The Gift

The bitterly cold wind bit through Sanji’s heavy coat the moment he set foot outside. He’d have to buy Franky extra cola for his foresight in enclosing the crow’s nest. Mid watch and morning watch used to be the worst duties when the weather was bad.

Flicking his spent cigarette over the rail of the Thousand Sunny, Sanji secured his thermos of coffee in the folds of his coat and swung up into the rigging. When he reached the crow’s nest, his benumbed fingertips pushed open the hatch gratefully. Not even Zoro’s face greeting him as he climbed inside dampened his happiness to be out of the winter chill.

“My watch, marimo,” Sanji said, setting his thermos on a low table. He shed his coat and draped it on the bench seat curving beneath the panoramic windows. Zoro’s weights were put up, the area neatened.

Zoro rose from his lounging position on the bench seat. “‘Bout time,” he said around a yawn, stretching his arms above his head.

“Hn.” Sanji poured himself coffee from the thermos. Heat seeped through the cup, warming his frozen hands. As he sipped the hot brew, his eyes swept over the empty sea. The darkness made it difficult to see far, the heavy cloud cover blocking the normally bright starlight.

“Hey, uh, Sanji?”

The hesitant entreaty surprised Sanji. He turned to find Zoro hovering near the closed hatch, where Zoro’s coat had been discarded on the floor. Zoro hadn’t put his coat on to leave. Instead, he stood with his hands behind his back, looking almost nervous – which had to be a trick of the dimness. In all the time Sanji had known Zoro, nervousness wasn’t something Zoro had ever displayed.

He seemed to be nervous now, though, raising a hand to rub at the back of his neck. Sanji felt a stirring of emotion at the unknowingly vulnerable gesture. The crisp pleats of newness still starched their relationship and, at times, Sanji floundered with the feelings he’d developed for Zoro. It made him alternately want to kick Zoro’s ass or kiss Zoro senseless. Sometimes, he did both.

Zoro’s jaw tightened suddenly, and Sanji prepared for an ass-kicking night. He shifted his balance to the balls of his feet as he casually took another sip of coffee.

But Zoro surprised Sanji again. With a clipped, “Here,” Zoro thrust, not a sword, but a package in Sanji’s direction.

“What is that?” Sanji asked, staring, dumbfounded, at the package.

“Just take the damned thing,” Zoro said, closing the distance between them to shove the package into Sanji’s hand.

Sanji glared at Zoro as he nearly upset the coffee. “Watch it, asshole.” Sanji set the cup down on the table and examined the package. Long, skinny, and weighty, it was wrapped with crumpled, scribbled-out charts and a lot of string. “You still haven’t told me what this is.”

Zoro folded his arms and glowered. “It’s your birthday, isn’t it? What the hell do you think it is?”

Zoro was right; it was Sanji’s birthday, since it was after midnight. Sanji wasn’t sure how to respond. “You’ve never given me a gift before,” he said uncomfortably.

Zoro cut his gaze away, his glower deepening. “I didn’t like you before.”

Warmth bloomed in Sanji’s chest and spread up his neck and over his cheeks. He felt awkward, too, all of a sudden, and wanted Zoro to leave. The paper on the package crinkled as he clutched it tighter. “I don’t like you now.”

Sanji watched as anger washed over Zoro. “Fucking bastard,” Zoro growled. He swiped for the package. “Give it back, then.”

“No!” Sanji jumped back out of reach. The back of his legs bumped against the bench seat and he caught his balance before he fell on his ass.

Zoro stared incredulously at him at his vehement reaction. Embarrassment added to the heat in Sanji’s cheeks. “You can’t give someone a gift and then take it back, shithead,” Sanji tried to keep some bite in his tone and failed spectacularly.

“And you can’t say ‘thank you’ like a normal person.”

“I haven’t opened it yet.”

“Argh!” Zoro dropped his head in his hands and pulled at the short green strands of his hair with a sound of frustration. “You make me insane.”

“Yeah, well, you’re making me—” Sanji clamped his lips shut before he could finish his sentence.

Zoro glanced between his palms at Sanji. “I’m making you what, cook?”

Fall in love with you, Sanji answered silently, and jerked his gaze away, letting the curtain of his hair block Zoro from sight. Fuck. He wasn’t ready for this.

Zoro didn’t let him hide for long. He took the package from Sanji’s loose hands, set it on the bench seat, and cupped Sanji’s chin. Sanji forced challenge into his eyes, daring Zoro to press the issue. But Zoro didn’t press, which actually made it worse because Sanji had no excuse to push him away.

The wind whistled against the windows of the crow’s nest. Zoro searched Sanji’s face, looking for something unknown. Then, with an almost inaudible, vexed sigh, Zoro brought his lips to Sanji’s.

The sizzle of attraction was immediate, but so was the comfortable familiarity of the kiss. If it didn’t lead anywhere, Sanji wouldn’t mind. Zoro’s lips were chapped, but still soft. Sanji slid his mouth against Zoro’s, a gentle back and forth that titillated and also showed as much affection as he was willing to admit.

Zoro curved his arms around Sanji’s waist, pulling him closer. He broke the light kiss and rested his forehead against Sanji’s. Sanji’s fingertips wrinkled the material of Zoro’s white shirt. He could feel the steady beat of Zoro’s heart beneath his hand.

“Happy birthday, idiot,” Zoro said, his warm breath ghosting across the tip of Sanji’s nose.

It was another gift, but Sanji had no trouble responding this time. “Thank you.”

Zoro snorted softly, his arms tightening briefly around Sanji’s waist. “Asshole.”

A smile tugged at Sanji’s lips. Maybe he was a little more ready than he’d thought.