Hello! We've reached the end! I hope you enjoyed this facfic. A very special thank you goes out to my beta reader, HadenxCharm, who had helped to make this fanfiction as good as it could be. I don't even want to think about how this story would be without her help. So, thank you HadenxCharm. Thank you to my readers, followers, reviewers and those who favorited. All of you helped motivate me to finish, so I thank everyone from the bottom of my heart.
Disclaimor: I do not own One Piece or any of it's wonderful characters! All rights goes to there respective owners!
I do hope that you enjoy this last chapter!
"Sanji? Are you sure it's okay for you to be walking around?" Franky asked as he pushed his sunglasses up to his forehead, pausing in his work to regard the chef passing him. Sanji was just about to light a cigarette when he stopped to address Franky.
"Yeah. I was cleared to walk around without help a little while ago. I was just checking up on the marimo before I realized that it was almost lunchtime. I should go make lunch before Luffy destroys half of the ship," Sanji mumbled as he lit his cigarette. Franky grumbled at the thought of their captain hurting his beautiful masterpiece and shooed Sanji away to the kitchen to prevent such a disaster from befalling them. When Sanji had finally closed the door to his precious kitchen, he locked the door, lit his cigarette, and exhaled a lungful of smoke. He leaned on the door until he willed his sapped legs to move so he could start preparing lunch. He hadn't bothered to turn on the lights.
He decided that sandwiches would be enough as he quickly finished off his cigarette and tiredly lit another one. As Sanji went to light his next cancer stick, he huffed, put down his lighter and tangled a hand in his already scruffy hair, yanking at the blonde strands as he turned and slid down the counter. When his ass hit the floorboards, he leaned on the cupboards with his knees at a bend. He rested his elbows on his knees as he tangled both hands in his hair and ground his teeth on the crushed filter of his unlit cigarette.
It had been a week after Zoro had first landed himself in that fucking infirmary bed and Sanji was getting agitated and… dispirited.
The marimo hadn't woken up yet. It took a lot of effort to try to act as though it didn't affect him.
Sanji was starting to fall apart. He couldn't take how powerless he felt when he watched the slight rise and fall of the man's chest when he visited him. He couldn't take how he still looked like a corpse; his usual healthy tanned skin still looked pale. He couldn't take that there was still the possibility that Zoro wouldn't make it.
Sanji threw his head back against the cupboard. Pain burst from where his head connected with the wood, but he ignored it as his thoughts consumed him. 'I can't think about that. Zoro… he'll make it. He won't die. If Mihawk's fatal attack didn't kill him, then he won't die from the little cuts that… Osamu… had inflicted! Fuck! I have to believe in him! What's wrong with me!? I have to believe that he'd make it, because he's the strongest, most stubborn, ambitious asshole that I've ever met! He is going to become the world's greatest swordsman! He's going to be fine! Ugh! I can't take this! I've been going back and forth this whole time! I've been getting all pessimistic, and then I scold myself for being miserable, saying that I should be as supportive as possible! It's driving me up the fucking wall! That moss-ball is driving me absolutely nuts and he's not even conscious! He better hurry up and wake the fuck up so then I could give him a piece of my mind! He can't just kiss me and then go off and get his ass kicked!'
As his thoughts progressed, he went from wretched, to determined, to irritated beyond belief. Then, just as he was about to get up and start cooking to relieve himself from his frustration, all of the energy he had felt escaped him. The energy that he had built up evaporated as he deflated and leaned back against the cupboards. He sighed. It had been a never-ending loop of emotions for the past week, and he wasn't dealing with it very well.
Irritation began to invade him again, and this time he pulled himself up and gradually started to make sandwiches. As he worked, his frustrations grew and the speed at which he threw the sandwiches together increased.
He was cross with his thoughts, with the situation, with Zoro for getting himself so hurt, with Osamu for coming back and hurting Zoro again, for being so useless while Zoro had fought and most of all, how helpless he felt while Zoro lay unresponsive in the infirmary. It was all driving Sanji mad in more ways than one.
He was so wrapped up in his thoughts and anger that he hadn't heard one of his beautiful flowers knocking on the door, calling for him.
"Sanji," a feminine voice called from behind the door, but there was no response from the blonde. "Sanji!" she called louder as she pounded on the door.
Before Sanji could even think about who was talking to him, he growled at whoever it was that disrupted his contemplations.
"What?!" he roared as he slammed a sandwich down onto a platter. He stomped to the door in long strides, and when he reached it, he unlocked it, swung it open, his countenance bursting with rage and agitation. Immediately, his blood froze when he saw Robin's wide eyes. His ire instantly evaporated as his body tingled with shock. He gawked down at his feet before he gaped up at her.
"R-robin… I… I'm… I apologize," he began numbly, not quite knowing what to do with himself. She regarded him with a reassuring smile, as if to say that she was okay and that wasn't upset.
"It is okay, Sanji-san. Here, sit down at the table while I prepare some coffee," she said gracefully as she motioned him to sit. When she saw him take a seat, she went off to make coffee, following all of the steps he had taught her for when she was on night watch and he wasn't present to make her a cup.
Sanji stayed silent as he stared at a spot on the kitchen table, appearing to be upset with himself as he bit his lip and folded his hands on the table. He stayed silent when Robin came back with the coffee, only giving a nod of acknowledgment and thanks as she placed a steaming cup in front of him. She gave him a small smile that he saw at the corner of his eye, but even with her smile, he stayed silent. He didn't mutter a single word of praise as he got swept up in his sad contemplations. She sighed softly before she blew on her beverage and took a sip. She smiled at him again, but this was the smile that she'd offered when she was serious.
"Sanji-san, I think we should talk."
"Oh no," he muttered under his breath as he watched Sanji shout at Robin.
'Sanji's worse off than I had thought… I wish I could help more… I wish I knew how to help. Besides… we're their friends… We're supposed to be there and help, even when they don't ask for it…'
"Chopper…? Do you think he'll be okay?" Luffy asked solemnly as he stood behind him. They had been quietly fishing before they had seen Sanji yell at Robin, a lady.
Chopper glanced behind him and answered as he walked towards the infirmary. "Yeah, Luffy, I think he'll be fine. I have to go. I just realized that I should check up on Zoro."
He didn't give Luffy time to respond as he walked out of earshot, and then into his office. Chopper sighed as he closed the door. His ear twitched at the slight breaths that he heard Zoro take. His breathing was steady, which was always a good sign. Chopper walked to his desk, picked up a clipboard that had a list of things to check the patient for, and soundlessly trotted over to Zoro. He quickly went over the list with practiced ease, barely glancing over it as he wrote down observations.
After a little while, Chopper confirmed that all of Zoro's vitals were satisfactory, but he still sighed sadly as he glanced at Zoro's leg. The large wound in his right leg had gotten infected several times over the past few days. Last night was the latest and most deadly he'd yet… Chopper took care of it every time, but these infections were a huge reason as to why the swordsman was not in the clear yet.
Chopper shuffled to his desk, hopped onto his comfy chair, and began to write in Zoro's file. He noted that the wound didn't seem as though it was presently infected. He also wrote that if Zoro woke up, he'd have to rest for about a week and undergo some physical therapy. Chopper had also determined he should screen Zoro for depression so that he could officially diagnose him, or at least determine that he was experiencing something else, just in case - though, he was fairly certain that Zoro was clinically depressed.
Chopper sighed again and rubbed his forehead and then his temples as he closed the file and pushed it away tiredly.
'It should be okay to give him the screening after a about a day or so if he wakes up. That would give me time to check up on him, but ultimately it would give him enough time to get over the side effects and the fuzzy feeling in his head from the pain-relievers. A day would give him enough time to have a clear head to take the test… Fuck. He had suffered a lot of damage fighting his father… He lost a lot of blood… I did everything that I could… particularly with those infections… Ultimately it's up to him if he wants to keep going, especially since he's suffered his worse infection last night. It was a close call, and Zoro's not in the clear yet. He's only been holding on due to his abnormal physical abilities. A normal man would have died from that last infection, but he's still hanging in there, though who knows if he'll keep holding on… With Sanji, it was less doubtful that he'd want to keep living… but Zoro… that's a gray area that I didn't want to ponder. That's a gray area that Sanji wouldn't want to think about either… but I know for a fact that we both can't stop thinking about it… That's why… That's why Sanji was such a wreck…'
"Zoro," Chopper sniveled, holding back tears as he turned to the unconscious swordsman. His ears were pointed downwards as heavy teardrops threatened to fall down his down-casted furry face.
"It's been a week since you've been hurt. While you've been out, the log pose had set and we've left the island. We're at sea now... Zoro, Sanji is… not dealing with this very well. He's really sad. He's sad that you're hurt. We are sad that you're injured and you aren't waking up. Please, wake up soon. Come back to us, Zoro… We miss you."
Sanji stayed quiet for a bit longer before he responded in a quiet tone. "Talk about what, Robin-chan?"
Robin blinked at the unusually downhearted chef, she seemed to be analyzing him, and for once Sanji minded the attention from a lady. He didn't like feeling as though he were being scrutinized, as if his innermost thoughts and feelings were being inspected.
"About Zoro, of course," she said placidly as she pulled Sanji out of his thoughts. He glanced up at her before his eyes fell to his cooling cup of coffee. He unhurriedly took a sip of the perfectly executed coffee as he answered with a small satisfied smile, "Well, I should have expected that, no?"
"Indeed," she answered, even though she knew it was more of a statement than a question. "Sanji-kun, swordsman-san's incident is causing you a lot of despair. We are all upset, however you are taking it a lot harder than everyone else, and I just thought… that you may want to talk."
Sanji looked up at her from his lukewarm beverage and gave her a blank look, as if he hadn't heard her. Then he began to laugh.
"Oh no, Robin-chan," he released a chuckle that held no humor. He took another quick sip of coffee. His mouth suddenly felt dry. "I wouldn't want to burden a lovely lady such as yourself with my worries."
"Sanji-kun, I am your nakama, and I am worried about you. If talking helps, then please talk to me. I will listen. I will also tell you my thoughts if you would like." Robin had a very serious yet soft tone as she gave him a hard stare. He blinked at her before his eyes dropped to his cold coffee. Silence hung over them for a little while before he looked back up at his friend in slight defeat and told her what was plaguing him.
"Robin-chan… I know that he's going to wake up… I know it! It's just that…! I… always have this tendril of doubt, and… and this back and forth is driving me crazy," he sighed as he tangled a hand into his hair and gave her a dejected smile.
"What's worse is," he continued as he dropped his gaze to the space between them. "He…"
Sanji stopped there as his smile dropped to a frown and his look became distant. Robin's eyes widened slightly as she leaned slightly forward in interest and prompted him to resume. "Yes?"
"He kissed me."
"He kissed me before he got himself all fucked up, Robin-chan…" His voice was monotone as he dropped his hand from his hair, lit a cigarette, shoved both of his hands in his pockets, and slumped in his chair. Robin sat up a bit straighter and her smile dropped, yet she felt no need to utter a word, knowing that Sanji still had unvoiced thoughts that were about to come out in the open.
"I was… so confused at first. I kept asking myself why he would do that. Then I figured out that it must've been because he has some sort of interest in me, but I don't know if he loves me or anything like that. He just kissed me and left like a fucking knight going off to slay a dragon to protect the princess and the kingdom! That fucking idiot! He got himself so hurt…! I…! I didn't get a chance to tell him how I feel and I can't help but get infuriated, and then miserable, and then infuriated again! I keep going around in circles and it all pisses me off and gets me down!" He spoke softly and in a lost tone at first, but as he continued, he began to speak faster and growled in irritation. He went to light another cigarette to calm himself down, and when he flicked the small flame of his lighter on, he noticed Robin looking at him with a curious and understanding glint in her eyes. He inhaled the soothing smoke, instantly sedating his fraying nerves as he became silent.
"So," Robin began in an even tone, putting her elbows on the table, and weaving her fingers together to place her chin on her fingers. "Would you like to hear what I think?"
"… Yeah," he said quietly as he exhaled the smoke within his lungs.
"Well, I think you have every right to be upset and saddened. I do not think that your reaction to all of this is strange. However, believe that you do not have to be upset or saddened. Zoro will definitely wake up. He'll be fine."
Sanji gaped at her, his shoulders stiffened as mild shock enveloped him. "But, Robin-chan, I-"
"Sanji-kun, I am not finished."
"… Sorry." His shoulders slacked in apology as she took a moment to sip from her mug.
"Anyways, I say that he will be fine because he has to stay alive. He has a promise to a very special friend to keep. He'll become the greatest swordsman in the world. I am sure that we both have no doubts about that in our minds," she said in matter-of-fact manner. Sanji smiled softly at his cold coffee mug and nodded. A comfortable silence rested over them for several moments as they pictured Zoro becoming the best.
"Besides," she continued, seeing Sanji glance up at her as she shooed the cozy silence away. "I'm sure that somewhere in his mind he knows that his nakama – especially you and Luffy – would be very upset with him if he just gave up."
Sanji chuckled at his nakama's honest words as he put out his spent cigarette in a nearby ash tray. Sanji would be absolutely livid if Zoro gave up on his dream. So much had been sacrificed, Zoro had gone so far, and he just couldn't give up. That wasn't an option. Sanji felt as though Kuina and Koshiro would despair if Zoro stopped pursuing his ambition. As this thought occurred to him, he felt the corners of his mouth twitch downwards as pain stung his heart. 'If they can't be there for Zoro to encourage him, to believe in him, to offer a shoulder to lean on, or an ear to listen to him… then I will. Koshiro, Kuina, I hope that it's okay for me to support him while you're not around.'
"Hm?" he responded as he turned to look into Robin's curious eyes.
"Are you alright?" she asked in a worried tone as she scanned his face, looking for signs that indicated that something was wrong.
"Huh? Oh, um, yeah. I'm okay. I was just caught up in my own thoughts for a second. Why do you ask?" he questioned politely, fearing that he may have appeared strange.
"Oh, you suddenly looked sullen, and then determined, as if you were going out to battle," she informed placidly as she moved to pick up the two mugs. Sanji held up his hand to stop her and he silently swept up the cups. She slowly took her seat, watching him take long strides to the sink and begin washing the dishes.
"Yes?" he answered, taking a quick glance over his shoulder as he finished up washing the dishes.
"I think that you should tell him how you feel."
Sanji stiffened while he drying one of the two cups, but he recovered quickly from his initial surprise as he chucked and finished drying the cups. He didn't respond until he had put the two cups away and returned to his seat. The silence draped over them while Robin fixed him with a surprised countenance. Before she could ask him anything, he spoke in a soft tone, "Great minds think alike, y'know, Robin-chan. I'm set on telling him how I feel after he wakes up… but… I just don't know when, or how to bring it up. I really want to tell him. No. I need to tell him. Before the idiot decides to go get himself all fucked up again."
Robin gave him the softest smile he had ever seen from such an ominous woman, but instead of gawking and praising her on her beautifully benevolent countenance, he grinned back at her.
"You'll know what to say and when, I'm sure of it," she replied with confidence, rising from her seat. As she did so, she leaned forward to squeeze his shoulder to silently wish him good luck, and then she left without another word.
She leant on the wall next to the kitchen door, and after a few minutes of waiting, she heard a chair scratch against the floorboards. A few more minutes passed as Sanji shuffled through the kitchen, probably finishing lunch. Then she heard a door open and close. She smiled as she pushed herself off of the wall and walked towards the library.
"Sanji-kun," she murmured to herself. "We both know that you need to tell him because you dare to hope."
"I'm back, Moss-ball." Sanji announced as he entered the infirmary through the kitchen. He closed the door as silently as he could. He leaned against the door as his eyes rested upon the unconscious man's peaceful face, and then his gaze traveled to his chest. He watched him breathe steadily, rhythmically.
After Robin-chan had left the kitchen, he had thrown lunch together in a frenzy, leaving the platter of delectable sandwiches on the table for his nakama to find. He felt an unbearable urge to go and visit the swordsman again, so he hurried over to see him, but now that he was alone in the infirmary with the incapacitated marimo, he was at a loss of what to do. Not like he could actually do anything.
Sanji sighed as he pushed himself off of the door. Lethargically, he grabbed the shitty wooden chair from a corner and placed it next to Zoro's bed. He soundlessly took a seat, his eyes never leaving the reassuring rise and fall of the marimo's chest. He itched for a cigarette to calm the persisting anxious thoughts swirling inside his head, but he resisted the impulse. He'd be in deep shit if Chopper smelt smoke in the infirmary. He chuckled softly at the image of Chopper scurrying around and waving his little arms about as he ranted and raved at Sanji as to why smoking and second-hand smoking is bad for him and everyone around him. When he had calmed, his eyes trailed up to Zoro's sleeping face. He took in the man's features even though he had already etched this image of Zoro like this in his mind over the past several days.
Sanji chewed on his bottom lip as he moved to caress Zoro's sunken pale cheek. He brushed his thumb over Zoro's high cheekbones, feeling how cold he was. The corners of Sanji's mouth pulled down into a frown as he moved to brush the tips of his fingers over his chapped lips. An ache settled in his heart for the one-hundredth time since Zoro had landed himself in the infirmary.
'I know that what Robin-chan said was true, and I don't feel as shitty or pissed as I was before, but…' he thought as he gazed at the dark circles around Zoro's closed eyes and saw how thin the he had gotten. 'I can't just get over this aching in my chest. It hurts… seeing him like this, knowing that he's suffering, but not being able to help. Or not knowing how to help without doing more damage…'
Sanji sighed once again as he withdrew his hand from Zoro's face to place it over Zoro's hand.
"Listen up, you shitty marimo," Sanji huffed tiredly as he slid his fingers between Zoro's, tenderly squeezing the back of his hand before he continued.
"I don't know what's going on in that shitty mossy brain of yours, and frankly I don't think I want to know… but Zoro," he growled in a firm tone and a determined countenance, "I know for a fact that you'll wake up. I've been reassured by our wisest nakama. I believe in you, you shitty swordsman. If you give up, I… I won't forgive you. You hear? I won't forgive you, you fucking bastard. Besides… you'll make Koshiro, Kuina, and our nakama sad, and we both don't want that… so stop getting fucking lost in there and come home." His raspy voice was just above a whisper as he squeezed the once tanned hand harder and directed a pained scowl at him. When he saw that Zoro wasn't going to wake up soon, he relaxed dejectedly. He was actually disappointed that the moss-head hadn't awoken with his monologue. 'I'm so fucking stupid… God, what's wrong with me?'
Sanji chuckled sullenly to himself as he released his hold on his hand with one final squeeze. He rose from his seat and quickly pecked Zoro's forehead before he put that god-awful chair back where he'd found it.
"Why would I think for even a second that he'd just wake up after my little speech? That was so stupid… well… no point in dwelling on it. I'd better go back to the kitchen to start on dinner. I'll just come back when I'm done… I've been doing that for the past week now anyways," he mumbled as he trudged to the door separating the kitchen and the infirmary. When he was about to turn the doorknob, he stopped to glance over his shoulder, taking one more look at the swordsman before sighing again and walking through the door.
After he had thrown together a quick but mouthwatering supper, he ate his portion in contemplative silence before he called everyone to dinner in a relatively placid tone, even when addressing the ladies. He had much on his mind, wondering what to do and say when the swordsman woke up as he went to the infirmary and waited by his side. Sanji had only ever left Zoro's side when he either had to use the restroom, cook, or get sustenance, but his mind never left.
When he took a seat next to Zoro's bed once again, he huffed and crossed his arms; silently waiting for sleeping beauty to fucking wake up.
"Huh?" Sanji yawned as he sat up to stretch. He instantly flinched when pain stabbed at his lower back.
"Aw fucking hell," he groaned as he snarled, realizing he was sitting in Chopper's shitty wooden chair. He cast a quick glance at his surroundings. He found himself in the infirmary, and he groaned again. He stood up, wincing at the ache that had settled in his neck and lower back. He grabbed the back of the wooden chair and roughly shoved it into its corner, irritated at the nagging pain he had woken up to.
"Fuck, I fell asleep in here again. My fucking neck and back are killing me! I need to stop fucking falling asleep in this shitty chair! I fucking hate this goddamn chair! Why doesn't it have a cushion or something!?"
"Ugh, would you quiet down and stop bitching at a chair, Shit-cook?"
"Hey! Shut up, you stupid mari-!"
Sanji froze as his brain and heart stuttered to a stop. He held his breath as he slowly turned to the direction of the infirmary bed. His wide blue eyes met with the tired green one that made his heart soar and stomach flutter.
"Z-zoro," Sanji called weakly as his feet stuck to the floorboards. He was dumbfounded as he gaped at the conscious swordsman that stared at him with a placid expression.
"Hm?" Zoro hummed, blinking up at him. Before he knew it, Sanji was kneeling down next to him and began to frantically ask him questions. Neither of them could figure out if Sanji had sounded concerned or angry, but they both knew that he had been worried out of his curly mind.
"How are you feeling? Are you okay? Do your arms hurt? Do your legs hurt? Are you in any pain? You shitty moss-ball, why did you go get yourself hurt like this?! Do you know how long you were out?! I've been practically driven mad just thinking about what happened! What do you think the others felt?!" Sanji began in a hushed tone, but it grew harsher as his volume increase. He looked worried; he even looked hurt as he questioned him.
Zoro just stared wide-eyed at him. He had obviously not expected Sanji to bombard him with questions, but Sanji didn't care, peering into his eyes and searching for answers. Instead of some sort of taunt, like Sanji had expected after he'd realized that he had just had an embarrassing outburst, Zoro broke eye contact. He seemed to be ashamed.
"Um, Sanji," he began quietly hesitantly as he avoided Sanji's gaze. Sanji's eyes widened a bit before they narrowed. Zoro sounded defeated, and it chipped away at Sanji's heart.
"Yeah?" he answered softly. He was tempted to grab Zoro's hand to offer some sort of comfort, but he restrained himself, in case that made Zoro upset in some way.
"I…uh, I understand if you're mad at me, and… I-I understand if you hate me for what I did… I'm… sorry," he mumbled as his mouth twisted into a frown. He grimaced, curling his hand into a weak fist. He seemed to have regretted either kissing Sanji, or getting his ass handed to him. Sanji guessed that it might have been the former as his expression relaxed and the tension in his shoulders faded.
"Zoro," he murmured in a tired but a morose, almost desperate, manner. Zoro tensed at the sad way Sanji had called his name, but he slowly trailed his eyes to look into Sanji's. His breath caught in his throat as he stared into deep blue eyes that expressed sadness, relief, irritation, and joy all at once. Zoro had no clue how the passionate chef could manage to express so much with just a single gaze. At first Zoro was puzzled with why the other was experiencing such emotions, yet his thoughts had fallen away as he listened to Sanji's hushed words that were spoke with so much… sincerity… that he couldn't help but hang onto and believe every word that fell from such perfect lips.
"I… I was mad, I am upset, but that is only because you left me, just to get all fucked up. You were out for a fucking week, Zoro. You've had infection after infection after infection, and you were so close to death. I couldn't help but get upset… but I don't hate you, Moss-ball. I don't think I can." Sanji watched Zoro's grimace slowly fall away, leaving him a bit confused as his chapped lips parted slightly, his thin eyebrows pulled together, and his eyes narrowed in uncertainty.
He appeared to be questioning whether what Sanji was saying was true, but as soon as this confusion had come, it was gone. His features quickly relaxed as he stared back at Sanji.
There was a certain tension in the otherwise gentle innocent gaze that made Sanji's heart pound and butterflies burst, but he held himself back from surging forward to capture the chapped, tempting, perfectly-shaped lips in front of him. Instead, he asked a question with a surprisingly low and calm tone, "How are you feeling?"
Zoro blinked at him for a moment, realizing that the blonde was actually speaking to him again. "Um, I'm feeling a bit groggy, actually. My head's all fuzzy, but I'm sure it's all just the painkillers. I'll be… okay."
Sanji wasn't sure why Zoro paused before he said 'okay,' it was almost as if he were correcting himself in his head, but Sanji just shrugged it off as he stood. Zoro's eyes followed his movements as he stretched to ease the pain he had woken up with. They bore into him as they tried to memorize the way Sanji moved, and Sanji saw desire in them. Sanji suppressed a shiver that threatened to run up his spine under Zoro's gaze, and he fought a blush from occurring.
Sanji turned to avoid his stare as he spoke in a casual tone while straightening his suit, "I'm gonna' go get Chopper."
Before Zoro could say anything, Sanji hurried out of the infirmary. He hurried so Zoro could quickly get checked so that he could talk to him. The sooner he could get checked… the sooner Zoro would know that their feelings were probably mutual, and hopefully they'd be happy.
"Chopper!" Sanji hollered once his foot landed on the lush grass of the deck, cupping a hand around his mouth to amplify his voice. It was about time that everyone should be awake, so Sanji hoped that the doctor would hear him. Chopper had immediately appeared before him, his chest heaving from running as fast as his little legs could carry him.
"What?! What's wrong?! Is it about Zoro?! Does he have another infection?!"
"No," Sanji chuckled under his breath as he lit himself a cigarette. He saw that the rest of his nakama had run over to him, wondering what was going on. He jabbed a thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the infirmary. "The moss-head's awake. He's awake."
Chopper's eyes nearly popped out of his head, and by the time this joyous piece of news registered in his nakama's head, Chopper was already in the infirmary as they all whooped in relief. Luffy was the first to start running to the infirmary, with everyone else jogging after him, but Sanji walked. He took his time as he heard his nakama barge into the room. He heard soft cries, loud cheers, and scolding. By the time he reached the door, he smiled as he watched the doctor kick everyone out so he could take care of his patient. Large smiles were seen all around as everyone waited for the captain to say the words they knew he would say.
"We'll have a party to celebrate Zoro waking up!"
"Oh," Luffy breathed as he realized something. All heads turned to him, questioning the sudden change in the energetic captain, until he looked at Sanji with a wide grin. "And to Sanji's recoveries!"
It was decided that they'd celebrate the wonderful recoveries of their nakama after Zoro was cleared from the infirmary, so that everyone could enjoy the party as much as possible.
While Sanji had finished fixing breakfast and then lunch, Chopper had finished up evaluating Zoro. He had concluded that his vitals were good and that what he had observed prior was accurate. The only thing was that Zoro's body was clearing up the drugs' effects a lot faster than he had thought, and after approximately three hours after he had awoken, he was coherent enough to be screened.
Chopper asked if it was okay if he was the one to ask Zoro about his symptoms and other standardized questions, just to be certain. Chopper didn't pressure him; he simply asked and waited for a response. He made sure to reassure him that he was sworn to never give any personal information about a patient, as a respectable doctor.
Zoro had seemed very reluctant, but he'd consented. He'd wanted to know what was wrong with him for a while, and he wasn't going to just pass up the opportunity now.
Chopper offered to have Sanji do the screening, but Zoro said it was fine if Chopper did it since Chopper was going to know if he had it or not anyways. So, Chopper screened Zoro, and with what Zoro had to say, it was apparent as to what the results were. Zoro smiled sadly at him as Chopper told him what he already assumed. He asked Chopper why he'd screened him if they both already guessed the results. Chopper had said that it was to officially diagnose him first-hand: he had gotten his information from a secondary source, never hearing it from the person himself, and these specific questions weren't actually asked. Chopper had figured things by following a trail of breadcrumbs, but relying on that wasn't something he thought he should do. This was the best way to actually know, and Chopper had thanked him for answering honestly.
Zoro just hummed as he heard Chopper's answer and word of thanks. Chopper had assumed Zoro was displeased, but once Zoro saw his sullen brown eyes, he called the little doctor over gently. When Chopper was next to his bed, Zoro tenderly scooped him up and lightly hugged the fuzzy reindeer, mindful of his still aching wounds. He thanked Chopper for his concern, and even though his voice was saturated with poorly hidden sadness, Chopper gave him a small smile and hugged him back.
When the hug was over, Chopper slowly slid from the bed, clopped to his desk, hopped onto the comfy chair, and swiveled the chair to begin his paperwork. When a cozy, slightly tense, melancholy silence hung over them, Chopper broke it within minutes with a soft mumble that Zoro had to strain to hear.
"You don't have to thank me, Zoro. It's my pleasure to help. You're my nakama, and I'll help even when you don't ask for it. Just know that I feel no pity for you. I just want to help a precious friend I can't bear to see suffer when I know I can offer my support. The only thing that would prevent me from doing so, Zoro, is the possibility of you not wanting my help. If you do not want my help, I have no other choice but to respect that… no matter how that makes me, or anyone else, feel."
Sanji went back to the kitchen to make nutritious potato soup for Chopper and Zoro since they had missed breakfast. Through trial and error, he knew it was one of Zoro's favorite soups. He hadn't even realized he was trying to figure out his favorite soup until he had already found it, but Sanji stupidly dismissed it as simply wanting to show the swordsman that he was a good chef. He'd convinced himself it was to get a win over Zoro; it was all so dumb. Sanji scoffed at himself as he scooped out the soup into two bowls.
He turned to the door connecting the infirmary and kitchen, but before he could walk over to it, it opened. Chopper padded in the room and almost walked into Sanji before he'd realized the chef was in the room.
"Oh! Sanji!" he squealed as he jumped backwards. Sanji smiled at him before he gestured for the reindeer to sit. As soon as Chopper had taken a seat at the table, Sanji placed his portion of soup in front of him. The little doctor glanced up at him before he lethargically and quietly began to sip at his meal. Sanji watched the doctor eat morosely before he sighed, placed a plate over Zoro's portion, set it on the counter, and started to work on dinner. A tense quiet loomed over them, the clattering of pots and pans being the only things heard, before Sanji began to swiftly chop away at ingredients.
When Sanji was almost done with the elaborate dinner that he had planned, Chopper finished his meal and put his dish in the sink, and then he just stood there. Sanji glanced away at the sea king steak that he was pan searing, opening his mouth to ask what was wrong, concealing his panic behind a well-forged mask of feigned boredom. However, Chopper spoke first.
"He's… fine. He just went to sleep. You could visit him though. He's back on pain relievers, but these are different since he's more or less in the clear, so when he wakes up, he won't feel fuzzy. You'll be able to have a good sober conversation the next time he wakes up… Sanji… I'd also screened him but-"
"Chopper," the chef interrupted as he switched off the stove with a sharp click. Chopper's ears flinched at the sudden noise, and Sanji almost apologized for being abrupt, but he just continued to plate the food and arrange the crockery on the table. His voice was even, but the look in his eye was a bit distant, making Chopper redirect his eyes to the floor.
"It's okay, Chopper. You don't have to report to me about his condition. He'll tell me if he wants me to know. Even though, I'm sure I already know…"
"Oh," Chopper exhaled as he saw Sanji finish setting the table and look at him curiously. "I was just about to tell you that I can't tell you about what he said to me, and that I don't think it's a good idea if I told you the results…"
"Oh, well then, I guess we're on the same page." Sanji smiled as he untied his apron and patted Chopper on the head. The little doctor looked up at him with big eyes before he offered the chef a small smile.
"Hey, Chopper, I'm sure you could eat more, so go sit at the table while I call everyone else," he said as if he were talking to a child as he moved to the door.
He called everyone for dinner, and when he saw the others come, he nodded to Chopper who had smiled at him. Then he walked through the door and entered the dark infirmary.
Sanji found himself sighing as he closed the door. His hand rested on the doorknob for a moment before he sluggishly moved the shitty chair next to Zoro's bed once again. It was almost mechanical at this point: closing the door, sighing, moving the chair, sitting next to his bed, watching him breathe, memorizing his image again, and eventually falling asleep. It was the same thing over and over, it seemed routine, and it made Sanji feel dull and monotonous.
He trudged over to Zoro and dropped into the shitty chair, and before he knew it, he fell asleep. The last thought that had sent him spiraling off into a restless sleep was the unsettling question that he'd been trying to shove out of his head for a whole week: 'What if I'd lost him?'
Sanji's eyes flew open as he shot up. His neck and lower back complained of pain as he straightened. He winced. He quickly glanced at his surroundings. It was still dark, but once his eyes adjusted to the lack of lighting, he saw that he was in the infirmary once again, but this time Zoro was awake, who was looking at him with clear concern.
"Zoro?" Sanji questioned as he rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and yawned. "What the-? What's wrong?"
"You looked like you were having a nightmare, so… I woke you up," Zoro explained as his countenance changed from worried to uncertain. He seemed as though he was unsure that it was a good idea to wake Sanji as he avoided eye contact.
Sanji didn't know what he'd been dreaming about, but he was grateful that Zoro had woken him up, so he smiled warmly at him, even though he knew that Zoro wasn't looking at him at the moment.
"Thanks," Sanji mumbled as he scratched the back of his head. Zoro reluctantly looked up at him from where he lay, and he saw warmth in Sanji's face. Zoro gaped at him. Sanji's smile widened, thinking that Zoro looked really cute, but he quickly put that thought to the side as he spontaneously grabbed Zoro's hand. Zoro's uncertainty evaporated, leaving his face blank with the exception of a questioning gaze directed at Sanji. Sanji took a breath before he fixed Zoro with a determined stare.
"Look, Zoro. I have to tell you something."
"W-what is it?" he asked, trying to sound tough, but he came across as curious rather than harsh. Sanji held his gaze for as long as he could as he tried to force the words out, but it was as if something had dammed his throat, preventing him from speaking. He opened his mouth and closed it several times, looking like the fish in the aquarium that were just waiting to be eaten. Eventually he couldn't keep eye contact any longer. He grit his teeth and looked away, glaring at his shoes.
He saw Zoro shift.
'He's probably worried about me. I'm so fucking pathetic… This is what I've decided! I'm gonna' follow through!'
"Sanji? Are you okay? You don't have to tell me if you don't want to."
"No!" Sanji practically shouted as he snapped his head up, slight panic evident in his eyes. He'd sounded desperate, and Zoro blinked at him in surprise. Sanji gasped in realization at how pathetic he'd sounded, and he ridiculed himself.
'Shit! Why is this so fucking hard all of a sudden?! Ugh! Getting frustrated now isn't helping! Calm down! Calm the fuck down!'
Sanji took several breaths to compose himself, and Zoro allowed him time he needed to do so. When Sanji had regained his cool, he tried again. He looked into Zoro's eyes and squeezed his hand.
"Okay, look. This is kind of hard for me. I'm not really sure why. I guess it's because I've… denied it for so long before I finally faced myself and realized something I should have realized a long time ago…" He had begun in a level tone, but as he continued, his volume diminished to a mere murmur, yet he managed to hold his ground as he spoke heavy words as if they were as light as a feather. "Zoro, I… I love you."
Once the words left his lips, he felt as though a weight that had settled in his chest had lifted. Sanji allowed a small grin to bless his face until he'd realized how silent it was. He felt a cold tense silence fill the atmosphere, and the butterflies in his stomach froze and caused his heart to plummet under their added weight. Zoro hadn't said a word and he looked at Sanji like a deer in the headlights. He looked panicked. He almost looked sick as he averted his wide green eyes. Sanji's heart felt like lead, and he swore that gravity intensified when he felt Zoro's hand retract.
"Z-zoro…?" His voice sounded so small. He felt miniscule. He felt his chest begin to cave in on itself. 'Wh-what's going on? I thought… he felt something for me?'
"Sanji… You… love me? You can't…" Zoro's voice sounded distant even shocked, as it trembled ever so slightly. Zoro shook his head in disbelief. Sanji hung his head, unable to look at how bewildered the man was about his feelings.
"I can't what?" Sanji asked hollowly. He didn't have the energy to get upset; he just felt void.
"You… can't love me… You can't." Zoro's soft trembling whisper grew into a stern even manner. He firmly believed what he was saying, and it chipped away at Sanji. "You're straight. You are as straight as a fucking arrow, Sanji. You love women. You fawn over Nami and Robin all of the damn time, even though I know you like Nami more. You can't love me, because I'm a man. You can't love me, because you're not gay, and even if you're bisexual, you wouldn't, you shouldn't love me…"
Sanji's heart was just about to shatter until something sounded odd to him. He furrowed his eyebrows, and he slowly looked up to see something he had not expected.
He saw Zoro blinking back tears as he shook his head. Zoro had a hand tangled in his hair and it almost seemed painful with how hard he pulled at the mossy hair. Without thinking, Sanji reached up, untangled the hand from his hair and he held it. Zoro flinched at the touch, and he returned his watery confused gaze to him. Zoro looked into calm, wounded, questioning blue eyes, and a tear fell. Sanji wiped it away, and when Zoro tried to look away, Sanji grabbed his chin and redirected his gaze to him.
"Zoro, why wouldn't - or shouldn't - I love you? Why do you say these things…?" he asked, just above a whisper. The hurt was apparent in his tone, but Sanji tried his best to conceal it. It pained him to hear the moss-ball say these things in such certainty, but still sounding… lost.
"Because, it's true."
"Besides, why would you love someone like me?" Zoro chuckled bitterly as he smiled forlornly, refusing to look Sanji in the eye by looking off to the side. "I'm a depressed good-for-nothing. I'm a drunkard. I'm a lazy ass. I'm useless. I'm only here because I'm one of the main fighters. I-"
"Shut up," Sanji hissed. Zoro's words caught in his throat as Sanji's tone practically dripped with poison. He dumbly looked into those furious oceanic eyes that he helplessly fell for.
"No, Zoro! Just stop while you're ahead!" he shouted with so much passion that he even surprised himself, but he continued as his grip on the man tightened. "You're none of those things! You're the man I fell in love with! You're a brilliant man, Zoro! You work feverishly for your ambition! You can't be 'useless!' Besides, you're here to fight for a promise that got you this fucking far, shit-head! You're here, not only because we need you, but because of Kuina and Koshiro – and because of you, Zoro! No one got through everything it took you to get here but you. That's not useless, that's amazing! Zoro, you're going to be the best swordsman in the goddamn world! The only one that looks down on you so much is your own damn self! Zoro…! I fucking love you, you damn bastard… And why do I have to be straight, huh?! I'm obviously not fucking straight since I fell for you!"
Stunned silence invaded the room as Zoro just stared dumbly at the puffing blonde. 'But,' Zoro thought numbly to himself, 'but he's not supposed to love me… right? Is this some sick joke…? Or… can I actually hope? He… loves me? I want him so badly…'
"Look, Zoro," Sanji breathed as he lessened his bruising grip. Sanji almost appeared defeated. The blonde lowered his head and looked off to the side to glare at the floor as he explained himself in a despairing murmur. "I'm… I'm sorry for being so goddamn stupid and hopeless. I'm sure I've caused you a lot of pain by being an asshole… Frankly, I was just in denial. I've always had feelings for you, and my feelings had grown so much that I couldn't ignore them anymore. I'd faced the music and accepted them… but I decided to not tell you – at first. I convinced myself that you would never feel the same. But… but then you kissed me… and I thought… that you had some interest in me… and I… I decided to confess. Zoro, I want you to know that this is not out of some shitty pity… I would never do that… I-I just… want to know if you feel the same, or if I should just fuck off. Don't tell me that I can't love you, because I do, and you'll have to trust me on that since I have no idea how to get you to believe me… Please, Zoro, just… just tell me the truth."
What answered him was a deafening silence that tore at Sanji. Each moment that passed made Sanji's chest grow tighter and tighter; it made Sanji's heart falter more and more, but little did he know that Zoro was struggling with himself.
Zoro's mind was reeling. He was swamped with so many emotions that he could barely think. He was elated. He was so happy that he almost got lightheaded. His heart pounded in his chest so hard that he swore the thudding bruised some of his ribs, but he was also terrified. He was panicking. He was confused. He was thinking that Sanji deserved better than a bastard like himself; that it was impossible for him to love him; that Zoro had to be dreaming right now; that he needed the blonde like how he needed to breathe.
His stomach flip-flopped and plummeted. His blood froze and rushed everywhere but his head, all at the same time. He was so scared that this was all just a cruel joke and that the next time he woke up, he'd find that it had been a dream, or Sanji would turn around and say that he was kidding and that Zoro was stupid for believing such an obvious lie. He wanted every word to be true so badly that it ached, more than any wound he has ever had hurt before. He hadn't even noticed that he was so overwhelmed that he started to cry until he felt Sanji wipe his tears away.
After he'd listened to Sanji scold him, he felt awful and numb with bewilderment. He felt his chest tighten when he realized that he'd voiced his true thoughts, and that he'd made Sanji comfort him, despite how roughly Sanji had done it. He was absolutely stunned at every word that the chef spoke. All he could do was stare as he listened to Sanji's apology, explanation, and plea. His mind was drawing a blank, while his heart raced at a reckless pace. Then, something clicked through all of his muddled thoughts and feelings. It felt like he was hit with a ton of brick with how sudden the clarity had come… but he'd realized that he had known this for a while. 'Sanji… has never lied to me. He's shown that I could rely on him more than once. So… why am I doubting him so much?'
Apparently the silence had persisted for too long, because as soon as Zoro was about to speak, Sanji sighed and got up from his chair. Refusing to look at Zoro, Sanji shoved his hands into his pockets. Zoro could see the pain in his scowl before he turned towards the door. Zoro was puzzled, wondering what he was doing, but then the blonde mumbled in a tired manner. Zoro felt his stomach fall even further than it ever had before.
"I'll just leave for now. I'll wait for your response, so think about it carefully. Good night, Zoro."
He had a certain finality and loss in his voice that almost paralyzed Zoro in sheer terror and desperation. It almost sounded like Sanji had given up. Even though Sanji said he'd wait, and Zoro knew that he was a man of his word, he felt as though if he didn't say something now, then his chance to have anything more than friendship with the blonde would be tarnished. He didn't know why he felt this way. He knew it was unreasonable… that he shouldn't respond if he felt pressured in any way… but when he thought about feeling pressured, he realized that the tightness in his chest wasn't the pressure of responding to a confession. He felt the pure need to tell Sanji how he felt. This need practically choked him, almost preventing him from stopping Sanji from leaving, almost making him miss the chance that he'd never thought that he would ever be blessed to have. By this time, however, Sanji already had a foot out the door.
"Wait!" Zoro hollered, desperate to stop the man he loved from closing the door. Without thinking, Zoro threw off the covers, swung his legs over the edge of the bed and stood. He took about one step before searing pain burst from both of his legs. Zoro cursed as he stumbled forward and fell. He braced himself for impact, but instead of meeting with the floor, he fell into something that was a bit softer.
Zoro opened his eyes that he hadn't realized that he had closed, and looked up into worried cobalt eyes. They stared at each other for a moment before Sanji clicked his tongue at the dazed swordsman and lifted him off the ground. Zoro barked an 'Oi!' before Sanji was gently set him back onto the bed and arranged the pillows in a way that allowed him sit up. Zoro didn't know what to do other than dumbly stare at the blonde as he inspected Zoro's wounds. He was actually shocked that the other man could lift him; Sanji had more upper body strength than he'd thought, and it made his stomach flip excitedly. All the while Sanji made a conscious effort to not let his mind stray from the task at hand.
"Your right leg is bleeding, but not too much. Must hurt like bitch though. I'll go get Chopper-"
"No!" Zoro gasped at him, eyes wide with panic as his hands curled into fists, desperately wanting Sanji to stay. "No, wait, please."
He blinked at him before he nodded slightly and knelt by the bed, waiting for Zoro to explain as to why he wants him to stay. Zoro took a deep breath, calming himself before he looked into Sanji's eyes with the same steely determination that he was well known for. 'Sanji asked for the truth… so I'll tell him.'
"Look, Zoro, You don't have to force yourself to say anything. I didn't want to pressure you-"
"Shut up," the green-haired man growled, glaring at the other. Sanji's eyes widened for a fraction of a second before his features relaxed and he stayed quiet.
"I'm not forcing myself, and I don't feel pressured. So just shut up and listen," he snarled, though he didn't sound threatening. He was just emphasizing very important points that he wanted to make sure the curly idiot knew. When he made himself clear, he dropped his scowl, and regarded Sanji with a melancholy smile. His voice sounded a bit rough due to the throbbing in both of his legs, but he grit his teeth and spoke the words he needed to say, for himself and Sanji.
"I'm just… overwhelmed, honestly. Do you know how long I've wanted to hear those words from you, Sanji?"
The cook's countenance was consumed with shock. His heart skipped a beat. He was speechless as his whole body tingled pleasantly from the surprise. Zoro took his silence as a chance to continue evenly.
"I've… I've had feelings for you for a long time, Sanji. You're always in my thoughts no matter how much I want you there or not. I've wanted you for so long, and for so long I've seen you frolic around, chasing women. I was sure you would never even glance in my direction. The whispers I've told you about told me what I was really thinking, and they told me you'd never come to love me. I believed them… but then, when I heard you say those words I've dreamt of hearing… I thought it was too good to be true… I still think it's too good to be true" Zoro's confident level voice dwindled down to a whisper. He bit his lip as his heart burst with nerves. He was still scared and tense, his brain was screaming at him this was a bad idea that it could only end tragically, yet he was so overcome with the need to tell him that he swallowed the lump in his throat, grabbed Sanji's hand, intertwined their fingers, and squeezed.
Sanji jumped at the action, but he stayed quiet. Sanji's crushed heart was reassembling itself; the rejection and miserable feelings had evaporated, and he clamped his mouth shut to keep questions from bursting fourth.
"… Sorry for doubting you, Cook. I just… I've never thought you'd feel the same. I convinced myself and fed myself all of these excuses as to why you couldn't… I was panicking, I was… scared… that it was all just a cruel joke; that I'd wake up and see it was all just a dream… Sanji…" Zoro whispered, hesitation took a hold of him for a moment before he felt him squeeze his hand.
"Yes?" Sanji breathed, his eyes were struck with hope, and Zoro's smile went from sad to warm. He didn't feel scared or panicked anymore. He just felt warmth unfurl in his chest, and he felt a pleasant buzz travel through his body. Sanji always had the miraculous ability to cast away the dark clouds, the looming doom, the heaviness, the sadness, the wretchedness, the hopelessness, and the helplessness… the depression.
Zoro couldn't hold back those three words any longer as he thought about how much Sanji meant to him, and they slid through his lips more easily than he thought they would.
"I love you," he murmured, feeling the persistent weight and tightness in his chest lighten. He watched as Sanji's countenance fall in shock for a mere moment before it light up with joy and tender warmth. Sanji regarded him amorously. The sheer amount of happiness, love, and warmth in his eyes simply made Zoro melt.
Zoro felt his smile reach his eyes as they wrinkled, mirroring Sanji's expression. 'What was I so afraid of?'
"Zoro," Sanji whispered as he lifted his free hand to brush his fingertips over his cheek in a light caress. Zoro's breath caught in his throat as he leaned forward. The corner of Sanji's lip quirked up in a small smirk before they both moved and closed the distance between them.
They kissed. A jolt of electricity sparked when their lips met, and traveled to the tips of Zoro's fingers and toes. His heart jumped out of his chest and soared overhead while his stomach went into a fit of spasms. It was tender, innocent, and brief, but the meaning behind this simply kiss would stick with them for as long as they were breathing.
When they parted, Sanji beamed at him, and he couldn't help but smile wholeheartedly. Sanji pulled him into another kiss, but this one was a bit more demanding, yet he didn't mind as he nibbled on Sanji's bottom lip, adoring the way Sanji tasted of cigarettes and spices. This enticed a small moan from the blonde, who buried a hand into the green hair. Sanji's heart was beating so fast in his chest that he thought he was having a heart attack for a moment. He was getting lightheaded, drunk from the sheer exhilarating and intoxicating taste of steel and something that was distinctly Zoro on his lips. They stayed like that for a few more moments, savoring each other, until they had to part for air. They panted lightly against each other's lips while resisting the urge to smile stupidly as they slowly inched away.
Suddenly Sanji's smile faltered from his face as he recalled something. Zoro felt panic grip his heart as he watched him questioningly. Wide oceanic eyes caught his.
"Chopper!" he shouted as he shot up to his feet. "I have to go get him! You're bleeding, right?!"
Zoro tried not to do it, but he couldn't help himself. He began to chuckle. Sanji flushed with either anger or embarrassment.
"Why're you laughing?!"
Zoro's laughter increased in volume before he went into a fit of coughs. Sanji had his arms crossed and a foot tapping impatiently as he waited for Zoro to calm down.
"I-it's okay, cook," Zoro rasped as he finally gathered himself. He looked up at Sanji and smiled at him reassuringly. "I'm okay. Besides, it doesn't hurt that much anymore, and look - it stopped bleeding. Leave him alone to sleep, okay?"
Sanji gave him a hard look, but Zoro held his ground. After a few moments, Sanji huffed and sat next to Zoro on the bed. Zoro's eyes widened a bit before they narrowed to fondly gaze at the blonde. Sanji kept his scowl as he took Zoro's hand. Zoro was sure there was a blush on his cheek, but with Sanji's next comment, all of the wild butterflies jammed in his stomach disappeared along with his smile.
"Zoro… You know that we're here for you, right?" Sanji had asked him so nonchalantly that he was afraid that he'd misheard him. Zoro blinked at him as he computed what he had said, and when he finally understood, he looked down at the bed sheets, almost as if he were ashamed.
"Look, Moss-ball," Sanji sighed mildly as he rested his head on Zoro's shoulder gingerly to avoid hurting him. Surprised, Zoro turned his head Sanji's way, almost nuzzling into his soft golden hair as he spoke.
"Get it into your mossy head that you can come to your nakama, to me, for support. I won't tease you about important things, Zoro. I've decided that in Kuina and Koshiro's place, I'll be there you. If you need someone to listen to your troubles, someone to spar with, or someone to talk to and help you through whatever you're going through, I'll do it. The only thing that would stop me from assisting you would be you. If you don't want my help, despite how I feel, I'd have to respect that. I won't pressure you to do anything."
Stunned silence rested upon them as Zoro listened to what he had to say, and when Zoro had processed all of his words, he barked in short laughter as he nestled his nose into the other man's soft silky hair.
"Hey! Zoro! What's so fuckin' funny?! Huh?!" Sanji shouted at him as he tried to glare up at him.
"Chopper said something like that to me earlier," he chuckled. Sanji instantly calmed in response, and after a few hesitant moments, he rested his head on shoulder again. Zoro stared at him a bit to make sure he wouldn't suddenly move before he rested his cheek on his head.
A sudden wave of fatigue washed over the green-haired man. It was probably due to the emotional rollercoaster he'd been put on, and his sudden rash action from earlier. He was just about to be pulled into a pleasant slumber, but then Sanji's low raspy voice interrupted him.
"Hm?" he hummed sleepily. He could barely keep his eyes open.
"… Get off of me, you can't sleep like this," Sanji mumbled as he shifted, trying to nudge Zoro into action. Zoro was about to protest, but his limbs felt like lead, he was so tired. He lazily shifted off of Sanji. The chef helped him lie down, and before his head even hit the pillow, he fell asleep.
Sanji couldn't help but smile affectionately at his sleeping face. He ran a hand lovingly through his marimo hair and bent down to place a light kiss on his forehead, knowing that he wouldn't wake up.
"Goodnight, Moss-ball. I love you, you idiot," he whispered before he silently stood and went out the door to the kitchen. He quickly went to wake Chopper and report that Zoro had woken up, bled a little, and went back to sleep. Chopper chewed him out for it before he scurried over to Zoro to wake him and give him the same lecture.
Sanji chuckled at the grumpy face he'd imagined the swordsman having after being slapped awake. With that image in mind, Sanji strolled into the kitchen, knowing full well that it was about the time he usually started breakfast. He sighed as he pulled out a cigarette and lit it, hoping that it would help him stay awake. Staying up all night to talk about feelings he'd kept hidden with an incapacitated marimo was probably not the brightest idea, but it was something that Sanji didn't regret. It was something that he was positive that he would never regret.
"Hey, Sanji?" the green-haired man called as he walked into the kitchen.
Sanji hummed mindlessly as he tasted his new sauce that he was going to serve with the fresh spaghetti he just put into a pot of boiling water.
"Spar with me."
"No, moss-for-brains," Sanji refused calmly as he twirled around to face his marimo, who had crossed his arms over his chest in defiance. "You just got permission to leave the infirmary about thirty minutes ago. There's no way in hell that I'm going to spar with you now. Chopper will annoy the living shit out of us if we do. Besides, I'm busy making lunch, and then I have to make all of the food for our party."
They glared at each other for a short while before Sanji puffed on his cigarette and went back to what he was doing. He couldn't burn the sauce or else he'd be wasting food…
"Then can I stay in here?"
Sanji jolted at the abrupt sound of his rough voice. Sanji glanced over his shoulder and took the pasta sauce off of the stove before he answered offhandedly, "Sure, I don't mind."
He heard a chair scrape against the wood as he began to butcher a large piece of sea king meat for Luffy. He made quick work of the meat, seasoned the fillets, pan-seared them, removed the spaghetti from the heat, and then placed the sea king fillets in the oven to finish. Just when he was about to start on two other dishes, his eyes caught the flashy green hair. He'd completely forgotten that the marimo was still here due to how focused he was, but as soon as he had seen him, he quickly turned away to hide the spontaneous flush that dusted his cheeks. Zoro was intently watching his every move, as if he were watching his prey, and it did things to Sanji.
"A-aren't you bored just sitting there watching me cook?" he asked as he tried to preoccupy himself by hacking away at vegetables with adept precision.
"… No." The hesitant response he got perked his interests as he efficiently finished his chopping to turn towards him. Sanji was sure that Zoro had more to say, so he waited for the green-haired man to go on, but when he said nothing Sanji clicked his tongue and went back to following a recipe he'd memorized. He couldn't quite focus with the feeling of those eyes on him. It was the attention that he'd always wanted from the other man, but never really got. Now that he had it, he didn't have a clue on what to do about it, until an idea struck him.
"Why don't you think it's boring?" he asked over his shoulder in an attempt to get him mind off of his spazzing stomach and heart palpations while he cooked.
Zoro was hesitant in answering his question. He squirmed in his seat while the chef was pre-occupied. 'Should I tell him the truth?'
'… Why shouldn't I?'
"Zoro?" Sanji's tone sounded gentler as he called for him. Zoro turned back to him and caught his wonderful blue eye that peered at him in slight concern. Zoro felt his heart stutter for a moment.
'Why the hell not?'
"I… like to watch you cook." This made Sanji freeze, and then he flushed a lovely shade of scarlet. Zoro was bemused for but a moment before he smiled. "Being around you… calms me, Cook."
Sanji was absolutely stunned. Zoro's bluntness and honesty blew him away. He held eye contact as he walked towards him, feeling compelled to draw closer to him. "'Calms' you?" he questioned almost teasingly. He was surprised at how composed he sounded as he drew nearer. "I thought I annoyed you to the point where you would be tempted to claw my eyes out?"
Zoro shook his head whilst keeping his eye on the chef's, absentmindedly standing up and taking a few tentative steps to him. "Not all the time."
"Oh? Then how do I calm you?" Sanji asked in a more curious way instead of defiant as he stood before the swordsman, not really knowing what to do now that he was in front of him. Zoro just looked at him uncertainly before he glanced away. He was reluctant to actually say why, but with the sincere way that Sanji was looking at him, he decided to be frank once again.
"Like I said, cook, it's your presence." Zoro stated factually, as if he weren't saying embarrassing shit while staring right into Sanji's large blue eye. "You don't have to do anything. You just… cast the dark clouds away… just by being there… You're like no other…"
Understanding sparked in Sanji's oceanic eyes. He was speechless as he registered Zoro's words, but his astonishment melted away as a kind smile blessed his handsome features. Now it was Zoro's turn to be dazed.
"Zoro," the blonde breathed as he pulled him into a hug, wrapping his arms firmly around the tanned neck. Zoro was frozen in place, but soon Sanji's warmth flowed into him and made him melt. Zoro's timid arms slowly draped themselves around Sanji's waist. He relished the feeling of holding the man he loved, and being held by him. He tightened his grip on his blonde. He was so enveloped in what was happening that he'd almost missed what Sanji had muttered genuinely.
"Surprisingly, I'm more flattered than alarmed by such a statement, but Zoro, you sound like you need me more than the need to eat. You do not need me that much, despite what I would like to think."
"Sanji, you don't know how much I need you…" Zoro whispered, his voice trembling slightly as he tensed. Zoro held his breath for so long until his lungs burned. 'Why did I say something so embarrassing?'
Zoro was just about to let go of his hold on the blonde, but then Sanji placed a hand in his hair. Zoro jolted, but he stayed still. Sanji began to massage his scalp in an attempt to soothe Zoro. Zoro felt the tension seep out of him, as it got easier to breath. He kept his hold on Sanji as blonde began to speak.
"No, Zoro. You don't need me as much as you think," he muttered as he held him just a bit tighter, almost choking the man. "You're strong enough, good enough, to pull yourself out of your head. You just need someone to remind you of things that you forget, and that's me. You have to know that I am but a mere side character in your struggle; you're the protagonist. You have to want this, or all of your efforts, all of our efforts, will be for naught. You're not alone, but you have to want to fight it, Zoro. You understand?"
Zoro felt tears sting his eyes, but he held them back as he nodded. He heard Sanji mumble a 'good,' as they held each other closer, practically squeezing the breath out of their lungs. 'Can I accept this? These words I've always wanted to hear? Damn, my heart hurts with the intensity of these refreshing emotions… a pleasant ache I've never been blessed with… It's all thanks to him…'
"I love you," Zoro whispered harshly into his ear as he nuzzled into the golden strands like he'd always wanted to do. He felt a chuckle rumble from the chef's chest to his, the pleasing rasping of the laugh filling his ears.
"I love you too, moss-ball," Sanji murmured as he kissed Zoro's hair. "I love you too."
Thank you so much for sticking with me till the end. I hope you liked this fanfic and have a wonderful day.