"Luffy, put that back!"
"But I'm hunnngryyyy."
"Robin-chwan, let me help you carry that."
The main hall of the Mayor of Yuleton's manor bustled with activity. Snowy footprints melted on the navy carpeting as the sleigh outside was filled with supplies. A row of skis and poles stood waiting in the rack beside the heavy wooden front door. Gold busts and ornate vases perched on pedestals glinted in the bright sunlight shining through the leaded glass windows. The winter island chill swept through the open door into the white stone halls, making the fire snap in the large cobalt fireplace.
Sitting near the bottom of the grand staircase, leaning with his legs outstretched and back against the marble rail, Zoro attempted to get in one more nap before they left. He'd already packed: he was wearing his winter coat and his katanas were tucked in the curve of his arm. Unlike the others, with their gifts of books, food, tools, and other supplies, and the bounty of toys they'd won, Zoro had arrived with nothing and he'd leave with nothing.
Zoro's side ached when he shifted, calling him on his lie. He was leaving with several holes in his body, right beneath his ribs, where a crazy elfin bastard had shot him with a hunting rifle. Kristoph Kringele and his deranged crew had terrorized Yuleton for years, forcing the townspeople's children to work in his factory. Not providing him with "little helpers" had resulted in a midnight visit that left the entire family turned into snowmen, dead by Kringele's Devil's Fruit powers.
The Straw Hat crew had put a stop to that, freeing the children and Yuleton from Kringele, but not without some scrapes and bruises. Luffy suffered from frostbite and Chopper had a broken hoof. Nami's black eyes made her look like she wore a mask. Sanji's bandaged right hand hid an unknown injury, which he refused to say how he got. Robin and Franky had both escaped with only a few cuts and rusted bolts.
Zoro was glad to be leaving. The constant cheer and gift giving from the locals was grating on his nerves. He was tired of the cold, too. Yuleton was perched on the topmost peak on the mountainous winter island. It snowed daily, anywhere from a light dusting to an all-out blizzard. The alpine homes were built to withstand the weather and were quite cozy and warm, but Zoro wanted to be on the Sunny again in his weight room.
"Oi, moss-for-brains." A toe-nudge to the shoulder woke Zoro up right as he was drifting to sleep. He opened one eye and glanced up at Sanji, standing above him on the steps. "Strap your skis on. It's time to go," Sanji said, as he buttoned his short black coat with creamy fur at the cuffs, collar, and hem. Blinding orange earmuffs covered his ears, his tinted ski goggles pushed up on his forehead.
"Finally," Zoro grunted, climbing to his feet. He yawned and stretched, then slid his katanas in the loop on his haramaki and fastened his coat. The long black trench, with a white placket down the chest, bore a crossed-off emblem of Wapol's defeated forces from Drum Island on the sleeve.
The cold nipped at Zoro's nose when he stepped outside the manor. Nami, Usopp, and Chopper sat bundled in their winter gear in the front of a scrolled green and gold sleigh, with Nami holding the reins leading to two massive gray mountain horses. Franky was holding onto Luffy's hooded collar, preventing him from taking off downhill on his skis. Robin adjusted the gloves on her hands, her ski poles dangling from her wrists.
"We're sorry to see you go," Mayor Klause said. Buttons near bursting on his bright red coat, the white-haired old man stood beside his portly, apple-cheeked wife, along with a good portion of the manor staff outside to see them off. "You're all welcome to stay as long as you like."
"It's nice of you to offer, but the log pose has set and we really need to
get back on our way," Nami said.
Zoro scoffed silently as he strapped on his skis. Nami had probably stolen the treasury from under Klause's nose and wanted to leave before anyone noticed it was missing.
"Farewell, then," Mayor Klause said, "and safe travels!"
"WAHOO!" Luffy shouted as he suddenly sprang free of Franky's grip and went sailing over the edge of the hill.
"Luffy!" Nami yelled, snapping the reins. "Wait for us before you get loooaaahhhhh!"
The horses leapt forward and into a gallop at full speed, yanking the sleigh behind them. Chopper and Usopp's screams of terror joined Nami's as they disappeared from sight. "AAAAHHHHH!!!!!"
Franky snapped his goggles over his eyes and posed for his audience. "Yow! It's been SUPER."
As Sanji bowed over one of the maid's hands, he gave Franky a kick in the ass, sending him skiing on his way. "Mademoiselle, I apologize for any extra work we might have caused such a delicate lady as yourself."
Rolling his eyes, Zoro tugged his black cap over his head, gripped the ski poles, and pushed off. A horse-trodden path wound back and forth down the mountain to the coast. But Luffy hadn't taken the safe route, instead cutting straight down the snowy mountainside, yodeling with glee. The others stretched out in a jagged line behind him.
Mountains filled the horizon as far as Zoro could see, with snowcapped peaks glittering in the afternoon sunlight. Cold-weather pines stood in tall patches, ice gleaming on their blue-gray needles. The sharp wind slapped Zoro's cheeks and stung his eyes. Robin smiled at Zoro as she passed him, swishing expertly down the steep slope. She skied through the wide shape of a sleigh with a reindeer and a long-nose silhouette cutout in a mound of snow.
Gentle snowflakes fell from the few fluffy clouds drifting in the blue sky. Zoro glanced behind him, thinking Sanji would've caught up by now, but saw that Sanji was nothing but a speck of black further up the mountainside. Stupid love cook probably had to kiss all the girls before leaving.
A branch smacked Zoro's cheek, making him jerk his head around. "Shit!" he yelped, swerving abruptly to avoid a head-on collision with a pine tree. His arms windmilled from over-adjusting, one ski coming off the ground. Another branch swatted him on the other side of his face, surprisingly making him regain his balance. He swished and swerved again, tucked down fast, and ducked under a half-fallen tree trunk. Why the hell had Luffy gone this way?
Zoro wove through the trees, listening to the tinkle of ice breaking when his arms brushed the pine needles. He couldn't see the others ahead of him due to the tall, thick pines. He hadn't run into an overturned sleigh, either - a bonus, because he really didn't want to spend extra time in the cold resetting and repacking it.
Shaggy brown reindeer with large racks of horns looked up from feeding when Zoro skied past. Zoro wondered if they were relatives of Chopper's. He wiped his runny nose on his sleeve and cheered up when he saw the trees thinning. He broke free from the clump of forest into an empty field of white.
The ice shelf stretched in front of Zoro. The sunlight reflected blindingly against the unbroken snow. The slope of the mountain flattened somewhat before dropping sharply again. Zoro shielded his eyes with his bare hand and squinted, but he couldn't see Luffy, Robin, Franky, or the sleigh. Maybe they'd gone over the drop already.
Bending over, Zoro unsnapped the fastenings and stepped off the skis. He had about a hundred yards before the drop and he sucked at cross-country skiing. Cross-country skiing was dumb, anyway. Jogging got a person just as far just as fast. Skis in one hand and poles in the other, Zoro trekked across the snowy shelf, dreaming about drowning himself in hot cocoa when he got back to the ship.
The crunch of skis stopping sharply was the only warning he received before a spray of snow hit him from behind. Zoro glanced over his shoulder. "About time you caught up."
Sanji lifted the tinted goggles from his eyes. "I would've caught up faster if you hadn't gone the wrong way, dumbass."
"There's only one way to go and that's down," Zoro said, "and that's the way I've been going."
Sanji snorted and jerked his thumb towards the left. "The ship is in that direction."
Crap. Zoro hated when things moved on him. Embarrassment made him indignant. "You still have to go down to get there."
"Idiot marimo," Sanji said, amused, and turned up the fur collar of his coat against the chill. "If I hadn't seen you ski off into the trees, who knows where you would've ended up."
"Whatever." Zoro turned and stomped in the direction Sanji had pointed. Sanji's chuckle made Zoro's hand itch to draw his katanas. Sanji would have a hard time blocking with skis on his feet.
The wind kicked up, creating snow devils on the flat ice shelf. Sanji's skis shushed across the snow as he moved fluidly cross-country, catching up with Zoro. A newly lit cigarette dangled from his lips, smoke mixing with his visible puffs of breath. The square goggles were back in place, making him look like more of a moron than he was already. Zoro pulled his hat down further over his ears and smiled innocuously when Sanji had to duck the swing of his ski poles.
"Bastard," Sanji said, whapping Zoro behind the knee with his own ski pole in retaliation.
"Perverted dartbrow." Zoro corrected his balance and smacked Sanji's ass with the flats of the skis in his hand. The startled look on Sanji's face was priceless. "Heh!"
"Now, who's the perv-" Sanji cut off abruptly as a fracturing noise rifted the air. Zoro stared as a jagged fissure sped along the surface of the snow right between them. The fracturing grew louder and the ground vibrated beneath Zoro's feet.
Zoro lifted his chin, met Sanji's eyes, and they exclaimed simultaneously, "Shit!"
The ice shelf splintered with a tremendous CRACK. Zoro dove to the right and Sanji leapt to the left. The shelf split where they had been standing, the divide widening as snow and ice crumbled into the gap. Zoro clawed at the ground as it began giving way beneath him, scrambling to pull himself onto a solid surface. Then he was scrabbling at nothing but air. The last thing he saw as he fell into the cleft was his skis and poles lying a safe distance away.
"Zoro!" Zoro heard Sanji's alarmed yell. He bit down a bark of panic as he went plummeting, surrounded by falling chunks of ice and mounds of snow. Wind rushed past his ears. The cracking of the rift echoed around him. The band of blue sky above him narrowed the deeper he fell.
Impact crushed the air from his lungs and blacked his vision. His body screamed. Snow and ice kept falling, burying him beneath the wet, heavy cold. He clung to consciousness by a thread, stubbornly refusing to go under. If Sanji had fallen, too, he'd need help...
The shelf stopped breaking as abruptly as it started, entombing Zoro in silence. Zoro's head swam and he couldn't get his limbs to move. Pain radiated ferociously in his legs and chest. Clumps of snow partially covered his face and froze his skin. It hurt to breathe.
"Zoro. Zoro." Gloved hands brushed the snow from his face and he blinked open his eyelids. A blurry Sanji leaned over him and cupped his cheeks. "Answer me, damned marimo."
"You hurt?" Zoro wheezed, trying to get his eyes to focus clearly.
"I'm not the dumbass who fell into a hole in the earth." Sanji's voice was tight as he started unburying Zoro. "I jumped down after-" He stopped speaking suddenly with a harsh intake of breath.
"What is it? What's wrong?" Zoro struggled to lift his aching head. He'd smacked it pretty hard when he'd landed. "Stupid cook, if you're really hurt-"
"Don't move," Sanji said sharply, and Zoro could see why. Neck straining, he stared at the three-foot tall spike of ice that had speared through his right leg at the juncture of his hip and groin. Crimson blood stained the crystalline spike and bits of cloth and skin stuck to the severed tip.
Sanji kept working at getting the snow off him and cursed quietly. "Your other leg is dislocated, too."
Zoro dropped his head back in the snow and stared blankly at the crest of blue sky far, far above him. Now he knew why his legs were killing him. "That's not good."
"No shit," Sanji said, and without warning, snapped Zoro's left leg back into its socket.
"Aah-nngh!" Zoro slapped his fist over his mouth and bit down on his knuckles, smothering his cry. The fact that his arms seemed to be back under his own power didn't make up for the vicious pain in resetting his dislocated hip.
"You get shot, stabbed, and sliced nearly in two, but a little dislocated hip has you crying like a baby." Sanji tried, and failed, to cover his worry with the jibe. Zoro couldn't retort, anyway, without giving away how badly he hurt.
From the corner of his eye, he watched Sanji strip off his coat and gloves and unbutton his shirt. Sanji shivered when the cold hit his bare skin. He finished removing his shirt and quickly re-donned his coat. He tugged his ski goggles off his face and shoved them in a pocket.
"You should go and get Chopper," Zoro said when he'd regained control over his voice.
"He's probably at the ship by now." Sanji tore his pale green shirt into strips. "If you hadn't gotten lost like usual, he might have been close enough to fetch." Rising to his feet, Sanji walked around to Zoro's right side and eyed the ice spike sticking through Zoro's leg. "I'm going to have to break this to get you free."
"Do it," Zoro said. He clamped his teeth over his knuckles again and braced himself.
It was a useless gesture. Sanji spun and kicked low and the ice shattered. Zoro howled in agony as the base of the spike shuddered inside his impaled leg. Sanji lifted him off the broken spike and Zoro's eyes rolled back as he dropped into unconsciousness.
Zoro wasn't sure what drew him back into consciousness. He thought he'd heard an indignant female shout, but when he opened his eyes he was still at the bottom of the crevice. Snow was falling. A figure in black - Sanji - leapt into Zoro's line of sight and nimbly landed on something sticking out of the sheer wall, a good distance up. Sanji used whatever it was to propel higher and towards the opposite side of the crevice, where he stabbed something into the ice. He hung for a moment and then dropped down to the ground again.
Zoro heard the familiar sound of a katana being removed from its sheath and he jerked upright reflexively - a mistake, as excruciating pain licked through his body. He crashed back into the snow with a choked cry.
"Oi, stupid, don't move." Sanji was at his side in an instant and placed a hand on his chest, trying to keep him still. He squeezed Zoro's arm. "I'll get you when we're ready to leave."
Zoro didn't know if he nodded, but Sanji left. He could taste the blood on his tongue from biting his inner cheek as he fought to suppress the pain. Tears stung the corners of his eyes when he opened them again. He blinked them quickly away.
Sanji was back with three empty sheaths in his hand. "What did you do with my swords?" Zoro croaked.
"They're fine," Sanji said, sliding the sheaths into his belt. . "I tied up your leg as best as I could, but you're still bleeding pretty badly. Try not to die on me."
"Pft, as if I'd let myself be killed by ice."
"Hn." Sanji took a final drag of his cigarette and flicked the butt away. He put on his ski goggles but the tint failed to hide the anxiety in his eyes.
Zoro gasped in agony when Sanji picked him up. A couple of ribs must've gotten broken, too, and they stabbed at Zoro as he lay over Sanji's shoulder. He clutched the hem of Sanji's coat and tried not to pass out again. It was difficult, as he was jostled when Sanji leapt from the ground to the rungs his makeshift ladder. The anger helped when he saw that his swords were being used as the rungs.
"Fucker," he panted when Sanji laid him in the snow on the frozen plain. The wind whipped fiercely. Sanji adjusted Zoro's hat, pulling it snugly over his ears. Dark, tumultuous clouds mottled the sky, encroaching quickly on the sun. Heavier snow fell on Zoro's upturned face. "You better not have damaged my swords."
"As if I would." Sanji took a step back and vanished into the crevice. Zoro's gut clenched in fear for a moment, thinking Sanji had fallen. Then, Sanji flipped out of the fissure with three katanas in his hands. He slipped the blades into the sheaths at his side.
Sanji strapped on his skis, looped the ski poles around his wrists, and waited for Zoro's nod before picking him up again. Zoro gnawed on his lower lip, fighting the searing pain. Arm secure around Zoro, Sanji pushed off.
Skiing was less bumpy than walking would have been, saving Zoro additional agony. Passing out again helped, too. When Zoro came around, he had no idea how long they'd been traveling. The temperature had dropped and snot was frozen on his face. He felt numb from the cold, alleviating some of the pain. His bare hands were blocks of ice. The wind whistled sharply. Zoro tilted his chin up and looked around. Thick snow created a white out, obliterating the ski tracks within a less than a meter. Sanji skied slowly, with long slides.
Zoro thumped Sanji on the lower back and raised his voice to be heard. "Where are we?"
"Somewhere in the fucking woods." Sanji's aggravation was clear.
"Are you lost?" Zoro laughed and his cracked ribs punished him for it.
"I am not lost! You're the braindead moron who'd gotten lost. I was getting us back on track and this damned blizzard kicked up. Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!"
Sanji skied to a stop, cussing virulently. Since Zoro's view was consisted of either snow or Sanji's ass, he had no idea what was wrong. "What is it?"
"We're on a mountain, what do you think it is?" Sanji snapped. He shivered hard, jolting Zoro. Zoro hissed in pain. Sanji stepped sideways in the skis, changing their direction. "Fucking rocks. Fucking blizzard. Fucking cold."
For Sanji to be this pissy, things must be pretty bad. Zoro figured he'd better keep his mouth shut and let Sanji concentrate. He shivered as the wind cut through his coat. He had to bite down on his lower lip when he body screamed with hurt. He felt like a wuss for letting a little fall injure him so badly.
The blizzard swirled around them, the wind shrieking with laughter as Sanji skied on. Snow pelted the exposed nape of Zoro's neck. His bare fingers were stiff and unbendable, the tips of them an unhealthy dark blue. He couldn't feel his legs at all anymore. Each breath chilled his lungs and he was getting so tired...
The crack of wood splintering jerked Zoro awake. He pried his heavy eyelids open as the wind suddenly stopped pummeling him, but he couldn't lift his head. Sanji's bootsteps thudded on hard floor. Sanji crouched and then Zoro was falling backwards, off Sanji's shoulder. Sanji's arm around him cushioned his landing.
Zoro looked blurrily at Sanji in the dim light. "Chopper- where's-"
"We're not on the Sunny." Sanji adjusted Zoro so he was lying flat. Wood screeched as Sanji dragged whatever Zoro was on several feet across the floor.
"Shut up and let me get us warm."
Zoro closed his eyes again as Sanji banged and thumped around. He dozed off, not waking again until Sanji smacked his cheek. "The fuck-"
"Drink," Sanji said, lifting Zoro's head. The rim of a mug was pressed to Zoro's lower lip. Steam warmed the underside of his nose.
Zoro parted his lips and drank. Hot, spiced cider burned his tongue and his throat. It was the best thing he'd ever tasted. "More," he mumbled, as the liquid heat began seeping through his veins. Sanji pressed another mug against his mouth and he gulped the cider greedily.
He finished with a belch and Sanji snorted derisively and gently lowered Zoro's head. "Ill-mannered ape."
"Hn." Zoro dragged open his eyelids by force. He was lying on a frameless bed. Orange-yellow firelight danced along the beams of a vaulted ceiling. He rolled his head and saw a roaring fire in a stone fireplace a few feet away. His katanas sat on the mantle. A kettle hung on a steel rod over the fire. "Where are we?"
"In some kind of hunting cabin," Sanji said, a cigarette trapped in the corner of his mouth. He sat on a slatted wooden chair beside Zoro, still bundled in his coat but sans earmuffs and goggles. After setting the second mug on the floor by his feet, he stripped off his gloves and took Zoro's closest hand. The bandage around Sanji's palm felt like a band of cold against Zoro's skin. A fierce frown creased Sanji's brow. "Wonderful. Like you need frostbite on top of everything else."
"Why aren't we back at the ship?"
"Blizzard. Lost. Freezing my nuts off," Sanji said, tugging his glove over Zoro's right hand. "You bleeding to death. Take your pick."
"M'not dying." The glove was still warm from being on Sanji's hand and it felt wonderful. The heat from the fire was soaking through his coat. Zoro shifted his shoulders and winced at the ache in his side. "How long will we have to be here?"
"Until the blizzard dies down, at least." Sanji fitted the other glove on Zoro's left hand and then began unbuttoning Zoro's coat.
"What are you doing? It's cold!" Zoro protested, swatting ineffectually at Sanji.
"Hold still and let me check your injuries." Sanji pinned Zoro's arms. He leaned over Zoro, his concern unhidden, even though he said, "Chopper will skewer me on his horns if I don't take proper care of you."
Embarrassment that he needed to be cared for washed over Zoro. "Since when do you care what Chopper thinks?" he muttered, but stopped fighting.
"I haven't cooked him yet, have I?" Sanji opened Zoro's coat and poked gently at Zoro's side. "How're your stitches?"
"Fine, I guess," Zoro said, moving to touch where he'd been shot. His ribs hated him for it and he grunted in pain. "Cracked a couple ribs, though."
"Don't move around then, stupid." Sanji took a drag on his cigarette and ashed in an empty mug. The cigarette trembled minutely. "How about the legs?"
"Can't feel 'em," Zoro admitted. He didn't allow it to scare him.
"Probably a good thing," Sanji said, unknotting the shirt tied around Zoro's upper right leg, where the hip met the thigh. Sanji eased his leg up carefully and removed the makeshift bandage. Blood stained the pale green material deep crimson, crusted in spots from the cold. Sanji tossed it in the fire and picked up a serrated knife from the flotsam around his feet.
Zoro blinked a couple of time. "You're not going to cut my leg off."
"Idiot marimo. Of course not." Sanji slid the knife under the waistband of Zoro's trousers and slit the pant along the outside of Zoro's leg, down to his knee. He set the knife aside and peeled back the material. The face Sanji made at Zoro's exposed injury wasn't a good one.
"How bad is it?" Zoro said, craning his neck.
"I'm not a doctor." Sanji busied himself abruptly with the stuff on the floor. Zoro took that as a very bad sign and let his head fall back on the bed. Terrific.
"Here, you might need this." Sanji shoved a bottle of sake at him. Zoro fumbled to take it, his fingers not yet completely thawed. He clasped it between two gloved hands. Sanji tossed a rag over his shoulder and picked up a spool of catgut thread with a long needle sticking out from the top.
Zoro grasped the cork between his teeth, yanked it out of the bottle, and spit it aside. Lifting his head, he guzzled the sake, uncaring that he spilled on his chin.
Sanji took a deep drag on his cigarette, exhaled slowly, and met Zoro's eyes. "Ready?"
"Just don't sew my dick to my leg."
Sanji snorted and the tension in his shoulders relaxed somewhat. He bent over Zoro's leg. "Not like you know how to use it anyway."
"You only imagine that you use yours good- rrrrhhnn." Zoro clamped his jaw tight as Sanji blotted his leg with the rag. The numbness from the cold was fading.
"A gentleman never kisses and tells." Sanji moved the cigarette from one corner of his mouth to the other. "Whereas a eunuch like you has nothing to tell."
"Felt like Mayor Klause was always watching." Zoro gulped down more sake, eyes tearing as Sanji made the first few stitches down the inner junction of his thigh and hip. The pull on his skin hurt like a bitch. "But I didn't become a eunuch. You can see that."
"Yes, your big, manly balls are getting in my way." Sanji moved Zoro's package to the left and the surprise intimate touch made Zoro jump.
"Nnnghhh!" Spikes of agony radiated outward from the injury and he crammed his fist in his mouth. "Nnck!"
"A virgin, then," Sanji's tone remained steadily mocking. A distraction for him, Zoro knew, and he appreciated it.
Zoro kept his eyes squeezed shut and spit glove material from his mouth. "You know I'm not a virgin."
"Sleeping with livestock doesn't count."
"Is that an insult to me-" Zoro panted through the pain as Sanji shifted his leg, "-or to you?"
"Simply because a lady might resemble a bovine does not mean she is one."
Zoro laughed and then winced. "Don't make me laugh, bastard."
"Drink your sake. I have to turn you over," Sanji said, wiping the rag against Zoro's inner thigh. "You're starting to bleed heavily again now that you're warming up."
Zoro drank most of the bottle and then shoved it at Sanji. "Hurry up, then."
Sanji set the bottle on the floor, stood, and slid his hands beneath Zoro's shoulder and ass. The ash from his cigarette dangled precariously from the tip. Apology flashed across his features before he lifted and pushed.
A jagged cry tore from Zoro's throat as his weight shifted. Red flashed across his tightly closed eyelids, followed by black, followed by nothing as unconsciousness overtook him once more.
Zoro woke to the wind rattling a windowpane. Disoriented, he stared blankly at the beams and vaulted ceiling until his mind woke, too. Falling. Blizzard. Cabin. Shit. Zoro rubbed his eyes, the gloves scratching his lids. A yawn cracked his jaw as he dropped his arm to his side and looked around. Sanji was slumped in wooden chair close beside the bed, sound asleep. His hand was clenched in the blanket covering Zoro's arm. Lines of worry creased his forehead and around his mouth. He'd shed his coat and was wearing a creamy wool pullover shirt that stretched tautly across his chest. Zoro figured the shirt belonged to whoever owned the hunting cabin.
The fire still blazed warmly in the fireplace, with cut cords of wood piled beside it. Zoro's gaze traveled over the knotty pine walls and the two rifles hanging from hooks. Dull light came through a single window lined with frost. The blizzard still raged outside. Beyond his blanket-covered feet, he could see a crude table sitting in a small kitchen area. A pantry and bucket-sink with a single drawer formed an L-shape in the corner with a stove and icebox. A second chair wedged under the door handle braced the door closed. An axe leaned against the wall beside it. Two coats, one with bloodstains and rips, hung from a pegboard on the other side.
The sake he'd drunk was making itself known and he started to sit up to find the toilet. "Son-of-a-BITCH!" he yelped as excruciating pain ripped through his body. He crashed back onto the bed.
Sanji leapt to his feet, knocking the chair over behind him. He dropped into a defensive stance, his bloodshot gaze whipping around the cabin. He apparently realized it was Zoro and not the marines striking because he cursed, "Damned marimo. Don't yell like we're under attack."
Zoro's response was a grunt as he panted harshly through clenched teeth. He'd thought he'd hurt yesterday. Fuck. It was like getting a papercut as compared to right now.
"Here." Sanji slid his hand behind Zoro's shoulders, eased him up a little, and held the sake bottle in front of him. "There's some left."
Zoro grabbed the bottle and poured the rest of the sake down his throat. He coughed from drinking too fast, spitting some out of his mouth. He gripped the empty bottle tightly and pressed it hard against his forehead. "Ungh."
"Baby," Sanji mocked with no real taunt behind it. "Can't take a little pain."
"Shut up." Zoro dashed his hand over his damp lashes and clamped down on the pain. He hated being injured. At least Sanji knew better than to coddle him.
Sanji removed his support from behind Zoro's shoulders, took the empty bottle, and set it on the floor. He flipped the blanket off Zoro.
Zoro lifted his head slightly to see why it was suddenly chilly. "What'd you do with my clothes?"
"Burned them." Sanji checked the bandages wrapped snuggly around Zoro's chest and upper right thigh. He pulled the blanket over Zoro again, took Zoro's hand, and tugged off the glove. "How's your frostbite?"
"It's fine," Zoro said. The bandage on Sanji's palm scratched Zoro lightly as he cupped Zoro's hand. He rubbed each of Zoro's fingers, examining the tips. Zoro almost felt like he was blushing at the tender touch.
Sanji checked Zoro's other hand. "You're fine."
"That's what I just told you." Zoro stuffed his hands beneath the blanket. After all this time, Sanji could still affect him with a simple touch.
Righting the chair, Sanji yawned. The lines on his face hadn't eased and the redness of his eyes meant he'd been awake all night. Zoro dropped an arm over his eyes and sighed unhappily. He didn't apologize for making Sanji worry; Sanji would get defensive and pretend that he didn't give a shit about Zoro at all.
Zoro scratched his right foot with his left toe and cursed silently when even that tiny action hurt like hell. He still had to piss, too, but the thought of moving again made him hold it. When Sanji brought a mug of fresh, hot cider to him, he suddenly couldn't wait any longer. "I gotta piss."
"Okay." Sanji set the mug on the chair and wandered away again. He came back a moment later with a piss pot. "There's an outhouse, but it'd be better not to budge you until you really have to go."
Zoro took the pot, feeling heat climb up his cheeks. He had to piss in a freaking pot, in bed. Like a weakling.
Sanji went back into the kitchen and began banging around with an uncustomary amount fervor in preparing breakfast. Zoro did his business, set the pot on the floor, dropped his arm back over his eyes, and resolved never to be injured again.
Cold and snow blasted through the door as Sanji hurried inside after being gone a bit. He shoved the door closed behind him, wedged the chair beneath the handle - he'd broken the locking mechanism to get in - and cursed the weather. Snow clumped on his shoulders and dampened his hair. He stomped snow from his boots and shucked his coat.
"How bad is it out there?" Zoro asked, shivering from the icy gust that had accompanied Sanji back inside. He tugged the blanket higher over his bare shoulders.
"Can't see any further than a few feet," Sanji said in response. A frown creased his brow, as he brought the emptied piss pot back over to the bed and slid it partway under. "I hope the others aren't caught in it."
"You said they'd be back at the ship. The Sunny'll protect them." Zoro shivered again.
Sanji's frown shifted to him. "Why are you shivering?"
"Because I'm cold, you stupid cook," Zoro said. "You took all my clothes."
A corner of Sanji's mouth crooked, a spark of humor coming to life in his eyes. "I was doing the world a favor."
Zoro scowled at him. "Just find me something to wear."
"I think there's a dress in here that's your size." Sanji opened a trunk that Zoro hadn't noticed before. The trunk sat where the bed had been until Sanji had moved it closer to the fireplace. Sanji's creamy wool shirt pulled tightly across his shoulders as he rummaged in the trunk. Instead of the dress, he unearthed a blue and thin black striped button-down shirt, a pair of white boxers, and thick white socks.
Sanji placed the clothes on the chair, flipped the bottom of the blanket up, and carefully lifted Zoro's right foot. "Shit! Your hands are cold!" Zoro gasped.
"Cold hands, warm heart." Sanji grinned rottenly. It erased the lines from his face and Zoro suddenly felt the tension he hadn't known he'd been holding in his shoulders ease.
"Evil heart's more like it," Zoro said, struggling to sit up. He bit off a curse.
"Don't move, dumbass," Sanji said. "I don't need you tearing your stitches and bleeding all over the place again."
Zoro dropped back onto the bed as Sanji slid the socks on his feet. Zoro felt pathetic being unable to do such a simple task. He hated being injured. "When can we get out of here?"
"I don't think we should chance it until the blizzard lifts," Sanji said. He grabbed the boxers and worked them carefully up Zoro's legs, nudging the blanket aside as he did. "Visibility is for shit and lugging your ass around makes for slow going."
"Strap me to a pair of skis and push. I'll be fine," Zoro said, and then hissed painfully when Sanji had to lift him to slide the boxers over his ass. The stitched juncture of his inner thigh felt like it was on fire.
"I might, if we had a second pair of skis," Sanji said, though the look on his face called Zoro a moron for suggesting it. "Yours are in a crevice somewhere up the mountain with the rest of your brain."
Sanji pushed up the right hem of the boxers and rechecked the bandage secured around Zoro's thigh. Then, he adjusted the blanket over Zoro's lower body and picked up the shirt. "Arms out."
"I can do it myself." Zoro grabbed for the shirt, but Sanji was just out of reach and the movement made Zoro's body scream.
"I told you not to move," Sanji growled at him. He began fussing with the bandage wrapped around Zoro's ribs. "Damned, stubborn swordsman."
Zoro dug his teeth into his lower lip, nostrils flaring, as he rode through the agony. It subsided much too slowly for his liking.
"All right?" Sanji said after another minute.
"I'm fine," Zoro said shortly, embarrassment replacing the pain. He lifted his arms with a jerk and Sanji slid the sleeves over them. The shirt was upside down and backwards and Zoro stared quizzically at it. "You're putting it on wrong."
"No, I'm not. Raise your arms above your head."
Zoro raised his arms as told, careful of the pull of his cracked ribs. The shirt was now above his head, his arms trapped in the sleeves. Sanji adjusted the sleeves and then pulled the shirt down behind Zoro's head. Oddly enough, the hem of the shirt and the buttons were facing the right direction now.
Slipping one hand beneath Zoro's shoulders, Sanji lifted gently and tucked the shirt down behind his back. He lowered Zoro back onto the bed, tugged at the hem of the shirt until it reached Zoro's waist, and then buttoned it. The cotton was worn and smelled a little musty, but it was warm and soft and perfect for sleeping. Zoro yawned in sudden tiredness. He slept a lot when he was injured, enabling his body to recuperate.
"I'll have food ready when you wake up," Sanji said, smoothing the collar of the shirt. His knuckles brushed Zoro's jaw. "Get some rest, marimo."
"Hmm," Zoro hummed and closed his eyes.
Within moments, he was asleep.
Zoro slept most of that day and the next, waking to eat and piss and endure the humiliating experience of having to use the outhouse. Sanji had to pull down his boxers and put him on the toilet seat - which had been freezing! - and then put everything to rights again before carrying him back into the cabin. Zoro's coat, tied around his neck like a cape, hadn't helped to keep him from freezing on the trip.
"Is this damned blizzard ever going to end?" he groused, sloshing his hand with the hot cider that Sanji gave him. The midday light shone dully through the frosted window, snow swirling turbulently beyond the glass. The dishes that they'd eaten from were piled beside the sink, waiting to be washed.
"It lightened up last night," Sanji said, "but it was too dark to go anywhere. This is a new storm."
Zoro glowered into his mug. "Stupid winter islands."
Sanji made a sound of agreement as he gently lifted Zoro's right leg, hooked Zoro's knee in the crook of his elbow, and unwound the bandage. Zoro's ribs had stopped protesting sitting up and he was propped against a pillow-mound of wadded clothing Sanji had taken from the trunk. It would be the first time Zoro was able to see the damage the ice spike had done to his leg.
Blood stained the white of the bandage as Sanji reached the end. He dropped the bandage on the floor and bent closer to examine the wound. Zoro winced when he saw it. His leg had been torn clean through at the crotch. Three inches to the left and he really would've been a eunuch. The flaps of skin were ragged and raw, stitched together in catgut crosshatches. The stitches ran down the crease of his swollen thigh, disappearing under him to continue on his ass. Blood oozed sluggishly between the stitches. Bruises painted ugly red, purple, and blue patterns around the wounded area. The injury felt angry and inflamed. He knew the muscle was ripped to shreds and hoped it didn't take ages for it to heal.
Sanji lifted Zoro's leg a bit higher to check the stitches on his ass, making him grunt. Sanji didn't make a reassuring face. "We're going to have to get the swelling down. Hopefully, it's not infected." He squeezed and flexed his own bandaged right hand before picking up one of the fresh bandages he'd tossed on the bed and wound it snuggly around Zoro's upper thigh.
"You're good at this," Zoro said, staring at the crown of Sanji's head.
"I've lived on a ship all my life, moron. You learn how to doctor your own." Sanji fetched the bucket from the sink and went outside for snow. Zoro drank his cider and berated himself for being weak. He'd let ice defeat him.
The fire snapped and crackled from the wind that blew inside as Sanji opened and closed the door. After wedging the chair back under the door handle, he stuck the bucket in the sink, dug out a pair of socks from the trunk, and filled one of them with snow. Tying off the ends, he brought them over to the bed and laid it over Zoro's bandaged thigh.
"Fuck, that's cold!" Zoro's leg jolted and he cursed more at the hurt.
Sanji laid the blanket over Zoro's legs and took Zoro's empty mug. "I won't leave it there long. Just try and keep still."
"Easy for you to say," Zoro muttered as Sanji retreated to the kitchen. Then, he closed his eyes, fought back the waves of pain coming from his leg, and ended up falling back to sleep.
When he roused again, the cabin was dark save for the firelight. Sanji sat angled back to the fire, leaning on two legs of the chair, his sock-clad feet propped on the bed beside Zoro's arm. He had his nose in a book and a mug in his hand. A smoldering cigarette was caught between two fingers.
"Hey," he said.
"Hey." Sanji glanced up at him. "How do you feel?"
Zoro's thigh was no longer cold and he felt much better than he had earlier after more sleep. "Better." He pushed upright a bit and dragged a hand over his face. "How late is it?"
"Late," Sanji said, shutting his book. He dropped his feet and leaned over to put both the book and mug on the floor.
Zoro shifted on the bed and winced. He was already sick and tired of being injured. "I want to leave tomorrow."
"Only if the weather cooperates," Sanji said.
"We can't just sit here," Zoro said. "The others are probably worried about us."
"But they're smart enough not to go out in a blizzard searching for us."
Zoro knew Sanji was right. "I hate this."
"I know you do." Sanji took a final drag on his cigarette and flicked the butt in the fireplace. Then, he shifted from the chair to the side of the bed, slid his fingers into Zoro's hair, and closed the distance between them.
Zoro's eyelids fell shut at the warm touch of Sanji's lips. He hadn't known that he needed this until now. He brought his hands up to clasp Sanji's shoulders, the tatty wool of the shirt soft beneath his palms. Sanji tasted like tobacco and cider and what Zoro wanted home to be.
"Idiot marimo," Sanji murmured against Zoro's lips, but Zoro heard Don't scare me like that again. Zoro made the promise to try with his kiss.
Desire lit swiftly, like a match to Sanji's cigarette. Sanji's hand tightened in Zoro's hair. He angled his mouth to kiss Zoro more deeply. Zoro ran his fingertips along Sanji's shoulders to his neck and stroked the rapid pulse fluttering under his skin. Zoro's cock twitched and filled. Fuck, he wanted Sanji.
Sanji sucked on Zoro's lower lip as he pulled away. The firelight sharpened his profile and lust cast its shadow over his face. He stood and unbuckled his belt. Pushing down his trousers mid-thigh, he fisted his flushed cock with his left hand, stroking it to full hardness.
Zoro's mouth watered. Sanji gave him a slow, sultry smile. He pushed his shirt up, exposing his taut abs, and knelt on the edge of the bed at Zoro's side. His cock was stiffened with blood, veins visible running along the shaft. Zoro twisted carefully, wrapping an arm around Sanji. He knocked Sanji's hand away, replaced it with his own, and slipped his lips over Sanji's cock.
Sanji exhaled noisily, his fingers immediately carding through Zoro's hair. The familiar action made Zoro's cock throb. He knew exactly what Sanji liked and pressed his mouth against his fist as he stroked and sucked. The rounded head of Sanji's cock bumped against Zoro's palate the deeper he took it. The heat and life pulsing between his lips made him drool. He enjoyed doing this; the musky smell, the salty taste, and the trust in the act made it worth it.
He glanced up from beneath his lashes. Sanji was watching him with heavy-lidded eyes, chewing on his lower lip to keep quiet. His fingers in Zoro's hair tightened and released with every bob of Zoro's head. Zoro's cock ached to be touched, rubbing against the cotton of his boxers with each twitch.
Sanji's hips jerked, a sign that he was about to come. Zoro kept a steady pace, understanding why it was over so quickly. It had been freaky at the Mayor's place, like Klause would know if they got up to something naughty. Consequently, they hadn't had sex since they'd reached Yuleton. A noisy slurp sent Sanji over the edge with a grunt and grimace. Zoro drew back a little, pumped with his hand, and swallowed Sanji's release.
Zoro licked his lips and grinned at the wasted expression on Sanji's face, as if Zoro had sucked his brain right out of his cock. Another reason why it was such fun giving him blowjobs. Sanji came back to himself in increments and finally cuffed Zoro. "Get that insufferable look off your face."
Zoro grinned wider. "Make me."
Sanji fixed his trousers, sank down on the bed beside him, and flipped back the blanket. He palmed Zoro's crotch, which pulsed beneath his touch. "Try not to move too much," Sanji warned, "or this will be over fast for all the wrong reasons."
"Get on with it already," Zoro's voice was tight with need and he pushed at Sanji's shoulder. Sanji took the hint, freed Zoro's erection through the slit in the boxers, and stroked several times before bending over Zoro's lap.
Zoro cursed when Sanji's mouth closed around him. He grabbed the sides of the bed and stiffened, trying not to thrust. Sanji's mouth was hot and wet and he did something with his tongue that made Zoro pant with unchecked pleasure. Sanji knew exactly what to do to set Zoro on fire and Zoro lasted hardly any time at all. He moaned low and long, and came with a hard shudder.
"Ow," he half-laughed, half-choked in pain.
Sanji wiped his mouth with his sleeve. "You get to explain how we aggravated your injury to Chopper."
Zoro dropped his arm over his damp eyes and smiled. "Bastard."
At the burst of cold, Zoro glanced up from the book he was reading. Sanji nudged the door shut behind him with his foot, his arms loaded with newly split cords of wood. Snow melted on his coat as he carried the wood over to the fireplace. Daylight filtered through the frosted window. The blizzard had lightened, but not enough for Sanji to want to chance it.
"Being able to see for ten feet instead of three doesn't make it any less stupid to go out there."
Zoro had agreed reluctantly, more because he'd have to be carried again and wouldn't be any help if they got trapped somewhere.
"Ow, fuck," Sanji swore quietly and grabbed his right hand.
"What's wrong?" Zoro said.
"Nothing." Sanji went back to the door, wedged the chair in place, and removed his coat. Zoro watched him cradle his bandaged hand close to his body as he went to the sink.
"What'd you do to your hand?"
"I told you, it's nothing," Sanji said tersely, his movements jerky as he unwound the bandage. The water in the bucket sloshed.
Sanji was as good as Zoro was about getting injured. "Let me see it," Zoro said, putting the book aside.
"Don't be a stubborn jackass. Let me see."
"It's not worth seeing."
Sanji''s shoulders dropped at Zoro's tone. He blotted his hand with a dry rag, retrieved a fresh bandage from the hunter's medical box, and came over to the bed. "It's not a big deal," he said, sitting down. He tossed the bandage on Zoro's lap.
Zoro cupped Sanji's hand and smoothed open his fingers. His eyes widened slightly when he saw Sanji's palm. "Not a big deal?!"
"It's just irritated," Sanji dismissed, digging in his trouser pocket for his cigarettes.
"Shit, Sanji." Zoro stared at the raw, stitched slice across Sanji's right palm. Some of the stitches had torn and the wound oozed yellow puss. "How did it get this bad? Chopper wouldn't have left it this way."
"Someone had to chop wood and you're fucking useless."
Zoro looked sharply at Sanji. Sanji turned his head with a huff of apology. He pulled a cigarette from the pack with his lips, stuck the pack back in his pocket, and took out his lighter.
"What'd you do to it in the first place?" Zoro brushed his thumb lightly over the calluses under Sanji's fingers.
Sanji glared in the direction of the fireplace instead looking of at Zoro - a sign that he was more pissed with himself than the person who'd done this. "That Jakov Fraust and his fucking ice skates caught me by surprise."
Fury welled fast and hot in Zoro. That asshole had hurt Sanji's hand. "I hope you ripped him a new one."
Sanji lit his cigarette. "I took care of him."
Zoro picked up the bandage and began wrapping Sanji's hand. "Good."
Sanji retreated to the kitchen and iced his hand after it was bandaged. For some reason, Zoro's mood soured as the day grew long. His leg trapped him in bed, hobbling him like a waste of flesh. He was completely weak and worthless, both now and then when he should've been protecting his own. His self-loathing must've bled through, because Sanji had given him one of his swords without him even saying anything.
He worked his arms until they ached and then pushed through the searing pain as he did what legwork he could while lying in bed. Sanji called Zoro an idiot to his face, but didn't stop him. After an early dinner, Zoro nodded off from exhaustion.
A nightmare plagued his sleep. He was strapped to a bed beneath a blanket, unable to move, as a blizzard roared around him. Shadows of figures kept flashing into sight, the sounds of battle raging against the wind. He strained against his bonds. He needed to help. He couldn't bear to let anything happen to-
The wind whipped hard and sent the blanket flying. He stared in horror at the torn stumps of his legs and arms. A scream of agony tore his eyes from the hideous sight of his body to witness a severed hand thud into the snow beside the bed, a stitched line across its palm.
Zoro woke with Sanji's name caught in his throat and his heart pounding in his chest. Firelight highlighted the ceiling beams of the darkened room. Sanji was half-singing, half-humming a dirty song on the other side of the cabin. Beneath the blanket, Zoro patted his arms and a relieving pain shot through his right leg when he lifted both. He swallowed down the lingering fear.
Pushing up on his elbows, the sight that greeted him erased the nightmare completely. Sanji stood naked in front of the sink, the orange-yellow glow of the fire flickering over his pale skin. Water trickled from a rag scrubbed against the back of his neck, shiny wet rivulets sliding down the slope of his spine, fanning outward to curve around his narrow hips and slip over the taut swell of his ass.
Zoro licked his suddenly parched lips. Sanji propped his foot on the edge of the sink and Zoro could see the shadow of his balls hanging between his thighs. Shifting his weight to one elbow, Zoro pushed his hand beneath the waistband of his boxers and wrapped his fingers around his firming shaft. He stroked as Sanji ran the rewetted rag along the length of his bent leg. He lowered his right leg and lifted the left to repeat the washing. Droplets of water caught in the crook behind his knee that Zoro desperately wanted to taste.
Sanji set his left foot on the floor again and the rag sloshed in the bucket. "...I asked the sum when she pinched my bum... hmm-hmm, hmm-hmm, hmm..." He caught Zoro watching when he turned to pick up the towel sitting on the table. His mouth curved in one corner. "When did you wake up?"
"Not soon enough," Zoro's voice was rough as he traced his gaze down Sanji's damp body. His hand stroked faster, pre-come slicking the tip of his cock.
Sanji ran the towel over his skin as he walked towards the bed. A tiny frown creased Zoro's brow. "Is that my shirt?"
Sanji stopped beside him and held out the shirt he was using to dry off. "Do you want it back?" he said with a devilish smile.
Drops of water beaded on Sanji's sharp collarbones and pooled in the shallow dip between them. Shadows deepened the lean lines of muscle that defined his chest and abdomen. Moisture matted the dark blonde hairs that arrowed down from his navel and spread over his groin. His cock lifted and filled under Zoro's hungry stare.
"You can have it," Zoro rumbled. "Just get down here."
Sanji dropped Zoro's shirt on the floor and flipped the blanket off. His eyebrow twitched upwards. "Starting without me, huh?"
"Can't help it," Zoro didn't stop stroking his cock, "when you look like that."
"Pervert," Sanji whispered as he bent down to kiss Zoro.
Zoro hummed his agreement into the kiss. Sanji's lips were chapped from the cold weather. Zoro's mouth parted and he sucked on the tongue that slipped inside. Sanji slid his hand behind Zoro's head, holding him captive, taking control. Zoro gave over easily; a fight he gladly lost to Sanji.
In his hand, his cock throbbed and ached. He stroked haphazardly, his mind unable to focus on the task. His lips were plundered without heed. Desire coursed through him, familiar and wanted. Sanji stole more than his breath with the kiss.
Sanji's nimble fingers on his free hand unbuttoned Zoro's blue and black shirt. His palm was warm when he pressed it against Zoro's bared chest, stroking along the raised scar. Zoro's hips jerked reflexively and he grunted at the flash of pain. Sanji drew back from the kiss. "Don't move, idiot."
"I'd like to see you try it."
"Is that a bet?"
"No," Zoro said swiftly. To make it a bet, Sanji would have to be hurt, and the thought soured Zoro's stomach.
Sanji bruised a short kiss on Zoro's mouth before climbing carefully over him. Kneeling up, Sanji hooked the waistband Zoro's boxers beneath his balls and nudged Zoro's hand out of the way. Zoro took the hint, moved his grip to Sanji's erection, and stroked.
"Yeah," Sanji murmured, and braced on an elbow beside Zoro's shoulder, not putting any weight on him at all. Leaning over Zoro, he began working his uninjured hand over Zoro's cock and Zoro silently thanked him for being ambidextrous. "Zoro...."
"Hn." Zoro found his rhythm, matching Sanji stroke for stroke. He watched the play of firelight on Sanji's face and burned under the heat in his eyes beneath the fringe of his hair. Pressure built as fast as always, Sanji's touch inflaming him like a blaze under his skin. He came with a stuttered gasp, pulsing over Sanji's fist.
Sanji lowered his head and kissed Zoro hungrily. Zoro's racing heart didn't slow as he descended from his climax. He jacked Sanji's cock in the firm circle of his grip until Sanji tore his mouth from Zoro's with a moan, scrunched his eyes shut, and came, release painting wet lines on Zoro's abdomen.
Zoro watched the flush on Sanji's face slowly recede. When his breathing steadied, Sanji pushed up on his knees, scratched his belly, and gave Zoro a smile that never failed to curl his toes. After a playful flick to one of Zoro's exposed nipples that made Zoro curse sensitively, Sanji climbed off the bed without jostling Zoro too much. He made a beeline for his clothing piled on the table and the cigarettes in the pocket.
Zoro dragged a finger through the come on his belly, pleasantly sated.
Sanji returned fully dressed and carrying the bucket. He set the bucket on the chair and moved the chair within Zoro's reach. He picked up Zoro's shirt from the floor and laid it over the back of the chair.
"You're not planning on bathing me," Zoro said it as a statement, rather than a question.
Sanji snorted smoke from his cigarette. "Do I look like a girl?"
He helped Zoro undress, though, and removed the bandages from his leg. He checked Zoro's injury with a careful eye. "Don't scrub your stitches off."
"I'm not stupid."
"Telling yourself that doesn't make it so." Sanji wandered back into the kitchen and rattled around in the pantry.
Zoro found out the washrag Sanji had been using was Zoro's bandana and he grumbled as he washed with the lukewarm water. The swelling had gone down around his wound, but it still hurt like a son-of-a-bitch and the bruises splotching his thigh and groin looked like a rainbow had vomited on him. He used his white shirt to dry off and then slid the blue and black buttondown back on. "What was the weather like last time you were out?"
"Better than before. If we're lucky, it'll clear up by morning." Sanji carried a bottle of rum and a plate of snacks and set both on the mantle. He took the bucket back to the sink, dumped the water, and hung the bandana and shirt over the edge of the sink to dry.
After re-bandaging Zoro's leg, Sanji aided him with a fresh pair of white boxers and stuck the socks back on his feet with another rotten grin. "Aho cook," Zoro said with a false scowl.
"Heh." Sanji went over to the mantle and brought the food and alcohol down to the bed. "Play some cards?"
"Sure." Zoro popped the cork on the bottle and drank. The rum warmed his belly. Sex capped with alcohol, the combination for a perfect night.
Sanji fetched the playing cards he'd found in the trunk. They'd played the night before, with Zoro trouncing Sanji thoroughly. Zoro had known a rematch was in the offing. Losing was something neither of them tolerated.
"Hello, lovely ladies," Sanji said, untying the string around the deck. It was another reason why Sanji wanted to play again: the cards had sketched pictures of floozies on them.
Zoro shook his head and ate a cracker off the plate. Sanji swung his leg over the chair, shuffling the cards as he sat. A log snapped in the fireplace. Sanji dealt five cards a piece, using the empty spot on the bed between them as a table.
Zoro looked at his cards. The ladies were just as unattractive as they were the last game. Sanji had no taste. "I'll take two."
Sanji dealt him two new cards for his discarded ones. He discarded three of his own. "I'll take three." Sanji's lips turned down minutely in the corners when he saw his new cards. It was a good thing they were playing for the best hand and not for money. Sanji's face was an open book to Zoro. "What do you have?"
"Two pairs, kings over fours."
Sanji scowled and snatched the cards from Zoro's hand. "You win."
Sanji lit a cigarette before dealing again. Zoro had been accused of cheating on his deal too many times to care. He looked at his cards. "I'll take one."
"Only one?" Sanji looked at his own cards and grumbled, "I hate this game."
"Then why are we playing?"
"Shut up. I fold."
"We could play a different card game."
"I'm going to beat you at this one."
Zoro ate another cracker to hide his smile.
Sanji took a swig of rum, shuffled the cards, and dealt.
"I'll take three."
"I'll take three. What'd you get?"
"Three of a kind."
"I'll take one."
"I'll take one."
"I am not."
"You are. You have cards up your sleeves."
"I'll roll them up then. See?"
"Shut up. Pick up your cards."
"I'll take four."
"I'll take two."
"Two pair, aces over kings."
Despite Sanji's non-existent poker skills, Zoro didn't win all of the hands, since the game was by luck of the draw. Zoro ate more food, polished off the rum, and rolled his eyes at Sanji's winning antics.
"My sweet, sweet ladies. Thank you for blessing me with your loveliness," Sanji cooed over his cards before tucking them in the deck and shuffling again.
"Your slobber is making the cards wet," Zoro said.
Sanji shot him an evil eye, flicking his spent cigarette butt into the fireplace. "I do not slobber."
"You do, like a dog." Zoro crunched another cracker. "I'm surprised you haven't jacked off all over the cards yet."
Sanji folded his hands over the cards and clutched them to his chest. "Such crude words in front of such delicate flowers."
"Delicate flowers, my ass. Are we even using the same deck of cards?"
Sanji dealt. "You simply don't have any appreciation for beauty."
"I know beauty," Zoro said, picking up his cards and making a face at them, "and it definitely isn't this."
"You get a hard-on looking at swords," Sanji said. "So your opinion doesn't count for much."
Zoro laid his hand out. "One pair."
"Oh, my ladies have deemed to give me a straight." Sanji showed Zoro his cards and then looked at his cards again with a foolish smile. "My adoration for you all has no bounds."
"Stop falling in love with the cards, you perverted dartbrow, and deal."
Sanji claimed Zoro's cards and shuffled. "Just because you have a heart of stone doesn't mean the rest of us do."
"My heart is not stone." Zoro adjusted the crappy cards he was dealt. "I just don't waste my time on love like that. Three cards."
Sanji didn't call his own number or deal new cards. Zoro glanced over at him. His head was bowed, the curtain of his hair hiding his face, as he looked at his cards. "They're not going to start taking off their clothes no matter how much you want them to," Zoro said.
Sanji cleared his throat. "Right. One card." He dealt the new cards, looked at his, and laid the hand down. "I fold. I gotta take a piss."
Zoro hadn't even had a chance to look at his cards. He shrugged and dropped the cards on top of Sanji's. Sanji's chair scraped against the floor as he pushed it back and went for his boots. "Want me to deal this time?" Zoro said.
"No. I'm getting bored," Sanji said, stuffing his arms in his coat. He moved the second chair out from beneath the door handle and left the cabin.
Zoro stared quizzically at the closed door. Huh. That was weird. Maybe Sanji wanted to quit while he was winning. Or the rum and snacks had done a number on his stomach. Zoro gathered up the cards, snorted derisively at the pictures, and tied the string around them.
Sanji was gone for a long time. It definitely had been the food and drink then. Zoro didn't comment on it. "You want to do something else?" he said instead.
"No." Sanji took the mostly empty plate and bottle to the kitchen.
Zoro figured he'd do some more training if they weren't doing anything else. His katana leaned against the opposite side of the bed and he drew Wadou from her sheath. He sat up as straight as he could, forcibly ignoring the pain in the crease of his right leg, and began a repetition. "One... two... three... four..."
"Keep your counting to yourself. I'm going to sleep," Sanji said shortly when he came back. He folded himself into a blanket and spread out on the floor in front of the fire.
"I can stop," Zoro said, frowning deeply. "Why would you want to sleep down there?"
"I''m tired of being cramped in that small bed with you." Lying on his side, Sanji pillowed his head on his arm.
Zoro continued frowning, but went back to his modified routine. He kept silent count, even though Sanji lay staring at the fire for a very long time, not sleeping.
"Here." Sanji shoved a plate of food at Zoro before going back into the kitchen. Zoro glowered at Sanji's back. Sanji had been snippy all morning, and the trip to the outhouse had been more humiliating than previously with Sanji's cutting remarks. Zoro was beyond annoyed with him.
Zoro ripped a piece of hardtack with his teeth and chewed viciously. At least they were getting out of there today. The sun was out with a sprinkle of snow clouds. Sanji was packing away the items they'd used in the trunk, minus the blanket and the clothing Zoro still wore.
A growling roar that shook the window disrupted the tension in the cabin. Zoro snatched up his katana from beside the bed as Sanji went directly for his boots. Sanji glanced out the window while putting on his coat.
"What's out there?" Zoro said.
"Polar bear." Sanji unblocked the door and left the cabin.
"Hell." The polar bears on the island were the size of Franky's ego. Zoro threw off the blanket and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. His other two katanas were on the mantle. He clamped Wadou between his teeth and pushed up to his feet with a grunt.
He didn't put any weight on his right foot, but his upper thigh still ached severely where it was stitched. It pissed him off. Four days should've been more than enough to heal. He'd have to train even harder to prevent this from happening again. He shifted Wadou to his hand, gritted his teeth, and hopped.
Picking up only Kitetsu, Zoro changed directions and hopped over to the window. The wood floor was cool beneath his sock-clad foot. The sun bouncing off the fresh snow nearly blinded him as he peered outside. Sanji's black-clad figure stood out vividly against the white. The deepness of the snow hampered Sanji's movements, but that didn't stop him from kicking the enormous polar bear's ass.
The polar bear's growling roar sent snow sliding from the roof of the cabin, blocking Zoro's view momentarily. When he could see the fight again, Sanji was nowhere to be seen, but the polar bear was wobbling on his hind legs. Then, Sanji exploded from behind a mound of snow beneath the polar bear with a leap and a kick that knocked the polar bear clear off its feet and a good distance from the cabin. Sanji went after it and the two vanished down the crest of a hill surrounded by tress.
Zoro knew Sanji didn't need any help - he hardly ever did - but that didn't stop Zoro from being ready to give it. He didn't relax until Sanji was heading back to the cabin.
"What are you doing up?" Sanji said tersely when he saw Zoro. He went directly into the kitchen and opened the single drawer.
"Protecting your back," Zoro said.
"I don't need your help. Ever." Sanji shoved the drawer closed and headed out the door again, a large knife in his hand.
Zoro blew out a short breath. He could feel a physical altercation brewing between them.
Hopping away from the window, he laid his katanas down on the table in the kitchen. His repaired trousers and shirt lay folded on the chair Sanji had placed back at the table. It was about time he put on his own clothes.
Cold air buffeted his bare legs and slipped up his boxers when Sanji re-entered the cabin. Zoro stood balanced on one leg, trying to figure out how he was going to get his trousers on. "Will you sit down before you fall on your damned face?" Sanji snapped.
Zoro clenched his teeth. "I''m fine."
"Stupid, dumbassed, shit-for-brains-"-" Sanji's not-so-quiet muttering ended with a sharp curse when he seized the handle on the bucket in the sink. "FUCK!" He yanked his bandaged hand back and clutched it against his chest.
"What did you do?" Zoro hobbled over to him. "Is it your palm?"
"What the hell do you think?" Sanji jerked his shoulder from under Zoro's hand. "Piss off and go sit down already. I can take care of it myself."
"What the fuck is your problem?" Zoro said, fist clenching at his side.
"Why the fuck do you care?"
"Stop acting like a damned girl-"
"I'm not acting like a girl!" Sanji shouted, whipping around. His face was red with fury and something like pain. "I'm acting like a man who loves you. But you don't want me to waste your time telling you that."
Sanji grabbed the bucket, stormed past Zoro back outside, and slammed the door behind him.
Zoro stared at the door. What the hell had that been about?
Then, his mind put two and two together, and he got: "Aw, fuck."
Zoro and Sanji fought all the time, but it was rarely this serious and Zoro never felt as badly as he did now. "I didn't mean you were a waste of time," he tried to apologize when Sanji came back inside with a bloody knife and a bucket of meat in his hands. Zoro sat slouched at the kitchen table, leg outstretched to ease the ferocious ache in his thigh.
Sanji stood stiffly at the sink, his back to Zoro, drying his washed hands.
"Don't mock me, asshole," he ground out, "or there will be
one less swordsman to feed on the ship."
He stalked back out of the cabin and slammed the door behind him again.
Zoro banged his forehead on the table with a curse. He wasn't stupid, but that didn't mean he didn't say stupid things. He couldn't blame Sanji for overreacting. He'd thought Sanji had known that Zoro loved him, just like he knew Sanji's feelings for him. But since neither of them had ever said anything...
Zoro sighed disgustedly. He was an idiot and an asshole. And now he had to figure out a way to undo the mess he'd caused. He'd get his ass kicked if he tried to use sex. It was doubtful Sanji would come close enough, anyway, and Zoro was at a disadvantage with his injury. Sanji wasn't a woman no matter how pissy he got, so overtures of flowers, sweets, or trinkets were out once they got back to the ship. Maybe if Zoro took him to some fancy-pansy restaurant the next time they docked? But who knew when that would be and Zoro wanted to fix things now, before Sanji decided there was someone better out there to love.
Zoro scowled fiercely. Like hell he'd give Sanji up to anyone. There had to be a way make things right. Maybe if he made a list of all the reasons why he loved Sanji, the stubborn mule would forgive him.
Zoro scratched his chin. That wasn't a bad idea. Sanji was a romantic twit, though normally only towards women. Still, he'd probably like it if Zoro made a fool of himself doing something ridiculously sappy like that. He'd get to rub it in Zoro's face and forgive Zoro at the same time. A win-win situation.
Zoro found a pencil in the drawer beneath the sink, but the only paper he located was a blank page in the back of one of the books. He tore it out and returned to the kitchen table. Sanji was still outside taking care of the polar bear carcass, but he'd probably be back shortly. Zoro didn't have much time.
Zoro pushed his folded pile of clothing out of the way with his katanas and set the torn page on the table in front of him. He put the tip of the pencil to the paper. "
“This is so stupid,” he said, as the door opened and closed with a rush of cold air. The sudden breeze made the page take flight. It fluttered down to land at Sanji’s feet as he headed past the table for the sink.
Sanji stopped before he stepped on it and picked it up. “Do you want this?” he said shortly.
“No.” Zoro tossed the pencil into the pile of clothes. “It’s for you anyway.”
"What is it?"
"It's a list of the reasons why I love you." Zoro regretted it the moment his said it, as Sanji's face lost all emotion.
"The page is blank," Sanji's toneless voice gutted Zoro. Zoro knew by Sanji's reaction that his response cut deeper than any sword.
Zoro flapped his hand at the page, trying to explain what he'd meant. "It's a waste of time doing something like that."
Sanji's mouth twisted in a sneer. "And we both know you don't want to waste your time."
"Damn it." Zoro was fucking up royally. He was going to lose Sanji for good if he didn't do something. He saw his katanas on the table, grabbed Wadou and sliced across his forearm beneath his rolled up sleeve.
"What the fuck--"
Dropping the katana, Zoro swiped his fingers through the blood and held up his hand. Crimson smeared his fingertips. "This is you. You're in my blood. You're in my bones. You're in every breath that I take. Without you, I would cease to be."
Sanji stared wide-eyed at Zoro. Then, he jerked his head to the side, his hair hiding his face, and said in a thick voice, "You moron. Now I have to stitch up your arm."
Zoro pushed out of the chair, limped forward, and grasped Sanji's hand. His blood smeared on the page clutched in Sanji's grip. "Do you understand how much I love you? I've loved you for a very long time-"
"Shut up. Just shut up," Sanji sounded almost desperate. He wrapped his hand behind Zoro's neck and kissed him long and hard.
Relief filled Zoro. He clutched Sanji's arm and kissed back with everything he had. Their tongues tangled, breaths intermingling. Sanji's lips moved roughly against Zoro's, sliding back and forth,
pressing firmly, taking, craving, needy. Zoro's fingers curled in the material of Sanji's coat sleeves, drowning in emotional want, mouth bruising with responding passion. He never wanted the kiss to end.
Sanji broke away first. He rested his forehead against Zoro's, breathing raggedly. "Dumbass marimo," he said.
Zoro smiled at the clear love he heard in the insult. He slipped his hands between them and tugged at the buttons on Sanji’s coat. “We done fighting?”
“If you weren’t such an insensitive lout, we wouldn’t have fought to begin with,” Sanji said. His lips curved as he watched Zoro’s hands. “At least, not about this.”
“Heh.” Zoro wrapped his fingers around the opened edges of Sanji’s coat and ignored the sharp pull of his stitches when he took a step back towards the bed. Sanji saw his minute wince, though.
“I told you to sit down,” Sanji said, curving an arm around Zoro’s waist. He led him across the cabin.
“Yeah, yeah.” Zoro sank gratefully onto the bed, swung his legs up, but snagged Sanji’s wrist before he stepped away. He looked up at Sanji with desire in his eyes and in his heart. “Stay with me.”
The invitation was misunderstood, but Zoro didn’t care. Because Sanji’s smile was slow and tender, and he leaned down, cupped Zoro’s chin, and whispered against his lips, “Always.”
"Just put him right there and tell me what happened," Chopper instructed, motioning to the infirmary bed. He began taking things out of the medical cabinets and laying them on the counter.
The Straw Hat crew had been glad to see Zoro and Sanji's return. It took them less than an hour to ski from the cabin to the coast. As they boarded the Sunny, Nami had informed them they were going to give it one more day before sending out the search party. Luffy insisted he'd known all along that nothing had happened to them. "You wouldn't be nakama if you weren't strong."
Franky was setting sail with Robin and Usopp's help. In the galley, Luffy was drooling over the meat Sanji had brought back with them, with Nami smacking him every time he got too close. Sanji had carried Zoro through the galley to the infirmary. He lowered Zoro from his shoulder onto the bed, unbuttoned Zoro's coat, and got out of the way.
"Stupid here fell in a hole and landed on some pointy ice," Sanji said, sticking his gloves in his pockets, along with his earmuffs and ski goggles. He unbuttoned his coat. "His right thigh got pretty torn up. Of course, then he insisted on training."
"Sanji's hand is infected," Zoro retorted. Neither of them mentioned the fact that the not-so-gentle sex they'd had before leaving the cabin had aggravated the injuries. "And I'm not going to let some pussy wound--"
He cut off abruptly, choking on his tongue upon seeing what Sanji had been wearing under his coat. Sanji had been wearing the coat already when he''d woken Zoro up from his post-coital nap, saying that they had to leave before it got dark. Groggily, Zoro had put the buttondown shirt on without thought and Sanji had helped him into his trousers and boots. He'd known that Sanji had taken the katanas, but he hadn't known Sanji had also taken Zoro's clothes.
Sanji wore Zoro's white shirt tucked into the green haramaki around his waist. The dark bandana was tied around his arm. The three katanas sat at his hip in their loop. Swordsman Sanji.
Zoro was instantly, ferociously aroused.
"Sanji- - you --" Zoro tried to speak and failed utterly. He was probably drooling.
"Hmm?" Sanji glanced down at what Zoro was staring at, his coat dangling from his fingers. "Oh this?" He plucked lightly at the shirt. "Well, my shirt was torn up and I didn't want to take what we didn't have to."
Zoro gibbered silently. The things he wanted Sanji to do to him wearing that outfit...
Chopper climbed up on a stool beside the bed. "Let's take a look at your injuries, Zoro," he said, reaching for the waistband of Zoro's stitched trousers.
"No!" Zoro squeaked, grabbing his waistband with both hands.
"Oh! Are you in pain?" Chopper scrambled off the stool and over to the counter. "I'll give you something for that."
Zoro glared at Sanji. "Bastard."
Sanji smiled devilishly, knowing exactly what kind of pain Zoro was in. "Don't worry," he said over his shoulder as he sauntered out the door, "I'll put this back on once you're healed."