Title: The Wastelands
Summary: A series of drabbles in a post-apocalyptic AU in which a guy and a his reindeer end up getting more than they bargained for when they pick up a certain blonde.
Warnings: Yaoi, foul language, slavery and discrimination (in later chapters).
Roronoa Zoro placed his hand to rest on the handles of his swords, the cases that homed the blades clattering as they jostled from the belt that held them tight to their Master's hip. He wasn't nervous, just that out in the Wastelands a person never knew what could come at them. There were feral animals, hostile gangs and Slavemasters that would pounce at the opportunity of fresh meat so, naturally, one had to remain a little cautious. With his other hand, Zoro held the blistered leather reins that led to the animal walking alongside him. The large reindeer held his ears back as it walked and wrinkled its nose against the dusty air. Sat on its back was a saddle with packs and small satchels strung up beside it containing all their provisionals. The deer grunted miserably at the heat and Zoro patted its rump comfortingly,
"It's okay, Chopper. We'll stop soon."
It was midday now and the sun was at its highest, its light glaring back off the rocks and sand under their feet. A little in the distance was the outline of the rocky slopes and crevices, the shapes of the wildlife moving around very clear even from as far back as they were.
Once, years ago, the slopes were actually a mountain range that stretched up impossibly tall. Zoro remembered them vaguely from his childhood, but had never paid much attention to be able to picture them in his mind. He was, afterall, only eight when the bombs went off.
But he remembered the bombs as if it had happened yesterday.
They had been awful. Everything was consumed by the fires and the explosions. Villages were obliterated and cities were destroyed in seconds. Smoke was thick in the air. Kuina was dead. Koshiro was dead. Out of a city of two million, only Zoro and three thousand others had survived. Even then, the radiation poisoning began to pick off the weakest. Zoro managed to escape it with a shock of mutated green hair and one eye that had evolved into a bright emerald colour, leaving the other a deep chestnut brown. He was a lucky one compared to what the other survivors ended up looking like.
Zoro pulled the bandana a little lower on his forehead, letting the dark fabric soak up the beads of sweat that had began to form, and returned his hand to his swords. He rubbed his thumb on Wado's hilt in time with his walk, feeling the folded metal of the white katana and it gave him a sense of security- like a mountain in a storm, steadfast and strong. A faint memory of Kuina's smile echoed in his mind and gave him a warm feeling inside. Stroking the weapon had become a habit ever since he had left the remains of that godforsaken city. Much like her previous Master, Wado held an aura of deep calm that seemed to flow into anything or anyone that needed it most. Just like Kuina, Zoro thought and a glimmer of a smile curved his lips.
Sometime later Chopper snorted excitedly and nudged Zoro with his snout, jolting the slumbering man awake and having him go straight for his swords. The green haired man dropped into an attacking position, a crimson sword drawn out in front of him. Kitetsu glinted in the afternoon sun.
After a moment of gathering his surroundings, Zoro straightened up with a sigh, "Chopper, what the Hell? You're supposed to wake me up if there's trouble..."
Chopper wasn't listening though. He was dancing circles around the man, cuffing up wisps of dust with his hooves and throwing his head back all the while making funny, almost hysterical grunts and squeaks. Zoro slid Kitetsu back home and made to grab the reindeer's reins but the creature simply skipped out of his way until he was making nothing but desperate snatches at the air, "Oi pack it in, baka. I don't wanna play right now," He lunged forward and grasped the leather straps tightly, pulling the deer back towards himself, "What's got into you, Chopper? Pack it in- Woah!"
In an instant, Chopper had him over and was dragging him along the ground to a small ditch that sloped down a few meters away from the crop of rocks they were resting at. Zoro had to close his eyes tight and hold his mouth firmly shut to stop the grit and dirt getting in as he was pulled relentlessly over small rocks that scratched sharply at his skin. When Chopper stopped running abruptly, Zoro hauled himself to his feet coughing and patting the dust of his clothes. He made to yell at the deer when he realised just what Chopper had got so upset over.
It was a guy.
Zoro stared, stunned by the possibility of finding another person. When was the last time he'd actually seen a real person? He couldn't remember; all these years alone with a mutated reindeer for company had left him with no reason to seek out human contact- he was happy with Chopper, and that's all he really wanted. Plus, there was no real sense in braving a radioactive wasteland to find someone who might turn out to be a theif and would kill you as soon as your back was turned was there? But in seeing someone after so long induced a sense of curiosity in him so he gripped the handle of Kitetsu and called out, "Oi!"
There was no response.
Zoro should have anticipated the silence- the guy was sort of collapsed on the ground- but you could never be too safe; what if this was a trap set up for a mugging? Or, even worse, a trap set by the Slavemasters to catch themselves some more victims. Zoro had had a run in with them before and they were not nice people. At all. He could still feel the collar they had put around his throat, squeezing and biting at his flesh painfully until it ripped his skin when he pulled it off. The scars still remained, deep and a shade darker, as a constant reminder of how evil people could be.
He knew he should turn away and leave the guy to his fate- if it turned out it was a trap then good for him for not being fooled, but if it turned out the guy genuinely needed help and died out here then...
"Dammit," Zoro snarled and made his way over to the man. Chopper didn't follow, staying where he was and paced nervously with his mutataed blue nose twitching and snuffling. Zoro glanced over his shoulders a few times before looking down at the man at his feet, "Oi, get up," He said but, yet again, there was no response. He put his foot out, nudging the man onto his back with his boot and looked him over.
The guy was pale. Really pale. He was almost white, like he'd been sun bleached. Ruffed up locks of blonde hair were flicked out around his neck and sprawled across his face. His cheeks were drawn and his eye sockets were a little sunk from lack of food. But what caught Zoro's interest was something else entirely.
There was a slave collar around this guy's throat.
The brass ring with its silver spiked studs gleamed wickedly at him in the sunlight. It hung from the skinny pale neck like a sick piece of jewelry and Zoro slipped his fingers underneath it, wary not to cut himself on the sharp edges, and felt gently around for the clasp. He pressed his fingers against it and drew Wado instead- Kitetsu would only be after blood and he didn't want to kill the guy. He pressed the blade where to where the key would go on the outside of the collar and shoved sharply. The metal case cracked and fell open and Zoro lifted the man's head and took the disgusting mark of slavery off, throwing it far away to the side. He checked the guy over for injuries and took off his scarf, using it as a makeshift bandage for the gash on the man's upper arm and tied it tight. He couldn't do much for the man's clothing though, the blonde was only in a pair of scruffy, cut up jeans but Zoro took off his coat and covered him in it in an attempt to keep at least the hot sun off the pale skin. He then lifted the blonde over his shoulder and called for Chopper.
Chopper snorted, happy that it hadn't turned out to be a trap, and galloped over, leaning down to let Zoro put the injured man on the saddle. The blonde was slumped forward against the reindeer's neck and his arms hung limply either side. Chopper grunted, worried. The deer could sense the sickness in him and it made him restless. Zoro took the reins and rubbed the animal's forehead soothingly,
"It's okay, Chopper. Let's go find somewhere to stay."
Chopper whined nervously as he felt the blonde cough weakly but followed when Zoro tugged on the reins, adjusting his movements every now and then so the man on his back would not fall.