Title: Practice Made Perfect
Author: Chibimono Akuno
Fandom: One Piece
Pairing: Zoro x Luffy
Word Count: 2,061 words
Warnings: Fluff. Possibly wrong information about martial arts.
Disclaimers: Not mine. Just pretending. Oda owns both One Piece and my life.
A/N: For 101-kisses theme community on LiveJournal. Theme #58: Sword dance. I took all of six classes of Tae Kwon Do a few years ago. I was so happy with it, but I had to move. But yeah, that was my inspiration for this. Correct me anywhere if I need it.
Practice Made Perfect
by Chibimono Akuno
A crowd had gathered around a group of performers in the market of the village. Zoro was usually not one to care, but he found himself taking a moment to watch them. It was a group of five young men and a woman, dressed in the traditional gi of a student training in martial arts. Just looking at them, Zoro remembered his own days wearing a gi quite well.
Listening to the whispers of the audience, Zoro learned that they were indeed students of the local dojo and that they performed in the market four days a week, as both practice and as a watch over the visitors of the marketplace. On several occasions, they had stopped many thieves from running off with precious goods.
Two of the young men produced katana from their small pile of equipment and began, much to the onlookers' delight, to preform a kata. It was a beautiful series of movements, fluid yet powerful, that was to mimic defensive attacks among a series of attackers. Both of the men moved swiftly and surely, in complete unison, through each step of the dance-like kata.
Zoro snorted at the sight. The kata he preformed at his own dojo was his least favorite form of practice. He understood that it was to perfect his form as well as teach him to strike each attack with a uniform power. Zoro, however, had always been more worried about gaining power and technique and moving on, rather than just sustaining it. He felt he did enough exercise that it would keep his strength in tip top condition, anyway.
Besides, it looked like a girly dance, and even Kuina did not like to do it.
Moving to leave as the students finished and the crowd erupted into applause, a familiar voice among the audience made Zoro stop.
"WHOOHOO! THAT WAS AWESOME! SO COOL!"
Luffy had managed to make his way to the front of the crowd to watch and was currently making the most noise out of all the cheering. Apparently, he was quite impressed.
But Luffy was always easily impressed. Zoro just rolled his eyes.
"I'VE NEVER EVEN SEEN ZORO DO THAT!"
When his eye began to twitch, Zoro decided it was time to leave the area.
If Zoro felt that Luffy's comment had bothered him, he did not let anyone know it. He wondered, though, if it was wrong to avoid Luffy like the plague. He did not want the boy to ask him about the kata he had seen. He would either have to lie and say he did not know a damn thing Luffy was talking about... or he would tell the truth and have to suffer being pestered to death until he performed at least one for Luffy.
Zoro knew he could never really lie to Luffy. It was just unheard off. But performing a kata was definitely out of the question. It had been years since he had practiced even the most basic set of forms, let alone the more complicated ones that the students had showed off. There was no way he would let himself be outdone by a bunch of mere beginners in front of his own captain, especially when he himself was going to be the world's greatest swordsman.
Finally the first mate came down to a decision. He would avoid Luffy for all he's worth... until he had managed to get some practice in.
Though Luffy was one of the hardest people in the world to evade, he was probably the easiest person to distract. All it took was Zoro to cut him off at the pass and he could make a clean get away, of sorts.
It was nothing unusual for Luffy to come bounding over to the swordsman and talk or to ask to play a game. Zoro would indulge his captain--because really, how could he not?--and play along with whatever Luffy wanted of him. Yet any time Luffy's eyes lighted on Zoro's katana or he opened his mouth to make mention of the market place on that island, Zoro would renew Luffy's attention in the game or make an offhanded comment about food that would have the boy running to the galley. And every time, Zoro would smile to himself for a job well done. He only hoped that the rubber boy would not realize how he was being tricked, or else the evasion would become much more difficult.
Zoro found that when he was on night watch, he had the whole deck to himself with out anyone to watch. Which was a very good thing, because Zoro never realized just how rusty he had become over the years. Sure, his movements were fluid and powerful, but to make them exact and perfect every time was something he had slightly lost. It was repetitive movement, just like his normal exercise routines. But then again, just like his regular exercise, being without practice was deconstructive to all the hard work previously put into his body.
Unfortunately, with seven people on the crew, Zoro was only on night watch once a week. And once a week was in no way enough practice, especially with a curious Luffy on the prowl. Eventually, the boy was going to pop his question and Zoro would have to produce. He would have to find some way to get by...
It had taken at least two weeks of spying, but Zoro managed to actually gain some time at night to practice. If he was quiet enough getting out of the boys' bunk, he found he could move to the aft deck and practice there in the dark shadows of the cabin. He was able to train five nights out of the week, only because he did not trust that sneaky Robin not to notice him, and there was no way he would even think about it on the nights when Luffy was in the crow's nest. The last thing he wanted was for the boy to figure him out so early in his own game.
Several months later, Zoro was surprised at even his own progress. He had remastered the basic and intermediate forms faster than he had thought. The advanced kata were still a bit difficult, but that was more because he began to slack off in his practicing by the time he came to learn them. They were still locked deep in his mind, however, and he vowed to himself to get them right. He would show his captain he was better than those boys he saw in that village.
The daytime found Zoro taking more naps now that he was practicing through most of the night. Many times, Luffy had tried to bother him in some way, but that was becoming less and less. So was the need to cut off Luffy's question before it was asked. His eyes still looked to Zoro's katana occasionally, but Luffy would just smile at his first mate and not a word would come from his mouth. It was as if Luffy had learned not to ask anymore.
In a way, it made Zoro feel as if his practice was all in vain.
The night was quiet as Zoro finished a long string of several kata. He knew them all flawlessly now, able to recall every single on in his mind and perform it just as his sensei had shown him many years ago. It left him with a feeling of readiness, a feeling of confidence and pride, that if Luffy asked to see a kata, Zoro could perform them all, one right after the other, without hesitating and no flaw whatsoever.
Yes, he was ready to show his captain that he was better than those students. Because he was going to be the greatest swordsman in the world. Because he was going to be the greatest swordsman to the King of Pirates.
As Zoro sheathed Wadou Ichimonji, he wiped the sweat from his brow with his bandana and prepared to return to the boys' bunk. But the familiar sound of sandals slapping together stopped him in his tracks.
"Zoro is so much better than those guys now," came a cheerful voice from the vicinity of Nami's mikan trees.
Very slowly, Zoro turned his head, letting his eyes dart up to the very person he was trying to hide from all along.
Sure enough, there sat Luffy, on top of the cabin in the shadow under the trees. A large grin spread across his face as he was finally noticed and he slapped his sandaled feet again before hopping down.
"Zoro was so cool tonight! So much better than a few weeks ago," Luffy said, beginning an excited babble that Zoro lost track of.
It felt like a punch in the gut to hear that statement. He could not have possibly watched Zoro practice all these nights, could he? All these nights, when he thought he was all alone, Luffy could not have been there, watching in the shadows, could he?
The rubber boy halted his running mouth to smile brightly at his first mate. "Hai, Zoro?"
Zoro's expression remained stolid, though he felt odd deep inside his stomach. "How long... have you watched...?"
Putting his finger to his lips, Luffy made a show of thinking before he slammed his fist in his palm. "A long time! I got up one night to go to the kitchen, and you weren't in your hammock! I found you here! And boy, Zoro! You've been practicing really hard, because you are soooo awesome now!"
He had been watching nearly the whole time! That odd feeling tightened, feeling so much like disappointment. He had wanted to show Luffy how good he had become, not how bad he once was. Luffy had probably watched him that first night he found him practicing and thought of how those students, those beginners, were better than his own swordsman. And that odd feeling twisted, feeling so much like... jealousy.
"Ne, Zoro! I wanna see more! Do it again!"
His captain's eyes were so bright and eager, but Zoro just could not find it inside him to show off. He felt defeated, like he had did all that hard work for nothing. He did not say a word as he shook his head and headed toward the main deck.
A tug at his haramaki made him stop.
"Please, Zoro? You are so much better than those guys at that village."
Zoro just looked down at the rubber boy, unable to find the words to say just how much this all made him ache.
"Come on, Zoro!" Luffy cheered, but Zoro did not move.
Moving to stand in front of Zoro, Luffy gently took the front of Zoro's white shirt into his hands. "Zoro... Please? You look so awesome when you do it. You're so much stronger and your muscles are huge and..." Luffy ducked his head as he smiled a little embarrassedly. His straw hat was probably hanging by his hammock, so it did not hide a faint shade of pink the glow of the moon brought out of Luffy's face. "... and... your body just looks so cool..."
Deep inside, Zoro felt his stomach untwist itself only to twist again in the other direction, producing an odd feeling... he could not say he had really felt before. It made his own face heat up a bit. He raised a hand to scratch his head, a fleeting moment of nervousness skipping through his system.
"I guess... I mean..."
Bright eyes grew wide as they looked up at him expectantly. With a sigh, Zoro knew there was no way in hell he could say no to that face.
"Yeah, yeah... go sit down. I'll do it."
A loud whoop was quickly followed by a jerk on Zoro's shirt front and a quick sealing of lips over his own. He was still unsure of what happened when Luffy had backed off, yelling and cheering as he scrambled his way on top of the cabin to watch. That new twist in his stomach only became worse, and in the end, it was the worst performance that Zoro had done to date of any kata, ever.
By then, though, it did not seem to matter anymore. Because Luffy said he was better than those guys anyway.
- owari -