Gimme Stitches -- Originally Posted 06/13/2004
For more Zoro/Sanji fic from Scuttlebutt Inc. visit scuttlebutt_inc[dot]livejournal[dot]com.

When Sanji woke for the third time that night, injured ribs denying him the deep, healing sleep his body craved, he sat up with a wince and rubbed at the back of his disheveled hair. Glancing about the unfamiliar room (an infirmary?) his eyes passed over the haphazard form of their captain, engaged in some dream-battle over what was probably a leg of meat. Sanji spared a brief half-smile before he noticed the bed that should have held a sleeping swordsman was empty, the covers pushed back carelessly. Where had that idiot gone off in his condition? Raiding the kitchens of their gracious host, no doubt, or some other inappropriate behavior he decided. He was considering seeking the other man out, just to make sure he didn't do anything to disturb the hospitality they'd been offered and was halfway through pulling his shirt on when something caught his eye from the window.

Squinting, he stood gingerly and slipped to the window sill leaning out into the darkness. Yes, it was him all right. That green-haired moron. And there he was, out in the night, training of all things. Scowling under his breath, Sanji pulled on his slacks, leaving his shirt hanging open and climbed out the open window. He crossed the courtyard on silent bare feet. What did the dumbass think he was doing? Holding up those two boulders that probably each weighed twice as much as Sanji himself, so soon after almost dying again. He scowled as he approached, stopping a mere few feet away. When Zoro said nothing, he figured his presence was being purposely ignored. So Sanji did the most logical thing that came to mind. Balancing on one foot, the cook struck out with the other, making contact with the side of the nearest boulder.

Sweat was trickling down Zoro's face, his brow tense and drawn, deep in meditation. He was not unaware of the other's presence though he showed no recognition as those familiar and all but silent footsteps drew near. By now he knew the weight in the man's light step, knew the scent of his blood. He had hoped that the cook would only be out for a stroll but Zoro's brow twitched as he felt the breeze from Sanji's kick and felt the impact shudder through the boulder and down his taught muscles. As Sanji lowered his foot, a thin crack appeared across the surface of the rock, snaking and branching swiftly until it finally crumbled. Heavy pieces of stone tumbled around Zoro's outstretched arm, clacking and rumbling as they fell to the sand. Finally Zoro cracked an eye open, his gaze rolling toward Sanji as he shook dust and shards of stone from his arm and hand. "And you bitch at me about my manners," he growled.

Sanji was about to point out that health was more important than manners, but that might have suggested to the swordsman that he cared whether or not Zoro killed himself with this foolish behavior. So he just snorted and crossed his arm across his bandaged torso. "You gonna put the other down or do I need to break that one too?" he snorted, managing to avoid Zoro's accusation entirely.

Zoro considered this for a moment. On the one hand, he was loathe to obey any whim of the cook's. On the other hand, the hypocritical asshole shouldn't be kicking shit, barefoot with his own injuries. And on the other hand, the sweat dripping down his face was starting to tickle now that the cold desert air was reaching past his own body heat. And he would have liked to have at least one hand not covered with dust and rock to wipe it with. It was for this reason that he let the second boulder roll from his arm and crash to the sand. He swiped the back of his hand over his brow and pushed at the bandages that wrapped his head. "Am I supposed to be flattered that you took time out of your own healing schedule to come harass me?" he muttered, voice thick with sarcasm as he glanced at Sanji.

"I wouldn't waste the energy trying to flatter you," Sanji objected with a curl of lip as he stood looking down at Zoro, hands thrust tight into the pockets of his slacks. "If I let you kill yourself, it would have the advantage of avoiding the loss of appetite your face inspires. The downside is being left with one less person to distract our captain while I'm trying to feed everyone else."

"Go back to bed and let me train, kuso-cook!" Zoro snapped, brushing the dust from his arm. "I'm fine. The only thing threatening to bring my death is the scratching of your obnoxious voice." He had to grit his teeth though as he pulled himself to his feet. He seemed unaware though of the small red stain that had started to seep through the fabric of his haramaki.

Sanji took two quick steps forward, hands pulling from pockets, before he realized what he was doing and stopped, scowling, dropping his hands to his sides. What he wouldn't give for a cigarette at the moment, but he'd come off without them. So instead he licked his lips and narrowed his eyes. "My voice? And the stitches you've obviously managed to rip with your careless training," the cook pointed out, waving a slender hand toward the swordsman's middle.

With a glance down, Zoro grunted in annoyance, hand touching the spot lightly to rub blood between this finger and thumb. "It's nothing," he growled. "Just a little bleed off. I'd noticed if I pulled the stitches." Turning away, he shot over his shoulder, "Now leave me alone before you work yourself up into popping your own."

Sanji scowled. "Sometimes I can't tell if you're trying to be a superhero or if you really are just that stupid." He folded his arms across his chest. "You wouldn't bleed clear through your... dress and the haramaki unless you'd managed to pull something loose."

At this, the swordsman whirled back around, a pointed finger nearly touching Sanji's nose as he pressed into the cook's personal space, a dangerous glint in his eye. "First of all, it's not a dress," he snarled. "It's a robe. And second of all --" Here he hesitated. "What I bleed through is none of your damn business."

Sanji frowned darkly at this and pressed forward, stepping around the finger to look Zoro in the eye, a breath away. Slowly and deliberately, he found his fingers winding there way into the fabric at the swordsman's throat and he spoke evenly, seriously. "FIRST of all, Zoro. It is my business because...we're nakama. Because we have the same loyalty to one man. And second, if you care at all about Luffy, your captain, your friend, your nakama, you will take off that... robe and show me that I don't have to worry about explaining your dead body to him in the morning."

Zoro's lip curled into a sneer, peering into Sanji's face so close to his own. "You're awfully pushy tonight."

Sanji returned the look, but didn't back down. "It's been a long week," he agreed.

"Hn..." Zoro growled under his breath but he brushed Sanji's hand away. He absolutely hated the way that sometimes the cook knew just what to say. He took a step back to pull off his shirt, mindful of the bandages on his head. Next came the blood-stained haramaki, completely exposing his thickly bandaged torso and the small wet spot of crimson that shone faintly in the moonlight. "I'm telling you, it's nothing," he grumbled, his voice starting to sound less threatening and more complaining.

"Mm," Sanji nodded, dismissively and indicated the spot Zoro had been occupying when he'd first found him. Now that the swordsman was being as least semi-cooperative, the edge in Sanji's voice faded and he mostly sounded tired when he asked Zoro to sit back down so he could inspect the bandages himself. "Just to be sure..."

Zoro wasn't about to admit his body felt the same exhaustion that he heard in Sanji's voice and his muscles were grateful when he sank back to the sandy ground. Sanji was right. It had been a long week. But his last fight had left him with a feeling -- something he couldn't quite place. Inspiration. Desperation. This time around he couldn't rest, healing sleep would not come to him. It had been too close. He had to get stronger. All these thoughts though felt slightly muddled as he lowered himself to the ground, only slightly wary of Sanji as he moved closer.

Sanji was by no means a doctor, but he'd picked up his own fair share of bruised ribs and bloodied flesh that he knew what to look for in judging the seriousness of a wound and how to bandage someone up, that sort of thing. So when Zoro sat without complaint and even turned a bit toward the cook, Sanji stepped near, joining the swordsman and leaning in to tug gently at the bandages, loosening them enough to expose the injured flesh. He couldn't entirely suppress the flinch, though he'd seen Zoro take worse the first time they met.

It wasn't as bad as he'd thought, no stitches were broken, though they'd began to come loose at one place, the edges of the wound no longer being held together.

It was almost jarring somehow, Sanji's hands being that ginger with him. Hands that were deft enough to wield a knife and dice faster than anyone Zoro had seen but delicate enough to produce fluffy pastries for his beloved Nami. The way his hands moved now was similar to that, to when he was measuring something or peeling apples. A far cry from the grabbing, clawing, angry hands that Zoro was familiar with. He was never allowed this kind of gentleness. He wondered if that gay ballerina had knocked the cook particularly hard in the head.

He watched cautiously as Sanji tugged at his bandages and muttered, "I told you. Nothing. I'll just put a few new stitches in it in the morning."

"Shhh," Sanji gave the slightest shake of his head, as his fingers pressed lightly around the edges of the exposed gash, sending a small dark spill of blood down Zoro's torso, but no other discolored fluids or evidence of infection, he was satisfied to note. "You shouldn't put any more strain on it tonight though," he pointed out.

"Nngh..." Zoro grunted, grinding his teeth, determined not to show any discomfort in front of Sanji. "You don't have to poke it," he growled. He didn't want to admit that at least at the moment he didn't feel he had the strength to push himself any further. He'd taxed himself for the evening.

Sanji didn't say anything to this, merely tightened the bloody bandages back around Zoro's torso. They would need to be changed, but this too could probably wait until morning. So long as Zoro laid off the boulder lifting.

"What were you doing out here in the middle of night anyway? You usually train during the day..." Sanji raised an eyebrow. Zoro wasn't known for skipping out on any opportunity to sleep.

"Nn," Zoro grunted in reply, leaning back against the boulder he'd been training with. He avoided Sanji's eyes, turning his gaze out to the desert. He couldn't explain to Sanji that fight. What it brought up in him. The restlessness that was stirred in him to the point that sleep wouldn't even come to him. That was, as the cook suggested, unheard of. The lines of the swordsman's face were deeper, the frown that pulled at his mouth tighter than usual. "You wouldn't understand," he muttered.

Sanji leaned forward, still cross-legged, squinting to see Zoro's face in the dark. "Yeah? Try me, Mr. Bushido. Unless you'd rather just sit out here and pout." It wasn't as though he had anything else to do, and he still didn't quite trust Zoro not to injure himself further were he to leave now.

A growl rumbled in Zoro's throat, the remark drawing his gaze back to the cook, brow twitching with annoyance. "I wasn't pouting," he grated, "I was meditating." He snorted faintly, looking away again. Unfortunately, it didn't seem the cook would be put off so easily. "I needed..." The swordsman trailed off. He wasn't any good at talking about things like this. He didn't like talking about things like this. And he didn't like talking to Sanji, most of all. He could only console himself that it was the fact that the other man was sure to hang around until he spoke that loosened his tongue. "I couldn't sleep," he finally admitted. "And I couldn't just lay there and feel..." Defeated? Broken? Weak? "...insufficient."

Sanji didn't speak at first and when he did, the words weren't as biting as even he'd expected. "You beat the guy, though. So you bled a little." Sanji shrugged. "You always bleed." There was another pause as Sanji absently fingered the bandages around his own torso. "The Zoro I know doesn't let his confidence get shaken that easily."

Zoro snorted again, quietly. He knew Sanji wouldn't understand. Sanji pissed around in the kitchen all day. Sanji didn't spend his every waking moment with weights in his hands or his body strained in meditation. Sanji didn't strive to be, he just was. "It was too close this time," Zoro muttered. "Closer than it should have been." He frowned, turning over the cook's last statement in his head. He wasn't sure what he thought of being 'the Zoro Sanji knew'. "Che. What do you know about me anyway?"

Sanji raised an eyebrow. "You think just because some of my goals are different than yours that I can never understand you? We've been crewmates long enough for me to get a pretty good idea. And I know that... you have to be the best." He found Zoro's eyes and refused to relinquish them until he finished. "And I know that you won't be if you don't treat your body with as much care as you treat your swords." Sanji gestured to the blood staining Zoro's stomach. "And don't act as though I know nothing about it. My body is my best, and only weapon."

Petulant indignation twisted Zoro's features. He didn't like being preached at -- especially not about this and especially not by Sanji of all people. And not only that but he didn't like this much of the cook's attention being focused on him. "Self-righteous bastard," he growled, determined to turn the argument around, "How many times have I seen you do something stupid, like fight with fucking sandals? Or rushed into a fight because of a pretty face? Or --" And here his eyes narrowed because he knew this would hit home, would crack whatever this veneer of concern that Sanji wore was. "--jacked off in the middle of the night when you were injured? At least I pop my stitches for a good reason."

Sanji jerked upright, away from Zoro, with a look of undisguised surprise and annoyance. He had been about to object that those first times Zoro mentioned were all necessary. He'd fought because he'd had to, or because the circumstances, his morals demanded it. But then Zoro had pull out that last bit and Sanji reeled as though struck. He couldn't even deny it. But... No. Like hell he'd admit anything, not to this bastard! "You smarmy fuck! You must be getting real stupid if you believe everything that long-nose lying bastard makes up," Sanji growled.

Zoro just leaned back, expression deadpan. This was better. He much preferred Sanji brimming with indignation than... whatever it was he'd been displaying earlier. This was familiar. "Fuuu.. Baka-cook," he replied tonelessly. "Your senses are even worse than I thought if you think everyone's asleep when you do that."

Sanji scowled even more darkly, and crossed his arms over his chest. "Whatever he told you, don't believe it. That dumbass is far too fond of practical jokes." No way, no way would he admit to Zoro the truth of this.

"Usopp didn't tell me shit," Zoro all but snapped. He wasn't about to let Sanji get off playing innocent, the pervert. He reached forward, pressing an accusing finger between the cook's brows. "Ero-mayuge, you think I could sleep through that racket?"

Sanji felt his throat constrict and his head snapped back from Zoro's finger as though burned. His cheeks flamed and he tried one last time. "And what the hell makes you so sure it was me?"

"First of all," Zoro began, ticking on his fingers, "I'm not sure Luffy has even discovered he's got anything down there yet. Second, I don't think Chopper can. And third... no one else would be whimpering "Ah -- Nami-san!" in the middle of the night."

That did it -- Sanji inhaled, bristling visible and shot back, a bit more loudly than he intended. "You asshole! I'm not stupid enough to say anything out loud when I jack off!" Then his eyes widened and his mouth snapped shut as he realized what he'd just said.

In spite of the somber attitude he'd been sporting, Zoro snorted with laughter, quickly bringing his fist to his lips to stifle it. "But apparently you're stupid enough to say it out loud now," he managed.

Time to switch tactics, Sanji decided. "Why the hell were you even listening? You sick fuck! Didn't know how to jack off on your own so you needed to watch me for tips?" He was angry now, angry at being caught, angry with himself for not knowing he had been noticed, angry that Zoro had so thoroughly turned the conversation around to the cook and his habits.

"I wasn't watching," Zoro snapped back. "My eyes were closed the whole time. I was trying to sleep. It's not my fault you're such a little exhibitionist."

Sanji sneered. "Well, I sure as hell wasn't putting on a performance for you, asshole. And you could sleep through a fucking hurricane, so don't give me that!"

Zoro sneered back, making for a rather comical sight, features twisting beneath the bandages wrapped around his scalp and forehead. "Maybe you are like a fucking hurricane, kuso-cook," he shot back. "You might practice a little self-control."

"And you might consider leaving the damned room if it bothers you so much," Sanji grumbled, looking down at his sandy feet. He'd begun to regret coming out here. If Zoro wanted to bleed to death from his own stupidity, insulting the cook the whole time, well fine. He could feel free. He wouldn't lose any more sleep over the asshole. Not anymore, he resolved.

"Hn. I wouldn't want to..." Disturb was not the correct word to use at this point and Zoro was thankful he managed to catch it before it tumbled from his tongue. "...embarrass you," he said, his gruff voice as close to sickly-sweet as it could manage.

"Could've fooled me," Sanji snapped, annoyed, but without the same fire as a moment earlier. Zoro had done a pretty damn fine job of embarrassing him so far. There wasn't much holding onto his dignity at this point.

Zoro snickered faintly, relaxing again, leaning back. There were few things as satisfying as winning an argument with Sanji. "So touchy," he remarked, the edge fading from his voice. "I thought you of all people wouldn't be embarrassed about that."

"Tch," Sanji frowned. Why did it bother him so much? Because Zoro had heard? Because he'd listened? Had put words in Sanji's mouth, a name he knew he'd never uttered? Because he had no such similar knowledge to hold over the swordsman's head? "Just because you're so fond of flaunting your naked torso in front of everyone, doesn't mean I don't have a sense of decorum."

Zoro arched a brow. "If you call throwing yourself at anything with language skills and a nice rack 'decorum'."

"I do not throw myself," Sanji protested. "What do you know about 'racks' anyway? You probably jack off to fantasies about sweat and lifting weights." His lip curled in distaste.

"Che," Zoro scoffed, turning his gaze away. "I'm a bit more creative than that," he muttered under his breath.

Sanji blinked, honestly surprised Zoro had taken that bait. He'd been willing to believe the swordsman didn't touch himself at all. "Creative?" He raised an eyebrow. "You? From what I've seen you've got the imagination of a rock. The weight-lifting was giving you credit."

Zoro's mouth twisted with annoyance. "I already told you, you don't know as much about me as you think," Zoro growled, looking at Sanji from the corner of a narrowed eye.

Sanji returned the glare. "Then enlighten me, oh experienced one. Or would that be too embarrassing for you? Can't you take it as well as you can dish it out?"

Disliking the challenge he heard in Sanji's voice, Zoro briefly ground his teeth. But then a wicked sort of smile curled his lips and he let his eyes meet Sanji's without a trace of chagrin. "You really want to know? Death." The word was formed slowly, almost scathingly. "Blood. Adrenaline."

Sanji hid his reaction well. On further thought, he really aughtn't to have been surprised at all. "Don't get enough of that in real life?" he scoffed, shaking his head. "I bet you let yourself get cut up on purpose." An evil glint suddenly sparked in his visible eye and he inched closer, leaning in to examine Zoro's face. "You fucking pervert," he laughed quietly, smugly. "You liked it when I poked at your stitches."

"Asshole!" Zoro snarled, jerking away from the cook. He grunted faintly when he jerked backwards, right into the boulder. "I don't mean my blood, you sick fuck," he growled though he didn't let his gaze falter, met Sanji's eyes evenly, his own dark eyes sharp. "I don't think about losing. Especially not to you."

Sanji wasn't fazed. "Who's blood then? Strangers? Faceless pirates?...Perhaps... that black-clad Sea Knight, with his huge... sword? I bet you'd like to taste his blood, wouldn't you?" He was provoking Zoro now and he knew it, but somehow he couldn't hold his tongue.

Teeth bared; a hand snatched up a handful of the collar of the shirt that hung loosely on Sanji's frame. His eyes flashed angrily as he jerked the cook forward. "You disgusting bastard," he snapped, furious at the fact that he couldn't keep his cheeks from flushing. He didn't care about his injuries or Sanji's for that matter -- he'd be glad to open them up again, regardless of whatever chastising he'd get from Chopper later. "It's not like that."

Sanji smirked, unruffled now that the argument was in his favor again. "Isn't it though? No one else intimidates you like he does, no one else you've fought has beaten you. How much blood have you tasted, Zoro? How many people's? Ah, but not his. The one man whose blood you haven't tasted. Can't taste. And I bet it drives you crazy."

Zoro was shaking with rage now, knuckles white around Sanji's shirt collar. "It must be your fantasy for me to beat the shit out of you," he growled, voice low and dangerous, "otherwise you'd shut - the - fuck -UP." With this and a quick swing of his arm he threw Sanji to the sand, quick to pin the other man's legs by sitting on them before he could get a kick in.

Sanji protested at being pinned, at the legs that were still rather sore being so callously sat on. But the rough treatment only sharpened his wit. "If it is, I can't imagine what it means that you're so quick and willing to fulfill it," he snapped, squirming to dislodge Zoro's weight from his bruised thighs.

Snarling, Zoro again grabbed for Sanji's collar, jerking him upward, bringing them nose to nose. "That ballerina must have fucked you up pretty bad if that's all the fight you can put up," he growled under his breath. "I guess that's one thing I've got going for me today -- at least I didn't get roughed up by a drag queen."

"You seem to forget that you're the one in the dress," Sanji smirked. That shift of a few inches forward was just enough to allow Sanji's knee to bend and he swung it up in a vicious arc that ended between Zoro's shoulder blades.

Zoro grit his teeth, his face twisting as he took the blow to his already tenderized flesh, slamming Sanji back into the sand with the force behind it. His swords were far out of reach, set at a distance safe enough from the boulders he'd been training with. Not that he'd mind getting Sanji's blood on his hands. The first punch was thrown, landing solidly across Sanji's mouth and within moments they were rolling across the sand, grabbing at clothes and hair, trying to get a fist or a knee between them to get in a decent blow.

Sanji's blood burned and he grinned madly between cracked lips as he managed to get a good chunk of green hair between his fingers, twisting Zoro away enough to hook a toe in his hip and thrust back, hard. He felt the shoulder of a sleeve rip in Zoro's hand as he tried to scramble from the swordsman. "I'm terribly flattered that you find me worth ripping your stitches over, but I'm afraid your brand of fantasy isn't really my cup of tea."

"I'm more interested in ripping your stitches, kusoyaro," Zoro growled back. He was breathing hard though, his wounded body already strained from the training he'd been forcing upon it that night. His hands closed on Sanji's shoulders, one of them now bare under his palm and panting, heaved and swung Sanji over his own body, rolling onto his back and bringing the cook back down to the sand hard. Arm splayed heavily across the cook's chest, Zoro angrily swiped away a thin trickle of blood that crept from the edge of his bandages and down his brow.

Being in only marginally better shape than the swordsman, Sanji didn't immediately move after the breath was knocked from his lungs. "Idiot," he rasped, shoving at the arm that held him down. He didn't bother sitting up though. He laughed then, short, rueful. "We really aren't up for this you know. Luffy'll kill us."

"Chopper'll kill us more," Zoro heaved. "Luffy won't have to restitch us in the morning." He didn't bother to get up just yet either, eyeing Sanji's bloody lip and torn clothes.

Sanji feigned a half-wince. "Oh, damn. The little appetizer's gonna be pissed..." Sanji couldn't help but snicker though, imagining the reindeer's face when he found them in the morning.

"Hn. Jackass," Zoro remarked and then casually, offhandedly, he reached for Sanji's face, his thumb catching the corner of his bleeding lip. And just as casually, he licked the glistening crimson from his own skin with a quick swipe of his tongue, never breaking eye contact with Sanji. And with nothing more, he pulled himself to his feet to retrieve his swords and the rest of his clothes. He was tired.

Sanji narrowed his eyes and raised head, glaring at Zoro. "Don't think that counted, bastard." Lurching to his own feet, he eyed his ripped sleeve with annoyance. "Don't you go checking my name off your list of fucking conquests. It's not that easy." He didn't know why the simple brief action irked him so; he only had a very strong sense that somehow Zoro had gotten the upper hand.

"Che. Touchy," Zoro shot over his shoulder, uncaring as he turned back toward the infirmary to slip back in through the window. When Sanji caught up, he was already sprawled across his bed, snoring loudly.