A Strawhat Valentine
"Valentines day?" Zoro asked, raising a semi-disinterested brow.
Chopper held up a pink piece of construction paper he had folded in half then cut into a heart shape. "I'm making Valentines!" He had only begun and already managed to get glitter stuck to his little blue nose.
Zoro's pout deepened. "Who do you have to give that to?"
"Have?" Chopper asked innocently. "There's one for everyone! I'll even make one for you, Zoro!"
"That's ok," he grumbled as he put a towel around his neck and headed up to his workout room in the crow's nest. He passed Usopp as he was entering the men's quarters. "I don't want one."
Chopper's lip quivered but Usopp put his hand on his head and gave the doctor a few pats of encouragement. "Don't worry about him, Chopper," he said and handed him some paper doilies he'd taken from the kitchen. "Zoro's just cranky today, is all."
Chopper sniffed and brightened when he saw the pretty, lacy doilies. "Do you think anyone else doesn't want one?"
Usopp thought for a second. "Nope! I'd say everyone else in a proper mood today."
"Don't you mean everyone's in a romantic mood?"
Usopp seated himself next to Chopper and picked up one of the hearts he had cut out. "Well, for example, Valentine's day makes me sad."
Chopper boggled. "Sad! Oh no! That's not good! I'm sorry for making you sad!"
The sniper waved his hands apologetically. "No, no. It's not your doing and it's not really a bad sort of sad. The girl I love is leagues away right now, back home in Syrup Village. I won't see her again until our voyage is over. It seems like a long time when I have to think about it, and this day definitely makes you think about it." He gave a small smile.
Chopper hung his head a little. "I never thought about that. Humans are funny. They make a day that's supposed to be a happy one that makes some folks sad. I thought I could just make these cards and make everyone smile."
"I'm sure you can. Even that grumpypuss Zoro." Usopp waved the paper heart. "Wanna hand with these?"
Elsewhere on the ship, someone was doing his best to not screw up. He had followed her all day. He was surprised she hadn't noticed yet, but it was only before noon. Maybe he had just been lucky. There had to be a moment, a place and time when no one else was around, just him and her. His palm sweat a little as he checked the perimeter. All clear and there she was, leaning against one of the mikan trees with a book in hand, unawares of his presence.
With moves like a ninja he sneaked from tree to tree and plopped himself down at her side. To his surprise, she didn't even look up from her book.
"Was wondering how long it would take you to find me," she said absently as she read.
Nami shushed him a kiss. "Happy Valentine's Day, Luffy," she whispered and slipped a small box into his hand.
He recovered from his surprise and tore the box open. "I love you," he said starry-eyed and ate one of the chocolates from the box. "Whoa!" he exclaimed as he tasted the confection. Nami covered her head with her book and ordered him to keep it down. "How did you get Sanji to cover bacon in chocolate?" he asked.
"I didn't. I made it myself."
"I love you," he said again, wiping a tear from his eye.
She laughed. "Did you get me anything?"
He reached into his shorts pocket and pulled out a small, unwrapped box with a recycled appearance. "Sort of the same thing from last year. Only real."
She repeated these words questioningly as she opened the box. Inside was a gold ring with a green jewel simply set into its smooth surface.
"Will you marry me?" he asked.
"You asked me that last year…" she said softly.
"This year I remembered the ring," he replied. "I had Usopp make it. Pretty good, huh?" She nodded slowly. "Last year you said maybe. What's it this year?"
"Last year we were just leaving Whiskey Peak and I hardly knew you yet…"
"And I thought after I said it, and you said maybe, that I should see if there are other girls out there, and I met a few…" he said, falling short of naming several names. "But if I had married you right then and there, I'd still think I made the right choice. And I'll keep asking you every year, if you keep telling me maybe, until you can say yes or no."
The strains of Brook's violin were heard from across the broad deck of the Sunny. The song, like all the songs he played, was plaintive and beautiful, but at the same time this one had a note of sadness behind it. As he wandered around a corner one could hear him sing:
Did I disappoint you?
Or leave a bad taste in your mouth?
You act like you never had love
And you want me to go without
Well it's too late
To drag the past out
Into the light…
Robin looked down at the newest member of the crew and paused in her ascent of the main mast. She wondered momentarily if she had been spotted, frowned and continued on.
She entered the crow's nest and casually seated herself. Zoro was hefting a weight three times his size as if it were a bamboo sword repeatedly. He saw her enter, made an unintelligible grunt of a sigh and continued to count to up to the nearest hundred before putting his training aside.
"Want something?" he asked as he toweled off.
She didn't move. "Just a moment of your time."
"Fair enough." Zoro sat down heavily on the opposite side of the room. "Shoot."
"I can't see you
anymore," she said softly.
"Had a feeling."
"You're pretty good at hiding stuff," Zoro pointed out and cracked his neck. "But he's not."
"Ah." Robin clenched her teeth. "I'm sorry."
"For what? We were just having fun, weren't we?"
"Of course. I just wanted to be straightforward with you. I thought you deserved it."
"Well, thanks, I guess. That all?" He clutched the enormous weight once more and gave her a sidelong glance. She couldn't tell if he was scowling or not from that angle.
"That is all. I'm…" Robin started but shook her head. "I'm glad you're alright with this." He shrugged. 'Even though it's clear you're not. I'm so sorry!' she thought and descended to the deck where Brook was still playing the same melody.
Love is a temple
Love is a higher law
Love is a temple
Love is a higher law
You ask me to enter
But then you make me crawl
And I can't be holding on
To what you got
When all you got is hurt
She approached him, crossing the grassy deck. "Brook, would you play something else?" Robin asked quickly.
The skeleton stopped immediately and began to play a bit of a faster tune in a more upbeat timbre.
But that never meant that much to her
She chose to keep her nose too clean
She'd rather keep it pointed anyway
In the spine of a magazine
And that is why~
I'll confide in you the truth this time
And that is why~
I just can't go on and live this lie
And when you say I trust in you
I promise you the truth~
And when you say I bet you won't
You know I will
And it'll be better in the end
Robin sighed and wandered away. "I hope so, I truly hope so."
In the galley, the ship's cook was hard at work. It looked verily like a bomb had gone off and the shrapnel was flour and colored sugar crystals. It had been several hours since he'd had a cigarette but if he walked away for an instant someone was sure to eat his masterpieces before he'd gotten a chance to finish them. Then he'd have to kill someone and since it was a holiday he didn't really feel like having to do that. Visions of kicking Usopp and Luffy so hard they flew off into the sky until they were pinpoints danced through his head and he giggled to himself lightly. Anytime the door opened he would snap his head around to make sure it wasn't a threat to his cooking. The door opened again and Sanji sighed. "Ah, just you, Franky."
"Whoa! What's goin' on in here?!" he exclaimed. "Super special Valentine's day treats for the crew?"
"The crew!" Sanji scoffed. "They get normal treats. The special ones are for Robin-chwan and Nami-swan~" he cooed.
"I see!" Franky marveled at the delicate cakes, petifores, cookies and tiny chocolates being added to a large, three-tiered silver tea-tray. "Can I grab some cola? I'm running low."
"Sure can," Sanji hooked the fridge open with his toe. "You can test this for me while you're at it." He tossed an undecorated cookie at the cyborg. "Don't tell the guys."
Franky caught it in his mouth and munched away, his face changing expression as he analyzed the cookie. Finally he swallowed and gave a thumbs up. "Super!"
Sanji grinned. "Thanks."
"Later," Franky raised a hand as he ducked out of the galley.
Moments later the door opened again. "Now what?" Sanji growled. "Oh, Marimo."
Zoro paid him no mind and made for the sink. He still had a towel around his neck and was shirtless, having just come from his workout. He took down a pitcher he was allowed to use and filled it with tap water from the ship's on-board water purification system. He took a large draught from the pitcher then topped it off again and turned to go. He stopped when he noticed the dainty items Sanji was placing on the tray.
"Why do you bother?" Zoro asked gruffly.
"Eh?" the chef replied as if wondering if he wanted to fight.
"With all this, why bother? Does it get you anywhere?"
"What kind of shitty question is that?"
"A simple one, moron. Does bending over backwards for Robin and Nami get you anywhere with them?"
Sanji sneered at him but before shouting back another insult he put the last little petifore in its place. "What crawled up your ass and died, eh, Marimo? You're not one of those Valentine's day haters, are you? You weren't like this last year when we celebrated after Whiskey Peak, were you? I only remember being with Nami-san and Vivi-chan…" he said and the memory turned his eye to a heart shape and he was lost for a moment in his reverie.
"I just want to know, why you bother doing all this crap, fixing them special drinks and snacks, fawning over them, doing whatever they want you to do, when they don't give you a damn thing in return!"
"I'll do whatever I like!"
"You're avoiding the damn question!"
"Drop dead, kuso-Marimo!"
"Why won't you just own up?! They don't like you!"
"I know that!!" Sanji shouted back. "You think I'm that bloody well stupid?! I know that! I don't care! This is what I do. This is who I am. This is how I feel. If ten more gorgeous women join the crew I'll do the same for all of them!"
Zoro was taken aback at Sanji's honesty and stared at him for a moment.
"Wait a tick, why are you all up in my shit about this all of a sudden?" Sanji wiped his hands on his apron and circled the swordsman. "Valentine's day getting on your nerves for some reason?" He bent over and looked up at Zoro as if he were hiding something.
Zoro folded his arms. "Robin's with Franky, now."
Sanji blinked. "Oh, you didn't know that?"
"I did, but she just told me herself."
"Ah." The cook straightened and took a deep breath. "Siddown, I'll get you a beer," he said and gently kicked out a chair at the table for him.
"Thanks," Zoro muttered and took the seat and the ice-cold beer.
At the prow, Franky laced his huge right arm around Robin's middle and held her close. She rested her back against his chest and felt the wind blow through her hair and listened to the beating of his heart through his iron-plated chest.
"I didn't getcha anything," Franky admitted.
"This is more than enough," she replied and hugged him tighter. "This is more than I have ever had or dreamed of having."
As the sun set and Sanji called the crew to dinner they assembled in the galley. Luffy and Chopper drooled over the cakes and cookies and Sanji did his best to fight them off. With the promise of the large, plainly decorated cake he had made for them to come, they were convinced to wait until after dinner before making a huge mess.
Chopper handed out Valentines to everyone and Brook made a big deal about it being at least 60 years since he had last received one. The boy handed one to Zoro cautiously and was relieved when he took it and thanked him with an apologetic smirk. Robin sat next to Franky and across from Zoro. She tried not to look in his direction but it was inevitable. When their eyes met he shrugged again but the nonchalant look he gave her was fairly reassuring. Wine was poured and Sanji gently clinked a glass with a fork, calling everyone to attention.
"Before you lunatics devour everything I've worked all damn day to prepare, I'd like to say a few words on this Valentine's Day." He put a hand over his heart and gesticulated with the other as he spoke. "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
Everyone was silent for a moment, Brook and Usopp nodded their heads emphatically and teared up a bit. Chopper grinned, feeling that his paper Valentines were a big hit. Robin used her ability to take Franky's hand under the table. Zoro nodded and downed the glass he'd been poured. Luffy stared hard at Nami, seated all the way across the table from him. She pursed her lips as she listened to Sanji's little speech. She rolled the gold ring on her finger around nervously but finally relaxed her shoulders and mouthed one word to her captain.
Luffy jumped out of his seat and cried out in joy. "Yes!!!"
[Songs are 'One' by U2 and 'That Is Why' by Jellyfish. Sanji's 'speech' is 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 I'm not a Christian but I thought it was perfect for the story.]-aks