A slight Zoro x Luffy fic... Actually, my intention was to write a zoro x luffy romance fic coz I love this pairing, but I think it can still pass for a friendship fic if you want ^_^


Keepsake

By: anek

The sea breeze was calming as he dozed off on his usual spot in the deck. The weather was perfect for a little afternoon nap, though he supposed he needed much more than a nap for he had spent the last 24 hours not getting even a wink of sleep.

He glanced at their sulking Captain, who at last, after hours of whining and screaming, had finally exhausted himself and had settled to quietly sulk, glaring at him across the open deck wearing a childish pout.

"Lunch is ready!" their blond self-proclaimed Love Cook announced a few minutes later, and Zoro finally decided against taking a nap, for more than sleep, he needed food even more. His stomach growled as if to prove to point.

He returned his gaze to Luffy, who briefly brightened at the mention of food, yet with apparent great effort, managed to feign indifference.

"Oi Luffy, you must be hungry too. I'll bring you some food," he offered as he stood.

"Hmph!" was the only reply he got from the boy. The pouting got deeper and the wooden platform gave a slight creak when Luffy made an effort to turn away and fix his gaze on anything… anything but him.

Zoro chuckled. How childish. He had often questioned himself he must have been delusional having agreed on becoming a member of Luffy's crew, having such a carefree Captain who seemed to care of nothing else besides food, and being the Pirate King, surely was detrimental to one's sanity. Yet all of them, without even realizing it, have come to rely on Luffy more than they'd ever admit to. Not that he was ever scared in his life, but somehow, with Luffy around, one could easily forget fear.

"Hmph! I'm not hungry!" Luffy snorted again, although contrary to his words, his stomach gave a loud growl just then.

Zoro almost laughed. Luffy was childish in many ways… yet, somewhat cute. He immediately shook his head lightly at the passing thought, and wondered briefly just when had the word 'cute' ever became part of his vocabulary.

"If you say so…" he replied teasingly, deliberately trailing off as if to let his words linger behind.

When he came back carrying two large bowls of beef stew and a large platter of fried rice, Luffy still hadn't moved from his earlier position. He placed them on the wooden floor close to Luffy.

"This smells really good don't you think Luffy?" he asked.

Zoro could easily notice how Luffy clenched his fists, and how his shoulders slightly shook. Of course, it must have taken a lot of determination on Luffy's part not to gobble up the food the moment it came within reach.

He gave an uncharacteristic sigh. Although he had meant to tease Luffy more, he realized that eating by himself was out of question either. He sat right next to his sulking Captain, pulling the food tray a bit more closer.

"Here, it'll get cold if you don't eat it now," he offered, resisting a sudden urge to ruffle Luffy's hair as the dark strands swayed invitingly with the sea breeze. The straw hat was remarkably missing.

Luffy eyed him suspiciously, and he returned Luffy's glare with a straight gaze, daring the other to give up.

After a few seconds of staring contest, Luffy finally grumbled.

"Zoro! I'm still angry at you… and because I'm angry, I'll eat!"

Zoro almost fell back in laughter. The reasoning was rather too farfetched yet Luffy had managed to make it sound almost like a heroic testament of a doomed protagonist.

"Yeah yeah, open your mouth," he commanded, positioning a spoonful of stew in front of Luffy's pouting mouth.

Luffy frowned.

"You don't have to feed me. Just untie me and I'll eat by myself."

Zoro shook his head, his eyes unrelenting as he steadily held the spoon over Luffy's mouth.

"No. The minute I untie you, you'll jump overboard," he said matter-of-factly.

"Of course!" Luffy answered immediately, not a hint of denial in his voice.

Zoro almost sighed. The guy didn't even know how to lie.

"I know, that's why I won't untie you. You know very well you can't swim, idiot," he retorted. "Now open your mouth," he repeated, moving the spoon closer until the steam from the soup reached Luffy's nose. And he knew there was no way Luffy could ever resist.

Almost in a mechanical manner, Luffy's jaw dropped and lunged at the offered spoonful of broth, rather too fast that Zoro thought for a second that Luffy was going to eat his hand as well.

"Wahhh! Yummy! As expected, Sanji is the best cook in the world!"

Zoro almost rolled his eyes. Sometimes, he truly envied Luffy's simple-mindedness. Not worrying about anything, no promises of the past to tie him down. But he supposed he was being unreasonable as well, for no matter how carefree Luffy seemed to be, there had been many times when Zoro caught him staring at his straw hat with a pensive look that rarely showed.

He continued to shove spoonfuls of beef stew to Luffy's mouth, the bowl was nearly empty when Luffy frowned.

"Zoro, gimme some fried rice too!"

Zoro raised a brow.

"Hmm? Didn't you just say you were angry at me?"

Luffy frowned, furrowing his brows together as if in deep thought, and Zoro's curiosity caused him to wonder briefly just how 'deep' Luffy's thoughts could ever be… not very deep his supposed.

"Yeah, I'm angry," Luffy began, but as soon as Zoro motioned to pull the platter of fried rice away, the younger boy desperately continued. "But I'm hungry! Naaah, Zoro! Gimme friend rice! GIMME GIMME GIMME!"

"Fine, I'll give you! Just shut up!" he growled when Luffy started to yank the heavy ropes that bound him, causing the wooden floor to shift slightly and nearly knocking over both bowls of stew if Zoro hadn't been quick enough to steady them. "Really Luffy, how old are you?" he grumbled, offering a spoonful of fried rice to an eager Luffy.

Luffy only gave him a quizzical look.

"Huh? Seventeen, how old are you Zoro?"

"I wasn't asking! That was supposed to be a sarcastic comment, idiot!" he hissed, though he supposed he should have guessed Luffy would never get it anyway. Their mental wavelengths are just way on different levels… or rather, Luffy's mental wavelength compared to MOST people were, simply put, not the same.

"But you were asking Zoro! How old are you?" Luffy continued, honest curiosity in his eyes.

"Just shut up and eat," he answered curtly. He had always known it was useless trying to reason out with Luffy.

"Che, Zoro meanie."

They fell silent then, listening to the sound of the crashing waves and flapping sails in companionable silence while he continued to feed Luffy until the both bowls and platter were emptied clean.

"Na, Zoro, I really need to get it back," Luffy insisted after running his tongue on the corner of his mouth in an attempt to reach a stray grain of yellowish rice.

Zoro brought a hand to lightly rub his throbbing temples.

"Listen Luffy, we would really want to get it back for you, but there's no way we'd find it in this ocean. Besides, how would you find that damn fish?" he finished with an exaggerated wave of his arm.

Luffy frowned.

"I don't know, but I'll find it! So untie me Zoro!"

Zoro resisted the urge to literally knock some sense into Luffy's head, and settled with an exasperated sigh instead.

"You can't even swim, so no, I won't untie you," he growled in reply.

Luffy fell silent, averting his gaze to stare at the horizon where the dark blue ocean and light blue sky met. His brows were furrowed together in concern.

Zoro paused. Luffy was not one to be saddled with worry, not even when in life-threatening situations, yet Luffy could be so serious when it came to that straw hat.

He pulled a light green material from his pocket.

"Here," he muttered, offering the piece of cloth to his unusually silent Captain.

Luffy eyed it curiously, frowning deeper when he recognized the cloth.

"Your bandana?"

"We can't get your straw hat back, so take this instead," he explained.

Luffy gave the green cloth a pensive look, then turned to meet Zoro's gaze with unfaltering honesty.

"I don't want your bandana. I want the straw hat… someone very important gave it to me when I was a kid."

Zoro suddenly gripped the green cloth so tight that he wouldn't be surprised if he had torn it into shreds. Sure, he had been angry at Luffy before, angry enough to swear that he'd have Luffy's head one day… but none of those had ever been serious, just childish bickering, friendly rifts between friends. But this time, he suddenly found himself so angry that he pursed his lips into a thin line… but more than anger, he felt resentment and rejection.

"I see," he gritted out, quickly stuffing the bandana back into his pocket. He hastily stood, knocking one of the bowls as he did so. "Then don't take it," he added sharply, turning on his heels and taking a few steps away, settling himself on the opposite side of the deck.

"Zoro…" Luffy began, but stopped himself when Zoro closed his eyes to resume his nap, clearly ignoring his Captain.

It was then when the ship slightly lurched upward. Always ready for action, Zoro was quick on his heels, hands poised over his katanas in reflex.

He cautiously moved to lean over the wooden railing. A large dark object was on the process of rising to the surface, and when it became visible enough, Zoro finally drew one of his swords.

He glanced at Luffy who was looking at him quizzically. He grinned… the time he had spent with his idiotic, carefree Captain had probably finally caused him to lose his sanity, for he suddenly felt the urge to jump overboard. Maybe it was just a sudden fancy for chivalry that made him do so… though he did have a faint feeling that it was because he did not want to see that uncharacteristic sad expression on Luffy's face again.

"I'll get your hat back," he announced before letting himself fall… and the last thing he heard before the raging waters engulfed him, was Luffy calling out his name.

It was Luffy's worried face that he saw first when he resurfaced. Averting his gaze, he noticed everyone wearing the same worried expression as well. He turned to Usopp.

"Oi Usopp! Throw me the fishing net!" he called out. After overcoming his initial surprise, Usopp nodded frantically and came back a few seconds later, a large bundle of fishing net in hand.

Zoro grinned at Sanji.

"Heh, you better thank me for this. You can probably cook a hundred meals with this thing," he announced, glancing at the rather large fish that floated alongside Going Merry, the blue water slightly darkened by blood gushing out from the cuts obviously made by a sharp katana.

Sanji waved a hand.

"I can catch a bigger one than that," the blond replied haughtily.

Zoro opened his mouth indignantly to argue, but he was silence by Luffy's sudden outburst.

"Zoro! Come back here now!"

Zoro rolled his eyes.

"Aye aye Captain."

After climbing on the ship and hoisting the fish on board with Usopp and Sanji's help, he drew one of his swords again. Without another word, and in one swift move, he made a deep cut on the whale's midsection, causing some of its blood to splatter and the reeking guts to spill out.

Nami shrieked, muttering all sorts of profanity about her clothes being stained while Sanji and Usopp took turns in howling complaints about staining the wooden floor or suffocating in the foul stench… none of which concerned him at the moment. He inspected the disembodied fish, and finally found what he had been looking for.

His clothes covered in foul fish stench, and his arm covered in fish blood up to his sleeve, he strode to where Luffy stood, who had remained unusually quiet the whole time.

"I told you I'd get it back," he finally said, stretching his arm to offer Luffy what appeared to be a mass of reeking spongy material covered in drying fish blood, but a closer inspection told Luffy that it was indeed, his precious straw hat.

Luffy's eyes widened in surprise.

"Zoro… how?" he finally managed.

Zoro shrugged.

"I recognized the fish that swallowed it. I never expected to see it again. But be more careful next time. If it's so important, then don't let it fall," he answered, giving Luffy a reprimanding look. It was somewhat amusing that Luffy had managed to keep the straw hat safe throughout all the numerous battles they've had in the past, yet such a common occurrence as getting the straw hat blown off by a sudden strong gush of wind, and having some fish mistake it for something edible, could have caused so much distress in Luffy.

Luffy finally took the hat from Zoro.

"Zoro…" Luffy began, "WHY THE HECK DID YOU JUMP YOU IDIOT!!!"

Zoro almost took a step back in surprise. He had expected Luffy to be overjoyed, a grateful word or two would have been enough… but being yelled at, especially by someone whose got as little sense as Luffy, was beyond what his patience could take.

"Who you calling idiot? You were the one who said you wanted it back! IDIOT!" he shouted back in fury.

Luffy suddenly fell quiet again. Zoro paused when he noticed that Luffy's hands were slightly trembling.

"I want the straw hat, I don't want your bandana," Luffy continued.

"I know that, and we're not talking about my bandana!" Zoro shot back, his anger raising a notch. He KNEW that, Luffy had told him before, and he didn't need Luffy to tell him again.

Luffy eyed the straw hat thoughtfully.

"Because Shanks… when he gave this to me, he disappeared after," Luffy finally said, when Zoro didn't say a word, he suddenly narrowed his eyes and stretched an arm to point a finger at a surpised Zoro. "So listen Zoro, I don't need a keepsake from you! And unless I accept your bandana, you're not allowed to disappear from my side!"

With that, Luffy hurriedly scurried below deck, excitedly rambling something about washing the straw hat and that the freshly slaughtered fish would make a good dinner.

A slight, almost invisible smile curled the corner of Zoro's lips. Luffy's logic… so simple, childish, and uncomplicated… yet it never failed to render him speechless. The smile was about to grow wider when he heard a chuckle from behind.

"Was that a love confession just now? Ah… just when did Going Merry become an official soap opera stage?" Sanji drawled leisurely, puffing a smoke and waving a hand dramatically.

A faint telltale rosy shade stained Zoro's cheeks.

"URUSAI!"


a/n: thanks for reading ^_^ and i always like to explain things clearly... so just in case you're wondering how Luffy got free from the ropes, I figured it'd be sensible if the other ones freed him ^^;