White shirt slung over his shoulder, Zoro itched absently at the scar slashed across his chest as he entered the galley. Sweat clung to his skin from his midday workout. He'd draw up water for a shower after he'd quenched his thirst.
"Oi, shithead, you're stinking up my kitchen." Cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth, Sanji stood in front of the counter workspace, chopping vegetables on a cutting board. He lifted the board and swiped the knife along the surface, pushing the diced onions into a waiting bowl.
"What of it, you target-browed pervert?" Zoro fetched a glass and poured himself some limonade.
"It ruins the taste of my food, asshole."
Zoro leaned against the icebox and gulped down his juice. He watched as Sanji began cutting a cucumber. The knife was a gleaming blur as it sliced through the vegetable with quick strokes. Each piece of cucumber was precisely the same size, flicking from the cutting board into the bowl beside it. Zoro was secretly amazed at the deftness with which Sanji handled the knife. He could be a swordsman, Zoro thought, with a mixture of displeasure and respect. It was easy to picture Sanji wielding a katana, his eyes dark with intensity as he squared off against Zoro. Sanji's lithe form would dance out of the range of Zoro's strokes, his own blade kissing Zoro's skin, leaving licks of fire in its wake.
Zoro's blood surged in anticipation associated with a good challenge and he frowned irritably. He'd previously admitted to himself, with much reluctance, that Sanji was an equal in power and skill to Zoro. To have to admit that Sanji would be just as good with a sword irked. Zoro could see Sanji disarming him, sending him crashing to the deck. With a smug smile, cigarette clamped in the corner of his mouth, Sanji would stand triumphantly over Zoro, pinning him with the sword's tip pressed against his neck, rendering him completely helpless, at Sanji's mercy.
A shiver of arousal snaked down Zoro's spine and he spit out his drink in shock. "That better not be a commentary on my freshly squeezed juice," Sanji said, skinning another cucumber with fast, suggestive strokes of the knife.
"Nothing! Shut up," Zoro said quickly, not caring that he didn't make sense. He thumped his half-finished glass on the counter and fled the galley.
The sun shone high overhead, beaming brightly in the blue sky. Chopper's laughter mixed with Luffy's hoots of playfulness from the deck below. Usopp's hammer echoed across the water as it banged against metal. Zoro gripped the upper deck rail of the Going Merry and glared out over the ocean. Sweat that had nothing to do with his workout beaded at his temples and on his upper lip. His breathing was jagged, his heart racing beneath his breast.
Defeat was not supposed to be arousing, especially not losing to that blonde pecker-head. Zoro didn't understand why his body had reacted that way. When he fought, it physically excited him, but he'd learned to channel that stimulation into his blades, reaching climax in his victory – never in defeat.
"LUFFY!" Nami's angry bellow on the other deck caused Zoro to look. She was bare from the waist up, Luffy having stolen her bikini top. Usopp and Chopper lay twitching on the deck in front of her, with bloody noses.
Looks like we're going to be short a captain, Zoro mused and turned back to the ocean. The currently calm, blue water didn't soothe him like it should have and tension knotted his muscles. He tried to come up with a rational explanation for his reaction and his thoughts became tangled over whether it was because Sanji had been the one to defeat him or the fact that he was defeated at all.
Zoro dug his fingers into the wooden rail and ground his teeth. The blame lay with Sanji's stupid hands no matter what the reason.
"And you owe me ten thousand Beli, too, Zoro!"
Zoro jerked at Nami's shout and spun in her direction. "What? What for?"
Nami clutched a towel to her chest and glared at him from the lower deck. Luffy lay in a heap at her feet with several bumps on his head. "Because no one looks for free."
"Looks at what?" Zoro said, confused, but Nami had already stormed into the cabin.
He turned back to the ocean and glowered. Great, now he owed Nami more money. It was all Sanji's fault.
Predawn fog rolled over the surface of the water, cut cleanly by the Going Merry's prow. The stillness of the early morning was broken by the creak of the door, as Sanji emerged from down below. Zoro stood in the crow's nest on watch, leaning against the mast with his arms folded comfortably. He observed Sanji through half-slitted eyes and quashed the urge to hawk spit at him.
Zoro still hadn't figured out the whys behind his reaction to his imagined defeat, but decided it wasn't worth thinking about it any longer. Sanji would never pick up a sword and it wasn't like Zoro would ever be defeated, anyway, so it didn't matter.
Shirtless and barefoot, Sanji moved towards the front of the ship. He stood still for a long time, staring out over the water. Zoro knew from routine that Sanji wouldn't move until he finished his cigarette. He never acknowledged the person on watch, either, even if it was his precious Nami. The early morning hours were solely for him and Zoro grudgingly respected it, as one fighter to another.
Eventually, Sanji flicked the cigarette butt over the side of the ship and stretched his arms about his head, his palms together. With an unspoken count, he began his morning katas. Zoro watched as Sanji flowed from one move to the next, going so slowly it seemed ridiculous. But Zoro could see the immense power coiled in the muscle tension and stepping in front of one of those slow-moving hands or feet would send him flying across the ship.
Sanji bent over backwards, his body curved in a perfect arch. With a small push, he lifted his legs in the air, raising into a handstand. Parting his legs, he lowered them into a split. Zoro marveled at how flexible Sanji was, without the benefit of a rubber body. His legs seemed to extend forever, too.
Zoro tugged at the collar of his shirt, feeling hot all of a sudden. He glanced in the direction of the sunrise. The sun was barely a bright sliver on the horizon. If he was hot already, it was going to be a scorcher of a day.
Faint thumps of bare feet on the deck drew his attention downward again. Sanji stood upright, continuing through his katas with infinite precision and hidden strength. Zoro found it hard to fathom at times that someone built like a toothpick could demolish a building with a single kick. He'd been on the receiving end of Sanji's kicks often enough to know the truth, and those painful blows had been barely at a quarter strength. A real fight between himself and Sanji wouldn't be easy to win, no matter how great a swordsman he became. If Sanji moved fast enough, he could vice his legs around Zoro, preventing him from drawing his katanas. Zoro would be trapped, pinioned by powerful thighs, caught until he surrendered to Sanji…
Zoro's blood rushed southward, pooling suddenly at his groin, and he dug his fingernails into his opposite arm. Arousal had struck again while thinking of defeat. What was wrong with him? How could the thought of being bested incite desire?
Sanji stilled, the morning sunlight painting his bare shoulders gold, the katas at an end. He turned his head, looking up at Zoro without warning. Zoro gulped and jerked his gaze back to the horizon. He felt his face burning. He hoped Sanji hadn't noticed his current state. He despised the vulnerability he was feeling and didn't want anyone to know about it.
A door opened and closed below, and when he dared a glance down, the deck was empty. It wasn't much of a relief. Zoro sank down until he was sitting and clasped his knees. The pull of his trousers was tight. What the hell was going on?
Zoro had gotten directions to the weaponsmith in the center of town and ended up at a bookstore at the top of a hill. His eyes adjusted to the dim light and he sighed when he saw the rows of bookshelves. The owner sat reading behind a counter at the front of the shop. He looked up from his book at Zoro's entry and smiled pleasantly. "May I help you locate anything in particular?"
"No," Zoro said, and headed down a row at random. He didn't want to look like a fool by leaving right away, even though he didn't have any use for books. His sensei, Kuina's father, had forced him to learn how to read and write, but he'd always felt his time was better spent training than studying.
The Going Merry had docked along the harbor earlier and the crew split up to run their own errands in the moderate-sized town. Zoro was glad for the time alone. The past week had been an uncomfortable one. He'd been plagued by dreams of fighting with Sanji that ended with Zoro's defeat and caused him to wake up with a hard prick. It was unnerving. He felt like he was going through puberty again, only those dreams had always been vague, more of an impression of touch than a physical being that he could put a name to.
Zoro slumped. He hoped he wasn't going through a second puberty. The first time around had been annoying enough, trying to fight with an aching log in his pants that hindered his movement and got him laughed at because of it's visibility. He'd been told it was normal, but he'd hated that he had no control over a part of his own body. He'd hardened most often at the dojo watching the other men while waiting his turn to fight, which was why he'd learned to sublimate his arousal into power behind his katana-strikes.
Zoro hit the end of the row, picked a direction, and wandered along the rear of the shop. Navigational book titles caught his eye and he stopped in front of the section. He owed Nami a lot of money, including 10,000 beli for no reason that he could discern. Maybe if he found a valuable book she'd reduce the sum.
Dust coated his finger as he brushed it along the book spines, reading the titles. Current Charts: 1112-1113. Wind Speed Discrepancies in Knots. Coastal Erosions' Effects on Tide Flow. South Blue Rapture. Navigating Courtesans. Naughtical Maneuvers. Sailor's Guide to Knots, Ribbons, and Bows. Seamen: Crossed Swords.
Zoro's brows lifted at the last title and he removed the thin book from its slot between two bigger volumes. The book was slightly larger than his hand with a soft binding. With curiosity, he opened it to a random spot.
A detailed illustration of one man's prick in another man's mouth filled the page.
Zoro's jaw dropped. He slammed the book shut and stared at the cover in shock. He couldn't have seen what he thought he'd just seen.
He glanced around quickly, lowered his head, and opened the book cautiously to another page. It held a drawn illustration of a man on his back, with his legs in the air, being fucked by another man.Zoro slammed the book shut again, his face on fire and his heart hammering wildly. Exactly what kind of swords was the title referring to?
Crowding closer to the bookshelf, he looked over his shoulder towards the front of the shop before daring to open the book again. He gaped as page after page depicted illustrations of naked men in various positions. Sweat beaded along his hairline, under his arms, and between his shoulder blades. He wasn't naïve, he knew about sex. He'd seen how it affected respectful men, reducing them to mindless idiots controlled by the women they bedded. He'd seen picture books like this before, too. Johnny and Yosaku had plenty stashed on their ship when he'd traveled with them. But they'd all been with men fucking women and he hadn't seen the attraction in looking at the illustrations.
His hands were shaking as he paused on a page. The man's face in the drawing was one he recognized as pain and pleasure entwined, like being slashed in the middle of an embracing fight. The naked man was on his hands and knees with another man kneeling behind him, fucking him. His back was exposed, rendering him completely vulnerable to the other man.
The sharp edge of desire pierced Zoro, as he imagined himself being in the drawn man's place. Breathing heavily, he hunched over the book, his prick hard and throbbing in his pants. To give that much power to another person was insane. It was a blatant invitation to be killed. Either the man enjoyed taunting death or he trusted his partner absolutely. There was no one Zoro would allow to put him in such a position.
"May I help you locate anything in particular?" The shopkeeper's voice drifted to the back of the store and Zoro jumped in fear of being caught looking at such a book. He slammed the book shut, shoved it down the front of his haramaki, and darted out the back door he found nestled between shelves.
Zoro wiped his sweaty palms on his pants and checked the lock on the door of the head again. No one else had returned to the Going Merry yet, but he wasn't taking any chances. Heart hammering loudly in his ears, he stared at the lurid book he'd stolen from the shop. Seamen: Crossed Swords slashed the cover in black letters. He opened it with shaky hands to the page with the man on his hands and knees. Zoro's prick surged in his pants and he licked his lips nervously. He checked the door once again and propped the open book on the wash basin.
He didn't touch himself often. Rubbing off left him feeling tired and lax, robbing him of the edge he needed for a fight. His haramaki and katanas lay on the floor by his feet. He pushed his pants down to his knees and stared at the hard prick sticking out from his body like the hilt of a sword. Green hair, darker than on his head, curled around its base. It felt warm and solid against his palm, as he closed his left hand around it.
He sucked in a sharp breath at the pleasurable feeling that came with the first few strokes. He braced his free hand on the edge of the wash basin and focused on the open book. His eyes traced the vulnerable curve of the drawn man's back and the grip of the hands holding his hips. Zoro bit his lower lip, staring at the dark lines of illustration where the two men's bodies connected intimately. His hand moved with tight, rough jerks over his engorged prick.
His thoughts slipped easily into fantasy and he was on his hands and knees in the illustration. His breath hitched. The imaginary person held him captive, with strong fingers grasping his bare waist. Zoro tugged harder at his prick, a bead of sweat curving down the side of his face. He could feel the person staring at his exposed back and shuddered in dangerous excitement.
Then, suddenly, it was Sanji's eyes burning against his skin, Sanji's hands gripping his hips. He gasped and clenched the wash basin. His other hand flew over his prick. Sanji laughed in the back of his mind, a deep chuckle that skittered down his spine. He clenched his ass, unknowing what it would be like to be fucked. His gaze slid over the drawn man's expression, twisted in agony and ecstasy. Conquered bliss.
Pleasure rushed through him and with a grunt Zoro spurted against the wash basin, coming in his fist. His pumped until his prick became too sensitive to touch. Head bowed, he panted shallowly, trying to gather his wits and make sense of what had just happened. Sweat dripped from his chin to land on the page of the book. He swiped it away, being careful not to smear the inked illustration.
He felt awkward cleaning up. Reality intruded when he banged his elbow against the door. He'd rubbed off in the ship's head while looking a picture of two men fucking. Worse, he'd imagined being in that position himself with Sanji. It couldn't be normal. But if there was a book about men fucking men that meant it wasn't unheard of, right? It didn't explain why the hell he'd been fantasizing about that shitty cook.
Zoro stared at the cover of the book. He should get rid of it. Rubbing off was a distraction and a weakness he didn't need, especially if Sanji was going to creep into his imaginings. He didn't know of anyone else on the ship having a similar book and the idea of someone finding it filled him with dread.
A clatter outside forced his hand. Through the porthole window in the lower cabin's door, he could see Robin moving about on deck, blocking an escape without being seen. With the book hidden beneath his haramaki, he scuttled down into the hold, where the men bunked. He buried the book in his sea chest, beneath his meager clothing.
He returned topside wearing a bored expression, pretending nothing was amiss and hoping no one would notice his heated cheeks.
Zoro quite possibly hated Sanji. The stupid cook had invaded his thoughts and dreams, giving him no respite. Every time he closed his eyes, his mind slipped off into a fantasy that started with them fighting and ended with Zoro naked and conquered. Whenever Sanji was within sight, Zoro had difficulty tearing his gaze away. Avoidance only worked for so long on a ship and his agitation was noticeable enough to raise questions from some of the crew.
"I'm fine," he growled when Nami dared to ask at dinner. He received a kick to the head from Sanji that was supposed to be for an attitude-adjustment but felt too much like foreplay. He disappeared into the head with his dirty book for an hour afterwards.
The book had become both a blessing and a curse. Zoro might have gone crazy without the temporary relief it helped provide, but it also fueled his desire for Sanji even more than just his imagination. He wished, on a daily basis, to go back in time to before he'd found the book and regain his ignorance of how good it felt to push his fingers up his ass while rubbing off.
"LAND HO!" Luffy shouted with glee, from his perch on the lamb's head at the prow of the ship. Zoro almost cheered, too, at the sight of the island. They'd been at sea for more than a month. He needed to get away from everyone for a while.
His plans were thwarted, however, by Usopp, Luffy, Sanji, and Chopper in his man-sized form. "You're coming with us," Sanji stated, lighting up a fresh cigarette.
"Why would I want to do that?" Zoro said, folding his arms.
"You don't have a choice." Sanji nodded and Luffy and Chopper seized Zoro by the elbows.
"Hey!" Zoro exclaimed. He felt embarrassed when he saw Nami and Robin watching from the upper deck as he was manhandled off the docked ship.
They carted him through town, with him snarling and cussing under his breath. The townspeople gave them a passing glance as they walked down the dusty streets. Wood and stone buildings crowded close together, shingled with shop names. Sanji turned down a side street as if he knew where he was going. Zoro later decided the perverted love cook had been following the scent of overly perfumed women, that led him directly to—
"A bordello?!" Zoro jerked his arms out of Luffy and Chopper's grip once he was set on his feet. Inside the innocuously named Miss Clara's, women of various shapes and sizes and states of undress lounged on sofas and giggled behind fans. Shades of pink and rose tinted the walls, the carpets, and the furnishings. Tinkling music played on a phonograph. A man the size of a mountain stood behind a dark wood bar, polishing a glass with a rag.
Hearts floated from Sanji as he clasped his hands and swooned. Usopp gaped at the women with his eyes bulging from his head. Chopper laughed nervously and disappeared out the front door with pink cheeks. Luffy grinned and slapped Zoro on the back, making him rock on his feet. "Ho-ho, Zoro! It's our lucky day!"
Zoro pivoted on his heel and stalked out the door. Rubbery arms snatched him back. He glowered at Luffy. "Let me go.""Nuh-uh." Luffy shook his head. "It was decided this is what you need and Nami gave us the money without interest."
"I do not need this," Zoro said tightly, in anger and embarrassment.
"You spend a lot of time in the head." Luffy looked at him with seriousness. "I can hear you through the door, you know."
Zoro felt the blood drain from his face. Luffy knew what he did in the head. Which meant the others knew it, because Luffy couldn't keep a secret. Zoro thought frantically, wondering if he'd said Sanji's name out loud. Since Sanji hadn't been treating him any differently, he hoped it meant not.
Luffy's jovial grin returned, as Sanji floated to one of the sofas and Usopp's nose exploded with blood. "But this should put things right again, eh, Zoro?" he said, and then whooped and launched himself towards the women. "Woo-hoo!"
Shoulders tense, Zoro went over to the bar and ordered a drink. Behind him, his crewmates' laughter rose along with the higher giggles of the women. The scent of perfume was cloying. He wanted to leave. Maybe they had a back door to the place.
"Don't you see anything you'd like?"
A voluptuous woman spilling from a red gown sidled up beside him. Zoro glanced at her from the corner of his eye before returning his focus to his drink. "No."
"Don't tell me a man like you has been tamed." She had a husky laugh that irked. "Are you trying to stay true to your love?"
"No. I'm just not interested. Leave me alone."
"Not interested?" She pressed closer to him, her breasts nearly popping from the top of her dress. "Are you sure?"
"Positive," he ground out, sliding away from her.
"Hmm." She eyed him speculatively. Zoro wished she would go away. "Perhaps there's something in the back that would be more to your taste."
Yeah, like another door. Zoro turned slowly, not wanting to seem too eager. If she took him in back, he might find his way to escape. "Oh?"
She smiled with glossy lips and lifted her skirts to walk. "Follow me."
Zoro drained the rest of his drink and, with a hand resting on the hilts of his katanas, trailed after her. He caught sight of Sanji watching him with an inscrutable look, despite the fact there were women crawling all over him. Zoro shifted his gaze quickly.
The woman led him through a curtained doorway and a heavier scent assaulted Zoro's nose. He pulled up abruptly with a sharp intake of breath. He was in another room similar to the first, decorated in darker colors. But instead of women lounging on the sofas, there were men dressed in form-fitting pants. Some wore shirts while others did not, exposing smooth bare skin that rippled with muscle.
Zoro's mouth went dry as his eyes landed on a pair of long, long legs encased in black, stretched over the arm of a sofa. He followed them up to a lean bare chest slouched casually against the cushions. Black hair fell in disarray over a pointed face and a cigarette dangled from between thin lips. Zoro's heart began pounding, sounding loud in his ears. His suddenly sweaty hand clenched around the hilt of the sword as the man looked directly at him. Heat rose through him, as the man rolled to his feet and sauntered over to where Zoro stood frozen."This is Devon," the woman said, as the man stopped in front of Zoro. He was taller than Zoro, with eyes as black as his hair.
Devon – who looked like Sanji, but not – raked his gaze down Zoro's body, exhaled a stream of cigarette smoke, and a corner of his mouth quirked. He hooked his fingers in the front of Zoro's haramaki, causing Zoro's stomach to jump, and led the way down a hall Zoro hadn't noticed, away from the main room.Zoro's feet followed as if he had no control over them. He ended up in a room with only a bed that smelled like cigarettes, musk, and jasmine. Devon closed the door behind them, dropped his cigarette to the floor, and ground it under his boot. Desire and nervousness rolled uncomfortably inside Zoro. He forced himself not to back away as Devon closed the space between them.
Devon leaned his head down, his breath hot against Zoro's ear. "Do you want to fuck or be fucked?" he said in a gravelly voice that raked along Zoro's spine.
Zoro gulped audibly, even as a surge of want filled him. He'd never had sex before and didn't know if he could do it without making a fool of himself. "I…"
"Hmm?" A tongue flicked at his ear, as fingers drew up his shirt. The scabbards of his katanas clicked as his hand trembled.
Maybe if he had sex with Devon, he'd stop thinking about Sanji. Maybe he wouldn't like it and would stop thinking about it altogether. His life would be certainly much less stressful without having lustful thoughts.
"You… do me," Zoro said finally, though it was barely audible. Devon heard him, though. He lifted his head and flashed Zoro a knowing smile.
"Take off your clothes." Devon pulled Zoro's shirt over his head as he said it. Zoro tensed, feeling exposed and uncomfortable.
Stop being a wimp. Zoro removed his katanas and leaned them against the wall close to the bed. He almost held onto Wadou, not wanting to be completely defenseless in a stranger's presence. Instead, he squashed his fear and stripped off the rest of his clothes.Devon stared blatantly at Zoro's hard prick and motioned at the bed. Zoro sat on the edge and folded his arms, attempting to appear impassive. His stomach jumped with nerves when Devon prowled closer. Devon put his hands on Zoro's shoulders, pushed until Zoro fell back onto the bed, and loomed over him. Zoro swallowed convulsively. "Have you ever done this before?" Devon asked.
"What? Of course I have," Zoro lied, shifting awkwardly. "Just get on with it already."
Devon smirked infuriatingly, and Zoro was reminded of Sanji. He had to refrain from boxing Devon's ears. "Turn over, then."Zoro jutted his chin and turned over. Immediately, alarm seized him with his back exposed. He could feel Devon's eyes on him and, unlike in his dreams, it did not excite him - it made him want to draw his katana. He flipped back over quickly and eyed Devon with wariness. "I'd prefer to do it this way."
Devon's surprised expression faded with a shrug. "Whatever you want," he said, and tugged his pants to his knees.
Zoro's unease disappeared in a wave of lust when he saw Devon's prick. Devon worked his hand over it, making it hard. The illustrations in Zoro's book paled in comparison to the real thing. Anticipation coiled in his gut. He hadn't realized how badly he wanted to be the men in those pictures until now. His own prick hardened fully again and twitched against his abdomen.
Devon crouched briefly and came up with a glass bottle of syrupy oil from beneath the bed. The scent of jasmine grew stronger as he poured some in the cupped palm of his hand. He stroked it over his prick, coating it completely. He set the bottle back on the floor, lifted one of Zoro's legs up and back, and pressed his oily fingers against Zoro's ass.Zoro knew it felt good from his own explorations, but having someone else's fingers breach him made his blood boil hotter. He sucked in a ragged breath, his eyelids fluttering shut, as Devon's fingers slid in and out of him. He barely stopped himself from protesting when Devon stopped, but then he felt a blunt pressure and words vanished completely.
Pain, like from the bite of a sword, radiated from his ass to halfway up his back. He clenched his teeth and his eyelids shut, as Devon's prick cleaved him in two. His muscles seized.
"Relax." Devon lifted Zoro's other leg. He pressed forward, leaning over Zoro, his elbows hooked around Zoro's knees.
Zoro grunted and focused on his breathing. His muscles relaxed in increments and Devon began moving. Zoro sublimated the pain like he would the burn from intense exercise, and like with the exercise, his body adjusted and a feeling of exhilaration slowly overcame the pain."Better?" Devon said, rocking against him. Zoro nodded, rolling his head on the mattress under him. It was starting to feel really good, pleasure mixed with pain, just like what was reflected on faces in the book. With his eyes closed, he could even pretend it was Sanji fucking him. A moan escaped his throat and his prick started hardening again.
There was a shift, his left ankle propped on a shoulder, and fingers closed around his prick. "Shit," he hissed, and clenched his hands at his sides. His prick was stroked in time with the thrusts into his ass. Heat pooled at the base of his spine and sparked behind his closed eyelids. His breathing became ragged. Sanji hovered over him in his mind, watching intently, and climax hit Zoro in a rush and a choked cry.
Come spattering his belly, Zoro's head spun dizzily as he struggled to catch his breath. He was still being fucked, but when he opened his eyes, it was Devon, not Sanji, above him.
His disappointment must've shown in his eyes, because Devon smiled crookedly and slowed to a stop. "I'm not who you want it to be, huh?"
Zoro shifted his gaze awkwardly and Devon chuckled. "Don't worry. You're not the first person to come here with a love for a crewmate that isn't returned."
"I don't—" Zoro cut off his own protest with a bite of his tongue. It wouldn't do any good, since what Devon said was the truth.
Devon pulled out, which hurt almost as much as going in. Zoro's ass felt wide open and empty. It throbbed along with his heartbeat, and a sharp ache settled in his lower back.
"Try and take a warm bath. It won't hurt as much," Devon said, fixing his pants. He was still hard, but didn't seem too concerned about it.
Zoro sat up gingerly and reached for his pants. Devon lit up a cigarette and Zoro felt a twinge in his heart at the scent.
"Since it's your first time, I'll give you a discount," Devon said. "My normal price is five thousand Beli. I'll drop it down to three."
"I'm not the one paying." Zoro paled and his fingers tightened around the material of his pants. Nami had given them money to treat Zoro, which meant Sanji had it. "They can't know!"Devon's brows lifted. "Can't know what?"
"That I— with you—" Zoro shoved his feet into his pants and yanked them up as he stood. "I'm supposed to be with a woman. It's normal with a woman. Shit. He's gonna know that I—that I'm—"
"Hey, hey. It's not a problem," Devon interrupted. "They're in the other room, right?"
"Yeah." Zoro scrubbed his hand through his hair and over his face. He should've left like he'd originally wanted.
"After you get dressed, just go back into the other room and let Clara know you're paying her for me. Then, whoever has your money won't have to know," Devon said.
Zoro wished that left him feeling more relieved. He nodded anyway and pulled on his shirt. "Thanks."Devon shrugged it off, smoke curling from the cigarette clamped between his teeth. Zoro finished dressing, his katanas in their spot at his side, and braced himself to face Sanji and his nakama.
Walking turned out to be problematic. It felt as though he had been stabbed in the ass – which, in a way, he had – and it made it difficult to walk unaffected. He followed stiffly behind Devon, forcing normalcy into his steps. Devon didn't linger over saying goodbye, and Zoro ducked through the curtain separating the back rooms from the front with as nonchalantly as possible.
Sanji was seated on the plush sofa, his arms stretched along the seat back, with a cigarette held between two fingers. Usopp lay unconscious on another sofa, twitching occasionally. Twists of tissue were shoved up his nose. Luffy's loud laughter rang from upstairs, along with many thumps and women's giddy squeals. The woman in the red dress, Clara, and the bartender were the only other two in the main parlor.
Sanji watched Zoro approach through half-lidded eyes and with a smirk on his lips. "I thought you'd run off through the back door."
"Shut up. Give me three thousand beli," Zoro said.
Sanji's smirk grew, infuriating and embarrassing Zoro. He snatched the money from Sanji's hand and stalked stiffly over to Clara. Once squared away, he made a beeline for the door. Sanji's mocking laughter followed him out of the bordello and remained with him the rest of the day.
Zoro didn't know what had possessed him to do it, but Nami had left her ink and quill out and, locked in the head in the middle of the night, he'd added his scars, the wisps of Sanji's beard and the curl of his eyebrows to one of the illustrations in the dirty book. Looking at the drawing after that aroused Zoro fervently, but it also sent him crashing down once he'd rubbed off, leaving him feeling hollow inside.
Zoro cradled his katanas against his shoulder, hiding in the shadows of the tangerine trees on the upper deck. He'd felt depressed ever since the trip to the bordello. He'd really liked having sex with another man, proving that he was depraved, that liking the illustrations in the book hadn't been a fluke or just made for a way to relieve boredom. He wanted Sanji even more now, too, and hated himself for it. Sleeping was the only way he'd found to escape and he lowered his head and nodded off.
Rain woke him. Blinking groggily, he lifted his head and peered upwards. Dark storm clouds blocked the previously clear sky. The rain was cold, and fell with a rapid patter against the deck. Zoro sighed wearily, climbed to his feet, and headed inside.
The galley was empty. Voices drifted upstairs through the open trap door from the other cabin. Zoro laid his katanas on the table and dug out a dishrag to wipe them dry.
"Luffy, don't eat the pieces!"
"But I'm hungry."
"Robin-chwaaan, Nami-swaaann, you may choose your color first."
"Should we ask Zoro if he wants to play?"
"Only if you want the fun sucked out of the game."
"Oh-ho-ho. Nami is mean."
"Mr. Swordsman has not been happy in a while. Perhaps being included might cheer him up."
"When has Zoro ever been happy?"
"Bwahahaha! Usopp, that's so true!"
"Forget about that shitty marimo. He's not worth thinking about. Let's play."
Zoro continued wiping the dampness from his katanas and sheaths with long, smooth strokes, hating that it felt like the swords had gutted him. He wished the attraction was purely sexual, but there was no way that it could be. They were nakama and Zoro's was torn up because of it.
He slipped back outside once the katanas were dry, leaving them on the table for protection. The rain poured with stinging nettles, soaking through his clothing quickly. He walked across the slick deck to the rail and leaned his elbows against the wet wood. The sea churned with the storm, white caps cresting the tops of the rough waves. For an instant, he contemplated casting himself into the water and letting his problems sink with death. Then, he called himself an idiotic, brooding pansy and resolved to get over his thing for Sanji. He had more important stuff to worry about, like how he wasn't near ready to face Mihawk again. He needed to stop acting like a lovesick ninny and get back to training.
A dark shadow passing beneath the ship brought a smile to Zoro's lips and he leapt over the rail without a thought. He plunged feet-first into the cold water, slamming into the sea king's back. The sea king sank rapidly at the blow. Zoro treaded water near the surface, watching and waiting.
He saw the dark blur and displaced water as the sea king raced towards him from below. He grinned and hovered in place until the last moment, when the sea king's open maw was upon him, to stroke forward. The sea king rose from the water at high speed, with Zoro balanced on its rounded snout. He used the sea king like a launch pad, letting it shoot him into the stormy air. Flipping around, he took measure of the sea king, its long scaled body, snake-like in appearance, with rows of pointed teeth emerging from its jaws. The sea king snapped at him, missing him by a good foot. It dropped back down into the rough water below. Unhesitant, Zoro followed, his body like an arrow, palms pressed together and extended above his head.
Impact speared Zoro's fingers deep into the sea king's snout, and the sea king roared in pain and rage, the vibrations churning the water. Zoro swam to the surface, gasping for breath, exhilaration pulsing through his veins. The Going Merry rocked steadily beside him still, the tied up sails keeping it from traveling quickly through the storm. He felt the sea king shift once again into an attack position and he paddled further away from the ship and waited.
The sea king struck, leaping out of the water in a graceful arc despite its size, soaring over the ship. Zoro scissor-kicked his legs, propelling himself upwards, and he met the sea king with a solid punch to its snout. It jerked mid-air and hovered like a balloon for several long seconds before crashing into the water with a belly-flop, the tail smacking the edge of the ship with a crack of wood.Zoro swam in a fast crawl and reached the sea king before it sank beneath the surface once more. With a powerful kick against the waves, he leapt from the water onto the sea king's back. His eyes slid shut and his focus narrowed. His hands flashed, his arms swinging with the same power he put behind his swords. He cut through the back of the sea king's neck using No Sword Style, as if the scaled animal hide were only as thick as a blade of grass. The sea king thrashed, sending Zoro sailing through the air. He landed with a splash and let himself sink several meters. The water churned, lashing against him as the sea king went through its death throes before it finally went still.
The felled beast started sinking rapidly. Teeth bared, Zoro chased after it, cutting through the water with a strong breast-stroke. He could feel the pressure against his ears the further beneath the surface he swam, but he wasn't about to let his prize get away. He snagged the tail with his fingertips after a burst of speed. It jerked him down a fair distance before he was able to adjust his grip. Ears aching and chest straining with the need to breathe, he kicked back to the surface.
Zoro breached the surface with a gasp and treaded water until he regained his bearings. The ship was a slight distance ahead of him. Dragging the sea king's corpse behind him, he swam back to the ship and was startled by the ladder being thrown over the side. He looked up and saw Sanji dressed in a rain slicker leaning over the rail.
"What the hell are you doing?" Sanji's voice cracked with an anger that surprised Zoro. Sanji leaned down, grabbed the shoulder of Zoro's shirt, and hauled him over the rail. "Answer me, you brainless idiot!"
Zoro flipped the sea king over the rail of the ship. It landed with a heavy slap on the deck. "Dinner."Sanji goggled at him. "Are you insane?!"
Zoro detached Sanji's grip from his shoulder, hackles raised. "Fuck off."
"What the hell is your problem?" Sanji said. "You've been acting like a moody girl for weeks and then I find you in the sea during a storm as if you have a death wish. If that's the case, I'll gladly kill you and put us all out of our misery."
Zoro didn't need this, not after he'd contemplated precisely what Sanji was offering. He turned on his heel, intending to walk away. The displacement of air warned him of danger and he caught Sanji's foot before it connected with his head. Sanji's expression betrayed a flicker of surprise when Zoro squeezed the foot until he heard the bone creak. Zoro was done with fooling around. He wanted to be left alone. He wanted Sanji out of his face, out of his head, and out of his heart.
Sanji must've read the seriousness in Zoro's expression. His jaw tightened, eyes narrowing in the corners. Between one breath and the next, he moved like lightning, body twisting up and around, using his captured foot as a pivoting point. His other foot struck the side of Zoro's head with a force that shot him across the deck and slammed him against the rail.
Zoro smiled ferally as he levered himself to his feet. Adrenaline and anticipation surged though him, as if he'd been waiting for this fight. Sanji stood with his hands curled in fists at his sides, anger and disgust written in his eyes. Zoro let loose a short chuckle and launched himself at Sanji.
Sanji pivoted, bringing up his leg for another kick. Zoro caught it and used his strength to flip Sanji onto the deck. Sanji bounced hard with a gasp of pain, but didn't hesitate to push up with his hands into a spin. Zoro blocked one powerful heel kick. The second caught him in the shoulder and he stumbled from the bone-bruising impact.
Sanji flipped up onto his feet, ripped off his rain slicker, and let the wind carry it away. Arousal pierced Zoro as the heavy rain soaked Sanji's shirt, causing it to cling to his torso. The black pants were plastered against Sanji's legs within moments, making them seem longer. Zoro gritted his teeth, angered by his own reaction. With a snarl, he threw himself at Sanji again, not holding back.
Nothing was said as the storm lashed around them, only heaving breathing and grunts of pain punctuating the brawl. Zoro's ribs were the first broken bones. Sanji's left forearm fractured blocking a punch. The slick deck made for treacherous footing as the ship rocked on the rough waters. The pirate's flag flapped harshly in the wind. Zoro's body smacked against the dead sea king strewn across the deck and he coughed up blood before jumping to his feet and charging again.
Sanji met him with a cracking kick to the sternum. Air rushed out of Zoro's lungs, before he latched onto Sanji's ankle, spun in a tight circle, and let go. Sanji slammed against the outer wall of the lower cabin and collapsed to the deck. Zoro panted harshly, bracing his hands on his thighs, watching Sanji climb back to his feet. He thought of nothing but the fight. His mind was clear of everything but the swing of his fists and the pain that bloomed with every kick he received. Blood dripped from his forehead and it hurt to breathe. Bruises purpled around Sanji's eyes.
Sanji leapt upwards, cutting through the air with a kick that sliced the raindrops. The toe of his shoe connected with Zoro's temple, sending him reeling. He crashed into the mast and dropped like a lead weight to the deck. His vision spun when he shoved up with his hands and he tried to shake the dizziness off. He bit his tongue when Sanji's foot slammed between his shoulderblades and he smacked his chin against the deck.
Bony knees dug into his lower back, as Sanji pinned him down. His wrists were tied behind him before his head stopped spinning. The repeated snick of a lighter brought the world sharply back into focus. Zoro was prone on the deck, his cheek pressed against the wet wood. The corpse of the sea king lay a short distance away. The rain beat steadily down, the sky flickering with lightning followed distantly by a low roll of thunder. Sanji shifted his weight and rational thought returned like another blow to Zoro's head.
Zoro shut his eyes and the urge to continue fighting left him as swiftly as it came. Hopelessness tasted bitter on his tongue. He hadn't lost so much as given up. It was stupid to think he could defeat his feelings with physical violence. Sanji was embedded deeply under his skin and wouldn't be leaving him alone even if he weren't around.
Zoro's wrists were freed eventually and Sanji stood. Shirt tie dangling from between his fingers, Sanji flicked his cigarette butt over the side of the ship and looked down at Zoro without triumph. "Idiot marimo," he muttered and went inside.
Zoro lay there for a while longer before dragging himself below deck through the hatch. He sank into a corner between the couch and the hull in the men's quarters. Bracing his elbows on his bent knees, he pressed the heels of his palms against his stinging eyes. "Shitty love cook," he whispered brokenly and wished he could hide from his traitorous emotions like he hid in the dark.
The injuries had mostly healed by the time the Going Merry reached another island port. Zoro didn't respond to questions about his punch-up with Sanji and Sanji would only shrug and say, "We always fight." Zoro learned everyone had been watching through the cabin windows, but Luffy had prevented them from stepping in. Zoro hated to think Luffy was perceptive enough to catch on why he'd needed to fight. Luffy didn't speak up, though, and Zoro didn't ask, and after a few days, the rest of the crew left it alone.
By the time they reached the island, Zoro had also resigned himself to the fact that he couldn't fight his feelings anymore, physically or mentally. He reluctantly acknowledged that, by some mean-spirited twist of fate, he was attracted to Sanji on more than just one level.
That didn't mean it was any easier to handle. He stood in the shadowed alley across the street from the bordello he'd found by sheer desperation. Interest grew on the borrowed money in his pocket the longer he remained outside. He was already blushing, though, and uncomfortable, knowing he'd have to ask for the back room. But he wanted to try sex again, preferably with someone who didn't remind him of Sanji. Choosing to be fucked again by another man was difficult enough without getting a complex thinking he was cheating on Sanji.
Clenching the hilt of Watou, he found his resolve and stalked across the street. People jumped out of his path, looking frightened for some reason. The fluttery laughter of women in the decorative lounge dwindled when he entered and his face heated at their stares. He turned around and almost walked right back out. The bordello matron, frothed in pink ruffles, appeared at his elbow before he could open the door again.
"Back room?" he managed to scrape out after her inquiry of service. He had a healthy respect for his fear gene, so fleeing wouldn't belittle him.The matron put him slightly at ease by merely smiling and nodding her head. "This way."
He followed her, avoiding the continued stares and behind-the-hand whispers from the women. The tension lessened from his shoulders when he passed through the doorway into the back room and saw the men sitting comfortably around a musky-smelling, smoky second lounge. His prick stirred as his eyes drifted over his choices, confirming that he did like men as bed partners. As long as no one important found out, he might be okay with it. It would provide a respite from thoughts of Sanji, at least.
Fighting his lingering fear as he verified price with the matron, Zoro picked a good-looking man with a mustache and a larger build and followed him up a set of stairs to a waiting bedroom.
Sex was more enjoyable the second time around, probably because Zoro knew what to expect. The whore had done something with his fingers, too, that made Zoro see stars. He wouldn't mind repeating either experience in the future.
Since he had money left over, and Nami would charge interest on it even if he didn't spend it, he treated himself at the public bath and then drank the rest away. He listened with half-an-ear and faint amusement to the other patrons' conversations in the tavern. He felt relaxed and somewhat content, a pleasant change from the depressive cloud that had been hanging over his head for a while.
His contentment dimmed somewhat when he left the tavern and ran right into Sanji and Nami, but not enough to spoil his mood. He caught the two huge bags of supplies that were thrown at him. "Carry those," Sanji said.
Zoro shifted the sacks over each shoulder. "Too heavy for you, wimp?"
"Why should I bother carrying them when I have a pack-mule to do it for me?" Sanji smirked at him, lit a cigarette, and hurried after Nami. "Wait for me, Nami-swaaan!"
Zoro scowled and followed.
The Going Merry floated in the shallows around the curve of a rocky shore. Nami ascended the ladder first, with a violent warning to Sanji about looking up her skirt. Zoro didn't think Sanji could see anything with hearts filling his eyes. He scoffed and tossed the sacks up onto the ship's deck.
Sanji kicked Zoro in the head. "Be careful, jackass. You'll bruise the vegetables."
"Do that again and I'll bruise the cook."
Sanji laughed mockingly as he climbed the ladder. Zoro flicked the hilt of his katana with his thumb, unsheathing it slightly. Sanji wouldn't keep laughing with a sword jabbed in his ass. Focusing on the target distracted Zoro, however, as the material of Sanji's pants clung to him as he climbed. Zoro's eyes traveled down Sanji's long legs and he felt a stirring in his groin.
"Damn it." Tearing his gaze away, Zoro scrubbed a hand over his hair. He'd thought he'd have at least a day before he got aroused again, since he'd had sex.
Blowing out a frustrated breath, he climbed the ladder and was assaulted by a head of lettuce. Two perfect halves lay on the deck at his feet in a blink. "Shithead," he growled, sheathing his katana.
"Don't mangle my food." Sanji dug through one of the sacks and started muttering to himself about dinner.Zoro picked up the lettuce and headed for the galley. He wanted to retaliate, but he also wanted dinner and knew better than to interrupt Sanji while he was planning the menu.
"Luffy! Where did you get that- that- that?!" Nami exclaimed, as Zoro stepped over the threshold to the galley. She stood behind Luffy, looking over his shoulder. Her face was bright red.
"I found it on the floor, after I knocked all the sea chests over in the men's bunk," Luffy said, seated at the table, his back to the door. Zoro could hear Robin, Chopper and Usopp in the cabin below. He dropped the lettuce in the sink and turned to see what Luffy had that made her react that way.
His stomach plummeted in horror when his eyes landed on an intimately familiar book.
"You mean it belongs to one of the crew?" Nami sounded aghast, pressing her hands to her reddened cheeks. "Who?"
"Don't know," Luffy flipped through the pages rapidly, "but there's a picture of Zoro and Sanji—"
Zoro didn't hear the rest over the hollow roaring in his ears. They know, he thought with sickening dismay. The blood drained from his face and he stumbled backwards. He bumped against the edge of the sink, jerked in unadulterated fear, and fled the galley.
He crashed headlong into Sanji, who was coming in the door. They smacked against the rail outside the upper cabin. The food in Sanji's arms sailed through the air and rained down on the lower deck. Sanji grabbed Zoro by the shoulders and shoved him away.
"Asshole, watch where you're…," Sanji trailed off, staring at Zoro quizzically. "What's wrong? You're as white as a ghost."
Zoro balked, his eyes rolling like a terrified horse. They know they know they know looped through his head and he ran again. He leapt blindly over the side of the ship, landed on the rocky shore, and kept going. A fear like he'd never felt before fueled his steps. They know they know they know they know.
A hysterical laugh erupted from his throat when he found himself back in front of the ship. The one time he wanted to get lost and he couldn't. He sank to the ground and drew his knees to his chest. They know they know continued tauntingly in the back of his mind, as he looked out over the sea. The sun glowed dusty orange as it began sinking over the horizon. The brightness caused his eyes to sting.
What was he going to do now? Would he have to leave the ship? He couldn't imagine they'd want someone unnatural sailing with them.
Footsteps crunched on the rocks and Zoro wiped his eyes on the side of his arm. He tensed, on the verge of taking flight again, when he smelt cigarette smoke. He clenched his jaw and dug his fingernails into the palms of his hands instead, keeping completely still.
A book – the book – dropped from overhead and thumped against his knees. It slid down his bent legs to nestle against his stomach. Sanji folded himself to the ground beside Zoro and let out a smoky sigh. "Idiot marimo."
"What do you want?" Zoro said tightly, wondering if Sanji had been sent to kick him off the ship. It would be fitting, in a twist of cruelty, if the one who sparked his lust for men were the one to get rid of him because of it.
"I told them it was a joke I was playing on you," Sanji said in response. The tip of the cigarette glowed orange like the setting sun as he inhaled. He stared out over the calm water, his arm draped casually over an upraised knee. "Nami-san thinks I'm horrible, now, so you'd better appreciate it."
Zoro didn't know whether to be relieved or more horrified. "Why do you think it's mine?" he tried to fob off. "It's probably Usopp's. You know he likes to draw."
Sanji snorted. "I don't think we're his favorite subject."
Zoro felt the color rising in his cheeks. "I—"
"I know, Zoro," Sanji interrupted and he turned his head to meet Zoro's eyes. "Only a certain kind go into the back room."
Mortification and fear washed over Zoro again. He looked away.
"The picture of us certainly explains why you've been acting oddly the past couple of months." Sanji exhaled another puff of smoke, which curled past Zoro's nose. "I hope you know I don't feel that way about you."
"Yes," Zoro managed to say, in spite of the crushing weight on his chest. His eyes started burning again, his vision blurring. It suddenly hurt to breathe.
"Good." Sanji rose and his shoe scraped against the rock as he crushed his cigarette butt. "We're raising anchor soon. I'll see you back on the ship."
Zoro listened to him walk away, his throat tightening painfully. A drop splattered on the edge of the book in his lap, followed by another. Zoro squeezed his eyes shut and beat back the feelings threatening to overwhelm him. Hadn't he promised himself never to get close to anyone after Kuina? He and Sanji weren't close, but hope had formed in the shadows of his heart that they might be someday.
"Stupid," he whispered raggedly. "Stupid, stupid, stupid."
He rubbed his arm furiously across his damp eyes, grabbed the book, and threw it as hard as he could. It soared end over end through the air before landing with a splash in the sea. It floated on the surface for a moment, as the sun glittered in the background. Then, a large fish jumped up and swallowed it whole.
"ZOOOORROOOO!" Luffy's yell echoed in the air, scaring a flock of gulls into flight.
Zoro closed his eyes again and searched to center himself. His secret was safe and knowing for certain that Sanji didn't return the attraction would make it easier for Zoro to deal with, eventually. He wasn't one to suffer futilely – at least, not for much longer.
Exhaling heavily, Zoro stood, straightened his shoulders, and headed back to the ship, leaving behind the tattered pieces of his broken heart.