A/N HEYYYYYYY. So, this is two things. One, an early birthday fic for Zoro (that's mostly it) and two, a farewell fic for me. November is Nanowrimo, so I'm busy. Busy enough that I won't be doing any fanfiction at all, guaranteed. I won't even be logged in at all. Thus I can't exactly post this fic on his actual birthday, or any other fics throughout November. But it's not fair for him to not get a birthday present from me just because his birthday is in November! So I'm giving it early. If you are kind enough to review, please don't take offense to the fact that I will not personally thank you until December. Happy Halloween everyone. Best of luck to fellow wrimos out there. And all, thank you for reading!
Disclaimer: I don't own One Piece
He had been ok, before it had gotten so dark you couldn't read the street signs.
Wood clicked against wood and boot scuffed up cobblestone as the man strolled down the street, frowning at the darkening sky.
"'Scuze me sir!" He stepped aside and let a young boy in the old coat and hat reach up to the street light with his lighting pole. "Sorry sir. I'm running late tonight sir!" The boy bowed his head and scurried off towards the next post, lighting the oil so that the light flared into a soft glow inside the glass cage.
The man considered for a moment, asking the boy the way to the nearest bar would get him to his destination sooner, but he'd find it on his own anyway. He stepped forward again, wood clicking, heavy cloth making an audible 'whmp' against his legs with each step.
He passed a bakery, a young girl, wrapped tight in her shawl, packing bread into baskets and carrying them back inside, an older man folding up the stands the loaves had been displayed on. The florist shop was fragrant as the rest on the Island (how weird that they were all painted blue with red and yellow flower patterns, some Islands had such weird cultures), wafting stale pollen all across the street and probably down the next one as well so he was sneezing his way past. Night wind whispered in his ear and he cursed under his breath, letting the words fog in the chilled air rather than reach anyone's ears. All the real good places were probably getting full by this hour, it was well after five, but on a civil island many waited till nightfall to get their enjoyment for the day.
He was ready to get rid of all these annoying walls and turns and flatten the block when he turned right and came to almost step on a hobbling old beggar with a tin cup.
More importantly, hidden (rather poorly, so that the label is plenty clear and the deformed cork stuck out like a bloody thumb) beneath the long hem of the shabby overcoat the man was swallowed by, was a bottle of rum. It was the grimy stuff, that was cheaper then dirt and tasted worse anyway so that was a swell price. It was also just how Zoro liked his drinks, cheap and easy to swallow.
"Where'd ya get that?" Zoro leaned over towards the little man, huddled up in his fake fur, balding coat, who's fingertips were blue and shivering as he held out his empty mug.
"So sorry, my herins's goin." The man sneered and Zoro sneered in response, snatching the bottle from the ground and going to uncork it, the man babbled out words and pleads until Zoro heard the words he'd wanted.
"The tavrn 'round the corner, giv it!" He let the bottle slip through his fingers and left the beggar to screech and scramble to catch it, cooing when he succeeded. His boot kicked a pebble forward and it embedded itself in the wall of the house in front of him. Zoro turned away from that building and towards the content hum of drunk chatter and the welcome tangle of beer smells that chased away the pollen.
The door was recently oiled, it swung silently inward when he pushed through and smelled like fresh pine. It swung in and out, saloon style, or maybe kitchen style, a useful thing for a bar, given the nature of those who end up there.
Among the various patrons of the tavern nobody batted an eye at Zoro's entrance, hardly sparing the man with the green coat and red scarf half a glance. That was fine, the witch was itching for excuses today…
Personally, Zoro had never been fond of fellow drinkers. He found them uncouth, undisciplined, and dishonorable. The man that spent every afternoon squirreled away with his problems and a bottle of rum was no better than a rat, curled up with a hunk of rotting food to keep it alive for the night. Zoro drank for drink, not for any kind of relief, not for company, or gossip; rather he detested crowded bars, filled with men spouting problems and scantily clothed woman who thought their butts were big enough to distract a man from the sorrow on their faces.
Here though, there was only two men and a woman gathered round a table, congregating on politics; plus the barman doing dishes and casting fleeting looks at his customers to make sure no one was fighting/dying/confiding dark secrets/raping/leaving without paying/ etc.
Zoro crossed behind the small group, floorboards squeaking beneath his boots, swords clicking against one another, muffled by the coat. The barman granted him a squinty perusal before he began drying his hands on a dish towel. Zoro sat on the stool, dropping his swords to rest against the bar, and leaning his elbows on the counter.
"Would you like something?"
"Ale. Full mug."
"Any particular brand?"
The barman moved to fill a mug with his order, pretending to choose carefully from the casks stacked behind him. Zoro ran his fingers through the bills Nami had gifted him with, a generous gift by her standards. He'd probably have to pay her back later, but he'd be spending whatever she gave him, not spending it made the loan a waste.
"Bar tender! I want another glass of that bourbon! Make it tall!" One man called, blonde hair, glistening smile, addled blue eyes.
The barman afforded the group at the table a glance and a nod, dropping Zoro's mug on the counter and stepping out to collect the used glasses at the table.
"Can you pay for another tall glass? That's a couple thousand beri on your tab right now."
"I've got it." The man waved away the concern and the woman on his arm whispered something in his ear. "And another cocktail for Isa, the gold stuff; with the olive." The barman nodded absently and carried his tray back behind the bar, sorting through the bottles underneath the bar.
Zoro wrapped his hands around the mug, enjoying the wood against his fingers and the tang of sour air that floated from the amber concoction he'd been yearning for all day. He gulped down a mouthful, he'd found it tasted best all at once, bitter and tang flooding down his throat in a waterfall of taste and dizzying power.
He almost didn't hear the words behind him.
"I was thinking about goin' bounty huntin' later, so why not I get Nadim another round too? Hm, bar tender?"
"Hunting? Hunting who?" Nadim, a short man with black hair and a cigarette dangling in between his teeth, queried jokingly "the stowaways that are sneaking off the ships? No Captain wants them back."
"Not stowaways!" The blonde laughed "Bounties, I said, aren't you listening?"
"What Nadim wants to know, is which bounties, darling. I do not know of any low strength bounties walking around the Island just now." Isa purred, twirling her finger in the long ringlet of purple hair that fell from the left side of her head. Zoro signaled for another drink and when the bar tender collected his mug he mumbled that he wanted gin this time, something heavier.
"The Straw Hats are in port." The blonde leaned back in his chair, taking the glass that the barman offered him and sipping complacently, smirking into the mouth of the glass. His statement sent Nadim choking and hacking up the brandy that he'd been handed.
"The Straw Hats? What are you, Kian, suicidal?"
"Kian, that is not a funny joke." Isa scolded and Kian laughed, taking another swig.
"I'm not joking. This is several islands into the New World, most every pirate crew that passes through here is falling behind on sleep and stamina. And I plan on having an ally." He waggled his eyebrows at his drinking partners and Nadim shook his head.
"I'll be hiding out in my basement, attacking the Straw Hats is asking for a massacre." Nadim set his glass on the table, fisting his hands and shoving them in his pockets. "Not to mention they're bloody indestructible. Two years, Kian, two years and they popped back from the grave! They were beat into the ground by an Admiral and a shichibukai. And they're back again."
"What kind of ally would help you with a target like that?" Isa gestured that she wanted a cigarette and Nadim handed her a fresh roll and a lighter. "They are revered throughout the world as unbeatable. You cannot target just one, and no one has been strong enough to take them all. I have never met a bounty hunter who would not cower at Straw Hat's name."
"You wouldn't believe me." Kian smirked. "He's an expert though, they won't know what hit 'em."
"Who?" Nadim pressed, leaning forward.
"Roranoa Zoro." Kian finally confided and Nadim plopped back in his chair; Zoro nearly whipped around to pummel the guy till he seeped through the cracks in the floorboards. Zoro could take a lot of crap, but saying he'd betray his crew was a sure-fast way to get him to slice you up quick. Isa gasped
"Well that's that. He's drunk. Check, barman?" Zoro snorted into his mug, harshly covering a snarl, and Isa giggled.
"I'm not all that drunk, Nadim, you buffoon." Kian argued and waved off the bar tender who was approaching with the tally of the night. "I haven't worked out all the details but I've got a deal for him, he's sure to agree."
"He's sure to eat you alive." Nadim argued, Isa stroked Kian's arm, comforting, pressing a kiss to his cheek.
"What in Paradise makes you think he would work with you?" She asked. Zoro agreed, nothing in the univers would have him even considering to work with that kind of scumbag.
"We want the same thing." Kian grinned and waved for a refill. "He's the Pirate Hunter, isn't he? But he's on a crew."
"Don't see how that matters a speck." Nadim mumbled into his nearly empty glass "He'll murder you if you ask him to work with you against his crew." Yes. Zoro would.
"But why's he called the pirate hunter? He used to be a bounty hunter, but now he doesn't do any bounty hunting. Or does he? And that's why his epithet is so inappropriate. He can't bounty hunt, so why's he got that kind o' a name?"
"So the crew has a bounty hunter, perhaps he acts as a strategist?" Isa frowned "He is still on the crew, is he not?"
"I was thinking, why join a pirate crew and get a bounty; it only causes problems. And I realized, he's targeting his crew mates!" Kian thunked his glass down on the table and leaned closer. "Think, bounty hunter fights a pirate, pirate beats him. The hunter knows he wants the bounty this pirate will get 'imself later, and he knows he can't get it by fightin' fair. So he gets on the pirate's crew, gains his trust, and when he deems the bounty ripe to harvest, he takes 'em all out in a swift blow." Kian sweeps his hand off the table, knocking a fork from an earlier meal onto the ground. Zoro growled, debating if Nami would wring his neck for beating the blonde up at this point. He really wanted to avoid her wrath today. He wasn't in the mood.
Nadim snorted, unimpressed.
"So you think Roranoa Zoro is secretly still a bounty hunter and is preparing to capture his crew and turn them in for their bounties… Yeah, check, please?" He held up his hand, again beckoning for the check, sure that Kian was too drunk to drink more safely. Kian didn't argue this time, but he still persisted with his plan to bring down the Straw Hat crew.
"Zoro can't turn in the bounties, because he has one 'imself. He'd be captured if he went to turn them in. So I'll strike him a deal, he captures them and I'll turn 'em in. It's a match made for us. He gets to fight evil pirates and gets money, and I impress people and get money. Plus the world doesn't have to deal with the Straw Hats." Kian looked rather proud of himself but Zoro had had enough of this crowded little bar, he stood, tied his swords back to his coat and dropped a few notes on the counter. He turned to leave, the bar tender thumbing through the amount.
"Darling, you should have a good night's sleep before attempting this plan; Roranoa will certainly be unreasonable." Isa cautioned and carefully guided Kian to his feet. Kian nodded in understanding, stumbling a few steps forwards as Isa pushed her chest into his arm and threw her weight into keeping him upright.
Zoro hoped that he'd remember his plan when he woke up in the morning, he'd like it if that guy came to him asking to go through with that. It'd give him an excuse to use him as a warm up (nah, guy wasn't good enough for swords, maybe a punching bag) without upsetting the witch and setting her off complaining that she'd never give him extra money on his birthday and charge him half the usual interest ever again.
Speaking of that money…
"Hey, bar tender. Something heavier this time. Make tomorrow a challenge, eh?."
So long as that jerk was leaving the bar wasn't all that crowded anymore, was it?