In a show of Sanji's marvelous luck, Zoro's second day of recovery played out much the same as his first. The swordsman woke up again shortly after Sanji had taken over watch from Nami in the evening, but only stayed coherent long enough to begrudgingly eat the soup Sanji brought him – Chopper had insisted that he wasn't up to solids yet, much to the swordsman's chagrin – before needing another dose of the antidote, which dropped him in record time.
By the third day, Sanji was looking slightly haggard. Days of anxiety coupled with long nights of watch had worn him down, and now as he stood by the infirmary door watching an energetic Luffy introduce Flower to Zoro, he wondered if he would ever get the chance to make his apology.
"... And Chopper finally decided that it'd be safe for me to come see you so I thought I'd bring Flower along because Flower saved your life." Luffy concluded his mind-numbingly long speech with a wide grin.
The blank expression on Zoro's face didn't seem to faze the captain. Probably because its impact was lessened by the flower currently dancing merrily in the swordsman's green hair.
"So are you done resting yet?" Luffy asked, "because we're all gonna head to the beach to say goodbye."
"Say goodbye?" Zoro parroted, and Luffy's smile lost just a touch of its brightness.
The captain scratched the back of his neck and glanced down at the floor. "Well, we're gonna be leaving today and Flower can't really come with us..." He looked up and quickly added, "not that we don't want Flower to come, but... well..." His shoulders slumped and he sighed.
"Ah." Zoro reached up and took the little plant off his head, setting it on the bed next to his leg. It looked a little droopy, about the same as their captain at that moment. Wilted was a fitting term for the pair.
"I'll go with, then," the swordsman said off-handedly, and Luffy brightened a bit at the support. "And I'm sure curly-brow will come too," Zoro added with a pointed look at the blond across the room.
Sanji lifted a shoulder and let it drop in an absent half-shrug, taking an unlit cigarette from the corner of his mouth. "If it means I get a moment away from you, then fine."
Luffy, now grinning again and seeming restored to some of his usual cheer, scooped Flower off the bed and hopped off the chair.
"Cool. I'll tell Chopper you want to come along." And then he was gone, bolting from the room in a blur.
Zoro almost wished he could see the doctor's face when he heard his patient wanted to go traipsing around on the same island that had landed him in his sick bed to begin with, but he decided to lessen Chopper's inevitable fit by staying right where he was and not following Luffy out, lest he incur the doctor's wrath. And sedatives.
He only noticed Sanji's intent stare after a moment, and looked away from the door to give the cook a scowl. Three days of his weird looks and behavior had Zoro rather on-edge and unsure, which wasn't a feeling he particularly enjoyed.
"What?" Zoro fairly snapped, hoping for some sort of normal reaction from the blond, some of the usual hostility. But Sanji just fished his lighter out of his pocket and straightened away from the wall he had been leaning against, making a non-committal sound and leaving the infirmary – and one disgruntled swordsman – without another word.
~ ;3 ~
After three days stuck in the infirmary, even Libitina's beach was a welcome change, sun-drenched and windy. The sea breeze was refreshing enough to keep the entire crew cool despite the high temperatures the island seemed to maintain.
Zoro took a moment to enjoy being outside as everyone gathered on the beach, Luffy walking ahead of the group with Flower perched on his shoulder. Usopp and Chopper, misty-eyed and sniffling, followed close behind Luffy as the captain walked up to the wind-ruffled flowering grasses that blanketed the beach ahead of the tree line.
The trio knelt down together as Luffy set Flower on the warm sand, the little plant doing a slow twirl once it was grounded before facing the three people looking down at it sadly.
"Wish you could come," Luffy said quietly, holding out a finger for Flower to wrap a spindly arm around.
"We really want you to," Usopp added as he leaned down a bit closer to the plant, and Chopper nodded quick agreement.
Flower's petal-skirts swayed slowly as it regarded the trio in its characteristic expressive silence, then it turned away from them and scuttled over to the grasses with their small flowers. It caught one of the blooms, a light yellow one, and broke it off just below the petals before hurrying back across the sand to stop in front of Luffy, Usopp and Chopper again. Flower lifted the little bloom up, then turned it over and plopped it onto its own head like a hat. A little yellow hat.
Luffy's grin was quick and wide and he tipped his own straw hat back on his head. "Like mine, right?" he asked, and Flower nodded as it swayed. "It suits you," Luffy decided with a laugh, and the slant of Flower's eyes made it seem like it was smiling back, though it didn't have a mouth.
Usopp smiled tentatively, sitting back on the sand, and Chopper fidgeted with his pink top hat. "You think Flower will be okay?" the doctor asked, "I mean, being alone here..."
"Flower's tough," Luffy said, though he didn't sound particularly sure. He's seen that Flower was more than capable of defending itself – it had proven that when it had squashed the plant-raptor's head – but still, being on this island all alone sounded awful.
"What do you think, Flower?" Usopp asked, "Will you be okay?"
At the question, Flower twitched uncertainly, looking between each of the faces of its friends. Its thready arms wiggled, its skirts ruffled, and then it turned and hurried across the sand to disappear into the grasses.
"Flower?" Luffy scanned the grasses quickly, getting to his feet. "Hey, Flower?"
Usopp stood as well, sighing sadly. "Maybe Flower just doesn't like goodbyes," he said, shoulders sagging.
"That's it then?" Chopper sniffled, swiping the back of his hand over his eyes and facing the grasses Flower had vanished into a moment before. "Goodbye, Flower..."
"Bye, Flower," Luffy added, very quietly, and then the three of them turned to head back to the rest of their crew, all sagging shoulders and defeated sighs.
They didn't make it back across the beach before Robin spoke up and got their attention, pointing past them and smiling faintly, "Captain-san, maybe you should look at this?"
Luffy, Usopp and Chopper all paused to peer back at the tree line, and their mouths fell open at the sight that greeted them. There, scattered among the dark grasses, was a whole pack of swishing orchid-like flowers of all different colors; whites and yellows and bright pinks and purples and reds, even a few that sported a mixture of a few colors, all swishing in their own way. And standing on the sand a little bit ahead of the group was a white bloom with a yellow wildflower hat on its head.
"Flower?" Usopp gaped.
"Flow-ers," Luffy corrected with a laugh and ran over to greet the herd of dancing plants, which all scuttled forward at the same time in an exited flurry of color to meet the pirates.
Standing a short distance away, Zoro smirked at the sight of the trio being overtaken by a floral curtain. Hell of a place, Libitina, he thought to himself. When the plants weren't trying to eat you, they were dancing all over you.
"I'd say that was the weirdest thing I've ever seen," Sanji mused as he stepped up next to the swordsman and calmly lit a cigarette, "but I've been with this crew too long for that to be true."
Zoro snorted and folded his arms over his chest, glancing to the blond briefly before looking back to Luffy and his fan club. There was a moment of silence, in which Chopper scooped up a few dancing flowers and ran over to show them to Robin, before Zoro spoke again, "What's been eating you, anyway?"
"Other than the wildlife?" Sanji exhaled a swirl of smoke and smirked at the swordsman's annoyed expression.
"You know what I mean," Zoro said irritably, and Sanji tapped ash off his cigarette, watching it fall to the white sand at his feet.
"Yeah." The blond sighed and slid his free hand into his pants pocket. "I've been meaning to talk to you."
Zoro eyed the other man, brows drawing together faintly. They were far enough from the rest of the crew that their conversation wouldn't be overheard, and Zoro thought maybe that was how Sanji wanted it. But what did the cook have to say that was so important? Especially to him, of all people?
"What is it?" Zoro prompted after a stretch of silence, in which Sanji just scowled at the sand as if it had personally offended him.
"Shut up a minute, will you?" Sanji hissed out a breath and then spoke before Zoro could snap at him, "I wanted to... apologize."
Zoro was effectively startled into silence. For about .2 seconds. "For what?" He was giving Sanji the have-you-lost-your-mind look again, and the blond had to concentrate on keeping his temper in check.
"For not listening to you, back in the jungle," Sanji said, drawing a hand back through his hair and somehow managing to avoid disturbing the fall that covered his left eye. "I didn't listen to you when you said something was wrong, and you ended up hurt because of me. So... I'm sorry."
Zoro turned to face him more fully at the admission, and Sanji kept his attention focused on the ground, like there was a particularly interesting particle of sand he had yet to examine.
"So... you're apologizing," the swordsman said warily, and Sanji nodded. "To me." Another nod. "Admitting you were wrong."
Finally the disbelieving tone wore the blond down and he hissed a curse, dropping his cigarette and stomping it into the sand viciously. "Yes, all right? I was a jackass, I didn't listen, and I'm sorry. Happy?"
Strangely, silence met the outburst, and Sanji glanced over after a moment to see Zoro's reaction. The swordsman was looking contemplative, eyes on his boots, and Sanji blinked in confusion. He had expected laughter, or taunting, maybe even gloating, but not this thoughtful silence. It was... unsettling.
"Zoro?" Sanji prompted, since the swordsman apparently had no plans of moving, and Zoro blinked as if jarred back to reality. Sanji scowled and started digging for a new cigarette, annoyance bubbling to the surface again. "If you don't give a shit it's fine, but you could at least–"
It was Sanji's turn to be shocked silent. The cook stilled, then turned a confused look on Zoro, and the swordsman shifted under Sanji's gaze as he let his arms fall back to his sides.
"What?" Sanji asked, at a total loss.
"Thank you," Zoro repeated a bit stiffly at the blond's continued staring. "For, you know, helping me, back in the jungle." He shrugged uncomfortably, scratching the back of his neck and looking off to the side.
Sanji straightened and cleared his throat, nodding, though the swordsman wouldn't see it. "Er... yeah. Well. Nakama, right?"
"... Right," Zoro muttered, and then the stilted conversation died and the pair lapsed into awkward silence, both of them at a loss as to what to say, or if they should say anything at all.
It was Luffy's laughing cry of "Zoroooo! Help!" as he flailed around covered in flowers that finally broke the tension, and the swordsman cast one last brief look at Sanji before turning to run over to his captain, "Luffy, what the hell are you-- Aaack!"
Sanji sniffed and then laughed out loud when Zoro reached Luffy's side and the captain just tripped him up, obviously on purpose, and the swordsman ended up caught between trying to pummel Luffy and attempting to free himself from at least a hundred brightly-colored flowers that decided to take up residence on his person when he hit the sand.
Chopper managed to get to his feet and started yelling at Luffy to stop wrestling with Zoro because he was still sick, and then Usopp tripped over the doctor and they both flopped on top of the rubber man, effectively squashing Zoro in the process.
It wasn't so bad, Sanji mused, being civil with Zoro. He might even try being nice more often. Though really, he thought as he walked along the beach toward the rest of his crew, if it took one of them nearly dying to create an opening for polite conversation, he would probably stick with their normal dynamic.
"Sanji," Luffy whined as the cook strolled past him, the captain's form obscured by merry little flowers that turned him into a poofy floral mess, "Help?"
Sanji scoffed and walked by him. "Ask the marimo; he can talk to them for you."
"I'll kill you, you bastard!" Zoro snarled from somewhere beneath Usopp, Chopper, and too many dancing flowers to count.
And as Sanji twirled his way to Nami and Robin, crooning about how no flower in the world could exceed their beauty, he promised himself he would try being nice to Zoro later. When the swordsman being covered in frilly pink flowers wasn't as funny.
~ ;3 ~
The send-off the Thousand Sunny and its crew received was spectacular, hundreds of flowers waving their farewells from the beach, a swaying mass of glorious color against the white sand. And even after the crew's voices had faded with distance and the ship was out of sight, one little white flower with a yellow cap kept waving for a good long time, until it finally joined its kin to sweep away and disappear into the jungles of Libitina.
! ~ :3 The End :3 ~ !
n-n I want to thank every one of you for reading this story, and for all of the support I got; without you guys – my reviewers, my watchers, all of you – I never would've made it past the first chapter. Thank you so much for sticking by me and this story, and I really hope you enjoyed reading Libitina as much as I enjoyed writing it. :D
thanks go to: TheDoublemintTwins11 for giving me uber-confidence.
Kerykeion and Pamplemoose for being hilarious reviewers and providers of endless good moods.
And, of course, a bottomless well of thanks go to my wonderful beta Gina (Lolo Popoki) for all of her hard work on this fic. :3 You may not think you did much, but really, you helped more than you can imagine.
Thanks so much, and I hope whatever I write next lives up to your expectations! x3
P.S. UH-OH! It's art. Courtesy of my sister. ;D Just change the "(DOT)" parts to real periods. ;p