Shot Through the Heart

Chapter Four

In the middle of his meal, which Zoro was very much enjoying, Sanji broke across the table and asked something that made him choke.

"Zoro-kun, I have to kiss you!"

Sanji commenced the Heimlich maneuver as quick as a flash, and once the portion of lobster had been dislodged from his throat, Zoro coughed through the taste of the bisque he'd been eating to bark, "Whaddya mean, you HAVE to kiss me?"

This was a strange, strange Devil Fruit, and Zoro hated, hated, HATED Cupid the Matchmaker for being the sadistic one to eat it. Almost fifteen minutes had passed, and nothing had happened to test his nerves. It had been strange, of course, having Sanji hunched over with his hands between his knees, watching him eat with starry, unblinking eyes, but it was nothing that the three-coarse seafood dinner hadn't helped to quell. Until now.

Now, Sanji was grabbing his face – covering him from jawline to cheekbone and lodging his thumbs near Zoro's hairline. He was pulling him forward. It felt like slow-motion, but it wasn't.

Sanji was kissing him, apparently not noticing that Zoro was thrashing beneath.

They wound up on the galley floor, in a tangle of limbs similar to where they had found themselves at the beginning of this whole mess. Instinct and duty were fighting one another. The former told him to rail on the skinny blonde for the trespass, but the latter warned him of the possibility that Ai-Ai Fruit-influenced Sanji would turn out to be a masochist, as well. Also, he had the undeniable urge to finish his meal. And he wouldn't risk it being upset from the table at this point, already having survived Sanji practically pulling him over and across it…

Zoro held back Sanji's face and wiped his mouth, expectorating whatever taste of him was left behind. Sanji whined and struggled, trying to push forward. Why did Zoro suddenly identify with all those helpless damsels always being tied to railroad tracks?

"You can't kiss me!" Zoro growled.

"But I just did! And you let me!" It was true; Sanji was no longer grounded in anything anyone could even remotely begin to refer to as 'reality.'

"You surprised me! And I didn't like it!"

"I'm sorry! I promise it will be better this time!" He lunged at Zoro, but this time Zoro held him back with both hands. It was like trying to push back a wall – Sanji was simply not going to cave on this urge of the Devil Fruit. No matter what Zoro said, there was a loophole, a Monkey's Paw. Sanji's soft blond hair was falling around his hands. It felt soft, wispy, not very thick and manly like his own. Zoro had never really had the time to run his finger's through someone's hair – anyone's hair – but he would lay bets that Sanji's hair was like a woman's.

"Gah! Don't kiss me! Just don't!" He finally found his words.

The wall of insistency beneath his hands that was, indeed, Sanji's face, fell back. Zoro was still angry in the prone position, but simply looked up at Sanji warningly, breathing hard over the exertion as if it had been the most dire of battles. I "Teme…" /I he finally added, if just to distract himself from the oddly detached, thinking look on Sanji's face.

"Well that certainly complicates things…" Sanji began, his skinny shoulders lifting and then sagging back as he sighed, "Zoro-kun doesn't want to be kissed, but I have to please Zoro-kun…"

"You can please me by getting off of me and not coming near me!"

Sanji's eyes glinted, and Zoro was quite startled into silence. His eyes went wide; his lip twitched involuntarily on what would have been a grimace if his face weren't drawn agape at that moment. "No, no, that will not please you. Not the way I need to please you…"

"What the hell?" Zoro wondered out loud, almost groaning. It was no use pleading with the Ai-Ai fruit, he considered. Its powers must have grown stronger in Sanji over time. He could only imagine the poor men driven insane by its properties, forced to madness over something they could never have. All while Cupid the Matchmaker laughed at them…

Thinking took him too long, and sometimes he missed things in the process. This time, for instance, he'd missed the transition of Sanji's hands to the underside of his haramaki, feeling out the band of his pants. Zoro squirmed in half-conscious disbelief, then lost it once he discovered what Sanji's intentions were, most likely. "Listen!" he hurried to explain, "I think…um…maybe…our relationship is heading in the wrong way too fast. Maybe we should…" –what was it he'd read in Nami's Cosmopiraten?- "slow down and share some time with each other first! I don't…" –this was making his stomach hurt, to say it, but at least Sanji's hands were slowing down- "…want our relationship to start out like this! I don't feel like I know you yet. I just want to…" he was surprised that Sanji had ceased all covert operations beneath his haramaki, and his eyes were glued, unassuming and unblinking, on Zoro, "…get to know you? Talk? Maybe?" He finished hopefully, bracing himself and feeling quite sick that he'd spoken those words.

He let out a breath of relief that Sanji's hands had stopped violating him – he already felt light-headed enough as it was, all the kissing at the soft hair and whatnot – the last thing he'd needed was for Sanji to bring up any more well-kept secrets of his. Quite literally, he mused to himself.

"You want to talk?" Sanji asked, twisting his hands in on each other near his heart in a strange way of pointing at himself. There was a sickening way in which this Devil Fruit made his eyes seem larger and more voluminous than before. Zoro could almost swear he saw him sparkling. "You said you weren't big on talking, though…"

"I…" And at once, his moronic tendency to lose his capacity to speak came flooding back. Hopefully, Sanji would mistake the silence for insecurity?

Success, apparently, because the cook launched into a monologue before Zoro could even eke out such a lame excuse as 'I changed my mind' (which, really, he had, but only in the face of so unpleasant an alternative). "Oh, Zoro-kun!" A bear-hug from Sanji's skinny body pushed him harder into the floor, not letting him go without a short "oof!" of discomfort. Sanji smiled, and rattled his words off so quickly that Zoro wasn't sure he had half of the first sentence digested before it was all over. "Maybe you're right, maybe our relationship's moving too fast – and it's all my fault, I know it is! But all I wanted to do was make you happy, and it didn't look like you were enjoying your meal very much-"

Damn it, should've been more theatrical about how good that tasted.

"-I figured maybe we needed to explore our physical attraction. I thought that was what you wanted, maybe it would make you happy if I catered to your every desire and made you feel good that way. I'm trying so hard, Zoro-kun, I really am! But if you want to talk, that's just fine! What do you want to talk about?"

Sanji grinned down at him expectantly, patting his haramaki back into place as Zoro's eyes darted back and forth, trying to realize what he needed to say. Unfortunately, instinct took hold.

"Um. Swords."

As soon as he'd said it, Zoro felt he'd made a grievous error. But he heard Sanji give a strange 'coooo', and looked up to see the blond with a dreamy look on his face, clutching his hands next to one cheek in a pose he normally reserved for their navigator, who was admittedly far more worth it (and far more adept at deflecting the worship). "Zoro-kun is so wonderful with his swords! I know they're important to you – I'm sorry I tried to polish them earlier, I know you must be very attached to them – but don't you see that's exactly why? I knew you loved your swords, so I wanted to do something nice for them...for you…"

They looked at each other. Zoro almost wasn't put off by his back being on the floor, anymore. Sanji's words almost made…good gracious, they couldn't be making sense?

"Zoro-kun is so brave when he fights, and so good with his swords! It take up your days to train with them, so that you can protect me in battle—" you tunnel-visioned git "--that's why I have to take care to feed you well and let you sleep, so that you can use your strength wisely! So noble, so strong…"

The sparkly look had returned. Zoro tried his hardest not to stare directly. "Tch. You feed me tripe and rotten leftovers."

"That's not true! I feed Zoro-kun whatever has the most protein and electrolytes!" He sounded almost insulted, then gestured with a glum face toward the table, "that food I just made you is simply going to sit in your stomach, it'll slow you down for a day or two."

"You've been…" Zoro blinked, "you've been feeding me according to a diet?"

Sanji nodded resolutely. "I know what Zoro-kun needs."

"Well I…I can't say I've ever felt starved, actually…"

"Or that you've ever slowed down in battle because you didn't have the proper nourishment…"

Awkward silence. Pushing and shoving over a kiss would have been better. He was getting wishy-washy about the whole situation, but it wasn't as if he'd had time to develop a strategy.

"That's um…that's actually pretty nice of you…"

Sanji sucked in a breath through his nose that inflated his smile and seemed to make him sparkle even more noticeably. Zoro hoped that whole effect was simply his eyes playing tricks on him. "Oh, Zoro-kun! I'm so glad I've made you happy!"

"Yeah, I guess it does make me happy that you haven't just been feeding me mashed up rotten fish-heads like you always claimed…" he snarled.

"Fish heads do contain lots of protein…" Sanji mumbled to himself, and Zoro almost shot him a contemptuous glare, but Sanji's hands distracted this impulse. They landed on his shoulders, grabbing his shirt, and Sanji laughed.

"This makes me feel so much better! I was afraid I'd failed Zoro-kun completely!"

"Well…" Zoro began a statement, but didn't finish it. Again, the words 'I still don't like you' seemed so nebulously natural on his lips, he literally had to bite them back. Threat of Nami's wrath if he screwed everything up loomed most prominent in his mind, even more threatening than the feeling of his front teeth drawing blonde on the very tip of his tongue.

Sanji tilted his head and waited from him to continue, but finally decided he would not (which was the correct assumption. Zoro stole a sideways glance, and Sanji smiled. "Would Zoro-kun kiss me?"

"What? No!"

"I'm sorry!" Sanji let his hands fly back and forth in apology, "ahhh, I'm moving too fast again. Maybe we should talk about that! Just what does Zoro want before we become more serious? Is it time? I'll give you time…"

You'll give me a nervous breakdown…

"…I think maybe Zoro-kun doesn't like me kissing him…maybe because I'm a boy…"

This time Zoro's eyes locked with Sanji's immediately, as ridiculously oversized as they seemed. What had his words been? Oh, no, he'd heard them all right. Those were the words he'd been dreading to hear Sanji say. Everything else, he could deflect, but the feeling in his gut, the tickle in the back of his mind, the very tenuous associations with his own psyche that he'd felt since living with Johnny and Yosaku…they were all quite apparent.

"No, that's not it. Not at all."

Sanji spoke softly, in a way that Zoro would almost call polite if they hadn't already been the only ones present to hear. "Zoro-kun likes boys?"

"Zoro-kun—" he began to snap, and then shook his head violently, snarling, "I'M not sure of what I like, but it's just…"

Not him…?

But why not?

Because it's him. I despise him. He's been nothing but trouble for me.

Why? Because he's your equal?

No, not my equal, just annoying! And he's straight, anyway, always fawning over girls and making it so apparent! It's sickening. He has no reasonable ambitions to become stronger, he just wants to live in a castle with a princess and make puff pastries!

"I don't think you've been paying very close attention to me, Zoro-kun…" Sanji's voice suddenly dropped in register, and his hands snaked from Zoro's shoulders to caress his face again. Zoro didn't budge, this time. He attempted instead to burn holes into Sanji's skull with his eyes, holding an impassive face the entire time, "you haven't noticed the ways I've made you jealous, the ways I've baited you, the arguments I'll pick with you just so you'll prove to me what I already know…"

Now this all sounded a bit presumptuous for someone under the influence of a Devil Fruit designed for sudden infatuation…not to mention that sudden drop in register.

Zoro cocked an eyebrow most severely, and widened his eyes. "What the hell--?"

Sanji let out his all-too-familiar guttural chuckle, and tilted Zoro's head back slightly by the chin. "I knew it. You like boys. Well, don't worry. So do I."

It seemed almost not to phase him, that suddenly he didn't seem to be talking to an overzealous doll who called him 'Zoro-kun' and sparkled on command. He was talking back to Sanji, and he didn't feel any ramifications would come from using the strong voice that he did. More of a bark, really. "Liar, you've never shown interest in anything that doesn't have breasts!"

"Ahhhh…well, yes, I do love women as well. They're so soft, so dangerously volatile, so aesthetically pleasing. But you're blind if you haven't seen it…I've shown interest in something else…"

Zoro narrowed his eyes. "…what the hell is going on here, today?"

"Baka." Sanji whispered, and bent low to envelop Zoro's lips with his – a softer, less robotic kiss than the ones before.

There were so many conflicts and questions blocking Zoro's mind that he was unable to sort anything out, unable to move a muscle, until seconds later the door erupted, and Nami led the remainder of the crew back into the galley to find Sanji and Zoro locked in what could not readily be called a one-sided kiss.