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I do not love you by comparison.
It isn't borne of desperation, pride, or pain.
I do not need you for counsel, release.
I do not dream of you to alter you or your words.
I do not follow you because I am weak.I follow you so that I might go too.
I dream of you, and know reality is better.
I need you because I choose to.
I love you because I do.
It's simpler.

- Of These Things I Am Sure, Annie Jane

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A.N. This is a gift for my friend, the wandering swordsman. It was her birthday a few days ago. Hope you like it wandering swordsman-san!

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His captain sat on the head of the Merry, sitting with his legs crossed over the other, knees bent so either side had a view of the ocean surrounding them. Zoro wasn't too found of the ocean, preferring to be on land himself. He loved to feel grass beneath his boots, to see trees surrounding him. Now he was filled with blue with the ocean surrounding him.

Luffy loved it. Loved smelling the ocean, he loved being out and exploring new islands, he especially loved that he had a wanted poster. Zoro couldn't say much on the matter, since he had been rather proud of his as well.

Being a pirate wasn't how he imagined his life to turn out, but Luffy had convinced him. When he had been tied up at Shells Island and Luffy had asked to join his crew he remembered thinking to himself that he was not about to become a pirate just become some big brown-eyed kid was asking him to. He certainly wouldn't serve under anyone, much less a kid.

Eventually he did join the crew.

If he had learned one thing about Luffy it was that he was persuasive. One thing he didn't expect from himself was to be ok to serve as a pirate. Not that he was completely against the profession, it was simply because he considered himself to be a self-serving man. He lived to accomplish his dreams and he didn't like the idea of being the second man.

Ironically, he rather enjoyed being the first mate. He grew to like being able to be Luffy's right hand man. He learned to be part of a nakama. Zoro had been used to being alone, travelling by himself, only having work with Johnny and Yosaku form time to time. Being a part of the straw hats was painful at times, with Luffy constantly hurting him, but he followed him either way.

He didn't know when, maybe it was after Usopp joined possibly the shit cook, but he began to have a deeper relationship with his captain. They became lovers while travelling the Grand Line, another thing Zoro didn't expect. The biggest thing he probably liked about travelling with Luffy was the unexpected. With Luffy, there were always surprises at hand.

"Zoro!" Luffy called to him. "Come here! There are dolphins!" he said, his big brown eyes shining with delight, his finger pointing down to the sea where Zoro couldn't see.

"I've seen them before." Zoro shrugged, about ready to take a nap.

"Come on Zoro!"

Zoro made a face. Luffy huffed, then stretched his arm, grabbing Zoro and pulling him towards him. Zoro panicked. "Luffy!" he cried.

It was too late. He crashed right into Merry's head, getting himself a nice bruise because of it. "Luffy you idiot!"

Luffy laughed, ignoring him, showing him the dolphins. "Look!"

He groaned, rubbed at his head and decided to ignore it because really, this wouldn't be the last time this happened to him.

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The sun was really fucking hot. Zoro could feel himself getting a tan. He was also irritated because the cook kept drooling over Vivi and Nami. The man honestly had no shame. He shook his head, turning away from him when he noticed that Luffy was running, a ton of marines behind him.

He was in shock, but also agony. He should have known better than to think Luffy could lie low. Luffy stopped dead in his tracks, noticing Zoro. A huge grin spread across his face, then he called out to Zoro, yelling his name was he greeted him. Zoro wanted to kill Luffy. They had been hiding and he couldn't resist saying hi to him. They fled of course, all pissed off.

"Next time, could you tell your boyfriend not to blow our cover?' Sanji asked him as they ran side by side.

Zoro reminded himself to kill the cook later.

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The stars were out, twinkling against the dark blue sky, like glitter that had been spilled all over it, shining faintly down on their ship. One thing about being out in the ocean was that the night sky was so much clearer. It was beautiful, if a little chilly.

Luffy and Zoro were both naked, lying hip-to-hip out on the crow's nest of the Merry. Their chests were rising and falling with their laboured breathing. The sweat that had dampened their skin was already drying thanks to the cool breeze. Their clothes lay around them, forgotten for now.

The crew was fast asleep, the only reason they had gone out and had sex right on deck. It was risky just because they could have easily scarred any of their crew members, but Luffy was on night watch and Sanji had locked the fridge so no one had a reason to be up, at least, that was the excuse they gave themselves to go with their impulses.

Luffy rolled over, his chin resting in his palm as he looked down at Zoro. "Neh, Zoro, how many people have you been with?"

Zoro smirked, his hand moving to cup his captain's face. His thumb pressed to Luffy's lips. "Just you," he said.

His voice was still hoarse from his previous grunting and yelling when he came. Luffy's lips formed a smile around Zoro's thumb. Luffy moved to settle himself over the swordsman, draping his body with his, head resting on Zoro's shoulder. "Good, I don't like to share."

Zoro's fingers ran through jet-black hair as he hummed, watching the stars. He didn't like to share either.

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Zoro shook his head, wrapping a towel around his dripping wet captain. Even though he was the captain he was the most childish one of the crew. He was shivering from the cold water he had been submerged in, shaking like a leaf, his black locks sticking to his face.

"How do you manage to fall in so often?" Nami scolded, shaking her head as well. Sanji was muttering around his cigarette, mostly upset because his precious Nami-swan had been worried.

Luffy grinned. "There was something shiny, I wanted to see it."

"Shiny?" Nami asked, her eyes turning into beli signs. "Did it look like treasure?"

Luffy shook his head. "Not like that. It was a fish with nice scales."

Nami punched his head for giving her false hope and walked off, making everyone move out of her way before they suffered her wrath as well.

Zoro sighed, sitting next to him. He was soaking wet was well from when he jumped in after him. "You should watch out Luffy, you know you can't swim."

"I don't have to worry. I know you'll come and save me."

Zoro rolled his eyes. "Don't say such stupid things." It was stupid. His captain was relying entirely on the belief that Zoro would always be there. He couldn't always protect his captain, there was no reassurance he would always be there to save his captain. It was foolish to say such things.

"Don't be mean Zoro, it's not stupid to me."

"You shouldn't just assume things like that," Zoro scoffed.

Luffy checked to make sure no one was looking before kissing his check. "Yeah, but I believe in you Zoro."

Zoro felt his face growing hot.

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It was his turn to be on night watch.

He had stolen some booze from the stingy cook when he had been unaware. Zoro sat, drinking bottle after bottle of rum. It bothered him that it didn't burn whenever it went down his throat anymore. He sort of did miss the days when he got a happy buzz. Those days were never coming back it seemed.

The rum was good at least, so he was content with the moment. It was a quiet night, the waves of the ocean slowly rocking against the ship, the smell of salt in the air. Nights were always pleasant to him. The crew was asleep and he rather liked them when they made less noise. He couldn't complain about Robin, she was even more composed than he was, so he could tolerate her for longer amounts of time than say, the witch or the shit cook.

He sighed, leaning his head back against the wooden rails. He yawned, already feeling himself drift. Every time it was his turn to stay up for watch he ended up falling asleep. Of course they all complained about it, whining that if they were to get attacked they would al be screwed but nobody ever stopped him from watching either.

There was a creaking noise, the sound of someone coming up. When he recognized the familiar sound of flip-flops he relaxed. Luffy came up, a blanket bunched up in his arms, his straw hat for once not on his head, his messy black sticking up in all directions, matted down only on one side.

"Couldn't sleep?' Zoro asked him, a small smirk playing on his lips.

Luffy shook his head, moving to sit next to Zoro, throwing the covers over them both. "Nope. Plus I thought I should keep you company."

A smirk played on the swordsman's lips when Luffy nuzzled into his shoulder. "Zoro, let's cuddle," he said, curling on his side, leeching onto him like he needed his body heat to survive.

They stayed quiet like that, neither bothering to talk, comfortable with each other's silence. Zoro was lazily rubbing small circles on his captain's skin, massaging him. When he stopped, Luffy gave a small whine, pushing against his palm and Zoro smirked, continuing to caress him.

"Neh," Luffy said, breaking the silence. "Zoro?"

"What?" he asked, blinking his eyes. He had been close to falling asleep.

"Can you slice the fridge open for me? Or just the lock is fine."

"No. You'll eat all the supplies."

Luffy was silence for a bit, his fingers cupping his chin as he furrowed his eyebrows, deep in thought. "Captain's orders," he said.

"I'm not falling for that baka."

Luffy pouted. "No fair."

Zoro laughed, shaking his head at his captain. He truly was an idiot, but he was his captain. He had been surprised that Luffy had been able to sit quietly for so long without getting bored. As if reading his mind, Luffy suddenly got up, in one of his sudden burst of energy.

He stood, giggling as he faced Zoro. "Hey Zoro, guess who I am." He slid his jean shorts off, leaving the swordsman to stare wide-eyed as he stood only in his underwear. Luffy cleared his throat, before slamming his forearms together over his head and standing at an angle. "Super!" he exclaimed.

"Hmm," Zoro said, rubbing his chin as he cocked his head to the side. "Robin?"

Luffy threw him a look. "I'm Franky!"

Zoro laughed at that. "I'm messing with you." Luffy frowned, stalking towards him. He swatted down on his haunches, regarding Zoro for a bit. Then he reached out, grabbing his harmaki and lifting it over Zoro's head, stripping him of it. "Hey!" Zoro yelped.

Stretching his haramaki, Luffy stepping into it one leg at a time, sliding it up to rest on his hips. He grinned at Zoro as placed his palm on his forehead to lift the hair away from his eyes, making it stick over his head much like Zoro's spiky hair. "I'm Zoro. I drink a lot. I smell like steel."

"Oi." Zoro grunted, furrowing his eyebrows.

Luffy grinned. He narrowed his eyes, making his face scrunch up as if there light in his eyes. "Ah, is it morning yet?"

Zoro stuck out his lower lip. "Ha, ha."

Luffy swatted down so they were eye level again. "I'm messing with you," he grinned.

"Make it up to me." Zoro smirked.

Luffy giggled, craning his neck forward, placing a light kiss on the swordsman's lips. Zoro hummed. "Mm, I think you're going to have to do better than that."

Luffy's smile brightened, leaning in again, kissing him with parted lips, breaking it after he licked Zoro's lips. "Better?"

"Better, but I'm still hurt."

Luffy smiled before pouncing, tackling Zoro to the floor, his arms wrapping around his neck as he landed on the hard wooden floor, kissing him hard, leaving Zoro to gasp for air when they were done.

"How was that?" he asked.

Zoro felt a flush on his cheeks as he grinned up at his captain. "That was good."

Luffy pouted. "Just good?"

"I'm afraid so."

Luffy grinned, closing the distant between them, kissing him again, more than happy to kiss him until his swordsman was satisfied.

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He knew Luffy. He never shared his food. Never offered it anyone. But when they went to an island and Zoro didn't want to go down, Luffy had smiled and said he would share his lunch with him if he came down and went with them.

Zoro didn't go with him because of the offering of food. He went because if his captain was willing to share his beloved food, he was willing to go down and explore the stupid island with him.

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Neither of them ever called it a date, but he supposed that's what it was. Whenever they were on an island Luffy would take them to a restaurant and order everything he could, eating until he bloated to the size of the door. Sometimes even bigger, which was embarrassing because Zoro had to push him out.

While Luffy stuffed himself to the brim Zoro would drink to the point where he received stares from people. But they made it a point to do that at least once every time they reached land. They took turns paying, or sometimes, they would run out. Apparently Ace did that a lot, and it was something Luffy picked up on.

They tried to be honest pirates but sometimes their bill would get out of hand. On their dates they usually they exchanged stories of what happened during their fights when the other wasn't around. Zoro knew about the time Luffy was inside the snake, though he never brought it up, except for the one time he told Luffy he was nothing but trouble. Luffy however, liked to bring up the fact that he had been stuck in a chimney before.

"Zoro you blockhead!"

The other man grumbled. "Get over it."

Luffy laughed harder. "You're such an idiot!"

"I'm the idiot?"

Luffy grinned. "Yes, but I'm the idiot that loves you."

Zoro rolled his eyes. Luffy smirked, bringing the waitress over again and ordered another round of food for himself and ten bottles of hot sake, Zoro's favourite drink.

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It was hard to see past the layer of blood pouring down his face. There was a gash on his temple and blood kept getting in his eyes. He didn't know how he managed to do it, but he always seemed to get himself hurt whenever he fought.

Luffy was holding him up, walking back to the ship. Zoro vaguely remembered the time when they first met and they left the island with Nami, and Luffy had to carry him back as well. He hoped it wouldn't turn into a weird sort of habit between them. He didn't mind defending the crew but he be carried around afterwards was a little embarrassing.

His arm tightened around his captain. "Sorry captain," he said. Luffy had to come in and save him from being killed. He appreciated it, but he felt he should have been better than in some way. He should be stronger than that.

Luffy looked at him. "Don't be sorry," he said. He sighed, looking away. "But I am mad at you. You could have been killed."

His captain was pissed, but he was worried as well. He was frowning, his usually at ease demeanour and smiling face were replaced with a tense short kid who was glaring at Zoro. "I was on the other side of town. What if I didn't make it on time?"

"I wasn't worried about that," Zoro said. Luffy looked at him, raising an eyebrow. "I don't have to worry. I know you'll come and save me."

Luffy's downcast eyebrows relaxed, he was still frowning but he looked away from Zoro, looking straight ahead as he carried him towards the Sunny. "Don't say such stupid things Zoro."

Zoro chuckled, lolling his head to the side to rest on Luffy's temple. "You started it idiot," he grinned. Even past the blood he could see Luffy grinning.

"I mean of course I'll come and save you," Zoro mumbled, walking a little slower. He tended to stalk faster when he was upset. "You're Zoro."

Zoro knew he was wasn't bullshiting or exaggerating like Usopp liked to do when he said he would come and save him on time. He trusted him that much.

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When everyone was passed out - well, after everyone was passed out and he managed to knock out the cook -he was fully intending to die for his captain. He wanted to take care of the crew, keep them safe -even the shit cook - and wanted them all to see their dreams.

He was willing to set down his goal, his promise to Kuina. He knew she would understand. His captain came first. As a first mate, if he couldn't defend and care for his crew while his captain wasn't able to then he was useless as a man. If sacrificing himself was the price to keep them alive he was willing to pay.

Zoro had lived a good life. He had lived, loved, been with his crazy captain, had made even crazier friends, real friends, nakama. Over all, for nineteen years of life, he had lived well, without regrets. Giving his life away to make his captain realize his dream was the honourable thing to do. He knew Luffy would be the Pirate King and he was going to make sure it happened.

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Receiving his captain's pain nearly killed him.

He was truly surprised to be alive after it all.

When he woke, they all gathered around him. Luffy was the first to come tumbling in his arms, wrapping thin rubbery arms around him, practically shrieking in his ear in that loud way Zoro was used to. The rest of the crew greeted him, saying they were glad he was ok.

He placed a hand on Luffy's back, rubbing small circles. Feeling Luffy's body against his, his heat warming Zoro's skin, feeling his rapid heartbeat against his, he was suddenly happy to be alive.

Next time he wouldn't be so rushed to give his life away.

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He made it a point to get there first before anyone else. With the help of Perona he did manage to be the first one to arrive. To his disappointment, Luffy wasn't the second or third to show up, he was the fucking last one! Not that it mattered, as long as he showed up Zoro was happy.

Zoro just wanted to be there when his captain showed up, that was all. He was there when Luffy did make his grand entrance, in the way only Luffy knew how. He hadn't been able to hold back the smile on his face, grinning when he caught sight of his captain. Luffy was different from when he last saw him.

His chest had thick ragged lines crossing over his heart. The same smile graced his young face, making him seem innocent and fragile, even if he was a captain of a group of pirates and anything but weak and fragile and just maybe, not as innocent as people thought either. Despite the scar, two years apart didn't do much to change him.

It was still his Luffy.

When things settled down, Zoro sat with Luffy in his lap, soft fingers touching his chest. Zoro's own hands wandered to his now scarred chest. Despite his lithe figure, small stature and innocent face, Luffy was hard and tight underneath his red vest. The smile he wore on his face could easily be changed to a determined face, willing to change your mind about anything, willing to fight you about what he thought was right.

He must have trained hard, they all did during each other's absences. He knew Luffy did. When they had been back on the Sunny they had taken he time to ask each other where they had been. Luffy still couldn't believe he had been with Mihawk and Perona for two years.

Smaller hands ran over the diagonal scar over a tanned chest. Luffy grinned brightly. "Now we match."

Zoro grinned, his thumb pressing to the scar underneath his eye. Luffy's fingers trailed over the vertical mark over his eyes. They both had scars on their chest and on their left eyes. It was sort of weird to be matching in such a way but Zoro ignored it. Luffy kissed along his scar, starting at his hip, moving up his strong stomach, to his chiselled chest, before settling on his shoulder. His captain didn't stop there, moving to place a kiss over the scar over his eye. His kisses were soft and tender, butterfly light touches. Luffy smiled down at him when he was done.

"I missed you."

Zoro's arms wrapped around him, pulling him close. "Missed you too," he muttered into his captain's neck.

Luffy's arms went around him as well, both holding each other until Luffy placed another light kiss on Zoro's skin. "I love you Zoro."

It wasn't the first time he had said it, rather, Luffy liked to tell him a lot. Every time it seemed special though. This time, his words carried extra weight. Their separation made them miss each other terribly. "I love you Luffy."

Luffy smiled, laughing lightly. "I know!"

Zoro smirked. Cheeky kid. He moved to Luffy's ear. "Show me a good time captain," he said huskily in the younger man's ear.

Thin lips grinned against the skin of his neck, his hands taking off Zoro's coat slowly, revealing the tanned muscled skin underneath. Zoro's single green eyes flicked to him, wanting his captain to hurry but Luffy took his time. His fingers gripped at his haramaki, gingerly lifting it over Zoro's head.

Usually his hands were eager, rushed, both not able to hold themselves back from going at each other but tonight Luffy was different. Zoro grinned, taking off his captain's red vest slowly as well, slipping it of his shoulders. If he wanted to go slow, he could; they had all the time in the world.

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Excited yells alerted the entire ship that a new island was nearby. Zoro sat against the mast, leaning back with his swords by his side as he watched Luffy dance on top of the rails, excited about going to the next island. He turned around, smiling at Zoro.

Before, Kuina had driven so much of his goal. He had always wanted to be a swordsman, when he met the little girl he tired to beat her to get the title. Now, his goal was set apart from Luffy. Since Thriller Bark he realized he was willing to give his life away just so Luffy could be safe, so the man he loved could make his dreams come true.

He didn't consider himself smaller than Luffy, any less important, but he was an equal. Luffy loved him the same way Zoro loved Luffy. That was all that mattered to Zoro at the end of the day. He was filled with pride just by the fact that he had chosen to follow this man, knew that he made the right choice in joining his crew even if he had been reluctant to do so in the beginning.

He believed in his captain. He knew Luffy would one day be the Pirate King, he would be the one who helped realize all of their dreams. Zoro wanted to be there when that happened.

"Zoro, we're heading to a new island!" Luffy said, continuing to dance on the rails. "Want to come with me?"

The swordsman stood, walking over to him and the rest of the crew, both to see the island and to make sure he was there if Luffy fell off and into the ocean again. Zoro grinned, taking hold of Luffy's hand and bringing it to his lips to leave a soft kiss. "I'll follow you wherever you go captain."

"Yosh! Let's go then!"

"Luffy, what-?" he exclaimed when Luffy's arms encircled around his torso, gripping him tight.

Luffy stretched his arm towards the island, and before Zoro could react, Luffy launched them both towards the island, yelling over his shoulder at the crew to meet them there. Zoro yelled his lungs out the entire way there, gripping onto Luffy tighter.

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A.N. Happy late birthday W.S.-san! Hope you like it!

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The End