"Those are..." Ussop's voice shook.
They had arrived to the scene in shock. Everything had been blown around and distorted; trees cut in half along the road. Cars were smashed into themselves, lining the sides and across the middle, essentially blocking the road. Franky had made himself useful by throwing them off to the side with ease so that they could get through.
"Zoro's." Robin finished Ussop's sentence, her throat tightening.
Things weren't looking good. They had finally caught up to Zoro, but it would only appear they were too late. It was amazing to think that in such a short amount of time so much had unfolded. Neither Zoro or Chopper were anywhere in sight though. They found his truck and now, as both Ussop and Robin watched, Luffy was approaching them with three swords in his arms.
He stopped in front of them, holding them tightly. His expression was unreadable as per usual, but his gaze was towards the ground.
"He wouldn't have left these." He said lowly.
Both Ussop and Robin agreed. It was well known how precious Zoro's swords were to him. If they were separate it was only because Zoro was forcibly taken away from them. Seeing the wreckage around them though and no sign of their friends, that seemed to be the case. Luffy began handing the swords to a shaking Ussop, who nearly dropped them.
"I'm going after them." Luffy announced, his black eyes scanning Robin, waiting for any type of protest.
Robin pressed her lips together. She had hoped that this wouldn't be the issue, that they would be able to provide back up and save Nami without needing to seek the All Blue out themselves. Things were happening far too fast. She crossed her arms in front of her.
"We can't be sure what location they've taken them. This was obviously a set up."
She motioned with her face to the street her husband had so thankfully cleared. His attention had been peeked by now as he made his way over; putting his sunglasses on despite that the sun was nowhere to be seen. There was something in his hand that they all rather not comment on, though they acknowledged it. They were the pictures of Nami and Fullbody he'd found in the remains of Nami's vehicle.
"They planned to block in Chopper and Zoro, most likely expecting us all by the amount of..."
She glanced back at the ground. A fact none of them really wanted to acknowledge, to save their stomach the trouble, was the body parts lining the street. Some of them were still moving, something they'd only seen in special effects of zombie movies.
Ussop swallowed thickly, looking away from the corpse pieces. This was all too much to handle! It was way too freaky! And to even imagine that Zoro had been defeated by these guys? It was scary! If Zoro couldn't take them down and was taken hostage also, what near chance did he have? No. He couldn't think that way, he had promised himself that he'd be a stronger man. He'd need to be for Kaya. Ah! That's right! Kaya! He turned his head frantically back to them.
"You don't think they were planning to crash the party too do you?"
His friends studied his face then exchanged glances. Robin unraveled her arms.
"It's possible. It wouldn't surprise me if they were there now,"she admitted.
Ussop's eyes widen. It wouldn't surprise her? Why was she acting so calm? What about Kaya? They had just left her and Sanji practically unprotected! They needed to go back before something bad happened! What if something bad had already happened?! He was beginning to break out in a sweat while millions of concerns came to mind.
Franky cleared his throat and looked towards the ground. "I'll call Franky Family; have them go check it out. They can monitor the party while we go after Blue."
Robin nodded, turning her body away from Franky while he began taking out his phone. She looked at her captain who was fuming.
"Luffy, I was able to pin point some possible locations but they are only speculation. They want them alive though, otherwise they would be here."
Luffy had his hands tightly balled into fists. They could practically feel the anger radiating from his glance. He was fed up with this All Blue and hurting his friends. The time to stop this was drawing quickly near. He turned his chin up, his face guarded. Luffy was definitely willing to go to the edge of the world and back, turning each home as he went to find them.
"Let's get going then." He ordered.
"Ugh! Get away from me!" Nami shrieked.
Zoro furrowed his eyebrows at the sound. His head was throbbing and he wasn't sure exactly where he was. He only knew his chest was tight, not necessarily an inner feeling as much as...chains? He had opened his eyes, gazing down. They had chained him up? There was a movement to the side of him, that made the chains dig into his stomach.
"Let her go!"
It was Chopper, chained next to him. Though the reindeer had had better days. His eyes were half lidded, his body limp. His head was resting against Zoro's side. The chains were made of sea stone, one of the only effective things against devil fruit users besides actual water itself. It didn't help in Zoro's case however that it was one of the strongest materials out there.
Zoro's eye traveled to the scene unfolding around them. They were in an unknown location, a white colored room with tiled floors. Towards the entrance their objective, or failed objective as much as Zoro would hate to admit, Nami was separately chained around her arms.
She was being held up by Absalom, who again with his mutated lion snout was licking at her throat and face, much to the audience's disgust. Nami had her face turned away, horrified.
"Aw come on, say it." Absalom teased, nuzzling her. "Say you'll be our bride."
Zoro glared. That was absolutely disgusting. He glanced back at his chains and tried flexing his way out of them with brute force to no avail. If only he had his swords... That was right. A glint of pure rage sparked in his eye. He swore if anything happened to his swords when he got out of this, because let's be honest he'd undoubtedly get out of this; there would be hell to pay. He continued trying, none the less.
Absalom's hand began to trail up Nami's leg and tease at the bottom of her dress. His lips were grinning, his cheeks red. He licked his fangs over; his eyes scanning her like a piece of meat, or worse, his mate. Nami was shaking in his grip, her eyes widening when he finally reached her panties...
"No! Get away from me!" demanded Nami. She whipped her head around fast, head butting her assailant.
Absalom let out a yell, tossing Nami outward. She fell to the floor, sliding to a stop right against her crew mates. Chopper yelped weakly in concern.
"You annoying bitch! I was willing to save your life!" He growled as he moved toward the door, rubbing where she had collided. He let out a mischievous chuckle. "You're going to regret that."
Zoro let out a loud dry laugh, which earned him a baffled look from his captor.
"What's so funny?" He made sure to add extra emphasis to Zoro's name. "Roronoa."
Zoro let out a huff through his nostrils, turning his chin up towards the ceiling.
"She chose death over you." Zoro explained, watching him smugly. "Apply cold water to the burn."
Four weeks ago.
"Zoro..." Chopper's tiny voice traveled across the room.
It sounded gentle, yet exhausted. Zoro wasn't a rocket scientist, but he didn't need to be to figure the young reindeer had been crying. He knew what about, but in all honesty Zoro wasn't sure he wanted to hear it. He tightened his grip on the top of the window frame he was leaning against. His eye continued to peer out and at Robin's garden.
It had been a few days now, but the events that had happened just a handful of nights ago were still fresh in his mind. It kept replaying inside his head, the vision of Sanji, the indescribable feeling of watching his life practically fade through his fingers. The feeling of self-disappointment. Even Zoro could be his own enemy, questioning why he didn't do more.
He could hear Chopper quietly close the door behind him. He wasn't deaf; he had heard the earlier crying and arguing. Their doctor must have already broken whatever news he had to the rest of the crew, who found themselves in the other room. Zoro brought his free hand up to fall down his face. He still wasn't sure if this was reality and if it was, if he'd choose to believe it.
His throat began to clench. Chopper pulled himself up on the couch that sat center in the room, towards the window. It was Robin's office, a nice open place where they could talk alone. Indeed there were things to be discussed.
"Zoro." Chopper repeated again, his arms lying tiredly at his sides.
It wasn't quite known if Chopper had even slept since the accident. He had been locked up in the operation room at first, shot gun in the transfer to Robin's house and then stayed with Sanji in his room until moments ago. His eyes were wide, but very red and irritated. The crying, of course, did not help.
"We need to talk..." His voice had dropped to something softer, and he was struggling for the strength he needed in his words. "About Sanji."
Just hearing his lover's name off of someone else's lips at this point was a blunt wound to the chest. Zoro clenched his teeth and scowled, a usual reaction from the swordsman, before pushing away from the window. His hands found his pockets and he took a long breath. So this was it? He was going to hear something he'd end up dreading? He doubted the muffled shouts from his friends earlier were from good news.
He turned halfway, gazing at Chopper. No, that tormented expression that haunted Chopper's face was all he needed to know. Chopper's eyes slowly met his, but jerked away. For reasons unknown, he just couldn't seem to keep eye contact with Zoro. Perhaps, he felt, he was failing his dear friend?
"Please sit down."
The reindeer gestured with his hoof. Zoro's stone cold gaze faltered and he slowly made his way to the couch. He turned and sat right next to his good friend. They both sat there in what seemed a long time in silence, both staring out at nothing in particular.
"Is he dead?"
Chopper raised his head, studying his swordsman friend's face. He wasn't expecting the sudden outburst. He just lowered his face once again.
"No. He's alive but..."
Chopper was a doctor. It was his dream profession; it was what he did best. But there was one part of being a doctor Chopper didn't like. That was when medicine failed and nothing could be done. He would like to believe in a miracle cure, something that could stop all diseases or even bring back those from the dead, but it simply wasn't possible.
When that time came when there was nothing he could do, he had to experience some of the worst times in his life; breaking the news to the loved ones. This was undoubtedly, the one time that it'd shook his core. This was personal and even he as the doctor could not make the choice alone.
"I'm not sure he will ever wake up again." The doctor explained. His hands slowly made their way up and into his lap. "The machines are doing everything for him now."
Zoro's heart was pounding in his ears. He begged for his expression to stay stone faced. His legs rested lazily apart and he rested his head in his hands.
"I thought you said the first night was the most critical." He muttered lowly.
Chopper swallowed thickly, his eyes threatening to water.
"It was. It was supposed to be. I did everything right Zoro.. I..." His lip began to tremble. "I don't know why he won't wake up, why he won't breathe on his own."
The tears were beginning to form and he looked back towards his friend. But Zoro was still in his own thoughts.
"There's nothing else I can do anymore Zoro." Chopper pleaded, ashamed. He really wanted to fix Sanji, wanted everything to be okay. "And Sanji... he doesn't have any relatives anymore, so I thought...I thought...I'd ask you."
Zoro's body tensed all over. Ask him? Was Chopper implying what he thought he was implying? They didn't have any more that they could do for Sanji, he got that. Sanji was only surviving on machines right now, he got that too. But whether or not his plug was going to be pulled was seriously up for discussion? And he was going to be the one to decide it? He straightened up instantly, turning towards Chopper.
His brow was furrowed, his eye wide as he reached out and grabbed him.
"You said there was still a chance?" He asked, a sense of urgency to his voice.
Chopper nodded. "Yes of course, there's always a chance but Zoro..."
"But what? There's a chance. What's there to discuss? This is ridiculous." His tone was turning sour, rapidly.
"Even if he did wake up and survive on his own the list of complications that could occur are massive.. He could be paralyzed! Or brain damage! The list goes on..."
Zoro retracted his hand and jumped to his feet. He turned away from Chopper, glaring at the nearest thing.
"The fuck do I care. I'll force feed that shit cook every day with a fucking spoon if I have to." He flexed his knuckles a few times then looked back at Chopper. "I don't care what you have to do you aren't going to pull any plug on him. The Cook's going to wake up!"
Chopper frowned, watching his friend. Even now, in times of great sadness, he had such a respect for Zoro. Being able to ignore the logic and press on for Sanji's sake... Chopper's eyes were over flowing with tears.
Zoro was shaking with anger. No, there was no way the cook was going to die here. No way in absolute hell he'd let that happen. He wasn't going to let Sanji, on the ground bleeding out be one of his last images of the cook. Or watching his almost corpse be transferred into Robin's house. Hell no. He would see Sanji again, all annoying with that fucking curly eyebrow of his.
He pinched at the bridge of his nose. God why did everything have to turn out this way. Things had been looking up once, before shit had hit the fan. He felt so confused and he hated it. He wanted to know what was going on with Sanji, why those people were after him. He wanted to slaughter them all he was so blinded by his anger.
He also wanted to talk to Sanji. Oh god he needed to talk to Sanji. To see him again, to see him alive. Zoro slammed himself back down on the couch and covered his face with his hand. How was he supposed to make a decision like this? When he thought of life changing decisions and Sanji, this was not what he wanted to come up, ever.
"Chopper." Zoro finally managed.
Chopper's ear twitched in response. He couldn't tell because of how Zoro's hand muffled his voice, but he could have sworn the Marimo was beginning to choke up.
"Please don't give up on Sanji."
Chopper got up on the couch on his feet and moved closer to Zoro. He comfortingly reached out a hand.
"I'm sorry Zoro!" He said with a new found determination, a small whimper escaping after his words. "I won't! I'll keep trying!"
He turned and hopped off the couch.
"I'll look over my medical books again! I'm sure there's something there!"
He stomped confidently around the couch and to the door, sniffling along the way.
"Sanji will wake up! I'll make sure of it! Count on me!"
Zoro was able to restrain himself until the moment he heard the door click closed behind Chopper. Then, without even thinking his arm swung angrily out, slamming the lamp on the side table across the room, shattering into the wall. He let out a wail of aggravation. Getting up he strolled to where his swords were resting up against the wall. He needed to cut something and he needed to cut something now. Screw the consequences. Screw chances. Sanji would wake up.
Absalom growled, his eyes narrowing as he approached Zoro.
"What did you say?" He asked darkly, a shadow casting over his face.
How dare this asshole say something so rude to him! Didn't this green haired buffoon realize what kind of situation he was in? Obviously the great Absalom was the one winning here; he had captured three of the targets. They were at his mercy! But this asshole didn't seem to get that.
"I'm just saying." Zoro replied.
Nami was able to pull herself up to sit next to them. Both she and Chopper were watching Zoro with confused expressions. What was he doing? Was he trying to get them killed faster? They knew Zoro wasn't the brightest crayon in the box but this was a little over the top dumb... Harassing this creep? Though Nami didn't mind so long as Zoro had some sort of plan he was trying out that ended in Absalom brutally out of the picture.
"Zoro..." she whispered, trying to react any sort of gesture out of him that could mean he was getting at something.
"You have no room to talk you neanderthal." Absalom snapped, much closer to the swordsman.
Zoro could spy the movement on the lion man's shoulder. Cannons? So that's what had blasted him away before on the road. But he could have sworn he hadn't seen them before, unless... Unless this perverted bastard had used his ability to conceal them. Either way, they were now aimed right towards Zoro's face.
"What could you possibly know about exquisite taste? You settle for a broken shitty cripple." He snapped, rolling his shoulder back, preparing his weapon. "I'm sure you're just thriving in your sex life."
Zoro's eyes narrowed and he opened his mouth to speak when a familiar scent ran past his nose. Cigarettes? There was a deep grunt from behind Absalom, causing the lion man's eyes to widen. There was someone behind him? Since when? Their shadow cast over him.
Nami's eyes grew as wide as they could, her own mouth seeming to drop.
"He's not allowed to talk about our sex life." Came a hoarse voice. Zoro's heart stopped. "Collier."
Seconds later a finely shined dress shoe slammed into Absalom's neck, producing a satisfying snap as the lion creature slammed into the wall off to the side in a flash. Sanji? Could it be? No, it had to be that okama guy, there was no other possible way!
Sanji was standing in front of his friends, his shoulders slumped, his knees slightly bent. He was panting in exhaustion, his face a few shades paler than it should've been. His hand was shaking as he slowly took a drag from his cigarette. It was a sight for sore eyes, even his wrinkled clothes and messy hair.
"SANJI!" Chopper yelled as loud as he could in his half comatose state.
He recognized that scent anywhere! It was Sanji! Sanji was here! He had come to rescue him! But wait a minute, something wasn't right here. Chopper's eyes lowered to Sanji's bottom half. His legs! Sanji was using his legs! He was walking! How!? What!? WHY? He yelled out his name again, but this time in panic.
Nami's face softened and she almost wanted to cry. Seeing Sanji there, standing on his own two feet was heaven sent. "Sanji!" She chimed in, smiling happily at him. But Sanji's eyes were currently elsewhere.
Zoro was having another out of body experience it seemed. He couldn't feel his body, nor could he move it. His eye was staring deeply into the blue of his opposite. Sanji. He was here. It was the real Sanji. He didn't want to believe it, but now looking at him, looking into those eyes... He just knew. He was walking on his own. He had walked here to get them. How was this even possible?
Sanji broke away first, glancing straight to his precious Nami-swan. He fell to his knees in front of her with a huff, his hands shakily grabbing for something in his pocket.
"Sanji! What are you doing? How are you walking!? Your body isn't ready for that! You need to rest!" came Chopper's tiny protests.
Sanji ignored him though, finally grabbing the key. He shoved it into the lock and began working on the chains around her.
"Bon, free those two." He demanded, gesturing his head in Zoro and Chopper's direction.
Bon Clay entered the room, a little uncomfortable in his own skin. It was like he was interrupting a party uninvited, even though he was partly the reason half of the guest list was here. He moved to Zoro, who was giving him a splendid death glare and retrieved his own key and began to work.
Zoro was dying to know what the hell was going on here and why that guy, who had tricked him and posed as Sanji was now helping them, but opted not to. As long as the chains were coming off, he wasn't going to protest. He gazed back at the blonde. He was far more concerned and amazed by his presence here. He could see him twitching, his legs constantly shifting in discomfort. He was forcing himself.
"Oi." He forced himself to speak. "I could've handled this on my own Cook."
Sanji snorted weakly.
"Keep dreamin' Marimo." He retorted. "This place is wired to blow in a few minutes. I would've liked to see you try."
Chopper tried lifting up his head in surprise. "EH?"
Sanji brought himself to his knees, his cigarette smoldering from his lips. He had lost count on what number he was at, but it didn't matter. It was keeping his mind distracted. He glared up at the okama looking him down.
"Shut up Bon." he growled in pain, using a wall to get to his feet.
Bon Clay's mouth dropped. Was he witnessing a miracle? Sanji, who he had been briefed would probably never walk again was standing in front of him, on his own two feet? His eyes were wide and he struggled to find the right words, making some awkward noises instead. Sanji began to slowly walk towards him.
"Now answer me you shitty Okama." he began, looking him down exhaustively. "Whose side are you on?"
Bon took a deep breath; tears starting at his eyes. He had never seen anything so beautiful in his life. Truly an act of friendship and love. Only Sanji would force himself beyond his bodily limits to save his friends and his Zoro. The Okama was so touched he didn't even know what to say. He wanted to spin around in joy, but opted not to when he realized how much pain the blonde must be in, how much risk to his health he was taking.
Instead, he just shook his head. "Your side Sanji-kun." he decided. "Your side."
How could he, a hopeless romantic who wished nothing more but for true friendship, be a part of a group who was trying to tear these strong bonds apart? He was too moved to think any other way. He owed it to his late friend Zeff to watch over his little eggplant to the end, so that's what he'd do.
Author's Note: How do you like them apples? Apply cold water to the burn. ANYWAY. Oh my goodness you guys! I've hit 51 followers ! ;n; You've made me so super happy I love you all. I never expected to ever get near that many. I hope you enjoyed this chapter and the rest of the story that's to come! We are now at like a half-way point. It makes me want to commission some art work or something! I'm just so happy! What did you think of this plot twist hmm? See you soon~