Luffy woke up early, earlier than usual. He hadn't slept well. He left the men's quarters and walked out onto the Sunny's lawn. It was still dark, but the lights were on in the galley. Luffy couldn't smell food yet, but Sanji must have been doing prep work already.
He decided fighting into the galley would be futile, and began his way to the Sunny's figurehead. He sat in his spot, like he had many times before.
The sun began to break on the horizon, bathing the world in a mix of the grey night and the blue to come. Luffy's mind began to wander, as it often did, as he watched the sun rise.
As the sky was washed with red and yellow, he thought of Ace and Sabo, his lost brothers. He trained so hard for two years, barely having time to think about anything else. Then things were hectic from the moment his crew landed on Sabaody. Again, it was nothing but intense fighting and partying and healing since they arrived at Fish Man Island.
Only now, in between islands, the New World unusually calm, did Luffy have a moment to look back and reflect.
Jinbe had literally beat the sense into him after Ace's death, and Ace had been there to console them after Sabo's. He had his crew, and no one would take them from him, he thought.
The clouds were painted gold and pink, the sun half way over the horizon.
He was determined to never let them die. He will be strong enough. He was strong enough to protect them.
Luffy hadn't noticed the swordsman come up behind him, his focus on his thoughts and the sunrise had overridden his observation haki.
"Are you crying, Luffy?" Zoro's voice was softer, yet still hoarse. Luffy nodded, stretching out his arms to wrap around Zoro.
"It was so hard, Zoro." Luffy sobbed into his chest, his wet tears and snot dribbling over Zoro's coat. "I thought you were all dead on Sabaody and then I had to get Ace out of impel down, and bon-chan died saving me, and then Ace died anyway even though I tried so hard, he died protecting me, Zoro. I wasn't strong enough to save him."
Zoro listened to Luffy, even though it was nearly incoherant between his heaving sobs. Zoro rocked his young captain back and forth in his arms, as if hushing a baby to sleep.
"We're here, Luffy." Zoro wasn't good with words. "You still have us."
Both men were quiet, but Luffy pulled his head out of Zoro's chest to watch the end of the sunrise. Everything was pale blue, with only hints of orange left in the sky. The sun had risen on a new day, another day without his brothers, but another day with his crew.
"Thank you, Zoro."
Luffy wiped his tears on Zoro's sleeve and flashed him his signature grin. Zoro returned his grin, and let the rubber man go.
Luffy bounced out of his lap, stretching in the cool sunlight. His stomach began to grumble.
Sanji called out for breakfast; Luffy ran to the galley with all his usual energy and a grin splitting his face. The swordsman smiled after his captain, taking perhaps too long to realise Luffy might eat all the food.