Luffy's Clothes: Opened light orange-red hoodie with drawstrings and blue shorts from the Little East Blue Arc.

Zoro's Clothes: Unzipped yellow jacket with one pocket flap on each side from the Enies Lobby Arc.

Nami's Clothes: Dark blue, short-sleeved shirt with pink polka dots from the end of Thriller Bark Arc/Transparent brown top with a black bra visible underneath, blue jeans, and pink heals from the Little East Blue Arc.

Usopp's Clothes: Normal brown overalls with a white sash and no shirt underneath.

Sanji's Clothes: Black suit with a white shirt underneath from One Piece Opening 9 – Jungle P.

Chopper's Clothes: Normal maroon shorts.

Robin's Clothes: V-necked, black tank top with a high collar with orange diamond-shaped pattern around it and around the bottom, orange shorts, and sandals from One Piece Opening 6 – Brand New World/Blue, long-sleeved sweater with a snow cones pattern at the end of the sleeves and around the collar, white miniskirt, and dark blue heels from the Little East Blue Arc.

Franky's Clothes: Opened red leather jacket with two white stripes going down the sleeves from Little East Blue Arc.

Brook's Clothes: Lilac-colored, long-sleeved sweater with white, frilly cuffs and Japanese characters with his Jolly Roger under it, pink neckerchief, gray jeans, and black, frilly boots from theLittle East Blue Arc.

Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ ~ Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ

"Maybe, but tell me something: What could be more important than chasing your dream?" – Episode 223

Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ ~ Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ

"Ugh, I give up!" Luffy tossed his cards in the air and let them fall carelessly on the Sunny's deck. He plopped on his back as Robin giggled lightly at her captain. Together with him, Franky, Usopp, Chopper, Brook, and Nami, the archeologist was spending a beautiful afternoon playing poker—and was currently the one who was winning all the rounds. "I don't get it. How come no one can beat her? It's the eight round!"

"Robin's really good at this," Chopper commented with awe.

Franky, however, remained suspicious at her lucky streak. Eyeing the raven-haired beauty, he rubbed his chin in thought. "Something's off. No one can make a super clean sweep like this. It's impossible."

"Oh? Are you accusing me of cheating, then? Do you have a any proof?" she quizzed with a cunning smirk.

"Well, no..."

"Nami~! Robin~!" called Sanji, twirling like a ballerina onto the deck with a tray of ice-cold lemonade glasses with a tiny umbrella and straw in them. Bowing to the only two females, he spoke in a gentleman tone. "Here you are, Mademoiselles, a special drink for the two of you."

Nami beamed, taking the cool refreshment off the tray. "Thanks, Sanji."

"Thank you." Robin smiled politely as she took hers.

The lovesick pirate simpered. "My pleasure, ladies. If there's anything I can do for you this fine day, just let me know."

"Will do." The navigator dismissed him with a wave of her hand, and off the blond-haired cook went into the kitchen as Luffy ran after him.

"Hey, wait! Sanji! I'm thirsty, too! Give me some lemonade! And meat! Lots and lots of meat!"

"Hell no! I'm still angry at you for eating all our food in a idiotic eating contest!"

"But Zoro got us more crash, and we restocked two days ago! C'mon, please?"

"Forget it!"

"Hey! Will you morons shut the hell up? I'm trying to nap!" shouted a grumpy voice. Leaning against one side of the ship—directly behind Robin—Zoro awoken from his nap. Said crewmates disappeared into the kitchen, leaving his the swordsman's yell unheard. Standing up from his spot, Zoro strapped his swords back into the brown bands attached his haramaki.

"Hey, Zoro, you going to train?" Usopp asked, shuffling the deck of cards in his hands.

"Yeah."

"Luffy's out. How about you play with us? We're starting a new game."

"That's a good idea!" Franky cheered in agreement with a sly grin. "You work super hard all the time. Take a break every now and then."

"Yeah, Zoro, play with us!" the young reindeer chimed in happily.

"No thanks."

"But—"

"Oh, leave him, Chopper," Nami inserted with a mocking grin. "Zoro's just afraid of losing all the extra money he got."

A vein of irritation pulsed on the swordsman's forehead. Ignoring the little witch, he climbed the ropes up to his gym, unknown that a pair of disappointed azure orbs was on him until he vanished from sight.

Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ ~ Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ

Robin exhaled a sad sigh when she watched the green-haired man go into the crow's nest. Next to her, she heard Franky murmuring small curses at his failed plan to get him and Robin closer together. The historian shot a grateful smile at him at his attempt to help. He's been so supportive to her feelings for Zoro, like an older brother helping out his younger siblings. Robin supposed it was habit since he lived with the Franky Family for so long.

"I'm worried about Zoro," the Zoan Devil Fruit user remarked, his tone laced with concern. "He's always pushing himself so hard. It isn't healthy for him to keep stressing his body so much."

"I with you on that," Usopp said, dividing the cards amongst them. "But he seems to be doing okay since Thriller Bark. Zoro's strong, so I'm not that worried. He should lighten up a bit, though."

"Speaking of Thriller Bark, did anyone figured out what happened to Zoro-bro when we were unconscious?" Franky quizzed, eliciting a nervous gasp from Brook. Luckily, no one except Robin noticed. "I still find it weird that bear guy didn't kill us after that shockwave. And when we woke up, Straw Hat was energetic while Zoro-bro went in a coma. He was in really bad shape, and we still don't know what happened."

"Yeah, but it's not like Zoro is going to tell us anything," the cartographer pointed out. "The jerk is always keeping to himself, never letting anyone in. He's not gonna tell us anything if all of us got down on our knees and beg him."

"The most important thing that all of us—including Zoro—made it out alive, so let's not worry about it anymore," Robin stated casually, hoping to change the subject for Zoro and Brook's sake. The reaction from the skeleton told her that he knew about the first mate's self-sacrifice Bartholomew Kuma showed on Thriller Bark. She'd always knew that the dead musician also knew since she saw him speaking quietly to Sanji during the party after that tragic event happened.

"I agree with Robin," Brook spoke up in a low voice, gazing in female Devil Fruit user's direction in curiosity. Holding his cards up, he smiled widely at his comrades. "Let's play, shall we?"

Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ ~ Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ

Setting the heavy dumbbells down on the metal carpet, Zoro grabbed a white towel off the rack and wiped off the sweat rolling his face and neck. Taking a seat next to where he put his yellow jacket on the circular bench, the ex-bounty hunter gazed out of one of the many windows, his dark eyes captivated on Robin.

After what happened in the last island, he'd firmly asserted that was no way in hell he will ever let anyone know the feelings he harbored for the archeologist, especially the archeologist herself. Only hurt will come from it, and Zoro would rather died than let that happened.

Tearing his eyes away from the window, he let himself slid off the bench and onto the cold floor. Now that he completed his afternoon training, it was time to mediate. He crossed his legs and placed his palm over the other in his lap, allowing his mind to be calm and clear like a polished mirror.

After five seconds of peace, he heard his captain slammed the hatch opened and screamed, "ZORO!"

Said person groaned, his concentration broken. Note to self: Ask Franky to build a lock. A really big, unbreakable lock.

"Zoro! Zoro!" Luffy waved a hand in front of his best buddy's face until Zoro's eyelids snapped open and he gripped his wrist almost painfully.

Pitying the poor Devil Fruit user that was withering in his grasp, he released his hold and folded his arms over his torso. "What, Luffy?"

The raven-haired boy's lips curved into his famous dopey grin. "What're you going?"

"Mediating."

"Is it important?"

"Sort of."

"Come play with me! I'm bored!" Luffy whined, his hand reaching to grab his first mate.

Zoro slapped his hand away. "No. Geez, Luffy, if you're bored, then go ask Chopper, Brook or Usopp to play with you."

"But they're still playing cards with Nami, Robin and Franky, and I don't wanna play since Robin keeps beating me."

"Go aggravate the idiot cook for food, then."

"I already did. Sanji kicked me out."

"Go fish."

"But it's no fun doing it by myself."

Zoro scrubbed a hand over his face in exasperation. "Tell you what, I'll fish with you in one hour, okay?"

"Okay!" Luffy smiled broadly. "I'll go get the gear out and see if we have any bait left. Hurry up, all right?"

"Yeah, yeah, just go. If you don't leave, I'm going to take longer to mediate."

"Got it, I'm going! See you in a bit, bud!" And with that, he hopped down the hatch.

Zoro shook his head, a mild smirk spread on his face at his naïve but lovable captain. Adjusting his position once more, he closed his eyes and let his mind clear.

Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ ~ Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ

"LAND HO!" Usopp exclaimed later that evening. The sun was nearly set over the horizon by the time the Straw Hats completed dinner. Since he was eating swiftly so Luffy wouldn't steal his food, the sniper strolled to the front of the ship and spotted the island from the bow. "Guys, come out here! There's an island up ahead!"

"REALLY?" Luffy rushed out of the kitchen to the bow, his belly bloated like a balloon. "Awesome! Let's go there for tonight!"

"Are you sure it's an island, Usopp?" Nami inquired as she and the others joined him and their rubbery friend. "According to the map, we weren't supposed to reach land for another week."

"It's been an unknown island, then," Robin suggested.

Uncaring about the small details, as usual, Luffy turned to his shipwright. "Franky, steer the ship that way! Let's go to Meat Island!"

"Don't name it that!" Usopp and Nami yelled, whacking him on the head.

Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ ~ Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ

"COOL~!" Luffy's eyes sparkled brightly as he jumped off the Sunny and onto the sandy beach with his crew. Scanning his surroundings for a moment, Luffy nodded and pivoted to his crew. "All right, men! Set up camp for tonight!"

"Luffy, wait. I don't think that's a good idea," the ship's resident thief proclaimed, her irises glued to the sky as a cold breeze wafted through.

"How come?"

"I can see clouds gathering, and the temperature is dropping. If it is, then it's going to rain soon."

"So we'll sleep inside tonight?" Chopper asked the blond-haired cook, who was lighting a cigarette.

"Seems so," he replied.

"That's a shame." Brook said, his empty eye sockets rooted into the faint stars that were beginning to be obscure by the clouds. "I was hoping to fall asleep while gazing at the twinkling stars. Ah, but I don't have eyes at all! Yohohoho!"

Sanji sighed tiredly. "Can't be helped, let's get back on the Sunny."

"Uh, guys..." Franky started nervously. "Where are Zoro-bro and Nico Robin?"

Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ ~ Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ

"We're lost."

"I never told you to follow me."

"You shouldn't be exploring an uncharted island at night."

"Whatever. Do you know how to get back?"

"No. All these palm trees look the same, and I didn't expect you to wander off so far. I was too focused on trying to stop you, I didn't commit the way back to memory."

As soon as they docked at the island, Zoro decided to walk around for a bit before they go to bed—completely ignorant to the conversation that was going between his other crewmembers—and after a few minutes, he heard a feminine voice calling out to him and saw that the historian trailing after him.

"This isn't good," Robin remarked, feeling a droplet of water fell on her face.

"What's wrong?" He got his answer without a verbal response. Thunder rumbled in the heavens, and rain immediately came pelting down on them. "Oh, crap! Stupid rain!"

Surveying the area through the darkness, Robin peered through the palm trees and saw a hut several feet from where they were. "I see a hut. Let's use it for shelter until the storm stops."

"Lead the way."

Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ ~ Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ

"Damn," Zoro cursed as he observed the storm from the window. The hut they took on as their shelter for tonight was surprisingly easy to get in to. The door was unlocked, and the place was deserted. It looked like someone used to live on this island and was now dead or gone.

The house was simple and very small, its one space acted as the kitchen from one side, the living room in the center with a red couch, and a decent bed with a blue blanket at the other side by the window.

"I found some towels," Robin announced, digging in one of the kitchen cabinets. Zoro whipped his head from the window, and blushed bright red. She was on her hands and knees, her face buried in one of the cabinets under the sink and dressed in a black, lacey bra and underwear. Since they were soaking wet from the rain, the pair stripped off their clothes and hang it by the fireplace to dry. He didn't take off was his black trousers, though, for obvious reasons.

The swordsman ripped his orbs away from the tempting sight. Clipping his yellow jacket by the fireplace next to his haramaki that were beside Robin's black shirt and orange shorts, he sat down as Robin sauntered behind him as she dropped a large white towel on his head.

Descending next to him, she wiped the droplets of water off her creamy skin and squeezed her wet hair before she wrapped it around herself. Zoro merely let the towel hung over his shoulders when he was done, his optics rooted to the dancing flames in front of him. "You think the others are worrying about us?"

"Yeah, but I'm sure they know we're taking shelter until the rain dies down. That idiot cook will come look for you as soon as possible. He'll probably tear the island apart while he's doing it."

She giggled at the plausible idea. "It's not wrong to care, is it?"

Zoro shrugged. "It's not wrong, but sometimes it's unnecessary. It's just a storm. It's not like we're dying."

"True, but I like it. I like that someone out there is caring for me. I haven't had that in a long time." Zoro studied at her, noting how forlorn and solemn she sounded. He understood why she did, having been on the run for twenty years after her mother and Ohara perished by the Buster Call, constantly betrayed by everyone she crossed until she found a home with the Straw Hats. She looked like she was on the verge of breaking into tears. A moment passed until she directed her piercing blue hues from the fire to him. "What about you? Is there anyone you have worried about you at home?"

The first mate shook his head as memories of the day Kuina died flashed inside his mind. "No, not really. Even if I did I have someone like that, I wouldn't want them to worry about so much about me."

"Why's that?"

"I'm not used to it, because I've been on my own for so long. Even now, with all of guys here, I don't want anyone to worry about me. Not that much has changed for me after meeting Luffy. I care about the crew, but I still want my privacy and don't want everyone to be concern for me. Worrying too much is annoying."

Robin smiled sorrowfully. "It took me a very long time to let anyone in. When I finally did, the fear for losing you and the others came too much to bear. So in Water Seven, I struck a deal with CP9 to help you leave and pretended that I betrayed you. Stupid, but all I could think during that time was keeping all of you safe and how scared I was when I thought that you might find me a burden and cast me aside. At Enies Lobby, that was the worst thing I'd ever experienced, but it was also one of the greatest because you came, Zoro—all of you did."

He shot her an incredulous look. "Of course we came, you think anyone on the crew will tolerate another crewmate sacrificing themselves for us?"

"Hmm, you're right." A pregnant silence, and then, "You and I...are a lot alike. We do stupid, reckless things for the sake of our crew, like how you attacked Eneru back in Skypiea when he struck me down. Nami told me what happened, how you caught me and tried to kill Eneru in rage. I never thank you for that, so—"

"You don't have to, I just can't stand a person who attacked women without a good reason. Besides, anyone else would do the same for a friend."

"True, but still...I'm glad it was you who caught me. It showed me how much you care for my well-being." Robin's voice was soft, reverence imbued in her words. "You're always there to help me in my time of need."

The raven-haired beauty grinned and chuckled when she the swordsman's cheeks flushed crimson. "Yeah, well... We have a crazy crew that has a habit of getting into trouble, so it's natural for us to look after one another. That's how it works for a crew. You caught me at Thriller Bark after I was knocked by Luffy's zombie, didn't you? So, we're even. Plain and simple."

"Well, I should tell you that the others are worried about you. You shouldn't push yourself so hard after what happened on Thriller Bark."

The green-haired man scoffed. "I know my limits, so you can everyone to keep their nagging to themselves."

"Why do you push yourself so hard?"

"To get stronger to achieve my ambition to the best swordsman in the world. It's the same for everyone else in the crew, isn't it? We all do things to help us get closer to our goals in life. Luffy wants to be King of the Pirates, so that's why that idiot is always fighting so hard and doing reckless things all the time. And besides, I made a promise I intend to keep. Isn't it the same for you, Robin? That's why you're always reading about archeology, right?"

"Indeed. My dream is to find the Rio Poneglyph and discover the True History. It's what kept me going this far in life—the one purpose that drove me into living until I met you and the others. Meeting Luffy and everyone else...it gave me a new purpose in life."

"Yeah, I know what you mean. It's like what I told Chopper back when we were traveling to Alabasta. Working together with Luffy all this time—fighting alongside him—it gave me a new goal to work towards to."

"Oh? What is that?" Robin questioned with genuine inquisitiveness.

A slight smirk appeared on his handsome visage. "I can't explain it. Kinda hard to put into words when I think about letting that rubber imbecile be my captain, but that's what make Luffy who he is."

"We also have that in common, don't we?"

"Like how we also known as demons to the entire world?

"Well, I can't say I have much of an opinion of being called that," Robin said, tightening the towel around her body as if she was cold. Memories of her the destruction of her home raced inside her mind and she could still feel the lingering pain of that day. "The World Government merely gave me that moniker when they accused my people of trying to destroy the world by reviving the Ancient Weapons. Then, they killed my island and I was the only survivor, so I became known as a demon at the age of eight. The Ohara Clan sought out the True History, and nothing more. I've been carrying that title and the dreams of my clan since then. For twenty long years..."

When she trailed off, Robin finally realized just how violently she was shaking and how tears streamed down her face in rivulets. A strong, comforting arm circled around her waist, pulling her close to a solid, muscular frame that provided her with solace. She gasped silently in surprise, her face buried against a warm chest and arm enveloping her. Was Zoro...embracing her?

Leaning more into his body, she inhaled his steely scent. It felt so good to be back in his comforting embrace, and she raised a hand to where his heart was. It was pounding against his ribcage rapidly, much like hers. The tears that filled her eyes ceased, and when she lifted her head to gaze at the swordsman, his left palm came and caressed her cheek tenderly. Zoro smoothed the wetness streaked on her beautiful face, and Robin shut her eyes so he could brush his fingertips over her petal-soft eyelids. Wishing to see his countenance, the Devil Fruit user's eyes fluttered open and she peered profoundly into those dark irises that were blazing with the same emotions that were shimmering in hers: Passion. Want. Love.

Before she knew it, his lips slanted over hers in a hungry, passionate kiss. The kiss inflamed them both, and Robin's hands flew into his mossy hair as she kissed him back fervently. When her hands touched him, Zoro trembled; shocked at much he wanted her. He thought that it was okay to let a little of his feelings show when she started to cry, so he enclosed her in his embrace to offer her comfort. The second her slender form was pushed against his, all of his walls and barriers broke down and the burning need to kiss her overwhelmed him. The intensity of his craving for female scared him, but he couldn't find the strength to tear himself away from her.

Robin moaned into his mouth, relishing how his tongue began exploring every inch of her wet cavern and how it dueled with hers for dominance. Her hands roamed his torso, tracing over his well-defined abs and muscles. But she wanted more—so much more than kissing and fondling. She wanted him to make her his woman.

She wanted him to make love to her.

"Zoro..." She removed her lips from his for air, his hot breath fanning her flushed face. "Please..."

Hearing her desperate plea, he smashed his mouth back on hers, darting his tongue back inside her sweet cave. Her legs clasped around his waist as he stood and walked over to the bed. Zoro laid her on her back gently on the soft mattress, his form hovering over hers. He was careful to use his arms to support him, not wanting to crush her delicate frame. They pulled apart from oxygen, and the woman beneath him moaned in pleasure as he peppered her elegant neck and collarbone with fiery kisses, her fingers entwined in his short locks tightened.

Lifting her hips to meet his, they both gasped at the delicious friction of their bodies against each other. Robin could feel his rigid erection through the barriers of the remaining garments, and she swiveled her pelvis over his to feel that blissful sensation again. His mouth was on hers, his callous palms skimming her voluptuous body, leaving no inch untouched. She sighed at the bliss; it was if her entire was on fire at his touch.

Sprouting two extra hands on the sides of her abdomen, her phantom appendages struggled with undoing his pants. Soon enough, she could feel the swordsman doing the same thing to her, unhooking her bra from her chest and dropped it carelessly onto the floor. Her breasts were round and firm, the pink bud on each peaked to its fullest and waiting to be sucked. Taking one taut nipple into his mouth, Zoro cupped the other in his hand and Robin cried of pleasure. Her flesh tasted addicting, a sinful combination of spicy and sweet.

"Zoro..." She whimpered his name repeatedly, her hands—her real ones—scored his shoulders and he let out a rough moan in response.

She arched her body into his, drawing herself closer to him in urgent need. His mouth abandoned her breast and Zoro buried his face in the back of her neck, inhaling her intoxicating scent that only made him want her more. His palms skimmed her bare, velvet skin and when his tongue flickered out to lick her slowly, Robin's heart skipped a beat.

She felt his fingers hooked under the straps of her underwear, sliding it off her and adding it to rest of their clothes on the floor. Withdrawing, he stretched out beside her and stared down at her with hungry-filled eyes. But, he also appeared...nervous, too?

"What's wrong?" she inquired softly after she took some time to breathe, entwining her hand with his left one to increase the intimacy between them.

"This is..." He averted his gaze, but there was no need for that. Robin smiled understandingly and shook her head.

"Mine, too," she confessed, and his expression was one of surprise. "Be gentle, at least in the beginning."

He took her mouth in a slow, smoldering kiss, pinning his palm that was locked with hers above her head. Positioning himself between her legs, Zoro plunged into her exquisite heat in a long stroke, and he felt her barrier fading away now. Robin yelped faintly at the pain, but then moaned against his mouth at the glorious invasion. He was bigger than she'd imagined, and that fact sent a dark thrill down her spine.

His thrusts was getting faster and harder by the minute, and it wasn't long until Robin felt the impending orgasm coiling in the pit of her belly. His climax was also swiftly building and when he let out a low and animalistic groan, her release exploded within her and screamed out in rapture. The second orgasm was more powerful than the last, and Robin felt that her eyes were about to burst from their sockets as she clung to him. Zoro gripped her firmly, their sweaty forms fused and limbs tangled as his release followed hers once more.

"Robin..." he moaned in her neck through ragged gasps, his palms grasping her hips to meet his. The sound of storm outside was blocked out from their ears for the rest of the night as they kept coming and coming and coming...

Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ ~ Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ

The blinding ray of sunshine seeping through the window awaked the swordsman the next morning, interrupting his peaceful slumber. Mind fuzzy from sleep, it took him a moment to realize how sore his muscles were that morning, but...it was different than how they usually felt after a long a training session. This soreness felt...good in a way. Huh, weird. What did he do last night? Not that he had any complaints.

Slowly, he tried to move his right hand, only to discover that something soft and warm prevented him from moving it. This puzzled him even more. He lowered his face down to his chest and inhaled deeply. Instantly, he recognized the undeniable, enticing flowery scent of a woman. He knew this scent, it was too familiar for him not to. Needing confirmation to make sure his drowsy mind wasn't playing tricks on him, Zoro spread his hand and raked his palm over a very sweet female backside.

Oh, damn it! Did I... Snapping his eyes widely, he bleakly peered at the body sprawled over his form with her raven hair tucked under his chin. Head draped in inky black locks that undoubtedly belonged to none other than Nico Robin. Recollection of last night dashed through his mind, and if he didn't want to wake the sleeping figure beside, he'd be freaking about right about now.

Last night, he and Robin...made love.

Scarlet flushed his face, and Zoro gazed down at the archeologist curled up languidly to his side with a pleased and content smile adorned on her features. She looked so...happy and tranquil in his arms. The raven-haired beauty stirred slightly, and he could feel a smooth leg gliding over his leg and crotch.

Careful not the disturb his partner, he untangled from her tender embrace and hastily began dressing his clothes muttering ripe curses at what happened between him and Robin. He won't deny that last night was amazing, but it was mistake. He vowed to himself that he wouldn't let know how he felt for Robin's sake. He knew if he acted on his desire to be with her in that way, then she would only end up hurt because of him—just like how Kuina did. He can't let last night affect his decision, but it would be impossible to pretend like making love to Robin never happened.

Zoro shook his head at his thoughts, riveting his attention on focusing on trying to get back to Luffy and the crew. And speaking of the Gum-Gum Devil Fruit user...

"ZORO! ROBIN! WHERE ARE YOU?!" hollered a voice from outside. Stepping out of the hut and quietly shutting the door behind him, the first mate's countenance grinned at the sight of his best friend, Usopp, and Franky rushing to them with relieved smiles.

"Luffy, hey," Zoro greeted his captain casually. "You guys found us."

"Yeah, we would've come sooner, but the rain didn't stopped until morning," Usopp told him, gesturing to the clear blue sky. "But how did you guys ended up here, anyway? We were worried sick about you and Robin when we realized you guys took off yesterday."

Zoro rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. "Yeah, about that... It was my fault."

Luffy laughed jovially. "You got lost, didn't you? Shishishi, you're an idiot, Zoro."

"Who're you calling an idiot, idiot?" The ex-bounty hunter pulled his buddy's cheek painfully so it would stretch about twelve inches from his face. He knew the raven-haired boy was teasing, but that didn't stop him from getting a little payback for that insult.

"Hey, Zoro-bro, where is Nico Robin?" Franky inquired, noting her absent presence.

"I'm right here," answered a feminine, velvet tone.

Zoro froze as he let of off Luffy's face. His body stiffened uncomfortably at the sound of her cheerful voice. With the rest of his being becoming numb from anxiety, his mind could only processed two words:

Holy. Crap.

Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ ~ Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ

Robin stretched out a hand, her fingers seeking for Zoro's warmth. When she felt nothing, her eyelids opened and squinted due the brightness of the sun shining in the room. Shifting her gaze downwards, she was saddened to find that he was no longer in bed with her.

Their lovemaking was vivid in her mind, and the historian smiled happily at how sore her lithe muscles felt in all of the right places. Her first time was everything she dreamt about and more. There was no need to hide her feelings for Zoro any longer. Veil of their secrets for each other erupted volcanically last night, and she glad that they were gone. Now, she and Zoro can take their relationship to the next level.

Noise from outside drew her out of her inklings. Getting out of the bed, she trotted over to discarded clothes, donned them on, exited the hut and greeted her crewmates with a polite smile.

"Robin, it's good to see that you and Zoro are all right," Usopp said merrily.

"Thank you for the concern," she replied, although her irises were still on her lover's back. Why hadn't he turned around to see her? She wasn't expecting him to show her any affection in front of the crew, but he could at least have the courtesy to acknowledge her. Was there something wrong with him? Was he nervous?

"Super!" Franky exclaimed, giving her a thump-ups. "Now that we found you guys, we can head back to the Sunny. Nami-sis and Curly Cook are worried sick about you."

As they treaded in the direction of their ship, Zoro remained still distant from Robin. He's defiantly acting strange, but why? Didn't last night mean something to him? Did last night made him self-conscious?

Deciding to test her theory, Robin checked if anyone was paying any attention to her, Robin strode closer to Zoro and extended her hand to his. It bumped into his faintly, but it was enough for him to feel her.

Immediately, he moved from her reach.

Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ ~ Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ

The next two weeks were difficult and weird.

Since their one-night stand, Zoro became the epitome of solitude. Being around Robin was too much to bear, knowing full well what would happen if she get the chance to speak to him. He couldn't even spare a look in her direction, much less talk to her. So many thoughts and emotions were clashing inside of him that Zoro did the only thing he could do right now.

He kept himself hidden.

The crow's nest, which had practically become his permanent residence since that 'incident' occurred, was where he'd chosen to shut himself in. It was only the place on the ship where he had accessed to freely.

Immediately after arriving on the Sunny, Zoro requested that Franky to build him a lock for the hatch in the crow's nest and a key that was solely available to him. The shipwright complied, though, he'd inquired why. The younger pirate told him that he wanted privacy when he trains, so the carpenter developed a lock and key for him. That was when he stopped being around the crew—and he hated it. Hated the fact that he felt this way. Hated that she was the one who caused him to feel this way. Hated that be was forced to blockade himself to keep his feelings in check. Hated that he was conflicted with his desire of Robin and his promise to Kuina.

What in the hell was he supposed to do? Relationships within crews always lead to disaster, but he can't pretend that the feelings aren't there because they were and they weren't going away now that was out in the open. He wanted her badly, and that frightened him to no end. He never remember wanting a woman this much. He swore to himself that he would do everything and anything to keep his vow with Kuina, so he devoted his entire life into swordsmanship and set out to sea to defeat the greatest swordsman in the world.

Distractions were nuisances he couldn't afford to have.

Besides, being with a woman was something far more complicated than anything else he'd ever done. He was never interested in women, and so had little experience on how to be with one. The only girl he was close to was Kuina, and that resulted in her death. He didn't have time for a relationship. Zoro was absolutely adamant about his focus to get stronger to protect his crew and achieve his goal in life. Taking anything further with the Robin would hinder that.

His promise—his dreams—was more important than his feelings.

Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ ~ Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ

Like a saint, Robin put up with his avoidances patiently. However, after two weeks went by, she decided it was time that she put a stop to it. He can't hide from her forever.

Since they slept together, Zoro had isolated himself within the crow's nest. He didn't even join the crew during dinner anymore, but instead just come in and take the plate with him to his gym—without so much as glancing at her. When the first three days of him distancing himself from her and the crew, Nami was fed up with him and asked why he was spending his away from the crew. His excuse was this: "I'm working on a new technique."

While the crew believed him initially, Robin wasn't fooled. She knew he was locking himself in the crow's nest because of her. But why? She wanted to talk to him, but Robin knew it'd be best if she gave him time alone to sort out his thoughts. A part of her had hoped that he'd approach her soon about their relationship, but he didn't and Robin had enough of allowing his behavior to go on.

His separation from Luffy and the others depressed them; especially after they saw past the lie he created by the second week. Luffy and Chopper whined and complained about Zoro never being out of the crow's nest for different reasons. Luffy missed his best friend and despised that Zoro isn't around him anymore. Robin understood why the raven-haired captain would miss the green-haired man the most; his bond with Zoro was more like brothers rather than shipmates. Meanwhile, Chopper was worried that Zoro is working himself too hard by training and might collapse from exhaustion. Everyone else were puzzled or pissed off about Zoro's seclusion, but did nothing about it.

Thinking that enough time went by, the female pirate resolved into fixing the problem as soon possible.

Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ ~ Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ

"Hey, moss-head! Get your lazy ass down here!" Sanji yelled when the Straw Hats arrived at the next island.

A blur of green leaped from the crow's nest and landed gracefully on the grassy lawn. Zoro straightened to his normal height, letting out a snort of annoyance at the blond-haired cook as he put on his yellow jacket. "You wanna start something, you idiot cook?"

"Knock it off, you two," Nami warned them, her agitated glare lingering on the swordsman. "Nice of you to join us, Zoro. Now that everyone's here, let's begin separating our duties for today."

The first mate grunted in annoyance at the navigator. Nami was the only one in the crew that had no problem showing how angry she was at him during the last two weeks. She would shoot him irritated looks and try to lure him in an argument to get answers for bizarre behavior, but he'd brush her off with a scoff. Not wanting to be on the deck with a certain Devil Fruit user any longer than he has to, Zoro spoke up. "I'll guard the ship, then."

"No," the orange-haired woman rejected. "You're going into town with me, Robin, Luffy, Sanji, and Brook to get information and any supplies we need. Usopp, Franky, and Chopper are going to stay behind to guard the Sunny."

"Why do I have to go?" He did not want to be in the same group as Robin.

"Because I said so."

"Fine, whatever..." Zoro mumbled grouchily.

"Glad to see you're doing it my way." Nami stuck out her tongue in before pivoting to their shipwright. "Okay, Franky, you and the others guard the ship while we're gone. And remember, only fight when it's necessary. We need stay in this town long enough to reset the Log Pose, so don't do anything that'll force us to get out of the town."

"Got it. Have a super time!"

Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ ~ Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ

"WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?!"

Franky, Usopp, and Chopper's jaws dropped at the amount of blood was flowing from the hole the Zoro's right thigh as he was being hurled to ship with the Luffy and Sanji supporting him.

"We'll explain later, just help the idiotic moss-head first. He's losing a lot of blood." Sanji replied as they all boarded the ship and started to carry his rival to the sick bay with the Gum-Gum Devil user.

"Don't stand there gawking like morons! Chopper, you patch Zoro up! Franky, take the helm! We're getting out of this crazy town! Hurry!" Nami commanded urgently.

"Ah, right! You can super leave it to me!" Franky snapped out of trace and rushed over to the rudder as the reindeer doctor ran into the sick bay to treat the wounded comrade.

A few minutes after the panic ceased, Nami sat with Robin on the bench at the front of the ship while Usopp and Brook tried to clean the trail of blood left the deck by Zoro. Swiveling his head over his shoulder, the shipwright decided it be a good time to get answers.

"So, what happened in town?"

"It's kind of our fault, more or less." Nami admitted queasily, nauseous from the sight of Zoro's blood. "In a nutshell, a bunch of pirates were harassing Robin and I. Luffy and the others came to our defense, but then a whole street fight broke out. We ran for it, but some of the pirates followed and tried to shoot us. The guys were doing fine, but more people got involved since they were fighting in the middle of town. Someone shot a gun in Robin's direction, but Zoro knocked her away and hit him instead."

Franky nodded before he jabbed a finger at his two crewmates' outfits. Looking at them now, it made sense why thugs would want to hit on Nami and Robin. The orange-haired navigator was donned in a transparent top with a black bra visible underneath and blue jeans while Robin wore a blue, long-sleeved sweater with a white miniskirt. "It's no wonder that Straw Hat and the others have to fight for you two if you wear stuff like that. Especially you, Nami-sis."

Nami shot him a dangerous look. "You jerk!"

Before the scared cyborg apologized for raising the cartographer's ire, Sanji exited from the kitchen door and bellowed, "Hey! Chopper's done treating the stupid swordsman!"

"Really? Is Zoro okay?" Nami and the remaining crewmates walked over the second floor deck.

Lighting a cigarette in his mouth, the chef puffed out a smoke and sardonically answered, "No, he's not okay. He's an insufferable martyr that needs his ass kicked."

In other words, yes. "Can we see him?"

"He's unconscious, but Chopper said it's okay as long as we don't make don't much noise."

Sanji led the his friends to the sick bay, opened the door for the ladies, and saw that Luffy hovering a barrel of sake over his sleeping best friend as Chopper yanked on the rubber-man's leg in a pointless attempt to stop him.

"Luffy, quit it! Zoro can't drink that!" the reindeer protested frantically.

"This is Zoro's favorite alcohol, so it'll make him feel better if he drinks it!"

"What kind of medical theory is that?!"

"Luffy, you idiot!" Nami stomped over and slapped the back of the captain's crown. "What the hell do you think you're doing? He needs rest, not ale! Put that down and be quiet!"

"You're one to talk..." Usopp muttered under his breath, but she heard still him.

"What'd you say?"

"Ah, nothing! Nothing at all!"

"Guys, you're being too loud!" Chopper exclaimed. "Quit shouting!'

While Nami and Usopp were arguing and Sanji was trying to get the barrel from Luffy with Franky and Brook's help, Robin easily made her way past her clamorous shipmates and to the head of the bed where the swordsman laid. He was slumbering peacefully in spite of the noise, and there was no sign of pain on his countenance as his exposed chest rose up and down. Glancing at Chopper's desk that was covered in medical books and medicine, she saw the green-haired man's yellow jacket sitting on he reindeer's favorite rotating chair along with Zoro's black pants that stained with his blood.

A knot of despair tightened her heart as she gazed down at Zoro. He was hurt because of her. He got injured because he protected her. He always protecting her, and that only made her love him more.

A small movement from caught her attention, and Robin pushed away inklings for another time as she focused her attention on the Zoro's mouth. It was moving slightly, like he was talking in his sleep. However, she couldn't hear with the rest of her crew screaming at each other.

"Everyone, please stop." Robin sprouted appendages on their shoulders and clamped them over their mouths to silence them. When the rowdy crew settled, she dispersed her them and listened closely to what the green-haired man was saying.

"What's he mumbling about?" Luffy inquired, only to received a whack on from Nami to shush him.

"...in...a..." Zoro's body stirred in the bed. "Kuina..."

"Who's Kuina?" Nami quizzed the crew, a curious eyebrow raised. Luffy and the others shrugged their shoulders in response while Robin couldn't help wonder the same thing.

Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ ~ Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ

The first thing Zoro saw when he woke up was the relieved, dopey grin plastered on Luffy's youuthful visage. "ZORO! YOU'RE AWAKE!"

Sitting up weakly, Zoro greeted his captain with an amused smirk in spite of the numb pain in his thigh. Scanning the sick bay, he noticed that all of his comrades were also in the sick bay. "Hey, Luffy."

The grin widened. "About time you woke up! We were wondering how long you've been out."

"How long was I out for?"

"A few hours. We all just came in to check on you again, and then you woke up."

"Zoro! I'm so glad you're okay!" Chopper cried in happiness. "Are you in any pain?"

A nonchalant shrug. "I'm all right. It's just a flesh wound."

"A flesh wound?" the reindeer repeated with a screech. "You have a hole in your thigh! That isn't a flesh wound! You're lucky that the bullet didn't fracture any of your bones and just went through the tissue!"

Zoro grimaced mildly at the Zoan Devil Fruit user's sharp tone. "Geez, what's the big deal? I've gotten much worse than this before."

"THAT ISN'T THE POINT!"

"Chopper's right, Zoro," Nami chimed. "Listen, if you even think about getting up to train, I'm going to hold debt to you again. I'm not going to pay for your medical bill if you start bleeding through your bandages, got it?"

"Yeah, whatever," he mumbled.

"Lay down, Zoro, you need to rest," Chopper ordered, his tiny hooves braced against his chest. "Don't try to move or your injury might open up, but drink some water before you get dehydrate. You've been unconscious and haven't drank anything since this morning."

"By the way, Zoro," the Straw Hats' thief began, shifting her weight to the left as the young doctor gave him a glass of water. "Can I ask you something?"

"Sure," he said, chugging down the cold liquid down his throat.

"Who's Kuina?"

The first mate gagged on his drink, spitting onto the floor in a giant shower. The glass fell from his palm and shattered into pieces as it hit the ground. Shocked and alarmed, the crew recoiled from him, whose features became dark and livid like thunderclouds. His onyx hues burned with rage like a demon's uncontrollable fury. Curling his fingers into tight fists, his mouth twisted into a bestial sneer. At this moment, Zoro never looked so terrifying to his companions.

"Where did you hear that name?" Zoro enunciated every word in deadly emphasis. "Tell me!"

Nami jumped at his outraged tone. "From you! In your sleep!"

"You're lying!"

"I'm not!"

"Tell the truth, witch!"

"Hey, moss-head!" Sanji stepped to cartographer's defense. "I don't care if you're hurt, simmer down or you're going to be get a mouthful of my foot! I won't forgive anyone who speaks that way to a lady!"

All of the anger drained Zoro's face and was replaced by a blank expression. When he snapped out of his trance-like state, he hung his head down in shame, his eyes half-mast as if he the world's weight was attached to them.

"Sorry, I didn't mean..." he muttered. "Just...sorry."

A thick uneasiness swamped them, the crew still stunned to utter anything back.

Chopper spoke up first. "Uh, guys... I think we should leave. Zoro needs to sleep."

"Uh, yeah." Usopp shuffled his feet towards the door, the tension too overwhelming to deal with right now. One by one, the Straw Hats left the sick bay with one thought in mind:

Just who is Kuina?

Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ ~ Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ

The sound of a small click awaked Robin from her slumber, her cobalt orbs popping open to see that slipping out of their bedroom.

Where is she going? Robin pondered curiously, swinging her feet over to the side of her bed and stealthily trailed after her roommate. Surprisingly enough, the older woman found herself peeping through the creak of the door of the sick bay. The light was on, so she could see Nami talking to a pissed off Zoro.

"You can't be serious," the first mate gritted his teeth in frustration.

Nami folded her arms over her chest confidently. "I am and I can! Tell me who this Kuina person is, and I'll forgive for speaking so rudely to me. If you don't, I'm going to charge you 200,000 Berries."

"That's so unfair!"

"It's your choice either way, Zoro. Just one tiny answer, and all is forgiven."

"You're going to die a horrible death one day."

A sly smirk spread on her lips. "Oh, yes, and I'm sure going straight to hell. So, tell me, who is this Kuina?"

The swordsman stood up from the bed and gazed out of the window to the door that led to the back of the Sunny. A wax moon was out and high in the night sky, casting a silver glow upon the glistening sea. Nami stared in puzzlement at her friend. He was silent a long while, but when he let out a melancholy sigh, the cartographer didn't need to his face was one of fondness and solemn. The emotion was clear in his voice.

"That person...she was my dream once."

Nami didn't press on when those words escaped him. She merely gazed at his back in gentle shock at his response. And like her, Robin noticed how the sadness and tenderness those words carried. Just what was this Kuina and how could she draw out such feelings out of him?

That question greatly bothered Robin. The more she wanted to know the answer, the more distress the she felt. Hearing those emotions in his words, she guessed the most possible answer.

Could this Kuina be...Zoro's lover?

Her heart clenched at that notion, and as much as Robin wished it wasn't true, the idea of it was now implanted into her mind. What was Kuina really to Zoro? She wanted—no, needed—to know.

Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ ~ Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ

All was quiet the next night on the Thousand Sunny as Zoro stepped onto the main deck. As he sauntered over to the side of ship that gave him the best view of the moon, a cool breeze wrapped around him like a lover's embrace—the only kind he'd ever allowed himself to have.

He knew he should be sleeping like Chopper ordered him to until his wound was healed, but he was sick of being in the medical quarters all day. Fortunately for him, Robin didn't visit him at all.

The lovely vision of the raven-haired beauty crossed his mind, her lovely smile haunting day and night since they made love. The urge to give in into his desires tempted constantly, but he refused them and reminded himself why he can't be with her. He wanted to so damn badly, but it was for the best. For her sake.

If it means be away from her to protect her, then so be. He won't hurt her, like he did with Kuina. He yearned for the warmth and solace that only she could provide. But that won't ease the scar of guilt he in his heart since his dear friend died. Robin deserves better than him. The shame of how he inadvertently caused Kuina's death was still too fresh.

Absorbed in his own thoughts, he was oblivious to her sudden appearance on deck. "Good evening, Zoro."

He flinched a bit at her sweet voice; his form stiffened as he felt her fingers skimmed the cold skin of his shoulder. Zoro cursed at his rotten luck for leaving his jacket in the sick bay and coming out here shirtless. Great, he hasn't been with for more than thirty seconds and he was already feeling vulnerable in her presence.. However, he couldn't deny that he liked how her touch.

"What do you want?" Summoning his courage, he swiveled to face her directly. Taking a step backwards, he created more space between them as she returned her hands to her side. "Why aren't you asleep?"

"I wanted to talk to you," she answered simply with a smile.

"We have nothing to talk about, Robin."

Unperturbed, her pretty smile didn't falter. "You've been acting strange for a while now. Are you all right?"

"Why do you care?"

Her smile broadened as she pressed her soft frame against his rough one, coiling her arms around his neck to bring herself closer to him. "Because I like you, Zoro."

Shock surfaced his countenance briefly, which quickly followed by what seemed like...regret? He closed his eyes for a split second and then opened then again before a serious expression made its way to his features. Grasping her wrists, Zoro removed her arms from him and let them drop to her sides. "I don't believe that."

"What do you mean?" Robin inquired, bewildered and hurt that he pushed her away.

"I'm saying we should forget what happened between us that night," he explained coldly, forcing them out before he could take them back. He had to do this, lying to her was the only way to protect her from him. He told himself again and again that jilting was the best thing for her. "We're crewmates, Robin, we shouldn't be anything more than that. We shouldn't complicate things. You're a distraction to me, and I don't have time for a relationship."

She frowned, eyes hardening like ice at his rudeness. So this was his plan? Talk crudely to her to make her think he didn't have the same feelings she had for him? His excuses weren't fooling her, because she knew he wasn't telling her the truth. Robin hated liars. With her history, it was impossible not to, and she'd learned to recognize a lie when she heard one. "Don't lie to me. We both know that isn't the case."

Damn it, why did she have to be so persistent? Frustrated, the swordsman raked a hand in his mossy hair. "Why do you care so much? You got what you wanted, didn't you?"

Narrowing her piercing glare at him, she felt fury began boiling in her veins. "What's that supposed to mean?"

This was low, he knew, but necessary. "You don't honestly expect me to believe a woman like you could possibly be interested in me, do you? You're nine years older than I am. You've been trying to seduce me for a while for fun, haven't you?"

"The age gap between us means nothing to me," she retorted, insulted at the accusation. How could he say that to her? "I care about you, Zoro. My feelings are genuine, you're just too scared to admit that someone actually feels that way to you, aren't you?"

"You don't know anything about how I feel," Zoro scowled, his voice dark ashes of bitterness. "Just forget about what happened between us."

"No!" Robin objected heatedly, desperate in trying to get the truth from him. "I don't want to. I know you feel the same way I do, so stop fighting it. Stop lying to me, and tell me the truth. What's the real reason? Am I not good enough for you?"

Like a statue, Zoro stood there in dead silence. He can't tell her the real reason, no matter how much she deserves to. He averted his irises from her in shame, unable to answer. He fisted his hands and gritted in his teeth in resentment for his lies; he was torn between the one person he craved for the most and for doing what he decided it was best for said person.

"Is it..." He pivoted his head to her, hearing how hurt she sounded. When he saw pinpricks of tears threatening to spill down her cheeks. Her bottom lip quivered slightly, her voice cracked and she hoarsely asked, "Is it...because I'm not her?"

Zoro hesitated, half from fright and half from shock of whom she meant. Her. Kuina. He tightened his fists to the point his nails dug in his skin, scared of how she was right in so many ways, but not in the way she meant. Kuina did affect his decisions, but it was not because he yearned for Kuina like he did Robin.

Hiding his self-loathing from her, he bit out, "Yes."

Her painful gasp echoed in the night, a chilly breeze wafting through them. The tension between broke as the blue-haired shipwright climbed out of the Solider Dock System and on the deck, several feet away from where the pair was.

Franky observed them, and something told him that he came at a bad time. Anxiously, he sputtered out, "Uh, hey, guys. What's up?"

"Nothing," Zoro responded, that single word imbued with more meaning than the cyborg could know at the moment. Without glancing at the carpenter, the swordsman stomped to the sick bay to avoid listening the soft sobs of the archeologist as she wept.

Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ ~ Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ

"You lied. You're just another liar!" – Episode 53

Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ ~ Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ

A/N: Well... This was an embarrassing chapter to write. I wrote lemons before, but I still felt really nervous about it, especially when I get around to post it. T_T Not only that, but I had to cut a lot of stuff from this chapter since it was so long, and did while I'm running low on energy. Sorry if there were a lot mistakes in this. School is wearing me out, but it's to be expected since I'm going to graduate in May. My teachers are such slave drivers, and it thanks to school that I'm starting to feel like the characters in Sekai-ichi Hatuskoi at the end of their "cycle". If anyone watches or read that anime/manga, you'll know what I mean. :P Anyway, folks, thank you for waiting so patiently for me, and thank for all of the reviews so far. As always, I'm keeping my promise to update once a month. Hope you enjoyed this embarrassing chapter, and please review. :)

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