Chapter 1: Favor For a Friend
“HyeeeHAAAAA-! Dragon, when I found out you had a son?! How come you never said?” Emporio Ivankov met Monkey D Luffy in Impel Down three years ago.
“Hahaha!” The Revolution's Leader lifts his mug of ale from the table. They've been drinking here awhile. Him and his good friend. The guy's a Queen, in all cases of the word. Likes purple and black. Leather, and fishnets. The wearer of some of the most impressive false eyelashes in the five Blues. “I suppose I thought he might get away. Luffy. That he'd have what I couldn't... Maybe he won't either. Haha- but maybe our grandson will? Eh, Ivan?”
Implying that a person will have children, and that their children will have children. That a name will live on....
“Shishishi- and this is Zoro.” But Dragon's son is in love with a man.
He's been introduced to them all. Jimbe, Brook, Franky, Robin, Chopper, Nami, Sanji, Usoop-- but Zoro stood out. Always at Luffy's side. The two of them kissing, and holding hands. Slapping each other's butts when they thought nobody was looking. Dragon will be so sad to know his line is ending. What a shame. And when these two are so obviously in love... Ivan pauses, halfway through his ale. Listening to a thrilling tale about the Strawhat's defeat of Delflamingo. He smiles, then, draining the rest.
“Eh? You're going?”
“Aye- I was only in these parts a short time.” Ivankov winks at Luffy. Wishing each other farewell. “Oi- Zoro-boy, would you help me with these?”
“Aye.” Zoro has no reason not to trust this guy. A friend of his Captain's. He didn't know Ivan was more a friend of his Captain's father. “In here?”
“Aye- Just carry those over to the wall.” The Queen of the Okamas is carrying a stack of boxes also. Going down into the store of his ship. “A little further.”
Where it's dark, and Zoro can't see a thing. Relying on his other senses to move around. It's not that hard. He can feel his way with his feet. “Gaah-!?” Not sure which direction it came from, or what it was that stabbed in in the hip. “Ahh!?” It stings, and keeps stinging-
Ffsst! The flare of a match, and Zoro sees Ivankov standing nearby. Holding his stack of boxes in one hand, lighting a lantern with the other. “Something wrong, Zoro-boy?”
“N-no... nothing...” Did he imagine it? His hip hurts...?
Roronoa Zoro goes back to the Thousand Sunny, and Ivan sails off into the New World. They didn't mean to meet up with him at all, but it was a laugh all day. He's an okay guy, that Okama, Ivankov.
“What's with you, standing around? Are you growing mold?”
“Che-” Zoro's side itches, and his hip still stings. He scratches it.
“Zoro? Are you alright?” Chopper, always watchful of his nakama, is there in a flash. Dragging the swordsman off to his infirmary and stripping off the man's long green coat. “These look deep. Did you fall on something?”
“Huh? No... I don't think so.”
“You don't think so? Did you black out?”
“Well... it was dark when it happened.”
“So you were stung by something?”
Chopper wiggles his blue nose. Something in his nakama's body oder is... different? But what's different about it? He can't figure it out... Bothering the little doctor beyond belief. What he can do, however, is treat the stings in Zoro's hip. Four of them, all in line. Whatever it was must have had a huge stinger... or a set of singers? The little doctor dabs the spots with antiseptic, then wraps them in gauze and tape. “Don't take these off until tomorrow.” Warning his green-haired nakama, but also knowing it probably won't do any good. They'd had a big fight today, and a big feast. Laughing and storytelling and listening to Brook play his violin by request. And so Chopper knows, just like Zoro does.
“Aye. I'll do my best.” Zoro won't be keeping anything on tonight, because tonight they're celebrating.
“Ahh!aa~! Zoro.” Celebrating being alive with one another.
“Sencho-” Scrambling from battle to battle, and all the hours between Luffy has filled with sex and food. They've never had more parties, inviting hundreds... maybe thousands of other Pirates and people aboard their ship. Not all at once... No... but over the last year they've been in the New World. They're still sailing. Together. Island after island. And when they do make it back to where they started, Zoro is sure they'll be going around the whole world again. That Luffy is unstoppable.
“Mmmn~ Zoro smells good.”
“Hehe- You only think meat smells good.”
“Zoro's meat.” Luffy points out. Licking up the man's chest. Along the knobbly white scar he got a lifetime ago. Knowing this makes the man melt. Shivering, as he's being made love to. “Mmm- sweet meat.”
“Haaah-” Has sex between them always felt this good? “Oha- ahh... L-Luffy... oah-y-yea..” Not caring to stop the half-words bubbling up from his throat. Zoro's eye getting lost, and so he closes it. “Ahh~ Sencho-”
“Shishishi- Zoro should stay like that.” Flat on his back on the mat in Zoro's workout room. Up in Sunny's crow's nest. Luffy pushes the man's knees down and open. Admiring his nakama's bare errection, and the place they are connected. Pumping slowly, Luffy sinks deeply in until there's a slap of skin against skin. “Ahh~ Zoro.”
“Haaah-” It brings tears to the swordsman's green eye. His Captain's dick all the way inside, he can feel their pulses beating together... there. A furious thrum of hot blood.
“Haa- Zoro-” A rubber arm forward to pull his swordsman from the floor. Kissing with their tongues. “Haa- Zoro- Zoro-?”
“Cum in me, Luffy-”
“Haaa-ahh-!” The breaking of a dam, and Zoro's washed inside with his Captain's seed. A familiar feeling between them.
“Don't pull out.”
“Shishishi-” Luffy touches Zoro's chest. Thumbs brushing across the man's pert, pink nipples. “Not gonna.” Slowly thrusting, to proove he's still hard. Luffy stirs his cum, driving it deeper into Zoro.
“He's sensitive tonight.” Luffy says, kissing his nakama's corded copper neck. “.. and he smells so good.” Hands roaming down his swordsman's sides. Touching each other in an odd frantic rush- “... he smells so good.” Rubber hips driving back and forth like a piston.
“More?” The Pirate Captain grins, watching his swordsman's mouth open and close without forming a word. “Zoro wants more-”
“Gaahaaa~” Luffy holds onto Zoro's legs. The second time he spends himself. Holding himself up...
...until he's finished cumming. “Shishi-” Leaning back without pulling out, a warm palm going around Zoro dick. The other's eye coming open, but he doesn't protest.
They are beyond protest.
“Zoro's belly is soft now.” Luffy points out. Free hand coming around to lie flat over his nakama's lower abdomen. Slightly distended after he's been emptied into twice. But Luffy has still more in him. Slowly thrusting, just to prove that he can.
“Ahh- Luffy~” Zoro knows he can. Luffy can go for days. He's a monster. “Give it to me.. Ahh- m-more.”
Luffy came several times inside Zoro that night, and a few times the next night... and almost every night for about a week, before....
“Just leave me alone for once!”
“I said no!”
“What's up with them?” Jimbe is on his way around to the back of the ship when he'd noticed the rest of the crew gathered on the landing to watch Zoro and Luffy shouting at one another on the lawn.
“I believe Zoro is refusing to bed our Captain. Yohohoho- How strange, as I have never known him to refuse an offer before.”
“He never has.” Franky tells Brook, a cola in his hand. Whispering.
“Nope. Never.” Nami confirms.
Sanji steps out of the Galley, bringing snacks for everyone. “Did I miss anything?”
“No.” Usopp's even brought out his old goggles to see if he can't read their lips. Find out what they're saying down there...
“Why doesn't Zoro want to?”
“I- I'm just tired.”
“Tired?” Luffy raises an eyebrow. “Zoro's never tired.”
“What a load of shit. I get tired all the time. You get tired all the time, Luffy-”
“But.. but... doesn't he want to do it?” The wreckage of that Marine Galleon still smoldering on the horizon. It had been epic! ...
...for Luffy, Sanji, Jimbe, and Usopp. The real stars of the show. Zoro had gone, but he'd only managed to take out a few dozen. Sanji took down two hundred. He just can't manage his blades like he wants to. He's... dizzy? He can't be sick. He's never sick... “Gonna go see Chopper.”
“-Don't follow me!” He feels sick. His stomach keeps cramping, and he... just feels weaker than he should. “You idiots have nothing better to do?” Hard not to notice the handful of his crewmates on the landing as he's passing to get to Chopper's infirmary.
“Oh, we do. This is just way more interesting.” Nami says, placing a chocolate on her tongue. “Why don't you want to butt uglies with Luffy tonight? You've never turned him down before~”
“Move.” Just shy of shoving Nami into Sanji, glaring at Usopp, Franky, Brook, and Jimbe. All of them shuffling off to leave the man a clear path.
“Zoro?” Chopper spends most of his time in his infirmary. Studying out of the many-many medical books he's acquired on their voyage. His own handwritten journals mixed in, techniques he's invented himself. “What's wrong? Are you hurt?”
“N-no?” Is he? Maybe he is. “I.. uh.”
Chopper's little blue nose wiggles. A frown, and he sniffs.
“I noticed it before, when you came back to the ship in a daze with those stings.” Chopper flips through a book on his desk. Shaking his head, and shoving it away. Opening another book... “I can't find anything to explain it. Nothing, in all these books.”
“I thought at first you were having an allergic reaction, but there's no reason for that to come on so sudden. It had to be what stung you. It's been absorbed by your body so I can't match the compound ... but I know it has to be organic... It would have the be a pure source of Estrogen to bring on such a profound-”
The little Zoan looks up from his books, into the wide, terrified eye of his crewmate. Zoro's hands are shaking, and he's.. he's crying?
“Ch-opper, just- just tell me what's happening?” Crying, and being angry at himself that he's crying. What -Why is he crying?!
“I- I'm sorry, Zoro. Here-” Handing over a clean towel to dry his face, and then sitting the swordsman down in a chair beside the door. Chopper taps his hooves together. Waiting a moment. For Zoro to settle down. “I noticed something when you came back with those stings. You smelled like a- like a woman.”
“Like a woman?”
“Human beings give off mating signals, mood disorders, drug addictions, all sorts of things through their body oders. No two are the same, but male and female are clearly defined by the amount of hormones they give off.”
“What are you saying?”
“I'm saying that you might .. um.. might start to exhibit more signs that.. that you...er...”
“...might be female?” Panic in his voice.
Chapter 2: Nothing... It's Nothing...
“Zoro?!” Luffy shouts, stamping his sandaled foot in the grass. But his First Mate walks away from him. A hand waving him back.
“Don't follow me!!”
Without glancing back once, he's gone, and Luffy is... very confused. Utterly. Hopelessly lost as to what just happened... How did? Where was-? Why isn't he holding Zoro in his arms right now?
“Oi-oi-” Usopp's come down the steps and onto the lawn. Sanji, Franky, Brook, and Jimbe right behind him. Robin and Nami are climbing the upper stairs to the Navigation's Deck. “Zoro's pissed- What did you say to him?”
“He is a frightening man. Roronoa Zoro. Just as the tales tell.” Jimbe utters. Sitting down in the grass beside the mizzenmast.
“Oh, you don't know even half of it.” Sanji tells his Fishman nakama, setting his tray of snacks on the lawn and lighting a fresh cigarette. “The very first time I met him, he was trying to get himself killed.”
“Come on, Luffy. Spill- what did you do?” Usopp's draped one arm around his Captain's shoulders. Whispering.
“I-I don't know.” Luffy's face scrunched up.. he's thinking. “Owww....”
“Don't think too much, Sencho- You'll slip into a shitty coma or something. Then where would we be?” Sanji picks up a whole-roasted crab from the tray and slung it at his Captain. Now, normally Luffy would grab anything edible that came within a few yards of himself... but he lets the crab go sailing by over his shoulder. Flumping sadly onto the grass. “Luffy?!”
“Zoro... he...?” Luffy always grabs Zoro's ass at the end of a big fight like that.... Today, he got swatted away.
“Would you like to listen to a song, Luffy-sencho?”
“Y-yes.” He chokes, getting the word out. Unbelievably grateful for Brook having offered to play for him. His Musician unpacking a very old violin. Placing it upon his bone-shoulder, and slowly began unfolding his tune. Harmonious, and dear. The sound of it caught and carried by the ocean's waves all around their ship.
Sanji's finished smoking his cigarette, and he chooses to light another. His Captain sitting down on the bench near Jimbe. “What happened, Luffy?”
“I don't know.”
“Maybe Zoro-bro's sick?” Franky suggests in a reassuring way. Drinking cola with his bulbous shoulders resting on Sunny's railing. “He wasn't fighting very well today.”
“No, he wasn't.” Sanji agrees.
Luffy looking sharply between his nakama. “Eh?”
“Didn't you notice?” Cyborg Franky pushes back his sunglasses, great big hunk of blue hair in the shape of a whale on top of his head. “We all took out two to three hundred o' them Marines. You got over a thousand! But Zoro-bro didn't fight more 'n fifteen.”
“Seventeen.” Sanji says, blowing smoke up over his head.
Luffy tries to remember seeing Zoro in the fight today... but he can't because- Because he didn't see much of Zoro in that fray. Could Zoro be sick? “Robin.” Standing up, Luffy runs to the stairs. Swung himself up, and flipped head over heels three or four times. His sandals coming down soundly on the Navigation Deck. Nami's mikan trees rustling in the breeze nearby. “Robin.”
“Luffy-Sencho.” She watches him, her Captain. A man who in all appearance is just as he was when they were enemies on the sands of Alabasta more than four years ago. All, except the scar on his chest. What had been a livid burn. It's completely healed now, in the shape of a thick X. Luffy's skin scarred shiny-red and smooth.
He walks to his Historian, and stands before her. “You're listening?” the Pirate Captain asks. His rubber body holding remarkably still. When Robin nods her head, his eyes track to one side. His Navigator sat there in a sun chair. A notebook open in her lap, and a quill in her hand. He decides to sit down, right here. On the deck and under the sun. Crossed-legged, looking up at Nami. “Read to me?”
“-Please. Read it to me?”
“I think you should try and rest, Zoro. See if your body metabolizes whatever toxin you were exposed to. I'll also take some of your blood to run more tests.”
“A-aye...” He holds his arm still as Chopper pokes a needle into him. Zoro watching his own blood being drawn. Filling the vial slowly.
He's walked from Chopper's infirmary in a daze, through a connecting door that leads to the ship's Galley. No one's here at the moment, and Zoro allows himself a long sigh of relief. Not much wanting to discuss the distressing conversation he's just had with any of his other nakama. He still doesn't understand what he's been told. All he knows is he's... he doesn't feel like he used to...
Made his way to the back of the kitchen to search a top cupboard. Zoro pulls down a bottle of good Sake. Not the cheap stuff Sanji usually makes him drink when they're between parties. Weighing the bottle in his hands, and carrying it to the bar so he can sit down. “Relax, huh?” He says out loud. Peeling wax away from the bottle's neck... working the cork. He didn't know he wasn't relaxed... They're not doing anything at the moment. No big enemies chasing them... Nobody healing horrific injuries... Zoro's been relaxing for weeks.
The cork comes free, and Zoro holds the thing tight in his hand. Lifting the rim to his lips, like he's done so many times before--- “Blech!! Huh?” Spitting on the few drops that had managed to touch his tongue, he wipes his mouth on his coat. Never has he tasted anything more foul. He sniffs at the bottle... but there's nothing wrong with the liquor inside? Not sour or rotted... it's just... he can't tolerate the taste of it? - “Eh?” Zoro shoves the cork back in, pushing the bottle away and it goes rolling across the bar. The swordsman up and to the sink. Pouring himself water to rinse his mouth.
It was that moment he realized he couldn't drink any alcohol, of any kind. Whisky, Sake, Brandy, mulled wine, beer... he uncorks them one by one, smelling them all... and each made him want to puke. “Che'-” So he's.. cut off?? Zoro sits down at the bar again, hands around his head and he pulls at his green hair. Listening to his earrings chime under his left ear.
*Clack- “Z-Zoro?” It's Usopp.
“What do you want?” Asks the crew's First Mate. All Zoro's fingers fisted in his green hair.
The Sniper shrugs. “Captain said 'Go check on Zoro.' So, here I am. Hehe-” Climbing into the stool beside his nakama. “You're not drinking? I thought for sure you'd be drinking.”
“Ne? Come again?”
“Haaah- I can't drink, Usopp. Stuff tastes ...bad.”
“Tastes bad? Haha- Zoro, you willingly drank bottom-barrel sludge-wine bottled out of West Blue-”
“-I- I know.” The swordsman putting his arms down at his sides, sighing.
Usopp nods his head. “You went to see Chopper. What does he think is wrong with you?”
“He... um.... He's running tests.” Zoro thinks about his blood in that vial, back in Chopper's infirmary. Spinning in a tray with a bunch of others. All of them a different color.
“What do you want me to tell Luffy?”
“Whatever you want.”
Usopp fidgets. Visibly. Chewing on his lower lip. “He'd want to hear that from you.”
“I- I know-... I...” He feels dizzy, even though he hasn't been drinking. “I'm- going to bed. Tell him that?”
The Sniper smiles gently, watching his nakama get heavily up off his stool. “I'll tell him.” Standing to hold the door open for Zoro.
Usopp watches the other man make slow progress to the men's quarters. Of course the swordsman walks by the door a couple of times. Turning himself around. On the fourth pass, he finds the right one. Going inside, and doesn't come back out again. Sun shining on the Sniper's brown face, but no matter how magnificent the day, he's not smiling. This isn't funny. Reaching into his overalls for a baby Den-den Mushi- Gatcha-! “This is Captain Usopp. All hands report to the Galley.”
“Going to bed?” Nami sounds as if she's never heard of anyone going to bed ever in known history.
Usopp swallowing a mouthful of beer. Sat at the long Galley Table with the majority of the crew. All of them listing to his report. “That's what he said, I'm going to bed.” In his best imitation of their First Mate's perturbed snarl.
“Zoro said he was tired.” Luffy utters. Staring at his plate with a big slab of pan-fried Sea King on it. Smelling delicious... except he cannot eat it. He's not interested in food, and that has to be a first.
“Oi-” Sanji straightens from pouring Robin a fresh cup of black coffee. “I have an idea-” The Cook crossing his Galley with carafe in hand to a door opposite the bar. It's the one to Chopper's Infirmary. Knocking on it. “Oi- Are you in there? Super-Doctor?”
*Clack “Sanji- um.. What- what do you want?” wiggling a little. Because he's happy. Chopper didn't get called out enough for his skills, even if it did take a lot of work keeping all of them from dropping dead for every possible reason at every possible moment. But even though he's happy, he's cautious. Speaking from a gap in the doorway.
“What do I want? You pain me, Chopper. We simple wanted to invite you to our little meeting. Maybe you can settle a few facts for us?”
“What facts?” Crept through the door, and closed it behind him. Chopper approaching the table, but doesn't sit down.
“We've been guessing-” Nami smiles, “-but only you can tell us what's really wrong with Zoro.”
“H-huh?... u-um...” He looks to Robin for support and guidance, maybe. Something he doesn't find. She's as interested as all of them. A table of vultures waiting for the location of dead to pick. “N-nothing's wrong with Zoro!” he lies, outright. Crossing his little arms, and blue nose up. He nods his head.
“Hmm. Nothing? Hmmm. ” Brook contemplates. Sipping tea from a delicate china-cup. Franky right next to the skeleton, struck dumb. His mouth hanging wide open.
“Chopper.” Usopp leans forward on the table. “This the same kind'a nothing like the last time Zoro said it was nothing?”
Sanji stubs out his cigarette. The image of Zoro dripping blood entering his mind. A little over three years ago now, but still sharp in him like it were this morning. A moment the Cook still struggles to put behind him. He has nightmares about it. Seeing his nakama torn up, bruised, gasping. On the verge of actual honest death, yet insisting nothing happened. “Oi, Luffy. Where do you think you're going?”
Their Captain stood from the table. His food untouched. “Bed.”
It's not even dinnertime yet. More like a late lunch. “Luffy-”
“Nami's in charge.”
Monkey D Luffy is through the door and out on the landing without hearing any objections or questions from his crew. Sun on his face, and there's a pang of salt in the air. Seagulls flapping their wings. Calling to one another. The Pirate Captain's puts a hand on his hat, the breeze rustling through yellow straw. Silk sash whipping out behind him as Luffy's turned. Two doors right of the Galley on this very same landing....
...that's where the men's quarters is.
The Thousand Sunny's adam-wood spine creaks continually. A low woodish moan in melody, sailing upon the churning blue waters of the New World. Swaying between deep gutters in the swirling water. Hard gusts lifting his massive sails. Zoro listens to these sounds their ship makes as they travel. Familiar with them. Normally lulled into a comfortable nap that'll last just so long as nobody wakes him up... until today.
“Damn it--!” The Strawhat swordsman curses as he's shoved his shoulder against the side of his box-hammock. Feet tangled in a blanket he thought he wanted when he laid down. No nap in sight.
*Cr-e-e-a-k The hinges on the door to the outside. Washed with saltwater at all times, they've always been noisy. Zoro holds still, pretending to be asleep. Hoping whoever it is will just go the hell away.
Of course it had to be Luffy. “Aye, Sencho.”
The door closes, its latch's internal hammers clacking loudly in the quiet. “...Is Zoro sick?”
“Che- No. I'm fine.”
“...” He can't see much more than his nakama's shoulder. Zoro still wearing his green coat. “Chopper said nothing's wrong with Zoro.” Sandaled footsteps carry Luffy nearer to where his swordsman is lying with his back to him. Reaching a hand out to grasp that shoulder he can see. “Ne-?” Feeling through his fingertips, his First Mate is trembling. He's... “Zoro isn't fine, is he?”
“...” He could lie. He should lie.. Zoro can fool Luffy any day of the week for ten-thousand years, but- “A-aye, Sencho.” Today... he can't.
“ 'Ahoy-! Robin-!!”
Nico Robin had come up to the Navigation Deck with Nami. The two girls only just laid down in their sun chairs when-
“Koala? Sabo?” They're riding a pair of creatures that look an awful lot like bats- only they have feathers? Setting down their passengers, and taking off into the air again. To skirt the ocean. Their massive talons dragging in seawater. Leaving Pirates and Revolutionaries to greet each other. “What are you doing in this part of the New World?” Robin smiles. “We're not about to be caught in the cross-fires of Civil War, are we?”
“Haha-” Sabo laughs. Grinning with both his blue eyes. “No, nothing like that. We're coming from a battle, actually.”
“We saw your ship.” Koala points toward their deck.
“How can I pass-up an opportunity to catch up with my little-brother now that I'm technically off duty?”
“So-” Clapping his gloved hands together, Sabo looks around. “-where is he? Where's my little brother? I honestly expected to be tackle-hugged within seconds of our landing-”
“Ah, about that...” Usopp scratches the back of his neck.
“Yoho-ho-” Brook clearing his hollow throat. Silk top-hat held loosely in his hands. “Luffy-sencho is currently attending to some -ah… delicate domestic matters.”
“Eh?” Sabo looks properly at those who are here with him and Koala on the Navigation's Deck. Robin, Nami, Sanji, Usopp, Franky, Jimbe, Brook... “Ah- I see. Zoro's not here- That must mean they're...” making a rude gesture with his left hand.
“I wish that were the case.” Nami sighs. Her gold eyes going away beyond Sunny's rigging. Up into the clouds. Grey banded nimbus gathering for rain. It'll start falling in seven minutes, and then begin to build into a gale. “There's a storm coming.” She can smell that cyclone. Out at sea, and still far-far off... but, there are more. Some very close to them. “Mina-!”
Chopper stands up on his chair in his infirmary peering through a microscope at a slide of Zoro's blood. He's found no infections. No parasites, or any foreign bodies... “What?” Enhancing the magnification. “What is...?”
The tiny Doctor cross-references several articles in his books for descriptions in human biology.... “hCG...?” Human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone released in a human female's body... essential for the purpose of reproduction. “What?” He's only measuring levels of fifteen milliunits per milliliter in Zoro's blood, but that's enough to suspect a woman could be pregnant... Does that mean Chopper, as a Doctor, needs to explain to his very male nakama that he might be...
*knock-knock-knock The door to the infirmary is already opening.
“S-Sabo? When did-?”
“Just got here, Chopper. It's good to see you-” -talking fast- “-Listen, your Navigator says there's gonna be a storm. Better button-up, Ne?”
Hurrying to secure his telescope, and sliding all of Zoro's blood samples into a small cool storage he has right inside the room. Chopper follows the blonde Revolutionary. Going into the Galley where it appears everyone is planning on spending the night?
“Luffy's in there with Zoro, right? So I bet it's gonna get loud, eh-eh-” Usopp's cracking jokes, but Chopper thinks he's pretty far off the mark. He'd found astronomically high levels of cortisol in their swordsman's blood. Elevated amounts of progesterone, testosterone, as well as estrogen? He's sure he's never seen anything like it before, not in these amounts... not in any book he's ever read or story he's ever heard.
“Oi-oi-” Franky's got both bare feet up on the galley table. “I know our Sencho's a charge-ahead sort'a guy, but I bet'cha he's not going to be running any laps with Zoro tonight.”
“I'll take that bet.” Sanji's called to Franky. A wad of beli already in his hand.
Nami watches the boys making bets on their nakama's love life. She doesn't. Not tonight. Not that she hasn't before, she just... doesn't think this time is a normal ha-ha funny those two... This time things feel... a bit more serious. Just as serious as the waves outside. A powerful, ancient ocean Sunny's adam-wood hull rides upon. Clouds gathered so thick it looks like night has come hours early. “I think we should drop anchor.”
“Right here...” she's whispered, and then turned towards their Sniper. “Usopp, those giants you were drinking with on the last island- they told you a Treasure Island was hidden in this part of the New World? At the back of the Sea Dragon's jaw?”
“Aye- That's what they said...” Watching Nami reach back behind her. Unfolding an old map. Leaning when Sunny's pitched sharply over a thick swell. A hard smack onto water makes all of their knees bend.
“Here.” Nami lies the chart down on the Galley table. Flattening its edges. “The Sea Dragon.” She points – and it does. It does look like a Sea Dragon, drawn right here on this map. What are ridges of coral reefs and eaten-away islands that all together look like a Dragon. “... and this must be its jaw.” Two jagged rows, slightly bent. High- dangerous teeth sticking up out of the Blue, and the only way onto a solid current snaking by string of mysterious islands. The rumored Treasure Island among them.
“O-oi...” Usopp's voice quivering, but only because he's excited. “We're all going on this Treasure Hunt, Ne? Revolutionaries included?” Grinning at Sabo and Koala. Guests at the moment, but a good Treasure Hunt is a good Treasure Hunt. Besides, Sabo is family, isn't he?
“Haha-! You bet.” He smiles like Luffy does. From the very bottom of his heart. Drinking beer with Brook.
Koala just as much at home as she'd been the last few times she boarded the Strawhat Pirates' beyond-legendary ship. Enjoying every attention Sanji is more than happy to provide. “It's good to see you, Chopper.” Her smile very kind, in the way smiles are. She never means anything behind them, she's more honest than that.
More honest than Tony Tony Chopper feels right now. His head down, eating cotton candy mushi and sandwiched between Franky and Sabo. He's glad these two are physically larger, and more animated than he is. They draw the rest of the crew's attention, allowing him to think. … How could Zoro have become pregnant?
Wind blows. Outside. Luffy can hear it whistling under the door to the men's quarters. Sunny's floor tilting almost forty degrees before slamming back down onto the ocean. Not that he cares even the slightest. He knows Nami will take care of it. He has the best crew in the whole world looking after everything while he's busy taking care of a very different, if not more important matter.
At least to Luffy- “Where does Zoro feel different?”
“Do we have to do this right now?” The swordsman wishes he hadn't admitted anything. But he'd said it. Facing away from his Captain, pressed bodily up against the edge of his box hammock that is not exactly made for two people.
“Where-?” Luffy half-asks half-whines, squeezing back on his nakama's thick shoulders.
“Haaah-” Sighing for a long time out of his lungs while he tries to decide where exactly he feels.. whatever it is he's feeling. “Here... I guess?”
His Captain covering Zoro's hand with his own, to find out where here is- his lower abdomen. Luffy lies one palm flat over his nakama's muscular stomach wall. “What kind'a different is it?”
“Che- How do I know? It's just... different. Somehow...?” Deep in his guts. Maybe deeper than he was even aware of a few weeks ago. Sensing something's building... breaking? He knows it... but he doesn't know what it is- What it could be? A Bad Omen is all he's sure of- “Ow! Oi- Quit poking at me-”
Luffy hadn't pressed very hard, and stopped right away. The sound of his swordsman's voice telling that he was in pain. Told it plain and obvious, something Zoro usually doesn't do. Wrapping his arms around the man's upper body instead, Luffy listening to him breathe. “Ne? What did Chopper say?”
“He's running tests. Says he'll know more in a few days.”
He cuddles in closer to his First Mate. Sharing bodyheat between them. “But Zoro's gatta rest?”
“Chopper's not gonna make Zoro rest for no reason.”
“...Aye- ...” He's not saying any more. It's just too weird. Besides, he doesn't know anything until Chopper runs those tests...
“Yosh.” Uttered softly into the shell of his swordsman's left ear, Luffy tonguing the bases of the man's three piercings. “Zoro's gonna rest until Chopper says he can fight.”
“You benching me, Sencho?”
“Aye.” He kisses Zoro's back. Softly. Pressing a warm cheek to copper skin. He's trembling. Again. Luffy is pretty sure he also heard him gasp in a sob. A sound that trisects his own heart, and left him drowning in his own chest. Clinging to Zoro, as the Sunny moans around them.
Pitching wildly in the storm.
Chapter 4: Going to be Okay
All the rest of that day, night, and even after sunrise, storms raged over the New World. Darkness mixing with high winds that lifted the surf right off the sea's bed. Huge splashes overtaking the Strawhat's Lawn Deck, washing everything in salt water. Good thing it's Usopp's pop-grass they're growing. A species that thrives on the salt content of the ocean, and produces a green springy leaf in all weathers.
Luffy stays with Zoro through the storm. Falling asleep sometime in the middle. It's over when he's woken, with a jolt that squashes him up against the box-hammock wall. The bunk-room full of bright sunlight- “Eh-?” Aware enough to realize Zoro's flung himself out of the hammock. That he's making fast for the door to outside. “Zoro...?”
Only the Strawhats' First Mate can't stop. And doesn't. Not until he's made it to the furthest railing, and hung himself over the edge.
“Blaa-gaaah-” Spitting into the sea. Off the lee side. “Haa-aah-” Zoro listens to his own blood pounding in his ears. Head spinning. Only bringing up yellow acid, and foam, because he hasn't eaten anything since yesterday's breakfast...
“Oi? You know the storm's been over for hours. Your guts are as slow as your moldy-brain if you're throwing-up now.” Sanji. He's stood on the landing semi-outside the Galley door, smoking a cigarette.
The smell of it crawling up Zoro's nose to offend every nerve in his face. He can taste it- and it.... “Blalaaag-”
“What's going on out here?” Nami's come out of the Galley. First thing she sees in their Cook, looking a little worried. Certainly he's confused. Following his line of sight to Zoro. With his back to them, hurling over the side of the ship.
“Get Chopper?” Nami's asked her blonde nakama very quietly, and Sanji goes without reply.
*Clack-- Luffy comes out of the men's quarters, then. Still rubbing his eyes. Sleep creases al over his face. “Ne- Zoro-?”
“Luffy-” Nami is within reach of her Captain, and she takes his arm. Nodding in the direction of their First Mate. Making a horrific horking noise. His back curling. “I've never seen Zoro throw-up after he's been drinking.” she whispers. “How many bottles did he have?”
“Eh-? ah...?” Luffy pinches his tongue between his teeth, trying to remember. Zoro always drinks a lot. Always... but, last night? He.... “Zoro wasn't drinking.”
“If he wasn't drinking why is he puking?”
Something the Pirate Captain doesn't know. In fact, he's never seen Zoro vomit before. Not ever... and his green-haired nakama's eaten some pretty questionable things. Even Luffy's thrown up once or twice. After eating those jellied cabachi-patties in Dressrosa...but Zoro? He'd asked for seconds!
“Something going on out here? Eh-? Luffy!”
“Sabo?!” Eyes widening at the sight of hs big brother. “When did-?”
“Yesterday, but you were busy-” The Revolutionary's blue eyes watch closely, at the Strawhat's Doctor transforming into his larger form. Helping Roronoa Zoro to his feet, and then across the landing. Sees Zoro share a look with Luffy... a telling one; except the older brother doesn't know what there is to tell. The only thing he can see is how much it hurts them. Parting like they are. With something they haven't said between them? “...We'll be here for a good while, Koala and me.”
“Koala's here too?” Luffy looks dazed, and he blinks. His Swordsman led away to the infirmary, and gone inside.
“That's right. Seems your crew is on the hunt for a mysterious Treasure Island, and … well.. I'm sure I could use some beli to show Koala how much I appreciate she doesn't kill me in my sleep.”
There's a laugh. Sabo smiles very gently. A hand finding and squeezing his little brother's shoulder . “What's wrong, Lu? Can I help?”
“N- not sure yet.” Luffy says. “Shi-shi-” Reaching to drag his straw hat up onto his head, he looks at his Lawn Deck, below. Strewn with bits of seaweed, and broken branches... Scratches on Sunny's bright paintwork. Long gouges in the grass.
“Oaya-! That's my queue-” Franky is already carrying his tools in a big bag slung over one of his massive shoulders.
“I'm gonna help out!” Usopp fast on their cyborg's heels.
“Yo-ho-ho-ho-hoooo-! Treasure Island – YEAH!!” Brook strums an expressive note that vibrates on the salty sea air. Electric guitar resting on his boney hip.
The lantern in Chopper's infirmary is way too bright. Zoro holding up his hand to act as a shield, sat once again in this chair beside the door. Fighting his gore that threatens to rise and keep rising. His guts roiling over and over in empty knots, but he isn't hungry in the slightest. Even the thought of drinking water makes him want to puke. His lower abdomen tense, like he's been kicked with a brick boot... Only... he hasn't...? “What's happening to me, Chopper?”
The little Zoan had taken his nakama's pulse and temperature. Then scuttled into the galley, leaving the swordsman alone briefly. He's back now, bringing with him some sort of drink in a tall mug. “I'm not sure.” Closing the door to the Galley, Chopper's little hooves tap on the floor as he walks. Brings the mug to Zoro, and handing it to him.
“What is this?”
“Steeped ginger.” Chopper climbs into the chair at his desk, still facing his nakama. “Ginger is good for nausea. Try it.”
Zoro sniffs at the slightly yellow liquid. A pang of spice, but no sugar. So it can't be sweet. Good... he tries a sip, and it goes down.... and stays down.
“Drink slowly.” Chopper warns, encouragingly.
It works. Zoro still feeling a little odd in his middle, but he's not about to up-chuck onto his own boots. “Thanks, Chopper.” Setting the now empty cup down on the edge of the Doctor's desk, and lacing all his fingers. Squeezing at his own hands, with his elbows on his knees. “What is happening to me?” asking again, because he needs to know. The idea that this could go on forever if they can't find a cure... He can't take that.
Chopper had been thinking of what to say, and how to say it to Zoro all night. Going over the man's blood tests results in his head over and over, while the rest of the crew drank and told stories with Sabo and Koala. “I.. I think you might be ..pregnant.” Is all he can manage.
“Pregnant...?” repeating the word. A word he doesn't think he's really ever used. There was a student at the dojo once, his sister got pregnant and he had to take a leave of absence to help her out. Zoro's never seen a pregnant woman up close... and he – ?
“I need to confirm in a few days with a fresh blood sample. If my suspicions are correct, certain levels will double in your blood, and we'll know.”
“And if they don't double, I'm not ---” he doesn't think he can say it.
Chopper nods his head. “but just to be sure, I want you to get plenty of rest, and if you can don't drink any alcohol.”
“No drinking- che-” He hasn't told Chopper he can't touch the stuff.
“It's important. If you are pregnant consuming alcohol can cause serious physical and psychological deformities, or even kill a developing human fetus.”
Good thing he can't touch the stuff. “A-aye.”
“And, um.... There is one thing-?”
Zoro waits, but his Doctor only taps his little hooves together, looking uncomfortable. “What?” he asks.
“Um, if- if you are pregnant... The father... um... the other father... um...”
Roronoa Zoro sits back in the chair he's in. Green head resting against the inside wall of the Thousand Sunny's infirmary. Single eye falling shut, he listens to his earrings clacking under his left ear. Unable to understand why there are tears trickling silently down his face.
On the other side of the wall, Koala follows Sanji into his Galley kitchen. Leaning up against the wall to watch him setting up pans, and light burners.
“What can I make for you this fine brunch hour, my dear ?”
“Fufu-fu- You always spoil me.”
“And you always challenge me.” Taking a currently unlit cigarette from his lips, the Pirate kisses this Revolutionary. “Such an adventurous vixen.”
“Sabo will fight you, if he sees us.”
“You think I'm scarred of him?”
“Fufu- You know, you really should be.” She secreted her hands up under Sanji's shirt while he wasn't looking. To drag all her fingernails across the Cook's soft white skin.
“Haaaaah-” Listening to him shutter, and half-moan for her-
*Clack The door to the infirmary, opening off Sunny's Galley.
Koala and Sanji spring apart in half an instant, the Strawhat's First Mate, Roronoa Zoro making his way inside. Chopper staying behind, the door shutting hiding the little Zoan from sight.
“Onigiri.” Zoro says, sitting down in a stool at the bar.
“Aye- Half a minute.” Sanji not unaware their Swordsman is without his swords. That doesn't just happen. Not in the year they'd been on the New World together. It's the fucking New World!!!
“Are you feeling better, Zoro?” She gets in real close to him.
The swordsman backing off. “Y-you? You're that Revolutionary-” staring at her. He's seen her before... but where..?
“Koala. Haha- You're always drinking with Sabo, Demon Blade Roronoa Zoro.”
He recognizes her now. Little mousy eyed, strawberry blonde. She's Sabo's girlfriend. “He's here with you, then?” Watching Sanji put the finishing touches to a plate of triangle onigiri stuffed with sardine paste...
“Yes. We were flying over when we saw your ship. Now it seems we're all going on a Treasure Hunt together. Is it true Nami's your Captain right now?”
“Hm? No. Luffy's my Captain. All the time.”
“Fufu- That's what I thought.” Stepping aside for Sanji to place a plate of finely shaped onigiri and a tall blue bottle of sake on the table.
“You can take that back.” Zoro reaching to pluck a rice triangle from the plate.
“Huh? You're not drinking?” Sanji blinks. Rolling his unlit cigarette from one side of his mouth to the other. “When are you ever not drinking?”
“Today. Now take it back.” He doesn't even want to think about it. Drinking and being sick for it, and maybe he'll kill a baby in the process... Zoro freezes. His mouth full of rice.
“Oi- What the matter now, or has moss completely overtaken your brain?” Koala sees how quickly Sanji turns when he doesn't get a snappy come-back from Zoro, like he'd been expecting. He doesn't get a chance to say anything, however, because that's when the Galley door opens. Nami and Robin coming inside. Wearing sting bikini's, towels draped over their shoulders.
“Zoro!” Nami goes right to the bar and hugs carefully around her nakama's broad shoulders. “Are you feeling better?”
He doesn't answer her. Scowling at his plate of onigiri.
“Pay no attention to his oaf, sweet Nami-san.” Sanji places a glass of icewater down in front of Zoro, fawning in front of all these women in his Galley. “Would you and Robin like a bento to take up to the Navigation's Deck?”
He has it on the counter in a flash, all wrapped up and ready. “A flask of lightly-roasted coffee for our beautiful Historian.”
“Fufufu- Thank you, Sanji-san.”
They go, closing the door behind them. “My, aren't you popular?” Koala observes. Smiling at Sanji.
“No matter where he goes.” Zoro snorts. Finishing what was on the plate in front of him, but he's still pretty hungry. Why is he still hungry...? O-oh... yea.... He's.... “Hit me again.” Sliding his plate a few inches back across the bar, the swordsman puts his elbows up on it. Knee shaking.
I.. I think you might be ..pregnant.
Heat builds up Zoro's neck so he flaps his coat open a little to let off some. Wondering if that's normal or not. Maybe they're sailing through a Summer climate? Maybe he's losing what little mind he has left? Mihawk always insinuated that would be the case.
“Here you go. These are black bean and curry-stuffed.”
“Thanks.” The spices go up into Zoro's nose, and they're.. more than he remembers. Tastes really freaking good, actually.
“Whatever.” Sanji leans against the stove, next to Koala, “I've never known him eat two plates. Not in the morning, anyway." He tells her, taking his lighter from his trouser pocket and put it to the cigarette-tab he's been dangling in-between his lips for the last half hour. The Strawhat Cook welcoming heads of smoke into his lungs. Puffing out his cheeks, and exhaled up towards the ceiling.
It's almost instantaneous. The swordsman standing up, taking his plate with him, and left the Galley without a word.
“Huh-? I wonder what that's about?” the Cook takes another long drag from his cigarette. “Ah, well- Where were we?” A twist of his hip, to pull Koala around and against him.
“You've left Nami in charge?”
“Aye.” Luffy tells his older brother. Lying on his back in the slightly damp lawn listening to Brook playing his guitar. ((Yoho~ ba~by~ YEAH~ New W~O~R~L~D~ Blues~))
Sabo is sitting on a tree swing. Top hat on the grass not far away. Hit foot tapping to the music. “Good choice, sounds like she's interested in making a beli or two.”
“Shishi-shi. Aye- Nami's great at Treasure.” He'd met her while she was stealing treasure... almost five years ago. A few days after he got Zoro out of that field... Luffy looks up at the Infirmary door, wondering if he can fly through it at this angle.
“You've got a lot on your mind, Lu?”
The Pirate Captain blinks. “Haha- Aye.” It's at that moment the Galley door opens. But it's not Sanji or Koala coming out- it's Zoro. A plate of something in his hand. Going to the nearest railing to lean against it as he eats.
“Looks like your boyfriend's doing better.” Sabo observes. A hand up to shield from the sun.
((Yo~ho~ho~ Ba~aby~ WOW~! It's only cuz 'a ya'know- ya'know~! New W~O~R~L~D Blues~))
“Aye.” Luffy has known Zoro a long time. Five years is a long time. Even if they'd been apart for two of them... he notices the small motions that give away that his swordsman is favoring his core. His eye cast out over the ocean like that... He's more than deep in thought. He's contemplating something. Something Luffy can't guess... and it makes him kinda mad, to know there's something about Zoro he doesn't know. The Pirate Captain flipping over on the grass and hopped to his feet. Stretching out his arm to grab the upper railing and swung himself up. Feet landing almost silent behind his First Mate. “Hehe- Ne, Zoro-” Something he's done tons and tons of times. Come up from behind his lover, and squeezed him tight. Maybe Zoro would grumble, if people were whistling at them, but there's nobody here to do that on their ship. Except, like many things Luffy's been rather used to, Zoro isn't.
“L-Let go!” The plate and half the onigiri still on it go tumbling into the ocean. Zoro's left shoulder up and caught his Captain in the chin before he's realized who it was.
Not that it's hurt the Rubber Man any... “Zoro-?”
“L-Luffy? D- don't sneak up on me? How many times...? ahhhh-” Elbows on the railing, he doesn't move when his Captain tries for a second time to wrap his arms around him. Luffy's chest warm against his back.
“What did Chopper say?” Luffy feels his swordsman's muscles tighten at his question. His back, and his flanks. How he tries to push back from the rail, but the Pirate Captain keeps him there. “Zoro?”
“...” There is not a demon in hell or a devil an any fruit that is going to make Roronoa Zoro tell his Captain that he's pregnant. “H-he said he has to run more test in.. in a couple days.”
Luffy's eyes are dark and serious, like he's negotiating a rough track through deadly terrain. Staring at the back of his Swordsman's green head. “Yosh-” Slow, and serious. Somehow more serious than Zoro was aware his Captain could be. Holding onto him from behind, and it feels so necessary that he remain this way. That he's safe here, in this embrace... but how and why did safety become a priority of his?
I.. I think you might be ..pregnant.
“Zoro-” Luffy rubs lightly along his swordsman's arms. Gently kissing the man's back. He's shaking. “... 's gonna be okay.” Not sobbing, but in the short-moment that exists just before so that when he does hear Luffy's voice, tears break out of him. Streaming down Zoro's face, and he wipes them on his coat. “He's gonna be okay.”
Hoping Luffy's right- no.. No! Knowing Luffy is right, Zoro clings to these arms that are warm around him.
Sabo is about three steps back on the very same landing, right behind his little brother. So he sees the exchanges between them. These two Pirates who are Captain and First Mate of probably the most infamous crew in the New World. They've toppled dynasties, undug buried hope in the wastes of blasted islands, and lead countless numbers of ununitable fools under one banner. Everywhere they go. Leaving the name Strawhat Luffy behind them, and the story of a man who will one day become King of the Pirates.
“Good afternoon, Ladies.” Gone up the ladder that's nearest him instead, because he won't be a party to disturbing his brother's love-life. He's no right to do that, not when it is clear those two are going through something more than difficult at the moment. Not that Sabo knows what that something is.
“S-Sabo-! um....” Nami jerks up from the table she'd been bent over. Making measurements and marks on an old map. “I-I thought you were with Luffy.. um-...” Her gold eyes darting from her Captain's older brother to Robin, the Strawhat's Historian sat not far away with her eyes closed, arms crossed in front of her chest.
The woman's eyes open, then, and she smiles. Calm as calm water. “Sabo? Good afternoon. Is Koala not with you?”
“She is catching-up with Sanji.” He goes to sit on a bench near the rail of their ship. The sandy-haired Revolutionary gazing out over miles of unbroken Blue. Going on and on forever in every direction. There is only them. Twelve people, on this beautiful ship. A speck, floating upon the mightiest of all oceans.
Nami clicks her tongue, returning to her chart. A pen held between her teeth when she speaks. “You don't seem too upset by their catching up?”
“Haha-” He laughs, but it's a little stilted. “Are you implying I'll lose her to Black-leg Sanji?”
“I would never be so bold.” Flipping a sheet of red hair out of her eyes. “But even if I do make great Beli off you two beating the crap out of each other, I have to ask... You do love her, don't you?”
“Of course I love her.” He says. It's what he said the last time they had this conversation. About a week after setting sails from the Island of Wano.. that was six months ago.
“Then don't you think you should stop fighting for her, and settle down with her-?”
“-It's not that simple, Nami.”
“Because.” Nico Robin. Her pale violet eyes are soft, like the petals she blooms out of thin air that then become her own hands, or feet. Legs. Eyes... Her entire body... Robin learned so much about her abilities in the two years she spent training. Since being reunited with the others, she's been able to flourish those skills. Come to favor some, and shy from others. She's more of herself with them, these nakama she's found in the world.
“I don't buy that.” Nami shakes her head, frowning. “Because... Humphf-!! Nobody can't settle down.”
“That so? What about you?” He asks. Sabo leaning his head back to watch a few grey seabirds flap close to their gunwale. A few settling there, preening their feathers in the sun. “As an example; gorgeous Pirate, on an exclusive crew. What would you do if you fell in love with somebody out there on some island?”
Nami stands up. Hip thrown out while she assesses the clouds above them. Cirrus. Ribbed, then rippling. Further on they are no more than small puffs of white in a azure sky- after that they're gone. There will be no rain at all today. Wind light, and it'll come from their left... which would be…? She reaches forward to make another sweeping mark on the map. Placing her quill back into its block, she's turned and walked to Sabo. Sanding in front of him with her arms at her sides. “If I fell in love?” She says. Her eyes very clear, and there's nothing in this world she hesitates for. Not anymore. “They would come with us.”
“Yohoo-hoo~ My... My- Oh- my-my....” Brook had stopped playing his guitar, because this is no time for his very lively render of Starfishs' Paradise. Climbing down from Sunny's rigging, he's met up with Jimbe on the Lawn. The newest member of the crew trying hard not to stare at Zoro. The man's green head buried in their Captain's shirt. He's... bawling?
“Does this happen often?” Jimbe's been aboard awhile, but not long enough to say he knows everything... or even anything about the weird moods his much younger nakama get into.
“Never to my eyes.” Brooks says, turning slowly to face the fishman. “But then again, I have no eyes! Yohohohoho!!”
The skeleton is almost a hundred years old, but Jimbe prefers his company. Maybe because behind that thick layer of superimposed merriment, in lue of having flesh or even skin, Brook knows. He just... knows. “Then what do you guess is wrong?” Watching Luffy lead their First Mate back to the men's quarters, and they've gone inside. Out of sight, when the door closes. “Surely you guess something?”
“Do you? Jimbe-san?”
“Hmmm...” Breathing from both his nose and his gills, he crosses his arms. Webbed hands tucked in next to a blue barrel chest. “...”
“Not so simple a question to answer, Ne? yohohohohooho--” Brook humms without a throat or even any tongue.
And he's right. Jimbe thinks. Stood there in the grass under the sun. These strange events that happen at sea- they are never simple.
“Gheh-! Yosha- Okay, Franky-! Try it now-!” Usopp steps well back, wiping sticky fingers on a towel already soaked in cola. This place reeks of it. The floor continually tacky. It's the room their Shipwright uses to house their cola engine, responsible for everything from Sanji's over sized refrigerators to the pump in the Aquarium.
“Alright-! Here g--o--e--s--!!” Several landings broke free during the storm, and they've just finished repairing them. Re-filling the huge barrel of cola, and re-starting the engine.
Usopp plugs his fingers into his ears, the noise of pressure building enormous. Getting louder and louder, until it just-- goes quiet. It does that. Well.. maybe not all quiet. A low hum vibrates all around them. “We good-?!” The Gunner checks the connections beside patches he and Franky have just made. Looking for seam splits, or leaks they may have missed...
“Yep-! Looks like we've brought him back to life-!” He was his Ship, the Thousand Sunny. The last ship Franky will ever build, and he gave to Luffy; the greatest person he knows, to traverse the world with. The Cyborg taking a baby Den-den from his shirt pocket –Gatcha! “Oi, Sanji-bro- Do you have power upstairs?”
The little snail has a bright blue shell, and a blue star on its face. But it doesn't move. Staring blankly ahead. Searching, but catching no signal from its partner snail up in the Galley.
“-Forget it.” Usopp chuckles to himself, storing a few big wrenches in a cabinet. “That Koala's here, I bet he's happy.”
“Eh? He's not going after her again? Last time-”
“Hehehe- Yea- last time.” Usopp remembers. Sabo caught their Cook making some rather physical turns at his woman when they were all drunk and partying in the lawn together. Beat- Him- Up- So badly that Sanji wasn't able to prepare food for four days. The crew took turns making meals. All except Luffy. Their Captain cannot be trusted with food. All he knows is how to eat... “Ah, well. At least it's a distraction. You saw that look on Luffy's face earlier?”
“Aye, I did.” Franky doing a final check of cola levels, before leaving with Usopp. On their way through the ship to the Lawn Deck to patch their blasted turf with seed and soil. “ 's clear something's coming at us. Something big. I wonder what it is.”
“Y-You think so...?” Usopp's hands shake, but he doesn't care. Balling them into fists to stuff into his pants' pockets. “How can it be something big? Nothing's happened yet?”
“Aye- Bahahaha! Yet, ya said it, Bro-! Yet-! Ha-ha!” Pressing his nose until his hair pops out looking like Pippi Longstocking had a twin who was also a smurf....
“No jokes.” Usopp's boots stop on hard adam-wood planking. These two in the half-lit corridor between a big storage room and the Soldier Docking System. “Luffy's freaked out, and Zoro's... sick- or- or something-”
“I know.” His voice less in-your-face. Franky puts his back against the wall, talking in whispers. “But there's nothing we can do 'cept keep doing what we've been doin', Ne? Gatta let Chopper do his thing?”
“Haha-” Back to full volume, a great-big metal hand claps down on his smaller nakama's shoulder.
They get on with it. Not like they have much of a choice. Going over Sunny's green lawn until they're sure they're all done.
“Oi- Mina~ Dinnertime~” The sun almost fully set, when Koala announces this evening's meal. The sight of her fine figure leaning over the railing something Franky can get used to. Staring at her round bottom while the girl is waving at those up on the second level. Once everyone is piled into the Galley... well, everyone except Luffy and Zoro...
“I'll take them something to eat. Don't you worry your sweet head, Nami-swan.” Finishing his cigarette before he goes, because Sanji has always firmly believed that those who show up on time get first pick of any banquet. Allowing everyone else to load their plates before he's made up two large bowls, and carried them outside.
Sabo stares at what's in front of him. Finely stretched pasta in a creamy white sauce made with every kind of fish he thinks can be caught in this part of the ocean. Spinning strings of noodle around the tines of his fork, he takes a bite. “Mnmm-” Face going slack, the Revolutionary puts his fork down on the table.
“Eh? You don't like it?” Usopp reaching for a roll.
“Fufu- It's not that.” Koala giggles. Dabbing her lips with a napkin. “Tastes incredible, doesn't it?”
He nods his head, Sabo looking like he might just be sick. “Yea... it does.” He never expects to, but every time he steps aboard this ship to share a meal with Luffy and his crew- The food!! People can keep their five-star mometts on the Red Line. Re-write the menu for the infamous Marine Banquets in North Blue. The best place for a meal in the whole world is a colorful Galley on a Pirate's ship, where a certain Cook by the name of Black-leg Sanji chain smokes over a hot stove.
At this same moment, Black-leg Sanji is currently tapping one polished black heel against the other. Standing outside the men's quarters door with a tray in his left hand. Two heaping bowls of noodles under lids on it. He's hesitating. Of course he's hesitating- If they're fucking in there- AGAIN!! but even though he's been outside the door listening for a good two minutes, he's not heard a thing. No heavy breathing, or breaking furniture. No cursing, and no begging... “Shit.” Chewing on the end of an unlit cigarette, he hates that something's going on and he'd somehow not noticed a shitty thing.
*Knock *Knock Two hard rapps of his knuckles, and the Cook pushes open the door. “Oi, you lazy shit...h-heads...” Falling silent, he smiles. Sanji entering the room to find Lufy and Zoro on one of the sofas. Curled up, and asleep together. “Aw. Well.. If that isn't the sweetest thing that could ever make a person vomit?” Placing these twos' dinners down on the nearest surface. “Oi~ You Lovebirds planning on sleeping in your nest all day?”
“N-ne?” Luffy rubbs his fists into his eyes. Yawning, and sniffing at the air. “Dinner!” Up off the couch like a rubber ball to grab his bowl.
“You too, Mossy.” Sanji's leered, producing a lighter from a pocket in his jacket. “Time to crawl up off your log and eat.” Lighting the end, he's inhaled. Ahhhh~ Rich tasty smoke. A type of tobacco they'd picked up on an island they didn't get the name of. He wishes now he'd bought more of the stuff. It'll be gone so very soon...
“Zoro?” Luffy's got a mouth full of noodle and fish, his head whipping around to watch his First Mate throw himself off the couch where he'd been in a dead sleep. One hand pressed over his own mouth. He almost tears the door from its hinges getting out of the room.
“What's with him?” Sanji asks, licking his lips and blowing smoke up towards the vent in the ceiling.
Luffy can't lie, so when he just stands there saying nothing, Sanji knows there's not a shitty thing to tell. “Chopper's gonna run some kind of test on him tomorrow?”
“A- aye...” Slurping broth, and smacking his lips, Luffy doesn't quite meet his blonde nakama's eye.
“Aye.” Sanji listening to Zoro being violently sick on the other side of the wall. In the opposite direction of the Galley. That's good. Means the others won't be coming out to stare at him. Guy hates being stared at. But... What the hell is wrong with him?
Zoro spent the next day-and-a-half sequestered up in the crow's nest. Sitting at the long bench that bends with the curve of angled glass opposite. Looking down at the Lawn Deck. His nakama like smaller figures of themselves ,moving about. Watching them, he wishes he could be lifting his weights. Only Chopper told him not to. That he might tear up his muscles? Because he could be... “Che-” The more he thinks about it, the stranger he feels low in his stomach. Not that he's bigger or... or anything like that!! But... he registers differences. That he's not the same as... as what?
*Tap-taptaptap The hatch in the middle of the room flaps open, and Chopper's big round hat and antlers come in before he does.
Neither of them consenting to make any greeting. Zoro's one green eye fixed on that pack the little Doctor has strapped to a set of small shoulders. The swordsman having woken up so many times, and that bag is usually the first thing he sees. This one started off green at the beginning of the year, but it's more blue now. Stained with flecks of blood. Mostly Zoro's. Usopp a close second. “Are you ready?” Needle held in one tiny hoof.
He doesn't say a word. Zoro shrugging off his coat. Jaw clamped firmly. Fracturing bits of enamel from his teeth while he watches every move Chopper makes in taking his blood a second time. The needle sliding slowly into the crook of his arm. Stinging his nerves as the vial gradually fills.
“Keep pressure on this for five minutes.” Chopper's slipped the vial into a cooled pouch in his backpack, and without another word- gone back down the ladder.
Inside Sunny's Galley, and what has been going on for a few hours.... “... so of course Sabo decided it was better to drop them through the floor.”
“haha- Are you saying that wasn't the best way of resolving the situation?”
“We were over an old a sludge pit.” Koala tells everyone. A tall, layered pink and red drink in her hand. Sanji rolling with laughter, smoking maybe his ninth cigarette since they had finished dinner, and started drinking. They even got Luffy to drink. Sabo plying his little brother with sake, and more sake.
“They were fighting gators there on that island, Lu- Great big ones, like hippos! Ya should'a seen it.” These two already been reminiscing about alligators, tigers, bears, bats, and every other animal you might find in a decent jungle.
“Gators?!” Hugging his straw hat to his chest, Luffy settles back against Usopp's shoulder. Squashed happily between him and Sabo. “We were sacrified once. To a bunch'a flying gators. Remember, -hic'-'sopp?”
“Those were sharks.” Correcting his Captain, just as trashed as he is. “Hammer-Head Sky-Sharks, to be exact.” Slurring his words only a little, the Gunner pulls another beer towards himself from across the bar.
“You were scarred o' the dark in those days, oh brave Captain Nose.” Taking the man's empty cup to the sink. Sanji is serving everyone from from the kitchen-side. Drunk himself, on La Vieille De Rouge Red, poured over citrus slices. He's had eleven of them, all the time staring at their visiting female Revolutionary's naked back. Koala's bottle-green dress cut low enough to kiss those dimples at her hips. He's caught himself panting a little. Nose starting to bleed when Sabo's hand crosses over his line of vision. Snuggling into his woman. An action that irks the Cook... just a little.
“Play us something, Brook?” Jimbe has been drinking more and more ever since he joined the crew and took up residence on the Thousand Sunny. Trying, so far vanely, to match up with Zoro. A thing nobody can do. Okay, Nami... maybe...
“Yohoho-” Brook produces an ancient looking arched harp. Holding it up against his fleshless frame, and plucking the strings with bone fingers. Filling the room with musical colors to match everyone's choice of liquor.
“Haha-!” Luffy waves his hands over his head. Streaking through the optical sensation of fish splashing through repeating levels of rice patty. Still in marvel at it when he's felt a little tug on his red shirt.
“U-um...” He's tapping his little hooves together, watching all of his other companions essentially tripping-out.
“Ah, Chopper-” Sanji spotting him. “What can I get for you? I have a good cotton candy Brandy you haven't tried yet?”
“Um... no.. um... S- Sencho? C-can you come outside?”
The Cook's jaw drops open, but he catches himself right before he says anything. Biting onto his tongue to make sure he doesn't.
“Shishishi- Sure I can.” There he goes. All smiles... or that's how it looks. Sanji supposes his Captain can't get himself outside fast enough, if it means Chopper is finally about to tell him what's going on with Zoro. If that is what's going on here...?
“Oi, Chopper?” Sanji's very drunk himself, and stumbles forward reaching for his small nakama's near hoof before he's walked off.
“..” But he misses, and the little reindeer doesn't look at him. Focused ahead, he's out of the Cook's reach even before even realizing the other man wanted his attention. He's too distracted. Waking away, and a second later the Doctor is outside under the stars. Just after midnight. To find his Captain there, waiting in the dark.
“I... uh...” Taking a deep breath in through his blue nose. “I've spoken to Zoro,” Chopper says. “-and now h-he wants to talk to you.”
The smile on Luffy's face obviously shies, but he hikes it back up like nothing's happened. “A-aye.” Turning to go, but before he does-
“Luffy-! U-um... W-when you talk to Zoro- um....” He's going to chip the edges of his hooves, squeezing them together like he is. “Really...um.. really listen. O-okay?”
The Captain's eyes widen a little more. Round, gold-brown orbs. All traces of his been drinking vanishing in a heartbeat. “Chopper-?”
“Zoro wants to talk to you, Sencho.” Eyes down, the little Zoan hurries for his infirmary. Inside, and the door closes behind him.
Monkey D Luffy on his own, to climb the rigging for the trap door on Sunny's Crow's nest. Banging a couple of times on the door to announce he's coming in.
Ten or twenty minutes ago~
“Do you understand everything I've just told you, Zoro?”
“I'm.. pregnant?” He can't be... he's... He? He can't be... Zoro gets up off the bench, pacing twice across the small interior of Sunny's crow's nest. Hands in his hair. Pulling a little. “I...? I'm...”
“I think you should tell Luffy.” Chopper says as firmly as he can. No matter how badly he feels for his nakama. How much of a shock, Zoro needs to hear this. “You are sure he's the father?”
“A-aye... I-is... L-Luffy is...” He's been with no one else in over a year, not in the ways that might make a baby. Not that Zoro thought he'd ever be making a baby with anybody.
Chopper nods his head slowly. Ears tucked back under the edge of his hat. “Do you want me to get him?”
“A-aye.” Chopper goes, and Zoro is all by himself nodding his head and pulling his hair. Not sure what else he should be doing. He's... He doesn't think he can well understand w-what.... and then there's a tiny minuscule cramp low down in his gut and... “...o-oh..?” Zoro puts a hand there, over his maroon hamaraki. Listening to tears slapping onto the padded seat he's leaning over; that's when he's realized he's crying again. “..o-oh my god...” He's pregnant? “I'm... oh, god...” Pulling so hard he's ripping clumps of green hair from his head.
Time slows, and Zoro think's it's been a long time since he last heard his heart beating. Breathing quietly, and completely still. Shock as treatment, but there's no treatment in the world for something that's as natural as breathing. This will pass, but... but not for a while- Chopper says pregnancy will last nine months and maybe longer?? and what might having a kid around mean for the rest of the crew...? O-or … sh-should he...?
*Bang-! *Bang-! Two solid thumps on the trapdoor. That's Luffy. Zoro's Captain pushing open the hatch and come through. Closing it behind him. “Ne, Zoro-” Smiling, yes.. but he's moving real slow. Calculated, and controlled.
What did Chopper tell him? “Oi- Comm'ere.” Arms around each other, Zoro puts his nose down into Luffy's messy black hair. Taking deep inhales of his Captain, smelling like salt and freedom... a little bit of seaweed... “Did Chopper tell you?”
“Said Zoro wanted to talk.” Hands on his swordsman's shoulders, and they face one another. “So I came to talk to Zoro.”
That's right, Zoro's supposed to tell Luffy he's carrying his friggin' child, but... “A-a-um...” Now it's come to it...
“Is it bad?” Crossing his arms over his chest, Straw hat on his head. That scar beneath Luffy's eye remarkably darker in a room full of nothing but candle-light.
“N- mn.... “ His swordsman being unable to answer that very simple question, Luffy nods once.
“Is Zoro gonna die?”
“No!” he says... Then he thinks about it... “...Maybe?”
“Huh?!” Getting mad now. All his forehead pinched up, Luffy yells. “Which is it?!”
“Well, people do die sometimes wh-when....” No. That's not right.People doen't die. Women die. Nobody's ever heard of a guy growing a baby or having a baby.... “Probably not-”
“What is it?” Trying to keep himself from shouting as waves of haki ripple from him. “What did Chopper say?”
Zoro's green eye drops to the floor, and for a minute it looks like he's not going to look back up. Ecept he does. Leveling his eye with Luffy's. “I'm pregnant.”
Really- really listen- Okay?” Luffy's struck dumb, a stupid grin on his face. At least he doesn't start giggling. “Zoro's... pregnant...?”
“A-aye. 'n y-you're the.. other Father.” This is the strangest conversation he's ever had, and he conspired to take a pervert's speedo to get him to join their crew... “Luffy-”
“-We're gonna have a baby?” That smile gets bigger, but it's not so dopy anymore. It's big. Rich. Growing by the second. “WOW! I didn't know Zoro could have babies?! How come he didn't say?”
“I- I didn't know either! Idiot-!” Outraged, he slugs his Captain in the arm. Knocking him back. “Guys aren't supposed to have babies!”
“Eh? So why's Zoro having one?”
“I don't know!” Please stop saying it. Please, stop. “..but... but that's not the point!”
“Zoro?” Luffy's looking at him. Inches from his swordsman's bronze face.
Of course he's crying again. Zoro wiping his wet cheeks on his sleeve. “What do you think I should do?”
“Ne?” Cocking his head to one side, and Luffy blinks like he doesn't understand. “Do?”
“Chopper said if.. If I choose n-not t-to... to h-have it...He- he can...” He can't say it. He won't say it.
Luffy understands exactly what his green haired nakama doesn't say, like always. His face paling to the stark color of chalk. “O-oh-” Hands shaking, and Zoro sees him shove them into the pockets in his denim jeans. “Wh-what's Zoro wanna do?” What counts as casual conversation, but clearly he's disturbed by the very idea- Much as his First Mate had been when he'd been suddenly saddled with the question....
“Che- I donno, Sencho...”
Luffy giggles to himself. “We should tell everybody, Ne? They'll wanna know!”
“Wha-Wait!” Zoro's grabbed Luffy's arm as the man's almost run for the trapdoor. Pulling him around. “Not yet!”
He looks back at Zoro. Luffy's mouth a strait, unreadable line. “Why not?”
“I...” Sabo's here, and Koala. Two individuals Zoro doesn't distrust, no, but they are links to the outside. “Wait for your brother and his girl to get off the ship first?” Stories get told, and spread like wildfires in tinder-dry valleys. Hoping his Captain will get that. That for once he'll listen, but even as the swordsman's hung his head, he expects Luffy to jump instantly down from the landing. All the way to the lawn lighting off flares as he goes. Announcing his first born child-
“Okay.” But arms go around Zoro's broad shoulders instead. Warm, and strong. Pulling him in close, and secure. “We'll wait for now-” Kissing softly to his swordsman's neck, and under his ear. “Until Zoro's ready to tell everybody, Ne?”
“L-Luffy, what are y-? Are you-” Hard, and hot. Their legs laced as they're standing. The Pirate Captain licking softly upwards along his First Mate's collarbone. “Ahh- Luffy?”
“Zoro smells really nice today too.” Better than ever. Luffy pulling at the man's green coat, working it off a thick right shoulder so he can kiss and nuzzle tanned skin. Listening to his lover croon as he's touched.
“Ahhh-” Breathing out with the motions Luffy incites. Rocking into one another until they're fused, and breathless. “Ahhh-” Zoro holds onto his Captain as tightly as he can. Luffy reaching between them to gathering both their meat in his hands.
“Don't touch.” A Captain's command, when his swordsman reaches to help. Zoro obeys, clutching to Luffy's back instead. Rocking their bodies in time to some endless music neither of them can claim they've heard, but follow anyway. “Haaaa- Zoro.”
“Haaa- I'm'a ahh- Haagh-!” Hot semen splatters into and over the Captain's hands. Getting some on Zoro's stomach.
“Shishishishi-” Luffy kisses the other man's nose, then uses his tongue to lap up globs of white cum from his fingers.
“Don't do that.” Zoro throwing his coat at Luffy to wipe his hands on instead.
“Shishi- Zoro feel better now?”
“Feel better?” Does he? ...He's not sure.
“He should come down to breakfast tomorrow.”
“Oh... that.” The high of their orgasm quickly wearing off. Luffy standing there with his shorts still on, but his dick out is just weirding the swordsman's entire atmosphere. “I donno, Luffy-”
“If it were an Order?” Reaching to drag that old straw hat of his back onto his head.
“Is it, Sencho?”
“Aye. Is.” Grinning all over his face. Bright, and white toothed like he's just found the One Piece.
Guess that means Roronoa Zoro will be joining the rest of the crew in the Galley for breakfast tomorrow. As for tonight... “Comm'ere.”
Chapter 6: Sensitivities
The sea is calm and smooth. As smooth as it ever is. Here, on the New World. There is not even any fog this fine pink-sky morning. Rose-kissed sunshine making bright beams through every porthole into Sunny's Galley.
“So? What do'ya think?” Koala stirs her coffee slowly with a short metal spoon. She made this brew herself, for her and for Sabo. Because Sanji, like all present Strawhats, are lying about asleep. Half under the table, or sprawled over one another. Most only passing-out an hour ago, if that. The Revolutionaries staying up all night. Sating any lasting effects of alcohol with sweet-sweet coffee.
Sabo burns his tongue, taking too large a sip. “You're serious?”
She giggles. Holding a warm cup in her hands. “We had fun with Marco?”
“Well, yea... We had fun with Marco...” Marco's older, and way more experienced than the both of them.
“I bet he knows a few tricks, Ne? Playboy that he is. Fufufu- or if he doesn't, you could teach him?”
“Haha- Doesn't that sound fun?” A lot more fun than the Revolution's Cheif of Staff would like to admit to himself.
*BANG!! “Sanji-!! Meshi-! MESHI-!!”
“Aah-!” Sabo sees from amid the piles of bodies and furniture, the Strawhat's blonde Cook sits upright. “Aye- Cap'n.” Blurry, cotton-mouthed, and still got on the same suit from last night. Three different shades of lipstick on Chef's shirt collar. Blinking for bright sunshine in his face – and when did the shitty sun come up, eh?! Extracting himself, he'd been lying mostly under Usopp.. a little bit wrapped-up in Nami's arms. “Please excuse me, my beautiful Angel. Did I wake you?”
“S-Sanji?” Gold eyes flutter, before Nami's woken-up to realize she'd been asleep!! “G-good morning-...?” Looking around the room, and everybody's here that should be. Jimbe, Brook, Franky, Usopp, Sanji, Robin, and their guests onboard – Sabo and Koala... “Luffy? I thought you were with-” She stops herself asking about Zoro, because the man himself is coming in through the open Galley door.
...and doens't he look worn and wary.
“Oh, good- Will our moping-Marimo be re-joining us at mealtimes-?” Sanji seems glad to see Zoro bristle, even if only a little. “-or is this a special occasion?” Taunting him with an unlit cigarette between his teeth.
“Ne-eh-?! Sanji-?!” Making a huge show of banging an empty plate on the bar, Luffy leans right over it in the effort of stealing anything edible.
“Oi!! Get out of there!”
Zoro watches the Cook turn sharply in his polished black dress-shoes. Marching behind the bar to throw their Captain bodily from his kitchen. Shouting at him to sit down and wait a shitty second! Observed Sabo, the big brother pulling Luffy up onto a stool and they start chatting. The rest of the room coming to consciousness, moaning and burping. He chooses to take the seat on the other side of his Captain, Zoro realizing Koala has been staring at him all this time. Smiling. With a cup of hot coffee clutched in pale hands. Leaning against the cabinet beside Sanji's stove, allowed to be in the bastard's kitchen because she's a woman. “What?”
“Oh, nothing?” She smirks into her cup.
“Zoro-bro! Good to see ya up and about-” Franky claps a big metal hand to the back of his green haired nakama's thick shoulder. Rattling his entire body- and usually that's fine...
“...” The Galley goes absolutely still. “...” Sanji frozen in place, balancing sacks of flour and a bunch of sauce pans in his arms. Usopp and Brook mid-stretch from getting up off the floor. Jimbe and Robin's conversation cut short. They turn. “...” Staring at their swordsman, who's just made a very feminine gasp. Grasping his chest, his face plum-red.
“Are you alright, Zoro?” Deep concern in the Historian's voice sounds too similar to the one she uses in interest at curiosities.
“Aye- I'm fine.” But he knows she doesn't believe him. Nico Robin. A woman who grew up as hard as any of them. Lost her mohter and became a fugitive, all at the age of eight. Always on the run. She learned how to survive. Learned how to read people. Right now she's reading Zoro, and he knows there's no way he can fool her.
“You should see Chopper if you are injured, Zoro-kun.” Jimbe. He's grossly hung-over, and it's clear enough to see. The huge fishman gravitating towards the bar to gratefully accept one of their Cook's best remedies. Looks like a glass filled with mustard paste. Smelling like red cabbage.
“Che- I'm not injured.” Even if he will feel a lot like he's healing an injury- for the next nine months. Zoro pales a little, thinking about it. He will gain weight in places he's not used to carrying it. Forbidden from training... S-so how much muscle mass will he lose in that time? How much time later will it take to build himself back up...? a-and... and there's no guarantee he won't be weaker when he does. Not to mention that while he's...he's... … For the crew, he'll be useless?!-
*Clatter!! Sanji's spun the plate a little so that it rattles extra loud on the bar right under Zoro's nose. “Don't know what Moss has to think about to warrant a face like that, but cut it out- will ya? You're scaring the women.”
He's scaring Luffy. Usopp thinks to himself. The Gunner in full view of their Captain, wide eyed and white knuckled on his stool.
“Shitty Swordsman. Be more aware of your surroundings.” Sanji's been dangling the same unlit cigarette from his lips since he got up off the floor, but he's only just drug out his lighter. On the point of lighting end when Zoro's surged across the bar. Taking the thing right out of his hand. “Oi?!”
Zoro looks surprised that he's even done what he did. Holding his nakama's gold lighter in the palm of his hand. Staring at it. “Ne, Cook... y-your tobacco...”
“Eh? My tobacco what?!” Sanji inflamed that his lighter's been snatched from him. And by the Marimo! “What's the-”
*Clack “...” Zoro places the object down on the bar next to a plate of folded red-fish rolls slathered in wosabi. “Thanks for the meal.” Taking the plate with him, he's gone back out of the Galley.
Luffy looking on at the door swinging shut behind his First Mate. Mouth hanging a little open, and for a split second they all expect him to burst into tears when- “Ooooooh-! I get it!!” Punching the air, the Pirate Captain laughs wild and loud- “Shishishi-shi!!”
“Oi?! What?! You get what?!” Sanji shouting to be heard, only he isn't.
“Haha- Glad you got it, Lu.” Sabo laughing right alongside his little brother.
“Well I don't get it.” Usopp sits down, not at the bar, but at the long dining table. Squashing his long nose againt a white painted surface.
Brook at the Sniper's elbow. Nodding his fleshless chin. “Yes, nor do I. It is very mysterious.”
“Mysterious?” Franky clubs Usopp on his shoulder. Sitting down on his other-other side. “Haha-haha! Damn funny if you ask me- Did you hear the noise our Zoro-bro made when-”
**WHAM** The Cyborg is picked clean off his chair. Back and bulbous shoulders leveraged up and hard against the cabin wall. “Don't laugh-!” Deep, menacing vibrations ripple along every adam-wood plank and beam around them. The voice Luffy uses when one of them is truly insulted.
“Ay-? Aye-aye, Sencho...?” Franky stammers. Shivering. Skitters going up and down his metal reinforced spine. Even if he has already been put back down onto his feet. His Captain's wicker sandals flapping on the floor. Gone outside without another word.
“Fufufu.” Koala chuckles over her coffee. “I don't remember things being so lively, aboard your Thousand Sunny?”
Sanji watches Franky catch his breath. Opening up his abdomen to check his reserve of cola. It takes a lot to stand up to Luffy, even when that incredible haki of his is not directed specifically at you... When it is... It's... “They're not... usually.” A few practiced flicks of his wrist, and all sorts of delicious things begin to sizzle and pop. Five or six pans on his stove, half-a-dozen dishes in the oven. Cigarette now lit, the man pulls heavily on it. Biting at the filter between his teeth.
Monkey D Luffy looks at the back of a hundred-foot sail. White canvas flapping right in front of his face. Rigging-lines wobble before his eyes, against it. Able to see his own heart beat, his blood rushing like he's just shy of slipping into second gear. Pounding in his ears, and continuing to pound. He'd almost told Franky why he shouldn't be laughing at Zoro... but- but Zoro asked him not to. So he can't do that!!!
“Oi?” Speaking of Zoro. His swordsman is leaning on the rail, right beside the sea. Munching on rice and redfish. “Where's your breakfast? Don't tell me you've eaten it that quickly.”
“Eh? Oh-!” He forgot.
“You forgot?” Zoro's one green eye incredulous. “Che- Haha-” A few steps away from the railing to stuff one of his onigiri into his Captain's mouth.
“Mmm!! These are the spicy ones?”
“Aye.” One of Zoro's favorite dishes, actually. Red fish and wasabi. These ingredients must have been going bad for Sanji to make it for him for breakfast.
“Ne, Zoro-?” Sneaking another from his Lover's plate. “Can I ask him something?”
“Aye- Sencho.” Licking wasabi from his lips, Zoro savors the spice that gets up into his nose. Clearing his sinuses, and he can smell the sea. So salty. Makes the redfish taste even better. “Ask away.”
“When Franky shook his shoulder, in there... That hurt him, didn't it?”
“...” Looking away, the swordsman blushes all the way around to the back of his neck. “No.” Yes... well... not exactly yes, just... “J-just... not...” He grinds his teeth, watching the waves below. Tiny five foot swells with silver fishes turning right at the surface. “-just not like before... o-or- or something...” He can't remember now, the moment he's trying to recall.. or what that same moment would have been like last year. It's not as if none of his nakama has ever clapped him on the shoulder or on the back to say hello before. How come he can't remember?
“Zoro-” While he'd been trying hard to try harder in recalling what he used to feel like before he started to question everything in and around his own body, Luffy's snuck in under the swordsman's arms- and now they're kissing. “Shishi-” Both tasting of saged-fish and wasabi, Zoro opens his mouth wider. Allowing Luffy to deepen the kiss between them. Hands on his back, keeping them tucked together.
“Haaah-” Fingers press into hard knots along the swordsman's spine, breaking him open until his knees begin to shiver. Luffy hugging the man close. Grasping his muscular shoulders... “Ahaah!?!”
He's not surpised. Luffy. Loosening his grip around Zoro. “Ne?”
“...” Blushing again, Zoro shakes his head so that his earrings clack loudly. “I- uh-um.... a....” Now the second time he's sure he's felt his... his pecs hurt? They've never hurt him before...
“Shishishi-” Nuzzling into his swordsman's shoulder, and smiling big. “Knew it! Sanji's cigarettes too- He can't stand the smell of 'em?”
“Y-yes.” Admitting it out loud feels.. fussy. Reaching for the last spicy fish-roll on the plate, Zoro stuffs it into his mouth. Sighing. “Look, I... We'll have no chance of keeping this a secret around everybody so... So I'll just... I'll stay out of the way until your brother goes back to the Revolution.”
His Captain only smiles, lightly. Putting his elbows down on Sunny's white rail. Face bathed in sunshine. “He can do that, but Sabo said he 'n Koala were gonna stay and go Treasure Hunting with everybody.”
“Mm. Sabo said they aren't doing anything for the Revolution right now, so they're gonna stay a good long while.”
“W-wait-? What? How-? How can the Strawhat Crew be on a Treasure Hunt when the Captain hasn't ordered it?” Turning slowly to look at Luffy. “You.. you didn't..?”
“Nami's in charge. She's gonna take 'em. Shishishi-” Pulling that battered old straw hat back up onto his head, Luffy steps in close. One hand placed startlingly gentle, low over his Lover's maroon hamaraki. “I'm busy.”
Zoro lets himself lean against the rail. Luffy kissing his neck, and his lips. Letting the sun fall on his back, and in his green hair. It feels good to be outside. The weather is warm. Not one cloud in this early pink-blue sky. He feels like he's floating, almost. On the breeze. That all of it has been some terrible dream. Now he's back where everything makes sense. Making-out with his Captain under the free open sunshine. The sound of waves echoing in Zoro's ears.
It's no until the angle between them shifts, Luffy's hand sneaking under the hem of Zoro's open coat. Brushing his fingers over one bare nipple.
“Hahnn-!?!” Grabbing onto the offending wrist. “D-don't do that!” Eye on the Galley door, but nobody comes out.
“Eh? Why? Zoro looks like he really-really likes it.” Cuddling in closer, these are the few times Luffy's upper body strength outshines Zoro's. Wrestling, silently. Locked in each others' eyes. When it's all over, the Captain has won, sliding a saliva-slicked thumb over the other man's tit.
“Oaah-!” That has never ever felt so good. Having his nipples teased like this... the swordsman's entire body flushes with fever and excitement. Making him fully hard. Painfuly pulsing, and wonton. “Haaah-!”
“Wow.” Luffy palms himself through his jeans, grinding up against a hard muscular thigh. “Zoro-”
“F-fuck.. Luffy?” Hands go into Zoro's coat. Hugging around his bare middle, and pulling the man against his chest. “Haah- haaah-” barely audible whines underline all of Zoro's hard, hot breaths. “Haaah- Ah-!” A little less than a scream, his shock at blunted fingernails raking hard across his flanks.Leaving stinging red lines behind, Luffy reaching one hand under the fold of Zoro's hamaraki. Into his trousers to grasp a firm, round buttcheek.
“W-we can't do this here.”
“Shi-shi- Sure we can.”
“I wouldn't go out there.” Nami warns Sabo. The Strawhat Navigator standing with Koala and Robin in the kitchen. Making herself with a coffee with a splash of cream and a string of mikan peel.
“Haha- Yea- with Luffy in that mood? They're either fucking or crying. We don't see Zoro doing a lot of crying.” Usopp says with his head still on the table. Not willing to try Sanji's remedies anymore, what he would really like to do is get one of Chopper's. Staggering from the table, he puts his arm up on the wall by the infirmary door.
*Wham *wham *Wham Using his fist. “Oi- Chopper? Are you awake?” He sounds like he has a splitting headache. Usopp. Dragging all his fingers through kinks of curly black hair. “Oi-? Chopper?”
*Clack The little Zoan walks right out of the infirmary, handing his nakama a glass of water and a tablet. Continuing on to the bar, he hops up on a stool. Taking a good look around.
“Good morning, Chopper. Can I get you a juice?”
“...” Sanji blinks, rolling his cigarette from one side of his mouth to the other. “Ah, sorry, Chopper. I must still be waking up. What was it you wanted again?”
“Sake.” He says for a second time. Just as clearly as the first, in that little voice none of them ever heard ask for alcohol before.
The Cook reaches for the bottle. Pouring a tall measure into a clear class, and placing it down in front of their Doctor. Nami staring with her mouth open, when their little Zoan picks up the glass with his tiny hooves and drains it in two swallows!! “Chopper?!”
“...pahh-” He puts the empty glass down on the surface of the bar. Wiping his face on the back of one furry arm, and hopped down. Gone back into his infirmary without saying anything. Shutting the door behind him.
Chapter 7: Whispers
Shock in silence from the rest of the crew follows Tony-Tony Chopper like a ghost. Gone back into his one-bed infirmary, and shut the door. Noticing his room is rather disheveled. He's been reading non-stop since yesterday; about human reproduction. Pregnancy, and... and delivery... Chopper claps his hooves to his face. Pinching his cheeks together. “Okay-!” Mouth still dry from the sake, he hoists himself up into the chair at his desk. A book already open. This one he's reading detailing different types of cesarean sections. Procedures where a baby cannot be delivered naturally through a woman's vaginal canal, and is instead cut out of their body. Just like all surgeries, only this one removes a living breathing baby instead of a bullet or knife edges...
The little doctor closes the book. For some reason more squeamish about amniotic fluid than he's ever been in the face of red blood. Even when he's got it thick and tacky in his fur with a sick-sour copper pang up his blue nose. Uncomfortable, yes, and he's having an even harder time forcing himself to understand that it will be Zoro's body he'll be applying this knowledge to.
*Knock *Knock-knock “Chopper?” Nami's voice comes in muffled through the adam-wood door.
“Aye?” Answering back, he clenches his jaw.
“Can I come in?”
He looks at the books on his desk. Blood samples, and notes- “a-Ah- Just a minute!!” shoving it all back on a side shelf, his notes slid into a filing cabinet.
“Chopper?” Letting Nami inside, his Navigator looking very seriously at him. “Something is really wrong? Ne-? Is it Zoro-?”
“...” Tiny hooves pull at a pink hat.
“Does Luffy know?” She hadn't expected him to give her an answer, but the little Zoan nods his head.
“Y-yea...” Small squeaky voice, and sniffing wetly. “But... but...” He starts to cry, trying to imagine himself preforming even a natural birth. He's never even seen one before. Dr. Kureha always telling him delivering a baby was no place for children, and made him wait outside. He would listen to the screaming for hours....sometimes. A few mothers died... so did a few babies. Sometimes both. With never any explanation as to why.
All of this is mysterious to him. About to turn eighteen, and he thought it would get easier. That once he was older he wouldn't get as spooked by these new medical concepts he'd be putting into practice sometimes every day...
“Chopper.” Hugging him to her chest, Nami lets him cry and get it out. “Oi-ya, Chopper-? Listen-” She doesn't know what this is all about, but it looks to her that those who really need to know do know. “-even Doctors need some help sometimes, Ne? That's what old man Nako used to say. Haha-” She laughs, a little. A soft pull somewhere in gold eyes. Chopper sitting back down his stool. “Nojiko and I... We used to volunteer when the whole island would get sick. Sometimes it got really bad. That's why when Arlong....” She stops herself. This isn't about her. “Ne, Chopper. If you need help you should look to those you can trust, and then trust in them with all your might.”
“...?” Chopper's ears flap a little. Nami smiling at him. She's turned and gone back into the Galley. Closing the door behind her. Someone he can trust? Another Doctor. Someone who will have experience and knowledge... He's staring at the blank surface of his desk. Eyes wandering up to a shelf where there is a row of small snails. Each linked to someone he's met. One for Carrot, another for Gombe and Chimney. He also has one connected to the herb mixers in the Torino Kingdom. The place he studied in for two whole years. He considers consulting them. Those men and women of an earthbound medicine probably could help... but what Chopper really needs is a Pirate Doctor. Reaching for one particular snail snoozing in line, and drug it towards him.
This Den-den wears a puffy hat on it's head, spotted in black and white. Gaacha-! Same as it's delicate shell. “Th-this is Tony-Tony Chopper,” His little voice getting stronger with each word. “Doctor, aboard the Pirate Ship Sauzando Sanī-gō- Calling the crew-and-Captain of the Pōrā Tangu-gō.”
Sanji scrapes all his pans, before leaving them to soak in the sink. Picking up his plate of fluffy omelette and salted hash. Carrying it to the table so he too can take part in the crew's most current discussion.
“He's dying. Zoro's dying. I mean, he's gatta be dying if Chopper is drinking.” Usopp whispers in conspiracy, pouring himself a shot of something blue fermented from beets.
“I do not believe that.” Brook utters solemnly. Sat at the table with his afro resting on the wall behind him. “Zoro-san... He is a strong man. His body is strong, his soul is strong. Yohohoho- I will not allow myself to believe any illness could defeat him.” Remembering back to his own nakama, so many years ago now. The Rumbar Pirates. Shot-up by poisoned arrows somewhere on the Grand Line. His Captain already gone by then, an illness took him. And then there they were, one by one falling on the deck dead. Brook surviving, if that is a person calls it. Only to become lost while separated from his body, and by the time he found it again it had decayed. Flesh washed by a salty sea wind until it was ripped away, leaving only bones behind.
“Can't fight sickness.” Sabo. He's enjoying every bite of seared tuna and runny over-easy egg. “Being a good Fighter or a good Solider doesn't entitle anyone to a good immune system.”
“Yes, but Zoro has never been sick, to my knowledge...?” Robin looks around the room, and no one can remember their Swordsman coming down with anything. Not even a fever when his ankles became infected four years ago on Little Garden. He'd just shrug off opponents and nature as if it were.. well... natural.
*Clack Jimbe turns in his chair to see Nami come back into the Galley. She's been in Chopper's Infirmary less than ten minutes. “Did you learn anything?”
The woman's arm up, and she clutches the nape of her neck. Relieving a headache forming there. “Some.” Nothing that changes her plans, or the Orders she's given as acting Captain of the Strawhat Pirates. “Franky, will you prep the Mini Merī Ni-gō?”
“Aye, Nii-chan. I can. But why? I don't see no island out there.”
“The breeze is turning. We'll catch it, and come upon an island in five to seven hours.” She says, unrolling a map she's been keeping in her pocket, checking the three needles strapped to her wrist. Log Posts, each contained in a separated blue domes. All pointing to a specific island. Of course they'll want the one which is most dangerous, because that's always where they find good Treasure. Danger of an island's magnetics is gauged by how erratic the needle is that points the way... so that would mean they should go towards... that one. “Five to six hours.” She says, correcting her own estimate. “We'll need a couple of Dingy also, for crew and cargo.”
“Aye. Can do.” Franky crunching on granola and cola.
“Nami,--” Koala gets up from the table. Taking the Pirate's hand and led her off into a corner.
“Zoro's sneezed before.”
“He's still never been sick though, has he?”
“Usopp got a cold right after we left Punk Hazard...”
“Everybody except Chopper and Zoro did. Even Luffy was coughing in between stuffing his face and laughing...”
“Nami,” She's a devious glint in hazel eyes. Koala's smiling. “Do all of us need go? I mean we're not sure this is the place, right?”
A catish grin answers the Revolutionary, the two women getting close together. “Are you making a suggestion?”
Fingers combing through the Pirate Navigator's red hair. “May I?”
“Aye- You may.” Warm breath on each other's cheeks, and lips.
“Send me, Sabo, and Sanji first.”
“Haha-” a quiet laugh. Nami places a light kiss high on the Revolutionary's rosy cheek. “That's ridiculous, they'll only fight over you.”
“No~ they won't~.” She sings softly. Soaking their lips together, tongue dragging over the other woman's chin, and Nami tastes like mikan peels... “I promise they won't.”
“I can't have our Cook out of commission. Luffy would be sad.”
“Aye- Then you have it.” Standing back from where they were hidden from view of the others in this corner. Nami turns to face her nakama still eating their breakfast and discussing Zoro. “Franky, there will only be need for the Mini Merī, for now. We'll send a three person team to scope things out.” They all wake up a little more. Teams usually mean a process of elimination- “Sanji, you'll be going with Sabo and Koala.”
Usopp spits egg all over himself. Elbow knocking over his coffee, but his reaction isn't as good as Sanji's. Lit cigarette falling from his lips into his omlette. Mouth dropping open, and blue eye wide. “N-Nami-swan?!”
“Is there a problem?” She asks him silkily, and from over her shoulder Koala smiles at him. Batting long eyelashes.
Sanji looks across the table at Sabo, who is not meeting his eye. Placidly eating his meal like they're discussing how many seagulls pooped on the lawn that afternoon! “N-no, dear-sweet Nami-swan.”
The deep waters of the New World are just as dark as the waters of the Grand Line. Of South Blue, and North Blue. West Blue, and East Blue. It is all Blue, at the end of the day. Tralfalgar D Water Law supposes. On this tranquil morning inside his submarine. He listens to tiny air bubbles tap along the hull outside. Most of his crew missing. Out on liberty, partying their fancies off. Only him and his three closest mates on board with him. “Shachi-! Shachi!!” The idea of getting up off the cushion he's on, staring out a porthole to watch the sunlight come down through thick kelp.. He'd rather not. Not if he can avoid it. “Shachi!!”
“Ah, sorry, Captain.” Stumbling into the room dragging on his shirt, and his belt's undone. Ulub-bulub-bulubulub-bulub---- Gatcha!! “Aye, Hello! This is Shachi. Mate o' the Pōrā Tangu-gō.”
“Shachi, it's Chopper. Tony-Tonny Chopper.”
The Heart Captain's baggy eyes snap all the way open, and he swings his feet down onto the floor of his submarine.
“I need to speak to Law.”
“A-aye-” Shachi looking bemused, handing over the receiver to his Captain.
Trafalgar Law licking his lips before he's answered. His voice is not shuttering. It isn't! “This is Tralfalgar Law. Chopper-ya? Long time no see.” It's not been that long. A few months, maybe? It's never good news when he's become wrapped up in Luffy's battles. And every battle is Luffy's battle.
“I need your advice, Doctor to Doctor.” Chopper's voice, on the other hand, does shake. Quivering over the microphone as if he were a twelve year old child. “I- There is an unusual situation here, and- and I don't know if I have the medical skills to – to”
Law can hear the little reindeer scatter his own breathing. Panicking. “Oi, Chooper-ya-”
“the hCG levels more than doubled after three days, and that's supposed to be an undeniable indicator. Along with other symptoms- it's practically confirmed-”
hCG? “Chopper, is one of your crew's women pregnant?” Yes a delema, and a challenging one at that, but not one to be distraught over.
“N-No- n-not Robin or – or Nami.”
Even Shachi leans a little in, to listen to the receiver held in his Captain's hand. “So this is not about a member of your crew?” he tries to varify.
“U-u-m..” Even over the Den-den channel, they can hear him breathing.
“You said their hCG level's doubled?” Law asks instead.
“Fifteen miliunites three days ago, now thirty-seven.” He sounds as if he is or is about to cry.
“Then whoever it is, they are most likely pregnant. Is there some complication?”
“...” They wait for Chopper to respond, but it takes him a long time to. “As a Doctor.” Is all he says.
Law's eyes widening ever further. He takes off his hat, placing it down on the table beside the little Transponder Snail. “Give me a minute alone, Shachi?”
“Aye, Captain.” Used to this. Very used to this. Leaving out the hatch, and he closes it behind him. Spinning the latch that is an air seal into the broadcasting room.
Law waits for the hiss of pressure normalizing around him, before he talks into the shell in his hand. “As Doctors, Tony-ya.”
Chapter 8: Along...and Along...
“Don't laugh!!” Zoro red all over his face.
“Shishi-hahahahaha!!!” His Captain clutching his stomach, falling backward until his back hits the deck he's laughing so hard. “Bah-Hahahahaha!!!”
The Swordsman reaching to draw his katana, when he's sharply reminded he not carrying his weapons. Wado, Kitetsu, and Shusui... their polished silk-wrapped pommels currently resting against the wall in the men's quarters. Spaced six fingers apart. “Che-” Black boots kick at adam-planks, Zoro facing the ocean instead. A breeze coming in across chilly waters cooling the front of his trousers. Reminding him he'd... cum... a-a moment ago. From kissing- and yea, Luffy had been fondling his chest also, but so what!! Never having climaxed untouched before, an alien sensation where instead of a hot race ending in high relief, he's... embarrassed. He's ashamed.
“Ne, Zoro.” From behind, his Captain puts his hands on Zoro's hips. Rocking into his lover, and then gently rocking back. Pushing. Pulling. “Shishi- Don't be sad, Zoro-”
“..S-Sencho-” Luffy standing so close to him. Body heat traded back and forth. Guiding motions that make him want to cum again, and with a horrible thrill through him Zoro realizes he probably could. His Captain stroking, reaching under the folds of his hamaraki- “H-haaaah~”
The sound of Zoro half-cursing, half-sighing at the dawn across the ocean zips somewhere behind Luffy's brown eyes. A jolt that's kept vibrating by the smaller involuntary moans his First Mate makes. Reactions to his touch. He grins, ear to ear. Kissing softly to the warm patch of copper skin just under his Swordsman's left year. Nosing at gold jewelry.
Nami, Robin, and Koala all make their way out the backdoor, exiting the Galley to spend time together in Sunny's spacious Bath. They'd had parties recently where the place must have been packed with twenty or more bodies. The three of them alone appreciating that they are provided today with ample space to spread out.
“Can you see them, Robin?” Them being Ship's Captain and First Mate. Koala's splashes warm water onto her face. Sitting in the tub.
The Strawhat's Historian knows all, they say in some circles of the Revolution. Even if the black-haired Pirate gave away very little. What she says, she always means. “Fufuf-” Crossing her wrists in front of naked breasts. Long pale fingers relaxing like petals of an olive flower. “They appear to be in discussion of something.” She listens....
“...tired? We can lie down? Let's go lie down.”
“I don't want to lie down. I'm not tired.”
“Is he still hungry?”
“N-... maybe...? I don't know.”
Eyes and ears bloomed on a barrel outside the Galley door, Nico Robin perceives her Captain kisses quietly into the crook of their Swordsman's corded neck. Holding onto him like he's holding the man literally together. “I believe our Sencho-san has matters in hand.” She's gentle when she speaks, opening her eyes and smiling.
“You aren't worried?” Koala folds a towel, draping it over her shoulders as she's leaned back in the tub. Knee, and then calf lifting above soapy water. The two Pirates across from her.
“Not one bit.” Nami says, and she sounds like she means it. Rubbing mikan mixed with coconut oil into her skin. “Chopper is the best there is, and besides If it were something like Zoro's gonna die, Luffy would be so depressed the temperature would drop.”
“Fufu- Yes, that's true. Luffy would be inconsolable. Though, he has been remarkably able in keeping whatever secret this appears to be. He's never been able to do that.”
“Oh, I don't know. Secrets aren't the same as lying. It's only lying he sucks at. He kept Usopp's Birthday Party a surprise last year.”
“Ah- I'd forgotten.” Robin looks up at the bright blue sky through the Bath's tall windows. Steam gathering along the edges of wooden frames, and seagulls look in at them. “I suppose you're right.”
“What are you still doing here?” Sanji's finished washing all his dishes, and now he's drying them. Putting things away in their proper place. His suit jacket tossed over the back of a chair, and his shirt-sleeves rolled up.
“The Galley is common space on a Pirate's Ship, is it not?” Sabo has his buckled boots up on the table. Arms behind his head, and reclined in his chair. Usopp, Franky, Jimbe, and Brook all gone out the back way from the ship's Galley fifteen minutes ago. To the lower levels. Separating from there, the Revolution's Chief of Staff can only assume. He's kept his attention on Sanji. The Chef's lean shoulders, and his long tight-muscled back under a crease-less powder-blue shirt.
“So is the Aquarium, Library, Lawn, and every other shitty place on a Pirates' Ship, so get lost.” In danger of tearing the towel he's using to dry his dishes. The Strawhat Cook puffs hard on the cigarette between his teeth. Letting smoke out through his nose, while remembering his and Sabo's fight weeks ago. How he'd been... trounced ..for lack of a better word, by this man. Absolutely no match for his Captain's Older Brother. And if he's being honest, Sanji can still feel some of the blows he took. Even now.
“View's better here.”
“...” That's an... odd comment. Sanji sliding a dry plate up onto a shelf and reaching for another wet one off the rack.
An even more.. odd.. unexpected thing for Sabo to be saying. “...!” Sanji's heart scrapes, kicks, and then races. Readying himself for a fight. Holding the plate in his hands so tightly he's in danger of cracking it in half.
“A couple o' days after our argument, I had a run-in to learn a thing or two about a thing or two.” Sabo's grinning at him. Scarred all the way around his left eye, cheek, and forehead. The skin there healed over red and leathery compared to the fair, soft paleness of the rest of his face. Little flares behind his blue eyes are his slumbering Devil's Fruit. “So let's put it behind us and try to get along, Ne?”
Get along?! Sanji can feel his chest catching. Remembering this man standing over him, blonde wavey hair licked with yellow fire, and a look of murder on him. Fists laced in claws of flame raining down. “Get out of my kitchen, shitty fucking bastard.”
“Oi- oi! I found some!” Usopp waving a pack of cards. He, Brook Jimbe, and Franky deciding it was better to stay below deck today. They've taken the ladder down one level into a storage room beside Sunny's water closet. A good view of their green, luscious Lawn Deck through big porthole windows opposite.
“OW! And I've found a table.” Cyborg Franky moving the object with ease. Jimbe and Brook bringing chairs. Their plan is to stay out of the way until otherwise called for. That's best how to avoid storms on their ship.
“Clubs are wild.” Usopp shuffling this stack of cards like an expert. Beli and chore slips being tossed onto the tabletop.
“Do you think it wise, we've left Sanji with Sabo?” Jimbe had moved onto the Sunny only days before Sanji had been... disciplined. “Nothing has changed in his involvement with the man's woman.”
“Aye, that's true.” Their Gunner dealing. Tongue between his teeth. “But you have to remember, he's Luffy's big bro. Sanji is Luffy's amazing Cook. You think he's gonna kill his little brother's amazing Cook?”
“Yohohoho~ Precisely.” Laments the Skeleton, “As a love for food as a brother dear, that they would be so troubled by? Sabo would never do a thing like that!” Cards held fanned in boney fingers.
Almost killed him the last time. The Fishman considers quietly, and to himself. Franky counting his own cards, then he starts the hand. Not even gone halfway around the table when ….
“Mnn, aye? Zoro?”
Having trouble keeping his eye open, with his Captain licking as gently as he is along his collarbone. Luffy palming him through his wet, sticky trousers. Slick cum dribbling down Zoro's legs. “Haah – I... I--” Whining out of his throat, and letting himself lean back on the railing. Dangling half over the sea while his chest is tongued, avidly worshiped. Lips acknowledging the curve of each of his rib, and the edges of thick scar tissue. “Haaah ayyaa~” Waves crash, both against Sunny's hull as well as somewhere tender inside Zoro. The swordsman's spine lit up and bending back on itself. He's drooling. He's breaking. “Ahaaa~!” White pops of bright light overtake everything he can see, and so he can't see. The waves continuing to crash. Wild stampedes of blood to follow, pulsing in his ears. It is somewhere over that, he can hear himself panting.
He can hear Luffy's voice in echo, so close to underwater. The air is soft, and warm.
On an edge of somewhere so comfortable he might even maybe be dead, and so the Swordsman closes his eye. Ready to take a nice long nap right here under the sun and blue sky-
Both Luffy and Zoro blink at each other. Then stare at once in the direction of a body that's just slammed through the Galley wall. Splinters of wood and broken glass on deck. A hard flump onto grass, and they realize it's -
“S-Sabo?” Luffy's head tipping to one side, that's when Sanji steps out onto the upper landing. The Lawn Deck one below. “Sanji?”
But his Cook is not paying attention to anything but the man he's just kicked down. Standing tall over the debris. “Don't you say stuff like, let's get along, Prick!!”
“Hahaha-” On the Lawn, and already standing. Sabo is a Logia. Not taking any damage from that kick, although he wonders why. Knowing that Sanji is capable of hurting – even killing somebody like him. “We could, ya know. Black Leg Sanji.”
Ooooooooh- Luffy squints between his Cook and his Big Brother. Arms around Zoro. His First Mate coiled like a wary spring, but he is unarmed. The Pirate Captain aware of how his nakama reacts to things on a normal day, but he can't do those things right now. Keeping a tight grip around him.
Luckily Zoro does not need to intervene, and neither does Luffy, because the Acting Captain of the Strawhat Pirates is... “Sanji?” Nami appears on the landing above. A towel around her, and red hair all wet. Koala and Robin just behind. All of them looking down, over the railing.
“Oooi-! Sabo~! Are you hurt~?” Koala waving a hand over her head.
“Hahahahahah!” Blusters of answering laughter from the Lawn Deck.
“Fufufuf-” All three women giggling at once, and the sound of their laughter falls into Sanji. Filling him up with the music of them.
“Ah-! I am sorry to disturb you, sweet Angels sent down from the clouds of Heaven~”
Nami makes an angry sound in her throat. “This is going on your debt record.” Deadened in seriousness. Her eyes like cut orange glass.
“Ah- ...” Looking back at the wall he'd just kicked Sabo through. It's going to be a few hours to repair. Cost for supplies... well... shit.. Pulling out his pack of cigarettes, the sad Cook puts one to his lips. Gold lighter in his hand when his wrist is abruptly seized. A familiar fist squeezing down. It's Luffy. “Oya, Sencho? Something wrong?”
“Sanji can't smoke.”
He can't...what? huh? “Huh?”
“Luffy!!” The Cook sees the Marimo now, a few paces back and trying to get all his clothes back on. So they were fucking out here!
“Sanji can't smoke.” Luffy says one more time to everybody and nobody in particular. More to himself as he's stamped his foot. Snatching the cigarette from his nakama's tight, bemused lips; the pack from his shirt pocket, and thrown both overboard.
“As Doctors, Tony-ya.” Bubbles tap along the hull of Tralfalgar Law's submarine. Secured, and unmoving on a ridge of bright coral. Fishes swim up to the window,s turning colorful scales in the light that can penetrate the Blue.
“I can't speak openly over Den-den channels, but there are complications. M-major... ah-”
He can imagine Chopper freaking out. He'd seen him freak out plenty. When he burst in while Law had been preforming operations on those children at Punk Hazard. And then... later. Law had always gotten the impression the tiny Doctor disapproved of the way he did things as another Doctor. To be calling him in this circumstance is... “Tony-ya! You must calm down, or I will be unable to help you. Tell me what are your patient's complications?”
“...” The Strawhat's Doctor makes an audible sniff. Then breathes. “T-the nature of... I- I'm concerned this may be an ectopic pregnancy with- with multiple complications before and during delivery.” More breathing, and Law hears Chopper cough out a little cry. “I-I lack the equipment- here to- to confirm position of the fetus.”
“You do not have the proper Viision Snail?”
“W-we've never needed one....” He sounds guilty, more than guilty about that. But how can everyone have what Law has? A fully equiped operating theater with the best technologies modeled after Vaga-punk's own design.
“Alright, Tony-ya. Listen. If what you suspect is true and your patient is pregnant, these levels indicate very early stages. We'll find a snail, and come to you.”
“A-aye...” Chopper still sounds scared. He's terrified. But what can be done, except let him figure out for himself how he will deal with his own future. Law remembers every baby he's ever delivered. A surprising many for being a man referred to as The Surgeon of Death.
“Be sure to watch for abdominal pain, or bleeding.”
Law feels his heart drop. Cold and solid, right down into the pit of his stomach. “Tony-ya?!”
“I'm alright, but I-I have to go.”
“A-alright.” Gatcha-- Placing the reciever down, the Heart Captain chuckles to himself. “Never dull with them. Not for one minute.” Up and opened the hatch into his sub's common area. Shachi, Penguin, and Bepo all there, sitting at a table playing cards. Acting like they're not all curious. “We should reach out to Jean and Ikkaku. Let them know they'll have some time longer to party.”
“Eh, Captain? Why's that then?” Penguin looking lazily up from his cards.
“Need to deliver a VS to the Sauzando Sanī-gō.” Law pulling down a box from a rack, and rifling through it. All the Vivre cards he'd collected since he'd gone out to sea. He should have a better system than this...
“A VS?” Pushing at his hat, and yawning. “What kind o' VS?” Vision Snails rare, and become rarer since the World Government started interbreeding them. Hoping they'd get better qualities of hard to find snails like EKG and Cronal, all they did was shorten their lifespan by more than half.
“Ultrasound.” A single word answer. Tralfalgar finding the card he's looking for. “We're leaving for Zou.” Walking to the table, and put the torn edge of a larger piece of paper down right in the middle of his nakama's card game. “After we've checked in with the rest of the crew, we go immediately.”
Time slows. A tumble of heartbeats, for Sanji. The last package of the best blend of tobacco he's tasted in years turning over and over in the air. Plunking down onto the ocean below, and in a few quiet salty Blue breaths- they're gone. Pulled below by the churn created by their ship.
“Oi-” His voice is shaking. His hands are shaking. Speaking from the most minute of gaps between locked teeth. “You better have a good explanation for this, Sencho?”
“Sanji can't smoke.” Repeated, for the third time, and he knew the man would make the move that he does. So when he does: a leg swung widely around. Luffy catches it easily. Holding onto his nakama's lean ankle.
“Why not?!” The Cook's throat rips out, flecks of blood tasting metallic on his tongue. “Never been a problem before, ever! So why now?”
Luffy feels the impact of the next kick pass by his stomach wall. Haki behind it. Caving his guts, and he coughs. “C-*cough Can't say!!” Screaming back at Sanji, and braced to block the next kick incoming.
It doesn't come though. Sanji stops. “O-oi?” Foot come silently down onto deck, and he really- really looks like he could use one of his cigarettes. “...You can't say?” That's a new one on him. Luffy keeping secrets... That's the whole shitty world turned upside down, Sanji looking sharping up at Nami, Robin, and Koala all gathered on the deck above. Nami's face is pale, and she's clutching her lips. Robin's beautiful violet eyes tracking every one of all her nakama gathered here.
*Clack Now everyone is here. All twelve of them. Chopper looking around. “N-Ne?” Zoro is pressed up against the railing beside the Sea like a trapped animal. Luffy and Sanji squared off, and ... Oi! What happened to this wall?! -
“You can say you can't say, but you know and that's it? That's supposed to be enough?!” Sanji spits on the deck a foot from Luffy's sandal. “Think your crew can't handle whatever it is? Eh?! Is that it?!”
“Sanji-...” Luffy shakes his head. Hands rolling and unrolling themselves into fists. Big round eyes brimming with tears. He looks at Nami, then Zoro, then Sanji, then Zoro.... “...”
“Huh?” A sneer on the Cook's thin lips, Sanji watches Franky, Jimbe, Brook, and Usopp out on the lawn. Bawling about the damage done to Sunny's rail, and going to Sabo. Helping the Revolutionary to brush grass from his coat. “Pretty shitty you can't trust us, Captain.”
“...” Luffy makes a strange, strangled noise. Biting down hard into his own lip. Drawing blood that dribbles down his chin, and big drops splat onto the deck. “...”
Sanji about to walk away. Back into his Galley to help with repairs and clean-up. Not expecting the hard fist that collides with his face. Chin and jaw driven to one side. Under his right eye, already swelling. Still blinking when the next blow lands, whipping his head around the opposite direction. The collision concussive in his ears, and it sort of- echos.
Everyone had shouted, but Chopper is the one who acted first. In his larger form, taking hold of their swordsman's thick shoulders and yanked him back. Zoro's face streaked with tears, red cheeked, and livid-!
“Don't you ever say things like that!!” Trying to pull away from Chopper. He'll grapple with Sanji if he can't use his swords!!
“N-no!! Zoro- You..you can't fight!” The little Doctor hardly able to believe it when his nakama stills. Zoro docile in his arms. Chopper lets him go, when the man makes for Luffy. Their Captain standing right there, looking crushed and confused. Tears falling out of his eyes, and there is blood on his chin. The two of them hugging. Tightly together, as if that alone might keep the rest of the crew – Ne, the whole world from them.
As unwilling as Nami was to march naked with nothing but a towel to hide her tits, down the stairs, grabbing hold of her nakama's shirt collar and thrown him bodily not into the blasted Galley, but the Women's Room....
“Ouff-!” Sanji banging the back of his blonde head on Robin's bedpost. Nami slamming the door to the outside.
“What were you thinking?!!” Shouting at him for the here and now, she'll get to Sabo later!!
“I- I'm very sorry, Nami-swan.” Ass on the carpet, and he can't be able to see through that eye anymore. Puffy, the skin all around it going blue. Split and bleeding across both his cheeks.
He really is, a pitiful sight. “I don't want you to be sorry.” Crossing the room, the Navigator's filled a basin full of warm water. Taking a towel from a drawer. “I want you to think before you just... kick through walls or- or get beat up by seriously overprotective boyfriends.” Ready to pull out her own red hair, she settles for daubing blood from Sanji's face. Silence stretching on between them. Companionable. Listening to Franky orchestrate the mending of the Galley wall nextdoor. “What was it all about anyway?” Nami asks quietly, after a while. “The little tiff you had with Sabo this time?”
The Cook goes from looking meek and apologetic to Brick Wall in about a heart-beat. “It nothing, sweet-Angel.”
Nothing, Ne? “...Fine.” She says. Squeezing water from the towel she's been using, and stroking a few strands of gold hair from Sanji's forehead. Exposing both his handsome sky-blue eyes. Blonde eyebrows swirled in one direction only, and it does look pretty funny to see them at the same time. “Then you will stop smoking. Starting now, and no complaints.”
“Huh- Wha-? N-Nami-san?”
“It is nothing, or isn't it?” Stern, in the long painted fingernails she digs into his shoulder. “This is a Captain's Order.”
Monkey D Luffy doesn't know a lot. But he knows a few things! He knows he likes meat. Raw, grilled, roasted, soaked in salt, fried, or chopped. He knows he likes snow. Silk sheets, desert oils, watery lotions, and Zoro.
“Oi, Sencho-?” Useless as he is in repairs, like most anything that didn't include kicking ass. Only partially aware Franky's been trying to get him to hand whatever he's holding to their Gunner for about five minutes. Not much attention available to give. The sky is blue, and the wind smells like land is close by. But under all of that, something more important to the Pirate Captain than even the scope of adventure-
“Oi, Luffy-!!” Usopp snaps his fingers right in front of his nakama's preoccupied face. He had been standing in the way, and because he was made of rubber got himself wedged between two planks that were now nailed in place. “Pay attention, will you?” Yanking his Captain free. “Chopper's not going to keep Zoro in there.” Intending that to be funny, but for some reason it falls to the floor gruesome. Luffy's face losing even more color, and he drops the planks he'd been holding.
“Ah! I- I mean-...” Too late to undo the damage, all any of them can do is watch their Captain cross the Galley. Stop in front of Chopper's Infirmary door. Looking at it. Like he might boar a hole through it just by looking at it. Until he drags in a mighty breath in through his nose. Pivoting, and winding-up his arms and legs, Luffy sits splat down on the floor with his back up against the inner wall. Pulling his straw hat down to cover his face. No desire to look at anybody right now. He doesn't think he even can. Zoro. Closing his eyes. Maybe his First Mate will be there looking back at him when he wakes up? Drifting towards sleep.
Luffy needs to wait.
He needs to.
“Is Luffy-sencho... asleep?” Great admiration in Jimbe's voice, pausing in what he was doing.
“Unbelievable, ain't it?” Usopp shaking his long nose side to side.
“He's Su—p-e-r worried.” Franky being as serious as he gets. Everybody's worried. Flipping down his sunglasses, and deep in his own thoughts. A glance spared in the direction of the Galley Kitchen, where Robin and Koala have been whispering over fresh cups of coffee. Not able to hear them properly without being discovered, he continues his work. Even if he is curious to know what it is they're talking about.
“...and that's what happened.” ((Please see Author's Notes at the end of this Chapter))
“Fushichō Marco?” Nico Robin cannot keep the grin off her lips. “How fascinating. He always inspired great skills, but....” Making mental note to inquire of the mythical man the extents of his knowledge, next time they cross paths. “Ah, but...” Lowering her voice, she stands even closer to the Revolutionary. “...that would mean that when Sabo stayed behind today, he..?”
“He was going to talk to Sanji.” Koala admits, sipping her coffee and looking wan. “I don't know how far they got. If they got far at all. It doesn't sound like they did.”
“Fufu- I would say not.”
“But never mind my drama, what's are Chopper and Zoro talking about?”
Zoro agreed to go to to the Ship's infirmary, but somehow he hadn't understood that statement clearly enough. What that request by their Ship's Doctor actually meant. “Take my clothes off?”
“I need to examine you, to see if you hurt yourself fighting with Sanji.”
“I was fighting with Sanji?!”
Chopper is still in his larger form. Standing chest and head above his nakama. Refusing to shout back at him. Zoro will stress his body doing that, and at this stage... “It doesn't matter who was fighting who.” Speaking quietly, the Doctor glaces at the door that leads into the Galley. Able to hear Luffy whistle on the other side, impressed by the damages. And Franky, shouting at Sanji that he was an asshole. “If you fight, Zoro, you will jar your body. It may not hurt normally, but your body isn't normal right now. You're making a child inside of you.”
Zoro's legs go numb as he's listening, and his throat closes. How the hell is he still breathing? Green eye dropping to the floor. All he can taste is sour spit in his mouth. Noticing his left hand, for the first time since he'd bashed in a Cook's face. Three knuckles split open, and bleeding. Patches of black bruises underneath. Opening and closing that hand, it hurts. It hurts a lot. But nothing's broken. Confirming that, and also a-another sharp stab just below his navel, Zoro nods his head. Untucking his hamaraki. Belt and trousers. Gotten up onto the table to find it's just as cold and humiliating as it usually is.
“Tell me if anything I do hurts, okay?”
“A-aye.” Chopper's sober, almost desperate dedication to his profession as a Doctor rattles distinctly under Zoro's comfort. Knowing he wouldn't be overreacting if it didn't matter. Hypersensitive, then, to every damn nerve throughout his entire body, just as fingers begin to prod carefully along his lower abdomen.
It's some time later, Nami leaves Sanji in the woman's quarters to rest and ice his face. Hopefully he'll be able to keep cooking, and they won't need to take on that job as a crew. Especially since they're about to make one or more expeditions into unknown territories. Treasure Hunting survives on Bento and Sake, usually. They're well stocked on sake. Not that Nami can understand why. They should have about ten or twenty bottles less than they have right now... it's like they're not drinking as much? …
… No. That's not right. They should be drinking more as a crew, now that Koala and Sabo are aboard. The Strawhat Navigator feels the wind kick her red hair. Sunny's main sail filling up big until it can't anymore and there's a tremendous pull. A sharp FLAPT! Cracking over her head. Their ship lurching forward in the squall, and in the distance she can see it. Just there, on the horizon.
“Ahoo-oy!!” She's called, catching attention from everyone scattered all over the ship. “Land!!!”
What happened between Koala, Sabo, and Marco told in full in "A Thing or Two about A Thing Or Two" Enjoy :)
Chapter 10: Trust
The Ocean is, as has been afore mentioned in many a'tale, vast. As much as the sky, only inverted. And so the sighting of land from a Brig-sloop way out in open water means there are still three or more hours before they can even drop anchor. The Strawhat Pirates having an advantage in the form of their Coup de' Burst engine, an invention of their brilliant Shipwright. It's an Air Cannon that lifts their Thousand Sunny's hull right off the ocean, traveling through sky for one kilometer on a single powerful burst before splashing back down. However, Cola is a precious resource they don't use without a good reason, and there is no need today to go to such lengths. Not with fair wind, and so much still to do.
Even, or perhaps especially for those who are not going ashore.
“Eh-? damn it...” Usopp's tried and failed about fourteen times, to get the metal catch on Sanji's backpack to stay shut. At his Workshop Table. The thing had gotten damaged while they were all running from the last port town. Being chased by Marines, and their Chef had loaded almost five hundred pounds of food into his bag. Of course he did! They were shopping, weren't they? and he's one of the three monsters on their crew, isn't he? Able to cary it all, and still kick-em' around like they were puppets all standing still. A grin pulls brown lips as ever-resourceful Inventor-Usopp tries again! If he can't repair this, Sanji will have to use Nami's pack- and it's not as spacious. Only Sanji's is built to carry six houses and a barn. ..or more accurately, nine juccuzis tubs and about a hundred-and-fifty blow-up dolls. Their Cook undeniably a letch, and a scoundrel – in the Gunner's opinion, yet...
“Ha!” Getting the bent metal to straighten, and it fits. Usopp admires his work, before letting out a hard, long-lasting sigh. “Why'd 'ya have 'ta go and make Luffy cry like that, eh?” Spoken aloud into the privacy of his Workshop space. Nobody around. “Haaah- Baka, Sanji.”
Sunlight comes into the Thousand Sunny's Infirmary in the form of a bright yellow beam across the room. Flecks of dust flashing as they're caught up in it. Luffy watches this light. Tracking edges of shadow that move along the floor with the position of the sun in the sky outside. Knowing it's long after lunch now, but the Captain of the Strawhat Pirates is not hungry at all. Wedged half on the infirmary bed, half on Chopper's desk. Where he'd been since their Doctor had left them. After he'd... said what he said... Luffy curls-in close with Zoro lying effectively in his lap. Back and shoulders resting against his chest.
Neither of this pair having really understood what their Doctor had explained to them about ec- exktic..? egg-tope-? eck topic?... whatever the word was, it meant that even though Zoro's pregnant the baby could be in a bad place inside his body and if he isn't very careful he could start bleeding and the baby will die or Zoro could die or... or... Luffy hugs a little tighter to his First Mate. Clutching hands pulling at the swordsman's coat, and he notices. Zoro's eye cracking open a fraction. Noticing the sun has moved a bit... a lot.
“Che- Is it dinnertime?” Every surface stained with an orange afterglow. A lingering indication that the sun will be going down soon. “How long have we been in here?” Asking, but not really. Very far from concerned, Zoro is too warm and comfortable to want to move from where he is.
“Ne?” Luffy combs his fingers through his First Mate's green hair. “Couple hours.”
Zoro purrs for blunted fingernails that scratch lightly along his scalp. Touching behind his eras. He hasn't slept this good in months. Wriggling, so that he's lying on his side with his face more or less pressed into his Captain's tanned stomach. Breathing Luffy in, and relaxing down into the other man's heat. So warm. Closing his eye one more time, with his Lover's hands rubbing so nice down his back. Not even realizing he was going under, when a soft snore escapes the man's lips. Cheek on Luffy's hip.
“Shishishi-” Quiet giggling.
Standing on the Navigation's Deck of the Thousand Sunny, Jimbe stands to the side of their ship's wheel, secured in place as they sail on. Feeling wind in his hair. So different to currents of saltwater washing by along the deep seabeds where he had grown up. The sun above the surface is indeed warm. He always knew it would be. And so bright. Full of life. As the former Shichibukai appreciates these things, the island of their aim grows on the horizon. Sunny's white sails billowing out big and full, overhead. Pulling them onward.
“Yohohoo-hooo! Under the S-e-e-e-e-a-ah! YEAH!” Brook is up there, like he usually is. Something that can be relied on, the Fishman has come learn. The man's music as everlasting as he is. A set of drums up there with him this time. Got them all tied up into the rigging. Pairing off with a one handed horn, the skeleton thrums a steady tempo to an audience of curious seagulls.
“Huh.” The tenth member of the Strawhat Pirates wonders what they will find on this island they're coming to. If they find anything all.... other than a heap of trouble. “Haaaah...” When he met Luffy, three years ago, Jimbe had thought the boy's dangerous drive to throw himself headlong at his enemy was all on account of his brother being put to death. But this wasn't the case.
“Yoho-ho-ho!! Under the S-e-e-e-a~ Oh BA-BY- YEA~!”
Luffy attacks his entire life like that. As absolute as night and day. His older brother just one of many people who are unbarably important to him.
“Under the S-e-e-e-e-a-ah~ B-a-b-y-!”
“Shit.” The towel he's using is pink with blood and warm water. “Ah...” Black-leg Sanji sitting at Robin and Nami's vanity mirror. An elegant piece of furniture secured to the floor with iron brackets, procured by Franky as a gift to Robin before they'd departed from Water Seven together. Half as an apology, and half to see her smile. The Cyborg had even earned a kiss for his gesture. The memory of it still haunting the Cook. To see that big ugly three-clefted chin get down close to Robin's delicate cheek and …. and slob all over her!!
Sanji's glances at the door. Who's that? Who would be knocking? “Aye?” Letting his hair down over half his face, the Cook winces for the feel of it fluttering over fresh bruises.
“...” There's no answer from the other side, other than another set of knocks. These much more pronounced. *Knock *Knock *Knock
Sanji puts his back to the door, because the swollen eyes hurt and he's already got a headache. “Haaah- Aye, shitty come in! Quit banging.” Regretting he'd shouted, because that's made the ache behind his eyes jolt right to the back of his head. Reaching feelers of barbed wire wrapping around and around the Cook's neck.
He feels worse today than he usually does, because on a normal day if he'd been slammed around like this- he would have been allowed to hit back. But when it came time to land that kick, Chopper had grabbed Zoro and put himself in between them. Then he said... and Zoro shitty stops? He... “H-Hah-!-?” Sanji startles. He hadn't been paying any attention, so head not heard the door open. He hadn't even heard any footsteps on the adam-wood floor- “..a-aah-” Thumbs and deft fingertips kneading along his shoulders. Up the back of Sanji's neck, and down his lithe back outside his shirt. The Cook's eyes held tight-shut, because it feels that good. Fuck it feels good- Leaning forward to put his arms up on the vanity, Sanji hangs his head forward. Letting all his gold-blonde hair fall forward over his eyes. Who is it? “..aah- haa....” Not able to keep back every sound that fights to escape him. Even shivered as he is with the knowledge that whoever it is, they're not one of the three women onboard because he knows their hands, and these are... “..a-aaah--”
“Take deeper breaths, in through your nose.”
Whoever he thought he'd have been okay with rubbing his back and shoulders, Sanji did not expect it to be Him. Shoving at the vanity, but Sabo's faster than he is. Body shoved in against the chair the Cook's sat in. An arm on either side, and he can't get away. “Shitty bastard-”
“Now-now.” The Revolutionary's chin on the Pirate's lean shoulder. Sanji smells like tobacco musk, and salt. “I came to get you. It's time to go.”
Sanji's heart won't stop hammering. Already taken up residence at the back of his throat. He tries to swallow it, but can't. Finally the courage to look up into the mirror in front of him. At that smug, smiling face. Sabo looks like he's having the time of his shitty life. “Why me?”
“Your Captain's Orders.” Said with silk and slyness.
Sanji glares at the reflection. “Aye.”
He barely hears it, the quiet knock on the infirmary door. Luffy watches the door swing silently open. It's Nami. Coming into the room with the afternoon sun behind her. Gold eyes looking at them. Her two nakama curled together. Zoro asleep, but Luffy's not.
That's …strange. “I thought you should know.” She tells her Captain. “We've anchored at an island, and Sabo, Sanji, and Koala are going ashore.”
“Aye.” If Luffy found anything strange, he didn't say. Not moving from where he is.
Nami nods her head. Came and said what she had to... “H-how is Zoro?” Despite herself.
Luffy looks at his Navigator, half a heartbeat away from bursting into tears. Even in this light, he can see that. “Don't cry, Nami.”
“Don't cry.” The Pirate Captain shifting very slightly so that he's encouraged his First Mate to lift his head. Zoro crooning in his sleep, and as if on queue, he grins. Shifting in his sleep, and nuzzled into Luffy's shirt. “Shishi-shi-” Whisper-giggling. Nami hasn't heard him do it much, even when he really should. She always knew he could.
“Luffy...?” He's smiling like a goof-ball, the rest of them left to guess. “.. what Sanji said. You- you do trust us?” She can't believe she's saying this. Of course Luffy trusts them.
“Of course I trust Nami.” He faces her. “I trust Sanji, and Usopp, Franky, Jimbe, Brook, Robin, and Chopper.” They've had this conversation before, many times over the last five years. Every time they have it, it's a little different. But it's always the same, too.
“...but you still can't tell us, what's wrong with Zoro?” She sees it. Nami. A pull of Luffy's face that isn't natural. That goes against every charge-ahead-like-you-always-do mentality she has come to expect from her Captain. This calculation... attention that he gives to some detail that's hidden from the rest of them... Nami nods her head. Turning to leave the infirmary.
Before she closes the door, she looks back.
“Gonna tell everybody. Soon.” That look in his eyes. A promise being made to her, a pact by the Pirate King. Her Pirate King.
“Aye, Sencho.” A race in her chest. A thing he put there, five years ago. When Nami was brought to her knees by betrayal and utter despair. Luffy took all of that away. Replacing her life of thieving and scraping to one of Navigation upon the free Sea, on a journey around the world.
She can trust him, with all of her heart.
Usopp's got his arm up in the air. A smile dutifully hiked onto his face with the sun setting in the sky way above this here High Cliff they're anchored behind. And here they are. Him, Franky, Jimbe, Brook, Nami, and Robin; out on the Lawn. Bidding farewell to their advance Treasure Hunting Party – Sanji, Sabo, and Koala. Being sent ashore to ascertain if this place is the Island spoken of at the back of the Sea Dragon's Jaw. If it's really where they'll find Treasure and Legends, as they suspect it to be. “Oi, Nami-?” He's watching their Mini Merī puff steam out over the blue. Getting further and further away along the coast. “Isn't this sorta- cruel?”
As the acting Strawhat Captain, Nami really has to admit that it is. Sending Sanji alone, in essence, with Sabo and Koala. Though it appears he's in no danger from either of them. He might wind up doing himself an injury. He's more depressed he can't smoke, and he can be like that anywhere. “He'll be fine.” Koala gave her word, after-all. Besides, there's more than just the prospect of having to fill-in for a laid-up Cook going on right now.
“Were you able to speak to Luffy and Zoro?” Jimbe's asked. Their nakama now lost in the distance. Long, deep blue shadows gathering to wash and bathe themselves aboard the Thousand Sunny. Night fast falling over furled sails. The Fishman stood in the grass, black eyes upon his red-headed Navigator.
“Luffy.” She says. Looking up at the second level, where they are. “He says he'll tell us everything, soon.” When she says it, it sounds lame. But Luffy had somehow convinced her that it was the right decision to make.
“Eh? What's that all about?” Franky pushes up his sunglasses, far from convinced. Squinting at the Infirmary door.
Usopp also looks up there. Wondering... why not now? What's so important that Luffy needs to wait in telling them about it? “Huh.” Trying to figure out what it could be. Something that should be easy to figure out! They know each other so well!!
“Could it be, maybe, that our Captain is sensitive to our visitors?” Robin's chin held in one elegant hand. Tapping the side of her cheek with her fingers.
“Sensitive?” The blue haired Cyborg in disbelief. “Sabo's Luffy's brother-”
“-but he's not nakama, is he?” Usopp considers. “Luffy only calls us his nakama.”
“He calls other people his nakama.” Nami keeping her hands pressed together so that the others wont see she's actually a little unnerved by this conversation.
“Only when he's right there protecting them-” That Usopp's actually got a point. Nose pointed at the Lawn. He's thinking.
“Nami-sencho?” It's paled the girl, just a little. Being called Captain. “Fufu- if this is the case, and Sabo and Koala are currently off the ship...?”
“...then..? Then Luffy and Zoro might feel comfortable enough to tell us!” A grin on Nami's face to match their Historian's. She snaps her fingers.
“Bah-haha-! Sanji-bro's gonna be mightily pissed when he finds out he's the last to know.”
Sanji would most certainly have rathered be onboard the Thousand Sunny. Making cocktails, and chocolates. Finding out just what's gotten their Captain and First Mate so shaken up. Definitely. He'd rather be there. He'd rather be anywhere but.. but where he is right now!! Unable to honestly say he knows what wrong he ever did. In what life it was that he ever lived... On what hateful fathomless-black Ocean he had been cursed...
“Ah! Thank you, Sir.”
“Ehe- don't-a mention-a. Ehe- each 'dditional night-a forty Beli.”
It's a fair price. The Pirate Chef considers from behind a blonde fringe. Even if Nami-san would have haggled the man down to ten Beli, or better. Sabo has the money to spend, it seems. Tipping an additional twenty Beli onto this evening's payment. But who would have thought the island they came to looking for Treasure would have a bustling harbor-town on it? And more than one. A great big Marine Base standing in the middle with trees all the way around it. There are no soldiers inside the town, however. Sanji had looked. Unless they were undercover... It's hard to tell sometimes who is and isn't an agent of the World Government, especially when there are other agents out there who wouldn't mind making a name for themselves by capturing a Strawhat, or even an Officer in service to the Revolution.
“It's still early. We should find a bar.” Koala hugs to Sabo's arm, walking down a long carpeted hallway to find their room. “I saw one back there advertising North Blue Whiskey-sours, Sabo-!!” Loud, and eager. So normal to Sanji. Realizing if he'd been walking down this same hallway with his crew that they would be just as noisy... He'd be fighting with Zoro. Luffy, Chopper, and Usopp shouting about all the glittering doorknobs or something stupid. Jimbe would soberly admonish them, and Brook would make some skull-joke. Nami would shout at them. Franky'd be laughing... Robin would laugh...
“Ne? Don't look so sad.” Out of nowhere, Sanji's almost walked into Koala. The girl come and put herself right in front of him. Their lips brushing, and her warmth sends a thrill of flightful adrenaline up the Pirate's lean frame. Blue eyes snapping onto Sabo, but .. h-he... He's not making to strangle him, or put him down... The man is-?
-looking at him? Deeper-blue eyes answering Sanji's, along with a knowing smile that pulls Sabo's scarred face. Making a show of looking at the Cook, and then to grin even more widely. A lewd, dirty 'o' of his lips, inspecting Koala's backside. Up and down the woman's back. Very obviously gaping at her ass, and he's smiling again. Smarmily, at Sanji. “Might be a good idea. Ne? Black Leg?”
For Nami-swan... Sanji swallows hard in his throat, and it's hard for him to breathe. Koala's fingers slipping down the front buttons of his shirt. “A-aye-” He's doing this for sweet Nami-swan!! He's not doing it so that he can smell this Revolutionary's lilac perfume, or- or count each one of those adorable little freckles on her face... Even though her boyfriend is standing right there, letting just that happen? That when she turns to go back to him, her plump little butt bounces in front of the Pirate. Lacy frills on her underwear visible under a short shirt.
His nose is not bleeding. You hear!! It is not bleeding!
Zoro wakes up, understanding that it has become night. A really-really dark night. There aren't any stars shining in from outside? No moonlight... is there a storm? It's eerily quiet for a storm. For once Luffy isn't snoring. His Captain pressed up against the wall, Chopper's desk, and medical cot all at the same time. Acting as a pillow for the other to lay comfortably against. Being made of rubber, the guy can sleep anywhere he likes in any position. “Che-” Zoro wishes he could do that. Resting his head back down. Listening to Luffy's heart beating loud luuub-luub's in the silence.
*clack --- Feignt, but loud enough the Swordsman hears it. The door into the Galley from the landing outside opening, and then there are footsteps. At least five people entering the room. Someone goes into the kitchen. Someone who isn't the shit-Cook... that's Nami's steady-stride he hears.
“...but suppose we're wrong.” Usopp. “Hear me out, hear me out- Suppose they're not telling us for some other kind of reason.”
“Like what?” Nami.
“If Luffy-sencho says that we will be told soon, we should all be patient.” Jimbe. The Fishman taking a few heavy footfalls on the adam-plank floor, and settles himself at the table. Chair creaking. “He is our Captain, his time is his own to take as he likes.”
“There is that opinion, or-” Nami. Zoro listens to her high heals moving about the kitchen. The bangles on her wrists clanking against each other, and the familiar pop of a sake-bottle cork. “If they don't tell us right away, we break into the Infirmary. Steal Chopper's notes, and find out for ourselves.”
“Luffy would kill us.” Usopp warns, and the Swordsman can just imagine what look their Gunner must have on his face. “No- no! I take that back. Zoro would kill us.”
“We're doing this because we care!” Franky clunks a bottle of cola onto the table, making a *bang loud enough to rouse Luffy.
“Shh-shhh-” A hand up, he presses the backs of his fingers to his Captain's lips, and they both listen.
“Chopper would be most offended, and rightly upset by such an invasion into his patients' records.” Nico Robin, speaking softly. “Not that there are not other ways to uncover or coherrse information.”
“Aye... Aye! We could get Zoro-bro drunk, then maybe he'd tell us?”
“Zoro only gets honest after four cases of high-grade North Blue Sake.” They hear Nami explain to everyone very mathmatically. “Each case containing ten bottles, at six-hundred-twenty-nine Beli a cork is six thousand-two-hundred-ninty Beli a case. Twenty-five-thousand-one-hundred-sixty Beli for all four cases...”
“Yohoho- We could perhaps get Luffy-sencho drunk?”
“Luffy doesn't get honest when he's drunk.” Nami says, still walking about the kitchen. Heels clacking on tile. “He gets clingy, and kissy, and then he passes out.”
“Luffy's been honest all this time.” Usopp taking a noisy slurp of beer, and they hear his mug *clomp down onto the table. “It's his natural-state. He even said so, remember? That he 'can't' tell us. Which means Zoro doesn't want him to tell us. Which means a couple o' things. A- It's Zoro we need to convince to talk. And B- It's important enough that both Luffy and Chopper are taking it serious.”
They all go quiet after that. Except the noises of cups, and creaking chairs. Nami's footsteps on the floor that eventual go away when she too sits down. “Ne, Zoro?”
“Could, ya know... let 'em find out. Ne?”
“H-huh?” It's so dark in this room that all Zoro can see are black outlines against blacker shapes. Not able to hold onto them very well, and trying to only makes him dizzy. Yet from somewhere, Luffy's eyes manage to reflect a spot of light he can find and hang onto.
His Captain's hand come around to rest warm over his belly. “If Zoro's just got pregnant, he might not look like he is for a month. Maybe two months.”
“H-huh?” For some reason Zoro's whispering, and so is Luffy. Alone together in this darkness. He puts his own hand on the back of his Lover's, “How do you know that?” Chopper didn't say. He's pretty sure Chopper didn't say...
“Shishi-” Squirming a bit, Luffy gets a kiss to his Swordsman's cheek. “Back in Fusha Village, in the bar where I met Shanks- I told Zoro about Makino?”
“A-aye, that Lady you said made awesome shrim and onion rice, and taught Ace his manners?”
“Shishi- Aye- well, Makino would take care of pregnant girls, sometimes. They would come and stay in the rooms above the bar until they were ready to have their babies.”
“And you- you helped her out? Taking care of them?”
“Yep- I got to do a lot!”
“...” Zoro can feel Luffy's heart trilling excitedly against his back, remembering those days in his past. “What did you do?” Because he's curious. His heart pounding because he's scared.
Hands moving over the Swordsman's hamaraki, very slowly. “Normal- everyday stuff.”
“Shishi- Like... carrying stuff for them. Because they're not supposed to do stuff like that when they're making a baby....”
Zoro can feel his face burning, and he's glad that it's dark.
“I'd carry food trays too, and hot water buckets, and towels for Makino when she would stay up late and rub their feet.”
“Rub their feet?”
“Mmm. To help with the swelling. Sometimes their feet got so big they wouldn't fit in their shoes anymore.”
“What? Wh- when does that happen??” Trying to sit up, but his Captain holds him where he is.
“Not till later. Lots later, Zoro. Sorry-” Combing his fingers slowly though the man's green hair, until he's settled. Quiet enough to realize that their nakama have begun talking again, in the Galley nextdoor.
“...still think the best, simplest way is to steal Chopper's notes.”
“You know Doctors write in Code. I heard Chopper talking about it, once. So even if you steal his notes, you might not be able to read them.”
“Robin can read them! Robin-sis can read anything, right Robin?”
“I'm sorry, but as educated as I may be- I am no Doctor.”
“Oi, we didn't even think about getting Chopper drunk?”
“We're going to have to tell them.” Zoro sighs, imagining their little Doctor with his first-ever hangover, and it would be entirely the First Mate's fault.
“Yea?!” Luffy's whole body giving a lurch that would normally have been followed by him launching like a rubber bullet right up onto his feet.... but he's contained it. Remaining where he is, holding onto Zoro. “Can we? Really?” He's asking...? Clarifying?
“A-ah...?” His Captain doesn't do that on an everyday basis- or even an any day basis... And... as considerate as the gesture may appear to be... “I- um..” -it's unsettling. “u-um... I-..”
“Zoro?” Luffy follows the man's arms in the dark with his hands, finding the other's fingers and lacing them together.
“...” The Swordsman listening to Usopp, Robin, Nami, Brook, Jimbe, and Franky... Laughing at some joke. Conspiring to figure out what's wrong with him, because they're just trying to be good nakama- but why can't they just mind their own fucking business for once- eh?! “....”
“He's okay, Zoro.” The Swordsman can't catch a breath from all the air there is around him. Blinking in the dark. Warm, wet tears on his face. Goddamnit!! Again?! He really can't help it, can he? He's going to be like this for... for what? Forever?
“Gh-ghaaah-!” Like he's been kicked in the stomach, right alongside these uncomfortable cramps he's starting to identify as cramps. Diaphragm hiking outside his control, and he's made an anguished -audible sob.
Tony Tony Chopper has a white-cloth mask over his mouth and blue nose. Wearing a white medical gown, and gloves. There are explosions, somewhere. In every direction. He can hear them, even if he can't see them from inside this small room that's... all white. All around him.
A bloody red mess in front of him, on a bare metal table.
“Chopper!” Fists bang loudly on a frosted white door just behind the little Doctor. Rattling it in its frame. He doesn't turn around to see for himself, even if he can hear. “Chopper!!”
Scalpel held tight in his left hoof. An empty packet of blood in the other. Tubes hanging from the packet. Dripping onto the floor.
“Chopper!!!” That's Luffy's voice. Screaming like that. “Chopper!!!”
He doesn't answer his Captain, reaching to pull the edge of a white sheet from the face of whoever this is that has been... disemboweled? How did something like this even happen?! Leaning down to clutch the soiled linen, Chopper sees a small bloody mass smashed on the floor near the table. Trailing a long, knobbly cord that's been cut and left untied to bleed out.
Pulling back the sheet, and Zoro's bright green hair is the first thing the little Zoan registers. Eyes closed, both of them, and the man's mouth is slightly open. He isn't alive, in the ways a professional can look at a body and tell that it isn't viable anymore.
Leaving the sheet where it is, the tiny Doctor goes to a sink he'd not realized was there a moment ago. Silver handles, and water comes out of the nozzle boiling hot. He washes himself with it. Curling his fur, and burning his skin away. Efforts to try and ignore this seep of dread that is an understanding; that he needs to hurry and wash all this blood from him, so that he can go outside to tell Luffy he's never going to see Zoro alive again- or their baby at all. Ever.
Blood swirling down the drain. Hot water thick with steam.
*s-n-a-p-- “Haah- haa-heh?”
“Aw, Chopper?” Usopp. He'd been trying to be as quiet as he could over in that corner. “I'm sorry I woke you up. Go back to sleep.”
“N-no. Thanks.” Now that he's awake. Chopper's fur sticky with cold sweat, and he's shaking. No desire at all to close his eyes again. Trying to forget the grosser details of his nightmare by rubbing his hooves into his face. “Wh-what time is it?”
“Huh? Just about dawn. Franky and me are gonna do a little fishing. Care to join us?”
Fishing. Fishing sounds good. “Aye.” Hopping down out of his box-hammock, he gets a pang of remembrance.. a specific image from the dream he's just had- like a flash in front of him- then it's gone, and he shivers.
“Ne? You alright, Chopper?”
“A-aye.” Gone to the same corner as his crew-mate, to get his fishing rod.
“Cause you can sleep a little more, if you need to. I don't know what's going on, but you're the most important person on the ship- Keeping all of us idiots healthy and in one piece. So... make sure you take care of yourself too, Ne?”
“A-aye.” Following his nakama for the door is when Chopper sees Zoro and Luffy lying on a sofa together. Near the lockers, at the back of the Men's Quarters. A blanket pulled over them.
They leave them alone. Gone out onto the landing. A grey-orange glow far away on the lip of the horizon. The Ocean's deep-dark stony blue beneath. Meaning that the sun is there. Just there, right behind the world. That at any moment its light will crest that edge in a glorious flash of morning.
“Ahoy- Chopper-bro!” Franky's line already cast out far into open water.
The little Zoan climbing up at the man's elbow, and dropped in his hook. So does Usopp, after having first tied a thick pink worm.
“Ahhhaaaa-” The Strawhat's Gunner sighing into the dawn. Listening to the waves breaking on Sunny's hull. White foam washing up and over tall rocks that line the cliff they're achored in front of...
… wait...? “O-oi?!”
“Oh, haha- That's right, you didn't know. We're here! First island that could be the Treasure Island.”
“We're looking for Treasure, you know?” Usopp smiling big and obvious, but their little Doctor looks like he's having a hard time comprehending what he's saying. “Nami's acting Captain while Luffy's doing whatever he's doing with Zoro, and she's ordered we go Treasure Hunting. We arrived last night after you went to bed. Sanji, Sabo, and Koala went ashore looking for clues that this is or isn't the right place. If it is, then we'll all go search.”
Chopper nods his head. Looking away from the huge hulk of high stone and earth. Acknowledging they've come to an island. Okay. Fine. “I have to stay behind. I'll tell Nami.”
“Eh-?” Usopp being very careful to keep his eyes out over the water. Even Franky holds his breath. “- and why's that?”
“I need to be here, for Zoro.” If their small Doctor was still waking-up, there's no sign of it. Chopper's jaw set. He watches his line in the water. Even as the sun breaks free of the ridge of the world, and damn near blinds them all with golden dawn, Chopper keeps staring. “...just in case.”
Low light is cast by single candles, burning in copper cups on the healthy surfaces of carved oak tables. This room indoors, and also outdoors. Half the ceiling open to the sky, and trellised. Vining plants encouraged to grow across it. Grape Vines. Producing heavy bundles that hang down, smelling of sharp spice and acidic sugars. These are the same grapes that made the wine these Locals serve here. And the ciders. Pies, and juice-soaked meats... Everything he had ordered, Sanji had never even seen before. Requesting recipe after recipe from the Cooks in the kitchen, until the Waiter comes back for what had to be the fifteenth time, bringing a hand-written invitation for the Pirate: To come back tomorrow afternoon for an audience with the Head Chef!
But no matter how delightful the food or atmosphere, he's still... in Hell. A different variety of Hell to the one he'd suffered two years of, trapped on an island filled with okama.
This Hell is one where he drinks fine wines, and listens to exotic music. One where he eats the most decadent things, while he watches beautiful women. A beautiful woman. Koala. The Revolutionary dressed in short skirts and sparkles. Goggles up on top of her head, flushed pink all over her cute dimpled cheeks. Talking in more airy- girlish fashions while laughing at everything Sabo says, or Sanji says, or what the Waiters say... Within his arm's reach, but yet at an unbelievable distance. Wrapped in the embrace of another man. Her Lover plying the woman with more and more liquor. Enough that the Pirate thinks that he should stop, but he can't say that. Can he? Because she is Sabo's woman. That fact been made clear in the beating he'd recieved. Crystal... clear...
“Ne- Ne?!” Sanji watches Sabo grin, fingers gripping onto Koala's fleshy hips as he'd helped her to crawl up his body. Speaking to a patron just over the half-wall behind- “Ne-!? Did 'ee say somethin' 'bout a Sea Dragon??”
“Eh? Who wants ta' know-?” He's drunk too, and so are the five other tough-guys he's got there with him. “Eheww- Nii-chan~Nii-chan. Ain' you f-i-n-e~ Do ya like Dragons? I got one 'ere ya can stroke-?”
Curling at the implication that it's the guy's filthy cock he's about to whip out, Sanji is halfway out of his chair when Sabo levers himself. Twisting back and around. Red crackles of fire materializing as flares, jumping along the man's scarred cheekbone and into his yellow hair.
“I believe my Lady asked you a question.” Said with no small amout of threat from firey injury.
“Fufufu-” She giggles, happy and wet, into Sabo's cheek. Hugging onto him.
“Orange b-l-o-s-s-o-m-s, on Orange T-r-e-e-s~
Lovely-lovely oranges a-n-d yellows a-n-d golds~”
The sun's come up and made its way into the spacious Galley of this Pirates' Ship, moored off a pier-less cliff-front somewhere in the New World. A perfect place for them, because it hides these wanted criminals from that rather outstandingly large Marine Base located right dab in the center of the island. Usopp having noticed the thing from far enough away they'd been able to divert, keeping out of sight of five independent watchposts. All of them surrouding what had to be the Marines' own Harbor. None of the other docks had guards at them, and there were others. So many. They must have passed three dozen little spots of houses and busy eateries, looking for an unobtrusive place to way anchor. Places with roads, paths, and people. Colorful two-story factories, and small toy churches with high steeples... Nami hopes Sanji can keep himself safe and hidden in all of that... and Koala... Sabo... If anything happened to Luffy's older brother, how could she ever face her Captain?
“Lovely-lovely oranges a-n-d yellows a-n-d golds~
Wings like flutter-eyes, fly out on long branches~
will I~ pick~ sweet f-r-u-i-t-~
Brook sings in dreams. Playing his violin at the same time. A poetic melody in the compliment of oranges, he had said to his Navigator- would she like to hear a song? She knows he's been playing for a while now. Long enough she's prepared the eggs, and sliced bread to toast. Fruit arranged in great big towers, and the meat is almost done- A most important item, especially if she'd like her Captain to be in a good mood. Zoro could use a decent meal also. He's been eating nothing but onigiri for almost a week, and that's not healthy. She's brought up ten bottles of West Blue Taigāgurīn Sake, also. Hoping she can loosen their First Mate up a little. Get him talking... and ten bottles won't have him blithering. That's a thing she doesn't like to do to anyone... unless she has to.
“Orange blossoms, on Orange Trees~
Lovely-lovely oranges a-n-d yellows a-n-d g-o-l-d-s~ …. …. …. Nami-sencho?”
His music stops, but lingers on the air like honey sticks to a person's fingers. Sweetly. “Ne, Brook.” He has no skin, like she does. No eyes, like she does. Yet he speaks, like she does. He moves, and he observes all the finite motions of the things that happen around him.
“I feel- deeply, and in my very bones,” Saying, as he's held skeletal fingers to the ruff on his chest. “Something... is about to happen. Yo-ho-ho-ho-hooo-!”
“Something-?” Nami hears the Timer on the stove in front of her go off, and she bends to pull out sets of sizzling sausage, fatty eel, and bacon. Smelling of the herbs and spices she'd found in Sanji's cabinet. No idea where they're from, or how they're supposed to be used, but sure it will taste fine. Luffy will eat almost anything.
“Aye-” the skeleton nodding his afro. “On this very island, maybe?” Musing, Brook stands tall, watching his red-headed nakama set out dishes. Piling them with various things. “...or perhaps onboard our own ship?” Hollow eye sockets look to one side. “How exciting. Wouldn't you agree? Yohohohooo~! I'm e-x-c-i-t-e-d-! YEAH!!”
She listens to the man's high pitched laughter, vibrating along paneled walls. A sound Nami has to admit she'd taken a long time to appreciate, and it was only the time they spent apart... for two long years... That was when she really realized she counted Brook, truly, as one of her own precious nakama Even though he hadn't been with them long, she missed him and his music terribly, right alongside all the others. Then, after, when they took to the Ocean once again. Leaving Sabaody's bubbling mangrove for the black deeps of an unknown sea... she doesn't mind how shrill the man's laughter is anymore. Welcoming the sound of it, just like one of his wonderful songs. “Haha-” Unsure if she's able to share in his proclamation, however. As utterance of the words something is about to happen is typically followed by abject catastrophe. “Excited-....” Parroting the word he had used, Nami finishes arranging the Crew's morning meal. Reaching for a little snail that eats red lettuce in a glass bowl at the end of the bar. “Good Morning~!” Speaking brightly into the snail's shell-receiver. “Breakfast is ready! Everyone come get some!” Her voice echoes throughout the ship, and she hears herself repeated many-many times. Turning to face Brook. The man waiting patiently for her full reply. “...I suppose I am too.” Raising a smile. Big, and real upon her face. Because why not. Waves of these Oceans will swallow those unwilling to ride upon them. Any good Navigator knows that.
It is okay to feel excited. It's a sign that you're still alive! And as long as your're alive, good things will happen! Jaw set, Nami joins Brook in taking everything to the table. Franky, Usopp, and Chopper all making their way inside. She watches Chopper, as their Cyborg goes to the table and pulls the cab off a now-fizzing bottle of ice-cold cola... Their little reindeer sits down quietly beside Usopp, keeping his little blue nose down. He's thinking.
…. Nami turns off the stove, and puts all the pans in the sink to soak. Wishing she knew, or even that she could ask, just what is he doing so much thinking about?
“Hm? How long have our Captain and Swordsman been a couple?” Robin lets the breeze push her black hair. Arms around herself while she's stood up here on the Navigation's Deck. Bright, beautiful dawn having crested a sparkling sea. The woman shades her eyes. Listening to Brook playing his violin in the Galley below.
“Aye-” At the woman's elbow. Jimbe watches the water. Thick blue-tinged arms held over the Fishman's broad, tattooed chest. After he'd boarded the Thousand Sunny, and become an official member of the Strawhat Crew, he noticed right away- Luffy being in love with Zoro. And no matter how distantly aggressive he may be towards every other being on the face of the earth, Zoro clearly being in love with Luffy.
Robin's reminded to her own 'first days' having joined the Strawhat Crew. Really, it had been a matter of hours. Her new Captain had introduced her to each of her new nakama in turn, coming to the Swordsman last... and this is Zoro. Hands off 'cause he belongs to me, okay?” How the green-haired man had turned an impressive shade of red, excusing himself to the back of the ship where he stood in perfect form for six hours before consenting to look anyone in the eye. “Fufufu~ I'm afraid their beginning was before my time.” She says. The Historian considering she'd only come aboard after Boroque Works was defeated on the Island of Alabasta, and at that time Luffy was only seventeen, and Zoro nineteen. Today they are almost twenty one, and twenty-three. Each having matured since she's known them. Greatly. Weather they've realized it or not themselves. “Why do you ask?”
“Ah? Well, they seem..” What is the word he needs to describe them... insperable? That's not right. Zoro's habit of wandering off, and Luffy's tendency to rush ahead without any set destination left them apart all the time. Symbiotic? That's not right either. Jimbe chewing his tongue at the back of his mouth.
“Fufufu- I know what you mean.” Watching the Fishman struggle to describe this feeling he's getting. She'd had the same feeling. That those two... They are meant to be together. In whatever way that might mean in the terms of a young man seeking to be King of the Pirates, and another young man who just so happens to have vowed to become the Greatest Swordsman in the World.
“ffzz—tt-!! Good morning!” Nami's voice echoes from speakers attached to the base of their Thousand Sunny's crow's nest. “Breakfast is ready! Everyone come get some!”
“Ha! -ahaha-!” She's louder now she's drunk. Koala clutching to Sabo's blue coat to stay on her feet. Hands looped into his buckles, stumbling along this cobbled lane. “I can't believe we got something so good!!”
Nami-swan will indeed be pleased, if this lead checks out... Sanji nods his head. Though he somehow doubts weather the source of their information can be entirely trusted. Keeping a strict lookout, as he's walked side by side with these two Revolutionaries back to the hotel where Sabo's already paid three nights in advance.
“Ya don't seem happy, Black-leg. Something not sitting well in ya?” Shoving Sanji's shoulder and wobbling the Pirate, who's been skulking with his hands in his pockets. Not necessarily sober, but he isn't haha-everything's a joke-drunk either.
The Cook leaning to keep his balance, and then lifted his foot from the ground. Landing a stinging kick to Sabo's upper thigh – except it doesn't land. It goes right through. The other's apendage transformed to licks of hot fire.
“Haha- Slow~” His Captain's older brother teases him.
“Eeh? Why are you guys fighting?” She wriggles free of her Lover's arms, falling against the Pirate Cook. “That's not nice.” She tells Sanji, and then she's faced Sabo. Glaring him down, or would do – if she were not stumbling so much. Finger adrift as she points at her boyfriend, slurring all of her words. “I pr-promised Nami!- -'hic! ...so be nice?” Practically fallen forward, she's back to clutching onto Sabo's coat... kissing him.
Sanji looks away. Why should he have to watch?! Eh? Blue eye cast out over the warf. The water there clear, with warming gold-yellow light reflecting off every damp morning surface. Boats putting out for a day of fishing, making long channels that ripple away to be lost in larger Blue waves...
“Ne- you~” Hands. Small, soft, feminine hands. Sanji holds in a gasp, when Koala grabs handfuls of his suit-front. Yanking his tie as she's pulled him against her. “Won't you too, Cook-san?” Breathed against his cheek. “..be real nice~?” Her lips on his neck, she sucks his skin. And Sanji has no idea how to deal with this. Her tongue laving wetly over the bulge of his adam's apple. He wants to put his arms around her. To press flesh to naked flesh until he's provided her sweet beauty the sweetest of sweet releases... but... but Sabo is standing right there!!! “Mnnn~” Sanji growing in his pants, because he can't shitty help it!! Listening to Koala crooning under his chin. Teeth nipping him, playfully. A line of wet kisses placed along the ridge of his collarbone.
.. and... Sabo is.. He's-... Sanji feels his lungs punch in. His heart rate increasing, and he's not sure if it's because he's afraid or...
“Fufufufu- ” She gets her hands confused with the buttons on the Pirate's shirt. Fiddling with them, but too inebriated to get them undone. Giving up, and deciding instead to steal a long, sloppy kiss from him. “Fufuf-” Giggling into Sanji's hot, open mouth; then stood back. Weaving slightly. Gone to Sabo, and her Lover's strong arms wrap her up. Holding her. She buries her face into the white ruffs he wears. Breathing in his scent of tar-soap, and gunpowder.
Pirate Captain Monkey D Luffy's heard his Navigator's announcement over the snail system. Barely.
“He's alright.” Repeating this, and only this. That Zoro will be okay, because he will be. It's just these early weeks he-
Most of the girls who came to stay with Makino went through... this. In the very beginning, before they even started to look like they were pregnant. Luffy remembers. Some of them would be sick all the time. Morning, afternoon, evening, late at night... Makino would make them stay in bed, sometimes... and they never wanted to talk about food, unless... “Ne, Zoro-” Stroking quietly over his swordsman's naked back. Zoro's tanned skin is damp, and clammy. Cold. He's shivering. Dry heaving into a trash can beside the couch.
“Haaah- A-aye-? ggaah-”
“ 'm gonna go get him something. Be right back, Ne?”
“Huh? Haaaaha- w-wait- where...'re-? Gh-haaargg-”
“Right back. Real fast-” Luffy gotten to his feet, when Zoro's grabbed his Captain's arm at the wrist.
“Haaah- n-n- don't go.”
Luffy's felt a really-real pain in his chest. He's been stabbed. Impaled by a hot poker. Letting his First Mate reach for him, hugging around his middle. “Zoro.” Rubbing slowly over muscular shoulders. Down his swordsman's spine, and then gradually back up. Luffy dragging all his fingers through short green hair. “Ne, Zoro-?” The man's green eye opening to look up at him makes Luffy almost too happy. Elation that swirls like something alive inside of his chest. Smiling hugely. “I'm come right back.” Moving his straw hat from around his own neck on a string, to Zoro's left knee. “Shishi- Promise! It'll help him feel better.”
Zoro lets his Captain's hands pass over his shoulders one more time. Hugged tightly around Luffy's hip. Gradually loosening that grip. His stomach twisting into tight- agitated knots as he sits back on the sofa. Feels like he's swallowed a hundred live sharks. All of their teeth shredding him on the inside, and those shreds are being churned up. Pushing right up against the back of his throat. He's gagging, swallowing at thick strings of cold spit... “Blah-!! -ahaa-gha-- Haaah-!” Swirls of hot, bitter acid splash into the can in front of the Swordsman, only half-aware when Luffy turns. Saying something, but then he's gone. “Haaa ka-h- --Haaah k-aahaaan-”
A low whine escapes Roronoa Zoro. Badass Pirate Swordsman, bound to be the Best in the world...
“Gaaahaa-! *cough *CoUgH-!!” Pulling his knees up, bare feet coming off the adam-wood floor. Curled on the sofa, sweating. With his face shoved forward into this can. “-Haaah ggahg-!”
This will pass, and he logically knows that! However, in the here and now... He doesn't think he can stand up, let alone become the Best of anything. In this world, or another. “Gh-haaaaah-!!”
“Shishishi- Morning Mina!”
If Nami, Usopp, Franky, Jimbe, Chopper, Brook, or Nico Robin found it odd to see their Captain come into the Galley without their First Mate, they were further surprised to see him bolt straight passed a fully laid Breakfast-table. Gone behind the bar and into the Kitchen instead. Not stuffing his face, he's pulling bottles from Sanji's Herb Cabinet. Looking at all the labels. Shaking his head, and putting them back... Until he's selected two little jars. Carrying them to the bar. Then he's run to a back pantry, all of them listening to pots and pans banging. Falling to the floor.
“Sencho?” Robin stood from her place at the table. Gone to look at both containers. The first is stuffed with dried green leaf, Mint. The second appears to be a knobby, off-white root as thick as someone's finger, Ginger.
“Ne, Robin.” Her Captain appearing. Boxes, pans, and cans of food all rolling around his sandals. He side-steps them with ease, hopping to the sink and filling a metal kettle with water. She watches him bring it to the range, setting the belly of the pot to heat.
“How is Zoro?” She asks him, casually. Deep-lavender eyes observing.
“Shishi- He's okay.”
Usopp thinks that sounds a lot like Zoro saying he's fine. “What'cha making there, Sencho?” asking also, as unobtrusively as he can.
“Tea!” All his teeth... how can Luffy show-off all his teeth when he smiles?
The Strawhat Historian is sure their Sniper's eyes go a little out of focus. Mouthing the word 'Tea' over and over again. Deciding to sit down on one of the stools at the bar, just as Chopper rises from the table. Come forward, he also reads the labels on both jars. She sees him nod his head, setting them back down. Their little Zoan glancing at Luffy's back. Notices te good Doctor doesn't say anything. Hooves tapping on hard adam-wood planks, he's gone back to eating his breakfast.
Is it the woman's imagination, or does he hold himself... a little taller?
“OW!! I always prefer a good Cola over Tea-” Taking a long drink from the half full container in his metal hand. “-Ne, but I thought you didn't like coffees and teas and stuff like that, Sencho?”
“Don't.” Agreeing with his nakama, while at the same time Luffy's opening and closing cupboards. Digging around inside drawers.
“What are you looking for?!!” Nami can hear knives and wooden measuring cups *smack loudly as they fall to the floor. Spoons, and forks. The soft *flump that are stacks of napkins been scattered everywhere.
“Tryin' 'ta find a.... Ah-! Ah-ha!!” Something fisted in his hand, they all watch their Luffy go over to the bar. Grabbing a tall mug with one swung-out rubber arm as he goes. “Shi-shi-shi-” Giggling to himself, he packs a small metal diffuser with the mint and ginger he'd found. Dropping it into the mug, and gone for the kettle – the water inside now boiling. Careful he doesn't splash hot water everywhere, as he's filled the cup. It's contents immediately turning faintly brown.
“Luffy-?” He's been watching all this time, but Usopp doesn't think he's ever seen- “Since when do you know how to... to cook?”
“Can ye' call it cooking if it's just Tea?” asking, Franky reaches across the table for another handful of bacon.
“Course I can make Tea! Makino taught me how years ago.” Pouting, but very little. Luffy's too busy watching the little clock on the stove. Waiting for four minutes to go by. Four minutes that are taking forever. He just wants to get back to Zoro. Flapping his hands, and jogging in place.... A minute left to go. Come on... Come on....!!! Luffy's need to get back so strong, he's actually humming out of his throat. Unable to keep in this pressure building up inside his chest.
And finally! Time's up! Using a spoon to fish out the diffuser, and drop it into the sink. Not offering any explanation at all. Picked up the mug, carrying warm liquid across the room and out the door. Nami watching the thing swing closed, and the latch clicks. “...” All of them so still and silent they can hear the door to the Men's Quarters open, and Luffy announce to Zoro that he'd come back- Then they don't hear anything at all. Only the Seagulls, and Sunny's thick adam beams negotiating with the Blue Sea lapping against their hull.
“Yohohohohooo~!” Brook has already finished his eggs and sausages. How he eats food, none of them are entirely sure.... the skeleton lifting his teacup, and drained it. Standing. “If you will all excuse me.” Gone to the door, he's stepped outside, also.
“Thank you, for breakfast, Nami.” He doesn't sound anything like himself. Chopper. Low, serious tone out of him, and no laughter whatsoever. The tiny Zoan gathering himself, and gone into his Infirmary. Closing the door behind him.
“Huh? Well---” Franky stretches his bulbous shoulders. Pressing his own nose, and a few seconds later he has a full head of blue, fluffy Flavio hair. Sunglasses low-down over his eyes. “Think I might go ashore. We're missing crucial parts, and if the Coup de' bell is damaged again that'd be s-u-p-e-r bad.”
“Aye- I need gunpowder, maybe some new tools...” Usopp counts off on his fingers.
Nico Robin half listening to their two artisans discussing the needs they have for their independent crafts. Costs, and expectations of an island with many people on it... She's paying more attention, however, to their young Navigator. Nami staring at her untouched plate of food. She had just sat down when Luffy came in. He's left the kitchen in such a state, and all over a simple cup of tea. “Fufufu.” Crossing her wrists, Robin closes her eyes. Blooming hundreds of arms on almost every surface in their Galley Kitchen. A matter of moments for all of those hands to pick up, clean, and arrange everything so that it appeared nothing ever happened. “Nami-sencho? Is there anything you would like to do today?”
“H-huh?” Gold eyes come up, like she doesn't even know where she is. “I.. um..” Looking across the table, Jimbe's finished his coffee. Setting his mug down on the table, the Fishman catching her eye. Giving a large smile.
“I too may venture out.” He tells her. “To inspect the surrounding Blue. I will return.” His large bulk lifted off that chair, and he's pushed open the Galley door.
“Yosh!” Usopp and Franky had poured the contents of their money-pouches onto the table, counting their hard saved beli. Looks like they have enough to do whatever it is they're planning on doing. Sweeping it all back into their sacks, and they've gone....
“Are you alright?” Robin's arms blooming all over the table, vacant chairs, and the floor. Taking dishes to the sink, and left-overs to the refrigerator. “You seem very pale.”
Clanking dishes dance in front of Nami's eyes, and one of Robin's many hands takes hold of her own. “Yea.” She says, Nami shaking her head. Making herself smile!! “Yea, I'm alright!” She says with at least some degree of defiance.
“Fufufu. Good.” Wrists still crossed as Robin's directed the cleaning of the Galley, she's bloomed another set of flowers. A pair of eyes, and ears, in a different place....
…. just under a lamp, in the Men's Quarters.
“Hold it steady...” Trafalgar D Water Law is Captain of the Heart Pirates. “...be sure and keep clear of that side-wash.” Captain of this submarine, the Pōrā Tangu-gō- the Polar Tang, for short.
“I'm... trying...” Shachi. One of the man's three closest Mates. He's at the helm. His hat off. He'd pitched it into a corner about half an hour ago, when Bepo left them. “Aeeh-! Damn...” Wheel wrenched nearly out of the Pirate's hands. Forearms on fire as he fights to keep control. “She-... aeeheh-! She sure displaces a lot of water, Ne? Haha-!” Getting a knee up to help him steer their vessel back in line, right beside and back a little- from this massive wall of white churn. Keeping twenty meters underwater, fifty meters sway from what's causing this. A huge- and it is huge – sagging with thick, grey skin caked in salt and barnacle; an enormous leg.
“She sure does.” Only one leg of this mighty creature. Zunesha. A Giant Elephant who's been alive for... for who knows how long. Carrying the wandering island nation of Zou upon her back. Throwing bubbles and chop, and stirring silt up off the very sea-floor. Creating an unquestionably deep- black cloud like a fog the Surgeon of Death can look down and see below them. “Keep it up, Shachi-ya. As long as you can, and then I'll take a turn.” If they get too far away from the island, Bepo's baby-Den-den signal won't reach them. If they stay too near, their submarine will be shredded in the sharp swirls of blade-currents being created by the elephant's incredible wake.
“Nah, ya won', Captain.” Busy stretching his shoulders. Penguin's taken off his balaclava, and wouldn't you believe the hat-hair he's got? “Ya sit back, oi-! I'll take the next turn when Shachi's pooped out.”
“Aye.” His nakama agreeing, putting one foot up on the metal wall for leverage. Straining to stay just shy of the chop. Whirlpools forming over their heads, treading long tails deep into the Blue. That's why they need to stay this deep, and only surface when they must. To avoid being pulled apart by the whirrls. That's what Bepo had said to them. And their Navigator has never led them wrong! “Leave it all to us!”
Gusts of air bubbles like gunfire. Bleating the yellow outer shell of Trafalgar Law's submarine. Lanterns lit underwater at the fore of the Polar Tang showing these Pirates each great sweeping stride this great animal makes through the water. Cutting the Blue. Walking, for hours, days, or years- before stand still just as long. Always to walk again... On and on, in the channel between Red Line and Red Line forever... without end.
... While three members of the Heart Pirates fight the current below, Bepo has reached the top. Searching under the deep-green canopy of Zou's outer forest.
“Nnnn...ah?.... no. ….ah? Mnn... No.... … mm... ah-? ...no....” White fur soaked and matted flat, but not the layer underneath so he's not bothered by all this damp. He grew up here, after all. The Polar Bear Mink sure he could get the whole Tribe to help search for the snail that they need... But that might take more time. Time they don't appear to have. “Ah? Ahh, ...no.” He's placed a red-shelled Den-den back down on the log he'd found it. Very gently. At least that one was the right sort of snail. VS(Vision Snail), Type- Ultrasound. Only it had been too young. It wouldn't have been able to produce an image for another year at best. They need one basically mature, and those- while larger- are even more difficult to find.
“Ah? mm.... No....” Bepo sniffs at the air. Isolating different kinds of licen growing near. Ferns, and wet, soggy streams half-salted from the regular washing that comes up from the sea far below. In these deeper parts of the forest, skirting the edge of Zou, all the fish, silt, and whatever else.... Most of it simply rots right where it's landed. Bones with half rotted carcasses stuck to them, as well as bits of ships visible between layers of mushroom and compacted silt. The Heart Pirates' Navigator walks along the decaying spine of a massive Sea King. Landed here, a long time ago probably. It's half buried... all of its fins rotted away.
“Eh- eh?” He's seen one. A pale snail with a swirl of bright green radiating at the center of its perfect shell. Pretty big. It has a two foot pad, so it must be a decent age. Now, how to get to it? The Mink looking all around. Finding a rock to jump from, then making it to a branch- Which he then runs along, jumping gracefully to another branch- and circling back... Executing a flip with a handful of spins, to land squarely in front of this snail he's after.
Startling it into its shell.
“Aww...” Picking the Den-den up from where it had fallen motionless onto the branch. “...don't be like that.” Not that it matters. Bepo flipping the snail over to take a look at its pad – identifying what kind of snail this is- and sure enough- “Bingo.” Grinning, he slips his prize into a soft bag. “I've found one, Captain.” Talking to himself. Pride prickling on his fur. He's found one. “Time to go.”
“I'm back, Zoro-!” Cheery, Luffy bangs his way into the men's quarters to find his First Mate still has his green head half in the trash can. His body curled into a rather uncomfortable looking ball. Knees hugged to his chest. The Pirate Captain closes the door to the outside landing. Gone to the sofa. “Ne-” His nakama's stomach given a sudden lurch, and he's throwing up again. Not getting much out, but bubbles and acid. Dry, empty heaves that rake through his whole body. “Ne- Zoro...”
Like a blind man, because the swordsman's one good eye is bloodshot and clogged with tears. He blows snot from his nose. “Ahaahh- Nmm?” But he can feel his Captain's warm hand on his sweaty shoulder. Pulse throbbing heavily in his ears. Sitting up a little, and Luffy puts something hot into his hands. He takes a deep breath of the steam coming off it. “..Wh-what's this?” asking, and very carefully. Hoping he wont start coughing, or choke on his goddamn tongue. Keeping his teeth mostly shut.
“Mint and ginger.” Luffy picks up his hat, back on his head. Flopped back onto the sofa beside his nakama. Hands hooked around wicker sandals, he rocks a little. “Makino taught me how to make it - The Mystery Tea that made all the pregnant girls feel better when they would throw-up a lot. So now -shi-shi- I'm making it for pregnant Zoro, so that he can feel better. Shi-shi-shi!” Grinning. Ear to ear.
“Oi-i---??” Forcing another tentative deep breath into his chest, as all of Zoro's nerves rip and fray away... Still having a really-really hard time accepting that he's... that he's.... And hearing Luffy say it out loud so easily!!
“Ne, Zoro-” An arm goes around the Swordsman's back, cradling the man as he's sitting there underneath his own thoughts. “He should drink that.” Whispered softly into the shell his ear.
It's made him shiver again. Drinking, because he's been told to. It tastes really good. Zoro swallowing slowly at cool spice, allowing his chest to warm and relax open. Until he'd felt ready to gradually sit up, putting his back to the couch cushions.
His Captain's crawled up onto the opposite arm of the sofa. Perched there, alert, with those thoughtful brown eyes of his. Grinning. Waiting for Zoro to finish every last drop before taking the empty cup from him. “He should feel all okay in a few minutes.”
He already feels better. Like night and day. The Swordsman putting his head back. Letting a smile untie some of the knots in his face. “Thanks. Sencho.”
“Shishi-shi-” Like melting rubber, Luffy manages to squirm under the other man's shoulder and right hip. Chin resting on a broad, scared chest. “Ne- Zoro still wants to do what he talked about last night?” His Swordsman gone very stiff at what he says, as he thought that he might.
“...I – um.. Haaah- I guess I've got no choice but to want to- ...'s going to happen weather I like it or not-..” Biting into his bottom lip, Zoro doesn't understand why he's getting nervous-? – or, no... He's not nervous... His throat is tight. He's.... “haah- 'che-!” An angry swipe at his own face, but the blow doesn't stop hot waves taking over his lungs, and still more tears that break out of him. “Damnnit!!”
“Zoro-?” Capturing his lover's fist, Luffy pulls the man steadily around. His Swordsman tear-soaked, and still night-swept from waking up not half an hour ago. Green hair sticking up at all angles, he's disheveled- and fucking gorgeous. A thought Luffy remembers having, he thinks he did. Right before he's leaned forward to steal a kiss from the other man's unsuspecting mouth. Seasoned with the salts of his distress, and the Pirate Captain understands his lover's lips quiver. Kissing him back. Passing their breath between them, until they're each winded- but less wounded. Resting their foreheads against the others'. “Ne,-” Hands moving quietly over his Swordsman's back. “Zoro can cry, if he needs'ta.”
Luffy barely whispers. Only loud enough to be understood by simple proximity, what he means... “Sencho-?”
“He doesn't have'ta tell anybody, if he doesn't wanna. And he can cry, if he needs'ta.”
“...ghaa-” and just like that, starting from the back of his green eye. Zoro aware of a sharp spin in his gut that startles him, and he swallows. “Hah-? haaah-” Wild thoughts flashing through his mind. Things like -This is crazy! and -Why is this happening to him?! “Haaah-!” -Why does he keep feeling these.. jolts? Uncomfortable, like glass moving around behind his navel. Grinding into him. It's not a terrible pain, no... He's felt worse. But... but could it mean there's something wrong with their Baby? “S-sencho-?” He can't stem these rivers running down his face. And- and if they're allowed...? if he might use them and shed off what he's afraid of... if he can-
Luffy holds onto Zoro as the sun climbs up into the sky outside. Yellow light like fingers of gold on the planked floor inside the Men's Quaters. Waves moving their ship very slightly. He doesn't let go. His First Mate's body hiking as he's gasped. Soaking his shirt with snot and tears, until he's worn himself out with it. Breath leveling out, and he's closed his eye.
Sanji exists in slight... numbness. His hands feel numb, at least. Fingertips tingling. He wants a cigarette. Why can't he have a shitty cigarette?! How can he be Ordered not to smoke! Nobody else has to give up their vices! Franky gets his cola. Brook gets his milk. Chopper gets his sweets. Barbarian Moss-for-Brains gets his sake! Why can't he have his cigarettes?!
“What a face.” Sabo jibes Sanji, knowing the chivalrous Pirate will not retaliate or else he might wake the woman sleeping in the bed not ten feet from them. Koala passed out, while these two blondes drink Gin together at a table only big enough for a bottle and two glasses. “Zoro makes a face just like that, 'f you give him sugar.”
“Aye.” Zoro doesn't like sugar. Sanji found that out pretty quick. Within the first weeks of their voyage, there was a day all he made were sweet things. Custards, and cakes. Puddings, chocolate-covered meat, and caramelized peppers... Trying to verify how deep exactly was his brand-new Captain's sweet tooth, when at some point Zoro stood up from the table. Declared he couldn't eat this crap, ripping a cheap bottle of wine from the shelf and spent the rest of the night outside on the rear deck. Luffy had explained to Sanji later, what he'd done to piss the man off. Zoro not being great about sharing his thoughts, needs, or emotions with anyone- except Luffy.
“There it is again, that face.” Sabo pours Gin into a shaker. Adding ice, lime, and noni. “Can help ya find'a better one, if ya like?”
Sanji watches Sabo turn the shaker over and over. Not making a lot of noise, but moving the ingredients around enough to mix them. “And how would you do that?” the Cook is very-very drunk. They've been drinking since they'd returned to the room over an hour ago. Waiting for a contact of a contact to contact them with another name they can contact.... Sanji tips his glass. Draining it. Feeling all that lovely booze pool right behind his blue eyes, and he sighs-
...and while he's sighing, Sabo catches the man's chin. A hand held flat over the Pirate's white, corded throat and another behind his head as he's stood above. Kissing, and oh-how-deeply do they kiss. Sabo tasting what Koala had told him he would, a finely aged cigar – but not in the gross old-smell-in-the-couch way. In a musky, raw... honestly masculine way... Using his tongue at the end, to acknowledge pale liquor-wet lips as they come apart.
“...” There's a buzz of electricity, and Koala breathing softly into her pillows. Sanji opening up his eyes, because he'd had them shut. “... huh...” Licking his tingling lips, he reaches for the uncorked bottle of Gin on the table. It's rude, he knows, drinking right from the bottle. Two big swallows. “Paah- haha- Imagine this, will ya-?” He says, quietly. Drinking again. This time only one swallow. When he's finished, he hands the bottle out for Sabo. “-it may all be my imagination,-” with his hands empty, he's itching for a cigarette. Clutching the base of his chair. “-that you kiss a lot like... like Ace did.”
Sabo nearly drops the bottle he's drinking from. Burping up a bit of fire, he looks at Sanji. “Y-you- and- and him-?”
“Haha- In Alabasta. There was this orgy...” the Cook waves his hand like it's nothing! “I'm not saying it's bad, you kissing like him.” Staring half at the floor, the Cook smiles gently. “He was a good kisser.”
Sabo sees Sanji reach into his pocket again, only there aren't any cigarettes there. “Oi.” Set down the Gin bottle, Sabo's dug into an inside pocket on his coat. Producing a single brown box.
“Huh?!” Lighting up like he's found both Treasure and Women. Thin fingers trembling as he's taken it. “These are... where did you...?” They must be from this island, because he's never seen the box before. They smell like old-wood and wet, sticky tobacco. Extracting one slender stick, and put it to his lips. A flick of a lighter, and one puff-- “Aaaahaa~” Orgasmic....
“That's an interesting sound.” The Revolutionary pouring himself another noni and lime Gin. Tipping the dry, zesty spirit over his tongue. He swallows. “I think I'd like to hear more of that.”
Jimbe has made it all the way to the lower landing, a webbed hand on Sunny's white rail, when he's heard it. Brook. Their musician standing tall on the Navigation's deck just above the men's quarters, playing a shakuhachi he'd procured in Wano County. The long, bamboo instrument held in his deft, skeletal hands. He's playing it for Zoro, Jimbe knows. Their Swordsman never saying so, but they'd all seen him smiling, with his eye closed. Content in every way, to sit listening to that hauntingly beautiful flute for hours and hours.
And Brook will play for hours, because that's just what the man does. The whaleshark-Fishman facing the sun over the sea. Diving, long notes shivering into the water after him. Hears them fade, the deeper he goes into the Blue.
“Robin?” Nami's finished her breakfast, and her coffee. “Ne?” She'd been allowing her nakama time to spy in peace... but she's... “What?! What did you sense?!”
Nico Robin's arms have come down, resting limp her sides. Staring at a bare stretch of tabletop with her mouth slightly open, and clearly she's in shock.
“I- ahm-” She cannot yet believe what she's overheard. Because... of all the places she's been, wondrous things she's seen, and rumors heard that are still more... atrocities, miracles, articles of illusion; of all of them... “I heard Luffy say Zoro is- that he is pregnant.” Words she can't understand yet, even as she says them. Zoro is a man? How can this be?
Nami appears to be having the same trouble. Squinting at her more mature nakama. “Zoro's pregnant?” She says in whisper, because this is ridiculous! “No w-...” No way! she was about to say, and then she's thought about that. About where they are on an Ocean of possibilities, where nothing is impossible; and even a little kid from a blasted island adopted by a Marine can grow up to be Navigator for the Pirate King. “Chopper's in his infirmary...” She breathes. Almost silent, but for moving her lips. “See what he's doing in there?”
Robin nods her dark head, taking a deep breath and crossing her delicate wrists... Seeing Chopper at work in his little room. Standing on the stool at his desk with his head down, grinding some mixture. He's already made several piles of various fine powders. All different colors. Multitudes of books lying open around him on the cot, or spread over the tiny Zoan's desk. Robin blooms a reaching arm like a vine to bring the flower of her eye closer over their Doctor's shoulder. Glancing around his antlers at the words in these books nearest him.
“What is he doing?” Nami half holding her breath, and her palms are sweating.
“He is at work. Mixing...” The Historian answering without opening her eyes. Squinting, and curling her fingers a moment. Then she's opened her eyes. “Making vitamins, in recommendation for- for early prenatal development.”
They look at one another. These Pirate Women. Not unaware of the lovely harmony Brook plays on his new shakuhachi outside on deck. “Zoro's going to have a baby?” She doesn't know if she can understand what she's just said. Nami gasping a little. A... a baby? They'll be raising a child h-here? On this very ship? Excited, and also mortally afraid of what that means. If it means-? Robin could have misheard... -no. Robin never mishears anything!
“If our kenshi-san is with child, it would explain our Sencho's Order that Sanji not smoke his cigarettes at the moment.” Robin's mused. “It would also explain Zoro's explosive reaction, and Chopper's statement to him when...”
When Zoro did exactly what he'd been told by their Doctor, for quite possibly the first time ever? Nami shivers all the way down her back, and it's like ice-cold fingers rub up and down her legs. “We have to do something.”
Robin blinking. “What?”
“Shopping.” Nami's said. Running a shaking hand through all her red hair. “Lots, and lots- of shopping.”
Blue skies overhead, and a cool breeze about their faces. Both these wanted Pirates, Franky and Usopp, well aware of the huge looming shape just over the trees at the center of this island. Domed top, with turrets, and a long pole stabbing up towards the heavens. A Marines' flag raised there; white field with the crossed symbol of the World's Government stitched in black. Blue Navy gull-wings behind it.
They're aware. Sure. That it's there.
“Luffy making tea... I still can't believe it.” Cyborg Franky could care less about a hundred soldiers- or even a hundred-thousand soldiers.
“Hahaha- Aye, but ya'know- now I think about it- Ha-! I clean forgot! Man, it was years ago...” Taken the effort to put on dark glasses, Usopp adjusts the straps on his empty backpack. Thing fits better when it's full. “We were a smaller crew, then. There were only five of us. Sailing across East Blue on the way to the Grand Line~ Sanji had only been with us a couple o' days, and he almost had a heart attack coming into Merry's Galley late at night. Finding Luffy standing there. Scorch marks all over his best kettle. Haha-!” The Gunner remembers now... He had been packing Pepper Stars on his workshop platform. In full view of their Cook's mouth falling right open. “Haha-! heh- Nearly swallowed his cigarette, and then ya'shoulda heard what Luffy said. When Sanji asked him what he thought he was doing in his shitty kitchen?-” Voice pitched as close to his blonde nakama's as he can.
“Haha- Aye-? And what was that, then?”
Usopp pauses on this dirt road they're following towards a decent-sized town they can see in the distance. A hand on Franky's thick metal arm, and he motions the man to lean in closer. “Said – in that way he's got, Ne? -'m making tea for Zoro.” The man's long nose, and thrilling words. He really was born to be a Story-teller.
“Eh-? Ha! You're pullin' my leg.”
“I swear it on my mother's grave.” Which would have been a great lie, if it were one. Franky happens to know Usopp's mother died while he was young. Left all alone, because his father had always been a Pirate on the Great Seas- He raised himself. One of the most resourceful young men the Shipwright thinks he's ever met, or had the privilege to work with.
“Oi, Nose-bro. I feel like I'm not gettin' all the Story.” A gate entrance come into view. Township of Adel'ell painted on an elegant sign hung on wide, lovely ironwork. Two sprawling doors standing open that could be closed, only-
-it's possible those hinges don't hinge anymore, Usopp thinks. Glaring at them. Even from this distance he can see old iron flaking. Caked all over with orangey-red globs of rust. “Aye, well. I guess it didn't seem odd. At the time. Zoro...” The young man shivers, all the way down to his boots. “You've heard Nami talk about our big battle at Arlong Park.”
“Well, you've also heard Sanji talk about Zoro's very first fight with Mihawk?”
“Aye- 's when he got that wicked-long scar on his chest- Haha-! Bro's a beast-”
“Aye- and what would you say, if I told you both of those events happened on the same day?”
Wind in the nearby trees, like rumors. Jumping from leaf to leaf. Skittering away across the grass. “Ha.. ha- haha-...- That- That's a lie?”
Usopp's sturdy boots, and Franky's metal soled feet make so little sound on the dirt. “We'd crossed paths with a couple Bounty Hunters, who turned out to be friends of Zoro's. Ha! and ya'know, it was only on their recommendation of a great place to eat that we met Sanji at all. Cook of the Sea! Haha-! ...” He can't keep the smile on his face up for long, however. The Sniper's mind wandering back. To those first couple of weeks he'd been a real Pirate, sailing around East Blue. So much happened... to Zoro. “He'd been stabbed a couple of times, even before I met him. After the Battle on the Slope, he kept getting paler. Looked like a ghost. Staggering around, and sleeping all the time.” Shaking his head. There were times he'd seen Luffy, watching over Zoro. Waking him up to eat, or to force him to drink something before passing-out again. Barely breathing. Those times, particularly in the two or three days out from Syrup Village, their Swordsman had looked like he was about to die. “Zoro had just started to Train again, ya'know? After spending a whole week at the Baratie, getting regular meals made by people who knew anything about how food worked... Then the TOP guy on his List shows up? The Shichibukai, Dracule Mikawk... out of nowhere...” That guy wasn't the only Big Name that surfaced that afternoon, on clear blue waters in the Weakest of Seas- Though he was the Biggest. And Nami stole their ship right out from under them in the chaos...
“Eh- Not even made it onto the Grand Line, and Zoro-bro thought he'd fight 'im. Just like that.” A lift in Franky's three-clefted chin. He looks up, light glinting off the dark sheen of his sunglasses.
“Haha- Aye, I think- back then- he really did think he was the Best.” Their Swordsman had certainly been humbled by the experience. Not that Zoro has ever been pompous. “After he got cut up... bad, Luffy- He looked ready to kill, but he got his head stuck instead. Haha-”
They've all heard the story before. A few dozen times. How Mihawk had challenged Zoro not to die, but to grow stronger, and to one day defeat him.
“Yosaku stitched up Zoro's chest as- as best he could...” Usopp had been holding his green-haired nakama's hands away, all that time. Letting the Swordsman squeeze with each sink of the needle. Over and over, being sewn back together from right hip up to left shoulder. Nearly broke all the Gunner's fingers, but all he could think of at the time was there's so much blood!! “He didn't complain once.” Voice shivering a little, Usopp swallows. “Sat himself up, and put his back to the cabin wall on Jonny's skiff. Telling Luffy he'll go find Nami, and bring her back.”
Picking up the pieces from there, Franky already knows Zoro was taken prisoner by the Arlong Pirates, and that he fought and defeated one of the Fishman's ranking Officers. So- he did it all with that massive wound on the- on the very same day he received it?! “Aah- 's like I said a'fore... Man's a beast.”
They say the sound of the Blue is like tens of thousands of swirling voices, all speaking at once. That Fishmen, who are born close to the Sea's Heart, are able to hear all these voices. To pick them apart, and thus learn all the secrets of the water. Jimbe listens, and he can hear them. Speaking, off and anon into the distance across grey sand under the surface. Finding out all the secrets of the water, however, he's never found to be true. Mostly, he can hear where the big schools are, and will go. Chop from indredibly loud Marine Brigs making wide turns on shallow waves. Engines, and props- things that do not belong under the Blue. He can hear those like foghorns in the deep. Throbbing against his ears as he searches these corral beds surrounding the island they're visiting.
The Thousand Sunny's hull not far away from him, broad belly visible beneath the surf. “Ah?” propelling hismself forward with a kick, and direction from his arms. Jimbe's lifted a stone disc from the sand. A thing all by itself, but perfectly round. Strange symbols engraved upon it, over the likeness of a Dragon.
As an Officer within the ranks of Revolution for most of her life, Koala has almost always woken up in places unfamiliar to her. She's gotten so used to it that there's no surprise she's never seen these green painted walls before- Or the pictures that hang upon them, of colorful fruits in golden bowls. Long maroon curtains drawn open, letting in stunning yellow light from outside. Noises from a town drifting over her, also- and which town is it? Where is she? Ne...? does it matter?
“Good morning, Sleepy-head.” No, it doesn't matter– not at all. Sabo's heat coming over her. Not the raging inferno of his Devil, but the gentle very-human warmth of him that she reaches for. Kissing softly, before they've consented- each; in using their tongues.
“Mmm.” She licks her Lover's teeth. Sucking his tongue, and nipping at Sabo's bottom lip. “You taste like cigarettes.” Said with a wry smile. “Did you and Sanji come to an understanding?”
“Heh-” Black-leg Sanji was pretty hammered when Sabo had taken that kiss out of him. Spent the next hour and a half swapping stories about Ace, and Luffy. They didn't go further than that one kiss, however. After a while the Cook got up. Said he was going to take a walk, and Sabo's guess is that he's trying to sober himself some before he goes to meet that Chef at the bar they were at last night. “You'll have to ask him about it, when he gets back.”
“Back?” They kiss again. Deeply.
“He left on an errand.” Speaking into her mouth, Sabo moves down Koala's chin. The woman wriggling into sleep-warm sheets.
“Ahha-!” Biting a little, into the sweeter spots on her neck. He raises a red hickey on her skin. Suckling, until he can taste it.
Admiring the work he's done, after... “Probably won't be back for hours.” ..telling her.
“Lie back.” Hands on the woman's stomach move steadily up under the clothes she's been wearing since last night. Pushing them up so he can foundle her breasts. Fingertips pressing over round, hard nipples.
Cradling her in his arms, Sabo uses his tongue to lav sensually down Koala's soft belly. Getting his knees down onto the carpeted floor at the edge of the bed, secreting two digits in between the crying red lips of her wet slit as he does. Spreading them.
“Ahhh~ y-ye-” Gasping, she reaches for him. Fingers combing through the waves of the man's gold-blonde hair. “Y- aah- ye-s- naaha- ...” Head back on the pillow, exposing the girl's pale throat with her back arching off this mattress. “-aaahaa-” Soft coos. Being touched inside. Her Lover's nimble fingers curling, applying gentle pressure to places she... “-ahhaa- S-Sabo~”
“Haha-” Laughing, or is he gasping? He isn't sure. Licking his lips, Sabo swallows all this saliva that's pooled up in his mouth. Making room on his tongue for his own juice-soaked fingers. He cleans them, taking possession of Koala's mouth, afterward. Sharing the woman's sweet taste between them. Sabo's dick swollen and pulsing, trapped between their bellies.
“Tell me, Ne...?” Breathing against him. Koala's hands wander down to stroke her Lover's straining girth. “What was he like?”
“Haah- that- Pirate-?” Connecting thoughts becoming rapidly difficult, the edges of deft fingernails tickling at the base of his shaft. “Haaah- He...”
“Tell me-?” Teeth playfully bite at Sabo's chin, and she licks exotically down the line of his neck.
“He- Haah- -'s hot...” He can't say anything else. Just that. Almost blind, in this moment Koala has grasped him. “Gah- haaah-” Hips jerking, he puts his arms around her. Lifting, so that he may aline them and-
“-aah~ Sabo~” She feels him inside of her. All of him! Hot, forced breaths close to her ear, and he shakily kisses her neck.
Beginning to move, bathed in this pool of blankets and sunshine. Pleasured-hazed to breathless, on some Island- somewhere in the New World.
How long has it been? Three years? Three and a half? Or is it really four? Time behaves a lot differently in front of Sanji now, then it had ever when he was learning how to make soup under Zeff in East Blue. Even before that, when he had run away from home. Time is acting a lot different today – like it did that time- years ago on the Island of Alabasta.
Every presence in candle-light....
“Hahaha- Sanji, you and me? We're gonna do that again someday, just the two of us.”
“hehe- Aye? Don't count on it.” Naked, and Ace had lit that cigarette he was smoking. Nami's head on the Strawhat Cook's hip, under a blanket and clutched to Vivi's shoulders. Koza, asleep against his fiancé. Chaka, also worn out, he had his head on that man's still-bandaged stomach. Two lovely palace maids supported in the Zoan's thick, muscular arms.
“Hahaha- We will. Count on it-” Smiling. Bite marks standing out all over the Whitebeard Pirates' Second Division Commander's tanned neck.
Count on it.... Like they had counted on being alive to meet again. Later... somewhere on the Ocean. The Strawhat's blonde Chef listens to his own steel soles shoes making soft taps against a cobbled road beneath him. Walking along this small, quiet Harbor. Letting tears fall quietly down his face. On his seventh soothing cigarette, reminiscing on all that had happened that last night he spent in the Alubarna Palace. The bulk of the partying over, and some of them had spilled into a secluded corner Bath. Koza locking a set of golden doors, and Chaka swearing no one would overhear them-
What had been one of the best nights he's ever had, his entire- shitty- life-. “Haaaah-” A long sigh, and smoke comes out with it. The Cook watches it drift out over the water, and gently disburse.
“Eh? So he does wanna?” Luffy's turned around with his chest against the back of the couch to speak to Zoro, who is bent-over. His Swordsman rooting around in the boys' great big communal dresser.
“Che- I don't know if I wanna...” More that he has a nag and a need to provide at least some explanation to Sanji. Dick that the man is, his nakama will be giving up smoking- and he never thought he'd live to see that day...
“Nnnmmm- but Sanji isn't here right now.”
“Huh? What do you mean isn't here? Where'd he go?”
“Ashore. Looking for Treasure.” Chin come down onto rubber forearms, Luffy wiggles his knees into the sofa cushions. “Shishi-shi- Went with Sabo and Koala. Nami said so.”
“Aye- Did she...?” He must have been asleep for that. He's been sleeping a lot more recently, to the point of noticing it himself. Zoro extracting a shirt from all this loose fabric in front of him. They've kept everything over the years. Crammed it all in here. Mixed together. Articles the Swordsman remembers buying in Loguetown. Most of it doesn't fit him anymore. Being much broader in the chest than he had been. His arms are thicker, by several inches. But there are still some things he can wear. All the Crimin merchandise fits him. Choosing a black Tee marked with the Starfish's white endorsement, and pulled it over his head.
“Eh-? Zoro's gonna wear a shirt?”
“Aye...” Maybe he will, if it will- come- down.... No. Zoro rips it back off, looking for another. “-So what?”
“Shishi-” Luffy hops off the couch, watching his green-haired nakama digging around for something that'll fit. “He hasn't worn a shirt on the ship in a long time.” Not since they'd entered the New World.
“Aye.” Internally cursing the fact that neither he or Luffy liked to shop, their clothes are ultimately purchased for them by other members of the crew... Finally finding something, a burgundy tank. Getting it on. “Never heard any Order I'm to be shirtless while onboard.”
“Shishishi-” Come up close behind, Luffy puts all his fingers into his First Mate's currently sword-less sash-loops. Pulling back on him, until they're flat against one another. “Could Order Zoro be naked. He could fight Marines that way, shishishi-” whispering into his Lover's ear. “-that'd be so hot.”
H-hot... Y-yea, Sencho- i-it would be, wouldn't it...? “Haha- probably cut my own dick off.”
Luffy holds onto Zoro's hips. Thumbs pressing into his Swordsman's thick lower flanks, to make him groan and relax back into him. “That'd be bad. So Zoro should keep wearing clothes.”
“Hahaha-! Aye-aye, Sencho.” Green head resting on his Captain's shoulder, Zoro has to admit he really doesn't mind this. Luffy's hands beginning to wander. Pressing heat into his sore back, and shoulders. Across his chest. It's only when his Lover's caressed Zoro's stomach, gently, and with such reverant tenderness- That's when the moments slow, until he's forced to a stop. Splitting Zoro, somewhere- in him. His chest-plate fracturing. Caving his lungs, and it's as if he's bleeding out. Aware of his heart rate that increases?! He's shot through with silent alarms, and so suddenly he wants push Luffy back? To get away!?! maybe throw himself off the rail into the ocean...? The First Mate's skin crawling, and he's cold? Sweat breaking out all over him, he feels a slick drop go down his face. “Haaaah-” Closing his eye. He feels likes he's going to pass out. What the hell? “Haaaah-” Struggling to maintain his feet, and keep standing. Com'mon! He's been through wor-... worse-? ...
Well, actually... no. “Haaaah-” Long breaths, and Zoro covers Luffy's hand with one of his own. Both of them remaining this way. “Haaaaah-” Held together.
As much as the infamous Pirate Swordsman would like to say he's been through worse! That he's tough as meito-steel, and he can stand up to anybody! he... can't-? Mostly, because he isn't fighting some idiot with a knife thinking they can cut him in some dirty bar....
“Shishishi-” Luffy's giggles against Zoro's neck. “Ne- He wants'ta go find Sanji? and tell 'im?”
“Haaaah-” Find the damn Cook? Right, that's... “A-aye- And- and you can tell Sabo.”
“Eh?! Really?! Zoro doesn't mind?”
“Aye, Sencho.” If he's going to come out, he might as well come all out. Something as bizarre as this won't be kept quiet long. Shouted echos will make ripples on the Ocean... They know so many people. Zoro takes another deep breath. Filling his lungs, and trying to ignore a fresh spin behind his green eye as he's led the way out of the Men's Quarters. Onto an empty landing. Nobody around, except for Brook. The Skeleton sitting crossed-legged just above the doorway, playing harmonies on an ornate wooden flute.
“Yohohohoho- Good morning~” The man's music fading on the air, but Zoro can still hear it shiver along the water. Very breifly, before it's gone.
“Morning!” Luffy smiling up at his Musician.
*SPL-ASH--! A gout of water, all of them splashed with salty spray.
“Eh-?” Blinking water from his eyes, the Fishman sees his Captain and First Mate standing there. Zoro looks very- wary, doesn't he? “Good morning.”
“Jimbe's been out in the Ocean! What's he found?” Luffy doesn't snatch the object away from his nakama, a thing he might have done a few weeks ago....
A thing Zoro notices.
“It seems to be a Record of some sort. Robin may know more of these symbols.” Jimbe can't recognize them. Not that their Historian has not tried to educate him on the written languages found in different Blues. He just hasn't studied long, and can't understand which ones are which.
*clack! “....just a few things we'll need-” Nami's mid-sentence, coming out of the Women's Room to find Luffy, Zoro, and Jimbe standing right there. Brook begun to play again. Languid notes drifting away over their heads on their way out to Sea. “-ah- Hi! Good morning-” Gold eyes darting at everyone, while she tries not to look at Zoro. Don't look at him! “-ah- We-we're going ashore! Shopping!” Their Navigator indicating herself, and their Historian. Both women with bags over their shoulders.
“Shishishi- Aye!” Luffy showing off all his teeth. Straw hat on top of his head.
Nico Robin has a lavender scarf pulled around her black hair. Wearing a set of wire glasses, and a long skirt. She nods her head, following Nami. A path that takes her right in front of their Swordsman, and she cannot keep herself from looking at him. Meeting the man's one remaining eye. She's always thought him wise. Wiser, maybe, in his discipline; than any of her other nakama. But... to become a mother? Because by all definition that is exactly what he will be, and she can't help but wonder what sort of a mother he will make. Raising a thoughtful expression that undoes her dark eyebrows, and she's smiled. Just a little.
Tongue cleved to the top of his mouth, Roronoa Zoro watches those two take the stairs, then the ladder down to land. Counting each painful thud of his heart trying to beat itself to death against the wall of his chest.
In the light of day the place Sanji thought was 'just a Bar' is revealed to be a glittering Vineyard Restaurant. Two-and-a-half stories of brick, roofed over by a wooden trestles. The structure set with thought and great care at the end of a narrow field of tended vineyard spanning the middle of the entire town. Adel'ell. It was difficult for the Cook to pronounce, and he made their Waiter repeat it several times.
“Ah- ah-a! Yes-a, our Head-a Chef is-a expecting-a you.” Bowing and more than courteous, as Sanji's shown inside. About half of the seats are full, just before the noon hour. Chatting, happy locals. Girls in orange trousers, and men with mustaches drink from tall flutes of wine at a solid stretch of bar the Cook remembers. Remembers leaning on it a few times – over it... Hailing for another round, and then another... and another...
“Ah-a! He-a showed up-a!” This man appears. Tall. He must stand taller than Brook's afro! He's from the Long-arm Tribe, that's clear enough to see. Double elbow joints on each arm. Wearing silver chains, and both his ears are pierced. His Waiters and Hosts clapping and cheering all over his restaurant, as are the patrons. The man himself leaning in to whisper. “Black-leg-a Sanji.”
Of course he's been recognized. Not bothered to cover his telltale blonde hair, or even wear a different blue suit. He's wearing the same outfit that's imaged on his wanted poster! “...” The Pirate swallows. Realizing he's on his own, while all the man's employees finish their applause. Gone back to their various duties, after.
“He-a-hehe-a-” A hand on the end of one long, double-segmented arm goes around the Strawhat Cook's back and shoulders. Leading him around. “Did-a you think-a we would turn-a you in?”
Well, yes- “...” Sanji is distracted, however, by the kitchen he's just entered through a set of swinging doors. It looks a lot like... like the one Zeff designed- The one the former Pirate had built over a decade ago on- on the Baratie.
“Hehe-a he-a- Now-a that's-a a face, boy-a. Red-leg really is-a your Da, then-a?”
“Wh-what?” Sanji's ears ringing a little. His feet carrying him to the nearest prep surface. The same height as the Baratie's. All of it coming in on him, likes he's back there in the very room he was raised. The placement of the knives... this guy's knives? They're the same! No- no.. not the same, but close to.
“That-a old-a Pirate, he-a owed me an awful lot-a, years ago. His-a men came-a through, and drank-a me out. Burned-a more than-a half-a my town. Then he-a has-a the nerve to compliment-a my-a cooking?! Pah!” He looks like he's told this story before, and Sanji thinks he's already heard it- ? A guy that Zeff had sent a huge package to- Said he was paying off a long over-due favor. Stamped for a cargo ship bound for the Grand Line, and points further. “So I-a served-a him my-a-self!” This man holding himself with pride. “Put-a the plate-a down-a in front of him, and-a when he took-a his first bite-a, I-a put my knife-a up to his-a throat, and I-a said to him. Pirate-a, I said-a – Pirate-a, you've-a ruined my restaurant-a. I should-a ruin you. Then I took-a my-a knife away-” He pats his hip, and Sanji sees the other Chef keeps a long silver-handled blade there. “But-a only after-a you have-a enjoyed-a every last bite of your meal-a. I said-a to him.”
Sanji can hear his own heart beating. Blood rushing over his eardrums. The sounds of this busy kitchen muted down. Knives on boards, and boiling pots with lids rattling. Cooks. So many of them. Communicating with other Cooks... “Gagne Marcelinho?”
“Eh? He-a hehe-a-! That-a Bastard, so he-a did-a talk about me?”
“N-no... not- not really a-about you..-” Zeff had said something one night, to Patty and Carne. Sanji just happened to overhear, sanding in the shadows behind some crates of vegetables. About thirteen years old, and he'd been smoking a cigarette after working almost fourteen hours straight.... A few words he'd caught, about a feirce Cook who lived pretty close to the End of the Line- “He said he- That he missed the taste of.. of your wine.”
“Hahaha- Carne, I'm sorry, but you're skills- while good, can't even compare to that Man- Marcelinho Gagne. He knows every key and hidden secret of fermentation- Able to blance his fruit and his sugars just right. Using skills handed down to him, kept up on the steady rungs of a dedicated lineage. On his own Land, and his own Table. Hahaha!”
The shitty old Geezer was drunk, and so were his two employees. Sitting on stolls at the rear of the ship after that long full-diningroom day. All done cleaning out the larger pots and pans, they'd uncorked what was supposed to be fine wine. Obviously Zeff had not agreed with that opinion. Grumbling about it, with water lapping loudly against the wooden ledge of his floating Sea-restaurant.
Sanji could barely hear the shitty old Geezer.
“I'd make all that trip again. I'd swim it, with one leg. All the way around the world, just for one glass of his delicious healing red-water.”
...and now Sanji stands before the same man that Zeff admired so much?
“Hehe-a- Did-a he now? Hehe-a-” Gone across to a floor-to-ceiling rack, and taken a bottle down. “Makes-a me feel-a rotten-a for never sending him-a a case. But-a Transport is-a so-a expensive.”
“I- I'll take it to him.” Sanji's said, voice cracking. Even before he's thought of what he might actually say. Marcelinho looking at him. “We- we're going back that way. I'll take it to him for you. Free of charge.”
“Eh? Hehe-a- Pirates-a sure are-a different-a these days. -Eh-a, Dom.” Stopping one of his own Chefs. “Go down, will you-a? Bring-a me-a out a case-a of our finest-a selections. Our-a very finest-a.”
“Right away, Chef.”
Sanji watches the man's employee go. A look of focus on his face, just like all these other Chefs dressed in spotless white. Everywhere he looks, men and women. Their hair put back, and their hands clean. Working in unisons to create elegant plates that go smoothly across staging surfaces to be carried out to customers in the House.
“You-a will have-a to tell-a me-a what you think of-a my-a wine, eh?” Pouring two short glasses, and set the bottle down.
Sanji looks at the label. Breifly. eau Rouge par Gagne. “I would be an honor, Chef.”
Brook can feel his jaw threaten to hinge open. And so he holds his teeth together. Hoping they won't clatter. Jimbe stood right beside him. Shoulder to elbow. Facing Zoro, while Luffy is leaning against the cabin wall behind their First Mate.
“S-so... a- um...” He's just told them. Asked Brook to stop playing his shakuhachi and come down, and told them. Che'- Look, I'm not hurt and I'm not sick. I'm- I'm pregnant, okay-! I... uh...” Now he can't look at them. Either of his nakama.
Silence stretching out shrill to deafening between them.
“Yohohohoho-” Humming sound from deep inside a throat Brook doesn't have anymore. “Congratulations, Zoro-san.”
“Yes-” Jimbe blinking, admittedly a little lost. “-yes. Congratulations- to the both of you. You are both the ah...?” parents, fathers? Is Zoro a-a mother? This is all very confusing for the Fishman. Humans have always confused him, somewhat... but even two Human males cannot-...? He is almost sure it doesn't-... That it just doesn't work like that.
Except... Zoro is nodding his head. “...”
“Shishisi-shi- We're gonna go find Sanji, and tell him too.”
If Brook had eyebrows to raise, they would have disappeared right up into his Afro.
“A-are you?” Jimbe's still trying to wrap his head around what they've just been told. Catching Zoro's attention as the man raises his head. The Swordsman nodding again? “Aye- Well, they- ah- They went that way. Along the beach. There's a town some miles away, h-hard to miss.” The Fishman catching Luffy's jubilant expression. “...”
“Ah! Franky and Usopp have also gone that way, yohohohoo~!” Jimbe almost certain he's seen Zoro flinch. Reaching reflexively for the three hilts of his weapons that are not there.
“Aye! Thank yah~!” A hand around his First Mate's shivering wrist, Luffy's led him forward. Smiling big. Down the stairs, and the ladder. Both skeleton and helmsman able to hear their Captain giggling enthusiastically into the distance.
A handful of sea-gulls up on the rail, right next to them. Jimbe and Brook. Eyeing crab on the nearby rocks, and warbling with small sea-bird noises between one another.
“Jimbe-san?” The musician keeps his voice very low, the same temere as these swaying Blue waves pushing and pulling from the island they're near. Carrying away out to sea.
“Aye, Brook.” Wind blows, and they can hear distant trees rustling on land. Heavy with wet green leafs. Grass whipping in open fields. This Spring Island sighing for the feel of its own fruiting season of Spring.
“Yohoohoho~” his laughter also. Breathless. Even if the man has no lungs to have breath taken from. “What instrument do you suppose is best to play, for ears that are new to this world?”
“Shishishi-shi~! If Zoro was gonna tell Brook and Jimbe, how come he didn't tell Robin and Nami?”
Hands balled into fists and stuffed into his pockets, following Franky's footprints left on this dirt track. He knows they're the Cyborg's, because there's an indent in the ground from where the metal extends outside the flesh and bone on the man's feet. “Because they already know.”
“Eh?! Do they?”
“Che' Of course they do.” Not much more than a growl out of a tight throat. Zoro glowering at the road. Kicking at small rocks in the dusty soil. Robin would never have looked at him like that otherwise... Stripped him butt-naked! with her eyes, right there in that half second it took to pass each other on deck. She must know! Zoro shivering down his spine to remember. Cold, right at his tailbone. That smile. Not that he wasn't surpised he'd gotten this many days without the others finding out.
“Ne- Zoro?” Luffy plants his sandals flat in the middle of the dirt track. Letting his First Mate walk right into him.
“Oi-” Rubber arms going lightly around and around until it appears they're both wrapped-up in flesh-colored spaggetti.
“Zoro isn't... mad, he's pregnant? Is he?”
The Swordsman's heart squeezing tightly. Tighter than this grip Luffy has on him. “Shut up! New rule- No mentioning I'm- That I'm...”
Mad? Is he mad? He feels like he's being driven mad, but... Mad like anger? No. Zoro's been mad before, thrown into a rage that's made him see various shades of red like an overlay in front of his eye. But not anytime recently. Last time he was really mad was at Law, but that creep isn't around right now. He's not mad. “I'm--” what is it--? Making his palms sweat, and his knees ache. This steady, gentle incline has felt like they're climbing up a goddamn mountain the whole time. “I'm scared.” He's barely said it. Voicing something so weak into the world. “Che'-”
Monkey D Luffy uncoiling his extended arms from around his First Mate. Round eyes kept upon the man, even if Zoro is resolutely looking away towards the ground. “Is 'cause it's scary,” Luffy says, reaching to drag all his fingers through the man's wavy green hair. Watching his eye drift shut. “-but he doesn't have'ta be scared.”
So far from the nearest town, and at such distance from their Pirate Ship, that they are only observed by birds in the trees. During that bleeding kiss that is uniquely missing the taste of blood between them. Zoro more than begun to question what need he has for something so dumb as breathing. Luffy's opposite hand come around. Splaying fingers over his Lover's stomach, outside the maroon fabric of his shirt. Keeping his palm warmly there, one hungry tongue dueling with another.
“Your function here is to serve without question!”
“Is that so.” Dracule Mihawk has loathed his position within the Shichibukai since the day he'd been talked into accepting the illustrious position. Continuing to accept it by completing degrading assignments like this one. “There is no one within your ranks capable of such work?”
“Showing your Title is what is necessary here.” This man, a Lieutenant Commander in charge of this base. He gets up from his high-backed chair. Putting his back to Mihawk to look out a glorious whole-wall window. The Base here built at the center of the island, and provides impressive views all around. Able to see all seventy-three Townships, most with their own independent Harbors. “The Locals here have been overly willful, as of late.”
“There have been attacks, actually. Small, isolated groups of... troublemakers.”
The Marine Lieutenant Commander's name is Voivode Didac, and was a rotten Son of Sea-sludge even before he'd secured this comfortable position in the New World. Overseeing a research facility that has very little need to interact with the public living here. “And what are the natures of these attacks?”
“Does that matter? I'm not asking you to quash these attacks, you're here to follow my Orders!”
Dracule can feel his lip curling, and so be bites into it. Drawing thick, copper-tinged blood onto his tongue and swallowing some. Keep your tongue. Even if he can use any number of hundreds of objects inside this room to open this man's throat. Veins like his would make quite a show. He could paint this whole room red with hardly the effort of moving his pinky-finger.
“You are to go to the Township of Adel'ell, and deal with the man at the head of the unrest threatening Navy operations!”
His spit smells like rotten eggs soaking in sour milk. Dracule wiping sick drops from his cheek. Glowering up at the Lieutenant Commander. This is his base. His rules to Will as he would over all he sees. “Yes, Sir.” If he bites into his tongue just after he's spoken, and hard enough- he won't have to feel so much like his guts are being ripped apart. Listening to the taps of his own hard-heeled boots on shaped concrete and steel.
“Dracule Mihawk, Sir!”
Being saluted by Petty Officers and Ensigns too young to understand the hilarity of the action. Respect being paid to a man exiting a room where he has just been treated like the tool that he is. Pegging a pin into the Swordsman's already sore mood. “What is this?”
“Lieutenant Commander Voivode's Civilian Edict, Sir!” His hands shiver a little, this soldier who hands over a large folder. Mihawk unsealing it, and began to read from a parchment notice inside.... all persons of residence will therefore be subject to Taxation twice-with of the current form of earnings derived from all lands including divident percentages of eighty-eight percent on hauled goods.... The Shichibukai continues to read. Lists on marketing and trade restrictions. New, numbered outlines of Law, and Marine expansion efforts. What the hell is this?
Adel'ell. He's been there before. Mihawk. Even if it was a long- long time ago. Shanks still had his arm, back then. And he'd still been climbing to the top. “Haaaah..” Since reaching the top. Becoming the Best Swordsman in the World. He has yearned for something more. Fighting, and fighting. Across every ocean. Searching for the next challenge to come at him. Hoping that one would shine outstandingly above all the others, and he'd not be able to defend against them. That he would actually find that edge of the greatest of battles, and be led there. Into sweet death.
“Hey, did you hear? Somebody said they saw a pair of Revolutionaries in town.”
“Eh, which town- hahaha- this Island's crazy!”
“Adel'ell, you know- that one with the fancy brick restaurant?”
“That place? that guy's got the best food!”
Dracule can't feel his feet in his boots or his legs at all. Plunged into ice cold water. A brick restaurant, in the township of Adel'ell. “The Revolution?” said quietly, to himself. The Shichibukai tucking the parchment poster back into its folder, and slid that away inside his long coat. Running his fingers along the long, silken edge of the feather stuck into the brim of his hat. Ignoring the stairwell, for the glassless veranda beside a row of cannon. Jumping down, and his feet land light as air upon the ground below. Without a sound. “Hmm.” A smile spread across his face. Like blood splatter.
“Ne, Usopp? You coming or not?”
“Eh? A-aye-” In between shops, and doesn't this town have incredible shops!! He's already found sprockets and electrodes and gadgets. All kinds of things he's never even seen before! He'll be able to create new and exciting things at his workshop table for months.
“This one has mecha-prosthetics- and connective eye sensor implants~?” Franky looks like he wants to lick the glass window where these delicate advance-tech implants are displayed. Sales inside. Right next to large, beefy prosthetic legs, Attachable with many modes and additions! What's that all about?
“I thought I saw Nami and Robin go that way-” Down a colorful lane full of fancy clothing stores, baby-furnishings, and soaps.
“Eh? You think they're in town?”
“Well....?” They hadn't mentioned wanting to come into town. Usopp thought the women were staying behind to discover the secret behind what's wrong with their First Mate.
“Never-mind them, Bro- Watch this stuff, Ne? I need to talk to a guy.” Stars in Franky's eyes, gone right into the shop.
Usopp left in the street with all of their shopping. Peering up and down the lane. It's so peaceful, and – and perfect. They so rarely get to go to places like this, and if they do they usually don't stay that way for more than an hour. They've been on this island now all morning, and nothing's happened. Walking around town in overalls and sunglasses. Usopp looks down the opposite way towards the water. Glittering in the bay. A great big brick restaurant there, with grape vines growing all over it. Picturesque with a huge orchard out back. “You will love this place, Kaya.” Having only one regret, and he's felt the guilt of it over and over again all this journey. That he didn't take her with them. A thing he's going to ask her to do, when they come back around the world to Syrup Village with all of their Stories.
Every word will sound like a lie, just like before. And maybe nobody will be believe them. Those stories will still have happened. “What the-!!” Clutching a hand over his own mouth, and ducked down behind this half wall where he and Franky have all their shopping piled. “..What the hell!! ..What the hell!! ..What the hell....!!!!” barely audible, even if the Strawhat's Gunner is screaming inside. Peering around the edge of the bricked corner, just to confirm he hasn't just imagined... That he's really seen....
What the seven-Blues is Dracule Mihawk doing here??
“...zinc, magnesium, calcium...” Pirate Doctor Tony-Tony Chopper mutters under his breath. Little arms folded in front of him. “...Vitamins A, D, E, K, C, niacin, iodine, iron....” His eyes moving from ingredient to ingredient he's reduced to a fine powder or measured into beakers. Confirming he has all that he needs. Next, he would normally combine and create easy-to-swallow capsules like the one he made for Usopp to treat his hangover the other day. Only, Zoro... “Yosh-” The tiny Zoan getting out a set of measuring spoons, funnel, and a bunch of clean glass vials with corks.
Zoro has never been able to take pills. Not one. Not ever. Not even when the Strawhat's Doctor had him relatively docile- those hours of his waking up after whatever happened to him on Thriller Bark. That floating Ghost Island... He never found out exactly what happened there. At a scary place that turned out to be a Pirate's Ship. Chopper thinks Sanji might know, because he carried Zoro back from... from it. He could ask him. He chooses not to. Treating their Swordsman's extensive injuries over the days and weeks that followed showing him all he needed to know. More. That Zoro had been crushed. Beaten... badly. He shouldn't have lived. Chopper thought that several times, as he had set the man's fractured ribs, and wrists. Red globs of blood dribbling from between pale, slack lips. Teeth grinding as he had seizure after seizure.
When they went back out to sea, Luffy was never very far from Zoro. Leaving him alone to rest and heal, yes. But always watching over him. Chopper knew, because he was keeping both eyes on Zoro also. Expecting him to drop dead any second. A stroke, a blood clot, a heart attack. Something. Beyond his comprehension how any human body could be put through the paces of such severe trauma and.... Then, less than one month later, they made landfall on Sabaody.
The crew split apart.
Chopper's finished filling the little vials, and put their corks in the end of each so that nothing will spill. His fur standing on end, and there are tears threatening to break out of his eyes. He holds them in. Remembering how overjoyed he had been to see Zoro alive, after those two years. That alone accounting for half of all the tears he cried all that day. Happy ones. Having gone so long without a word. Wondering if the man had died. If he should have, or could have done something differently... But Zoro had survived. And not just survived, he had improved in his strengths and skills as much or more than any of them.
Pocketing one of the vials he's just made, Chopper goes out on deck. Bright sunshine stabbing into his eyes, and a salty sea breeze blows between the layers of his fur. Seeing Brook and Jimbe down on the Lawn. Cups, and a bottle in the grass between them. “Oi~!” Calling down, they wave back to him.
“Chopper-sensei. Would you---u care for a drink?” Brook says in a far away voice, as if he's only half there.
“Aye.” Come down, he plops himself in the grass beside Jimbe. The fishman smiling, and nodding his head. He drinks again, emptying his cup completely before refilling it with clear rice wine.
Tony-Tony Chopper picks up his cup, and takes a sip of whatever it is that dries out his lips and tongue quite instantly. Not so much washing down his throat, as trying to dragg his teeth and jaw down with it. “Blech-!” *Cough *CoUGH!!
“Easy there.” Jimbe using one webbed hand to pat their Doctor on his back. Until he's stopped spluttering.
“Aeh!” Big brown eyes watering, Chopper puts his cup down in the grass. “I-” *cough!! “I should go-” Tongue covered in a thick tingling film of this stuff. Stringent acid gone up the back of his sinuses. “I have medicine to give to Zoro.”
“Ah? Well, it will have to wait.” Jimbe's said. Drinking again. The whaleshark-fishman's thick blue neck bending back. “Our First Mate is not here at the moment.”
Not here? A zing of panic sizzles over Chopper's spine. “Zoro's gone-?”
“-Luffy-sencho did go with him.” Says the Helmsman, reasonably. Refilling his cup once again.
“Yohohoho-” It is very rare that Brook is discovered in being overly intoxicated. He doesn't often drink to any excess, even if his company tends to bend that way. In this moment, however, he is- Chopper's realized. The man's skull a little less connected to the rest of his skeletal body than usual. Tipping side to side under the weight of his Afro. “Luffy-san,” He begins to explain. “He said they were both going to find Sanji-san, to tell him also. Yo-hoo-ho- That Zoro is with child.”
Brook drinks again. So does Jimbe. Chopper standing in the turf under an apple tree beside them, on their own Lawn Deck. He can hear seagulls arguing with pelicans. Harried bird-voices garbled by laps of surf breaking against the rocky cliff-side. Zoro- He's... told them? Something like a knot unties from around the tiny Zoan's chest, and he sits back down. Reaching for the cup he'd set down in the grass, and drinking. Hot, bitter alcohol burning his throat- Stinging, and he thinks he might throw-up before he gets it all into him... Until he does. Swallowing thickly.
“Rumor is-a, you-a want information about a Dragon-a, eh? A Sea-a Dragon-a? You-a need-a to go-a talk-a to Adan Yun in-a the Township-a of Bēikarī.”
Sabo leans against the wall beside the hotel room door he only has open far enough to extend the steel locking-chain attached to it. A gap provided for this man to speak through. One of their 'contacts'. “Bēikarī?”
“Is a sixteen-a mile-a walk from-a Adel'ell, in a straight-a line.” The guy chuckles. Looking up and down the hallway to check that no one is around to overhear them. “Now-a, that will-a take-a you through-a the Marine Research-a Facility in-a the middle-a of-a the island.”
“What are they researching there?” Sabo not on any official mission, he's learned enough in his life to know when to ask questions. Wherever he goes.
“Ya'know-a, that's-a the funniest thing. I've-a been-a living here-a just-a a little bit-a longer than-a that Base got-a built, but-a still. All-a those soldiers-a, ships-a, and supplies-a. Nobody-a seems to know-a what-a goes on there.” Grinning. To show a number of his teeth have been replaced with metal replicas. “If-a you-a find out, I'll-a pay good-a Beli to know. Even-a better-a Beli, for proof-a.”
“Hahaha-” Used to guys like this. No real home to call their own, they get attached to wherever they've been lying their heads the longest. Sabo passes a pouch out the door. Two-thousand Beli inside, as payment for the information he's just received. “You know of anybody might be willing to talk to me in Bēikarī, friend? If I can get that far.”
“As a matter-a of fact-a, I-a do.”
Exchanged nods, and they end their conversation. Sabo closing the door. Wearing only a towel around himself, because he had just finished when they got that knock on the door. Like barely taken half a breath after orgasm had slammed hard through him. Hard enough to stop his heart beating. “Haaaah-” He sits down on the bed beside Koala. The woman lying in luxurious nakedness on top of the pillows. Bending himself, to grasp one of her pale breasts and suck a soft silky nipple in between his lips.
“Ahhh~” Ready to hear her sream again, over and over. In pleasure for him. But they do have other responsibilities whilst on this trip.
“Did you hear?” Licking down the middle on her chest, Sabo kisses Koala's stomach softly.
“Mmm. Bēikarī.” They'd picked up a map, yesterday. “Sixteen miles from here, in a straight line.” Her arm pointing directionlessly. “Or!” her opposite arm crossing over the other. “Fifty-six miles along the beach, to avoid the great big bad-guy Base.”
“There's Beli in it, if we find out what those Marines are up to?”
“Don't be a mercenary, Sabo.” Smacking him in the side. But Koala cannot deny sixteen miles would take a lot less time and effort than fifty-six.
“Aw. We can do it.” Stretching his arms, and his back cracks in a few places. “Sanji won't make things hard. He's good at following directions.”
“Yea?” Grinning up at her Lover. Koala puts her hands into his hair. Brushing back blonde strands so that she can see his face. Baby-blue eyes, and the rough layers of pink scar tissue covering his left eyelid and cheek. The most handsome man alive. “You remember that later, okay?”
“All about Sanji making things hard, and him being good at following directions.”
Sabo blinking. “Hahahaha-” Blowing a very loud raspberry against her belly.
They wash, and dress themselves. Gone downstairs. Exiting the hotel with a courteous bow exchanged with the man stood at his counter.
“Do you suppose Sanji is still at that Restaurant?” Koala asks, hanging onto her Lover's coat-sleeve. Smiling at people as they walk along this cobbled lane. There's no ill feeling here. None at all! Under clear skies. Giggling to herself.
“I'd bet he is. Would you care to have a late lunch there?”
“You know, I think I would like that.”
Sabo looks ahead, a smile on his face, and Koala tucked in at his hip. No reason at all to fear he's be targeted at that very moment by a certain rubber projectile. “S---A---B---O---!!!”
“Gaah-!!” Struck, and at such speed he's no chance to consciously transform his body to flames. Sending him sprawling on the cobbles. His little brother on top of him. Giggling his face off.
“Luffy...” Zoro scruffs his Captain, dragging him off. “I know you're excited. Just- calm down?”
“Shishishi-!” Sabo gets himself up from the ground. Several locals looking at them. Not with any anger or hostility, no. Though maybe a fair amount of caution. One or two of those guys over there are pointing at Zoro. Green hair, and big- buff muscles. He's not wearing his katana, and maybe that's for the better. “It is okay? Ne, Zoro?”
“If you shout it out loud so that whole street hears-”
“Fufuf- What do you suppose this is about?” Koala twining her arm around Sabo's once more. Watching these two Pirate boyfriends whittle back and forth at each other.
“No idea.” Sabo reaches to brush dust from his coat. Grinning. Luffy looks excited. He's practically vibrating, stood there in the road. Zoro, on the other hand. He's agitated. A deep purple vein standing out across the Swordsman's forehead. “Bet it's gonna be good though, whatever it is.” Glancing up and down the street out of habit. “-Or not.”
“Ops...!” Koala and Sabo stepping instantly apart. Sabo grabbing hold of his little brother's shoulder, a hand over his mouth – Koala executing much the same action with Zoro. Ducking them into a gap between two buildings. Dark enough they might not be noticed by those standing in directly under the sun. Though it may still not be enough to escape his eyes. That man. Hawkeyes Mihawk.
“Right this way, please. Oka Shichibukai, Dracule Mihawk, Sir!”
He could do without the entourage. Mihawk walking this cobbled street with a slump of his shoulders. Brim of his hat turned down. Eyes tracking just ahead of his own boots. Only here to do a job.
“Out of the way!”
A womanly scream rattles at his notice, lifting his chin just in time to see one of Voivode Didac's soldiers use a heavy black baton to strike a woman on her knees. Raising it above his head to fall another blow-
-only there's nothing but a rush of air, and empty motion.
“Are you hurt?” The Marine soldiers step back from the man who is kneeling in the road. Cape, coat, and plumed hat. A *clatter that is the blunted cut-off end of a black baton falling onto rounded cobbles.
“N-no-a... I-I'm-a not.” Accepting Dracule's callous-rough hand, and he lifts her from the ground. “Th-Thank you-a.” The arms that go around his neck, he feels he does not deserve. Because he follows these beasts also. Those who would hurt a women on her knees, and separate babies at birth.
“Do not thank me, girl.” He tells her, biting hard into his own tongue to make it bleed. Leaving her, and continuing on his way with these soldiers. Following a downward slope in the direction of a glittering Bay protected by natural reefs on both sides...
And there it is. Just like he remembered it. Red bricks, and black-panted trestles. The grapes are fuller, maybe. They might be a different color than he's able to recall. Coming before a stout door with black iron hinges and a window cut into it. “Haaaah-” He wonders if it will be him, or if it will be his son? One of his daughters?
“M-Mister-a Dracule-a Mihawk, S-sir!” this Host is young. The boy cannot be more than fourteen years of age.
“Is your Master in, boy?”
“Y-yes-a, the-a Chef-a is... One moment-a, Sir!” Gone through a set of swinging doors. Dracule looks around. The inside of this place is completely changed, but then it was a long time ago. He's not sure how long. Long enough for table sizes and clothes to have been altered, and floors re-finished. The stairs used to be different also. There was only one way up to the second level, before. Now there are three independent staircases. A spiral seating pattern nearer the Bar. But that wine-rack in center position is familiar. Been there since the place was founded back before the Void Century, if he heard right all those years ago.
“Jurakyūru-a Mihōku.” This very tall man with a shock of auburn hair. Pierced ears, and double-elbowed arms. "Haha-a O'course, they-a call-a you Hawk Eyes-a now."
“Marcelinho Gagne.” He's the son of the man who used to run this place. Who also conspired behind his father's back to smuggle Dacule and Shanks drinks until they couldn't move anymore.
“You've-a come-a back to my-a house?” He's asked, noticing all his patrons are quiet. Fearful, even- “–in-a concert-a?”
Does he? Mihawk's yellow ringed eyes glance back behind him, towards the door. No less than three dozen Marine Soldiers armed with rifles and batons standing outside. He holds himself in a more dignified stance, two feet shorter than the man he addresses. Clearing his throat. “I have been summoned to assist the Navy, upon request of Lieutenant Commander Voivode Diadac.”
“Oh-ho-a?” Marcelinho Gagne crosses his double-segmented arms across his chest. Silver chain jewelry hung around his neck clanking gently as he's moved.
“Yes. Well.” Taking the folder they had given him from his coat pocket, and unrolled it. “By Order-” He recited the words off the page. Tasting of gritty, but swallowable slime. Woven into a doctrine of subservience that was clear enough for even a fool's fool to see. Printed and postured in gold lettering, each pen-stroke a crime.
“This is-a our Edict-a? From-a the man-a in-a charge of-a this-a whole-a island?!” Upset would have been a kinder fate. Marcelinho's shock as betrayal taking Mihawk by the neck, and squeezing.
“You expected a different Edict?”
Marcelinho's hands shake at the ends of his arms. Eyeing his front door to be sure it is still closed, then at Dracule. Shook his head once, and walked towards his family's wine rack. “Voivode-a wasn't-a chosen by the Navy-a to be-a head Officer here-a.”
Mihawk listening closely, as his host pours two tall glasses of a blood-red wine.
“He-a came later. Last-a year. With a CP-3-a Team, and-a something-a happened in-a Vittles.”
“The Township to the South?”
“Used to be.” Licking wine from his teeth.
“...” The Shichibukai quiet, as Marcelinho's sipped from his glass again.
“The whole-a place-a, gone. There's-a not a twig-a left-a of it. No bodies-a.” He looks at Dracule. “The next-a day, papers-a came-a out. Voivode's a Lieutenant-a Commander, and he's-a taken over for-a Commodore-a Rujika?”
“He-a was the man-a who-a broke-a ground for the Navy-a to-a do-a research here.”
The original peace-broker between the locals on this island, and the World's Government. “Did you say a year?”
Nodding his head, Marcelinho refills his own glass. “Ever-a since-a...” Dark, anger-soaked eyes fall onto the door of his restaurant. “...been-a bad-a time for us.”
Dracule picks up his glass. Drinking heavenly sweetness distilled and made liquid to dance upon his tongue. Just as good as he remembered it. Better. “I am sure you will endure. Inquiries can be made, and I shall carry your refusal of these Edicts back to his Majesty the Lieutenant Commander.”
“You-a don't understand-a.” Another long sip. The man's fingers splaying over his tablecloth, beside the base of his glass. “This Edict-a was expected-a to stop-a unrest-a in other-a towns worse off-a than Adel'ell.” Pink flush spreading across this man's scowling face. “This-a response-a. This Edict... when our-a people-a find-a out, rebellion in-a those places will-a gain-a momentum.”
“Is that why the Revolution is here?”
“Eh? Hehe-a hehe-a- None-a of us-a made contact-a with-a the Revolution. Things-a might-a have been-a easier for us-a, if-a we had.” Regret on him, now. Drinking more of his own Spirits. Until they've emptied the bottle into their glasses.
Sanji has been discussing recopies with another of Marcelinho's talented Cooks when he sees the man called away. Gone through swinging doors into his House.
“Ahh!” Startled by the woman that's grabbed him around the waist. “K-Koala-?”
“Time to go.” Pressing two fingers over the Pirate's lips, and leading him away towards a back door. Leaving the restaurant for a back alley. Lined with garbage bins, and boxes. Other businesses having doorways, sharing the access. Sabo is sitting on one of these stacks of boxes, pouring over a map unfolded in his hands. Sanji halfway towards him, when he sees Luffy and Zoro coming into view from down the alley.
“There's only weak guys in front of the restaurant.” Luffy tells his older brother. Hopping up on the crates to sit next to him.
“What are you two doing here?” Sanji hissing at Zoro, once he's near enough. Hands shoved into his pockets. “I thought you were sick in bed, oh so very delicate-Vegitable.” Trying to goad him, but the Swordsman... who still isn't wearing any swords? Just stares back. Single green eye a little further away than it normally is. He's not even paying attention?!
“Oi, com'ere a minute, Cook? I... I-gat-something-ta-tell-ya...”
“Huh?!” Wanting to get hot with this, and have a good fight. Even if they have to keep in down in this back alley. But Zoro...
“I have something to tell you, Sanji. So shut the fuck up, and come over here?”
Sabo doesn't think he's ever heard Zoro speak so directly to the other man before. Not common to hear either one of them use their actual names. Usually some insult. “You know what's going on, don't ya, Lu?” Whispering, because getting on the bad end of Zoro and getting discovered at this moment could get pretty bad.
“Shishishishi- Aye-! I know-”
“You sure you saw Dracule Mihawk?” Franky asks for the fifteenth time in lazy tones. Following his quaking nakama unenthusiastically back to the Thousand Sunny a few hours earlier than he'd strictly wanted to.
“Of course I'm sure. I have Sniper's Eyes! I see things!!”
“Aye. You saw that terrifying eighty-eight foot spider in the Head.”
“This is different! Listen, once you see that guy up close you don't just forget what he looks like!” Especially if he happened to look exactly same as he had the day he'd very nearly gutted Zoro. Same coat. Same sword that was bigger than he was! That cross around his neck is a weapon also. They have to get back to the ship now. Pick up Sanji, Sabo, and Koala- and get out of here!!
“What do you mean they're not here?!?!?!”
“Nami, and Robin-sis too?”
“Aye-” Jimbe sitting in the grass. His eyes closed. “They went shopping.”
“He is aboard. He is resting himself.” The Fishman a witness to the relief in their Doctor's small fuzzy face. Knowing he was no longer responsible for protecting such a monumental secret. “Which reminds me, Franky. Usopp.” Dragging a fresh bottle of Sake from a case he has open at his elbow, and uncorking it. Jimbe smiles. Tusks pushing back on blue-purple lips, and the crinkle of his wet eyes is completely genuine. “We have a bit of news to share with you.”
“Oi-! Where are we going?” Sanji can still see Sabo, Luffy, and Koala back at the end of the alley. Their heads together. And there is still no sound of any commotion coming from anywhere. Following his nakama down a side alley, and Zoro puts his back to a dark brick wall. Sanji choosing to stand in front of him. Looking up and down this dingy backstreet, wary to suddenly see a big hat with a feather in it. Zoro's not even carrying his swords!
“L-listen... Sanji...” There it is again. His given name. The Cook getting a shrill alarm in his head every time he hears Zoro's gruff, beastly voice utter it. “I- I... uh....” Whatever it is he's having a balls-of-a-time getting it out.
“This got something to do with what's wrong with you lately, Moss-Head?” A nod. Alright- “Then spit it out. We're in the middle of running from the shitty Marines.”
Zoro's green eye widens, but then he's looked away. His hands balled up, and Sanji's sworn he's heard all the man's knuckles crack at once. “I-I'm pregnant.”
“... … You're...” Neck freezing, cocked to one side. Sanji's eyes slowly come back around. “You're pregnant?” Zoro nods his head? “You're... going to have a baby?” Another... nod. “You're going to... have Luffy's baby?” Another... “There's gonna be a- a kid on our ship?” Zoro nods! “Yours and Luffy's kid?”
“Sanji.” The Cook had not noticed all the blood leaving his face, or that it should be leaking right out his toes for the all the good it's not doing him.
“H-Huh?” Squinting at this thick brute. How... How can Zoro be pregnant?
“Sanji-!!” Koala had wandered up the lane, peeking around a corner. Mouthing words they can hardly hear. “Zoro- Sanji- Come on-”
Time is not provided for the Strawhat's blonde Chef to form any understanding about anything. Following stealthily behind Koala, back to Sabo and Luffy. Those two brothers standing in the middle of the alley, hugging. Once near enough Luffy breaks off to put an arm around his First Mate's hips. “Shishishishi-” Zoro cuffing his Captain, but he obviously doesn't mean it. Trying not to smile himself.
Sanji continues to stare. - spit it out. We're in the middle of running from the shitty Marines. Hyper-focused on all the little cracks between these bricks in the wall right next to him. Sharper outlines of boxes, and cans... I'm pregnant.
“-you two should get back to your ship. It's not safe for you to be in town.” Koala pats Luffy's head, but he's only pouts a little. Truths are truths. Zoro can't fight Mihawk right now.
Sanji being struck in his guts by an invisible boot. Zoro can't fight anybody right now. That includes him, and... and is that why he's not allowed to smoke his cigarettes anymore? Because Zoro violently throwing up these last few days has been...? He's been having morning sickness?!
“-going on to a place called Bēikarī. There's a person there that supposed to know something about a Sea Dragon.” Sabo busy telling his wide-eyed little brother. Sanji sees Luffy quivering with excitement, but also that he isn't moving an inch from where he is. Not willing to leave Zoro's side. The Cook really can't blame him for that.
“Yosha-!” And like the breaking of a huddle, they separate. Zoro and Luffy gone up the dark alley that way. Sanji, Sabo, and Koala down the other way. “Shishishi-!”
“Haaah-” Zoro puts his hand up to his sweating face. Suddenly exhausted. His arms are heavy. “Wait- Luffy?”
“Ne?” Stopped, and sat his swordsman down on a stack of crates. Shadows keeping them safely hidden from either outlet. Someone would have to look down from one of these in-facing windows to see them. “Zoro?” Kissing the man's gasping lips. He's tired.
“I'll be fine in a minute.”
No. Zoro is very tired. Luffy can see. How his Swordsman has to breathe like that, and he can't sit up right. “Zoro needs'ta rest.”
“Huh? Don't be dumb, Luffy. We're not going to take a nap back here in this alley.”
No, that would be uncomfortable. And the wind is cold. “Huuup-!”
“Luffy-!” Zoro didn't expect to be lifted from where he was. A deep breath, and they're up on the ledge of some building. “What are we doing?”
“Shi-shi-- Shhh-.” Zoro presses his back to the side of this building. His Captain peering into a window. It's already open, so he doesn't have to break it to wriggle inside. A few seconds go by, he's waited for someone to start yelling. Only no one does.
“Shishi- Alright, Zoro!”
Alright? Shuffling along the ledge, and filt himself inside through the tight gap. A lot tighter for Zoro than for Luffy. They're in a hotel room. Empty, at the moment. Luffy had gone and hung out a 'do not disturb' sign, and locked the door. A single queen-sized bed inside this room. A dresser, and full bathroom through a near door.
“We'll rest here.” A couple of zealous bounds towards the bed, and he's flopped down onto it. Smiling up at Zoro. “Ne?”
Rest? He'd like to. Can they? Nobody knows they're here. No alarms raised, or shots fired. “A-aye.” Trying to ignore that he doesn't have to take his swords off to lie down, because he isn't wearing them. Zoro climbs onto the bed, fully clothed. His Captain's warm stomach pressing in against his back.
It feels wrong, somehow, to admit to sleep while knowing how near they are to the enemy. Despite that, Zoro's green eye drifts closed. His cheek on a soft pillow. Luffy's arm draped warmly over him, his Captain's fingertips brushing along his wrist. Wrong or not wrong, he wants to lie here. Like this. Just for a minute, though he would also be fine with forever. A lazy haze of Springtime on the breeze, blowing in through the open window.
Go back-” Koala's mimed without making a sound. Crossing her arms in front of her. Hurrying back towards Sabo and Sanji from where she'd been spying at the end of the alley. They go back, following her instruction. Around by another way, and found a block that is empty. Finally. Fleeing across, and reaching Adel'ell's outer wall. High, and made of brick. Not that either factors are a hindrance to them. Sabo lifting Koala up onto his shoulder, using his arms to launch her into the air. The girl utilizing her own legs to jump also, and so she's made it to the top. A wave, and she's over.
“Sanji. You next.” Sabo looking left and right. They can hear soldiers shouting from somewhere, and citizens. Shouting back at them.
“A-aye...?” The Cook in a daze. Not likely that he's listening to anything over and beyond his own reeling thoughts. Still. He kicks from the ground. Five steps of Sky Walk, and he's gone over to the other side as well.
Sabo making one last check that no one's seen them. Distracted himself, as much as he can be. How did...? Huh? Luffy's gonna be a Dad? And- so is Zoro?! No... No. That's not right. That is not what Luffy said. He said Zoro-... He...? He's going to be a Mom? Sabo's legs and feet morph to orange flame, and he propels himself upward. Cresting the top, and his boots come down on solid ground.
Nobody here but them, under a shady ring of trees growing right up near the Town's high wall. Sanji sitting beside that wall. His back against it, and his knees pulled-in under his chin. Slowly rubbing his blonde goatee against them. Koala stood nearby, she goes to Sabo. “No one's around.”
“Good.” Exchanging a fortifying kiss. It helps. A little. He can breathe enough to continue living, anyway. “Sanji-?”
The blonde Pirate doesn't respond right away. Not blinking at all, he stares. At nothing. “E-eh..? Hmm...” yet to raise any blood back into his face.
“You think he will be alright-?” Koala whispers to Sabo.
“Course he will.” The Revolution's Cheif of Staff snorting through his nose. Digging a compass out of a coat pocket. “Now, which way do we go?”
“Are we going direct, or should we follow the beach?” Only just lowered their heads together, with every intention of pouring over their map Sabo's also brought out and unfolded, when each hears- A bunch of Marine soldiers speaking just behind these bricks beside them.
“Two Revolutionaries have been sighted in Ade'ell, Sir! We have confirmed statements!”
“And a third unidentified person. You have yet to find hide nor hair of this mysterious man?!”
“Apologies, Warrant Officer, jun'i-Blagden Ojou-Sir!”
“Shut up! Your excuses mean nothing! FIND THEM!! Any failure to do so will be considered an insidious betrayal of our-Lord Lieutenant Commander, shosa-Voivode!!”
“Yes! jun'i-Blagden! Sir!”
Sabo listens. Embers burning him up. White hot, at the tail of his spine. These Marines going off in every direction behind an old bricked wall. To preform their duties. Duty? What they are told. No less, and no more. What duty is that? Service, without reason in it. The Act, and to be commanded so under threat? No chipped edge of morality to be found buried in this wreckage.
“Ne, Sabo-?” Koala. Her hands are gentle. Come near to his face to stroke one finger along a blonde eyebrow and down his cheek. Calming candle-tips of fire that were lighting themselves there, because they cannot make a scene. Sanji would be discovered. The best that they can hope for at this time, Ne? That they keep the identity of the Strawhat Pirates hidden. She kisses him. Biting into Sabo's pink lower lip until he's sighed. Hands going around her hips, and he squeezes her tightly to him. “Direct?” She asks again, into his mouth. “Or by beach?”
“Direct.” He says, scarcely. Fingers brushing up under the woman's silky blouse, before licking thirstily over her teeth. Breathing out. “Right- Sanji-? Are you okay?”
The guy has been sitting against the brick wall. Not saying a word. Staring at nothing, through the trees. “N- m-mm.”
“Fufu- I don't think he's okay.” She giggles. Koala squatting down beside the Pirate to poke a finger to his paled cheek. “Sanji---i? Fufufufu-” He doesn't respond, and she glances back to share amusement with Sabo only to find he's backed himself up against the wall also. Staring. Holed-up inside his own head just like Sanji. “Ne? Are you okay?”
“Huh?” At least he looks back when she says his name. “Ah- I- um-...” Arms crossed, Sabo's gloved fingertips grip into his blue coat. “-I mean, I'm-...” what is he supposed to... to...?
He's got her there. She doesn't know what to say, or what to think, either. Koala biting into her lips. A sound of shuffling in the grass telling her Sanji's gotten up off the ground. Standing, and he drags a few deep breaths in through his nose. “Where are we going?” Asking either of them.
“A town, u-um...” Koala's answered first. He doesn't look at her. “-called Bēikarī.” The Pirate nodding his head. Gold blonde hair in front of his eyes.
“A side job, also,” Sabo adds. “Investigating the Marine Base.” Both Revolutionaries hold their breath, keeping careful eyes on the Cook.
“A-aye.” Raising his chin, and they see him blink hard. A few times. “Aye.” Turned, and he puts his full attention onto the map Sabo's still holding in his hand. Saying no more, as they go over their rout. Expectations of the stronghold's wall, and guarded grounds.
“-we are roughly four miles of deep forest before we reach the Base's guard-wall, and that is only the outskirts of the Base.” Sabo folding the map once again, and handed it over to Koala. “We cannot use roads, and at any cost cannot be discovered.” He looks at Sanji. The guy still pale. Seems a little ill. Sweat beaded across his pale-grey forehead. “Are you up for this?”
It's warm under these trees, but not damp. The grass is new, and smells fresh. Black-leg Sanji listens to birds twittering somewhere, and water flowing from some place to another place. Having a hard time believing he didn't just get struck on the head back in Marcelinho Gagne's kitchen, and now he's in a coma. Or dumped into some shitty illusion? A Devil's Fruit user must be behind all this! But- because he thinks that, he's almost certain it isn't true. That what makes reality so real is no matter how wild and like-a-fantasy events feel, there is no waking up from them. “Aye.”
Sanji knows he's not dreaming, nor is he hallucinating. Shoulders squared, to follow these two Revolutionaries under the green shadows of a darkling forest.
The sun is starting to go down when Jimbe's pulled the cork from the last bottle in the case he had set there beside him. Out on the Lawn Deck with Brook, Usopp, and Franky. White glitters of stars already visible in the sky over their dizzy heads. Gentle waves whispering about gentle Blue things.
“Hehehe-” Usopp sniffs in his long nose. “Y-ya'know? hic! Might be a lot of fun to have a little kid running around here.”
“Shut up-!” Franky sitting upright only because his back is propped against the mizzenmast beside Jimbe. The man taken one of the bottles of Sake for himself, earlier. Drinking right from it. Grumbling. “Do you even realize how many m- hic! -modifications to the ship we will have to make? Ne? In nine months?”
“Hehehe- Part'o'the fun, don't you think?”
“Fun!” Franky tips his bottle back, but there's nothing left inside. “S-u-p-e-r-”
“Oi-ya- Mina-san- yohoho-hoooo- Do mine ears deceive me, or are we taking on bubbles of water-?” Brook is a pile of bones in the grass, and a spirit above. Unable to stand up any longer, he'd been wetly chortling at everyone else's jokes. “Oh! But this cannot be-! For I have no ears to be so deceived by- yohohoho-yohohoho-yohoooo-!!”
“Hic!- N-no-.” Usopp's burped. Getting up from where he was unsteadily sat weaving on the grass. “ 's n—not wa'er. Is---s the s---snail-ph---one...” Still a fair amount of liquor in his glass, the Gunner staggers to his feet. Gone to a cubby they keep their ship's main-contact Den-den in. They don't get many calls, because everyone generally has their own personal snails. “Ya-Aye-Hi! This is the greatest Captain Usopp-!! o' the Sauzando Sanī-gō!” A long sweeping motion of his arm, and he's nearly fallen over. “-Who's hic! calling?” Put the edge of his glass up to his lips once again, the Sniper drinking. Hot, dry rice wine going down his throat. He can feel his eyes squint at every swallow.
“Usopp-! It's Shachi-! Mate o' the Pōrā Tangu-gō-!” A scattered voice over the snail receiver clear enough to be understood. The Strawhat Sniper lowers his glass.
“...” Gasping, a little, “...!!!” he's still gasping when the other man speaks again.
“Haha- Well, I can understand why ya'd be speechless. I only called because my Captain says he can't get a'hold o' your Doctor. Can you put Chopper on?”
Chopper? “He's resting.” Finally got his voice back, even if it doesn't sound even remotely like it should. “What does Law want?”
“To talk to Chopper-”
“-Shachi!” Shouting. Jimbe and the others all listening. “What does Law want with Chopper?”
“...” There's silence, and Usopp's begun to wonder if they've lost connection, when- “He wants Chopper to know we've found the VS he wanted, and we will be heading in your direction to make delivery. So expect us! Any day.”
Franky inhales half his new drink. Metal arm jerking. Jimbe's eyes gone very wide. “You-you're- coming? Here-?” Their Gunner stammering into their Den-den's shell receiver.
“Look forward to it!” A droop in the little snail's expression lets them all know the call has been ended.
“Wha- Wha---at??” Franky bent in half to get into a bench-chest, dragging himself out a towel so he can wipe his face. Sake and snot trickling out of both nostrils. “Trafalgar Law?!”
“Should we... tell Zoro?”
“Absolutely not!! We're not telling Zoro!!”
“Surely if Chopper knows anything, he must have discussed the matter with him?”
“You think?” Usopp highly doubts their First Mate would have been able to hide that sour- murderous vibe cloaked all around him that would certainly have been, if he had known Law was anywhere near. Not a damn thing they can do about it, however. Is there? Just to pass on the other guy's message to Chopper in the morning.
Zoro's still trying to figure out where Luffy could have, or even would have gone. Green eye adjusting to dim light and expanding shadows. Darkness already fallen outside tall windows, when his Captain's come back. Rubber body squirming in through the still-open window, holding onto a couple of sacks. “Shishi-!!” Moonlight reflects off Luffy's hair, darker black than the very-new night behind him. Crawling up onto the bed. “Zoro awake? Did he miss me?”
Yes, actually. The Swordsman smelling something delicious coming from one of these bags. “Did you go out to steal food?”
“Shishi- Nah,” Reaching into a pocket in his shorts, Luffy shows his nakama a little black money-pouch. Still a few Beli coins rattling around inside. “He knows it's only Zoro Nami doesn't give an allowance to?”
“Che-'” Shoving a pillow at his Captain's grinning face.
*Bang! “What did you just say?!” Dusky purple edged cloud looks like tatters of fabric, drifting close over the stark Blue line of the Sea with a grey bank rolling in above. Rain. Mihawk observes, from atop this lofty tower. When only that afternoon he'd been sharing a glass of the finest Wine with a good man, down below in one of those many small Townships. He could still be there, but Dracule Mihawk has chosen to return to the place he has been assigned by certain fates more powerful than he is himself. Bowing his head low at the door, and climbed all the way up a spiral stone stairway to the top. To put himself, in all his glory. Prostrated, before a fine adam-wood desk. Hands faintly twitching as they hang at his sides, for weapons he may not use to kill this man; shosa-Voivode Didac... “You Simpleton!”
“A great deal of confusion was expressed, upon the unveiling of your Edict-”
“-Confusion? Ah!” Flung a stack of papers and pens to the floor. “A stupid man sees another stupid man confused, and thinks that it's strange? You were sent there to deal with the party responsible!”
Deal with... “Your implication, shosa-Voivode Sir. That I had killed Master Gagne.”
“Master? Master?! He is a farmer. A Laborer-.” Didac's eyes bulge as he chews his words in distaste. “Causing trouble for the Navy, and it is in everyone's best interests that the Navy, in representation of our World's Government, not be hindered upon!!”
“Aye-” Men such as this one. They are dangerous. Lighting fires inside houses, and sending unchecked numbers of soldiers to die.
Glaring all sorts of daggers at Dracule awhile. Didac then pacing back and forth behind his desk. Muttering. Until he's stops, putting his back to the Shichibukai. “But all is not lost. In the morning you will go, and finish the job you have been assigned.” Fingers clenching, fisting at his back. “Do this,” he says, “-and you will not be punished for your disobedience.”
Punished? “As you command.” No aforementioned of what the man's punishment might entale. It is not unheard of for Marine Officers to use strict, often illegal malignity to enforce order and loyalty amoung their ranks. Men of a disposition to serve out a life's sentence fighting bloodthirsty Pirates in the New World well adapted to methods of torture, as well as many varying degrees of manipulation.
“Dracule Mihawk, Sir!” Only a few of these soldiers actually speak, unless spoken to. Stood at an attention they don't dare to break, and there must be a reason. Not that the Swordsman is adverse to such discipline. Men of a ruthless bias need discipline. Though he is in no habit of taking down his own pants to be paddled, by anyone.
The Strawhat's red-headed Navigator had a fair number of items stacked up on this Shopkeeper's counter already. The kind young thing taking time to answer all of the Pirate's eager questions. Ever since leaving her hometown of Cocoyashi, Nami's seen a lot. Quckily gained understanding that Dr. Nako's tiny little pharmacy, as well as the clothiers stocking the stalls in the markets – that they really were below average in quality as well as use. But she never even knew places like the shop she's in right now even existed!! “Can you tell me about this one?” Pointing an orange-painted fingernail at an object behind glass she's never seen.
“This-a?” Sliding back a small door, and taken it out for her customer to inspect. “This is-a called a Breast-a Pump. They became-a popular on-a the Red-a Line-a only last-a year.” Unfolding a small booklet that explains use in easy-to-understand pictures. “An invention-a for Mothers-a, to-a store their-a breast-a milk to feed-a to their-a babies-a later.”
Breast milk? Nami hadn't even considered the possibility that Zoro might breast feed his child. His infant. Her eyes crossing a little, though less than they would have at the same thought an hour ago.
“Fufufu-a- Will-a this-a be your-a first-a baby?”
“Ah? M-me? No- Um.. No, I'm not... my nakama is-”
“Fufufu-a- They are-a lucky-a to have-a you.” Beginning to bag items. Glass bottles, formula mix, toys, clothes, toys, books, and more toys... Nami had tried to spent as much Beli as she could to calm down her nerves. Nerves that are still singing close to shrill right next to her ears. She buys the Breast Pump also, because even if Zoro never uses the thing, it cost less than what she normally spent on shoes. A bell on the cash register *pinging- “Two thousand-a-eighty Beli, Ma'am.” And she had tried to spend? She hadn't even had to haggle. Bags in hand. Nami is back outside on this quaint cobbled road. Smiling people sitting at spindle-wire tables and long chairs all around. Eating together in large groups. Some obviously just meeting-up with friends for a night out. A night that has not fully fallen yet.
Nami squints at the horizon. Away across the Bay at the end of this road. The Pirate Navigator making out tall clouds. Very tall. Minuscule flashes of white lightning appearing beneath them. So far away there is no sound of carrying thunder. That storm's voice completely stopped by swirls of wind and heavy sea currents long before reaching this island...? “N-Ne?” There is a man selling sugared cookies to little children. Balloons on his back, and a smile on his face.
“Yes, Dear-a? May-a you-a take one?”
Only polite, and he has orange-crumble cookies. “Can you tell me, Sir?” she asks, as he wrapps a dozen for her. “What is the name of this island?”
“Hmm-a?” A quirk in his cheek, he looks Nami up and down. Girl of twenty-three wearing blue jeans, and white long-sleaved blouse. Odd three-segmented instrument fasted to her hip, and arms full of shopping bags from a baby boutique. “This-a island's-a name is Tavoloa, Dear-a.”
Marcelinho returned to his kitchen after sharing drinks with Dracule Mihawk. To find Black-leg Sanji gone. Hearing from his Chefs that the young man was smuggled out the back of the restaurant by a woman in short skirts, cap, and goggles. No trace of them now, and the man hopes they're able to get far from here. And quickly.
“Gagne? You-a Fool-man! Are-a you listening-a to-a me?” His wife of so many years. She, no he, ever dreamed a day like today might happen. “You-a don't-a have to-a be-a here when they-a return-a in the morning.”
“Yes-a, I do.” He knows. Marcelinho Gagne. He knows that Shichibukai is naive to the ways in which his new tyrant operates. If Dracule has been contracted to work for the Lieutenant Commander, work for him he will. Perhaps it will be him ordered to come back to take his life? for his daring to defy the Edict he was supposed to accept and display without question. “Please-a, do not-a cry-a, Alessandra.”
She glares at him. Tears pooled in her eyes but she holds onto them. Double elbowed arms resting on the table she's sat at. Near the back of their kitchen. She knows all her husbands Cooks are listening. She knows they know what's going to happen. How can they all just...?
“Da! Da! Did-a you hear? Did-a you hear?! A woman-a came to-a rescue-a that Pirate-a, Da. I saw!” Marcelinho Gagne has a son. Marcelinho Toby. “And 'ey-a, Da-a? That'a Pirate's little boat-a. The one-a he-a arrived on-a with-a his-a friends? It's-a still here-a! Docked-a in-a the Harbor-a. Jamijan's-a little sis told-a me so! That B-l-a-c-k-l-e-g S-a-n-j-i-, and-a them-a two r-e-v-o-l-u-t-i-o-n-a-r-i-e-s- they-a went-a over the wall-a toward the Marine Research-a Base.”
Gagne sighs long and hard out of his chest. Double-elbowed arms half wrapped around his head as he's felt a throb behind his eyes. “I-a hope-a you boys haven't-a told-a anyone-a you've seen-a them r-e-v-o-l-u-t-i-o-n-a-r-i-e-s-” whispering the word while looking about, just as his son had done. “And-a how-a many times-a have-a I warned-a you against-a using-a words like-a that?”
“Da-a said it too...”
“Yes-a, I-a did. Do what you-a know-a is right, Son. Not-a what you see-a others doing-a around you.”
“Yes-a, Da. Always-a think of our-a neighbors to the West-a, and at the same-a time-a think to our neighbors-a East, South-a, and North-a. To-a ensure all-a tables are laid-a in-a harmony throughout-a Tavoloa.” Saying it like he's said it thousands of times. Because he has. Since the day he could speak, Toby has said these words. Over breakfast. Every night, before eating dinner. His father asking him to recite them at random. Only fourteen years old, today. He's short, and stringy, but he can read, write, and speak his family's creed in his sleep.
“Good-a boy. Now-a, run-a along to bed-a. It-a will-a be a big morning-a tomorrow.”
“Hmm!” Hugging his father about the shoulders, Gagne hugs back. Knowing this may be one of the last times he will ever be allowed to do so. Toby then hugs his mother, and then he's run through the kitchen. Waving, and wishing everyone good night.
“...” Gagne looks up. Into the steady, icy eyes of his wife. Marcelinho Alessandra. Her hands in fists upon the table, two brown fists. Silver rings cutting into her fingers, and four elbows shivering. “...” The man puts a hand to his own face to see that he is indeed crying? Stood, and he's let his wife take his hand. All the man's Chefs putting down their utensils, and taking pots and pans from burners. Putting them aside, to turn. Facing this couple, who employs them. Their friends, and neighbors.
“Only five years ago?” Whispering, because this is a place of worship. Of reverence. Of remembrance.
“Maybe-a a little-a over five-a years-a, but-a yes. It-a was-a Commodore junsho-Cipriano Rujika who-a was-a allowed to break-a ground on-a anonymous-a research, here on-a Tavoloa.” Sliding books and binders on his shelves, this tall, thin Librarian. Long arms with two elbows each, and long-long legs. Wearing brown and orange. “If-a you-a are interested-a, Child, these-a are letters of-a correspondence-a between junsho-Rujika and-a Marcelinho Gagne.”
“Marcelinho Gagne? Who is he?” Robin asks, hands clasped loosely in front of her. Long skirts brushing a stone floor.
He smiles a little, this Librarian. Thoughtfully. She sees his cheek twitch, and how he chooses to hide the action. That he stares, far away. Much farther than these bricked walls that surround them. “He-a is-a the man we-a all trust-a.” She wonders of his meaning. Why he's voiced it in the way he has. Not a simple statement, but not necessarily a complicated one either.
“May I borrow these, Sir?” She's asked in the thick wake of his statement. Aware of several heads that turn. Those around them, and yes- she knew they were all listening very closely.
“For-a you, my dear-a Nico Robin. You-a may.”
“Who's blood is that?” Penguin is sat in his chair the wrong way around. Arms on the seat-back, under his chin. A piece of black liqorish between his teeth.
“Usopp's?” Shachi leans back in his chair. Two of four legs off the floor. Staring at the metal roof of their submarine.
“Could be,” Law can't say he really knows. Perceivable that there are any one of many peoples' red-black drops of blood dried into this ratty, torn bit of paper. A small word written on it in blue ink. 'Luffy'. Untidy, and barely legible. “-probably Zoro-ya's.” The guy had grabbed onto his naked blade with his bare hands, back then. Hadn't he. Blood everywhere. One instant in a flow of spiraling time, where the Heart Captain saw a real Demon glare back at him through that Swordsman's narrowed eye. That's when Luffy stepped between them. A frown all the way up through his eyes. Shoved this Vivere card at Trafalgar, and ordered the other man off his boat.
“What did you do, anyway?” Asking his Captain for maybe the hundredth time, Shachi tipping his chin to the side to watch Bepo come back into the room. Carrying a tray of mugs and a fresh pot of coffee with him. Electric humming from all their submarine's various instruments muting most of the sound his nakama makes placing it all down on the Navigation's Table beside a stack of maps, and an Eternal Post for Vinamahilā.
“Nothing.” All Law says.
All he said back then, too. Some time ago, and it was the last time they'd spoken to anyone on the Strawhat Crew until Chopper rang-in out'a the Blue. “Aye, Captain.” Knowing the guy's hiding something, but also that he's not going to make Law talk. Not when he doesn't want to. Resigned to waiting, Shachi groans in his chest. A lean forward to put all the legs of his chair back down on the metal floor.
“Were you able to reach Chopper-ya?” Law asks Bepo, the polar-bear Mink handing him a mug of hot black coffee.
Ears fallen sadly. “No,” adding sugar to his own cup, and stirring. The Heart Pirate's Navigator had tried all day to reach Tony-Tony Chopper. Attempting every half-hour. Now, they're settling in to travel through the night. Not knowing where either are in the New World, it could take anywhere from hours or even months before they might see sign of the Sauzando Sanī-gō.
“We could try calling the Main Snail on their ship?” Penguin's hand shot up above his balaclava, still chewing his piece of liquorish.
Shachi sees his Captain stiffen at the very thought. Nothing, Ne-?
“We could do that.” Bepo nods his furry head in very serious consideration. Law not in his field of vision, and so the Mink's not seen he turns a flat shade of grey. “-Nami would be able to advise me which vector of Sea their ship is...” He could use the surrounding coral ridges so common in these Oceans to tell where they are by comparison, and how long it might take to get from there to there.
“Aye! On it-!”
“ 's already ringing, Captain-” Holding the receiver out for Trafalgar, but he doesn't take it. His Mate knew that he wouldn't. Scowling instead, and those baggy eyes of his look away to one side. Sat back down in his chair, quiet. Crossing thin arms over a thin chest.
-Gatcha! “Ya-Aye-Hi! This is the greatest Captain Usopp-!! o' the Sauzando Sanī-gō-! Who's -hic!- calling?”
Oh- whoa-and-anchor? Sounds like the Strawhat's Gunner is wasted- “Usopp! It's Shachi-! Mate o' the Pōrā Tangu-gō-!” Pausing here. So see if the man will say... anything.
“...” Bepo, Penguin, Shachi, and Law. They all look at one another. “...”
“Haha- Well, I can understand why ya'd be speechless. I only called because my Captain says he can't get a'hold o' your Doctor. Can you put Chopper on.” A hand up to scratch beside a red eyebrow, Shachi eyes settling on the metal wall beside him. Rivets, and sheets of steel plating. Licking dry lips.
“He's resting.” Sounds more sober now, than he did ten seconds ago. Usopp. “What does Law want?”
Shachi attention shifting onto his Captain, then. Only Law doesn't. Trafalgar's grey, cloudy expression put down. Admitting a single obvious shake of his head. “To talk to Chopper-”
“Shachi-!! What does Law want with Chopper?”
Penguin gets a good look at his redheaded nakama smiling like a smarmy shit at their Captain. o'Course Law should'a just owned-up, and told them all already. Just what it was? This unspeakably-unforgivable thing he did or said to Roronoa. Bepo resolutely not involving himself, then or now. Could care less. Too busy comparing charts, making sure they don't run head-long into things in the water.
“...” But the Captain of the Heart Pirates. Trafalgar D Water Law doesn't say anything. In no hurry, taking his fluffy hat down off his head to place on the Navigation's table. He lifts his coffee cup instead. To drink. A shoulder up in effort to distance himself from his three nakama inhabiting literally the same room as him.
Fingers clamp more tightly around the receiver in Shachi's hand. “He wants Chopper to know we've found the VS he wanted,-” That gets his Captain to spill his coffee, all over himself. “-and we will be heading in your direction to make delivery.” Gotten his eyes to go wide, grey rainstorms drifting about inside of them. “-So expect us! Any day.”
“You-you're- coming? Here-?!” Usopp sounding a lot like how Law looks.
“Look forward to it!” Placing the round shell quietly down on top of its parent Den-den. The snail's expression loosening. It's gone back to sleep. Penguin chortling under his balaclava, while Shachi continues to lock-eyes with Trafalgar. Their Captain having said the man's name in outburst, but nothing more. Still not saying anything. Mouth open in a vaguely silent, white-lipped scream. Shachi grins. A show of all his teeth. “I know I will be.”
“Mmmmm-?” Nami, having met up with Robin on the cobbled streets outside and decided that they had been out all day and needed a drink. “Mmmmmmm-” Just a simple glass of house-wine from the first place they came to, before starting the long walk back to their ship in the dark. “This is -delicious-”
Robin would agree, if she could at the moment respond. Still savoring the exquisite yoking of these grapes, pinc-Zelená. Sharp, hot sweetness blended with the most savory of red peppers. Bubbles tickling very faintly across the woman's tongue. Almost enough to distract the Pirate Historian from the rather somber, dare-say-she shatterable atmosphere these two are sat right in the middle of. Nami whispering under her breath all her praise for this wine, when any other day in any other bar she'd have shouted at the top of her lungs. Stood up on their table to order whole cases, or demand a contest. But not here. Not today.
There's something happening here, or about to happen. In this adorable little Township of Adel'ell.
“Ahh-! You little Monkey-”
Having devoured all the food Luffy had brought in about thirty seconds, he and Zoro had been lounging on this hotel-room bed in the dark. Doing nothing- when they'd started to wrestle. At the same time, and without a word. Zoro is wrestling, anyway. His Captain only playing with him. That continuing fact niggling away at what already exists as the thinnest layer of simple tolerance for the Swordsman– crying far from actual acceptance. Something Luffy already knows. Something he understands, but can't figure out how to avoid doing. Holding fast to his Lover's thick wrists. Pushing them up, and pinning them back into soft pillows above his green haired nakama's head. “Ne-?” They kiss. Both biting at each other's lips, and Zoro moans when Luffy's teeth nip a little too hard. Drawing blood out of him.
Panging a taste of metal and salt across their tongues, hinted with that meal they'd just eaten together. Zoro lets his back and shoulders relax into fluffy blankets. His Captain's hands going up under the hem of the shirt the man has been wearing all day. Cool nighttime air whispering close over his skin right alongside being touched. A hedonistic arch of his back, when Luffy's put a wet kiss just below his navel. “Haaaah-”
“Shishi-shi-” That giggle full of air, followed by a tender long lick towards the buttons on his Swordsman's pants.
“Haaah-” Luffy wriggles. His knees in between Zoro's. Encouraging soft pliant sounds to escape his First Mate. Desperate mewls, while he rubs quiet circles into his nakama's muscular thighs. “Luffy- aah-aaha-?” Soft attention, and discrete tenderness is, in many ways, -bewildering? In the face of their chosen lifestyles. Sex and rest were things done in a hurry. Usually the results of injury. Get that kind of thing out of the way, and let's all go on to our next big adventure! What are we waiting for?! “Ahaaah-”
Luffy's fingers splay over Zoro's chest, skin to skin. Reached underneath the shirt his Swordsman is only half wearing. Light fabric bunched-up so that his belly is left exposed. Half of his huge, thickly gnarled scar visible. Clothed erections pressing, rubbing up against one another.
Unhurried, successive motion. Hot – hard heat... “Gahaa- ahh- L-Luffy-” Languid, yet in every way substantial. H-hot- “Haaaah-” Zoro stares into half-lidded brown eyes over him. Luffy's cheeks flushed cute, and pink. Lips parted to drag in air, and he's still smiling. Just a bit, underneath a very fixed- honed expression. Rocking his lower-half gradually. Sweetly. “Ga-haaah- I- I need you-” Bucking upward to find more friction, or Zoro's tries to. His Captain presses down on his chest when he does. Hooking rubber ankles over his Swordsman's knees. Adjusting. So that he may make even longer, fuller contact of their trapped and aching dicks. “Haaaah- ple- pleas---?”
Zoro has officially begged his Captain during sex twice, in all these years they've been together. That includes today. “Zoro-” Leaning back to lift the man's beefy legs, then drag his boots and trousers from him. Luffy squirms out off his shorts and sandals too. Kicking them to the floor, then licked thick and slobbery into the palm of his own hand. Grasping himself. Another glob of spit he smears over his Lover. Fingers still wet when he's grasped a strong leg behind the knee, holding the powerful limb up and back.
“Haaah- aah-!” Opening, Zoro shutters. Beads of sweat coming out chilly all over his arms. A week or longer since they have been together in this way. “Ahhh- Wh-what-? What are you waiting for-?” Stinging want goes deep into Zoro much faster than the comfort of Luffy's warm length.
“...” His Captain smiling. Hugged onto his Swordsman's leg that rests against his shoulder. Taking as long as he physically can, to allow his Lover's body to take him inside. A hand forward to brush fingertips over the man's tanned stomach. Tracing fine, hard lines that define ridges of thick muscle groups. Like words written down on a page... Or – had been? Feather light, Luffy touches over Zoro's lower abdominal wall. Soft. The lines of his physique not as sharply stated. The backs of the Captain's fingers memorizing. Stroking over warm skin.
“Naahaaa- L-Luffy-? Ahhh-”
A glance down, and he sees there's not a lot left before he's fully inside. Baring gradually down, until he is. Slick spit shiney around his Lover's stretched hole.
Not picking up any momentum, Luffy directs his himself back. Small movement to one side. Great obligation in seeing that the hood of his penis peeks briefly out, before he's trusting tenderly back in. “Haah-” Breathless sounds of his own exertion.
“Haaah- Nn-aah-- I- I'm –S-Sencho- this- this`s`too`m`much- haaah-”
Knees in the blankets, Luffy pets Zoro's legs. Warm palms going up over his thighs, and hips. Acknowledging his Swordsman's chiseled flanks, the man's stomach, and his chest. The scar the runs from his right hip to left shoulder. All of him, carefully penetrating into his Lover's trembling, beautiful body. Bringing him to a place of pleasure hardly distinguishable from delirium.
“Sen---ncho-” Green eye held tightly shut, tears weeping from under the closed lid. An arm flung out, and Luffy take's Zoro's reaching hand. Twining their fingers. “Haaah ahh- this`s--- Ahhhh- this- this`s`too`m-much--!!”
A cold halt. Luffy's hips ceasing to move, and he's sick inside. “Ne-? Zoro?” His boyfriend's bubbling sobs shrinking him, and he starts to back himself out. At that same instant, however, the other man's knees jerk upward, trapping the Pirate Captain where he is.
“N-no.” Breath collapsing his chest. It looks like it takes Zoro's whole body to take in any air. “Don't'you- Don't`you`dare`stop-”
There are still tears on Zoro's face. Hard creases all over his forehead. Grimacing, and in every way appearing to be suffering- “He really wants'ta?” -not that suffering is a condition either of these Pirates is unfamiliar with.
“Haaaaah-” He feels Luffy grow again, inside of him. Beginning to move just as before. “Aye, Sencho-” A skillful roll of rubber hips, and Zoro grasps hard with the hand he has clasped with Luffy's. “I –ahhhh- I- I really want to.”
Free hand finding his Lover's hip to keep a tame, guarded rhythm. The future's Pirate King pulling air into his lungs. Luffy closes his eyes, so that he may focus entirely on his tempo. Tipping one side or the other, in no particular order. To hear Zoro croon. To feel him squeeze-in all around his prick until he's-
“-haaah`m`g-haaaah- S-Sencho-” Jets of warm cum spill over the sheets, and even onto the floor. “haah- haah-” The Swordsman's heart laboring. Hitting hard, just like the pulses behind his one good eye. Keeping it closed with his head resting back on a pillow when he's felt a nudge on his arm. “Huh?” Luffy's happy-smiley face right at his shoulder, and Zoro pulls the other man close to kiss him. Swallowing giggles, and not paying much attention that his Lover is again repositioning them. So that Zoro is on his knees, half twisted back around with Luffy's tongue tickling the inside of his cheek. “Mmn- S-Sencho-”
“Shishishi-” Hands on his Swordsman's shoulder turn him to face forward. Luffy swiping a thirsty tongue over the back of Zoro's neck.
“Haaah- ahh-” Facing the window, open to the night sky with so many stars. Zoro looks up at them. Twinkling lights kept snug in blankets of the deepest blue. All above these peaceful rooftops of a peaceful town. Going off into the distance, only ending at the horizon because he simply can't see that far. But, really, the stars go on forever. Hearing, and feeling his and Luffy's thighs come together with a fleshy *slap. His Captain exhaling a carnal huff out of both his nose and mouth. The sound ghosting over Zoro's shoulder, right underneath his left ear. “Haaaah- Sencho-” An arm reaching back, he hooks one hand around whatever part of rubbery flesh he can find. Pulling. “ahh- Fuck me-?”
Luffy's teeth grazing his Lover's shoulder, gasping against it. “Haaaah- Zoro-” Hugging, with arms wrapped around both of their upper bodies two or three times. Urging deep, short thrusts. Until both Pirates are grunting, gasping-
-cumming. “Haaah- ahh-!!” More semen getting onto the pillows and headboard in front of Zoro. His chest heaving. “Aaaah-” Warm inside. Wet. Slick, and sticky. Luffy's shaft beginning to shrink and slide out, the swordsman feeling all that's in him begin to leak. “Haaaaaah-” Head coming forward onto his own arms, when his Captain's limp phallus makes a lewd, wet *pop coming out of him.
“Shishishi-” Using the already stained blankets to wipe themselves off, and pushed most of the mess onto the floor. Before curling up together, making jokes about how the moon should be meat and not cheese...
“-but I know it's not really cheese, is it, Zoro?” Cheek resting on the man's broad chest.
“Che' Of course it's not. Who the hell told you it was cheese?”
“Then- if it's not cheese, what is it?”
“Huh? It's... well... It's not cheese!”
“Welcome back! jun'i-Blagden Ojou, Sir!”
He climbs the stairs. These stairs. Blagden Ojou. A man who worked on the same Crew who built this Base, five years ago. Stationed here, as reward. Given a full commission. He's from a local Township. Which Township? Where is he from? A heavy axe dangles from a thick leather belt that pulls a crease into Ojou's shoulder. A couple of coils of whip with barbed ends also found on his person. Knives that have curved handles... and a string of incendiary devices.
He's just come from some place. Where? He's sure he's just come from somewhere. People? There were people. They were on fire. Screaming? Blagden was on the back of a horse. There was a child. Tied to a fence by their wrists, blood dripping from multiple whip lashes. The man's arm raising again, fingers gripping at firm leather--
“jun'i-Blagden, Sir! shosa-Voivode has requested to see you, Sir!”
“I understand.” Grash, and like his mouth and throat are packed with chunks of gravel. He rarely speaks. Only in acknowledgement of a command. That is all there is. Orders. The next Order. The next. To be commanded.
More stairs. This Base was designed to have too many damn stairs. He can count them, all in his head. Six-million four-hundred-eighty-eight-thousand two-hundred sixty-one steps. Knee creaking, and he bangs a fist into it to make the thing shut up!
“shosa-Voivode, my Lord.” Bowing his head as he's entered his superior's office at this late- or perhaps early hour of three-seventeen in the morning. “You wished to see me.” Standing before a fine, sturdy desk with his hands put behind his back. Papers, pens, and other ordinary things scattered across the surface in front of him.
“Yes.” Didac not sitting at his desk. He is facing the windows. Looking out. “Yes. I have need of your assistance, Ojou.”
Shapes around the Warrant Officer melt, and the words of his superior wash into him. “I am yours to command, my Lord.” Lighter, with each moment he spends in the presence of this man. To do anything he says. His only joy. Anything. Anything? To be commanded by... who? Who is his leader? Ne, Lord? junsho? Ne, shosa?
“You will accompany our Shichibukai to Adel'ell tomorrow, Ojou.” Turning to face his subordinate, and walk towards him. “See that he kills Marcelinho Gagne, the man who continues at every turn to conspire against Marine Law, and our World's Government. You will do me proud.”
“My Lord.” Bones vibrating under his flesh and shin. Adel'ell... is... Adel'ell the Capital City. jun'i-Blagden's heels scrape on the shaped-concrete floor, already raising a hand in salute. “I will not fail you.” and.... and Marcelinho... that name? The name. He knows that name! Who is it?
“No, you will not. Will you.” Removing a leather glove from his right hand, and held it out to shake Ojou's.
The other man taking the gesture offered. “...”
A grin on Didac's wretched face. “What are your Orders?” Palm pressing into the other man's palm.
The Warrant Officer's eyes both open, and clearly vacant. “Kill Marcelinho Gagne.” Lips slack. “Do my Lord proud.”
“Yes. That's right.” Squeezing into the man's hand. “And to make your Lord proud, you will end the Marcelinho threat.”
“End the- Marcelinho-.”
“I command you.”
“Command. I am at your command. My Lord. You command. End the Marcelinho. Make my Lord proud.”
Where is he from? The man people call jun'i-Blagden Ojou. Who are these smiling faces he keeps seeing in his increasingly infrequent dreams? I am... at your command. What dumb questions. He only has one concern. Make my Lord... proud. One reason to go on living. His Lord, shosa-Voivode.
In taking the better part of all night for Sabo, Sanji, and Koala to reach this grey, solid-formed concrete wall that surrounds the Maine Research Base on Tavoloa. Hours of their stumbling over knobby tree roots in the dark. Cursing, getting cut-up by thorny scrub. Landed ass-first into small creeks more than once, not realizing they were there until it was too late. Wet-through, muddy, and tired. Hungry, plus these nettles had left them pretty scratched up. It would be a kindness if the sun might rise a little higher. Though even when that does happen, chances of any actual warmth penetrating the dank shades, a canopy dripping in long vines- is zero.
“-soldiers.” Her expression glittering in semi-darkness. Eyes open, and alert. Koala points out two distinct structures set way up on the rim of the wall very near them. Shadowy rails all around each, around larger openings lit by candles. Long snipers' barrels poke from these illuminated spaces like spines off an urchin.
“-more.” Sabo gesturing further down. One gloved hand indicating Guard Stations about every hundred meters along this barrier that stands in their way. All of them lit. All manned.
“That's some shitty security.” Black-leg Sanji hasn't uttered a single word for awhile now. Crawling through thorny brush, and getting smacked around by that forest. At the Pirate's own statement, however, he's made a noise in his throat. A hum that's really a growl. Pale fingers twitching, because obviously the man is itching to hold a cigarette- but he makes a fist of them. Slamming against his own hip, then shoved both hands into his trouser pockets.
The Chef a step forward with intention, when he's felt a gentle hand settle onto his shoulder and pinch down. “What if you're seen-?”
He shrugs her off. The female revolutionary. Without so much as looking at her. Sabo seeing very clearly, one pearly wet tear making a line down the Pirate's face. Contrasting so much with his sneering. Lips pulled-back, making an edge of sharp white teeth visible. Black-leg Sanji kicks from the ground. Up this vertical wall, and slipped inside the nearest guardhouse. Silent as a shadow underneath another shadow. Flickering candle-flame the only indication of movement. After a short while, that movement stops. A solitary shadowy figure, standing tall.
“He's going to be a handful from now on.” The Revolution's Chief of Staff sighs out of his chest. Sabo peering left and right. Early dawn almost darker, in ways, than the night had been. Hardly able to make out this track running along this-side of the Marine's wall. Ten spans across, from this line of dense forest he and his girlfriend are currently sheltered by.
“Fufu- He may be-.” She giggles into the back of her hand, Koala's other arm put around Sabo's broad shoulders. Witnesses to three bright lanterns arranging themselves on the ledge of the guardhouse Sanji's just claimed. “-bein' a handful might still be fun. Might be more fun, Ne-? Think of it as a challenge.”
“Haha-?” A challenge. Never once has Sabo seen that blonde Pirate ever just walk away from any woman. Not without first kissing her hands and feet. Decrying whatever necessity life was unkind enough to demand, that he be torn from their very presence- But, and at the same time, Sabo is profoundly relieved his little brother's nakama has enough skill with sense to move about quietly. Koala and he joining Sanji inside the guardhouse to discover he had neatly knocked out about a dozen Marines. A group of Petty Officers. Their weapons not even drawn, with most still sitting or half-falling out of the chairs they'd been in. Not enough time to react to defend themselves before they'd been set upon. And yea, Sabo is impressed by that.
“Ooi-oi-! a map of the Base-, Sabo-” Koala makes for a large desk. The only substantial piece of furniture inside this room. Opening all its drawers, and looking for removable panels. They didn't find much. Not in the way of documents, anyway. What they did find were various supplies. Namely, bullets. There were several boxes of tightly packed ammunition.
“Oi-?” Sanji had been keeping watch over the subdued soldiers, but had turned. A few steps closer, towards the desk where Sabo and Koala are sorting everything. “Th-these are...?”
Also the moment Sabo takes a closer look at what's inside some of these boxes. Rows of long projectiles with hard, blue-metal heads.. “Kairōseki.” Only his fingertips. Sabo brushes lightly over these bullets. The flames of his Devil's Fruit immediately shying, and he's suddenly wishing he could lie down right on the floor and go to sleep. The hand holding this box of bullets, and his arm, both shivering as his muscles relax all on their own. He puts the things down, and that feeling of fatigue lessens- though not completely. Been left with an irrational desire to back far away from the table. To put as much physical distance between himself and these boxes of Sea Prism Stone.
He does back up, right into Black-leg Sanji. The Pirate grabbing onto the older man's shoulders, and hugged one arm around the Sabo's chest.
“Are you alright?” Koala is asking him. He looks up at her, but he can't answer.
“Breathe.” Sanji. The Cook's lean arm over Sabo's torso is in effort assist him in staying upright. Opposite hand on the Revolutionary's back.
He hadn't even be aware he'd stopped breathing, “H-huh-?- Gaaah- *cough- *COUGH-!” Rakes and gasps almost put the Mera-Mera no Mi user on his knees, but not for the Pirate's support. Giving Sabo time to swallow at the air around him. “Haaah-”
They stand this way, Sabo and Sanji. Koala taking out a small imaging device, and snapped a few photographs of what they'd found. Stowing everything away inside the desk when she'd finished. They're still standing like that, her boyfriend shivering a little. Sanji's arm put around Sabo. It looks painful, the breaths her Lover's taking. Of corse Koala has no idea what it feels like to have a reaction to Sea Prism Stone, because she is not a Devil's Fruit user. To her, Sea Prism Stone is just like any other stone in the world. But it's not. She knows that. She's seen. There are plenty in the Revolution with weird perks and weird negatives from having eaten a Devil's Fruit, but in one way they are all the same.
When they come into contact with it, a dark blue rock named Kairōseki. They are weakened. Made to be more powerless than their most despairing moments ever in their lives. If they fall into the Ocean, that's what happens. Their bodies become so weak they can't move. They can't swim! People gave a name to that, a long time ago: Hammers. To mock them, but also as a warning to all and any who might eat a Devil's Fruit themselves, one day. That if they ever slip below the waves, they'll sink straight to the bottom. Them and the Devil inside them. That the Sea will claim them, because they are cursed and are fated to die... Other stories talk about after that, mysterious guesses and scattered poetry about somewhere in the world a vine or a tree will grow and that same Fruit that sank to the bottom will be found again by someone else. Or so they say. Rumors. Ports and Bars are always filled with rumors. Koala has heard a greatly many, and doesn't believe half of them. She has eyes for herself. And ears. She trust those, and since Sabo ate his Devil's Fruit- the one that had been his Brother's... Koala has learned something new about it and him everyday. How different he is, and how familiar.
“Haaah-” Sabo's gold head rests back on Sanji's shoulder, Koala's eyes going onto the Pirate. Regarding him, stepping close. Both her hands placed quietly on her Lover's laboring chest to feel Sabo's breathing, and while also she's admiring how blue and mesmerizing is that one single eye Sanji chooses to show. What a tremendous shame that it is! that she be denied seeing both his eyes at once? Guiding her boyfriend's breath back to normal by applying soft pressures with her palms. “Haaah-” Sabo isn't struggling. Air going into him easier. Chin come down, and he sees his girlfriend gazing at the man keeping him up on his feet. For a moment, observing. The naked line of Koala's cheekbone, and following down the woman's pale neck. Half-covered in mud, but still she's lovely. Thought this, Sabo leaning as she's moved. Joining their lips.
Sabo closes his eyes, and Koloa keeps hers open. Upon their observing Pirate as they share a kiss-
-and Black-leg Sanji doesn't run. No hesitancy in him. Apparent in every way that he's listening to the soft, moist sounds of lips and tongues that weren't either one of them his. Watching them. Koala's supple gaze on him. In him. In sense of worship, or some state similar too. Not longing-for, more dreaming-of. Auburn lashes flutter at him, and Koala's pink tongue gently wipes across Sabo's shivering lips. Encouragement for the man to open them, which he does.
“-h-haaah-?!” A sound with a lot of air in it. Sanji been startled to feel hands upon him. S-Sabo's hands-? The man reaching back, simply to touch. Strong thumbs stroking over tight cords in Sanji's thighs that -after walking through that shitty jungle all night- feel too good. “haaah-”
The gulls outside are... loud.
-Good morning!” -Morning!” -Good morning!” -Morning!” -Good morning!” -Morning!” -Good morning!” -Morning!” -Good morning!” -Morning!” -Good morning!”
Warbles of the same few words over and over, and all of them together. A couple dozen birds. Chopper flattens his ears to the sides of his head. Burying his face in pillows. Morning? When did it become morning? A headache behind both eyes he's had all night stabs a little more. Going right up into his antlers. The little Doctor turning over in his box-hammock to blink at an Adam-plank ceiling.
“It's... morning....?” Luffy and Zoro didn't come back to the ship last night, Chopper believes. Having asked to be woken-up if they were to come back... and he's slept through the whole night. Of course, his nakama might have also ultimately decided not to wake him up? This hopeful bubble in the young Zoan's chest lasts just long enough for him to sit up to look around into all the other hammocks and couches in the Men's Quarters.
No one else is here.
The let-down almost worst than his constant worry that something might have happened to Zoro. Even if Chopper keeps reminding himself that it doesn't make much difference if he were there or not. If something happens, or if they find out Zoro's pregnancy isn't viable...? ...and how did he even get pregnant-? Eh??
“No!” *Slap!! Two hooves clap the Doctor's small cheeks. Stopping himself from those sorts of thoughts, because he already knows going around and around asking himself the same questions he can't answer is pointless. Facts are facts, and the fact is there's nothing he can do. Other than to track the hCG levels in Zoro's blood. Not yet anyway. Once Law arrives with the VS, he'll be able to locate the fetus and determine how it may grow. Then he can tell Zoro how he should… proceed.
The hooves held against the little Zoan's furry cheeks begin to quiver, and so he cross his short arms, instead. Hugging himself. Trying to hold them still. Not helping that his whole body is started shaking. Thinking If? After the VS arrives, and they find Zoro can't carry his baby to term- what then? How would he... How can Chopper even begin to explain something like that to Luffy? To the others?! Everybody knows now... probably everybody.
“Haaah-” Deciding he shouldn't think about that particular topic either, and adding it to a mental list.
“Haaah-” Only the tiny Doctor doesn't know how to... to just... stop caring about his nakama. Or any of his patients! Zoro just so happens to be both. So he doesn't know what he should do, other than what he does everyday. Climbing down out of his box-hammock, and a brush of brown fur. Chopper takes his big hat from the rack beside the door, leaving the men's quarters to have breakfast in their ship's Galley.
“Okay.” Brave Warrior of the Sea, God Usopp, has his back against the bar inside the Galley. A little grey around his eyes, and most certainly hungover. But perfectly serious. Arms laced over his chest. Brook, Jimbe, Nami, Robin, and Franky all present, though only Nami is sitting down at the table. In a chair beside a young teenage boy. A shock of sandy hair on this kid, and his skin about the same color as the Gunner's. Two sets of elbows in each arm that he's resting on the surface in front of him. Staring. Wide eyed, and silent. “You are going to tell us what happened back there, Ne?” Usopp's asked his Navigator, and currently acting Captain. “Who is this? And where are Luffy and Zoro?”
“We didn't see them.” Nami says, quietly. Sharing a look with Nico Robin, the Historian goes to fetch a glass and a bottle of strong Gin. Pouring, and set the glass down in front of this lad. It only takes him half a stilted second, to reach out an unsteady hand. He drinks, and doesn't even pull a face doing it. His lips quivering a little, as he's licked them. “-and we don't know this boy's name.” Doing her best not to ogle him. This child. Nami's gold eyes put to one side.
Both she and Nico Robin had stayed up late last night. Chatting. Eating such wonderful food while they had plotted, and dreamed about what sort of nursery Franky might build for their newest crew member on board their ship. They were having such a good time they didn't even see the sun come up through the restaurant's crisscrossed windows. All the sudden there were Marines packing the bar. Hundreds and hundreds of soldiers. Shouting. And they brought a tall man out from the kitchen, wearing a Chef's apron. Then- then Dracule Mihawk came?!!
“There was a woman-” Robin's hands are scratched and bloody, but she doesn't seem to care. Clutching them. “Sh-she begged us... to... to take her son away.” Tears in that woman's eyes, that never fell. “We ran away, while it appeared some sort of an.. execution w-was...”
The boy sitting at these Pirate's Galley table takes in a huge breath of air, and then lets it all out. Two more times, he does this. Quick breaths. He does not cry.
“What is your name?” She asks gently, Nami pouring another measure of clear alcohol.
“...m-amy-anameis..” He breathes again. Fast, and blinks his eyes hard. Wrinkling his nose. “My-a name-a is Marcelinho D Toby-a-”
Mute attentions shift. Landing onto Chopper as the small Doctor looks around the room. Noticing that Zoro and Luffy aren't here either. Neither are Sanji, Sabo, and Koala. Both Franky and Usopp are back onboard, and so is Nami and Robin. As well as a stranger, sitting at Sunny's Galley table. His face all red, and there is a glass next to a bottle in front of him on the table. A pair of wet eyes blinking.
Tony-Tony Chopper feels a definite redoubling of his headache. “I am a reindeer.” he says, draging air in through a blue nose. “See? I have antlers-”
“Ahh! It can talk?!”
The little Zoan sighs out of his chest. To agitated worrying about Zoro to be bothered by much of anything else.
“Ne, Chopper. Good morning.” Usopp leaning up against the bar, his nakama has to walk right in front of the Gunner to get to the firdge.
“-morning...” not sure if he's wishing someone a 'good morning', or asking if it's even 'morning' at all. Finding a selection of cake slices neatly wrapped for him. Thank you, Sanji!! He's still trying to make up his mind which one he wants-...
“Oya- so? um... Shachi called here. Last night. Said Law wanted to talk to you?”
“...” The heartbeat that rakes across this inside of the little Zoan's ribs hurts an awful lot. “Ne?”
“...” A heartbeat followed by another terrible slam- then another, and another. But, while everyone in the room looks like their holding their own independent bombshells, nobody says anything?! “What did Law want?” Trying his best not to shout, closing the door to the refrigerator. He's not hungry at all anymore.
“To talk to you. It seems they're on their way to us, to deliver a VS.” Usopp pauses here, creating a tension that's sure to break the glass right out of Sunny's porthole windows.
“Aye.” Probably the only tension Chopper doesn't share. Nodding his head, and taken an easy breathe. “Okay!” Opening the fridge, he's taken a huge slice of raspberry ribbon in white cake. A fork from the drawer and he goes into his Infirmary via the door right of this room.
Leaving more than just Usopp gaping at the back of the door closing behind their ship's Doctor.
“What did you say?” Nami's asked very quietly. The boy beside her taking down another long drink of dry Gin. “Ne, Usopp?” She doesn't look at him. Taking the bottle away from Toby instead. Two large glasses is plenty enough for this child. He's not on the verge of tears anymore. He's- thinking. He probably has a lot to think about. Marcelinho D Toby?
“I said the Hāto no Kaizokudan are on their way here.”
Robin stops Nami from shelving the bottle. Taking it for herself, the Historian drinks right from it. Emptying what was left inside, nearly half.
“I don't know.”
Usopp admitting like he's ashamed, but how could he know?? Nami is their crew's amazing Navigator, and she barely knows where they are in the Ocean most of the time. “I need to talk to Bepo. Right now.”
“I don't want to hear it.” She says. Keeping her voice even, and calm. The red-head draping an careful arm around Marcelinho D Toby's small shoulders. The young teen begun to shiver again, sat in his chair. Robin crosses the Galley at this time, gone inside Chopper's infirmary without knocking and the door closes behind her. A sharp *clacck. “There is too much going on. I don't need to hear it.” Gold eyes go around the room. At Usopp, Jimbe, Franky, and Brook. “Luffy,” She says. “Zoro, Sanji, Sabo, and Koala. They are still out there somewhere, on this island.” The boy pulls his arms in, leaning into the half hug being offered him. Starting to cry. “I need to talk to Bepo.”