This is for sanji-mayu who was my secret valentine this year! I couldn't think of anything Valentine's related and I've been stuck in a rut with my writing so I've decided to dedicate this oneshot and the previous chapter to you. I hope you had a great Valentine's Day!
Sanji was having a nightmare again.
What first alerted Zoro to it was the sudden increase of breath, Sanji's lungs pulling in and pushing out air rapidly. Though he appeared to be a heavy sleeper, Zoro had trained himself since the Freaks to be asleep but still able to hear. It had saved his life many a time in the past.
He pushed himself up into a sitting position, his good eye open and the other eyelid half closed over the empty socket, and put out his hand to Sanji who was beginning to cry out next to him. If he were waking Sanji up on one of the very rare days where the blond didn't have a nightmare then Zoro would have roused him with some half arsed curse, or scathing nickname they'd taken to calling each other to ever since they'd met and survived together in that abysmal apocolypse of rotting flesh. He shuddered himself to remember that it had been real. But Sanji was suffering and now wasn't the time for familiarties, he needed to hear a known voice.
Zoro shook the blond gently, "Sanji. Sanji, come on, wake up."
"Nn... Please n-" Sanji murmured, his words slurred more than usual now he wasn't awake to control his damaged jaw. The blond was sweating, the fingers of his right hand grasping at the sheet of the double bed beneath him, fisting the fabric between his digits. His breath was juddery and Zoro swiftly realised that the man was crying in his sleep.
Zoro shook him more firmly, assuring this time he was roused as Sanji came to with a sharp gasp and Zoro twisted slightly to place his hand on the other's forehead, "Sanji, it's okay. I'm here. It was just a nightmare."
Sanji had a look in his eyes, much akin to that of a deer in headlights, as he stared numbly at Zoro with his mouth slightly slack before the reality of everything seemed to rush back in in one overwhelming wave and he choked out a sob, "Oh God..."
Zoro moved in straight away to soothe him, lying himself back down and softly pulling Sanji in against his body, shushing him slowly. Sanji shook and pressed his face into Zoro's chest, fumbling fingers pressing at the ragged scar that ran across his torso as if he were checking that this Zoro was real. Zoro gave him all the time he needed, offering silent condolences and understanding. He couldn't imagine what Sanji had been through; to have nightmares that were memories of the time you became a Freak... He rested his chin atop Sanji's head of damp, sweaty hair and with one hand stroked in an even and light pace on the back of his neck which he now knew from experience helped the other to calm down.
"Z-ro?" Sanji said.
"I'm here," Zoro assured him, "I'm here, Sanji."
"I'm suh sorry..."
Zoro exhaled through his nose as he heard the same line he heard most nights. Sanji's nightmares seemed to fuel off his guilt for having torn out Zoro's eye and scarring his face permanently as well as the very prominent memory of having torn apart a screaming child. But Sanji hadn't been the one to blame for that; he'd been infected with a virus that took control of him and left him a puppet. If anyone was to blame it was himself for having left Sanji back there all those years ago to get bitten and-. He cut that thought off, the therapist had told him thinking like that was what triggered the depression and he didn't want to relapse again.
He dipped his head slightly on the pillow to press his lips in a kiss on that head of blond hair as Sanji slowly but surely began to calm down. It wasn't much longer before Sanji started to pull away from the embrace and Zoro let him, relaxing his arms so as to give the other man some space. The blond wiped his eyes firmly, the tug of his fingers crinkling the deep set pink scar that marred the flesh of his cheek and side of his mouth. He looked at Zoro then scowled, "I'm fine."
Zoro said nothing because Sanji always took whatever was said about his nightmares as pity and, much like himself, his pride wouldn't stand for that. Sanji got up without another word and left presumably for the bathroom, leaving Zoro to roll onto his back and stare at the ceiling before reaching out blindly and turning the lamp on. It was 5am, he wouldn't fall back asleep again now.
It had been 3 years since the virus that had turned most people in feral zombies and his and Sanji's scars were still slightly fresh, both physically and mentally. The world hadn't seemed to have moved on much from the incident but it was slowly taking progressive steps- just the other month he and Sanji had moved into a renovated house and the other week a new string of supermarkets had opened in the small town they lived in. They were still finding bodies though, the news reports on the radio and few limited channels on those lucky enough to have a TV assured them that it was still all far from over. He recalled somewhere in the back of his mind that it was Valentine's day today but he hadn't bothered with it, the decorations and cards had made he and Sanji disgusted- like everything could be fixed and plastered over with cheap tack and paper hearts. Zoro had seen real hearts, and none of them were the sickly cute lies they sold. But he liked to think that maybe a day would come when he and Sanji could get past all this mess and aftermath and enjoy those simple things again. Where they could hear a loud noise and not flinch at it; where they could hear children screaming noisily as they played in the park down the road and not feel the instinct to fight or flee. Sanji and he, they were going to get better. They had to.
He almost jumped when the mattress dipped and Sanji sat down next to him, "Sorry." He muttered as he lay back down and pressed himself against Zoro's side, bringing an arm to curl around his waist. Zoro pulled up the covers over the other and accepted the embrace.
"You don't have to be sorry for anything." Zoro said softly.
"It wasn't your fault. What you were then wasn't the real you, okay?" Zoro kissed the top of Sanji's head. "I love you."
"Love you tuh," Sanji murmured against Zoro's chest and his arm tightened around the man's waist as though seeking reassurance. "It'll get better, Sanji. It will." They lay there through the silent hours of the morning, quietly listening to the world outside waking up bit by bit. Sanji held him close and he held Sanji closer still thinking hopefully towards that time when things would get better.