The accident happened out of nowhere. It was a hit and run. Luffy had been crossing the street when it occurred. Nothing was his fault; it was his turn to walk. So why was Luffy lying in the middle of the road, head bleeding and close to losing consciousness? His vision faded as a crowd of people rushed to him. The last thing he thought was: Is this it?
As Zoro entered the hospital room, he expected Luffy to be badly wounded, however, he didn't expect him to be smiling and giggling with the nurse. What the hell? Since when did Luffy smile so damn much?
"Zoro!" Luffy exclaimed in excitement. He waved at him, and then proceeded to eat the food that was supplied by the nurse. "Where are we? Where's the ship?"
Zoro blinked, not sure he heard right. He shook his head and sat down in the empty seat beside Luffy. He took note on his wounded head, bandaged with gauze rolls and a nasty cut under his right eye.
"What's wrong? Are you hungry?" Luffy offered a spoon of mashed potato to him. "You can have some!"
Luffy shrugged and continued eating. Zoro watched him with a frown. It was Luffy, yet it didn't seem like it. The boy in front of him was filled with glee, not a single trace of his stoic features.
Zoro started, "Luffy, are you—"
Ace rushed into the room, panting, then smiled as he saw his little brother. "Oh, thank god! You're okay!" He went up to him but froze when Luffy dropped the spoon on the tray, staring at Ace with watery eyes.
"A-Ace?" he stuttered. Zoro peered at Luffy, then at Ace, who was caught off guard by his sudden change of attitude. Zoro was relieved that he wasn't the only one noticing this.
Luffy reached forward—careful not to get up from the bed—and embraced him, gripping so tight that Ace seemed like he was being suffocated. "How are you here? You died! I held you... when you died," Luffy cried, sobbing on Ace's shirt. "I tried to save you—But I failed!" His fingers grasped his brother's shoulders.
Ace's eyes were widened, both in shock and fear; what was Luffy talking about? Nevertheless, he did the only thing he could do: he comforted his baby brother. "I'm okay, Lu. I'm not dead, okay? It was probably a bad dream." Ace hugged him.
Zoro wanted to say what the fuck just happened? He was more confused than ever. Ace glanced over his shoulder, mouthing something along the lines 'get the nurse.' He nodded and rose from his seat.
Ace talked to the doctor while Zoro occupied Luffy. He couldn't hear much other than Ace cussing and arguing with the poor man. Luffy kept moving his arm up and down, growling when his arm extended normally rather than yards.
Zoro's eyebrows furrowed, then without thinking he grabbed his wrist. "What are you doing?"
"Trying to stretch, duh." Luffy pouted. "Where are your swords?" He did a once-over at Zoro, which prompted him to blush.
"I don't have swords, and stop looking at me like that." Please, he thought.
Ace approached Luffy with a crestfallen expression. "What's the last thing you remember?" He clenched his fists, trying so hard not to cry at what the doctor had told him.
Luffy grinned. "I was fighting a bunch of pirates. Sanji and Zoro were by my side." What, pirates?
Zoro bit his lips, disappointed. The last thing Luffy was doing before his accident was hanging out with Zoro.
Ace gritted his teeth and shook his head harshly. "Whatever is in your head is not real, Luffy. You've been in an accident." That made Luffy's smile drop instantly. It almost made Zoro stop Ace from saying anything further.
"Yes. The doctor isn't sure what's happening but he said that your mind created another fantasy with us in it," Ace explained. "He said it had something to do with your head injury. They're going to run more tests on you. I'm just happy you still know who we are, I guess."
Suddenly, Luffy moaned in pain, gently placing his hand on his head. "Ow. My head hurts a lot." He didn't believe Ace. Luffy was a pirate. "Can we talk about this later? My head feels like it's going to blow."
Ace couldn't help but frown.
"Besides, I don't care where I am," Luffy stated with a smile, "as longest you're here. Alive. That's more than enough for me." Both Zoro and Ace's mouth hung open, surprised upon seeing Luffy's new expression. It was rare for Luffy to make such a face.
His older brother blushed, then grumbled. "Well, whatever. I'm just happy that you're okay."
The next few days went slow for Luffy. The doctors refused to discharge him until they were certain that he was in good health, much to his annoyance. Luffy hated being cooped up in a room.
Luckily, his friends kept him busy whenever they had a chance to visit him.
Nami cried when she saw his wounds. The cut under his eye would likely leave a scar. The thing that freaked Nami the most was that Luffy seemed like he hadn't been in an accident as he smiled at her. She had wanted him to laugh more, but not like this.
Zoro explained to the others that Luffy's memories were a bit loopy. Sanji corrected him by saying don't you mean fucked up? They fought, and to Luffy it was a good sight to see as he clapped his hands.
"At least you guys are the same!"
Both boys scoffed, yet said nothing.
"Where's Chopper?" Luffy asked.
Usopp stared at the others. "Uh... Who's Chopper?"
Luffy gasped. "You know Chopper! He's our doctor from our—" Zoro covered his mouth before he could finish.
"He's just someone he read from a book. Guys, Luffy doesn't remember who he was, so why not remind him?" Zoro changed the subject. "Would you like that, Luffy?" The boy had been trying to pry the hand away, but then nodded when he heard his best friend.
Once his mouth was free, he exclaimed, "Yeah! Tell me who I was."
The others glanced at each other, as if they were debating if they should lie or tell the truth. They decided the latter.
"You were smart," Usopp started, scratching his neck. "Genius, even."
Nami agreed. "Top one in our class."
Luffy's lips turned downwards a bit. "That doesn't sound like me. I'm not gonna lie but I'm a dumbass. Ace is the smart one."
Everybody in the room let out a gasp.
"You just admitted that your brother is smarter than you, and that doesn't bother you?" Sanji questioned.
Luffy paused. "Why would it? Ace has always been the brains." His head started to ache slightly. Sometimes I wish you could be more like me, Ace. Where the fuck did that come from? Luffy had never once in his life said those words to his older brother.
Zoro caught the frown on him. "You okay, Luffy?"
"Yeah. Just... thinking," he lied, and everyone knew that. But didn't dare to call him out on it. Luffy pursed his lips, and asked, "Was I a jerk?"
"What—No!" All said similar words.
To Luffy, though, it sounded fake and forced. "Are you sure? I feel like I was cocky and a know-it-all. I sound like Law. I mean, the guy is my ally and all, but I don't want to be like that—Why are you all looking at me like that?" He saw Nami's mouth drop and Zoro looked pissed at the mention of Law.
"So you remember Law?" Sanji spoke up.
Luffy grinned as he said, "Of course I do! He's my friend."
"And?" Usopp moved his hand, gesturing go on.
"And what? That's it." Luffy was confused as Usopp face-palmed himself. Why do you guys hate, Law? Sure, he's older and a bit grumpy but he's special to me. Luffy's eyes narrowed, then he rubbed his temple with his fingers. Why was he hearing words he had never said before?
His head snapped up when he heard Ace coming into the room. "Hi, Ace," he said with a beaming smile. Luffy heard whispering from his friends, and when he gazed back at them, he saw that they were watching him the whole time. Why were they doing that? It was starting to get on his nerves. It's like they were hiding something.
"Look, Lu, I brought you food." Ace raised the takeout for Luffy to see. He perked up upon smelling meat.
"Gimme, gimme, gimme!" Whatever Luffy had been thinking was gone as Ace handed him his meal. He hadn't eaten any meat since he had been in the hospital.
"I see you still have your appetite," Ace commented, smirking.
Amen to that.
Luffy was released a week later. The doctors said everything was in order. His head healed smoothly but he had to take it easy for a while. They couldn't find anything wrong with Luffy's brain, other than being injured from the impact. He didn't have amnesia, at least, from what doctors were used to seeing.
Ace took it harder than anyone when they couldn't find an explanation on what was wrong with his little brother. He wanted an answer, anything to figure out what it was and if Luffy would ever get his memories back.
The doctor hadn't replied when he'd asked. Instead he came up with his own theory: Confabulation. Luffy's mind created fake memories that seemed vivid and real to him. Extremely rare to get, but possible to have with a head injury. But it was only a theory; the doctor would keep Ace posted if he found anything else.
"Ready to go home?" Ace asked him.
"Finally! I was so bored in there."
"Yeah, it was getting annoying being in the room day and night." Ace had stayed with him, never leaving Luffy's side. "Do you wanna do anything once we get home? Or do you prefer to study?"
Luffy made a disgusted expression. "Study? I hate studying. I want to run outside. I need to stretch my legs." He failed to notice Ace's lips turning into a thin line.
"Sure. Whatever you want..."
Ace made him go to school on Monday. Luffy begged him he didn't want to go—however as he stared into Ace's angry eyes—Luffy had no choice but to obey him. It's weird that even though Ace didn't have his flame-flame fruit powers anymore, there was still fire in his eyes.
The weekend had been strange for Luffy. He was in a home where he wasn't used to. He had slept in a room where Ace told him it belonged to him, except it wasn't. The bookcase, trophies, and desktop weren't his. Nothing really belonged to him. Luffy missed the Thousand Sunny, missed sleeping on his hammock, and more importantly, missed his real crew. Would he ever go back to them?
He was thinking in class. Luffy didn't know half the students in there. Usopp and Zoro were there beside him, so that's neat. He stared at his work in front of him. What the hell was geometry? His nose scrunched up as he concentrated, as if hoping an answer would pop up. It didn't.
Class finished faster than he thought, and all he did was doodled on his work. He drew his jolly roger—very shitty looking—on his assignment. His two best friends had caught a glimpse of the drawing and both grimaced.
As he walked in the hallway, Luffy was chatting about how school was so stupid and that he wanted to explore somewhere. Zoro walked beside him, not saying anything—What could he say anyway?
Ace told him just to follow along with Luffy's nonsense until the doctors find out what's really happening to him. However, Ace had ordered Zoro to make sure no one found out about his made-up pirate life.
"Zoro, looks silly." Luffy laughed at him. He pointed at his face, then at the creases on his forehead.
"You've been frowning ever since we got out of class! You should smile more. You're handsome when you smile."
Zoro halted. His heart skipped a beat. Luffy just gave him a compliment. He tried to recall the times when his former best friend told him such remarks, but nothing came to mind.
"Zoro?" Luffy called. "Hurry up! I'm hungry."
He snapped out of his thoughts and hurried to Luffy, apologizing. Deep down he was beginning to think he had a chance with him— No. This wasn't the Luffy he fell in love with. Zoro fell for the boy who had a passion for learning and would constantly tease him. The stranger in front of him was merely an illusion.
One that would go away soon.