Luffy had a cellphone, but he almost never used it. When he did it was usually just a cute picture message of something interesting he found on his way home, or a whiney text during the only class they didn't have together; because if he wanted to talk to someone he'd go find them in person, all wide eyes and wide smiles.
So when Usopp's phone lit up from the corner of the table, jingling Luffy's merry ringtone, he blinked at it in shock for a few seconds before he remembered himself and lunged to answer it right as it would have gone to voicemail.
"Luffy? Did you pocket-dial me agai- "
"Usopp," and oh, god, Luffy's voice was thick with tears, oh no; Usopp sat up in his chair, fingers tightening around his phone anxiously.
"What's wrong? Are you okay?"
He felt his heart break at the quiet, hurt, "No," and he was on his feet, at the door, coat and keys in hand before Luffy had a chance to say why.
"Where are you?"
"At the park."
"But it's raining. What happened? Do you want to tell me?"
A pause, and Luffy said, "No. Can I stay the night with you?"
"Yeah, Luffy, of course. Hey, did you tell Ace where you were going?"
"Should I have?"
"You're going to be the death of us both, you know that?" He smiled, glad to hear Luffy's soft giggle on the other end. "I'll be there in a few minutes."
And he considered it a personal victory that Luffy's voice was at least a little warmer when he replied, "Thanks Usopp."
When they got back to Usopp's house, Nami was waiting in the kitchen, face and hair done up prettily, drumming her nails on the counter. With a pang, Usopp remembered she had plans tonight, and offered a silent apology along with her keys when he handed them over. When she saw Luffy, dripping wet and standing quietly behind Usopp like an old dog, the scowl on her face softened into a slight frown. She glanced at Usopp, who shook his head to indicate he didn't know what was wrong, and her face softened even further. She tossed Luffy a kind smile.
"Hey kiddo." Nami ruffled his raven-feather hair and earned herself a smile that didn't really live up to his usual standard, but was sweet nonetheless. "What are you boys gonna be up to? Cable and junk food?"
"Right in one," her brother replied, steering Luffy in the direction of the couch, and then going to root through the linen closet in the hallway for a towel. "Are you staying at Nojiko's tonight?" he asked on his way back.
"Yup." She hovered at the door, looking unbelievably reluctant to leave with Luffy looking as miserable as he did. "Call if you need anything, okay?"
Once she left, Usopp turned the TV on and sat Luffy on the floor, sitting on the couch behind him and toweling his hair dry. Luffy, with his chin resting on his knees and his arms wrapped around his legs, didn't say a word for nearly an entire episode of Adventure Time, and finally Usopp had to break the silence.
"So what happened?"
There was another moment of silence, before Luffy said, "Zoro's mad at me."
Usopp blinked, moving the towel away. "He's mad at you? What for?"
His friend curled into himself a little more, and Usopp didn't have to see his face to know it was probably anguished.
"I don't know."
Gently, he pressed, "What happened, Lu?"
Luffy shrugged, an unhappy jerk of his shoulders. "I don't know. He came to visit last night and he looked- really sick. I've never been sick, but I remember that time Nami was, and it was scary, and I didn't want Zoro to be like she was, but I thought maybe he'd feel better after he got some sleep."
"And he didn't look better in the morning?" Usopp had a feeling he knew where this story was going, and sure enough Luffy nodded.
"Ace was gone- a bunch of his old friends are in town for awhile, and he always stays out forever when they come to see him, so I was all by myself and Zoro looked even worse than before." He shuffled and made a sad, wet sound that cut straight through to Usopp's heart. Wiping his face on his sleeve, Luffy continued quietly, "I- I didn't know what to do, and it was like he couldn't even hear me when I said his name, so I called Doctorine."
Usopp slid down to the floor to sit next to him, wrapping an arm around his shoulders. Luffy shuffled against him gratefully. "That was really good thinking, Luffy," Usopp said, and meant it. Luffy could certainly use some praise at the moment, and he seemed to rally himself at Usopp's approval. "What did she tell you?"
"There wasn't a lot she could do just over the phone, but she said she'd drive out here if I wanted." Luffy twisted the cuff of his sleeves in his fingers, wide eyes bright with misery. "I did but I told her no. Cause Zoro would hate that," he said, beseechingly. "He would hate that. So she gave me a bunch of instructions, and Zoro woke up and I told him what she said, that it was probably the flu, and- "
When Luffy faltered, Usopp nudged him. "Whatever he said, you know he just hates making you worry. You know that's all it was, right?"
"I know. But he said- he told me, "Get out." He said he didn't need me taking care of him. But he said it mean. He said it the way he talks to Sanji." And to Usopp's horror, Luffy's eyes were full of tears again. "He said it like he hated me. And I know he doesn't, he's Zoro, and he loves me, but- "
He was terrible at comforting Kaya when she cried, she'd told him laughingly dozens of times, but when it was Luffy, all he had to do was be there with a hug, let Luffy burrow into his arms and seed away whatever strength and comfort he could find. So he did just that, and Luffy buried his face against Usopp's shoulder.
"If it makes you feel any better," Usopp said after a minute, "Ace is gonna kick his ass for making you cry."
And Luffy laughed wetly, paused, said, "It doesn't make me feel better," in a show of solidarity for Zoro, then laughed again in a way that undermined his words shamelessly and made Usopp grin against his hair.
They were halfway through Ghostbusters for what was probably the one hundred thousandth time, Luffy dressed in borrowed pajama pants and a T-shirt while his stuff tumbled in the dryer; he was about to nod off on Usopp's shoulder, tuckered out by the day's events, and Usopp didn't blame him for a second. Talking quietly would probably make Luffy fall asleep, so he pondered for a minute over something to talk quietly about.
"Any news on Chopper?"
He felt more than saw the smile bloom across Luffy's face. "Yeah, Doctorine said it'll only be another week or two. I have everything all ready for him. He's gonna love it here."
Usopp grinned. "Of course he is."
The house phone rang at that point, and he groaned and got up to answer it while Luffy huffed and shuffled over.
Zoro? Usopp threw a quick look to the living room, where he could just see Luffy's mop of hair over the back of the couch and then lowered his voice and spoke heatedly. "You know as Luffy's best friend I'm pretty much obligated to side with him even when something's his fault, which in this case it's not, by the way, it's completely yours, so I'm on his side like woah."
"I know that. I know."
And it sounded like he did; actually, he sounded awful. Usopp relented somewhat.
"You made him cry," he said, unable to help the edge of heat that found its way into his voice. "I can't believe you did that."
"I can't believe it either," Zoro said quietly, and the pain in his voice was so raw Usopp felt the rest of his anger slip far out of reach. Zoro worked hard every day, some days even more than he should, and he was used to taking care of himself; he didn't get sick on purpose, and he didn't send Luffy away to hurt his feelings. He was frustrated, sick in front of the last person he wanted to worry, and it came out the wrong way when he opened his mouth, is all.
A chin rested on his shoulder, and he hadn't heard Luffy clamber up on the counter behind him but apparently he had. Usopp covered the mouth piece and lowered the phone.
"Is it Zoro?"
"Is he still mad?"
"No, Luffy, he's not mad. Wanna talk?"
Luffy thought about it, and shook his head. "Not on the phone. Zoro only makes sense when I can see his face." But he still looked a little anxious, an uncharacteristic uncertainty in the line of his mouth.
Usopp smiled, feeling for them both. "Then let's go back to where he makes sense. Okay?"
In the end, Zoro got off the hook really, really easy. Because as soon as the door opened, Luffy took one look at him, sitting on the couch pale and exhausted and waiting for him to come home, and flew straight into Zoro's arms like a rocket. Zoro held him tight.
"You haven't gotten any rest at all," Luffy chided him, running sure fingers through sweat-soaked green hair, pressing a kiss to his feverish forehead. "Poor Zoro. I'm not leaving again no matter what you say."
Zoro closed his eyes, overcome.
The quiet mutter smoothed the last lingering trace of unhappiness from Luffy's face; he beamed like he'd never known hurt and nuzzled close, giggling when Zoro's arms wrapped him even closer.
"You two are hopeless," Usopp assured them before he left.
But in a really good, brave, wonderful kind of way.