It began as a crack prompt that I posted to Tumblr one day because it was funny. Within a few minutes, the idea began to take root. An hour later, I had drawn a shitty comic for it (that will never see the light of day, because it sucks). By the next morning, zo-ro-roronoa on the Tumblr had written this really, really wonderful oneshot for it that just made my heart melt and left me squealing like the obsessive fangirl that I am as I laid in bed. But, no matter what, the idea just wouldn't leave me be.
So, here it is. My version of the Fibonacci AU.
Please find zo-ro-roronoa's here: www (d0t) fanfiction (d0t) net /s/10092688/3/Prompts-and-Drabbles
Go and read it. It is awesome.
This fic is rated M.
I do not own One Piece.
"So, did you make any new discoveries during the break?"
Robin was so soft spoken that it was hard to hear her over the roar of her Jeep's engine, especially with the passenger window open, but Zoro heard the question anyway. He always heard her when she spoke, not that he always listened. This time, he chose to ignore her, focusing instead on the patterns the fence posts on the roadside made as they whipped past the windows in a near blur. He could have easily calculated how many inches they were apart based on the seconds between each whoosh as the car engine sounds bounced off of the wood and back at them, but he had been advised against those sorts of things. He didn't really feel like doing it anyway. After so many months spent cooped up inside of a room talking to professionals who used big words and asked even bigger questions that still had no meaning, Zoro just wanted fresh air and silence…and maybe his favorite chalkboard.
Robin, being the perceptive woman that she was, took her friend's nonverbal hint and fell silent, letting the road noises envelope them. It was this very quality that had allowed the woman to become one of Zoro's very few friends. She never pressed or pried, but she could hold her own against him and his intellect. She was one of a very limited number of people that actually took the time to understand him beyond the unusual brilliance that kept others at bay. He cast her a sidelong glance, hoping that she wouldn't notice, but knew for certain that she would. Robin could see everything. Zoro smiled slightly at the thought. He had been distrustful of her when they had first met, but she had expertly broken down those barriers over time.
"What's so funny?" asked Robin, never taking her eyes from the road.
Zoro's smirk fell away. He still didn't feel like talking. "Nothing."
Robin hummed and smiled softly, and Zoro was certain that he could see amusement sparkling behind the tinted lenses of her aviators. He grumbled to himself and shifted lower in his seat. She never laughed at him out loud, but she still always seemed to be in on some joke that he couldn't understand.
"You're tanner than you were," Zoro said after several more minutes, hoping to change the subject before his mind could begin to spiral. A perfect spiral. He should his head and looked back at her. "Where were you all this time?"
"I was guest lecturing at the university in Cairo." You knew that. She didn't say the last part, but the words still hung in the air. Her eyes left the road for a moment as she turned and graced him with a proper smile. "It's nice to be home, though. I missed everyone."
Zoro grunted in affirmation and returned his attention once again to the passing scenery. To be honest, he only half believed her. Robin loved adventure almost as much as she loved knowledge. It was why she had chosen to become an archaeologist so many years ago. Or, so she had once told him. Zoro couldn't remember a single summer since they had met that she hadn't left everything behind to jet off to some distant corner of the world. And every year, she came back with her skin temporarily darker, her hair partially longer, and her eyes permanently wiser. On some level, it felt unfair. Every year she spent the summer months off on a new adventure, while he passed his in the same place experiencing a slightly different version of the same thing. He wanted to see the world, but the world was chaos and the classroom where he taught was worse. It held him back, shackling him so his dreams were just out of reach.
A familiar barn in a familiar field swept past the window and Zoro perked up in his seat. He knew this place. He could never remember how to get there on his own—things moved too much—but he loved to visit when someone helped him find the way. Soon, the gravel of an unpaved parking lot crunched under the Jeep's tires as they pulled into one of the unmarked spaces of a country store.
The only business for miles around, the Sunny Go! Mart was a combination gas station, convenience store, and car repair shop. Its smiling lion-shaped sign had faded under years of weather, but age did little to deter visitors. The place had at least one or two customers inside anytime that it was open, and it was open 24 hours. Zoro could never quite understand when made it so popular, but then he'd never really cared. All that mattered to him was that they sold his favorite booze, the merchandise was arranged logically, and his only other friends in the world were there.
Robin had barely shut off the engine when Zoro was already climbing out of the passenger side. He had to measure his steps as he walked toward the front door—he was excited, but not that excited. However, there were others present who were that excited. No sooner had the bell over the glass doors chimed to announce his entrance than he was knocked backwards by a small force of nature. He and the other flew a few feet before landing in a pile in the pea-gravel at Robin's feet.
"It's nice to see you again, Luffy," said Robin, chuckling into her hand as she watched Zoro try and fail to push the boy off of his chest.
Luffy grinned widely and laughed, still securely seated on top of Zoro, who had stopped struggling. "It's great to see you too, Robin! Did you have a good trip? Did you bring me anything? Is it food? Is it meat?!"
"They wouldn't let her bring meat through customs. Now, dammit—!" Zoro began to thrash beneath his friend once again. "Get off me!"
After a few more minutes of struggle, Luffy shifted his weight just enough that Zoro was able to shove him to the side. As he sat up, grumbling to himself as he did so, he noticed the gas station attendant watching him closely. Zoro rubbed at a sore spot on the back of his head and leveled a no nonsense look at his friend.
"Does it hurt?" asked Luffy, his voice serious.
"Of course me head hurts, moron," griped Zoro. "You only slammed it into the fucking ground!"
"No," Luffy corrected. He pointed to Zoro's face. "Your eye. Does it hurt?"
Zoro scowled at the younger man, though the expression was more from remembering than from irritation. He had forgotten that he hadn't seen Luffy all summer. When they had last met back in May, Zoro had still had both eyes. Now, the left one was forever closed, seemingly sealed shut by the long scar that ran over it. Just thinking about it made Zoro feel uneasy, and he quickly banished the memory in order to focus on the situation at hand.
For his part, Luffy sat and waited patiently, albeit with some fidgeting, for Zoro's answer, ever faithful in his friend's honesty. Both of them were straight forward to a fault, a trait that had drawn them to each other even though Luffy's rambunctious behavior and personal space issues sometimes drove Zoro up the wall.
"No," Zoro finally answered after a few moments. "It doesn't hurt."
"That's good," grinned Luffy.
Seemingly satisfied with his friend's answer—Luffy had never been one to push an issue—he climbed to his feet, beating the dust off of his clothing and hands once he'd stood. He paused for a beat and Zoro was certain that he saw some unreadable thought move behind brown eyes, and then it was gone and Luffy was extending a hand downward to help him up.
"I'm glad that you're back," said Luffy as he pulled Zoro to his feet. It had been a long summer. "Come on! We got a new deli section! It's so cool! So much meat!"
Zoro allowed himself a small, lopsided grin as he followed his excited friend inside. He was happy to be back too.
Chaos. Complete and utter chaos. That was the only way Sanji could describe the scene on campus. Or hell, that was the best word to sum up his entire morning.
After a mostly sleepless night spent haphazardly packing his entire life into three suitcases, several overly used and frankly flimsy boxes, his favorite old backpack, and a laundry hamper, he and his old man had risen at the butt crack of dawn to cram it all into the car and drive the four and some odd hours to campus. For the first forty-five minutes, Zeff had done nothing but berate him for oversleeping, overpacking, and overly procrastinating on getting started on the whole ordeal. But, as time had worn on and the two of them had argued over everything their fatigued minds could conjure, they had fallen into a comfortable silence, each of them secretly enjoying the other's company for what would likely be the last time until Thanksgiving. Several times, Zeff had suggested that Sanji should sleep, and really he should have. He was completely exhausted after the last minute rush to ensure his housing was paid for and his place as school secured. Not to mention all of the shopping, packing, repacking, planning, goodbyes, parties, and then more packing that he had undergone in the last few weeks of summer. But every time his eyelids began to droop, his nerves would jolt him awake again. What if he had forgotten something? What if his roommate turned out to be a jerk? Worse yet, what if the guy didn't shower regularly? That though alone kept Sanji wide awake for a good portion of the car ride. He didn't think he could make it an entire school year living with a slob.
Then they had gotten to campus and gotten miserably lost. Sanji had always prided himself on having a good internal compass, and Zeff's was just as honed, but the campus and the roads leading into it had clearly been laid out with the sole intention of confusion.
First, they had had to try to decipher which one of the six exits labeled "Grand Line University" actually went to the campus and not some office building that was only loosely affiliated with it, or worse yet, the damned Davy Back Stadium, which they had managed to find at least three separate times. The two of them ended up passing the correct exit in their confusion and had to double back, father and son both cursing a blue streak by the time they found the off ramp.
Then they had the decidedly more difficult task of finding Sanji's dorm, which should have been easy, except that none of the buildings were labeled and the campus map that had been mailed to him with his acceptance letter was a joke. Traffic was heavy on campus, the streets packed with more frustrated parents and nervous incoming freshmen. Nobody seemed to know where they were going or that that one street turned into a one way halfway down or that the right lane disappeared at that one intersection. Sanji was fairly certain that Zeff was going to wear a hole in the car horn by the time they reached their destination and that they both would have screamed themselves hoarse. Once they located the East Blue Residence Hall, they were both hot, irritable, and had personal vendettas against a few specific jaywalkers.
When they finally found it, Sanji hadn't wasted any time in climbing out of the blue station wagon and going to find the check-in while Zeff looked for parking. They had originally planned to pull into the "sizeable" loading zone the university had bragged about, but some kid had decided that he needed an entire box truck worth of crap to make it though the school year and was hogging the space. Sanji glared daggers that were completely ignored by the oblivious parents, before slamming the car door and pointing his old man to a rapidly filling lot nearby.
The residence hall staff had set up the check-in tables on the lawn outside the front doors, each one manned by two upperclassmen, who were handing out packets to incoming students. Sanji began to make a beeline for the only one of the four tables being operated by a lovely lady until he noticed that they were labeled alphabetically. Hanging his head in defeat—there really was no winning for him today—Sanji moved to stand in line at the first table. He huffed under his breath as he watched the dark-haired, freckled student checking the freshmen in. At the very least, he supposed, there were cute girls in his line, like the redhead in front of him.
Short orangey hair hung in an angular cut just below her jaw line, no doubt framing a beautiful face, which he couldn't quite see. She was wearing a spaghetti strap tank top and cut-off shorts; the former showing off a rather interesting tattoo on her left shoulder and the latter highlighting gorgeous legs that really went up to there. She was tapping her sandaled feet impatiently on the grass, her hands placed on her hips. The girl looked as frustrated as he felt and Sanji saw an opening to introduce himself. Unfortunately, no sooner had he opened his mouth than some jerk beat him to the punch.
"Hey! Looking good, carrot top!"
Sanji, along with just about every other person in all four lines, whipped his head around to look at the speaker. The asshole was hanging out of the passenger winder of a beat up white car, his stupid pink hair hanging in his face as he leered at the red haired freshman. The jerk lewdly licked his lips and grinned, prompting the girl to turn and level a frankly terrifying glare at him.
"You wanna go for a ride, sweetheart?" continued the moron, unperturbed. "I can show you a good time!"
Much to Sanji's surprise, the girl beside him didn't recoil from the solicitation. Instead, she smile sweetly, her intelligent hazel eyes shining with some sort of scheme.
"I would," she said, "but…" She cutely pouted out her bottom lip and hooked her arm around Sanji's in a way that nearly made his knees buckle. "…my boyfriend here wouldn't like it. He would probably beat you up."
The idiot turned a sullen glare on Sanji, which the blond reciprocated. He would play his part. Anything to defend a lady's honor. The upperclassman's frown turned back into a lecherous grin as he silently appraised Sanji's lanky physique.
"C'mon, blondie," he called, "you know you can't take me!" He laughed. "I'd snap your skinny ass like a twig!"
Sanji growled low in his throat and felt the girl's grip around his arm tighten; whether out of fear or to hold him back, though, he didn't know or care at the moment.
"Look, why don't I save you a lot of pain," continued the pink-haired asshole, his grin widening. "Why don't you just let me borrow your cute little redhead for a bit? I promise I won't wear her out so much that you can't still break in those shitty dorm mattresses!"
Sanji bore his teeth in a fully blown snarl as the other guy laughed at his own crude suggestion. This time, he could actually feel the red-haired girl holding him back as he began to advance on the idling car. It felt like every single pair of eyes on the lawn was on him as Sanji shook with rage. No one, no one, talked to or about a lady that way. Screw first impressions and explicit "no fighting" rules; he was going to kick the smug bastard's face in.
"Oi, Fullbody!" called the freckled-faced upperclassman at the check-in table, his voice breaking the short-lived tense silence with ease. "Don't you have a class you need to be preparing to fail?! Get a move on and quit harassing the freshmen!"
The asshole—Fullbody—glared at his classmate and threw him the finger before turning his attention back to Sanji. He looked like he was about to say something more when the freckled student stood and cast a threatening glare in his direction. Fullbody grimaced and sat back in his seat as the driver gunned the engine. As the wheels screeched against the pavement, he stuck his head back out of the window a final time.
"Don't think I'm done with you yet, blondie!" Fullbody yelled, flipping him off for good measure. "You won't always have your mom here looking out for you!"
"I can take care of myself just fine, asshole!" yelled Sanji, breaking free of the girl's grip as the car began to speed away. "Name the place and time! I'll kick your shitty pink ass!"
Fullbody only continued to flip him the bird, holding the obscene hand gesture out the window as the driver clumsily merged with traffic and disappeared around the block.
"Well, that didn't quite go as I expected," huffed the redhead, crossing her arms as she watched the car drive away. She shrugged. "Oh well. Hey, thanks anyway."
Sanji barely suppressed a swoon. She was even cuter from the front. "Anything for a lovely lady!"
"I'll have to keep that in mind," she said with a sly grin. She extended a delicate hand. "I'm Nami."
"Sanji, at your service," Sanji gushed in response, trying his best to sound suave and sophisticated as he bent to kiss Nami's knuckles.
Nami giggled cutely. "You're alright. I think I'll let you stick around awhile."
Sanji had to swallow a very unmanly squeal at her last comment, opting instead to stand beside his angelic new friend. Soon, the lines began to move smoothly again and Sanji's earlier confrontation with Fullbody was all but forgotten. He and Nami talked as they waited. She told him that she was from Florida and that she had come north to Grand Line University to study meteorology. Nami was quick to point out that she didn't want to be a weather girl. Rather, she was more interested in studying tropical storms. Apparently, Grand Line's weather science program was one of the best in the country, though the curriculum had a reputation for being quite rigorous and its professors unpredictable. For his part, Sanji explained that he was majoring in culinary arts, that his old man owned a restaurant and the he wanted one of his own. He wasn't sure if the residence hall had any sort of kitchen he could use, but if they did, he'd be happy to cook for her.
Conversation made the time pass quickly and within no time, he was waving Nami off as she went to fetch her things, check-in packet in hand. When she had gone, Sanji turned back to the freckle-faced upperclassman, who was staring up at him with an amused, dopey grin. He was wearing an obnoxiously yellow t-shirt that fit just a tad bit too snuggly with the words "GLU East Blue" emblazoned across the front. There was a sticker clinging to the cotton stretched over his left pectoral, proudly proclaiming in red block letters that "Hello" his name was Ace. He had even gone as far as to draw little flames around his name. Sanji further noted as he approached that the guy probably worked out, as well-muscled and also freckly arms pulled at the sleeves of his shirt. Sanji suddenly felt a little self-conscious about his own slight frame and made a mental note to locate the university gym as soon as possible.
"That was a pretty cool thing you did for your girlfriend, back there," said Ace, smirking up at Sanji from beneath the rim of a bright orange cowboy hat. Honestly, did this guy even own a mirror?
"Oh, um…" Sanji rubbed awkwardly at the back of his neck. "…she's not my girlfriend."
"No?" Ace raised his eyebrows. "Friend, then?"
Sanji shrugged. "We are now, I guess."
Ace laughed, his smirk widening into a bright smile. "I like you, dude! I think we'll get along just fine!"
Sanji allowed himself half a smile and a nervous laugh. Ace seemed alright, even if his taste in clothing was a little off.
"So, your name?" asked the upperclassman, his tone still carrying the ring of laughter as he pen hovered over the clipboard of alphabetized student names.
"Sanji…Black," said Sanji, blushing slightly at how uncool he had just sounded.
Ace didn't seem to notice his embarrassment, though, as he searched through the list, muttering Sanji's last name under his breath as he went. When he'd found it, he checked off the "arrived" box and then turned to dig through a plastic bin full of manila envelopes.
"Alriiiiiiiiiight. Looks like you're on my floor, bro," said Ace as he pulled the fully stuffed packet from the box and read the information written on the front. He reached inside and fished out a key and "Grand Line U" lanyard, handing them to Sanji as he spoke. "You're on the eighth floor, or the Penthouse, as I like to call it. Room 801. Oh, corner room, that's lucky. Those are a bit bigger. Here's your key. Don't lose it. It's a $100 fee to replace it. You'll use your student ID to get into the building, but you need your key for access to anything beyond the lobby. We'll have a floor meeting at seven o-clock on Sunday night, so don't be late or you'll be really embarrassed. It'll probably be by the elevators, but I'll keep you posted. There are carts around back on the loading docks that you can use to move in. Careful though, because they're hell to steer. Like I said, I'm your Residence Advisor, or RA. My name is—" He pointed to his name tag. "—Ace. If you need anything or have any questions, don't hesitate to ask. I'll be around all weekend. Did you get all that?"
Sanji blinked dumbly at the older student for a couple seconds as the barrage of information settled in. With slightly trembling fingers, he attached the lanyard to his belt loop and tucked the key into the front pocket of his shorts. By the time he took the packet from Ace, his hands had steadied significantly and he gave him his best smile.
"Any questions?" asked Ace as he handed over the envelope.
"Um, about the student ID…"
"Oh, yeah!" Ace thumped his fist into his palm. "That's right. Your ID is included in there. The school used the picture you sent. If you lose that one, you get one free do-over and then every one after that costs $35."
Sanji paled a few shades. He didn't remember sending the school any pictures, which meant that Zeff had. He wanted to facepalm. He could only imagine what kind of atrocity his old man had sent along.
"Anything else?" asked Ace with a friendly smile.
"N—" Sanji had to clear his throat as his voice cracked, visions of his likely horrible student ID dancing in front of his eyes. "No."
"Okay, then," said the RA, subtly shooing Sanji away. "I'll see you around."
"Yeah." Sanji gave him a smile that was shaky at best before turning and leaving to find a luggage cart and then Zeff.
When he finally made it back to the car, his old man was leaning against the hatch, impatiently tapping his foot as he waited. The metal of his prosthetic on the other leg glinted dully from under his shorts, drawing the attention of just about every single passerby. Sanji could hear one group of girls break into excited hushed chatter as he pushed the luggage cart toward the station wagon, his cheeks burning with mixed embarrassment and frustration. Zeff could be infuriating, but he didn't like the idea of anyone making fun of the geezer.
"Took you long enough, Eggplant," Zeff called gruffly, uncrossing his arms to open the trunk as Sanji approached. "I hope you weren't spending all that time flirting."
Sanji glowered at the older man, stressing as much over being called by a childhood nickname as he was about what his mystery ID would look like. "Just unload the car, you shitty old bastard. It's only going to keep getting later."
"You don't have to tell me." Zeff shoved a box into Sanji's waiting hands. "I'm the one who's been waiting here all day."
They continued to grumble and curse at each other until the entirety of Sanji's life was unloaded from the back of the wagon. Sanji felt a lump rise in his throat as he took in the solitary luggage cart. Was there really so little to him?
Zeff clapped a reassuring hand on his shoulder, snapping Sanji out of his depressing thoughts. "Okay, lead the way."
"What, am I supposed to move all of this myself while you watch?" griped Sanji as he watched Zeff lock the car. "You're getting useless in your old age."
"Tch, quiet you," Zeff sniped back, not missing a beat. He shouldered Sanji's fully laden backpack, as if that made up for his lack of labor. "Show a little respect for your esteemed elders, you shitty brat! I didn't raise your skinny ass to be so ungrateful! You're lucky I didn't kick you out years ago!"
"As if!" Sanji bit back. "That shit hole you call a restaurant would have gone under if I hadn't kept those so-called cooks in line! Talentless hacks and ex-convicts, every last one of them!"
Their bickering grew in volume as they neared the dorm, drawing confused and concerned stares from several other students and parents. By the time they reached the elevator lobby on the eighth floor, Sanji had completely forgotten his earlier melancholy, too focused on besting his old man in their argument to care. Their raised voices echoed off of the cinderblock walls of the hallway as they sought Sanji's room at the end. The argument came to a grinding halt, however, when they found the door open and someone already unpacking inside.
Sanji cleared his throat as he stepped over the low threshold, leaving Zeff to stand guard over his things in the hall. His new roommate visibly startled at the noise and whirled to face the intruders, his eyes wide.
Sanji's first, second, and third impression of the kid was that, wow, he had a really long nose. The teen looked like he was awkward on a good day and socially crippled on a bad one. He was a bit shorter than Sanji and way skinnier. Unruly black curls fell around his face and full lips parted in a startled "oh" as the kid seemed to search for the right words to say.
"You must be Usopp," Sanji finally said, breaking the silence. He took a cautious step forward and extended a hand. "I'm Sanji. We emailed, remember?"
"R-Right." Usopp took Sanji's offered hand and Sanji noted with some mild discomfort that Usopp's palm was sweating. "Sorry, I went ahead and picked a bed. I hope you don't mind taking the one on the left."
Sanji shrugged and suppressed the urge to wipe the moisture from his hand as soon as Usopp let it go.
"W-Well, that's good, because I wasn't going to give it up anyway. I've got my own fan club, you know, and they…they…"
Usopp's false bravado stuttered and tapered off when Zeff limped into the room and gave him a stern look. "Okay, tough guy. Why don't you and your legions of followers help my boy unload all of his crap?" His stern glare hardened when both boys only gaped at him. "Well?! Snap to it! We don't have all day!"
Usopp let out a frightened squeak and rushed to grab boxes from the cart followed closely by Sanji, who shot his old man a venomous glare as he stalked past. Just what he needed: a terrified roommate. He would be lucky if Usopp wanted to speak to him at all after this.
Zeff watched from the side, his arms crossed over his chest as if Sanji and Usopp were a couple of delinquent employees at the restaurant. Sanji's face was burning with embarrassment by the time they had finished and he was thankful when Zeff volunteered to return the empty cart to its home. Several other students which had been loitering in the hall scattered as the chef neared them. Sanji watched him go from the door, not relaxing until he heard the elevators ping and the doors slide open and closed.
"Sorry about that," he said, turning to find Usopp setting up the small television underneath Sanji's lofted bed.
There was awkward silence for a moment while the longnosed teen continued to fiddle with the multitude of wires required to set up the DVD player, university-provided cable, and two different gaming systems. Usopp seemed to be using all of his concentration, so Sanji merely shrugged and began to assemble their seating area under his roommate's bed. Usopp had offered to supply the chairs, mini-fridge, and television. Though Sanji had been ready to spend a fairly sizeable chunk of his graduation money on dorm room amenities, he was thankful that his roommate-to-be had offered. The other boy had explained in one of his emails that his girlfriend had given them all to him already. It was a huge help, as Sanji hadn't been entirely sure how he would afford any of the necessary appliances along with all of his textbooks. The only thing that Usopp had asked him to bring was a microwave, which had been an adventure in and of itself since Zeff had forbade such an abomination in his kitchen when Sanji was growing up.
"So, that's your dad, huh?" Usopp asked, breaking the weird quiet between them.
"He's my step-dad, yeah," answered Sanji from behind the mini-fridge.
"Really? I thought you two looked related."
Sanji poked his head out from behind the appliance long enough to shoot his roommate a dark glare. He did not look anything like that mustachioed old geezer.
"N-Nevermind. I must have been seeing things."
Satisfied, Sanji ducked down to resume his search for an outlet.
"Have you gotten your class schedule, yet?" continued Usopp, rather tactfully changing the subject. They had already told each other about their majors in their sporadic emails. Usopp was at GLU to study illustration and creative writing.
"Yeah, at orientation back in July. You?"
Silence again. Sanji finally found the outlet and plugged in the refrigerator, a satisfied grin splitting his face when he heard it buzz to life.
"So…" Sanji patted non-existent dust from his hands as he stood. "…how's it look?"
Usopp frowned skeptically at him. "The fridge? Looks fine to me."
"No, your schedule."
"Oh." Usopp's frown deepened for a moment and then he shrugged. "It's fine, I guess. Lots of foundations courses. My advisor said that I probably wouldn't get to take any actual classes for my major until next semester. You?"
"Same. Well, no…I did get into Nutrition 101, but—" Sanji scowled. "—I have algebra first thing on Monday mornings." He groaned. "Ugh, I hate math."
"Is it the one with lecture in that huge hall in the Mihawk building that they showed on the tour?"
Sanji nodded sullenly.
"I'm in the same class!" Usopp grinned. "I'm pretty good at it. Um, math, that is…I can help you, if you like."
"Yeah?" Sanji returned his roommate's smile, as thankful that some of the awkwardness was passing as he was for the offered help. "That'd be great. Thanks."
"I see you two are getting along." Zeff loomed large in the doorway, banishing the relaxed atmosphere, his mustache twitching with a suppressed smile.
Sanji whirled on his step-father, nearly hitting his head on the underside of Usopp's bed in the process. "How long have you been eavesdropping, old man?!"
"Long enough," responded Zeff, his eyes glinting with something mysterious that made Sanji slightly uncomfortable. "You all set, Eggplant?"
"Don't call me that!" Sanji's blush returned with full force and he balled his hands into fists at his sides when Zeff grinned mischievously and he heard Usopp snicker.
"Yes," Sanji mumbled, now beet red.
"Walk your old man to his car then."
Sanji froze, a lump rising in his throat for the second time that day. Zeff was leaving already? Once again, he quickly swallowed it. With a quick promise to Usopp that he would be back in a few minutes, Sanji grabbed his new—and still unseen—student ID out of his check-in packet and led the way into the hall.
Once they'd reached the elevator, Sanji finally ventured a peek at his ID. The residence hall had all the doors propped open for move in, so he hadn't needed it. Now, he wished that he never would. Just as he had predicted, it was the worst, most embarrassing picture possible. Sanji didn't know what his old man had been thinking or if he had simply chosen the photo with his eyes closed. The picture wasn't even recent. It was his school photo from his junior year of high school. The photographer had fussed with his hair at the last minute, flattening it miserably. To make matters worse, he had been struggling with acne that year and struggling even more with the concept of fashion.
"What's the matter?" asked Zeff, standing calmly beside him as if the entire world weren't ending. "You're hyperventilating."
"This picture?" Sanji whined, waving the ID in his step-father's face. "Seriously?"
Zeff caught his hand mid-wave, taking the card and studying it. "I don't see what's so bad about it. It's obviously you."
"You couldn't have used any other picture?" Sanji buried his face in his hands. He couldn't believe his luck.
"I couldn't find any others," corrected Zeff. "When I looked, they were all missing from the file."
Sanji groaned into his hands. That was right. He'd snuck into Zeff's office at the end of the school year and taken all of his old photos, intent upon hiding them so they couldn't be used to embarrass him during graduation festivities. Sanji had long ago decided that he was woefully unphotogenic, something that the other cooks never let him live down.
"When the school asked for a picture," continued Zeff, unfazed by Sanji's pained noises, "I had to use the one in my wallet."
Zeff wordlessly pulled his wallet from his pocket, innocently flipping it open to reveal an exact replica of the atrocity that currently decorated Sanji's school ID. Sanji screeched in horror and made to grab both from the elder chef, intent upon destroying any evidence that the horrific photo had ever existed. A scuffle ensued in the cramped space as Zeff valiantly fended off his son's efforts. After much shuffling, swearing, and a few thrown elbows, Sanji almost had the ID in his hand when the elevator pinged and the doors opened.
"Are we interrupting something?" asked Nami sweetly as she took in the scene before her.
Father and son were frozen mid-struggle with Sanji reaching for his ID with one hand and the other shoved in his old man's face. Zeff had his leg raised, kneeing Sanji in the chest as he held the offending plastic aloft. All of the blood in Sanji's body rushed to his cheeks and he quickly snatched the ID from Zeff's hand while he was distracted.
"N-Not at all, ladies," Sanji simpered as smoothly as possible. He cleared his throat before his voice could crack. "Come on in."
He did his best to get his embarrassed blush under control as he and Zeff moved to the side to make room for Nami and another equally stunning girl. She looked kind of exotic and Sanji couldn't help but to wonder if she was an international student. Her skin was naturally tan and she had henna decorating her hands. However, she had dyed her hair a shade of cotton candy-like light blue that kept her nationality a mystery. She smiled shyly at him as she followed Nami into the elevator, moving to stand on the far side of the redhead.
"Is this the boy you were telling me about?" asked the blue-haired girl, looking between Sanji and Nami with open curiosity. Sanji felt his blush returning. Nami had been talking about him?
"Yeah," grinned Nami. "Vivi, this is Sanji. Sanji, this is Vivi, my roommate."
Sanji saw hearts. These two beautiful maidens were roommates? How could the stars have aligned so perfectly? He quickly recovered before he could melt into a lovesick puddle on the elevator floor, kissing the lovely Vivi's knuckles in the same way he had Nami's.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, my lady."
Vivi giggled, a cute blush lending a pink tint to her cheeks.
"You didn't tell me this was a co-ed dorm," commented Zeff, effectively ruining the moment.
Sanji's blush left his cheeks, along with all of the rest of the blood in his face. He could feel Zeff's piercing blue gaze on the back of his head, sizing him up like a predator would prey. Sanji had a reputation for getting woefully distracted around the fairer sex. He could already hear his old man's tirade about wasted money playing in his ears.
"Didn't I?" he asked, forcing a stiff smile and turning toward his irritated step-father.
Zeff regarded him quietly for a painful minute before seeming to come to a decision about his son's punishment. He turned to the two girls, who had been watching their every move.
"You two will make sure my Baby Eggplant keeps up with his studies, won't you?" Zeff requested as innocently as if he weren't ruining his son's life. Sanji wished he could fall through the floor. "You see, he gets stressed when he falls behind and he gets nightmares when he's stressed. And, well, when he was younger, sometimes his nightmares would make him wet the—"
"OKAY, WE'RE LEAVING NOW." Sanji grabbed his horrible excuse for a father and dragged him through the just opening elevator doors and into the main lobby. He could hear the depraved old man snickering behind him as he practically ran from the building, leaving Nami and Vivi to stand amused and bewildered in the elevator.
"Seriously?" growled Sanji, panting and shaking by the time they'd reached the car. He angrily ran his hands through his hair. "SERIOUSLY?!"
"Those girls seemed nice," remarked Zeff offhandedly just as his son began to pace beside the station wagon.
Sanji shot his old man a glare that went ignored as he busied himself with unlocking the car. His frustration and embarrassment began to ebb as he watched Zeff fiddle with his keys. Even only hours ago, it had felt like this moment would never come, but now here it was and neither father nor son seemed eager to initiate. Deep down, Sanji was nervous to be on his own for the first time. He had always been strong-willed and independent, sure—Zeff had never let him forget it—but they had always been there for each other, especially after his mother died. They were all the other had, except for the restaurant. Would Zeff remember to eat on a regular basis without him there to remind him, or get enough sleep when he couldn't berate him into doing so? Zeff was too stubborn to just keel over and die, but he like to push his health.
"Well, I'd best be going," Zeff broke the silence. "If I hit the road now, I might get back in time to get control over the last half of the dinner rush."
Sanji stared hard at the pavement between his feet before setting his jaw determinedly and raising his chin to meet the gaze of the only father he'd ever known.
"You'll do fine, Eggplant," continued his old man as if he were trying to force out every thought that he hadn't voiced before. "There isn't a single student here that can match what you have."
"Aw," teased Sanji with a wobbly smirk, "you complimenting me, shitty old geezer?"
"No," came the growled reply. "I was referring to your foul mouth and fouler attitude."
Sanji's face split with a cocksure grin. "Uh huh. Sure."
"Listen, brat," pressed Zeff, banishing Sanji's smile.
"Just…" Did the old fart's voice just shake? Zeff cleared his throat. "…don't let yourself catch cold."
"I'll be fine, old man. I can handle myself."
Zeff gave him a skeptical look and once again, Sanji as if he was being sized up. Then he extended his hand to his son. "Okay, then."
Sanji steeled himself and shook Zeff's hand, feeling a chill run through him despite the heat of the afternoon. This all felt so terrifying and final. "Thanks…for everything."
"Don't do anything too stupid, Eggplant."
Then Zeff let go, turning and climbing into his car. Sanji watched from the curb as the blue station wagon drove away, the memory of his step-father's touch still lingering on his hand. He shoved them into his pockets, gripping his student ID and keys tightly. He would have to see about getting a new card printed after the weekend. Until then, he and Usopp still needed to buy food, he needed his textbooks, and he had planned to explore campus to find the buildings where he had his classes. But, for now, all Sanji could think about was how heavily the chaos of that morning was weighing on his shoulders and how badly he wanted a nap.
When he finally got to his office, Zoro had hoped to find it untouched. Unfortunately, it wasn't. He should have known better. Whenever he was gone for the summer months, someone would let themselves in to "clean". But every fall it still took him by surprise, it still irritated him, and it put him in a foul mood for the start of the school year. No matter how good the other staff members' intentions were, he had his office arranged the way he did for a reason. Their attempts to "organize", as they called it, only plunged his workspace into disorder. How was he supposed to get any work done when everything was in the wrong place and he couldn't find anything? His office was one of the few places where he didn't get lost; he wanted to keep it that way.
Grumbling under his breath about nosy, good-for-nothing morons, he dropped his fully laden "Sunny Go!" bag on his too clean desk and fished out a bottle of sake that Luffy had given him as a welcoming home present. Zoro looked disdainfully around the small space as he broke the seal and took a long drink of the strong alcohol. He had hoped to record some of the thoughts he had had over his mostly unproductive summer break, but instead he was going to have to reorganize.
"I heard you were back."
Zoro turned to the door and scowled at the pink-haired girl that was, as usual, letting herself inside uninvited. "I am. Go away."
Perona pouted. "Why didn't you come and say 'hi'? It's been so dull here."
"Because I was hoping for some quiet," growled Zoro, bending to search through his desk drawers for his pens and paper. "Go away."
But, true to form, the graduate student didn't leave, instead stepping further inside and taking a seat on the worn leather sofa by the door. "So, how was it?"
Zoro heaved a frustrated sigh when the search through his desk yielded no results, moving on to his file cabinet by the window. "You still living in that shitty dorm?"
"Of course," replied Perona, taking the change of subject in stride. She had been Zoro's student since the freshman year of her undergraduate studies and had been an RA at the East Blue Residence Hall since her sophomore year. Now, at the beginning of the second year of her graduate studies, almost nothing had changed. She even still dressed in the same obnoxious gothic Lolita style. Perona leaned forward, a devious smile curling her purple-painted lips as she prepared to regale him with the latest gossip. "There was almost a fight at check-in yesterday morning."
Zoro remained silent. Perona could carry on a conversation with herself if she wanted to. All she really needed was a warm body in the room so she didn't look like a crazy person talking to herself.
"Fullbody and some freshman boy up on Ace's floor," she continued, as predicted. Really, her mannerisms were as predictable as any equation. "Fullbody was being his normal douchy self. The frosh looked ready to kill him."
Zoro gave a derisive snort. Finally finding what he had been looking for, he returned to his desk and rewarded himself with another gulp of sake.
"He's in your class again this year, you know," said Perona with a sigh. "I checked the roster. Why don't you just let him pass the class already? I'm so sick of grading his tests!"
"Because he hasn't earned it," Zoro bit back. This would be the third year that he had Fullbody in his introductory math course. The moron was lazy as hell, but he was connected to some higher up in the university. He had been able to coast by in his other classes on his political powers, but not in Zoro's. The young professor didn't care about politics. All that mattered to him was the purity and integrity of his craft. He wasn't about to give a passing grade to a student that hadn't bothered to learn the material.
Perona whined. "Aw, come on! A 'D'. That's all you have to give him! A few more measly points and then he can move on and be Daz's problem."
"If he earns it, I'll pass him." Zoro sighed. He was tired of the argument already and the school year hadn't even technically started. If this year was anything like the ones in the past, then he would have the same discussion with Perona several more times.
"Can't you at least give him to Johnny or Yosaku?" pressed the grad student. "It's not like he uses office hours anyway. So, why does it matter who grades his papers?"
"Because they're too scared of him or his parents or whoever. They'd be too easy on him."
Perona huffed, which Zoro noted but ignored, intent upon locating his favorite reference books. He had left them on his desk at the end of the last school year. That was where they always lived. He liked to keep them close at hand for when he got stuck in his research. Each of the mathematicians that had written them had their own distinct voice that resonated within the books' yellowed pages and never failed to help guide him. After several minutes of searching with no luck, Zoro could feel himself getting frustrated and a little panicked. He roved wordlessly from one corner of the room to another, pulling books and papers from drawers and shelves, letting them litter the floor as he looked.
"Your books are on the bookshelf with the other math texts," Perona said, pointing to a shelf that he hadn't yet reached. She grumbled under her breath when Zoro turned and looked in the opposite direction. Standing, she went to the shelf and pulled down the three books he had been searching for, holding them out to her faculty mentor. "Here. Honestly, I don't know what you would do without me."
Zoro took the books from her grasp, affectionately running his hands over the white and gold cover of the top book. He had missed Wado's wisdom during his time away. He had left in such a hurry last spring that he hadn't gotten to bring his books. That seemed to happen every year.
Reorganization momentarily forgotten, he sat in the high backed swivel chair behind his desk and set the other two books to the side. Zoro ran his thumb up the embossed spine of his oldest and most trusted text on mathematic theory, tracing Wado Ichimonji's name emblazoned in vibrant gold on the white leather. Perona took the professor's unspoken cue and turned to leave. Rereading Wado's work was Zoro's favorite way to center himself in preparation for the new school year. There was not getting his attention now.
"Don't forget," she said, pausing as she was halfway out the door. "You have lecture at 9:30 tomorrow morning, so don't oversleep. It's so embarrassing when you're late on the first day."
Zoro grunted and absently waved her off, Wado already open in his lap. He barely heard the click of the latch as Perona shut the door behind her, the familiarity of the ancient mathematician's words and number enveloping him like a blanket.
Sanji tapped the end of his pencil against his notebook, the heel of his right foot matching the impatient uptempo rhythm. The habitual fidgeting had driven many of his classmates crazy in high school, but here no one seemed to notice or care. Probably because the lecture hall was so huge that the rapid movement couldn't bother anyone. After all, his tour guide at the summer orientation had said that the hall had been built to hold up to eight hundred students; and Sanji believed him. It was built like a massive amphitheater with entrances at the top and bottom corners that led out into the second floor and basement level, respectively. Rows upon rows of connected desks and chairs rose up one side in such a way that the feet of the students on one level were nearly even with the shoulders of those the next row down. Stairs ran down the sides of the room, as well as down the center, splitting the otherwise unbroken lines of desks in half. Bleary-eyed students were busy filing into the massive classroom, taking their seats and sleeping or chatting amongst themselves.
At the very bottom of the hall were two desks. One small one stood in the corner and housed a computer that controlled the projector in the ceiling. Currently, there was a cute girl with pink hair and punk clothing standing behind it. She was concentrating on something on the hidden computer monitor, and when Sanji looked up, he could see a desktop menu projected onto the movie theater style screen, the mouse moving to open files containing the syllabus, curriculum, and other documents.
A second larger desk was located in the center of the stage-like space. It had what looked to be an overhead projector on it, which Sanji assumed must also work with the one on the ceiling. There was a couple of upperclassman standing on either side of it, each of them with a sizeable stack of papers in hand. He figured that all three of them must be teaching aids, though there was no professor in sight.
He sighed to himself and gave the end of his pencil a break, deciding instead to absentmindedly doodle in the top corner of his notebook page. His textbook, a weighty tome written by some dead guy named Yubashiri, sat in his open backpack at his feet. Sanji had brought it along for the first day, just in case, but really hoped that it wouldn't have to become a habit. The stupid thing was heavy and the one hour break that he had between this class and the next wouldn't be enough to go back to his dorm. At least, not if he didn't want to have to run.
A small ocean of crudely drawn fish was taking shape at the top of his page when he finally spotted Usopp. The longnose stood at the bottom of the lecture hall, panting as if he had just sprinted there. He paused by the corner desk and seemed to be apologizing to the pink-haired aid, who merely shrugged and indicated that he should find a seat in the nearly full room. Sanji half rose from his chair and waved exaggeratedly at his roommate until Usopp finally spotted him and began to climb the steps.
"Aw, blondie's got himself a boyfriend," teased a familiar voice from beside him. Sanji spun in his chair to glare at Fullbody, who stood a few seats away, doing an amazing job of blocking the center aisle. Behind him, a couple of other students snickered at their friend's taunt. "You know, I didn't take you for a queer, but up close, I can see it now."
Sanji held his pencil with a white knuckled grip, his entire body humming with tension as he suppressed the urge to jump the bastard. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Usopp paused mid-step a little ways down, looking like he was ready to bolt at any minute.
"So, tell me, blondie," Fullbody continued, drawing the attention of more and more surrounding students. "Are you the dude or the chick? No, wait. Don't tell me…" He glanced at Usopp and then back at Sanji and grinned. "…he fucks you with that nose, doesn't he?"
Something snapped and Sanji lost his temper, roaring something akin to "YOU SHITTY BASTARD" as he leapt at the upperclassman, intent upon shutting him up once and for all. Fullbody gave him a smug look, completely unaware of the pain that was coming, and raised his fists for what he must have thought would be an easy fight. In the last remaining feet, the world around him seemed to come to a standstill as Sanji raised his leg to deliver a bone bruising kick. He was only inches away from connecting when he felt arms hook under his, hauling him backwards mid-attack.
"LET GO OF ME!" yelled Sanji, red-faced with rage as he squirmed in the grip of one of the male TAs he had seen at the front of the room earlier. The guy struggled to contain him and across the aisle, Sanji could see the other aid trying his best to hold onto Fullbody. "I SAID, 'LET GO'! I'M GOING TO KICK HIS SHITTY PINK ASS!"
"YEAH?!" Fullbody challenged. "I'D LIKE TO SEE YOU TRY!"
Sanji snarled and lunged at the upperclassman, popping a couple of buttons on his shirt as he stretched it against the aid's hold on him. "OH, I'LL DO MORE THAN TRY! I'M GOING TO REARRANGE YOUR UGLY—"
The deep, booming voice reverberated around the room, seeming to vibrate Sanji's bones and stopping him cold in his attempted attack. The owner of the voice stood just inside one of the doors at the bottom of the classroom, his hand still gripping the knob. He had a small stack of books and papers under his other arm, and even from far away, Sanji could see them threatening to fall to the floor. The man projected an aura of authority that radiated up the steps, making the hair on the back of Sanji's neck stand on end. Out of the corner of his eye, Sanji saw Fullbody stop struggling against the teaching assistant's grasp.
Was this the professor? But he was too young. The guy didn't look to be more than a few years older than Sanji; there was no way that he could be a professor already, right? Worse yet, he didn't even look like a professor. His clothes were wrinkled and disheveled as if he had slept in them and he was wearing flip flops instead of proper shoes. That coupled with the green hair that looked like it hadn't been washed in days and a rather violent scar over his left eye, and the man looked more like some punk homeless streetfighter cliché from an MTV movie than an educator.
"Who started this?" he asked, his voice still easily carrying up to them even though he wasn't yelling.
Sanji found himself tongue-tied, still stunned by the delinquent turned teacher before him, so Fullbody answered for them.
"Professor Roronoa, I don't know what happened. I was just trying to find a seat when this psycho jumped me out of nowhere and…"
His lie died out as Professor Roronoa's glare intensified, which was lucky for Fullbody, because it was only the power of that gaze that kept Sanji from boiling over again.
"Fullbody, I want you to go and wait for me in my office," commanded the professor, his voice stern.
"But your office is locked," the pink-haired girl reminded him, causing the professor's glare to momentarily break.
Professor Roronoa glanced at her and then rolled his eye. "Fine then." He looked back up the stairs at his fighting students. "Fullbody, go and sit outside my office. I expect to find you there after class."
Sanji half expected the pink-haired moron to protest, but Fullbody didn't seem terribly eager to argue. He merely nodded sullenly and retreated from the room, his proverbial tail tucked between his legs.
"And you," the professor focused his fearsome look on Sanji, who had finally wriggled free of the TA's grasp. "What's your name?"
Sanji returned his professor's stare, hoping against hope that his voice wouldn't shake too much when he spoke. "Sanji." Nailed it.
"Sanji." He frowned as he tested out the name. "I expect to see you this afternoon."
Then Professor Roronoa turned away, placing his precariously stacked books and papers on the table beside the overhead. Sanji moved to protest, only to be stopped by a warning squeeze on his shoulder and a silent head shake by the TA that had held him back before. The green-haired professor had already started his lecture, the altercation between his students seemingly forgotten, when Sanji and Usopp found their seats.
"Oh man, that was scary," whispered Usopp as the teaching assistants began to hand out copies of the syllabus.
Sanji only scowled in response, the angry red haze over his mind still lingering.
"I thought you were going to kill him. Or, at least put him in the hospital. What did he say to you, anyway? Do you guys know each other?"
Still silence. Usopp fidgeted nervously beside him.
"Are you gonna be okay to go by yourself? I would go with you, but I have this really rare condition where my heart stops and I bleed to death internally when I'm in small spaces with big, angry, green-haired men. It's weird, I know, but it happens."
Sanji clenched his jaw, feeling the muscles jump from the tension, and glared hard at his syllabus.
"You don't think he's gonna kick you out, do you?" asked Usopp. "Don't you need this class to graduate? I don't think anyone else teaches it. What will you do if he does? Will you have to change majors? Or change schools? Please don't change schools."
The questions were beginning to wear Sanji's patience thin, but he had bigger worries keeping his temper under control. His jabbering roommate was right, he did need this class to graduate. As he stared down at the professor below, the man droning on in some memorized speech about attendance and grades, Sanji couldn't help but to remember how terrifying he had been or the thrill that he got from facing him down. He found Professor Roronoa's office number, Room 120, and circled it several times, the same question looping in his mind:
What was going to happen when he went to that office?
The almost-fight in his classroom that morning and his subsequent meeting with Fullbody were far from Zoro's mind that afternoon. After the altercation, his lecture had been the same as every year, the faces of the hundreds of students blending into patterns of colored dots as he talked. By the end, he couldn't even pick out the blond freshman's face, whatever his name was. Many students dropped his class within the first week, so Zoro had fully expected to have his afternoon to himself.
He was about halfway through reacquainting himself with Sandai Kitetsu's Theorems and Equations when he heard the loud, steady knock on his door. Zoro called for whoever it was to come in, his eye never leaving the page as the door opened and someone walked inside.
Zoro raised his eyebrows at his book and absently waved to the speaker, whose voice he recognized as that of the angry freshman.
"It's me, uh, Sanji."
Zoro nodded, still more focused on his book than on his guest. Over the top of the page, he could see Sanji's torso and hips. His back was straight, his feet were spaced shoulder width apart, and his hands were clasped firmly behind his back as he waited for his reprimand. Zoro found himself mildly impressed. This kid was a stark contrast to Fullbody's slouching, sulking figure earlier that day. He still wasn't interesting enough to distract him from Kitetsu, though.
"Look, Professor," continued Sanji, his voice firm in what was probably a rehearsed speech, "I don't know how much of that you saw, but—"
"I don't need your excuse. Just don't do it again."
"—but…what? Who says I was going to make an excuse?"
"Your 'but'." Zoro was already bored with Sanji's likely false indignation and it had only just started. "Fullbody probably deserved it anyway. So, like I said, just don't do it again."
"That's it. You may go now."
With those words, Zoro truly began to lose himself in his book again, letting the words and numbers wash over him, but Sanji didn't leave.
"Are you serious?! That's all?!" Zoro glanced up just enough to see Sanji's hands ball into fists at his sides. "I came all the way here, thinking I was getting kicked out, and you just tell me, 'don't do it again'?" Sanji's volume was rising with his temper, crowding the office. "And then-and then you can't even look me in the eye when you're talking to me?! What are you, antisocial or something?! Or are you just a coward?!"
"I can look you in the eye just—"
Zoro's words fell from his lips as he looked up and finally saw his student. In the lecture hall with the distance between them, he had only seen a skinny kid with a stupid haircut that let his blond hair hang over his left eye. But now, here within the confines of his office, he could see it. The miracle etched onto Sanji's face.
The floor and the chair seemed to fall away beneath him, leaving Zoro reeling as he looked into the natural spiral at the end of his student's eyebrow. There it was. The world, the universe, the cosmos. It was the ultimate pattern of numbers that was everywhere and yet nowhere. The truest and deepest understanding of the true meaning of those numbers had long eluded him, even driven him mad, and here it was occurring naturally on this boy. Zoro's heart raced in his chest, his pulse roaring in his ears as he stared at Sanji with wide eyes and an open mouth.
"Professor?" The blond looked concerned and a little scared.
Zoro just continued to gape at him, a multitude of numbers running through his mind as his insides screamed for him to solve this new equation.
"Professor? Are you okay? You look like you're having a stroke or something."
"You…You…" Zoro licked at his lips, his mouth suddenly dry. "You have the universe on your face. Do you know that?"
Sanji furrowed his perfect curled brow in confusion, making Zoro's heart jump. "Excuse me?"
"Those-Those curls in your eyebrows."
The blond's concern vanished, replaced by righteous anger. "Are you making fun of my eyebrows?!"
"No." Zoro got up and made his way around his desk, staring at the spiral on his student's face as if he were seeing the sun for the first time. "No, they're perfect."
He walked slowly toward his student, still not entirely believing what he was seeing. Sanji began to back away from him and Zoro had to fight the temptation to lunge at and grab him.
"They can't be…You can't be real, can you?"
Sanji looked genuinely scared at this point, but Zoro wasn't paying attention. All he could see was that perfect spiral, the shape that had haunted his dreams and plagued his nightmares for his entire life. He reached out a shaking hand, wanting to touch it, to confirm that it was real and not some cruel hallucination.
"I knew the sequence occurred in nature, but never here. Never in this way."
Zoro stepped closer and Sanji backed up again, as if they were walking through a choreographed dance.
"The key to understanding the universe, right here in front of me," Zoro muttered excitedly, by now completely engrossed with the theorems and equations running rampant through his head. But what if someone else found out? What if they tried to steal this discovery from him before he fully understood it? No, he couldn't—he wouldn't—let that happen. Zoro momentarily broke eye contact with the spiral to glance into Sanji's wide blue eyes. "This must be studied. No one else can know."
His student, who was now trembling—whether from fear or anger, Zoro didn't know—reached up and clapped a hand over his forehead, hiding his miraculous eyebrow from view. With slow steps that were significantly wider than before, Sanji backed up toward the door. What little composure Zoro had been projecting broke.
"Where are you going?!" he asked excitedly. "We have to study this!"
"St-Stay…Stay away from me."
"No, don't be afraid. This is so important." Zoro reached out again, intend upon pulling Sanji's hand away from his face. "You can't possibly understand."
Sanji backed up again, looking somewhere between furious and terrified. "Get away. I mean it. Don't touch me."
"But the sequence…"
Zoro was so close, his fingers just barely brushing against the skin on his student's wrist, when Sanji had enough. Suddenly, the professor found a foot planted squarely in the center of his chest, the surprise of the attack barely having a chance to properly register before he was kicked away. The force of the blond's kick sent him stumbling backwards into his desk, scattering books, pencils, and papers as he made impact. Zoro grunted as the hard wooden edge pressed into his lower back and looked up just in time to see Sanji stumble slightly as he recovered from his part of the kick and turn to run from the office. Zoro called out to him one last time, but Sanji, along with the spiral, was gone.
The professor stared at the empty spot where his student had been in a daze, trying to wrap his mind around what he had just seen. He couldn't quite fathom what this all meant or where it would take him, but Zoro did know one thing. This changed everything.