Disclaimer: ;:Fights back the lawyers:; They're mine! Mine I say! (I wish…);:Also cringes from readers who have been waiting forever for this chapter…;:
Rock - A - Bye
Night Time Frolics
In an attempt to make his eyes adjust to the darkness of the cabin more quickly, he sat and rubbed them for a few seconds and reopened them. It did nothing to change the fact that the sofa remained empty, but it did make his eyes itchy and somewhat swollen.
"Shit." He muttered once more as he slipped out of his hammock. Now, not only was he ticked off, he was uncomfortable too.
Thankfully, the couch revealed no signs of there having been any kind of trouble. Such as that idiotic Dr. Tokei having returned to finish whatever ridiculous mission it was he had. The sheet and border pillows were crumpled and pushed aside to make room, the makeshift bottle half empty and tossed aside carelessly. All signs that Zoro had gotten up on his own.
The little jerk.
"Zoro…" He called out in a sharp whisper, not wanting to alarm and wake the others unnecessarily.
Brushing his blond hair back and away from his face in frustration, he could feel his heart pounding against his chest and his fingers twitched with the need to pull out a cigarette and smoke, as a weird feeling overtook him.
As he searched through the cabin looking for Zoro, the feeling wouldn't leave him alone. Fear? Worry? Anger? Annoyance?
Annoyance. Definitely Annoyance.
He refused to believe that he would be feeling otherwise. After all, he could care less if the little idiot had wandered up deck and fallen to his watery grave. ..…. Well, that was a lie. As annoying as the bastard was, he was still nakama. So all right, maybe he was feeling all of those things mixed together he admitted to himself and it would take a pack of starving piranha gnawing on him to get him to admit it out loud. Maybe even that wouldn't stop him from taking that admittance to his grave.
Shaking his head roughly, he refocused on his task. Checking in every possible nook and cranny that a young child might find fun to hide in and he had not checked, his voice raised slightly. "Zoro…come out. Game time is over…"
But still nothing.
As much as he would hate to admit it, even to himself, he was starting to slowly panic.
One more place, I'll check one more place before waking everyone else…
Rushing up the stairs, and out on to the deck, his eyes quickly darted around, searching. It wasn't long before he heard a voice coming from above.
"Sanji! What is wrong?"
At least he now knew for certain that they could count on Usopp during his night watch. And tonight he was especially grateful for his alertness. "Oi, Usopp!" He started while looking up towards the crow's nest. "Has there been anyone else on deck tonight?"
Even though he so high up, he could still make out Usopp's features contorting to that of confusion and even if he couldn't see him clearly, his voice confirmed his reading of the other's expression. " What do you mean?" The marksman called back. " You're the first I've seen on deck all night. Is something wrong?"
He chose to ignore that particular question for now. "Have you heard the water splashing like someone fell into it?"
Now Usopp was torn between being curious and nervous. Sanji's voice carried an underlining worry to it, despite how much he tried to mask it, and that alone made him uneasy. "No, I'm telling you, you're the only one I've seen tonight and the water's been calm. Are you going to tell me what is wrong now?"
But Sanji still refused to answer him. With a quick, "Sorry! G'night Usopp!" He had practically ran back into the cabin, slamming the door shut behind him.
A wave of mixed relieve and further frustration overtook him as he slammed the door behind him. At least he now knew that Zoro had not fallen off deck to the dark depths below.
But now he had run out of places to look. It was time to let everyone in on the problem.
He'd start with the girls. He knew they'd be the most reasonable choices at the moment, seeing as how they often had the most common sense out of all them. Quietly, he slipped into the girl's shared room, knowing they'd be asleep and not bothering to knock. But as he allowed himself inside, he noted that the door had been slightly ajar.
Once in the room, his heart skipped a beat. At first it was because he thought his wonderful Nami- san's radiance was affecting him once more, even while she was asleep, but he was wrong.
By Nami's side as she slept, he spotted the one he had been searching for. Zoro.
The tiny swordsman was attempting to tug at her sleeves, trying to grab her attention. A sharp pang of anger rippled through his body and erased all other emotions he had felt now that he saw that the young one was safe. And anger shot through himself once more after he mentally slapped himself for not having checked this room earlier.
Nami continued to sleep, despite Zoro's attempts. She merely rolled over and shooed him away anytime his small hands pestered her. Robin had fallen asleep over at the desk, draped over a book. It wasn't clear if he had attempted the same with her or not.
No wonder neither of them had brought the child back. He didn't even know how long Zoro had been in the room, or why he was so insistent on waking up his Nami-san.
"Zoro." He said softly, hoping to take his attention away from the sleeping goddess.
The small child jumped at his voice, but turned to him with a large smile, seeming genuinely happy that he was there. He half wobbled half crawled over to him and at the speed it took him to get across the room, Sanji couldn't help but wonder why it had taken him so long to find him.
"Come on you pain in the ass, back to bed." He stated calmly as he bent to pick the child up. Although his words were harsh, his actions were gentle and after draping a blanket over Robin and making sure his wonderful Nami-san was comfortable, he slipped out of the room as easily as he had slipped in.
Now that he had found the shrimp, exhaustion overtook his body and he couldn't contain a yawn. More than half his sleeping time had been spent in searching for an annoying marimo and sleep for him was precious. Especially when a certain captain woke him at all hours of the morning to cook breakfast.
He was almost back to the men's quarters and he could practically hear his hammock calling out to him, when Zoro began to wiggle in his arms agitatedly. Remembering what had happened the last time the child had acted in such a way, he held him out at arm's length, facing away from his shirt. "Don't you dare…."
Zoro began to hiccup and whine, his crying increasing in pitch. Cursing colorfully under his breath, Sanji turned him back around and looked into his eyes. "What's wrong with ya now? Huh?"
And to his surprise, he actually got an answer.
He blinked. Certain his sleep deprived mind had made him hear things. "Huh?" He allowed himself to mutter as the child continued to stare at him expectantly, sniffling the entire time.
"Potty." Zoro repeated, moving agitatedly once more. Sanji was certain that if he had been able to, he would have been doing a wee wee dance.
Still stunned, all he could manage to do was respond. "You can talk?"
Zoro then began to cry once more, upset that this grown up was continuing the conversation instead of heeding to his needs.
"All right, all right." He muttered and carried the child to the bathroom, feeling slightly guilty that none of them had taken into consideration what to do about his bathroom needs. Needless to say, he was very relieved to find that he was already potty trained. He would have refused at all costs to have changed his diapers…
As it was, it was bad enough that he had to hold him over the toilet. He was too small, and would have otherwise fallen in. He still turned away while he did his business, wanting to be as unattached as possible. He wanted to forget this was happening at all. And he suddenly found himself wishing that Zoro had been successful in waking Nami up.
When Zoro was done, and they could finally go back to bed, He tucked Zoro in snuggly. "Don't move from here." He told him firmly. "If you need something, call me okay?"
But Zoro merely stared at him and he grunted in frustration. Hadn't the child spoken only moments before? "Oi. I know you can talk, say something."
Zoro giggled at his expression, and yawned in his face, before letting out a garbled infantile speech that only someone else his age would be able to decipher. Leading Sanji to believe that the child's speech was limited.
Which would probably explain why he had chosen to try and wake up Nami. She was on level ground with him at least. He must have been happy when he found her. He and the others were out of reach and hearing range even if he had managed to squeak the word out. Maybe he had attempted to wake Sanji up and that was what had woken him up in the first place…. But if the point was that he couldn't open the door to the bathroom, how had he gotten into Nami-san's room? Then again, the handle to the girl's room was a simpler model where all one had to do to open it was pull the handle down. The bathroom's handle was the kind one had to turn. Unless he had not even known where the bathroom was and had been lucky with the girl's room door. Well, whatever…. He was too tired to think anymore and his body was beginning to feel heavy with the need for sleep.
The crew's snoring made him envious. None of them had been disturbed throughout the entire episode, and no one had known that he had even been awake, besides Usopp. He swore that a ship would have to crash into the caravel before any of them woke up in the middle of the night.
With a shrug to the thought, he stalked over eagerly to his hammock, when he felt a tugging on his pant's leg. Releasing his breath in a rough exhale of air, he turned, to see Zoro staring up at him with expectant eyes and sucking his thumb. Placing his hands on his hips, he made sure to keep his tone firm.
"What is it now, chibi marimo?"
Apparently, the whole concept that he was annoyed with him went over Zoro's head completely. He interpreted Sanji's attention as something good and an invitation to play, because he suddenly smiled and squealed loudly in playful glee.
Damn. He had known he was stupid, he just hadn't known his stupidity had carried this far back.
He winced at Zoro's loudness and placed a finger over his lips. "No! Shh. Be quiet."
The little chibi marimo had the nerve to laugh once more, his baby voice rising in pitch. "I said to be quiet…" He hissed at him while reaching to pick him up.
Zoro only squealed in delight, convinced that they were playing, and dropped to his knees, furiously crawling away while laughing. Leaving the older man, for now, to chase after him.
Why did the little bugger move so much faster when he was crawling?
Finally stopping, the baby sat and looked back at him, waiting for and taunting him. He stopped as well and they stared at each other each waiting for the other to make a move.
Zoro was all smiles, waiting patiently.
Sighing, Sanji gave in and started forward once more. However the bundle of energy had other plans. He allowed him to take just one step more before laughing and darting away once more.
A yawn escaped Sanji's lips before he was able to stop it and he growled in frustration. He was sure the night and his chances of getting a good night's sleep were slipping away.
With renewed determination, he gave chase once more. Unfortunately, whenever it seemed he would gain ground on the child, Zoro would take to hiding. Such as darting under the couch where he couldn't be reached.
At one point, Sanji actually stumbled, sleep deprivation catching up with him and making his reactions and actions sluggish. That was it, he couldn't take it anymore.
He peeked under the couch where Zoro had once more hidden, grinning up at him with childish glee, waiting for Sanji to try and catch him once more. But his little face dropped when the older man didn't comply.
"Fine, you little brat, you don't want to go to bed, I don't care." Sanji drawled as another yawn escaped his mouth. "But I'm tired and have to wake up soon, I'm going to bed so you can stay under there all night for all I care you ungrateful marimo."
Said little marimo stared up at him, finally getting the sense that their little game was coming to an end. He reached out from under the couch and pulled at Sanji's pant leg once more while babbling and gurgling in the language only he could decipher.
Sanji pulled out of reach and shook his head. "No. I'm not going to put up with your games anymore." With that he turned and stalked towards his hammock once more.
Zoro crawled out from under the couch, sat up and stared as his playmate walked away. He turned and tried to crawl back up onto the couch, but found that he couldn't. It was too high.
Well now, that wouldn't do. He was beginning to feel tired himself and was cranky that his game was cut off so soon. Not only that, but now he couldn't even cuddle up and go to sleep too. And his only source of help was walking away. With so many things stacked against him, and the fact that he was frustrated and grumpy, made him deal with things the only way babies knew how. He began to sniffle.
Sanji was halfway into his hammock when he heard a soft sniffling, and that hiccupped fast paced breathing babies always managed to do before they began to cry. Startled, he turned back to Zoro and saw him sitting in front of the couch, eyes tearing and his small nose turning red.
He tried to hurry back to him before the little marimo released the wrath that only a small pair of lungs could, and wake everyone up. It really was amazing that everyone was still dead to the world with all the rucus they had caused.
He was three steps away, when Zoro opened his mouth and cried so loudly that he had to fight the urge to cringe and cover his ears. In their hammocks, Luffy and Chopper finally shifted in their sleep, frowning slightly.
Sanji bounded the last remaining steps it took to reach the baby and picked him up in one fluid motion. Zoro continued to cry into his ear, letting his frustration and discomfort known without any restrictions, he could care less who woke up because of it.
With another deep heartfelt sigh, Sanji rubbed his small back, while he whispered nonsensical words, the way he had seen many women do while comforting their children.
Amazingly enough, it worked and Zoro quieted his cry to a soft whining as he rested against Sanji's shoulder, and yawned.
Seeing this as a good sign, Sanji continued his actions and paced the small cabin, until he felt Zoro give one last huge yawn and then stir no more as he had finally fallen asleep. Even then, he paced around for a few more minutes, just to be double sure. Then and only then did he lay the little pain in the ass back on the couch and tucked him in once more.
Zoro only snuggled against his pillow, sucked his thumb, and continued to sleep.
With a large yawn of his own, and a couple of stumbled steps, Sanji finally reached his hammock and as soon as his head hit his pillow, he knew no more.
Groaning and turning over in his sleep, he desperately tried to ignore the voice pulling him out of sweet nothingness.
"Na…..Sanjiiii….. I'm starving….I'm going to dieeeeee."
"Shut up Luffy!" He heard himself growl, followed by a blind kick.
Ah, it had made contact.
"Sanji…." The captain continued to whine trying to sound as pitiful as possible.
"Let me sleep…" He groaned in response, burying his head under the pillow.
Huffing in frustration, Luffy pushed his hammock roughly, hoping to make the other fall off. But Sanji remained firmly planted in his hammock, and the swaying only served to lull him into a deeper sleep.
"Fine then. I guess that means I can have whatever I want. Hehehehe…."
That woke him up.
"You stay out of my kitchen." He growled, snapping his head up.
Luffy had the nerve to grin back at him. "So you'll finally make breakfast? I've been waiting since forever!"
"What time is it?"
"It's eleven o'clock."
Eleven? No way…
Glancing at the sofa, Zoro was sound asleep, not budging an inch. Sighing, he stood and made his way to the galley.
Glancing at the sofa, Zoro was sound asleep, not budging an inch. Sighing, he stood and made his way to the galley.
Nami blinked as she watched Sanji rush up the stairs from the sleeping quarters and in a flash, pull out various ingredients to make something that was sure to taste delicious. But his hair was disheveled, his clothes untidy, and if she squinted she could see signs of bags under his eyes.
She had already thought it odd when she was up before him, knowing that he was usually already up at ungodly hours, looking clean, neat and ready for anything as he prepared their breakfast.
But this morning had been different. When she had woken up, it had been around nine in the morning, and she was surprised to find that everyone was already awake, minus Usopp who was fast asleep and she knew that it had to have been only a few hours prior that he had switched places with Robin, Sanji and for all obvious reasons, Zoro.
Robin had mentioned to her that when she had gone to relieve Usopp from his night watch duty, he had inquired about Sanji, saying that he had been behaving oddly during the night.
Although she admitted to herself that she probably took him for granted, and often took advantage of his fawning over her, he was still nakama and a pang of worry had still shivered down her spine when she had heard this because it was so unlike him.
She didn't know how long she had been pondering on her thoughts as she waited patiently at the kitchen table with the others, but before she knew it, Sanji was setting down a delicious smelling plate full of breakfast in front of her.
"Here you go, Nami-san." He grinned. " Made with the utmost love and care just for you…."
She smiled back at him, finding herself oddly relieved to hear his usual flair. "Thanks Sanji-kun."
His smile grew brighter and he nodded. "You're very welcome."
But as he turned back to serve everyone else, place a well aimed kick to Luffy's face as to push him back from attacking the food he was still carrying, and setting aside Usopp's plate, she could see in his face that he was still quite tired.
"Cook-san… are you feeling all right?"
"Yeah, you seem a little pale, maybe I should give you a check-up…"
Ah, so Robin and Chopper had noticed too.
He still managed to turn and grin at them. "You're so kind and caring Robin-chwan! Thank you for asking! …And thanks Chopper, but that won't be necessary… I'm fine."
"But, Marksman-san mentioned that you seemed upset last night…."
She watched as Sanji shook his head and fell back into his usual cool, suave approach to everything. He leaned against the counter in a usual relaxed pose, except this time it seemed to lack the usual air of slight cockiness that often went along with it. He was probably trying to compose himself and prove to them that he was fine. "Last night was …a misunderstanding…an overreaction. Nothing to worry about."
Robin raised an eyebrow in disbelief, but nodded in acceptance anyway and sipped from her mug of coffee.
Nami watched as Sanji did his best to hide a yawn, frowned at that fact, and then turned her attention to her plate. Something had obviously happened the night before and he wasn't going to share willingly.
How very odd.
It was then, in the midst of everything returning to normal, that Zoro chose to make his appearance once more.
She smiled before she was able to stop herself. One look at him and she couldn't bring herself to see him as Zoro. Not with his cute short unruly hair, with him rubbing his eyes drowsily and toddling very slowly into the room.
How had he managed to get up the stairs anyway? She shrugged and decided to never take a baby's determination for granted.
He stopped rubbing his eyes long enough to look up at all of them and babble happily.
That was it. He was being too adorable.
With a squeal she could not contain, Nami flew from her spot at the table, scooping him into her arms. Her heart nearly melted as he squealed in response and laughed, while patting her cheek and then hugging her in greeting.
A chorus of 'Aww' echoed around the galley. Even Luffy looked up from stuffing his face to grin at the sight. Everyone was enticed with the cuteness, all except one, Sanji.
He seemed to be glaring at the child, before turning his back on them all and proceeded to prepare the food in a way that would be easy for Zoro to consume, and warming a bottle of milk.
Nami couldn't help but notice his indifference and spoke up. "Sanji-kun, are you sure you're all right?"
He tossed an easy smile over his shoulder at her, before turning back to his task. "My wonderful Nami-swan, I assure you I'm all right."
"You seem mad at Zoro, I mean that's normal, but lets face it, these aren't normal circumstances."
"I'm not mad at him." Yet now he wouldn't turn around.
"Really?" She pushed, while raising a delicate brow. "Annoyed with then?"
"I just had some trouble falling asleep, that's all." He replied. Boy, was that an understatement.
Nami nodded, and while she didn't believe him, and that didn't really answer her question, was ready to drop the subject all together. But Usopp chose that moment to walk in drowsily, awoken by the delicious smell of breakfast.
"Ah. Good morning everyone!" He greeted happily, as if he hadn't only gotten a few hours sleep, stopping on his way to his seat to tickle Zoro on his tummy, making the baby squeal happily.
Everyone returned his greeting, while Usopp sat and began to eat. He noticed Sanji's disheveled appearance and swallowed before asking a question that had been bugging him all night and early morning. "Sanji, are you all right? Why were you running around like a lunatic last night?"
Everyone turned raised eyebrows to their cook, expecting an answer.
Sanji sighed deeply and fought the urge to bang his head against the counter. He retold the past night's events, and through the crucial parts, as if he understood, Zoro laughed.
Sanji endured everyone's laughter and sympathetic comments as he threw one last glare at the small pain in his side.
Brat. He thought with renewed enthusiasm.
Author's Notes:;:Cringes yet again:; Yes, I know I know. This chapter took wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy too long. I am so sorry guys, but that was the worst bout of writer's block yet. It isn't much of an excuse, but it is the truth. I simply could not get this chapter done and no matter how hard I tried, I was never happy with it.
I want to thank everyone who showed me their support, you know who you are and if there were fewer people, I'd do actual shout outs, but that's going to take up too much space that no one really would read through anyway. Just know that I love all of you who took the time to review, (especially taking time to review) and to those that through their reviews encouraged me to continue. It was really for those of you that did that, that I forced myself to finally finish this chapter. I hope the waiting was worth it. (Geez I really hope that. Lol) And ;:Hugs everyone tightly:; I really truly am grateful in ways that no words could describe.
And I swear to you all that the next chapter will be out before 2007 lol. (A week, the lastest, honest. it's a promise.)