Title: Absence Makes the Walls Grow Stronger?
Challenge: Time
Character/s: Zoro mostly. (He's thinking about Sanji, though. Their relationship status is left open to interpretation! ;D)
Song: The Older I Get
Artist: Skillet
Words: 617
Rating: K+? (I dunno...)
Warnings: Uh... Bittersweet ending? Possibly uncharacteristic introspection? Also, once again there are spoilers for Thriller Bark and beyond, up to the most recent happenings.
Disclaimers: These lyrics for the inspiring song were written by Brian Howes and John Cooper, and the version of this containing lyrics can be found on LiveJournal. Characters, as they ever have been, are the brilliant brain spawn of Eiichiro Oda.

Zoro could hardly remember what had set off the antagonism between he and Sanji anymore. He'd said something about Nami that the cook took the wrong way, and it snowballed from there.

He liked to think that they didn't really hate each other. Sanji was a fighter he was glad to have at his back in a battle, and sometimes it seemed like life and death situations were the only times they could cooperate civilly.

Things seemed to have settled into a pattern of banter and blows that was more or less routine. There was an understanding that any bruised egos and feelings weren't really intended. No apologies were ever offered. Then they arrived at Thriller Bark.

After the confrontation with Kuma, Sanji's attacks had become harsher, the comments sharper. Zoro knew it was his fault, but he couldn't figure out exactly what had set the chef off. Like Hell he was gonna ask, either!

Sure it was his fault, but he wasn't going to admit it! He didn't have an ounce of regret about offering himself in Luffy's place. He'd do it again in a heartbeat.

He hoped that after a while Sanji might let it drop. The stupid cook had tried to do the same thing after all! Where'd he get off trying to make Zoro feel guilty about it? The longer the tension built, the more Zoro's feelings shifted from exasperation to anger. He started to miss the routine.

Zoro might have brought himself to actually talk about it, except Kuma got in the way again. Suddenly there was enforced distance between them. Without an angry cook right in front of his face all the time, the situation fell into a different light.

The swordsman liked to think he was living a life without regret, but looking back on it from his forced isolation, it hurt to think that he never made much of an effort to fix things.

Two years was an awfully long time to mull over things, especially when all training was done on Mihawk's schedule. The older, more experienced swordsman didn't fight petty battles, and Zoro wouldn't dare mock him anyways-not when he'd had to beg the Shichibukai to help him!

He still missed the old routine teasing and skirmishes, but he could also see how ridiculous the situation had become after Thriller Bark. Maybe if he'd prodded more, if he'd let the moron vent at him a bit, they could've moved past this!

Was Sanji thinking the same things wherever he was? Would things still be so strained between them when they met up again at Saobody? The more he thought about it, Sanji was probably the closest he had to a friend on the crew.

Sure he liked and respected Luffy-he wouldn't be on the crew if he didn't-but Usopp was more apt to hold the captain's attention with wild stories, adventures, and fishing.

He had hoped that they could maybe start fresh at Saobody. Despite having the best of intentions, the first thing they'd done upon laying eyes on each other was launch into a fight.

Sanji wasn't pulling any punches either. They'd both gotten considerably stronger while apart. Zoro was glad they were still on an almost equal footing. He would've hated to feel like he was being a bully.

Every attempt Zoro made to remain civil or take the high ground was ignored. It almost seemed like Sanji was going out of his way to push his buttons!

Zoro finally just let himself fall back into the old patterns of name calling and aggression. Maybe someday they'd move past it, but it didn't look like that day was coming any time soon.