The moment he laid eyes on the boy, Zoro understood what everyone had been talking about.
A couple of days before they had arrived to that small island, his crewmates could barely contain their excitement as they spoke of a certain joint from that harbor town. More specifically, of a certain boy working there. He didn't know what all the fuss was about, but when Zoro sees Luffy, he immediately gets it. The boy moves like the very waves of the sea as he serves them whisky and wine, the grin on his face just as intoxicating as the drinks he pours. When Zoro's gaze meets those bright eyes, he thinks of what the men on the boat had said-
"Those eyes could steal a sailor from the sea..."
He doesn't remember exactly how it happened, just those eyes going back to him, fingers lingering as he took his glass from his hand, smile so inviting and open. Zoro would drink the sight of this boy thirstily, feeling like a dehydrated man lost at sea. The boy's laugh nourished his spirit in a way that not even the food before him could.
He yearns for more.
He finds himself in those arms, leaning against the joint's doors at closing time, taking the boys lips hungrily, feeling that grin against his skin. He learns how flexible that body can be, touches every scar, every inch, and swears he can taste on his tongue the very salt of the sea.
This happens every day, all men follow that boy with theirs eyes but he only goes home with Zoro, and in a weeks time there's a locket around his neck with Zoro's name. They pretend Zoro gives it to him because he loves him.
They both know its to remember him when he's gone.
And when it's time for the boat to set sail, he holds the boy close at the harbor. Luffy is shaking, gripping onto Zoro's shirt desperately, forehead pressed against his shoulder.
"Don't go..." He whispers, and it breaks Zoro.
I'll stay He wants to say, but he can't. Luffy knows he can't. They never can. A sailors life was tied to the sea. Once you've been claimed by that life there was no turning back.
Zoro just whispers the boy's name but it brings him no comfort. Suddenly Luffy looks at him, those eyes made bright by tears instead of joy.
"I know this part, I've experienced it so many times." His voice brakes and Zoro curses, holding him tighter. "Before you, I have loved 7 other people. Nami... Ussop... Sanji... Chopper... Robin... Franky... Brook... I remember them all so clearly. They all left me behind... I knew that they would, that they had to. They all had dreams to follow. Every single loss broke me, but you..." A sob escaped him. "I can't... I can't take this anymore... If you leave me now... I don't know what I'll do..."
As Zoro pulls him in for one deep last kiss he realizes he is shaking just as much as Luffy is. The sight of the harbor from their boat as it becomes smaller and smaller is devastating.
Zoro knows he is not himself, he doesn't need everyone on the boat reminding him ever other day. His movements lack strength, his actions motivation, his eyes life. Every day his soul feels heavier in his body. As he stares at the endless ocean that has always inspired freedom in him, he feels like a prisoner.
Then one day he hears his crewmates yelling about an approaching ship.
Pirates, he thinks he hears them say. He isn't paying attention and he does nothing as his crewmates run around the ship. He turns an apathetic eye towards the approaching vessel, when suddenly Zoro feels as if his very heart freezes in his chest. His eyes land on a familiar figure standing proudly with his arms crossed, wide grin plastered on his face and a crew of 7 peculiar people standing tall at his side.
"I am the captain of the strawhat pirates, Luffy!" The boy from the harbor calls out. As their eyes meet, that grin becomes impossibly wider. The silver locket on his neck gleams under the sunlight. "I am searching for Rorona Zoro."