued, then "Zoro?"

"Who else?" the swordsman crossed his arms.

Unable to believe their eyes, the rest of the crew stared at him in amazement. All but Nami, who was shaking her head and Robin, who was smiling slightly.

It didn't take long for them to find the source of their mistake.

However, it seemed unfeasible that they could miss the haramaki and the three gold earrings in Zoro's left ear that defined who he was. His swords had been left behind in the men's quarters, but otherwise he was dressed the same and acted the same. Mostly.

So, what made them question it was really the swordsman?

Their gazes all eventually arrived at his face and… his hair. His mossy green hair, which was as much a trademark of the former pirate hunter as his three katana, was gone. When in actuality, it was now pitch black.

That was it. Zoro was no different apart from the short scruffy head of black hair.

"Well, this is surprising," Brook commented.

Sanji grinned victoriously. "I knew it was dye!"

"Wow… Zoro looks so different…" Chopper whispered in awe.

Usopp nodded, a tad shakily. He hadn't expected his words from the day before to be proven so quickly.

Now, that the captain had practically shoved his face into Zoro's to be sure, he smiled happily. "Oi, Zoro! Your late for breakfast!"

He dragged the skeptical swordsman forward, then raced inside the dining hall. Sanji sighed and followed quickly.

"Come on, everyone! Before our idiot captain eats everything," the cook announced. "You too, mari-" He paused and frowned at Zoro. "Damn, I'm going to have to find a different name," Sanji muttered, more to himself than anyone.

Zoro scoffed and followed his nakama inside.

0~0~0

Throughout breakfast, the day and a good amount of time later, Zoro was subject to sideways glances and barrages of questions.

Usually the same two questions.

"Why didn't you tell us?" or "Why'd you do it?"

To which he would try to respond, "What the hell do you mean? This is-"

Each time Zoro was cut off and it was during one of these repetitions that Sanji walked by on his way to give the girls drinks.

His brow was furrowed as he looked at the swordsman. "Dirty marimo?... No, that's not it… damn shithead…"

That part had been the only good to come of this experiment. The cook was confused and had lost his fodder for hair-related insults.

Annoyed, Zoro pried Chopper off his hair. Luffy and Usopp put the little reindeer up to investigating the swordsman's new look, despite the unspoken warning he'd given them.

Before he could draw Wado Ichimonji, however, Nami crooned.

"Oh, Zorooo…" He immediately stiffened. It was never a lucky sign if the navigator called his name. Cursing under his breath, he rose and walked over to her.

Robin watched interestedly, like she had been from the beginning of this development. It would be fun to guess what Zoro would do next and she had quite a few things to ask when it was done and finished.

Nami was wearing her sweet smile when Zoro stopped in front of her chair.

"What?"

"Well," she started. "We'll be docking at the next island soon and there's a large marine base on it." He gave her a dubious look, not seeing where she was getting at. "And," Nami continued. "I'd like to get our shopping done without being chased by a pack of marine dogs. I was thinking, with your new… hair color, you might be unrecognizable, so…"

As she spoke, the swordsman had grown stiffer and now he objected vehemently, "No!"

The navigator raised her hand over her chest in mock surprise. "I haven't even told you what I mean yet-"

"No," he growled. "I'm not going to be used to be your personal chore-boy."

She smirked. "Even if it's for the entire crew…?" He hesitated. "Think about how much easier it would be on them, if they weren't constantly worrying about being spotted by marines or vicious bounty hunters…"

Zoro cursed the orange-haired woman, knowing she had him trapped. Her words didn't make him think of Luffy or that stupid ero-cook, but Chopper and Usopp… They were definitely in the most danger.

"Good," Nami smiled.

"Wait, I haven't answered-!"

"Here's the list. Don't worry there's not much to get and I won't make you shop for my bras or anything."

He scowled as a piece of paper was shoved into his hand. His fist clenched, crumpling it. There was no choice. "Damn."

0~0~0

At least Nami had been right about one thing, the list wasn't very long. He scanned the wrinkled paper swiftly. Restocking on food, linen, spare sails and a few herbs shouldn't be a big problem… if he knew where to find everything.

In a few hours, about two hours too many, Zoro managed to get all but one item on the shopping list.

"Where do I find fresh chives?" he muttered, running his hand through his newly black hair. The swordsman didn't even know what they were, much less where to get them. That damn cook was probably messing with him, but just to be sure… He turned to the nearest stall that was selling assorted fruit.

"Oi, where can I find these?"

He pointed at the scrawled word and the elderly man squinted underneath his wild, grey hair. "Hmm… They should have some chives in the cooking herb section of the market right down that a way."

Zoro followed the man's thumb as he gestured in the direction he'd just come from, right down the main street. His face dropped and an eyebrow twitched agitatedly.

Stupid town and stupid directions… he thought back to the woman with three kids who'd told him how to navigate the town earlier.

The swordsman hadn't budged, yet, when the vendor's son staggered up with his arms encumbered by a crate filled with produce. He walked behind the stall and huffed, "Hey, Pa. I got the ripest stuff like you told me to."

"Good, good," the old man mumbled.

Realizing his father was helping a customer, the young man pivoted and began to scold. "Pa! You're not confusing people again are you-?"

When he saw Zoro, who was glaring at the list again, the boy's eyes widened and he stopped speaking. His arms trembled and the crate fell to the ground.

Crash!

Abruptly alert, the swordsman looked up in time to see apples and pears tumble from the remains of the crate and roll away. One halted at his booted foot and his narrowed gaze rose to see the man's son backing away and stumbling.

Then he was able to speak and what came out spelled trouble for Zoro.

"I-it's R-Roronoa Z-Zoro!" the boy exclaimed in terror. "The Pirate Hunter!"

"Nani?" the old man peered at the swordsman. "Doesn't he have green hair?"

But, the alarm had already been raised and the young man had gotten the marines' attention.

So had Zoro, and he decided against drawing his sword and ran out of there as fast as he could.

With the marines hot on his tail and his breath coming short, Zoro pressed forward. He glanced backwards and grimaced at the sight. Marine sabers and bayonets were pointed right at him as they shouted for him to surrender. It was a common sight, but frustrating all the same. He dodged the bullets best he could with the bags of supplies he was carrying.

As he brought his legs to churn faster and he raced away quickly, he cursed Nami. She'd been wrong about this and he'd ended up getting chased anyways. Though, Zoro pinned this on the navigator it was his fault as well.

His three katana were by his side as usual. Nami had ordered him not to bring them into the town, but he refused. He wasn't about to go out unarmed, especially in a place swarming with marines. Zoro was reassured by the familiar weight of his prized possessions and didn't regret bringing his swords. Even if they had given him away, he sprinted farther ahead of his pursuers.

He faced the sea and, hopefully, the Thousand Sunny.

Zoro ignored the yelling behind him and focused on getting there alive.

0~0~0

Unfortunately, reaching the ship didn't guarantee his survival.

"If you didn't insist on bringing those swords with you we could relax a little longer!" Nami accused.

The swordsman opened on eye and glared at her. "It's not my fault that changing my hair color didn't change who I was. Only an idiot would be fooled."

There was hell to rise from both Nami, for managing to draw the marines anyways, and Sanji.

"Where are the chives, shitty swordsman?" the cook emptied the bag containing the food and came up missing one ingredient.

"I couldn't get it," Zoro was starting to despair on ever getting his nap.

Sanji ground his cigarette angrily. "What do you mean you couldn't get it?"

Peeved, Zoro got to one knee and put his hand on his swords.

"It means I couldn't get it, love cook," he leaned forward. "Do I need to spell it out for you?"

"How about I spell this out? You can go hungry for all I care," Sanji snarled. A fight probably would've broken out if Luffy's stomach hadn't growled.

From his fishing, Luffy looked at the cook. "Make some dinner, Sanji! With lots of meat!"

That dispelled the tension momentarily as Sanji retreated to do his job, chives or not.

Grumbling, Zoro finally settled beneath the tree on the lawn. If he could just get enough peace to ease his nerves then his outlook might be better.

Still wondering what on earth "chives" were, the swordsman slipped into unconsciousness, hopefully without any dreams or disturbances.

0~0~0

"Zoro! Play a game with us!" Luffy pleaded for the fifth time.

He frowned and his reply was the same. "No."

"Please!" Chopper chipped in.

The swordsman started to give in to their pleas, then finally caved. Reluctantly, he got to his feet.

"What are we playing?"

Luffy grinned widely. "Hide and go seek!"

A disbelieving look came to his face before he saw they were serious.

"Fine," Zoro conceded curtly. "Who's-"

"I'm it!" the captain's hand shot up in the air as he exclaimed excitedly.

Chopper and Zoro exchanged worried glances, but let Luffy do as he wished. When, he started counting, they each dashed off in separate directions. Though, the swordsman was much less enthusiastic.

Searching more for a new sleeping spot, then a place to hide, Zoro found himself up in the crow's nest. Smiling, he entered the gym inside and started to lift weights.

This was perfect. He needed some training to get his mind off things and he could let Luffy think he was hiding until he found him later, hopefully, much later.

Zoro continued to train with reps and sword katas when there was knock on the door.

Hefting his swords, he grunted, "Come in."

"Yohoho?" Brook stuck his afro topped skull inside before the rest of his body. "Ah, Zoro-san. You're just the person I wanted to see."

"Really?" He moved through one of his techniques with a fluid and deadly grace born of practice and innate talent.

Brook stood off to the side somewhat awkwardly. He clutched his cane as if he wanted to join in. "Yes. Um…"

Uncertain, the skeleton trailed off, but a look from Zoro prompted him to continue. "I was wondering if I could train with you and learn a few things." Brook seemed to think this was asking too much and waved his hands hurriedly. "If it isn't too much of a bother, that is!"

Relinquishing himself to the absence of meditative thinking or any quiet for that matter, Zoro merely pointed to his right. It was the one space that wasn't littered with heavy weights and with enough room for both of them to practice.

"Go there," he told his fellow swordsman simply.

With a skeletal grin and a rush of thanks, Brook took his stance and the training began.

Halfway through a complicated series of blocking and attacking it became apparent the skeleton also had something on his mind. Zoro tried to dissuade this and bring his attention around to the swords.

"Not so high, Brook. You're leaving your guard down and yourself wide open," Zoro noted. As if to demonstrate, he lunged forward beneath Brook's outstretched arm and thrust his katana. The skeleton yelped in surprise at the unexpected attack.

Satisfied he'd gotten his attention, Zoro smirked and withdrew his weapon. Its tip had stopped barely a millimeter from Brook's rib cage and would have pierced his heart, if he had one.

He sheathed Shuusui. "See? You would've been dead if it'd been an actual enemy."

Brook put away his sword as well and nodded sheepishly. Zoro sat down on the floor and crossed his legs while beckoning the skeleton to do the same.

"Zoro-san, if this is mediation I should probably leave you be so it won't be a repeat of last time…"

When Zoro held up his hand he shut up. "You're distracted by something."

Surprised, Brook's polite speech was shortened.

"How did-?"

Smiling slightly with his eyes closed in thought, Zoro murmured.

"You have a nearly flawless defense, Brook. It wasn't like you."

"Ah…" Brooke wasn't sure how to take the compliment, but decided to accept it in silence as the swordsman was apt to do.

Pausing a little, he took Zoro's quietness as a welcome invitation to give an explanation and complied.

"I was thinking… uh… if you don't mind me asking, Zoro-san…" Brook took a deep breath. "What is it like?"

The swordsman slowly opened his eyes and looked at the skeleton, which in turn began to apologize for his rudeness.

"No, it's okay." He laid Wado Ichimonji across his lap. "What's it like…?" A crease formed between his eyebrows as he thought. Having black hair was an experience on its own, even if it was a dumb idea to begin with.

"Hmm… it's… different. But it's also the same. Not much has changed, yet some still has…" Zoro attempted to explain with a frown. It wasn't easy to say how things had felt, he was never one to express his emotions anyway.

Somehow, Brook got the gist of what the man meant. "I see… so, you think it's made a mark, so things aren't, um… completely normal?" he ventured.

Zoro paused, then slowly nodded. "It's not bad. It just takes time. Change is something you have to get used to."

He got to his feet with his katana and gazed out the window. Small dots representing his nakama scrambled around below.

They looked so fragile. Life if one thread of the tapestry that determined their life they'd be crushed underneath the sudden, enveloping weight. Zoro tried to shake such thoughts from his head.

No, they were stronger than that, and so was he.

Behind him, Brook rose and his cane tapped against the wood of the floor. His jovial chuckle echoed through the room.

"Yes. That is the way of the sea and of pirates, isn't it?" the skeleton concluded.

With a smile, Zoro abruptly turned around and unsheathed his sword.

"Hai," he struck, forcing Brook to defend himself. His grin would've been unnerving, if the skeleton hadn't already known his nakama would never hurt him. "You know what I said about your defense, Brook?" Zoro didn't pause long enough for his crewmate to reply. "It doesn't mean anything if you can't attack right after!"

He pressed forward and the clash of steel upon steel resonated throughout the room, colliding in time with their beating hearts.

0~0~0

On the way from the crow's nest, Brook excused himself, while Zoro continued heading to the deck. It was a nice day and the sun was warm on his back. Training with Brook had greatly improved his mood and he possessed no desire to sleep with the energy rushing through his veins.

Circumstances deemed this to be a good thing when something hard and rubbery bowled into the swordsman from behind and he crashed to the ground. Growling like an angry cat, Zoro struggled to his feet to see Luffy similarly downed… despite being the one who knocked into him.

No longer impressed by the captain's ability to make himself into the world's biggest fool of his own accord again and again, he merely sighed and picked Luffy up by the front of his shirt.

Chopper, however, wasn't so accustomed to this and sweat dropped before hurrying over.

"Agh, Luffy!" he noticed the boy was suspended by the swordsman. "Oh, it's you, Zoro."

Luffy bounced back into consciousness. He grinned at the one who was glaring at him. "Zoro! We were looking for you! You're much harder to find with black hair!"

His muscles tensed and he slammed Luffy into the deck.

"Shut up, baka!"

A fuse had been lit and Zoro's expression became clouded. He and Chopper watched in silence as Luffy pulled his head out of the crackling wood.

"Umph! Ah!" His head finally came free and he was unharmed as usual.

He pouted at his irritated first mate. "That was mean, Zoro."

The little reindeer didn't dare agree with the captain.

"Says the one who knocks people over on a daily basis," Zoro grumbled.

Confused, Chopper offered, "You won."

Ignorant as always, Luffy chirruped.

"Yeah, you're good at blending in now! Though, I didn't know that was the real you at first…"

"Luffy!" Chopper transformed to Heavy Point and bopped him on the head.

"But Zoro is Zoro," the rubber boy pointed out in a muffled voice.

Zoro put his face in his hand and repeated what no one ever seemed to hear.

"This isn't my real hair color. "

"Really?" the cook came up with a curious expression that also always became irked when he came near Zoro. His inquiry was more like a challenge.

Any contentedness he'd gained earlier vanished in a puff of smoke. "It's just dye!"

Sanji raised a curly eyebrow. "Uh huh."

It was obvious he wasn't convinced and why should he be? Zoro apparently hadn't been too clear on which color was dye or not.

"Damn fancy eyebrow!" he growled in departure.

Brow furrowed in thought, Zoro leaned near the railing against the lion head prow. What he'd told Brook had been the truth, or at least the truth as he observed it.

The crew did treat him different, if only slightly. It was obvious they were uneasy about the change and weren't taken it with the idea. Yet, in all honesty, when Zoro looked in the mirror he was surprised and tense as well.

Sure, it was only hair and it shouldn't be such a big deal, but… whenever Zoro saw his reflection he saw someone else. Someone who was so insecure that they needed to change their image to make themselves feel better, even if it was a concept of pride; an instance where the outcome was the opposite. It warped his thoughts and his emotions. The side of his mind that should be occupied with his dream and getting stronger was foggy, bogged down by preconceived notions of how he appeared to others and just in general. Stuff that Zoro had frowned upon and laughed when he saw those who lived that way.

Those people ceded to be free, forfeited that inborn right. Zoro was a creature of simple, one-mindedness. He got done what needed to be done and gave it his blood and sweat while doing it.

He didn't like how he felt now.

Zoro was tugging his hair, his head hanging down near his chest, with the impression that he was dozing. Though, one person saw through that illusion.

"Thinking, Swordsman-san?"

His head jerked to see the dark-haired archaeologist relaxing, legs crossed, by the stretch of railing next to him. Her back was to the ocean and the wind blew, ruffling her clothes and hair while her fingers curled around the wood of the ship.

That person was Nico Robin.

When he moved, he acknowledged her presence, though he said nothing. This didn't bother her.

She looked out to the waves and breathed in the fresh air, laden with sea salt.

"Why did you do it?"

Despite it being asked before, in more or less the same words, the blunt question sent a twang of surprise through Zoro. Robin, observant as she was, noticed the man recoil slightly and repeated, "Why'd did you decide to change yourself?"

… Change yourself… change yourself It was the first time he'd heard those two words paired together in reference to dying his hair. Of course, Zoro had thought so to himself, but he had yet to hear it aloud, until now.

It made him believe it more than he would otherwise; that the change was indeed deeper than appearance.

"To make a point, I guess," Zoro looked Robin in the eye and answered truthfully. Her directness would not be discredited.

At this, a flash of surprise appeared in her eyes, but vanished quickly. "I wouldn't think you of all people would need to. Why?"

He fought back a snappy retort, interpreting underlying insult. But he was mistaken, she was stating fact.

"I got tired."

Zoro's cryptic answers didn't throw off Robin, as they would your average human. It was rare he would open up this much, and inconceivable he would reply straight out. She knew what he meant, and that he was ashamed.

That petty teasing had eventually gotten to him, and he felt the impulse to lash out. The regret rolling off the swordsmen in waves was testament enough. Robin didn't need to lecture about the silliness or right and wrong of it all.

Oddly, Zoro was discovering that his tension was leaking away as he spoke to the archaeologist, as was the fog that had been clouding his mind. He didn't hesitate as long after her next question.

"Did you?"

Did I? Zoro looked inside himself. Did altering myself do any good?

Besides making him lose sight of his goals…

"No," he answered out loud.

Robin's lips were pursed, as if she expected a different one. Then, Zoro realized the truth. It cut through to his heart and lit the fire of his spirit.

A smirk quirked at the corners of his mouth and he nearly laughed at the entire situation.

Gripping Wado Ichimonji with one hand, he replied firmly, "Yes. I did, actually."

When Zoro had thought no good had come from dying his hair, he was wrong. He'd learned a valuable lesson and one he probably wouldn't have the chance to any other time.

More than anything, it was how to keep what was important in mind. So, he wouldn't lose himself, his dream, or his nakama. Considering the idea, Zoro knew if Luffy, their Captain, didn't have his priorities straight, they would be cast adrift. Lost, just like he'd come so close to becoming.

"One more question," Robin held up a finger and smiled. "Are you going to remove the dye?"

At last, a chuckle escaped from the swordsman.

"Yeah, if I can figure out how."

0~0~0

Author's Note: The second of my mystery stories promoting Bizarre Scenarios, I had mixed feeling with this from the beginning. I liked the idea of Zoro dying his hair black out of frustration, but had trouble setting the mood until I finally found common ground between mild comedy and inspirational. Which is kind of like One Piece now that I think about it… And guess who worked their way in there? Robin! Which is interesting considering the next short will be all about her. It's funny how things work out.

I had the idea that Sanji would lose half of his arsenal regarding jokes as well. Poor Sanji. I'm just too fond of torturing him. (Though Oda did plenty of that recently .)

I'll probably go through this with a finer toothed comb as soon as I have the time, but I hope you enjoy it anyways! Thanks for reading and please review! See you soon!