TITLE: The Way to a Man's Heart

AUTHOR: endsoftime

RATING: T

SUMMARY: Sanji and Zoro have a nice little thing going...maybe...sorta...okay, not really. But whatever they have is about to crumble, all over one little, insignificant concept: Love.

Prologue: Stuff About Love, and Other Annoying Shit: a Swordsman's Brief Analysis

It was wearing on Zoro's last nerve

It was wearing on Zoro's last nerve. He was sick of the stupid love-cook and his fucking mind games. He wouldn't mind it so much if the prissy bastard wasn't so damn inconsistent. It hadn't even been his idea in the first place!

Sanji'd been the one who crawled into his hammock, tearing off the swordsman's clothes like he was gonna fucking die! Zoro even tried to shove him off; the dumbass must have been drunk, and obviously thought the half-sleeping man was the navigator, in which case the cook must have been exquisitely sloshed. It wasn't easy to mistake Zoro's physique for a woman's. Or anyone else's, for that matter.

But despite all of the green-haired man's attempts to dislodge the gasping, clinging cook from him, Sanji just held on tighter, nearly suffocating him. His long fingers grasped spiked hair and wrenched Zoro's head back.

"Knock it off, Marimo-head," he panted angrily. There was a strange gleam in Sanji's one visible, blue eye; sort of manic, and unbalanced, and something a little…harder to place…it looked sort of like…

The swordsman growled. "What the fuck are you—"

"Shut up!" the cook said. Then he shoved his trembling mouth to the other man's frozen lips.

Oh...so it had been lust in his eyes. That pretty well explained it.

And that had been that.

Zoro never really marked the calendar, but he figured they'd been screwing for two months now. And he had never wanted to kill that curly-eyebrow bastard more. He didn't mind the screwing. It'd never really been part of his schedule before, but he found it an interesting and enjoyable addition to the usual routine. But...he couldn't deny that it was more than that. At least for him. Zoro was a disciplined, dedicated, and no-nonsense man (most of the time.) Point was, he never did anything without putting his whole heart and soul into. If the swordsman couldn't give his everything for a cause, he refused to engage in it. So the mere fact that night after night he rolled off the scrawny bastard, his heart thudding like a hammer, his tan skin slick with sweat and...other things...it should have been evidence enough that it wasn't just a random fuck...that it meant something to him...that it was important to him...that he was...

But Sanji thought differently.

At least he acted like he did.

Sometimes.

Oh, the asshole was affectionate enough right after they finished. In the dull hum of afterglow, he'd stay cuddled up to the larger man's broad chest, drawing lazy circles in the sweat that glistened on his hard body, or lightly kissing patterns down his arm. One would think the damn cook had found the love of his life, the way he carried on. But any fantasies of a somewhat more wholesome nature that Zoro might have entertained were quickly snuffed out once the post-orgasm high wore off and reality started to play a factor once more.

Sanji would roll away, maybe a little faster than was necessary. He'd fish for his carton of cigarettes, taking a few extra snaps of the lighter to get the flame going. He'd light up and take quick, deep gulps of the death smoke. He was always twitchy after sex.

But he'd wait. He wasn't enough of a vindictive bastard to kill Zoro's afterglow with a blunt fatality. He'd take it slow, and let the pleasant haze bleed out agonizingly into a pit of disappointment and coldness. Actually...Zoro wasn't so sure which sounded like the better prospect, anymore.

Sanji would wait until he had his pants done up and his rumpled, silk shirt draped over his slender shoulders, still unbuttoned. By the time his shoes were on, the odd vibrating in the small of his back that Zoro could always feel, even when the cook was on the other side of the bed, would have stilled, and cigarette number three was tucked in the crook of Sanji's thin lips more casually than the others. He always smoked like a chimney after sex. Partly the orgasm. Partly the nerves. But Zoro knew the real reason for the anxiety. It wasn't like Sanji was very subtle about it.

Just in case Zoro ever got the crazy notion that the cook had any spine, Sanji would always prove him wrong by reciting the same mantra. It came every night, without pause or fail.

"It's just a distraction," the cook's smooth voice would murmur. "Don't tell anyone."

The room was always dark when he said it. Or if it wasn't, his pale, toned back was all Zoro would ever see. Which was fair enough; it wouldn't help his hard ass reputation at all if Sanji managed to see the face he pulled whenever the cook said that. It wasn't even a conscious thing. Zoro's face just spasmed out of control: a disgusted, slightly pissed sneer that did nothing to hide the crushed delusions in his mind.

But Zoro never let on. He'd just grunt noncommittally, which was all the response the cook seemed to need. Then he'd stand from the bed, button his shirt, and remind the green-haired man — as though he could even forget, by that point — to give him a twenty minute head start before emerging. He was so fucking routine. More than once Zoro had to bite his tongue to keep from laughing at the dumb bastard.

Frankly, he didn't give one good goddamn if the crew knew.

Sure, they might rib the two, and purposely make things awkward. But they would never actually judge them. That's how nakama worked. But either Sanji didn't know that, or he didn't buy it, because he insisted on utter secrecy in their little affair. And at first Zoro was all for it.

At first, it had been a distraction.

Well, mostly.

Okay, so maybe it never had been, but the point was, two months into it and Zoro wanted to kill something. Or rather someone. And he knew exactly who that someone would be. The great irony, though, was that the one man whose neck he so longed to break was also the man that he always wanted by his side. Zoro thought he'd heard of something like that, before. There'd been an old lady at a tavern a few islands back that'd blathered on about how she pined for her dratted husband, and how much she'd like to smash his head in with a shovel. Seemed like the same basic principle. But what had she called it...

Oh yeah.

Love.

It took only two months to figure that out. Zoro wasn't stupid (contrary to the beliefs of one goddamned annoying cook), and he wasn't totally without emotion, like he tended to act. He could figure things out very quickly once he decided it was worth his time think about it. Not that he'd had much of a choice in this case; he always thought about the demon-chef.

No matter how many times he tried to shake the other out of his head; no matter how many curses he seethed or how much he tried to convince himself it wasn't important...it was pretty much useless. Sanji held Zoro's attention with the same mindless persistence the asshole demonstrated in every other aspect of life.

There wasn't a single facet about him that wasn't logged away in the swordsman's mind: the feel of his smooth, tight skin stretched taught over firm muscles; the light tickling sensation as his silk blonde hair swept passed Zoro's neck; the way his thin, soft lips pursed as he grinned around a cigarette; the mischievous glow in his blue eye that was the exact shade of the ocean on a clear, sunny day.

Yes, Zoro knew exactly what he was feeling. And he wasn't horrified or disgusted or even slightly surprised. He knew from the moment he laid eyes on the cook that he'd cause some trouble for him. True, Zoro never actually expected something like this to happen, but he rolled with the punches life threw at him. The thing a swordsman must understand is that knowing how to fight means nothing without knowing when to fight. And Zoro had had plenty of experience with Fate fucking him over; he'd learned by now that brawling with her was a complete waste of time, and he wouldn't get any stronger for it. But Sanji...

That stubborn bastard would fight his own shadow if he thought it'd make some broad happy.

Yeah, Zoro was in love, and he figured he always would be. It was just his shitty luck that he fell for a guy like Sanji. A guy who was only interested in Zoro for a quick fuck, but ultimately sought the companionship of a woman. A man who, in no uncertain terms, hated Zoro with every ounce of his being; hated him, his personality and everything he stood for. The only reason the damn dartboard-eyebrow hadn't poisoned his food yet was probably because Sanji had a formidable libido, and even less self-control than Luffy at an all-you-can-eat meat buffet. If that was possible. Eight out of ten times, it was Sanji who had to drag Zoro away from whatever important task he'd been engaged in (like training, or sleeping, or drinking sake) for a hurried release.

A man who would never, not ever, not in a million years, be able to love Zoro back.

And he couldn't do this anymore.

So with a strong resolve, Zoro decided to pull out of this fucking infuriating situation. Sanji was no more a fool than himself, despite how dumb he always acted. If he hadn't figured it out by then — hadn't even the slightest notion — then he probably wouldn't ever get it. And Zoro sure as hell didn't feel inclined to explain it. Zoro realized he was never going to get what he wanted out of this…whatever it was, and he wasn't about to let anyone take advantage of him.

Not even Sanji.

No matter how much he actually kind of enjoyed it.

Zoro was a swordsman. His whole life was about diligence and sacrifice. This wasn't anything he couldn't handle with a few cold showers and a hell of a lot of meditation.

Maybe going a week without food would help too.

Because what Zoro got in those frantic, private moments of late night or early morning was only a sliver of what he was really looking for. It was fake. And Zoro didn't have time for that kind of bullshit.

It might have been harsh, but he was Roronoa-Zoro-Goddammit.

He didn't fuck around with anything.

Not even love.