AN: Finally getting the prologue out on this one too! My first ZoRo centered story, (that I'm willing to post anyway. xD) so Yay~!! Yes, I know the prologue is long but I guess it's kinda my style to get the basics out there before jumping into a story so...At least you will know what's going on, ne?
I am warning you that this is going to be sad. I always prefer a happy ending, and I'm going to have one for this story too. But the plot revolves around some pretty messed up stuff (i.e. torture, insanity, etc.) so I don't want you to read it if you think it'll break your head or something.
I do not own One Piece, or some of the ideas I will be using, (which I will point out when we get there.)
Oh, and also, I have no idea how old Zoro was when he went to Kuina's dojo. I have no idea how long he was there before they had their 2001st duel, or when she died, or when he left to look for Mihawk. The series is kinda vague on those points so I just put what I think. I'm not claiming to know.
Zoro had been very young when he had set out to claim dojo signs, and after his first defeat by Kuina he had promised himself he would not leave until he had beaten her. Over a year later, after their 2001st duel and their promise to each other that some day one of them would be the world's best swordsman his rival had died in a pointless accident, leaving him to fulfill his vow alone. He had not left Kuina's dojo for nearly ten years after her father had bestowed her precious katana on him, and even after he had gone out to sea looking for Mihawk, his only goal had been to strengthen himself and one day become the best. Consequently, in the young swordsman's short life he had never wasted his time in the pursuit of girls. He was aware of women, but only in a general way, and had never felt much interest in any particular one. In fact, the only women he associated with on a regular basis were his own nakama, and he had certainly never harbored any thoughts for Nami.
So when was it exactly that he had developed feelings for Nico Robin?
She had joined the Strawhat crew, or rather, forced her way in, after weeks of being their enemy. Barely a week had gone by after they had defeated Baroque Works when she had appeared on their ship and insisted that Luffy had to take responsibility for her life. And his captain, being the easy going idiot he was, had agreed.
In less than a day she had most of the crew wrapped around her little fingers. Sanji easily accepted her for her beauty alone, Nami had been bought off, and Chopper, Usopp, and Luffy had fallen all over themselves when she used her devil fruit power in one of their stupid little games. She didn't try to manipulate him, maybe because she saw he wouldn't fall for it, or maybe because she felt she had time later to do so. Whatever her reason had been Robin had settled herself with no difficulty into life on the Going Merry, and Zoro had been left as the last sane person on his ship.
While the others could easily accept a former enemy into their life the swordsman had vowed to himself that he would not let her get the drop on him. She was a conniving and manipulative woman, who had switched sides easily, and could just as easily do it again in the future. So he watched her.
She was aware of it, and aware that he did not accept or trust her, and so she began to watch him too. Zoro told himself it was because she was looking for his weakness. Maybe in order to eliminate him, if she could, or perhaps she did it only to annoy him. It was impossible to tell what a woman like Nico Robin was thinking.
Regardless of her thoughts he watched her carefully. As a swordsman he knew how to observe his enemy, her routines, her habits, even her likes and dislikes…there was no telling when she would show a weakness, so he watched her closely.
He learned that Robin was a woman who enjoyed her solitude. She was with the crew but did not try to be a part of them. She did not help with the chores, or have any particular job on the ship, (what did a pirate crew need with an archeologist?) in fact most of her time was spent lounging around reading and drinking coffee. She did not sleep often, and when she did she slept very lightly, a habit of one who is used to betrayal he surmised. Robin was intelligent, but only shared her knowledge with them when she had something to gain from it. She was polite, but distant, and Zoro couldn't help but imagine this was because she did not plan to stay with them for long.
At Jaya, when she had left to "gather information" he had assumed she was making her break from them, which was fine with him, but had been surprised when she had returned, and doubly surprised when it turned out she had actually found what they needed.
Later, when they had been sent out to acquire a south bird, he had allowed himself to be paired with the archeologist, in order to keep an eye on her. She had made no trouble for him, and in the end it was she who caught the elusive bird that sent them on their way.
During their stay on Sky Island it had been a lucky break that he was on board the Going Merry when it was abducted, and then she had insisted on following him into the jungle, though he had to admit she was helpful at keeping Nami out of the way.
Their second day she had again ended up in the same party as him, on their way to the city of gold, but then the giant snake had attacked them and they were all separated.
Though the swordsman had felt some trepidation at not knowing where the treacherous woman was he knew that Merry and the rest of his nakama were already on their way to the other side of Upper Yard, and with no way for her to reach them he knew they were safe, from her at least, so he had continued on to the ruins of Shandia.
Perhaps it was at that point that he should have realized something was different. His feelings for the archeologist had up until that point been nothing but distrust and suspicion…but at the instant the fake god had attacked her, his body had moved. He had caught her falling body in the cradle of his arms and his furious words at the logia fruit user had been, "She's just a woman!"
When had she moved past the "suspicious person" category to being a woman in his mind? He certainly didn't trust her yet, but he would not have saved someone he truly considered an enemy. His own action had startled him, but since he was faced with a different enemy, Enel, at that point he had pushed it to the back of his mind for later thought…and then "later" had never come. He had never taken the time to think about the why of his actions again, and Zoro seriously considered this an oversight on his part now.
During the unusual events of the Davy Back Fight the swordsman had concentrated on winning with everything he had. It was a stupid game, one he wished his captain hadn't accepted so easily, (and then doubly wished he hadn't accepted the second time) but he wasn't the kind of man to lose anything on purpose. And they had taken Chopper…he had a responsibility to regain his nakama.
But somewhere, deep in the back of his mind, it had bothered the swordsman how easily Nico Robin had accepted leaving their crew. He had been so sure of that eventuality. So why was it then when it seemed she was gone for good and he wouldn't have to watch out for her anymore he was annoyed at her casual attitude? In the end Luffy had won, and both Robin and Chopper were returned to them.
It was shortly after that event though that Zoro began to realize his prejudice against her was no longer as firm on the inside as it was on the out. Meeting a Marine Admiral was not something they had expected so soon. The freakishly tall man was extremely lazy, but still an admiral, so all of the swordsman's attention had been focused on the threat. Robin's fearful intake of breath and then collapse to the ground had taken them all by surprise. She was a very confidant individual. She was cool, calm, and collected…none of them had seen such a look on her face before. Not worry, not fear, but absolute terror. This only made the threat before them more real. Someone who could scare Robin to such an extent…
When the enemy had attacked her Zoro was forced through an almost identical situation as Sky Island…his body moved without thought or permission, stopping the Ice Saber's downward stroke and saving her life. Before he could fully ponder his own startling action the blond cook had also attacked, saving him from embarrassing himself.
And then she, who had always remained calm and vaguely amused at everyone and everything, had attacked. Furiously she had struck out at the marine in front of her, with no effect. Aokiji had simply reformed and then from one moment to the next she was made into an ice statue.
This was another moment Zoro should have taken the time to think over later. The absolute horror he had felt seeing her encased in ice, a perfect replica of herself, should have given him a clue, but he hadn't thought about why he was angry, just that he was.
Luffy had saved her from being smashed, and then Usopp had jumped in to rescue her again. Following their captain's command he and Chopper had raced back to the ship in an effort to save her life.
The entire event had been such an ordeal for them all, Robin and Luffy who needed to recover, Chopper who had almost lost them, Usopp and Nami who had been almost paralyzed with fear, even Sanji and himself, unable to accept their own failure of not even able to hit their enemy once…The only thing Zoro had forced himself to focus on was becoming stronger…he could never let a situation like that happen again.
All his unexplained actions, his strange thoughts, and the awkward moments between Robin and himself…all the signs that his feelings for the raven haired archeologist had changed drastically came to a head in the events at Enies Lobby.
He had been furious when she had framed them for the attempted assassination of Water 7's mayor, and had subtlety pushed his crew into looking for her to get some answers. But when Nami told them the situation…he had been at a loss.
Robin had given herself over to the government to keep them safe…and she had done it planning to never let them know the truth, planning to let them hate her.
The manipulative, distrustful, and even annoying woman he had professed to hate was going to die for them. Not just die for them even; Nami had told him the full story later on the train. She was giving herself to the government, knowing they would use her knowledge to unlock a weapon that could destroy whole nations. Robin chose the six of them over everyone and everything in the world, and Zoro's feelings had become a confusing mess inside him
The obvious choice, even if Luffy hadn't told them immediately, was to save her.
The swordsman had remained in a corner of the train's passenger car, feigning sleep but really trying to sort through the tangled mess that his thoughts had become.
Ever since she had joined them he had kept his assumptions of her firmly fixed in his mind.
Robin was only with them because it had been a convenient way of escaping Arabasta. She was planning on leaving, betraying, or somehow harming them. She was untrustworthy. She was useless. Annoying. Dangerous.
This completely selfless act had challenged his every perception of her.
It was against his will but the swordsman was forced to consider her in a new light. It was possible that she had reformed while with them. She said Luffy had saved her life, and had to take responsibility for it. Was it possible she had followed the careless teen because he had given her hope?
In all the time Zoro had known his captain the younger man was always doing stupid things without thinking about the consequences. However…more often than not his seemingly random choices ended up making him and those around him stronger, more responsible, more capable…
Usopp, Nami, and Chopper…the three of them had been faced with situations they could not hope to overcome and Luffy had stepped in and saved them. Even Sanji and himself, to a lesser degree. And they had come to respect their captain for it.
So was it possible Luffy had done the same thing for her in that underground chamber? Yes, it was.
He had focused so much on what she had done in the past; he had refused to acknowledge the effect Luffy had on people. He had misjudged her, and he owed her an apology for it.
Even worse…Robin had always taken his mistrust calmly, never being offended by his attitude…and though he was loathed to admit it he owed her an apology for that too.
If they had saved her without any complications maybe his thoughts would have ended there. But as Sanji and Usopp discovered, Robin was so afraid of the threat that she would not listen to reason. Zoro didn't pretend to understand that fear. Terror left over from a childhood trauma was not something he was familiar with, and he knew it. There was no point in trying to analyze such an emotion when he didn't think he would be able to understand it anyway. Robin's stubborn refusal to fight when they came for her did not make sense to him…until she had admitted her true fear with tears in her eyes. The swordsman had visibly winced.
"Someday I will just be a burden to you and you will betray me too! If that is what's going to happen than I would rather die here and now!"
Okay, so a life on the run with people betraying her constantly…she could have developed that kind of phobia easily…but he was sure she was speaking to him at that moment. Someday he would feel she was too large a threat to him and his crew…none of the others had ever said anything of the sort to her, while he had not made an issue of letting her know exactly how little he wanted her there…how could she not be speaking to him?
After burning the flag and openly declaring war on the World Government Luffy had shouted, "I would be happy to have an enemy like that Robin!!" And while his captain had still done a stupid thing without thinking this time Zoro had to agree.
He finally allowed himself to let go of his resentment towards her and accept her as a part of their crew.
The cataclysmic events of Enies Lobby had drastically changed the raven haired beauty.
She laughed more. She smiled more. If nothing else the archeologist's heart felt plea of wanting to live appeared completely genuine. If this was her second chance at life she seemed to be living it to the fullest.
Though she still enjoyed her solitude she no longer held herself aloft from them, as evidenced in the simple change of how she addressed them. Except him.
Zoro had, after working himself up, attempted to apologize but Robin had simply smiled at him, a real smile instead of the fake, polite smile she used to use. She didn't allow him to say anything, but the look on her face told him he didn't have to…she had already forgiven him. Getting "off the hook" about apologizing Zoro found himself instead berating her for even considering such a stupid thing as self sacrifice. His exact words had been, "Do you really think anyone on this crew would accept a nakama dying for them?!" but Robin had taken his embarrassed chastisement silently, with another strange smile on her face.
Then, to his utmost embarrassment, she had laid one slim hand on his shoulder, leaned in, and kissed him on the cheek before leaving him to stare after her on the deck. Though she still refused to use his given name she was much more at easy with him and he finally came to the conclusion that it was just one of her strange quirks.
They had left Water 7 only weeks ago, and already they had fought another shichibuki, as well as zombies made from their own shadows, and gained another new nakama. The events on Thriller Bark, or rather the events after, had finally forced the swordsman to face the truth of his very different feelings. The two events in particular that had opened his eyes had been hearing Chopper's account of the fight against Hogback and one small discussion he had with the object of his affections.
Chopper was explaining to the crew, but most especially Nami and Usopp, the grisly tale of how the zombie maker had died, with Robin adding details as she saw fit. Zoro had been resting in the shade against Thousand Sunny's mast, listening with only one ear, but both eyes flew open when Robin cheerfully said, "I guess we know who would win in a fight between Kenshin-san and I now."
Pretending to be disinterested he looked over at the small group on the deck. Luckily he did not have to ask what she meant, because unluckily Sanji had already done so. The blond gave her a surprised look when she admitted to having fought both their zombies.
Chopper, attempting to make the story more interesting, began describing the close calls their nakama had suffered before tricking Hogback into sending the zombies away, while the archeologist waved her hands in mild protest.
"Really, it wasn't that close Chopper-kun! If I had gotten that close I would have been cut in half several times!!" She laughed it off with a smile.
"Are you saying that marimo's zombie almost hurt you Robin-chwan?!" The cook demanded angrily. "Nearly killed her!" Chopper jumped back in. "Lots and lots of times!!" To which Sanji began sputtering incoherently.
Zoro however had stopped moving, his right hand clenched around all three katana, staring down at his shadow on the deck. He was not responsible for what his zombie had done; he had no way of controlling the damn thing, but…Robin had almost been killed…because of it…because of him?
Because he had been looking down at his guilty shadow he did not see Sanji raise his foot. There was a moment of stunned silence…even the cook was staring at him in surprised confusion. It was the first time in their frequent fights he had not defended himself.
As he stood slowly Chopper attempted to defuse the situation by adding in a hurried voice, "Your zombie attacked her too!!" This did not really help.
Sanji fell to his knees at Robin's feet. "I'm so sorry Robin-chwan!!" The blond wailed, to which she waved her hands at them again looking awkward. "It's perfectly fine. No one is responsible for what their zombie did. And Chopper-kun really was exaggerating!!"
The cook held onto her legs, still apologizing profusely.
Ultimately it was Luffy who defused the situation. Their captain laughed loudly. "It's a good thing we're not responsible for our zombies or I'd be in big trouble!!" And then he laughed again, soon joined by Usopp, Franky, and Brook. Nami and Robin gave each other a look and then laughed as well, and the subject was dropped.
His discussion with Robin had been short but very to the point. He had been working out in the privacy of the crow's nest, safe from Chopper's disapproving glare, when she had entered smiling.
"I'm looking for a quiet place to read." She said as she pulled her long legs inside the trap door. "Do you mind Kenshin-san?"
He had shrugged and turned back to the steel bar and heavy weights he had been swinging around. They had remained peaceful for several moments before her soft voice interrupted again.
"Actually…" She started slowly. "I did have an ulterior motive for coming up here."
Stopping what he was doing again he looked at her with surprise. She was looking down at her legs which were tucked against her body with a very serious look on her face.
With a nod he carefully placed his weights down, being aware of their balance so he wouldn't break anything, and then grabbed his work out towel. Sighing heavily the green haired man had sat across from her and motioned that he was listening.
"Kenshin-san…" She said softly. "Do you remember what you said to me just after we set sail from Water 7?" Her voice was so quiet even he couldn't tell what she was feeling by it.
Zoro had been reaching for a bottle of water but he stopped and looked back at her, this time with a blank face. "Which thing did I say?" He asked her cautiously.
Robin finally turned from contemplating the ground to looking in his eyes, and the swordsman felt a shiver go through him. She was angry…and not just a little, but very very angry.
Confused, and thinking he might have offended her, he tried to backtrack. "I mean which time...?" She did not waver as she glared into his eyes. "Uh…Which conversation are you referring too?" He asked with hands raised in a gesture of peace. He couldn't recall anything he had done that would make her so angry at him…
"You're exact words were, "Do you really think anyone on this crew would accept a nakama dying for them?!" She leaned towards him, her mouth drawn in a hard line. "Do you recall that conversation Zoro?"
The swordsman looked around for a distraction awkwardly. Not only had she brought up something he didn't want to talk about she had used his real name…and if she was only going to use it when she was angry he preferred not hearing it.
"Yeah. I remember that conversation. What abou-"
She didn't let him finish as she slammed her hand down on the ground in between them. "Did you even believe yourself when you told me that?!"
And then it finally hit him. He looked down uncomfortably. "You were awake?" He asked quietly. That was the only thing that made sense…
"No. Brook was and I pried it out of him."
He was surprised by her frank admission, though he realized he probably shouldn't be. Robin could be very subtle, which was probably how she had gotten the information she wanted out of the musician, but she could also be very forward and blunt if she chose.
"I see…Yes, I still believe that. No one would accept someone dying for them easily on this crew."
He had resolved to not look at her again but the soft sound she made had his head moving before he thought about it, and he felt a shock go through him. Robin was crying! He had seen her cry exactly once, at Enies Lobby, and that had been a very emotional moment for her.
"Hypocrite!" She cried as tears escaped her eyes to slide down her smooth cheeks. She would have said more be Zoro found himself putting one hand up, silently asking her to give him a chance to explain, so instead she bit her lip as she wiped at her eyes.
"No one would accept it, but I did what I had to do. Kuma would have killed Luffy while we were all unconscious…do you think I could allow that when I had the power to stop it? Dying needlessly is one thing, but without the captain a crew is nothing…a crew who loses their captain probably wouldn't even stay together, and I can't accept that either. Under the circumstances there was no other choice."
The dark haired woman across from him took a deep breath as she wiped a few more tears off her cheeks. "Bartholomew Kuma has been known as the Tyrant, with no mercy. That he was willing to accept your life instead of Luffy's means he either has a specific reason for keeping Luffy alive or he was doing it to defy the government. Do not think for one moment he did it because he had compassion for what you wanted." She said firmly. "Luffy would die for any of us. I know that." The unspoken "now" was clear but she hurried on. "And as the captain he has the right to do that, IF," She stressed. "IF it ever came to that I would not be able to complain." She reached up and tucked one shining black strand behind her ear. "But you are far too reckless. Imagine how we would feel waking up with you dead and us all alive!"
Both pirates looked at each other and then away again.
"I understand the situation was desperate," She continued softly. "But did you even stop to think about how…" She paused for a second and then finished. "How we would feel?"
Zoro folded his arms across his chest.
No. He hadn't really stopped to think about how they would feel afterwards. He had only thought about how he would feel if he let his captain die. The situation had been what it was, and if he was put into that situation again he would probably do the same thing, but Robin was right. He had acted, even if it was the action he had to take, without thinking about those that would be left behind.
Robin shifted and he could tell she was getting up to leave. He didn't know what to say to her so he didn't say anything as she slipped past him and opened the trap door.
He met her eyes again. She was looking at him with a soft, pleading look on her face.
"Just promise me that you'll stop being so reckless?" She asked softly. "Please?"
Her inky hair fell back across her cheek as she bit her lip again, staring at him and waiting for an answer.
What answer could he give? If the same thing happened he would still sacrifice himself to save them but…all she was asking was that he think a little first, and he supposed he could do that.
"I promise." He said solemnly.
She looked down and he heard her exhale with obvious relief, and then she looked up at him again. She smiled in gratitude and something about the expression on her face made his heart jump erratically in his chest. "Thank you Zoro." She said simply. It was the second time she had said his name and it sounded much nicer this time around. Thankfully she allowed herself to slip back down the ladder to the deck below before he made a complete fool of himself.
And that was how he had come to find himself alone in the crow's nest, thinking so seriously, and pondering his feelings for the beautiful woman.
Robin had changed from enemy to nakama, to something else that he wasn't sure he was comfortable with. Even more uncomfortable was that he wasn't sure what exactly she was to him…but more than just his nakama…
Zoro looked out the window of the crow's nest into the distance.
And even if his feelings for the raven haired beauty had changed, what did that mean? It wasn't like he was going to profess undying love to her or anything ridiculous like that…thinking about it logically, there wasn't even any need for her, or anyone else, to know how deeply he felt about it.
And, he sighed, it was deep.
Sitting here in the silence and pondering all that had happened he had to face the fact that his feelings for Robin were strong. Very strong. Probably way too strong…
The swordsman had never experienced feelings like this before. He had been focused on his life's goals so much, and for so long, that he had never allowed himself to let such a distraction in.
He hadn't meant to let her get to him either, it was just…Robin was sneaky. She had wormed her way in before he knew it. And, he admit, he had not helped. He was sure it had started with the watching…
Argh!! It led back to that again! He had to watch her for the safety of the crew, and now he watched for her safety, and…there was no point going through that in his mind again, he decided.
The main issue was not his feelings for Robin. They were already there, and as long as they didn't cause him too much trouble, than it wasn't worth wrestling with himself to try and root them out. So…if he just ignored them, and didn't let anyone know, there was no real problem, right?
The swordsman nodded to himself.
The other thing he had to consider though was the conversation that had happened that afternoon.
Okay, so he had been hypocritical, even though it was unavoidable. He gave her that point. And if such a thing happened again he would, as he had promised, stop to think about his crew, even though that probably wouldn't sway his decision.
What bothered him about the conversation was not Robin's words, but her actions…
The archeologist was a person who felt deeply, even if it was rarely shown on the outside, not very different from himself actually…But she had come up here to confront him on his choice to give up his life for his captain's…and she had cried. Such a reaction could only happen if her feelings had been so strong she couldn't help it…but exactly what had she been feeling?
Was she so angry she had to cry? That seemed very unlikely. Fear? Sadness? Worry?
The swordsman found himself scrubbing one hand across his face in frustration. He had no clue. Maybe it was glaringly obvious but he didn't have any idea why Robin would have broken down like that.
He was getting nowhere like this, he decided. Whether he understood Robin's motives or not, he wasn't going to figure anything out by sitting here.
The swordsman finally stood again, wincing as his wounds were stretched, and pulled open the trap door that would lead him back to the deck.
AN: I love these two. There's not much more that can be said about it. I love them and they are awesome. Please review and let me know what you think!! (Please? It's my birthday so pretty please?)