A/N before the A/N: My last note was kinda harsh… I should probably delete that. NEXT TIME. I didn't have the heart to delete the story when so many of you still enjoy the stories and read them when the mood strikes you. Thanks guys. It means a lot.

A/N: Hi all. I don't know how many of you still have this listed as something you read regularly. This is based off a situation I was just recently in (me being the Luffy character in said situation) and it struck me as a very Luffy/Zoro-ish situation. It may be OOC (I'm great at that) but it made me feel a bit better about handling the stress of thinking I'd shown someone a weak side when in fact, I hadn't.

It's hot off the press so please enjoy and I hope there aren't too many mistakes. Ganbatte ne!

Doing His Duty

Why did things always have to go like this? Why did he always have to feel like he'd screwed up and he had to apologize for being human; for being himself? Even as Zoro held him close and tried his awkward best to comfort him, Luffy felt like he was holding the guy back. Like this situation just wasn't called for when in fact, it really was.

Bad things happen to good people. Not for any particular reason bar perhaps the universe trying to stay in balance. Bad people seemed to get away with things or perhaps bad things happened to them in suddenness instead of small bits throughout their lives? Who knew?

All Luffy knew at this point in time was he hated it.

Being captain of the Mugiwara no Kaizokudan was a tough gig, especially with such a large bounty on his head and now, with Usopp's less than graceful departure from the ship, Luffy was feeling the strain. He didn't want the others to know how bad he was hurting and that he was down here, in the cabins, crying like a child in Zoro's arms. Some part of him felt like he was betraying Zoro for doing this as well, even though he knew the older man thought no such thing of him. It had been a tough battle and tough for the other pirates to watch.

Zoro always seemed so understanding but tears and the green haired man had never gone down well. He found the situation awkward and hard to deal with, one of the only times when he wanted to run away from something was when the waterworks were on. In this case, Zoro knew it was selfish of him to run but he just couldn't handle this right now.

"Luffy… I should get going to help that shitty ero-cook get those ingredients he wants," Zoro ventured, his eyes averted and one hand awkwardly resting on the younger man's back.
"Sanji can wait," Luffy said, his voice muffled by sniffles and the fact he had his face firmly planted in the taller man's shoulder. Rubber arms were wrapped tightly about muscled torso and Boshi had fallen to rest on the captain's back.

"But… Luffy, I can't handle this… Why don't you get Chopper or Nami?"

"I want you, Zoro." The tone in Luffy's voice was firm, final and made Zoro reconsider his next words but this situation just wasn't for him. It grated against his very nature and made his insides cringe in distaste. It wasn't that he thought Luffy was any weaker for crying, or that he thought any less of his captain for feeling this way about a friend he just had to beat the daylights out of, it was just… tears. Why the hell and what the hell…? What could he do to stop them? Nothing. What could he do to help? Nothing… So being here and unable to help was utterly pointless, plus seeing Luffy so upset just made his heart hurt.

"Luffy… I'm so uncomfortable right now, I want to just… get away from you in whatever way possible. I'm sorry…"

"Zoro, I don't need you to be here like this for me often; ever. I want you here. I don't want to be alone and Nami and Chopper will just make me feel worse right now. Nobody can know this is going on. So please… just stay?"

"I… can't, kid. Just… let me go, ok? You'll see me later. At dinner?" Luffy let out a suffering sigh and unwound his arms from the taller man's body, before shoving him viciously backwards. Zoro couldn't help but stumble as the movement was so quick and forceful that he had no time to brace himself against the sudden push.

"Then just go," Luffy growled. His eyes were shadowed and his stance showed anger and misery all in one tangled mess. It grated against his nerves to see his captain in such a way but he was suffocating here. It was like a tangible rope being pulled tighter and tighter around his throat every second he stood there and listened to the muffled sobs of Luffy's misery. Zoro's feet however, didn't feel the same as his nerves and before he could even think to stop them, he was almost on the ladder and heading up to the hatch that led onto the deck.

He felt awful; terrible, but this just wasn't his forte. Hell, he'd send Sanji or something… no, that was a bad idea. Nami would mother the kid and smother him, Chopper would cry like a wounded puppy and… there was no Usopp here to make the kid laugh. Zoro swallowed hard and placed a calloused hand on the ladder rung. The smallest, softest noise was heard in the background but his ears pricked and heard every syllable.

Please don't…

Zoro swallowed again and placed a second hand on the rung of the ladder, his fingers trembling as he fought internally against this whole thing. This was wrong. He shouldn't be leaving the kid here like this, alone, in the dark and miserable at a time where it obviously felt like the weight of the world was on his shoulders. He was the first mate! This was his job, to be here and support the kid through everything he was facing. A silent shadow in the background that made sure Luffy was never alone, no matter what the task was.

Zoro growled low in his throat and let go of the ladder, his muscles tensing as he physically fought the urge to just leave and get that fresh air his lungs were running out of. Finally, he managed to turn around and make his way back towards where Luffy had huddled himself into a corner. He stopped a few feet from the kid, his hands in his pockets and his eyes focused on the ground in guilt. It took a moment for Luffy to realize he wasn't leaving but when he did, it was a flying ball of rubber boy that hit him all at once and knocked both of them onto the wooden floor with a muffled thud.

"Easy, easy!" Zoro grumbled, wrapping his arms around the flailing brat. "You're gonna send me to an early grave, kid."

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry!"

"What are you apologizing for, baka?"

"For not being strong enough to do this without y-you!" It took a moment for those words to sink in before Zoro realized truly what he'd almost done. If he'd left… it would've broken their bond. That trust they had had ever since the start of this journey. That… immeasurable kinship they shared that none of the other crew could replicate in any shape or form. Gone, just because of his own almost selfish decision.

"… Baka," Zoro mumbled as he bopped the kid lightly on the head. "Never should have left in the first place." This didn't change how uncomfortable this was making him and that fact probably never would change, but it wasn't like Luffy needed him like this every five seconds. Hell, often at all. If Luffy said he needed him, Zoro would be there, no matter how he felt or how badly he wanted to get away. It took a while for Luffy to finally settle and then they sat together in silence for a long while before Zoro finally registered that his ass had gone numb from being seated in such an awkward position on the hard wooden floor of the cabin.

"Zoro…?"

"Mmf?" Zoro grunted as he twisted slightly in an attempt to regain some feeling down the backs of his legs. Luffy fiddled with his haramaki for a moment before he looked up, eyes still red rimmed and the tip of his nose glowing from the recent tear-fest. He looked so young right now that Zoro had to stop a moment and make sure this was indeed his captain.

"Thanks for coming back…" Luffy showed his teeth in a trademark grin and Zoro grunted and averted his eyes, a light tinge coming to his cheeks.

"Yeah yeah, kid. Just… get off me now, would ya? My ass is numb…" This information seemed to tickle Luffy's delight all too well and the captain rolled off the swordsman with a shout of outrageous laughter.

"Not funny! Shut up!" Zoro raged as he shook his fist in a threatening manner but Luffy either didn't notice or didn't care and continued to laugh so loudly the hatch opened and three shadowed heads poked in. Zoro growled and hopped to his feet, diligently ignoring the shoot of pins and needles that shot down the backs of his legs and up through his Gluteus Maximus.

"Stupid dumbass," Zoro grumbled as he climbed the ladder, shoved past the cook and witch and headed towards a nice, secluded spot towards the back of the deck. The small quirk of his lips as he settled down into a more comfortable position for a nice nap was unnoticed by the rest of the crew as Luffy burst from the cabins with all the unrivalled energy of a hungry gomu-gomu man.

"MEAAAT, SANJIIII!"

End