Disclaimer: If I owned One Piece, I would have been killed by now by the force of ten thousand ravenous fans. Thankfully, I just write shitty fanfiction. So enjoy!
"Who...the fuck...are you, you son of a bitch?" Zoro snarled.
From behind him, a laugh tinkled lightly - fufufufu.
Zoro felt his blood run cold at the sound of the laughter. It was dry, chilling, confident. It had been a long time since Zoro had felt such unrestrained fear for not just the others in his life, but his own life. He craned his neck and edged around, the only noise the shuffling of his trousers as he did so. The enemy was a shadow behind him, looming as it slowly came into focus.
Tall, unbelievably tall, and bulkier than his actual body was because of a flamboyant, hideous feathered pink coat that the man was wearing. He was blond, tan, and perched on the bridge of his angular nose were a set of tinted-purple sunglasses that obscured his eyes. His shirt was unbuttoned to the navel, revealing a pristine and toned chest. The man bent at his knees, coming on to his toes in his heeled shoes to look Zoro in the eye as he continued to chuckle, holding one hand in the air, his fingers twitching and bending unnaturally and threateningly, as though he were playing with a set of strings.
"You know who I am, Roronoa," he said with a smirk. "Donquixote Doflamingo."
The swordsman coughed and wiped the stray blood from his mouth with the back of his hand. "So you're the puppet master behind this business," he accused. "Didn't expect you to be onboard."
Doflamingo's chuckling ceased, and he frowned visibly. "I wasn't planning on it," he admitted. "It's not like I was trying to protect my assets." He gestured to the fallen bodies around them lazily, as though they were bits of discarded trash. "I only showed up because I received and interesting message about the friends you were bringing along." He pointed a long, dexterous finger directly in Zoro's face, which antagonized the swordsman immensely. "To be honest, I could not have been bothered by your little vendetta, Roronoa. Don't take it personally."
Friends... Zoro touched the top of Sanji's head and listened closely to the sound of the cook breathing. "Not personal?" he choked out, the words sounding venomous as they fell from his lips. "Then what do you call what you did to my husband?"
The puppet master leaned about Zoro's form to peak a look at Sanji, whose hands were twitching already, gripping at the floor soaked with his own blood as he struggled toward consciousness. "I did nail those troublesome feet to the floor, the pretty boy wouldn't stop kicking," he said, "But I believe the majority of the damage was inflicted by you, Roronoa. I had no hand in this."
Zoro growled and made to get up, but a sharp pain that ripped through his chest kept his movements as bay, and he collapsed on one knee, reaching toward the man just out of his reach. "Bullshit," he cursed, "You knew exactly what you were doing!"
Doflamingo lazily slapped away Zoro's outstretched hand as though the swordsman were but a child. "You sure are a feisty one, aren't you?" he teased.
The words were ignored. Zoro squinted through the pain at the businessman, trying to place his motives, trying to understand him, but coming up blank. "I don't understand," he finally admitted. "You knew we were coming, and yet you did nothing to protect your business and customers? We've already robbed you of your cargo..."
But the man was laughing again. "Human trafficking is a thing of the past, Roronoa," he explained. "I was glad to be rid of this troublesome side venture, and you did a nice job of cleaning it up for me. If anything, I should be thanking you."
He reached down and grasped the chin of Zoro's face, and the swordsman tried to tear himself away, but the man's hands and hold were both too immense and strong for him to break free. He had to suffer the creeping touch of the fingers as they pushed up on the corners of Zoro's thin lips, stretching his skin uncomfortably. "It's the age of smiles, you see," he taunted, his voice sickeningly sweet, "Smiles!"
A coldness descended upon the hall, and for once it had nothing to do with the rage building up within the swordsman. He felt the hands leave his face, and both him and Doflamingo cast their eyes around frantically, trying to find the source of this fierce-some presence. Down, past Sanji's prone form, were two figures at the end of the hallway. From one, the taller, came the click of a pistol's safety being released. From the other, shorter, came the sound of cracking knuckles, as they pounded their fists together before their hunched body.
"Luffy!" Zoro gasped, never more delighted to see the ragged boy, who was relatively unmarked from the battle he had emerged from. From behind him, Doflamingo rose back to his full height.
"The Strawhat boy," the man assessed. "Exactly who I wanted to see." He squinted at the second figure, "But who is that with you?"
The second man stepped into the flickering light of the hallway, twirling his gun by the trigger as he sauntered forward. His tuft of blond hair was still perfectly arranged, his shirt without rips, tears, or shreds, but left undone to show the bright insignia tattooed across his lean chest. His grecian sandals squeaked as he walked forward, and from behind him, Zoro heard the deep intake of breath from the man who towered there. It was momentary, and quickly recovered from, but the swordsman smiled as he recognized it. Doflamingo was currently facing the unexpected, and he was afraid.
"Long time, no see, yoi?" Marco greeted. His lifted his muscled arm, pointed the barrel of the gun straight over Zoro's shoulder at the enemy's pounding heart. "I guess you didn't think I'd be coming to the party, huh, Doflamingo?"
"Marco the Phoenix," the opponent acknowledged him. "It certainly is a pleasure. Where's that old man you are usually so attached to?"
Marco chuckled and shrugged. "My old man is here and there. To be honest, I wouldn't have wasted a Friday evening with the likes of you, but..." he nodded at Luffy, who had joined Zoro at Sanji's side, rolling the cook over and gently trying to lead him back into wakefulness. "But my friend wanted me to help out his little bro, yoi. So I dropped by. Hope you don't mind me coming over uninvited."
Doflamingo shook his head. "Not at all. The Whitebeard Crew is always welcome." The warmth of his welcome was iterated by the fact that he was again raising his hand in a threatening motion, as if already starting to weave a web to catch the blond man.
"Good," Marco said. "We have a lot of catching up to do." He cast his glance at the trio on the floor. By now, Sanji had opened his eyes, the blue unfocused but slowly landing back in reality as he blinking his bruised facial muscles, his dilated pupils shrinking as he focused on the face above him. Hanging over him, having collected his head into his lap, was Zoro, his own face twisted in concern as he pushed the hair back from Sanji's face. Both of his curled, asymmetrical eyebrows revealed, Sanji scowled immediately, but when he spoke, his voice was full of longing and affection.
"Marimo?" he asked quietly.
"I'm here," the swordsman replied. "You didn't miss anything fun, shitty cook, don't worry."
Sanji's lips twisted into a painful smile. "Good," he said. "Sorry, I took a nap in the middle of all this action. You're rubbing off on me."
Luffy cut into the conversation, pressing his hand forcefully into the wound on Sanji's back, trying to stem the blood flow. "We need to go," he whispered urgently.
Both the cook and the swordsman looked up at him, eyes wide with shock. "What?" they gasped. Although they had never fought beside Luffy before in such a situation, they were aware he was not the type to retreat. The boy in the strawhat would fight even beyond the point of his own death, because he had true belief and conviction in his own strength. His order left them floored, and they stopped their moments of struggling to their feet, arms wrapped around each other's waists.
"We need to go," Luffy repeated, and he pointed at Marco, who nodded at them stiffly. "Marco is going to hold the pink feather man off. We've got to catch the escape boat." He tugged at Zoro's hand, but the fingers slipped loose since they were covered in so much blood. "Come on, let's go. We're going to meet up with everybody else in New York. Let's go, Zoro."
The swordsman took one step forward, following the lead of the man he had begun to call Captain in his head. He felt Sanji delay, still holding his ground, looking desperately and with a shaking, unsettled anger at the man who had nailed him down, who had shot his husband, who had tricked his lover into cutting the cook down. But at the insistent tug of his friend, he began to walk, searing pain striking through him with every step, inching up to chill the wound on his back with still bled freely, leaving splatters of red behind him. As they darted from the corridor, their hands intertwined like a string of children, they heard Marco open fire, but above the sound of the echoing gunshots they could hear the cold voice of Doflamingo as his vow followed them, chasing their footsteps as they ran -
"You can run, Strawhat, but you can't hide from me!" he promised. "I've got my strings everywhere, and I'll make sure to tear you apart!" They heard him pause as he dodged and attack by the phoenix, but he added more, and as he spoke, Zoro felt his stomach drop, leaden and heavy, his heart lost in the broken cavity of his chest.
"Good luck trying to start a family, faggots, after I'm done with you!"
And he laughed.
Zoro and Sanji and Luffy continued to run, but the laughter rang in their ears, the only thing they could hear as they tore through their enemies, fighting amongst their pain, pushing their muscles to their limits as they climbed countless stairs. The men did not turn to each other, they did not look each other in the eyes, but Zoro could feel the dread set in with each step, he could feel the hopes and dreams he had created falling behind him, leaving stains on the ground like Sanji's blood. Doflamingo's warning was like the bullet embedded in his chest; it was a cold, cruel reality, a reminder that although they ran, although they fought, there was a part of them that Doflamingo had sunk his nails into, and the puppet master was not going to let go.
Luffy slammed right through a set of metal doors and the trio burst into the fresh sea air of the evening. For a moment, Zoro's vision flittered everywhere, as he took in the thousands of stars, the quiet lapping of the waves, the inky blackness of the sky that surrounded a full moon. He stumbled in his steps, overcome by a primal longing for that world he had visited, a world where he could be with Sanji and be free from this mess they had gotten into, a world where there was no paperwork or hoops to jump through, a world where monsters like Doflamingo didn't exist.
Was there even such a world? The swordsman doubted it.
"Where's the boat, Luffy?" Sanji asked hoarsely. Zoro cast his eyes back toward reality and caught a glimpse of his lover, who was wiping the sweat and blood from his brow with the swordsman's own black bandana, and then cleaning off his hands so he could better grip the butt of his pistols. "Are we even on the right side?"
Luffy looked around the deck, which had been left abandoned due the pandemonium that had broken out. The passengers had fled, leaving their belongings cast aside, toppling a set of outdoors tables further toward the aft. Zoro lifted his boots to realize he was walking on shattered champagne glasses. Despite the wreckage, the area was deafeningly silent, and that was when Zoro realized in the pit of his stomach that his group of friends had likely killed everybody on board...a cruise liner, and not one survivor... It was unlike them to do away with innocent civilians, such as the kitchen workers of the sailors - but then the swordsman recalled that awful man with his cruel chilling laugh.
Of course he would want to erase his tracks. Of course he would eliminate the evidence. In fact, Zoro would be shocked if the ship was still floating in ten minutes from now. It was not unlike a crime lord to take down an entire ship just to erase any investigation into the event. A thousand dead when a ship sunk? A tragedy, but questions were directed toward faulty mechanics, not the underworld of human trafficking.
"We don't have much time, Luffy!" Zoro insisted after realizing this truth. 'We need to get off this ship, now! Where are they? Where's our boat?"
"There!" Luffy said, completely sure of himself, pointing off in a random diagonal direction from their location, over the deck's edge. "If we don't have time, we'll just have to jump!"
"Jump?" Sanji shouted, incredulous. "Luffy, the drop is -"
But it was too late. Zoro felt the pressure of his lover's body pressed against his own, and only had one moment to wrap his arm around Sanji's shoulders protectively, holding the man's blond head to his chest, as he felt the immense force and inertia of the young boy, Monkey D Luffy, wrapping his arms around the two of them and forcibly dragging and tugging them to the edge. The swordsman felt himself loose his feet from beneath him, and he could not help but let out a breathy laugh as they flew through the air, across the deck, over the railing, free-falling above the cold waters of the Atlantic. He looked about, and saw Luffy before them as they fell, pointing excitedly at the lights of the boat waiting for them below, their remaining friends waving and calling out to them. Then he looked over at the cook, who appeared as though he was about to be a bit sick, who met Zoro's eyes, sighed, shook his head, and smiled softly.
"You wouldn't have it any other way, would you?" he asked the cook.
Sanji never had the opportunity to reply, though, because upon impact with the deck of the ship, both of the wounded men promptly lost consciousness, their nervous systems shutting down completely as a thousand pain receptors went off simultaneously. They landed sprawled out, desperately clinging on to their weapons, mortally wounded, and both with lips twisted upward in a smile, because no matter how bad it was, they were sure they would be okay.
Because the battle was over, and they were together again. There would be other battles, without a doubt, but it was nights like this that made them cherish the moments they did have together so desperately. And they had the rest of their lives to be together to create more treasures.
Or so they believed.
"Roronoa, wake up, or so help me God, I will punch your bloody wound right back open again."
Zoro's eyes flew open and he cast his head around wildly. "Huh? Morning already?"
Above him loomed the furious face of Captain Smoker, veins popping in his forehead as he chewed on the butt of a pungent cigar. "No, you idiot, it's dark out. You've been sleeping for more than two days."
The swordsman came into consciousness enough to analyze his surroundings. He was lying in a hospital bed, half-propped up, in a private room near the window, which revealed that it was indeed dark outside. His three swords were cleaned and leaning against the far wall, his bandana tied around Wado Ichimonji's hilt. He felt the familiar tight, constricting tug of bandages around his torso and frowned.
At his bedside was Smoker, who had opened the window so he could blow his smoke out of it, sitting on an uncomfortable looking armchair, his face shadowed by a scowl. And standing in the far left corner of the room was a man that Zoro had seen only once before, a man of immense height and bulk, a man with a blank face, eyes shadowed by a hat and his mass of curly black hair.
"Where am I?" he demanded.
"A hospital in Northern Jersey. Your friend, Tony Tony Chopper is the main reason you are even breathing right now. The bullet would have killed you normally," Smoker answered for him. His face was stern, but the concern for one of his best assassins was shining through his expressive eyes.
"Where is he? I'd like to thank him," Zoro responded.
Smoker didn't respond.
"And Sanji? Where's he? Is he okay?"
"Your husband is in stable health," Kuma responded in dulcet tones from his spot by the doorway.
Zoro sat up, ignoring the grinding pain that ran through his insides as he did so. They clearly were hiding things from him. Two governmental officials were there at his bedside rather than the friends he had just fought beside. Zoro could find no reason why they were not there with him, and these men did not seem eager to spit up the answers.
"What the hell is going on?" he demanded of them.
Smoker grunted and tossed his cigar out the window, "I told you he wouldn't be inclined toward patience, Kuma. Best be out with it before he gets violent."
Kuma nodded his heavy hand and pulled forward the stack of papers he had clutched in his paw-like left hand. He flipped through them nosily, and Zoro's scowl darkened as he waited. Eventually, Kuma looked up and let the stack of papers fall once again in a cupped hand at his side.
"Due to the circumstances on the cruise ship S.S. Sabaody, a list of various personas have been transferred to be placed under the service of the Federal Witness Protection Program. You are included in this list of persons, Roronoa Zoro."
Zoro winced, rubbing the side of his head. "Shit," he murmured, "That's the opposite of what I wanted. That shit cook will be so pissed to have to move with me -"
"Please allow me to finish, Mr. Roronoa."
The swordsman looked back up blankly.
"Although I am usually not a liberty to reveal the information regarding other people in the program, I feel you have the right to know that you husband will not be joining you in your new relocation."
"What?" Zoro heard himself speak, but the words sounded distant to his own ears. "No, that's bullshit, they always keep family together -"
"You are correct," Kuma cut him off. "But your marriage, while legally recognized by the state, is a homosexual marriage, and thus not recognized under Federal law, which is the law the Witness Protection Program operates under."
Zoro stared up at the face of the dark man, trying to compose his own thoughts, trying to make sense of what he was saying. In the haze of his confusion, Smoker's clear voice cut in, tinged with a disgusting sound of what the swordsman belatedly recognized as sympathy.
"I know it's rough to hear, and I really tried to pull some strings to change it, but the files had already been processed, and they just wouldn't hear it. Legally, the best you and blondie have is a civil union, which isn't the same as a legal marriage..."
"Shut the fuck up, I know," Zoro spat. He leaned forward and clenched his hand in his hands, his fingers digging deep into the roots of his hair. "We were never...active in the gay rights community, but I know that much. I...shit...I should've gone to some fucking pride parades or something..."
"I doubt that would've changed anything, Roronoa," Smoker said. Zoro could feel the man's gloved hand hovering over his knee, as though he was going to pat it, but then he felt the weight of the presence pull back, and was glad. At the moment, the swordsman was very close to snapping. There was nothing fair about this situation. All he had right now were some stranger's words that Sanji was okay, his friends were...
"What about the rest of them?" Zoro suddenly asked. "Luffy, Franky, shit! Chopper, tell me Chopper isn't involved!"
Kuma shuffled his papers, and repeated, "I am not at liberty to disclose information about -"
"No! Those are my fucking friends, and it's my fault they got dragged into this mess! You tell me what you fed bastards are doing with them right now!"
"Roronoa, calm down!" Smoker insisted, standing up. He pointed out the door. "Sir, I'm going to ask you to leave now," he said, gritting his teeth together, his mouth bemoaning the loss of his cigar already. Kuma nodded his head and ducked out through the door, quietly shutting in behind him.
Once the door had clicked shut, Smoker sat back down and leaned in close to Zoro. "Look, I really shouldn't be telling you, but in my opinion, those bastards up top can eat shit." The Captain slammed his foot in frustration, and for a second, the swordsman saw that the man was actually emphasizing with his problem. "But you have a right to know what happened."
"I'm glad you agree. I think I have a right to go back to my life with my husband." Zoro did not feel like tolerating the antics and politics behind the situation. He was furious, tired, and starving for a full course meal courtesy of blond chef. He wanted to go home damn it, not some third world country because the government thinks he'd be safer there.
"I can't do that for you," Smoker answered, which was what the swordsman expected. "All I can give you is information. All we know is that the S.S. Sabaody sunk 50 miles offshore due to an inner malfunction, and there were no reported survivors." He lowered his eyes at Zoro. "Only Tashigi and I knew what you and your friends were planning. Nobody ever found out about it. But next thing we know, while you and your friends and being admitted here," he pointed at the floor of the hospital, "we get a private threat filtered toward our department, listing names." He opened his greying coat and fished out a paper - a crumpled, familiar looking paper. Zoro cocked his head at it.
"It's a list of names from a reference sheet, actually, that was taken from your car later that night. A list of names you and blondie set down as people the adoption agency could call for opinions on you as a couple, and actually relatively unrelated to the event."
Zoro snatched the sheet from Smoker's hand. Of course he recognized the sheet of paper - it had been the very same ones that he had nearly torn apart a few days ago in the car, when he realized the reality of what had possibly happened in his absence from the world. And there, on the sheet, were seven names, printed up perfectly -
Monkey D Luffy, Nico Robin, Tony Tony Chopper, Cutty Flam, Nagahana Usopp, Felin Nami, and Soul Brook.
"Along with those people, the Roronoa's, both Sanji and Zoro, were listed. Upon discharge from the hospital, each person was informed about their situation and escorted by the service to their temporary residences..."
"Tell me he wasn't discharged yet," Zoro growled, clenching his fist and reducing the paper to a ball.
"Oi, that's evidence!" Smoker snapped, swatting the paper from the swordsman's fist. "And...Zoro, your wounds were the most severe, and so -"
Zoro looked out the window, caught a glimpse of the time from the clock on the wall.
" - I'm sure that this will be over within a couple of months, and everybody will be moved back to their homes in the city..."
But the swordsman wasn't listening. He stood up, clutching his side, and made fast out the door of the room. He disregarded the bulky man on his tail as he tore through the corridors of the hospital, leaving confounded nurses and doctors in his wake, flinging open doors, peaking into the windows of each room, calling out.
"Oi! Curly brow! Where the fuck are you! It's time to go!"
When he reached the bathrooms, he barged in there too, demanding, "Stop doing your make-up, prissy princess! It's time to hit the road, shitty cook!"
He felt a heavy hand grasp his shoulder, but he violently shook it off. "Cook! Oi, cook!" he screamed, his voice escalating decibels as he likewise picked up his pace, racing through halls now, doubling back, completely lost.
Zoro could hear shouts of Roronoa coming down the hallways, the heavy footsteps of Smoker as he tore after him, but he refused to give up, because he knew that there was no way that stubborn ass would leave without saying goodbye, there was no way in hell Sanji would let himself just be taken away -
"Your ass is showing, Marimo."
The swordsman stopped in his tracks, looking around wildly.
"Get that shitty self of yours in this cleaning closet before you get into more trouble, would you?"
Zoro's eyes flashed behind him, where he spotted the darkened door of a utility closet, just barely open, a stream of smoke bleeding from the crack in the door that was held with a shiny, black loafer. The swordsman could not help but smile as he walked up to the door and pushed it open, sliding inside the dark depths. In the dim lighting, he could barely see the two men that the cook had dispatched lying underfoot, one sitting in a mop bucket. But he could very clearly make out the features of a still bruised, patched-up face of one bonafide shitty cook, smoking a cigarette in a hospital janitor's closet, looking for all the world that he belonged right there.
"You're late," Sanji scoffed, shutting the door behind Zoro. "Did you get lost again?"
But the swordsman did not feel like responding verbally this time, because he was too busy clutching Sanji's wounded figure to his own, cradling his head viciously to his chest as he littered kisses all over the top of the cook's blond scalp. "Not on my way to you," he whispered, fearful of Smoker finding them, nervous about the future. Instead of thinking about it, he just pressed the cook into him closer, and Sanji did not complain although the hold was aggravating his wound, he did not even scoff at Zoro's desperate words. He just held fast, his hands resting on each of Zoro's hips, clutching like they were the only thing keeping him steady in this world.
"I'm never lost when it comes to you."
A/N: Sappy? Probably because I'm slightly tipsy. Unresolved? Definitely. Not finished yet? No, but close. Sorry guys. I never said happy ending.