line break-line break

.

AUTHORS NOTE: First, sorry for the wait. Second, this chapter is not very long because I was originally going to tack this onto the end of chapter three but didn't know how to notify my readers of the added content. I was then going to add it to chapter four but that chapter is a beast and I felt like it deviated from the purpose of that chapter. Still better than nothing though, right? Thank you for the continued support! ~


.

.

.

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.

Chapter 4: The Fate of a Son

The woman, who he still didn't have a name for, proved to be more than just a humble house wife. While her initial scream was because of the fright of seeing the most powerful swordsman on her doorstep, the second, was a scream of outrage that she unleashed as she spun around, glaring at Zoro.

"I WILL NOT have such profanity uttered in my house!"

Zoro stayed rooted to the spot, to surprised and panicked to do anything else. He looked to Mihawk who had invited himself in and had marched till he was situated to the right of lady matching her in a severely disappointed expression.

"Of all the-" Mihawk spoke quickly, his rage so great words seemed to escape him, "you stupid boy-idiotic-what were you-I can hardly-"

At this point he let out a groan of frustration and Zoro wondered if Mihawks brain had somehow imploded. Robbie came rushing in to investigate the noise and was witness to the sight of Mihawk's hand shooting out and pinching Zoro's ear.

Zoro squawked in surprise and his temporary paralysis was released as he struggled to get away. Mihawk pulled making Zoro take a step closer to the door. His escape attempts proved useless as Zoro struggled and clawed, he was sure Mihawk was using haki to hold on.

"You-" The great swordsman still seemed incapable of complete sentences,"-so much trouble."

Zoro figured he had a few choices. He could; One, go with Mihawk. This optioned sucked and he wasn't doing it. Two, he could try and fight with his currently very cursed swords and very likely lose any kind of control. He figured he could manage to fight with one but it would definitely not be enough to fend off Mihawk. Or three, lob off his own ear.

It was no contest.

He gripped the handle of the katana closest to his hip and released it, the blade sliding out in a way that made Zoro suddenly hungry for a battle. Now wasn't the time for one and he quelled the urge. Using the tips of his fingers he flicked the blade and sent it swinging towards his ear. Mihwak's yellow eyes widened and he let go, kicking Zoro out of the way.

Zoro flew into the wall because of the urgency of Mihawk's kick and felt blood dripping down the side of his face. He tumbled to the ground vaguely registering the panicked shouts of the poor civilians he got mixed up in all this. His hand flew to the side of his head and was relived he still had his ear, though it seemed he carved a small chunk off.

He looked up to see Mihawk having not moved from his spot from where he kicked him, breathing heavily. Mihawk's spluttering rage from earlier was the most unwound and furious Zoro had ever seen the man and he didn't think it could get any worse.

He was wrong.

Mihawks eyes were like chips of ice, despite the color. The overwhelming intent of displeasure and anger was heavy in the air. Zoro had faced Mihawk's anger before, they were practically rivals in his old world but it was never like this.

Those instances were always impersonal. Invested, sure, but distant. This was personal and deep. The man was hurting and his anger was a reflection of the care he held for Zoro.

Admits his panic Zoro realized this and it made him feel guilty and intrusive. If you looked at it from a certain point of view Mihawk's son was dead and a stranger took his place. Zoro was that stranger and he was pushing his father away, uncomfortable with the relationship that was presented to him.

He did carry respect for Mihawk and new universe or not the man deserved better. The truth perhaps. Certainly not this. Zoro clutched his bleeding ear and his other hand held one of the unnamed cursed katanas.

When Mihawk stepped forward Zoro didn't give him the chance to go through with whatever new scheme he cooked up. He held up his hand, blood from his ear dripping on to the ground;

"Wait."

Much to his surprise, Mihawk actually stopped. The man showed patience even in such a furious state, showing tolerance despite his wants. It was respect but a different kind. A type Zoro that had never been directed towards him before. The type of respect Koshiro, Kuina's father, showed her when he finally gave into her demands to be trained despite his misgivings over her weaker constitution.

It was one that spoke of love and an endless forbearance for your child. Zoro didn't allow himself to process the emotions that sparked from this realization. Hoping that the little boy years ago who yearned for such things had no place in his heart anymore. But he needed to be honest now and he couldn't afford to be selfish.

"I'm sorry." It came out hesitant but it was as sincere as Zoro could muster. It was also the truth. Whether it was about his behavior or the fact he replaced this man's son it could have been a lot of things.

Zoro let out a long breath; "I'm exhausted."

This was said to no one in particular but Mihawk huffed and his anger washed away like it hadn't existed in the first place. He strode forward and grabbed Zoro by his arm and hoisted him up. Zoro sheathed his katana while Mihawk 'tsked' over his cut ear.

"You're exhausted? Stupid brat." Mihawk mumbled under his breath while Zoro laughed lightly.

The civilian woman made a breathy coo in the background and the two men spun towards the sound. Robbie looked confused and panicked but the woman had her hand over heart and was watching the two like they were adorable puppies.

"You'll stay for dinner wont you?" she asked sweetly. Mihawk gripped Zoro's arm lightly and opened his mouth to refuse when the woman cut him off her expression turning stale.

"Wont you?" She insisted. Zoro cringed recognizing the expression, having come very familiar with it over the years. It wasn't quite as terrifying as Nami's but it was close.

Who was this woman? Though the better question would be; What did they do to incur her wrath?

He looked to Mihawk, willing to play the repentant kid and dump the problem onto his shoulders. Mihawk faltered before he took off his hat in respect and held it sheepishly.

"Of course, mum, " Mihawk spoke, ", sorry to intrude."

The woman waved the apology away and looked towards her husband; "It's no problem, we like Zoro, don't we?"

The poor man was confused by everything that was going on but knew better than to question it; "Of course! Helped me carry my goods home today."

The three kids hiding behind the door way all piped up; "Yeah! Big Bro!"

"So cool!"

Mihawk gave Zoro a piercing look as the family shuffled into the adjoining dining room and raised a questioning brow. Zoro shrugged and followed not one to turn down free food, he wondered if they would have beer. He heard Mihawk sigh behind him and they all crowded into the tiny dining area.

The dinner was a little chaotic with the three children but Zoro had plenty of practice with that. He minded his own business and playfully elbowed thieving hands out of the way. The woman, who introduced herself as Mary, fixed up his ear at one point and kept giving Mihawk nasty looks.

She definitely had guts. Mihawk was silent and the man Robbie was focused on his food so the children and Zoro were the only ones who really spoke. Near the end of the slightly awkward dinner when the kids eyes were getting heavy with sleep Mary finally piped up.

"You're good with them." She whispered as Robbie ushered the children away to their beds. Zoro wanted to combat that statement with, 'no I'm just acquainted with a lot of idiots' but didn't think the comment would be appropriate.

"Yeah, you are good with them." Mihawk repeated his voice colored with disbelief. He looked at Zoro his face bewildered and searching. Mary's eyes roamed over Zoro before she turned her body so it was facing Mihawk.

"Is there a reason this boy would rather lob off his own ear than go with his supposed father?"

And there it was.

Zoro, despite his discomfort, had the overwhelming urge to suddenly cackle over the guilty and affronted expression on Mihawks face. Perhaps only an hour earlier he would have but he wasn't going to forget the new position he was put in this new world. There were things that were changing and that was okay.

Through Zoro's rollercoaster of emotions the past twenty-four hours he had come to accept a great many things. He was a son now. And while he respected this woman, loyalty was one of his core ideals and his supposed fathers honor was now in question.

Before the woman had a chance to throw out more blame and Mihawk had the chance to reply Zoro held up his hand and cut them off.

"The situation is very…complicated. " he explained, he briefly wondered why he was explaining at all, this woman had no business knowing, but Mihawk and him were both realizing that they both sucked at communicating. Having an un-invested third party to mediate the loaded conversation Zoro could feel coming was probably for the best.

"It wasn't that I didn't-" Zoro cut off here, pausing. He glanced at Mihawk; "I never intended-"

The woman seemed to disappear as Mihawk angled his shoulders towards Zoro and gave him his full attention. Zoro sighed heavily feeling weighed down by new responsibilities. He expected the duty of reuniting the crew but this was one he hadn't anticipated at all.

He made a decision here, hoping it was the right one; "Let me go."

Mihawk gasped softly and opened his mouth to argue. Zoro didn't let him speak, in a moment of pure instinct and desperation for understanding he reached out and snagged the man's hand resting on the table.

"Let me go." His eyes were dry but his throat felt too wet and he swallowed. He looked the man in the eye and willed him to understand. Zoro didn't want to tell this man his son was dead. He didn't want to go through the torture of explaining his failures and why he snatched away the son of Dracule Mihawk.

And in another completely selfish way, he wanted Mihawk to remain his father.

"There is something I must do," His voice echoed in the room and Mihawks pupils expanded as he brought his other hand to grip Zoros wrist, "please, let me go."

Silence reined, born from a stillness often associated from both men but brought on this time for different and un-meditative reasons. Zoro felt connected to this man. He wanted nothing more than to embrace this new calling, but he had something more important he needed to see be brought fruition.

They stared at each other for a long time and eventually the woman excused herself. Zoro said what he needed to and was waiting for the reply from Mihawk. There was an entire silent conversation the two swordsman had, their intense gazes seeming to cackle with intensity.

"If I'm going to agree to this you need to promise me something in return." Mihawk sighed, looking resigned. Zoro was hesitant but nodded his head.

"Promise me you will never fight with those cursed swords ever again."

Zoro's eyes grew big in his disbelief. It was very unlike Mihawk to request such a thing. Swordmen's chosen weapons were a symbol of honor, to ask one not to use their bonded weapons was almost like asking a mother to abandon their child.

"They are dangerous. Far more than you realize."

Zoro looked down at the tree katanas nestled to his side. His bond with them was weak and disturbed because of the mind switch of him and the old Zoro. He already realized they were cursed and would most likely be a handful but he didn't think it would be impossible. It would require the training of his mind, that was for sure. But just as he thought it he felt the familiar shiver run up his spine after running his fingers over them. There was clearly something more to them than being cursed, something ancient.

He should have felt wary over this but all he felt was excitement. To tame these weapons would be the ultimate challenge. Perhaps just the one he needed to become the person he desired to be for his crew. Zoro knew he couldn't agree, but perhaps they could compromise.

"I promise not to draw blood with these weapons." Zoro said, Mihawk raising an eyebrow at his statement.

"If I ever wish to, I will seek you out and you can determine whether I am strong enough to wield them. "

Mihawk narrowed his eyes, easily seeing the reasons and understanding Zoro's intentions. Zoro could tell he didn't approve, but the promise of a future fight between them, a promise that even if he let Zoro go today, he would still see his son again was swaying his decision.

"Fine. I expect this promise to be kept."

Zoro drew one of his katanas and held it up into the air while Mihawk sat back.

"I promise." Zoro whispered. He held it there for a moment before sliding the katana back into its sheath with a click. The conversation ended with that promise and the both rose to leave. They both thanked Robbie and Mary for the food while Mihawk put his hat back on.

Zoro and Mihawk both walked out of the home the air around them awkward and final. Zoro wasn't expecting the hesitant hand the came up and gripped his chin. Mihawk's hand was gentle and his yellow eyes looked over Zoro's face.

"You remind me so much of her." Mihawk whispered wistfully, "…so stubborn."

Zoro was startled by the comment and Mihawk's hand dropped. He closed his eyes and let out a huff of air that rose into the chilly night.

"Except your eyes," He opened his eyes and looked at Zoro, "Those eyes are mine."

He sounded possessive and Zoro allowed him the sentiment. They both shared a searching look and eventually they nodded to each other and Mihawk turned and disappeared into the night.

Curiously Zoro glanced at his dim reflection in a house window. The light behind him was faint and only gave him the barest details of his face but it was enough for him to notice his single eye glinting yellow, almost glowing in the lamp light.

.

.

.

Till Next Time!


AUTHORS NOTE: Next chapter will have what I'm sure you've all been waiting for. And again...sorry about the long wait. *hides under rock*