By Alexis C.
Waves lapped gently against the hull of Going Merry. Aboard, Zoro leant back against the railings of the ship and stared up into the starless dark of the sky.
Soft trashing sounds and whimpers came from the cabin near him, but he pretended not to hear, blotting the noises from his mind.
Everyone had nightmares.
He didn't want to go in and wake her up. It seemed like an intrusion, a violation of sorts. So he left her with her private nightmares and continued staring up blankly into the dark abyss above him.
He didn't want to think about what had nearly happened today. The life that had nearly slipped through his fingers. That body lying still and motionless on the wooden planks of the ship. The pale face and those lifeless lips...
Zoro scowled darkly at the shadowed figure lounging against the rail beside him.
"Stop staring at me," he snapped, finally.
Sanji simply looked at him, his face a careful blank mask.
"Spit it out or go away," Zoro growled.
Sanji blinked. After a moment, he cast his eyes down to the deck.
"What was it like?" He asked finally, his voice sounding oddly reticient.
What was what like? What was it like to see that your friend had stopped breathing? What was it like to dive into the cold icy waters of the sea only to realise you didn't know where she was? What was it like to see blood flowing freely from the open wound in her side? What what?
"What was it like to what?" Zoro demanded, exasperation creeping into his voice. Already, he was sick of the conversation.
Sanji gestured vaguely.
"What was it like to kiss Nami?"
"You-" He begun in disbelief, then stopped and shook his head. "That wasn't a kiss, you moron. That was mouth-to-mouth resuscitation."
Sanji shrugged. It was calculated to be careless, but Zoro could see the taut tight line of his body.
"I can't beli- you're jealous?"
Sanji frowned unhappily.
"You can't be serious," Zoro growled.
"I... didn't even see her go overboard. If you hadn't been watching out for her, she might have been-" His voice broke off as if the thought was too much for him to bear.
The unspoken words were left suspended in the awkward silence of the space that stretched out before them. Zoro shifted uneasily, taking care not to face Sanji directly.
"I promised, Zoro, I promised that I would keep her safe."
Sanji's voice was filled with a bitter self-loathing that Zoro had never heard from him before. There was a message in there somewhere, but Zoro couldn't quite put his finger on it.
"You. You're always there. Protecting her, taking care of her. Keeping her safe. The two of you... you're good together."
Was this what it all boiled down to? Feelings of inadequacy and jealousy? Zoro didn't quite know what to say to that.
"We're just friends. The woman is a blood sucking, money grubbing leech. I'm not attracted to her. At all," he finally stated simply, wishing the cook would just leave. What did Sanji want him to do? Swear never to step foot near their navigator again?
"Look, she's alright now. And I can assure you that two of us will never ever become a couple. Happy?" Zoro asked somewhat sarcastically. His patience was wearing thin and he was not in the mood to play mind games with the annoying cook.
"You don't get it, do you?" Sanji's features tightened with anger.
Zoro opened his mouth to make an angry retort, but just at that moment, the ship lurched. The sharp angles of Sanji's body dug painfully against him, as they fell onto the deck in a tangle of limbs. Automatically, Zoro cradled the slender body in his arms protectively. It was really more instinct than anything else, which found him clutching Sanji to himself as the other sprawled over him, his eyes wide with shock.
Below them, came a shouted apology from Usopp, but neither of them paid any heed.
The fall had brought them dangerously close to each other. Sanji's cheeks were flushed and his eyes seemed almost glazed over. It was unsettling the way Sanji was staring at him. More unsettling though was the way his body seemed to be reacting to Sanji's presence. Zoro felt that he should do something, push Sanji away, yell at him or something, but he couldn't seem to move to break the spell.
Then Sanji bent down and pressed his lips against Zoro's.
It wasn't a passionate kiss or even a possessive one. Just gentle chaste pressure of one mouth against the other.
It couldn't have lasted for more than a few seconds before Sanji pulled back. Zoro blinked at him stupidly. His mind was still vacationing somewhere in the lower regions of his body. Sanji had brought his hand to his mouth and there was a look of absolute horror etched upon his face. Zoro opened his mouth to say something potentially stupid. What it was he didn't quite know. He never got a chance to get it out of his mouth anyway.
In one fluid movement, Sanji was on his feet and darting away.
"No, wait!" Zoro reached out and just managed to snag the edge of Sanji's jacket, but the blonde was too quick for him and yanked free.
"Sorry," Sanji murmured and fled.
Zoro sat there in the dark for a long time after that, his fingers to his lips, thinking.
Sanji had kissed him.
Sanji had kissed him, Zoro.
The world was ending. There was no other explanation.
There was just no way of bending his mind around that. No way too, to stop the thousand and one butterflies fluttering in his stomach and the single thought that dominated his mind.
He wanted Sanji to kiss him again.