Me and You and You and Me
The problem with Zoro's body, Usopp realizes with a dull sense of something like sympathy lodged under his ribs, is that it hurts. It really freaking hurts. And Usopp is used to getting knocked around at this point. It's kind of the hazard of being one the weakest among a crew of monsters. When bad guys bear down, you usually get it first and man if they aren't thorough. So, Usopp had figured, he's used to pain. Wore his bruises and cuts, (contusions, concussions, cracked ribs, cracked pride) with a sense of (somewhat concealed) honor. But this…this really freaking hurts. There's gotta be at least four broken ribs if not all of them, and every muscle (like well oiled steel moving under the skin and that's just not fair at all) aches and pulls. Usopp feels like Zoro's body is coming apart at the seams and it's just his own will keeping him together. It's his own bad luck that he'd be shoved into the swordsman right after a fight. Even worse, more fighting to do, bad guy to be overthrown, day to be saved, and Usopp stuck in a body that went so damn close to danger he was practically in the safe (flower filled) harbor on the other side.
He shifts uncomfortably and it only makes it worse. Clenches his teeth as he thinks he feels something tear and a trickle of warm blood itch down his side, Zoro's side, this is uncommonly weird. He stops again, clutching at it, feeling the warmth spread. Oh crap oh crap. Bandages. More bandages. Except they are in the middle of nowhere and there are no bandages to be had. He doesn't want to die here! (he screams mentally to the unforgiving cosmos) no one would recognize him! More importantly, he doesn't want to kill their idiot swordsman. He looks down at Zoro… or rather himself. Or rather the body previously known as himself. (Why is he so short?) Himself nee Zoro looks up at him with an expression more badass than Usopp realized his own face was capable of. Damnit, Zoro. Stop looking cooler in my body than me. The thought almost wiggles its way out of his mouth but he stops himself just in time with a mental swat. That's not important just now.
"What?" Zoro says with a touch of impatience. And he even sounds cooler. It's just not fair at all. Focus, Usopp.
"Are…are you sure this is a good idea? You're really hurt." Really hurt. As Usopp shifts, he feels a faint snap somewhere where there shouldn't be one and pain lances into his ribs. He grits his teeth again. Zoro sighs, resting his hand (slender and brown) on the katana tied to his waist (looking much too big and important for him) and tilting his head up at Usopp.
"You have cracked ribs!"
"And you're bleeding." He pulls his hand (wide and callused and strong looking) from his side and finds it coated in red. "A lot. Oh shit."
"I've bled more."
"That's not the point!" Usopp chops a hand through the air. "Blood loss is blood loss and I don't want to die in your body." And I don't want to end up killing you, he thinks, but that thought is more than frightening since it's only partly his own death he's worried about here.
"You won't kill me," Zoro says and Usopp has to pause for a moment because he's sure he didn't say that part out loud. Can Zoro— No… No he can't. He's too thickheaded. Right? Well either way, never mind that for now. That is also not important. He will dwell on it when they are safe on the Sunny and off to another crazy island, one preferably without exploding poison frogs.
"Look, I know you've got a lot of confidence and an incredibly high pain tolerance," and he must because ow, even speaking feels like it's tearing at things that it shouldn't and he is beginning to feel a certain muzziness behind his eyes like the start of a fever. "But you're still" mostly "human and—"
"It's not about that," Zoro says, cutting through his words like he cuts through everything else. "You won't kill me because you're you. You won't die because you're me." Zoro takes off his hat, well technically Usopp's hat and Usopp groans inwardly as his curls spring everywhere, only to be clamped down again under Zoro's own green bandanna way too tightly. He is going to have awful smushed hair when this is all over. "And I won't kill you because I'm me and you won't die because you're you."
It doesn't make a whole lot of sense but it doesn't need to make sense as he is too distracted (and admittedly geeking out) at seeing his own hand draw the white sword with skilled precision. (The Great Swordsman Usopp! Weilder of the great rokutoryuu style, all six swords going in a whirling dance of death) In a familiar movement, his own hand puts the white sword in his own mouth—and his head slowly tilts to the side and Usopp can hear sounds of strain wheezing through his own nose. And then to put the cream on the cake, the moment Zoro tries to draw the other swords, the white one falls out, landing against Zoro's (currently) skinny brown arms. They both stare at it for what seems an eternity and Usopp realizes with an aching crying/laughing certainty that he's going to die. He will die. Zoro will die. They're all going to die. His can't-go-to-that-terrifying-villain filled-cave- disease is acting up, he can feel it ticking just under his ribs (even if the ribs aren't technically his).
Zoro lets the other swords go and resheathes the white one and for a moment they just stand in the clearing, listening to the faint croak croak boom pssh of an exploding frog in the distance. Then with a long sigh, Zoro takes the swords and hands them out to Usopp. Usopp stares at him. Stares at the swords. Zoro has got to be kidding him. This has got to be a joke. One of the biggest cosmic jokes in the universe. His expression must be plainer than even he realized because Zoro says:
"It'll be fine. My body has instincts. Use them."
Usopp doesn't want to take them. It feels like signing a contract with a demon somehow. As if he'll be set on an irrevocable course if he accepts these katana and Zoro's instincts…which, by the way…
"Your instincts are telling me to stop moving around before you break the rest of your ribs."
"Ignore those," Zoro says and thrusts the swords at him again. And then, when Usopp continues to hesitate: "They're depending on us."
Damn him. Usopp is glad Zoro's body isn't inclined to whimper, though there may have been a faint grunt of distress as he takes the swords which do feel familiar in a strange sort of not familiar way.
"We're going to die," Usopp says, partly to remind himself he's him. Zoro takes the Kuro Kabuto where Usopp had been holding it in his haramaki and smirks up at Usopp, badass tinged with a crazy almost psychotic, which only serves to make it that much cooler and give Usopp a faint chill. Though only a faint one since Zoro is apparently not used to those either. (except around certain marine swordswomen… or crazy pissed Nami but they all get the chills then)
"Then we'll take them down with us." Though even as he says this he looks like he's about to put the Kuro Kabuto in his mouth and stops himself just in time. Oh man this is going to suck. But… but the others were counting on him and, and hey, he was Zoro now so despite the pain raging everywhere, he could really stand out for once. Still, when Zoro starts walking, it takes a moment for Usopp to follow him. They can do this. More importantly he can do this. A frog nearby explodes as if in disagreement and he skirts out of the way of the acid that plips to the ground and puts holes in trees. What the heck is this place? It shouldn't even exist!
But it does exist and so does this situation and Usopp and Zoro have to save the others and so they will. He reaches up and pulls down the eye pieces for his goggles only they stop short. Oh… oh right. He glances at Zoro. He doesn't even have the pouch that is currently bumping at Usopp's waist. (well Zoro's waist. And why is Zoro so much taller and wider? Not everyone can bench press a young whale)
"Wait a second," Usopp says, pulling the bag over his head. "We need to prepare." Zoro stops and gives him a questioning glance. Usopp drapes the bag over his own form where it settles right where it should and then glances at the green bandanna. No that's not going to work.
"You're a sniper now, so you have to have your eyes clear," Usopp says, taking off the bandanna and groaning again as his hair goes every which way. Now he just looks like a wet poodle. It's the humidity. The humidity always kills him.
"This isn't an improvement," Zoro says.
"I know, I know, hold on." And, man, in this kind of weather he's going to have to do something he regrets. But, he'd rather have Zoro's vision clear than have a hole through his face. He lifts his bag from Zoro's side and roots through it, going mostly by feel. Where are those things? Smoke stars, tobasco stars, pop greens, cool seashell he found this morning. Then he finds the warm metal bobby pins and pulls them out, daring Zoro to say anything. Strangely enough, the swordsman doesn't even blink. Feeling something unwind in him, Usopp pushes his fingers through the curls, straightening them and pushing them back as much as he can, and pinning them in place when they get unruly. It's strange to feel his own hair under other hands. After a moment, he is finished. A few curls sproing free but he doesn't have time to fuss with them. Instead he pushes his own hat back on at just the right angle, probably still a little too tight, and then sets the goggles around his neck.
"This is weird," Zoro says finally.
"No kidding." That's the understatement of the year. "You should use these things," Usopp says, gesturing to the goggles. "They'll keep your eyes clear of debris or sun." He wishes he had the presence of mind to bring the ones with the adjusting scope but hopefully they won't be in this situation long enough for Zoro to get used to them.
"Got it," Zoro says with a nod but doesn't bother to put them on. Okay well they're not in the danger zone yet. Danger zone. Ha ha oh man they're going to die. He looks at the green bandanna.
"Should…should I tie this on?"
"If you want," Zoro says with a shrug. "It keeps the blood out of my eyes."
"Don't say such creepy things so casually," Usopp says, clutching the bandanna while inwardly he's frantically wondering whose blood Zoro means. Neither answer is one he really cares for.
"Also try to stop bleeding," Zoro says.
"I can't just stop that on a whim!" Usopp snaps, feeling the tension ramp right back up.
"No, you can't! You just ignore it until Chopper freaks out at you!" Or he passes out from exhaustion which Usopp really doesn't want to think about just now thanks.
"I can," Zoro says. "Just put some effort into it." Usopp gives up. No use arguing with a stone wall.
"Let's just go," he says. Before he dies of blood loss. …Just so he can go die of something else out there. Swords, bullets, someone with a weird acorn fetish that throws them like high-speed caltrops. And then they start off again. Usopp focuses on breathing. On not feeling his body yelling at him, that, hey, severely wounded here, walking around is not a good idea how many times do I have to tell you that, idiot? But he'll be fine. They'll be fine. Zoro has survived much worse than this. It's not like they're really going to die. A frog explodes nearby in protest. He's really starting to hate those things.
The cave is set in a mountain at the end of a fairly wide field. There are a couple of exploding frogs hopping or expiring around, but what really concerns Usopp is the hundred or so guys lining up before the cave entrance. Inside, he assumes, the others are trussed up in various states of capture, waiting for the Marine ship which will be passing by in just a few hours. They have to get out and they have to get out now. But why does it have to be up to him?
"Just this many? They're not taking us seriously," Zoro says and Usopp jumps because he didn't expect him to come up which reminds him to another really horrible no good revelation about this situation he had a few moments earlier. He can't see on one side. He's going into this without being able to see on one side. What has his life come to? And also, Zoro continues to be an idiot.
"What do you mean? 'Just this many'? There are a hundred people out there!" Usopp hisses.
"Only about seventy."
"That doesn't make a difference in our situation!"
He's very tempted to whack Zoro on the head. He can do that now but then figures he'd only end up giving himself a concussion and he already had enough of a headache. Zoro starts to go out into the field ahead of him and Usopp hurries to catch up to him, staying close behind his right shoulder which doesn't look all that impressive or safe from this vantage point. They are going to die. Horribly. One of the men step forward. Judging by the flashy green and gold attire and the fact his hat is almost as tall as he is, Usopp assumes he is the leader of this ragtag crew of the going-to-kill-Strawhats pirate group.
"And who might you be?" the man says, putting his hand on his hips.
"The—" Zoro starts.
"Not that it matters," the man says. "Since you'll be soon be nothing more than pond scum. Nyah ah ah ah." He tilts his head back as he laughs. Typical villain chatter, really. But maybe if the guy doesn't know them that well, maybe Usopp could use it to his advantage. True he doesn't lie as much as he used to but this is a special situation and the less fighting he has to do in Zoro's body the better. And actually, in this case, he will only have to tell a half lie. The apparent truth might just be the best.
"I am the great Roronoa Zoro!" Usopp says, putting his hands on his hips. "Killer of a thousand—ten thousand pirates with one sweep of my sword!"
"Oi, idiot!" Zoro says. "Don't say things like that with your legs shaking! You're making me look stupid."
"I can't help it if my legs are shaking there are a hundred guys there!" Usopp snaps, pointing. "You've got two eyes at the moment so look at the situation, will you?"
"I am looking at the situation and if you want to say something like that, say it with a cooler pose!"
"The pose isn't the issue here!"
"The pose is the only issue here!"
"Head," says the captain and Usopp looks over to see him bowing toward them, his hat pointed right at them, a string in his hand. Some unbidden instinct tells him this is a big problem despite the stupid looking situation.
"CANON!" the captain roars and before either of them can move, he yanks the string and a huge explosion rocks the field. Usopp has a brief terrifying image of the canon ball flying straight toward them and throws himself back, jarring everything and coughing what feels scarily like blood as the ball hits the dirt which explodes sending soil and bark and tree branches and the occasional frog leg, which itself explodes in a small mess of acidy fury. Ow ow ow. Can he just stay here and play dead? Will that work?
"Bastard," Zoro says, and then is up and running toward them. Or to be more accurate, Zoro is running using Usopp's much stronger now but still not built like a freaking metal tank body to run at them with the kabuto in his mouth. Pain or no pain, Usopp scrambles to his feet screaming:
"Wait a second, you idiot!" Usopp snaps. "You can't—"
"Oh shit," Zoro says, skidding, furrowing the dirt with his shoes.
"Acorn Stars!" Acorn man shrieks and a bare second later.
Usopp is temporarily blinded, more than usual, (geeze, why couldn't Zoro have both eyes?), by the ensuing smoke and hissed a curse as he stepped on one the stupid stars which latched onto his foot. That wasn't important at the moment. He stumbles through the smoky haze until he sees Zoro, thankfully in one piece. Not even bleeding much and only bruised a little. Bag is still okay. But Kabuto? Zoro coughed and seemed to be looking for it. Usopp saw it had ended up behind him and grabbed it, the weapon feeling small and kind of flimsy in his hand, (well Zoro's hand) but he also knew the power behind it and that was the important part.
"The point of being a sniper is staying at a distance," Usopp said, handing the kabuto back. "I can't handle the insane stuff you usually do." Well what he really meant was his body couldn't handle it but Zoro seemed to understand that because he nodded.
"Sorry. Forgot." The smoke was clearing and the other pirates were advancing but this wasn't the time to just charge in recklessly. Usopp reached into his bag, pulled out a smoke star and slammed it on the ground. Then dragged Zoro a few feet from where they had been standing so that they were still concealed but had time to plan.
"You need to stay out of the way. Also, use the goggles. You'll really need them in this situation," Usopp says, wondering what else to tell him. There seems so much but at the same time he feels like he won't know what to say until Zoro messes up again. He chews the inside of his cheek as Zoro nods and pulls them on. It's weird seeing himself looking like that. He looks…He looks kinda cool, surrounded by smoke and with the goggles on. Heh. Who'd have thunk?
"I'll have to cover you," Zoro says and Usopp nods and then gets it. If Zoro's covering him, he's going to have to be the one to run out ahead, right into the canons and caltrops and who knows what else. He swallows and nods and starts to draw one of the swords, his hand shaking. Zoro puts a hand on the hilt and drives it back in.
"Not Kitetsu. Not the red sheath. It won't recognize you." Zoro pulls the goggles down a bit. "Don't use Kitetsu," he says, and Usopp has the feeling that Zoro is telling his own body this rather than the Usopp inside it. Usopp can't even tell if the body understands or not but after a moment, Zoro seems satisfied and puts the goggles back in place.
"Even on instinct, I don't know how long I can fight like this," Usopp says, pulling out another sword, the white one, surprised at how light it is and how calm it feels. He thought swords were just pointy things but this…this kind of feels different.
"Right," Zoro says. "We'll make straight for the cave entrance and—" But he stops. Cuts off and Usopp feels it at the same time. The creepy neck tingling sensation that they've been spotted. The smoke is but a thin haze now and through it he can see the hat canon pointing right at them. More accurately, right at him.
"I've got you now," the captain says. Yes. He does. The seconds tick by, slow as a heartbeat. It will hit Usopp almost point blank and no matter how confident Zoro is that his body can handle it, Usopp isn't so sure. He's still hurting. He's still bleeding. A canonball like that. Who knows what it can do? But as for Usopp's own body. It's barely scratched. And maybe…
"Heaaad," the captain starts. Usopp grabs Zoro, or rather grabs his own self and pulls him in front, backing away with them both to get as much distance as he can.
"What—?" Zoro starts.
The explosion is ear bitingly loud and Usopp can feel the impact of the ball as it slams into his own body's stomach, sending his own body back into him which his ribs don't like a single bit and they're both flying before slamming hard into the earth, furrowing the dirt behind them. Pain. Pain freaking everywhere. Zoro's body doesn't like this at all and Usopp coughs in what is definitely blood that he turns his head to the side and spits out. Chopper's going to kill them if they survive this. Speaking of survive, his own body is awfully still and Usopp's heart stills with it until Zoro twitches and then rolls off, hand on his stomach and coughing, blood of his own dotting the grass. Yeah. That's going to hurt in the morning.
"Bastard," Zoro wheezes.
"I didn't do it because—"
"I know why you did it," Zoro says, glaring at him in an unmistakably Zoro glare. "I told you those wounds are nothing. I can handle it."
"Well maybe you don't always have to." They are nakama after all and Usopp still suspects that sometimes Zoro risks more than he should for them. That he tries to take too much on. Usopp is strong enough now to take a little on by himself. Zoro nods. Takes out the green bandana and ties it around Usopp's head. The world goes darker than he's used to and all he can see is the bright field and legs coming toward them.
"Let's send them flying," Zoro says.
"Yosh." Usopp gets up, ignoring the pain, setting his teeth against it and waits— before he realizes he's the one who has to charge forward in this situation. Okay. This will just take some mental convincing. After all, he's always been good at pretending to be something he isn't, so how hard would it be to pretend to be Zoro? Just be Zoro, head down, feet braced apart, chilling smirk as he draws two swords. One is a lot heavier than the other though heavy in this case is something like the weight of a pillow compared to that of a feather.
"Go straight toward the cave," Zoro says. "Don't waver. Don't look back. Just go. You'll know what to do."
Usopp nods. R…right. He has faith in Zoro and…more importantly, himself. He hesitates just a moment, and then runs. It's different, this style of running. Straight toward the enemy. All body parts and swords. There is a lot of power there but at the same time sweat creeps down his face and he feels every impact of his feet against the earth. He's coming closer and closer to the wall of people. Waits to know what to do. Still doesn't know what to do. Crap. He can practically see their nose hairs and no idea! Instinct can kick in any time now!
"Tatsu Maki!" Zoro shouts from behind him and Zoro's body moves. It's kind of astonishing. Usopp can feel the strength churning through his arms, the light glinting off the blades, his body turns more or less without him sending two bit pirates scattering to the wind and spreading the faint tinge of blood. And then a tinge of tabasco as a tabasco star goes whizzing over his shoulder and splats into the cave wall. Just where the hell was he aiming? And why a tobasco star? In fact, a look behind him shows shots are firing everywhere and most of them fairly useless in the situation. At least he knows which direction to point but.. Well if Zoro's body can run on instinct and sound then maybe…
"Midori Boshi: Bamboo Javelin!" Usopp shouts, just as the black sword meets the sword of another, without Usopp even being aware his arm moved. The black steel cuts through the other steel like melted butter and he hears screams and confused cries and a look over his shoulder confirms the bamboo shoots jutting out of the earth. The fight goes on. Zoro calls attacks and Usopp calls his own and for a while it's nothing but heat and energy, the impact of metal, liquid strength moving under his skin. He forgets pain. Forgets everything but the dark and the light and the tinge of blood and the smell of victory.
Usopp pivots really awesomely and sees the captain bending down the top of his hat peeling open as he pulls at the string. It is aimed straight toward the cave. Only a second to think. Zoro is nearby. He's spotted this, too. Something greeny-yellow leaps from the grass by Zoro's feet.
"Poison Frog Star!" Usopp calls and Zoro snatches the thing up, sets it against the pouch, pulls back, the bands tight with unleashed energy and fires in one graceful movement. The frog flies, ends up right in the barrel of the canon and explodes. Usopp ducks as acid rains down everywhere. When the mess clears, it's a sight to see. Everyone down except for a few stragglers who are tearing away as fast as their legs can carry them. Usopp grins and slides the blades home, nicking himself with one and nearly dropping the other. Okay, a little mess up but man he feels good. He wishes the fight could have gone on a little longer.
"Maybe we should chase them down," Usopp says as Zoro comes closer. "Show them what we're made of."
"No point in chasing down cowards," Zoro says. "Besides, you're not going to want to move once the adrenaline wears off."
"You move," Usopp points out.
"Not because I want to."
Good point. Either way, time to rescue everyone. The great team of Zoro and Usopp! No one can stand before them! Usopp fairly struts into the cave and blinks to let his eyes (well, eye) adjust to the change in light. As expected, all of the others are chained up, in separate cages no less. They look a little knocked around but no worse than usual. Sanji comes to the front of his cage and grips it, giving Usopp a huge grin.
"Oh, Zoro! You found us! I didn't think you would!" Sanji says, sounding entirely too happy. "You didn't beat up everyone did you?"
"Of course I found you," Zoro says. "There's only one cave on this island."
"Which you were heading in the opposite direction from," Usopp points out flatly. "And of course we beat everyone up! The Great Usopp and the okay Zoro who can't even aim—"
"Would never let a single enemy past us!" Usopp continues unperturbed.
"Oh great," Nami says and Usopp hears the distinctive sound of a hand to forehead slap.
"Boo. You guys are mean," Sanji says pouting. Then straightens and grins. "But let us out so we can get back to the ship and I can make lunch!"
"You're not going anywhere near the kitchen, you shitty Captain!" Luffy bellows from the other side of the room. "I don't care who you look like."
"But I'm Sanji!"
"No you're not!"
"Shishishishi. This is funny! I want to be Franky next."
"Oh?" Franky says and Usopp sees he's sitting well…not like Franky at all and has a hand to his face. "There's not much to him."
"That's cruel, Nico Robin," Robin says. Or…Usopp guesses, Franky says? Since Robin isn't sitting like Robin but isn't sitting like Franky either. Seastone cuffs aside, she looks as if there is a steel poker where her spine is.
"There's plenty to him," Sanji—well Luffy, he guesses, says, thrusting a fist through the bars. "Franky is supeerrr!"
"Ow!" Robin…well Franky says, striking a pose as much as he can with the cuffs. Robin in Franky's body sends Franky in Robin's body a look that could freeze lava and Franky!Robin resumes his steel poker impression. Usopp is getting dizzy. He wanders past Brook who is muttering in a whimpering voice about bones, just bones and Chopper, nearby says:
"I feel a little fuzzy. It seems I'm in need of a shave!"
"Don't even joke about that!" Brook says, incensed.
"Oh? Is fur deer to you? Tanuki Joooke! Yohohoho!"
"I'm a reindeer, damnit and that wasn't even funny!"
Yeah, leaving that alone. Usopp goes to the last cage where Nami is giving him the blandest look imaginable. He recognizes it, though. It's the look of having seen so much damn crazy that the sun could come down to earth and start doing a tap dance and all you'd do is yawn. He's pretty sure she's not someone else but just in case…
"Just Nami?" he asks. She nods.
"Thought so. You're leaving a blood trail."
"Ha ha, trying not to think about that," Usopp says. Nami nods again and points to a shadowy alcove.
"The keys are in there."
He goes and retrieves them, trying not to notice the plip plip sound or the fact that, hey, things really really freaking hurt again. Ow. Really freaking ow. He fumbles for the right key but it's hard to see for some reason and Nami reaches over and pulls off the bandanna making it that much lighter.
"Thanks," Usopp says and fits the key into the lock. "How did you guys end up getting captured anyway?"
"You don't want to know," she says in that tone that says that it was most likely Luffy's fault because it's generally always Luffy's fault and she really doesn't want to dwell on it until they are all back in the Sunny and in the right bodies and she can de-stress with a nice cup of tea and maybe a good book and leave this crazy island behind for now, oh and by the way if anyone mentions a frog to her, it won't be pretty. Nami can say a lot between the words.
"You looked like you were having fun," Nami says as he opens the cage door and helps her down.
"Yeah, I did I guess. But I think I much prefer being me."
"I think I prefer that, too."
All and sundry belong to Oda.
Special thanks to Tatsu-chan, The Great Effie and Liashi_FNA Sora, otherwise known as the great Usopp torturer.