Summary: Zoro and Sanji did a lot of things: they fought, bickered, yelled, and argued. But they'd never actually talked before. After Thriller Bark, Zoro began to push himself farther than he had even gone before, and Sanji realizes he has no choice but to talk to the idiot before his guilt kills him.
Sanji let some smoke out of his mouth with a slow breath as he persisted to chop up carrots at what would seem like the speed of light to an onlooker for the dinner he had been preparing for his crew for the past hour.
He could hear, even from up in the Crow's Nest, the sound of something heavy being dropped to the ground and then picked up again quickly in rapid succession. His visible eyebrow narrowed. That damned swordsman.
This had been going on for days now. When Zoro wasn't eating breakfast, lunch, or dinner, he was working out up in the Crow's Nest. Of course, it wasn't always up there. Some of his ridiculously huge weights were too big for the small area that had recently become his workout room in the Sunny, and he would use those on the deck.
The man had even been sleeping less. During the day, his naps had become fewer and fewer, and at night he spent most of the time working out, albeit quieter, as to not wake up his crewmates. He probably got four hours of sleep every night at the most.
What seemed to make Sanji even angrier about this whole situation was that he was the only one who seemed to notice that something was wrong with the swordsman. The only one amongst the eight of them that would occasionally glance warily in the man's direction during meals to make sure he was still operating right, and the only one who seemed to take into consideration his lack of sleep and rise in uneasiness.
It was a stupid anger though, and Sanji knew it. Nobody else would probably be able to tell if Zoro was acting any differently, because the swordsman did an excellent job of hiding it. He would act as normally as possible whenever the crew was around him or talking to him, and then would put his poker face back on when they left.
It also bothered Sanji to some extent that he was actually worried about the dumb Marimo…
However, that was only to some extent. And he couldn't help but let concern and anger flare up inside of him whenever he saw/heard Zoro doing his now ten times more vigorous workouts.
Especially since he had figured out exactly why the shitty swordsman was pushing himself so much harder.
Truthfully, it wasn't that hard to find if you were looking for it. And luckily, the night before at dinner, Sanji had been looking at his Nakama for signs of whatever might have been wrong. He really didn't expect him to slip up and show anything, but was slightly caught off guard when he saw Zoro staring. Staring off into space it looked like.
It was unnoticed amongst the laughter, chatter, and eating of the crew, but it was definitely there. It was a blank stare; blank, but solemn, like he was grieving for someone but didn't want to show tears or heavy emotion. The stare was also determined; like he had promised something important to the person he was grieving over.
Sanji decided to not get caught staring at the Marimo and glanced to his right in the direction the man was staring. His mouth fell open for just a split second before he snapped it shut again. His brow furrowed angrily and worriedly:
It was Luffy. That blank, grieving, determined stare that Zoro had shown for only brief moments was aimed at Luffy.
Sanji's grip slightly tightened around the glass of wine that he was holding as he turned away from Luffy and took to staring at the red liquid in his glass. His attempt at looking casual had been betrayed by all of the stiff emotions on his face.
That moron felt guilty. Guilty for what happened at Thriller Bark.
It made sense. These changes Sanji saw had only begun to happen in the current week, and they had just gotten away from Thriller Bark about a week beforehand. Sanji rolled the cigarette in his mouth back and forth with his teeth in frustration. Why would that idiot feel guilty?!
"Sanji-kun! Could I have a refill on my drink, please?" Nami called out from his left, lifting up her empty glass with an almost seductive wink.
"Of course, Nami-swan!" He cooed, suddenly void of any anger or concern. He danced over to Nami to take her glass and went to get more of the fruit cocktail he had made earlier.
"I'm sure that idiot will get over it," Sanji thought as he got Nami's drink for her, reassuring himself so that he could stop concerning himself with Zoro. After all, that was just one more thing taking his attention away from the lovely Nami-swan and Robin-chwan, "There's nothing to worry about."
Unfortunately for him, Sanji was a routine worrier.
Dinner had come and gone with its usual enthusiasm, Luffy and Brooke going through plates and plates before Sanji threatened to smash their skulls in if they ate any more. (Brooke took advantage of Sanji's statement to make a 'Skull Joke' that sent Luffy into a laughing fit)
Despite what he had told himself the previous night, Sanji still found it hard not to notice when Zoro gave Luffy that same look, immediately going back to eating his food at a good pace. Almost unknowingly, Sanji had tried to make the portions a tad bigger so that the Marimo idiot would have less time to work his freakin' head off and more time to relax.
And he did look mostly relaxed. He'd give an amused smirk or chuckle at his friends' antics like usual, but he didn't slouch back in his seat like he usually did, or rest an arm on the table like he usually did. Those were incredibly small things, but the cook still managed to notice them. It had just about driven him crazy.
He let some smoke out in a hiss as he finished washing the dishes that night, "That's it," He growled in a low voice, "I need to talk to him."
The last few words he said almost made the blond cringe. He, Sanji, talking to Zoro. He must have gone crazy. Shaking his head, the cook rolled the sleeves of his blue striped shirt back down and stuffed his hands into his pockets. He had to look calm, even all he wanted to do was kick some sense into the swordsman's damn head.
"2,945… 2,946…" Zoro grunted breathlessly as he continued his current set of thumb-only push-ups. He stopped very briefly when he heard the sound of footsteps approaching him, glancing to the side to see the light of the setting sun reflect off of ridiculously polished shoes.
The shit cook. He'd know those shoes anywhere.
"What?" The swordsman grunted as he continued his workout, looking away from the pair of shoes he'd spotted. This guy wouldn't just come up to him for any old reason. Zoro wondered shortly if the cook was going to throw some sort of insult at him, or if he wanted to fight or something. It had to be one of those two reasons. What was said completely threw him off guard:
"Hey," Sanji started semi-nervously, looking around once to make sure there were no Nakama in the immediate vicinity before he continued, "I…" He sighed, "We need… To talk."
Zoro froze right away, looking up at the cook like he had just grown a second head, "Excuse me?? We need to talk?" His voice was a mix between disbelief and annoyance, "The heat must have gone to your head, Curly-Br--"
"Zoro," Sanji said sternly. Hearing the use of his actual name made Zoro's look turn a little harder. The cook's expression was so serious; you would think somebody died or something, "This isn't a damn joke, alright?"
The swordsman hopped to his feet- albeit slower than usual, Sanji noticed –and slid his shirt back on, leaning on the Sunny's railing with folded arms and staring at the cook with a guarded look on his face. It was like he already didn't like where the conversation was going before it started.
"… So?" His eyebrow cocked up a little.
Sanji let some smoke billow out of his mouth before starting. He walked over nonchalantly to the Sunny's railing by Zoro, leaning off the side, "I've been noticing some changes with you ever since we left Thriller Bark," Zoro slightly tensed at the name, but then turned to the left towards Sanji. He knew he didn't like where this was going.
"You've been working out freaking ENDLESSLY during the day, and even at night. How much sleep do you get? Like… two or three hours maybe??" He looked up at his Nakama with a liable look, like he'd just found out some dirty little secret, "That would be fine if you took your usual naps during the day, which you don't," He said accusingly, taking out his cigarette shortly to blow out some smoke.
"So? What's your point?" Zoro said defensively. Sanji noticed how tight the man's hands had become around his arms, as well as how he had looked away by now, "You worrying about me, shit cook?"
Sanji ignored the sarcasm, "You of all people should know that if you do too much of that stuff, you'll burn out," He said firmly, "And you dying isn't going to help the crew at all."
"So you're saying that I should stop?" Zoro responded, almost angrily.
"I'm not saying that," Sanji countered, standing up straight and looking at Zoro seriously, "I'm saying you should calm down. Because what happened to Luffy at Thriller Bark was not your fault."
Zoro's eyes suddenly widened, and he turned around to face Sanji with a look that clearly questioned how he knew that. The cook would've laughed at how naïve he looked if the circumstances were different.
"I'm not an idiot," He scoffed, his brow furrowing even more, "That lifeless stare you give Luffy all the time is proof enough that something's wrong with you."
There was silence for a moment while Zoro took to staring at his feet. He brought his head up after a few seconds, "… Does the crew know..?"
Part of Sanji was surprised that he was being so calm about this. It was an angry calm though. Kind of unnerving. He shook his head, "No."
He wasn't sure, but Sanji thought he heard a small sigh of relief as Zoro turned around and mimicked his earlier actions, leaning over the railing of the Sunny and staring fixedly at the setting sun. Sanji shortly walked up beside him, hands back in his pockets.
Zoro's gaze narrowed, "… You know what happened there, don't you Sanji?" He said almost hoarsely.
Sanji was caught off guard by the question, looking surprised for a moment before lowering his stare to the sea lulling calmly beneath them. He knew what Zoro was referring to. And it was something that neither of them would like to remember. But Sanji also knew that Zoro was talking about what happened after he passed out.
"… Yeah," He replied, softer than before, taking his cigarette out of his mouth again, "I'm pretty sure I'm the only one though."
Zoro opened his mouth to ask something, then closed it. He looked over to his right so that he was eye-to-eye with Sanji. His expression was dead serious: "Have you-"
"I haven't told anyone," Sanji said quickly, tearing his gaze away from Zoro's. He could tell that talking about this bothered the man, and didn't want to make him think about it any longer than he had to.
Zoro turned back too, silence once again overcoming the two of them before he spoke up again, "… Thanks."
Sanji waved his hand, as if to dismiss the thanks, "You and I both know that the crew is better off not knowing about it," He didn't say it, but mentally, he finished the sentence with, "Especially Luffy."
Zoro must have been thinking about the same thing, because his face abruptly fell, like he was all of a sudden ashamed of something. Sanji took one glance at him and then sighed, "You know it's not your fault," Zoro leaned back and gripped the railing with his hands tightly. Sanji continued:
"And you also know that Luffy would never blame you for damage done to him."
Zoro's grip tightened as he recalled the giant red orb that was all of his Captain's pain and fatigue. He felt so angry at himself when he saw that. How could he have let Luffy bear all of that all by himself?! The only comfort he had gotten out of the situation was that he was able to bear some of the pain himself. A hand was firmly placed on his shoulder suddenly. He turned to see Sanji looking at him earnestly with a mixture of concern, anger, and seriousness.
"Zoro," He said, "Don't feel like you have to bear that all by yourself, alright? I may be the only one who knows, but I know that everyone- especially Luffy –respects you for everything you've done for the crew. You're always looking out for them. So just calm down, and don't push yourself so hard. We can back you up," A smirk crossed the cook's features:
"Besides, if you die from all of that freakin' weight training, whose ass am I supposed to kick around here?"
Zoro smirked in return, chuckling shortly before letting his grip on the railing slack, and leaning back over. "You wish, ero-cook."
Sanji chuckled as well before pivoting around and walking calmly back towards the kitchen so that he could turn off the lights, "Should I bring you back a bottle of sake so you can relax, Marimo?" He joked over his shoulder.
He could almost see the smirk on Zoro's face, "Nah, I'll pass… I think I'm gonna go to sleep early tonight."
Sanji smiled in relief after hearing the man's last sentence. That was more like the Marimo bastard he knew. As he began up the stairs of the Thousand Sunny, the same voice called him:
"Hm?" He turned around, half-expecting Zoro to take back his previous comment and ask for that bottle of sake after all. The swordsman's back was still turned as he continued:
"The whole 'talking' thing… It ain't half bad."
Oh, I'm such a sucker for Zoro/Sanji Nakamaship! XP But in all seriousness, this was a fun piece to write.
I know there are like a million fics out there about Zoro and Sanji involving Thriller Bark, but I had the urge to do this one anyway. I guess it was just another opportunity to write about two of the best friends in One Piece! XD
I originally intended to put this in my "Wind In The Sails" collection, but then decided not to…As for the reason, I'm not quite sure… O.o Guess I'm just weird like that.
Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed this! Reviews are appreciated! Thank you! :]