Disclaimer: I do not own One Piece.
Zoro stood by an abandoned building on Grand Avenue. The first floor of the building was destroyed and part of the wall was gone. Blocks of cement that once were walls scattered inside and outside of the building, yet it remained its posture. Right in the gaping and deformed mouth of the building were decorated with flowers, picture frames, and crosses.
He stood gazing at the flowers with an empty expression, knelt down, and placed a bouquet of yellow roses. As he carefully set them along the other fresh flowers, he placed his hands together and mumbled a simple prayer. He raised his head and gazed at the roses, although his mind was in a different place. He stuffed his hands in deep pockets where he gently brushed an object in each pocket.
One he drew out a pocket watch with a long chain made of white gold. He never liked pocket watches, but this one he had a particular interest. He stared at the watch's face and stared for eternity, trying to figure out what time it was. The time was visible, but his mind couldn't register. The watch brought back memories, beautiful yet frighteningly sad.
His friends told him he should forget and begin a new life, find someone new to love.
It's been three years. His friends said, I think he's grateful enough.
Zoro sighed and gave up on reading the time. He put the watch back in his pocket. His other hand remained inside and feeling the tiny object nestled in. He flicked his eyes one last time at the yellow roses before heading back to his lonely apartment.
Zoro peered over from the desk and watched the other pulling an object out of his pocket. It caught his attention because it shined and twinkled like a diamond.
"What's that you're holding?"
"A pocket watch!" His lover said as the pocket watch snapped open to reveal its face, "Neat huh? All sailors have pocket watches!" He handed it to Zoro, so he could look at it. He held the watch in his hand.
"It is nice."
"It's made in the East Blue."
"I thought pocket watches had chains."
"I couldn't find a good one." The other laughed brightly. "Do you want one too? I know someone who can sell it cheap."
"Nah, it's fine."
Zoro snorted and snapped the watch to read the time, "Can you imagine me having one? I think it'll look stupid. It doesn't fit my style."
"I think it'll look good."
Zoro chuckled, but shook his head. He handed the pocket watch back and watched it clip back on his lover's hip.
Zoro decided that he couldn't go home. Everything in it suffocated him. Instead, his feet took him to the beach. The Grand Line Beach was one of the prettiest beaches Zoro had ever been to. Then again, Zoro was born here and never travelled, so he couldn't compare. The sun was setting, so the usually populated beach was deserted. The sand was beginning to cool down and harden from the temperature.
He closed his eyes and listened to the waves crashing against the shore.
This was the place where he first met him: the love of his life. Those wonderful days, those beautiful nights, the days he wanted to relive again, were gone. It only lasted a year, but it was something Zoro would never forget. He couldn't or else he was going to break into pieces.
He removed his shoes and slowly stepped through the cold sand. His mind was lost, searching for something he knew it didn't exist. His arms grasped for something he wanted to embrace once more. But it was gone, all gone. Just like magic, happiness came and disappeared like a puff of smoke. Zoro sank to his knees and grabbed a handful of sand. He raised it up and watched the grains blow away from the breezy cold wind.
He watched as the sand ride away on the wind, and as he turned left, he saw a young boy playing near the shore. The child was packing up a mound of sand and pouring water over it to harden. It was an activity any child would do at a beach, but Zoro was so intrigued. He didn't realize he stood up and began walking toward the child. When he came to, he was standing a foot away from him.
The young boy looked around eight. He was arduously shaping the top of the mound into a tower, so Zoro assumed it was some kind of castle. Zoro stared at the short, bushy black hair and dark ivory eyes with wistful longing. The child seemed unnoticed at the close presence because his dexterous hands continued in the same rhythmical pace. Zoro silently watched the young boy and his sand castle making. Finally, Zoro couldn't help but wanting to speak to him, wanting to get connections to this child who looked like him.
"What are you making?" Zoro asked.
The child peered up and looked surprised to see a spectator. "Um...a castle. Can't you tell?"
Zoro chuckled at the chlid's impudent manner, "I'm sorry...I'm not an artist." He noticed that the child's left cheek didn't have a mark, and it disappointed him slightly. The child turned and returned to his work.
"Shouldn't you be going home? It's getting late, and a kid like you shouldn't out all alone-"
"Oh, don't worry mister," The child said proudly, smiling up at Zoro, "if someone hurts me, I can beat them up!" That reply evoked Zoro's memory and it shook his heart.
Even his attitude was like him...
The child's shouts abruptly stopped when the child faced Zoro. Those black eyes widened and then the child asked, in a gentler voice, "H-Hey mister...are you crying?"
Zoro snapped out from a lost reverie and felt warm tears falling down his cheeks. He wiped his eyes, and feeling ashamed, he ran away from the beach.
The phone rang and Zoro knew who it was because only his lover had that ringtone. Zoro quickly reached for it. He involuntarily answered in a bright tone because he was so happy. It's been a month since his lover left to sail across the sea, and he was coming home.
"Whoa, that scared me Zoro!"
Zoro let out a chuckle, "What'd you expect?"
The voice on the other side chuckled as well, "I missed you."
"I missed you too...hey."
"Come home as fast as possible."
"Uhhh...I don't know...It's hard to buy an early train ticket to Grand Line..."
"I know, but...I want to see you so badly and I have something for you." Zoro whispered as he twirled a velvet box in his hands. Inside was a white gold chain that Zoro knew it would look good with the pocket watch.
He could almost hear him smiling, "Okay. I'll try!" There was a pause and his voice grew stern, "I hope our home's not messy."
Zoro laughed, "What'd you talking about? You're the one who's always making the mess!"
"You're right!" There was a laugh, "Zoro, I love you!"
"I love you too."
The phone went dead, but Zoro listened to the dull sound. In his head, he replayed his handsome voice and how he said 'I love you.' There was no one who could say it just as wonderful as him.
Zoro's eyes snapped open and let out a harsh gasp. He abruptly sat up and searched his surroundings. There were heaps of scattered clothes and some clean ones hanging on hooks. Magazines and books were piled in one corner of the room. DVDs and CDs that didn't belong to him were stacked neatly on top of the television set.
He panted in quick breaths, trying to calm down. He thought he felt a presence, but it was just an illusion. He peered at the empty spot beside him and let out a sigh. Sunlight filtered through the thin curtains, but it was a dark orange. It was late afternoon; Zoro had slept the whole day. He slept in late-again, but this was normal. He groggily sat up and scratched his messed up hair. Subconsciously, he reached over to grab the coat he wore yesterday. He slipped in the pockets, and one hand brought out the pocket watch. The other came up empty.
Zoro paled and frantically searched the inside of the pocket again but there was nothing in it. Now he was panicking. If he lost that, he was in serious trouble. He listed off the places he'd been yesterday, and the one he came up with was the beach where he met the mysterious little boy. Maybe he accidentally dropped it. Searching the sand for the little thing was going to be a big hassle. He cursed under his breath and began scrambling for something to wear.
It was when he was about to leave, when there was a knock on the door.
Why, at a time like this, Zoro wondered as he stormed to the source of the sound. He stopped at the doorway when he heard a familiar voice.
"Hey mister! Are you in there?"
Zoro opened the door, and there was the same young boy. Today he wore a clean white shirt with a large ship anchor printed on. He had on black shorts with puffy pockets.
"I've been knocking on your door since this morning! Why didn't you hear my knocks?"
"Um...I was sleeping..."
The boy raised his hand to show Zoro the small glass bottle filled with a clear substance. "You dropped this!"
"T-Thanks..." Zoro couldn't help but be surprised as he retrieved the bottle, "How did you know I lived here?"
The young boy put his hands behind his back and began to fidget. He was staring at some point on the floor and didn't look up for a few seconds. When he did, there was a bashful expression spread over his cute cheeks.
"I-I followed you."
"You followed me?"
"Yeah because you dropped this and...and...I felt bad."
Zoro smiled, "For what?"
"I...I thought I made you cry..."
"Oh," Zoro chuckled, "No, you didn't make me cry."
"Yeah, I just remembered something and..." He trailed off.
The young boy suddenly smiled because Zoro's crying was not his fault, "Um...what's in the bottle mister?"
"This?" Zoro shook the bottle and the liquid splashed like a wave, "Magic water."
"That's cool!" The boy's eyes sparkled like diamonds, "Do you get three wishes?"
"No, only one."
"Well, are you going to make a wish?"
"...soon." Zoro replied quietly. He stood back and gestured a hand, "Do you want to come in? It's a bit messy, but I want to thank you for finding the bottle."
The boy swayed his little body from side to side before replying, "Um...okay!" The child fell silent when he entered the apartment. He looked slightly disturbed as those black eyes scanned the abandoned piles of clothing and trash sitting along the edges of the walls. Zoro moved ahead and pushed piles of papers and removed five used mugs to clear a table for the kid. He dumped, or rather, stacked the mugs on top of other dirtied glassware in the filled up sink.
The boy sat down and examined the room, "Your room's dirty!" His blunt honesty stabbed Zoro's heart in many ways.
Zoro chuckled dryly, "Sorry about that. I used to be better than this."
Zoro suddenly lost the smile, "...I don't know. I guess...no one comes here to see my home so I don't care about it much."
"Don't you have friends?"
"What happened to him?"
Zoro stopped stacking the mugs and lowered his head. "...he died."
The child didn't falter, "Did he get sick?"
"No. He was killed in a train accident." Zoro's voice grew faint and extremely hard to hear. "The train wasn't able to turn a corner and collided to a building. Two hundred and fourteen people were killed. He was one of them...Today was the third anniversary..."
The child put a hand on his chin and looked bored, "Hmmm...that's a long time." The boy watched Zoro's hand go into a pocket. Zoro didn't realize this and with the other hand, he grabbed a clean cup on a drying rack. He double checked to make sure it was really clean. He went in the refrigerator and picked out a carton of orange juice. He didn't read the expiration date, but it probably had enough preservatives to last a decade. He poured in a cup and carried it back to the table.
"Here kid." Zoro set the cup in front of the boy. The child glared at the cup for a second for any dirt or grime, and then tentatively grabbed the cup with his two hands.
Zoro sat across from the kid. He smiled as the black haired kid sipped the juice noisily. He held his urge to pet him. He held an even stronger urge to embrace him and cry.
"Where are you from?"
"Down the block. I just moved here."
"Hou, um...are you eight?"
"How do you like it here?"
The boy smiled, "I like the beach! The fishermen are nice too!" The child looked around the room. Most of the time, the child frowned when he saw trash.
Suddenly, the child stood up and ran to a shelf full of picture frames. He picked one and dusted it off.
He brought one back, and Zoro knew exactly which one it was. So when the boy brought back a heavy frame with seashell borders, his throat tightened up. It was a two shot of Zoro and his lover laughing and wrapping their arms over their shoulders. In the background, there was a brightly lighted Ferris wheel. This was their first date at the Grand Line Summer Carnival.
The child pointed his finger on the black haired man, "Hey, is this your friend?"
The boy stared at the picture, and then he looked up at Zoro. The older man was taken aback because of those onyx colored eyes were examining him carefully. Face-to-face, Zoro realized how much this child looked so much like him. The child looked back and forth at Zoro and the photo. Then sadness pulled down his adorable face.
"You look happy in this picture."
The boy turned to face him, "...you're not happy?"
Zoro smiled sadly, "I guess not..."
"Was he your best friend?"
"He was the better than any best friend I've ever had."
"So he's your best best friend."
Zoro chuckled lifelessly, "Sure, if you want to put it that way."
The boy put the picture frame on the table and poked the glass. "Dad says that talking makes everyone feel better. Mister, can you tell me about him? Maybe it'll make you feel better because I don't want to see you sad! Please please please?"
Zoro pulled up a weak smile, "Do you really want to listen?"
"I do I do! I like to listen to stories!" Suddenly, the room fell silent. The child waited as he watched Zoro's face contort from embarrassment. "...do you want me to ask questions?"
"That'll be great."
The boy began bombarding him with dozens of questions. Amazing for a seven year old, he asked general questions to the more embarrassing ones. Of course, Zoro didn't reveal to the boy that he and his best friend had an intimate relationship, but the child was clueless. The child never got fully into those, so Zoro assumed that the child didn't know that there was such thing.
Eventually, the child got tired of asking about the best friend and it turned to Zoro's attention. He asked his favorite color, food, place, season, dog, cat, fish, dinosaur, vehicle, day, month, and many other random things. This topic Zoro began to feel comfortable, so he returned asking the same.
The child loved meat, his favorite color was red, and he loved the sea. He liked playing with his older brother, and he liked to play 'pretend pirates.' He wanted to grow up to become a pirate or something relating to the sea. He loved to make friends: humans or animals. He hated bad people and stories with sad endings because he cried easily (and his brother made fun of him).
The child resembled so much like him, it made Zoro happy than scared. He didn't believe in ghosts, so there was no way he would've come. However, he believed that there was some destined coincidence. This child maybe appeared to raise his spirits.
And that was enough.
After the child leaves, he was going to open the bottle of magic water and drink it. The one wish to be with Luffy again was going to become a reality.
Zoro cast his eyes to the window and realized for the first time how late he actually slept. That meant this kid waited in front of his apartment for a really long time. Grand Line was famous for having short days and long nights, but still...
"It's getting late..." Zoro muttered under his breath, but loud enough for the child to hear. He watched from the corner of his eye as the child flinched.
"Um...mister, can I ask a favor?"
"I can take you home, if that's what you're asking."
To his surprise, the boy shook his head, "Um...can I spend the night?"
"My home's kind of far...and it's late-"
"But I can take you home."
"I told Dad that I'm staying over already."
"You-! You're not a good kid."
The boy laughed, "I only did it once. I promise I'll never do it again. So can I? Please?"
Zoro would've said no to a normal child, but he couldn't say it.
Zoro got up, "You can borrow my bed. I'll sleep somewhere else."
The child fumbled with his t-shirt, "B-But I'm afraid to sleep all alone..."
"You're seven, and you still want somebody to sleep with you?"
The child looked up and peered into Zoro's eyes, but it also pierced through his mind.
"Do you want to sleep all alone?"
Zoro flinched and he couldn't answer to that question. He pursed his lips and after a moment, he opened them.
"Alright..." Just this once... "Come on, I'll show you the bed." The child chirped with glee and followed after Zoro. While he stepped casually over trash, the child chose careful steps to avoid them. When he got to the bedroom, he gestured the child to come in.
The boy peered in and a look of relief spread across the features for the bedroom was clean. He ran to the bed, crawled on it like a mountain, and dove into the blankets. Zoro chuckled and followed after, only stepping into the bed. The child poked his little head, and when Zoro lay beside him, the child slipped his fingers in Zoro's large hands and squeezed.
Zoro was about to pull away when the child whispered, "Holding hands makes me go to sleep faster." The child pulled up a smile.
"Hey...I don't know your name mister...What is your name?"
"Zoro..." Before falling asleep, Zoro stroked the boy's hair, "I don't know your name either."
The child chuckled, "I'll tell you in the morning! It'll be a surprise!"
"Alrigh...Luf-" Zoro had already fallen asleep and accidentally a name slipped out. The child didn't go to sleep. He held Zoro's hands and peered into the strained features on the sleeping man.
Zoro ran to the train station where his lover was supposed to be there waiting. He arrived thirty minutes late because the road he was supposed to turn seemed to have disappeared, so he became lost. When he arrived, he felt something was wrong. There were too many people crowding at the entrance. All were shouting, others were crying their hearts out.
Confused and fear welled up inside his heart. He didn't know why.
He randomly grabbed a person by the shoulder to demand to know what the commotion was about.
"A train accident!" The man's voice trembled and tears were rolling down his cheeks, "It crashed into a building and tons of people are buried!"
"W-Which train?" Zoro realized he was shouting and scared the poor man.
"The morning train! The eight o'clock one!"
"Eight o'clock..." Zoro gasped out, his body went limp from shock, "Luffy was on the eight o'clock train..."
Suddenly, his eyes went blind and he couldn't see anything. He felt his knees gave away and he fell on the hard asphalt. He felt hands, probably the man, and voices telling him that there are survivors, but Zoro knew. Something left his heart, like a light brush of a hand, and vanished.
The world suddenly was silent and dark, except for a phrase that lingered in his mind:
IT'S MY FAULT.
Because of his selfish wishes, Luffy rode on the early train.
IT'S MY FAULT. IT'S MY FAULT. IT'S MY FAULT.
Those words still plagued his heart, even to this day.
This time, Zoro woke up to the morning sunlight blinding his eyes. He squinted and attempted to shield them with his arm. He couldn't. Zoro's eyes widened and he found that his hands and feet were bound tight together. He tried to pull, but the ropes were securely tied. He raised his head to where the child slept, but he wasn't there. Relief washed onto him a brief moment, until he realized that maybe the child was the culprit.
"Hey!" Zoro shouted as loud as he could, "I know you're still here! Why did you do this?"
A voice behind the door replied, "...because."
Zoro snorted, "You nasty little twerp! Getting my weak side and then do this kind of act? What kind of kid are you?"
The child only replied as 'because...'
Zoro squeezed his eyes shut to make the tears go away. Had he become so weak that he could be taken down by some seven year old?
"...What do you want, huh? Money? Jewelry? Look around as much as you like kid, but there's nothing in this stinking house!"
The voice didn't answer right away. When it did, Zoro stopped shouting.
"I came to talk to you...Zoro."
The voice he thought he would never hear again rushed into his yearning ears. Immediately, tears burst and slid uncomfortably down his face.
"L-Luffy-? Luffy, is that you? Is that really you?" He asked in a shaking whisper, "Oh...Oh my god...Luffy..."
The door slowly creaked open and the same boy Zoro saw entered, except there was no childish expression on the face. It was still young, but it resembled more of the Luffy Zoro knew. The voice, however, was his.
"Luffy-!" Zoro gasped and tried to wiggle to the edge of the bed, "Luffy...Luffy...!" He couldn't say anything except the name he had missed. Over and over, he called his long lost lover as the seven year old boy stood before him. Zoro sobbed out loud, his heart shaking with grief and happiness. Even though the body was a child, his spirit was there. It was alive.
Zoro raised his tear streaked face and to the little boy.
"Luffy...I-I missed you..."
"I missed you too."
Zoro shifted his body so he could give an awkward bow, "Luffy...Luffy, my god, I...I'm so sorry-!"
"If I didn't...didn't say-you wouldn't-"
"You wouldn't have died! You wouldn't have been killed!" Zoro cried, "Because of me, you're not here anymore! I killed you Luffy! I-I'm so sorry-!"
"Zoro, stop!" Luffy raised his voice to a yell, silencing Zoro's. Luffy approached the bed and cupped his little hands on Zoro's cheeks. Zoro let out another ragged sob and waited for Luffy's next move. A shout, a punch, anything.
"Zoro, it's not your fault." Luffy said softly, and he smiled, "I'm not mad at you at all."
"It was an accident. It was destined to happen. So don't do this to yourself."
Zoro bit his lip to prevent another sob. His heart felt liberated from the regret. He leaned his face into Luffy and nuzzled his wet cheek against the boy's face. Tears were falling from Luffy's face also, and he squeezed Zoro tight. He pressed his little lips on Zoro's and left gentle kisses on his cheek and the jaw line.
"Zoro...what I'm attempting to do is selfish, and I hope you'll forgive me."
"Really Luffy?" Zoro produced a smile, "You've always been acting on your own. I won't be surprised."
"I...I came to take your memories away."
"Don't worry Zoro, I'm only going to take away a year and four months. It won't hurt you."
A year and four months: exactly the time he and Luffy began spending their lives together.
Zoro stared in shock at the youthful face, trying to find a trace of a lie. He saw nothing.
"Luffy, why-? Why would you do such a-"
"I'm doing this for you, Zoro." Luffy brushed his little hands through Zoro's hair, "I don't want you to die early because of me." He ran his hand down to Zoro's pocket and pulled out the little bottle. When he stepped back to show Zoro what he was holding, Zoro's face turned white as ice.
"What are you doing?"
"What do you think I'm doing?"
"Luffy, don't-! That's not-!"
"I know. It's not magic water, but I sure wish it was..." Luffy shook the bottle around and even opened the cork, "...puffer fish poison. Zoro, do you remember when I told you when I was seven years old, I almost died from eating puffer fish meat? ...well, I guess you do since you have this..."
"W-What are you saying?" Zoro demanded, even though he already knew what Luffy was going to say next.
Luffy stared at the bottle with a melancholy expression, "Maybe I should've died that day, then you wouldn't be sad."
"Luffy, please-! Please don't...don't do this-!" Zoro squeezed his eyes, "I just met you! Don't let me see you die again!"
"Zoro, don't worry. You won't see me die again because I'll be already dead. You won't remember me because I never existed."
Zoro frantically shook his head, "No Luffy, let me keep these memories, our memories! They're my life!"
"And those memories are tearing you apart-and I don't want to see that!" Luffy shouted. When Luffy raised the bottle to his lips, Zoro rushed, trying hard to rip the knots free.
"It won't break Zoro. I made it especially hard so not even mammoths can break it." He watched Zoro curse while tears rolled down his face. He ignored Luffy and continued to pull the knot.
"Zoro..." Zoro stopped for a second to hear his lover's voice, "Thank you so much, Zoro. Thank you for loving me all this time. Thank you for missing me. Thank you for making the last year of my life the greatest," Luffy smiled through falling tears, "I'm sure going to miss hearing you say 'I love you.'"
"Luffy!" Zoro shouted, "Thank you for forgiving me for what I've done! I love you Luffy! I love you so much! Oh god, Luffy! Please Luffy-! Don't go!"
Luffy pulled up a wobbly smile, "I love you too."
With one swift move of his hand he drank the poison. Zoro cried out his name as Luffy collapsed. The body dissipated before it hit the ground, and the bottle fell on the carpet with a soft thud.
The ropes vanished and Zoro was free for no one tied him up, but the pain in his chest remained. He screamed in anguish to the person whom he loved as the memories began to fade. The tears did not stop.
Zoro stood by an abandoned building on Grand Avenue. The first floor of the building was destroyed and part of the wall was gone. Blocks of cement that once were walls were scattered inside and outside of the building, yet it remained its posture. Right in the gaping and deformed mouth of the building were decorated with flowers, picture frames, and crosses. He stood gazing at the flowers with a perplexed expression.
This was the third time he'd been here, but he didn't know the reason why. It was like all accidents, but this one struck his heart the most. Maybe it was because it was close to his home.
He stuffed his hands in deep pockets where he suddenly brushed an object.
He drew out a pocket watch with a long chain made of white gold. He never liked pocket watches, so he didn't know why he had this. He stared at the watch's face and stared for eternity, trying to figure out where he got it from. He couldn't come up with anything, as if there was a missing gap in his mind.
Zoro titled his head, and instead of placing the watch back, he set it down beside the flowers. It looked like an expensive watch, so it might be a special gift for the deceased. He stuffed his hands back in his pockets and made sure it was empty. He flicked his eyes one last time at the grave before heading back to his lonely apartment.