warnings : angst with no real conclusion(sounds like all of my stories these days) that will not make sense w/o reading chapter 510. That and run on sentences.

a/n: This is another moment Luffy could have figured out what happened on Thriller Bark. My thanks to SeaMonkey who offered the idea and gave me a sudden inspiration.

Luffy knows his crew mates are the best.

They may not be the strongest but that's okay because they have Luffy; he'll protect them and keep them safe, Zoro, Nami, Usopp, Sanji, Chopper, Robin, Franky, Brook, all of them. They are his, the way he is Sabo and Ace's, the way the stars belong to the sky, before, now and later too.

In turn, they always do their best and never let him down (though it would still be okay even if they did) and Luffy listens to them, turns away when they nod, leaving them to do the things he can't.

And it is because he loves and trusts them so, that Luffy knows them-knows all their strengths and weaknesses. It means he does not ask for what they cannot give. Thus, although Zoro takes the bear-pawed shichibukai's blow and stumbles, Luffy looks away. That is the rule of battle and he trusts his swordsman to get back up.

But then Zoro doesn't and it comes to Luffy with a dawning clarity that something is terribly wrong; the Zoro he knows would take the blow and give it back twice as fiercely. The Zoro he knows would never stop fighting until his enemy was down first, but the shichibukai is still standing while Zoro isn't which must mean there is something about Zoro Luffy doesn't know.

However, Sanji's reminder that the enemy is their priority is true and Luffy, who glanced back, forces himself to look away because the shichibukai is before him when Zoro is down and behind him. The chance returns as Chopper flashes into his view and the rest of his crew mates jump forward in a coordinated attack. Luffy twists back around with questions and concern and a need to know.

The fierce gaze that meets his stills him though. And despite the roar of battle, Luffy listens and when his swordsman nods, he turns away.

He jumps into the sky with his thumb between his teeth to wait for the opening Zoro promised to give, and because Luffy knows his crew mates best, he does what Zoro asks him to do and lets it go.