This is for celtic77irish on LJ as thanks for her donation. :)

I'm not a huge shipper of ZoLu, but it's not a completely unrealistic idea. I've always loved the nakamaship sort of bromance thing they've got going on, so it was weird for me, but not like painful or anything. :D Spoilers for Thriller Bark arc I suppose, but nothing major.

Sea and Stars

It was always the same.

Consciousness found him slowly, dragging him from a deep and peaceful place, gently pulling him up from a lonely pool of water in some ancient, abandoned mountain. There was never sound, only calm and void and nothingness for a handful of seconds until air and breath and warmth found him.

It was always warm. And there was always pain.

Pain would creep into his secluded space, tearing apart the heaven of serenity and bringing with it the unpleasant reality of bruised muscles and itching bandages.

Zoro breathed in slowly. Exhaled. Breathed in again. Bed sheets were soft against his back and a blanket covered his body to his chest. He was comfortable at least, to an extent. His wounds were excruciating, but this was better than waking on the rocky ground or in a cold, damp place. He would know, it had happened enough times.

He shifted his legs to test the bones. Cuts and bruises and sprained muscles healed easily, but broken bones needed time and stillness. As long as his bones were all right, he could still train.

His legs hurt but they were mobile, as were his hips, his hands, his arms. He had probably cracked several ribs but that was fine, all ribs did was shield lungs. Ribs were the exception: cracks and fractures were okay. As long as they weren't broken in half he was good, he could work through the pain.

As he swallowed, slowly licked his lips, there was movement to his left. Zoro froze for an instant. He did not think it was a threat as his senses would have picked up on that, but it did cause him a moment's distress for not realizing he was not alone.

There was movement under the blanket and a soft palm slid over Zoro's bicep. A thumb caressed the swell of his shoulder.

"Zoro…" a voice whispered, almost unrecognizable as its speaker was usually so manically jovial.

Luffy's touch was welcome. It always was in the first few hours after being pulled from that calm, quietness. Luffy always reminded Zoro of the things that might have been lost; of life and dreams and nakama. His presence, his voice, was all Zoro needed to feel right again, even with the pain. Even with the ache.

However, this time it was not the same.

There was no joyful hello. There was no innocent request of games or adventure for when Zoro rose. There was no absence of relief or worry that was always so comforting and so incredible to Zoro when he came face to face with it. No, not this time, this time there was sadness in Luffy's voice. There was a tremble of fear, of distress. It was so new and so completely foreign on Luffy's tongue that Zoro had to force his eyes open.

There was little light in the room, but there was no mistaking the tears that trailed down a scarred cheek. Dark eyes were red-rimmed and full of pain as they met Zoro's for a long, long moment.

"What did you do?" Luffy asked.

Zoro's throat was parched but he swallowed and tried to speak.

"It's nothing, just some cuts and bruises."

Anger flashed through those dark eyes and Zoro almost winced.

"You really think I'm stupid, don't you?" Luffy said. "Sanji lied to me too. You guys really think I can't tell the difference between when my first mate is beat up and when he's about to die."

"I'm not about to die—"

"—Before!" Luffy's hand squeezed his arm. "You were before! When Sanji brought you back to us… Whatever you did with that guy…" Fresh tears brimmed and fell again, joining the shimmering tracks along Luffy's jaw.

"I can't tell you never to do that again, but I can be mad, okay?"

Zoro watched his captain, held his gaze for what seemed like hours before he finally nodded.


Luffy sat, still, eyes wide and helpless, so different than what Zoro was used to that it almost broke his heart.

When fingers trailed over Zoro's cheek, the swordsman's eyes fluttered closed. It was hard to see, the light was too dim and the shadows across Luffy's face were too deep. So instead he chose to just feel. The calloused pads of Luffy's fingertips ran over his jaw, his palm slid over Zoro's chin, a tip of a thumb touched his chapped lower lip.

The kiss was unexpected, but Zoro knew it shouldn't have been. They had been dancing around this for months. Feelings reigned in and tightly packed; gestures of love and affection bottled up and controlled. A pat on the head here, a touch of fingertips there; Zoro's hand on Luffy's back, Luffy leaning against Zoro's arm in the sunshine.

Luffy's lips were cool and soft. They moved over Zoro's so gently, completely innocent even in their confidence. When they separated, Zoro's eyes remained closed. He lay still, slightly tense as the mattress dipped and a slender body slid underneath the blanket beside him. Luffy's hand rested on Zoro's arm, his thumb rubbing soft circles atop the bandages.

Zoro relaxed and let himself drift back into sleep, the feel of Luffy's breath on his neck and soft hair on his cheek a constant and welcome lullaby.

The days went by slowly. Zoro healed. His training schedule was put on hold only briefly, and thanks to Chopper—and as much as he hated to admit it: Sanji's cooking—Zoro was back in the crow's nest swinging his weights and pushing his limits in no time.

Luffy was back to normal. He ate too much and threw himself into the sea more times than Zoro cared to remember. His whimsical air had returned in full and without a trace of that strange, affectionate, boy that seemed so occasional that Zoro found himself wondering if he had actually hallucinated him.

Watching his captain in the weeks following their stay at Thriller Bark, Zoro saw nothing out of the ordinary, nothing that would give him any indication that Luffy was anything but what he appeared to be. As the days continued, it seemed more and more likely that the Luffy who sat at his bedside in the dark was not real, and so the swordsman pushed it out of his mind once again. Like he did every time.

Until one night, Zoro's lucidity was questioned yet again.

"Wait, does it make a noise?" Chopper's eyes were wide as they moved out onto the deck. It was evening and the crew was full of dinner. The little reindeer was drilling Usopp for information about his newest invention.

Usopp's grin was wide as he placed his hands on his hips and puffed out his chest importantly.

"Of course. There will be five settings, it'll start as a quiet chirp, but I'll be able to crank it up to gull and even eagle if needs be."

"This'll be awesome, Usopp!" Luffy clapped his hands. "We can try it tomorrow!"

The door to the galley shut. A puff of cigarette smoke and Sanji was shaking his head, pushing hands into his pockets. "I don't even get what this thing of yours is supposed to do."

"You'll see tomorrow, Sanji!" Usopp said. "It'll blow your mind!"

"I'm gonna blow a hole in your skull if you mess up the ship again."

Zoro broke off from the group and headed in the direction of the crow's nest, planning on a quick workout before bed. As he neared the rope ladder, he chanced a glance over his shoulder in the direction of fading voices.

When he saw Luffy, he stopped.

The captain was standing, facing the ocean. His arms were folded across his chest and his smile was easy. There was nothing about him or about his stance that gave Zoro the impression that anything was out of the ordinary, but there was something… Something in the air or perhaps something in Zoro's gut, that made him turn back. Something small and wonderful that twisted his insides and warmed him in places he would not care to think about.

Zoro would never deny that he wanted Luffy, it was just he would never admit how much.

The wind was cool on his face and played with the earrings hanging from his left ear. He stood beside Luffy and tried to guess where his captain's gaze was directed. At the moment, there was nothing but sea and stars. However, the longer Zoro looked, the more he figured to Luffy, that was probably a lot.

He felt a shift beside him and he turned to find Luffy had moved closer. Their arms brushed and a shiver rocketed through Zoro's body.

Tonight it was different.

Tonight Zoro was not waking from a near-coma, he was not confined to a bed or a slab or a patch of dry ground. His wits were about him and his body was mended and ready for battle. Not that this was a battle…

Or maybe it was?

Luffy turned from the ocean and his fingertips brushed over Zoro's arm.

"Come with me." It was not a request. It was not a question. It was not even an order.

Zoro followed, climbing up the rope ladder behind his captain and closing the trap door behind them. The space was dark and neither one of them moved to turn on the lights. Zoro could feel Luffy's breath against his collar, the heat of his body so close. When those smooth fingers slid up his arms, Zoro swallowed thickly and took a step forward, bringing their bodies even closer, almost touching.

A soft kiss on his lips made Zoro shudder. He opened slowly, gently, afraid of moving too fast, or not going in the right direction. This was all so strange, frightening, so much more frightening than any battle or real enemy because in this he had so much to lose. He tilted his head and pressed in carefully, searching chapped lips with his own, feeling out with his fingers to find warm skin.

"Zoro…" Luffy's voice rolled over his mouth.

Hands found his hair. Gentle tugs on his scalp encouraged Zoro to continue. He slid his palms down narrow hips and walked the two of them the few steps to the crow's nest's wall. Luffy's back hit the wood with a soft thump and the captain's exhale was light and sweet on Zoro's cheek. Laying kisses on Luffy's neck, Zoro pressed his body into lean muscle and let his hands wander.

There were no words needed. They said everything they wanted to say in their touch, in their fingertips, and on the tips of their tongues against salty skin. Luffy laughed as Zoro opened his shirt and pushed it off his shoulders. He smiled as Zoro stripped to his pants. The floor was hard as they slid down to it, but Zoro's knees didn't mind, and the simple thing of Luffy sitting comfortably in his lap made it seem unimportant and far away anyway.

Leaning back against the wall, Luffy ran his hands over Zoro's cheeks. He watched the muscle in Zoro's jaw flex as the swordsman clenched his jaw. He sighed softly when Zoro's hands ran over his thighs, closed his eyes as those hands slipped up underneath the legs of his shorts.

This time, when Zoro leaned in and kissed Luffy it was for real. He swept his tongue inside and licked at the groan that escaped from Luffy's throat. Luffy curled in, leaning down and returning the kiss with all the energy and eagerness that Zoro was so used to seeing from his captain during the day. Pale arms wrapped around Zoro's neck and long legs came around his waist. There was nothing to do but react, to move in and press that amazing body against the wall.

When warm fingers undid the button on his pants and slipped inside, Zoro faltered for a moment. He released Luffy's waist and found purchase on the wood at the captain's back. He sighed into Luffy's hair as his length was pulled free and stroked with inexperienced, but confident hands. He kissed a sweaty brow and watched Luffy's face as his captain learned this new part of him. He trembled at the look in Luffy's eyes. He growled in approval when a thumb slid over his tip.

Luffy's pants came undone easily and Zoro's hand was quick in slipping inside and pulling out the captain's length. It was long, and hard, and wet; pink and beautiful and perfect. Zoro shifted closer and took Luffy's hand, wrapping it around both of them. No words of instruction were needed as Luffy knew exactly what to do.

Luffy's orgasm was quick, a few strong tugs and a deep, crushing kiss from Zoro and he was panting and splashing warmth over the back of his hand and across Zoro's chest. Zoro took over as his captain started to come down and jerked himself until he came, growling into Luffy's neck. They stayed that way for a long time, hands running over slick skin, fingers trailing through cum, and lips grazing over threading pulses.

"I'm tired," Luffy said finally.

Zoro nodded and helped Luffy to his feet. They cleaned up and retrieved their clothes. When Luffy opened the trap door the sounds of music and laughter could be heard from the deck.

"You coming down?" Luffy asked.

Zoro shrugged. "Yeah, gonna get some wine."

When Zoro turned to descend the rope ladder, Luffy's hand on his shoulder stopped him. His eyes were bright and clear when Zoro gazed into them.

"Are you going to tell anyone?"

Zoro blinked. He hadn't thought about that at all. The idea of it being a problem had never occurred to him.

"Not if you don't want me to," he answered.

Luffy's smile was sweet. "I don't mind."

Zoro's heart skipped and his stomach clenched around a pleasant knot. He slipped an arm around Luffy's shoulders and pulled him in close. "If they find out, they find out. I'm not going to hide it."

Luffy's smile widened as he stood leaning into Zoro's embrace.

"I love you, you know?"

Zoro nodded and that clenching, aching knot in his stomach tightened. He found he couldn't speak and promised himself that he would return the sentiment when he wasn't so overwhelmed.

Leaning in, he kissed Luffy's smile. His captain kissed him back, and Zoro's heart sang.