Author's Note: ...Please read!


Because He's Namaka II

When it happened, Nami shrieked and covered her eyes.

When it happened, Usopp froze, the only thing moving was the drops on his cheeks.

When it happened, Sanji's cigarette fell, and his breathing became erratic, harsh.

When it happened, Chopper screamed and almost fainted.

When it happened, Robin's stoic face was finally shattered.

When it happened, Franky wept openly.

When it happened, Brooke dropped his violin and bow and cane.

-:-:-

When it happened, Luffy…

Luffy just stopped.

-:-:-

Stopped moving.

Stopped breathing.

Stopped his fist.

Stopped his legs.
Stopped his eyes.

Stopped his senses.

Stopped his stomach.

Stopped his mind.

Just.

Stopped.

-:-:-

And somewhere inside him, his heart sputtered to a stop.

In his head, he was screaming. Sobbing. Denying.

Filled with memories.

And that one, damned image filled his eyes.

His mind.

Everything.

Leaving room.

For nothing.

-:-:-

Zoro lay face down in a quickly-growing pile of his own blood. Their enemy had done something that was impossible. Utterly impossible.

Chopper held his stethoscope over his big brother (as he had always thought of Zoro as), over his heart.

Nothing.

No air whooshing in and out of his lungs.

No dark, ragged gasps for air.

No low, quiet moans filled with pain he'd always downplay.

Nothing.

Not even the forever comforting sound of his heart.

There was nothing inside Zoro.

He was…

-:-:-

"Gone," Chopper said, barely able to speak. The Mugiwaras wanted to deny it so badly. Wanted to tell the poor reindeer to stop joking and start fucking working on their swordsman there was no way he could be gone NO!

They turned to their opponent, their enemy. Eyes shaded. Faces made of stone. Knuckles cracking. Teeth grinding. Visibly trembling with a maelstrom of anger, all directed at him, he was the reason why reason why Zoro reason why Zoro won't reason why Zoro won't look up and laugh and growl and fight and can't let him go can't ever forgive him.

KILL.

Their opponent was laughing, laughing.

Until he saw.

Until he saw.

Then he started screaming.
But none of the Mugiwaras heard him, their ears filled with a roaring sound, the sound of their collective anger and the faint echo of their enemy laughing.

He didn't live another fifteen minutes.

But he survived long after that.

Death, they figured, was too good for him.

-:-:-

Back at the ship, Nami curled up in the girl's room, crying out and sobbing. No. This could not be happening. He…he survived a house falling down on him! He survived Kuma! HE SURVIVED AND THERE WAS NO WAY HE COULD BE-!

The door opened, and Usopp stepped inside. Nami looked at him, tears streaming for the first time since she begged Luffy to help her, since she watched the Merry Go sink down in flames.

They sat together and cried, siblings in their grief.

-:-:-

Back at the ship, Sanji was sitting in front of his refrigerator, which was standing open. He didn't make a sound. It was so unlike him to leave it open, since he was always adamant about preventing food from going to waste. But that was the very last thing on his mind.

He was staring at the row of beer cans, never to be drunk again with an accompaniment of sarcastic remarks and biting comebacks.

Slowly, as if in a dream, he reached for one.

It took a few tries

(Because Zoro would kill him for touching his beer but Zoro was—no, don't say that, he'll use this against you one of these days and no, no but yes. Yes)

but he took one, popped it open. Took a sip of the bubbling, amber liquid.

He coughed, never very used to the roughness of beer. He had always been a wine person, and Zoro had teased him on that.

"What, can't take a drink of real booze?" he'd say, something stupid like that.

Unaware of the tears streaming down his cheeks

(he never cried, no, not even when the Merry went down, not even when Robin-chwan begged them to let her live, not even…)

he finished off the can and crushed it, empty.

He sat and waited for someone who'd never come.

-:-:-

Back at the ship, Chopper had locked himself into the medical room. Robin had entered, using her Devil Fruit powers, to comfort the reindeer and make sure he wouldn't hurt himself.

But he knew as well as she did that none of them, no one on the crew would ever be the same. Before they had been alright, before they had not known…

Robin was no stranger to despair. The swallowing, yawning feeling, as if you had fallen off a steep cliff and there was no one, not even the ground, to catch you. No death, no time, nothing.

A void that you fell forever.

-:-:-

Back at the ship, Franky mechanically

(oh boy, getting as bad as Brooke should stop that before Z—before someone points it out and…)

pounded nails into ebony wood.

Unadorned, with only a beautifully detailed carving of four swords

(one is broken and never can be used again and the other three are whole and never will be used again and oh god why why why)

just like he would have wanted.

Black wood.

Dark red velvet insides.

Lid carving.

Box.

No.

Coffin.

Franky knew he could do this in five minutes. Maybe less. Coffins were easy to make structurally. Just a box. Maybe a flourish here, maybe an embellish there.

Easy to make.

Theoretically.

But he took his time, hand hovering over his tools, keenly aware that this would be the last place his crewmate

(first mate)

would sleep.

The rhythmic sound helped Franky calm down.

It didn't help his tears.

-:-:-

Back at the ship, Brooke looked at his violin. All four strings had been snapped in their fall. That wasn't the problem. As a sensible musician, he kept several sets of extra strings, just in case of this.

That wasn't the problem.

His eyes

(but he didn't have eyes, and yohohoho, skull joke even though Franky hates those even though Usopp rolls his eyes but Z—someone else will usually chuckle and offer a smile)

were fixed on the red.

The red stains on his violin.

Somewhere, in the part of his brain that had always been darkly humorous and observant, he thought it ironic how the blood hadn't dried on his violin, wasn't content with drying on and allowing someone with a washcloth or a pair of fingernails to take it off and forget, but no, it seeped in and would stay forever.

Brooke held the wet cloth in his right hand, the violin cradled in the other. The cloth was clean, even from hours of just blankly scrubbing at the stain.

Stubborn

(just like Z—just like that person, who was always stubborn and never could back down)

thing.

-:-:-

Back at the ship, Luffy sat in the crow's nest/gym, the place where Franky designed just for Z—him.

Three golden earrings hung from a rubbery ear, making tiny chimes that reminded of wind chimes or bells.

On his arm, a green-black bandana.

Around his waist, a green hamaraki and a red sash over it.

On his lap, three long, well-cared-for meitos.

Surrounding him, a messy roomful of weights and other exercise

(training he was always going on about his training who needed training that much but understand and let him do that unless Chopper said no…)

equipment.

And yet there was nothing left.

Luffy slowly, hesitantly picked up the white-hilted katana.

Zoro?

He shook his head, not sure that the katana knew but doing it anyway.

Zoro is gone?

A shaky, halting nod.

Are you the new master?

A shake, and at first, silence. And then…

We know.

Luffy.

We're sorry.

Luffy…

We're sorry.

Luffy, I…

Sorry.

I wanted to tell you…

So so sorry.

Tell you…

Luffy.

Thanks.

Distantly, Luffy heard himself scream.

-:-:-

The first few nights were the worst, as they sailed back

(Nami had no clue that Zoro had that Eternal Post, no clue he ever thought that far in advance but he always did, even though he'd probably follow it backwards or something so stupid but so utterly Zoro but he had bought it and kept that ever since…)

to Zoro's old dojo.

They lay awake, hearing their captain scream at night.

Sometimes they were sure that they screamed along or cried.

-:-:-

They walked up silently, tears put away but not quite dried.

They'd never be dried.

The moment they set foot in the dojo, the door opened. A tired-looking, graying but still quite cheerful man smiled behind round spectacles, and they knew, just knew that this was Zoro's Sensei.

Luffy only held out two swords.
Sandai Kitesu.

Shuusui.

And his Sensei

(his name turned out to be Koshiro)

saw the only one he didn't hold out, tied around his waist with that familiar green hamaraki and a new red sash, and smiled sadly, taking the other two katana.

-:-:-

He invited them in the dojo, gently waving away the curious children. When they told him the story, he sighed and took off his glasses.

"Zoro…he was always one of the best and worst students in my class. He always took my words to heart but rarely understood them. He was the second top student and always lost to my daughter Kuina…you know, he would get so frustrated with that! But he never quit, not even after she beat him 2001 times…"

"Two-thousand-and-one times?" They can't believe it. No. Their swordsman had always been the best, and even when he wasn't he'd always come out on top. But it's true.

"Where is she now?" Robin asked, genuinely curious.

"She died long ago," Zoro's Sensei said. "Come."

He beckoned them to a simple grave, with a practice sword and a bouquet of flowers and curiously enough, a newspaper, flipped to the page with Zoro's picture.

"Hello Kuina," he said calmly, as if he was actually talking to his daughter. "I've got some friends of Zoro's. Remember him?" They watched as Koshiro talked to his daughter for a little longer and then turns back to them.

"So, what lead you here?" he asked. Robin held out a piece of paper

(written in a strange but somehow familiar script that was quite hard to read at first but now they know just how Zoro's i's get a little too tall and how his e's sometimes looped away and how sometimes his z's would sometimes curve and look like backwards s's)

to Koshiro, who takes it.

"To whoever has the luck of getting to bury me…"

-:-:-

First of all, I want to make this clear. Whoever is burying me, go find the Eternal Post I have. I'm not telling you where, but just do it. It should be pretty easy to find, I think. After you find it, go and sail to the island it names and find the Isshin dojo. Bury me there, next to the grave marked as 'Kuina' if you can.

Second, my swords, of course. If you can't find anyone worthy of using them, enshrine them with me. Use one of my earrings if you have to. I don't care—I probably won't need them anymore. But if you're going to enshrine them, take the white-hilted katana to my Sensei first. If not, then just let him know that Kuina's sword is still looking for a place up there as the Greatest Swordsman's sword.

Third…well, there isn't much left, is there? Go ahead and take the rest of my earrings. Consider it payment.

Thanks.

Roronoa Zoro.

-:-:-

Koshiro looked up at the Mugiwaras, who motioned him to turn it over.

He did, noting that there was more written on the back.

"Post Script…"

-:-:-

I guess since that I have namaka now, that whole front side's pretty much useless. Except for the first part. I still want to be buried at the Isshin dojo, but I guess you guys know that.

Anyway, as for my swords, make sure that my Sensei knows where they are, at least. I trust you guys, so yeah.

Make sure to kick that guy's ass, the one who defeated me. There's a pretty good chance it's Mihawk, so if it's him I just ask that you try. If not, well then, I don't need to say much, huh?

Goodbye.

Zoro.

P.P.S. Hey guys, I just wanted to tell you something, incase I don't have enough time to.

Thanks.

Thanks for everything.

Especially…thanks, Luffy.

For saving me.

Thanks.

-:-:-

Koshiro sighed, handing the paper back to the Robin. He smiled and nodded.

"I would be honored to help you bury Zoro next to Kuina," he said.

And the Mugiwara's smiles are brittle as they accept.

-:-:-

All in all, it was a quiet funeral. Nothing fancy, just like he would've wanted.

Afterwards, at night

(they got to stay at Z—his old dojo and they felt even closer and even farther away from him than ever)

Luffy approached Koshiro, who was sitting out on the porch. He held Wado Ichimonji. Koshiro looked up at him, already knowing what he was about to ask.

"Teach me," Luffy said simply, his eyes shadowed by his hair and the late night.

"It will be difficult," Zoro's old Sensei said. "You're already used to your own fighting style…"

"It doesn't matter!" And from those three words, Koshiro understands what he didn't, not before. When Zoro, tears streaming down his cheeks, had begged him for Kuina's sword. He understands the importance of a vow to these young people. "It doesn't matter. I promised Zoro I'd help him become the greatest swordsman in the world. I won't back down on that promise, ever!"

Koshiro sighs, and holds out two katana.

Sandai Kitesu.

Shuusui.

Luffy looks up, eyes wide. Slowly, he takes the other two katana with shaking hands.

"They have accepted you as their master now," Luffy's new Sensei says. "If you want to carry on Zoro's wish, I suggest you use Santuryuu."

Grasping the three meitos with new resolve, Luffy does something he's rarely done before.

He bows down to his new Sensei.

-:-:-

Three years later…

Mihawk faces his new adversary…but it's not Roronoa Zoro.

"You…Mugiwara. Where is Roronoa?" he asks. Mugiwara looks up at him, and he sees a new hardness, a new chill.

This is utterly unlike Mugiwara.

Somewhere inside, he knows where Roronoa is. And why Mugiwara has three swords.

"He's dead," the hatted opponent says calmly. "I'm here as a substitute."

Mihawk closes his eyes, allowing himself to grieve for a moment.

He does see the rest of the crew. Their eyes tell him all that he needs to know.

"Very well. Let's get started."


Author's Note: Why am I so mean to all of them? Oh well...this was inspired by all the dead!Luffy fics, and especially Another Crewmate by HeroR! Go and read, now!