Damn that marimo bastard, why did he feel the need to jump in like that?! I would have got out of the situation... somehow... I sure as hell did not need (or want) his help (if he was going to end up like this). Fucking stupid, stupid marimo headed swordsman.

Everyday on the Thousand Sunny held something un-expected, whether that be Luffy falling through the deck (a combination of indestructibility and pure clumsiness) or a marine ship (or twenty) attacking. Still life was much more worthwhile being on that ship no matter what trouble brewed. The captain may have been childlike in the way he expressed himself on an everyday basis, but when it really counted he seem able to tap into every Nakama's thoughts, knew how to keep them going, to spur them on to greater heights and achieve their dreams. Certainly the most open minded of all those in the East Blue if not the whole sea, he seemed to understand the unspoken. Could that be why Zoro trusted him so much? Was that why he'd been following him with some sort of innate sense that he would be able to keep his promise?

Without question, I have followed Luffy as he gradually increased our crew. Only now did something feel like it was missing... Why? What more could I need or want? Each fight has told me I am improving my skills and stepping closer to my promise, so why do I feel hollow recently? Che! So much for training clearing my perspective, even that isn't working today thought Zoro testily. Not usually one to dwell upon matters such as these.

Zoro had woken especially early that morning and didn't know why. Unable to sleep he got up to start his training for the day. He quietly moved from his wooden hammock stealing a glance around the cabin. Usopp was snoring, muttering from time to time about "the fearless captain Usopp", Luffy slept soundly as a small child would, a slight grin playing at the corners of his mouth, then Zoro's eyes caught the sleeping form of the ships cook, hair as always draped over one eye, his arms gracefully folded over his chest breathing deeply... Zoro shook himself, why did he always find the damn ero-cook sleeping such a calming sight? As if Zoro's gaze was rousing him Sanji turned over, Zoro made his exit before the cook saw him gawping, Che! Why did the baka have to have such beautifully blonde hair? … which Zoro longed to touch, not that he would EVER admit that to Sanji, or anyone else on the Thousand Sunny for that matter.

Pulling on his pants and Haramaki placing the comforting weight of his three swords at his waist in the bathroom he heard someone stirring in the cabin. Coming out of the bathroom, he bumped straight in to the Ero-Cook,

"Marimo Bastard, watch what your doing" Sanji said, voice still gruff from a deep sleep

"Same to you, maybe if you didn't have hair in your face you'd see what you were doin."

"Fuck off stupid swordsman" Sanji grumbled, barging past Zoro into the bathroom.

Shaking his green haired head Zoro made his way to the deck hissing insults about the cook as he went. As involved as he was in his cursing he didn't notice Sanji peer round the door of the bathroom to stare after him, taking in the well-muscled back and shoulders of the swordsman, his shirt draped over one shoulder.

The morning was bright and already uncomfortably warm and humid… or so he thought. Discarding his shirt Zoro stood in the quiet open space of the deck closing his eyes, listening to the slight breeze through the sails and the shift of the waves as they bore the Thousand Sunny on its quest. Taking a deep breath Zoro centered himself, relaxing himself nerve by nerve seeking the tranquillity he brought himself to before and after each session of training. Sanji's blonde hair flashed through his mind. Huffing slightly at this rather sudden and unusual interruption of finding his concentration he tried another deep calming breath, only to recognise the familiar smell of tobacco as Sanji made his way past him to Nami's mikan grove.

Zoro growled, stupid floppy haired cook, why the hell is he in my headspace today? Giving himself a mental shake he placed his hand on Wadou's hilt and once again slowly took a breath. Drawing it slowly he relished the singing note of the blade leaving its sheath. Extending his arm fully in front of him slowly opening his eyes he settled into his attack stance. He executed the single sword techniques he practised with Wadou, exclusively, as fluidly as always. Then he placed Wadou between his teeth and drew Sandai Kitetsu and Shuusui taking his stance once more.

Sanji finished in the bathroom and made his way out to the Mikan grove his Nami - swan loved. He took out a cigarette and placing it between his lips struck a match to light it. He took a long and welcome drag, allowing the smoke to fill his lungs, the calm the nicotine provided slowly seeping into his system, and slowly breathed out a long smokey breath. He saw Zoro standing in the center of the deck breathing deeply eyes closed. The sun playing along the huge scar on his chest as it rose slowly. Unlike most mornings, Zoro did not draw his sword straight away; instead, he seemed to give himself a small shake and attempted the breath again. Sauntering past Sanji saw that again, he, again, did not draw his sword... perhaps he couldn't find the "calm" he'd heard Zoro mention to Usopp when he'd asked the swordsman why he seemed to meditate before and after a training session. Sanji could have sworn he heard a deep predatory growl from the swordsman, so he decided to make his way past as silently as possible, Zoro interrupted in training ALWAYS resulted in harsh curses and fights, having just woken up Sanji didn't feel like a fight right now. Just as the cook was turning his back, he heard the sound of the first mates most treasured sword being drawn slowly, almost reverently. He turned to watch. The way that meathead moved when practicing his sword art was…..well…artistic. All smooth actions, no movement wasteful and always executed with precision and power. He had seen those same movements tear enemies to ribbons in seconds; it took him by surprise every time he saw Zoro practice that such graceful actions he was currently witnessing could have such bloody and brutal effects. He sighed a little as Zoro straightened up to his full height having finished the first part of his sword drill. He moved Wadou to his mouth and made to draw his other swords. Zoro began to turn in Sanji's direction as he once again took up his attack stance. Realising he was about to be caught staring at Zoro Sanji about faced as quickly as possible. Hoping the super sharp senses of the first mate had not alerted him to his presence.

As Zoro drew Shuusui, he could have sworn there had been a streak of blonde hair and cigarette smoke disappearing up to the Mikan grove. Had Sanji been watching….again? The first mate was sure he had seen the cook watch him train on many an occasion in the last few weeks.

After gathering some of Nami's mikan Sanji went to the galley to make juice for breakfast. He knew it would only be another half hour before the rest of the crew awoke more than likely due to Luffy's loud demands for food and whining at how terribly hungry he was. It never stopped amazing Sanji just how much food their captain could consume (it was ridiculous that his Devil Fruit power extended to his stomach). Sanji set about making pancakes, bacon, sausages and fruit salad for the crew. Nami-swan and Robin-Chan's breakfast would of course look the most amazing, but every crewmember's food would taste the same - perfect.

Putting the final additions to the table Sanji was suddenly rocked on his feet. The Thousand Sunny shuddered as a loud thud reverberated through the ships frame. Fucking stupid Marimo! What the hell had he done now?! Sanji raced out of the galley towards the deck.

"LUUUUFFYYYYY!" he heard Zoro bellow loudly followed by curses and the heavy stamp of boots across the deck.

Zoro had just been about to pick up his weights when he heard the distinct whistle of a cannon ball hurtling through the air. He turned to the direction of the sound to see a fleet of marine ships approaching and a cannon ball rushing square on to the mast. With agility honed from years of training Zoro was in front of the mast before the cannon ball could reach it. He drew Wadou in one powerful motion with enough speed and strength to slice the cannon ball in two so that the pieces landed either side of the mast with a resounding thud.

He screamed for the captain and ran to the railing of the ship to get a better look at the trouble approaching. Damn it! How in the hell did I not sense the Marine bastards? He counted three small but agile Marine ships and they were closing quickly, well within cannon range as they had already demonstrated. He turned abruptly when he heard running footsteps behind him.

"Oh for the love of women marimo! How could you miss those fuckers sailing over for breakfast? I'm pretty sure you usually keep your eyes OPEN when you swing your damn tin sticks about!" yelled Sanji as he saw the ships closing.

"Piss off shitty cook, I was concentrating and turned the other way you ass," spat Zoro with more venom than usual. To Sanji the swordsman looked tense rather than his usual manic battle loving , shark-like smile his face was drawn with an inner….worry?!

Sanji didn't have time to consider this more as by now, Luffy and the rest of the crew were on deck. Another cannon ball made its way to the Thousand Sunny.

Luffy saw the cannon ball and bared his teeth. Stepping onto the railing Luffy stretched to reach anything he could creating a barrier between the offending cannon fire and his ship. Nami, meanwhile, was screaming for Franky to turn the ship to port so the sails could catch the breeze more effectively in an attempt to gain more distance on the marines.

"STOP FIRING AT MY SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIP!" the last word of the captain stretched as much as he did while deflecting the cannon ball. With a "twang", Luffy sent the marines little gift speeding back with what Usopp could only describe as fluke accuracy, as it tore through the main mast of the foremost ship. One ship down and two to go.

"Aaahhh, N…NA…NAMIIIII!!" Usopp screamed, "More ships on the port side… two of them!" the customary high note of panic in Usopp's voice.

How…? How in all the Grand Line had Zorro not noticed the two sets of Marines? Baka… damn baka! He cursed, couldn't even sense them… why?! Zoro was always one of the first to sense trouble, sometimes even before the crewmember on look out duty had sighted the threat.

Now that the Thousand Sunny was flanked, even with Franky's arsenal, there would be the possibility of close quarters fighting… Che! Why wait for them to come to me and mess up our ship, he growled inwardly. This would be the perfect chance for him to work off (or attempt to work off) the rage at his sudden incompetence, building like a tsunami, threatening to crash down on him and push him over the edge. The only question left was - which ship should be the target?

"Luffy! Get me on that shitty marine ship now!" the first mate raced to his captain's side sheathing his sword.

"Zo…Zoro you always say you'll kill me if I have to throw you!"

"Don't care" Zoro cut Luffy off mid- protest, "Just DO IT Luffy" Luffy was about to object further when the first mate reached for his left arm and untied the bandana reserved for serious fights. Seeing that Zoro was barely keeping his fury bubbling under the surface the captain, lacking the shirt he usually threw Zoro with, grabbed the back of the first mates neck with a slap and launched him head long towards the nearest ship.

Unfortunately for Zoro the accuracy previously witnessed by the crew did not extend to his launch. In fact, it fell short. Seeing that he was either going to take an unintentional swim or slam into the hull Zoro executed a summersault drawing his sword and driving it forward so that it bit deeply into the timber acting as a pick. Muttering many a foul word Zoro readied himself for the oncoming fight, very unlike him, he paused. Although he could very well hear the marines pelting towards the railing above, he could not sense their menace or killing intent. A slight twinge of panic tugged at Zoros' stomach. He had always relied on his inhuman ability to sense the raw emotion of murderous intent. On numerous occasions, it had alerted him to the most skilled and silent of assassins, saving not only his life but also his Nakama's.

A bullet skimmed his shoulder interrupting the swordsman's unsettling thoughts. Crushing the sudden questioning of his senses Zoro savagely tore the sword from ships hull and launching himself upward into the heat of battle he bore down on the first of his victims.

"Zoros stopped… he isn't moving for the deck" Chopper pointed out from his safe position behind the Thousand Sunny's mast. Although it was only a momentary pause it was unheard of with Zoro. Usually the blood lust he experienced when fighting (especially in a rage) ended up with him being restrained to prevent more damage than necessary. What the hell was wrong with the shitty swordsman?

The fact Zoro seemed unable to settle to his training with the ease he usually did coupled with him not sensing the marines until they were practically knocking on the galley door for breakfast, and this sudden pause, unsettled Sanji more than he was willing to let on.

"Oi… Oi Luffy!" Sanji called pushing his hair irritably out of his eyes in an impotent gesture to try to ease the anxiety he was beginning to feel. "Throw me over; I'm not letting the fucking baka marimo have ALL the fun"

Luffy was currently shrinking back to his normal size after ballooning to bounce back yet another cannon ball. Straightening the straw hat he considered his treasure, he made to grab Sanji's collar.

"Luffy… mind the shirt… it was expensive." Luffy merely chuckled and launched Sanji through the air. He only had enough time to reflect that being launched voluntarily was only marginally more acceptable than the more common surprise or accidental flying lessons Luffy would sometimes treat them to, before hitting the deck with a jolt.

The scene on the marine ship was fine… if you liked crimson chaos and brutality. Sanji had a moment to survey the scene since this side of the deck was full of Zoro's discarded enemies. He saw the swordsman being swamped by the remaining marines on this ship. He didn't look one little bit disturbed. In fact the swordsman's feral grin was visible around the sword he held in his mouth. In a blinding flash of movement, Zoro executed the move Sanji had come to know as the Oni Giri. It used Zoros outlandish speed to slice through any enemy in range. It was so fast the enemy usually saw Zoro sheath his swords before they even realised they had been hit.

Panting slightly after his exertions Zoro still felt as tense and as ill at ease as he had hanging onto the side of the ship. He didn't know why though. There must have been thirty marines on the deck, hadn't he cleared them all? He had no injuries, so what the hell was he worrying for? He had to work this "stress" off somehow; either that or he was getting back on the Thousand Sunny and kicking that ero coo…"

"Oi shitty swordsman, you just goin' to stand there in a trance or are you goin' to do something useful?"

"Not the time to mess with me BAKA!" Zoro spat furiously feeling his temper raise a notch… or twelve.

Sanji studied Zoro's face. The usual anger at being provoked by him was plain to see, but somewhere in Zoro's eyes, there was something else… uncertainty? No, what would he have to be unsure of? He had nothing to doubt.

"Come on, you've hogged all the fun enough meat-head. Lets see what we can do about getting on that ship" Sanji gestured to the marines still hounding the Thousand Sunny with cannon fire. Sanji elected to keep an eye on the swordsman during the next fight, for some reason the flicker of something… not… something not Zoro in the swordsman's eyes had unnerved the cook.

Looking in the direction of the other marine vessel Zoro mentally calculated the distance. He looked up towards the mast and decided that should the mast come down it would make a very convenient bridge between the ships. Sanji was simultaneously coming to the same conclusion. They moved towards the mast. A mock bow from Sanji gave Zoro the go ahead to take down the mast. He drew Wadou, took his stance and closed his eyes breathing deeply. He coughed. Opening his eyes, he gritted his teeth in annoyance and tried again. Sanji noticed he was a hell of a lot more tense than usual when performing such a basic task. Slowly he moved the sword back, Sanji blinked, he missed the physical action but felt the force. For a moment, the mast didn't move, then it began to slide and topple toward the unsuspecting marine ship to their starboard side.

The cocky grin was back on Zoros face as he watched the mast crash into the deck. Heh, nothing to worry about really was there! Mimicking the bow Sanji had given him Zoro smirked up at the leggy blonde.

"Wouldn't want to be accused of hogging all the fun now would I ero cook? After you." he gestured for Sanji to start across the mast. Sanji felt a slight blush rise to his cheeks so he hopped onto the mast hastily turning his back. He looked across to the now disorganised marines. He made a clicking noise against his teeth, "Hmmm not many on the deck." he commented in a bored tone.

"So? If you're just going to stand there move and I'll deal with the bastards."

Turning to make a smart comeback Sanji caught sight of a stray marine behind Zoro. His exposed eye grew wide in surprise as he saw the marine level a rifle at Zoro's back. This caused Zoro to smirk and open his mouth to give the shitty cook more attitude when he was silenced by the crack of the rifle and the bullet tearing through his side. Shock drained his usually tanned face.

"Fuck!" Sanji hissed why didn't Zoro react?! He NEVER allowed himself to be attacked from behind.

An uglier expression now crossed Zoro's face "SHITTY MARINE!" he roared as he turned and cut the marine down with shuusui. He stumbled slightly as he turned to face Sanji once more. The bullet must have passed straight through because Zoro now had a jagged round wound about the size of a belli in his right side just below the ribs and a smaller neater wound a little lower on his back. Blood flowed freely down his side; he made no effort to staunch the flow.

"Zoro… what the… are you…?"

"Shut up cook," the injured swordsman snarled tossing his head in the direction of the marines beginning to make their way across the mast, "deal with THEM first, THIS later." he made as if to pass Sanji so the cook turned to the oncoming marines, levelled himself and ploughed down the mast knocking the enemies off their feet into the water below with his powerful kicks.

During the ensuing battle, Sanji didn't have much of a chance to keep an eye on the first mate. Gun shot wound or not the swordsman dispatched his opponents as efficiently as always

The gunshot wound was worse than Zoro had anticipated, usually pain like this spurred him on out of pride and anger, but, right now, he felt drained and confused. He couldn't understand how he hadn't been able to react to the marine behind him, he had honed his senses to the point of demon like reactivity - he had NEVER been successfully attacked from behind.

While to an observer, his skills seemed of their usual standard Zoro felt laboured. His heart was pounding, sweat poured from him and his concentration was nowhere to be found. He could feel his strength slowly leaving him as the continued movement made the wound bleed more and more freely. His own rasping breath was making it hard for him to hear his attackers approach. His swords felt heavy and alien. Barely able to wield all three swords, he resorted to using only Wadou.

Sanji's faith in his judgement that the swordsman was ok was dashed the second he saw Zoro resort to using one sword. In all the time Sanji had been with the straw hats, he had NEVER seen Zoro single sword techniques in a normal battle unless his swords were broken.

When Zoro had eliminated the nearest marines he staggered to the rail and held on for support - only for a second- but Sanji didn't miss the action. He moved his fight nearer to the swordsman in case he needed help.

Zoro was sure Sanji had seen him lean into the rail. Damn, that's all I need. One moment of weakness and he had to see it. Zoro straightened quickly seeing Sanji move closer in what he thought may have been concern… but seriously hoped was not.

As the last marines gathered to make a final attack on the two pirates Sanji stole a glance at the Thousand Sunny to see the other marine ships near it in a most sorry state indeed. Once the cannon fire from the ship he and Zoro were on had ceased, Franky had deployed his full arsenal and decimated the marines' naive enough to think they could conquer the straw hats.

His one eyed gaze snapped back to the fight when he heard Zoro curse foully. Three marines dropped to the deck, the third slightly after the others. He however, wouldn't be getting back up as he'd had Wadou forced through his throat. Zoro never used deadly force unless in a life and death struggle. These marines certainly were not skilled enough to threaten Zoro's life. He couldn't make sense of what he'd heard and seen. Then something made it all clear. Even as he planted his hands on the deck and rearranged the features of several marines with powerful and accurate kicks the realisation hit him. Not only was there a large and rapidly spreading patch of blood seeping through Zoros haramaki there was now a gash from the top of Zoros left shoulder to just underneath his right shoulder blade.

Zoro felt the bite of the blade on his back and flung himself forward to stop it going fatally deep. Cursing ruthlessly, he swung his sword arm flying round stabbing the marine through the throat. He realised belatedly he had killed the marine rather then wounded. He hissed painfully as sweat ran into the new wound. He heard the last choking breath of the marine and the dull thud as the lifeless body slumped to the deck. The cook moved towards Zoro; worry clear in his visible blue eye. This stung the swordsman's pride and he forced himself to stand straight gritting his teeth against the pain and placing Wadou back in its sheath.

"Fucking touch me and I'll kill you." he rumbled menacingly as Sanji made to support him. He pulled off his bandana and retied it around his left arm.

"Luuuuuffy… Chooopperrrr!" Sanji hollered as the pirate ship approached

"Hai?" Chopper yelled back sensing the worry in Sanji's voice.

"Zoro needs you to take a look at a bullet wound and make sure you've got your sewing kit ready!" Sanji moved too quickly for the blood-deprived swordsman throwing the stupid Marimo's arm over his shoulder. "You can kill me later fucker," he said eyeing the first mate. He received a low harsh growl but nothing more as he saw the first mates eyes dim a little. Zoro leaned on Sanji slightly and in doing so caused the cooks arm to brush against the wound on his back. Sanji felt Zoro tense and shudder against the pain, even though he tried to suppress it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~TO BE CONTINUED~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Be nice it's my first attempt at fanfiction. There are more chapters to come if people like this (it's going to be a long one :s)