Communication

A One Piece Fanfic

By Jaelle



Rating: PG-13 (swearing, discussion of serious topics). Drama/Humour.
Disclaimer: All Oda-sensei's. None of it mine.
Pairings: Hints of Zoro/Luffy.
Setting: Post-Skypiea.

Summary: Nami reads everyone's files, Chopper takes dictation, and Zoro reveals why he's a killer.



"Just one minute... here he is. Colonel Smoker, the phone."

"Thanks. What is it?"


"Is that Colonel Smoker?"

"Yeah, who is this?"

"This is Marine Base 47 with an urgent inquiry. Are your lights burning?"

"Huh? Yes, of course they are, it's the middle of the god-damned night!"

"Well you'd better put them out then!" Usopp howled into the telephone, unable to keep from laughing any longer. Behind him Luffy and Chopper collapsed in hysterical laughter, thumping the table furiously as Smoker's expletives peppered the air. "... STRAW-HAT! I KNOW YOU'RE BEHIND THIS!!! WHEN I GET MY HANDS ON YOU, I'M GONNA..."

Nami grabbed the phone-snail receiver and slammed it down, glaring at her three crewmates. "Morons."

"It's okay, Nami-san," Sanji grinned at her, wiping a tear of laughter from his own eye. "Usopp gave them a fake base number."

"And how long will it take them to trace the call back and work out where we are?" Nami demanded. "If the marines catch us just because you wanted to make a crank call..."

"It should be alright," Robin said casually, as she perused a set of papers marked Top Secret. "This base is quite isolated, we should have a decent days' head start."

Nami fumed, but allowed the others to retake possession of the phone-snail.

"My turn," Sanji grabbed the phone. "Can this thing connect to East Blue?"

Usopp began a long and probably untrue explanation of the exact workings of phone-snails, which Nami tuned out, turning her attention back to the locked file cabinet. Robin continued to read the assorted papers she'd found in Captain Unagi's desk, and Zoro snored contentedly on the floor.

The Straw-Hat crew's attack on Marine Base 87 hadn't been planned, but when one of the Grandline's infamous freak storms blew them directly into the base harbour, they hadn't really had much choice in the matter. Fortunately it hadn't taken very long for them to defeat the marines and contain them in their own holding cells. It had taken even less time for the crew to empty the base of anything even remotely valuable, edible, or drinkable. Several hours after their entry, the storm was still raging, and everything was secure. This meant that the greatest danger was now upon them.

Boredom.

Unable to leave, and with nothing else to do, the crew had made themselves at home in the commanding officers' quarters and were casually browsing through his marine equipment and personal belongings. So far this had resulted in a spitball competition (Usopp won), an art competition (Usopp won), and a "who can balance the paperweight on their nose for the longest time" competition (Usopp won).

Then they found the phone-snail.

"Hello? Is that the shittiest restaurant in East Blue? I'd like to make a reservation. Oh, sorry, did I say make a reservation? I meant I have reservations... about your cooking."

Nami sighed and continued going through a filing cabinet, hoping to find a stash of money or jewels that she might have overlooked earlier. Honestly, marines were so boring. They always insisted on following rules and regulations and they hardly ever had treasure piles. Frustrated, she opened another cabinet. Geez, if this storm kept up she was going to be reduced to digging under the sofa cushions and looking for loose change!

Aimlessly she began glancing at the contents of the files.

"Alvida Pirate Crew, Buggy Pirate Crew..." Nami flipped through them idly. "Hey, these are the Marine files on known pirates! We can read up on our rivals!"

The only response was the laughter of the idiot brigade as more swearing erupted from the phone-snail.

"SANJI, YOU PUNK! Just wait until I tell the Owner about you tying up our line! We have important customers who might be trying to call while you're wasting my time. AND WHOSE FOOD ARE YOU CALLING POISONOUS??!!!"

Nami rolled her eyes. An arm reached around her and grabbed a folder from further back in the cabinet. "Now these are interesting," Robin observed quietly, as she displayed the title to Nami. "The marines certainly have extensive files."

Nami looked at the folder's title, "'The Straw-Hat Crew'?"

Luffy's head swivelled around. "Stuff about us? Lemme see!" He bounded over and grabbed the top folder. "Monkey D. Luffy... heeey... that's MEEE!!!"

Nami quickly grabbed the rest of them from Robin and began examining them with interest. "I can't believe it... our own files!"

The other members of the crew were less interested, clustered as they were around a laughing Sanji, who had just hung up. "Who wants to go next? Chopper? Usopp?"

Usopp shook his head. "My village is too small to have a phone-snail. Anyway, I think we overloaded it with that last call. It looks pretty tired. Better give it some food and put it back in the box."

Chopper let out a final giggle. "That was fun. Thanks a lot, phone-snail!"

The snail gave them a look of bewilderment before it was carefully tucked away. As Luffy, Nami and Robin continued to read, Usopp began to look around for something else to provide entertainment. Stepping over Zoro's sleeping form, he began to go through the papers on the desk. "This guy's got some nice stationery!" An idea occurred to him. "Hey, is this base on one of the postal routes?"

Sanji looked around. "Uh... yeah. There's an out-tray over here and..." he poked his head out the office door. "Yep, there's a mailtube slot in the wall out here. Why?"

"Excellent! Someone hand me a pen! I may not be able to call, but at least I can write! I'm gonna send a letter to Kaya telling her about all of my brave and heroic adventures so far!"

"You'd be better off sending a postcard then."

"HEY!"

"You don't have time for a long letter," Nami said firmly, looking up from her haul and glancing out the window, "The storm will be passing in about half an hour, and then we're leaving. Make it short!"

Sanji sauntered over and snagged some paper as well. "Might as well let that shitty old man properly know I'm still alive. Ah, and then I can write a beautiful letter of love to Vivi-chan!"

"Ah! Let me sign that one too!" There was a rush on the pen-holder. Chopper brandished his triumphantly, "I'm gonna write to the Doctorine!" He paused, and then deflated. "But I've never written a letter before. What am I gonna say?"

"'Dear Doctorine,'" Usopp prompted. Nami tuned him into the background as she flicked through her own file. Name, age, place of birth... ha, wrong! Physical description... position on crew... family members. She let out a sigh of relief, they didn't know about Nojiko or Belmeil. Her family was safe. Her eyes trailed down the rest of the page. Past criminal history...

"Nami, what's the matter?" Luffy looked at her hands as they clenched the paper tightly and craned his head around to read over her shoulder.

"Arlong..." Nami hissed. "The thrice-cursed marines managed to link me to Arlong. Arlong..."

Zoro opened one eye, reached out an arm and quietly twitched the ornate, and rather sharp, letter opener off the desk, and into the wastepaper basket.

"'I have been having a wonderful time with all my new friends.'"

"... new friends."

Luffy glanced at the section Nami was fixated on. "Awww... don't worry about it, Nami," he said reassuringly. "That's all in the past anyway."

"But..."

"'We all get along well and take care of each other.'"

"... each other."

"And anyway, who's gonna remember Arlong when you're on the same crew as ME?" Luffy continued, a cheerful grin plastered over his face.

Nami's mouth twitched once and then she forced herself to relax. "I suppose there is that. You're worth five times Arlong, after all."

Luffy looked insulted. "I'm worth WAY more than that!"

"I meant financially!"

"But I'm broke."

Nami sighed. "And you're hopeless."

Luffy grinned.

"'Please advise best course of treatment for an unidentified venereal disease...'"

"Please advise... what?"

There was a loud thump as Sanji kicked Usopp upside the head. Zoro got up hurriedly and moved to stand behind the small reindeer while the cook administered a good beating to their sharpshooter. "Skip that last sentence! Just say something like, 'hope you're well', and finish it off."

"'Hope you're well, Chopper.' Yay! All done. Look Usopp... AAHHHHH! Usopp's dead! Doctor! Someone get the Doctor!"

"You're standing right here!"

"Hey, where's my file?!" Sanji demanded loudly as Chopper shooed him away from Usopp's unconscious body. "Does it say anything about putting a bounty on ME sometime soon?"

Nami raised an eyebrow, "You were listening?"

"I always listen to ANYTHING your melodious voice says, Nami-saaaaan..."

Nami sighed and put her own file down reluctantly, and then opened the next one. "'Name: Sanji, AKA Mr Prince'."

Sanji grinned and posed.

"Mr Princess."

"YOU WANNA DIE??!!!"

Nami skipped through the personal information. "Fighting style: unarmed martial artist, specialising in kicking technique. School: unidentified. Rating: Extremely dangerous. Do not engage at close range."

Sanji broke off yelling at Zoro, looking mollified at this description. "Extremely dangerous, huh?" He preened.

"Not much else on you, although there is a notation from one observer that your style is similar to the notorious pirate Red-Leg Zeff, but that's unconfirmed," Nami said, closing the file and handing it to Sanji. "So I guess the old guy is still safe."

"Ha, like the marines could take the Baratie anyway," Sanji sniffed.

There was a garbled noise from the heavily bandaged man on the floor. Nami opened Usopp's file and flicked through it quickly. She sweatdropped slightly when she got to his rating and closed the folder hurriedly so that noone else could see the words, 'mostly harmless'. "Er... they haven't found much out about you either, Usopp."

"They've got almost nothing on me too!" Luffy announced proudly, having finally finished looking at his own file. "I'm a man of history!"

"You mean 'mystery'!" Sanji snapped, grabbing the file and reading it. "He's right. They have his devil fruit powers listed, but most of the rest is blank. Oh hang on, 'Family: Ace, Portugas D. (AKA "Fire Fist Ace"), older brother. See file: Whitebeard Crew. Cross-reference: Known criminal associates.'"

"I know a criminal?" Luffy blinked in surprise.

"You ARE a criminal, idiot!"

"I'm a criminal idiot?"

"That too."

"Chopper's file is almost completely blank," Nami reported, looking at the single sheet inside. "They don't even have a name listed, just 'Doctor'. And they seem to be confused about whether he's a man, a monster, or a man with a pet. So much for marine intelligence."

Chopper was too busy trying to hear whatever Usopp was saying to pay attention. "I think he still wants to write his letter. You can't move yet, Usopp! Doctor's orders."

There was a strangled moan, and Sanji felt a twinge of guilt.

"Here, we'll do it," he said hastily. "The letter to Vivi-chan is practically finished anyway. Chopper, get his bit of paper. Okay, 'Dear Miss Kaya, I hope this letter finds you in good health.'"

"'Dear Miss Kaya...'"

"You don't have to repeat everything while you're writing it!"

Nami put the other files aside and looked at the last two folders. They were quite sizable. "Nico Robin," Nami picked the first one up and glanced at Robin for permission. The woman waved a hand airily and continued reading the book of marine conduct she'd picked up. She seemed fascinated. Nami shrugged, opened the file, and blanched. The entire first page was a list of AKA's, and most of the following pages were blacked out and stamped "Classified".

"'... in good health.' Next?"

"'Usopp was going to write to you himself, but tragically he was struck down with a case of 'shouldn't-play-stupid-pranks-on-innocen

t-nakama-and-got-a-thumping-itis'.'"

Chopper stalled. "Hey, wait a minute. Why do I have to do the writing? YOU'RE the one who beat him up!"

Sanji took a long drag on his cigarette, "'However, we have the world's best doctor on our ship, so he will make a full recovery.'"

"Hey you shithead, don't think you can get out of this by greasing up to me!" Chopper yelled, grinning widely. "You're not flattering me at all!"

"You look pretty flattered from here," Zoro observed.

Chopper danced in place as he wrote, "'so he will make a full recovery.' What's next, Sanji?"

"'Unfortunately.'"

Nami finally tired of the blacked-out pages and set Robin's folder aside. "You know, for such a large file they sure don't know much about you."

Robin gave her an enigmatic smile before returning to her book.

There was only one folder left.

"'... doing well, and is continuing to try and become a brave warrior...' Hey, why is Zoro's file so big?" Sanji demanded irritatedly.

"'Hey, why is'..."

"Don't write that part down!"

"I have no idea," Nami said, perusing the first page. "Since again they don't have many details. 'Name: Roronoa Zoro, AKA Pirate Hunter Zoro. Age: 19.' That's almost it until you get to the details on his fighting style: 'swordsman, utilises a three-sword technique. School: unidentified. Rating...'" her eyes bugged out. "'Deadly?'." She flipped the page over. "What the hell? 'Confirmed Kills'? What is this?" She read from a page list at random, "'15 Hanuere 881, Moa Vale. Roronoa Zoro brought in the body of Gingachu the Cannibal. Bounty: 8 million berri. Kill confirmed by Lieutenant Heron and bounty paid out by same. Body exhibited for the required week and then burnt. See attached file.'"

She flipped past the attached pages and read the next entry. "'29 Pepuere 881, Kiwi Town. Roronoa Zoro brought in the body of Merci Coral, AKA Lord Mercy the Slaver. Bounty: 7 million berri. Kill confirmed...' they're all like this!"

By now everyone was paying attention. As one, they looked at Zoro, who stared back at them. "What? You knew I used to bounty hunt."

"Zoro, this list goes back nearly THREE YEARS! And... huh..." Nami flipped back through the entries. "The last entry is Whiskey Peak, they didn't credit you with Mr 1. Those jerk marines!"

Robin smothered a grin behind a hand.

"Do I look like I care?" Zoro asked in an annoyed tone. "It's not like I keep score or anything. I just needed money and bounty hunting was a way to get it, that's all."

Nami frowned as she leafed through the files. "Yeah, but you were bringing in a head almost every month. Oh, no wonder you had to do it so often. They're ALL listed as kills. The marines only pay out 70 per cent of the bounty if you bring them in dead. Didn't you know that?" She gave him a scornful look.

"OF COURSE I KNEW THAT!"

"THEN WHY DID YOU KILL THEM ALL, MORON?!"

"THAT'S MY BUSINESS!"

Sanji took the folder away from the steaming navigator and flipped back to the beginning. "He didn't kill this one."

Nami snatched it back and perused the file. "6 Tihema 879, Takahe Town. Roronoa Zoro, identified as a free-lance bounty hunter, brought in the criminal known as Evan LaHarre, convicted murderer.' Huh, pretty small time. Only a 5 million berri bounty." She paused and looked up, a rueful grin crossing her face. "You know, there was a time when I would have been impressed by a bounty of 5 million."

The 60-million, 79-million, and 100-million bounties in the room looked at her blankly.

"Never mind. 'Identity of criminal confirmed by Captain Elgar and bounty paid out by same. The legal execution of said criminal was carried out the next day, 7 Tihema 879. Body exhibited for the required week and then burnt. See attached file.' Huh. So you CAN hold back if you want to. Or did you just choke on your first time in real combat?" Nami looked up and recoiled at the look of hatred Zoro was directing at her. "Z-Zoro... hey, come on... I didn't mean it like that."

There was a tense moment as Zoro visibly struggled to hang onto his temper, before abruptly and silently turning his back on the others. Everyone exchanged slightly nervous glances. It was rare for Zoro to get that angry, especially with his own nakama.

The silence was broken by a muffled voice.

"Ring ring, ring ring."

"Huh?" The mood broke instantly as the crew looked around in bewilderment.

"Ring ring, ring ring."

"Aha!" Luffy stretched out an arm and yanked the phone-snail out from behind the desk. Picking up the receiver he smiled cheerfully. "Hello?"

"STRAW-HAT!!!"

"That's me!" Luffy proclaimed happily. There was a brief pause. "AAAAHHHHHH!!! It's SMOKER!!! SMOKER'S ON THE PHONE!!! Wait, he's only on the phone. He can't hurt me that way. Heehee. Hey Smoker, do you have Prince Albert in a can?"

The loud swearing was only cut off when Nami once again hung up on the infuriated marine colonel.

"Time to go," Sanji said with a grin, grabbing Usopp's nose with one hand. Nami quickly scooped the crew's files into her arms and there was a chaotic scramble as the crew raced for the Going Merry and the relative safety of the Grandline. In the confusion, only Chopper noticed Robin drop a mailtube in the slot as they ran past.

"Robin, you're sending a letter as well?" Chopper blinked as the tube slid out of sight. "Who to?"

"Se-cr-et," Robin smiled.

And then the Straw-Hat crew proceeded to leave town the same way they usually did.

At a run.

**

That evening, Zoro was on first watch when he noticed a hand stretching up to the crows nest. A second later, the rest of his Captain followed.

"Whatcha doin'?"

Zoro sighed. "I'm on watch, idiot, what do you think I'm doing?"

"Hmmm..." Luffy devoted himself to the consideration of this question. Zoro settled down to wait.

A few minutes later, Luffy either forgot or became bored with his conundrum. Switching his attention back to Zoro, he settled his hat more firmly on his head. "You didn't write a letter."

"Neither did you."

Luffy cast him a sly look and handed him a piece of paper. Zoro unfolded it, read the contents, and flushed darkly. Luffy grinned at his reaction. "Hee, like it?"

Zoro cleared his throat gruffly, "Your handwriting is terrible." He refolded the letter and tucked it carefully inside his haramaki.

Luffy smiled and wound an arm around one of Zoro's, leaning against the taller man in the cool air. "Sap."

"Do you WANT to die?"

"Hee."

Zoro growled quietly and then let the conversation lapse. The two men stood together in silence for a while, though not uncomfortably. Silences were never uncomfortable between them, Zoro mused. They didn't need to talk. They could just stand there. Luffy would never pester him with demands for information.

He'd never pry, he'd never question.

And that was why Zoro could tell him.

"Have you ever seen an execution?"

Luffy shook his head. "I've seen execution platforms."

Zoro's mouth quirked. "A little bit too closely."

"Heh."

Zoro paused and tried to think of what to say next. He wasn't very good with words, preferring to let his actions speak for him. He considered himself fortunate to have finally found a group of people who all more or less understood him most of the time.

Luffy, of course, understood him best of all.

"Executions are strange," he said finally. "Everything starts off quietly, but you get this sense of anticipation. And as the execution itself gets closer... as the prisoner... as the person gets closer to the platform, the crowd starts getting rowdier. By the time they're actually in position, the noise is incredible. Then you get this one moment of silence. And then the cheering starts." He swallowed tightly.

"That guy, LaHarre, he wasn't a good guy," Zoro forced the words out. "I bumped into him robbing some old man in the middle of the road at sword-point, and the next thing I knew we were fighting it out. He wasn't very good, and it was over fairly quickly. After I knocked him out I checked on the old guy and it turned out he was cut up pretty bad. In fact, he was hurt so badly I wound up having to carry him to the next town for medical attention. I was a little pissed about that, so I dragged LaHarre along as well, figuring I might as well turn him in for robbery and maybe they'd make him pay the doctor's fees or something." He laughed, a quick, sharp bark with no humour in it whatsoever.

"I didn't even know he was wanted. Remember how I told you I never called myself a Bounty Hunter? The whole thing was just a stupid coincidence. I walked into the local marine HQ with him and the next thing I know they're counting money into a bag, writing up my name in the ledger and giving me a receipt! I won't say I didn't appreciate the cash, but it was all kinda... surreal."

"The next day... the execution..." Zoro took a deep breath. "I didn't..." He stopped again. "I had no idea... I... shit."

He closed his eyes. "I don't even know why I hung around for it. I guess I thought I should see the whole thing through. And maybe I was a little curious. I almost wish I'd left first thing, but it didn't seem right. I brought the guy in after all, what was going to happen was partly due to me."

"Like I said before, executions start quiet. Everyone was just watching, and waiting. They marched him through the centre of town. Every eye was on him. The guy was pale, but he was walking... until he got within sight of the execution platform."

Zoro swallowed. "I was watching his face, his eyes, and something just... broke inside him. He started crying. Just tears at first, but then sobbing, louder and louder. People started murmuring. About ten metres from the platform he started screaming, and that's when the crowd really got into the act. They were yelling at him, calling him all sorts of names, some of them even threw stuff. He just collapsed. He was a lousy swordsman and a grade-A creep, but when we'd been fighting he was bantering and giving me shit like crazy, and then the next day he was crying like a baby, having hysterics, fucking yelling for his mother to save him."

"They had to physically drag him up the steps. He'd wet himself by that point, and the crowd just got louder. They were baying for his blood. I'd never seen anything like that before. They wanted him dead, really wanted it. You could see it in their eyes. They weren't people anymore Luffy... they were, I dunno, a mob I guess. But that's too small a word for what they were."

Luffy watched Zoro scrub his mouth nervously with the back of his hand. He leaned against the older man a little harder, and waited.

Hesitantly, Zoro continued. "They wanted him dead. They wanted him suffering. They wanted... they wanted him broken. Remember what it was like in Arabasta towards the end? When everyone wanted to fight, even though there was no reason, and everything was crazy? It was like that. Those people, that crowd, that atmosphere... they wanted blood. Lots of it. His."

"Then the marines raised their spears... and the noise just stopped. Silence. Complete and utter silence. Even he... even LaHarre shut up, just making little whimpering noises. They brought their spears down... and it was all over."

"And then the celebrations started."

Zoro eyes were glazed, lost in memory. "I got out of there. I had to. I think I threw up, even. I never do that. I don't GET sick. But the way they reacted, the whole thing, it just made me want to puke."

Images cascaded through his mind. Luffy in that position. Luffy broken, crying. Luffy begging and screaming as the crowd cheered the executioners on.

But Luffy hadn't cried or begged on the platform in Loguetown. He'd just apologised, and accepted it, with a grin of pure glee.

Slowly Zoro came back to the present. The air was chill, and although Luffy was too dim to realise it, he was shivering. Zoro was too, but not from the cold. He pressed against his captain, to share the warmth, and let out a long sigh.

"After that, I took heads again. I needed the cash, and my dream was too important. But I couldn't... I won't ever do that again." Zoro shook his head. "I'll kill someone, but I'll never break them. Never again."

Luffy smiled at him. "I know you won't. You wouldn't be Zoro if you did."

Zoro let himself be reassured by this, and the two men stood in peaceful quiet for a long moment.

"Zoro!" The hold door flew open and Nami stormed up onto the deck. "I just added up all the bounties you earned!"

"Shit," Zoro ducked down in the nest, yanking Luffy down with him. "I was hoping she wouldn't think to do that."

"There is no way you could possibly have drunk that much money away!" Nami waved a piece of paper in the air furiously. "Get the hell down here and pay back your debt!"

Luffy goggled at his friend, an amazed look on his face. "Zoro, you have money?"

"No!" Zoro denied emphatically. Then a guilty look crossed his face. "Actually, I'm not sure. Carrying around a lot of cash was a pain, so I used to just hang on to what I needed for my expenses that month and send the rest to my old sensei. I think he may have invested it for me."

"Invested it?" Luffy pointed an accusing finger. "ZORO! You're RICH!"

"Not if Nami gets involved, I won't be," Zoro muttered. "Now shush."

"ZOROOOOOO!" There were ominous climbing noises approaching. "You rat! You liar! You... you THIEF!"

"She's coming up here," Luffy observed.

Zoro sighed and stood up, accepting the inevitable. "Want to go for a swim?"

"I can't swim."

"Want to go for a jump, followed by me holding you up in the water until Nami cools off?"

Luffy shot him a bright-eyed look and bounced to his toes. "Okay."

"ZORO! DON'T YOU DARE TRY AND RUN!!"

They just made it.

End.



Author's Notes

Believe it or not, this entire fic evolved out of musings regarding the phone-snail system in One Piece. I started off thinking about how the current system worked, who was likely to have them, and whether or not there would be a mail system as well, considering that there are newspapers, and then it just grew from then on. I was going to explain my theories in the fic, but decided in the end that it was just slowing down the action and left them out for the most part. The remainder of the fic came from yet another theory I have about Zoro's past. Although I doubt I'm anywhere near the truth, it's fun to speculate. :-)

Regarding the dating system used in the "reports", as I was unable to find any references to dates in the actual manga or anime, I just made it all up. :-) I did steal Oda-sensei's habit of using theme names for the places listed (Moa, Kiwi, and Takahe are all flightless New Zealand birds, although the Moa is extinct), and used the Maori transliterated names of English months for the months (Hanuere = January etc).

Anyway, hope you enjoyed it. Comments and criticism are welcome, as always.



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