Because I was belatedly hooked up on One Piece recently, and this potential pair just hooked me somehow. And of course with pairings, I have to write something quick to them, for me to get some inner peace.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own the series or characters.
Set some time after Punk Hazard.
He doesn't remember how the party had started. It seems his lunatic Captain had developed a knack for partying, maybe taking a leaf out of the festive-happy Captain Shanks of the Red Haired Pirates.
Roronoa Zoro decides he really does not mind all that much. Parties ensure the presence of plenty of sake, beer, wine and assorted booze… that he would be more than happy to indulge in. The party this time is huge, the crowd is a boisterous lot, and food is aplenty.
This is because the party spans across many ships and also involves… the Marines.
Pirates and Marines together. Celebrating. Zoro almost scoffs.
Again, he doesn't remember how the party had started. They had liberated the island of Foodvalten from Blackbeard's cronies, and the battle had been intense, especially with the unexpected arrival of one Vice Admiral Smoker and his team of Marines.
Zoro always personally thought this man a pain in the ass, and a tad too much smoke for sight. But Smoker is a capable fighter, and he proved so as he grudgingly joined forces with the Strawhats amidst the fighting.
The battle was over after several hard-earned hours. The people of Foodvalten rejoiced, and insisted for a three-day celebration after a prolonged period of oppression and starvation.
Of course, they insisted for both the pirates and Marines to join them.
So here he is, on the second day of the party, feeling a bit hazy from the drinks and loud music and merrymaking of the people around him. Zoro grasps the beer mug in his hand, briefly wondering about his current exact location. He looks up, and the bright white of the sails overhead were imprinted with a dark blue seagull symbol and the block words MARINE.
Ah, so he is on a Marine ship. Zoro only sighs and continues drinking.
But then a commotion nearby catches his attention and the green-haired swordsman turns, a little curious at the noise. A small group of Marines had gathered ahead, and Zoro leans his back against the ship's railing to observe what is happening.
"Even the moon pales in comparison tonight!"
And then she appears on the deck above, and Zoro gives a start as his then-bored gaze fixes on her, his eyes instantly widening. He is no stranger to these reactions, they are common whenever he meets her in his earlier years ever since that fateful day in Loguetown. Over the years, he has grown accustomed to the sight of her, and has not experienced that reaction for a long time.
She is wearing a long dress the colour of midnight blue, the shade almost identical to the long hair flowing at her back. The clothes hug her bodily curves, and seem to float along with every movement, as if they were made out of water. The dress is without sleeves, and her bare shoulders are exposed. She is not wearing glasses, and her hair is left loose. As she sashays down the stairs from the upper deck, the high slit of her dress rides up her right thigh.
No, she isn't sashaying. In fact, she is struggling to make it down the steps.
Zoro knows this from experience. She is a clumsy woman, and while her hands may be skillful with a sword, she can abruptly fail at the simple mechanics of walking on flat ground. He knows this, he has watched her take a tumble during their first meeting in Loguetown and if she isn't careful now, she will repeat that experience in front of everyone.
In that dress.
He knows she must not be comfortable in the dress, and he's surprised he knows. But it isn't difficult to figure out… unlike his female crew members who wear attires baring generous amounts of skin, she covers up whatever she can.
For all the times Zoro has met her, she is usually wearing long-sleeved coats and long pants. At the barest minimum, she wears clothes with short sleeves. Nothing above that, and never skirts.
He thinks this must be the reason why his eyes are so trained on her now. He isn't really sure.
But she makes it down to the landing without incident, and then seemingly embarrassed at the loud attention she is receiving from her crew, looks around for something as distraction.
Zoro quickly tries to avert his gaze but he is too late – she sees him and their eyes locks. Hers widens, his are wary.
And then Captain Tashigi of the Marines is walking over, with so much purpose in her steps that he thinks she is going to draw her sword and challenge him to a skirmish right then and there – in that dress.
But she walks up beside him and places her hands on the railing, looking out over the water. Zoro thinks maybe she does not realize his presence, but then she speaks.
"Your Captain is over there."
Zoro turns and sure enough, the elongating limbs of his Captain are evident on the ship beside theirs, as the people around him laugh.
"Yeah," He acknowledges, and takes a drink from his mug. "Where is yours?"
"I think he's on the other ship." She gestures somewhere to the right.
Zoro shrugs. He motions to a second untouched full mug on the railing next to him and she takes it in her hands, and takes a small swallow.
She should drink more, Zoro thinks, because he is getting ahead in his drinking and if she does not utilize the alcohol, he may well soon polish his off and take hers.
"So you changed your clothes for the celebration." He offers, as a seeming way of casual talk. He says this, but he does not look at her.
"Oh… yes. I didn't want to, but the islanders gave it to me. I wore it, as I did not wish to disappoint them." She tugs on her dress self-consciously, as if to pull the slit down lower. Out of the corner of his eyes, he sees that she has her blade fixed to the side of her dress without the slit.
"Best watch yourself while at it." He says it naturally, matter-of-factly, and he means it as a precaution. It was never a jab, or a sarcastic joke.
But it was immediately taken as such, and her head is whipping fast toward him now, anger and embarrassment written on her face as she takes offence at the harmless statement. "And what is meaning of that?"
"I… hey, I just meant that you should watch where you are going in that dress. And you aren't wearing your glasses so-"
"So you are saying I don't know how to walk in a dress?" Her voice rises, her cheeks are pink now, and a few crewmembers are starting to look their way.
"No. I just mean- geez, why are you always so riled up?"
"So I am riled up… and clumsy?" She squares her shoulders and lifts her head sternly. She moved closer to him and Zoro tenses up, finally turning to look at her.
"Are you looking for a fight?" Her eyes are blazing, and the wind chooses that one instant to whip the long strands of hair about her face. The fire in her eyes are dancing, and he's seen them before… when their swords clashed in Loguetown.
And just for tonight, Zoro allows himself to think that the fires in her eyes are beautiful.
He's already warm, hazy, and well on his way to be full-out drunk. "May be looking for something else tonight," Zoro says before he can stop himself.
He holds her gaze, and the implication of what he does not say intensifies the air.
He expects her to scoff, or walk away, or draw her sword anyway like she has done many times before. But then her eyes are widening, and the hints of another new incoming blush dusts her pale cheeks.
And he thinks she looks adorable then and there, before he can allow himself to even think it.
Zoro quickly breaks their gaze and fixes his eyes on the ship beside theirs, where his stupid Captain is now shouting something to the people nearby.
He hears her gulp down more of the beer beside him, as if she doesn't know what to say and only wants to busy herself.
"Anyway, you." Zoro doesn't know what to call her so he settles for that. "Your fighting spirit... is a little better than the last time."
She looks up and gapes at him shock, before quickly wiping whatever residual beer lingers on her lips.
Zoro tries not to focus on the gesture. Or her lips, for that matter.
But it is true, her skills have developed well, though far from being on par with him, but the results of an obvious hard training is apparent in the strength of her grip, the way she parries attacks, and the swing as she goes on the offense. He can tell, just by watching her wield her sword and by hearing the clang of her blade during battle.
And now she is still gaping at him, eyes wide and mouth open. She hears his implied compliment, and he knows she knows. But it is her reaction that causes that familiar twinge of annoyance. "What?"
As if he is incapable of complimenting someone.
As if he is not human.
As if she expects him to not be anything... just because he is a Pirate.
She opens her mouth then, as if to say something but then quickly closes it. She looks away, tilts the mug to her lips and takes a long slow drink.
Zoro ignores her, now looking out over the water, painted with the orange-red reflection of the setting sun.
They stand in silence for a bit, and he is grateful she doesn't say anything more.
Finally she puts down the mug on the railing. Apparently she has managed to finish the full mug of alcohol in the short time they had spent standing together.
"Well then..." She pushes off from the railing and Zoro watches her from the corner of his eye. "I... have... to be going..."
Her words are slightly and uncharacteristically slurred, and there is an unconvincing halt to her steps as if she is unsure where to place her foot next.
Zoro almost rolls his good eye. "Are you drunk?"
"I am... fine!" She shoots back, indignant. As if to prove herself, she takes a confident step forward and immediately totters on her feet, flailing her arms for balance.
"Watch it, troublesome woman." Zoro steps up behind her, placing one hand flat between her shoulder blades for her balance. That is as much contact as he allows for the moment, her arms and shoulders are bare and he avoids her skin.
"A-Arigato." She is too relieved to even snap at him for calling her troublesome. "I think... I need to retire for the day."
"Captain-chan, we will bring you to your room!" One of her smitten crew members walked up to them. His expression reminds Zoro of Sanji or Brook when they are discussing the finer aspects of women lingerie.
"Yes Captain-chan, let me!" Another troublesome member steps up.
"Ah, there won't be... any need. I just need to-
"I will be taking her to her room." The cold words cut through the conversation. The dreamy expressions of the G-5 members give way to shock, as they stare at the swordsman next to their Captain.
"You? Roronoa Zoro?"
"Is there a problem?" Zoro frowns and the crewmembers immediately flinch and jump back as if he had cut them with his sword.
"N-No, there's no problem!"
"We… we were just making sure!"
Tashigi is, by then, too intoxicated to even notice.
As Zoro steers her to the stairs belowdeck, the G5 crew members scurry away, no doubt to report to Smoker.
Nothing but trouble.
Zoro sighs, one hand on Tashigi's back pushing her forward, much like a jailer herding a prisoner to a cell. That is as much of contact he allows between himself and the Marine woman.
She does not protest and walks forward, albeit in a crooked manner.
The halls belowdeck of the Marine ship are lit by torches lined in their brackets. Zoro admires the polished wood of the wall, the Thousand Sunny is still the best by far, but the Marine ship isn't too shabby either.
And it is in that precise moment that his attention isn't on her, that she trips over a protruding plank of wood on the floor and pitches forward. She is too drunk to even cry out.
But Zoro's sharp reflexes catch the movement and he immediately shifts to her side. His right hand curls quickly around her left shoulder and he pulls her to him, so the momentum of her would-be fall impacts on his body... not that it matters. She is light as a feather, small against him.
He feels bare skin underneath his palm, and realizes belatedly that he is holding her bare shoulders. Her skin is warm, giving off heat in the cold of the ship cabins.
Zoro immediately releases her and jumps back as if she has burned him.
She staggers back slightly, smiling as he looks at her.
Her eyes are uncharacteristically soft as they gaze at him. Zoro has seen this look of hers once or twice before. He has seen her looking this way at the giant children, the victims of an evil research on Punk Hazard. She has this look too whenever she is examining a sword that catches her interest.
The look is one of tenderness and compassion, and her dark brown eyes would seem to glow somehow. Zoro isn't sure how it happens. But one thing he is sure of… and that he personally has never received this look from her.
Angry glares and frowns, yes. Battle challenges during ridiculous timing, yes. Soft tender looks, never.
It feels somehow intimate, something personal… and Zoro feels uncomfortable as if he shouldn't be here in her gaze, that he isn't really the person she meant this look for.
"Thank you," she utters softly, and the low feminine tone of her voice somehow triggers a shot of current down Zoro's spine, jolting him.
Zoro decides instinctively that he needs to run away from her, now. He doesn't know why. But it would not be the first time he has run from her… nor would it be the last.
But just as he considers leaving her to find her way back to her room, she sways unsteadily again on her feet, and he feels his decision sway along with it. He thinks about her lecherous G-5 ero-cook wannabes and decides that the best thing he can do is to get her safely to her room… and then run away.
Damn these dodgy subordinates. How did they get selected to join the Marines anyway?
"Oi." Zoro looks ahead, but the question is directed to the intoxicated woman beside him. "Which is your room?"
"Ahh?" Her voice sounds distant, as if she isn't really there with him. "Oh, room. Right. Hmm…" She staggers forward slightly, and the swordsman steps with her, watching out of the corner of his eyes as her head unsteadily scans the aisle.
"Left." She nods to herself and goes in the opposite direction. Zoro nods, and follows.
They walk in that way for a bit, Zoro now awkwardly holding onto her right arm to prevent her from falling or veering off. After fifteen minutes, the swordsman is growing increasingly uneasy as Tashigi ponders one door after another and shakes her head. He isn't actually rushing for time, but he needs to quickly get her into her room and then leave. Her body is leaning heavily into his, and Zoro doesn't like the way his heart rate spikes each time she brushes against him.
They finally find her room, after making a U-turn back the way they came, Zoro berating her for her helpless sense of direction. It is a large wooden door marked with the words 'CAPTAIN' in block blue words. Zoro turns the knob and the door swings open.
The swordsman hangs back in the hallway as the drunk Captain steps into her room. He sees a plain white dresser by the wall and a table with a single lamp on top, no doubt used for reading battle reports and sightings on pirates. Tashigi starts to amble toward a small white bed with simple bedposts in a corner.
Zoro starts to leave but then she turns out and calls, "Come on in."
The pirate scratches his head and then shakes it. "No. You just go and get some-"
Zoro takes a deep breath, holding the urge to slap his hand over his forehead. In a way, a drunken Tashigi is very similar to Luffy (drunk or sober), in terms of cognitive judgement and clumsiness. He crosses the threshold into her room and on second thought, shuts her door, in case anyone passes by and sees him in her room. Association with pirates are punishable by law, and he doesn't wish to see this woman punished for being drunk and accidentally being with the wrong company at the wrong time.
He walks forward, bends down wordlessly and picks up the fallen woman, who is now cursing and groaning with pain. Zoro then carries her easily to her bed and lays her down, taking care not to shift her dress. There is a large pink mark on her forehead now no doubt caused by the fall, and would be a fantastic blue-black colour come morning.
"Sleep," he tells her and after a pause, pulls up the covers to her chest.
Zoro turns and starts to walk away, but then something warm catches his hand.
He jerks slightly as her warm fingers contacts his rough calloused hand, and his heart abruptly performs a leap not unlike the ones he usually feels when his idiotic Captain flings him thousands of feet into the air during their younger days.
He turns slowly, wondering if he is making a mistake by doing so.
She lies in bed like a goddess, her dark hair splayed out on the pillow like some flowing glimmering form of night sky… and she smiles at him in that sincere tender way again.
He finds himself tracing back his steps, one, two, and he stands once more at her bedside, her fingers still clutching his. She tugs his hand once and he slowly sits by her side, she smiles again that he understands her wordless request. He gazes down at her, no words, nothing.
She who wears the face of the reason for his ambition in life – but who is so much different from Kuina as their faces were the same. Kuina, as skillful as she was, loathed her identity as a girl, voicing her resentment of her body that would ultimately prevent her from beating Zoro in future when they were fully grown. Tashigi, on the other hand, fights fiercely and fully carrying her identity as a woman, berating anyone who dares to handicap her as one. No, she isn't as skillful, but her heart is in the right place, and people with the right hearts eventually get what they want. In spite of all their bickering and fighting, Zoro recognizes her for what she truly is. Yes she is annoying and so very prideful, but he believes she is a worthy swordswoman of any blade, a Marine worthy of the true justice they supposedly represent… and a woman worthy of any good man.
Her eyes and smile pull Zoro in and he doesn't realize he has leaned his face forward closer to hers, until their noses are within inches of each other. His eyes go wide and he attempts to pull back, but her hand is now touching one side of his cheek, the side with his scarred eye.
His heart flutters.
What a strange, strange night.
"Roronoa…" she says slowly, and her voice falls upon him as gentle as her caress on his face.
"Zoro." His deep voice speaks, and she frowns slightly, still in a bit of stupor. "My name is Zoro."
Then her frown clears and that gentle smile is back upon her lips. "Zoro." She speaks softly and simply. It is the first time she calls him by his given name.
Zoro kisses her then, his name from her lips evoking something powerful within him, something he had never bothered or known was residing within his inner being.
He is surprised at their softness, and briefly wonders how such soft lips could belong to a person involved in harsh art so similar to his own. Hard steel, the harsh clang of blades… but soft, soft lips like a petal. They are warm too, and Zoro cannot help comparing them to his favourite sake. Sake is different, it tastes cold on the lips, traveling down the gut to warm one's whole being. But this here, her lips, they are warm on his, and the fire traveling down his body is equal, if not fiercer still, than what standard booze could evoke.
Then their tongues are touching, and there is really nothing like the fire he feels within himself, the need to touch something, or to move his body somehow. He hears her moan softly into the kiss, and he feels the heat in his nether regions. Zoro isn't a fool, he has never participated in activities of self-pleasure or carnal actions due to his intense training… but he knows the physical reaction Tashigi is now stirring within him.
And suddenly unbidden images are in his head, of her wishing him goodnight as she falls asleep in his bed. Of her underneath him, gasping, moaning, moving. Unbidden images, of a very distant and unlikely future.
He still needs to be the world's greatest swordsman, before he thinks about anything else.
But it is there now, somewhere in his subconscious, that possibility. She has unknowingly planted it within him, just as accidental as the kiss has been.
He doesn't wish to take advantage of an inebriated woman and so Zoro gently draws back from her, despite how irresistible her lips are.
Still drunk, she pouts slightly, like a child denied candy. Zoro thinks to himself that she looks beautiful and adorable at the same time right then.
He tucks her in quickly before she can respond in her own drunken way. "You need to sleep," he speaks firmly.
Tashigi watches him, her head on her pillow and then she nods obediently and closes her eyes. And then slowly but surely, her breathing evens out and she drifts off to sleep with a pretty smile on her lips.
Zoro watches her, and lets out the breath he has been holding. It has been a very long time since he has felt so unsure of himself, and the first since he has felt such a powerful urge he was afraid he could not control.
And all because of her.
He stares back at the peacefully slumbering woman, cocooned in her blankets. Zoro sighs. Is it because of the alcohol? Or the crazy celebrations that had somehow gotten into his head?
Deep down he knows his heartbeat had spiked with the clash of their blades in Loguetown, her teeth gritted with a defiant expression as she fought him fearlessly despite knowing his identity as the fearsome pirate hunter. Their cat-and-mouse chase continued on till Alabasta as he ran from her, though he knew their chase was not what it seemed. She wanted to prove herself, and he acknowledged that. And for that, he allowed her to fight Monet, watching from the sidelines and stepped in when she was incapable of doing so. And in the aftermath, he was unable to leave her to die and so carried her to safety from the poison gas.
And now this right here, their accidental… kiss… it is his first kiss, and he wonders if it is hers as well. But he hopes she will not remember, as he has kissed her pretty much without permission.
Zoro sighs again in frustration.
He slowly rises from her bed and retrieves the key from her bedside drawer, before walking out of her room. Now in the hallway alone, the swordsman locks the door and then stooping down, he slides the key far and safely under the door.
Zoro then walks away slowly, his lips and body still tingling warmly from the contact with the woman behind the locked door.
It is another half hour before he finally finds his way out of the cabins.
Not so much his thoughts, though.
Tashigi awakes with much difficulty. The sunlight pouring in burns her eyes, and her throat is oddly parched and dry. When she tries to lift her head off the pillow, she feels a throbbing pain and the aches plaguing her neck.
"Oww…" She puts a hand up to her forehead and is promptly rewarded with another dull stab of pain.
What happened? Where am I? It is morning now?
She slowly sits up and tries to take in her surroundings. She is now in her bedroom.
Tashigi slowly gets up from bed and moves to the window. She sees the clear blue sea and the few Marine ships, and notes the absence of the trademark lion ship.
The Straw Hat pirates are gone.
Yes, she remembers now. The battle at Foodvalten, and the resulting victory party between the town, the pirates and the Marines. She remembers the uncomfortable dress, the one she is now wearing, looking so crumpled and worn. She remembers finally making it down the stairs, feeling that she may die by a fall before she did. She remembers seeing the first person upon touching safe ground.
Tashigi gasps as the hazy memories start to solidify.
She sees his piercing gaze fixed on her.
She sees the mug of ale in her hand.
A firm hand holding on her right arm as she stumbled forward.
She sees her hand reach out to him as he turns away.
Tashigi gasps again, colour flooding her cheeks as her fingers fly up to touch her lips.
In the peaceful silent morning, a female shriek broke through the stillness of it all, frightening the seagulls into the sky.
"Huh?" Zoro looks up, frowning. The sea before him is calm and devoid of activity, and he wonders what had caused the sudden pull back in reality. He had been drifting away in thought, ever since they had left Foodvalten at dawn.
Is she awake?
How is her head?
Does she remember?
These thoughts were frustrating, Zoro never had to deal with all these. He was never good at things like these, cutting things down were much less troublesome.
"What, ero-cook?" Zoro throws a careless look over his shoulder.
He isn't surprised to see a dreamy expression on his crewmate's face, as the cook waltzed over to him. "We didn't see you all night! And with your ugly face missing, I had the opportunity to meet a real beauty! She's one of the townspeople in Foodvalten, and she promised to wait for me to come back to visit her! Oh, I have a loyal pretty maiden o'my own!"
Zoro scoffed. "Sure you weren't dreaming her up?"
Sanji rolls his eyes. "Better than you, Mosshead. I bet you were drunk out and never met any pretty maiden last night."
Zoro turned back to watch the sea, a very small smile now playing on his lips. "You have no idea."