Where the Waters grow Sweet

"The weirdest thing I ever saw," Sanji said sleepily, "was the mouse."

Zoro grunted. He wasn't interested in talk at this point. He could feel Sanji's heartbeat against his cheek, the rise and fall of Sanji's chest.

Sanji lay across Zoro's left arm, sprawled with his eyes on the ceiling. His words curled through the quiet room like smoke, barely audible against the whispering of the waves outside. "I was younger then."

"Course you were," Zoro muttered.

"I was sitting on the rail of the Baratie." Sanji's words came more slowly now. "A ship came past with a dragon-head prow. I hailed them. This mouse called back."

Zoro would have snorted, but he was too tired, too comfortable. "Big mouse?"

"Naah." Sanji's lips curved. "Tiny little thing. Standing on the prow between the dragon's horns. It was wearing a sword. A rapier," he added hastily, before Zoro could ask. "It sparkled."

"What did the mouse say?" Zoro asked sleepily.

"Mnh." Sanji shifted a little, took a deep breath, relaxed again. "Hailed us in . . . the name of their Majesties of Narnia, or something. Must be one of the farther islands. Asked if we knew what was further on. I could see some humans on deck. Men. Boys. A girl. They let the mouse do the talking. I told them we weren't sure, we'd been holding steady there a while, as far as we knew it was peaceful further on."

"And they sailed on?"

"Yeah. Didn't even stop for a meal."

Zoro imagined the sun on the rapiers, on the dragon prow. "Perhaps they had to meet someone."

"Perhaps," Sanji agreed, but Zoro could tell he wasn't convinced.

"Where was he going?"

"East," Sanji murmured, his eyes closing at last. "The uttermost east. He said."

"And did they get there?" The dawn light was beginning to show on the horizon, paling the sky to bright steel.

"I don't know," Sanji whispered. "I never saw them again."

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