lacewood: (you and me)
Pei Yi ([personal profile] lacewood) wrote in [community profile] toxicskyremix2004-05-15 08:52 pm
Entry tags:

one piece - truce

Spoilers up to volume 24/the end of the Alabaster arc.

The rain fell heavy and cold, ice against her skin after the days of desert heat. It drenched her hair to drip down her neck, seeped through her jacket and shirt.

Cold. So cold.

No longer sure of where she was going, too tired to even let herself think about what she was doing, Tashigi turned the corner... hesitated. Footsteps faltering, stopped.

A thousand streets in this labyrinth city and they had to choose this one.

Six prone figures sprawled carelessly on the dirt as if they'd simply collapsed where they stood. She wouldn't have been surprised if they had, but the sheer carelessness of it amazed her. Or did it? Pirates were not known for their caution, and these particular pirates - well, she hadn't chased them all over the Grandline without realizing even for pirates, they were an odd lot.

Behind her, footsteps and exclaimations told her the few Marines that hadn't been scattered by the fighting had finally caught up with her. "Sergeant Major! What should we..." "What the...? Who're they?" "You moron! They're the Straw Hat Pirates!" "What? No way, what are they doing here?" "I don't know..."

She let the argument roll over her, vaguely aware that she should do something. Anything. Or maybe not justanything, but standing here staring at the green head bent over his three swords wasn't helping either, and...

"Er... Sergeant Major?"

She started. "Yes?"

"Should we haul them back to the ship too? Even if they weren't involved in the war -" He didn't sound convinced at this, "- there *is* a pretty big price on their leader's head..."

"Let them go." She said the words without even thinking; stunned, the Marines around her gaped.


"This is an order!" she snapped, turning away.

"But... Sergeant Major! This is a chance of a lifetime! If we wait for them to wake up before capturing them..."

Then they would never be able to capture them at all. Was this all the Marines were good for? "Just... you're not to touch any of them now! Anyone who disobeys will have to deal with me!

Inside, she winced. First she'd helped them; now, she was protecting them. All she needed now was to bring them home to meet her mother. Whatever happened to her duty as a Marine?

A Marine's duty was to protect the people. To rid the high seas of the pirates that plagued its waters or at least give them something to lose sleep about. It didn't involve cowardice or failure or helping the very people you were supposed to call your enemy defeat an evil you couldn't fight yourself. Even if Tashigi had been one of them long enough to grow cynical about how well some of her fellow marines carried out their duties, a duty was still a duty.

"Keep on searching the streets," she ordered. "There might be troublemakers left, and we haven't found all the BW leaders yet. Bring them back to the ship the minute you find them."

Still mumbling protests at her orders, the men turned to obey. Standing at the narrow street's centre, a grim, unlikely guardian angel to the city's even more unlikely heroes, she watched them leave.

Because above all was honour.

Certain that her men had left and no one would get any bright ideas of coming back and defying her orders, she sighed and turned. Glanced at the pirates behind her one last time... only to stiffen as she met dark, level eyes.

"Not arresting us?" Zorro asked softly.

Against the odds, he hadn't fallen asleep. He had barely escaped falling over and wasn't sure he even had the strength left to lift his head, let alone draw his sword, but he wasn't asleep.

Someone needed to keep watch. The war was over but not the trouble, and he violently objected to the irony of their stopping a bloody civil war only to get killed or captured by the BW and Marines and other assorted riff raff still roaming the city right afterwards.

So he couldn't fall asleep though he was getting dangerously close to it: he was as tired as everyone else and had probably lost too much blood again; the problem with fights and wounds, as he'd long since discovered, was that they always hurt worst afterwards. He felt his eyes start to close, lulled by rain song and exhaustion, and tried to shake himself awake when -

Footsteps. Instinct kicked in and now he really was awake again, still and listening as the footsteps approached and... stopped.

Silence stretched as he strained under the cover of feigned sleep, listening for movement, footsteps towards them or away; who the hell needed to stand there and stare at a bunch of sleeping pirates?

More footsteps; voices, loud and brash, broke the quiet. "Sergeant Major!" He froze.

Oh. Damn. Marines. And one Marine in particular.

Zorro didn't believe in praying, didn't have a religion to speak of, but as it was, spared a moment to mentally curse every single god that might happen to be listening at the moment, and serve them right if they were. Her. Why was it always her? If he didn't know better, he could almost think that someone up there found it amusing to make him run into that woman every time the Marines showed up...

He fought an irrational urge to get up and run away - he was sure he could have managed it, somehow, but he couldn't exactly abandon the others to the Marines' mercy now. And besides, he was tired of running away from her. It wasn't getting anyone anywhere and it didn't stop her coming after him anyway, and Roronoah Zorro was not a man who believed in running away from fights that insisted on chasing him.

And how do you fight something when it's a part of yourself?

Kuina was so long dead he had thought himself resigned to her death. Resigned to his... loss, of a rivalry so old he couldn't remember when it began. That was almost a kind of friendship because a good enemy is worth more than a bad friend and Kuina had always been the very best kind of enemy.

Then she'd turned up and he'd found out that he wasn't, because she was so uncannily like Kuina, like the woman Kuina might have become today if she still lived, that it was like seeing a vague, hopeless dream take flesh and root itself... Only to know that it was just that. A dream. And Kuina was still dead and the gods must have a bloody sadistic sense of humour to mock him like this because what else could it mean?

And now he sat here, teeth clenched, waiting to see if she was going to arrest them, because then he'd have to fight her. He sincerely hoped not; he didn't think they were up to it. He didn't think /he/ was up to it right now.

"Let them go."

... She really was too like Kuina. Kuina wouldn't have helped them only to betray them the moment the fighting was over either. It had nothing to do with being a Marine...

The swords... they're crying...

Her code was stronger than that. He heard the argument, heard the men leave, yet without lifting his head, knew that she was still there. Watching out for them because they couldn't watch out for themselves, it seemd. Pretense done with, he lifted his head at last.

She looked almost as battle weary as they did, standing stern despite the chill of the falling rain. Then she turned and their eyes had met and there were a thousand things he could have said, or he could have just kept his mouth shut -

And all he could think of was, "Not arresting us?"

Was he mocking her? She felt her eyes narrow, the edges of her temper fray, because it had been hard enough without knowing that he'd heard everything and was probably laughing at her. But she was too tired even for anger now.

"No." She said.

Against her will, she remembered a different afternoon in a different town, a fight along suddenly rain-slicked streets, and the final crash as a sword was knocked flying - her sword. And in the world of the Marines, in real fights, in war, you didn't pick fights you lost unless you were willing to bleed and die for them.

And yet she had emerged not only with her life, but without a scratch. Bitter mercy.

"Why not?" he challenged.

She flinched visibly. "Does it matter why?"

Watching her, he was almost sorry he'd asked. "Probably not," he said with a shrug. "I was just... wondering."

They fell silent again as she tried to find words, meanings. There were too many reasons, too many things all woven together. Defeat and weakness, justice and honour and the Marines and her helplessness in the face of war and destruction and pain humiliation anger at who she wasn't sure herself most of all. Because she was a woman and she was weak and... and...

"It was wrong." And the three words were all Tashigi could find for the mess. It was wrong.

Zorro looked faintly surprised. "What, arresting us? We're pirates."

And there were pirates and there were... pirates, the same way you got Marines and... Marines. Was he trying to dare her into arresting him?

"It's nothing to do with that." And then words spilled from her, to him of all people - "There was a war here and we knew who caused it and the Marines still couldn't do anything... I had to watch that woman take the king away because she almost killed me and the only reason she didn't was because I was too weak to be a threat... the way the Marines were too weak to be a threat. There was a small army of us in the city but it took seven pirates to make a difference."

Bitterly, "If I arrested you... I'd be no different from the people I'm trying to stop." Were they any different, even now?

Zorro made a noise halfway between a choked snarl or gargled yell. As she looked up, startled, he swore, long and profusely.

"What?!" She'd seen that look on his face before -

Still faintly purple in the face, he took a long, angry breath. "You. Sound so much like her."

She drew back, exasperated. "How many times..." And maybe something in his voice had changed, maybe she was just too tired to hear things right, but... there was pain in the anger. She stopped.

"I'm not her."

"I know." He glared at the ground. "I could never beat her when we were kids. I used to dream that one day, I would... but then she died, and I'll never know now. She'll always be better, no matter how strong I get. She talked just like you. And she told me she'd never be the best because she was a girl. Her own father told her that and she believed him..." And then she had died, and some days, it almost felt like betrayal even though he knew she'd wanted to live as much as he did...

"That's what everyone believes," Tashigi said bleakly. She'd heard it often enough all her life, as if being a girl made her unworthy of wielding a sword, of fighting, when she knew she saw a beauty and grace in the sharpened steel everyone around her was blind to. It was a pity she would never meet this girl who haunted him so.

He looked up at her. "And what about you?"

Without thinking, her hand moved to rest on the hilt of her sword. "No. I don't. And I'll fight to prove it."

He grinned. "I fought Mihawk once and lost. Told him to kill me. But he didn't. Because he believed that... one day I might." And everyday he lived was a promise to that favour, one more small payment to that life debt.

She blinked. Stared at him. A kind of understanding dawned. "I'll beat you yet."

"Not today?"

Mercy might not be so bitter after all. "Take it as payment for Loguetown," she said, turning away and returning up the street.

And for once, he saw her without the shadow of a lost friend dogging her steps, even as her straight-backed figure blurred in rain and exhaustion as he finally let himself fall asleep. They were safe for now. Sword's honour.


February 2003