Sanji made a request of Usopp the next day when things were back to a more standard day on the Merry. The sharp shooter gave him an odd look and then chuckled, his only comment being that he didn't think Zoro would appreciate it.
He made it beautiful and professional looking anyway.
Sanji thanked Usopp with one of his better snacks from the galley and took a moment to appreciate it. It was a hand sized, diamond shaped piece of brass. Etched letters were placed neatly on the surface: "Ship's cat. If found, return to Sanji of the Straw-hat crew". Sanji loved it and was even more delighted when Usopp had a matching round bell that could go with it. Sanji strung both on a strand of ribbon and chuckled to himself as he placed it in his pocket, the bell muffled by the ribbon end stuffed part way in.
Zoro had thankfully turned back to a human the next day after a long nap. His body covered with a blanket instead of clothes for a bit; not that Zoro cared, but Sanji certainly did for several reasons: Integrity of the ladies, general indecency, mild embarrassment at his own body's attraction, and second hand embarrassment because it was his lover being indecent. The day Sanji got the tag and bell from Usopp was probably the most normal he'd had since learning Zoro was a cambion. They went about their normal routine; a comforting thing. Sanji was constantly amused by the thought of Zoro wearing the bell, ever since he'd thought of it when he'd led the demon back towards the ship. The gag was too good to pass up, even if it was just funny in his own mind.
That evening he had already served the ladies their desert and he knew Zoro would be finishing up what ever exercises he'd planned for himself and Sanji was going to catch him before he took his post workout nap. He had a tray in hand with a bottle of sake and a bowl of sorbet. The sun was waning and Sanji caught Zoro as he pulled his shirt back on. Sanji felt excitement, perhaps because he also just wanted to spend the evening with Zoro on the ship. On Libertine they had been so busy and there wasn't always time to find a time to relax. Especially with the unexpectedness of their captain. An opportunity to lean towards the romantic weighed on Sanji's mind and he was going to have it.
Sanji took the sake bottle and a little shake was enough to get Zoro's attention. Sanji smirked and placed the bottle back on the tray.
"A drink for your time, swordsman?" Sanji said. Zoro relaxed and his eyes were drawn up to Sanji in that way he was still getting used to. Sanji felt his face flush lightly as Zoro's focus shifted from the bottle to Sanji and a flirtatious smirk crossed Zoro's mouth. The attention still thrilled him but he was getting a better handle on the rush and was determined to enjoy it for more than just a few flustered seconds.
"As long as the bottle still has sake, cook," Zoro replied and plucked it from the tray. Sanji allowed it and lightly touched Zoro's arm before leading the way to the quieter stern of the ship. Zoro followed wordlessly, opening the bottle along the way. The table Nami and Robin had been used the day before was still there and Sanji sat at it, placing the tray beside him. Zoro joined him, even pulling up the chair without needing a prompt to do so.
"You still haven't tried the dessert I made earlier." Sanji presented the dish and a spoon before Zoro.
"I told you to put it in my mouth," Zoro said as he actually picked up the spoon and set down the bottle.
"You can't enjoy it as a cat-bat," Sanji said with slight annoyance. "It must be enjoyed. You cambion have no sense of dignified taste when you're animals."
"How would you know?" Zoro asked
"I fed a whole tribe of them and all the animals ate exactly like that; animals."
"Huh," Zoro shrugged and finally indulged Sanji, placing the sorbet filled spoon in his mouth. Sanji waited expectedly and Zoro eyed him, giving him a suspicious look.
"Well?" Sanji asked after possibly the longest 3 second stare for any indication of like or dislike.
"You're not going to be so intense about every time you give me something, are you?" Zoro asked and Sanji sat up in his seat. Alright, maybe he'd been leaning in far too close to the bowl.
"No, no, of course not," Sanji drew himself back and let Zoro enjoy his the snack. Sanji knew Zoro didn't really enjoy sweets, so he'd reduced sugar to the minimal amount and thought the flavors and cool ice crystals would play well with the sake while they were in a summer climate. Sanji puffed through a cigarette and wasn't disappointed when he was handed back an empty bowl and spoon.
"It was actually good," Zoro said, washing down the last of it with a swig of sake.
"What do you mean actually?" Sanji partook in partial defense, but he also partially wanted to preen in the face of an actual compliment.
"I don't like sweets. I thought it was something you made for the women," Zoro admitted. Sanji gave him a proud smile.
"I know you better than that," Sanji said and the dish was set aside for later. He leaned his elbows on the table, enjoying the smoke, the sea breeze, and the company. Zoro gave a calm smirk that made him look handsome and Sanji did have to glance away, just for a moment to collect his thoughts. It was ridiculous how one man could make his heart thud so hard with the right amount of attention. It was still all very new and unfamiliar than his usual ways of catering to women. He was still working with what to say half the time.
Zoro shifted his seat and Sanji found Zoro's hand covering his own on the wooden surface. Zoro nodded to the bottle, indicating it was still partly full. "We still got some time." Sanji also smiled and also scooted his chair closer so their arms were pressed into one another and their body heat could mingle easily. It was romantic in its own quiet way. Sanji knew Zoro had just trained and he was probably ready for a nap so enjoying the mellow quiet together was well timed and well deserved. Their fingers mingled and laced as more time drifted by and small nuances in the way their fingers moved was something he was sure Zoro wouldn't be up for in public. Zoro was relaxed and seemed to be enjoying his company in return. The setting sun warmed their backs. A rare calm, Sanji was sure.
"You're not going to start treating me like the women, are you?" Zoro asked casually.
Sanji huffed with a smile. "As if I could mistake you for a woman." His more nimble fingers felt the callouses between the joints of Zoro's palm. They were solid and warm and Sanji didn't think their hands should fit together at all. Yet, they were not as brick like as they seemed. They were more like... paws or claws of some big beast. "I'm a cook, first and foremost. And we're lovers. So, I wanted to make something you might like." He could feel Zoro's intense gaze on him so Sanji rubbed at a stray scar on Zoro's hand, finding both his hands had wandered to explore their new territory. "If you don't like it, I'll make something else." Just because Zoro finished the bowl didn't mean much in this crew. He expected them to consume everything. He'd be insulted if they didn't and they knew that by now.
"I did like it," Zoro said, "It was good with the sake."
"But?" Sanji pressed
"But what?" Zoro raised a brow.
"There's always a but in culinary dishes so I can improve upon it," Sanji said stubbornly.
Zoro's brow bunched up as he seemed to think about it, then he leaned back in his seat. "Not as good as your kiss." Sanji felt heat flush his face.
"You can't just give me a line like that as an answer," Sanji said.
"Well you were the one fishing for it," Zoro said with a smirk as he looked at him. "Give me one of those."
"You're demanding one now are you?" Sanji huffed and matched a playful stare with him. Sanji leaned in, placing a kiss on Zoro's smirking mouth. "I hope you don't expect one with every meal."
"Why not? You taste the best." Zoro said. Sanji's face flushed more with such terrible lines. It felt odd, a marimo flirting with him. He kind of liked it.
"I'm not food," Sanji protested.
"Well I did nearly starve without you. So in a way, you are," Zoro said. Sanji was sure Zoro was not actually trying to be antagonistic right then, but it edged far into a territory that Sanji didn't enjoy or understand. Maybe because he never would as a human. Zoro adjusted his grip on Sanji's hand and his eyes met Zoro's again. "Cambion need to feed off of others. You get that much, don't you, cook?"
"Yes, I get it." Sanji had just been on an island that circled around that idea. Oddly, they weren't as monstrous as he thought it would be in a tribe like they saw.
"I don't have to to this," Zoro secured their hand holding. "I want to though. So don't go thinking I'm doing it just for a meal."
Sanji relaxed and the butterflies returned at stranger and stranger times. He still wasn't sure what to expect with Zoro or exactly how to love the man/cambion/marimo but he certainly wanted to continue learning how.
"Fine, I won't," Sanji said and kissed Zoro again; this time for longer than a peck. Their hands unraveled naturally as Zoro's arm moved to curl around Sanji's back and bring him in closer. The taste of mint, chocolate, and sake was refreshing and it brought a smile to Sanji's face. He supposed he could have curled into it and enjoyed it quietly, but knowing there would be more moments like that in the future made it easier to draw his little gift from his pocket. He deepened the kiss as he slid his arms around Zoro's neck. He looped the ribbon around, drawing it back to tie a decorative bow in the front. Zoro's confused and freshly kissed face gave him the precious seconds for Sanji to admire and secure the knot. Then he gathered the dishes and stood up as Zoro pulled at the tag and the little bell rang, giving him more time to kiss Zoro on the forehead and said, "Glad you enjoyed your snack, bat-cat." He watched as Zoro fiddled to actually see what Sanji had done to him.
"I'm NOT the ship's cat," Zoro said loudly and Sanji laughed as he escaped towards his galley. He knew he could get more kisses later, but the flush of anger and embarrassment that was on Zoro's face was priceless. It might take him some time to get used to loving a cambion, but that didn't mean he wasn't going to have fun with it.
Final chapter ladies and gents. This has been a very fun fic to write and long in posting, but it is complete. I hope you've enjoyed the ride to the end. If you have any questions or comments then I welcome all and will try to get to them all promptly. Thank you all who have already commented, I enjoy every one I get :)
I of course have some final thoughts that I could not fit into the story. Such as, Zoro being Sanji's glorious feline mount at some point. The down side being if Sanji is not steering Zoro, they would get lost. Multiple times. So Battle Cat Cambion Zoro might be a flop and it's best to leave him as a lost marimo.
The other thought was that I was theorizing why Zoro was part bat. Obviously wings are freaking cool, but they're kind of a novelty here because he's too heavy to really do anything but fall more gracefully. My theory is that Zoro travels more by hearing more than sight, not only for my fic but for the canon as well. Bats travel using echolocation and Zoro might do the same naturally. He has fought blind in the anime with little problem before and it just translates very well with how he still ends up where he needs to be. He just takes a longer path than everyone else.
That's all folks. Have a wonderful and lovely day!