It wasn't exactly a hiding place. Strictly speaking. A hiding place, or actually, the need for one, tended to indicate a measure of cowardice within the person or persons choosing to utilize said place for the purpose of hiding.
Captain Usopp, Brave Warrior of The Sea, was not a coward. Strictly speaking. What others may incorrectly perceive to be signs of cowardice in him, were, in fact, nothing of the sort. If on occasion, he ducked below deck in the midst of one of the many marine attacks imposed on their ship, then it should be understood by anyone possessing even an ounce of sense that what he was doing was not hiding from the battle, but merely stepping away for a moment, out of the fray and subsequent distraction, in order to develop the best sort of strategy that would guarantee the crew victory over their attackers. If by the time this plan was developed the battle was over, (and, yes, sometimes great strategies do require a lengthy stretch of time to fully develop in their greatness) then it should be widely understood that because Usopp had the awesome forethought to take the time to devise a strategy, the next time they were attacked his plan would be ready to launch. Unless, of course, time and circumstance change, which would require him to duck away once again to ponder the necessary adjustments. For however long it took.
Today had been an usually quiet day along this particular stretch of sea. Strictly speaking. The last marine attack had been over a week ago, and Usopp was fully confident that the strategy he had developed during that battle, would most assuredly grant them swift victory next time they were attacked. Although his crew did not outwardly express their gratitude for his efforts, Usopp required no such embarrassing displays, and knew that they forged on more confidently with the knowledge that he had prepared for them a speedy path to victory. However, although the decks were free from shouts and violence of battle, things were not as free of danger as they appeared.
Their clever and sometimes rather forceful navigator had woken up that morning and decided that she was 'tired of having her and Robin subjected to the filth and disgust in which the men (and she had all but sneered the word) of the crew insisted on wallowing' and had declared the day to be a Cleaning Day. The before-mentioned men had immediately begun to protest, with the not-surprising exception of Sanji who had praised Nami-swaaaaaaaan for her elegant perception and the lovely determination in her devastating eyes and swore to kill any crew member that dared disgust her from that day forward. No one missed the pointed look he aimed at Zoro.
After the fight between the cook and swordsman broke up, Nami began issuing orders to get the ship cleaned from top to bottom, which were rather explicit and extremely work intensive. So Usopp had…..retired to his special thinking spot, a rather roomy storage closet that had gotten very little use on their voyage in order to work a strategy that would assure that the crew would have the cleanest ship on the Grand Line. He was quite certain that Nami would be extremely pleased by his efforts. Yes, he was quite certain.
Across from where he sat in the dimness of the closet (or 'Thinking Tank For Amazing and Spectacular Thoughts' as he had taken to calling it) sat Zoro, leaning against the wall with his eyes closed and his breathing deep and even. He was a quiet companion this afternoon, although Usopp had thought he had heard the occasional unconscious mummer of 'crazy bossy bitch' which caused Usopp to snicker but he largely chose to ignore.
The swordsman was the only other member of the crew that seemed to know about the special spot, as Usopp had discovered one day when he had come in and tripped across the sleeping bulky body stretched across the floor. Though the other man was never here with him during battles, (preferring to adapt the more hands on approach to their attackers while Usopp perused the equally important intellectual defense) occasionally they found themselves taking solace in the forgotten space together. Usopp came here to Plan Great Things and occasionally work on his artwork in private, while Zoro sought out this space for uninterrupted bouts of napping.
Usopp never minded the other man's quiet company, and had never felt his solitude intruded. The relationship between the two of them had always seemed an effortless one, so Zoro's presence never threatened his need for privacy.
Sometimes, when the two of them sat together like this in the compatible silence that could only be found between two warriors of the purest sect, Usopp's wandering thoughts found their way to paper. His sketchbook was open on his lap, and he was carefully developing a rather thrilling scenario that had him and Zoro battling against a really grotesque foe with large spikes protruding from oozing threatening tentacles. Usopp and Zoro fought the enemy side by side, and as the picture showed him with a rather ferocious (yet devastatingly handsome) expression on his face, his partner wielded all three of his deadly swords as blood and sweat dripped down his bare heaving chest. The shirt had been destroyed earlier in battle (as it often did in Usopp's more imaginative sketches) and the artist concentrated on the shading of various scars across the broad body. He was putting more detail into the small scar that cut across Zoro's left nipple (a personal favorite of his),when he chanced a glance up and noticed that the sleeping man had woken, and was looking rather intently at the picture he was developing.
Usopp paused for a moment, chewed carefully on his lower lip, before he rapidly began drawing a shirt on Zoro's upper body.
"Why do you draw me so much?"
He was not blushing. He wasn't. Not even in the very finest strictest sense of anything ever. He sketched the garment faster.
"Uh, haha, I draw everyone. I draw lots of things."
Zoro eyed him in silence for a moment, which Usopp found unexpectedly unnerving. He wondered if humming a lullaby would put the other man back to sleep and end the conversation.
"Yeah, but I've looked through your sketch book before. A lot of the pictures are of me."
This time, the heat that touched the artist's skin was fueled by an abrupt flash of anger. His dark eyes met Zoro's in accusation.
"You've gone through my book? Who said you could do that?" He held the sketch pad protectively against his chest, irrationally suspecting that Zoro was going to make a sudden grab for it.
A look of something that may have been touched with shame crossed the swordsman's face, before he looked away and, in an oddly almost bashful motion, scratched lightly against the bridge of his nose.
"Sorry. I was just curious is all."
Silence once again descended, this time, heavy and uncomfortable. The path and tone of the short conversation had caught the sniper off-guard, and he was puzzled at himself for feeling as twisted around as he did by the seemingly innocent question.
"I draw you a lot, because you're, well, easy."
Zoro arched an eyebrow, and Usopp ducked his head. This time he was man enough to admit the blush.
"What I mean is that I can see you the clearest," he shrugged his shoulder, frustrated that he was not communicating clearly enough, "I just get you, and it makes it easy."
"You saying I'm simple, or something? You've been talking trash with the shitty cook?"
"No!" Usopp's head shot up, "Uh—"
The unexpected and deep chuckle was just enough to raise the fine hairs on Usopp's arms.
"Its OK," Zoro half-laughed, and Usopp knew with absolute certainty his next sketch would be of that lazy smile, "Being complicated is annoying as shit, you know?"
Zoro leaned forward to look closer at the unfinished picture. Up close he smelled faintly citrus, which should have seemed odd to the sniper, but somehow didn't.
"So, what are we going to do next?"
The swordsman's eyes, kept tight to the lines on the paper, was the only indication Usopp had that it was the drawing of which he spoke. The artist smiled in return but his eyes slid to the side.
"Lots of stuff, I guess. Anything we want."
The amused gust of air was warm against his knuckles, and his hands gripped tighter around his pencil and pad. Zoro closed his eyes, leaned back, and said, "Good."
And that was the best part about any picture, any sketch ever laid against a straight edge of paper; it was not the moment itself, frozen and captured, that seized attention, it was everything leading up to and everything to come after that leant meaning and beauty to the image. Art was always in motion, always stretching with curious fingers to grasp any single thread of possibility. Usopp had always lived in prospect, in endless wonder, and he lived this life now beside the echoing steps of his Nakama; his daily examples of art in action.
With a quick and covert glance at his drowsing companion, Usopp flipped his pencil, and began erasing the shirt he had last drawn.