If Right Would Always Win

"Giving up doesn't always mean you are weak;

Sometimes it means that you are strong enough to let go."

Prompt: Downpour.

Characters: Zoro, Chopper, Sanji, Ace, Luffy. AU

Zoro nearly broke the lock on his apartment door trying to get inside. The stupid handle always stuck. The stupid key never slid in and out smoothly enough. He left said stupid key inside the stubborn lock and went inside without it.

The table in the foyer was bare when he got in, and there was a red light blinking on the phone. But he ignored all that, he ignored all that and hoped Sanji was home anyways. He left his shoes on, called out a rather obscene nickname for his roommate, and didn't get an answer.

Zoro stood in front of the kitchen doorway. His shoes were drenched in muddy rainwater that was staining the rug.

The kitchen was empty.

He swore. His shoulders hunched on their own.

Sanji wasn't here, and he didn't want to be alone at this particular moment, not after what happened earlier. He swore again, a soft hiss between trembling teeth. He told himself they were trembling from the cold, but he could feel the tight tension, spreading from his shoulders and all throughout his chest. He dug into his pocket forcefully, and nearly tore his cell phone in two when he ripped it open.

He hit the send button for the first contact that he scrolled over and then it was ringing hollowly against the silence that engulfed the rest of the house, and then there was a voice echoing through the speaker, and Zoro realized that the phone wasn't even against his ear yet and he didn't even know who he had called.

"Zoro? Yo, are you there?"

Zoro heard the deep husk, recognized it, and was suddenly comforted to hear it. He slapped the phone against his ear. Pressed it so hard against the shell that it tugged at the piercings decorating it, but he didn't care. He couldn't get the damn voice close enough.

He swallowed the sudden lump that he hadn't noticed gathering in his throat, and finally spoke through a numbness that had been festering for the past month. "Hi Ace." He paused, and the air stayed quiet, breathless for a moment, as if waiting for some fundamental words that were about to be spoken. It made Zoro's breath hitch even harder, until his lungs burned. He let out a strange noise then that sounded neither gruff nor soft.

"Man, are you okay?" Ace asked again, and Zoro could hear him waiting. If anybody could make a noise for waiting, Ace could, because that's just how the other man was. Patient, insistent, protective, practical. Ace was practical, and that was something Zoro wasn't, and probably couldn't ever be, because Zoro just stuck with the first notion that popped into his head that sounded like a reasonable solution and he was done with it. Zoro was rash. He was rash like Ace's little brother. And he didn't want to think about Luffy right now, because Luffy was a little brother, and he couldn't bear the thought of thinking about brothers… especially not…

Zoro's bottom lip began trembling then, and his stomach turned. Zoro suddenly couldn't say anything. He didn't want to think about it. "Where are you?" He forced out into the phone. His voice sounded strange. It sounded too loud. It sounded almost dead.

He heard Ace pause again. "I'm at home, just chillin' with Luffy. Where are you?"

Zoro sucked in a sharp breath, and made up some half-assed excuse. "I'm getting ready to go out. Sanji's not home, and I'm hungry," He lied, his stomach turned again. His fingers twitched against his cell when he gripped it too tight. "Want to meet up and grab a bite?" He forced himself to say, pleading with his voice to sound casual, and indifferent, and normal.

He failed miserably.

"Sure. Sure. That sounds great. Do you want me to come pick you up?" Ace answered, and Zoro knew that Ace knew something was up. Ace knew him too well.

"Yeah," he nearly whispered, "thanks."

"We'll be there in ten minutes." Zoro heard breath against his ear. He was having trouble focusing on the words anymore. "Zoro, hang in there." The last part was a mumble, before muted silence breathed back at him from the other line, and then Zoro could hear someone else breathing heavily against the silence that was still surrounding him. The realization that his own breaths were the ones he heard startled him badly. He started walking, trying to suppress a lot of emotions at once, letting his feet carry him on autopilot. He doubled over halfway into the living room, hyperventilating, and trying to catch his breath.

His eyes caught a framed picture of his group of friends on the low end table by the couch. It made him want to scream. Breathing heavily, he launched himself at the table with the frame, and slammed it facedown. He heard the sound of glass crunching, the sound of the frame splintering, and he didn't dare to pick it back up. He couldn't stand to see that little face smiling back at him right now. Not when it wasn't real. And Zoro knew that… well… Chopper wasn't smiling now. He wasn't, and so it seemed wrong in a way to look at something that seemed so fucking happy! He left the picture alone, took a step back and kicked the end of the couch. It made his foot throb. Zoro swallowed his pain, and hurried to leave before he broke something else. He rushed through the foyer and out the door, leaving his wallet behind, next to the empty mail rack. Zoro didn't leave a note, even though it wasn't likely that he'd beat Sanji home again, and that would leave his roommate to wonder where he ran off to. But it didn't really matter anyways.

Right now he just wanted to drink away absolutely everything.

Outside, it was raining even harder now. Zoro welcomed the water as it washed over him, sticking his clothes to his body like a second or third skin. It felt like a cold shower, and he suddenly wished he could take a real cold shower, in the privacy of his own bathroom. He would be able to stand under the body-numbing spray and scream his lungs out, but he didn't know where he left his damn keys. He didn't remember grabbing them on the way outside. He slowly convinced himself he couldn't get back into the apartment. He didn't think his legs could carry him back up to the third floor anyways.

Ace pulled up to the curb exactly 14 minutes later. It could have been an hour, and Zoro wouldn't have noticed the tardiness. He was currently hunched over on the curb, looking between his knees at the rainwater swelling in the gutter beneath them.

"Zoro! Hey, sorry we're late! Ace said we had to stop at all the red lights, and they all turned red, except for one." Luffy was calling out the car window when Zoro looked up, catching the younger man's grin, blinding even in this dreary weather.

It made Zoro's insides ache to see such a happy smile. It made him feel like he was melting from the inside out. He didn't even try to smile back at Luffy, knowing he couldn't manage it. He wanted to turn around and run back into the house, fall into his bed, and just sleep away this day. Maybe everything would turn into a dream that he could wake up from. He caught Ace's eyes, from the driver's side, peering out at him. The way they stared back at him, all-knowing, and burning a hole through Zoro's forehead forced the reality of the situation to knock Zoro in his ribcage.

He stood up, winded, and made his way towards the car's back door. Ace had a large jeep-type thing that Zoro didn't remember the name of. Cars weren't really his thing, but he liked Ace's car. It was comfortable, and spacious, and Zoro didn't mind sitting in the back. He could just stare out the tinted windows, and lean his head back, and enjoy the smooth ride.

The moment he got in, he felt bad. He was soaked from sitting out in the pouring rain. He felt his light jacket sticking to his arms, and felt trickles of water dripping from his hair. The drops ran down his face, dropping off his nose and chin, and landing on his pants below.

A towel draped over his head a second later and he rubbed it through his hair subconsciously before folding it between his fists. He looked up when he felt eyes on him and found himself locking gazes with four deep brown orbs. Luffy's innocent, raw stare on the right and Ace's seasoned, more experienced gaze on the left. "Where do you wanna go?" The softer eyes asked. Zoro flinched at the genuine curiosity. His heart tickled strangely, as it always did around Luffy. The boy had always had that effect on him, from the first time Zoro met him. When Luffy was with him, he felt strangely powerless and powerful all at the same time. Luffy made Zoro feel like he had the power to choose everything and have it. It was a weird feeling, one that was acquired over time. Except tonight, Zoro felt like fate was forcing his hand, and he couldn't get the cards right. He looked back at Luffy, wishing those eyes would never have to experience anything that could make them hard or sad or angled.

"You pick," he spoke fondly, and his friend's smile finally made him turn away, towards the prodding eyes on the left. He heard Luffy began chattering a mile a minute towards the windshield, talking mostly to himself, and Zoro's half-smile that had formed against his will, started to slip.

He fixed his older friend with a cautious look and shifted his knees. His wet pants left the leather seats a little bit darker where they had been pressed. Zoro grew still under Ace's hardy gaze, he felt warm and strangely hot under the lingering coal brown stare, and finally his voice was spilling over his lips, overflowing like water in a gutter without a storm drain.

"He flat lined again." Zoro spoke softly, gravely. Ace reached over and placed a heavy hand on one of Luffy's shoulders. The younger boy's shoulder's stopped rumbling with laughter, and he suddenly looked back at his friends. Zoro watched as Luffy's eyes clouded slightly, and everything went still too fast. It made him feel like he was choking. "Code blue…" Zoro tapered.

"Christ," Ace muttered. It sounded like a prayer.

Luffy reached up, and Zoro saw him grip his brother's hand that was digging into his shoulder and hold on to it. He wished his own little brother would hold his hand. He wanted nothing more than to feel that little hand squeeze his back. It would be the best feeling in the world, he thought, because he hadn't felt anything close to that in months.

"He'll live, Zoro." The conviction in Luffy's voice tore Zoro's heart in two. The hope in those words made Zoro want to believe him so badly. So, so badly.

The machines will only keep his heart beating, Luffy. Was what Zoro wanted to choke out, but couldn't.

The weird draining feeling in his chest returned. He crossed his arms tightly against his stomach and stared between the two brothers towards the dashboard.

"I really need a drink, guys." He said at last, his breath was a quiet, empty woosh.

Ace nodded, and Zoro saw him turn back to the road, flipping the signal light so he could pull out into traffic. Zoro noticed how Luffy kept his grip on Ace's hand, even as the older man had to tug it in different directions to turn the steering wheel. And then Zoro felt a hand on his own, and saw Luffy reach around the other side of his seat. Luffy's fingers curled around his palm. He held back, even though it was at an awkward angle for them both.

Zoro blinked and felt more water drip down his face, and he was confused for a moment, because he was so sure the rain from his hair had dried.

"Put. On. Your fucking. Seatbelt."

The words were a hiss over tobacco-flecked teeth. A hiss of words that Zoro did not want to question or ignore. He pulled the seatbelt across himself and snapped it into place without even a grumble.

It was late. Much too late to be in some car in the middle of a downpour, driving down a middle-of-somewhere highway, but much-too-early to have a throbbing headache that already felt like a hangover from hell and it was only 2:14 in the morning, if the glowing numbers on the dashboard were set correctly.

His roommate had just picked him up from a shoddy bar in a not-so-friendly part of the city, and from the look on the other man's face, Zoro didn't think he was too happy to be in this particular situation at this particular hour in the morning. The other man had probably been asleep, Zoro guessed. The fleece pajama bottoms and tousled hair of the usually pedantic man told Zoro that he was probably right in his assumption. The rare appearance of the prescription glasses perched on the blonde's nose told him he was definitely right in his assumption, so Zoro didn't really need to assume anything in the first place.

It was a fact that Sanji was woken up at god-awful-thirty in the morning in order to come and haul Zoro's stupid ass back to their flat, because Sanji was a better friend than Zoro deserved, even if the two would never admit their friendship aloud. And Sanji had probably had a long day at work, to boot. So he was probably more pissed off than Zoro originally thought he was, and it sort of left him feeling achy somewhere inside his chest, a little to the left, because he secretly wanted someone he could turn to in his time of need, even if it were only his roommate.

But Sanji wasn't there earlier, and Zoro wasn't sure how bitter he could righteously feel about it.

He wasn't drunk enough to feel any certain way about it.

His time with Ace and Luffy hadn't left him feeling anything but absolutely even more awful. The evening had flown by with too-loud-music, overpriced liquor, and loud laughter that was meant to cheer him up, but in reality did nothing but piss him off.

Luffy had been consumed with hunger the moment they got there, and Ace kept falling asleep because he did that when he got too stressed, and so Zoro was left to drink basically on his own, feeling even more alone that he had back at his empty apartment.

He should have just waited until Sanji got off work, and took a cold shower instead.

Zoro pressed himself further back into the leather of his seat, foolishly trying to maybe sink inside it or something. He didn't know. He just knew that he wanted to disappear, because he was suddenly angry. He was angry at the doctors, and angry at his friends for not letting him have more to drink, and he was mad at the rain and the way it made him feel like it was okay to leak water from various parts of his face, and he was practically livid with himself for being so incredibly useless. If angry wasn't enough, on top of all that anger he was feeling guilty every time he got a look from Sanji's eyes peeking above the rim of his glasses.

But he was supposed to be mad at Sanji. He wasn't supposed to be feeling guilty towards Sanji. He wished he didn't have to feel anything at all. Ever.

He felt suddenly interestingly small. He felt minuscule, and unwell, and not at all right with the world. The way things had turned, so viciously, so quickly. So unfair. Zoro was left with a bad taste in his mouth, maybe a little more potent than the lingering flavor of cheap wine. Really cheap wine. Even he could tell, and he drank days-old beer that was stale and open and lingering around the living room coffee tables because his roommate couldn't seem to swallow the shit, even after opening it.

Sanji would sip it. He'd sip a beer, and leave it on the coffee table and it was so completely wrong and wasteful and silly. And Zoro'd end up picking up the stale beer the next day or the next week and finishing it for him, because the bastard wouldn't know a good buzz from a bad buzz.

That was the flavor he tasted now. The flavor of rotten, disappointing, wastefulness.

His head dropped against the car window with a thud. He didn't like the windows nearly as much in Sanji's car as he did in Ace's car. There was no tint to them, so when he stared out, everything was just how it was, and there was nothing at all to hide behind. Not that Zoro would ever think of hiding behind anything. No sir. He felt Sanji watching him from behind the glasses that the blonde never wore, that he refused to wear in public, and turned his head slightly.

"What's wrong with you?"

Zoro flinched. The sudden question caught him off guard.

"Nothing. Just watch the road, not me."

Silence lapsed into a thickness, pooling around them, like the mud that was slowly caking the car tires.

Zoro's dark eyes watched warily out the front windshield as the rain splashed noisily against its' surface over the swishing sound of the wiper blades. His eyes followed their steady rhythm back and forth. A rock song that made his head tremble was humming through the speakers, but he didn't move to change the station or ask the driver to change the station, so he let it play and listened to the monotonous lyrics and drums and the ever falling pitter patter of rain against glass and metal and pavement as they drove.

"Care to tell me why you left your key jammed in the lock outside the apartment?"

Sanji's voice joined the mix of mingled obnoxious sounds buzzing around inside Zoro's head. Shit. Did he really leave his key in the lock? So that's where he left it. He hadn't been locked out after all. He could have gone back home. He should have. Zoro didn't answer Sanji. He didn't know what to say.

"We could have been robbed, you jackass." There was a faint hiss, and the obnoxious stink of cigarette smoke that made his stomach turn filled the air around him.

Zoro stared harder out the glass, peering through the haze of smoke, watching silhouettes of dark houses and streetlamps drifting past beyond their sidewalk barrier. "Crack a window." He requested.

"Maybe after you crack out some damn explanations," Sanji spat, his voice was a hum between teeth that were biting hard on something. "Why don't you tell me why there was shattered glass all over the coffee table, hm?"

Zoro frowned deeper, eyes shifting from the wiper blades to the driver in the seat next to him. His expression was hidden in the shadows of the dark car, but the sad smirk on his lips was highlighted by the glowing butt of ashes that was stuck between them.

"Or maybe explain why you got calls from your boss asking why you never showed up for your shifts tonight?" The cook's face turned in Zoro's direction again. "You're starting to worry people, bastard."

Zoro grimaced. He never showed up for work. He forgot he was even scheduled. Now he would have to explain that one away. How many people could Zoro afford to blow off because of this stupid situation? How many people would keep giving him another chance, before they gave up on him entirely? At what point would his excuses peter out? His breath caught in the back of his throat again. How many more times could he force himself to keep showing up to that fucking hospital, and looking down at that little face in that big bed before he finally wouldn't be able to handle it anymore and had them pull a fucking plug?

Zoro curled a brittle fist and raised it to his window, fogging up the glass where it pressed.

"Hey, what's wrong?" The question was posed again.

Zoro's eyes drifted sideways like slow crocodiles, zooming in one at a time on the pale face in the car next to him. "You asked that already."

"You never answered me."

"Why do you think there's anything wrong?"

"Because you're being more irresponsible than usual, and because you're drunk, and you aren't talking to me. You always talk to me when you're drunk."

"I've only had a few beers," Zoro said softly, the words seemed tender against the base of his throat. "And I don't get drunk. 'Sides, there's nothing to tell."

Blue eyes and blonde hair studied him then, and he took another drag from that cigarette. The one whose smell was making Zoro feel carsick. He moved to press the small button just above the door handle and forced the window down a crack.

"If there's nothing to tell, then why did I have to come and drag your ass back home in the middle of the fuckin' night?"

"You didn't have to come, I could have walked home just fine."

"Oh please." Sanji scoffed, "It would probably take you until dawn to find the apartment with your sense of direction." His remark was cruel. It made Zoro sink a little lower in his seat. He watched as Sanji pulled the cigarette from his lips and flicked the butt through the ever-widening window crack on Zoro's side of the car. "And leave the shitty window up. It's cold."

Zoro listened carefully to the bite in Sanji's words, and did as he was told; rolling up the car window with the other side of the automatic button that he'd been holding his finger against. He felt strangely powerless to defy Sanji's order. But now, without the cold, wet air blowing in his face, he felt the stuffiness of the air between them instead. It made him feel even sicker. It made him feel like he was suffocating.

"Stop the car." Zoro heard his voice mutter then, surrounding them and cutting off the silence, even though he didn't remember speaking. He didn't feel his lips moving until the words had already been said.

Sanji was looking at him again, with the same, unamused face that Zoro had first got in the car with.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" The blonde barked, and Zoro recoiled like he'd been slapped, and he felt his head bounce against the car window and he left it there, skin pressing into the cold, rain-soaked glass, because he felt entirely too hot and the car was too stuffy with the heater going like it was.

Sanji was wearing a tank-top, he noticed. It looked a lot less suffocating than the leather jacket that Zoro's own arms were burrowed into. He tugged at the sleeves, not knowing which way to pull them, just uselessly tugging. Sanji was watching him again, and watching the road, and watching him, and Zoro knew that Sanji had a lazy eye so he wasn't sure how he could be watching both of them at the same time.

"Stop the car." He pleaded, "Please." His breath was heaving now, and he hadn't meant to say such a manner-filled word.

"Fucking hell." He heard Sanji swear, loudly. The car was suddenly swerving in a sickening, impatient lurch towards the side of the road, and the blonde had jerked his heel down on the brake pedal so fast that Zoro felt the seatbelt catch him and press harshly into his stomach before easing back again. Zoro shuddered uncomfortably in his seat. "If you're going to throw up, do it outside!" Sanji told him. Yelled at him.

Zoro sat back, feeling the bluntness of his own fingernails digging themselves into his own kneecaps. He sat still and rigid, and saw Sanji out of the corner of his eye turn away from him, as if in disgust. As if Zoro was such a big pain in his ass. Which he probably was. Most likely. He didn't know if the achy feeling in his chest was all in his head or not, but he felt it throb a little harder now.

"You didn't have to come get me." Zoro rumbled, the deepness of his voice resounding above the pounding rain.

Zoro watched the blonde man grip the steering wheel, "And what am I supposed to say to your drunk ass when you call me at nearly two in the morning from a bathroom stall asking for a ride, huh?"

"I didn't make that call." Zoro protested. And he hadn't. Ace had hit the speed dial for number 3 on his cell phone and it sort of just ended up calling Sanji's cell.

Sanji gave him a look.

"You could have said "no"." Zoro responded, his eyes were large and distant now, like he was having trouble recognizing where he was. Sanji didn't say anything else.

Rain did the talking again, and they both sat in the silence that boiled them from the inside out, Zoro was sure one of them would crack before too long. Sanji didn't disappoint him.

"Okay, shithead, listen." And Zoro listened, because there wasn't much else to choose to listen to except the rain raping the car roof, or Sanji's vocal chords vibrating. "Are you stoned? High? On some shit acid trip? Because I don't believe you're just drunk anymore." Sanji's voice sounded forcibly calm, like he was trying hard not to smack the head off of a little kid that just colored all over expensive wallpaper, and Zoro didn't really know what answer he wanted to hear. Because he'd already told Sanji he hadn't had enough to drink to be drunk, and the blonde didn't believe him. And he didn't know why.

The anger he was feeling before intensified tenfold. Because he felt like no one was listening to him. And the world seemed suddenly so unfair.

Zoro turned his attention out the car window, at the reflective pieces of tape that were stuck against the cement barrier on the roadside. They glistened back at him from a distance where Sanji had his headlights shining on them. The shine made his heart beat faster, reminded him of bright lights that hurt his head to even think about. Bright lights over Chopper's bed, and doctors poking and prodding, and needing more and more bright lights to see… It hurt his eyes to see them.

"Zoro," Sanji's growl turned into a sigh. "I'm tired. I want to go home. Why are we stopped here?"

Zoro's fingers probed harder against his knee, digging into the skin there. He clenched his teeth, thinking it rude that Sanji sounded so put-out by all of this. Like he was blaming Zoro for something, when it wasn't even his fault to begin with. "Then just go the fuck home then!" He roared, and he saw Sanji's jaw drop as if he were suddenly trapped in a tight space with a lunatic.

"You're the one that asked me to stop, Idiot!" Sanji sneered, once his jaw had slackened a little less. "I thought you were sick or something."

"Well maybe I am!" Zoro yelled impatiently, and his eyes flashed scarily in the side view mirror when the lightning lit up the sky above them. His breath was fogging the window. "Maybe I am." He repeated, a little calmer. A little more defeated. The anger he felt was being suppressed by the sudden extreme sadness he felt. He paused, tucking his chin a little more towards his chest.

"Maybe." He caught Sanji's gaze on the car air vents. "Maybe I needed someone to…" Zoro trailed, because he didn't know what else to say, or how much of it could actually be kept secret. This would have been so much easier if he'd had another few dozen shots of whiskey or even another half-can of Bud Lite.

Zoro suddenly felt the heat shift off of him when Sanji turned the vents downwards, pointing their air flow towards the floor. "What happened?"

Zoro laced his fingers across his thigh, wanting intensely to say nothing at all. Wanting to forget about it, but he couldn't push the thought out of his mind. And so he touched his tongue to his teeth and whispered the simple name that had been on his mind the entire night. "Chop-" He trailed, "Tony," he corrected, using his little brother's given name instead, because it felt more surreal that way. Then he went slack-jawed, as if he couldn't process any more words than that ever again.

He heard the sudden click of Sanji's seatbelt unfastening and the shuffle of the blonde's clothing against polyester interior as he moved around, yanking up the emergency break and twisting the key to shut the car off. If it were possible, there was a silence around them now that was even stiffer than before.

"Oh God, Zoro, did he…?"

There was a question hanging in the air that neither of them would ever finish the words to, and Zoro's vision was suddenly so blurred that he wondered if the downpour had somehow seeped through the car's interior and dripped into his eyes. Instead, he swallowed, and shook his head, slowly at first, and then a little more harshly. As if saying no was the only way to keep it from coming true at all. It felt like a load of denial.

"No, no…" Zoro felt his breath catch, he had to pause.

It was as if the whole world held her breath, and no one spoke until Zoro was able to find his voice again. He felt Sanji's hand on his forearm, grounding him. "They brought him back," He breathed. "But barely. It was close. Too close. And I was there, and I nearly lost it right there. Doctor had to pry me away so they could fucking shock him. He's small. He's so small that each jolt sent him a foot in the air, but they kept giving him more. Doing it stronger. And then he came back, but he didn't wake up. Hasn't woken up yet."

He coughed when he ran out of air, and then continued in a rasp, "It was so close though, Sanji. So close. I thought he was going to… I thought I'd never…"

And Zoro felt Sanji pulling him, and felt his chin collide against the slighter man's neck, and he heard someone panting, their breaths so heavy and harsh and painful. It didn't take him long to realize that he was the one panting, pressed against Sanji like that, and his hands were suddenly fists and they had fistfuls of the blonde's thin shirt. It felt like nothing between his hands and Zoro knew it wouldn't take much to tear it apart if he tried.

It didn't take much to tear anything apart. And that was the ironic truth.

"They wanted me to make a choice. To pull a plug." Sanji skipped a few breaths. He could feel the cook's heartbeat against his own. "I'm not drunk." Zoro whispered. "I'm not okay." Zoro admitted, and he felt Sanji's arms squeezing around him a little tighter, felt his grip circling him a little snugger.

"You don't have to be yet."

They sat like that for a few minutes in silence. Zoro watched the dashboard clock's hour change to a 3 before shifting. He felt himself shivering, and wondered how he'd turned from feeling so unbearably warm to so bone chilling cold.

"Ace didn't think it was a good idea for me to be alone tonight." Zoro mouthed against Sanji's shoulder. His words became garbled.

"I'm sorry." Sanji apologized then, and Zoro had no idea why. "I was such a jerk before." He shook his head again, causing the blonde's hold to loosen.

"Don't be. I know you had a long day. I knew you'd be asleep, but Ace and Luffy had started drinking, and they can't hold their liquor, and no one else was around…"

"No, shhh." Sanji soothed. "I never knew you could ramble. Just hush. I should've remembered you went to the hospital today. I should have figured."

Zoro swallowed hard. It felt like he'd swallowed the entirety of Sanji's shirt. His throat felt full and constricted. "You want to know the hardest part of loving somebody?" He gasped. And his voice shook. He hated the way it shook.

"Hm?" Sanji made a kind, patient, noise in the back of his throat. Zoro was almost sure it was meant to comfort him, but he didn't know what kind of noise he needed to hear to get through the numbness he was feeling now.

He could only whisper the words that were left bleeding on his tongue. "Knowing you'll miss them when they aren't around anymore."


a/n: D-don't worry! I didn't kill Chopper. t-t That was a little too close to home. Reviews are appreciated.