line break-line break
UPDATED: 1/10/18- Added more to Zoro's thoughts and wrote cleaner transitions
Zoro slid down to the floor and breathed out a shaky breath, his face contorting to match the emotions swirling within. If Kuina had let her sword fall, he wouldn't have stopped her. Never, had he felt so torn apart from the inside. He didn't even know who he was, where he came from anymore. Those he cherished, didn't know him, or in this case hated him.
Chapter 3: The Fate of Memories
Loguetown. Out of all the places he could have ended up, he ended up here. In this world, things were the same as far as Gold Rogers execution, and Zoro stared at the execution platform with a blank look. He remembered his complete an utter panic when Luffy himself faced execution in this very courtyard; by that retarded clown Buggy.
Everyone found out later that Luffy actually was cut by the sword, on the back of his neck, and everyone freaked while their Captain laughed in the background. That day everyone realized just how lucky they got. Chopper wasn't a part of the crew yet, and since they were all lacking medical skills, the scar ended up being darker than any other Luffy received. Everybody else seemed to forget about it, but not Zoro.
Zoro never forgot.
Often Zoro found himself looking at it, remembering how they all almost failed that day. It strengthened his resolve; made him realize that life and death could happen to anyone, even his crewmates. He was more aware of that now more than ever.
But this all begged the question; what was his resolve now?
To find the crew, sure, but the meeting with Kuina shook him up. It made him question his motives. He, honestly, didn't even know who he was anymore. Never, had he realized how dependent he was on them, his crew. They were the center of his whole world and with them gone; he was left floundering trying to figure out who he was.
If he didn't change anything, things could turn out the same as before. He needed to change; for his crew, to keep them safe, for them and only for them. Zoro never liked change, but he could do it. He would do it.
Zoro sighed as he twirled the hat he stole in his hands. He was leaning against the side of a building covered in the shadow of the execution platform. No motivation struck him, urging him up, so he sat and grumbled to himself.
So his resolve was to change, for his crew, but change into what? He could at least start by being honest with himself. Kuina's reaction hurt. What if his friends, family had similar reactions?
He wasn't strong enough. Not enough for that. Zoro groaned and barely suppressed the urge to flap around on the ground dramatically. He felt like his brain was going in endless circles ever since he arrived in this nonsense driven universe. To many questions, not enough answers.
Though…Zoro thinks he finally understands the emotional stress Robin went under when she joined the crew. Many of the strawhats grew mentally during their journey but it was Robin who changed the most. When her tears fell and she begged, screamed, at Luffy for them to take her away, back to sea; this was the tipping point proving that she had changed. She became the person she wanted to be, who she was meant to be and Zoro realized he didn't truly understand till now.
He'd never had the need to change drastically like that. Ever since he was a child he knew what he wanted to be. Sure, over the years there were small things that changed, promises he uttered but never a deep, soul crushing change that he felt he was in need of now.
But…what was he supposed to be? What did his crew need? The questions rang in Zoro's head while he stewed. An answer to his thoughts never surfaced while he sat there so, eventually, he stood up and started going through the town.
He kept an eye out for any Marines but ever since his run in with Kuina he hadn't come across any others. This was suspicious. The Kuina from this world hated his guts that much was obvious. After he gained some control over his emotions he bolted from the shop he had hidden himself in, sure she was going to rain down every marine on island on him.
But no such thing happened and no Marine activity could be seen. It made Zoro feel on edge. He kept to the shadows of buildings trying to keeping himself hidden. There was no way his luck was so good having avoided marines and Mihawk for so long.
He knew he needed a plan but his head was so fuzzy he could hardly manage to wrap his head around the concept of a completely different world much less how he was going to find a way off this rock and find any of the crew.
The sun was setting and vendors started putting away their side shops. As he walked he noticed the hat vendor he stole from earlier that day, when he was desperate for a disguise, was also packing his wares. Zoro looked down at the stolen hat. Wordlessly, he stuck the hat out and waited for the man to notice him. When the man finally did, he looked affronted then surprised.
"Some one was chasing me and I needed a disguise quick, Sorry." Zoro grunted. He was forced to say something as the vendor stared at him, puzzled, the silence getting awkward. The man suddenly smiled and grabbed Zoro's shoulder shaking it in a friendly manner. The corner of his eye crinkled as he laughed;
"Don't worry about it son! Thanks for bring it back!"
As Zoro turned to leave the man stopped him; "Why don't you pick something out? Free of charge."
It was Zoro's turn to feel puzzled. Giving the vendor a look that was clearly suspicious, he made no move to pick something. Living with Nami ultimately led him to be very wary of transactions of this manner. The man seemed to find the whole situation amusing and he raised both hands in a defeated gesture.
"Hey, I appreciate honesty, especially in young people like you."
When Zoro still made no move to take anything the man sighed and started waving various hats in his face;
"I have wide brimmed, felt, feathers," The man listed, waving a gaudy hat with a rich purple feather protruding off the side. Zoro grimaced, thinking of Mihawk, and shook his head;
"I'm not much of a hat person."
The man hummed, disappointed and started packing up the rest of his shop. Zoro, instead of turning away like he did before, found himself watching the man pack up his stand. He was an older man with broad shoulders, good for swordsmanship, though Zoro doubted the man had even touched a blade seriously in his life.
"Hey, are you in some sort of trouble, kid?"
The man had paused in his packing up to stare at him. His concerned look seemed genuine and at the reminder of trouble he looked over his shoulder in slight paranoia half expecting Mihawk or Kuina to pop out of the wood work and do something crazy. All he saw though, was a busy street and he looked back at the man's concerned face and decided to go with a half truth.
"Some trouble…with my dad is all." Zoro said wearily through clenched teeth. The man's eyes lit up in understanding then he chuckled. Zoro felt as if the man might have got the wrong impression but didn't care to correct him.
"Why don't you join my family for dinner?"
Zoro was once again struck mute. Staring at the man in bafflement the guy laughed, his hand clapping him on the shoulder for a second time.
"I know what it's like to be at odds with a parent!" The man said, "Do whatever you can to avoid going back home and facing them right?"
Zoro blinked and suddenly found a small smile emerging on his face. The whole situation felt so absurd, the fact that he was discussing his relationship about his "dad" with a total stranger, and not to mention the parent in question, who just so happened to be Mihawk of all people?
Needless to say it went on the list of strange-things-that-only-happen-to-Zoro list. It was probably right below that time he was somehow wrangled into being a nanny for some orphan kids a whole day. He would forever remember his embarrassment when Robin stumbled upon him when he had a swaddled babe in each arm and wearing the most ridiculous shirt.
The man snapped his fingers in front of Zoro's face and smiled;
"Hey, are you in there? What about it?"
Zoro nodded his head in agreement and helped the man finish up packing for the day. The man prattled on about his family and wife's cooking. He eventually found out the man's name was Robbie. Three of their grandchildren lived with them. They eventually arrived to a little house wedged between two other houses. Closer inspection deemed that they were all one building just split for more residences.
They entered, both oblivious to the shadow tailing them a couple blocks down. When the door shut behind them, the shadow brought out a mini-snail phone and whispered into it before vanishing with the setting sun.
"Mary! I brought a guest!" Robbie yelled as soon as they entered the small house. Zoro helped put down the various boxes and straightened up looking around. The house was cramped but homey and three kids around the same age were wrestling in the living room, a deck of cards strewn about. Against his will thoughts and images fell over his eyes, replacing the playing children with Chopper, Ussop and Luffy. And just like old times the children saw him, jumped up and started yanking on his sleeves.
"Won't you play with us big brother!" one asked. Another piped up as well; "Yeah, Pleaaasee?"
And with those simple phrases Zoro was brought back.
"Neh, Zoro, won't you play with us?" Luffy yelled in his ear. Zoro grunted and tossed his Captain off, disgruntled, turning over and trying to fall back asleep.
"Zoro's a meanie!"
Zoro fell back asleep with the chanting of meanie coming from the Captain, Doctor and Sniper respectively.
Zoro let out a slightly hysterical laugh and fought the urge to cry. Taking his laugh as a yes, the three children man handled him into the living room, pushing him on the floor and throwing a hand of cards in his face. The children started a loud game of poker while Zoro sat back, dazed, caught off guard by the unexpected flash back. It wasn't so much the scene as the feelings that accompanied it.
All those times. All those moments. His refusal.
Zoro knew that the crew knew that he, well…loved them. He wasn't concerned that he left them with any doubt over this fact. The feelings mostly stemmed from how his actions affected himself. His all-around grump-ness was a part of the crew and it was practically legendary. He was pretty sure that there was a whispered game called Zoro Bothering that was shared with the crew when they thought he wasn't listening.
Now, he was left wishing he had taken part in Luffy's various stupid games and whims. All those moments he could have been spending time with his family and instead he was training. Which was important too, but more important?
Luffy…Luffy was a great captain. He trained just a Zoro did, but Luffy always made sure that some part of his day was occupied with each member of the crew. Whether it was bothering Sanji in the kitchen, hovering over Franky as he worked, listening to Ussops stories with wide attentive eyes, he was always there.
With a start, Zoro realizes the Luffy was more than just his captain, he was, is, his hero. Kuina was always the foundation of his will but that crumbled as soon as he saw her, the disgust and contempt she held for him knocking him down. Now, however, he couldn't even bring himself to care. Kuina was always a far off memory, one that stayed with him sentimentally but ultimately outweighed the love for his crew. Kuina didn't matter anymore but Luffy mattered. He was the man Zoro followed, the one he would die for.
But Luffy wasn't captain anymore and in extension, Zoro was no longer the first mate. If Luffy wasn't the one to gather the crew, then that left Zoro. But then what did that make him? He felt uncomfortable and confused at the thought. Maybe…for the time being, he needed to be more than just a potential first mate. Maybe…he needed to be-
"Big Brother, it's your turn!"
Zoro jumped like he had been shocked by one of Nami's lightening attacks. He blinked at the three children before playing his turn and zoning out once again.
He knew now what he needed to be, how he needed to change. He needed to be more than the first mate right now...he needed to be more like Luffy. Never would he be as chipper but he could be watchful and attentive like Luffy was. He would be the strawhats guardian. They didn't have to be a crew again, that didn't matter, they just had to be together and safe.
Zoro smiled softly down at the children giggling over their card game, probably because they were cheating but Zoro didn't care. His heart and mind suddenly felt quiet and he felt…peaceful.
At that thought, a fog descended over the living room where he sat and the children disappeared. Zoro's breath hitched in surprise when hazy manifestations of the crew started to appear. After a few seconds the images became sharp and Zoro was staring at the crew he had lost. He sat dumfounded before he saw the Ussopp he knew giving him his smug grin and thumbs up. Nami was off to the side rolling her eyes dramatically and shaking her head with a smile on her face. Sanji was smoking his usual cigarette muttering something under his breath, probably an insult. Chopper was hovering around him waving gauze and berating him. Franky and Brooke were both laughing joyously in the background as Robin watched over everyone with a pleased smile.
Luffy was in the middle and absolutely glowing. His captain gave him a look that he only reserved for his first mate and nodded in acceptance. Zoro smiled sadly and looked at them all, "I'm sorry you guys have to wait, I think I'm needed here."
Luffy nodded happily with a smile and Zoro could here an echoing 'shshishishi' in his ear. He smiled gratefully at his family who all waved bye as they faded away and the voice called fate echoed in his ear, saying the same thing she said to him that made him accept the decision to come to this universe in the first place.
"Your family desperately need you there."
He blinked and he was back in the unfamiliar living room, the children quiet. He looked down at the children who were looking at him now, concerned. One reached out and touched his wet cheeks.
"Why is big brother crying?"
Zoro laughed and rubbed his eyes with his sleeve smiling.
"I miss my family…they are gone now." Zoro whispered and actually didn't mind when the three kids crawled into his lap and stared up at him with big eyes.
"But its okay," Zoro said, looking up to where the strawhats disappeared, "they are still with me.
One of the kid's eyes lit up in recognition and they put a little hand on Zoro's chest, where his heart could be felt beating.
"Oh I know! Grandma said that loved ones we lose are in here!" The child crowed, patting his chest.
"That's right." A woman said entering the room through the kitchen.
Zoro glanced up at the older woman who was looking at him with sparkles in her eyes. He instantly felt embarrassed and uncomfortable as the woman smiled at him, absolutely cooing over Zoro. He barely contained his bristle of manly defense. The children jumped up at the promise of dinner and fled the room leaving behind the woman and Zoro. The woman clutched her hands together and watched Zoro as he slowly sat up from the floor.
"Sorry if the children are a bit, forward," The woman said, "they lost their parents last year and they tend to, ah, adopt people as family."
Zoro shrugged his shoulders opening his mouth to reply but was cut off when there was a pleasant knock coming from the front door.
"We weren't expecting anyone." The woman mumbled, confused.
Zoro watched, feeling nervous as she put aside her apron and went to the door. As she approached the knocks became a little quicker and insistent.
"Alright, alright!" The woman's tone turned annoyed as she gripped the handle of the door and swung it open. Her mortified scream pierced the air and Zoro cringed.
Dracule Mihawk stood, seething on the door step while Zoro swore loudly, the word echoing down the hall where the children sat, wondering about the strange word they had never heard before that started with F.
Till Next Time!