I did it. It's finished. Much love to all those who helped beta this monster, also a big thank you to all who took the time to comment and review, even if your comments were more crit then constructive, I still appreciate it.

Of course, the biggest thank you goes to Sinisterbug. We thought this crazy thing up together and it's been a wild ride ever since. Bug, no matter where I go from here or who I collaborate with in the future, I don't think anything will ever be as much fun as working with you has been.

I must say this is bittersweet. I'm so happy to finally be done with this story, but at the same time, I'm very sorry to see it end.

Thank you again for reading, please enjoy the last chapter.

- Stark

Warnings for this chapter:
1) I took some timeline and dialogue liberties in the beginning. I don't think it really matters in the grand scheme of things but if it bothers you then I apologize.
2) I forgot that in dealing with the two-year time skip I would also have to deal with Sanji's stupid nose bleeding gag. I admit that it's hilarious in the beginning, but it drags on forever and pisses me the hell off. I decided, for my own sanity, that second major attack after Sunny dives and Chopper hooks him up to all the blood bags is where it stops. (Okay, full disclosure: the part where Chopper is crying and screaming at Sanji not to turn around and look at the mermaid princess or he'll die is pretty funny too.)
3) It ends sweeter than I had planned?

First Interlude

The day was warm. Salty sea air blew through a tussle of blond hair and pulled gently at a brown tie. A man, two years older and infinitely wiser than he had been the last time he had stood on this same railing, felt as if he had fallen into a quiet dream. Everything was how he had left it, and yet, everything was completely different because the man himself was different. He was looking at his ship with different eyes, hearing the wind through the folded sails with different ears. His heart beat a slower, steadier rhythm than it had the last time he had felt the dip and rise of the waves beneath this same hull.

Sanji stepped off the railing and landed on the grass of the deck, except it wasn't the grass his shoes sank into. Checking his footing, Sanji marveled at the thick layer of coating jelly. It covered every surface, up the masts, over the sails, there was nothing untouched.

"Wow," he said softly, "this is pretty cool."

He bounced around a little before making his way towards the upper deck. Silver and Shakky had told him that some of the others had already arrived and the cook had been ecstatic at seeing Usopp after all this time (damn that kid was a beast now). Franky was rumored to be on the ship somewhere and Sanji was sure he would run into him before he set out again. Sanji knew Sunny's stores would be low, if not completely depleted, and he was going to have to restock. If he just happened to run into Nami while he was shopping well… that would just make the day that much better wouldn't it? Smiling at the thought of his navigator, and all the ways she had probably "matured" over the last few years, Sanji climbed the stairs. He felt a little light-headed but he figured that was just from all the excitement.

As he neared the galley door he remembered what else Shakky had told him and he slowed.

Zoro was here too.

Thinking of the swordsman caused a lot of the muscles in Sanji's stomach to tense up, but the thought train had left the station and there was no stopping it now, no matter how much Sanji didn't want to think about it. If Shakky had noticed his reaction in regards to the mention of Zoro earlier, she had been sweet enough not to say anything.

Sanji was not looking forward to their reunion for several reasons. The last time he had spoken to Zoro, besides shouting at him from across a battlefield, had been… less than pleasant. There was the possibility that Zoro wanted nothing to do with him anymore. Maybe the swordsman had gotten over his infatuation—or whatever the hell it had been—with Sanji and had moved on. What if he resented Sanji for sleeping with him before turning around and saying all those shitty things? What if Zoro hated him for real now?

There was also a chance that he had completely forgotten. Sanji hated this particular line of thinking because it depressed the hell out of him, but what if whatever Zoro had felt for him had been so fleeting, so inconsequential, that it was just… gone? What if everything went back to normal? Insults, rivalry, one-upmanship… and Sanji was stuck dealing with all of these feelings that he couldn't even put a name to?

It was a lot to think about and it weighed heavily on the cook's shoulders.

There was also the fact that Zoro had been on the island ten days already. How the hell he had managed that was a mystery, but the bottom line was: that was two hundred and forty hours the swordsman had spent no doubt getting himself into trouble or lost. Or both.

Most likely both.

Granted, Zoro usually found his way to where he needed to be with sheer dumb luck, but there were what, seventy-eight? Seventy-nine groves? Sanji didn't think it very likely the Strawhats would be going anywhere until they were forced into a manhunt to locate their directionally challenged first mate.

The cook sighed and turned the knob on the galley door. He was already dreading the confrontation with the swordsman, and spending time looking for the bastard when they should be setting sail was just going to put everyone in a bad mood.

The galley was dark, and it had a metal, musky scent to it that was empty and sad. However, when Sanji turned on the lights, he was welcomed by a space and the shapes of things so familiar it was like coming home.

That's because I am coming home.

Emotion welled up in Sanji's chest and he let it take over for a moment before he stepped inside.

Zoro wanted to fish.

Why? Because he had nothing to do, and sitting around with nothing to do waiting for his crew was starting to wear on him more than Perona's whining, high-pitched voice ever had. His first few days on the island he had trained, and then he had explored. He had even taken up a few odd jobs just to pass the time but now the monotony of the days had all started to bleed together into one endlessly long day-night mush and Zoro was sick of it.

He just wanted to fish. He just wanted something to do with his hands that would keep his mind off how the day the Strawhats were supposed to reunite was close and he would finally, finally get to see his crew again.

How strange was that? He wanted to see his crew more than anything. If Zoro could have gone back in time to tell his eighteen-year-old self that he would soon meet a group of misfits that he would come to think of as family, Zoro knew his eighteen-year-old self would have punched his current self in the throat. Or he would have tried anyway. It would be a simple thing now to turn his eighteen-year-old self into mincemeat.

He missed them, more than he would ever say out loud. He had missed Luffy so much. Chopper and his hugs, Usopp and ridiculous stories, Nami and her debts. Brook, Robin, Franky, and even… even Sanji. Sanji and his food and his stupid frilly clothes and his cursing… Zoro had thought about his crew every day for the last two years, but Sanji, well. Zoro had tried not to think about Sanji at all, so of course, that meant he thought about the damn cook once every couple of minutes.

The last time they had spoken it hadn't gone so well, and Zoro wasn't sure how he felt about seeing Sanji again. He had screwed up and Sanji had reacted better than he had imagined, but the cook had still reacted badly. And he'd had every right to. When they got together again were they going to hash it out finally? Had Sanji forgiven him, even though he didn't really deserve it? Was he still mad? Where exactly did they stand? Were they still rivals?

Were they friends?

Would Sanji ever want to be with him again?

All that was unlikely. Friends? Probably not. Lovers? Never again. However, Zoro knew they were still nakama, they would always be nakama. So he could, at the very least, hold out hope that the two of them were still rivals. If that was all he could get well, shit, he would take it.

Shaking his head as if that would clear it, Zoro moved into the fish and tackle shop to speak to the owner about a boat.

It was just his luck.

Out of all the fish shops in the tourist and shipping groves, Sanji had found the one where Roronoa Zoro had, of course, apparently made one of his unfathomably bad directional miscalculations.

"Was it this guy?" Sanji asked as he held up Zoro's wanted poster. He kept a roll of the entire crew's posters for reasons he wasn't quite ready to admit, even to himself.

"Yes! That's him!" the old fisherman said. Sanji had already known, but there was no harm in making sure.

Mother of God, Sanji thought, He is such an idiot.

"Well," he said out loud as he lit another cigarette, "at least we know where he's headed."

There was a rumble, and voices cried out on the berm to the South of where Sanji and the fisherman stood. Sanji turned to the water and watched with some surprise—but not much—as a galleon surfaced in two pieces. It looked like the ship had been cut in half with a knife.

For some reason, this really didn't surprise Sanji either.

"Oh, never mind," Sanji said softly, "he came back. At least now we don't have to look for him."

The pirates aboard the ship were crying out in anger, flailing their swords in the direction of one of the masts.

A rough voice cut through their cries and Sanji's heart skipped. "Blame your fate. You brought a plague onto your ship."

Sanji looked up, his cigarette hanging from his bottom lip.

Zoro sat on the main topgallant, one of his swords in hand, looking disgruntled but calm and steady. There was a new scar on his face directly over his left eye. When the swordsman slid that dark sword back into its saya, there was no doubt left in Sanji's mind that it was, in fact, Zoro who had cut the ship in half.

Shit. That was cool.

"I got on the wrong ship…" Zoro muttered matter-of-factly.

Sanji rubbed his forehead with the tips of his fingers and tried not to laugh. Or cry. Had he really just thought Zoro was cool?

"Still an idiot, I see."

Zoro heard him and rolled his one eye over to where Sanji was standing. He seemed to hesitate for a moment, but then he stood and shook the water from his hair.

"Ah, cook," Zoro called out, "finally. Let's get out of here, I'll show you where the ship is."

Bristling, Sanji watched Zoro as he made his way off the devastated galleon. "Marimo, you wouldn't be able to find Sunny if it was ten feet in front of you!"

Zoro cocked an eyebrow at him. "Relax, it's like two groves away."

Pulling the cigarette from his mouth and crushing the butt between his fingers, Sanji took a breath. He didn't want to go ape-shit on the swordsman after being back together again for less than a minute.

"No, idiot, it's like twenty groves away."

"Hm, maybe."

God, he was gorgeous. Had Zoro always been this gorgeous? No, his face had filled in, he was taller, wider. His skin was darker and that fucking scar on his face was sexy as hell. His manner had changed as well, the way he stood made him seem relaxed, but Sanji knew the stance. Zoro was actually in a resting fighter's pose. He was literally a string pulled taut, ready to snap and cut you in half at a moment's notice.

Fuck. Fuuuuck, Sanji thought. I can't stop looking at him.

That eyebrow twitched again and Zoro suddenly looked annoyed.

"So? Are we going or what?"

Sanji sighed and lit another cigarette to mask the fact that, for a moment, he had actually been stunned into silence. "Gotta get fish and then we'll head out."

The cook was so overwhelmed at Zoro's new physique and his new bearing that he almost didn't notice how easy it had been to fall right back into their old routine.


Shit. Shit. Shit. Fuck.

Zoro had been here before. Yes, there was a god, and yes, he or she hated the swordsman with a celestial passion. There just wasn't any other explanation. No one's luck was this bad. Of all the fish shops on the island, how had Sanji managed to wander into this one? Why was he fucking here?

And why, why was he about a billion times hotter than when Zoro had last seen him?

He was taller, they were probably about the same height now, and he was bigger. Well, he was still skinny, but shit, he filled out that suite better than anything Zoro had ever seen him in. His hair was longer, and he had a beard. His eyes were still that icy blue that Zoro had always loved, but now they had these lines at the corners that made them seem somehow harder? Stronger? Zoro couldn't put his finger on it.

Shit, I can't stop looking at him.

They were going to have to fight. He was going to have to antagonize Sanji in every way he could think of so he could focus on something other than ripping all the cook's clothes off.

Luckily, Zoro didn't have to try too hard. Sanji seemed to be wound pretty tight, even after two years away from everything. Zoro merely had to mention "Number Seven" a few times and the cook was off.

Or, more aptly, the cook was on.

Zoro didn't know what he was expecting, but the force of Sanji's attacks was not it. The blows were five, maybe ten times as powerful than the last time he had been struck by those polished shoes. Where he had pulled punches and blocked easily before, Zoro found himself having to actively defend himself against a rush of attacks that not only hurt for real, but were also on fire.

Zoro had seen Sanji do the lighting-himself-on-fire thing before, but this was something new. Instead of just his foot or his leg, it was his entire body. Holy shit it was almost completely overwhelming.

When the two of them stepped back to take a breath, Sanji snarled at him from around a cigarette.

"Looks like you improved a bit, you third-rate swordsman."

Wait. Was that… a compliment? Zoro was so taken by surprise that he said the first thing that came into his head without thinking.

"Looks like you learned some new idiotic kicking skills yourself."

Damn, that wasn't what he meant to say. How did Sanji always manage to rile him up so easily?

"I bet your cooking skills have suffered because of it though." Ah crap.

"What'd you say, asshole!?" Sanji roared.

They would have started in again, damaging property and causing all kinds of chaos that Nami probably would have skinned them alive for later, but the sound of a den den mushi interrupted their argument and all the fight seemed to drain out of Sanji in a mere few seconds.

Zoro waited, his heart hammering as Sanji sat and talked to Franky on the mini communicator. He tried not to watch the roll of the cook's shoulders underneath his jacket; tried not to stare at Sanji's mouth as his lips teased the end of another cigarette. With some difficulty, Zoro managed to tear his one good eye away from the sharp edges of blond hair as they caressed the pale skin of Sanji's neck.

It was torture.

Well, one thing was for sure: Luffy was considerably stronger than he had been two years before. Taller, and a little filled out, but other than that, he was exactly the same.

Exactly. Fucking. The same.

There had been a commotion over the rise a few hundred feet from where Sanji and Zoro had been standing. Sanji had gotten a feeling that had proven to be completely spot-on when the two Strawhats discovered their captain in the thick of some Marine-Pacifista-pirate mini-war.

But really though, what had they expected?

Luffy was overjoyed to see them, and both Sanji and Zoro were happy to show off their newfound skills by taking out a Pacifista that happened to be standing in their way. When Chopper showed up riding a giant bird, no one questioned. It was just the way things were with them. Every single day was an adventure, and sometimes the adventure was weird.

The giant bird returned them to their ship, where they were finally reunited with the rest of their crew, and then with cheers of excitement and the merry commands of their captain, Franky inflated the coating jelly, and they dove beneath the surface on their way, at last, to Fishman Island.

Second Interlude

Sanji felt strange. That lightheadedness he had felt on his first return to Sunny was back and in full force. Things seemed to be spinning slowly, but his closed eyes were trying to follow things moving behind his eyelids at neck-breaking speeds.

He groaned softly at the dull throbbing in his head and tried to open his eyes.

"Just lie still, cook," a deep voice said softly, "don't want to die before we reach Fishman Island now, do you?"

Sanji froze, his heart slowed. That was Zoro's voice. What happened? Did he get knocked out? Did the fucking swordsman knock him out in the first few hours of being back together? No way, holy shit he was going to kill somebody!

"I said lie still, idiot. You've lost a lot of blood."

Blood? Oh, that would explain the dizziness. Had there been a battle? What the hell had happened?

Sanji finally opened his eyes and took in the strange surroundings. He was back on the Sunny. Oh yes, they had gone below. That would explain the water and the fish… He was lying on the deck, his arm strapped to a board. Tubes connected from multiple places on his arm up to a tree of blood bags above his head. Damn, he really had been hurt, that was a lot of—

"What the hell is wrong with you?" Zoro said, his voice still soft and emotionless.

Sanji turned and found the swordsman sitting at his side, arms folded and eyes closed, his face stern.

"I didn't think you could get any dumber, but apparently, I was wrong. What kind of asshole has nosebleeds at the sight of women that almost kill him?"


Oh. Oooohhhh.

"What happened to you?"

Sanji ground his teeth. It was the fucking Hell Island and their stupid perfumes and the goddamned side effects they had warned him about and he hadn't listened to. Fuck, why hadn't he listened?

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you," Sanji muttered, and Zoro started. His eye opened and he looked at Sanji in surprise. It was as if the swordsman hadn't realized Sanji had been awake and listening. That thought made Sanji pause for a moment. Had Zoro been talking to himself? Had he been talking to Sanji but thought Sanji was unconscious?

"I just spent two years in hell," Sanji continued, "The nosebleeds are a side effect. Yes, I'm fine. No, I don't want to talk about it."

Zoro watched him for another few moments and then nodded, the surprise draining from his face.

"Chopper said you have to lie there until the bags are empty. Luffy brought food so you don't have to worry about that."

Sanji sighed and closed his eyes again. He hated not being able to do his job, he hated being worthless and helpless there on the deck with Zoro watching over him, but goddamnit, in that moment he couldn't find it in himself to care. He felt like shit. He probably could have moved, gotten up and made his way to the galley if he really wanted to, but he hurt. He was tired. There wasn't any point.

"You…" Zoro started, but the fell silent again.

Sanji cracked one eye open. "What?"

Zoro wasn't looking at him anymore. He was watching something above them in the water.

"You gonna be okay?" he said, his voice barely above a whisper.

Sanji scoffed. "You worried about me, Marimo?"

For a moment, Sanji wasn't sure Zoro was going to answer, and that made the cook's heart flutter in his chest. It was suddenly very hard to pull air into his lungs, and Sanji was sure it had nothing to do with the blood loss or how much he hurt or anything like that.

Then Zoro lowered his head and his face returned to that stony, disgruntled setting that seemed his new normal.

"Not really. You die, I get to raid all the wine you have stored away."

Sanji chuckled at that. "Your concern warms my heart. Where are my cigarettes?"

"Chopper said no smoking for a few hours."

"Come on, what are you guys trying to do, kill me?"

Fishman Island had been another one of the Strawhat's bizarre forays into something that seemed completely unreal once you looked at it in hindsight. They had gone into the depths of the sea, deeper than Sanji had ever dreamed of going. They had met a kraken, encountered a ghost ship, met the King of Ryugu Kingdom, and had seen mermaids. Lots and lots of beautiful mermaids.

They had also managed to get in the middle of a civil war. They had fought the Fishman equivalent of the mob, almost gotten killed—for the what, two-hundredth time?—and saved the princess. Just another Tuesday in the life of the Strawhat Pirates, right?

Now, back aboard the Sunny which was sailing on the surface of the ocean, thankfully, back in his galley doing what he did best, Sanji reflected on the crew's first week all together again. It had been dangerous, terrifying at times, but oddly perfect. What was living without a little danger? How could life be truly fulfilling if you didn't come close to dying a few times a day?

Sanji grabbed a handful of flower from the jar beside him on the counter and sprinkled the powder across his cutting board. The bread dough was smooth and pliant against his fingers as he spread, folded, and spread it out again.

He couldn't think of being anywhere else, couldn't think of being with anyone else. He loved his crew. He loved them. All of their quirks, all of their shortcomings, all of their fears and endearments and stupid, hilarious antics. The Strawhats were truly his family, all of them.

All of them.

Thoughts of Zoro filtered in through memories of fighting and laughing and Marines and sea kings. Memories of Zoro grinning around a blade. A flash of Zoro's face splattered with blood. The feeling Sanji had felt in his gut when he had seen Zoro fighting Hyouzou.

It was probably time to talk to the swordsman. They had a lot of things they needed to clear up. Sanji still didn't have a good read on Zoro's feelings for him after their two years apart, but he was sure there was something there. It might just be nakamaship or rivalry, but that was something, wasn't it? At the very least they needed to talk about what happened before, he needed to hear Zoro's explanation of that night at the brothel. He wanted to hear the swordsman's reasons for what he did.

Sighing softly, Sanji wrapped the bread dough and set it in a container before sealing it and putting it in the fridge. He washed his hands and rolled the sleeves of his shirt down, buttoning the cuffs carefully. When he picked up his jacket from the back of a chair his heart started to pound in his chest, but when he opened the door to the deck, he was composed with a fresh cigarette hanging from his lips.

He wouldn't confront Zoro immediately, no. Maybe tonight, or tomorrow morning when he knew the swordsman would be training up in his gym.

The cook watched the crew as they frolicked on the grass or read their books and magazines on the deck.

Yeah… probably tomorrow morning.

Chapter 14

After Fishman Island, any port the Strawhats happened to sail into would have seemed banal. There could have been dancing bears or giant men made out of candy but it still would have seemed inconsequential and ordinary compared to underwater palaces, mermaids, sea kings, and swordsmen with eight tentacle arms.

However, after helping Franky lower the gangplank, Zoro gave the port another cursory glance and concluded that there was probably a picture of this place next to the word "ordinary" in the dictionary.

The Sunny had landed on Null Island after following the log pose for a little less than two days. It hadn't seemed like much when they had checked it out through a spyglass, and now, as the crew disembarked onto the dock, Zoro realized that it still didn't look like much. The sky was clear and blue, but the sunshine did nothing to brighten the colors of the fishmonger stands or tiny shops along the coast. As far as Zoro could see the town was clean and well kept, but shabby in some tired way, like old hand me down clothes that were still intact but hung a little too limp.

Maybe he should just stay on the ship. There was nothing he needed to buy, and it wasn't as if he needed a stretch, they hadn't been on the ship long enough for him to have felt cooped up. He had barely even gotten his sea legs back.

Zoro was about to call out to Luffy that he planned on staying behind when he heard the click of a lighter at his side. He paused for a moment, waiting for the answering click of the lighter closing, and then the familiar rush of an exhale.

"Oi, Marimo."

"Hm?" Zoro grunted almost on instinct.

"Let's get a drink."

Turning, unable to hide the surprise on his face, Zoro regarded the cook with one eyebrow cocked. "You paying?" he asked.

Sanji shrugged, "Sure."

With that, the blond slipped his hands into his pockets and brushed past Zoro, not briskly, just an easy pass by the swordsman's side, and made his way down to the dock.

Zoro followed, his stomach tightening into small knots. At that moment, Zoro wasn't sure if what he was feeling was dread or excitement. Maybe it was a little of both, hence the confusion. His mouth was dry and his heart had picked up a less than steady cadence. He knew all those symptoms well: they were side effects of simply being under the cook's radar.

The two pirates made their way through the port's small and unremarkable market and onto Main Street. Here the shops and stalls were a bit more bustling but still had that second-hand feel to them. Sanji stopped once or twice to appraise the produce and by the look on his face, it seemed to Zoro that it was all edible, but like the town, it was unimpressive.

They stopped at a tavern at the end of a long street. The place was dark but the sign read "Open". An old man was sitting on a crate beside the front door smoking a pipe. He eyed the two younger men as they nodded to him and entered the establishment, but he said nothing. Inside it was brighter than it had seemed from the street, but not a lot. Thick curtains hung over the windows, blocking light from a few lanterns hanging over a half dozen tables and a large electric lamp set up along the cabinet behind the bar. The place was dead, as Zoro had expected of a place like this at two o'clock in the afternoon. There was only one other patron sitting at the bar, and the bartender.

Sanji motioned to the table at the back of the room and headed to the bar to order drinks. Zoro ignored the fluttering in his chest and moved to sit where Sanji had indicated. He took his swords from his belt and laid them on the table to the side, and claimed the chair that had a good view of both the door and the bar. Sanji could take the one that watched the door and the window.

He sat for a minute thinking this might be one of the dumbest things he had ever done, and that was saying a lot. This could go a lot of different ways and most of them were really bad. There was a possibility that he and Sanji could talk like adults, work through whatever it was that they needed to work through, but it just wasn't very likely. He and Sanji had a history of settling differences loudly and violently. Oh, Zoro knew the two of them would definitely work things out in some form or another, but he also knew that by the end of the afternoon, this tavern would probably be needing several thousand beli worth of repairs, and Nami would have two new pairs of shoes made out of their hides.

A large mug appeared in front of Zoro and the swordsman was pulled from his musings.

"You look lost in thought," Sanji said. "Not surprising, since you can get lost literally anywhere."

The cook set his own drink on the table and sat, pulling his cigarette pack from his pocket and tapping one out into his fingers. Zoro watched the flick of the lighter and then the flame lick the end of the cigarette between Sanji's lips without saying anything. Surprisingly, Sanji's words hadn't sparked the usual hostility and Zoro couldn't really decide on why.

Sanji grabbed an ashtray from an adjacent table and took a sip from his drink before turning sideways and leaning against the wall. He lifted a leg, settled his ankle on the opposite knee, and regarded Zoro from around the curtain of his shaggy, blond hair. He seemed calm, collected in a way that Zoro himself did not feel. It wasn't necessarily how the cook felt on the inside—Zoro could testify to that no problem, his heart was now running a mile a minute even though his outside was stony—but the possibility that Sanji had control over his emotions while Zoro himself was hurling faster and faster into an emotional wreck was frustrating.

"You wanna start, or should I?" Sanji asked quietly. "Or should we just stare at each other for a while longer?"

Zoro rolled his eye and grabbed the mug—stein—shit, whatever this glass was called it was huge—and took a long swallow.

"I could stare at you some more if you want."

At that, Sanji grinned, and Zoro was relieved to see it.

"Flattery will get you almost everywhere."

Zoro smiled into his drink and thought about how to say the things sitting on the tip of his tongue. He had played this conversation in his head a few—okay, maybe a hundred—times over the last two years, but not once had he predicted that it would start out on this amicable a foot. He didn't know to begin this way.

"I…" he started, and then took another long swallow. Crap, this was harder than he had imagined. And he had imagined it being pretty hard.

Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, Zoro set the beer down and leaned his elbows on the table. He clasped his hands together and spoke staring at his fingers. His heart was pounding again.

"I can't talk circles around people like you do. I don't have a bunch of flowery words to make the things I say sound better, so I'm just going to say everything and hopefully, you don't have a conniption and try and kill me before I finish, all right?"

He heard Sanji snicker and a swirl of smoke appeared and wrapped itself around their glasses. He watched as the cook tapped his ashes into the ashtray but didn't look up.

"I don't know, Marimo," Sanji said, "'conniption' is a pretty great word."

Zoro chuckled and a pleasant shiver ran down his spine. There was the distinct sound of a smile in Sanji's voice and it was doing things to his calm.

He took a few seconds to collect his thoughts, took a breath, and opened his mouth.

"I was—"

The door to the tavern slammed open, rattling the glass in the windows and causing the bottles and glassware at the bar to chatter. Zoro and Sanji both turned their heads at the same time to see two figures in the doorway, one stout with a shiny, bald head, and the other, skinny and tall, with long, curly black hair hanging to his waist. Both men held rifles in their hands and twin expressions of anger on their faces.

"Albert!" the bald one said loudly in a high-pitched whinny. "You come out here right now or we'll start shootin' up the place!"

The long-haired one tapped his rifle on the doorframe and growled. "Yeah, Albert! Come out with your hands up! Don't give us any crap, and we'll let you and your slimy, no good brother live!"

Sanji sighed across the table. "Are you kidding me? I've been waiting two years for this!"

The cook stood and Zoro took the opportunity to finish off the rest of his drink. Why waste good booze?

"Oi, losers," Sanji growled, "I'm trying to have a serious conversation here. Why don't you come back later?"

The bald one pulled the rifle from his shoulder and pointed it at Sanji. This angered Zoro unexpectedly and the swordsman shot to his feet.

"Who the hell do you think you are, blondie?" the bald one sneered. "Maybe you're the one who should come back later?"

Zoro listened to Sanji puff on the cigarette and then every nerve in his body sang with delight as the cook chuckled low and huskily.

"You hear that, Marimo? This guy thinks his conversation is more important than ours."

"Rude," Zoro murmured. He was almost giddy on the inside.

The long-haired one tapped his rifle on the doorframe again. "Albert! You better come out in the next five seconds or we're gonna start hurting your customers!"

Zoro grinned manically. "Cook, we need to teach these guys some manners."

Sanji shoved his hands into his pockets. "Agreed."

Twenty-five minutes later, Zoro and Sanji were stepping outside the tavern and into a light drizzle. Albert, the tavern's owner, had spent the last twenty-three minutes trying to give the pirates a reward for saving his life. Sanji had refused profusely when he had learned Albert's only crime had been to fall in love with bald man's daughter. The cook had turned serious eyes on the small man and had said, "Don't worry about it. Just treat her well and we're square."

Goddamnit, the cook was such a sap, and Zoro fucking loved it.

Now, the two of them walked side by side down the gray street, rain soaking their hair and shoulders. Zoro was keyed up. The fight had been short, a mere few seconds, so not enough time to spend the adrenaline that came naturally when he readied himself for battle. He felt like running or screaming. He needed—

Sanji's hand on his coat startled him, but his instincts told him there was no danger so he let himself be pulled into a narrow passageway between two buildings. His back slammed against a stone wall, and then Sanji was there, inches from his face. His hair was heavy and dark with rain, and his eyes were a shade of blue that Zoro had seen only once before. Zoro had just enough time to growl softly before the cook's hands were sliding up his jaw, and then Sanji was kissing his lips.

Zoro felt as if the ground had given way. Suddenly his lungs couldn't get enough air and his groin was tight and throbbing painfully as white-hot desire burned through him. He kissed Sanji back greedily as his hands found the cook's hips. He pushed forward, sending Sanji back the two or three steps across the passageway until Sanji's back hit the opposite wall. Zoro pressed up hard against the other man's body, crushing him into the stone or brick or whatever it was, Zoro didn't care. All he could think about was Sanji's mouth. His lips. The cook's strong, lithe hips beneath his hands, muscles flexing against each other, the taste of rain and sweat and cigarettes on his tongue. Sanji's fingers found his hair and pulled desperately, pulled Zoro closer to him.

When he broke away to look into those sharp blue eyes, Zoro found himself panting as if he had just run a hundred miles. His arms, one wrapped around Sanji's waist, and the other pressed against the wall behind them, were trembling. He was rock hard and burning from the inside.

"Well," Sanji breathed against his lips, "that answers one of my questions, at least."

"I was obsessed with you," Zoro said suddenly, so soft it could barely be heard over the rain. Sanji watched him solemnly, his hands returning to Zoro's jaw. That touch almost distracted Zoro into forgetting what he was saying but he forced himself to focus. Over the last two years, he had spent much of his downtime in a deep introspection, sorting out exactly what he had felt for Sanji and had finally come to his conclusion.

"Two years ago, the only thing I thought about more than you, was my goal to be the greatest swordsman. And sometimes that wasn't even true. When you started going with me to the brothels—to the male brothels—it was fun. You were off balance, so it was like I had something over you. But then I saw how the other men looked at you and I saw how you were warming to the idea and I just got so fucking jealous. I felt responsible and I hated that I was angry about feeling responsible. I was so upset that you had discovered this about yourself and at the same time I was so ashamed of being upset in the first place."

Sanji's thumbs were caressing his cheeks and Zoro leaned in close. His body was thrumming with heat despite the rain, and another cascade of shivers trailed down his spine as the cook's hard length pressed against his hip.

"I just wanted you. I was blind with it. I didn't care what the consequences were and when the fucking companions at that fucking place set me up in that room with you, it happened fast and I had no real desire to make it stop."

With that, Zoro closed his eye and rested his forehead against Sanji's.

"It was wrong, I was wrong, and I'm sorry."

They stood that way for a while, forehead to forehead, Sanji cradling the back of Zoro's neck gently. The rain pelted the ground and the stone of the wall, but Zoro did not feel it. He didn't feel much of anything besides numbness for a long stretch of minutes until Sanji spoke, and when he did, Zoro's world froze.

"I was in love with you…" Sanji said.

Zoro felt that same sensation as if the ground had given way. He was falling, falling through space and time and everything was going white and hazy around him. Everything but Sanji's face; the crystal blue of his eyes.

"What?" he whispered.

Sanji ran his hands through Zoro's hair, wiped gently at the droplets of water trailing down the swordsman's brow and nose. His heart was racing so fast he thought Zoro could probably feel it vibrating through his body. Zoro's words had shattered every last bit of Sanji's reservation if he'd had any left at all that is, and had awakened the desire the cook had kept locked away deep inside himself for two years. He had not felt this calm, this sure of himself, or strangely, this frightened, in as long as he could remember.

"I was in love with you," Sanji said again, "and I didn't even realize it until you disappeared that day on Sabaody."

Shaking against him, Zoro blinked once, twice, slowly, and then shook his head. He opened his mouth to say something but it was as if his voice had left him. He closed it, tried again, but still nothing.

Sanji seemed to understand his plight and answered Zoro's unvoiced question.

"It started on Thriller Bark when I woke up to find you standing in a field of blood. You think no one knows what happened to you there, but I saw it. You took all the pain of the crew for yourself and never said a goddamn thing. It was the most idiotic, fucking dumbass, insane… most incredible act of selflessness I've ever seen."

His hands moved back to Zoro's jaw and he cradled the swordsman's head again, but this time he pulled him close, his hold a bit more forceful than before.

"I admire the shit out of you," he said, a smile playing on his lips, "I need you to understand that. No matter how much I tease you or challenge you or try and one-up you… you're…" he stopped, searching for the right words.

"Next to Luffy, you are the most incredible person I've ever known."

Zoro let out a breath, it was clipped with emotion and what Sanji hoped was desire. The hand that had been pressed against the wall, slipped around his waist and Sanji felt strong fingers tighten in the back of his jacket between his shoulder blades.

"But what I did, back at—"

"—You made a mistake," Sanji cut him off. "It was a fucked-up mistake, but hell, I've made mistakes. I get it okay? If your feelings haven't changed, I want to just… pick up where we left off. If that's something you want."

Zoro nodded his head. "Yes, I want that. My feelings… haven't really changed at all."

He made like he was going to kiss Sanji again, but then paused and pulled back, studying the cook's face with his brow furrowed.

"What about you?" he asked.

Genuinely confused, Sanji asked, "What about me, what?"

"What about your feelings?" Zoro murmured. "How, I mean… do you still…"

Laughing, Sanji tilted his head back and let the droplets of water hit his face. "I'm standing here, kissing you in the rain, Zoro. I told you I was in love with you—"

"—Was," Zoro said quietly, "you said 'was'. That doesn't mean you're sti—"

Closing the distance, Sanji pressed his lips to Zoro's and cut the swordsman off mid-word. He opened his mouth and slipped his tongue between Zoro's teeth and shuddered happily when the other man moaned softly against him.

After a few long, wonderfully blissful moments, Sanji pulled back and whispered, "Nothing's changed, Marimo, except I might love you even more now than I did before."

He felt Zoro's breath catch and the swordsman's one open eye widened, but then there was a flash of teeth, and Zoro was kissing him again through a smile.

They stood in that passageway until long after the rain had stopped and the sun had started to make its descent towards the evening sky.

Leaving Null Island was uneventful, as had been the entire excursion, thankfully. The Strawhats returned to their regular duties, and by duties, of course, that meant the various ways they passed the time while at sea. They ate a delicious dinner, played a few games of cards on the grass—ridiculous and incomprehensible rules provided by Usopp and Franky of course—and then as the sun set and the stars twinkled in a night sky above them, they lounged in chairs or huddled in soft blankets as Robin read them adventure stories about dragons and knights in shining armor.

After most of the crew had gone to bed, and Sanji had finished the prep for the morning, he made his way into the aquarium and found Zoro there, his arms folded across his chest, calmly watching the fish.

Not wishing to disturb the swordsman when he was looking so content, but unable to stop himself from reaching out his hands and sliding them over Zoro's hips, Sanji pulled himself close, relishing the swordsman's soft intake of breath, and whispered against the shell of an ear adorned with three gold earrings.

"I'm here, what did you want to show me?"

Zoro turned his head and his cheekbone brushed against the stubble on Sanji's chin.

"In a minute," he said softly, and then turned and faced the cook. "First, we have to set some ground rules."

Sanji laughed, it was almost a giggle. "What, like safe words?"

Zoro's grin was wide and almost dopy, "No, idiot, not like that… well, unless you're into that."

Leering, Sanji lowered his voice, "If they're for you, then yeah."

Surprised and delighted, Sanji watched a blush spread over the swordsman's cheeks, but then, still grinning, Zoro closed his eyes and shook his head. "Goddamnit, I forgot what I was talking about."

"Ground rules," Sanji almost laughed again.

"Yeah. Ground rules for around the ship. I don't really care if the crew knows about us, but I do want to set some boundaries. It's our private life and I don't want to flaunt it all over the place, or give Luffy's enemies extra ammo."

"Ah," Sanji nodded, "that's smart." He knocked a cigarette from his pack and slipped it between his lips. As Zoro talked he lit up and pulled the smoke into his lungs.

"We keep things the way they've always been outside, on the deck, the helm, places like that, and we keep the stuff between ourselves to like, the galley."

"After dark, and after night prep," Sanji agreed.

Zoro nodded. "I was thinking the crow's nest too. I mean, no one's up there in the gym but me most of the time."

Sanji puffed again and blew out a long, thin stream of smoke. "What about the washroom?"

Lifting a finger to scratch at his temple in an absurdly bashful way, Zoro nodded again.

"Yeah, that… that's a good idea."

The way he was standing sparked the cook's interest. This was a strange edition of the Zoro Sanji knew. He was like a younger, more vulnerable version and it was charming, but also confusing.

"Are you okay, Zoro?" Sanji asked.

Zoro looked at him and nodded.

"Then," Sanji shrugged, "what's up?"

Looking almost guilty, Zoro rubbed his fingers over his mouth and then put his hands on his hips. Sanji could not imagine what could possibly have the swordsman in this sort of state but damn it was cute as hell.

"I need you to trust me for a few minutes, okay?"

Sanji nodded, "All right."

"Follow me."

Curious, Sanji crushed the butt on the bottom of his shoe and slipped the half-smoked cigarette back into his pack. He followed Zoro from the aquarium and out onto the grass deck. They made their way to the main mast but just as Sanji was readying himself to climb, Zoro stopped and turned to him.

"It's a surprise and I know you'll peek if I tell you to close your eyes so..." Zoro then untied his bandana from around his bicep and took a step forward. He held it up and took a breath.

Sanji chuckled quietly and took the bandana from Zoro's hands. He was giddy suddenly, excited like he always was before a fight. When he put the bandana up to his eyes in a makeshift blindfold he grinned again and spoke in a whisper, as not to alert the rest of the crew.

"You sure we don't need to go over some safe words, Marimo? This shit is bordering on kinky."

He heard Zoro's soft chuckle as he knotted the ends at the back of his head, and then he felt a soft touch guide his hand to the ladder.

It was awkward climbing without his sight, but the cook managed without too much fuss. When he reached the top, he opened the door to the crow's nest and pulled himself up inside. He heard Zoro climb up behind him and shut the door. There was nothing for a moment, and Sanji was about to say something, but then Zoro's hands were at his hips, turning him to face the center of the room, and the swordsman's deep voice was at his ear.

"Okay, you can look now."

When Sanji pulled the bandana from his eyes, he stood frozen for a few seconds, unsure he could believe what he was seeing.

Candles were placed throughout the room, they sat on the bench and on the floor beside the bench at varying intervals. Their soft glow gave the space a dreamlike feel and threw the world outside the windows into an even deeper shadow. It was like they were floating in their own separate place outside of time and space. A futon lay on the floor dressed in a few pillows and a single red, blanket. Beside the futon was a bottle of wine and two glasses.

And there were rose petals.

Sanji's gaze swept over the floor, the carpet of petals, and breathed in the sweet scent of the flowers, his heart skipping and dancing behind the cage of his ribs. It was hard to breathe, hard to think. No one had ever done anything like this for him before, no one had even tried.

"Z-Zoro…" he tried to say, but his voice seemed to get lost in a wave of emotion.

"I'm not great at this whole romantic thing," Zoro murmured behind him, "but I know you really like it so I thought… I don't know. I just thought you deserved something nice."

Sanji turned to him, meeting the swordsman's eyes, not knowing what to say or how to deal with the powerful rush of desire and love the overtook him. He feared it would sweep him up and carry him away if he didn't grab on to something quick.

He took Zoro's arms in his hands and tried to speak.

"You sweet… beautiful bastard. I can't believe you did this, you goddamn, fucking perfect…"

Zoro's eye was wide with surprise and it seemed he was about to say something, but Sanji cut him off by kissing him. Zoro made a soft noise in the back of his throat and slid his arms around Sanji's waist. They were breathless, shaking in each other's hold, excited and afraid at this new and wonderful new territory.

"Fuck you," Sanji breathed into Zoro's mouth. "I love you, you son of a bitch."

Zoro laughed and shook his head. "Do you like it or not? You're sending me mixed signals."

"Idiot, of course I like it." He kissed Zoro one last time before he pulled away. He shrugged out of his jacket and yanked at his tie. "Now, we're gonna drink some wine naked."

Zoro's eyebrows shot up. "Okay, I like this idea."

They stripped out of their clothes, tossing them on the floor and sending rose petals dancing across the wooden planks. Sanji sat on the futon and took the wine bottle from Zoro's hands as the swordsman sat in front of him. They were so close that their shins and knees touched, and as the cook worked the cork free Zoro took one of Sanji's legs and pulled it over his thigh. He caressed the skin stretched over a knee and Sanji had to focus on steadying his hands as he poured wine into each glass.

"I have to admit," Sanji said softly, "you drinking wine out of a glass is a little weird for me."

Zoro grinned and took the glass from Sanji's hand. "Don't tell anyone."

Sanji snickered and held his glass up just below his jaw. He watched Zoro's face as the swordsman touched his glass to Sanji's, his one open eye darker than Sanji had seen it in a long time. The cook sipped, rolling the wine over his tongue, savoring the mild berry and chestnut flavor before swallowing. When Zoro downed the entire glass in one go, Sanji laughed and pinched the swordsman's arm.

"Ouch! What?!"

"Uncultured swine," Sanji smiled.

"Wine is for drinking, cook," Zoro muttered, to which Sanji laughed again.

He poured the swordsman another glass and set the bottle down. "How did you do all this with no one seeing you?"

Shrugging, Zoro took another long drink but stopped himself before he drained the entire thing. "Usopp has a stash of candles in his workshop. I told him they were for training. The futon was already here, I keep it under the bench for when I train late and don't want to wake Luffy up."

"Eh?" Sanji made a face, "This has sweaty after-training Marimo all over it?"

Zoro made a face, but it could not hide the humor beneath it. "No, I shower first. Anyway, the wine and the glasses I snatched from your stash when you went to give the girls their after-dinner coffee. The roses are from Robin's garden."

"You stole flowers from Robin-chwan!?" Sanji was appalled.

"Man, you have no faith in me," Zoro growled. "I get flowers from Robin all the time, for training."

"Training." Sanji cocked an eyebrow.

Zoro nodded again. "For training."

Sanji was skeptical, but also curious.

"Show me."

That one dark gray eye opened wide and the swordsman's caress on his thigh froze. "Right now?"

"Yes, right now."

Zoro blinked and then looked around as if he had forgotten where they were. He let out a breath, finished off his wine, and gently moved Sanji's leg from his lap. "Okay."

He stood and moved to where he had propped his swords against the wall. He took the white one, the one he cared for so reverently, and straightened. The candlelight reflected off his skin, throwing shadows against the hard lines of his back and buttocks. He was such a sight to behold, and Sanji was still having trouble believing all that skin and muscle and power was literally at his disposal.

Zoro turned and caught Sanji watching him.

"You just want to see me train with my clothes off."

Nodding sagely, Sanji took another swallow. "It's a bonus."

Smiling softly, Zoro moved to the center of the room and picked up a single petal from the floor. He examined it for a few seconds, and then the smile dropped and he backed up towards the ladder. He stood still for about a half minute before he changed his stance, spreading his feet and readying his sword at his right hip.

Sanji could feel the change in the atmosphere. It was like the charge in the air just before a storm. His hair stood up at the back of his neck, and he shivered as Zoro's face darkened and a surge of energy pulsed through the room.

It took less than three seconds. Zoro moved, gently tossed the petal into the air, and then he reached across his body to take the hilt of his sword in his left hand. Another pulse of energy filled the room, and the petal split into two perfectly equal pieces and floated to the floor.

Sanji didn't realize he was holding his breath until the two halves of the petal had actually touched down on the floorboards. He let it out in a long rush and looked back up at Zoro. The swordsman's eyes were closed. He hadn't even drawn the sword.

"Holy shit…" Sanji whispered.

Zoro opened his one eye, looked at him, and Sanji felt desire hit him and rocket through him like a bolt of lightning. He tipped his glass, downing the last of his wine, and set the glass on the floor next to the futon. Turning back, he licked his lips and motioned to Zoro with his hand.

"Come here."

Zoro set his sword carefully on the floor where he stood and came to the futon. He moved like a predator, stalking his prey through the tall grass at the edge of a field. Sanji however, did not feel like prey, he felt powerful. He watched the ripple of muscle under scarred, tanned skin and swallowed in anticipation of running his hands over every inch of it. His mouth dropped open the tiniest bit and he let out a soft noise as Zoro crouched and then crawled on his hands and knees to where Sanji sat. His hands glided over Sanji's thighs, and he pushed his way underneath Sanji's jaw to kiss at the skin of the cook's neck.

Sighing softly, Sanji put his hands on Zoro's shoulders and lay back on the soft blanket. Zoro came with him, kissing and sucking at pale skin, gripping strong thighs with his calloused hands as Sanji's legs came around his hips.

When Zoro's weight came down on him, Sanji let out another soft noise and ran his hands up a scarred torso. The swordsman's body was covered in a fine sheen of sweat, and though Sanji wasn't sure if it was from the strain of the technique he had just executed, or merely from the heat of their bodies coming together, he didn't care. Zoro's skin was slick against his own, and the two rocked together smoothly, their cocks sliding easily in the clefs between thigh and groin.

Slowly, Zoro began to leave open-mouthed kisses down the column of Sanji's throat, and then down to his chest. Sanji tucked one arm behind his head and let the other rake through the swordsman's hair. He watched those lips kiss his skin, that tongue dart out and flick his nipple, while little ripples of pleasure swam through his veins. His breath caught every time Zoro's rough thumbs caressed over his abs, or across the angle of his hips. He pulled at Zoro's hair when teeth nipped at the flesh around his navel.

When Zoro reached his cock, Sanji fell still. His hand froze.

"Zoro," he said softly, "you don't—"

"—I've been thinking about this all day," Zoro growled, and then looked up and Sanji, his smile mischievous. "This time you can watch."

With that Zoro ran his tongue up the length of him, his gaze never leaving Sanji's. The earth trembled around the cook and Sanji reached for a second pillow and propped it underneath his head. His hands stayed fisted in the pillowcase as Zoro's lips came down over him. It had been two years, but the sensation of Zoro's mouth around him was exactly as he remembered.

Sanji let out a soft gasp as pleasure tightened everything in his body from the hips down. He watched as Zoro's lips hollowed and he sucked gently as he slid back up, and then down again.

"Fuck…" Sanji whispered breathlessly.

Zoro continued to work him slowly, watching the cook with his one dark eye. His hands came up, one arm sliding beneath Sanji's leg and wrapping around his thigh. The other teased through dark blond curls and cupped Sanji's sack. Pleasure clouded Sanji's senses, his breathing turned into short, broken panting. He felt his loins tightening as Zoro started to work faster, his strong hand pumping him along with his mouth.

Sanji cursed again, but his throat was so tight the sound barely got past his lips.

He writhed, tried to twist with the pleasure of it but Zoro had a firm hold on his thigh. Sanji knew somewhere in the back of his mind, it would be a simple enough thing to buck the swordsman off, kick him across the room, but he had forgotten how to do it. He had forgotten everything except the burning heat building up inside him. He sat up halfway and supported himself on an elbow, his other hand reached down and his fingers gripped the hair at the base of Zoro's skull.

He wanted to warn the swordsman so the man could pull off before he came, but he still couldn't remember how to speak, and it was no use anyway, it was happening. Every muscle in his body coiled like a spring and then released. Pleasure bloomed as he spilled into Zoro's mouth. He let out a soft cry when the swordsman's eye lifted to meet his, and the two held their gaze as Zoro slowly worked the last of the orgasm from Sanji's body.

When it was over, Sanji's eyes slipped closed and he fell back onto the bed. Zoro crawled over him and kissed his jaw, sliding his hands into the cook's sweaty hair. When he spoke, his voice was low and husky.

"I don't think there's anything sexier than your face when you come."

Sanji laughed breathlessly, "I disagree."

"Yeah?" Zoro said, leaving another kiss on his temple.

"Yeah," Sanji repeated, trying to catch his breath. "The way you looked when I fucked you two years ago… shit, I want that to be the last thing I see before I die."

He felt Zoro chuckle against his skin and Sanji lifted his arms to run over smooth biceps.

"You didn't happen to snatch the lube from the galley, did you?"

Zoro shook his head. "No, but I have some of my own. Not my first fishing trip."

Laughing, Sanji smoothed his hair back out and watched as Zoro grabbed a bottle from the corner of the futon. When he returned and knelt between Sanji's legs, the swordsman paused. He ran his hand up Sanji's thigh and a thoughtful, almost concerned look crossed his features.

"You know, we don't have to do it this way. I'm perfectly fine with the way we did it last time."

Sanji shook his head. "I've been waiting two years for this, don't chicken out on me now."

"I'm not chickening out," Zoro growled, popping the cap on the bottle and pouring some onto his fingers. After he tossed the bottle aside, his features softened and he looked back up into Sanji's eyes.

"I'll go slow. Tell me if it hurts or you don't like it. I promise I'll stop."

Sanji smiled and shook his head again. "Don't worry, Marimo. The island I ended up on was Hell and the people were crazy, but they had some nice toys."

Zoro's one gray eye sparkled as he leaned over Sanji and pulled one long leg up and around his hip. "Yeah?"

Sanji's hand trailed up the scar on Zoro's chest. "Yeah."

Zoro's fingers slid into him and Sanji's focus narrowed. There was pressure, but Zoro was gentle, there was no pain.

"Tell me about the toys," the swordsman said softly.

Huffing a laugh, Sanji lifted his other knee to give Zoro a better angle and felt his back arch almost on its own as Zoro's touch slid deeper.

"Not much to tell," Sanji murmured. "I got a couple as gifts and got a little curious. I tried it on myself and tried not to cuss you out too loudly."

"Cuss me out?" Zoro snorted. "I wasn't even there. Not my fault."

"It was so your fault. You were there in my head and it fucking hurt the first few times. Not like… not like this…" Sanji's loins were tightening again. The pleasure was slowly seeping back into him through every pore, collecting in his lower gut and awakening his spent cock.

"Shit, how are you doing this?"

"Good with my hands," Zoro smiled against his lips.

"Bastard," Sanji growled before he reached up and pulled the swordsman down to him. He kissed Zoro's lips again, tasting salt and bitterness on his tongue, but not minding at all. The fingers inside of him were moving slow and gentle, brushing against places he himself hadn't been able to find so easy.

But it wasn't enough. He wanted more.

Knowing he had the swordsman sufficiently distracted, Sanji planted one of his heels into the futon and pushed. His hips came up and he rolled them both, throwing Zoro onto his back. The swordsman uttered an oof! as he landed, and his fingers left Sanji's body in a rush.

"Woa, cook," Zoro grinned up at him, "a little impatient, aren't we?"

"Yeah," Sanji said. He rolled his hips, sliding himself over Zoro's hard length and the swordsman groaned in approval. He glanced around, looking for the bottle of lube and spied it not far from Zoro's head. He grabbed it and squeezed some into his palm. When he slicked Zoro's length, the swordsman made a noise that had Sanji fully hard once again.

"You want me on my stomach?" Sanji asked.

If Zoro's eyes had been dark before, it was nothing compared to how that one iris flashed at those words. It was now a night sky devoid of stars, a canyon at the bottom of the sea in the deepest part of the ocean. The swordsman's hands gripped his thighs hard enough to leave bruises and he shuddered beneath Sanji's hips.


Sanji moved off him and stretched out on the futon. He folded his arms underneath his chin and turned his head to watch over his shoulder. His legs were sprawled slightly, inviting.

Zoro sat up and ran a hand up the back of Sanji's thigh. He lowered his head and laid kisses along the line of Sanji's spine and moved to kneel between the cook's long legs. Sanji startled at Zoro's touch but shivered almost violently as he felt the head of the swordsman's cock slip inside him. His hands moved to tangle in the blanket and he continued to watch Zoro's face, stony with concentration as he slowly pushed himself into Sanji's body.

The pressure was great, but again, there was no pain. He had opened himself up enough times before so his body understood what to do, but oh god it was so different when it was with another person. When that person was Zoro.

Sanji cried out softly when the swordsman was fully seated, but his cry was not one of pain. The feeling of Zoro filling him up had overwhelmed him on an emotional level he had not expected.

"Ahh… shit…" he said softly.

"You okay?" Zoro whispered against the back of his neck.

Sanji nodded and opened his eyes. Zoro was watching him with a mixture of love and desperation, trembling over him, shuddering a little at every breath Sanji took.

That sent the cook's heart fluttering. It gave him the courage to arch his back and lift his hips. Zoro's mouth fell open as he did, and he pushed forward with his own hips, meeting the cook in a gentle thrust. Another one of those sounds that had Sanji's dick jumping escaped from between the swordsman's teeth.

"Like that?" Sanji's voice was low, rough.

Zoro's lips moved but there were no words. He tried again but failed a second time. Finally, he closed his eyes and nodded before letting his forehead fall between Sanji's shoulder blades. He pulled out slowly and then pushed in again, the movement sending a jolt of pleasure through Sanji's whole body. The cook grunted softly, dropping his own forehead to the futon.

They moved like that for a small space of time, Zoro thrusting in and out gently, getting Sanji used to the intrusion. And then just as Sanji was about to tell Zoro to pick up the pace, he felt one of the swordsman's arms slip underneath his own, and the weight of Zoro's torso come down on his back. He felt the hand beneath him, slip fingers in between his own and tears stung his eyes as he realized that Zoro was wrapped entirely around him, cradling him as they fucked slow and gentle. Sanji had never imagined this was how it would be, that Zoro would prove this romantic, this sweet and loving.

Zoro's lips were on his neck, his face buried in the crook of his shoulder. He was panting heavily, making soft noises every time Sanji's hips lifted or his thighs squeezed.

Sanji turned his head to put his lips within reach if Zoro wanted them.

"Is this how you always dreamt it?" he asked, his voice nothing but a breathy whisper.

Zoro groaned, "Better," and squeezed Sanji's hand.

That did him in. Sanji let himself be washed away with the tide of Zoro's tenderness, his passion. He felt his heart break open and warmth bled out through his chest, through his veins to his fingertips and toes. The pleasure that built as Zoro moved in him, was fueled by that warmth, and Sanji knew there was no way he would ever be satisfied with anything else ever again.

Sanji felt the futon dip by his head as Zoro braced himself on his other hand. Their movements were quicker now, the swordsman's hips drove into him harder, faster, the slap of flesh punctuated every delicious peak of friction; every lightning bolt of pleasure that sent stars swimming across the back of Sanji's eyelids. He felt his legs spread wider as Zoro pushed them farther apart with his thighs, felt the swordsman's gasping breaths against his shoulder, the frantic press of lips on his skin.

Sanji felt himself racing toward another release, reaching for it blindly amongst a sea of pleasure, pain, and overwhelming ecstasy. And then Zoro's voice was at his ear, panting, desperate.

"Tell me you love me. Do it now, I'm coming."

"I love you," Sanji said without hesitation. Zoro's words sent him flying, hurling over the edge. He turned his face back into the futon and came hard enough to knock the wind out of his lungs. He couldn't even cry out or gasp in his pleasure. He felt he would pass out as the world wavered and faded out around him, faintly aware of Zoro growling against him, and sharp pain flooding his shoulder before he finally came down and started to come back to himself.

Zoro's weight left him and he slowly rolled to his back, breathing heavily and shivering with the last remnants of the most amazing orgasm he had ever experienced. He lay there, cursing under his breath, wanting a cigarette but feeling too good to move. When Zoro's lips pressed against his jaw and the swordsman's fingers trailed over his cheek, Sanji opened his eyes and met his gaze. It was calm, still tender, but now it was concerned as well.

"You okay?" Zoro asked softly.

Sanji smiled tiredly. "I told you I can take anything you can dish out, Marimo. I'm fine. Good even."


Nodding, Sanji ran a hand through his sweaty hair. "Yeah. Could definitely use a cigarette though."

The warmth of Zoro's body left him for a moment, but the swordsman returned quickly with his pack and lighter. After lighting up and pulling a drag deep into his lungs, Sanji exhaled and turned to find Zoro resting at his side, his head propped up on his elbow and his temple resting in his palm.

"I was—" Pain, sharp and exact flared in his shoulder and the cook lifted his hand to prod at the spot. His fingers came away spotted with blood. When he looked at Zoro the swordsman made a face and lifted his own shoulders.


"Holy shit," Sanji chuckled. "All right all right I get it, we'll do it. Safe words. I'll get you a collar."

Zoro snorted and leaned in to kiss the bite mark. Sanji watched his face, and the way his eyes narrowed in concentration as he studied the wound up close. He liked the serious side of Zoro as much as the flirtatious side, or the teasing side. He liked every part of Zoro from his directional faults all the way to his incredible power and swordsmanship. Sanji loved him. All of him.

"Zoro…" he said softly.

Zoro's gaze shifted from his shoulder to his face but he said nothing.

Sanji swallowed. "You said your feelings haven't changed in the last two years, so what does that… I mean, what should I expect?"

Taking a slow breath, Zoro spoke so softly that Sanji could barely hear him.

"You want me to say that I love you?"

Sanji crushed his cigarette out between his fingers and dropped it into the nearest wineglass. When he turned back to the swordsman he lifted his hand and ran the backs of his knuckles over Zoro's cheek.

"I only want you to say it if you mean it."

A few seconds passed by, a few that seemed like a hundred, and Sanji found he was holding his breath. Finally, Zoro reached up and took his hand, kissed his fingers, and shrugged his shoulders.

"Then, I love you."

It was so simple, so easily said, and sounded so perfect coming from Zoro's lips that Sanji could do nothing but smile.


The sun shone through a canopy of palm trees, painting the stalls on either side of the cobblestone road in irregular splashes of golden light. Vendors called their wares, children laughed and frolicked, people chatted and bartered and shouted greetings to one another, and Sanji took it all in with a smile.

The cook's gaze returned to the stand in front of him and he motioned with his head.

"Can I get just one?"

The woman he was addressing smiled a wide smile and pulled a thick, long-stemmed rose from a wooden box and carefully wrapped it in tissue paper.

"For someone special?" she asked.

"Yes, very."

He took the rose and place a few beli in her palm, insisting she keep the change. She thanked him, and he was on his way.

The island was beautiful, the people were friendly, and the food was a good quality. Sanji could have spent another few hours shopping or even just wandering, peeking into windows to watch cakes being decorated, or tasting bits of grilled meats on the end of sampling sticks.

But he had somewhere to be.

Making his way towards the harbor, Sanji shifted his mountain of packages and bags and crates and bottles to sit better on his back. When he neared Sunny's dock he slipped the rose into his jacket and then placed a cigarette between his teeth. Nami and Robin were just heading out and he waved enthusiastically to them as they passed him on the gangplank. They waved back, laughing and promising to be back for dinner.

His stop into the galley was only long enough to put a few perishables away, and then he was out, crossing the deck and climbing the ladder to the crow's nest. Just before he reached the door, he pulled the rose from his jacket, and folded the tissue paper down so the ruby red of the petals could be seen clearly.

Reaching for the handle, he started as the door opened and a head of green hair appeared. A tanned face peered down at him and a dark gray eye moved to the rose in his hand.

Soft lips pulled back in a smile, and that handsome face softened into something almost beautiful.

"Hey, cook," Zoro said softly.

Sanji felt his own mouth turn up in a smile. "Hey, Marimo."

Zoro took the rose, Sanji climbed the rest of the way up the ladder, and shut the door behind them.