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don’t you worry ‘bout my pride

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When Law first meets Straw Hat’s crew, he makes a flash assessment of each of them and, just as quickly, dismisses them. Law’s main goal is Doflamingo’s defeat, and Luffy is the only one that Law considers important in that respect. The second strongest on the crew is clearly Roronoa Zoro, but apart from that Zoro’s most distinguishing feature is his loyalty, which reassures Law as far as the alliance goes but doesn’t interest him.

(This will later turn out to be very, very ironic.)

For his own part, Zoro seems more interested in Law’s sword – not a euphemism – than Law himself, or even Law’s motivations in the alliance. Zoro trusts his captain’s judgement implicitly, and would be a formidable enemy should Law ever anger Luffy, but other than that Law seems to excite as much interest in Zoro as Zoro does in Law.

Dressrosa changes that, but then Dressrosa changes everything.

 


 

The place is completely ruined. Doflamingo lies unconscious in the rubble, and Law is exhausted. It looks like Straw Hat Luffy is in much the same boat.

Law opens his mouth to say thank you – as inadequate as that is it's still almost more than he can manage – and gets as far as, "Luffy-" before Luffy interrupts him with a grin.

"It was a good fight, Torao." And then, laughing, "That's what friends do."

Before Law can say anything, Luffy bounds away, bruised and bloody but joyous. Zoro watches Law with a distinctly amused expression. Then he claps Law on the shoulder and moves off to join his captain.

As is becoming shockingly common in his dealings with the Straw Hat crew, Law is left with the feeling that he's missing something.

 


 

The next morning Law wakes up feeling like shit. He may have magical healing powers, but even his devil fruit is not up to dealing with the amount of energy he’s expended over the past few days. Law wanders into the Sunny’s galley, eats his body weight in meat, fish, rice, and vegetables, and goes back outside to digest his enormous meal sprawled on the ship’s lush lawn. Law closes his eyes for a few seconds against the sun’s glare, and wakes up ten hours later.

The sun has set by this time, and the ship is dark and quiet. Law is distantly grateful that Luffy’s crew have left him alone to recover.

It’s over.

Law takes a deep breath. Doflamingo has been defeated. Law has his vengeance – as much as he ever will – and he has helped stop a genocide, returned dozens of children to their families, and saved hundreds of people.

Which is a far cry from how he thought this whole thing would turn out, and it’s a bit of a surprise to Law that he’s still alive and free. They’re going to Zou, to meet up with the rest of the Straw Hat crew and Law’s own crew – it’ll be nice to see them again, considering – and then after that everything’s a giant fucking question mark.

Law’s a planner. Has always been one, even as a child. Over time, his plans became more sophisticated and strategic, and it was this ability that had made him a formidable player in the Grand Line’s power struggles. He’s had to make rapid adjustments several times over the past few months, but there’s still always been A Plan. But it’s disconcerting not to die when you expect to – first Corazon, now Monkey D. Luffy – and Law has honestly not thought this far ahead.

He feels a bit as if he’s in a strange and pointless place.

Law gets up and stretches. As he does so he catches sight of the still figure leaning on the ship’s railing, watching the ocean.

“Zoro,” Law greets, mentally scolding himself for not seeing the swordsman earlier.

Zoro turns his head half towards Law and nods, his earrings flashing dimly.

Law strolls over and joins Zoro at the railing. It’s a little overcast, but the stars are clear enough. The ship rocks gently and the waves lap against the sides. Neither Zoro nor Law say anything for several minutes.

After a while, Zoro shifts against the railing. “I have no idea what I’m going to do after I defeat Mihawk,” he says softly into the sea. “If I survive.”

“Not that it’s quite the same thing,” he adds.

Law idly wonders if Zoro has some sort of psychic devil fruit no one knows about. But then it’s probably not hard to guess what’s on Law’s mind right now.

“There’s a saying about vengeance,” Law says.

“Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves,” Zoro supplies promptly.

Law lifts an eyebrow, mildly surprised. “Didn’t take you for a poet.”

Zoro gives a one-shouldered shrug.

Zoro and Law seem to have a surprising amount in common, which Law wasn’t expecting. They share the same straight-forward and realistic outlook on life, and Law had found himself impressed by Zoro’s abilities – especially given the man’s lack of devil fruit – and admiring his swordsmanship. Had Law found Zoro out in the wild he might even have asked the swordsman to join his crew. So Law wants to ask about it, how graves and revenge are linked to Dracule Mihawk, to Zoro. His curiosity surprises him, because Law hasn’t given a shit about anyone other than himself and his crew in a long, long time.

Law can see himself alternatively thanking and cursing Monkey D. Luffy for the rest of his life.

He still doesn’t ask.

“We have to defeat Kaido,” Law says.

“It’s something to do,” Zoro agrees, with laughter in his voice.

The moon slips out from behind the clouds, and silver light strikes Zoro’s face, throwing angular shadows across his cheekbones and making his eyes dark, deep dark.

Law doesn’t do anything that night, but that’s when he gets the idea of it.

 


 

The night before they reach Zou, Law manages to corner Zoro in the aquarium. Though it may be the other way around, given the come-hither look Zoro had thrown Law after dinner, before heading out across the deck and into the deserted room opposite. Law follows, because he’s not stupid.

When he gets there, Zoro is standing, leaning with his back against the glass. The room is dimly lit, and the fish that swim past the glass are nothing more than blue shadows. Zoro’s swords have been placed carefully on the couch next to him, out of the way.

Law’s glad his intentions have been so well read, and so well received. He walks over to Zoro, on the way placing his own nodachi on top of Zoro’s three katanas.

Zoro watches him silently, arms folded loosely, until Law is right in front of him. Law takes a step closer. Zoro’s arms drop to his sides. Law takes another step, bringing them almost chest to chest, and the intent is now unmistakable. Law prepares himself for the inevitable power-play. It’s necessary, but he has no intention of letting the Straw Hat swordsman best him.

One of Zoro’s hands comes up and tugs at Law’s open coat, pulling them flush together. Law allows himself to enjoy the hard lines of Zoro’s body against his own for a few seconds, then he hooks a leg behind Zoro’s and pulls to the side, knocking Zoro off balance. The swordsman twists his hips and falls sideways onto the couch, but doesn’t let go of Law’s coat, and he pulls Law down with him. Zoro lands on his back with a soft oof and the force of their impact on the couch sends Law’s nodachi clattering onto the floor, as well as two of Zoro’s swords.

“Careful,” Zoro grumbles softly, but there’s a hint of a smile at the corners of his mouth. Law braces himself to be flipped, possibly under Zoro, possibly off the couch – that’s what Law would do – but Zoro surprises him by instead just gently tugging upwards on Law’s lapels, until Law is lying fully on top of him. Zoro tilts his chin at Law expectantly.

“Giving up so soon?” Law asks, mostly to hide his confusion. They may be allies – which is why Law’s allowing himself to do this – but this is the Grand Line, and everything is about power and control. Law braces his hands on each of Zoro’s shoulders so he has some leverage.

“Yeah,” Zoro drawls, parting his legs until Law slots between them. “I’m easy.”

That- He can’t- Law should not find this ready acquiescence as attractive as he does. Zoro should not trust him as easily as this. Law nudges one knee gently upwards, against Zoro’s groin, and Zoro presses into it willingly. The heat of arousal curls at the base of Law’s spine.

A little warily, Law moves one hand down to tug open the sash holding Zoro’s robe nominally closed. The fabric falls open, and Law allows Zoro to slide Law’s own coat off his shoulders. Zoro idly traces one of the tattoos on Law’s shoulder with his thumb as he does so.

Law draws back a little and regards Zoro. The soft blue light washes out Zoro’s skin, and he’s pale against the dark fabric of the couch. With Zoro on his back, and Law sitting between Zoro’s open legs, one knee pressing into Zoro’s growing hardness, Law is very much the one in control. He wonders if their positioning matters at all to Zoro, or if the man recognises the significance of it.

“C’mon,” Zoro whispers pressing further into Law. He reaches out and pulls Law back on top of him.

Law obliges, releasing the pressure of his knee as he does so and making Zoro hiss in displeasure. Law swallows the noise with his own mouth, and the hiss turns into a groan as Zoro opens up for him, threading one hand through Law’s dark hair. Law decides to take the submission for what it is, and wastes no more time in chasing both their pleasures.

Zoro’s certainly not a passive lover, and the way that he arches up in pleasure and bares his neck for Law has Law wishing they had more time together, and that this could be a repeat occurrence. As it is, Law comes out of the experience pleasantly surprised, very satisfied, and, though it lasts only the scant hours until they arrive at Zou, quite relaxed.

 


 

Zou is interesting, in the way that only the Straw Hats can seem to manage. Still, Law enjoys himself. It’s a nice change to worry about other people’s problems, rather than his own. Law is also secretly pleased at how overjoyed his crew is at seeing him, and the ninja was super cool.

At the end of it, Luffy splits his crew, which is not something that Law would do but their crews and captaincy styles are very different. Luffy’s going after his wayward cook with the scary navigator, the weird skeleton, and Chopper; and Law is taking Roronoa, the rest of the Straw Hats, and the samurai on to Wano in his submarine. The plan is to reunite the alliance after a few days on Wano, but Law is already coming up with several back-up plans because, well – Luffy.

Luffy leaves in chaos, diving backwards off a cliff. The only thing that marks Law’s departure is a few bubbles on the surface of the ocean.

It’s a bit crowded onboard the Polar Tang, with the crew (but not Law, thank you very much) having to double-up with some of their guests, but everyone seems to get along. Law vaguely hopes that Zoro might be interested in repeating their rendezvous, but doesn’t give it too much thought.

 


 

They run into each other at 3 a.m. in the corridor, because Law can’t sleep and apparently neither can Zoro.

That is, they literally run into each other because Law lives on a submarine, and this particular corridor is barely wide enough for one grown man, and also pitch black.

Zoro swears as he collides with Law, grabbing at Law’s upper arm – to steady Law or stop him, Law’s not sure.

“It’s me, Zoro-ya.”

“I know,” comes the irritated response. “Why the hell do you live in a tin can?”

“Claustrophobic?” Law teases, smirking into the darkness.

“I could learn to be,” Zoro grumbles. He still hasn’t let go of Law’s arm. “I can’t see shit.”

Law shrugs, though the gesture is pointless. He knows the Polar Tang like the back of his hand, so he hadn’t thought to bring a light.

“Do you know the way back to your quarters?” Law asks.

“Yes,” says Zoro, a bit too quickly and a bit too cocksure, given his reputation for being directionally-challenged.

Whatever, not Law’s problem. The submarine isn’t that big.

“Alright,” Law says. And then, when Zoro doesn’t move, “I’m going to have to get past you.”

Law hears Zoro mutter, “Good luck,” but the man obligingly lets go of Law and flattens himself against the wall.

Even going as two-dimensional as they can both manage, getting past Zoro still involves Law being pressed against the man from shoulder to hip. It also doesn’t help when Zoro suddenly shifts his foot forward, making Law stumble slightly and forcing the captain to brace himself on Zoro’s firm chest.

“Hey there,” Zoro murmurs, very close to Law’s ear.

Law snorts – because come on – but then again…

Then again, Law’s feeling a little ‘hey there’ himself, and an opportunity has practically landed his lap.

“Okay,” Law says softly into the scant space between his and Zoro’s faces, though the place is so dark he can barely make out Zoro’s features. “I definitely know the way back to my cabin, and you only maybe know the way back to yours. How about we err on the side of caution?”

“Sounds good,” Zoro says, a little too triumphantly for Law’s liking.

Law extricates himself, grabs Zoro by the wrist, and leads him to the captain’s spacious quarters. Through the door, Law shoves an unresisting Zoro in the direction of the wide double bed, and then flicks on the small bedside lamp.

Zoro sprawls on his back on Law’s sheets, making himself at home. “Yeah, this is definitely an upgrade,” he drawls.

“Don’t disparage my hospitality,” Law says, half-distracted by wondering how Zoro has already managed to remove his shirt in the two seconds Law wasn’t looking at him.

“Your navigator snores, is all I’m saying,” Zoro says, sitting up and scooting backwards to make room for Law.

Law pauses in divesting himself of his coat. So that was why Zoro had been wandering his ship at three in the morning. “You came looking for me,” he says.

“Not especially,” Zoro says, his eyes cool and giving Law absolutely nothing. “But let’s not rule the possibility out.” Then he grins, sharp.

Well that’s… good. Law could definitely use a distraction right now, however temporary. It’s the first time he’s made an alliance with this particular perk, but Law’s adaptable.

Law climbs on the bed to kneel in front of Zoro. He cups the back of Zoro’s head with one hand, and leans down to kiss him. Zoro nips Law’s bottom lip playfully, then smiles a dare when Law draws back a little.

Law huffs at the challenge. In response, he tightens his grip a little, fingernails lightly scratching Zoro scalp as he brings their mouths together again, this time with a little more force. Law’s not going to deny that he likes this – he’s always preferred being in control; it makes him feel safer, more relaxed. And Zoro’s not just content to let Law take the lead, but he actually seems to prefer it this way, encouraging Law with just enough resistance that when Law pushes the right amount, they both get what they want. The two of them, Law gets the feeling, will make a very good combination in the bedroom.

Law keeps up the force of the kiss, until Zoro has unfolded his legs on either side of Law, until Law’s pressed him down into lying fully flat on the bed – only then does Law let them break apart for air.

“You done?” Law asks Zoro, the words coming out deep and a little raspy.

“Yeah, fuck,” Zoro says, a little breathless. “I told you I was easy, come on.” And Zoro’s hands tug at the fabric of Law’s pants – but he doesn’t undo them, doesn’t undo his own, though he’s clearly impatient. Zoro just waits.

Waits for Law to take the lead. Fuck, they’re well-matched.

“Go on, then,” Law says, and Zoro does, and Law thinks I could get used to this.

 


 

Sex in general is life-affirming, and sex with Zoro turns out to be exactly the thing that Law needs right now. Law can’t help planning ahead – it’s how he’s wired – and there are about a thousand different ways the impeding fight with Kaido could go horribly wrong. And Law can do nothing about any of it, because they’re in the middle of the ocean and all they’re doing is waiting.

So Law lets himself be distracted by Zoro. Zoro’s safe. Law likes having something that has no connection to his past or Doflamingo, that he isn’t responsible for, that isn’t on his crew or wants something from him. Isn’t someone that Law wants something from. Zoro is none of these things; what he is, is attractive, non-judgmental, and non-demanding.

Well, that may need a bit of a qualifier. Zoro is definitely demanding, in a way that Law is more than happy to keep up with – but he doesn’t push Law. He doesn’t ask questions, or talk about (god forbid) feelings; in fact neither of them acknowledge what they’re doing out loud, not to each other and certainly not to anyone else.

For someone who isn’t on Law’s crew, Law is surprised how much he trusts Zoro. He’s also surprised at how easy things are because of it. The sex relaxes Law, miracle of miracles, and Zoro isn’t that complicated. What Law sees, he gets (in more ways than one). Zoro is also painfully fucking hot, into Law, and game for just about anything Law wants to do to him.

The next night, all it takes is for Law to tap Zoro on the shoulder with his sword, and Zoro’s happily trailing Law to Law’s quarters.

“If this is going to be a thing, I might just head straight here after dinner,” Zoro says conversationally, as he pulls his shirt over his head. “I cannot take another fucking game of canasta.”

“Penguin’s a menace,” Law agrees. Then, “Don’t be presumptuous.” But Zoro grins at him like he sees straight through Law, and yes, Law may also be avoiding the forced group card games, and yes, Law may also want Zoro’s company in his avoidance.

Zoro kisses Law, brief but dirty, then steps away and starts rummaging through Law’s bedside table drawers.

“Other side,” Law says, and Zoro makes a noise of triumph when he locates the bottle of oil in the second nightstand. Something occurs to Law then, because Law is still thrown by how comfortable Zoro is with this whole arrangement, and is trying to make sense of it in his own head.

“Do you do this with your captain?” Law asks. He’s fairly sure the answer is no, but still. Despite giving off the air of an untamed beast, Zoro seems to have a thing for authority, and Law doesn’t want to step on someone’s toes.

“You’re not my captain,” Zoro says in lieu of an answer. He strips naked in a few, efficient movements, and belly-flops onto the bed.

“I could be,” Law says, testing.

Zoro rolls over and sits up. “Yeah?” he says, though he says it like yeah, right, tilting his head to the side and looking at Law with amusement. Despite being naked, Zoro seems perfectly self-assured.

“Is that a challenge?” Law asks, trying to read Zoro’s intentions.

“It’s not going to be anything unless you get over here,” Zoro says, lobbing the bottle of oil at Law.

Law catches it easily, but doesn’t move. “You didn’t answer my question.”

Zoro rolls his eyes. “No, I don’t do this with my captain and no, there’s no conflict of loyalty. Now stop looking a gift horse in the mouth and get over here.”

Law, satisfied, does as requested, and fifteen minutes later will begrudgingly admit to himself that Zoro possibly has his priorities in better order than Law. Still, the thought flits across Law’s mind that if things had turned out differently – if he had started in East Blue, or reached Loguetown first – Law might be looking down at his first mate, whose muscled, trembling thighs are parting for his captain.

As Law reaches down, and his long dextrous fingers make Zoro curse and twist, Law wonders if he would be enough to hold Zoro’s loyalty.

 


 

When Law comes back from his trip to the bathroom, Zoro is dozing on his stomach, head pillowed on his folded arms. Law appreciates the broad, strong back for a few seconds, before he gives into the urge to touch. He climbs onto the bed, and straddles Zoro. Zoro lets out a sleepy grunt of satisfaction, and Law smiles slightly to himself. He runs his hands slowly up Zoro’s back, admiring the way his tattooed, darker hands look against the unblemished skin. The muscles at Zoro’s shoulders bunch and release as Zoro shifts a little beneath him, and Law appreciates that too, kneading lightly at Zoro’s shoulders and drawing a pleased groan from his lover.

Law leans down and presses an open-mouthed kiss at the nape of Zoro’s neck, and then another between his shoulder blades. Zoro shudders, and arches up a little, easily lifting Law on his back before sinking back into the bed with a sigh.

It starts then. Thinking little of it, feeling only pleased and relaxed, Law smiles and says into the heat of Zoro’s skin, “Join my crew.”

Zoro huffs a laugh, and then abruptly flips himself beneath Law. Law lifts himself up so he doesn’t get thrown, then settles back down to straddle Zoro again, placing his hands on Zoro’s chest as the green-haired man grins up at him lazily.

“No,” Zoro says. Then, “C’mere,” as he pulls Law down into a kiss, one strong hand at the back of Law’s neck, and the other pulling Law up by the thigh, bringing them together for round two.

 


 

Law is far too nice for his own good. Never again will he generously offer the services of the Polar Tang, not if it involves never having a moment of peace onboard his own ship. He just wants someplace quiet to go over the meagre maps they have of the area around Wano, so at least one person in the bloody alliance is prepared, but every goddamn room on his goddamn ship has been invaded. Usopp is holding the more gullible of Law’s crew spell-bound in the mess hall; Robin’s in the library, which would be fine, but so is Franky and the man likes to chat; Shachi and Penguin are doing something ill-advised in the surgery; and even Law’s bedroom is off-limits because Bepo’s commandeered it for a nap – citing Law’s superior mattress – and Law’s navigator does, indeed, snore.

Highly irritated, Law opens the door to the Polar Tang’s gym and immediately thinks, oh thank god. Which is odd, because the gym is occupied – but it’s occupied by Zoro, who, apart from nodding once in acknowledgement of Law, otherwise ignores the captain.

There’s a small waist-high table in the corner usually used to store weights, but which is now empty because Zoro has appropriated every single weight and weight-like object in the room for his training. Law spreads his maps and notes across the table and settles in to finally get some work done.

The first thing Law finds out is that ‘Wano country’ is somewhat of a misnomer, since it actually refers to an archipelago of islands. From what Kin’emon had told him, Law expects Kaido to be set up here and have back-up forces here and here, but it does make Law wonder how on earth Zoro manages to balance that many weights, and also why the floor isn’t at least bowing under their collective mass, and in any case that sort of training is wholly unnecessary unless you’re showing off-

Law shakes himself and re-focuses. Law has heard rumours of Kaido forming alliances, which means there is a strong chance they’re going to run into someone powerful. And of course that someone – where’s his list of known accomplices, ah, here – is likely going to attempt to manipulate them, though of course Zoro’s swordsmanship is the finest that Law’s seen outside of the Shichibukai, and it’s somewhat beautiful to watch Zoro fight, there being an element of that in the kata he’s currently completing-

Law finds strength and competence attractive. Zoro has these in spades. It’s very distracting.

It shouldn’t be. Law has iron-clad self-control. But watching Zoro train starts an itch under Law’s skin he can’t banish; nor can he easily ignore it. That’s new.

Law grips the table with both hands, and leans further over the papers. Kin’emon seems adamant that they’ll find allies in the other samurai, but that’s not something Law’s willing to count on. He knows next to nothing about the existing treaties and alliances in place, and the rippling muscles that bunch and release under tan skin are also a problem, as is the flush that darkens Zoro’s neck and face.

Then Law spends five minutes watching a bead of sweat trickle slowly down Zoro’s pectorals.

Focus. Law forces his eyes back downwards, and for the next while uses the majority of his will-power in not lifting his head again, so he can stop being so distracted.

This flies out the window when Zoro, finished with his workout, comes up behind Law and embraces him, one hand on Law’s stomach and one hand sliding slowly and intently across Law’s chest.

“You’re distracting me,” Law says through gritted teeth.

“You’ve been staring at the same page for ten minutes,” Zoro counters, taking Law’s earrings into his mouth and gently tugging then between his teeth.

“Like I said,” Law says, spinning around abruptly in Zoro’s arms – thinking ah, fuck it – “you’re distracting me.” He seizes Zoro’s mouth in a kiss, pouring into it all the sexual frustration of the last half hour.

Zoro makes a noise of surprise and desire, and Law uses his height advantage to spin Zoro around and back him up against the table.

“Up,” Law commands against Zoro’s mouth, and Zoro obeys with alacrity, hopping up to sit on the table.

Law crowds him in, standing between Zoro’s legs and pressing their chests together as he deepens and dirties the kiss. Zoro’s skin is heated and damp against Law’s own, which is dry and cool – the contrast pushes arousal through Law’s loins and lower back.

It’s quick and intense. With both their trousers undone the minimum amount, Law wraps his hand around both their cocks, using pressure and friction to draw panting gasps from Zoro. Just enough to take him to the edge, but not push him over, whispering sweet little curses and pleas against Law’s lips.

“Law, c’mon, just a little-” Zoro urges, breaking off his sentences and pushing into Law, gripping Law’s upper arms and eyes screwed up with the intensity of it.

“Consider this punishment,” Law pants, “for distracting me.”

Zoro buries his head in Law’s neck. “Mea culpa,” he says, voice rasping.

“Make it up to me,” Law says, following a dictate that doesn’t really come from his conscious mind. “Join my crew.” And then before Zoro can answer, Law tightens his grip almost too hard, and thrusts them together, and by far the sweetest sound is Law’s name at the moment of little death, pulled softly and almost unwillingly from his lover.

 


 

On the night that marks the halfway point, Law wakes up suddenly, his body forcing itself out of sleep in self-defence. His eyes snap open and he sucks in a deep and shaking breath.

It’s over, he reminds himself reflexively. It’s a familiar refrain. It happened. It sucks that it happened, but it’s over and you’re fine now.

Law scrubs a hand over his face, attempting to wipe away the dream-memory. He thinks about swinging his legs off the bed, finding his way to the bathroom, splashing his face with cold water. He probably won’t sleep the rest of the night. Switch on the light and read a book, maybe one of the medical tomes Chopper had lent him.

But that would disturb Zoro, who’s asleep next to Law and radiating enough heat to make a blanket unnecessary. Maybe if Law concentrates hard enough he’ll fall back asleep out of boredom. Maybe he should just get up and do what he likes, because it’s his goddamn ship and Zoro probably won’t even wake up.

“Breathe,” Zoro says unexpectedly, his voice half-muffled by his pillow.

Law starts. He’s really out of it, if he hadn’t realised Zoro was awake already.

“Go back to sleep,” Law says. “It’s fine.”

Zoro turns his head to look at Law. The Polar Tang isn’t submerged, and moonlight shafts through the portholes. Zoro’s black-and-white in the half-light, as everything is.

“Follow your breath,” Zoro instructs him. Law thinks that maybe he’s still dreaming – the avatar of his lover is giving him cryptic messages in the moonlight, and if Law turns around he’ll see Corazon.

Zoro shifts and sits up, reaches out to Law, and encircles Law’s wrist with one warm, solid hand.

“It’s a technique every child learned at the dojo,” Zoro tells Law, as if Law has the faintest idea of what he’s talking about. “It helps ground you in the present.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Breathe in,” Zoro commands, “and follow the air as it enters you. Notice your lungs as they expand, your belly as it rises.” He stops, and looks expectantly at Law.

Law obligingly breathes in.

“Follow it,” Zoro says.

Law fights the urge to roll his eyes, but does as Zoro says. He focuses on the air as it comes in-

“And as you breath out, do the same.”

-and follows his lungs as they flatten, his chest falls, and the last of the breath exits his body.

“Again,” Zoro commands.

Law does as Zoro says, because he can feel the dregs of the dream already seeping out of him, and reality taking its place. He completes several more breath cycles, with Zoro’s calm voice occasionally interjecting to stop Law’s thoughts from wandering, and to bring him back to focusing only on his breath. He gradually begins to feel less distant from himself, more grounded.

“Better?” Zoro asks, when Law finally opens his eyes, which had naturally fallen closed sometime during the practice.

“Yes, actually,” Law says. “Thanks.”

Zoro shrugs. “Luffy also has nightmares.”

Law scowls in the moonlight. “They’re not nightmares.” He’s not five.

Zoro squints at him. “Alright,” he says slowly. “You want me out of here?”

If Law’s honest with himself, at least half of what had grounded him was Zoro’s body heat seeping into Law’s skin, and Zoro’s solid, real presence. So, “No,” Law doesn’t want him out of here. “Not if you don’t mind me reading.”

Zoro smiles a little. “Go ahead,” he says.

Zoro settles back down as Law switches on the bedside lamp, and is back asleep before Law’s finished the first chapter.

Law doesn’t need anyone else, and never will, but with Zoro there, it’s a lot less lonely than it usually is.

 


 

In retrospect that was when Law should have noticed things shifting and done something to stop it. But he didn’t.

Instead, Law thinks about how well Zoro suits him.

The days at sea are a welcome break from the fighting, and the running, and the constant go-go-go that had been Law’s life for the last, oh, fifteen to twenty years. With Doflamingo down, everything seems so much less urgent. But the flip-side to that is that now Law has to deal with the fact that with his nemesis gone, only he remains. It’s a lot fucking harder than he thought it would be, kicking himself out of the habit of brooding, of stopping dwelling on the past, on what he could’ve should’ve done.

Zoro, on the other hand, seems to have the whole zen living-in-the-moment thing down, and it would irritate Law if he wasn’t using it to his advantage. Zoro’s undemanding warmth when he lies next Law is like a balm. Zoro is solid, he is present – he is neither past nor future, and therefore embodies none of Law’s anxieties, worries.

Zoro can relax Law – it’s a fucking miracle. That’s how well Zoro suits him.

“You should meditate with me,” Zoro says from the floor, where he’s in the lotus position. His eyes are closed and his face is entirely composed. He’s also completely naked.

“I’m good,” Law says. He’s remained on the bed, like a sensible person, where the sheet covering his own nakedness is much more pleasant on his bare skin than cold wood would be.

Zoro cracks open his one good eye.

“It’ll help,” he says. “Stop you from brooding so damn much.”

Law snorts in amusement.

Zoro shrugs and closes his eye again, resuming his practice.

Law lies there and regards him in the long, quiet minutes that follow. Zoro’s chest rises and falls with soothing regularity, but other than that he remains as still as a statue. Law does a body scan with his eyes, starting from the top of Zoro’s head, and the soft green locks that Law has run his hands through now so many times. Down past the sweep of Zoro’s eyelashes, his strong-featured face, determined jaw, proud neck. Following the swell and curve of the muscles that define Zoro’s shoulders and chest, bisected by the pale ridge of scar tissue. His arms, now lax and relaxed, but which Law has seen and admired as tensed and powerful, and down to the calloused and oh-so-talented hands. Zoro’s hard stomach and firm thighs, against which rest the sensuous curve of his penis. Then, finally, strong calves and study feet. On inspection, there really is very little about Law’s lover that is soft, which suits Law just fine.

And hey, look at that, Law’s joined Zoro in his meditation after all.

Practice finished, Zoro opens his eye and regards Law regarding him.

“Like what you see?” Zoro asks, voice as deep and patient as the ocean.

“Yes,” says Law, and smirks at him. “Now come up here and ground me properly.”

Zoro huffs a laugh but does as he’s told, climbing back onto the bed. Law reaches for him, eager to touch instead of just look. Once Zoro has settled in front of him, Law slides a hand down the scar on Zoro’s chest, reading the bumps and ridges with his fingertips like braille, allowing the warmth and texture of Zoro’s skin to absorb his entire attention. Zoro sits patiently and lets Law touch, his dark eyes on Law’s face and a slight smile on his lips.

“Funny sort of meditation,” Zoro says, because of course he knows exactly what Law’s doing.

“You said to focus on the present,” Law rejoinders, sliding his hand up under Zoro’s chin and pulling the man closer.

“Oh, I’m not complaining,” Zoro grins, and Law kisses him once, twice, and again, until Zoro has forgotten making smart-ass remarks in favour of chasing Law’s lips with his own.

“We’re coming up to Wano soon,” Law says, drawing back half a breath.

“Mmm hmm,” Zoro hums, and darts forward to steal a semi-chaste peck. “Excited?”

Law scrapes his fingernails gently down Zoro’s chest and swallows the shiver it draws out of the green-haired man. “About our certain doom at the hands of the strongest man in the world? Absolutely.”

Zoro curls one hand over Law’s thigh, his knuckles brushing Law’s half-hard cock. “You worry too much.”

“So I’ve been told.” Law kisses him again. “How about you distract me?”

Zoro draws back from their lazy kisses and treats Law to a smile that’s pure filth. He presses open-mouthed kisses at the hollow of Law’s throat, down his chest, and stomach – and then he stops and looks up at Law. Law raises an eyebrow, a casual gesture which is somewhat belied by the way his hands are clenching at the sheets.

Zoro chuckles lowly, huffs of warm breath ghosting across the tip of Law's cock. Law has the feeling he might need to hold on for this.

Over the next several minutes Law learns exactly how Zoro’s jaw muscles have benefited from his three-sword style, and furthermore the precise amount of tongue dexterity one acquires in learning to talk around said sword.

Law has his one hand holding onto the sheet for dear life, and the other threaded into Zoro’s hair. Law has stopped worrying about Wano, what Luffy’s up to, how his crew are getting along with their guests, whether he’ll sleep well tonight, if Corazon would be proud of him. Instead, every single one of Law’s higher brain functions are engaged in trying to prevent a coronary during what is hands down the best blow job he has ever received, ever, fuck this man’s mouth-

Zoro swirls his tongue in a way that makes Law’s hips jerk upwards and drives all the air out of his lungs, and in reflex he tightens his grip on Zoro’s hair, pulling. And fuck if that isn’t a fantastic thing, because it draws a throaty groan from Zoro and gets him the most delicious little scrape of teeth, Law’s going to have dreams about this for the rest of his life-

“Zoro,” Law gasps out before he dies, before Zoro kills him, “Join my crew,” and then Zoro swallows him down in his entirety and Law blacks out for a second or thirty.

He comes around to Zoro looking smug.

“Don’t think I didn’t notice how you liked the hair-pulling,” Law manages, going for annoyed but landing in thoroughly blissed-out instead.

“I’m counting on it,” Zoro says, and kisses him languidly.

“God your mouth is amazing,” Law hears himself say, brain on fucking holiday. Zoro just laughs.

 


 

As the days tick down, Law takes full advantage of Zoro. The man has shared his bed every night, in one capacity or another, since they bumped into each other on that first night. There’s the sex, of course – which is good – and Zoro makes Law a welcome bed-mate because Law runs cold and Zoro’s a natural heater.

But Zoro also offers support in unexpected ways – unexpected to Law, at least. Zoro listens and offers intelligent advice when Law outlines plans and back-up plans, and back-ups plans for the back-up plans – which is Law’s idea of pillow-talk. Zoro also listens when Law gushes about an interesting medical discovery, despite the fact Zoro clearly hasn’t the foggiest idea of what Law’s on about; when Law rants about topics including but not limited to his crew, their enemies, Luffy, the marines, and how everyone around him is an idiot; and when Law relates the occasional story, clipped and brief, from his past. Zoro listens well, like he’s providing actual therapy to go along with the more physical therapy in which they engage.

Then there’s also how Zoro swipes Law’s reading glasses when Law isn’t paying him enough attention. He naps with his head pillowed on Law’s stomach when Law loses track of time and spends five hours reading. He cleans Law’s nodachi when he does his own swords. He curls around Law on the particularly cold nights, and doesn’t object when Law sticks his freezing feet between Zoro’s calves. Zoro steals Law’s pillow and kicks all the blankets to the floor and Law is becoming far too used to it, to him.

Law is becoming aware of a small, selfish desire: he doesn’t want Zoro to leave his comfortable double bed on the Polar Tang, and he doesn’t want Zoro to return to his own ship.

“Eath?” Zoro reads, tracing Law’s knuckles with his fingers.

Law lifts his thumb up pointedly, ensuring the ‘D’ is clearly visible to Zoro.

Zoro smirks, because he enjoys teasing Law. It’s novel, this – a lover’s teasing.

“What?” says Law, pleased but also slightly irritated.

Zoro shrugs, still smirking. “Seems a little… melodramatic,” he says, as he shifts one leg between Law’s and half rolls on top of him.

Law huffs. “You should talk.”

“Knowing the value of dramatic timing isn’t the same as permanently marking my skin,” Zoro says.

Law scrapes his nails lightly down Zoro’s chest, following the line of the massive scar, and raising his eyebrow meaningfully as he does so.

Zoro grabs Law’s hand to still it, the playful expression gone from his face.

“Not the same thing,” Zoro says, voice soft with warning.

Law tilts his head like tell me, but instead Zoro presses his thigh down between Law’s legs, and the blatant distraction almost works as Law’s dick resumes interest in proceedings.

“I can have your body but not your confidence?” Law says, half-seriously, half-distracted, as Zoro positions himself with Law’s hardening cock between his still slick thighs.

Zoro presses his thighs together slightly, increasing the pressure on Law’s cock, and Law’s head hits the pillow with a thump, and a breathy, “Fuck.”

“I made a vow,” Zoro concedes, drawing back a little. “C’mon,” he says, bracing himself above Law.

Law’s hips piston upwards almost of their own accord, fucking into the intercrural gap. “To who? Ah, god.”

“My captain,” Zoro murmurs, dropping his forehead to touch Law’s, dipping down to kiss the next breath from Law’s lips.

“Swear it to me instead,” Law says. He grasps Zoro’s hips and brings him flush against Law, Law’s cock still between Zoro’s thighs. Law circles one hand around Zoro’s own hardness, squeezes and tugs. “Join my crew.”

“No,” Zoro says, gasping, and in retaliation clenches his thighs together hard as they move together. The pressure and friction proves too much for Law and he arches upwards, trapping Zoro’s cock between their bodies as he comes.

 


 

They’re not being obvious, but they’re not exactly being discreet, either. There’s a remote chance some of Law’s crew don’t know, given Law heavily discourages gossip, but the Straw Hats currently onboard the Polar Tang certainly do.

Usopp seems to prefer to pretend ignorance, as does Franky. Both had blushed to high heaven the evening a dishevelled Law had arrived at dinner trailing an equally rumpled Zoro. Robin, who Law greatly respects and perhaps fears a little, had subjected Law to a hard stare, but mercifully didn’t say anything. Shachi and Penguin had contented themselves with elbowing each other and giggling, and Bepo had waggled his eyebrows at Law, which was both impressive (given he’s a bear), and highly mortifying.

Zoro had seemed impervious to it all. Law suspects he has no shame.

What was odd though – and kind of nice, if Law’s being brutally honest with himself – was that Law didn’t mind. He didn’t mind his crew smiling when he and Zoro so much as stood next to each other, though it ought to have made him squirrely and defensive.

What Law really should be doing is making the temporary nature of his and Zoro’s relationship clear to his crew, so they don’t get too attached. It was already starting: Penguin had given Zoro a tour of the submarine (a complete waste of time), Law’s cook had asked him about Zoro’s preferred foods (as if Law would know), and Ikkaku had started calling Zoro daahling, which wasn’t a good sign.

And when Law had mentioned to Bepo, somewhat pointedly, that Law was looking forward to getting things onboard the Polar Tang back to normal, the bear had nodded sagely in agreement, and then innocently asked Law when he was planning on expanding the gym.

Law had scowled at his navigator, but was unable to stop his own train of thought from running down the tracks of what if. Who Law is now is someone without a raison d’être. Law doesn’t want to be Pirate King – he wants strength, and control, but he doesn’t care a whit for Roger’s secret loot. He’s also a survivor, and despite all previous indications to the contrary, can now imagine living for decades longer, perhaps even growing old (provided he manages to survive Luffy). Most of Law’s crew will probably stick with him, but it would be nice – and this is something that had honestly never occurred to Law before, not before this particular voyage – to have that someone, a significant other, to keep him company. And Law can easily – perhaps too easily – see Zoro in that role.

Law can see himself, in maybe a year’s time, stomping in at breakfast annoyed at Zoro for leaving his shirts on the floor of their bedroom again. Why, he’ll demand of the green-haired man, can’t he put his dirty clothes neatly in the laundry basket like a civilised person. Zoro will look up from where he sits at the table, piece of toast hanging half out of his mouth and dumbfounded expression on his face, while in the background Law’s crew exchange meaningful looks and nudge each other. Then Law will realise that he sounds like an irate wife, and drop the subject. Zoro will finish his breakfast, and on the way out stoop down to kiss Law on the corner of the lips. When Law returns to their bedroom fifteen minutes later to complete his ablutions, the floor will be clear, the bed will be made, and Law will glow warm. The next time he sees Zoro, Law will kiss him softly, and they’ll both ignore the inevitable wolf-whistle from the peanut gallery.

There is a version of Law that doesn’t yet exist, to whom this domestic scene belongs. And the weird thing is, is that Law doesn’t hate it.

 


 

They’re a few days out from Wano, when the Polar Tang spots another pirate ship. Kin’emon insists that they surface and check to see that it isn’t a ship from Wano – honestly, why would it be – and Law’s objections are overruled by the other samurai and some of the Straw Hats, including Zoro, who Law suspects just wants a fight.

Whatever. Law watches Bepo’s attempts to signal a parlay from the deck of the Polar Tang with a scowl on his face.

“I’ve got an idea,” Zoro murmurs in Law’s ear, and sending a tingle down his spine.

“What?” Law whispers out of the corner of his mouth.

“Take my heart.”

What?” Law barely manages to keep his voice low.

“Use your devil fruit.” Zoro gestures in what Law assumes is Zoro’s impression of Room.

Law turns stares at Zoro. “You’re giving me your heart,” he says, in the most inflectionless tone he can manage.

Zoro laughs softly. “Yeah, I guess I am. Don’t do anything with it I wouldn’t do,” he says, and smirks at Law.

It’s not fair that Zoro trusts him that much. It’s especially not fair that Zoro’s right.

Law fucking hates him.

It’s not until they’re charging into battle – because of course the pirates weren’t peaceful, this is the Grand Line – that Law realises he neglected to ask why. Apparently when Roronoa Zoro says, ‘take my heart’, Law’s first and only instinct is to do as he says.

Fucking hell.

Then of course Zoro gets stabbed in the chest. Probably – Law realises sometime later – on purpose.

The anticipation that goes before horror, that feeling you get right before something terrible is going to happen, Law feels that pool in his gut, slosh over and around in the pit of his belly, curl up his spine, grab his lungs and tighten them.

Then he remembers the two hearts thumping in tandem in his own chest.

And Zoro grins, sharp, feral, and pulls the dagger out of his chest, blood following it-

He’s still going to bleed out, the moron, Law’s doctor-brain helpfully informs him.

-and the enemy is too astonished to see death coming for him.

Law should save his skills for those in more immediate need of them, who aren’t idiotic and reckless swordsmen, and who don’t trade their hearts for near-death experiences. He should.

Zoro grins as he sees Law approach him. “That was fun. Luffy’s devil fruit doesn’t really lend itself to me much in battle, not unless I want to bounce around all over the place.” Law stops in front of Zoro and glares at him. It has no discernible effect.

Your devil fruit, however,” Zoro says, stepping into Law’s space. He’s still bleeding everywhere. “Yours has a lot of potential.”

Law puts one hand over the other and presses down on the wound on Zoro’s chest.

Zoro tilts his head to the side and leans into Law, into Law’s hands. Law bends his head forward as well, almost unconsciously. Zoro’s hands are somehow suddenly on Law’s hips, and he noses along Law’s jawline, to the spot just below his ear.

“We should do this again sometime,” Zoro says, low, and far too tempting.

Absolutely not. It’s dangerous. I have more than enough organs to protect without adding yours to the mix. I’m not your side-kick.

“Well,” Law says dumbly, as Zoro’s warm blood seeps between his fingers. “You could join my crew.”

Law feels Zoro chuckle through his hands.

“If you stop the bleeding,” Zoro says, pupils dilated and more than a little turned on from adrenaline, “I might have some time for you.”

I want all of it, Law thinks resentfully, and then when the bleeding’s stopped he takes it out on Zoro. Zoro swears into his ear, matches him power for power, and then asks for more. Somehow Law forgets to give Zoro’s heart back until the following morning.

 


 

They’ll reach Wano tomorrow, Bepo had told Law. They’ll hit the ground running and, fates willing, Luffy and the rest of the Straw Hats will join them soon after. Law’s brief respite has ended, reality is going to coming crashing down on his head, and Zoro will become, at best, an occasional fling. Law had better make the most of the time he has left.

"Bed," commands Law.

"Yes, Captain," Zoro says teasingly, lightly.

He doesn’t mean anything by it. Zoro doesn’t mean anything by it, and yet still the realisation hits Law hard, like a club to the back of the head, how much he wants Zoro to say Yes, Captain and mean it.

Zoro is not 'safe' anymore, hasn't been 'safe' for days now – if he ever was. It had been good that he wasn't Law's – and now, it's bad, it's fucking annoying, that he isn't Law's. Law had spectacularly failed to keep his distance, and now he's paying for it.

For the past few weeks Law has had the pleasure of having Zoro's attention. Zoro seems to have a natural tendency to attach himself to loyalty – vows, crews, captains – and for the past few weeks he has been in the absence of one captain (Luffy), and in the presence of another (Law). Law, who greedily takes Zoro’s trust since it is rare and precious and absolute, and who has revelled a little too much in it. And now Law is staring at Zoro spreadeagled on Law's bed – Roronoa Zoro, who undoubtedly belongs to Luffy, at least for the purposes of captaincy – and wanting nothing more than to have this, too.

"What?" Zoro rumbles, in response to Law's extended staring.

 Law is nothing more than a collection of bad decisions and worse luck.

“Onto your stomach,” Law orders, and Zoro’s dark eyes flare.

Law takes his time, making sure Zoro’s attention is on him and him only. He works Zoro open achingly slowly, until Zoro’s writhing on Law’s fingers. When Law slides in, he doesn’t let Zoro touch, keeps his movement arrhythmic, not so much fucking Zoro as filling him, rocking him open until his world is nothing but Law’s hands and mouth and cock.

When Zoro’s shaking, and he’s close, Law pulls out fully, drawing a string of curses from his lover. He pushes back in slowly, the oil slicking and smoothing the way, until every inch of Law is buried deep. Then Law grips the base of Zoro’s cock, postponing orgasm; Zoro moans and presses backwards.

“Law,” Zoro says, his voice wrecked and raw, “Law,” like all he can do is repeat Law’s name.

“Not until I say,” Law commands, voice growling.

Zoro slaps his hand on the mattress, drops his head and grits his teeth, and says with an edge of desperation, “Fine, okay, fuck, Law.”

Law releases his hand and Zoro emits a drawn out, sub-vocal moan. Zoro’s head remains bowed, exposing a tempting expanse of dark skin. Law presses a soft kiss to the side of Zoro’s neck at the back, then he gives the same area a sharp nip. Zoro’s hands fist in the sheet. Law bites down.

Zoro shudders and his elbows and knees slide sideways, dropping him to lie flat on the mattress, with Law bearing down on top of him, still connected intimately. Law’s hands slide down Zoro’s spreadeagled arms to pin him down at the wrists.

“Don’t move,” Law whispers into the shell of Zoro’s ear, his own voice shaking.

Zoro turns his head to the side, captures Law’s lips in an open-mouthed kiss. “You’re killing me,” he croaks.

Law laughs low and soft, and moves back to sit on his haunches. The movement pulls him halfway out of Zoro, and Zoro curses an objection. But he obeys Law, doesn’t move backwards – though he does lift his hips slightly and spread his legs on either side of Law, urging Law with his body. Law grips Zoro’s hips, digging his fingers into the flesh there, and holding Zoro in place draws back and thrusts in again forcefully.

All the breath pushes out of Zoro in a grunt, and his hands move to grip the headboard.

Law repeats the motion, fucking deep into Zoro with a slow, even pace, his cock aching for the slick, overheated skin it pushes up against.

Zoro shifts with Law’s thrusts, pulling up one leg to the side and changing the angle slightly, so the next time Law pushes in it hits just the right spot.

Zoro’s entire body jerks like a live wire and his back bows concave into the bed. “Law,” he pants.

Law does it again, sending Zoro’s body juddering. “Law, fuck, please.” Zoro can barely form the words. He props himself up on his elbows and tries to arc his pelvis off the bed – trying to get some distance between the mattress and his overheated cock – but he doesn’t get far with Law pinning his hips in place.

Law reaches around and lightly strokes Zoro’s cock, barely touching, making Zoro’s thighs tremble.

“Say it again,” Law orders, though he’s scarcely holding on himself.

Zoro’s fists clench, and Law brushes his thumb over the flushed tip of Zoro’s cock, leaking white fluid.

Ah, fuck, Law, please.”

The submission pours oil on the fire of Law’s desire. He whispers yes, thrusting in, curling his fingers firmly around Zoro’s hardness, and is rewarded with the sight of Zoro’s uninhibited orgasm. With Zoro clenching around him, one more half thrust is all it takes for Law’s own release to be ripped from him.

Afterwards, they lie together side-by-side. Zoro shifts languidly, and settles again, but even in the brief movement Law can feel the deep sense of satisfaction in his lover's form.

Zoro doesn’t mean anything by it. Law shouldn't do it.

He does anyway.

Whispered into the dark, in the space between the two of their hard, marked bodies – tattoos, scars – Law says, "Join my crew."

And Zoro takes a deep breath in, and a deep breath out, and says with patience but absolute certainty, “No.”

 


 

Law is mostly right. Wano is saved from being a complete and utter disaster by only the slimmest of margins – that margin being a Zoro-and-Luffy team-up that is, quite frankly, terrifying – and Law does almost die (again), but then to be fair so does everyone else.

It takes the memory of that near-death experience and about four beers before Law resolves on actually talking to Zoro. Law and Luffy’s crews are losing their collective shit at the end-of-fight hey-we-survived celebration, and tomorrow they’re all sailing off – this time in different directions – and Law has to get some closure because the next time he sees Zoro there’s a good chance at least one of them is going to be dead.

Zoro looks unfairly attractive and unfairly sober in the firelight, as Law wanders over. Fortunately most of the party is currently engaged in a very wobbly conga line, headed by a singing Usopp, so Law has at least some privacy for what is no doubt going to be a hideously embarrassing conversation.

Actually, fuck this, Law thinks, and makes an abrupt about-turn. Out of nowhere – how? He’s not that drunk – Zoro reaches out, easily catches Law by the arm, and pulls him down to sit next to Zoro by the campfire.

“Enjoying yourself?” Zoro asks, highly amused for some reason.

“I hate,” Law starts, and then stops, because that pretty much sums it all up.

Zoro’s still smiling at him. “You know, Luffy used to be worse,” he says conversationally.

“Fuck off,” says Law. “That is not possible.”

Zoro laughs. “He could get away with it because our enemies were weaker. But however bad it’s looked, there’s never been any doubt in my mind that he’d win.”

“He could have died today.”

“Nah.” Zoro dismisses the notion easily.

Anger flashes through Law, counteracting the sweet buzz of the alcohol. “He did. He almost died here, and at Dressrosa, and at fucking Marineford.”

Zoro raises an eyebrow at him. “But he didn’t.”

“And you almost died with him,” Law says, too unhappily. The crazy swordsman will follow his crazy captain, and Law will lose both of them. To cover it up, he adds, “So did we all.”

Zoro leans back, and the fire shadows dance on his face. “It’s the path I’ve chosen,” he says, gazing at the stars. “The goals we chase don’t come easily.”

“You should join my crew.” Aw fuck, Law hadn’t meant to say that.

Zoro turns his head to look at Law, his eyes clear and serious. “I will make Luffy Pirate King,” he says, with iron. He reaches for his white sword, and turns it around in his hands. “And I will defeat Mihawk.”

“I don’t want to lose you,” Law says. It’s the truth, and it’s damn near impossible to say.

Zoro eyes widen in surprise. “You won’t,” he says, seemingly reflexively, then he ducks his head and smiles.

Ugh, Law hates every part of this conversation. “You can’t promise that.”

“Yeah, I can,” Zoro says with an obscene amount of confidence. “I promised it to Luffy,” Zoro lays a palm on the scar on his chest, almost over his heart, like he’s swearing a vow, “and I can promise it to you.”

Law stares at Zoro. He wants more, but what he’s been given is pretty damn huge already.

“Okay,” Law says, almost at a whisper.

In the background there’s a wild shout and the conga line collapses in on itself. Zoro and Law are both briefly distracted by the commotion, but the party soon sorts itself out and begins what appears to be an impromptu song contest.

Law turns back to the fire, brooding.

“Luffy will always be my captain,” Zoro says suddenly.

Alright, fuck, Law knows.

“But after everything, when it’s all over, there won’t be anything-” Zoro breaks off.

Law looks at him, and finds Zoro looking back. And Zoro looks… tentative. Law waits.

“There won’t be anything, keeping me,” Zoro continues.

Despite the raucousness going on behind them, Law feels like there’s a fragility in the air between him and Zoro.

“But there are other things, that I might pledge myself to,” Zoro says into the silence, his hands clenching around the white sword’s scabbard.

When Law realises what Zoro’s asking, something suspiciously like hope curls in his ribcage. “Then you’ll come to me?” Law asks.

Zoro grins lopsidedly, relief in his eyes. “I could be persuaded to defend your ship in exchange for sexual favours,” he says.

Somehow Law finds that endearing. But he frowns. “Zoro.”

Zoro’s face softens. “I’ll come to you,” he promises.

 


 

In the grand scheme of things it isn’t long until they see each other again, but it feels like an age. As well it should – the Worst Generation has started and finished its own era, and Monkey D. Luffy has been crowned on Raftel with a crew whose power outstripped even that of Gol D. Roger’s, and with the best swordsman in the world at his elbow.

Law reads the newspapers and pretends not to count the days. He makes sure the Polar Tang never submerges, just in case. Bepo throws him sympathetic looks and Shachi and Penguin hover like mother hens until Law chases them away with his bad temper.

Eventually, one morning, the lookout spots a small boat approaching the Polar Tang.

There’s the usual fuss, and then Roronoa Zoro stands on the deck before him.

Law scowls at him. “You’re late.”

Zoro ducks his head in apology. “I left as soon as I could, but,” he grins wryly, “I got lost.”

The clamp around Law’s heart loosens.

Then the Surgeon of Death says, “Join me.”

And the Master Swordsman says, “Yes.”