DOWN THE DRAIN
Inspired by the lyrics of Sponge (V. Dombroski)
There was a light on in the bathroom.
Zoro couldn't help but inspect; he didn't like tending to the ship alone, even in such a reasonably squeaky-clean port of call. From what he'd gathered before dozing off, no one had stayed on board save himself, and no one was apt to return anytime soon. Nami off to reap the spoils of her private wealth, and Luffy off to do the obvious, which would probably involve most of the food budget for the month. The rest, Zoro hadn't really paid attention to, but he could surmise easily. He could see Robin now, nose-deep in some antiquated bookstore, Chopper probably nestled in her lap, growing ever-more-awestruck at the wisdom she imparted so patiently. And Usopp was probably regaling some strangers with his unbelievable tales of swashbuckling heroism. He was lucky in that regard that Zoro wasn't around to debunk his vainglory – they always somehow ended up in the same bars at port. Probably because Usopp preferred a bodyguard.
And Sanji was the easiest to figure. Blonde, brunette, redhead? One of each? He wasted all his energy on women. It made Zoro so angry, to see all the potential of a possible rival whittled away by Sanji's overwhelming tendency to think with the wrong head. But, Zoro had to remind himself, most people would call him just as unusual for preferring to wile away the hours at port with a nap and a good chunk of solitude.
He'd come to terms, long ago, with the fact that no one worth caring about understood him. So, he was determined not to lose too much of his mind on wondering why Sanji did things the way that he did. That was too much to worry about, when the ship was as quiet as death and the waves lapped calmly in the harbor. There was a single, warm light on in the bathroom. Zoro stepped over, trying to remain unconcerned and nonchalant though three swords stayed at the ready on his hip.
He nudged the door open with the toe of his boot, and it swung open. A tiny splash made his ears prick up.
"Don't get jumpy, it's just me." Came a voice from inside, as the sound of the bathwater settled into a calm little slosh. Zoro tilted his head in, and turned toward the door just enough to see that Sanji was settled in the bath, much more alone than Zoro would have expected him to be on a night like this.
He made to step inside, his face still bold and expressionless, when Sanji warned him without seeming to move a muscle, "There's some glass on the floor."
Zoro lifted a fist to his mouth. Cigarette smoke was choking the cramped quarters; he coughed. It was easy to read the entire scene in moments. He could infer everything that had transpired since the second he'd fallen asleep on the deck. A woman, of course. Sanji's hand, on the side of the tub, was clutching a wine glass littered with bright pink lipstick marks on the rim. As Zoro watched in silence, Sanji would occasionally lift it, and drink from the other side. Clothes littered the floor, a few select articles covered in the tiny, shattered remains of what had once been a second wine glass in this lovely scene. Had the words exchanged been so heated, to cause Sanji's companion to pitch it against the wall? At least it hadn't been the bottle, Zoro thought, not even a bit in jest. He'd like to have some of that wine later.
Whoever she was, she'd left behind a blue lace bra in her haste the escape. Zoro lifted his eyebrows, toed it aside, and cleared his throat. Being snide would probably be a bad idea – naked or not, Sanji could get exceptionally volatile when his chivalry was called into question. So Zoro was resolved not to ask what had happened.
"How are you doing?" He finally asked, selecting his words so carefully that he was certain his voice sounded robotic, totally unconcerned one way or the other. He didn't "do" compassion well.
Sanji breathed in through his nose, sighed out with his entire body. Zoro suppressed the urge to roll his eyes at the melodrama. With long, yellow-tinged fingers, he flicked his cigarette, and ashes fell to join a little pile on the side of the bathtub, along with way-too-many butts that had been smoked straight to the filter. "You're the last person I need to see right now, that's for sure."
Zoro smirked. "That goes without saying. I guess it's better than me busting in here and running you through, though, right?"
"That might've been less embarrassing." Sanji said, his voice clipped. He took another champion's gulp of wine.
"Nothing I haven't seen before." Zoro shrugged and snickered, moving farther into the tiny room. Glass crunched under his feet, and for the first time that night, Sanji looked over at him. His brow was lead-weight, his eyes sharp and warning.
It seemed that he really wanted to say something, maybe to snap back at Zoro's subtle ridicule. But he paused, and seemed to think, and just shook his head lightly. Almost to say Zoro wasn't worth his time.
"It got pretty ugly. I called her someone else's name."
He tried to fight the urge, but the chuckles rising from Zoro's belly were so natural, so uncontrollable, that they came out with hardly a second thought. He forced a sort of apologetic smirk at Sanji, but as he spoke his face was still painted with shades of schaudenfreud. "Nothing new. Nami again?"
"Nah, you this time. Probably because I kept being nervous about waking you up. You bastard."
Again, it was nothing new. Though Zoro was still shocked that he was the only one to whom Sanji felt the need to unburden these things. Apparently he'd muttered every one of the crew's names during sex at some point – Nami, most predominantly, of course. But especially lately, the familiarity had eaten away at his brain, and it had turned into an intimacy that queered everything about his outside interactions. Zoro knew he didn't mean it – Sanji never meant it, or so he liked to posture. Everyone knew about his passion for Nami, but few could actually believe that he'd ever be so bold as to follow through with it. Perhaps it was that he respected her too much. Whatever the case, Zoro had likewise never been concerned with Sanji's conflicted admission of wandering thoughts at the most inappropriate times.
Sanji interrupted Zoro's thoughts, smacking his lips after another sip of wine, and curtly remarking, "Apparently she had a pretty strong stock invested in my complete and utter heterosexuality."
Zoro laughed. It wasn't to say that Sanji wasn't completely and utterly heterosexual, at least to the knowledge of everyone who knew him well. Zoro had to count himself as one of those people. But things happened. Things always happened. Zoro knew well enough from life experience never to trust the most obvious guarantees. Those were always the ones that betrayed.
"You're drunk. You need to get out of the bathtub."
"All right, mother," Sanji sneered, leaning over with a splashing shift to pour another glass of wine, "I'm not drunk yet. Go get a bottle of something, let's drink ourselves to sleep."
"Sounds good to me." Zoro smiled warmly.
"I know you don't need the help, but do it."
"I'm on my way." Zoro waved on his way out the door, already envisioning the jug of cheap rum he'd hidden away just for such an occasion.
Sanji managed to drag himself, water-logged and dripping, out of the bathtub. He was, as usual, anything but modest in Zoro's presence. It raised some curiosity, in Zoro's mind, of what Nami would think to see her gentleman cook flopped down in a hammock, still wet from the tub, wearing only a pair of boxers that had soaked up the water to leave very little, if nothing, to the imagination. Sanji's hairy, boyish legs dangled over the sides of the hammock and he sat up halfway, just upright enough to drink.
Zoro sat crosslegged in the hammock beside him, and he let Sanji ramble. He had a tendency to mix up his names. All the times this crazy cook had fallen in love, and when he was soused he sounded like the guest list at a Sorority Mixer. All the Midoris and Lilys and Heathers he ticked off made absolutely no sense to Zoro, but he was content to let Sanji ramble. He cried, and moaned, and got angry, and Zoro just sat there, nursing his rum, nodding every so often and trying to hide his smirk.
The entire time, he wondered if Sanji would be just as formidable when he was drunk. Sometimes, drunk guys were unbeatable. It was the lack of reality in their minds, the total abandon of fear. But, he had to remind himself, Sanji lived in a world pretty detached from reality to begin with. Dreaming of fairy tale oceans and sweeping Nami off her feet to become Prince and Princess someday. It was pretty frightening, really.
"Oh! Uh. What?" Zoro blinked away from the reflection he'd been staring at in his glass of rum, and saw Sanji thrusting something at his face.
"Here! I gave this to Catina," Zoro searched his brain, and somehow made the connection that Catina was the girl who had broken the glass in the bathroom. Sanji's latest conquest, latest failure, "but she threw it on the floor when she left. Now I want you to have it."
He was slurring, his eyes were fluttering in syncopated blinks. He was well beyond his limit, and Zoro could see all too well that he was close to passing out. Between his fingers now, inches from his face, he was holding out a wrinkled cocktail napkin, folded once in half.
"Don't ask why." Sanji muttered as Zoro plucked the napkin from between his fingers, and flopped back into his hammock. He was silent after that. It was a long run of silence, longer than Sanji had allowed him since they'd started drinking together. The sudden quiet buzzed in Zoro's ears as he unfolded the napkin.
Sanji's handwriting was an oddly sophisticated scrawl, like a grade school kid who thought too highly of himself. It said 'I Love You.' Very simply, very plainly.
Zoro rolled his eyes, and shook his head, and looked over at Sanji to reply. But blonde hair was half-obscuring the face of an unconscious cook, liquor breath wafting up as Zoro leaned closer, pulling up to his knees. He looked at him – closely – and wondered if Sanji would ever know.
But he knew he couldn't let him.
Without even thinking, after a long time of just looking, he let his rough and rum-smelling fingers skim the side of Sanji's face. An unconscious fit of reaction made Sanji's lips curl into a tiny smile at the touch. Zoro's eyebrows knitted for a moment, confused and a little perturbed. It all seemed very easy to explain, of course, in the most logical terms – anyone was good enough for Sanji. Anyone beautiful and warm. When Zoro thought a moment, and realized with a tickle of pride that he could never be considered either, he touched Sanji's hair once more and sat back.
He asked himself what the hell he was doing, and shook his head back to reality.
He found a pen, scrawled an answer on the uneven surface of the napkin, and tucked the note back into Sanji's hand. It would be his to find when he finally came back to his senses, probably with a raging hangover.
'I wish I loved you. Don't ask why.'