Author's notes :

Warning #1 : Prepare yourself for a lot of waiting. I know I said I'd never, ever publish something that isn't entirely done. And to be honest, I'm greatly reluctant to do so, even after somehow changing my mind. Also, I'm an advocate of pouring everything onto paper, even if it looks like crap, and spending some time making it readable only after I've reached the final words, which doesn't go too well with posting unfinished stuff online. However, I more or less know where I'm going here, and unfortunately (in a way, because I'm tremendously happy and excited about it), I'm starting school next week, after spending years as part of the working crowd. This will be a very busy year for me, and I don't know when I'll be able to finish this, and I can't possibly wait until my next vacation, so... Here it is. A few chapters are written in advance, but be prepared for potential months of waiting after some point.

Warning #2 : This fic is long. When I'm done, it will be longer than anything I've written until now. As of now, I have 5 chapters done (aside from minor editing). About 10 are planned for now, though this might change.

Warning #3 : This fic is weird. I'm certainly no expert when it comes to fanfics, but I've yet to stumble on a fic such as this one regarding character interaction and pairings (which doesn't mean it doesn't exist, only that I've never seen it). And it makes me feel really insecure about the whole concept. In clearer words : this fic will start as het romance but will slowly slide towards slash, otherwise known as Boy's Love, boyXboy, M/M, yaoi, and probably a few others.

Warning #4 : Zoro might sound OOC to you (after some point, anyway). And he most likely is, but I decided to give him a bigger character arc than what I've gotten used to, as a fanfic reader. I still tried to stick to what I understand of him as much as possible, but there's only so much I can do. Don't hesitate to point out where you feel my characterization is pushing things too far from canon.

Warning #5 : Smut. But if you've read my other fics, you've been expecting it.

Warning #6 : I don't own One Piece. But Zoro owns my heart, to some extent.

Please, R&R. Enjoy~!

ooo

There's a moment, while one is on watch in the crow's nest, when the night is young, despite the fact the sky turned dark some time ago. A moment when the mind is free to wander. In the quiet, warm air surrounding summer islands, everything stands still, and one might feel like reminiscing about places, people they've left behind. Perhaps this recollection will bring a face to one's mind, of the kind they've last seen such a long time ago it now comes out slightly blurry.

Sometimes, that's just what one feels like doing. But not tonight. Tonight is about the present, and about the future. A very near future.

Sitting against the wooden railing, a bottle of sake in his hand and the night sky's horizon in his eyes, Zoro is waiting. His crew-mates have gone to bed a while ago, and the ship, lost in the middle of this terrible, inhospitable, lonely ocean, is strikingly quiet. Especially compared to the usual commotion that takes place during daylight.

The day has been an uneventful one, as much as it could possibly be on the Straw-hat ship. Yes, there was agitation – at some point. Luffy fell into the waters while trying to catch his hat, claimed by a sudden gust of wind. Usopp burst a thing or two. Zoro himself had yet another argument with the shit cook – he can't even remember why, now, which is nothing unusual. Their quarrels always start with meaningless stuff. Not even Nami's screeching at her friends' antics, or her commands, uttered in a loud yet surprisingly steady voice when an unannounced storm engulfed the ship, could really disturb the comfortable, usual routine.

But tonight is his turn to be on watch duty, and he made sure to take a long nap in the afternoon. Right now, he's not sleepy at all.

Sitting in the crow's nest, bathed in moonlight and silence, watching the million stars reflected in the calm waters, occasionally taking a few sips from the sake bottle he snatched from the cook's stock, Zoro is waiting.

He knows she will come. She always does.

There was no deal between them, no agreement. They didn't talk about it beforehand – nor did they afterward. It just ended up happening, as surprising as it might look to any of their crew-mates. But Zoro doesn't think any of them realizes what is happening. And it is fortunate, because it would cause all sorts of problem, if someone did.

True enough, Zoro himself was at a loss when it first started. One day, he found himself involved, not really knowing how it happened, when it really started, or what triggered it. It just happened, like that. And Zoro doesn't like to think about such things, so, he doesn't.

It's difficult, nearly impossible to imagine that anything would happen between them. They didn't get along very well at first, and she made sure he knew where he stood.

True, he's the first mate, and thus, has responsibilities regarding the whole crew. But so has she, and in the end, she's the one leading them through the vast oceans, towards their goal. The captain makes decisions, and after he does, she's basically the one in charge, in a way. Zoro only stands between the two of them, making up for his captain's shortcomings when it comes to self-preservation, and ensuring the people around him are safe when the latter can't.

He merely protects them on their way, while she's leading them towards a great future. Zoro knows he couldn't, that he doesn't have the required abilities to do so, and he admires her for that. Simply put, she is irreplaceable, while Zoro isn't.

In the end, they don't have much in common. It isn't just about the way they interacted, in the beginning. She was – still is – smart and cunning. Everyone on board knows that. Not that she can't fight, but she's physically weak, though he would never think of her as such. Her self-preservation instincts are probably the strongest among the crew, and have been great since she was a child. She could pull through dangerous situations with her wits alone. She has proved that many times since they started their journey.

And in Zoro's opinion, she spends way too much time thinking.

He's the opposite. He doesn't think much, though he doesn't believe he's stupid per se. He prefers observing his surroundings, not willing to restrict his horizon by making hasty judgments. Whatever happens, he knows he could get himself out of it with his strength and skills with swords alone. If he didn't, he wouldn't deserve to become the best swordsman in the world.

They couldn't be more different from one another than they are.

Yet, it happened. Zoro still wonders how it ended up like this. And this time, his swords and strength are useless. He couldn't get out of it, even if he wanted to.

He doesn't really know what he wants.

ooo

It first started after Vivi left the ship. They all missed her, even he did, as well – not that he would ever ramble about it, like his crew-mates. But somehow, he had the gut feeling her absence was harder on her. Vivi had been the only other female on board, it was only natural they ended up being close. Robin wasn't on board for enough time yet to fill in the void, and he noticed, through his silent watching, that she looked a bit sad, when she thought nobody was looking. It was so like her – putting up a front for the world to see, and keeping her troubles to herself, even though she was surrounded by people who cared about her.

Which is why he was very surprised, to say the least, when she joined him, one night, as he was sitting alone in the crow's nest during his watch.

She had climbed up there, and silently sat opposite from him, against the wooden railing. She said she couldn't sleep, and asked if he minded that she stayed with him for a bit. He shrugged, indicating he didn't. She had brought a few bottles, and handed one to him.

"Thanks."

He uncorked it in a deft flick of his wrist, and gestured to exchange it with her for another, still unopened one. She raised an interrogative eyebrow, before understanding what he meant.

"Don't bother. I've got a bottle-opener with me."

After opening her own bottle, she started sipping on it, while he had already drunk about half of his in long, greedy gulps. Beer. Not his favorite thing,but not bad either. He felt her eyes on him while he was wiping his mouth on his wrist. He let the arm holding the half-empty bottle fall to rest against his thigh, and stared back.

"What?"

"Nothing." She sighed, as if to prove him right, despite her denial.

They sat silently in the quiet, barely warm night, finishing their bottles, and then a couple more each, until there were none left. He glanced at her when she sighed again. Her cheeks seemed slightly flushed because of the drinking – then again, it was hard to tell in the pale moonlight. He knew she could hold her alcohol very well, so he wasn't worried about her being drunk, or even tipsy. He averted his eyes when she glanced back at him, not willing to seem like he was openly prying. Despite what the stupid cook used to say, he had some manners, though he was ready to admit to himself that they might be slightly unpolished and rough. And contrary to that shit-head, he knew what privacy and personal space were about.

"You now..." She started pensively. "I used to like being on watch. The ship is always full of noise and agitation, and it felt like a nice change of pace." She paused. "It's so quiet right now."

They fell silent again. She was sitting cross-legged, a hand resting on her knee, absentmindedly brushing her thumb against her bare skin. He was waiting for her to go on, resting his head against the wooden planks in his back, somehow knowing she wasn't done.

"But lately, it feels awfully lonely. I hate it when it's that quiet."

His eyes turned back to her at these words. She was looking at the floor, her eyes almost closed, as if she was about to fall asleep, but her deceivingly pretty face looked a little forlorn. Yet, Zoro knew he wasn't good with comforting people, so he said nothing.

Minutes passed in silence, until she started chuckling. Zoro raised an interrogative eyebrow at her.

"It's weird, but you know, in the end, you're the only quiet one in this crew. It's kinda comforting to know I can be around you and still enjoy the silence."

He narrowed his eyes a bit. Was that a compliment, or a disguised insulting comment?

"Maybe that's why I'm here." She added after a couple seconds. "I knew you would listen, and nothing more."

Oh. So that's how it was.

He settled on answering with a noncommittal grunt. They fell back into silently enjoying each other's company, for all it was worth. He soon found himself closing his eyes, not really dozing off, but not far from doing so either.

"It's a bit cold."

Her voice was muffled and shaky. He opened an eye, and saw she was indeed shivering, holding her chest tightly and rubbing her arms to recover a little warmth. He sighed, and threw the blanket he had brought with him, just in case, in her direction. She needed it more than he did. He then closed his eyes, and resumed napping.

However, after a couple minutes, she started complaining again.

"I'm still cold."

Her voice held a faint reproachful tone, and he idly wondered why. That woman was annoying. What did she want him to do about it? What could he do anyway?

He heard her standing up, and thought she was leaving for the much warmer galley, or maybe her bed. He didn't even bother opening his eyes.

When he felt something warm pressing against him, however, he opened them and glance downwards. She was sitting next to him, pressing her arm against his, the blanket snug around her shivering frame. She let out a shaky sigh, and rested her head on his shoulder. That unusual contact made his heartbeat race a bit.

What the hell? He usually endured Luffy's touchy-feely demeanor stoically, but Nami wasn't like that. She rarely initiated physical contact with anyone, unless there was a good reason – and certainly not with him, because there was none. Ever. Why was she doing that, now? Was there a reason? He didn't know how to react. It was strange.

It struck him, and he stopped breathing for a split second when he realized it. There was, indeed, something he could do for her, and the implied reproach in her voice, earlier, led him to think that she'd had it in mind since the beginning. The booze, the complaining about the cold. The implied plea for comfort. It finally made sense, but what was she thinking? They were crew-mates. This was a bad idea. And why him, when the shitty cook would be more than pleased to oblige?

Well, he wasn't the ero-cook, and he certainly wouldn't do so. It was his duty to protect the crew, even if it was from themselves. He had to make sure they kept in check. So, he sat there awkwardly, stiff as a poker, and, unable to keep looking at her, he focused on the wooden floor, trying to ignore the warmth from her body, which he could feel, seeping through their respective clothing.

As he felt her shifting slightly against him, he had to refrain from umping. Before he could prevent it, his eyes fell on her again, and, realizing she was snuggling against him, he thought he'd better send her away, the sooner the better. He opened his mouth to tell her she should go to bed, but with a single look at her face, turned to him, her chin resting lightly on his shoulder, the words died on his lips. As if she knew what he was about to say, there was a silent plea to let her stay in her eyes.

She looked so small, so vulnerable all of a sudden, that he couldn't find it in himself to send her away for now. If Zoro was many things, he wasn't that insensitive, especially not to one of his crew-mates' obvious display of loneliness. But what to do, now? She was obviously seeking something, possibly of the kind he wouldn't let himself offer. But he wouldn't leave her like that, even though he was bad at providing any kind of comfort. Did she really mean what he thought she did, anyway?

Oh well. He gave up thinking about it, which was a waste of time. He guessed he could provide mild, mediocre comfort, at best. It was her fault for asking the wrong person, anyway. All he could do was helping her as much as he could – as much as he would dare. He would make sure things wouldn't get complicated.

Sighing exaggeratedly, he scratched his head, and raised the arm that was squeezed between them, trying his best to make the gesture look natural, not too awkward, before letting it fall back on her shoulders.

She fumbled with the blanket to wrap it over them both, and pressed herself closer. He realized he had made a mistake when, a moment later, he felt her hand brushing faintly against his knee, soon sliding toward his inner thigh. Well, that was it. It proved that this was definitely what she had in mind from the start, and he had followed through with her plan willingly, though quite naively. He cursed inwardly at himself for his lack of foresight. Seeing her so vulnerable had made him forget how manipulative she could get when she wanted something. And what she wanted, she usually got.

Her hand was now sneaking further along his thigh, and she slightly turned her head, her nose and lips brushing almost accidentally against his neck. He nearly gasped at this soft, faintly moist touch. His face started to feel very warm at the thought of the place her hand was headed, and he knew he was starting to react positively to her slow gestures.

This was wrong. This was a bad idea. A bad, bad idea. A tremendously bad one. Definitely. Not to mention he was also kind of bad at these kind of things, anyway. Well, not really bad, but not good either. He wasn't conceited enough to think his meager experience in that field made him more than awkwardly qualified in bed.

Yet, at the sensation of her warmth against him, of her faint touch, he couldn't prevent his mind from wandering a bit. When was the last time...? He reckoned it last happened months ago. They were nakama, and doing this might cause all kinds of problems later, he mused, but they were both reasonable adults, weren't they? And this was just physical comfort, nothing more.

No. This was still a bad idea. Knowing she wouldn't stop before she got what she wanted, he closed his eyes, breathed deeply, trying to keep unwanted thoughts and urges in check, and braced himself. He was strong, and this was just another kind of fight. He wouldn't concede that easily.

She must have felt him tense, because moments later, her hand left his thigh, much to his relief. She sighed deeply, and snuggled closer to him.

Strangely, it was that considerate gesture that overthrew him. Yes, he felt relieved at first, but there was also something else he couldn't really pinpoint. He tried thinking about it. She was always nagging at him, rambling about his ever increasing debt, complaining he was an idiot, and other similar epithets. And yet, she had just taken his feelings into consideration, which she never did before. Was it that sudden disparity with her usual demeanor towards him that caused this warm, foreign sensation in his chest? Did he feel grateful that she had, for once, listened to what he wanted?

He didn't need to put a name on that strange, fond feeling yet. It was destabilizing enough as it was.

He shot a glance at her, and she was looking at him. Their eyes met, and he felt something in his chest lurch. The look in her eyes, overshadowed by her long eyelashes, struck him as peculiarly intense and resolute. Slightly sad, too. She looked paler than usual in the moonlight. Her lips were slightly parted, and she licked them absentmindedly, not averting her gaze from his. He felt her hand reaching for his own, resting on her hip, and pressing it softly.

A silent plea.

His arm tightened around her waist unconsciously, as the realization that she had already made her mind slowly sank into him. He felt a slight headache creep behind his eyeballs, while his brain was trying to sort through an unusual avalanche of thoughts and emotions. She knew what she wanted, and knew that he knew, but also that he was reluctant to comply, because he was supposed to look out for each member of this crew. Which meant he had to protect them, from themselves if necessary. Who was he protecting here, anyway? She wanted – needed – comfort. He could feel that, even though she hadn't voiced it specifically. Her very actions tonight proved it without a doubt. She had also shown that she respected his reservation about it. Was he protecting her, arbitrarily deciding not to give her what she asked for? Wasn't he making things harder for her?

He was starting to feel sorry for her, and for himself, as he realized there was no easy way out of their current situation. He also felt a bit guilty for not trusting her as much as she, obviously, trusted him.

Damn, why does it have to be so confusing?

She was destabilizing him, triggering him into thinking much more about it all than he was used to. It made him feel utterly lost, and he hated it.

Stop thinking so hard about it and just do something.

It was decided, then.

He slightly pressed her hand back, his eyes still intent on hers. His lips parted, and he lowered his head slowly towards hers, tightening his hold around her waist. He drew his lips to hers cautiously, testing the waters before proceeding further. But she parted her lips, pressing his slightly between them. He obliged instinctively, before he could even think about it, closing his eyes, and losing himself in the foreign sensation of her warm, smooth tongue invading his mouth.

Moments later, he was kissing her a lot more eagerly, his tongue diving into her mouth, fingers intertwined with her ginger hair, pressing her against his chest. Mixed emotions were still lingering in his gut, as well as his doubts, but he let himself fall forward. He wanted to give her whatever she needed, even if it came back to haunt him in the morning.

He also realized he now wanted this, probably as much as she did.

Soon, they were lying on the wooden floor. He was supporting himself on his left forearm, her head resting there, his free hand gliding along her hip and a leg between hers. Said hand soon reached there to brush against her inner thighs. Her skin was smooth, as much as he had thought it would be, on the rare occasions he had let his mind wander in such a risky direction. Her body felt warm against his, and she smelled good – sweet and foreign, undeniably feminine – and she didn't look like she wanted to stop. He felt her whimpering almost helplessly against his mouth when he reached up her shorts. It made him feel wild, his earlier urges vengefully rushing back. His thinking ability overridden by his senses, desire getting more pressing as her hand crept up his shirt, he jerked both her shorts and underwear down, before sliding an almost wavering, yet not-so-tentative finger between her thighs. He felt her legs tensing around his hand as he dived within the wet, velvety place.

It was too late to look back and turn away, now. Not when her small, nimble hand was sneaking under his haramaki, inside his pants, deliciously brushing against his cock, fully erect and ready to go. He heard himself groan faintly against her collarbone, where his tongue was now tracing wet trails, when she slightly pressed it between her slender fingers. She soon proceeded to slide his pants, including his underwear, down his hips. He started grinding against her, and she languorously spread her legs further, submitting too the heating, pressing momentum that was occurring between them. She grabbed him and led him inside with a trembling hand.

He entered her, taking his time, eyes scrunched and eyebrows tightly knitted, savoring the delicious heat and friction as he delved deeper and deeper inside her in slow, successive shallow thrusts. When he was fully buried inside her, he stopped moving and sighed. It had been way too long since the last time he shared that kind of intimacy with anyone, and he didn't trust himself to go on yet. He opened his eyes, and found her looking at him, her gaze unreadable. He surprised himself as he raised a hand to her face and brushed a few stray ginger locks in an unusually tender gesture. When she sneaked a hand around his neck and motioned to bring him closer, he rested his elbows on each side of her head, and leaned down to brush his lips against hers, before kissing her urgently, in a more passionate fashion than earlier.

Maybe he wasn't that bad at comforting people, after all.

He started moving after a moment. She was tight from arousal, smooth, and extremely wet. It felt good, and he realized it had been far too long since he last took the time to relieve his sexual needs, even by himself. He wanted to fasten the pace, but instead, decided he was going to do this slowly, making sure she got what she needed out of it. He wasn't doing this for his own enjoyment, but because she had asked him. He was doing this for her. So, furrowing his eyebrows and trying to keep what little was left from his composure, he leaned down and started kissing her neck, while playing with her left breast with a hand he willed to be as steady as possible. He would be taking his time.

She sneaked her hand in his hair, holding his head tightly against her collarbone, and sighed softly, brushing her lips against his temple. After a few minutes, she ran the other around his hipbone until it reached the small of his back, applying subtle pressure so he would delve deeper within her. The more he kept going, the wetter, the tighter she was getting. He felt shivers of pleasure running along his spine. Did she have any idea of what she was doing to him? There was no way he would last long enough if she started being greedy. He could already feel pressure building down there, and the telltale tensing sensation at the base of his cock. He had to slow down and concentrate not to let things get out of his control.

She seemed to notice, but didn't relent. As he felt the pressure from her hand in his back increase, he stopped moving. Using his palms as support, he straightened himself and breathed slowly, then opened his eyes – he couldn't remember when he first closed them. He saw she was looking at him, eyes half-lidded and mouth slightly parted. She was panting faintly, and she stretched a hand towards his forehead, covered in a slight sheen of sweat, to brush a few short, stray hair.

"Don't move..." She had barely whispered.

The same hand she used to brush away the hair clinging to his forehead went down, reaching between them. Her pants became a little harsher, as she was touching herself, while he was still inside her. His own breath caught in his throat at the incredibly arousing view she offered, disheveled, eyelids fluttering from intense pleasure, and cheeks burning with a fever that had nothing to do with illness. He hadn't had many occasions to hone his knowledge about sex in the past, but he had to admit this was the sexiest, kinkiest thing he had ever witnessed.

Moments later, she started moving her hips in short, erratic moves. Not wasting time pondering about it, he started moving as well. Now even more aroused than he was previously, if that was only possible, he knew he wouldn't last long, and dearly hoped she would come before him, or everything up to now would have been a waste of time and efforts.

As he was doing his best to keep hold of his own tremor, she let out a low, subdued moan. He felt her hand leave the cramped space between them, while the other joined it to grip his ass, raising her hips wildly to meet each of his trusts. He increased the pace and let his forehead rest against her shoulder, now too far gone to keep himself from letting his control slip. He felt her get tighter around him, and tighter, and then even more.

The way her hands were running over his skin, sensitive from all the arousal he felt, the way she was almost whimpering against his neck, biting there to avoid being too loud, it was all too much. The tip of his cock was burning, while a delicious tension was taking hold of his gut. It felt so good he couldn't possibly apprehend anything in around him anymore, but that narrow, tense space where they were connected. And when she finally reached climax, tensing so violently around him he thought his cock would break, he couldn't hold it any longer.

It felt like an endless moment of stillness, like the world around him had disappeared.

He let out a low, muffled groan, as he thrust inside her, muscles in his back and thighs tensing, reaching as deep as he could, once, a couple more times, then a last. Slowly but surely, the world around him came back, little by little, as he got out of his climax-induced daze.

Breathing unevenly, he braced himself on his elbows and slid out of her, shivering as he did from increased sensitivity, before motioning himself so he could let his body fall next to hers. He rested his forehead on his arm, the other still resting around her waist, trying to settle his erratic breathing. After a few seconds, he lifted his now heavy eyelids, tilting his head to his right to look at her. She laid there, on her back, not trying to move yet, lost in her own afterglow, but he could see the tension from before was absent from her features. He soon felt her small hand reaching for his own and squeezing it.

He took it as her way to thank him for what he had done for her.

Falling rapidly in a deep, sated sleep, he barely felt her sit up and reach for the blanket, before covering them both, and nestling herself against him. He wanted to thank her for that considerate gesture, for he had started shivering moments earlier, but couldn't find the energy to get it himself.

Later, as he was asleep, he almost felt the pleasant sensation of fingers brushing his hair, and heard words, faintly whispered in his ears, but he couldn't tell if this was real, or a dream.

ooo

When he woke up, it was still dark, and he was alone.