The Sunny was docked against a rocky beach of a small and empty island, the ship swaying gently against the waves.
It was a nice afternoon, and Luffy was perched on his special seat, mouth slightly ajar as he stared at the endless blue of the sky with wide, wonder-filled eyes.
Usually, he would be running around Sunny 's deck, playing tag with Usopp and Chopper. Well, he still wanted to do that, but maybe later. Right now, he was waiting for Torao, whom they were going to meet today.
Their friendship went really well, and after they fought and won so many battles together, both his crew and Torao's crew decided to keep in contact. Nami said it's a good thing to have someone like Torao as an ally because he knew a lot about what's going on in the world. Luffy really didn't understand why they needed to know what Torao knew, but Nami said it was important, and Luffy trusted her words for it. Nami was always right about these things, anyway.
That was why Torao was going to visit them today. The other captain called them three days ago and asked if they could meet up because he had something to tell them, and he didn't want to say it over the phone because it was too risky. Luffy was sure there was another reason why Torao wanted to come over, but Luffy wasn't going to say anything about it yet . He was just happy that he was going to see Torao again, so he agreed right away.
Torao was one of his favorite people after all, and Luffy really liked it when he was around.
For one, Sanji always cooked extra food — but less bread — to feed Torao. Sometimes, some of Torao's crewmates tag along, too. Like those two guys with weird hats and the polar bear. They were all so funny, and the ship was always lively when they're aboard.
He always felt excited whenever Torao would tell them that he was coming over, but Luffy knew he wasn't the only one in the ship who couldn't wait to see Torao again.
"I bet Zoro's excited, too," Luffy giggled, briefly turning his head to the direction of the crow's nest where he could hear his swordsman wrapping up his training for the day.
Luffy knew it had been a while since Zoro saw Torao. The last time they saw each other was… a month ago? Maybe two months ago? Luffy wasn't exactly sure, but it was a long time ago. It was true that they often talked over the phone, but talking over the phone and seeing each other in person were two different things altogether. Knowing Zoro, he would never say it out loud, but Luffy was sure that he missed Torao a lot.
Thankfully, they didn't have to wait any longer because he spotted the bright yellow of Torao's submarine emerging from the water not far away.
Quickly, Luffy hopped off of Sunny 's figurehead to run around the ship, alerting everyone of their friend's arrival with a loud yell of, "Torao's here!"
He went around chanting the same thing until Nami smacked him over the head. "We heard you the first time, Luffy!"
It didn't hurt, so Luffy just laughed, scrambling over the ship's railing to watch the submarine dock nearby. He squinted his eyes as Torao's crew got out of their ship one by one.
"Ah! There's Torao!" Luffy exclaimed, grinning broadly when he spotted his friend. He waved at him, shouting at the top of his lungs to get his attention. "Oi! Torao! Over here!"
Luffy knew it worked when Torao glanced his way before he quickly turned back to face his crew. He seemed to be talking to them, but since they were a couple of meters away, Luffy couldn't hear what they were saying. He assumed Torao was giving them orders. It was taking way too long though. For a moment, Luffy considered just grabbing Torao. He bet he could stretch his arm and reach him from where he was standing, but Torao probably wouldn't like that. Still, Torao should really hurry up because he couldn't wait to talk to him, and Zoro was probably getting impatient, too. He knew it to be true even though Zoro was still in the crow's nest.
"Hey!" Luffy called out again. "Hurry up, Torao!"
"Why are you always so noisy, Mugiwara-ya?" Torao's smooth voice startled him, nearly making him stumble.
One moment Torao was on his own ship, and the next, he was already standing next to him on Sunny 's railing, one hand holding his sword while the other was on the brim of his hat. Luffy was so distracted that he didn't notice Torao activating his powers to teleport himself.
"Whoa! You scared me for a second there!" Luffy beamed.
"You don't look very scared to me," Torao muttered, pulling on the brim of his hat to further hide his eyes. He hopped off the railing and onto the ship's grass-covered deck, Luffy doing the same.
Luffy noticed Torao scanning the ship with his eyes. He seemed as if he's trying to decide on something, and Luffy only understood what Torao was thinking when he just flopped down to take a seat on the deck, resting his back against the railing. He looked somewhat calm and wholly unbothered.
It made Luffy smile a bit.
He could still remember how Torao acted on the ship when they just started the alliance. Throughout their journey to Dressrosa, Torao seemed downright uncomfortable in their presence, like he didn't know where to put himself in the ship or how to interact with the others. Now, he didn't look as displaced as he did before. Other than the times they helped each other out in battle, the change in Torao was probably due to him getting together with Zoro, too.
Luffy was really glad Torao and Zoro found each other like that. Being together did both of them good.
Still smiling, Luffy crouched in front of Torao, cocking his head to the side. "Ne, your crew's also coming over, right?"
Luffy pouted, "Why can't they be here now?"
"Penguin decided to do some maintenance on the submarine today. They're going to come over when they're done," Torao answered with a small shrug of his shoulders.
For some reason, Torao seemed kind of out of it today. Like there was something else on his mind. Or someone , Luffy quickly corrected himself when he noticed that Torao's eyes were glued on the crow's nest where Zoro was yet to come down from.
"Do you want me to call Zoro?" Luffy offered as he stood, one hand clamping on top of his hat to keep it in place as a particularly strong gust of wind passed by them.
"That wouldn't be necessary," Torao shook his head. Right as he finished his statement, Luffy heard the familiar twang of Torao's powers activating, and before Luffy could even blink, Zoro already landed on Torao's lap with a soft thud.
"Torao, what the hell?" Zoro exclaimed, looking rather winded. Probably from being teleported so suddenly. There was a gentle flush across his cheeks, and his hair was damp, making it darker in color. It was obvious from his appearance that he only just finished taking his after-training shower.
Zoro sounded a bit annoyed though, but Luffy knew that his annoyance wouldn't last long. At least not when the crew and now, Torao were concerned. Torao seemed to know it, too, because he just shifted a bit so that he would be sitting comfortably without having to remove Zoro from his lap.
"Hello to you, too, Zoro-ya," Torao greeted casually, "Mind telling me what you were doing?"
"Training," Zoro answered honestly, and Luffy had to stifle a giggle when Torao's eyebrow rose to his hairline as he eyed Zoro incredulously.
"Didn't you just break an arm last week? Why are you training already? Are you actually an idiot?" Torao's frustration could be heard bleeding from his words, yet to Luffy, they all sounded like Don't push yourself. I don't want you to get hurt.
Luffy supposed Zoro heard it the way it was meant to sound because he gave Torao a warm and reassuring smile.
"I'm fine. It doesn't even hurt anymore," Zoro promised, going as far as to flex his arm to prove his point. "See?"
Torao, on the other hand, just clicked his tongue, looking completely unimpressed at Zoro's display. "I'm surprised Tony-ya hasn't tied you up yet. I would do that if I was your doctor."
Unsurprisingly, Law's statement garnered the attention of the right people, and Luffy had to try very hard not to lose it right then and there when Brook and Franky, who were both in hearing range, turned to Law at the same time. Luffy could almost taste the mischief rolling off of them in high waves.
"Heh, you're quite the pervert, too, aren't you, bro? I super " — Franky struck his signature pose with a flourish that Luffy swore there were actual neon-colored stars behind him — "like that!"
Brook seemed to agree with Franky's comment because he nodded so enthusiastically Luffy thought he heard his musician's skull and neck crack with the movement. "Yohohoho! Indeed. I didn't know you had it in you, Law-san!"
"What?" Torao exclaimed in protest, his voice cracking at how loudly he screamed. "That's not what I meant!"
Instead of being intimidated by the threats of bloody murder in Torao's eyes, Torao's outburst only served to make the two older men laugh louder. This time, Luffy couldn't hold back his own amusement, and he erupted into peels of loud, obnoxious laughter of his own. Torao really seemed like he was about to pop a vein any minute now, and it was the funniest thing Luffy had seen all day.
He didn't know how long he laughed with Brook and Franky, but he must have laughed a long time because his stomach started to hurt. In fact, he only stopped laughing when Torao threatened to take all their hearts and throw them in the ocean, an ultimatum that sent Brook and Franky running away. Torao could look very scary when he wanted to.
Wiping the tears that had gathered at the corner of his eyes, Luffy noticed Zoro, who also looked a bit amused, tap Torao's shoulder a few times to calm him down. It was like magic how one touch from Zoro was all it took for Torao to settle down, all the fight and stress building in his bones melting like ice cream under the sun. It was so cool!
"I hate this fucking crew," Torao groaned in surrender, and Luffy didn't miss the way he pulled Zoro closer before nuzzling against his neck.
"There, there," Zoro said kindly, petting Torao's head. Luffy wondered if Torao knew he looked like a cat right now. He really was very funny, and Luffy had to try not to start another round of laughter. Zoro would probably be mad at him if he started laughing again.
They had gone a long way, Luffy found himself thinking with a feather-light heart.
There had been a time when Zoro and Torao had just started their relationship where they'd been very private, bordering secretive — not surprising, considering their personalities — with their affections for one another. Back then, they acted so reserved even after they told everyone that they were together. It bothered Luffy a bit that Zoro and Torao barely held hands when around the other members of the crew, but Luffy had the best crew, and with everyone's help, Torao and Zoro became comfortable enough to do — what did Usopp call it again? — couple things in front of them.
Now, here they were.
It felt great seeing them so open.
He still wanted to bother them for a while though, but then, he got distracted when he noticed his playmates huddled together on the other side of Sunny , both Usopp and Chopper were bent over Usopp's large, frog-shaped sketch pad. It was the people sketchpad, the one where he would draw the crew and the people back at his village. Luffy always loved Usopp's drawing, but his people drawings were the best.
"That's so pretty, Usopp! Maybe, you should add flowers!" Luffy heard Chopper offer, pointing somewhere on the paper.
"Great idea! Hold on. Let me just…" Usopp trailed off, his tongue sticking as he scribbled something on his sketchpad. Most likely the flowers Chopper had suggested he adds to whatever it was that he's sketching.
Curious, Luffy catapulted himself to where Usopp and Chopper are, nailing his landing with zero to negative grace, toppling over both his doctor and his marksman. The impact knocked the wind out of the three of them, and Usopp gave him a glare without any heat as they sat up.
"Ah, Luffy! You almost messed up my drawing! Right just as I finished, too. Sheesh!"
"That hurts, you idiot!" Chopper squawked with that natural high-pitched voice of his, pointing an accusing hoof at him.
"My bad, my bad." Luffy's grin didn't falter, slinging an arm around Usopp and stretching his neck a bit to look at whatever his friend's sketching. "What are you drawing?"
"Oh this?" Usopp handed him the sketchpad without further ado, a proud look crossing his face. "Behold! Usopp-sama's greatest masterpiece to date!"
"It's so pretty, right?" Chopper asked, round eyes shining. He moved to level himself up using Luffy's knee to peer at the finished drawing as well.
"Whoa," a genuinely awed sound escaped Luffy's lips as he looked at Usopp's work. Luffy had always known that art was one of Usopp's strengths, but this one was by far his favorite drawing Usopp made — second only to the drawing of the crew they have framed in their sleeping quarters.
Still eyeing the drawing with unparalleled wonder, Luffy thought it was nice that no one in his ship bats an eye at his swordsman using Torao's lap as his personal couch anymore.
"What do you think? It could sell for a hundred million berries, if I said so myself," Usopp stated, leaning forward to conspiratorially whisper his next words, "Those two make good models."
They do, Luffy agreed with a joyful nod. The drawing looked exactly like Zoro and Torao down to the tiniest detail. Usopp even got Torao's half scowling, half trying-not-to-smile expression as he got lost in a conversation with Zoro. The addition of flowers also made it better. It wasn't really hard for Luffy to imagine those flowers floating behind Zoro and Torao.
"Draw more, draw more!" Luffy encouraged. "Maybe you can draw another one, and we can give it to Torao. He'd probably like that."
"You think so?" Usopp turned to face him with a questioning look. His expression lasted for a total of three seconds before he started shaking his head, one hand raised. "Wait. Why am I even asking? Of course, he'd like it. It would have Zoro . There was no way he wouldn't like it. Plus, he'd be getting a million-berri worth artwork for free. He's not getting a better deal than that. Yosh! Let's draw another!"
Luffy and Chopper both pumped their fist and hoof respectively up in the air, shuffling closer to Usopp to watch him. The marksman was just gearing up to start another drawing when the door to the galley slammed open with a loud bang, making both his marksman and doctor squeak in shock, diving behind him.
"Damn it, Sanji! You nearly gave me a heart attack!" Usopp yelled, his head peeking over Luffy's shoulder.
"I thought I was going to die," Chopper seconded from Luffy's side.
Sanji ignored them though. Instead, he turned to where Zoro was.
"Oi, marimo! Get your –" Sanji began, took one look at Zoro and Torao and stopped altogether.
Luffy heard his cook let out a sigh that was a little exasperated, but he could see the fondness behind Sanji's visible eye and the subtle upward twitch of his lips that he was trying so hard to hide by grinding his ever-present cigarette between his teeth.
"Never mind. I'll get Usopp to do it."
Luffy watched his cook, always so romantic and kind, march to where they were, immediately grabbing the back of Usopp's collar before he could run to drag him to the kitchen, Chopper, the ever-loyal friend, scrambling after them with a whine of Please don't kill him, Sanji .
Luffy followed the retreating form of his cook with his eyes, giggling under his breath. Luffy honestly couldn't recall a time when Sanji interrupted Zoro and Torao. As much as Sanji bickered with Zoro, Luffy knew that like him, Sanji also loved seeing his friends peaceful and content.
Now alone, Luffy allowed himself to fall on Sunny' s grassy deck with a thump, sprawling with his limbs stretched, reveling at the nice feeling of the soft grass against his back and the warm afternoon breeze on his face. Ah. He could fall asleep like this, he thought, feeling his eyes drop. Not that he would get to nap because he heard the sound of Nami's footsteps approaching him.
"Nami?" Luffy prodded when she sat near his head.
"I guess we'd have to wait until Torao's ready to give us the news," Nami sighed loudly, a thoughtful hand resting against her cheek. There was a teasing and an all too knowing glint behind her eyes as she gestured to where Zoro was still seated on Torao's lap.
"I suppose we could discuss Torao-kun's discovery later. He seemed rather busy as of the moment," Robin, who arrived with Nami, added, giggling softly as she looked down at him. "What's your decision, captain?"
"Shishishi! Torao will tell us when he wants to tell us," Luffy answered without moving from his spot.
"You're spoiling them," Nami commented, reaching out to affectionately pull on his cheek. "They're going to get used to it, you know?"
Luffy turned his head to look at her fully, "Is that bad?"
Nami blinked, once, twice, before she huffed out a laugh. "Nah. Zoro needs to be spoiled once in a while. Besides, if their relationship goes really well in the long run, I can have Zoro ask Torao for extra money. Zoro better not break up with Torao, or I'll increase his debt by two-hundred percent."
At that moment, Luffy swore he saw Nami's eyes turn into money signs, and he let out a guffaw. As expected of his navigator. She always knew where her priorities lie.
"I don't think that's going to happen any time soon," Jinbei's voice was deep and round as he approached them. "They still seem quite smitten with one another. It's nearly been a year, and they still look at each other like they did when they first told us."
"They better stay like that," Nami murmured, and Luffy knew she wasn't worrying about her potential source of money anymore. As he said before, his navigator knew what was important.
"Don't worry, Nami. It's going to be fine," Luffy assured her with a smile. He would make sure of that. Luffy wouldn't let his friends be sad.
"They look good together. Law-kun and Zoro-kun," Jinbei observed, chuckling lightly. Jinbei probably had no idea that the natural harsh lines of his face — a common trait for any Fishman — had smoothed into something so gentle the longer he watched his nakama.
Glancing at the two in question, Luffy saw Torao putting his hat on Zoro's head, the other captain quickly turning away in what could only be embarrassment when Zoro beamed at him. Watching his friends like that, Luffy realized that Jinbei was right. Zoro and Torao look good together. Really good. Like they were right where they should be. It was a sight that made Luffy feel so full in a way not even food could.
"Right?" Luffy agreed, sounding smug and pleased.
"Ah, but I worry that Torao-kun would steal Zoro from us," Robin piped up, her face serious.
"Robin!" Nami admonished. "Luffy's going to take you seriously!"
Luffy, however, gasped. He knew Zoro would never leave them and that Torao wouldn't think of doing such a thing — he promised! — but Luffy was worried that he might have forgotten. He needed to remind him.
"I need to talk to Torao," Luffy announced, face grave and tone serious.
Nami slapped a hand over her face, eyeing Robin accusingly. "What did I tell you?"
Luffy ignored Robin's amused chuckles and Jinbei's booming laughter in favor of rolling across Sunny 's deck, crossing the distance between where he was and where Zoro and Torao were sitting in a matter of seconds. He stopped right in front of them, belly-down. The grass was itchy against his face, and it tickled a bit when he moved, but he didn't pay it any mind. He had more important matters to address.
"What are you doing, Mugiwara-ya?" Torao asked when he noticed him staring at them.
Luffy didn't speak right away, simply watching his swordsman and Torao silently. When he did speak, he made sure that his voice was leveled and serious.
"Zoro's my nakama," Luffy declared with finality.
From where he was seated, Luffy saw Zoro raise an eyebrow. Luffy didn't doubt that Zoro had an idea of where this was all going, but Luffy also knew that Zoro wouldn't say anything until Luffy finished talking. They just understood each other like that.
"I know that, Mugiwara-ya," Torao assured, looking quite confused.
"I'm his captain."
"Is there any point to this?" Torao's gaze traveled from him to Zoro, seemingly asking the swordsman for help.
Zoro shrugged, "Beats me."
"You're allowed to hold Zoro's hand and have him sit on your lap, but you can't take him away," Luffy finally said. It was a warning as much as it was a threat, and he knew that Torao got the message with how he froze for a fraction of a second.
"I get it already, Mugiwara-ya." Torao rolled his eyes when Zoro let out an amused snort. "Didn't we have this conversation already? You even said you'd kick my ass if I ask Zoro-ya to join my crew."
"Yosh. I just want to make sure Torao didn't forget his promise." Luffy nodded, satisfied.
"I'm not leaving this crew, you know?" Zoro assured, gently nudging him on the shoulder with his boot. "Dumbass."
"I know that," Luffy swatted Zoro's foot away. "But I'm serious. I will kick Torao's ass if he tries to recruit you. I don't care if you love him."
Funnily, that made Zoro blush, and he tried to hide his face behind his hand, hissing a warning, "Luffy."
"What? It's true though," Luffy pouted.
He didn't understand why Zoro was acting all embarrassed now. He knew Zoro loved Torao, but maybe Zoro still didn't know that Torao loved him, too. That wouldn't do, Luffy concluded. Zoro is wonderful, and he needed to know that he was loved.
With a determination of a thousand armies, Luffy asked, "Ne, Torao, how much do you love Zoro?"
"Luffy!" Zoro spluttered.
"Enough to tolerate your entire existence," Law answered smoothly without missing a single beat. He didn't seem affected in the slightest by Luffy's inquiry.
Torao's answer made Zoro stop for five seconds before he suddenly threw his head back, cackling like an absolute madman. Zoro's voice was deep and rough, but he was in full bloom as he laughed. The joy radiating off of him was oceans wide, and the helpless abandon in the way his shoulders shook reminded Luffy of what it felt like to have the world in his hands.
It was an endearing sight, and Torao's actual answer to his question was reflected in the awestruck look painted on his face as he stared at Zoro with an open mouth. It was so obvious that Torao was so painfully in love he couldn't seem to turn his eyes away. Luffy thought he had never seen someone so enamored with another person as much as Torao was to Zoro.
"I can marry you," Luffy found himself saying
Shanks once told him about the things a pirate captain could do, and he remembered that being in charge of a wedding was one of them. He only kept it in mind because Shanks said there was always a big party after the ceremony, but now, Luffy was glad that he didn't forget.
"I can marry you," Luffy repeated when silence lingered between them. He needed his friends to know that although it was not something he wanted for himself, he would always let his nakama have it, no questions asked.
In front of him, Law was making such a funny face. There was a frown on his lips, but his cheeks and ears were steaming red. Somehow, Law managed to look embarrassed, like he wanted a whale to swallow him whole while simultaneously looking at him like he wanted to throw him overboard and have a whale swallow him instead.
Even Zoro who had stopped laughing after his statement was looking at him weirdly. He was like a tomato with how the tan of his cheeks was covered in a red so bright. Yet, Luffy could tell that there was something else behind his swordsman's gaze.
You'd do that for me?
The glimmer in Zoro's remaining eye seemed to ask. Luffy thought it was silly that Zoro was acting so shocked by his offer. The answer really should have been obvious from the beginning because if there was one thing that Luffy loved more than food, it was seeing his nakama happy.
So he gave Zoro a smile, tiny in size but massive in its intensity, and like always, he didn't need words to make Zoro understand.
"Oh," Zoro's face melted into something pretty , for lack of better words. His expression wasn't one that Luffy was familiar with, but he knew that it was incredibly precious in its rarity and vulnerability. It quickly became his favorite expression on Zoro.
Zoro seemed to know what he was thinking because he turned even redder, and he started pulling Torao's hat lower in an attempt to hide his face.
This time, Luffy allowed his smile to grow as he continued, "Shanks said a captain can off face…office–"
"Yeah, that. And I'm captain, so I can do it. I can make the two of you each other's husband if you want. We can even do it today and have a party afterward. There'd be lots of food and drinks, and Brook can play you a song."
Torao just blinked at him, seemingly working to process his words. Then, with eyes resembling liquid gold, turned to look at Zoro, his swordsman slowly returning his gaze without a word. A silent conversation passed between the two of them, and Luffy only had to wait for a second before a tender smile made its way on Zoro's lips. The smile made Zoro look so much softer, an expression that finally matched the core of his heart, and Torao, always so helpless in front of Zoro, simply smiled back.
Luffy waited patiently — surprising even himself — until Zoro turned to look at him again. Zoro was still smiling, and Luffy braced himself for what he was going to say next.
"Thanks, Luffy, but I'd rather the Pirate King officiate my wedding," Zoro told him, but all Luffy heard was his swordsman's unwavering faith in him.
Luffy sniggered, "Okay!"
Recovering from whatever trance he had been in, Torao rolled his eyes at them, grunting as he pressed his lips at the crown of Zoro's head. "I'm the one who'll find Gol D. Roger's treasure, you know?"
"Nah. Sorry, Torao," Zoro's smile transformed into a wild grin, and there was a certain sort of confidence at the way his lips stretched to his ears when he declared, "but Luffy's gonna be the Pirate King. I'll make sure of it, so better luck next time."
"Tch," Torao scowled.
Zoro patted Torao on the cheek, "I'd still cheer for you though, so don't be sad."
"That doesn't make me feel better." If possible, Torao's scowl grew more prominent, yet his eyes told a different thing entirely.
"You're so funny, Torao," Luffy couldn't help but point out. If Torao was happy, he should just say so instead of acting like he was not. Then again, Torao had always been like that.
"And you're weird," Torao shot back easily.
"I'm still Zoro's captain though. And I'll be the Pirate King."
"You little–" Torao's eyebrow twitched, and Luffy had to roll away when Torao tried to reach for him.
"Bye," Luffy laughed like a maniac as he scrambled to his feet, trying to dodge Torao's grabby hand.
It would be so easy for Torao to reach him if he lets go of Zoro, but Luffy knew that it would be the last thing Torao would do. True enough, Torao settled down just as easily as he was riled up, once again burying his face against Zoro's neck to calm himself down.
Luffy watched them for a bit before he raced towards Sunny 's figurehead.
He could feel the wind whip across his cheeks, his heart thundering underneath his chest. He felt positively giddy, and his joy bubbled in his gut, growing bigger and bigger until he couldn't contain it inside him anymore, his delight slipping past his lips in the form of his odd little laugh.
Gazing into the horizon with eyes reflecting the intensity of a thousand suns, Luffy raised his fists to the sky and took a single defining breath.
"I'm going to become the Pirate King!" Luffy bellowed to the sea, willing the world to listen and be ready.
After all, Luffy thought as he looked back at Zoro and Torao, the two of them whispering to each other, their fingers entwined and looking like they belong , he had one more reason to work harder for his dream now.