RULES OF LOVE




Bits of shale ground under Zoro's knees when he hit the floor. He gritted his teeth angrily at the mocking laughter of his captors. He heard the squeak of rusty hinges and the clank of a metal door being shut. "Hope you enjoy the accommodations as much as your friend," one of the slavers sneered. More laughter echoed against stone, fading with their boot-steps.

Zoro bent forward at the waist and shook his head from side-to-side and forward-and-back until the burlap sack came off. A sliver of sunlight shone through the barred casement near the ceiling. A rusted crosshatch metal door imprisoned him in a damp, moldy cell with cracked and flaking shale walls. And sitting in the corner, slumped forward against his chains, was Sanji.

"There you are, you shitty cook. I've been looking all over this island for you." Zoro levered himself to his feet, his wrists trapped behind him by lead irons. Dirt and slaver-blood streaked his white shirt and green haramaki. His neck itched fiercely where a poison dart had struck him. Beneath the bandana tied around his bicep, his arm also itched from the sedation needle.

The sedative made his steps a little shaky and the edges of his vision blur, but hadn't knocked him out. The slavers had hidden in the jungle and had used a blowgun to bring him down. Zoro was annoyed by the cowardly way they'd captured him. He was more annoyed with Sanji for putting him into a position to be captured.

Sanji hadn't been seen since he'd gone off to forage for supplies, after the Going Merry had set anchor near the head of a river delta on a lush, tropical isle. Concern wasn't raised until Luffy found the slave ship with children packed in the hold. It wasn't the only large slave ship, according to one of the surviving slavers, and Luffy and the rest of the Straw Hat crew had taken the children and sailed off in pursuit.

"What about Sanji?" Usopp had said, as he struck the makeshift gangplank.

Zoro had glanced at Luffy, standing at the ship's prow. Anger and the need for action had set Luffy's usually cheerful face into grim lines. Nami, Robin, and Chopper had their hands full with the children and getting the caravel ready to sail. "I'll find him. You guys go. We'll catch up."

Zoro had leapt over the rail of the ship and ran into the jungle, where he'd last seen Sanji. He hadn't been too worried leaving the others, knowing that their combined powers made them formidable. It hadn't stopped him from wanting to find Sanji quickly.

Well, he'd succeeded in finding Sanji, though not in the most glamorous way. "Oi, asshole. I'm talking to you," Zoro said, kicking Sanji's foot. As soon as they'd busted out of their cell and cracked a few slavers' heads, they could hurry after their nakama.

But Sanji didn't move, and he didn't respond to Zoro's words or repeated kicking. "Sanji?" Zoro said, crouching to get a better look at him. "Shit."

Sanji's slack features were waxy pale and pinched. A starburst of dried blood covered the curlicue of his eyebrow. A fading pink spot on his neck showed he must've been hit by the blow-dart, too. His wrists hung in manacles chained overhead to the wall. One neatly rolled blue shirtsleeve was pushed higher than the other and Zoro would bet he'd also been dosed with the sedative. Considering Sanji's legs weren't chained, he'd either been put in the cell recently or had been sedated. With Sanji's constitution on par with Zoro's, the sedative shouldn't have worked. Zoro eyed the head wound. He wondered how hard Sanji had been clobbered.

Blowing out a frustrated puff of air, Zoro straightened and examined their cell. It wouldn't be difficult to escape with a Mutoryuu-style strike (once his hands were free) or a kick from Sanji. Pressing his face to the crosshatch metal door, Zoro peered up and down the short corridor outside the cell. The pattern of sunlight playing against the rocky floor indicated more cells on either side of them. Steps led up from the jail and to the slavers' stronghold.

Zoro strained against the lead pinioning his wrists. With his arms turned outward behind his back, he didn't have any leverage and couldn't use his feet to pull the shackle off. He made a mental note to train more, until he could break any bonds.

Sanji didn't stir, at all. The sun shifted through the casement bars and the shadows lengthened into night. The slavers hadn't returned. Zoro's stomach rumbled, as he sat leaning against the wall across from Sanji. He worried the inside of his cheek, trying to think of a way for them to escape. The cell door hadn't yielded to his backwards pulling and his wrists and arms ached from working at freeing himself from his bonds.

"Wake up already, dickhead," Zoro said, to no response. He frowned in consternation. "Nami's shirtless. So is Robin. And I'm feeling them both up."

Not a twitch. The steady rise and fall of Sanji's chest was the only indication that he wasn't dead.

Zoro thumped his head against the wall and ignored the unease tickling the back of his neck. He closed his eyes, deciding he'd had enough of today. Things would look better in the morning.

 


Morning found Zoro still imprisoned, Sanji still not conscious, and a thunderstorm pounding the earth outside. Heavy rain poured over the edge of the casement window. The slope of the ground made the water pool instead of draining from the cell. Zoro awoke sitting in an inch-deep puddle. He cursed and grumbled, and moved to the drier side of the cell. At the rate the water was coming inside, it wouldn't remain dry for long.

Zoro looked at Sanji, hanging helpless in his chains. Water lapped around his legs, the ground slanting the most towards the corner in which he was sitting. He watched the water deepen, thunder rumbling at his conscience, until a wall-shaking crack-boom prompted him into action. "Aw, hell," Zoro said, climbing awkwardly to his feet. "It's not like he'd bother moving me."

Another rumble of thunder that sounded like a laugh rolled through the cell. "Stupid, annoying cook," Zoro muttered. "Getting yourself caught and forcing me to rescue you." He bent close to study the iron cuffs around Sanji's wrists. There was no visible chafing or blood indicating a struggle, which worried Zoro more than he'd like. It meant Sanji had been unconscious before they'd locked him in the cell, and Zoro had no way of knowing how long ago he'd been brought in. They'd been on the island for three days before they'd found the slave ship and it had taken another two days to bring the rescued children back to the Merry. Sanji had gone missing on the first day.

"What a pain in the ass you are." Zoro pretended he hadn't heard the note of worry in his own voice and shifted his study to the chains' anchor set in the wall. The slate crumbled from moisture and age around the iron ring. He should be able to pull it out, or break the rusty chains, even with his hands locked behind his back.

Turning around, Zoro was careful not to step on Sanji as he felt for the chains behind him and over Sanji's head. He followed their rounded length as high as he could stretch his arms with his wrists clapped. Bracing a booted foot on the wall, he took a fortifying breath and then yanked forward with all of his might.

The anchor came out easily with a shower of broken slate. Zoro pitched forward with the sudden release and landed face-first in the puddle on the ground. Sanji's unsupported body fell forward, too, dragged with Zoro's grip on the chains. His head bounced against the back of Zoro's thigh.

Spluttering and splashing, Zoro flopped fish-like until he could get his knees under him. He shook the water from his face and aimed a glare at Sanji. "This is all your fault."

Sanji lay like a broken marionette and Zoro faltered. Worry and unease tugged at him. Climbing to his feet, Zoro gripped the chains and carefully dragged Sanji across the cell. He settled them in a dry patch, awkwardly arranging Sanji's limbs into a more-or-less comfortable position. Then, Zoro went back to work on freeing them.

Thirst caused him to stop banging his bound wrists against the door.He succeeded in breaking a piece of metal crosshatch, only to slice his skin on the sharp edge.No damage seemed to have been done on the lead shackle.

The rain continued pouring outside and flooding the cell. Water splashed underfoot no matter where he walked. Detritus and flotsam floated on the dark surface of the pool or crunched beneath his boots. He eyed the water speculatively, then knelt, bowed forward, and drank. The water was tepid, but refreshing. He'd drunk worse and lived.

Wiping his mouth and chin against his shoulder, Zoro studied Sanji with a discerning eye. The signs of dehydration were faint, but there, present in his pinched skin and chapped corners of his mouth. A person could only go so long without water. Cupping his hands as best he could, Zoro tried to get water into Sanji's mouth. "Oi, cook, drink before you dry up and turn to dust," he said. But Sanji didn't listen, and the few drops of water that sluiced off Zoro's hands ended up everywhere but in Sanji's mouth.

This isn't working, Zoro thought, splashing water up onto Sanji's face by paddling his hands behind him. He looked between the water and Sanji's mouth. Maybe if he rolled Sanji… but no, that would only serve to drown him, and though sometimes Zoro had a mind to do just that while they were sailing in the middle of the ocean, he hadn't come to rescue Sanji's handsome corpse.

"Damn." The reminder about Sanji's good looks had given Zoro an idea. "Shit. Fuck. Hell." Acting before he convinced himself not to, Zoro bent, sucked water into his mouth, then turned on his knees and sealed his lips over Sanji's. He let the water trickle from his mouth into Sanji's, slow enough in hopes Sanji wouldn't choke. He was breaking one of his strictly self-imposed rules by doing this, so Sanji had better drink.

Zoro had many rules when it came to Sanji. The rules actually applied to all the males aboard the Merry, and several other ships he'd traveled on in the past, but Sanji tempted him in a way that made the rules triply important. No kissing was high on the list, that being the least sexual of numbers two through ten. Sanji-specific rules, such as "no watching him knot his tie" and "leave the galley when he's handling cucumbers, pickles, thick carrots, etc.", had grown in number the longer they sailed together.

Sanji was long and lean, hard and handsome, and could overpower Zoro with the wrap of his legs and a twist of his hips (which led to the rules: "no goading Sanji about his leg hair" and "keep out of hip-distance at all times"). He was exactly what Zoro liked in a man and Zoro had a very difficult time keeping his hands to himself. His only saving graces were that Sanji annoyed the fuck out of him and that Sanji was so stupidly enamored with women that he'd never turn to Zoro for companionship.

Zoro continued helping Sanji to drink, mouth-to-mouth, making sure Sanji was swallowing. Once he felt that Sanji'd had enough, Zoro scrubbed his tingling lips against his shoulder and went back to banging his bound wrists against the door. They couldn't escape soon enough.

 


The heavy rain didn't let up, continuing overnight and into the morning. The pool of water deepened. Bugs and worms washed in with the dirt through the casement. A rat doing the backstroke chattered a laugh as he squeezed through a crosshatch opening in the cell door and escaped up the stairs. Zoro gave it a baleful look before closing his eyes again. Legs stretched in front of him, Zoro leaned against the wall beside the door, with Sanji's head on his lap. He'd dragged Sanji into the position, using his teeth on Sanji's shirt collar, when the rainwater had reached a level above Sanji's ears.

A small hole had been banged out of the door, though it did little to solve their predicament. The slavers still hadn't returned and Zoro hadn't seen or heard them passing outside. He wondered if they'd been left alone, if the slavers had gone to join the others in a raid. If so, they wouldn't last long; Luffy and the others would see to it. Of course, that meant Zoro and Sanji were stuck in the cell until they escaped on their own or the Straw Hat crew came back for them, whichever happened first.

Zoro dozed for a bit longer, until the rumbling of his stomach woke him. He stared grouchily at the rain pouring outside the window. It was going to be a hassle to get Sanji propped against the wall, so he wouldn't drown while Zoro continued hammering at the door. Zoro looked down at Sanji with a scowl. "Pain in the ass, you are."

Sanji shivered. Zoro's scowl morphed into a frown. Goosebumps were visible on Sanji's bare forearms. His cheeks were pink, though the rest of his face was sickly pale. Not good, Zoro thought, looking around the cell, as if it would provide help for him.He had to get Sanji out of the water before he caught a fever.

"Crap." There was nothing – no ledges or dry spots. With Sanji unconscious, Zoro couldn't stand him up without him falling right back down, unless Zoro kept a hold on him.

Zoro gnawed at his lower lip as he glanced at the broken metal pieces on the door and then at Sanji again. Getting out of the cell was crucial, but he didn't know how long it would take. Staving off a fever would enable him to continue working unrushed. And the storm couldn't last forever.

Making up his mind, Zoro slipped his leg from beneath Sanji and winced when Sanji's head cracked on the ground. "Oops." Luckily, Sanji's nose and mouth remained above water.

Rising to his feet, Zoro nudged Sanji's legs apart and stepped between them. Crouching with his back to Sanji, he grabbed hold of Sanji's belt, then straightened and jerked hard. Sanji's upper body flopped onto Zoro's back as he bent forward. Water sluiced from Sanji's clothes. Zoro told himself that he didn't find their position arousing and trudged over to the wall. He turned around and backed Sanji against it. Slowly, he straightened, using the pressure of his own body to keep Sanji upright.

Zoro was surprised when Sanji lashed out suddenly with all the strength of a kitten. "Hey! Hey! It's me, you stupid cook," he said.

Sanji stopped flailing. "Zoro?" he croaked.

"Yeah."

"Ngh," Sanji grunted, and became a dead weight in Zoro's hands.

"Sanji?" Zoro craned his neck, trying to glance behind him. "Oi, dumbass."

Sanji didn't respond.

Releasing Sanji, Zoro turned around, only to shove Sanji bodily back against the wall before he collapsed to the ground. Sanji's head bounced against the slate and he grunted again. Glazed eyes opened, and Sanji muttered, "About time," before throwing his arms around Zoro's neck and kissing him.

In actuality, it was more like falling onto Zoro's mouth, the weight of his head held up by his lips against Zoro's. Then, he sort of slid off, his head dropping to Zoro's collarbone, and the arms around Zoro's neck went limp. The chain clunked a second time against Zoro's breastbone.

Zoro stared, shocked, at the dented spot in the wall.The kiss had to be a mistake.Sanji had to think that Zoro was Robin.Or Nami in heels.Or some other woman who happened to have the green hair of his homeland.Zoro had seen the glaze over Sanji's eyes.The kiss had nothing to do with him.

Pissed about being kissed with no regard by someone he desired, Zoro wedged a thigh between Sanji's legs and jerked his shoulder. The back of Sanji's head hit the wall again. "Wake up, dickhead."

Sanji blinked open his eyelids, his eyes rolling like a drunk's before they focused blearily on Zoro. Zoro cursed when he saw that a fever had already taken hold. "Zoro?"

"Yeah. We've established that already." Zoro narrowed his gaze when Sanji's eyelids began closing again. "Stay awake! Or I'm gonna forget about saving your ass and let you drown."

"Drown?" Sanji moaned and pressed a hand to his blood-smeared forehead. "Shit, my head hurts. Where's Chopper?"

"Not here. Do you think you can stand on your own?"

"Stand on my own?" Sanji was beginning to sound like a parrot. He blinked several times again, dazed and confused. He caught sight of the chain dangling from the manacle around his wrist. "I… what?"

Damn, Sanji was awake, but obviously not all together. And Zoro had a feeling Sanji wouldn't be awake for long. "Listen, I need you to break my bonds. Can you do that?"

"Break…"Sanji's arm fell limply to his side and his head dipped forward.

"Sanji- Sanji!" Zoro bumped his shoulder hard against Sanji again and Sanji's head jerked up. "Come on, Sanji. I need you to break my bonds and then you can sleep all you'd like."

"But I have to make lunch, stupid."

Zoro winced internally. This was not good. "One kick, Sanji. Just one kick." Inspiration hit. "Unless you're too much of a wimp."

Sanji puffed up. "Say that again after I've kicked your head in."

"Tch. You couldn't even break the lead on my wrists, let alone my head."

Familiar fire lit Sanji's eyes under the glaze of fever. "Hold out your hands."

Zoro stepped back slowly, making certain Sanji didn't collapse. He turned around and held his bound arms away from his body.He heard Sanji huff and braced himself.

Zoro sensed the displacement of air as Sanji executed a drop kick. The impact of Sanji's foot against the lead between Zoro's wrists reverberated up his arms. The lead gave, and so did Sanji, crashing into Zoro. Zoro caught him before he hit the ground. "Knew you could do it," Zoro said, tracing over Sanji's slack features. Sweat beaded along Sanji's upper lip and hairline.

The last of the cracked lead fell away from Zoro's wrists as he hoisted Sanji over his shoulder.Facing the door, Zoro closed his eyes and centered himself.He moved sharply and an invisible sword sliced through the crosshatched metal as if it were made of rice paper.He ducked through the opening in the door and, cautiously, climbed the steps leading up from the jail.

Outside the empty guardroom, rain pounded the hard-packed earth. From the doorway, Zoro searched for slavers. Barracks and storehouses crowded the muddy courtyard. Long, low buildings of slate squared the perimeter. His katanas and an eternal log pose to the children's island were in one of the buildings. He couldn't leave without either.

He wished it wasn't raining, as he darted out from the guardroom towards one the barracks. He and Sanji were soaked within seconds. Standing beside a window cut in the stone, he peered carefully inside. Five slavers sprawled in chairs around a coarse-cut table, playing cards and drinking. Double rows of hammocks and sea chests filled a majority of the room. Lanterns hung from the center crossbeam. Zoro didn't see his effects.

He crept on to the next building, a storehouse full of standard supplies of foodstuffs and barrels of alcohol that he wished he could tap.He searched it quickly, but thoroughly, before moving on.

Shifting Sanji to his other shoulder, he wiped the rainwater from his face and jogged across the courtyard. His feet squelched in the mud. The storerooms had been bust and the two other barracks were empty. He had the four buildings surrounding the yard to go. Unless the slavers who'd captured him had sailed off with his—

"Hey! You, there!" One of the slavers had come out of the barracks and spotted Zoro. Zoro cursed his luck and took off running. He dashed into one of the long, low buildings and skidded to a halt.

A dozen bearded brutes with swords drawn blocked the corridor.

Zoro grinned ferally, tightened his grip on Sanji, and met them head on.

He caught the nearest blade on its downswing, twisted his wrist, and wrenched the sword out of the slaver's hand. Flipping it, he closed his hand around the hilt and sliced cleanly through its previous wielder. Steel clanged against steel as he blocked, parried, and disarmed the other men. He kept his body angled, protecting Sanji from being hit.

More armed slavers poured into the building from behind him, as the last of the twelve fell. Zoro sprinted up the corridor, Sanji's head bouncing against his back. Another slaver stepped suddenly into his path from a side-door and he rebounded against the huge man's belly. Cracked, crooked teeth filled the slaver's mouth, exposed when he leered at Sanji's ass.

Zoro's eyes narrowed and he sliced up between the slaver's legs. The slaver howled.

Spinning around, Zoro charged back down the hall, scattering those chasing him. His arm wove back and forth, striking swords and severing limbs. Blood stained the packed dirt underfoot from the fallen slavers. Zoro used their heads as steppingstones on the path to the outside.

Rain slicked the ground and he slipped and skated through the mud, sword-arm wind-milling as he tried to keep upright. He slid right into the next building, bowling through a quartet of slavers. He came to a stop when he crashed into the wall. Shaking the bits of shale from his hair, Zoro leapt suddenly sideways, through an open doorway. A knife whizzed past an instant after he'd moved, embedding itself deeply in the wall where his head had been.

Charts, measuring equipment, and, to Zoro's joy, an eternal log pose were spread on a table in the room. The name on the log pose matched that of the one Nami had stolen off the slavers' ship. Zoro shoved it down the front of his haramaki, whirled around, and lifted his sword to block the attack that came from behind. He heard Sanji smack against the edge of the table and cursed.

Driving the slaver back, Zoro hacked his way out of the room and down the corridor. He wound up outside again, the rain pelting his face and shoulders. He had no idea where he was in relation to where he'd been. Darting forward, he careened against the doorframe and tripped over a sprawl of bodies in the corridor of the next building. Muddy bootprints walked a path on their heads.

The roar of angry slavers sent him running up the corridor to fight in a clear space. He turned on his pursuers suddenly, swinging his sword in a full, high arc. The sword tip got stuck in the ceiling.

"Shit." Zoro yanked on the sword and the ceiling came crumbling down, burying everyone, including himself, under the rubble.

Zoro shoved the slate off, freed his sword, and pulled Sanji out from beneath the broken slate. Sanji was unconscious still, which was good. Zoro didn't want to hear him bitching about Zoro's rescuing skills.

Slinging Sanji over his shoulder again, Zoro used the advantage of the ceiling collapse and sprinted out of the building. He slip-ran across the courtyard, splashing in the mud puddles. Lightning flashed overhead. Bypassing a short, squat building, he entered the one behind it. The corridor was empty. In the first room, he found his katanas, lying on top of what looked to be an important person's desk.

Zoro didn't care whose desk it was, or about the books and papers spread on its surface. He chucked the borrowed sword aside, fastened his katana sheaths where they belonged, and drew Wadou. Ducking out the door, Zoro heard the pounding of footsteps and the irate shouts from slavers outside. He ran in the opposite direction, found a room with a large enough window to climb through, and vanished into the cover of the jungle.

 


Zoro found shelter from the rain in a rotted tree, its trunk split at the base. It was a tight fit, with Sanji and his long legs snug between Zoro's thighs. Seated sideways, Sanji's face was tucked into the curve of Zoro's shoulder. Every exhalation warmed Zoro's neck and played havoc with his senses. If it weren't for the hot, clammy press of Sanji's forehead against his skin, Zoro would have left Sanji alone, in order to save his sanity.

Zoro's arm tightened around Sanji's shoulder when he shivered. The weather was hot and muggy, but the rain had soaked them to the bone and Sanji definitely had a fever. Zoro hoped Sanji didn't get much worse; he wasn't Chopper and knew only one trick to try if the fever spiked.

"Idiot cook," Zoro murmured, resting his head on the hilts of his katanas, propped behind him inside the rotted tree. He rubbed his right hand up and down Sanji's arm, trying to erase his goosebumps. "You're not supposed to get sick."

Sanji didn't listen to Zoro, as usual. He worsened as the day progressed. Sweat drenched him like the rain. He alternately thrashed and whimpered in Zoro's hold. His shivers came and went, despite his skin becoming hotter and hotter to the touch.

The rain let up finally as twilight settled in.The jungle came alive with sounds that had been drowned out by the storm.Birds twittered from the branches.Bugs hummed with activity.A squirrel-like animal peered into the rotted tree before scampering into the brush.

Zoro had heard the slavers once over the course of the day, but they'd passed without incident. He emerged from the makeshift shelter of the tree, hooked his katanas in his haramaki and Sanji over his shoulder, and headed right, the direction that would lead him back to the river, since he'd gone left after hopping over the Merry's rail. The sooner they left the island, the sooner Chopper could fix Sanji. There had been several smaller ships moored alongside the slave ship that they'd found the children in, and Zoro planned to commandeer one. Luffy wouldn't have left them, otherwise, if there hadn't been means to follow.

Water droplets glistened on deep green fronds and the tall wild grasses lashed lightly against Zoro's legs.He squinted at the sky peeking through the canopy.A wash of gray clouds blocked the rising moon.Once night fully hit, it would be too dark for Zoro to be crashing through the jungle, lugging a sick man.

He proceeded as long as he could, until he tripped over a root hidden by the night and almost face-planted. He caught himself and Sanji before they both went down and decided that it was as good of a place as any to make camp. He ignored the hungry roar of his stomach – "Pain in the ass, helpless cook." – and settled against a rough tree trunk. With Sanji nestled protectively between his thighs, Zoro dropped off to sleep.

When he woke, he found they were three steps from a rocky beach. The sea spread beyond it, deep blue and glittering under the morning sun. The denseness of the jungle muffled the sound of the surf breaking against the shore. It wasn't the river he'd been looking for, but right then, he didn't care, because Sanji was burning up.

"Enough of this sick crap," Zoro told him, jostling him more roughly than he probably should have."Only wusses let a fever best them."Zoro hated how vulnerable Sanji looked.The damned cook normally fluctuated between slick and lovelorn, but even when he was injured, he hadn't appeared so helpless.

Sanji's head lolled, exposing the fever-flushed arch of his neck. Zoro brushed the sweat-soaked hair off Sanji's face and pressed the back of his hand against Sanji's forehead. Concern balled in his gut, and he lifted Sanji into his arms and carried him down to the beach.

"Shit, Sanji, what happened to you?"Partially concealed by a rocky outcropping, Zoro had removed Sanji's clothing.Bruising discolored Sanji's chest, thighs, and upper arms, an ugly mass of blue-green fading to yellow.Zoro didn't think it was from a beating, because there were no bruises on his face, other than the starburst pattern of blood on his brow, and it was odd to punch someone on the thighs.Trampling would've left boot or hoof-prints.

Zoro wouldn't know the answer until Sanji was coherent and that wouldn't happen unless his fever came down. After stripping his own clothes off and laying his katanas on top of the pile, he cradled Sanji in his arms and walked into the water. The sea felt cool, swirling around Zoro's legs as he stepped past the waves. Sanji stirred weakly when Zoro dipped partially beneath the surface, but he didn't regain consciousness. Half-watching for slavers, Zoro kept him in the water until his teeth chattered, hoping the coolness would bring his fever down.

Sex remained furthest from his mind when he touched Sanji, drying him with a shirt. He redressed Sanji like a ragdoll in his rain-damp clothes, hoping the bruises didn't hurt from the manhandling. Zoro quickly re-donned his own clothes, tied his bandana around his bicep, and lifted Sanji over his shoulder once more. He would've preferred carrying Sanji on his back, using his katana as a lift, but he wanted to keep one hand free in case they ran across trouble.

Facing the sea, Zoro chose to go right again, because he'd still gone left after leaving the Merry, that hadn't changed. He stuck to the shore, his boots crunching on the rocks. The sun beat hotly on his head and dried out his clothing. The air grew muggy as the day wore on. He doubted being in the heat was good for Sanji, but if they didn't find the river, they couldn't get to a doctor. He knew that the river connected to the sea, so keeping along the shore was Zoro's best bet in finding it. He couldn't afford to get lost like usual.

His plan worked. He found the river and the spot where the Merry had been moored. A short distance upstream, the water was cool and drinkable, fresh water flowing from wherever rivers came from to drain into the salty sea. Cupping water with his hand, he helped Sanji drink, silently cursing the tingling of his lips.

"Okay," Zoro spoke out loud, shading his eyes from the bright sunlight, as he looked upstream."I follow this until we find the ships and then you'll be up and ticking me off in no time."He dipped his bandana in the river and bathed Sanji's sweaty face."Just a little bit longer, dipshit."

Lifting Sanji again, Zoro continued on. Wisps of white clouds traced faint lines on the vivid blue sky. He first saw the mainmast of the slaver ship that had held the children, rising above the treetops as he followed the bend in the river. Several smaller sailing vessels were moored near the ship. His eyes locked immediately onto a ketch. With two masts, the ketch was built for the open seas. It was sturdier than a sloop and Zoro knew he could handle it alone.

Slavers patrolled the shore.Zoro counted more than twenty, a high number for guarding empty ships, and figured they'd gathered specifically to intercept him.Zoro grinned wolfishly.It wouldn't do to keep them waiting.

Firming his hold on Sanji, Zoro drew a katana and charged. "Ittoryuu— "

Being out in the open, the slavers had seen him coming and had their swords drawn long before Zoro met them.It didn't save them.Zoro twisted and spun, his blade flashing in the sunlight.He blocked and parried fluidly, dancing surefooted over the rocks on the shore.He kept aware of Sanji's position, making sure he didn't get hit.Blood spattered and flowed from fatal wounds.Death cries rattled in the air.

The last slaver fell with a flick of Zoro's wrist.Zoro was disappointed it was over so quickly.He wasn't even breathing heavily.Sheathing the katana, he stepped over the body at his feet and made his way to the ketch.The gangplank bounced as he boarded.

The ketch was on the small side, but well kept. Zoro took note of the scrubbed decks and unfrayed ropes and rigging. Below deck, he laid Sanji on a wide, padded bench seat attached to the wall in a small cabin. A galley stove, pump sink, and icebox took up the space across from the bench. A lantern sat on a navigation desk with chart drawers beneath it, built into the corner. Behind a closed door was the hold, packed with supplies, with a few hammocks stretched between the mainmast and the hull, dangling over casks and crates.

Zoro checked through the supplies for clean water and unspoiled food. Satisfied with the stock, he left Sanji in the cabin and drew the anchor. He kicked the gangplank away, cut the mooring ropes, and released the square-rigged mainsail. The canvas unfurled and caught the river wind. Dashing to the tiller, he piloted the ketch downstream.

When he reached the open sea, he dropped the mizzen sail and the ketch picked up speed. He aimed the bow in the direction the arrow pointed on the eternal log pose, a compass even he could follow without getting lost. Gulls dived beneath the waves alongside the ship, coming up with fish in their beaks. No ships followed them. Zoro set the tiller and watched the horizon in anticipation. It wouldn't be long before they caught up with their nakama and Sanji would be well again.

 


"They are no longer here."

"What?" Zoro said in disbelief. He'd sailed into the Chin Island harbor with the midday light, looking eagerly for the Merry. He hadn't seen it, only the shells of broken ships and sailing vessels littering the water and the shore. Past the rocky beach, fire scorched and canon-damaged buildings stood as a testimony to the slaver raids. He'd been met by a contingent of elderly and infirm armed men when he'd docked the ketch. Suspicion that he was a slaver had been quickly quashed once he'd said his name and whom he was looking for.

"They gave chase to more slavers who were going to attack Four Head Island," Jarro, the mayor of the island, told him. Women with children peering from behind their skirts had emerged from hiding to gather around the dock. There were no young men present. Zoro would bet they'd fallen victim to the slavers.

Zoro rubbed the back of his neck, feeling the tension cording his muscles. "How far away is the island?"

"Four days' clear sailing." Jarro motioned to one of the women, who came forward with a log pose in her hand. "We will lend you an eternal log pose to reach the other island and your crew."

Four days was too long. "Thanks, but I can't go yet. I need a doctor." Zoro jerked his thumb towards the ketch. "My nakama on board has a fever."

Jarro showed immediate concern. "Dr. Cleft should be in his office. I'll show you the way."

The town on Chin Island was primarily a collection of ramshackle buildings that had more patches than original walls. Zoro's face darkened with every step he carried Sanji down the dirt street. Townspeople hurried between buildings with their heads down and a fearful air. The slavers attacks had been made with violent repetition. Zoro was thankful that Luffy had ended the slavers' tyranny and reconstruction plans were being made already, according to the scruffy, old Dr. Cleft.

"We'll fix up the school first, to keep the children occupied and out from underfoot," With a divot in his chin and wisps of white hair on his age-spotted head, Dr. Cleft continued poking and prodding at Sanji. Zoro leaned against the board-patched wall in the doctor's office, watching him with a hawk's eye. He'd gotten rid of the manacles on Sanji's wrists before bringing him ashore. "Then, hopefully, we'll fix up this old office so I'll have a better place to work once the construction accidents start pouring in." The doctor's laugh was rusty.

"How is he?" Zoro asked, feeling short-tempered. He was not only anxious about Sanji, but seeing the slavers' destruction of the town had angered him and he had no outlet for it.

"Hmm, fever's pretty bad and it looks like he took a fall somewhere along the line." Dr. Cleft drew the bed sheet over Sanji and replaced the cold compress on his forehead. "Nothing seems to be broken, though, or ruptured internally. The bruising will fade when it fades.

"Now, for the fever," Dr. Cleft continued, opening a cabinet filled with chipped or half-broken glass bottles and jars. "I'll give him some medicine that'll help him fight off any virus. Otherwise, the only thing to do is to get and keep his temperature down. He needs to stay cool, but not cold. If he starts shivering, his temperature will shoot right back up again."

Zoro mentally kicked himself. He'd thought he'd done right by putting Sanji in the water. Instead, he'd probably made the fever worse. "But he'll be okay, right?"

"Time will tell," Dr. Cleft replied. He measured green powder into a glass and added water to it. "You'd said you wanted to pursue your shipmates as soon as possible?"

"Yeah."

"I'll show you what you have to do, so he can travel."

Zoro was surprised. "Is that a good idea? I'm no doctor."

"It's up to you," Dr. Cleft said. "I don't know how long it'll be before his fever breaks."

Gnawing the side of his thumb, Zoro stared dolefully at Sanji. Stupid cook. Zoro wanted Sanji to get better, but he itched to get back to the ship. Chopper knew them all the best, medically speaking, and would probably have Sanji up and annoying everyone in no time.

"Show me," Zoro decided. How hard could it be? He knew how to follow directions, no matter what that she-devil Nami said. Besides, it would give him something to hold over Sanji's head once the dumbass was well again.

He was right: it wasn't difficult at all. Even Luffy could've done it, until he was distracted by a piece of naval lint. Zoro had to feed Sanji broth and water with some powdered medicine mixed in. He was also to keep Sanji cool using a damp cloth.

"You'll know when the fever breaks," Dr. Cleft assured Zoro, as Zoro lifted Sanji into his arms, bed sheet and all. Dr. Cleft set Sanji's folded clothing and shoes in the vee of Sanji's lap, with the vial of powdered medicine tucked into one of the shoes. "He may be tired and weak for a bit afterwards, but time will fix that, too."

"And if it gets worse, the only thing to do is keep doing what I've been doing," Zoro confirmed.

Dr. Cleft nodded. "There's no cure for a fever. It must pass on its own."

"Thanks," Zoro said. Sanji's head was a warm weight against his shoulder. "I'm sorry I can't pay you—"

"What your friends did for us is more than payment enough," Dr. Cleft said, waving him off.

Zoro gave him a nod of thanks, again. He returned to the ketch and settled Sanji on the bench seat in the cabin. He refreshed the washrag the doctor had given him, brushed Sanji's hair back from his face, and laid it on his heated brow. On the dock, Jarro was waiting for him, leaning heavily on a crooked cane.

"Here is the log pose," Jarro said, handing Zoro the Grand Line compass. "Four Head Island" was etched on its side. " Our only Den Den Mushi was damaged beyond repair, but I've sent a messenger gull to your crew, telling them that you are following."

It was help Zoro hadn't thought of and he felt some tension leave him. Luffy knew he would catch up, as promised, but at least the Straw Hats would have an answer for the delay.

He cast off from the dock, waving back to the children who'd gotten over their shyness and fear to call out goodbyes. The mainmast's sail billowed as it caught the breeze. Zoro squinted at the orange blaze of the setting sun on the horizon. He trimmed the mizzen sail, setting course for Four Head Island.

The stars came out as the sun went down and the temperature dropped. The inky darkness shrouded the ketch on the open water. Zoro held the log pose close to his face, but had difficulty making out the arrow. Locking the tiller, he headed below deck to fetch a lantern.

It was even darker in the cabin, in spite of the window above the bench seat, and Zoro cracked his shin against the navigation desk. "Damn it," he grumbled, feeling around for the lantern. He found it, but ran into another problem – locating matches. "Aw, hell."

Keeping hold on the lantern by the handle, he began searching blindly for the matches. He rifled unsuccessfully in the chart drawers. He felt along the wall to the galley side of the cabin. The metal lantern clanged noisily against the icebox. Dishes clattered as he went through the cabinet overhead. He kicked one of Sanji's shoes and stopped mid-frustrated curse. Sanji smoked, which meant he had matches.

Zoro smacked his forehead in stupidity. The lantern in his hand banged him in the face. Crouching, he groped along the floor (where he'd thrown Sanji's clothes after securing the medicine) until he located Sanji's trousers. A crumpled pack of cigarettes and matches were in the front pocket. He tossed the cigarettes aside and lit a match. The orange-yellow flame burned brighter as he touched it to the lantern's wick.

The light cast deep shadows across Sanji's shivering form under the sheet. "No, don't shiver. Shivering is bad," Zoro said, hurrying over to him. He took the lukewarm washrag from Sanji's forehead and threw it over his shoulder, into the sink. Tucking the sheet more firmly around Sanji, he rushed into the hold in search of a blanket.

Zoro ransacked the supplies packed in the hold.He went through stacked crates of fruits and vegetables, bags of flour, salt, and grain, and casks of water and alcohol.He found spare rope, metal and wood for patching, tools, and soap.He got his foot stuck in a piss-pot and broke a jar of nails that rained onto the floor when he kicked off the pot.But there was nothing that looked like or could be used as a blanket.The night weather outside was more pleasant than cold for sailors in good health, eliminating the need for blankets on board.

"Damn it." Zoro should've checked before they'd left Chin Island. Sanji was entrusted to his care and he'd already screwed up. Leaving the hold, he searched the main cabin for anything that would help and came up sparse. He redressed Sanji in his trousers and shirt. Propped up, Sanji pressed his face against Zoro's neck with small noise of discomfort, as Zoro put Sanji's goosebump-covered arms through his sleeves. "I know. I know. I'm trying."

Zoro pulled off his own shirt and tugged it over Sanji's head. Dirt and bloodstains marred the dingy white material. Sanji swam in it, with their difference in bulk, but hopefully it would add a layer of warmth. Zoro tucked him beneath the sheet again, but he still continued shivering.

"You really don't like me, do you?" Zoro said, with resignation. He knew of one guaranteed way to warm someone up. It wasn't like he could build a fire in the cabin without the ship going up in flames. Grabbing the lantern, he went above deck to secure the sails and lower the anchor. He didn't want to get too off course while he wasn't at the helm.

Returning below, Zoro set the lantern next to the matches and log pose on the navigation desk, lay his katanas on the floor beside the bench, and stripped out of his haramaki and boots. Sanji was still shivering and Zoro set his jaw to withstand the forthcoming torture. Dousing the light, he climbed beneath the sheet and shifted Sanji until he lay on his side, facing the back of the bench seat. Zoro curled over and around him, hating how they fit perfectly together, wishing he were anywhere else. But he knew from past lovers that his body was like a furnace, and Sanji had to stop shivering.

Resolutely, Zoro closed his eyes and pretended he didn't like the snuggling.

 


Sunlight striking Zoro in the eyes woke him and he nuzzled his face in greasy, musty smelling hair in attempts to hide from it.A beat later, he jerked back in surprise and tumbled off the bench seat.  He struggled against the sheet cocooning him, flopping on the floor until he got his arms free.  Sitting up, he stared at the back of a blonde head and the flushed curve of a neck until his brain woke up, too.  Sanji.  Shivering.  Snuggling.  Shit.

Zoro dragged his hand over his hair, untangled his legs, and climbed to his feet.  He spread the sheet over Sanji and pressed his palm against Sanji's forehead.  Warm, but not burning, and he wasn't shivering any longer.  Zoro trapped his erection with the waistband of his trousers and went to cool the washrag in the sink.

Zoro left Sanji with the damp rag draped on the side of his neck and stepped into the morning sun. The salt of the ocean was heavy in the breeze. A large fish with sharp teeth jumped and caught a gull flying too close to the waves. Zoro leaned his katanas against the outside of the cabin, rinsed his face from the barrel of rainwater, and pissed over the side of the ketch. He tried not to stroke his hard prick and failed. Bracing one hand on the rail, he jerked off while hunched over, embarrassed by his lack of control. It was all Sanji's fault, with his neediness and comfortable fit in Zoro's arms and managing to look so fucking desirable even when sick—

"Nnngg," Zoro grunted and came, spattering the deck with white streaks. He rested his forehead on the side of his bicep and caught his breath. Eventually, he straightened and eyed his limp prick. "This is gonna be a daily thing, isn't it?" he sighed, tucked himself away, and wiped his damp hand on his trouser leg.

Zoro drew up the anchor, unfurled the sails, and adjusted the course using the log pose. With the loss of time spent not sailing at night, it would take longer to reach Four Head Island, and it would feel even longer than that. Damned cook.

Zoro shook his head like he could shake thoughts of Sanji from his brain and locked the tiller. He picked up a katana, unsheathed the blade, and began his training routine. He didn't have his weights, but he'd make do.

The repetition was soothing and he was in a better frame of mind when he finished for the morning. Sweat dotted his chest and under his arms, and he made use of the rain barrel again before heading below. The cabin was becoming warmer as the temperature rose outside. Zoro dug out a pot, filled it with water from the pump sink, and set it on the stove. Vegetable soup was the only thing he knew how to make despite the inordinate amount of time he'd spent watching Sanji in the galley. But since broth was all Sanji needed, they'd both lucked out.

Sanji stirred and was sweating profusely by the time Zoro finished feeding him. Zoro took off Sanji's dual layers of shirts, cooled off the washrag, and wiped him down. He bit harder on the inside of his cheek at the soft sound of pleasure Sanji made, as he slid the rag over Sanji's flushed torso. His better frame of mind was lost under an onslaught of lust and his hands trembled with restraint.

"Good." Zoro almost jumped at Sanji's mumble. Fair lashes fanned as Sanji opened his eyes, but he didn't really focus on Zoro. The haze of fever was evident still. "Feels… don't stop…"

"You're more evil than Nami," Zoro declared, leaning closer as he smoothed the rag under Sanji's chin.

A heart bubble floated from Sanji's besotted smile and popped in front of Zoro's nose. "Mmm, Nami-swan."

Zoro snarled, more at himself than at the love-struck idiot. He folded the rag and dropped it on Sanji's forehead, threw the sheet back over him, and stomped out onto the deck. Then, he stomped back into the cabin, grabbed his food, and stomped back outside. He wasn't pouting – real men didn't pout – but he was put out and pissed about Sanji acting like Sanji. It wasn't as if he expected anything else. He was letting this taking care of Sanji thing cloud his common sense.

Several thousand sit-ups and push-ups cleared his head and gave him direction. He was stuck in an unavoidable situation that put him in close, constant contact with a man he desired. He decided to treat it as a test of willpower. Sanji may tempt him with his helplessness and tap into Zoro's need to protect, but Zoro wouldn't allow it to go to his heart – Rule Number One saw to that. Besides, once Sanji's fever broke, he'd be back to his annoying self and things would return to normal.

Decision made, Zoro fell into a routine with Sanji. He'd spend most of the day on deck, maintaining their course and keeping up with his training. He'd check on Sanji regularly, making sure he stayed cool, alternating giving him broth and medicine, and cleaning up after him. Sanji would mumble and fuss and lean into Zoro's touch, but Zoro behaved towards him like he would any of his nakama. He also only jerked off twice a day.

At night, when the temperature dropped sharply, Zoro would raise the sails, lower the anchor, and crawl under the sheet beside Sanji.  Cuddled with Sanji for warmth, Zoro slept deeply and more comfortably than he did in his own hammock on board the Merry.He blamed it on not napping during the day.

The four days' sail turned into seven with no island in sight. Zoro trimmed the sails as he watched the needle on the log pose. He manned the helm on a steady course until his rumbling stomach told him it was lunch.

Zoro warmed leftover vegetable soup from breakfast and ladled the broth into a dish. He really needed to learn how to cook something else. He'd have Sanji teach him, if it wouldn't end in bloodshed.

The katana sheaths clinked as he sat on the edge of the bench seat. Sanji looked much better, his face not as flushed as that morning. He felt cooler, too. Zoro tossed the washrag in the direction of the sink, slid a hand behind Sanji's bare shoulders, and sat him up. Sloshing a little broth, Zoro settled Sanji in the curve of his arm, leaning sideways against his chest. "Hey, sickboy, time to eat."

"Hn." Sanji drank from the dish when Zoro tilted it against his lips. His nose wrinkled and he drew his head back. "It tastes like crap."

The corners of Zoro's mouth twitched. "Then get up and make it yourself."

Sanji looked exhausted, but his eyes were clear when he opened them to stare bewilderedly at Zoro. "Why the hell are you feeding me?" He became aware of their position and jerked away from Zoro. "What the fuck? Don't touch me, marimo-head. Why are you grinning like an idiot?"

Zoro laughed. Someone's fever obviously had broken. He shoved the dish of broth into Sanji's hands and stood. Sanji swayed a little from the lack of support, but didn't keel over. "Finish all of that. Doctor's orders."

Sanji glanced around as Zoro ladled soup into a bowl for himself. "Where is Chopper? This doesn't look like the Merry."

"Don't you remember, stupid cook? You got yourself captured by slavers. I had to rescue you."

"Of course, I remember!" Sanji frowned and then touched the side of his neck. The bruises on his body and lump on his forehead had faded completely two days ago. "Something stung me, and then there was a deep hole in the ground…," he trailed off and rubbed his right temple, grimacing in pain. "Chopper?"

"Not here." Zoro disguised his concern over Sanji's health by stuffing food in his mouth. "Jus'mwe."

"Wonderful," Sanji said flatly. He looked out the window, where the open sea stretched beyond the panes, and slumped heavily. "You got us separated from the crew."

"I did not! You were the one in need of rescuing, target-brow," Zoro said. "I had to leave the others to fight alone in order to go after your skinny ass. And if you weren't such a wimp, we'd have caught up to them by now."

"I am not a wimp." Sanji's glare would've been more effective if his eyelids weren't drooping. "You probably got us lost and are making up some shit story to cover your brainlessness."

"Your being sick is what's slowing us down." Zoro set his soup on the edge of the sink, went over to Sanji, and took his dish before he dropped it. He gave Sanji a light shove and Sanji fell back onto the bench seat.

"Asshole," Sanji cursed, struggling ineffectually against Zoro's hand pinning him down. "Get away from me."

"Shut up and go back to sleep," Zoro said.

"Don’t tell me what to do."

"Fine." Zoro shrugged and carried the dish over to the stove. He dumped the broth back in the soup pot and put the dish in the sink. Picking up his own bowl, he headed for the door. "I'll be on deck. You do what you want down here."

The bright sun hung hot and high overhead, drying his and Sanji's washed shirts, spread on the foredeck. Zoro's earrings chimed in the wind as he checked the log pose. Seeing they were still on course, he leaned against the stern rail and ate his soup. Sanji never came out of the cabin. Zoro found him sound asleep, sitting upright on the bench seat, when he went back inside a short while later. He put his empty bowl in the sink and shifted Sanji, with only a snore of protest, until he was lying down. Zoro spread the sheet over him, brushed his hair away from his face, and sighed. "Glad you're better, dumbass," he said quietly.

Leaving Sanji to sleep, Zoro returned above deck and the routine of his day.

 


Zoro yawned and scratched under his haramaki as he descended below deck. He set the lantern on the navigation desk and doused the wick. In the dark of the cabin, he hopped on one foot and then the other, removing his boots. Fatigue draping over him, he felt his way over to the bench seat, stubbed his toe, and let out a muffled curse. Sitting on the edge of the seat, he flung his haramaki somewhere and laid his katanas within easy reach.

Another yawn cracked his jaw and brought tears to the corners of his eyes. He smacked his lips tiredly and slid under the sheet. Curling around a shivering Sanji, he slipped his hand between the two shirts Sanji had donned earlier for warmth, made a mental note to tease Sanji for giving in about wearing Zoro's shirt, too, and relaxed into sleep.

A sharp elbow to his gut woke him right up again. "Mmnph, what?"

"What do you mean 'what'? What the fuck are you doing?"

"Sleeping." Zoro tightened his hold when Sanji wiggled, because wiggling was bad for Zoro's libido. "Stop moving."

"Get off me!"

Zoro grunted when he got jabbed by Sanji's elbow again. Sanji was still very weak from being ill, but his bony elbow had a sharp point. "What is your problem? I'm tired and want to sleep."

"My problem?! My problem is that you're wrapped around me like kelp around sushi. Get off!"

"Can't." Zoro shifted so he could pin Sanji's arm and further immobilize him. "The doctor said shivering would make you sicker."

Sanji struggled futilely. "Then get me a blanket, dipshit."

"Can't. Don't have any."

"You—"

"Sanji, just shut up and go back to sleep," Zoro said, with a tired sigh. He wasn't in the mood to argue. "You're nakama, you're sick, you're cold, and I'm taking care of you the best I can. Deal with it."

Sanji had gone still midway through Zoro's short speech. He was quiet a moment, before muttering, "Fine. I'm sleeping under protest, though."

Zoro buried his face against the nape of Sanji's neck. "Sleep however you want, just do it."

Sanji remained tense for a long time. Sleep lapped at the edges of Zoro's consciousness, but he stayed awake, not trusting that Sanji wouldn't leave the makeshift bed and catch back the fever that had just broken. Zoro felt Sanji relax in increments until he finally nodded off. The sound of Sanji's steady breathing lulled Zoro after him, into dreams.

Morning brought the sun shining low through the window and Sanji sprawled over Zoro like a blanket. It would have been amusing, with all of Sanji's protesting the night before, if Zoro's usual erection wasn't pressed intimately against Sanji's thigh.

"Nh, huh?" Sanji mumbled blearily, as Zoro escaped quickly from under him.

"Nothing. Go back to sleep."

"Mmrf." Sanji folded his arms beneath his head and started snoring. Zoro's lips curved and he straightened the sheet over Sanji before heading out on deck.

Zoro stretched and scanned the horizon. He saw nothing but the endless blue of the sea in every direction. He used his bandana to tie the log pose to the tiller, so he wouldn't lose it, and leaned his katanas against the outer cabin wall. He dropped his haramaki on the deck beside them. Whether it was because of the strong possibility of being caught or the remembered feeling of Sanji using him as a body pillow, Zoro's routine jerking off was over fast and he came hard in his hand.

By the time Sanji emerged, Zoro had the sails unfurled and the ketch cruising the waves at a steady clip. Zoro was swinging a katana in a repetitive slice, keeping it at a perfect angle as he counted off to himself. Sanji shielded his eyes, a pack of cigarettes and the matches in his hand, as he looked out over the water. He braced himself heavily against the cabin's outer wall, unsteady on his bare feet. He was still wearing Zoro's shirt over his own, the collar of the blue dress shirt beneath it poking up into his chin. The loose white shirt billowed in the breeze, one sleeve scrunched on Sanji's shoulder. Sanji's dress shirt extended beyond the short sleeves of Zoro's and hung loose around his wrists, the cuffs unbuttoned. His hair was mussed from sleeping, fanning up in the back. He appeared very tired, and pale, but that didn't stop Zoro from being captivated by him.

Zoro's swings slowed and counts scattered in the wind. Something warm spread through his belly. Dipping his head, Sanji struck a match and lit the tip of a cigarette. Closing his eyes, he took a drag and lifted his face towards the sun.

Zoro's cheeks felt hot, his trousers tight, and he jerked his eyes away. Rule Number 249: don't let Sanji wear your shirt anymore. Ever. No matter what. Period.

"Oi, marimo-head, where are we heading?"

Cigarette smoke floated from between Sanji's lips as he spoke. Zoro started swinging his katana aggressively. "After Luffy and the others."

From the corner of his eye, he saw Sanji scowl. "I figured that much out myself, moron."

"Then why did you ask?"

"So I know how long I'll be stuck with your shitty self."

"I'm not too glad to be stuck with a wuss like you, either."

"I am not—" Sanji drew up straight, defensively, and immediately swayed with nothing bracing him. Zoro sheathed the katana and caught Sanji before his knees hit the deck.

Zoro pressed his palm against Sanji's forehead. It was damp with a light sheen of sweat, but not hot. He didn't want to take any chances, though, that the fever would return. "Come on, back to bed with you."

"I'm fine. Stop—Zoro!"

Zoro scooped Sanji up in his arms and carried him back into the cabin. Children hit harder than Sanji's blows of protest. Red-faced, with the cigarette dangling precariously from the corner of his mouth, Sanji glared murderously as Zoro deposited him on the wide bench seat. "Do that again and I'll cut your hands off."

"I'd like to see you try." Zoro fetched the washrag from the sink, cooling it down before bringing it over to Sanji. "Here. Don't let your fever come back."

Sanji snatched the rag from him. "Fuck off."

Zoro could see he was already wiped out, from the walk to the deck and the fighting. "Sleep, you stupid cook," he said, smoothing down the collar of the dress shirt. "I'll wake you up when we reach the island."

Sanji stared at him with a slightly befuddled look. Zoro took that as acquiescence and left him alone in the cabin.

 


Sanji was asleep, the washrag covering his eyes, when hunger brought Zoro back below deck. Sunlight streamed through the window, cutting in at a high angle, highlighting Sanji's profile. He had shed Zoro's shirt, which caused Zoro an odd pang when he saw it in a heap on the floor.

Zoro left it where it lay and went over to the icebox. It was more leftover vegetable soup for a meal. He put the pot on the stove, added a little water, and turned on the burner. Stirring it with the ladle, he wondered if Sanji could eat actual food now, or if he was supposed to stick to broth. He should've asked Dr. Cleft.

"What smells like shit?"

"My soup does not smell like shit."

"That's soup?"

Zoro glanced over his shoulder, as he fetched a glass. "Don't move," he ordered.

Sanji finished sitting up and shot him a glare. "Don't tell me what to do."

"I can and I will. You're gonna stay there and rest until Chopper says otherwise." Zoro filled the glass with water, dumped a measure of powdered medicine into it, and stirred.

"Make me," Sanji said, pushing to his feet.

Zoro crossed the cabin and poked him lightly in the chest. Sanji fell back onto the bench seat as if Zoro had shoved him hard. Smirking, Zoro held out the glass.

Sanji looked like he wanted to knock it out of Zoro's hand, but he finally took it and drank the contents down. Zoro had explained the medicine the evening prior, when he'd given it to Sanji for the first time since he'd regained semi-normal function.

Taking the empty glass, Zoro waited until Sanji sat back and folded his arms with a huff before putting the glass in the sink. "How long until we get there?" Sanji demanded to know.

Zoro shrugged, taking two bowls out of the cabinet. "Later today, maybe. Or tomorrow. I was told it's four days between islands, but that's if we'd sailed nonstop."

"Why the hell didn't you?"

"Because your skinny ass was cold every night," Zoro said with a pointed look.

Pink bloomed on Sanji's pale cheeks and he averted his eyes, but still, he growled, "Tell anyone and you're dead."

"Like I'd want anyone to know," Zoro scoffed. He dished soup into the bowls and gave the one that was mostly broth to Sanji.

Sanji made a face after eating some of the soup. "You call this food?"

"It's edible, ain't it?"

"Barely." Sanji had another sip from the broth and grimaced. "And that's giving it too much praise."

Leaning against the navigation desk, Zoro ate a bite. It tasted fine to him. "Not all of us are snooty chefs with snobby palates."

Sanji's curled eyebrow arched. "Since when did you know what a palate was?"

"Since I've had to listen to you bitch about my common one as long as I've known you."

Sanji continued arguing with him as they ate, which was relievingly normal. Zoro rubbed in the fact that, for all his complaining, Sanji finished his bowlful. Drowsiness thickened Sanji's voice while Zoro washed the dishes, and by the time Zoro returned with the empty and rinsed piss-pot, Sanji was asleep again.

Four Head Island appeared off the port side as the sun was just touching the horizon. Four atolls spiked the long island, waves crashing against the base of the reddish rock. The wreckage of crashed ships dotted the black sandy beaches and floated in the surf. Zoro counted five masts spearing through the surface of the sea, marking the graves of sailors sunk with their ships. Weathered docks, with a few small sailing vessels tied up, bobbed with the rolling water. Feeble men armed with farming tools and crude weapons gathered as Zoro brought the ketch into a berth.

Zoro jumped nimbly onto the dock and tied off the ketch.Like on Chin Island, the locals were welcoming once they saw who he was.

"Roronoa Zoro, we've been expecting you," the spokesperson, a lanky, grizzled old man who went by the name of Massie said, clasping Zoro's hand. "We cannot thank the Straw Hat pirates enough for what you have done for us."

Zoro felt awkward, since he hadn't been present for the fight. "It was nothing."

"Nothing!" Massie said. "We've been under the thumbs of those slavers for seven years! No, your nakama freed us from our wretched existence and gave us hope again. How can we repay you?"

"Uh, if you just point out where the Merry is moored…"

"They were chased off three days ago by the Marines." Massie scowled fiercely. "Those bastards finally show up after the fighting's been done to try and arrest the real heroes."

"You mean, they're not here?" Zoro couldn't believe it. He'd missed the others by three days. If he'd sailed through the night from Chin Island, he and Sanji would've been back in time. "Great. Just great."

"We will be happy to provide you with any supplies you need, so that you may leave to catch up with them," Massie said.

Zoro rubbed his forehead and resigned himself to having to spend more time with just Sanji. "You got a doctor on this rock?"

"Yes, of course." Massie's broad forehead wrinkled in concern. "May I ask what ails you?"

"An annoying pest." Zoro dropped his hand and turned towards the ketch. "I'll be right back."

Sanji had buttoned his shirt cuffs and smoothed his hair when Zoro returned to the cabin. "Where's Luffy?" he said. He was sitting on the edge of the bench seat, looking anxious to leave. Zoro was surprised he hadn't come out on deck already, but then he saw that Sanji's shoes were still where Zoro had kicked them out of the way. That he hadn't fetched them screamed that he still wasn't feeling well, at all.

"They left already."

"What?!"

"Marines," Zoro said, answering the question he knew would be coming. He picked up his shirt from the floor and pulled it on.

Sanji slumped and took a cigarette from the pack in his pocket. "How long ago?"

"Few days. We'll catch up." Zoro waited until Sanji had lit his cigarette before crouching in front of the bench seat, with his back to Sanji. "Climb on. And don't light my hair on fire."

"I can walk, asshole."

Zoro shot Sanji a barbed look over his shoulder. "Do you want me to carry you like a girl again?"

"Your hair would look better on fire," Sanji grumbled, and climbed reluctantly on Zoro's back.

Zoro hooked his arms under Sanji's knees and stood. Sanji strangled him with his sudden grip around Zoro's neck. "Urgh. You're choking me."

"Good," Sanji said, but then loosened his hold. "Where are we going?"

"To see the doctor."

The main village on Four Head Island had withstood the damage caused by the slavers, mostly because the men had given themselves up to protect their town. Native yellow grasses waved with the breeze, bordering the village and spreading over the low hills. Shops and homes were built with dark wood scoured by the volcanic sand carried on the wind. The scents of fresh breads and cooking meats wafted from open doorways. Women in faded clothing carried baskets from shop to shop, nodding to the few hobbling old men who patrolled the street.

Dr. Brow had a nicer office than Dr. Cleft and a nurse that turned Sanji's eyes into hearts and made him simper. As much as it disgusted Zoro, it was a good sign for Sanji's overall health.

"How is he?" Zoro asked, while Sanji availed himself of the doctor's bath. Sanji had kicked him out during the exam and he'd paced around the tiny waiting room until Dr. Brow had finally finished.

"Weak, and he'll sleep a lot for a while, but he's on the mend," Dr. Brow said. "As long as he doesn't get chilled, there's no need to worry any longer."

"Who's worried?" Zoro said by rote, and headed for the door. "I'm going to see to our provisions. I'll be back for him in a bit."

Stepping out onto the street, Zoro was promptly bowled to the ground by a group of rambunctious children. Scuffed and dirty, and on the thin side, they stared at him with terrified eyes and cringed. He hated it.

"I'm hit!" he said dramatically, pressed his hands over his heart, and pretended to go into death twitches. He'd seen Usopp do this before and the reaction it created. He had to do something to get those looks off their faces and there was no one left for him to beat up.

Zoro twitched one last time and went still, his tongue lolling from the corner of his mouth. A small finger poked him. "Hey, Mr. Swordsman? Are you alive?"

"Nope. Dead."

"Dead people don't talk."

He opened an eye. He counted seven kids, under the age of ten, crouched in a circle around him. Beyond their heads, he could see some of the townspeople watching. He dismissed them as unimportant. "Ghosts do."

More pokes. "You're not a ghost. You can't touch ghosts."

"Who says?"

One of the boys puffed up knowledgeably. "Ghosts are incer- inco- incraporeel."

A girl with braids and bruised knees cupped her hand over Zoro's ear and whispered, "That means you can see through them."

"Ah." Zoro opened both eyes and scratched his chin. The kids tensed but didn't run. "Maybe I'm a tree?"

"You're not a tree," another of the girls said. "That's just silly."

"Oh yeah?" Slowly, Zoro sat up and pointed at his head. "I'm green like a tree."

Four of the seven leaned closer, staring at Zoro's hair. The girl who'd whispered in his ear reached out to touch it. "It feels like grass."

Zoro was glad Sanji wasn't near to hear that, or he'd never live it down. The girl's bravery and words prompted the others to touch his head. "Can you grow flowers?" the youngest boy asked with a hopeful expression.

He'd never, ever live it down. "No flowers," Zoro said, "but I do give shoulder-rides."

"Me first!" the youngest said immediately, scrabbling onto Zoro like a monkey. Zoro chuckled and lifted the kid onto his shoulders properly. Standing, he pretended to sway and stagger under a heavy weight. Squeals and the child's laughter filled the air, clearing the fear that had lingered.

"I want a turn!" "And me!" "I'm next!"

Zoro gave them each turns and pretended to lose the eldest boy, holding him upside down by the ankles, dangling behind Zoro's shoulders. Spinning back and forth, he asked, "Where'd he go? Where'd he go?" More squeals and laughter graced his ears. Zoro grinned at the continued cries of "My turn!" He held out his arms to the sides and spun in a slow circle with kids dangling from him. Smiles were turned in his direction by the townspeople, as they continued on with their business after deciding Zoro meant no harm.

Pleased with himself, Zoro chased the kids off with various little tasks, like finding him some apples and bath soap. He was greeted warmly at the shops he stopped in at, to gather the real supplies. No one charged him, though he was prepared to trade menial labor for the items. He got cigarettes and matches for Sanji (having experienced the horror of Sanji running out of smokes on the open sea) along with additional wicks, oil, alcohol, and fresh water casks. Massie gave him a set log pose when he ran into the old man and there were a number of volunteers to lead him back to the doctor's office when he got lost.

"About time you showed up," Sanji said, swinging his legs over the side of the infirmary bed. Considering Sanji had been asleep when Zoro had arrived, Zoro doubted the wait had been hard.

"In a hurry to go back to sleep?"

"The sooner we leave, the sooner we catch up to the others and I can pretend you no longer exist again." Sanji climbed onto Zoro's back and Zoro straightened from his crouch. "Nami-swan and Robin-chwan must be miserable and wasting away without me."

Zoro rolled his eyes and headed out of the doctor's office. "Goodbye, Mr. Swordsman," "Bye, Mr. Swordman," "Goodbye," "Safe sailing, Mr. Swordsman," was wished upon Zoro with every townsperson he passed. He nodded politely and ignored the feel of Sanji's incredulous stare at the back of his head.

"Mr. Swordsman!" the children from before clamored on the docks, where he'd promised to meet them. A small crowd of well-wishers had gathered, too.

"You carry big people, too?" the girl who'd thought him being a tree was silly said with awe.

"Just the wimpy ones," Zoro said, earning a kick in the thigh by Sanji's heel. He barely felt it.

"Can I have another ride?" one of the boys asked.

"Me, too!" "I want one!"

Zoro shook his head. "Sorry. Sanji and I have to be leaving."

"Awwwww," "Don't go," "We want another ride," the kids protested with disappointment.

"Do you have the things I asked for?" Zoro interrupted. Six sets of grubby hands held out items, one of which was an empty bag. "Okay, put everything into the bag for me."

A tug on the back of his trouser leg made Zoro look down. The youngest boy with the dirt-smudged face held out a handful of yellow flowers to him. A smile tugged Zoro's lips. "For me?"

The child nodded. "'Cuz you can't grow none."

Zoro bent a little, shifting Sanji's weight so he could take the flowers. He thought it might be the purest gift he'd ever gotten. "Thank you."

Sanji was quiet as he took the filled bag from the other children, said goodbye, and sprinted up the mooring line onto the ketch. The other supplies had been delivered onto the deck and he deposited Sanji on one of the water casks. He put the bag down on another cask, setting the flowers carefully on top. He lifted his hand in a wave after he cast off and soon they were sailing briskly from Four Head Island.

"Do you mind explaining how you, of all people, managed to charm the socks off that town, instead of causing a fight like usual?" Sanji said, as Zoro got them on course. The sails billowed in the evening breeze, twilight shading the canvas reddish-gold.

"I don't always cause a fight." Zoro locked the tiller and tied the new log pose to the post with his bandana. "It's usually the other guy's fault if it happens."

Sanji snorted and picked up the flowers. "Right, because you hold your temper so well."

"Don't touch those." Zoro snatched the flowers from Sanji's hand. A few yellow petals floated onto the deck.

Sanji gave him an arch look. "Enjoy getting flowers from boys, do you?"

"Maybe I do," Zoro stated defensively, and stalked down into the cabin. He filled a glass with water, stuck the flowers inside, and set the glass on the navigation desk. He could always trust Sanji to ruin a perfectly good mood.

When he went back on deck, Sanji was smoking a cigarette, watching the final crest of the setting sun. Zoro worked around him, bringing the supplies below and packing them in the hold.

Sanji came below deck under his own power, leaning heavily against the walls and desk until he made it to the bench seat. He collapsed onto it and simply breathed for a few moments, while Zoro finished up. "I'll make dinner in a minute," he said on one of Zoro's passes through the cabin into the hold.

The light from the lantern made Sanji appear gaunt and exhausted. "Don’t worry about it. We have the rest of the vegetable soup to eat," Zoro said, concerned in spite of himself.

"Are you trying to get me sick again?"

"My soup is not bad!"

"I wouldn't even feed it to Luffy." Sanji leaned back and closed his eyes. A shiver wracked his body. "Throw me a blanket."

Zoro stopped mid-lift of a crate. "Shit."

An eyelid popped open and stared at Zoro through the doorway to the hold. "You forgot to get blankets?!"

"We'll turn around and go back, right now." Zoro tossed the crate on top of the tall stack he'd been making. The stack rocked unsteadily. "We're not that far out."

"You can't see the island anymore from the deck."

"So?"

"So, we'll end up in back East Blue before you even come close to finding Four Head Island again."

The crates tumbled over, crashing onto Zoro's head.

"Idiot swordsman." Sanji drew the sheet around his shoulders. The sun had gone down and, with it, the temperature. Sanji shivered again.

In direct violation of Rule 249, Zoro pulled off his street-dusty shirt and threw it at Sanji. It hit him in the face. "Put that on."

"I'm not going to wear your disgusting shirt," Sanji said, holding it away from him.

"You wore it last night." Zoro started restacking the crates strewn around his feet. Luckily, none of them had broken.

"I was sick."

"And Dr. Brow said you could get sick again if you catch a chill," Zoro said. "Put on the damned shirt."

Sanji scowled. "How do you know what the doctor said?"

"Since you kicked me out, I had to ask him."

"I kicked you out because it's none of your business!"

"Everything about you is my business," Zoro snapped, and regretted immediately not thinking before he spoke. His face flamed and he busied himself with the crates. "Shitty cook."

Sanji didn't say anything. Zoro also pretended that he hadn't said anything embarrassing, until clanking objects broke the awkward silence. He glanced through the open doorway and saw Sanji hanging on the icebox door, as he went through its contents. He was wearing the shirt.

Zoro put down the funny feeling in his stomach as hunger pains.

 


A weak kick to the head had ended the fight about the sleeping arrangements that seemed more for show than an actual fight. Zoro breathed in the sweet-smelling soap Sanji had used on his hair and questioned whether it had been his argument or Sanji's that they share the bench seat again. He had thought he'd been for it, concerned about Sanji getting sick again because he was cold, but Sanji's kick had been accompanied by a command to "lie down already, asshole," and Zoro wasn't so sure anymore.

On their sides facing each other, tangled with the bed sheet, Sanji snored against Zoro's bare chest, an arm and a leg thrown over Zoro proprietarily. Predawn lightened the cabin. A comfortable coolness lingered in the air, a nice sleeping temperature for anyone not recently ill. Zoro buried his nose in the crown of Sanji's hair and closed his eyes again. It was too early for thinking and he wanted to hold Sanji as long as possible…

Zoro woke again with a start, as Sanji climbed over him out of the makeshift bed. "Whehr ah 'ou 'oing?" he asked around a yawn.

"To take a piss. Is that all right with you, sire?"

Zoro grunted at Sanji's sarcasm and watched through half-lidded eyes as Sanji braced a hand on the wall and walked slowly up the four steps to the deck. Still weak, then. Zoro rubbed his face, trapped his morning hard-on with the waistband of his trousers, and got up. Splitting an apple, he left half for Sanji, to get rid of the mouth fuzz that morning brought. Sanji returned below deck, looking rumpled and endearing wearing Zoro's shirt over his own, and Zoro escaped outside to take care of his now-throbbing erection.

Breakfast was a fruit salad and a demand that he clean up afterwards. Sanji was snoring again by the time Zoro left with a bucketful of rinds. Dumping the rinds overboard, he rinsed the bucket, left it by the barrel of rainwater, and fell into his usual routine.

Legs above him, body perfectly in alignment, Zoro bent and straightened his forefinger, counting with each pushup on the tip of the mainmast. "Four hundred fifty-six, four hundred fifty-seven, four hundred fifty-eight…" Wind buffeted against him and the unfurled sails. Far below, he could see where his katanas leaned against the outer wall of the cabin, the haramaki discarded beside it.

Finally awake from his nap, Sanji wandered outside, dragging his hand over his mussed hair. Zoro tracked his unsteady progress across the open deck to the rail. Sanji cupped his hands as he lit a cigarette. Folding his arms atop of the rail, he stared out over the water, smoke curling upward and dissipating.

"Four hundred ninety-two, four hundred ninety-three, four hundred ninety-four…"

The blonde of Sanji's hair looked gold in the sunlight and stray strands lifted in the breeze. He flicked the finished cigarette butt overboard and crossed the deck again, staggering as he pulled Zoro's shirt off over his head. Stopping beside the rain barrel, he dropped the shirt by his bare feet and pulled down his trousers.

"Ack!" Zoro lost his balance and grabbed the tip of the mast as his body suddenly swung down, gravity building momentum. He caught the bulk of the mast between his legs. The breath whooshed from him and his eyes crossed. "Nngg."

He slid down the mainmast, his balls in his throat. Flopping back on the deck, he swatted at the stars dancing in front of his eyes and willed the pain to end. A shadow crossed into his vision. "Oi, shit-for-brains, I'm doing laundry. Give me your pants."

Zoro blinked and Sanji came into focus. He stood over Zoro in his black boxers with bright red lips on them and an unbuttoned blue dress shirt. The pain in Zoro's balls turned into a different kind of ache. He could see right up Sanji's boxers.

Zoro sat up quickly and smacked his forehead on the mainmast. "Ow. Damn it."

Sanji snickered. "Good job."

"Shut up."

"Pants, marimo-head."

Pushing to his feet, Zoro managed not to hobble on his way to his katanas. Sanji was going to take off those boxers. There was no way in hell Zoro was exposing exactly what he thought about that by removing his trousers. "I can do my own laundry."

"I'm not going to let you waste fresh water since I'm already doing it," Sanji said. "Stop being a sissy and give me your pants."

"Leave off, curlicue. I'm not going to and that's that." Zoro bent to grab his katanas and sensed the kick before it hit. He straightened, turned, and blocked in one smooth movement. Sanji's kick felt like barely a tap. "Don't even try it. You can't kick for shit. Hell, you can hardly stand."

Sanji's hands curled into fists. "I can kick your ass easily, you worthless swordsman."

Zoro took a step forward, hooked his foot around Sanji's ankle, and gave him a light push. Sanji fell backwards and crashed onto the deck. Standing above him, Zoro folded his arms and shot Sanji a pitying look. "Tell me that again when you can stay on your feet."

Sanji's face reddened in humiliation and anger. With a twist of his legs and a screw of his hips, Sanji sent Zoro sprawling. Zoro blinked a couple of times in surprise and stared up at the wisps of clouds from flat on his back. Suddenly, Sanji straddled him and captured his wrists.

"Fucker." Sanji panted as if he'd been run ragged, his breath hot on Zoro's face. He hovered inches away, his eyes as brilliant blue as his unbuttoned dress shirt. Sanji's focus drifted to Zoro's lips before returning to Zoro's stunned gaze. The flare of awareness and want reflected in those eyes pinned Zoro more than strength. Fear slid swiftly across Sanji's features, but vanished with a look of resolve. The pounding of Zoro's heart drowned out all other sounds, as Sanji's head lowered.

Zoro's breath stole away at the touch of Sanji's lips. The tentative brush, a fleeting taste, rocked him to the core. He'd imagined but never hoped for it to happen. Sanji raised slightly and searched cautiously for an answer in Zoro's eyes. He must have found what he was looking for, because the corners of his lips curved as he closed the distance between them again.

Sanji's mouth pressed against Zoro's a second time sparked the fuse that had been waiting to be lit ever since they'd met. Zoro surged explosively into the kiss, sitting up fast and wrapping his arms around Sanji. Sanji's hands clasped his shoulders and Zoro swallowed the gasp at the sudden change in position. A moan followed, and Zoro was the sole aggressor no more.

Sanji met and matched Zoro's hunger and want, bruising kisses on Zoro's mouth. Zoro clutched Sanji with desperation born from freedom to act. He shoved Sanji's shirt off his shoulders, scraping his blunt nails on Sanji's pale skin. Lust painted his thoughts and drove him on. The rules he lived by were broken one after another under the late morning sun. He didn't know why Sanji suddenly wanted him, nor did he care other than that it continue on for as long as possible.

As long as possible might not last long at all. Sanji ground down on Zoro's lap and Zoro's eyes crossed behind his closed eyelids. He could feel Sanji's erection pressing against his abdomen. With a guttural sound in his throat, he palmed Sanji's ass and rocked. Sanji cursed against Zoro's lips, gripped the back of his hair, and kissed him fiercely.

Zoro was going to come before he'd even gotten his trousers off. He'd wanted to be with Sanji for what seemed like forever and he'd be damned if he was going to lose out on anything. He tumbled Sanji onto the deck, earning a knock to the head. "Asshole, don't throw me around," Sanji said.

"Hn," was Zoro's eloquent response, as he grasped tenuously for control. Sanji was spread under him, disheveled and kiss-swollen. His boxers tented in the front, the bright red lips stretched lewdly over his erection. Zoro salivated and struggled to remove his trousers. He fell over clumsily and contorted his body as he yanked the garment off his legs. He wiped away Sanji's smirk with a fast, hard kiss before yanking off Sanji's boxers and tossing them over his shoulder.

Dark blonde hairs spread over Sanji's groin and tickled Zoro's palm as he wrapped his hand around the base of Sanji's cock. Sanji hissed and pushed into Zoro's grip. "Zoro…"

Zoro moaned at the sound of his name falling from Sanji's lips. "Fuck. Hold on," he said, pinching the base of his own erection. He scrambled towards the rain barrel. He found the bar of soap Sanji had brought out for the laundry, dunked it in the water, and lathered his hands. Dropping to his knees beside Sanji, he wrapped his hand around Sanji's cock again and jacked him with firm, soapy strokes.

Sanji cursed and scratched his fingertips on the wooden deck. Zoro bent and stole his ragged breaths with hungry lips. Sanji clasped his neck, kissing him back roughly.

Abruptly, he stilled and his eyelids flew open as Zoro moved over him. "Z'ro?" he said against Zoro's mouth. Zoro lifted his head slightly, so Sanji could speak. "What—ooohfuckingshitheadmarimoswordsman—Zoro!"

Zoro rolled with the sudden thrust, expecting it. He exhaled heavily through his nose at the stretch and burn. Pain lapped at the base of his spine, but he knew it would fade shortly. It hadn't been that long since he'd gotten laid, even if it seemed that way. He rested his forehead against Sanji's and began a slow rock of his hips. "Mmnn," he hummed satisfactorily, as his body adjusted to the invasion.

"You damned- nngh." Sanji clutched the back of Zoro's neck, his eyelids falling shut. "Fuck."

Zoro braced his bare toes on the deck and picked up the pace. His own eyelids fell shut as pleasure washed over him. His cock rubbed against Sanji's sweat-dampened belly. His earrings chimed softly as he moved. He sought Sanji's lips blindly and sank into another kiss. Ah, Sanji…

Sanji scraped his fingernails down Zoro's back and gripped his hips tightly. His mouth went slack under Zoro's and his breath stuttered. His hips bucked once, twice, and Zoro felt the pulse of him coming already, ratcheting the arousal humming in his veins. Sitting up, Zoro stroked his aching cock while watching Sanji struggle to catch his breath. A flush colored Sanji's pale skin and sweat shone on his hairline and upper lip. A different kind of fever had taken him down.

Sanji's eyelids cracked open and his gaze slid over Zoro's body. Zoro's breath hitched and his thoughts focused completely on Sanji's hand, as Sanji wrapped it around Zoro's on his cock and helped him finish off. The pressure behind Zoro's balls built to an unbearable level at the touch and he came on Sanji's abdomen with a wracking shudder.

Zoro's mind was filled with fuzz and he flopped onto the deck beside Sanji, spent. The sun beat warmly on his naked body. The clouds drifted lazily in the sky.

"About time," Sanji said.

Zoro had heard those words before, after Sanji had kissed him in the jail cell. He'd thought it had been a mistake. He turned his head to stare incredulously at Sanji. "Huh?"

"You've been sniffing around me for ages." Sanji stretched across Zoro to reach his cigarettes and matches, sitting beside Zoro's katanas. Zoro put his arm around Sanji automatically. "I thought that you were a virgin and that's why you never made a move."

Zoro was sure that he'd kept his desire under wraps. Being careful around men kept his head on his shoulders (not that anyone would best him in a fight). And unless a guy had a predilection for men, too, he wouldn't pick up on the few signs of Zoro's sexuality. Besides, Sanji was the one to make the first move. "I'm not a virgin."

"That was obvious pretty fast," Sanji said with a satiated smile. He rested his chin on the back of his hand, half-sprawled over Zoro's chest. He looked extremely tired. "Didn't know you went for men."

Zoro brushed his fingers absently up and down between Sanji's shoulder blades. "Didn't know you did, either." He knew Sanji was referring to him receiving, while he meant Sanji desiring any man.

Sanji shrugged, his gaze shifting away. His eyelids fluttered shut. "Any port in a storm."

Zoro tended to agree. He'd had sex with some dog-like men in his day. It didn't explain why he was unhappy with the answer, or why it didn't ring true. He was about to ask another question when a soft snore floated across his chest. Sanji had fallen asleep, a snot bubble expanding and contracting from his left nostril. Post-sickness exhaustion had overtaken him again.

Zoro pillowed his other arm behind his head and stared up at the sky. He'd wanted Sanji for so long, he didn't quite know what to do now that he'd had him. Except to try and have as much sex as possible, if he could.

So why did he feel like there should be something more?

 


Sanji agreed easily about having sex as often as the mood struck, and the days took on a comfortable routine. Zoro spent the waking hours on deck, training and keeping course. He took breaks for food and sex. Sanji alternated napping with cooking, sex, and pestering Zoro. At night, he demanded rather than fought against Zoro for the extra shirt and warmth in bed.

Zoro hadn't spent any real length of time alone with Sanji before and therefore, hadn't realized how needy Sanji acted. On the Merry, there were five other crewmates that Sanji could fawn over or play with. Zoro pretty much ignored everyone by napping or training, and he was ignored in return.

But now, Zoro needed to stay awake to helm the ketch, and while Sanji was trying to beat his record of number of naps taken in a single day (something Zoro might be worried about, if Dr. Brow hadn't told him to expect it), the rest of the time Sanji was underfoot and clamoring for attention in his own special way.

"Hey, dumbass, no matter how much you exercise, you'll still have a tiny dick."

"My dick is not tiny!"

Cigarette smoke rings rose like a fire signal. "Try and convince someone who hasn't seen it."

Zoro proved Sanji wrong on the floor of the cabin and learned Sanji liked receiving, too. It made Zoro suspicious of Sanji's overdramatic love for women, when he responded so enthusiastically at being taken by a man.

Sprawled on the deck under the late day sun, Sanji watched Zoro with hooded eyes, as Zoro went through his katas. The ketch skimmed the water under the power of a strong wind. Sanji's hair was blown in all directions and his shirt snapped where it hung loose. "Your form is off."

"Shut up. You don't know what you're talking about." Zoro pivoted, drawing his left arm up in a block and sliding his right arm into a cross strike. He was training with only two katanas. Wadou remained sheathed, hanging at his side.

"You're dropping your left shoulder and your feet aren't properly balanced."

Zoro check his stance. Sanji was right. He scowled and adjusted on the next move. "How did you know that I was off?" he said grumpily.

"I've only seen you train a couple of million times, marimo-head," Sanji replied in a tone indicating Zoro was an idiot. He wrapped his arms around his bent legs and rested his chin on one knee. "You really need more hobbies."

"Look who's talking, if you've memorized my katas." Zoro didn't know whether to feel uncomfortable or preen. He snapped the katanas more sharply.

"It's hard to miss it, since training is all you do."

"And which one of us needed rescuing?"

Sanji glowered. "I would've been fine without you."

"Ha!" Zoro finished his katas and sheathed the blades. He flopped down onto the deck beside Sanji, wiped the sweat from his brow, and gulped down half the lemonade Sanji had brought out for him. He studied Sanji from the corner of his eye. The tightened corners of his eyes and mouth meant that Sanji was beating himself up over something. Zoro didn't need brains to figure out what it was about. "You were sick."

"Don't mollycoddle me, asshole."

"Fine.Then, let's fight."

Sanji shot him a sharp look. "Why?"

"Because I need a new hobby." Zoro climbed to his feet again and extended his hand to Sanji. "And training regularly would've kept you from being caught."

Sanji ignored the second remark, as he accepted the hand up. "How is this any different than normal?"

Zoro shrugged. "I like you now?"

"Sleeping together doesn't make us friends." Sanji's words struck like a blade, despite Zoro being of the same mind. Sanji annoyed him to no end, especially since discovering what a needy pain he was unless he was asleep.

"How about: you've been sitting on your ass for weeks, princess, and maybe I don't want to get stuck saving you again," Zoro said, anger swiftly overtaking any hurt he felt.

Sanji responded with a kick towards Zoro's stomach, and the fight was on. Zoro drew two katanas again, flipping the blades to block with the flats, as Sanji pressed an attack. He danced into the open area at the bow of the ship, giving them more room to maneuver. Sanji twisted his body like he was boneless, his long legs extending insanely far. Zoro blocked kicks to his head, chest, stomach, and knees, striking back with his katanas only to be blocked in return.

Sanji's kicks, while accurate, weren't very strong and it was actually harder for Zoro not to fight full-out like he normally did with Sanji. He watched as Sanji wobbled coming out of a handspring and listened to him gasping for breath. He knew Sanji wouldn't quit no matter how badly he felt, but Zoro didn't want to chance him making himself sick again.

As Sanji was recovering from the next pass, Zoro sheathed his katanas, grabbed Sanji by the shirt, and drove him backwards until he hit the mainmast. Zoro plunged his mouth over Sanji's, stealing his panting breaths. Sex and fighting was all that they were about, right? They'd done the fighting, now it was time for the sex.

Zoro unbuttoned and unzipped Sanji's trousers and pushed his hand down the front of Sanji's boxers. Sanji was half-hard from the fight, just like Zoro.  Within a few tugs, he was fully erect.  Zoro gripped Sanji's cock firmly and began jerking him off. Sanji banged his head against the mast with a choked moan.  Zoro bit rough kisses along his jaw and down the side of his neck.

Sanji's fingers dug into Zoro's shoulders as he came.  He would've collapsed at Zoro's feet, if Zoro hadn't been holding him upright.  He gulped noisily for air in Zoro's ear.  Zoro licked the sweat slicking Sanji's skin and humped against his thigh.  Sanji's hands wandered down to Zoro's ass, when he'd recovered enough.  He pulled Zoro firmly against him, shifting his leg between Zoro's thighs.  Zoro sought his mouth and claimed another kiss.

Orgasm washed over Zoro in a rush, blood pounding in his ears. He snarled against Sanji's lips, pumping against Sanji's leg, coming in his trousers. The emotion fueling him left with a rush. He dropped his forehead to Sanji's shoulder and watched the spots spin behind his closed eyelids until he regained his breath.

Sanji looked like he was about to fall asleep where he stood, when Zoro raised his head again. Any lingering anger vanished, and with a sigh, Zoro pushed Sanji gently towards the cabin. "It's my turn to wash our clothes. I'll be down in a minute to get your pants."

"Whatever," Sanji said, slumping off to go below deck. Zoro found him sound asleep on the bench seat a few minutes later, just like he'd figured, when he entered the cabin.

Zoro removed Sanji's shoes, trousers and boxers without any hassle.  He drew the sheet over Sanji's lower half and pressed the back of his hand against Sanji's forehead.  Warm, but no fever.  Good.

"Sleeping together doesn't make us friends."   Zoro drew his hand back and closed his fingers into a fist. Gathering Sanji's clothes, he went back out on deck for the remainder of the day.

 


Shadows flickered in the hollows and grooves of Sanji's back as he arched and moved. Zoro thrust with a slow twist of his hips, wrenching a deep moan from Sanji. The orange-yellow glow from the lantern light shaded Sanji's skin the color of buttermilk. Zoro bent forward and tasted along his shoulder. Sanji bowed his head, exposing the smooth nape of his neck.

Wrapped around Sanji from behind, Zoro's lips slid along Sanji's salty skin. Sanji's cock was heavy and warm in his hand. He stroked and rocked into Sanji with the roll of the ketch on the waves. Rain pattered lightly against the window above the bench seat. The blurred undulation of their bodies reflected on the glass pane.

"Zoro," Sanji said hoarsely, and he came with a shuddering gasp. Zoro shut his eyes at the tightening around him and rode Sanji faster. His body raced towards completion, the sound of skin slapping skin filling his ears. Orgasm was finally wrenched from him with a choked cry before he fell silent from release.

"Heavy," Sanji grunted, causing Zoro to get his limbs moving again.  Sanji muttered tired obscenities as Zoro rearranged them to his satisfaction. Chest to back, he held Sanji, breathing in the heady scent of sweat and sex.  Sanji fell asleep within moments, soft snores drifting in the cabin.  Sleep tugged at Zoro, too, and he nuzzled Sanji's hair with a satisfied smile on his face.

The lazy rhythm of the days and nights fit contentedly like Sanji in his arms. He'd grown used to the cadence of sailing with just the two of them. The constant buzz of conversation, couched in fights that really weren't, passed the time with surprising ease. It made Zoro wonder how much he'd missed out on during his naps on the Merry.

He'd certainly been missing out on great sex. Sanji was limber and willing, and they could have been fucking each other's brains out ages ago. But no, Zoro had kept to his rules, and had even made extra ones, damn it. Special Sanji rules to keep his hands off, when Sanji would've readily removed his clothes so that Zoro could put his hands on whatever he desired.

Sanji wasn't shy, either, about what he wanted. The demanding give-and-take in bed mirrored how he acted towards Zoro outside of it, and Zoro liked it that way. He knew what to expect and how to respond, and it was comfortable. Everything was comfortable, really, and Zoro wouldn't mind if the feeling lasted a while.

A thump drew Zoro out of his musings and he strained his ears, listening. He was about to dismiss it when another thump came from above deck. Zoro rolled off the bench seat, picked up Wadou, and crept up the steps. He poked his head cautiously outside. "Shit."

A battleship loomed beside the ketch and uniformed marines were scrambling down the grapple lines. Zoro jumped back down the steps, grabbed his trousers and haramaki, and doused the lantern. "Sanji, wake up. We've got trouble."

Sanji kept snoozing. Zoro stubbed his toe against one of his other sheathed katanas lying on the floor beside the bench seat. He swatted Sanji upside the head. "Wake up, moron! Marines!"

Sanji bolted upright immediately. "Marines?"

"A battleship-full." Zoro's eyes finally adjusted to the dark of the cabin, as he pulled on his haramaki, and he spotted his boots by the icebox.

"Where are my clothes?" Sanji said, scrambling out of bed.

"I don't know. Somewhere down here." He slid the katanas in the loop on his haramaki and stuffed his feet in his boots. "Promise you'll call me if you need help."

"I'm not sick anymore, dickhead.You don't trust that I can handle myself?" Sanji said acidly.

"No, I'm trusting that you'll call if you need me." Zoro moved to the bottom of the steps and peered outside. He could hear the scuffle of the marines already on the ketch, approaching the open door to the cabin. "Give me a leg up."

Bending his knees, Zoro jumped in the air. He expected to land on Sanji's kick, but instead ending up back on the floor. He scowled over his shoulder. "What the hell? Come on already."

Standing in his boxers, Sanji was staring at him oddly. Then, he shook his head as if dislodging his thoughts and pivoted in a spin kick. "Jump."

Zoro jumped again, landed on Sanji's extended leg, and was propelled past the marines surrounding the door, onto the deck. He leapt onto the starboard rail under the surprised gasps and stares from the marines. He drew two katanas as he ran towards the grappling lines. If he cut the lines and set sail, they'd be able to escape. The battleship was ablaze with running lights, while Zoro had blown out the lantern light on the ketch. The night would hide the ketch once they were away from the battleship.

Steel clashed once the lines were free, as Zoro fought his way to the mainsail. The marines were well-trained and expected battle. It was surprising that Zoro and Sanji hadn't come across them earlier, considering the marines had chased Luffy and the others from Four Head Island. It was no secret that Zoro was a part of Luffy's crew, and the mention of his name and situation within earshot of a soldier would've sent the marines sailing after the ketch.

The sails unfurled with a snap of the canvas, and Zoro ducked as a body came flying towards him.The marine landed in the water with a splash.Sanji must be on deck, then.

Grabbing the rigging, Zoro swung out of the way of a sword slice. His momentum carried him upwards and back in an arc, and he planted his feet in the marine's face. He touched down on the deck next to the unconscious man and sprinted aft to the anchor, cutting through a couple of marines in his path. About twenty marines had descended onto the ketch. A third grappling line caught the rail by the bow and reinforcements began crawling down the line.

The anchor needed to be raised before more grappling lines snared the ketch. Zoro sheathed his katanas and hauled on the anchor rope. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see a mass of white uniform hats with a lone blonde head in the middle on the forward deck. A tingle on the back of his neck made him jerk aside and a throwing knife sailed past his right shoulder. A second knife followed, aimed left, and it cut a line where his neck met his shoulder when he tried to dodge. Zoro shot an angry glare behind him at the knife-wielding marine. The marine smiled evilly, tossing another knife from hand to hand.

Damn it. Zoro wanted to wipe the smile away with a real blade, but the reinforcements were almost to the ketch and if Zoro didn't get the anchor up, more would follow, and he and Sanji would be captured. To emphasize his point, a fourth grapple line snared the rail a short distance from Zoro. Growling, Zoro hefted the anchor faster while dodging knives, as shouts and splashes proved Sanji was holding his own. Many of the knives kissed Zoro's bare back and shoulders, laying lines of fire as he moved out of the way at the last instant. He bit down on a yelp when one struck fully and embedded itself in his left asscheek.

The anchor was finally in hand and Zoro hooked it on the rail. Wiping his wet palms on his trousers, he hobble-ran for the grappling lines. His katana cut through the thick rope like it was a thread and the marines climbing down it tumbled into the water. On the grappling line at the bow, the first marine had reached the ketch at the same time Zoro got to the line. Zoro smacked the marine in the head with the katana's hilt and sent him falling overboard. He cut the line and the rest of the marines joined their brethren in the sea.

Zoro's earrings chimed in a whoosh of air, as Sanji kicked away a knife before it connected with Zoro's head. "The trust goes both ways, dumbshit," Sanji said, and then went in a series of handsprings to the aft deck. He came out of his acrobatics with a twist kick that sent the knife-thrower flying overboard.

All the marines had been removed from the ketch, but that didn't mean they were safe yet. Fire-tipped arrows rained down on them from the battleship. Zoro smacked several from the air with his katana as he hurried to the helm. Sanji was a blur as he flipped, sprang, and stomped out the arrows before the ketch caught fire.

Zoro unlocked the tiller and turned hard to port. The night breeze caught the mainsail and the ketch started moving away from the battleship. It wasn't fast enough, to him. He freed the mizzen sail as quickly as he could and the extra length of canvas picked up the speed. Sanji vanished into the rigging with a bucket of water as the ketch slipped away from the source of light. The last of the flames were doused on the mainsail.

Sanji landed nimbly in front of Zoro, his profile a darker shadow against the night. The boom of cannons split the air. Zoro changed direction sharply, taking them out of range. A plume of water soaked the aft deck and splashed the back of Zoro's legs when the cannonballs hit the sea behind them. Zoro piloted the ketch in a random direction away from the battleship, which shone brightly with its running lights. The log pose would put them back on course come morning.

Zoro's eyes adjusted to the sliver of moonlight overhead. "You're wearing my shirt."

The loose, short-sleeved shirt hung untucked over Sanji's boxers. Sanji gave the shirt a disparaging glance. "If you wouldn't throw my clothes who-knows-the-fuck-where, I wouldn't have had to," he said. "I couldn't even find my damned pants."

Butterflies alit in Zoro's stomach. He should've been used to the sight by now, since Sanji wore the shirt almost nightly for warmth. Still, maybe he should reinstate Rule Number 249. He liked Sanji too much when he looked like that, disheveled and belonging.

Zoro averted his eyes. "Well, don't light the lantern."

"I know that, stupid marimo," Sanji said, heading for the cabin.

Zoro turned to see if the battleship was following them and regretted it immediately. He hissed and grabbed his left asscheek. The hilt of a knife handle protruded from him. Glowering, he yanked the knife free and threw it aside. Damned marines.

When he was certain they weren't being tailed, he locked the tiller, letting the wind take them in a consistent direction.Blood itched on the back of his leg, his back, and shoulders."Where'd you stash the bandages?" he asked when he got below deck.The orange-red glow of a cigarette tip showed where Sanji stood in an otherwise dark cabin.

"In the hold," Sanji said.

The hold was even darker than the cabin, and Zoro walked into a stack of crates before realizing how stupid he was to try and find anything without light.

"Idiot," Sanji agreed with him. Zoro heard the door to the hold being closed and the strike of a match. Sanji lit the lantern in his hand and held it aloft. "What'd you do to yourself?"

"I got stabbed."

"Good going."

"Shut up."

"I suppose we'd better bandage you up before you bleed to death."  Sanji sighed heavily, but Zoro could see the worry lines on his forehead. He perched the lantern on a cask and fetched the bandages and a bottle of alcohol to clean the wounds. Zoro despaired over the loss of booze, but years of traveling without a doctor had made him wise to the perils of infection.

"Let's see it," Sanji said, motioning him closer to the light. He was looking at the cut on Zoro's shoulder where it met the neck.

"It's not that," Zoro said, turning his back to Sanji. He pulled down his trousers to his knees and bent forward. "It's my ass."

There was silence from Sanji and Zoro looked over his shoulder in confusion. Sanji wore a grin that went from ear to ear. Zoro rolled his eyes. "Just fix me up."

"You got stabbed in the ass!"  The laughter that followed filled the hold and Zoro pretended to grumble even though he, too, couldn't hold back a self-deprecating smile.

The alcohol stung, and Sanji had to sew him up using the needle and thread meant to patch the sails. Sanji threatened to make a needlepoint design on his ass. Zoro promised to sew Sanji's mouth shut. Sanji cleaned the other wounds and bandaged the necessary ones.

"Are you hurt?" Zoro asked, when Sanji had finished.

Sanji scoffed. "Of course not."

Zoro looked him over from head-to-toe. Sanji still had on Zoro's shirt over his boxers and blood spattered the shoes on his feet. Zoro could see no injuries of any kind and the faint, lingering concern for Sanji's health faded. If he hadn't gotten hurt, then he'd fully recovered from being sick.

"Good," Zoro declared. He wrapped an arm around Sanji's waist and pulled him close. The cigarette got stomped underfoot before Zoro kissed him.

Sanji melted against him, and he could feel that real fighting turned Sanji on just like the play fights between them. Zoro slid his hand down the back of Sanji's boxers and the greasy shortening they'd used still slicked Sanji's asshole. Sanji moaned against Zoro's mouth as he slipped two fingers inside.

"Stop teasing and fuck me already," Sanji said eventually, his head dropping back to expose his throat. Zoro sucked a mark on the pale expanse of skin before releasing him. Sanji shucked his shoes and boxers as Zoro removed his haramaki, leaning his katanas against a stack of crates. Possessiveness surged at the sight of Sanji wearing nothing but Zoro's shirt.

Sanji bent over a water barrel, revealing the curve of his bare ass. Zoro shoved down his trousers, got behind Sanji, and swallowed a whimper as he slid home. His hands spanned Sanji's hips under the shirt. Sounds of pleasure rose from Sanji with every thrust into him. Zoro pumped hard, staring at the blonde hairs fanning the collar of the shirt until his vision blanked as an orgasm shook him.

Spent, Zoro slumped against Sanji until he regained his bearings, feeling the jerk of Sanji's arm as he jacked off. Want still gripped Zoro, though his horniness was sated. He pulled out and fixed his trousers. "Turn around."

Sanji straightened and turned, the lantern light flickering on his lust-filled features. The shirt draped over the heavy erection curving from his body. Zoro's mouth watered and he kissed Sanji thoroughly before dropping to his knees.

"Ung, Zoro," Sanji gasped, falling back against the barrel, as Zoro's lips wrapped around Sanji's cock. Zoro looked up, past the expanse of the shirtfront, at Sanji's stunned, sex-flushed features. Normally, only whores did this, but Zoro found power in the act and felt a rush as he watched Sanji crumble. Sanji's cock stretched Zoro's lips and weighed on his tongue. Zoro kissed his fist with every bob of his head, with messy slurping sounds. The material of the shirt rubbed repeatedly against the tip of his nose.

Sanji's knuckles whitened as he gripped the edge of the barrel, staring wildly at Zoro with fast pants coming from between slackened lips. His hips jerked and Zoro readied for climax to hit. It wasn't a long wait. Sanji choked on a cry, his eyelids squeezing shut, and he came in spurts, filling Zoro's mouth with a bitter flavor. Zoro swallowed.

"Shit," Sanji said, collapsing against the barrel. Zoro wiped his mouth with the back of his arm and fought the silly urge to beat his chest with pride. Thankfully, tiredness crept over him, from the battle and the second round of sex that night. With a yawn, he stood and dropped a kiss on Sanji's lips.

"I'm going to check on the marines," he said, gathering his katanas. He slipped quickly out the door, reducing the exposure of light. Arrows crunched underfoot as he stumbled on deck. Darkness surrounded the ketch, with a sliver of moonlight guiding their course. In the distance, a faint speck of brightness indicated the battleship's position. The strong wind had carried them far in a short time.

Zoro decided to leave the sails down and let the ketch continue sailing unmanned. Anchoring might allow the marines to find them again, though it was unlikely. Better safe than sorry, he figured, and washed up using the rain barrel before heading below deck again.

Sanji brushed past him, heading up the steps. "They gone?"

"Gone enough," Zoro said, finding the bench seat in the dark. He put his katanas within reach, tugged off his boots, and shed his trousers. Naked, he lay down on his side, wary of his stitched ass, and pulled the sheet over him.

Zoro was close to sleep when Sanji returned. Light shone briefly, as Sanji went into the hold. The lantern was doused and a crack soon followed. "Ow. Fuck," Sanji cursed. A moment later, he crawled beneath the sheet beside Zoro. Zoro wrapped his arm around Sanji's waist, buried his nose in Sanji's hair, and drifted contentedly to sleep.

 


"Women," Sanji declared, listing to the left, "are soft, and curvy, and they smell good. And are soft."

"You said that already." Sprawled on the floor of the cabin, Zoro drank from his mug of ale and relaxed back on his elbows. The heavy rain had driven them below deck and they'd decided to tap a cask to stave off boredom. The scent of dinner cooking in the oven filled the air. Sanji's face had a rosy glow and he was almost to the point of slurring his words. Zoro had a faint buzz going, but was nowhere near being drunk.

"Yeah." Sanji grinned dopily, his eyes focused on some invisible woman. "Soft. Like pillows. Nice to touch."

Zoro snorted in his drink. "I wouldn't touch one with a ten-foot pole."

"That's because you don't like women. You like men." Sanji's eyes shifted to Zoro and traced slowly down Zoro's torso. "Men are hard, and rough," his gaze reached Zoro's crotch and he licked his lips, "and big."

"Are you sure it's not just me who prefers men?" Zoro said.

"I am not like that!" Sanji's feathers ruffled immediately. "It's one thing to get your needs met, but real men only love women."

"Horseshit." Zoro's amusement with Sanji disappeared in a flash. He sat up straight and thumped his mug on the floor. "Who the hell told you that garbage?"

"It's not garbage, it's the truth!" Sanji exclaimed. He sloshed his drink as he gestured vehemently. "Real men don't fall in love with marine officers. Real men grow up and get themselves a woman to love."

Zoro's irritation faded, as what Sanji had unknowingly told him answered questions Zoro had about Sanji's past. Sanji readily enjoyed sex between men because he'd experienced it. At some point, he'd fallen in love with the guy and had been rejected harshly, using the same words Zoro'd just heard. It explained why Sanji was so overly adoring, to the point of ridiculousness, towards females.

"Idiot," Zoro shook his head in pity, "you have it all wrong. Who it is doesn't matter, so long as you love with everything you've got. And if you're extremely lucky, they'll love you back just as much."

Sanji blinked slowly, staring at Zoro in disbelief. "Roronoa Zoro, I think that's the most romantic thing I've ever heard," he said.

Then he belched loudly, fell backwards, and passed out.

"Talk about romance," Zoro snickered.He stood and set their empty mugs in the sink before gathering up Sanji and laying him on the bench seat.He brushed Sanji's hair off of his face, wondering what Sanji would've been like if he'd accepted his preference for men. Shaking his head again, Zoro flicked him lightly on the temple."Idiot."

Zoro turned his gaze out the window at the rough water and the heavy rain. It had been a few hours since he'd been up top. He'd better do a quick run around deck, to make sure everything was still shipshape.

Cold nettles stung his bare arms, neck, and face as he went out into the downpour. He shielded his eyes with his hand as he looked up at the sails, ensuring they remained lashed to the yards. The sky was a mass of light gray clouds that moved steadily west (or so he thought, since west was to the left on a map). His boots slipped on the wet surface of the deck and he gripped the rail for balance. Peering over the water, he gauged the waves and figured they were still all right leaving the helm unmanned.

As he turned to go back below deck, a white and gray bird shot out of the clouds and bombarded him. "Oi!" he exclaimed, rubbing his head. The bird – a messenger gull, wearing a standard leather pilot helmet and goggles and carrying a satchel – landed on the rim of the rain barrel and squawked.

Zoro didn't doubt that the bird had something for him. He unbuckled the satchel, reached inside, and pulled out a thick envelope with his and Sanji's name written across the front. The ink ran as the rain hit it. "Thanks—hey!"

The bird nipped his hand and took flight. Zoro grumbled and sucked on his bleeding knuckle as he headed below deck. Sanji stirred on the bench seat. Shaking rain from his hair like a dog, Zoro kicked off his wet boots by the steps and opened the envelope. Inside was a stack of Beli and a letter penned by Nami. 

Due to an incident involving Luffy, an ox, and a rather irate farmer, we're no longer welcome on Two Feet Island. We'll anchor about a day's sail along the log pose route and wait for you two. I've enclosed some Beli for supplies – save the receipts! Any money used for frivolous purposes, Zoro, will be charged with triple interest.

-Nami

"What do you have there?" Arms slid around Zoro from behind and he felt Sanji press briefly against him before letting go abruptly. "You're all wet."

"I was on deck," Zoro said. "We got a message from Nami—"

"Nami-swan wrote me a message?!" Sanji snatched the letter from Zoro's hand, clutched it to his chest, and spun in a circle with hearts in his eyes. "Mel~lorine! Mel~lorine!"

Sanji stopped spinning suddenly and his face turned green. He clamped his hand over his mouth and bolted out of the cabin. Zoro laughed. Someone obviously couldn't hold his alcohol.

 



The ketch reached Two Feet Island in the mid-afternoon, two days later.Jagged cream-colored rocks split the island coastline.Stone streets cut steep lines between sand-washed buildings with flat, red terracotta roofs.Oxen pulled carts up the sharp incline of the land.Townspeople in colorful shirts and dresses filled the air with their lively conversation.The sun hung like burnished gold in the sky.The pleasant breeze coming off the water cooled the tropical temperature.

Zoro moored at the harbor and learned from the dock boy that the log pose would be set by nightfall. He walked in step beside Sanji, his hand resting casually on a katana hilt. People only gave them passing glances as they went by. "How long is this gonna take?"

"Longer if you bitch," Sanji said, exhaling smoke with his words. He looked over the list in his hand, cigarette clamped between his fingers. "Don't worry, the sake will be waiting for you when we get done."

"But not for you, right?" Zoro laughingly ducked a kick to the head. Sanji's hangover the other day had been fierce and funny, to Zoro. "Wimp."

"Shut up." Sanji took a drag from his cigarette, side-stepping a steaming pile of ox dung. He studied the list some more and stroked the wispy beard on his chin. "I know I'm forgetting something that we need."

"The Merry's only a day out," Zoro said, gazing longingly at a weaponsmith shop's window. "Why do we need supplies at all?"

"Because anything can happen in a day, and I refuse to let being unprepared be the cause of starvation."

"Tch. You worry about nothing."

"It's called using my brain, dumbfuck," Sanji said, folding the list and sliding it into his pocket. They parted to pass an elderly woman walking with a cane and came side-by-side again. "Nami-swan sent the money for a reason."

Zoro had wondered about that, since Nami wasn't one to part with money easily (or at all), without begging and interest being charged. She knew Sanji pretty well, if she'd anticipated his wanting to stock up on supplies, in spite of the Merry being close by.

"What's with the look?"

"Huh?"

"I told you, we'll be done when we're done, so stop with the sullen act," Sanji said, smiling at a young girl with a bucket of flowers.

Zoro smoothed the frown he didn't know he'd been wearing. "I said I'd help."

"Only after I—" Sanji stopped walking abruptly. "What's that smell?"

"Eh?" Zoro lifted up a boot and glanced at the bottom of it for dung. "I don't smell anything."

Sanji brushed by him and dodged an oxen cart as he crossed to the other side of the stone street. Zoro followed quickly, not wanting to get lost and waste more time that could be used better in a tavern. "What are you doing, moron?" he said.

Sanji had stopped in front of an upscale building with designs cut in the façade. Standing outside the entrance, a portly gentleman with a curled mustache lifted his chin disdainfully at Zoro's words. The name Le Plaisir Du Chef gilded the archway over double-hung swinging doors of whitewashed wood. The scent of food drifted above the doors and made Zoro salivate. Trust Sanji to have sniffed out a restaurant.

"East Blue Angelfish, North Blue Sea Urchin," Sanji's whole face lit up as he read the specials written in fancy script on the blackboard hanging beside the door, "South Blue Sturgeon. I'd bet they were all caught in the Grand Line."

Zoro leaned against the wall, with a booted foot propped against the stone, earning another dirty look from the portly man."More proof of All Blue, huh?" he said.

"Hn." Sanji glanced over the doors and moistened his lips. He seemed to be in his own world. "The chef is using paprika and cinnamon. Interesting, with seafood. If it tastes as delicious as it smells…"

"Let's go in and try it," Zoro said. This time, he got a gasp of horror from the man. He shot him a narrowed-eyed look.

"We don't have the money," Sanji said, tearing his gaze away from the restaurant. He slid his hands in his pockets and started walking up the street again. The slump of his shoulders gave away his regret.

Zoro ignored the man's sigh of relief, as he hurried after Sanji. "Why don’t you go talk to the chef then? Get the recipe and make it for yourself?"

Now, it was Sanji who gave him a horrified look. "I wouldn't presume to barge into a chef's kitchen, especially in such an upscale restaurant. If I'd paid for a meal, then maybe I would, if I'd received permission."

Zoro opened his mouth to speak and was cut off. "But it doesn't matter, because I've more important things to do. Here." Sanji took two bills from his wallet and shoved them at Zoro. "Go find your tavern. I can handle the supplies on my own."

"Wha- Sanji!" Zoro called after Sanji, as Sanji strode away. He watched until the idiot's blonde head disappeared from sight in the crowd of people walking the streets. He looked at the money in his hand and rolled his eyes.

"What a princess." Really, Zoro shouldn't have expected different. He'd been alone with Sanji for weeks and knew exactly how Sanji pouted when things didn't, or couldn't, go his way. It was hell on Zoro's libido, since it usually meant no sex until Sanji got over himself.

Zoro looked over his shoulder at the restaurant, then at the money in his hand again. He pivoted on his heel and marched back to the portly man standing outside the door. The man's eyes widened and he gulped, as Zoro towered over him. "You work here?" Zoro said.

"Yes," the man squeaked. "I am the Maître de la Table of Le Plaisir Du Chef."

Zoro had no idea what he'd said, only that it sounded like the garbled words Sanji spoke when he fought. "Okay, whatever. How much money is it to eat here?" Zoro said.

The Maître de la Table's curled mustache twitched derisively and he lost all hint of fright. "More than yeeeww could possibly afford."

Zoro's expression darkened and the man gulped. "I'll be back," Zoro stated, "so you'd better get your best table ready."

Properly cowed, the man nodded. Zoro hmnphed satisfactorily, spun around, and stalked up the street. No one snubbed Roronoa Zoro. He'd get the money, not only to ensure he'd still get laid, but also to rub it in that man's face.

"Hey, kid," Zoro said, beckoning to a pimply, seedy-looking teen skulking in an alley. "Where can I make some quick Beli in this town?"

"What's in it for me if I tell ya?" the teen sneered.

Zoro held up one of the bills in his hand. "Take me there, and this is yours."

Greed and hunger shown in the teen's eyes and he reached for the Beli. Zoro smacked his hand with the blunt side of Wadou and sheathed her again in a single move. The startled teen cradled his reddened hand. "Not until we get there," Zoro said, "and that was a warning if you try anything funny."

"Y-yes, sir. Follow me."

The tavern Zoro was led to was on the darker side of town. Blood and dirt stained the cracked walls of the buildings. Broken teeth mixed with the chipped stone of the street. Women with painted faces and breasts spilling out of their corsets called to him for paid favors. He skirted a ring of jeering, unwashed men, watching a knife-fight in the middle of the road. One of the swinging doors on the tavern hung brokenly on its hinge. It was Zoro's kind of place.

"That's Strong-Arm Mick." The teen pointed out a skinny red-haired man near the hearth. A substantial pile of Beli was stacked on one corner of the table in front of him. "He lets people challenge him in arm wrestling for fifty Beli."

"Thanks." Zoro gave the teen the promised money and made a beeline for Strong-Arm Mick. He stopped behind the empty chair across from Mick and glanced at the stack of Beli. "That the pot I get when I win?"

The other men sprawled at the tables surrounding Mick laughed riotously. Mick's scarred lips twisted in a cocky smile. He rocked back on his seat, his thin frame as rickety as the chair. Raised, jagged lines cut his face, neck, and disappeared beneath the collar of his long-sleeved black shirt. A black tie hung loose around his neck and gloves covered both his hands. "If you win," Mick said, laying a gloved hand on the stack of Beli. "Otherwise, it's fifty Beli."

Zoro straddled the empty chair and set his bent elbow on the table. "Let's get to it, then."

Mick set his chair on all four legs, rested his elbow on the table, and clasped Zoro's hand. One of Mick's companions, a man wider than he was tall, stood and put his hand over the two of theirs, like he'd done it many times. "On three, you go. One, two, three!"

Bam.

Zoro's chair scraped the floor as he stood. He picked up the stack of money under the disbelieving stares of everyone around the table. "Stop right there," Mick said, when Zoro turned to leave. "I want to know how you did that."

Whispers spread quickly across the tavern, and they became the center of attention. Zoro tucked the money in his haramaki and shrugged. "I never underestimate the skinny guys."

He started to leave again, when Mick stopped him once more. "You're not going to leave without giving me a chance to win my money back, are you?" Mick said.

Mick's companions stood and "casually" blocked Zoro's way to the door. Zoro sighed, put upon, and retook his seat. "Fine, but it's fifty Beli when you lose."

Mick's eye twitched, his mouth thinning. He thumped his elbow on the table. The table creaked in protest. Zoro clasped his hand and arched an eyebrow at the hard, punishing grip. The same one who'd started the match did so again. "One, two, three!"

Zoro felt the strain against his arm, the impressive strength behind Mick's press. Zoro bet, from the scars, that Mick had some sort of mechanical limbs. If Zoro hadn't trained as much as he did, Mick would've won easily. But Zoro did train, every day, multiple times, to fight against a man with more strength in his pinky that Mick had altogether. Bam.

"My fifty Beli," Zoro said, turning over his palm.

Mick's stunned expression swiftly changed to rage. "Kill him!"

Zoro had expected this, and even if he hadn't been, the men were no match for him. He tipped back in his chair, letting it fall to the floor as he drew two katanas. He impaled two of Mick's men who'd charged on the tips of the blades. He went into a backwards roll when the chair hit the ground and rose to his feet in one smooth movement. He pulled his katanas free and swung in a sharp circle as the two men collapsed. The blades whizzed over their heads, slicing the air with enough force to send a shockwave bowling over the others. They crashed into patrons seated at other tables, and the tavern erupted into an all out brawl.

While the fighting went on around him, Zoro pointed his katana at Mick. "You owe me fifty Beli."

Mick threw his arm up, smacking Zoro's katana aside.The clink of metal against metal verified Zoro's theory.He grinned gleefully and balanced on the balls of his feet for an attack.

Mick upended the table and Zoro leapt in the air before it hit him. He blocked the punches thrown with his katanas on his descent. Mick's shirtsleeves were shredded under the sharpness of Zoro's blades and plates of metal riveted together caught the lantern light. Zoro jabbed, sliced, and parried until Mick was backed against the wall. Panic flitted across Mick's face. He drew his arms up and slammed them downwards, striking the wall behind him. The wall cracked, rock splitting into rubble under the blow, opening an escape route into the alley.

Mick darted through the hole, but didn't make it far. Zoro sheathed one katana, picked up a hefty piece of rubble, and lobbed it. It landed square on Mick's head. Mick collapsed in a heap on the ground.

Zoro jogged over to Mick and pushed him over cautiously with the flat edge of a katana. Mick flopped unconsciously onto his back. "Heh. Wuss," Zoro said, sheathing his blade. He crouched and pulled off Mick's tie. "I'll take this instead of the fifty you owe me."

The noise from the tavern fight spilled from the hole in the wall. Glass crashed. Curses and shouts blended together in a roar. Zoro dusted off the tie, folded it, and tucked it in his haramaki with the money. Stepping over Mick, he headed out of the alley and back towards the good side of town. Now, to find his princess.

The sun was beginning to set before Zoro returned from the farmland on the other end of the island to the harbor.He wasn't exactly sure how he'd ended up outside of town.He'd poked his nose into every doorway he'd passed on the street, searching for Sanji, until suddenly he'd run out of buildings.Getting lost wasn't that much of a novelty to Zoro, and he shrugged it off as he climbed aboard the ketch.

"Oi, cook! You down here?" he called, descending into the cabin.

"I'm right here, marimo-head." Sanji came out of the hold, carrying a bowl full of vegetables. "Dinner's not ready, if that's what you want. I just got the last of the supplies put up, with no help from you."

"You told me to go away!"

"Why did you come back, then?" Sanji walked over to the sink and set the bowl in the basin. He turned on the water and started washing the vegetables.

Zoro reached past Sanji's shoulder and turned off the pump tap, earning a glare. "I'm here to get you."

"Whatever it is, piss off. I'm not in the mood for your shit."

"Just come on, you melodramatic ninny." Zoro snagged Sanji's wrist and dragged him towards the door. Zoro received a kick in the back, tripped on a step, and face-planted on the deck. He pushed up with his hands and glared over his shoulder at Sanji. "What the fuck was that for?"

"I don't appreciate being yanked around like a doll!" Sanji used Zoro's ass, back, and head as steps, sending Zoro crashing back onto the deck. By the time Zoro got up, Sanji had jumped over the rail onto the dock and was standing with his arms crossed. "Hurry up, asshole."

"You are… argh!" Zoro growled and leapt onto the dock. "Why haven't I killed you yet?"

"Tch. Like you could," Sanji said, falling into step with Zoro. He bent his head and cupped his hands as he lit a cigarette. He blew out rings of smoke as he looked up at the town. The setting sun painted the buildings burnt orange. "Where are you dragging me?"

"Up the same street we took this afternoon."

"Then you're going the wrong way."

Zoro about-faced and kept walking. Sanji chuckled. "Shut up."

"Never." The grin on Sanji's lips signaled a possible end to his pouting. Zoro liked that, a lot. "You didn't say where we were going."

"Somewhere I can't tell you," Zoro said. Lights were being lit in the shops as they passed. A shopkeeper swept his doorstep. A mother chased a pair of children out of the candy store.

"You'd better tell me, or I'll kick your head in."

"No, I really can't tell you." Zoro couldn't pronounce it. "You'll see in a minute."

Sanji eyed him suspiciously. "How much have you had to drink?"

"What? Nothing. Why?" Zoro said, with confusion.

"Hn." Sanji took a drag on his cigarette and shook his head. "Never mind. Silly thought."

"Whatever. We're here." Zoro saw the Maître-man's eyes widen, as he gestured to the restaurant.

Sanji stopped walking. "You brought me here?"

"Yeah. I got money," Zoro said. Sanji's jaw dropped and the cigarette fell to the ground. Zoro put his hand on Sanji's back and pushed him towards the whitewashed swinging doors. "Though, if Nami really knew you, she would've sent your share of the plunder, too."

"What does Nami-swan have to do with this?" Sanji's steps were slow and he looked completely flabbergasted, as the Maître-man executed a short, stiff bow.

"Welcome to Le Plaisir Du Chef," the Maître-man said, pushing open one of the doors. "Your table is waiting for you, sirs."

"Thank you," Zoro said, grinning evilly at the Maître-man. He guided Sanji into the restaurant.

A gentle breeze stirred the sheer ivory curtains covering the windows in Le Plaisir Du Chef. Patrons in fancy dress sat at tables draped to the floor in ivory linen, set with gold-etched china. A deep rose carpet matched the paler rose walls trimmed with ivory. A cellist played quietly from a corner, underscoring the quiet conversation in the restaurant. The scents of spices mingled with perfumes and colognes.

Sanji dug his heels in, bringing them to a halt. He pushed down his rolled sleeves and buttoned the cuffs. "Zoro, what are we doing here?" he whispered, a thread of panic in his tone. He tugged at the collar of his blue shirt. "We're not dressed for this place!"

"Here." Zoro thrust the black tie at him. "I knew you'd be uptight about it."

Sanji stared at Zoro like he'd whipped out his prick in public.

"Gentlemen, this way please," the Maître-man said, motioning for them to follow. Zoro gave Sanji a light shove, to get him moving.

The Maître-man seated them at a table for two near a swinging door to the kitchen. Sounds of clanking pots and pans, knives on cutting boards, and a flurry of demanding orders drifted into the main room every time the door opened. Sanji sank into the chair the Maître-man pulled out for him, the tie clutched in his hand. Zoro flopped into the chair across the table and wiggled on the soft seat. Pretty comfy.

A bouquet of flowers with a flickering candle sat in the center of the table. Zoro leaned forward to sniff it. The Maître-man's curled mustache twitched, and Zoro straightened. He was handed a menu. "Our specials today are Poissons d'ange Bleu Est, Oursin Bleu du Nord, and Esturgeon Bleu du Sud. The Sommelier will be with yeeww momentarily. Enjoy yewor meal."

"I thought you said this place served Angelfish," Zoro said after the Maître-man walked away. He opened the menu and frowned. It wasn't in normal language. The prices were listed with regular Beli signs, though, and he choked on his tongue.

"They do. Poissons d'ange." Speaking seemed to bring Sanji out of his daze and he looped the tie around his neck. "Zoro, have you gone insane?"

Zoro put down the menu and poked at a cloth bird on his plate.  "You're the one who wanted to eat here, not me."

"I never said that."

"Close enough. And I would've known, anyway, even if you didn't say anything," Zoro said, picking the bird up carefully and setting it next to his silverware.He didn't want to break the decorations.It would take all the money he'd gotten just to pay for dinner.

He glanced up and Sanji was staring at him again with an odd expression.  "What?  Stop staring at me."

Sanji jerked his gaze away and fiddled with his newly knotted tie.  "Crazy swordsman," he muttered, picking up his menu.  Faint pink tinged his cheeks.  He opened the menu, scanned the listing, and a furrow appeared between his brows.  "Are you sure we can afford this?"

"Yeah."  Zoro examined the silverware curiously.He ate with chopsticks normally, but wasn't a stranger to forks and knives.He didn't get why there were so many of them, though.  Two forks, two knives, four spoons, and a tiny fork-like thing with two prongs.  Who knew what the hell was for?

"How did you get it?  You didn't sell yourself, did you?"

"No," Zoro said, piling all the silverware to one side, by the cloth bird.  "Good idea, though.  I'll have to remember for next time—ow!"  He glared at Sanji.  "That was my shin."

"It'll be your nuts if I find out you're fucking anyone else," Sanji hissed.

Zoro was surprised by Sanji's reaction.  "It was your suggestion—ow!  Quit it!"

Sanji pursed his lips and turned his attention pointedly to the menu.

Zoro rubbed his bruised shin, grumbling under his breath.  "Not like I'd do it, stupid cook.  I don't really want anyone but you."

Sanji flicked a glance at Zoro from under the fan of his lashes.  He cleared his throat and shifted on his seat.

A tall brunet in a suit fancier than Sanji usually wore stopped beside their table.  He had an ivory-colored cloth draped over one crooked arm.  Executing a short bow, he introduced himself.  "Good evening, gentlemen.  I am Antoine.I shall be your Sommelier.  Would you wish to see our wine list?"

"Give me some sake."  Zoro frowned.  "Unless you only serve that froo-froo shit here."

With an appalled expression, Antoine sniffed like Zoro had stepped in something.Zoro checked the bottom of his boots.

"Excuse my idiot companion.  I don't take him out that often," Sanji charmed Antoine.  Zoro narrowed his eyes.  "I will have a glass of your house white, and please bring him whatever facsimile to a common tavern brew that you have available."

"Very well, sir."  Antoine executed another short bow and left the table.  Sanji immediately kicked Zoro again.

"Ow!  Asshole."

"Keep your voice down, dickface," Sanji said, "and try to refrain from acting like an ape."

"I am not acting like an ape."  Zoro folded his arms mulishly.

Sanji snorted and returned his attention to the menu.  "Have you decided what you're having?  The Angelfish?"

Zoro shifted.  "I don't know.  What do you want?"

"Hm, I'm not sure.Everything looks tempting," Sanji said, skimming his finger down the menu.  "I wish I could sample more than one dish."

"How about you choose two and I'll just eat off your plate?"

Sanji's curled eyebrow arched questioningly.  "You can't read the menu, can you?"

"No, but that's not why," Zoro said.  "We're here for you.You should get what you want."  He rubbed the back of his neck in awkwardness.  "Besides, I'll eat anything, you know that."

Color spread across Sanji's cheeks and nose, and he seemed flustered.  "Oh.  Well.  Yes, you would eat a bowl of rocks if I put sauce on it.  You're almost as bad as Luffy."

"Hey, at least I wait until it stops moving."

A small smile appeared on Sanji's lips.  "True.I wonder how the others have survived without me to cook for him."

Zoro brushed his thumb against his jaw.  "You don't think he'd eat them, do you?"

"Chopper might be in danger, but otherwise I think they're safe."  Sanji's voice was filled with humor.  "Not enough meat on them."

Zoro laughed, turning heads from the patrons seated a few empty tables away.  Sanji's smile grew, crinkling his nose and the corner of his visible eye.  Zoro liked the way it made Sanji look.  He didn't smile genuinely often enough.

Antoine returned, balancing a wine glass and a taller glass of pale golden liquid on a tray.  He set Sanji's wine in front of him.  "Your house white, sir," Antoine said.  His mouth twitched in a slight sneer as he set Zoro's drink down.  "And an imported pale ale for the less discerning palate."

Zoro picked up the glass and took a swig.He made a face.  "It tastes like piss and vinegar – nhgh."  He bit down on his sound of pain, when Sanji kicked him again.

"Thank you.That will be all," Sanji said to Antoine.Antoine bowed once more and walked away.  Sanji shot Zoro a disparaging look.  "Ape."

"Telling the truth doesn't make me an ape." Zoro kicked Sanji back.  "And quit kicking me."

"Then stop doing things that you'll get kicked for," Sanji said.  He glanced at the menu again.  "Is there any type of fish that you don't like?"

"No.  Fish is fish to me."

Fish really was fish to Zoro.  Sanji had ordered for the both of them and then divided the dishes, half for each of them, once they'd arrived.  The two dishes were seasoned differently, but overall both tasted the same as what he caught over the side of the ketch.

Sanji was in heaven, though, and was making Zoro seriously horny.  He was also kind of jealous.  Every bite elicited a sound of pleasure and an expression of bliss from Sanji.  Zoro wanted to be the one to cause those things, not the food.

"I am going to have to speak with the chef.  The fish was delicious," Sanji said when he'd finally finished.  He dabbed his mouth with the unfolded cloth bird that was actually a napkin.

"Hurry up.  I want to get back to the ketch," Zoro said.  He had his own cloth bird unfolded over his lap, to hide the erection stretching his trousers.

The smirk he received proved Sanji wasn't unaware of Zoro's reaction.  "I won't be long."  Heat flared in Sanji's eyes.  "I'm looking forward to dessert, too."

Zoro would get kicked again if he leapt over the table and mauled Sanji in the middle of the restaurant.  It was still tempting.  "Go.  Now."

Sanji went.  Zoro stared blatantly at his ass as he walked over to where their server was standing.  A commotion outside the sheer-curtained window, above the table behind him, drew his attention from Sanji.  When he looked back, Sanji had disappeared into the kitchen.

The commotion outside grew louder.  Zoro tipped back on his chair and pushed the curtain aside.  He could use the distraction.

"Damn," he said, when he saw who was out there.  Strong-Arm Mick and his ruffian pals from the tavern were roughing up an older man in the street.  A few other people cowered in doorways nearby.

Zoro tossed his napkin on the table, leapt to his feet, and rushed for the door. "This is for our bill," he said, shoving the stack of Beli he'd carried at the Maître-man, who'd come inside to escape the threat. "I'll be back for the change."

The Maître-man sputtered, but Zoro didn't pause. He flicked the hilt of his katana with his thumb, unsheathing it an inch. Outside, the moon hung heavy in the starlit sky. Lanterns hung along the street. Two women holding the hems of their skirts scurried between buildings, trying to avoid notice. A young girl selling flowers from a bucket crouched near the wall of a shop and covered her eyes.

"No one get in my way!" Mick yelled, shaking the older man in his grip before throwing him aside. The older man sailed through the air and crashed into a building, cracking the wall. He fell in a heap on the ground, red staining the broken stone. "No one!"

The people in the shop doorways cringed and averted their eyes. One of Mick's pals took a threatening step towards a couple. They shrank back, pressing harder against wall they were trapped in front of. Cruel laughter rose from the ruffians.

Zoro drew his katana and rested it casually against his shoulder, as he stepped out into the street. He knew when Mick recognized him by the waves of anger directed his way. He stopped in the middle of the road, profile to Mick. The ruffians quieted and tensed for a fight.

"You," Mick growled, clenching his gloved hands into fists. "You took my money."

"You lost," Zoro said.

Mick's features twisted in rage, and he dropped to a knee and slammed his fist on the street. The stonework exploded into rubble, forming a crater beneath his knuckles. "Then I'll win it back with your blood. Get him!"

Mick's pals roared in agreement and charged. There were seven, brandishing clubs and knives. Zoro sheathed his katana, closed his eyes, and centered himself. "Ittouryuu Iai—" He pulled Wadou from the loop on his haramaki and put his swordarm behind him, katana pointing upwards behind his back. He could hear booted feet pounding on the street. "— Shishi Sonson!"

With a sharp sweep of his arm, he unsheathed Wadou, dropped three opponents on his left, and resheathed her in her hilt.  Slipping the sheath back in the loop on his haramaki, he jumped in the air, turning his body towards the four on his right, as he drew two new blades.  "Nitouryuu Outourou!"  He slashed downwards on his descent, taking out two more.  Spinning as he landed, the last two were felled with clean slices across their chests.

Zoro straightened from his stance and resheathed his katanas.  He stared challengingly at Mick.  Whimpers of pain came from the fallen men around him.

Mick's nostrils flared in fury.  "RAAAHHH!" he bellowed, grabbing a hunk of rubble from the broken street.  Zoro prepared to cut it in half, but it wasn't thrown at him.  Mick drew his mechanical arm back and threw the weighty stone at blurred speed directly at the young girl covering her eyes.

"No!"  Zoro sprinted across the street, his eyes on the stone.It was traveling faster than he could run and he leapt into the air, diving forward as he yanked a katana from the sheath.  He twitsted his torso, swinging his swordarm diagonally.  The stone split in two, the halves exploding against the wall when they hit.  Zoro smashed into the wall at the same time and knocked over the young girl and her bucket as he fell to the ground.

Zoro scrambled upright and helped her sit up.  "Are you okay?"

The girl's eyes watered and she sniffed, but nodded her head.  Her yellow dress had a tear in the shoulder.

A calm settled over Zoro, as his anger passed the breaking point.  He stood, slowly turned towards Mick, and clamped Wadou's hilt between his teeth.  Unknotting the bandana around his arm, he tied it over his head and drew his other two katanas.  The only sound he heard was the steady beat of his heart.

Mick paled, making his puckered scars stand out in stark relief.  He grabbed more rubble from the broken street and threw the chunks of stone at Zoro.  Zoro reduced the stones to powder, as he walked step by step towards Mick, his arms and head weaving fast, the three katanas flashing arcs of light under the shining moon.  Mick kept throwing at a revolving, cannonball speed, until Zoro stood directly in front of him.

Zoro did not hesitate.  He sliced Mick's hands off above the wrist.  "Ahhh!" Mick cried.  Sparks leapt from the stumps, sheared wires and mechanical components exposed beneath the cut shirtsleeves.

Zoro put the tip of his blade beneath Mick's chin and tilted his head up.  "I would suggest you leave this town before you're forced to buy a mechanical head."

Mick nodded wildly, snot running from his nose.  He hurried awkwardly to his feet and bolted down the steep hill, leaving his cut off mechanical hands behind.

"Hmph."  Zoro sheathed the two blades in his hands and took Wadou from between his teeth.  He slid her in her scabbard, glaring in the direction Mick had run.

The couple were helping the older man who'd hit the wall to sit up.  Other townspeople left the doorways and came out onto the street now that it was safe.  Mick's pals were picking themselves up and crawling away with their tails between their legs.  The ladies whispered behind their hands as Zoro strode past them.

Sanji leaned casually against the wall outside the restaurant, smoking a cigarette. He wore an amused expression. "You can't go anywhere without getting into a fight, can you?"

"I didn't start it." Zoro pulled his bandana off, as he turned to the Maître-man peering cautiously over the swinging doors. "Where's my change?"

"Right here, sir!" The Maître-man shoved a few bills into Zoro's hand and bowed. "I hope yeewor meal was satisfactory. Please, dine with us again!"

Zoro rolled his eyes at the Maître-man's effusive manner. Beat up a few lowlifes and suddenly everyone kowtowed to him. "Right. Sure. If you get some real booze."

Sanji pushed off the wall and put out his cigarette. "Maybe if you developed some taste, they wouldn't need 'real booze.'"

"If having taste means drinking that fruity crap you like, forget it." Zoro tied the bandana around his bicep. The Maître-man went back inside. "Did you get what you wanted from the chef?"

"Yes." Sanji's face lit up. "Tohru-san shared several recipes that I'll try once we're back onboard the Merry. I should have all the spices already, unless Usopp used them up for his powder-bombs."

"You could buy some before we leave," Zoro suggested, as he felt a tug at his pant leg. It was the young girl with the yellow dress.

"Do you want to buy a flower for your sweetheart?" she asked, holding up her bucket. A few of the daisies looked slightly crushed from Zoro's fall.

Zoro crouched to her level. He eyed the tear on her sleeve with a hint of lingering anger. "Sure. I'll buy one." He chose the most damaged daisy, with half its white petals missing and a bent stem. "Do you have any parents?"

"Yes," she said with a nod. "I have a mommy."

Zoro gave her the change he'd gotten from the Maître-man. "I want you to give this to her. It's for the flower and to fix your pretty dress."

The young girl beamed and clutched the money tightly in her hand. "I'll give it to her right now!" she said, and ran off without a thank you or a goodbye.

Chuckling, Zoro straightened, his anger dissipating with her childish joy. "I thought you didn't like girls," Sanji said with a grin, nudging his shoulder.

"I can make an exception." Zoro twirled the poor, broken daisy between his fingers and then held it out to Sanji. "Here. For my 'sweetheart.'"

"I'm not your sweet anything," Sanji said, but he took the daisy.

"I know," Zoro said, and was vaguely disappointed about it. The crap the restaurant called alcohol must've damaged his brain. Sanji sniffed the flower and tried to straighten the stem. "But it looks like you enjoy getting flowers from men."

Sanji peered at Zoro from beneath his lashes, a coy smile edging his mouth. "Maybe I do."

Zoro's heart skipped a beat.  Sanji was flirting with him.  "Oh, yeah?"

"Hn." Sanji brushed the flower petals against his lower lip. It made Zoro hot under the collar. "Want to find out how much?"

The blood rushed from Zoro's head to pool at his groin. "Hell, yes."

Sanji's eyes flashed with desire and he started walking down the street, with Zoro fast on his heels.

The ketch had never seemed so far away. They were practically running by the time they reached the harbor. Sanji laughed when Zoro tripped climbing aboard the boat, and disappeared below deck. Zoro scrambled to his feet and chased after him.

"Ommph-mmm."  Zoro was shoved against the wall beside the stairway and kissed hungrily the moment he got below.  He yanked Sanji's shirt free from his waistband and slid his hands underneath to touch bare skin.  Sanji clutched his shoulders, devouring him with lips and tongue.  With a shift of his hips, Sanji ground his erection against Zoro's through their trousers.  Zoro moaned again – fuck, he wanted Sanji – and scrabbled at the buttons on Sanji's shirt.

Sanji was in agreement about wanting nakedness, now. He broke the kiss and pulled Zoro's shirt up over his head. Zoro let the shirt fall to the floor before grabbing at the zipper on Sanji's trousers. They stumbled in the dark cabin towards the bench seat as they continued trying to undress one another. Zoro pushed Sanji down onto the bench seat, grabbed his feet, and threw one shoe, then the other over his shoulder, resulting in a thump and a clank.  Not caring where the shoes had ended up, he dragged Sanji's trousers and boxers off and leaned over him.

"Wait. Wait," Sanji said, pushing Zoro back as he sat up. Zoro's lust-hazed mind filled with confusion, as Sanji scuttled to the end of the bench seat and stretched an arm towards the navigator's desk. Something crashed. "Shit. Where is it?"

The full moonlight coming through the window cast a pale white glow and hatched shadows on the bench seat and floor from the window sashes. "Ah-ha." Sanji sank back onto his heels, holding a fat, hand-sized glass jar of clear liquid with the daisy stuck to the bottom. Sanji plucked off the daisy and set it on the back of the bench seat. "Body oil. Better than using up my shortening."

Need nearly flattened Zoro, it hit him so hard. Sanji had bought body oil. For sex. Between them. Zoro seized Sanji's cheeks and kissed him hard before taking the glass jar. He spilled over his hands as he yanked out the stopper with more force than necessary. He didn't care. He shoved his trousers further down his thighs and dumped some on his exposed cock. The oil felt cool against his heated flesh.

Sex fever burned brightly on Sanji's cheeks, and he stretched out on the bench seat and lifted his legs. His shirt was unbuttoned from the bottom partway up. The tie was still knotted around his neck. Zoro salivated at the sight of Sanji spread before him, waiting to be taken. Clumsily, he stoppered the jar, put it on the floor, and climbed over Sanji. His booted feet kicked the wadded bed sheet off the end of the bench. He fitted between Sanji's bare thighs, hissing when his turgid cock rubbed against Sanji's coarse pubic curls. He slid one hand under Sanji's ass, lifting him slightly, and guided his slicked cock home.

"Ah!" Sanji's head arched on the seat and he tightened around Zoro's cock. Zoro hissed, reigning in control before he tumbled over the brink. Seated fully, he moved over Sanji, pushing his other hand behind Sanji's back. Sanji wrapped his legs and arms around Zoro and hitched his hips.

Zoro moaned against Sanji's shoulder, drew his hips back, and thrust. Perfect. "Perfect. Fuck."

Sanji cursed until his words garbled and dug his fingers in the nape of Zoro's neck. Zoro drove into him with sharp slaps against Sanji's ass. He clutched Sanji tightly, as if he were trying to climb inside and never leave. Sweat built between their stomachs and chests. Sanji's erection dug into Zoro's abdomen and was rubbed with every rock of Zoro against him. He came first, with a deep cry near Zoro's ear that pierced Zoro to the core. Zoro continued pounding into him until the pressure broke with a jagged "Sanji!"

Limp from release, Zoro struggled for breath, splayed over Sanji.  His mouth and throat were dry, his body spent.When the fuzz cleared from his mind, he grunted and untangled from Sanji, but didn't go far.  He straightened his trousers and collapsed onto the bench seat beside Sanji.  Bicep pillowing his head, he lay facing Sanji and slid his arm across Sanji's damp belly possessively.  Lethargy and contentment weighed his limbs and he gazed with sated eyes at the daisy sitting on the back of the seat.

"I want my smokes," Sanji said after a little while. He unknotted the tie around his neck and undid the remaining buttons.

"Okay," Zoro said, but didn't move to get them. The white of the daisy's petals softened in the moonlight. A flower for his sweetheart.

Sanji shoved him off the bench. He crashed onto the floor with a surprised squawk, sending the body oil jar rolling. "Get my smokes, asshole."

A laugh bubbled in Zoro. There was definitely nothing sweet about Sanji.

Sanji leaned over the seat, peering down at Zoro. "What are you laughing at?"

"Nothing." Zoro pushed up on his arms and stole a kiss. "Don't change."

Sanji gave him a look that questioned if he'd hit his head. "Whatever, idiot. My smokes are in my pants pocket."

"I know where they are."

"Then get them."

"Get them yourself."

"You're up already."

"Only because you pushed me!"

"True," Sanji said with a flash of a grin. He shivered suddenly and he flopped onto back on the bench seat. "Shit."

"What?" Zoro said, finding Sanji's trousers. He got the cigarettes and matches from the pocket and tossed them onto Sanji's stomach.

"I know what I forgot to put on the list," Sanji said with a sigh. He set the pack and matches on the back of the seat, next to the daisy. "Blankets."

Zoro snorted, sliding onto the bench beside Sanji, tugging the sheet he'd fetched over the both of them. "I think we can survive one more night without them."

"Yeah," Sanji readily snuggled up against him, "I guess so."

Zoro wrapped his arms around Sanji, entwining their legs together. The warmth from Zoro's body was quick to quell Sanji's cold. Zoro wouldn't say it out loud, but he was glad Sanji had forgotten about the blankets. He liked it better this way.

 


"There they are!" Sanji shouted from the top of the mainmast.  Zoro shielded his eyes from the sun and looked in the direction Sanji pointed.  Sure enough, the Merry bobbed on the horizon, waiting for them.

Sanji slid down the mainmast, elation lighting his features. The wind disheveled his hair, uncovering his eyes, which shone with excitement of being reunited with their nakama. A band wrapped around Zoro's chest and squeezed tightly. He had the sudden urge to turn the ketch around and sail far, far away. Instead, he closed the distance between them, captured Sanji's cheeks between his palms, and kissed him deeply.

When he broke the kiss, Zoro rested his forehead against Sanji's, his eyes closed, emotion rampaging inside him. Sanji's ragged breaths gusted hotly across his mouth and chin. He pushed at Zoro's chest. "Let go, marimo-head."

"Just let me…" make this last as long as I can.  Zoro swallowed the words and stepped back. He didn't know why he was getting so worked up. Catching up with the others had always been the goal. Sure, he'd gotten comfortable with it just being the two of them, but that's because he'd had no choice. There was no reason for mourning the end of it.

Dragging his hand through his hair, he ignored Sanji's puzzled look and went below deck to get his boots. Luffy would launch himself to the ketch the moment it was in grabbing distance. The rubber captain would be all over them, wanting stories (and food). He probably didn't have to say anything to Sanji about not mentioning the sex. He did anyway.

"I know that, idiot." Sanji had followed Zoro below and stood with his arms crossed, looming over Zoro, who was seated on the bench. "What's got into you?"

"Nothing's got into me," Zoro said, pulling on his boots.

"Then why'd you kiss me like you wanted to fuck, but aren't doing anything?"

Zoro tilted his head back to look at Sanji. Sanji arched his eyebrow in more of a challenge than a question. Wrapping an arm around Sanji, Zoro tugged him between splayed knees. Zoro tipped his chin further and Sanji caught the hint. Warm lips covered his own and his earrings tinkled from long fingers brushing them, as Sanji cupped his jaw. He lost his worries in the kiss. The sex didn't have to stop simply because they'd caught up with the Merry. The hold door had a lock and the others had to sleep sometime.

Still, he took his time with Sanji, memorizing each gasp and moan, tasting every inch of exposed skin with his lips, finding where it tickled and where it caused a pleasurable shudder. Sanji cursed his name and demanded relief, but Zoro refused to hurry. And when Sanji did finally shatter beneath him, Zoro wanted to stay in the moment forever.

But he couldn't, and he closed his eyes tightly as he came. Too soon, Sanji pushed him away and prepared for Luffy's invasion. Zoro blocked out the world with an arm over his face for as long as possible, before a drop kick to his stomach prompted him to get dressed and face the return to normal.

"YAAHOOOOOO!"

Luffy's arms sprang back into shape once he'd landed on the foredeck of the ketch. Grinning hugely, he squared his straw hat on his head. "Sanji! Zoro! You're back! What took so long?"

"Zoro was at the helm," Sanji said.

"That had nothing to do with it!" Zoro exclaimed, scowling.

"I'm starving, Sanji." Luffy clutched his stomach. "My crew has to have a cook and you were gone!"

"I can make you something right now." Sanji headed for the cabin, with Luffy on his heels. "How are Nami-swan and Robin-chwan? I won't be able to look them in the eyes for abandoning them."

Luffy's response went unheard, as they disappeared below, leaving Zoro alone on deck. Zoro braced his arms on the rail and gazed over the water with an unexplainable ache in his heart. The ketch sailed ever closer to the Merry and he could see his other four crewmates on the deck, readying a welcome. He cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted, "Ahoy, Merry!"

"Ahooyyy, Zoro!" Usopp called back, accompanied by Chopper's higher-pitched "Ahoy! Ahoy! Ahoy!"

A smile crossed Zoro's lips and realized that he'd missed his nakama. Traveling with Sanji had had a different rhythm than the indolent madness aboard the Merry. It was be good to be back with them again, or so he convinced himself. Pushing off the rail, he trimmed the sails and aimed a course for home.

 


Zoro was going insane. He watched the sky lighten over the horizon, his abdomen clenching with every sit-up. For the fourth night in a row, he hadn't slept, tossing and turning in the hammock before giving up and training out on deck or exchanging watch. He couldn't get comfortable alone, even on the couch in the men's quarters. He slept most of the days away because of it, but that was a bonus, actually; it stopped him from sulking since Sanji wasn't paying attention to him.

Zoro was annoyed with his own response to Sanji's actions. He should have been glad the fool cook was leaving him alone after weeks of constant pestering. Sanji was bothering the others, now, helping Chopper grind medicines, assisting Usopp with ship repairs, fawning over the girl - strangely minus the hearts - and chasing after a thieving Luffy. Zoro was irritated that they hadn't had sex since their return, but with the excitement of reuniting with the others, there hadn't been much chance for privacy. According to Nami, they were due to arrive at Nee Island before sundown, and Zoro planned on dragging Sanji off for a fuck. If Nami doled out spending money, he'd get a room at an inn and make a night of it. Maybe he'd get some sleep, too.

The sun broke the horizon, bringing color to the gray early morning. Zoro stood and stretched. Wind ripples marred the smooth surface of the water. Sanji would be awake soon to prepare breakfast. Zoro pulled Wadou from her sheath, slipped his wrist into a towline, and dove overboard. The brisk water stung his eyes as he swam beneath the surface, looking for fish. The towline tugged at his wrist and he allowed it to drag him with the speed of the ship. He kept aware of the ketch's position, as it was towed behind the Merry. He surfaced for air, dove back under, and spotted a darker shadow in the water's gloom.

The fish was skewered with little effort and he hoisted himself back onboard the ship. The scent of coffee percolating greeted his nose as he dripped into the galley. Dressed in an orange shirt with thin black stripes, Sanji stood at the preparation counter, smoking a cigarette. He cracked an egg into a bowl and discarded the shell in the trash bin by his feet.

"Oi, cook," Zoro stuck the skewered fish in front of Sanji's face, "fish for you."

"Put it in the sink," Sanji said, stabbing out the cigarette butt.

Zoro slid the fish into the sink and wiped his katana clean. "You getting supplies tonight?"

"No, I won't get you any additional sake." Sanji began beating the eggs.

"That wasn't why I asked," Zoro huffed. "I just want to know if you've got things to do once we dock."

"Why?"

"Because I want you to come out with me somewhere."

Sanji paused his egg-beating. "Are you asking me on a date?"

"A wh-what? No! Why would I do that?" Zoro sputtered, a blush spreading up his neck. "I only want to fuck."

Sanji glanced worriedly at the closed hatch, and then aimed a glare – and a kick – at Zoro. "Watch what you're saying, asshole. Anyone could have heard."

Blocking the kick, Zoro corralled Sanji against the counter, took the bowl, and set it aside. He hooked his fingers in Sanji's belt loops and pressed his groin against Sanji's. His cock firmed at the contact. "If I don't get you alone soon, I'm not going to care who hears," he said with an impassioned growl in his voice.

The banked heat in Sanji's eyes mirrored Zoro's gaze. "Come with me to get the supplies tonight."

Zoro grunted his agreement in a short, hard kiss. His nostrils flared as desire stoked swiftly. He stepped back, putting distance between them before he got out of control. Sanji licked his lower lip, as if catching Zoro's lingering taste. Zoro swallowed thickly. "You might want to untuck your shirt," he said, clenching his hands.

Sanji's groin was damp where Zoro's wet trousers had pressed against him. The clinging material outlined the ridge of Sanji's erection. Sanji swore and untucked his shirt. Then he grabbed Zoro by the waistband, yanked him closer, and bruised another kiss on his lips.


Zoro was ready to pounce when Sanji shoved him away. "Later," Sanji said with willpower that Zoro cursed. The white-knuckled grip on the edge of the counter proved that Sanji was as affected as he was.

Breathing raggedly, Zoro nodded and walked stiffly out of the galley. He looped the towline around his wrist and jumped overboard again, hoping the ocean would cool him off.

The anticipation thrumming in Zoro's veins made it difficult to nap. Every time he heard Sanji's voice on deck, he was drawn out of sleep. Through slitted eyes, he watched Sanji move, drinking in the length of his legs and his leonine grace. He caught Sanji staring hungrily at him several times and it made the past four days without sex seem to have gone by in a flash compared to the excruciating drag towards evening.

Evening finally arrived, however, and with it, the Nee Island harbor. Post-lanterns were being lit on the docks, as the sun went down. Ships and other sailing vessels packed the berths. The brightly colored houses and shops stretched along the shoreline, bending out of sight in either direction with the curve of the island. Dense tropical plants and trees rose behind the buildings, cresting the rise of the land. The sweet perfume of flowers mixed with the pungent spices displayed by outdoor vendors. Townspeople dressed in finely stitched tunics and trousers walked down the street, going about their business.

Luffy leapt from the ram's figurehead onto the dock the moment the lines were thrown. His war cry echoed in the air, as he went running towards the shops. "MEAT!"

"Luffy, wait!" Nami scowled fiercely, jumped ashore, and stalked after him. "We will not have a repeat of Two Feet Island."

A few people traversed the docks, coming and going from their ships. Usopp repacked his bag near the mast, selecting items with more thought than necessary. Robin settled her cowboy hat on her head as she exited the girls' quarters, her purse slung over her shoulder. Zoro was sure they could hear the racing of his heart as he feigned casualness. Leaning his forearms on the rail, his eyes swept over the town, searching for an inn, while waiting for Sanji to call for him.

"Maybe I should go with you," Chopper said to Sanji, as the two came out on deck from the galley.

"No," Sanji said swiftly. "You have other medical supplies to get. I wrote down your requests and should be able to find them."

Chopper followed Sanji over the rail, landing on the dock beside him. "If you're sure…"

"I am." Sanji glanced up at Zoro, desire darkening his gaze. "And that shit swordsman will be carrying what I buy."

"I don't remember volunteering, curlicue," Zoro said, playing his part. He refrained from leaping ashore too soon.

"I just volunteered you," Sanji said. A dark-haired girl stopped suddenly at the end of the Merry's berth. "If you want me to buy you any sake, you'll—"

"Sanji-san?" the girl called. Petite and wearing a floral dress, her hair was piled on her head in fancy braids and twined with ribbons.

Surprise painted Sanji's features as he turned towards her. "Tohru-san?"

Tohru's heart-shaped face broke into a smile and she hurried closer to clasp Sanji's hands. "It is you! I'm surprised to see you again!"

"You're not the only one," Sanji said. Chopper scurried off shyly. "When—how—"

"I left after the restaurant closed the same night I met you," Tohru said. Her name clicked in Zoro's mind: she was the chef from Le Plaisir Du Chef. "If I'd known you were coming to Nee Island, we could've sailed together."

"Yes, that would've been great," Sanji enthused, looking extremely happy. Zoro kept waiting for hearts to appear in Sanji's eyes, or for him to act like a fool as he normally did around women. "I tried the bluefish recipe you gave me the other night. It was absolutely divine."

Tohru's cheeks flushed. "Was it?"

Sanji squeezed her hands. "Yes! I would never lie about something like that."

"Who is that with Mr. Cook-san?" Robin asked, coming up beside Zoro.

"The chef from the last island," Zoro said, irritation biting at him. Why was Sanji still holding her hands?

"He seems smitten with her," Robin said. Usopp propped his elbows on the rail on the other side of Robin. "Don't you think so, Usopp-san?"

Usopp drew down one of his targeting goggles and focused on Sanji and Tohru. "He isn't acting like the normal Sanji. And she is looking at him the same way the beautiful Kaya looks at Captain Usopp, proud warrior of the sea! Even though we are apart, her love remains strong…"

Zoro tuned Usopp out and stared at Sanji and Tohru.Tohru's elfin features and stature made her pretty, but it was the light in her eyes and her bright smile that caused her to glow with beauty.  Instead of reducing Sanji to a simpering moron, she'd made him come alive in a way Zoro had never seen.

Zoro's stomach dropped. "He really likes her, doesn't he?"

"It appears so," Robin said. "Love blooms best in the most unexpected ways."

The words hit Zoro like a blow. He bit the inside of his cheek, jumped over the rail, and landed beside them on the dock. "Oi, cook. Don't we have supplies to get?" he said tightly.

Sanji shook his head sharply. "Later. I'm busy right now."

"Oh, you're going on shopping excursion?" Tohru said, with a brief smile to Zoro before her attention turned completely back to Sanji. "I found a vendor a little out of the way that has the best selection of vegetables here."

"You'll have to show me, then," Sanji said, finally releasing her hands, only to crook his elbow in invitation.

Zoro's jaw clenched. He grabbed Sanji's arm and dragged him further down the dock. "What the hell are you doing, asshole?" Sanji hissed, trying to get his arm free. He glanced back at Tohru. "You're embarrassing me."

"Are we going to fuck tonight or not?" Zoro said once they were far enough away not to be overheard.

"Are you that stupid?" Sanji lifted his foot, but then hesitated and set it on the dock again. "Let me go, shithead."

Zoro realized things were over between them the instant Sanji didn't kick him. He let go of Sanji's arm, letting it fall slowly to his side, as the color bleached from the world. "I guess I am stupid," he said, smirking even though he suddenly felt gutted. "Looks like you finally got yourself a woman, huh?"

Sanji clenched his fists in anger. "Watch what you say about Tohru-san."

Zoro didn't correct the misunderstanding. He stood where he was, as Sanji walked back to Tohru, and watched Sanji's anger fade into happiness again. Tohru touched Sanji's arm, Sanji smiled softly at something she said, and Zoro knew he was in love, because his heart was breaking.

Movement on the Merry prompted Zoro to leave.Robin had a knack for seeing through pretenses and he didn't want to talk to anyone.He felt stupid and angry with himself, for not stopping things with Sanji sooner.He should've stuck to the rules.He'd made them for a reason and the sharp ache in his chest proved it.

Rule Number One: Don't fall in love, because they'll never love you back.

 


Zoro didn't get hangovers very often. It took an insane amount of alcohol to get him tipsy, let along drunk enough that he felt it in the morning. It would be humiliating to lose a swordfight to some prick who'd challenge a drunken man and so he'd built up his tolerance to greater than his spending money.

But Nami had given him three months' share of the Straw Hat crew's plunder, and the bartender at the tavern he'd found sold booze cheap and didn't water it down. And now it felt like a hundred Sanji's were kicking him repeatedly in the head.

Zoro hissed through his teeth, wishing to return to the unconsciousness of sleep. The coolness of the ground beneath his cheek didn't soothe his headache. He pried open his eyelids a sliver, regretting it when the bright daylight burned them and seared his brain. Things worsened when he found his arms were pinioned behind his back, preventing him from pressing his hand against his throbbing head. A brief struggle resulted in his stomach roiling and a slump of resignation. Another peek through pain-slitted eyes confirmed what his bound wrists had told him: he was in jail.

"Great," Zoro muttered, and rubbed his fuzzy tongue against the roof of his dry mouth. It tasted like he'd eaten unwashed socks. He didn't remember if he had; in fact, he had no idea how he'd ended up in jail. His last clear memory was of staring into the depths of a bottomless mug of alcohol, sitting at the bar in the tavern.

His bladder screamed exactly how much he'd drunk to put him in his current situation.Nausea rolled through him as he awkwardly sat up.He swallowed sickly and waited for his head to stop spinning.It subsided enough for him to get a good look around.Four crumbling gray-block walls, a steel door with an eye-slot and a food-slot, a tiny window, and a piss hole in the corner made up the cell.The dampness in the cool air meant he was underground.Dirt and spills stained his white shirt and trousers.Aside from the hangover, he didn't feel hurt anywhere.His shoulders ached slightly, making him wonder exactly how long he'd been in jail.

Getting to his feet turned out to be more of a hassle than his pounding head would allow. He scuffled on his knees to the piss hole. The smell from the hole came close to making him vomit. The wiggling and jerking of his body as he tried to get his trousers down didn't help his nausea any. He should've practiced escaping from steel bonds, like he'd made note to do after the last time he'd been jailed. Lack of metal on the ketch and a naked Sanji were not excuses for failing himself.

Pulling his trousers back up was as much of a chore as getting them down had been. He twisted and stretched, tugging his waistband over his hips. His head hated him for it. Finally, more or less covered, he scuffled across the cell and maneuvered clumsily until he could sit with his legs extended, leaning against the wall. He closed his eyes and wished for an end to his hangover misery.

Sleep eventually came and granted him relief. His shoulders were stiffer, but his headache had subsided, when he woke again. Twilight shone through the small window. Hardtack and a metal cup with water had been slid on a tray through the food-slot in the door. Getting rid of the rotten taste in his mouth appeased the indignity of having to eat like a dog. He spilled more water down his front than he drank, but he didn't care. The water was refreshing and he felt a hundred times better than earlier.

But not having a hangover to distract him brought back the thoughts of why he'd been drinking heavily to begin with, and he slumped against the wall. Life aboard the Merry was going to suck until he got himself over Sanji. And what if that woman sailed with them? Everyday, he'd be forced to watch their romance and be reminded of what he couldn't have. Or worse, what if Sanji left the Merry to stay with Tohru? Zoro wouldn't get to see him fighting, or hear his cursing, or catch a glimpse of his smile, or be kicked ever again. Just thinking about it made Zoro ache from missing him.

Head tilted back, Zoro stared at the cracked ceiling of the cell and called himself all kinds of fool. He didn't need, or want, emotional entanglements, but not only did he sail with a crew he'd give his life for without hesitation, he'd fallen in love with the ship's cook. His future was doomed by more loss and pain, when all he'd wanted was to become the greatest swordsman in the world, for Kuina.

Maybe it was Zoro who needed to leave the Merry. But the idea of being alone felt as bad as if Sanji left. Luffy, Robin, Nami, Usopp, and Chopper – they were bound to him deeper than friendship or family. Without them, he was just another swordsman. To them, he was nakama.

No, Zoro couldn't leave, and he wouldn't let Sanji go if he could help it. He'd rather suffer with unrequited feelings than lose any of them.

That decided, Zoro figured he should stop wallowing and head back to the ship. He had no idea how long he'd been passed out. The ache in his shoulders gave him a guess of a few days. Unsurprising, considering the amount of alcohol he'd consumed to blank his memory and cause a hangover.

He tugged at his wrists and felt his bonds as best he could. Twin steel manacles welded together without a chain pinioned his wrists. It had a simple bolt lock, but it would be impossible to unscrew at the angle of his hands. He probably wouldn't get out of them without assistance. He cursed himself again for not practicing breaking bonds.

Approaching footsteps outside the cell made him still.He listened carefully, bending his knees so his feet were on the ground, preparing to take advantage of whatever opportunity was presented.He heard the clink of keys on a ring.The footsteps stopped.

"Oi, shit swordsman, which cell are you in?"

"Sanji?" Zoro said, surprised. He pushed to his feet, using the wall as leverage.

Sanji appeared on the other side of the eye-slot and a key turned in the lock. The steel door banged open. Stalking through the doorway, Sanji folded his arms and glared daggers at Zoro. "You stupid fuck."

Zoro glowered. "Shut up. I am not."

"You are!" Sanji erupted, face purpling with anger. "You've been missing for days. I wouldn't have found you if some bartender hadn't mentioned a passed-out drunk being hauled to jail to sleep it off. There was huge brawl at another tavern with a swordsman involved and I had to look at fucking dead bodies, thinking one of them was going to be you!"

"Tch. Like I'd let myself get killed."

Sanji kicked Zoro in the head. "That's not the damned point!"

"Ow, asshole!" Zoro yelped, bumping back into the wall. "I just got over a headache. I don't want another one."

"I don't care." Stomping across the cell, Sanji fisted his hand in Zoro's shirt, yanked hard, and Zoro stumbled forward into a fierce kiss. Zoro stared cross-eyed at Sanji, confused as hell. Why was Sanji kissing him?

Sanji broke the kiss and bumped their foreheads together lightly. "Dumbass marimo," he said, his eyes still closed, his breath gusting warmly on Zoro's face.

"Why did you do that?" Zoro said, silently cursing his tingling lips.

"Do what?"

"Kiss me like that."

Sanji tensed and took a step back. He loosened his tie. "Because I wanted to. Don't ask such stupid questions."

"Well, stop it. I hate being led on."

"What are you talking about?" Sanji said, a furrow between his brows.

"You have your chef, now, so don't kiss me like you still want to fuck," Zoro said.

"Chef? Tohru-san?" Sanji seemed baffled. "What does she have to do with anything?"

"Don't treat me like I really am stupid, cook," Zoro said, irritated and pained that he had to face his loss again. "I don't care if you love her, but I do have some morals. I won't fuck with someone who's taken."

Sanji blinked at him. "Love her? Where the hell did you get that idea?"

"Where did I—" Zoro stopped, as the meaning behind Sanji's question sunk in. "You don't love Tohru-san?"

"Of course I don't love Tohru-san, idiot, I love—" Sanji bit off his words and jerked his gaze away. He turned and headed swiftly towards the door. "Let's go."

"Sanji—"

"Nami-swan and the others are waiting for us—"

"—Sanji—"

"—and I have more important things to do than rescue your ass."

"—Sanji, please." Sanji halted before the partially closed door at Zoro's begging. Zoro stared at the tense line of Sanji's back, with hopefulness flickering in him. He swallowed nervously, clenching his hands still locked behind his back. If he was wrong… "Who is it?"

Sanji didn't respond for a long moment, before he said, "Who it is doesn’t matter, so long as I love him with everything I've got, right?"

Zoro's heart swelled like a balloon in his chest and choked his speech. "And if you're the luckiest son-of-a-bitch on the planet, he loves you back just as much."

Sanji glanced over his shoulder, his emotions written plainly on his face: abject fear, cautious hope, and pleading for reciprocation. "Zoro—"

"Get these the fuck off me," Zoro demanded, turning around and holding out his bound wrists. After a long silence, he heard Sanji's approach and his unsteady breathing. The manacles were unbolted.

Whipping around, Zoro seized Sanji and kissed him hard, before the manacles even hit the floor. "Fuck, I love you," he said, and kissed Sanji again.

Sanji made a sound of relief and elation in the back of his throat, wrapped his arms tightly around Zoro's waist, and angled his head to deepen the kiss.  Zoro's heart leapt and he lost himself in the taste and feel of Sanji.  Sanji's firm planes and sharp angles fit against him just right.  Zoro responded to the demands Sanji made with his kiss.

Sanji pushed his hips forward and Zoro felt his hardening cock. Heat flared in Zoro's loins. With a growl of want, he pressed Sanji against the wall and ground their groins together. Sanji moaned, grabbed his ass, and hooked a leg around his hip. The change in angle brought their erections into line and Zoro's hormones surged out of control. Desire eclipsed finesse. Kissing became devouring, teeth clacking and scraping swollen lips, and Zoro rutted against Sanji with grunts of mindless passion. Sanji responded with equal need, ripped at Zoro's hair, and dug his fingers into Zoro's ass. Sweat soaked Zoro's shirt beneath his arms, on his chest, and between his shoulder blades. Pressure built higher and higher until he thought he'd go crazy.

Release hit Zoro like a cannonball shot at close range. He cried wordlessly into Sanji's mouth, coming with a violent shudder in his trousers. Sparks danced behind his eyelids and static buzzed in his ears. When it ended, he went limp. Leaning heavily into Sanji, he pressed his face in the warm, damp crook of Sanji's neck and gulped for breath.

"Zoro, Zoro," Sanji said desperately in his ear, thrusting against Zoro's slack form. "Shit. Please, you fucker."

"Yeah," Zoro mumbled, and shifted between Sanji's legs. Sanji moaned loudly, clutched tighter, and began humping hard against Zoro's thigh. It wouldn't be long, Zoro could tell. He licked the salt from Sanji's sweaty skin, sucked a bruise over the pulsing vein on his neck, and relished feeling Sanji break in his arms. He was content to stand as they were and soak in the feel of Sanji's body against his own. He didn't think he'd get to have this ever again.

"You reek," Sanji said, ruining the moment with his usual bluntness. "Get off me."

Zoro snuffled a laugh against Sanji's neck and stepped back. "You weren't complaining before."

"I should have." Sanji adjusted his damp trousers and untucked his green shirt. He pulled a cigarette from the slightly crumpled pack in his pocket and lit up. Propping his foot on the wall, he closed his eyes and enjoyed his smoke. He looked rumpled and satiated, and Zoro had missed seeing Sanji like this on a daily basis since they'd rejoined the others. He'd have to fix that.

Sanji opened his eyes and loosened his tie further. "Stop staring, dickhead." He pushed off the wall and headed for the door. "Come on. Your swords are upstairs with the constable."

"They'd better not be damaged." Zoro quickly fixed his clothing to hide the come dampness and followed.

His katanas were not harmed in any way, and he got them back with a stern lecture on public drunkenness from a constable so old, his jaw creaked when he spoke. The walk back to the Merry was filled with Sanji still complaining about the smell, in a failed attempt to disguise the awkwardness radiating from him. "You stink like a drunk man who's been in jail for days."

"That's because I am a drunk man who's been in jail for days," Zoro said. The street was filled with people leaving their shops and heading home for dinner. The faces they made when they smelled him amused Zoro.

"Well, don't do it again. You made the others sick with worry."

"Just the others, huh?"

Sanji floundered for a convincing response. Zoro grinned, becoming giddier with each step. It was sinking in that Sanji felt the same way as he did. He'd broken every rule he'd made about relationships with men and had still come out on top. He knew he'd gotten lucky and would do his damnedest to make sure he didn't lose Sanji.

"ZOROOOO!" Luffy's bellow carried across the dock, and Zoro saw Usopp, Nami, and Chopper rush up to the Merry's rail next to their captain. Luffy waved with both hands high in the air. The others smiled with relief.

Zoro felt bad, briefly, for causing them worry. Sanji's feigned uncaring beside him, however, shot his mood right back up to the sky. "I doubt they'll be as happy to see you once they catch a whiff," Sanji said.

Zoro rolled his eyes and was about to retort when he saw Robin join the others at the rail. With her was that woman chef. "She's still here?" he said, a growl building in the back of his throat.

"What?" Sanji looked up at the ship as they approached, and began fluttering. He put out his cigarette and tugged at the hem of his untucked shirt. "Tohru-san said she was leaving this morning. She can't see me like this. There's fucking come in my shorts."

Snarling inside, Zoro tapped Sanji on the shoulder, grabbed his chin when he turned, and planted a short, but clearly possessive kiss on his lips. Four jaws clacked audibly against the ship rail, Robin looked bemused, and Tohru backed up a step at the pointed glare Zoro gave her afterwards. That's right, he's mine.

Sanji kicked him in the head. "What the fuck are you doing, asshole?!"

Irritation pushed Zoro's jealousy aside. "Why the hell are you kicking me?"

"Because there's no other use for your head, since you don't have a brain in there!" Sanji yelled. Zoro blocked the next kick with his sword. "Why did you do that?"

"I'm not keeping it a secret," Zoro said. "Not when it means more to us than just a fuck."

Sanji's face flushed scarlet. There was a squeak and a thud from above. Chopper had fallen off the rail. Usopp, Nami, and Luffy's eyes now bulged on top of their dropped jaws. Both Robin and Tohru had disappeared from sight.

Zoro sheathed his katana, when it appeared that Sanji was finished kicking him. "Are we done here?"

"No, we're not!" Sanji sputtered, waving his arms in distress. "Not until I lay down some rules."

Zoro's irritation faded as a broad smile spread over his lips. He captured Sanji around the waist and hauled him close. "Didn't you know-," he murmured fondly, his mouth hovering over Sanji's, "-there are no rules in love."

 

 


 


Sometime down the Grand Line

Zoro cracked a yawn, as Chopper climbed into the crow's nest at the change of watch. "Good night, Zoro," Chopper said, taking the blanket and binoculars.

"'Night," Zoro said.  It had been quiet so far, and Zoro hoped it would remain that way.  He wanted some uninterrupted sleep.

Darkness surrounded him as he made his way down the rigging and to the hatch.  He descended below deck, into the men's quarters.  Luffy's snores mixed with the off-key whistle of Usopp's nose.  In the pitch black of the cabin, he tripped over Usopp's boots, smacked into a support beam, and banged his shin on the low table, like usual.  Zoro cursed under his breath.

"Z'ro?" Sanji's sleepy voice rose from the dark. "Z'at you?"

"Who else would it be?" Zoro set his katanas on the table and stripped down to his trousers. He lifted the blanket and curled around Sanji on the couch. Burying his nose in Sanji's hair, he exhaled slowly and relaxed. "'Night."

"Hn," Sanji responded, and his breathing steadied out. Zoro brushed a kiss on the nape of Sanji's neck, slid his hand beneath the borrowed shirt Sanji had donned, and followed him into sleep.

 


End

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