Title: Never Again
Spoilers: Major and minor spoilers for Robin, including her past and the Water 7/Enies Lobby arc.
Author's notes: This takes place during the party that was thrown upon the Straw Hat's return to Water 7 (episode 315). It's filled with ZoroRobin fluff, but take it as you will. Also posted on the ZoRo community on lj.
Disclaimer: As always, I do not own a thing.
"You know, this really is your party."
Zoro sauntered over to where Robin was leaning against the wall, a glass of champagne in her hand. With a soft sigh, he downed the rest of his own drink and set the mug heavily on a table before joining her in watching the crazy festivities taking place. "Why aren't you joining them anymore?"
Robin regarded him coolly as she sipped from her glass. "I'm still feeling rather exhausted, to be honest."
This openness surprised him. He had expected her to just shake her head and brush him off. But she hadn't. Instead, she shifted her weight to better see him in the now dim lighting as she continued speaking. "What about you, Kenshi-san? Why are you suddenly a wallflower?"
Zoro shrugged and glanced away. "You looked lonely, was all."
The woman was silent for a moment, considering his words. She hadn't necessarily been lonely, but rather lost in memories. "I've not been to such a celebration in my entire life. It takes a bit of getting used to, I suppose. I just can't seem to grasp the fact that that boy out there is the same boy who saved my life."
"I was the first to join Luffy, you know." He tried to avoid her searching gaze when he opened his mouth, but somehow he caught it anyway. Those eyes were so full of sadness that it burned. He shook his head and continued speaking, hoping to push some of that sadness away. "I thought he was crazy at first, with all his idiocy and big dreams. But he's really not as stupid as he looks. It took a while for him to prove that to me through all of his…stunts, and I promise that you will get used to it, too."
Robin looked at him, the sudden disclosure very unexpected. "If you promise me it will happen, I will certainly believe you." She chuckled and took a sip of champagne in an attempt to regain her usually collected composure. "Your crew has done enough to prove their worth to the entire world."
"Our crew," he corrected her softly, this time carefully staring at his shoes and wishing he hadn't finished his beer as he spoke. A little liquid assistance might make his words flow easier. "You're nakama, so it's our crew."
The silence that followed his statement was enough to make him want to take her by the shoulders and shake her, it was so tense. "Our…crew," she repeated softly after a moment as she slumped against the wall.
"Yeah, ours. And don't make that mistake again."
She wasn't sure if the mistake he was talking about was the mere usage of 'your' rather than 'our', or if it was about the whole mess she had made of her life, but either way she felt her heart fill to bursting. Out of nowhere, silent tears began to stream down her cheeks and she found in frustration that one hand was not enough to wipe them away unnoticed. Giving up trying to stop them, she merely let her face drop into her hands.
"R-robin?" Zoro pushed himself away from the wall and hesitated, torn between wanting to run away and wanting to stay and help. "Are you…okay?"
"Yes," she mumbled even as she shook her head no. "I'm just…"
"Here, let me take this for you." He pulled the champagne glass from her shaking hand and set it on the ground by his feet. But then she looked so small and awkward, standing there hunched over, arms crossed over her chest as tears continued to fall. This was such a far cry from the woman who first joined their crew and it scared him. "Do you need a tissue or anything?"
She didn't speak this time, instead simply shaking her head. When he tried to back away, though, her hand shot out and grabbed his arm. "Please don't leave me yet." Her strong voice made a strange contrast with the emotions she was currently not even bothering to fight back.
Zoro glanced down at the slender hand against his arm before studying her face, now hidden behind a sheet of black hair. "Sure, okay." And he stepped closer, plucking up her fingers and gently twining them in his own. Their relationship was a strange one, and they both knew it. But neither felt like questioning anything right then. They just needed to be together, and questions would only make that more complicated than it had to be.
Somehow knowing that she would be embarrassed if anyone else saw her crying, he tugged on her hand and led her to a corner, out of any direct line of sight. She lifted her head to give him a small smile of appreciation before dropping it again. That was all it took for Zoro to cross their usual unspoken line for public affection (which, in effect, meant none at all). After a slight moment's hesitation, he tightened his grip on her hand and pulled her toward him, encircling her in a comforting embrace. "It's okay, Robin," he told her softly. "You're safe now."
Apparently, though, that wasn't the right thing to say because her crying only seemed to get worse. Zoro stared at her, a horrified expression etched on his face. "What? What did I say?" He quickly tucked her head under his chin, almost too frightened to actually look at her as he stroked her hair in a vain attempt to stop her tears.
The whole situation was really quite humorous with his misunderstanding of her reaction, and Robin couldn't help but chuckle at Zoro's awkwardness. The sound was broken and hoarse but the effect was the same. Almost immediately, Zoro's hand stopped its movement as he took her by the shoulders again and pushed her to arm's length so he could stare at her. "What the hell is wrong with you?"
Robin just shook her head, smiling through the tears still running down her cheeks as she reached out to trace his jaw with two of her fingers. "Thank you, Kenshi-san."
"Is that all you're going to say?" he asked disbelievingly after a moment of silence.
She considered him for a moment, staring into his confused eyes as she smiled again. "I have never had a place to call home before, a place that was safe. I have never had true nakama…I had even given up believing I would find it all. And now…" She cast her gaze down so she wouldn't burst into joyous tears again. "Now I have everything I've ever wanted."
Without another word, he pulled her back into his arms. Her crying had ceased somewhat, leaving behind only small hitched breaths. She couldn't seem to put into words how she felt. How free she was now, how incredibly thankful she was. How happy she was to be standing there with Zoro…with the whole crew. Her nakama.