So, a family friend just died today and I basically just poured all of my emotions into this. Sorry if it's a little overwhelming, but it more than relates to how I'm feeling. Please read and review.
He held his breath as his arms encircled the sobbing boy. Other than just being there, Zoro was utterly powerless to help his captain through this moment of weakness.
"Z-Zoro..." the teen croaked, sounding more like a little boy than the strong pirate Zoro remembered him to be.
Zoro said nothing. He just tightened his hold around Luffy's heaving shoulders. The two were leaning against the mast, Luffy practically sitting in Zoro's lap as the older held him closely.
The next few moments held nothing but the sound of sniffles and coughs as Luffy recovered from the abject terror he'd been subject to. Zoro couldn't blame the kid for crying. He was sure what Luffy had seen had been absolute hell and he cursed himself even more for not being able to help Luffy then, either.
That was the only word for it. As soon as the new voice called out to Luffy, both Zoro and his captain tensed in anxiety and fear. It was Zoro's fault for not being aware enough of his surroundings. He knew that Luffy had told no other person of what he'd been going through, which meant he was covering it up for a reason.
Zoro turned his head to glare at the general shape of ship's personal liar. He couldn't see much in the pre-dawn's gloom, but he made sure to point his obvious get-the-hell-out-of-here-before-I-slash-you-to-bits stare at what he hoped was Usopp's face.
In his arms, Luffy was shaking; most likely with the fear of getting found out. He didn't seem to be breathing, but Zoro prayed that the poor kid was just holding it in anticipation. Whether of Usopp's reaction or something else, Zoro didn't know. What he did know, was that he and Luffy had better come up with a pretty damn good reason to be found this way, and Luffy didn't look up to that challenge. That left the difficult game of getting Usopp to walk back to the boys' cabin.
Because no matter what Zoro thought, Luffy did not want the rest of the crew to know of his weakness. But whether it was weakness or justified fear, Zoro would follow his captain's orders and try his best to keep the others out of it.
"Yeah?" The boy's voice was quiet, but it didn't hold any weakness.
"Are you alright?"
Surprisingly, his captain's voice was not only confident, but it was strong as well. He would have never thought of Luffy as deceiving, but here he was, lying to his own sniper about being okay.
Or maybe his captain was okay. Just not in the way Zoro was thinking. Luffy couldn't lie to save his life, so he definitely believed what he was saying. So, maybe Luffy was just okay with not being okay.
Zoro felt Luffy relax into his arms and the swordsman knew he had guessed right. The time for hiding his feelings was over. Luffy was ready to face this. After two years of being unable to fight through the pain and having to be strong for everyone, maybe Luffy felt it was time to let his crew in.
"A-Are you sure?" came Usopp's uncertain question. There was no doubt that the sniper was having trouble connecting the dots. After all, Usopp had no idea of the dreams that Luffy had been witnessing, of the memories that must have been playing through his captain's head constantly.
When Luffy answered, there was a slight waver to his voice. "I had a bad dream. About the war."
So Zoro had been right. Luffy's strong front was crumbling and Luffy, instead of trying to rebuild it, was letting his crew—at least right now, just Usopp—in to see his exposed and raw emotions that he had been keeping to himself.
Zoro would never understand where Luffy found the courage to keep going on like he did. The boy who thought himself so weak, held so much determination and will in the face of adversity. Zoro's ambition was to be the world's greatest swordsman, and he knew some day that he would. But Luffy shouldered everyone's dream as well as his own.
Now, Luffy wasn't just shouldering a crew full of dreams. He shouldered the pain of a loss and he hadn't quite adapted yet. It was time for his crew, who owed him for taking upon himself their own dreams, to help him out. He needed help adjusting to this, and who better to lean on than your friends?
Usopp, who had been silently shocked after this answer, made his way over to the duo sitting against the mast. Without a word, he sat down next to them and gazed up at the stars.
After just a few more moments of silence, Usopp cleared his throat noisily. "Hey, Luffy? Have I ever told you about the time where I slayed the three-headed dragon?"
Luffy's head shot up from Zoro's chest in interest. "A three-headed dragon?"
Usopp nodded enthusiastically. "Yep. A three-headed dragon! And each head breathed something different! The left head breathed scalding hot water while the middle head breathed poison gas! When I fought it, I had to hold my breath the whole time!"
By now, Luffy's eyes were alight with wonder and amazement, and maybe just a tiny bit of gratefulness. "And what did the last head breathe?" Luffy asked curiously.
Usopp chuckled. "Come one, Luffy! You know what all dragons breathe, right?"
"Fire!" Luffy yelled enthusiastically. "Wow! You fought the dragon all by yourself?"
Usopp nodded sagely. "Of course! I'm a great warrior of the sea! Not to mention I'm sailing with the crew of the future Pirate King, right?"
Luffy nodded so hard, Zoro thought his head was going to fall off his neck.
"Then why should a dragon be a match for the Great Warrior Usopp!"
Zoro smirked at the two chuckling teens that acted more like little kids than pirates. He watched as Usopp continued his embellished tale of hoe he had slayed the dragon all by himself. The two laughed as they bickered back and forth about Usopp's story and Zoro couldn't help but go along.
Because he knew what Usopp had done. He hadn't looked at Luffy like he was weak. He had done the complete opposite of what Luffy had thought he would have. He had done what Zoro could only wish to do for Luffy. He had been there.
It was time that this crew stepped up and helped their captain bear his new burden, but for now, he and Usopp would have to do.
Zoro and Usopp would never dream of letting their captain fall under the weight of this pain. So instead, they held it with him.