It's been a while since Chopper joined the Straw Hats, and although he's still the youngest in the crew, he's not the newest member anymore. This fact made him happy, as he felt like a "senior" member to the newer members in a sense, which gave him a burst in confidence and pride.
Thinking back to when Chopper first joined the Straw Hats, he had been unsure of his place in the crew. After all, he wasn't even human like the rest of them. Even in the aspects of being an animal, he wasn't entirely normal there either. Therefore, it's really no surprise that he didn't feel assured of his place as a member of the Straw Hats Pirates. This feeling gets even more amplified after he gets placed in dangerous situations. He gets panicky and scared and combat wise, he felt that he wasn't doing up to expectations. The only thing he ever did well was to be the ship's doctor, but sometimes, he starts doubting his own skills. What if he mess up and fails to save the crew? What if they contract a disease he has never learnt about?
Truth be told, Chopper was constantly surrounded by thoughts that the rest of the crew would finally realize how much Chopper wasn't worthy of being in the Straw Hats, and that they will eventually abandon him.
However, Chopper soon found out that his worries were unfounded. Like a raging storm that uproots every single tree and house in its path, the Straw Hats had cleared his mind of these shackling thoughts which were preventing him from living his pirate life to the fullest. Sure, they had given him a terrible lecture for even having these thoughts, but at the end of the day, after all the tears were shed, Chopper realized that this time, it was different. The Straw Hats were different, and they don't leave anyone behind. Hell, if they see you slacking, they'll drag you by your ass if they have to, to make sure you're right beside them. Sure, some of them may be better fighters than the rest, but everyone has their place in the crew and everyone is equally important.
"Have confidence in your skills! In the skills that you got from Doctorine and Doctor!" Luffy had yelled in his face, enraged after they had forced Chopper to explain why he's been out of it.
Thinking back, Chopper really did find that he was pretty silly.
But, during nights like tonight, where he finds himself awake when everyone else was soundly asleep in the bunk, Chopper finds these uncomfortable thoughts slowly creeping into his mind. It was like as if hands have grown from the shadows, and these hands were smothering him in sadness. Sickening long fingers slithered like snakes against the walls of his confidence, finding the little cracks in them to invade his mind. The bunk was eerily quiet to him all of a sudden, and Luffy's snores were barely reaching his ears.
Chopper was tired from the day, but he refused to let himself drown in these thoughts as he lay in his hammock. He picked himself up and left the bunk, in search of the sounds that the sea makes at night, and the only other person awake right now - hopefully.
The sound that the sea made against the wooden hull of the ship welcomed him as he opened the door of the male's bunk. Chopper briefly debated visiting Nami and Robin when he saw the female bunk's door, but decided against it. They were probably soundly asleep too. With his blanket trailing behind him, Chopper climbed up the mast to search for the person on lookout duty. Although he is now visibly calmed by the breeze of the night against his fur, Chopper wanted to be with someone.
"What are you doing awake, Chopper?" A voice had asked before Chopper even reached the crow's nest.
"I couldn't sleep," Chopper answered as he carried himself over the crow's nest. "How did you know it was me, Zoro?"
"Your footsteps are lighter and softer than a normal human's," Zoro explained.
Chopper went up next to Zoro and sat beside him. Zoro briefly pondered asking Chopper what was wrong, but decided against it. Chopper will tell him if he wants to, Zoro thought. The pair sat in comfortable silence for awhile, until Chopper spoke again.
"How's lookout duty? Anything interesting happened?" Chopper asked.
Zoro briefly looked down at the ship's doctor, before looking back at the horizon. "Nothing much. A school of dolphins passed by eariler."
Chopper simply nodded his head, and silence fell among both of them again. In this silence, the sounds of the waves were amplified in their ears. A cold night breeze blew at them, but neither was affected. Zoro was used to the cold and Chopper had his thick layer of fur.
"Ne, Zoro," Chopper spoke up after what seemed like an hour, or perhaps it could have just been minutes. It's hard to tell the time this deep into the night, and Zoro didn't bother to keep track of the time either. It didn't really matter to him what time it was, he'll know it's morning when he sees the sun.
"Hm?" Zoro encouraged Chopper to go on when he did not continue.
"Do you ever think of the past?" Chopper asked.
Ah, Zoro thought. That's what's bothering him. "Yeah," Zoro answered. "But i don't get too caught up with it. There's a saying, right? Something about living in the present and not getting shackled by the past."
Chopper simply sat there and contemplated Zoro's words.
"But, time to time," Zoro paused, causing Chopper to look at him. "It's nice to pause and look back. Reminds you of everything that has changed since then." Zoro looked at Chopper and gave him a small smile. "How much you've grown, how different things are."
Almost immediately, Chopper felt the thoughts that he was troubled by disappear from his mind. That's right, Chopper reminded himself. Things are different now. He wasn't the Chopper who was standing in front of the castle listening to a straw hatted stranger begging for his nakama to be saved when he himself was half a step from death. He wasn't the Chopper who was wishing "Ah, if only I had a nakama that cared for me like that too". He wasn't the Chopper who was living alone in solitude and hatred until Hiluluk came to save him.
He was Tony Tony Chopper, doctor of the Straw Hat Pirates sailing the Going Merry Go. He was Tony Tony Chopper with his own nakama now; Tony Tony Chopper who will never taste abandonment and solitariness again.
As if Zoro had read his mind, the swordsman placed a large, warm and comforting hand on the reindeer's head. Against the cold of the night, Chopper felt that Zoro's hand was like the cup of hot cocoa Doctorine would make for him when the winter nights get freezing cold.
Chopper stood up all of a sudden, shocking Zoro. He was crying by now, but he paid it no mind and situated himself in Zoro's lap, huddling close to the guy. Zoro was about to complain about his snot and tears dirtying his shirt, but decided against it and rested his hands on Chopper in a loose hug.
When the first ray of the sun spilled over the horizons onto the sea, Chopper finally fell asleep. Zoro smiled down at the ball of fur nestled comfortably in his arms and yawned, finally feeling sleepy himself. Sanji was probably getting up to make breakfast already, so it would be safe for him to catch a wink of sleep or two.
As Zoro started dozing off, Chopper absentmindedly used Zoro's shirt as a tissue and blew his nose.
"Y-you…" Zoro stuttered in disgust with his arms raised. He contemplated on what to do for a brief moment, before deciding ah, whatever, and continued his journey to dreamland.