All There Was

They'd decided to take a short vacation of sorts from their adventuring on the high seas, and anchored the Going Merry at a small island. A few miles inland was a small, very hospitable village; Luffy and Usopp fell in with the native children almost at once, and soon they were all headed down to the beach. Nami had outfitted the group for the occassion; and she said it was no charge, just this once. In other words, Luffy looked so irresistably happy as he rolled around in the sand with the younger, and even the older children, that even she didn't have the heart to charge him.

He couldn't venture far into the water, but he seemed content enough to splash with Usopp in the shallows, and to construct sand-people and have shell fights. Nami and Robin were reclined on blankets in the sun, soaking in the rays, and Sanji and Chopper were examining the life in nearby tide pools. This left Zoro to recline against a tropical plant and close his eyes for a nap.

A shadow fell over him; he opened his eyes and started. Luffy's face was mere inches from his, and the boy tilted his head. "Ahh...Zoro, why are you over here?"

Zoro raised a hand and pushed the boy's face away. "So I can sleep. Go play."

"Don't you want to play, too?"

"Why would I want to play?"

One of those impossibly bright grins. "Because it's fun."

Zoro rolled his eyes. "Okay. Now get. Go have your fun."

Luffy whined, obviously unhappy with this arrangement. "But Usopp's cheating!" he complained, pointing over his shoulder at Usopp's destroying of Luffy's sand-army via slingshot. "And he said I couldn't stretch!"

"Then just stretch anyway." Zoro closed his eyes again, so Luffy would get the point. He could feel his captain's warm breath, and felt slightly uncomfortable by their close proximity; he couldn't begin to understand why. Luffy didn't know personal boundaries, and got as close to a person as he felt he should to make his point. So they were all more or less used to it; why did he suddenly care?

With a sigh, Luffy stood away, and Zoro heard him trudging back down to the beach. He opened one eye; Luffy, instead of finishing their game of war, obviously having tired of it since his sand-soldiers were no more, tackled Usopp, and they wrestled around amidst the cheers of the village children. Zoro didn't see how it happened, but Luffy yelped suddenly and pulled up his hand, and Usopp took that moment as an opportunity to flip him over. Luffy, pinned under Usopp, who was declaring his victory at the top of his lungs, frowned down at his hand.

For some reason, the two of them in that position, however innocent, really pissed Zoro off.

Usopp seemed to notice Luffy's silence, and looked down at him. "What's wrong?"

Luffy still had that small frown on his face. "My--" And then a sudden gust of wind tore down the beach, and everyone braced themslves against it; Luffy's hat flew off his head, and his eyes opened at once and followed it. "My hat!" Throwing off Usopp, he ran after it, unintentionally venturing into deeper waters. The native children called after him, but he didn't seem to hear them.

A strong arm around the waist caught him suddenly, and he looked up in surprise. "Zoro?"

The green-haired swordsman glared at him. "You could've asked me to get your hat for you."

"But you were sleeping." That pout crossed his face again, and Zoro knew he was probably visualizing the games they would've played with Usopp and his new friends.

"Idiot." Zoro, with long, powerful strides, made his way out into the deeper waters with Luffy clinging monkey-like to his back, and reached up with his free hand to catch the straw hat. He gave it to Luffy, who held onto it tightly. He could feel those big eyes on him, and was somehow self-conscious.

All of a sudden, it began to rain. Buckets of rain fell upon them with no warning at all; the villagers had warned them that the weather was extremely unpredictable on their island, which made sense at the time, it being in the Grand Line and all, but this was ridiculous. Nami cried out in alarm, and Sanji was immediately at her side, draping his jacket over her head and shoulders. It was impossible to see farther than three feet in front of you; Zoro sighed, and waited for the sudden rain to come to a stop before attempting to make it back to shore. He didn't want to get disoriented; he could drop Luffy into the ocean if such were to happen, as it so often did. He reached back to pull Luffy into his arms so the boy wouldn't fly off or something if the wind blew too hard.

"Zoro?" It was hard to hear the small voice under the roar of the rain on the water.

"What?"

"You're hurting my hand."

Squinting his eyes against the water, he looked down at the hand Luffy held up. It was crimson against the dull grey of the rain, and Zoro gritted his teeth. "What the hell happened?"

"I dunno, I cut it on something. It stings."

"Dammit, you idiot." His grip on the boy tightened unintentionally; his casual hold on his captain became a protective one.

"Zoro?"

"What?" He glanced down at his burden, somewhat warily, in case the raven-haired boy had more to show him.

"My hand is burning."

The saltwater. "Hold it out to the rain. Chopper'll fix you up once we get back to the beach." Luffy obliged, and was silent. Zoro shifted his weight, cursing the rain, and found he couldn't distinguish sky from sea. This isn't good, he thought vaguely. He glanced down at Luffy, and saw the boy's eyes were barely open. Lucky bastard could sleep through a hurricane.

Suddenly, his mind wandered back to Usopp and Luffy's wrestling match on the beach. He knew now that it was because his hand had been cut, but Luffy seemed to submit to Usopp without much of a fight. He couldn't get that out of his head, and grew angrier and angrier with himself for worrying over something so ridiculous.

Still....

"Luffy?"

"Mgh."

"What do you...think...of Usopp?"

Those pretty, dark eyes looked up at him. "He's my nakama."

Rrrr. "I mean....as compared...as compared to--"

"As compared to you? He's just a friend." Luffy yawned, and his head fell against Zoro's chest. "Don't worry."

Zoro froze. "What do you mean?"

Luffy shifted around until he was more comfortable, mumbling sleepily, "Zoro never wants to play, but he's always the one saving me from the water." Zoro stood silent, unable to speak even if he'd wanted to. "Usopp is fun, and Sanji always makes me good food," here he cut himself off with another yawn, "but I love Zoro."

He didn't know how to reply to that; luckily he was spared, as Luffy's breathing evened into that slow rhythm that told his first mate he was fast asleep and would not be awake any time soon.

Damn kid. Where did he get off, saying something like that so easily? Zoro scowled, his face on fire.

And yet...

The rubber pirate was so light in his arms, as if he was barely there at all. Zoro tightened his grip on him, afraid somewhere that the miracle boy who'd fallen into his life might fall out of it again someday... Zoro shook his head. Such fears were foolish; Luffy, while simple-minded, was actually pretty damn clever when he wanted to be. He knew just what to do, just what to say--he'd never be alone. As long as he wanted his crew mates with him, they would stay; he was just that kind of person, to make everyone want to be near him always. It was when Luffy outgrew himself; when Luffy matured, that worried him. Where would the crew--where would he, Zoro--stand then? When Luffy decided to give up his flag, as all pirates someday would?

Zoro glanced down at him again; Luffy was seventeen years old, and yet still contently splashed on the beach with children much younger than himself. Children seemed drawn to him, and it was no mystery why; he was much like a child himself, with a perpetual innocence in those wide, round eyes and an indestructible smile. He was clumsy and graceful, beautiful all around...

In the cover of the rain and amdist the toiling waters, as things began to calm again, Zoro leaned down to kiss his captain on the forehead; Luffy smiled in his sleep, beginning to wake, and Zoro could barely hear his fragile mumble over the soothing rush of rain.

Luffy's eyes fluttered open, and his smile faded when he saw Zoro's expression; somehow, like always, seeing through his mask. "You're worrying about stupid things, aren't you, Zoro?" Luffy asked, able to talk normally because all that was left of the rain was a light drizzle. Zoro started to make his way back, ignoring the question. Luffy pouted slightly, jamming his hat on his head.

"Nothing you need to worry about," Zoro said finally. "Something stupid, like you said."

"After I become Pirate King," Luffy told him then, abruptly, "I'm still gonna need my crew, you know." His eyes were accusing. "You can't leave yet. I can't sail without them; and Pirate King's only stop one on the list."

Zoro stared at him, startled; Luffy was afraid he would leave? Still, all he said was, "What? There's more?"

"Yup!" Luffy's smile was bright. "But you'll just have to wait to find out what. Okay?"

Zoro could see their crewmates clustered on the beach; saw their worried expressions brighten into relieved ones, as they waved their arms to wave; heard their voices as they called, the water as they ran to meet them.

Luffy waited until Zoro set him down in the shallows before turning to his first mate and saying, "Thank you, Zoro," before rushing off with Usopp again to get into something else, flanked by the village children.

Zoro watched him go, before moving back under his plant.

He knew Luffy wasn't thanking him for the rescue; that was a daily thing. Zoro hadn't agreed not to leave--they both knew he didn't have to. As long as Luffy wanted him, he would stay. That's all there was; everything he had. He'd only have one captain for the rest of his life.

He heard Luffy's laughter and smiled, closing his eyes for a nap.

Owari.