For undeadseanbean and dapbuns of tumblr, who were discussing the serious need for post-Marineford ZoLu cuddles. Also vaguely inspired by the ultra-creepy Mona cover played in the Hannibal season two trailer.
Flames curl, obliterating his brother's final weary smile, and he's suddenly awake, screams of denial trapped and ricocheting inside his sweat-streaked, heaving chest and one hand tangled in a fistful of bed sheet he's torn loose from the hammock mattress beneath him.
Dazed and disoriented, the rubber man's momentarily paralyzed, incapable of anything but shuddering helplessly while his widened eyes stare uncomprehending into the surrounding darkness, but eventually his straining lungs relax enough for a deep, ragged breath and he flops a trembling forearm across his face, burying his nose in the crook of his elbow.
Disturbed by his movement, the swordsman stretched out beside him stirs, uttering an unintelligible murmur of inquiry and brushing his shoulder with sleep-numbed fingers, and Luffy immediately rolls towards him, wrapping both arms around his first mate's torso and burrowing into his embrace. He nuzzles his forehead under Zoro's chin and exhales shakily against his collarbone.
Callous-roughened hands find his back and begin to rub soothingly along his spine, working to ease the tension from his frame, but the older pirate doesn't speak again, doesn't ask if he's alright or demand an explanation. They're both well aware there's few dreams capable of prompting the dampness now collecting on the green-haired man's skin where his captain's face is pressed tightly against him.
Weakened by the tenderness evident in that touch, the dam containing Luffy's turbulently clashing emotions bursts and he begins to cry in earnest, muffling the sound with his first mate's chest so he's sobbing almost silently even as his shoulders hitch and shudder.
Zoro instinctively pulls him closer, nose nuzzling into his hair and warm breath stirring the air beside his ear. A knee nudges gently between his thighs, leaving them sprawled with their legs tangled and torsos tucked firmly together.
"Oi," comes a sleep-roughened, cranky mumbling from the darkness to their right, prompting the younger pirate to tense, hiccuping audibly. "Will you shitty bastards quit it? People're tryin' to-"
"Go back to sleep," Zoro retorts in a threatening growl that rumbles through the dense muscle beneath Luffy's ear.
"If you horny assholes wake me up again, I'm not gonna feed you for a week," the cook's disembodied voice threatens, accompanied by a rustling of sheets, but after another muttered complaint or two, he falls silent.
Luffy slowly relaxes as he feels his swordsman's hand rise to run reassuring fingers through his hair, relieved that he's not about to find himself surrounded by concerned crewmates. Much as he appreciates his nakama's interest in his well-being, the idea of interacting with anyone other than Zoro while he's so shaken, face wet with tears, is too much to bear right now, and he gives the older pirate a tight squeeze- a silent thank you for not rising to Sanji's bait and giving him away.
Zoro squeezes back, lips brushing his temple. The hand not occupied with combing through his hair resumes stroking his back, fingers reverently tracing the delicate ripples formed by his spine from neck to tailbone before sliding up to knead loose the knots between his shoulder blades.
Lulled by his first mate's touch, the captain settles more comfortably against him, cheek nestled on his chest beside the thick line of old, familiar scar tissue he's shortly exploring with index and middle finger. Tomorrow he'll be his normal, cheerful self, full of laughter and causing so much havoc aboard the ship that none of their crewmates will suspect he's throwing off the last vestiges of a nightmare, but for tonight he's content to lie quietly in the warmth and security of Zoro's arms.