Chapter Thirteen: I Hate You.

Approximately 12 hours later...

Zoro stood with Usopp and Luffy in the shade of a tree, waving good bye to Shanks and his men. The day had taken a very hot attitude. Summer was approaching this island, and everyone was feeling it today. Everyone except Luffy it seemed.

// I guess rubber doesn't sweat.//

Luffy was obviously disappointed that his friends had left so soon, but he didn't let it or the weather get him down. In fact, he seemed to have a fresh view and a revitalized attitude.

"Yosh! I can't wait to get back out there! Let's leave now!" He said loudly, his body barely containing his excitement.

"We can't leave now." Zoro said, wiping the perspiration from his brow. "Nami and the cook aren't back from the market yet." He said, trying to be annoyed, but rather excited himself to get back to sea. The cool wind of the sea would help the hot weather. He was nervous besides, which doubled his anxiety, and felt like he was going to fall to pieces if something didn't happen. Sanji hadn't said anything back that night.

//He just looked at me and then kept walking. He hasn't spoken to me since then. Of course I've also been hiding, so even if he had wanted to talk to me, he wouldn't have been able to. Why does it matter? I did it. I told him. I put all of this behind me, and I tried. That's all I can say. I thought just because he was… It doesn't matter now anyway. New start. Time to get out there again and be the strongest. Who needs love when you've got a sword...//

Zoro shook his head free from such thoughts. He followed Luffy and Usopp out of the shade to where the Going Merry was docked. On the harbor there had been placed dozens of barrels full of water.

"Oooooh, Zoro! Let's get these on the Going Merry! It wouldn't be so good if we left without the water!" Luffy said, as if the task was a new adventure. Zoro sighed and tried to smile.

Sanji sat miserably atop the wagon that Nami had rented from a local merchant to carry all the supplies. It was filled to the brim with food, essentials, and thankfully, soap. They had forgotten soap last time. It was a very long month, that month without soap. Summer was approaching and the heat would make the entire crew smell to high heaven. He didn't think he could last the whole summer without soap.

Nami watched Sanji out of the corner of her eye. She couldn't tell if it was the heat that was making him upset or the fact that when Zoro had arrived with him last night, no one said a word and they both went straight to bed. "Ne, Sanji, what happened last night? You two just walked in and went to bed. What-"

"Nami-swan, if it's okay with you, I'd rather not talk about it." The mule that pulled the wagon made a protesting groan as he made his way down the street.

Nami frowned. "Well of course it's not okay! What happened? After everything I went through to try and get you two to open up, you won't even tell me what happened? Was my work was in vain?!"

Sanji sighed. The blazing sun had zapped his strength. All he wanted to do was find some shade and sleep. But despite the exhaustion, he couldn't keep his mind from going over last night again and again.

//I wish I knew what happened. I really do. I would tell you, if I knew. I'd tell him. But I don't know. I couldn't speak. It took all that I had to even move after he said it. He said it. He loves me. I was afraid. But underneath it all... I felt as warm as I've ever felt in my life. But damn my fear. I can't even tell him that I feel the same way. I'm too afraid... To be touched. To be loved. To love. To touch. I told myself I could do it. I was so brave in front of Kell. But I cowered in front of Zoro. Why?! What am I so afraid of? Judgment? Rejection? Hurt? Embarrassment? Or losing myself... In him. That if I'm not enough? This is true love. Think this happens everyday? And I'm losing it because of my fear. I'd rather get hurt, be embarrassed, be rejected, and be judged than miss out on true love. //

"Earth to Sanji-kun! Are you going to tell me what happened or not?!" Nami said impatiently, fanning herself with some parchment she had bought for her maps.

Sanji sighed again. "I don't know Nami. He came out of the hospital and told me he wasn't staying. He told me what happened between him and Kell, and why Kell lied to him. By all rights he should be with that man right now. But he said that he was putting this past behind him, and that his chance with Kell was gone. He told me he didn't love him anymore." Sanji stopped.

"And?" Nami said.

"And then he told me he loved me."

Nami gasped. "And? What did you say back?"

Sanji paused. He looked at Nami, his expression desperate and worried. "...Nothing."

Nami did a double take. "W-what? What do you mean, nothing!?"

Sanji looked away. "I didn't say a damn thing Nami-swan. I just turned around, and walked back to the inn. I haven't spoken to him, looked at him, or even seen him since then."

Nami gasped again. "What the hell are you thinking, you idiot?! You love him! What are you doing, treating him like this?! At this rate he will go back to the doctor!"

"I KNOW! I don't know what's wrong with me Nami-swan! I love him. I've loved him ever since I met him. But I never thought that there would ever be a chance! I'm so afraid that something is going to happen but I don't know what! Whenever I think about it I just want to be with him but I don't seem to be able to handle the reality of it!" Sanji yelled. Several people in the market were staring at them as they went by.

Nami stared at Sanji. "Sanji, as for being afraid, everyone is afraid. Not just of love, but of everything. I never took you to be someone who would let those fears in his heart. Usopp maybe...but even he had the guts to get the girl. Sanji your fear is irrational! You already know that Zoro loves you! He admitted it! He left Kell for you. Do you understand that? He could have stayed with Kell and had a love that was guaranteed. But he loved you more! He was probably ten times more afraid than you to admit his feelings. He's Roroana Zoro for god's sake! That is not a man who sits down and discusses his feelings! He's an ex-pirate hunter!"

"Are you saying that I don't have anything to risk in going in to this? That I'm not putting myself out on the line? Because all of this, none of it has been easy for me. There are times when I'm alone, thinking to myself, and then it's easy. I want it. But in front of the world, in front of Zoro-"

"Sanji you are not in front of the whole world! And if you're worried about people judging you, then I wouldn't recommend going into this relationship. If you're not strong enough to love unabashedly, then you don't deserve him!"

There was a silence. Nami's words resounded in Sanji's mind.

//Fine.//

"I know very well that I don't deserve him. I'm a coward. But I'm not enough of a coward to let myself miss this chance." Sanji stood up on the wagon and jumped out.

"Hey-" Nami began.

"Meet you at the harbor!" Sanji yelled, and was off, running at top speed down the street towards the dock.

As Zoro carried up the last barrel of water, he began to get dizzy. That familiar wave of nausea washed over him again. He teetered slightly on the long plank. Quickly he yelled for Luffy to grab the barrel.

"Luffy! Grab it!" Luffy's arms shot out and the barrel flew onto the ship, knocking Luffy over. Zoro regained his balance and stood for a moment, trying to calm him stomach.

"Zoro, what happened?" Luffy said, getting up and setting the barrel with the others.

Zoro nodded and walked the rest of the way up the plank. "Luffy, I'll be back out in a minute." He headed for the room that the four guys shared. He collapsed on the small futon beneath the hammocks. He was hot, sweaty, and tired.

//Must need more time to recuperate. It's probably the heat too.//

He closed his eyes for a moment to rest. He could feel himself drifting to sleep faster than he normally would. But the sleep welcomed him, and he didn't force himself to stay awake.

Or rather, he didn't need to. A moment after dozing off he heard the angry yells and shouts from people outside on the harbor and was jerked awake.

Plunk. Plunk. Plunk. Plunk. Plunk. Plunk. Bang. It sounded as though either someone had come running up the plank of Luffy had brought an elephant on board.

He growled and got up to open the door. Instead, as he reached for the handle, the door opened with a mighty crash, knocking him to the floor.

Zoro looked up and Sanji stood in the doorway, panting.

"Sanji what-"

"Are you okay?" Sanji said, closing the door and grabbing Zoro's arm, pulling him up. The swordsman was about to answer, but before he could begin, Sanji grabbed his shoulders and pulled him into a rough kiss. Zoro tensed and went momentarily numb. He stared at Sanji as the man pulled away from him as quickly as he had pulled him close.

"Uh-" He released Zoro's shoulders and stepped back. "I- uh…"

"You what Sanji? BARGE IN HERE, KNOCK ME TO THE GROUND, THEN KISS ME? IS THAT WHAT YOU WERE GOING TO SAY!?" Zoro yelled angrily.

Sanji flinched and grimaced. "Well..."

"WELL MY ASS! YOU EITHER MAKE UP YOUR GOD DAMMED MIND RIGHT NOW OR FORGET IT!"

Zoro grabbed Sanji in the same manner he had grabbed him and pulled him close. "Listen to me. I'm hot, tired, and sweaty. What's more, I hate you. I don't love you. I never loved you. You're a pain in the ass. And if we're going to spend the rest of our lives together and grow old together, you better get that straight, got it?! Because I don't want to have to repeat it!"

Sanji's eyes were wide. He nodded, understanding. "Got it."

"Good." Zoro huffed, panting. He was beginning to feel better already. He wrapped his arms around Sanji's waist and pulled their hips together. A blush crept across Sanji's face.

"I love you, shitty cook." Gently, he brushed his lips across the blonde man's. Sanji immediately grabbed tightly to Zoro's shirt, almost as if holding on for his life. He pressed his lips roughly against Zoro's and wrapped his arms around the other man.

"I guess I can live with that." He smirked before diving in for another kiss, his hands already working on stripping away Zoro's shirt.

"Good." Zoro grunted.