As it happened, with the exception of the unavoidable debate over whose kill was bigger, both men managed to, for the most part, avoid each other's company. Zoro and the girls nearly got themselves baked into a giant wax cake, Sanji had a cup of tea and an informative chat with one Mr. Zero, knocked out a few bad guys and saved the day by retrieving the log pose that would let them leave Little Garden.
When they were back on track, out on the open water, giant goldfish and giant goldfish poop behind them, life went more or less back to normal. Zoro went back to training, Sanji back to cooking and took up scowling out a porthole at the swordsman and his bleeding ankles-- Feet that he'd learned the idiot had tried to cut off to escape some waxy doom. Idiot. Stupid stubborn idiot. And without a doctor, they'd likely scar worse than that slash across his chest.
The more the swordsman pushed himself, the more often he tore his stitches, in spite of Nami's disgust and Vivi's horror. He was unable to wear boots but going barefoot didn't put him off of slinging his weights on deck. At least until he noticed blood dripping down his ankles and sighed in irritation. He tossed a towel around his neck and crossed the deck to the galley, leaving droplets of blood on the swabbed planks. He said nothing to Sanji as he made a bee-line to the chest that contained their medical supplies to rummage for rubbing alcohol and fresh thread.
"Having fun, moron?" The cook snorted, but didn't spare a further glance for the green-haired man. Wasn't any point, was there? He was determined to slowly bleed out till his ankles were an irreparable mess. And whose responsibility was it to stop him? Not Sanji's, that was certain. "You could at least ask Usopp to help you with that. He actually knows how to hold a needle and thread."
There was a throaty growl, barely heard with Zoro's back to the cook as he hunched over his legs. He'd never had quite such an inconvenient wound -- at least Mihawk's slash was easily accessible, not forcing him into a contorting act to get at it when new stitches were applied. "I know how to stitch a damn wound, kusoyaro," he replied. He set aside bloodied gauze and glared at his healing flesh, then grit his teeth with determination to not so much as hiss when he poured burning alcohol over the stubborn gash.
"Is that why they keep coming loose?" Sanji raised a brow and took a seat at the far end of Zoro's bench, settling in to watch. He wasn't, of course, going to actually offer to help. "You've put the stitches too far apart. That might work for a wound on a less mobile part of your body, but around your ankle, it's hardly better than doing nothing."
Irritation ticked in Zoro's forehead, though he refused to look up even as he felt the cook's eyes on him, all condescending criticism. "Who made you ship's doctor? Last time I checked, you specialized in dicing things up, not putting them back together."
"Every sailor worth his salt learns basic first aid," Sanji pointed out. "We didn't have a doctor on the Baratie, either." Why was he bothering to argue this point? It wasn't as though the swordsman's health was of his concern. Then again, he was walking around dripping blood onto the floor of Sanji's galley... and that was liable to upset the girls. Well, he could make Zoro's wellbeing his business if he had to.
Either there wasn't much argument that Zoro could give or he wasn't interested in wasting the breath, judging from the silence that fell as he mopped at the wound until it was no longer dripping with antiseptic. From what Sanji knew of Zoro's past, mostly from Luffy's ramblings at the kitchen table while he cooked dinner, the swordsman wasn't particularly proficient at much outside of wielding a blade. According to their captain's retelling, he'd come across his first crew member, starving to death in the yard of a Marine base after getting horribly lost in his quest to become a great bushido. It wasn't all that surprising that the fine art of medicine wasn't up his alley. Still hunched over his ankle, the swordsman scowled deeply as he attempted to thread a needle. Maybe it was only Sanji's presence driving him into further irritation but that scowl deepened with each failed attempt -- three now.
In retrospect, the quiet chiding chuckle had been unnecessary, but at the time, the cook couldn't quite help himself. "It's amazing you've lived as long as you have. Here, give it to me. My fingers aren't so bulky."
When Zoro looked up from his work, shoulders hunched and face pursed so much it could only be called a pout in spite of whatever protest the word might illicit. The image took years off the intense swordsman's appearance. For a moment he just looked at the cook with clear suspicion but finally consented to thrust the needle and thread at him wordlessly.
Sanji resisted the urge to laugh again and he even managed to avoid rolling his eyes as he took the proffered objects. Threading the needle was a simple matter of wetting the end of the thread, holding both close and then it was done. He bit the thread loose from the spool and tied it off before holding it up. "There. No problem."
"Nngh," Zoro muttered and it might have been translated to a 'thank you' if one squinted just so and turned their head a little to the right. With the ruined stitches clipped away, he took the needle back and set to the task of sewing the wound back up. He placed the laces maybe just a little bit closer together, though no less lopsided and sloppy. "S'pose you've stitched up plenty of cuts from kitchen knives."
"Mm," Sanji answered, an affirmative if one was listening closely. "When I was a kid." He really aught to have been getting back to dinner preparations, but something kept his eyes trained on Zoro's hands, his mouth set in a contemplative frown.
Zoro said nothing more and the silence quickly grew thick and uncomfortable. The longest they'd spent in each other's company since... that night... was their brief spat in the jungle. For the first few weeks of the voyage, there'd been hours that Zoro would nap or drink at the table while Sanji worked or would be drafted into washing vegetables or drying dishes. Always there was a sense of mutual respect that had blossomed after that first row with Arlong, having seen one another's stamina and determination, having had each other's backs even barely knowing one another. Both horrified and impressed with the damage that the other took and that he endured through the pain. There had been warm understanding between them, if peppered with some good-natured competition and teasing.
But what had formed so quickly, just as quickly had cooled and the hours of quiet, smoky camaraderie seemed like they'd been years ago, not days.
And perhaps with two different people, they might have acknowledged what had happened, admitted there were things that perhaps they aught to talk about. But there was an unspoken and unpleasant understanding that neither would be the one to speak it, be the first to acknowledge what had happened and what it had become. So that left only continuing as they were.
"Have you ever thought about, oh, I don't know, giving your wounds more than an hour or two to heal before you tear them open again?" There was safety in irritation, in accusation and judgment.
"Have you ever thought about minding your own damn business?" Zoro retorted, irritation clashing irritation like two blades. If any trace of concern were detectable in Sanji's voice, it was drowned out in Zoro's defensiveness. "Not all of us have the luxury of standing at the sink all day puffing cigarettes." The moment the words slipped free of Zoro's teeth, his jaw snapped shut with the realization that he'd gone too far -- and the stubbornness that promised he wouldn't take the statement back.
Sanji's eyes flashed darkly for a moment, then he stood, his back to the swordsman. "When I 'stand at the sink' all day, I'm looking out for everyone on this ship. Doing my job. Taking care of them. When you train to the point of bleeding all over the deck, you're not doing anyone any favors. Not even yourself." Sanji turned then, leaned against the counter he now stood before. "Get out. I've got dinner to prepare."
He felt Zoro linger for a moment, felt the swordsman's resentful eyes on his back though the other man said nothing. Sanji heard the galley door open and shut again and never glanced over his shoulder. He turned his attention back to his cooking then, busy enough that he was easily distracted from giving Zoro the satisfaction of catching his eyes through a porthole. When he did finally spare a look outside, he found that the swordsman had returned to his place on the bow but his weights rested idly nearby. Instead of flexing, his freshly scarred ankles were crossed as he meditated with his back to the railing.