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King's Cohort

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Zoro hadn’t been very old when the world ended, but he’d been old enough to read. Back then, people had thought magic would be something fun, something beautiful, something exciting. They’d been right about the last one, at least. When magic became real, life got interesting, then it got scary, and for a long time things had felt like they’d never change. Like he would spend the rest of his life protecting Shimotsuki from once-mythical beasts and once-human monsters. Then the rumours began, whispers of people so strong they were carving new kingdoms from the wilds. Places where they had normal, boring things like libraries and schools and farmland. Things like safety.

He’d left the dojo to find one, to earn his classmates and teacher a place where they didn’t have to fear for their lives ever again. Admittedly, it had taken longer than he expected, but he knew Luffy would be a good King. A good protector of all they held dear. What he didn’t know, was what would come next. He’d spent the better part of a decade searching for something. So had Luffy. So had all of them, really, and now that they had it what was there to do?

“Y’kno what we should do?” Luffy asked rhetorically, turning to smile at them all. “We should have a party!”

Zoro couldn’t quite muffle the snort of laughter that left him at his King’s declaration. Of course Luffy wanted to throw a party, it was what he did.

“Sanji, you can do the cooking, right?”

“What do you take me for?” Sanji scoffed, clicking his fingers to produce a spark for his cigarette, the smell acrid but familiar from years of travelling and fighting and living in close quarters.

“We’ll need to do a lot of government-y stuff.” Usopp pointed out. “Once more people start showing up-”

“Yeah, but you Robin and Jinbe can handle that, right Usopp?” Luffy grinned, easy as anything. “And Nami can handle the money stuff, Franky can get a doctor’s office set up for Chopper, and also like, make sure other stuff works I guess.”

“Utilities?” Franky offered, and Luffy nodded.

“Yeah those. Sanji can keep cooking for all of us, Brook is already a rock star-”

“Yohoho~ that I am!”

“And Zoro...” Luffy’s dark eyes fell on him, and for a moment Zoro felt like he was falling, Luffy’s mana dragging him into the endless depths of those serious, scrutinising eyes. And then that moment ended, Luffy beaming and clapping a hand on Zoro’s shoulder, actually dragging him in for a one-armed hug. “Zoro gets to stick with me.”

“I’ll see if I can’t find some appropriate clothes for us all to wear to this feast.” Robin said with a sly smile that Zoro didn’t trust at all.

“Oi, what’s wrong with what we’re wearing now?” he demanded, to general mutters of agreement from Chopper and Franky.

“She’s got a point.” said Luffy, of all people. “We’re gonna be running a new kingdom, right? We’re in charge, so we gotta dress nice enough to look in charge.”

“My thoughts exactly, Your Majesty.” Robin held a hand over her heart as she bowed, and Luffy pulled a face.

“Robiiinnn, don’t call me that!”

“You are a King now.” Jinbe pointed out, and Luffy crossed his arms with an indignant huff.

“That means I make the rules, right? Well rule number one, all of you just keep calling me Luffy. Anything else is just weird.”

“Of course, Luffy.” Robin smiled, inscrutable as ever, and Zoro rolled his eye.

“C’mon, Luffy.” he elbowed his King in the ribs. “You want a party, we’ll have to go tell people while everyone’s setting it up.”

“Oh, you’re right!” Luffy bounced in place. “Sanji, when’s the food gonna be ready?”

“For you, or for everyone?” Sanji grinned lazily. “Gimme, oh, four hours?” he glanced at his watch. “Actually, make it five.”

“Cool.” Luffy beamed, grabbing Zoro by the elbow to haul him along if he didn’t keep up on his own. “See ya there!”

---

Zoro scowled, fiddling with one of the bangles which Nami had all but forced up his arms to sit in the dip between his biceps and deltoids. Formal his ass, he looked ridiculous! Sanji and Franky and Brook were all wearing suits, Jinbe had found an honest-to-god kimono somewhere that was only a little big on him, even Luffy had let himself be coerced into a pair of slacks and an open, long-tailed red waistcoat with gold embroidery along the edges. So why was he stuck wearing loose pants with slashed legs and nothing above the waist save fity fucking pounds of jewellery?

Zoro sat on the ground heavily, the gold hanging around his neck and draped across his chest jangling softly as he leaned back against Luffy’s chair. It was a big fancy thing, built by Franky to go with the long tables loaded with food, and Luffy sprawled in it like, well, like it was made for just that, which it probably had been, knowing Franky. Luffy lowered a hand to rest on Zoro’s head, and Zoro made himself comfortable as Luffy’s fingers dragged through his hair, thoroughly messing up Nami’s attempt at styling it. “Idunno why Nami keeps saying you need a haircut.” Luffy said, soft enough his voice wouldn’t carry over the din of people finishing their food and beginning to flow onto the designated dancefloor next to Franky and Usopp’s SUPER✰ bonfire. “I like it this long.”

Zoro made a noncommittal sound, and Luffy’s fingers curled in his hair, managing just enough purchase for a gentle tug. “I do!” he insisted, tilting Zoro’s head back until their eyes met. “It’s just the right length to play with.” Luffy smiled, releasing Zoro’s head and resuming his mission to completely destroy Nami’s attempts at hair-styling. Zoro shut his eye and leaned into the touch, soaking in Luffy’s’ ambient mana. It was weaker than usual, just by a fraction but he’d gotten very, very good at reading his nakama over the years, especially those in Luffy’s cohort with him.

No sooner had Zoro noted the fluctuation than he sensed Sanji approaching, and cracked open an eye to watch his companion weave expertly through the crowd, a bottle in one hand and a whole, intact rack of ribs big enough they could only have come from a gryphon levitating over the other. “I brought snacks.” he grinned once he was in easy earshot, holding the bottle out for Zoro to summon into his own hand as Luffy stretched his arms out to grab the platter of ribs. Why he opted for transformative magic instead of simple summoning or levitation like everyone else, Zoro would never know.

“You’re my favourite.” Luffy declared, balancing the plate on his knees and ripping one of the ribs clear with a grunt and only the barest pulse of magic.

“Are you sure?” Sanji grinned, casting a glance at Zoro, who rolled his eye and uncorked the bottle with his teeth. “I’m not the one decked out in enough gold to buy a small town.”

“You said chefs don’t wear jewellery.” Luffy said, somehow perfectly intelligible through his mouthful of meat.

“Suit yourself.” Sanji shrugged, using a touch of magic to glide in closer and press a kiss to Luffy’s cheek, fingers winding through Zoro’s hair. “See you both after the party?”

“Yep.” Luffy swallowed his mouthful of food, then beamed at Sanji with a warm pulse of his mana. Not a conscious spell, but a press of his affection that Zoro had long grown used to, though none of them in the cohort had figured out how to return it yet. “Franky said he made a bed big enough for all four of us!”

“Still think it should’ve been five.” Zoro muttered, but there was no heat to it as he picked out Usopp up on the stage next to the bonfire, his girlfriend perched on the edge. Usopp loved them, but his heart belonged to someone else. It had from the start, and not even Nami had been able to steal it.

“Usopp would look pretty nice dressed up like you.” Luffy mused, and when Zoro glanced up the look on his King’s face was downright predatory. It only lasted a moment though before he shook his head, taking another bite of the rib in his hand. “Thanks for the meat, Sanji.”

“No problem.” Sanji grinned, inhuman golden eyes crinkling at the edges, and Zoro relaxed against the side of Luffy’s chair again as he sipped his booze. Nami was trying to teach Jinbe one of the dances she’d taught the rest of them during the early days of their travels, Franky was twirling Robin around on the other side of the bonfire, their mana intertwined in a way Robin would probably find fascinating if she was paying attention, Chopper and Brook had joined Usopp up on stage for an impromptu performance of one of Usopp’s songs... everyone was happy, safe. Tomorrow they would talk about how to best go and collect the rest of their friends and families from the scattered settlements in the wilds, but tonight was for celebrating, and he was going to celebrate by taking a nap, once he finished this bottle. Knowing Luffy, he’d need the energy later.

---

“King Luffy!” someone called, and Zoro took a deep, even breath, shifting only ever so slightly as the stranger approached Luffy.

“Oh, hi Ms. Katou!” Luffy practically chirped. “What’s up?”

“I- well, we’d like to thank you.” she said hesitantly, and Zoro sensed a group beginning to form.

“What for?” Luffy asked, and it took everything Zoro had not to react to that. It was kinda adorable sometimes, how Luffy thought so little of the impact his actions had on others.

“For starting your Kingdom here, obviously.” Nami said, the crowd parting around her as she approached the two of them. She leaned in, and Zoro heard the soft sound of her lips against Luffy’s before she whispered “Just nod and smile and be polite. There’s only a couple dozen of them.” she straightened up then, and made a frustrated sound as she ran her hand over Zoro’s hair. “You mussed it up!”

“It woulda gotten messed up later anyways.” Luffy huffed, and Zoro could practically feel Nami rolling her eyes as she walked around the back of the chair to stand on the other side. Wait, was she seriously taking bodyguard position? Her combat magic was horrible for hitting one person in a crowd, if someone attacked she’d torch everyone in the vicinity. That was why he was the one who stood guard when Luffy was determined to do something terminally stupid. Or had Luffy given that job to someone else when he wasn’t looking? Zoro had assumed he was still Luffy’s right-hand man, his guard for when Luffy wasn’t paying attention to his own safety, but... Luffy had assigned specific jobs to everyone else.

Zoro’s only instruction was to stay close, and he hadn’t missed the look on Luffy’s face when Nami met them at the door with his ‘clothes’ for the party. Was this what he was being relegated to, inside the borders of Luffy’s kingdom? Eye candy? The crowd continued to move as Zoro mulled over his situation, people he’d never met before this week coming up to thank Luffy as he struggled to come up with a way of asking that Luffy would understand well enough to answer.

The shift in the ambient magic as a new person walked up was tangible, and when power began to mass around one of their arms Zoro was on his feet in a flash, Wado knocking the would-be assassin’s spell wide and Shusui coming to rest against the man’s neck, drawing only the thinnest trickle of blood. “Wanna try that again?” he asked, the air around them both crackling as Nami readied a thunderbolt.

“Fuck you!” the man spat, and Zoro grinned.

“Sorry, taken.”

“Damn right.” Nami muttered, and Zoro resisted the urge to look and see what sort of face she was making.

“What’s your name?” Luffy asked, his voice cool and level the way it only got when he was genuinely upset. The man made a dismissive sound, and Zoro’s shoulders tightened as Luffy’s magic pressed in around them, familiar enough to be comforting but still a heavy weight. “Your name.” he repeated, words reverberating in the magic which cloaked them, compulsion and command in one for the victim of his rage.

The man trembled for a moment, a muscle jumping in his jaw until he gave in. “Maki Tomomi.”

“Maki, go to sleep.” Luffy ordered, and Zoro pulled Shusui away as the man first swayed on his feet, then dropped like a rock. “We’ve got, like, a jail right?” Luffy turned to Nami, who shrugged. “Hey, uhhhh, you two.” Luffy pointed at two random people in the crowd. “Find a place to lock this guy up for tonight. I don’t wanna deal with him while the party’s still going.”

“Yes, Your Majesty!” both of them answered promptly, and Zoro’s mouth twitched in a grin at the way Luffy’s nose wrinkled being addressed by rank. Luffy’s eyes met his, and Zoro let himself be guided by the tug of magic which drew him to Luffy’s side again, swords sliding back into their sayas before he perched on the arm of the fancy chair. Or was it a throne, since Luffy was a King? He’d have to ask Franky.

“Should I reward you, for protecting me?” Luffy murmured as the crowd around them dispersed, encouraged by Luffy and Nami’s magic forming a protective, almost possessive bubble around the three of them.

“Just doing my job.” Zoro grinned, leaning down into Luffy’s gentle hand on his chin.

“Mmmm, ‘m gonna do it anyways.” Luffy flashed him a smile worth more than all the jewellery on his body combined, and pulled Zoro down just a little bit further so their lips met. Nami’s hand landed on his shoulder, tracing around to twine her fingers with Luffy’s against the back of his neck, and when Luffy drew back Nami leaned in over him to press a kiss to Zoro’s cheekbone.

“Beautiful and deadly.” she murmured as she drew back, her smile sharp as any of his blades.

“Are you talking about me, or yourself?” he asked, and Nami swatted him on the side of the head.

“It’s true either way.” Luffy giggled, stretching up to give Zoro another, shorter kiss. “So long as you’re with me, I don’t need to worry about anything.”

“Of course.” Zoro nodded, and when Luffy’s hands left his chin and neck he relocated back to sitting against the side of the chair/throne, Luffy’s fingers promptly working their way into his hair. Bodyguard to the King. That was a job he could live with.