He hated being old.
The creaky bones and aching muscles were not his gig. Sleeping a lot was good. But the being tired all the time and the goddamn heart palpitations were a pain in the ass.
Being unable to lift ten times his own body weight anymore was the most frustrating thing though. He'd been wounded in battle, his body had failed him before. He'd never had this slow, irrevocable march towards deterioration.
He wasn't the only one though, and he couldn't quite figure out if that was worse or reassuring. Sanji could barely walk anymore. Nami's eyes were nearly shot.
Or at least that was how they'd been the last time Zoro saw them.
They... didn't see each other that often anymore. Hadn't since Luffy died.
He had a decent run of it, for a pirate in the Grand Line during the Golden Age of Piracy. For the most notorious, wanted pirate in the world.
He outlived the old Pirate King. Which was something, at least.
Except that Luffy had never seen it as a competition. His quest had never been about surpassing Roger. It had been about Luffy. Luffy's freedom and adventures and love of life.
A life he'd loved a little too wildly, lived a little too hard.
And when Death had come to collect him, young, so young – the seconds of his life used up protecting nakama and dreams and freedom – Luffy went without a regret. Died with that stupid grin on his face.
They never told Ace the price Luffy paid in Impel Down. And Zoro knew he never guessed, or even suspected, because he hadn't thrown himself off the nearest bridge.
He was still roaming along the Grand Line, last Zoro had heard, as he'd been for the past several decades. Captain of his own crew, living as freely as he'd promised Zoro's captain he would.
They didn't stay down long, those brothers. It made the pain – old and heavy and familiar – just that much easier to bear, knowing that someone else out there understood what it meant when Luffy left the world, and surpassed the grief nevertheless. It was almost hopeful, in a distinctly Luffy way.
Chopper had been next.
In turned out reindeer – even human ones – didn't live very long compared to other people.
Zoro could never regret having had Chopper as a nakama, not after watching him grow and learn and realize his dreams. But he wondered, sometimes, if the furball would have lived longer had he stayed in Drum and not downed Rumble Ball after Rumble Ball to keep up with – and protect – nakama who were so much more monstrous than he.
But those kinds of thoughts hurt worse than his joints and he pushed them as far away as he could. Except in moments when something brought them to the surface.
Like when Franky finally broke down beyond repair.
That. That could have been bad. That could have been-- But Franky had been in Water 7 when it happened and Iceberg…
Iceberg had made it his life's work to know how to fix things – and when they were irreparable.
They had all showed up for the funeral. A little less shocked this time 'round, a little grimmer, a lot older. And, somehow, missing Luffy all the more desperately.
It was the second-to-last time Zoro saw Robin alive.
And really, it was his fault for going so long between visits. It wasn't like she'd keeled over right after Franky.
The message came from a student of hers. Passed away in her sleep. Peaceful as little in her life had ever been.
Nami hadn't even cried. Their fourth funeral for a nakama; it had almost ceased to be a surprise by then.
The students though, the students had cried. That was good.
Maybe the next one wouldn't be a surprise. Maybe the next one wouldn't hurt. It could even be a party. They could break out the booze and Sanji could get off his arthritic ass and cook – assuming it wasn't his funeral.
Zoro hoped it would be his. And he hoped his nakama would all get stupidly drunk – well, maybe not Nami because she was just unnatural. None of them were as limber anymore, so Usopp wouldn't be able to do the stupid chopstick dance, but they could all sing, or something.
Brooke was still around, of course, the invincible dead guy. So there could be music at the next funeral, if they had the heart for it. But then, who knew what the time limit was on his Devil's Fruit. And over the past few years he'd taken to...sleeping. A lot.
Maybe the next funeral wouldn't have music.
It wasn't...it wasn't like they were racing each other to the grave or anything stupid. Or even waiting around uselessly to die. They lived. They had lives.
Nami had retired to her beloved Cocoyashi Island, writing books on navigation and weather patterns and maps – and making a medium-sized fortune doing it.
Sanji, disdaining aches and pains and the way his legs were giving up faster than the rest of his body, still sailed around on his little restaurant boat, learning new recipes and teaching them to every sorry sap who dreamed of feeding people.
Zoro had opened a dojo. Zoro had students. He taught sword fighting. Taught! And who's fucked up idea had that been anyways?!
He wasn't a hundred percent sure what Usopp did, but it involved a lot of sailing around and having adventures and, Zoro strongly suspected, turning that long-practiced tongue to tales about the Pirate King. Keeping Luffy's memory alive as best he could. As only Usopp could.
Or maybe he'd retired from that since the last time they saw each other, what the hell did he know.
Somewhere along the line, at some point in this godsforsaken aging business, Zoro had stopped being the greatest swordsman in the world – because he was too fucking old to lift shit ten times his weight – and become a goddamn legend.
Roronoa Zoro. First Mate of Strawhat Luffy, the Pirate King. Greatest Swordsman in the world. Isn't he dead?
And yeah, he'd promised Kuina his name would resound to the heavens but weren't people supposed to wait until after you'd died before they turned you into a myth?
Then again, nothing Luffy had ever touched – in life or after it – turned out the way it was "supposed" to.