Note: My response to Xparrot's 'The Amazing Chopper's Birthday Challenge' posted in onepieceyaoi LJ. That place is breeding ground for evil ideas.

Sanji wished more than anything that Zoro would quit looking at him like that. It was really starting to piss him off.

"Sanji-kun, how are you feeling today?"

He was distracted him from all thoughts of the Asshole as he fixed his heart-filled eyes on the petite red head that had appeared beside him. Clasping his hands in happiness, he declared in a bright voice,

"I'm fine, Nami-san! It is impossible to feel ill when in the presence of such beauty. Nami-san is so kind and considerate to ask!"

She graced him with a small smile, but he could see concern creased in the corner of her exquisite eyes. Unable to bear the sight of any discomfort marring the features of The Queen of His Heart, he searched for ways to ease her worries.

"Nami-san, it would be my greatest honor if you would allow me to prepare a delicious and nutritious afternoon snack for you."

"Thank-you, Sanji-kun. But, you know Chopper has told you to take it easy for a while and to stay out of the kitchens until you are a little more healed."

He just barely managed to keep an irritated frown from his face at her innocent reminder. Why the furry little doctor had thought that keeping Sanji from cooking during his recovery would accomplish anything other than depress him was a mystery to the chef. But, he managed to keep his thoughts from Nami-san.

For her, he would be brave. He was sure she expected no less from her Sanji-kun.

After Nami had left him, he spent the afternoon on the front deck. Being barred from the kitchens left him excessively bored these days, so after wandering around as long as he could before his chest started bothering him, he would find himself at the front of the boat, leaning against the railing mindlessly watching the cut of the water. The only good thing in all of this was that ever since Sanji had fallen into this routine, Zoro hardly ever came to the same section of the ship, which suited the blonde just fine, since this meant that he didn't have to watch the other man watch him with THAT look on his face; that look that absolutely pissed Sanji OFF. He wasn't exactly sure what the look meant or anything, he just knew that he hated it and seeing it made him really want to kick the swordsman. Hard.

Not wanting to allow such thoughts to drive him into a dark mood, he searched for means of distraction. Just as he had decided to seek out Nico Robin and spend some time with the wonderfully mysterious female, a voice called for his attention.

"Sanji! You really should be spending more time in bed if you want to heal properly!"

The chef tried to hold his tongue as best he could as he looked at the reindeer frowning up at him. He knew that the resident doctor was only speaking out of concern for a patient, so he strained to control his annoyance at the request.

"I'm fine out here, Chopper. I think the fresh air is doing me a lot of good!"

There was more frowning, as Chopper considered his words. Sanji prayed that the doctor wouldn't turn his suggestion of bed rest into an order. The blonde had spent long weeks after his injury confined to his bed below deck. He couldn't bear the thought of being stuck down there again.

Seeming to take pity on the cook, Chopper finally nodded his head in consent. Sanji nearly melted with relief.

Instead of leaving, or making any attempts to draw Sanji into further conversation, the shortest member of the mis-matched crew continued to stand beside him, looking noticeably agitated. As the silence stretched on and the doctor's fidgeting increased, Sanji tried to prod Chopper into talking about whatever was clearly on his mind.

"Something bothering you, Chopper?"

He smiled slightly as the brown furred cheeks glowed a distinct pink. The sight of the blushing reindeer never failed to charm him.

"Its, just, that, well….have you spoken to Zoro?"

His smile instantly fell. Sanji looked at Chopper as if he had suddenly sprouted horns. Er, more horns. Antlers. Whatever.

"Why in the hell would I do that?"

Chopper gave him an anxious look.

"I was thinking that if you did …it-it may make Zoro feel better."

Utterly bewildered by the words, Sanji just stood there, rather dumbly, to allow them to sink in far enough so that they actually made sense.

"Feel better?" he finally repeatedly, fully aware that he sounded like an utter idiot.

If him talking to Zoro was going to make the other man feel better, Sanji slowly realized, then that meant that right now….

"MotherFUCKER!!!"

Chopper was so startled by the sudden and loud expletive that he stumbled backwards, tripped over his hoofed feet, and fell solidly on his backside.

Sanji paid him little mind as he stomped past the grounded deer. As he angrily searched for the stupidest and most annoying thing to EVER happen to him, memories came rushing back, starting with the moment the crew had decided to step foot on that damned island almost a full month ago.

Within the first half hour of the landing, Sanji had been convinced that he and the crew needed to do nothing more than to turn right around, supplies be damned, get right back on The Going Merry, and get the hell away from that place. The air was silent and full of such…wrongness, that the cook knew no good could come from their visit. He had tried to express his feelings to the group, but Luffy hadn't understood anything other than the thought of adventure to be had while exploring a new place, and as soon as Zoro heard his reservations, the green-haired man had immediately started to taunt Sanji about being 'frightened like a little girl' and urged him to hold Usopp's hand if he was finding the sunny island 'too spooky'. The swordsman was so wrapped up in his own humor that he had missed the deadly glares coming from Nami-san and Robin at the 'little girl' comment. So, after a violent confrontation with the swordsman in order to shut the idiot the hell up, Sanji had closed his mouth on the subject, and loyally followed his friends. And a still snickering Zoro.

All playfulness ended when they finally reached the village. For as long as he lived, Sanji would never forget the sight that greeted them. The entire place was utterly still and seemed to have simply been abandoned long ago. But, as they looked closer, they saw the skeletal remains littering the street.

The group, now somber, warily explored the village. Chopper had quietly muttered something about survivors, but the skeletons were well stripped and sun-bleached, indicating that death had come long ago for these poor souls.

They were cautious as one is when surrounded by death and ignorant of the cause. There were bodies everywhere, and looking closely, it seemed that these people had died quite violently. Many skulls were severely cracked, indicating mortal head trauma. More disturbing were the many bodies where rusted metal knives and swords lay near-by, or in some cases, still protruded. Sanji distinctly remembered the pain in his jaw as it terribly tightened at the sight of the smaller sets of remains; none, it seemed, had been spared in this slaughter.

He had stopped, transfixed, and stared at a pair of mostly intact skeletons, laying together in the dusty street, with bony hands still wrapped tightly around one another's necks in an eternal attempt to choke the long gone life from one another.

"We need to go." and that was Luffy, standing beside him, staring at the pair with him, and as he nodded his head in agreement, was when Zoro started to attack.

Shock froze him for a second when he first saw the glint of hard metal arcing towards him. Luffy was quicker, and grabbed Sanji with a fast rubber arm as he dodged their companion, pulling Sanji with him to safety.

From there, it was chaos and screams. Zoro attacked them all in a violent frenzy; incoherently snarling with each charge. He remembered Luffy shouting his first mate's name in desperate anger, but the green-haired man would not stop, would not respond, would not stop his single-minded dance of violence.

He was wrapped in madness, trying mindlessly to kill however was closest to him. Luck, however, was with them that day, and as a distracted Zoro battled a well-matched Luffy, Chopper, in his four-legged deer form, charged the swordsman's leg with a well-placed sedative syringe gripped between his teeth.

It was a one in a million hit, and the effect was immediate. Their crazed comrade broke free of Luffy at the contact and stumbled back in shock as the fast acting sedative raced through his system.

To this day, Sanji failed to understand the instinct that had him moving towards the other man as Zoro started to fall drugged head first to the ground. But, without thinking he had stepped forward, taking on the other man's weight, and it wasn't until he felt the sharp metal pierce through the center of his chest that he realized that Zoro was not completely sedated. He immediately tasted blood in his mouth as he fell backwards while his body still gripped the sword; he distantly heard his named screamed in a way he had not heard before, and then the darkness was complete.

He had woken weak and thirsty, with a deep pain in his heavily bandaged bare chest. He had at first thought that he was alone in the dark room, until his eye shifted and caught a movement in the darkness. Zoro was standing above him eyeing him warily as the blonde struggle to deeper consciousness. Sanji started to move his parched lips so he could tell the swordsman the he was looking even more stupid than usual, but all that came out as a pathetic dry croak.

Then, the other man was calling for Chopper, calling out that Sanji was awake, and then the room was filled with his nakama, with Chopper in the lead, and Nami right beside him yelling at the crew to MOVE and let Chopper work! He admired the beauty of a masterful Nami-san through heavy eyes, before once again catching sight of Zoro, as the other man quietly backed out of the room. And, it was there, for the very first time, that Sanji had seen THAT LOOK cross the other man's face, and it had pissed him off ever since.

Later, as he lay for weeks healing from his injury, he had been told that after the fight, and while he was unconscious himself, they had to keep Zoro under constant heavy sedation while they searched for an explanation for his sudden violent behavior. Examining Zoro's blood had revealed the toxin almost immediately to Chopper, and then a careful exploration of the island delivered to them the cause. There was a small row of thorny bushes near the village where they had been. Chopper had discovered that the thorns were coated in a sticky substance that proved to be a poison. He explained that if a person happened to brush against the shrubbery and was scratched by the thorns (as Zoro apparently had), then the poison would enter the bloodstream immediately, turning the carrier violent. Once identified, Chopper worked to quickly made an antidote, which was quite effective in curing the infected man. The reindeer actually went into a great more detail then this, detailing the process and exactly which part of the brain is infected, and blah blah blah, but Sanji was doped up on some pretty damn good pain medication while the explanation took place, so he was happy enough just to get the basics of the matter.

That had been weeks ago, and Zoro had continued to avoid him (which was just fine with Sanji, really), and when they did meet, mostly looked at him in that weird way which ticked Sanji off, even if the chef was unable to explain until now why it did just that.

That. Stupid. Son of a Bitch.

Finally, as his chest starting protesting his angry storm across the ship, he found Zoro asleep against the rear railing. Knowing that he would be paying for this action very shortly, but far too angry at this point to care, he landed a hard kick against the sleeping man's chest, sending Zoro tumbling against the deck.

His wounded chest immediately protested, and he hastily grabbed onto the nearby railing to steady himself. He glared at a now awake and sputtering Zoro, who, as soon as he fixed eyes on the shaky blonde, froze, and then had the nerve to give him the LOOK.

Sanji, beyond all levels of normal anger, raised the arm that wasn't keeping him standing upright, and pointed an accusatory finger at the swordsman.

"You," he spat through clenched teeth, "feel BAD."

The bastard didn't even try to deny it. He just diverted his eyes and his jaw clenched stubbornly. The Look, though, stayed right where it was.

"Did you know who I was?" Sanji demanded. Zoro looked back at him confused now.

"When you did that. Did you know who you were stabbing?"

"I didn't know anything." Zoro slowly explained, "I didn't even know who I was."

"When I get burned grabbing a hot frying pan, I don't get mad at the frying pan. Get it?"

Zoro's face clearly declared that he didn't get jack.

"YOU were a frying pan! One with too much fish grease and the heat turned on too high! Do you know what I am trying to say? I mean, FISH GREASE, for cryin' out loud! What was I thinking?!?!"

"Um…."

Sanji sighed in exasperation, and leaned his weight more heavily on the railing. He was going to have to go lay down, and soon. But first, he had to find a way to get through to the big stupid asshole.

"If you and I" he began, eyeing the other man carefully, "ever go at it. I mean, really, go at it. You're going to know who I am, I promise you that. Everything else is bullshit, and not even worth thinking about."

Zoro stopped looking confused, and finally met his eyes squarely with understanding. Sanji's chest, no matter how much it was now throbbing, still managed to tighten in a very satisfactory way. This was how they knew one another on their core levels; this odd flare of white hot recognition that they had always shared, that had named them as nakama right from the beginning. Everything else, compared to that, really was bullshit.

"You look like shit, cook. You're not going to faint on the deck, are you?"

The Look was finally gone, and Sanji silently wished it good fucking riddance, but the asshole was still here, getting up from where he himself had been sprawled on the deck. Sanji tried to straighten up at the other's approach, but really didn't have the strength to do it. He had to admit that he had over done it this afternoon. Man, was Chopper ever going to be pissed. And Nami-san! He couldn't help but to feel that he had in some way failed his Goddess with his foolish actions. He would have to find a way to make it up to her.

He was so distracted with his thoughts, that he jumped as Zoro grabbed the bottom of his shirt with one hand and rested his other hand on Sanji's hip, offering, the blonde shakily thought, some additional support as his body continued to weaken. To his embarrassment, he gasped loudly as Zoro yanked his shirt from where it was tucked in his pants, and without a word, pushed his large calloused hand up the front to rest gently on the wrapped bandages.

"You're seeping again, you stupid cook. Chopper is going to be pissed."

Then the hand on his hip tightened, as the other man leaned in very close, put his mouth to Sanji's suspiciously pink ear, and whispered,

"I will always know you, cook. Remember that."

Sanji had no coherent response. What a weird fucking thing to say.

Then he pulled away, slid his hand from beneath Sanji's shirt, and stepped back.

"I'll go get Chopper. Try not to pass out before he gets here. That'll only piss him off more, you know."

And then he left, and Sanji put both hands against the railing, because he really was feeling faint; his legs were barely supporting him, and he stared blindly out to sea.