Title: Ode to Pain Thresholds
Summary: "Remind me to smack you over the head with a dictionary when we get back. Maybe then you'll learn what the word fine means." Zoro is fine and doesn't need to be rescued. GEN.
Warnings: Cursing, violence, nothing graphic.
Timeline: Post Time Skip Ambiguous (can take place any time after the time skip, no current manga spoilers.)
Characters: Zoro and Sanji, Luffy.
1. Zoro is fine and doesn't need to be rescued.
A very annoying voice is what wakes Zoro up from his nap.
" – llo! Hellooooo! Come on, already! Hello! Would someone just answer me already!? Where am I?Ngh – I know you shitty bastards can hear me! I swear to God if someone doesn't let me out of here heads will fucking roll! Oi!"
The voice sounds like he's hearing it from somewhere deep underwater, muffled and warped, but even that doesn't diminish the utter annoyance of it. Every word stabs into his brain like a nail, piercing into his head from all sides. It's too early for this shit, Zoro thinks groggily. Let someone else deal with it.
He wills himself to go back to sleep, to the comfort of unconsciousness, to the quiet. Whoever's yelling, and for whatever reason they're yelling for, isn't his problem, so Zoro elects to ignore it.
"God – damn – assholes! Ngh! Fine, don't answer back! I'll just keep yelling until you do, how about that? HELLOOOOOOOOOOOOO! SHITTY BASTAAAAARDS! HELLOOOOOOO!"
Son of a –
Why the hell is this asshole so loud. Now his head feels like someone's smashing it repeatedly against a wall; His head is literally going to explode and Zoro actually looks forward to it because maybe then he'll have some goddamn peace and quiet.
"I can keep this up aaaalll day if I have to! You shitty fuckers better sit back and get comfortable because you're all getting front row tickets to the concert that is MY VOICE – !"
"Shut the fuck up!"
His own voice is rough and course but Zoro doesn't care because it gets the job done; the shouting is cut off and there's some quiet. He revels in it like a warm shower, breathing out through his nose and settling back into the soft embrace of unconsciousness . . .
. . . until that stupid voice chokes. "Zoro?"
Zoro doesn't answer, but his eye does twitch. The voice, however- it sounds familiar, and his brain might still be a bit fuzzy from sleep and the call of his name might be a bit muffled, but Zoro knows he knows that voice . . . why does it sound so familiar to him . . . – ah, fuck it all, it's the cook.
"Oi, Zoro! Is that you?" The bastard calls out, sounding both a million miles away and right next to his ear. He considers not replying back – because that's clearly a stupid question since obviously it is him – but Zoro knows the idiot would just keep bothering him until he does.
"Yes, now shut up."
For once, it looks like Sanji is actually going to listen to him. There's some quiet – sweet, blissful quiet – but it is prematurely destroyed by an explosion of: "Then why the fuck didn't you say anything, you stupid, deaf moss head! I've been screaming my lungs out for hours, for fuck's sake!"
Zoro jerks. "Because I was sleeping!"
"Why the fuck were you sleeping!?"
"Why the fuck are you screaming!?"
Sanji makes a frustrated noise that echoes throughout the room and –
It's then that Zoro realizes he hasn't opened his eyes yet. When he does open them, he notices no fucking difference. It's dark – extremely, extremely dark. There's a chill in the air, too, like icy fingers are poking at his flesh. What the fuck? Weren't they just on a summer island – wasn't it morning?
He blinks a few more times, hoping that his eyesight would adjust to the darkness, and slowly the black ebbs away to show some gray, to show some shapes, some stone and dirt and bars . . .
"This isn't the Sunny," he deadpans.
"No shit, you dense jackass!" Sanji snaps from somewhere, because Zoro can't see him anywhere even though he sounds pretty damn close now. "This is just my luck. Of course they got you, too. Stupid, brain-dead alcoholic. Of all the people to be stuck with . . . "
The cook mutters and curses some more things but Zoro hardly hears any of it. He keeps feverishly blinking until he can see through the darkness, not particularly enjoying having his vision compromised. He sees bars in front of him, lined up like stripes, sees a wooden floor below him, sees walls of stone around him . . . this is a cell.
Alertness hits him like smack in the face and he sits up.
Nausea and dizziness hit him like a punch to the gut and freezes.
The world spins and he brings a hand to his head – or, at least he tries to move his hand. The appendage is unresponsive; both of them are. Zoro jerks his arms, but the only reaction he gets is the sound of chains rattling. He turns his head and sees that his arms are spread apart, raised, shackled to the wall behind him.
Suddenly, Zoro doesn't feel so tired anymore. "What the hell's going on? Why am I chained up? Where the fuck are my swords?"
"Are you amnesiac as well as stupid? Or did all that alcohol kill whatever few brain cells you had left? We were captured, remember?"
No, he doesn't remember. He pulls at his arms, trying to dislodge the chains from the walls, his arms from the chains – and he should have been able to do that because he's done it a million times before, but the damn thing doesn't budge.
He's acutely aware of how cold and slack his body is. His arms feel like they're made of lead and are sitting at the bottom of the ocean, which they shouldn't be. He pulls some more, feels sweat bead down his face, feels his arms shake, but nothing happens. The dizziness returns almost immediately afterwards, and he feels sick and exhausted. He leans his head against the cold wall and huffs.
"Nghh . . . fuck . . ."
"Oi, dumbass," Sanji calls out to him. "What are you doing over there? Bashing your head against the wall?"
Zoro ignores the question and asks his own. "How'd we get captured?"
"Oh, I'll tell you how we got captured. It's a really funny story, you're gonna lose your shit when you hear it. It involves a stupid swordsman walking into a bar filled with very poor and down-on-their-luck bounty hunters. Do you want to hear the punch line? It's great. The stupid swordsman gets drunk out of his mind and challenges the entire fucking bar to a fight and gets his ass handed to him, all the while dragging an innocent cook – who only wanted one fucking drink – into the whole mess. Hilarious, right?"
Zoro can't tell if he's being serious or not. He does sound really pissed though, Zoro doesn't miss that. Memories hazily float by his mind, and he remembers a bar, remembers a large fight, the stupid cook's enraged face. Then his body starts remembering, too, and he feels the sting of multiple cuts where enemy swords kissed his skin, the bruises and welts from the punches he withstood, the ache from where someone smashed a bottle of wine over his head – actually, that seems to be the he last thing he can remember. Tch. Shouldn't have let my guard down. Of course those bastards would play dirty, Zoro grumbles to himself.
"Where're my swords?" he asks again.
He could practically feel Sanji bristle. "Who gives a flying fuck about your damn sticks! We have more important things to worry about here, you dumbass! We've been down here for hours. The others probably have no idea where we are – I have no idea where we are. Those bounty hunters went to call the Marines, or probably went to find Luffy and the others, or something that's definitely not good for us – fuck, if those scumbags even think about hurting Nami-san and Robin-chan . . . "
Zoro can't keep his attention on Sanji's words any longer. His voice sounds like its getting farther and farther away, but that's not right. Zoro's not even moving, and he knows Sanji's nearby, so how can the voice be receding? Something's not right here. He licks his lips and tastes dry blood.
" . . . and we were only supposed to be on this island for a few hours, so there's no doubt that Luffy is probably going berserk with the fact that we're not back, or maybe just for the fact that no one's fed him yet. You might be used to disappearing for hours, and I'm sure the others are used to it, too, so naturally no one's worried about you, but not me! Everyone's probably panicking without me . . . "
There are a lot of things that don't feel right about all of this, but Zoro's having a hard time listing them all. His head feels like it's been stuffed with cotton; very, very heavy cotton. The thoughts in his head seem to form and then instantly float away from his mind, his brain unable to grasp them and make sense of them in time. How big was that damn wine bottle?
" . . . didn't even have enough money for the drinks! I mean, how stupid do you have to be to order all that crap knowing you didn't have any money to pay for it! You were just asking for a beat down! The barkeep definitely knew your were piss poor, probably spiked your drink or something, definitely spiked my drink. Those fuckers were all in on it, them and their dirty tricks. I should have just walked straight out. Why the hell did I stay? I should have just left the minute your drunk ass asked me for money . . . "
A strange numbness has wrapped itself around the rest of his body. He rolls his head, his chin settling against his chest. He's sitting on the ground, it seems, his legs splayed out in front of him. Zoro frowns down at his torso. There's something . . . on him, he realizes. It's hard to see in the dark but it looks like someone had spilt black paint all over his torso and stomach. That's fucking weird . . .
"What's weird?" Sanji's voice asks.
Zoro lifts his head, ignoring the spots that dance around his vision. The bars in front of him seem to be swaying back and forth, and Zoro knows that's not supposed to happen.
"Marimo," the cook hisses.
Zoro grimaces. "You're still here?"
"Wha– Where else would I be!?"
Zoro scans his dull surroundings, confused. "Where are you, anyway?"
An exasperated huff. "Can't you tell from my voice? I'm in the cell right next to you, like literally right next to you. Look, here's my hands."
At the corner of the cell Zoro spots two bound hands waving at him from the other side of the bars. He can't see the body they're attached to, but from the angle they're sticking out from Zoro can guess that Sanji's probably leaning at a very awkward and uncomfortable position just to extend them that far.
Zoro's brows furrow. "How come they only tied your hands together?"
"What are you talking about? My feet are tied, too. I had to crawl like a fucking worm to get to this side. My suit is filthy."
Annoyance and anger mix, and Zoro sits up. "I'm chained to the wall. What the fuck. Why do you get to move around?"
The asshole snorts. "Probably because they know you're a fucking psychopath. If they were really smart they would have put you in a straitjacket."
"Or maybe they didn't even bother chaining you up because they knew your pansy ass wasn't a threat to them," he bites back.
"And you're the threat, then? You, the guy that got knocked out from one hit to the back of the head? Ha!"
"Says the lightweight that got knocked out from one drink!"
"I didn't get knocked out – ! I told you, they put something in my drink-"'
"Yeah, it's called alcohol. Something your body can't fucking handle."
"I don't need to be lectured on alcohol by someone who drank his brain cells to death years ago!"
"If these bastards were really smart they should have just gave you a spoonful of ale," Zoro sneers. "Would've saved them a pair of handcuffs. You'd be out like a lamp."
"They should just ask you how to fucking spell handcuffs and you'd be out just from thinking too hard!"
"Real fucking funny! Did you come up with that while they were deciding what to do with your unthreatening ass instead of figuring out how to get out of here?"
"Unthreatening isn't a word and fuck you. If you're such a threat why don't you break out of here then, huh?"
"Because I'm chained to a fucking wall, asshole! And unthreatening is a word! I don't see you doing anything except screaming like a goddamn bitch – !"
He had more to say, more to yell, but suddenly his vision goes black.
He hears his heartbeat with unnatural keenness, hears it pulse and pump and thump, thump, thump, hears his breathes waft in and out like sharp winds, hears blood rushing through his veins like crashing waves. All the noises are too loud and too clear that he thinks he's going to be sick – he's definitely going to be sick – thump, thump, thump –
Then, his stomach does a painful lurch. "Ngh. . . s-shit . . . "
His organs feel like they're shedding, the pain so unnatural and so foreign to him that it steals his breath and his squeezes his eyes tight and tries to steady his breath, steady his mind. Slowly . . . slowly . . . the world stops spinning, the black starts receding, his head starts calming, and the noises finally go back to their normal volumes . . . the pain recedes . . . and he returns.
"— rimo . . . are you . . .Marimo . . . hat happened . . . Zoro!"
"Shuddup," he mutters, because he's still trying to right himself and coming back to Sanji's voice is the last thing he wants to do. He opens his eyes and feels unbelievably disoriented, unbelievably tired, and it takes him too long of a time to remember where he was. This is one hell of a hangover, he thinks.
The cook is still yelling at him, and for a reason Zoro can't place, there's a tone of urgency in each syllable. He doesn't dwell on it because Sanji's voice is too sharp, sohe bites out a tight, "You're too fucking loud."
The yelling stops, and Sanji lets out a short, sardonic laugh. "Of course I'm loud, how else are you suppose to hear me? Fuck, what the hell happened just now? You went quiet there all of a sudden."
Zoro considers telling him that he has no idea what just happened, that he's pretty sure he just blacked out for some reason . . . but then decides against it. He pulls himself more upright, his shackles ringing, his legs unresponsive. "It's called ignoring you, idiot. Your voice is too damn annoying."
"Bullshit," Sanji snaps quickly, as if prepared to hear a lie. "You sound like crap. Are you hurt or something?"
"I'm — " He's almost sitting upright when his stomach suddenly explodes in fire; pain bursts from it like a bubble, stinging so harshly that he can feel the muscles in his stomach twitch in misery. His breath catches, chokes, then he's coughing it out harshly, every sputtering exhale working against him and just making the agony in his middle worse.
"— Fine." He finishes when he finally catches his breath. His body is shivering uncontrollably when the pain withdraws again, making the shackles vibrate in return. He twists his head to the side and spits viciously, then shakes his head and affirms in a tighter voice, "I'm fine. Shut up."
"Oh yeah, you definitely sounded fine there. 'Cause healthy people cough like that. Why don't you leave the lying to Usopp? You're clearly no good at it."
"Why don't you leave the doctoring to Chopper – which I don't need because I said I'm fine so shut up about it already. I'm just hungover as fuck, and your voice isn't making it any better."
Sanji lets out a harsh laugh. "Damn, your lying's actually worse than Usopp's. Who would have thought? You must be pretty fucked up, huh?"
Zoro doesn't dignify that with an answer because he is fine and he doesn't need to defend himself. Just hungover. He vaguely recalls the bartender offering him a drink that he said was the strongest thing they had on shelf, and Zoro then chugging sixteen mugs of it consecutively. It's the drink, he tells himself. It's just the drink. He's fine.
Sanji lets out an extremely melodramatic sigh that echoes throughout the room. "Yeah, you're definitely fucked up. Great. Guess I'm going to have to be the one that rescues you out of this hellhole. This should be fun."
Zoro's head snaps up. "Over my dead fucking body!" He's dizzy again but he doesn't let that stop him because he has more to say. "I'd rather have the Marines guillotine me with my own fucking swords, hang me with my own intestines, and throw my body into a seaking infested part of the ocean than be saved by you!"
"So poetic, so eloquent. You have such a way with words." He hears some movement from the other cell, something dragging, then hears Sanji sigh. "But as much as I'd love to see that – and I'd really fucking love to see that – I'm pretty sure Luffy, for some strange, mysterious reason, would be upset if I left you here. Don't get me wrong, I'm very, very tempted to just leave you hear, but it looks like my hands are tied, literally and figuratively."
"Drop dead, you useless cook. I can get out of here just fine without you."
"Go ahead, then."
Zoro pauses. Purses his lips. "I will."
So he tries. He curls his fists and pulls at the chains again, with a much more heated determination than before. He tugs at it as hard as he could, the metal biting at his wrists, his skin tightening, arms shaking as if begging him to stop – but Zoro keeps pulling, pulling, and pulling, waiting for those chains to fucking break already – !
"Are you free, yet?" Sanji asks.
"Shut – up," Zoro grunts through clenched teeth, still pulling, pulling, pulling . . . but nothing happens. It doesn't break, doesn't even creak. Zoro lets his arms go slack, lets the rest of him go slack, too, and releases a shuddering breath that he didn't even know he was holding, suddenly very, very out of breath . . . fuck.
"Fuck . . . you," Zoro pants in two breaths.
"So rude. Is that any way to talk to your future savior?" Zoro doesn't know if he's shaking from rage or from exertion. Definitely both. Sanji keeps on talking, "I guess it's time for Mr. Prince to make an appearance. Oh, if only Nami-san and Robin-chan were here to see me liberate this helpless, pitiful brute. They'll shower me with love and praise – !"
"Are you incapable of shutting up!?" Zoro yells, hitting the back of his head against the wall with every word in hopes that one of the impacts would knock him out.
"Oh? Why, am I annoying you?" Sanji sneers, his tone changing into that stupid, sarcastic one he adopts when he's particularly pissed. "I wonder, do you think it's more annoying than having a drunk ass swordsman pull you into a fight without even asking? Or is it more annoying than having to explain to an angry bartender that you didn't have enough money to pay for the drinks or pay forthe damages that said drunk ass swordsman caused? Hm!?"
Zoro's mouth twists, nonplussed. "What the fuck? Yes. It's more annoying than all those things."
"Wrong! It's not! Nothing is more infuriating than the crap you put me through, so you're going to fucking suffer through hearing me talk, you shitty bastard!"
"Do you thrive on being annoying? Is it like, fucking sustenance for you?"
"Pissing you off is all the sustenance I need!"
Zoro groans loudly, and Sanji just keeps fucking going, "Get used to it, Marimo! My angelic voice ringing through these shitty walls is payback for getting me to into this crappy situation! I'm not going to stop talking until – "
Suddenly, an new noise interrupts him. It sounds like keys jingling, a door creaking open. A faded stream of light spills on the ground. Sanji hisses loudly, "Shut up, mosshead!"
Zoro sputters. "You're the one who was fucking talking!"
The light widens as the creaking continues, and then there's the sound of footsteps tapping lightly, then progressively getting louder and louder until there's a silhouette of someone standing on the other side of Zoro's bars.
"Oi, oi, oi. You guys are noisy as hell, you know that?" A lazy voice Zoro doesn't know and doesn't care to know says. The shadow's head tilts to the side, as if regarding Zoro curiously. "Oh, good. You're still alive. That's a relief. We can use your full bounty."
Zoro rolls his eyes. "Shut up. Your voice is even more annoying than the crappy cook's. Didn't think that could be possible." As an afterthought, he adds, "You're ugly like him, too." Which isn't true at all since Zoro can't see the man's face; it's all just darkness overlapping even darker darkness, and the more he stares forward, the more the silhouette twists and fades into the background and everything becomes black until he blinks again and his vision corrects itself.
"I heard that!" Sanji snaps automatically.
"You're supposed to."
"Ah, so blondie's the one that's been causing all the ruckus then, huh." The silhouette walks out of Zoro's line of vision to where Sanji was most likely being held. "Listen, guy. Me and my buddies, we're trying to enjoy a little evening drink, and you yelling and screaming is really killing the mood – "
There's a yelp of surprise, chains rattling, the distinct sound of a forehead forcefully slamming into metal, and then the stranger falls on the ground like a sack of potatoes. So anticlimactic, he thinks mundanely. Zoro could only see his upper body splayed on the ground from where he's sitting, but he could guess what Sanji did.
"What happened? Did he catch a glimpse of your face and die?"
"Keep joking and I'll leave your ass here to rot." Noises of movement fill the air. Sanji grunts in frustration, and Zoro can see the fallen body jostling occasionally. "God dammit, where the hell did this bastard put the keys?"
"Did you check his pockets?"
"Yes, obviously!" Sanji snaps. The body rolls over and Zoro can see bound hands patting it down furiously. Zoro leans his head back and yawns, his vision doing that funny thing of turning black in the corners.
"Check his back pockets," Zoro mumbles.
"No one puts keys in their back pocket."
Zoro rolls his eyes. "Don't be a fucking bitch. Check the back pockets."
"I'm not groping this guy's ass! Shut the fuck up and let me do this!"
"Just close your eyes and pretend it's Nami's ass."
"Oh my God," Sanji says, or more like gags. "You're – don't – gah! Just stop talking before you give me a stroke!"
Zoro does stop talking, but not because Sanji told him to. He blinks slowly and listens with numb interest to the sound of the cook's muttering and his own heart's beatings. Ba-dum . . . ba- dum . . . – "Fucking hell, why does he have so many breath mints on him?" – . . . ba dum . . . ba dum . . .
Without anything to distract him, Zoro realizes that he should probably at least feel a sense of relief that their chances of escape has drastically increased, but he doesn't. He doesn't even feel worried about the situation, or in any rush to get the hell out of here. He just feels . . . tired.
After a moment, he asks loudly, "Will you hurry up?"
"I'm trying! If you think you can do a better job then you do it!"
"I'm chained to awall."
"And you'll stay there if you don't shut up!" Then, a triumphant exclaim of, "Ah, there!"
Finally, Zoro thinks. "Was it in – "
"It was in his inside jacket pocket, shut up."
Keys jingling ring all around the room, the sound oddly joyful despite the bleak situation. There's a click, a sigh from Sanji, then another click. Something clatters on the ground – Sanji's cuffs, Zoro presumes – and then Sanji lets out a pleased groan. "Fucking finally. Damn, my legs are all cramped up. Mmmf."
"What's taking so long?"
"I'm stretching." Another stupid pleased groan sounds and Zoro rolls his eyes. "There we go. Ahhh. Much better."
Zoro sits there with barely concealed impatience as he hears the distinct sound of a lighter coughing and a deep exhale. He's definitely doing this on purpose. I'm going to gut him the minute I get my swords.
The keys clatter, a lock is turned, and a door croaks open. Light steps shuffle forward until the cook's scrawny silhouette stands behind the bars of Zoro's cell.
"Took your sweet time," Zoro mutters.
The lock is turned and his door swings open with a whine. "Listen, you don't get to complain since – holy hell."
Zoro frowns. "What?"
"What? What? Are you serious? You're asking me what?" His arms wave in the air like he's trying to fly or something. He takes hurried steps forward, and once he's standing right in front of him, he gestures wildly to Zoro's chained form. "What the fuck, Marimo?"
"What's the matter with you? Are you having that stroke?" Zoro squints. This close, he can see the cook's face clearly. His hair is tousled, that ridiculous blonde haystack utterly disheveled. One of his eyes sports a nasty black ring around it, and the side of his jaw is beaming red. But, he's standing and walking and talking so obviously he's all right, so Zoro doesn't dwell on any of that.
"How are you alive!?" The cook screeches. He's crouching now, the small flame from the end his cigarette providing a terribly weak light between them. It's enough light, however, for Zoro to see that the black paint that he's covered in was in fact, not black, and not paint either . . . Oh.
"You look like you just got baptized in fucking blood. What the fuck!? How the hell do you call this fine? This is the furthest thing from fine. Holy fucking hell."
"I am fine. I don't feel a thing."
"That's not a good thing!"
The close proximity makes the shout much sharper than it needs to be and Zoro winces. Sanji at least has the decency to look guilty about it, but Zoro doesn't need anyone's pity right now, so says quickly, "Would you just get these chains off me? You can whine all you want after that."
"Right, right." But then the cook pauses. He eyes him warily, then darts a glance to Zoro's blood soaked middle. Hesitantly, he says, "Actually . . . I don't know. That might not be a good, uh, idea. Maybe . . . I should just go and bring Chopper here. Have him take a look at you . . ."
That sounds like a terrible idea. "What the fuck."
"Zoro, you look like you've been cut in half," Sanji says quickly, dumbstruck. "Actually, I think you might be. I can't even tell how deep the wound is. That's a lot of fucking blood. Who's to say that minute you stand up your entire lower half isn't just gonna slide right off of you?"
"I'm to say, and this isn't a fucking request," Zoro barks, his voice hardening. He sits up suddenly, fixing Sanji with a steep glare. "Unlock these goddamn chains now, and keep your worrying to yourself, cook. I'm not asking."
Sanji purses his lips, disagreement marring his brow, but finally consents. ". . . stubborn bastard. Fine, whatever."
He stands up quickly and gets to work on Zoro's cuffs, starting with the left arm. He feels Sanji hold his wrist and the metal ring chafing his skin, and then hears the key slide into the hole. When the click sounds, the manacle opens and his arm falls.
It's half a second before he's uncuffed that he realizes his arms have been hanging up for a long time now, so long that he couldn't even feel them. So when his left arm is free and falls to his side a blinding pain succumbs it, hard edged numbness that feels like a million tiny shards of glass are trying to dig their way out of his skin. His hand hits the ground and explodes, and he squeezes his eyes shut and bites the inside of his mouth to not show any sign of the pain, but it's hard as fuck because now the blood was rushing back to the appendage and it feels his veins were filling up with sand.
He opens his eyes and forces his face to remain impassive. Sanji has moved on to the other hand now, expletives dripping from his mouth like acid. Zoro curls his fingers experimentally, his vision doubling worryingly, and when the other hand is uncuffed and falls, his vision gives out all together.
When Zoro opens his eyes blearily, he jolts like he's been electrocuted when he sees Sanji's face so close to his.
"Wha . . . s . . . "
"Fucking finally," the cook exclaims, his tone strange and his expression even stranger. "Holy fuck, marimo. I think you're going into shock or something. Oi, oi, oi – dumbass, keep your eyes open. Look at me, yeah? There we go. You back with me? Goddamn shithead, don't go passing out on me now. I'm not carrying deadweight all the way back to the Sunny. Oi, can he hear me?"
Zoro frowns because there's something not right here; Sanji's words are angry but his voice is insufferably full of concern. He breaks away from Sanji's haggard gaze and looks at his arms, now both at his side. He curls his hands, makes two fists, uncurls them, and then lays them flat on the cold ground.
"Let's go," he mutters.
He pushes himself off the ground and onto two very unsteady knees. Hand to the ground, he goes to stand and finds the task unprecedentedly difficult. He doesn't protest when Sanji grabs his elbow and helps him stand to his full height because he knows, and is loathe to admit, that he needs it. A pinch from his stomach threatens to topple him over. The pain grows the more upright he becomes, the feeling akin to being ripped open, and his vision darkens and his legs shake and his middle burns – and suddenly he's swaying dangerously to the side.
"What's wro – Whoa, whoa!"
Sanji catches him before he crashes to the ground; a hand grips him under his arm and another is on his shoulder, and Zoro remains upright. For some strange reason, his damn legs won't support his weight, and he knows with bitter keenness that it's Sanji, and not his own strength, that's allowing him to remain standing.
His stomach throbs again and Zoro winces. He can hear Sanji saying something to him but it sounds distant and unimportant. His attention is already monopolized by the strange drip, drip, drip sounds coming from below him. He looks down and sees a dark puddle next to his feet, then sees an equally dark droplet splash onto it, then another, and another. He follows the drops to the source and finally gets a good look at his stomach and sees a huge, dark stain, a wide tear on his shirt, and a neat line across his stomach where his skin is split open and oozing blood. Zoro frowns and thinks that's probably not good.
"Let's go," he says again, but this time his speech is terribly slurred and it comes out more like "less'o".
His arm is manipulated and thrown over Sanji's shoulder. "Don't order me around when you look like that, shithead. Just keep your mouth shut like all half-dead dumbasses are supposed to." Arm around Sanji's back, the cook grabs his wrist pulls him more upright, the other arm around his middle. "God, you're fucking heavy. With all the blood you lost you should at least be a bit lighter. Shitty fatass."
"Not fat, s'muscle." Zoro is compelled to say. His stomach roars in protest with every miniscule movement, the pain blurring his vision and draining his energy. More than anything he want to sit back down on the ground, to lay down, to close his eyes and just go back to sleep, to the warmth and quiet and pain-free embrace of unconsciousness.
"What did I say about talking?" Sanji snaps. Zoro tries to get his feet to work as they start walking out of the cell, but the damn limbs seem to be made of lead and would only drag. Their combined steps are slow and measured, Sanji cursing with each one. "This is insane. You're going on a fucking diet when we get back to Sunny. All your meat is going to Luffy. All you get is salad, no dressing."
His head keeps brushing Sanji's shoulder and the close proximity of their heads makes the cook's voice too damn loud. Zoro clicks his tongue. "Annoying,"
"Says the fucking pot."
Zoro frowns, brow furrowing. "Did y'just call me a pot?"
"It's an expression, idiot. Ever hear of the pot calling the kettle black? Your hypocritical, annoying ass is the pot in this case."
"I know what the expression is," Zoro scowls. He trips on his feet once they're out of his cell, Sanji pausing so he can steady himself. Zoro takes a thin breath when his stomach starts throbbing, then grunts, "s'just rich, coming from your annoying ass. You haven't stopped talking this whole time; you're the one who's the pot."
Sanji snorts, and then gets them moving again. "Yeah. OK. Sure. Says the guy that wouldn't shut up for one second since he woke up."
"You're the one who's been screaming like a harpy since we fucking got here."
"I thought you were asleep, Marimo," Sanji mocks, voice thick with sarcasm. Zoro's forehead continuously bumps into Sanji's jagged shoulder every time he's jostled, adding more tempos to his growing headache. Out of the cell, Zoro can see that wherever they've been kept was a relatively small space, and only had two makeshift prison cells. Sanji leads them to the stream of light where the now unconscious man had come out of.
"Who the fuck could sleep through all that noise?"
"A lazy, useless swordsman, that's who." He readjusts his hold on Zoro's arm, and then makes an unhappy sound. "Fuck. You're bleeding all over my suit."
Zoro looks at the black suit, glistening with blood. A sloppy smile forms on his face. "Whoops."
"Bleeding all over me, says he's fine. Tch. Remind me to smack you over the head with a dictionary when we get back. Maybe then you'll learn what the word fine means."
"I am fine," Zoro snarls for what feels the millionth time.
"Uh-huh." They shuffle a few more steps before Sanji abruptly stops and seemingly deflates. "Oh, fuck."
Zoro picks his head up and looks. "Fuck."
The stairs seem to be looming over them menacingly, like a great tsunami of treads. It's only one flight, but the steps seem endless and all too high. At the top, Zoro sees an open door and light pouring out. Whatever is beyond that isn't visible to him, but he knows it can only be the exit.
"You gonna be OK?" Sanji asks.
Zoro bares his teeth. "Fuck off."
Sanji just laughs and doesn't say anything more. Zoro takes the first step, lifting his foot and placing it on the step, and Sanji hobbles after him closely. It's awkward, climbing the flight of stairs with his arm draped over the cook's, but its leverage that Zoro desperately needs.
After the fourth step, he knees begin to wobble dangerously. After the fifth step, his vision begins blurring severely. The sixth step goes by and he's practically folded in half, his stomach searing in agony. By the seventh step, Sanji is half carrying him, half dragging him up.
"Come on, Marimo. Work those legs of yours, would you?" His attempt to hide his worry falls utterly short.
"Shut up," Zoro growls breathlessly. His panting is louder now, his headache heavier. His vision swims, and when he takes the next step he thinks why is this so fucking hard? Was it always this hard? The wetness in his middle spreads, the blood warm and comforting. He's feeling too many things at the same time and its too overwhelming that he thinks he's going to keep over from it all.
"You better not pass out on me again. I am not carrying your fatass up the rest of the way."
"Wouldn't be able to," Zoro gasps out, his foot shaking like a leaf as he lifts it. "Too weak. No upper body strength."
"Weak? Who the hell do think is keeping you up right now?"
When a bright light sears into his vision, Zoro knows they've reached the end of the flight, the top of the stairs. The door in front of them is open, as if welcoming in them inside. It leads to a hall, and whatever that hall leads to Zoro can't see.
His body feels hot and cold at the same time, and terribly extraneous to him. The pain in his stomach has become so familiar and such a constant to him that Zoro can't remember what he felt like before the injury. He's half aware of the realization that Sanji is talking, maybe even talking to him, but both his body and his senses seem to be unresponsive to him. He tastes blood and sees splotches of light and hears a low buzzing noise – and then his legs give out completely.
"Shit- fuck! Zoro!"
His back hits the wall first, and then the rest of him slides down until he's sitting on the ground, painfully aware of the tight grip Sanji has on his shoulder and shirt and blissfully unaware of everything else.
"Wh . . . at – Al right . . . is it? Wh – wrong . . . Zoro?"
He can't decipher the bits and pieces of Sanji's words so he just weakly waves him away. "Just . . . need a- a minute. A minute."
A minute passes. Then two. The cook stares at him with open worry. It's so unsettling to see on Sanji's face that Zoro closes his eyes and pretends he never saw it.
"Right," Sanji says finally, filling the silence with something other than Zoro's rasping breaths. "OK. That's fine. Relax a bit. You do that. I'll see if we have any company."
Zoro opens his eyes and watches as Sanji leaves into the hall. A few moments pass and he returns, lighting a new cigarette and looking thoughtful. "There's another door at the end, and I can sense six people on the other side. Not sure if they're armed or not, but we should assume they are."
Zoro lets that information sink in. "What about my swords?"
Sanji blinks. "What about them?"
"Are they out there?"
Sanji shakes his head. "I don't know."
"M'not leaving without my swords," he slurs, his words sticking together but firm with defiance.
Sanji raises a placating hand. "And I get that. That's fine. No one said we're not getting your swords. I just don't know if they're out there. But we'll find them, I promise, just after I get rid of the guys out front."
It's hard to make out most of what he's saying in his current state, but Zoro doesn't miss his exclusion from Sanji's last statement. "I'm fighting, too."
Sanji stares at him. "That better be the blood loss talking."
"I'm fighting," he repeats, sitting up.
"You're staying put is what you're doing. Look at yourself, a fucking toddler can take you out right now."
"If you say you're fine I swear to God I will kick you out of commission!" Sanji snaps loudly. His voice echoes in the hall. He sneaks a quick glance at the door at the end of the hall, and then continues, quieter. "I swear you never make anything easy for me. Listen. You go out there and try to fight, you'll die. And I don't mean that those bastards out there will kill you, no. I mean I will literally kill you, marimo. You understand?"
Zoro snorts. "You couldn't take me out even if I had both my arms cut off," he growls.
Sanji looks ready to snap out his own condescending remark, but then stops himself. He gives Zoro an odd look, and then his face relaxes as if he just thought of something clever, and a sly smile creeps over his chin. Zoro doesn't like that look one bit.
"Couldn't take you out? Oh, but that would be easy. All I got to do is give you a nice kick right . . . here," he lifts his hand with every word, then jabs his finger right into Zoro's wound. Stars explode in his vision, a glaring light taking over everything, the stabbing pain steals his breath away. Somehow, through it all, he can still make out the stupid cook's voice. ". . . and you'll split in half like a twig. Oh, shoot. Did that hurt? Oh man. I'm sorry about that, Zoro-kun."
"F-Fucking . . . bastard," he wheezes out.
"Aw, don't be stingy. You're fine, right? That shouldn't have hurt." His vision is more incomprehensible than a damn kaleidoscope, and he can barely see Sanji standing up and dusting off his hands with a loud clap, clap, clap. "Anyway, like I was saying before; I'll go take out the bastards out front while you stay here and . . . relax. I'll be back shortly."
Zoro is trying to get control of his breathing so he can tell Sanji, "go fuck yourself, you crappy cook!" but by the time his wheezing dissolves and his vision regains itself, the cook is gone and Zoro is alone in the hall.
"I'm gonna kill him," he tells no one in particular. He looks down at his stomach and sees the gloss of fresh blood and says with more conviction, "I'm going to fucking kill him."
He gropes the wall like a blind man, using it as leverage to pull himself up. Standing up was never this difficult, Zoro thinks again, nor was it this painful. He feels like one of those folding chairs Nami and Robin use to sunbathe, when its junctures get stuck and are unable to unfold properly.
It takes an increasingly long time, but Zoro is finally standing on his feet. He keeps a hand on the wall, the other around his stomach. He waits patiently for the world to stop spinning, then shuffles toward the door.
The door is already open – well, broken. The hinges have been ripped off and there's a suspicious dent on the side that looks awfully like someone kicked it open – and on the other side there's a wild commotion going on, a chorus of noises similar to people screaming, objects breaking, and weapons firing.
Zoro ignores it all. He stumbles into the room like a prowling wolf, following the ominous pull in his chest that can only be Kitetsu howling for him. He can make out the sword's energy in the midst of a hurricane if it came to it. Its aura is so distinct that Zoro feels blind to everything but it.
He pushes a table out of his way, uninterestingly aware that he is in the bar that originally got them into this mess in the first place. They didn't even move us, he thinks sardonically. Just kept us in their damn basement. He kicks a bottle as he continues limping forward.
Someone yells his name, and there's so much outrage and flabbergast in the tone that it can only be Sanji's voice. Easily, like second nature, Zoro discounts it. He sees the bar in front of him, the stools knocked over and the shelves collapsed, and feels his cursed sword radiating from somewhere there.
A man he doesn't know staggers next to him, and when he sees Zoro his eyes widen and his arms raise, but Zoro is busy at the moment so he grabs his face with one hand and pushes him away, toppling him over a table where he falls at a very painful angle.
Zoro reaches the bar and walks around it, his feet soaking with alcohol and broken shards of glass. Someone gets thrown over him, the person screaming during the entire flight, and Zoro thinks it's much too noisy in here. His eyes scan his surroundings until they land on a small wine rack where his swords are neatly propped up. He grabs them, placing them in their rightful place by his hip. He sees an intact bottle of wine on the rack, too; he takes it, pulls the cork with his teeth, takes three large swallows of it, then tosses it away.
The ruckus in the bar gets louder and Zoro remembers that there's a fight going on. Right, right. The cells, the cook, the fighting. Right. He pulls out Wado from its sheath and looks around, his eyes searching for the cook's stupid blonde excuse of a head.
When he finds him – the cook is standing on his hands, doing that stupid spinning kick move with his feet and knocking three men to the ground – Zoro grips his sword tightly and walks towards the mayhem.
Three strides in and Luffy appears out of seemingly nowhere, standing right in front of him with a wide grin and all his glory, arms spread in what looks like an enthusiastic cheer.
Zoro stops. He stares at his captain, stares for a long time. Then, he says, "You're in my way. Move."
"Wah? You're so rude, Zoro. Where'ya going?"
Zoro jerks his chin, gesturing behind Luffy. "Gonna go kill that stupid curlybrow."
Luffy looks scandalized. "You can't kill my cook!"
"Isn't it obvious? How am I suppose to eat? Who's gonna feed me?" His arms are crossed and his pout is defined and Zoro realizes he's being scolded at.
"I don't know. A restaurant."
"Nami says if we keep eating at restaurants we're gonna be broke and then we wont have any more money for restaurants." Zoro can see that Luffy put a lot of thought into this.
His brain finally catches up to the situation and he blinks stupidly. "Wait. Where'd you come from? What are you doing here?"
Luffy laughs and Zoro blinks some more, wondering if he had lost so much blood that he was now hallucinating Luffy in his delirious state. He quickly squashes that theory because Luffy would be the utter last thing he would hallucinate in any state.
"We're here to rescue you! You and Sanji took too long coming back and Usopp started to get worried so Robin said maybe you guys got caught by bounty hunters since this island got lots of them and then Chopper started crying 'cause he thought you guys died or got captured by the Marines or something, and then it was dinner time and I started getting hungry but Sanji wasn't here to cook so we came here to find you guys!"
Now that Zoro looks more clearly, he can see the disarray of color that is his crew flying about in the bar; Nami's orange hair tailing behind her as she spins around, waving her Climatic gracefully; Usopp riding atop Chopper's enlarged brown shoulders as he shoots out pelts at the poor saps beneath him; Robin and Franky side by side, purple and blue, one poised and still and the other animated and brimming with energy. He hears more than sees Brook somewhere off to the side, his guitar strums providing a ballad to the chaos of it all.
"Oh." Zoro finally says. He lowers his arm and sheathes Wado. "OK."
"And it's good we came, too, cause we were so bored. This island is boring, you know that? Small, too. There's nothing to do, nothing fun. I wanted to leave, go to the next island, but you guys weren't back yet, and Nami told me we can't leave without you guys 'cause then you'll never find your way back. You, not Sanji."
Zoro grunts. He pulls the only chair in his vicinity that isn't broken and sits down tiredly. Luffy sits down on the floor, legs crossed, and keeps going. "Oh, and Nami's mad at you. Forgot to mention that. When we were coming here, we asked around and found out you ordered lots of drinks from this bar, and that you couldn't pay for it and now we owe them lots of money. Nami's really mad." There's a pause, and Zoro thinks its just Luffy catching his breath, but then he asks bluntly, "Are you OK?"
"I'm fine." Is the automatic response. Then, frowning because that is such an uncharacteristic question for Luffy, of all people, to ask him, of all people- and it was asked so frankly, so genuinely, that if Luffy is the one asking it that there must be something amiss. . . – so Zoro asks, "What do you mean?"
"I dunno. Nami was saying lots of stuff, I didn't get most of it. I think she said you were sick? Yeah, something like that. She was all," he crosses his arms and raises the pitch of his voice to match Nami's, "Who even goes to the bar in the morning? I'll tell you who, an alcoholic. Zoro's sick, you guys. I'm cutting his budget in half, blah, blah, blah. Hey, Zoro. What's an al – cah – ho – lic? Is it bad. Is it a disease? Are you dying? Can I have your swords if you die?"
Zoro kicks him in the face.
"Ow!" His neck stretches back a bit from the impact, and when it snaps back, Luffy is pouting childishly, a muffled "-kidding, I was kidding!" seeping through the hands that cover his nose and mouth.
"I'm fine," Zoro tells him when he finishes his theatrics. "Don't listen to what Nami says. Witch needs to mind her own business."
Luffy snickers. "Oh. OK!" He hops to his feet in one motion, and then cocks his head at Zoro. "Oooh. You've got blood all over you, Zoro!"
Luffy leans in and sniffs. Zoro swats his head away. "Nu-uh! That's blood! Are you bleeding?"
"Did you get injured? You know what Chopper said about getting hurt. He's gonna be soooo mad at you, now! Ooooh, and today's Robin's turn at laundry day! She's gonna be mad at you, too. Zoro." He lifts his hand and starts counting off his fingers, "That's Nami, Chopper, Robin, and Sanji that're mad at you. That's almost the whole crew! You can't have the whole crew mad at you, Zoro, that's no good. No one's gonna want to play with you now."
"They'll get over it."
The noises around them die out, the flurry of movement slowing down. The only people standing are his crew, unsurprisingly. Nami is behind the bar, bent over the cash register with great determination and unflinching focus. Sanji is saying something to Chopper, now in his usual, short state, and the reindeer's eyes repeatedly dart towards Zoro as Sanji not so subtlety gestures towards him.
Zoro closes his eyes and rests his head on the back of the chair. Just before he falls alsleep, he wonders if Sanji would snag him a bottle or two of that strong wine the barkeep served him in the morning. It packed a kick, gave him a killer hangover, probably induced some memory loss, but hell - it was some good stuff, and definitely worth it.
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