Disclaimer: I don't have the rights to Luffy, Zoro, Sanji, Nami or Ussop. The only thing I own worth mentioning is my computer, thank god for it, too. But I'm getting a laptop, so after Christmas I can finally SIT IN MY OWN ROOM. Not that I'm happy or anything.

As I stated earlier, this is dedicated to TreeStar, whom I believe to be either one of the best or the best of authors on One Piece FanFiction Archive, I mean really, her stories are impossibly addicting…I honestly hope she enjoys this even half as much as I adore hers. I encourage you all to read hers out, if you have not.

I also apologize for any mistakes or major misspellings along the way…because there are bound to be some.

Weakness Versus Strengths

By Laff-In-The-Dark

Zoro was never into sappy things. It just wasn't really his nature, for his was self-sufficient to his own needs, and of course, relying on others was his greatest fear.

If you could call it that.

But underlying his own heart and soul to some boy in a straw hat was most defiantly not on his list of things to do. And Monkey D. Luffy strolled in so casually that seemingly un-fateful day into the Marines' Base, it was all Zoro could do to hold back his emotions. How pathetic, honestly. The fact he could no longer had control over his thoughts of the young boy he would soon become first mate to prove right then and there he could not defy the boys' smile, nor was Zoro strong enough yet to posses this un-seen treasure. That and to become the worlds' greatest swordsman, those two things were more than enough to keep him training every day for ridiculous hours. (Or so his crewmates called it that, he really didn't see anything wrong with his schedule in all honesty.)

Once, when the boy had fallen from their ship into the ocean, because he was apt to do this at least once a day, despite the fact he cold not swim more than Ussop might tell the truth. Zoro had dared to give the boy a small touch of lips to cheek as the water surged around them and they fought their way back to Merry. But it didn't matter, not that he'd expected a reaction from the limp body that somehow managed to cling in an unconscious state to his chest.

Luffy, himself, remembered nothing when the swordsman so discreetly (as he could to the clueless boy) questioned his memory, so therefore, Zoro emptied all thoughts of ever pressing his lips to Luffys' own soft, pliable, pink-

Well, he'd thought he'd emptied all of this thoughts.

It was all well a matter of Zoros' loyalty to Luffy, for he seemed to comprehend and understand the wayward leader more than anyone on the ship. There were, needless to say the times when Zoro questioned him highly, such as saving Smoker from drowning, leaving Sanji to rescue the boy, but Zoro could only question the boy all he wanted…he still followed orders and did it unfailingly.

And in battle, of course, they were perfect. A catch of the eye was all that was needed, regardless if Zoros' eyes were slits under his bandana or Luffys' dark ones were covered by his straw hat. They saw each other, no matter what. A union of swords and fists scattered weapons, sliced enemies and brought down towers. In addition, this was, only a minor workout for the two of them.

It was if the Heaven's themselves had sculpted the two to be a perfect fit, for it was to be.

And yet, as though heaven had a sense of humor too, because after all these adventures there was nothing Zoro was more sure of if not heavens' jocularity, for Zoro and Luffy were complete opposites. Their respected names right then and there gave you a clue as to something that was going on was improbable, 'Luffy the Pirate' and 'Zoro the Pirate Hunter.'

A stern, sullen looking swordsman brandishing three swords at his hip. His eyes half closed in a bored manner, yet he saw everyone and everything at once with a well-trained ease. This was compared to a skinny, lanky teen that was always happy, always smiling, always in front of aforementioned swordsman. Zoro would hang in the back, you see, and remain deadly but silent, his swords speaking his threats should any one invade his captain in anyway.

Not surprisingly, the marines were stupid enough to try, dashing out of seemingly nowhere, brandishing swords at his captain. 'Idiots' was all Zoro could use to describe them.

In response to this, however, it was Zoro instead who responded by placing himself so recklessly in front of his captain, and producing each and every sword he possessed into their perspective places and catching both swords and marines in his own. One well aimed Gum-Gum Whip a few minutes later on Luffys' part, and they were home free.

Easy enough, more or less. But what if…for once, it wasn't just all said and done?

While it was just supposed to be a trip to a new island, it became so much more for the straw hat crew of seven. It became a nightmare. Oh, it started out just fine, Nami handing out money to her ever-loyal Sanji and a reluctant Zoro, who didn't really want to go shopping for junk they didn't need. (Sanji called it food, but honestly) all the swordsman really wanted was stay on Merry and sleep. Last night was rough. Not in the sense of high waves and seasick marksman's all over the place (he'd come to ignore those minor details), more like Luffy had watch…and Zoro, foreseeing the ten possible accidents, or peril that their wayward captain could get into at three in the morning, had made him crawl from his hammock up to the crows' nest.

So he kept the boy company, and while Luffy called it stargazing, Zoro tried to call it the 'inside of his eyelids' gazing, but it didn't work. He just couldn't shake off the feeling something wrong was going to happen. And the lack of shut eye caused him to become moodier and sullen more than normal.

Nevertheless, he took the damn money from the damn woman…and promised to pay her back the damn interest of a huge amount not even a high-ranking marine could pay. And he ignored the damn cook contradicting him on swearing at a lady.

"Hey, Zoro, can I come?" The swordsman grunted in reply, still slightly sour at Nami and her freaking long list of various objects. The cook was already down the street, lighting a cigarette and muttering under his breath about not wanting to be seen with marimos' like him. Or something.

But he had is captain. The boy had behaved just fine after Zoro'd told him to stay out of trouble, and bought him a sandwich with some kind of meat it in out of his own pocket money to keep their bottomless pit of a captain happy. Oh and it did. For three minutes.

The morning passed uneventful in the relatively small town they had docked at. Shops opening up here and there, (Zoro'd thought he saw one close as they'd walked by, maybe he was just imaging things, because none of the other stores closed down.) at half past three the modest clock tower that sat in the very middle of the town chimed along the cobbled roads. The pair was just walking by it when it chimed, and as Zoro balanced a crate and bag of assorted foods and fruits in his arms, he remembered vaguely they were supposed to be back by three thirty. He had no idea which way the dock was. And Nami would certainly be pissed if they weren't back by the designated hour, no doubt sending Luffy for chores and raising Zoros' god-damn debt. They might even not be allowed dinner, if Sanji got waves from Nami that she was pissed and they were punished for making lady mad. And if Luffy didn't get dinner he'd all but go on a rampage, for missing a meal was sacrilegious when it came to Luffys' point of view.

But no pressure.

"Luffy, we gotta get back. …Luffy?" a small bubble of what seemed like panic burst in the first mates stomach when his captain didn't answer. Where the hell had Luffy gone? He was just behind him a minute-

"Zoro! Lookit this!"


Zoro most absolutely did not show the obvious fear and sheer terror of losing his charge as he skulked over and tried to peer over the junk in his arms at what on earth was so much more important than his orders to stay near the older. But then, Luffy was captain. Still, though.

The place Luffy was standing outside of was what looked like a bookshop, in the middle of the road, that is. A huge, old leather bound book was shoved mere inches from his nose, and a picture of Gol. D. Roger was smirking heavily at him from a worn yellowed page. Really, Zoro should have guessed.

"Is that book for sale?" Zoro set, (more like dropped) the perishable items and stalked to over the man behind the stands' sign, automatically yanking out his wallet. He missed the bewildered, than immediately happiness that spread across the object of his odd fondness that wore a straw hat.

A few minutes later, on their way back to the dock, Luffy pored over the book as he walked and tried to tell Zoro about it animatedly as he walked and talked at the same time. Really, Zoro just about had a heart attack when he heard a splash that could only be described as inevitable.

"YOU IDIOT!!" Zoro yelled at the bubbles that submerged, letting the world know the waters had been disrupted. Once again, the crates landed on the ground and creaked weakly in their abuse, which was heard only by Zoros' swords, which had been left on the ground as well just before he'd dove under to aid his sinking friend.

This had been done a hundred, perhaps a thousand times before, he'd lost count, but thankfully the pier was relatively shallow, and Zoro had Luffy in his grasp and pinned against his chest as he helped the coughing boy get all the water out of his system just as they submerged. The boy shivered, vomited once or twice and then let his swordsman push him out first. He did, notably, grasp his first mate weakly and pull him out so as not feel like a burden, but he really couldn't have pulled his hat out of the water until he got some strength back.

Speaking of his hat…before Luffy could even think erratic thoughts about his losing treasure, it was plopped back onto his unruly mass of hair from behind him. He spun around and saw his swordsman ringing out his shirt in a habitual manner. Prior to he could even express his thanks with a smile and vivacious glomp, a loud voice caught them off guard.

"Straw Hat Captain Monkey D. Luffy and Demon Roranora Zoro, surrender, we have you surrounded." The all to familiar commanding voice of some random marine who Luffy thought they all sounded the same, was responded by Zoro rolling his eyes and Luffys' shoulder sagging in boredom and minor annoyance. He really didn't feel like fighting.

When the voice continued, however, things took a turn for the worst. "Hey, Demon Hunter," Zoro looked up with slightly widened eyes after having his hand going to his waist for his missing swords. "We got your precious swords. If they mean as much to you as you show, we won't give them back until you give in to our demands."

"This is a new low even for you damn marines." Zoro shifted carefully as the fifty or so guns followed him, and he carefully watched they way they held his three sheathed swords, held in the officers' hand. They were indeed surrounded.

The man continued, not at all perturbed by the gaze Zoro was giving him, as though he was the scum of the earth and not the swordsman, the pirate. But the mans' voice was drowned out as Zoro glanced ever so slightly to his left, to Luffy.

Luffy caught his best friends gaze, and in that simple moment, a mere glance sent them into an understanding, and their plan into motion. Even if it had a rocky start…

Luffys' arm stretched out before any one could realize it had left his side, and he catapulted right into his first mate, first glances saying he had bowled the man right over. This, however, was not the case, and the half of the recruits the officer had brought with him were whip lashed, weapons and all, into nearby surrounding buildings, which groaned as the men impacted into them and disappeared into clouds of dust. A pity they didn't react just quick enough, even if guns and bullets had no effect on Luffy…

"Gum-Gum Whip!" A second later, a long extended limb of Monkey D. Luffy emerged from the billowing smoke and the rest of the officers, all but the one with Zoros' swords, disappeared and more shouts of surprise were uttered before silenced with a resounding crash. This was the moment the higher ranked officer began to feel worried, and the sweat on his upper lip increased about ten fold when something relinquished his grasp on one of the three swords. Only the white and black one remained.

In a split second decision, before the swordsman could react and stop him, before Luffy could even begin to see through the smoke, the captain was shoved hard by nothing that was visible to him. He skidded backwards, into the very waters Zoro had just pulled him out of…

Shoot. Was all the boy thought before the waves engulfed him eagerly.

Zoro had certainly heard the splash, but he didn't move, he couldn't move. His own swords were pressed against his extended arm, which he had reached out automatically to grasp the boy by his shirt and pull him to safety. That stupid, idiotic marine could think, god-dammit, this one could think! The officer had reacted in one fluid motion, catching Zoros' wrist dangerously with Sandai Kitetsu and Yubashiri. Sandai hummed in the marines' hand, and Yubashiri whispered softly, Zoro heard his name, faintly.

"One move and it'll be your last." Zoro's memory swam to a vision of him saying something along those lines when he had first met Luffy, and had first protected the boy from the marines.

Zoro looked through the quickly fading smoke to the bubbles floating innocently up to the surface, where his captain had just plummeted. His captain. He reacted quickly, not thinking, not caring and instinct aided him as he pulled his arm to the right, away from the marine and through Sandai and Yubashiri. He felt the swords cry out softly, but Yubashiri was pressing lighter than Sandai, and this did nothing to quell the flow of blood as Zoro subconsciously felt something in his wrist snap ever so faintly. The marine pulled back, amazed as Zoro bolted forward on powerful legs and dove into the ocean.

He was also stunned equally, as something that felt like a rod made of pure steel was driven into his back, and his spine snapped. He dropped to the ground, regretting nothing, seeing black.

"You bastard." A smooth voice cursed the marine as the owner of the voice let his long, black leg slid under him quietly. Then the figure looked into the waters, watching with a worry he would never admit on his face, as it darkened a deep crimson.

Zoro, meanwhile, pumped his arms to Luffy, who lay limp on the bottom, on cerulean colored sand, waves on the surface rippling across his pale face. With every motion Zoro made with his left wrist, something pulsed faintly and mixed in with the salt taste, he recognized something else, something irony and familiar.

His vision swam just as pulled Luffy to his chest, turned, and pushed his legs against a rock Luffy had been lying on to gain momentum against the tide and rock-weighing boy who was normally so light. Luffys' black-haired head lolled into the crook of Zoros' neck.

Only a little farther. He urged himself. This he thought as Luffys' body pulled him back down, his own body giving up, vision blackening. He barely registered the entrance of another something in the water, something black, long, and blonde, and something so relieving he relinquished consciousness. But not his hold on Luffy.

The moment he came to, Zoro sat up.

This set a number of things in motion. Through his blurred vision, he saw a skinny blur of red and blue bolt to a door and he heard it slam respectively. He also heard a number of voices speaking to him, none if which was the voice his ear yearned to hear, though. His mind did its best to separate and distinguish the sounds.

"You idiot, your alive!" Too high.

"Zoro!" Too...squeaky.

"Luffy!" Too deep, and leaden with years of a smokers' voice.

That last sentence sent Zoros' body to right itself. He spoke automatically, because it was the only thing working right.

"Luffy…" His own voice sounded hoarse, delicate and unused. He didn't have the power, nor the memory to pronounce Luffys' name as a question. He wondered, could your throat forget to work, how long had he been asleep? This wasn't a dream, was it?

"Zoro, you such a fool, what the hell happened!?" No, he was right, it wasn't a dream, it was a nightmare.

In the end, and in response to the entire endless questions everyone of his crew was giving him, Zoro ended up explaining what had taken back there on the docks. But as he did, he pondered, hadn't Luffy told them? And speaking of which,

"Where is he?" Zoro questioned, in such a way that no one needed to be told whom he was asking about. It was evident in the least.

But, Chopper, instead of answering Zoros' question, launched into an explanation that got more and more hurried as the defiant stare Zoro was giving him increased.

"Zoro, that guy slit your wrist, and by the time you got back to the ship your artery was almost beyond repair and you had lost more than too much blood." Chopper paused at moment, then indicated Zoros' wrist, which he had thought felt oddly thick and heavy ever since he had aroused. No wonder, it was wrapped at least a hundred times in gauze and tape.

"By rights you shouldn't even be alive," Ussop interjected before Nami shushed him and the little doctor continued, "Even after I patched it up, it was almost too late." Chopper's ear sagged softly.

"But Luffy…well, Zoro, your blood types are the same, so…" He trailed off dejectedly. Zoro swallowed hard. Luffy detested needles with a passion.

"I told him that I would have to take way too much blood from him to save you. B-but he used Captains' Orders against me. I had no choice."

"You didn't take more than needed, right?" Zoro countered, watching the sniffling doctor almost uneasily.

Chopper shook him furry head, then pressed his head in Namis' embrace, from where he had been perched in her lap ever since making sure Zoro was fully awake and there was no trauma.

Of the physical kind, anyway.

Zoro eyes dropped from the little reindeer to his lap. It wasn't Choppers' fault, anyway. It wasn't anyone fault but his own, right? Why was Luffy acting like this? What was wrong with boy, hadn't he saved him?

Ussop stuttered into a comment about how Zoro should rest or some crap like that, and Chopper, agreed in the background somewhere. A grip from slightly soft hands that Zoro immediately recognized as the cooks' was on his shoulder, trying to force him gently down. Zoro let loose an irate growl, casting a slide-long glance at the chef.

"I'm hungry; can't I get some crap-food first?" Zoro addressed Sanji, who addressed Chopper with his eye, and Chopper relented as Sanji turned on his heel, loosening his tie, and started for the door. Zoro shifted, stood up and followed him, identifying the fact that Sanji would most defiantly not bring the meal down to him. Chopper followed him, giving Sanji a vocal list of what the swordsman could and couldn't devour, just after mentioning Zoro could not drink until a designated time; too much alcohol before the new blood was settled would upset his system.

And the fact that the swordsman could not drink was not what he had on his mind though, he wasn't worried about that, so trivial when Luffy might still be in danger. Of the psychological kind, anyway…though knowing Luffy, he may have gotten over it. At this point, as Zoro turned his gaze toward the figure head on instinct, he saw his captain slumped over the rams' head lifelessly, looking forlorn and anything but himself staring out into the endless sea the both of them loved so much.

Then again, maybe Luffy didn't get over it as effortlessly as Zoro had hoped.

And as Zoro sidled into the kitchen area, he didn't catch Sanjis' worried glance.

But, as he ate and drank the meal prepared for him, he couldn't help thinking…things be diffent? Of course they would be, what the hell was he thinking? Luffy had shown he wasn't taking this lying down, whatever issue had aroused among the two, wasn't going to be let down easily like all the others.

Zoro had a slight, yet heavy feeling they could not be made normal again by just a hug or a sharing of ones' food concerning the swordsman's empty plate.

So Zoro went with his plan, ignoring the boy whom he had saved and then who had turned around and done the same thing, ignoring and dodging the boy endlessly. And this plan of his worked great, but not without well, drawbacks, both Captains' and First Mates' part.

Luffy laughed less.

Zoro drank more.

Luffy spent more time in the crows' nest.

Zoro spent less time napping.

Luffys' body began to ache and his face sobered up more.

Zoro became cranky, more than usual, and jumpy, trusting to no one and nothing.

Neither of them met each other's gaze and did their very best to NOT even think about each other. Period. But no matter how either of them avoided the opposite, the longing for company of the other increased ten fold.

Three days this game between them went on, neither of the contestants yielding and there was no way for a tie. Luffy and Zoro had actually hit a… confrontation…in their…well, what ever sort of relationship either of them had or felt toward each other. And while the rest of the crew acted only a little out of sorts, Ussop trying to get Luffy to play games with him, Chopper giving Zoro an audience when he worked out, it did nothing to improve either of theirs' moods.

Luffy played those games, but all he could think about was playing it with Zoro…and how much fun they would have, how fun Zoro was in general. Luffy preferred Zoro.

Zoro didn't mind the little reindeer, but in all honesty, the perky little kid of a captain was a much better audience, grinning and laughing and chatting with him as though it was a day at the beach. Zoro preferred Luffy.

But now…

Luffy was unsure, and Zoro was just plain uneven, feeling as if he'd lost something, when he'd really kept all that was close to him.

It was of course, only inevitable that the one and only love-cook intervened, sick and tired of the conflict. Instead of asking gently and understandingly what was bothering the swordsman, (because frankly, he knew what was wrong), he used Zoros' day of washing dishes as an excuse to confront him. This in turn, was all just obvious Sanji had no intention of going easy, and being sympathetic to Zoro because Sanji blamed Zoro.

Zoro learned that night that such is the scorn of the cook.

So, on that night, one could find Zoro sitting in his seat at the table in the galley, hunched over and expressionless, much like he'd been for the past few weeks. Sanji was standing haughtily beside him, but it was obvious he had no intention of staying in one place, not when he had a score to settle with the uptight swordsman.

"So let me get this straight, you made erratic motions, while your wrist of all things was bleeding, a vein broken, swam down to our captain, in the water, where there are sharks." Sanji pulled his cigarette from his mouth.

"New word class, can you spell reckless?" Sarcasm dripped from his lips.

"So I'm reckless, shoot me." Zoro countered, itching faintly at his ear, as though it was 'no big deal.' The look on Sanjis' face, however implied more.

"I'm not going to, but Luffy just may. Don't put it past him with the mood he's in." Sanji said.

"What was I going to do, just let him drown?" Zoros' voce rose slightly, glaring at the love cook, as though Sanji had physically mentioned such a thing as abandonment of the boy they followed with something resembling vigor.

"Don't you listen? I yelled your name moss-head, five frickin' times, just as you went after him! I told you to stay still, that I would get him!"

"Oh." Zoros' voice seemed small as he slumped slightly, vaguely remembering hearing something along those sort of lines. Not that he would ever admit it out loud.

"Don't you ever god-damn think!?" Sanji rounded on him.

"I'm working on it." Zoro grumbled in reply, propping his chin on his un-bandaged wrist. The stupid thing still hadn't healed completely, and Chopper was being a stickler about Zoro keeping the gauze on. Sanji massaged his forehead and continued his admonishment with a practiced ease.

"You scared the living shit out of us, not to mention what you did to Luffy." The stiffening of Zoros' muscles did not go unnoticed by the cook when he uttered their captains' name. Sanji continued, making a mental note of the reaction.

"All that blood…your wrist wasn't even visible, he carried you, you jackass, carried you to the ship. While he was still under that stupid Devil Fruit effect of his. I watched him stumble eight frickin' times and he refused my help. He was god-dammed soaked. Saying some shit like, 'Zoro saved me, so it's my turn now,' and 'I won't let you down ever again, Zoro.'"

Sanji whirled around from where he had been looking out the window, slamming his fist on the table, heatedly revealing as well, "And you know what else I saw!?" Sanji didn't wait for the swordsman to respond, instead letting his voice rose in staccato.

"I saw his tears, falling on your blood, every step of the fucking way back to Merry. Every. God. Damn. Step." Zoro opened his mouth, intending to speak, but the love cook was on a rant now, his normal calm frame cracking dangerously to expose a furious, blazing, oddly protective side of their captain that Zoro had somehow never noticed before. Or he had forgotten.

"As if swimming across the river Styx wasn't enough, and then sending Luffy on hell of a ride of worry and confusion he tried to hide from us all, you go and ignore him when you wake up!"

"What were you thinking!?" Sanji hissed, and this time, let Zoro try to defend himself. Even if he did a pathetic job of it.

"I was just…trying to figure some things…out." Sanji came to verdict at that very moment, after hearing Zoros' reasoning behind it all for the past three days. He advanced on swordsman, who had just stood up from his chair with a clatter.

"You know what, I'm going to do something Luffy should of, but didn't because he doesn't have the heart," Sanji reeled back, and before Zoro could react, knuckles smashed into his jaw, resulting in both him and Sanji falling back on a recoil. They stood there for amount, both of them, one holding his aching mouth and the other rubbing his arched hand gently over the tender skin.

"What-" Sanji interrupted again before Zoro could get a word in edge-wise.


The conversation that Sanji had single-handedly detained ended right then and there, leaving Zoro nothing to do but otherwise, mainly because the kitchen door slammed, resembling the angry cook.

Half of him was amazed that the cook had actually punched him, and what a feeling that had been, because there had been something so much more behind Sanjis' knuckles than rage. Whatever it was though, was forgotten as Zoro discovered his captain, at one of the worst possible times, in one of the most isolated places.

Luffy was shivering, a green something pulled over his shoulders, (and it took Zoro a moment to recall that was his green blanket), curled up, his back to the entrance way of the men's quarters, on the couch. Soft, placid sounds emanating from him. Zoro stepped quietly over the boys' discarded sandals and took a seat on the cushion closest to the boy, trying to give of the vibe it was only him, only his first mate.

Zoro hadn't really expected the boy to be comforted by this, and Luffys' sudden stiffening cued the swordsman that he wasn't in the least. Luffy felt his swordsman's watchful gaze on him, even as he'd entered the room, though Luffy knew it was Zoro, he didn't acknowledge it, because well, he wasn't too sure how to. Zoro acted so different around Luffy now that Luffy questioned himself whether it was Zoro and aliens' hadn't captured him and changed his personality, like the marksman had tried to convince him over a game of shoots and ladders a day ago.

But that was silly…Zoro wouldn't let himself be captured, now would he?

Suddenly, as if on cue, a hand sidled up onto his shoulder and rested there. Yet through the unwavering soft green blanket that reminded him achingly so much of the Old Zoro Who Was Fun, Luffy felt the first mates' steady hold on his shoulder. And there was a sharp tug, a pull of force strong enough to send the little captain upturned onto Zoros' lap, his head resting there and his long-limbed body splayed over the couch and one leg dangling over the arm rest.

Luffy blinked tiredly up at him, suddenly exhausted through the whole ordeal of cat and mouse. Shoot…Zoro had caught him.

"I'm sorry."

The most forlorn sound echoed Zoros' apology, sending Luffy close to a tirade of tears that had been threatening to fall ever since this stupid tribulation began. Zoro too, seemed tired, lines of worry and confusion stretching in a complaining manner across the older mans' features. At least this was all Luffy could see, but he felt Zoros' muscles tensing and relaxing, and he wasn't sure Zoro was in control of his body at the current moment.

Poor Zoro. Luffys' heart went out to the man who had albeit, ignored him, but cared and looked out for the boys' well-being, and no amount of anger or issues between them could ruin that bond. It was almost like…

Nah. Luffy was jumping to conclusions like Sanji said the boy was apt to do…a lot.

And while Luffy was off presuming things, Zoro had actually come to an answer, one that might suffice for the situation at hand. He was in love with the boy that much he was on terms with…but the answer was to TELL THE BOY.

That was really all there was to it, after all these dilemmas, adding and subtracting the factors, Zoro came to the same answer, the same, bloody, simple, stupid…obvious answer.

He just needed to tell the object of his affections, that couldn't be to hard, right?

"Luffy, I…" His voice died on cue. Damn.

"Hm, Zoro? How come your face is all red, are you okay? Are you getting sick?" Luffy neck stretched as he called on his rubber powers to bend his neck upward and inspect Zoros' face, his lips mere inches from Zoro's own tilted down ones. Zoros' tongue became swollen under the scrutinizing glare of his friend.

Luffy felt a gentle but firm tug on the back of his shirt and then he was back where he'd started, in Zoros' lap. Not that he predominantly minded, cause Zoro was warm and cozy.

"I'm not getting sick, Luffy." He corrected gently.

"Oh, all right then." The boy stated matter-of-factly.

"What I'm about to say…is…the whole truth, okay? I'm not lying." This was a good way to start…right? Really, what was he going to do, come right out and say it? …he didn't have to guts, what if the boy didn't accept him? Where would he be then?

"Were you before Zoro?"

"Was I what?" Zoro had been caught off guard by sound of Luffys' voice as it reverberated through his thoughts.

"Were you lying before?"

"...Well, no. Heh, but, uh this is hard to say, but I'm pretty sure it will…mend things. okay?"

Luffy gazed innocently up to his swordsman, trusting him completely, no hint of regret in his eyes. Whatever Zoro would do would be the best for Luffy as a whole, which, while it wasn't something Luffy liked, was okay in general. It was Zoro' job after all and Zoro was anything if not great at what he set his mind, body, and soul to.

"K," The littler of the two agreed, listening closely to the mumbling baritone voice of his partner.

"Luffy…" The boy in question glanced from Zoros' lap, eyebrows raised in askance and curiosity at his Zoros' tone.

"You're my… number one, buddy. I love you."

Luffy gazed at him a moment, and Zoro wondered if the little captain was doing this on purpose, waiting to give an answer and relieve the war going on inside Zoros' mind for the past days-no wait, months at least.

"You're my number one too, Zoro." A pause, in which Zoros' heart beat so rapidly Luffy could hear it from where he was. "And I love you, too." And Zoro felt like he'd slipped into a warm bath water after hours of accomplished training, so replenished, so content. And Luffy felt like he'd just eaten his fill of meat and gotten into bed, so comfy, so content.

So this is what it's like to be in love. Luffy and Zoro both thought simultaneously as their lips met.

As Luffy said those words, all doubt, all worry and fear was wiped to a clean slate by Luffys' unending courage and easy-gong persona about the whole thing. Second later their lips met, and a tall, black clad figure sidled away from the door to which he had been leaning on, and went on his way as if nothing was out the ordinary…

Zoro was never into sappy things. It just wasn't really his nature, for his was self-sufficient to his own needs, and of course, relying on others was his greatest fear.

If you could call it that.

But he did have a weakness, despite himself, and his name is Monkey. D. Luffy, maybe you've heard of him? Future King of the Pirates. But if you asked Zoro, the boy was, in truth, already there.

But just because Luffy was Zoros' weakness, doesn't mean Zoro was that much stronger when Luffy wasn't there. If anything…he was less of the great swordsman he is when Luffy is by his side. This does not trouble either of them in the least.


I wrote this while listening to the Tran-Siberia Orchestra…Carol of the Bells is one of my favorite songs, especially the way they re-did it! Something interesting about this story that I just realized as I was finishing the last sentence, this fan fiction was pieced together in four different parts, at four different times. Each part had to 'sewn' into place, and I had a harder time with others than the majority. Huh…anyway, I'm really hoping this is good enough to earn a review or two, maybe I'll continue this, or something? I hope someone likes it!