Title: Hate Me (just because that was the song I was listening to )
Rating: PG-13-ish? ... for potty mouths, but no action. le sigh
Spoilers: Eh... none.
Notes: You know, I seem to be obessed with snow lately. Snow and bloody Zoro. (but who doesn't love a bloody Zoro? XD) And this ficlet, by the way, wrote itself. Doncha just hate it when that happens? The plot bunny (a distant relative) just popped up and I ran with it. And when I stopped running... I was lost... shrug oh well.
Warnings: PRE-slashy – ZoSan


Dammit. This really sucked.

He shifted again in the snow, but his limbs protested their point quite loudly again. There was no way he was going to be able to move any time soon. He realized now, that in a town seemingly populated by thieves, perhaps it had not been the brightest thing to accept a drink from a stranger. But he'd already had too much at that point . . . and what fool passes up free sake?

He tried to wiggle his toes, and for the life of him couldn't tell if they were actually moving or not, so he contented himself with letting out a long-suffering sigh. He knew he wasn't going to die here; no spiked drink was going to take the life of Roronoa Zoro any time soon. Even if he WAS lying half-naked in the snow, in sub-zero temperatures, with a bullet wound in this gut.

The heavy weight of his three swords lying across his left arm made him smile. Bet that would be the last time that particular group of thieves tried to rob a swordsman. His grin turned into a yawn, and he wondered if he could catch a nap before the others found him, and really… what was taking them so long anyway?

His abysmal sense of direction was legend. Therefore whenever the collective group of his nakama decided it had been "too long" since they'd last seen him, there would be a drawing of straws and someone would be sent out to fetch the lost first mate. At first he'd found it vaguely insulting, but after a while he'd turned it into a game, to see how utterly lost he could get himself just to royally piss off the unfortunate soul sent to retrieve him.

Especially if it was the stupid cook. Oh, how he enjoyed those days to no end. The blonde would be practically fuming smoke out of his ears if it took longer than an hour to find the swordsman. None of the others knew about his game, of course, it was for him alone.

A yawn caught him off-guard. Ridiculous, really … he was only a couple miles outside of town. They should have found him by now. They've had to look much farther than this, times in the past. A pleased smile graced his lips. Ten miles was his record. It had been the cook sent out to find him that day, too, making it his favorite little "walk" to date.

Another yawn. Well, he supposed a nap couldn't hurt. He'd hear anyone approaching him out in this stillness anyway. So the swordsman allowed himself to drift away.

Not too far away from the current resting place of the ex-pirate-hunter-turned-pirate, a certain blonde chef was stomping through the freezing snow and cursing said swordsman in the loudest and most colorful ways he could think of. Hands shoved deep into his pockets and trailing cigarette smoke behind him, Sanji cursed Usopp for the hundredth time since leaving the ship. He just knew the damn liar had to be fixing the straws somehow, seeing as how miraculously the cook had been the one to choose the short straw eight of the last ten tries.

Pulling his hands out of his jacket only for the few seconds it took to discard his spent cigarette and light up a new one, Sanji continued his trek through the drifts of snow just knowing that the shit-swordsman had to be nearby. It was the most inhospitable area of the island, therefore, this is where the man would naturally get lost.

The blond sighed meaningfully and was about to switch directions, when he noticed something up on the top of a not so distant slope. Turning to go investigate, he wasn't surprised to see a set of footprints leading from the town. In the higher drifts he could even make out three lines trailing behind the tracks. Three lines the same width of some scabbards he knew too well.

Sanji snorted. His internal idiot-locator hadn't failed him yet. The blonde fell into step with the swordsman's trail and after only a few meters noticed something vaguely disturbing. First, the lost fool seemed to begin staggering. Not in a "I've once again had too much to drink and am now hopelessly lost" kind of way, but more of a "I've once again gotten myself injured and am currently playing it off as a little scratch" type of way. More disturbing were the four additional sets of footprints that seemed to come out of nowhere and start trailing the muscle-brained moron.

It didn't worry the cook. If there was one thing you never had to worry about, it was Zoro's ability to take care of himself … with the exception of his sense of direction. Eventually he found the area the four must have tried to take Zoro unawares. Sanji inhaled deeply and blew a delicate smoke ring that spread to form an almost-halo over his head.

Judging from the scene, it hadn't taken the dimwit very long to deal with the petty thieves, and his tracks seemed to veer off in another direction, further into the white nothingness that was this winter island. The only thing that bothered the cook a fraction was the way Zoro appeared to be walking. He wasn't moving in a straight line now at all, and the staggering had elevated to a level that it was shocking the man was even making any ground. Sanji would have shrugged it off as drunken stumbling, but the smattering of blood trailing the swordsman's tracks proved it most likely to be otherwise.

Damn fool-idiot. Got himself cut open again, most likely.

Sanji snorted and picked up his pace. Blood loss and freezing temperatures didn't bode well for good health. Even for blockheads. Although the collective group of Straw Hat Pirates were sure that Zoro was too stubborn to ever actually DIE. Internally, however, Sanji's mind was screaming at him. Screaming something he didn't even want to consider right now.

The cook had long been of the mind that with all of Zoro's posturing and speeches about not dying until he had another chance at Mihawk, the man was too sure of his own fate. It didn't even seem conceivable to the swordsman that he might die before that meeting. Sanji worried, though he would strike anyone dead who made him admit it, that Zoro's days were numbered. He turned his back on foes too often. He disregarded some people as too weak, or not worth his time, and one day the cook was sure it would bite him in the ass.

A reckless pot-shot with a rifle, or carelessly thrown dagger, any number of simple actions that went on around him that the swordsman chose to ignore. Any of them could take his life, and he would have no one to blame but himself.

The idea of it made the blonde fume. Not because he personally would suffer any great loss if the fool found himself dead, but because of the way the nakama they shared thought of him. Luffy treated Zoro like he was one of his treasures. For all the cook knew, the swordsman had been the first real friend their Captain had made in years. Sanji didn't even want to think about Luffy's reaction if the idiot died. He'd seen a sampling of it not long after first meeting them and they'd all become so much closer since then. He was pretty sure the younger man would snap.

Then of course, there was Chopper and Usopp. Both of them relied so much on Zoro from day to day. Relied on just him being there to make them feel safe. Especially the little reindeer man. Sanji had seen a gentleness in Zoro, in regards to Chopper, that he would never thought possible from the big buffoon.

Then, naturally, there was his Nami-swan. If the idiot died, his Nami-swan might cry, and then Sanji would have to resurrect the bastard just to kill him again.

A dark shape at the foot of the hill he'd just crested paused the cook's internal rambling. At first, he couldn't tell what it was, but as he continued to trudge forward he made out the bright green of a familiar haramaki nearly covered in snow. Sanji froze.

It was as if his thoughts had jumped straight out of his mind to lay themselves before him in bright, living color. The swordsman lay at his feet, half obscured by the snow drift he'd collapsed into, a glaring bullet wound in his side staining his white shirt and the whiter snow a hideously bright red. He was utterly still. Lips turned an unnatural shade of blue.

Sanji's heart dropped into his stomach, and consequently, he dropped to his knees. There was no way. There was no way this was happening. The cigarette fell from his mouth and fizzled to death on the ground.

The fool. The idiot. I always knew it. I KNEW IT!

The blonde brought his hands up to clutch at his own hair. What was he going to tell Luffy? Or Chopper? They would know the instant they saw him carrying the body back. They would know, and Luffy damn well might bring the whole town … the whole island down to rubble. Sanji closed his eyes and let his hands drop to his lap. Unwanted images flooded his mind. Images of Zoro's interaction with their nakama at first, but that quickly changed to his own memories. Memories of the man who could drive him to distraction with annoyance, but he would always know had his back in a battle. The damn, hard-headed fool who could take his kicks, and give back just as harshly, whenever the cook needed to blow off some steam. He thought of Zoro laughing and joking, and cracking that damn cocky grin of his. And damn if a little hiccupy sob didn't escape his lips unbidden.

Damn asshole! Shit swordsman! Stupid bas-

A loud snore echoed through the stillness around him. Sanji blinked. He had to be imagining things. Another snore sounded from the prone figure before him. Standing ever so slowly, the cook approached the green-haired man in the snow. He dropped to his knees once again beside Zoro, and watched in amazement as, indeed, the swordsman snagged a lungful of air and expelled it with a near roar.

All the tension in his gut dissipated. The blonde heaved a sigh and gently laid his forehead against the other man's chest, listening to the heartbeat. Zoro wasn't dead. Which was good, but now Sanji was going to have to pick apart the strong reaction he'd had when he thought he was. That might lead to things he would have preferred to stay deeply hidden. Taking another moment of silence to gaze at the face so close to his own, the cook sighed again in relief, and then punched the swordsman square in the face.