Title: The Gift That Keeps on Giving
Theme: Set #03, #8 Surprise
Claim: Zoro + Chopper
Warnings: Sap, fluff, and excessive sweetness!
Disclaimers: Nothing you recognize in here is mine in any way. All rights belong to Eiichiro Oda and all the multitude of people involved in production of the One Piece manga and anime.
Chopper was awake before sunrise on his birthday, far too excited to sleep late.
For most of his life, his birthday hadn't been terribly meaningful. At first, he had been all alone and hadn't even been aware of the concept of celebrating the day one was born. He hadn't spent long enough with Doctor for it to be relevant, and Doctorine didn't stand for such foolishness as frivolous celebration. Now, though...
He knew that Sanji had planned a special cake and meal and many of the others had promised gifts.
Mindful that not all his nakama were morning people, Chopper snuck out on deck.
He was given congratulatory wishes by each crew mate as they appeared on deck for the day. Everyone, that is, except Zoro, whom he didn't see at all until breakfast.
The swordsman entered with Nami, discussing something in hushed tones.
"Good morning, Zoro!" Chopper greeted, grinning broadly.
"Hey, Chopper," Zoro returned absently, continuing to follow the navigator across the room.
Chopper knew he shouldn't take it personally, but it stung a little to be so quickly dismissed. Zoro was almost always willing to indulge the doctor, and Chopper knew the swordsman knew this particular day's significance. He inched closer to the pair, curious about what subject could be so engrossing.
"So?" Zoro was asking. "Can I?"
"I'll look and see if I have anything you can use, but I'm not promising anything."
"Thank you," Zoro said sincerely. "I really appreciate it." He turned to walk to the table and jumped slightly when he saw how close Chopper was.
"What are you guys talking about?" Chopper inquired. "Can I help somehow?"
"No!" Zoro blurted in a panicked tone. When he spoke again, he was much calmer. "I mean, don't worry about it, Chopper. I, uh, need to go talk to Usopp."
Without further ado, he rushed to the other side of the room, leaving behind a very confused reindeer. Chopper looked up at Nami, question clear on his face: "What was that all about?"
"Sorry, Chopper." The corners of her mouth were quirked upward in a sly smile. "It's kind of a secret."
Chopper looked across the room to see Zoro gesturing rather more than usual as he conversed with Usopp, who was smiling. Then, Zoro handed him a piece of paper. Usopp started to read what was written on it and laughed until a glare from Zoro silenced that. Usopp said something, expression suddenly solemn, and tucked the paper in the bib pocket of his overalls.
All through the meal, Chopper tried to catch Zoro's eye, but the swordsman never looked at him unless he was looking somewhere else. It was very frustrating! He would have investigated more, but Luffy dragged him out on deck to fish for lunch.
There hadn't been so much as a nibble for quite some time, and Chopper found his gaze wandering to the spot on the lawn deck where Zoro was currently napping. Usopp was sitting to his left, sharing some story or other. Normally, Chopper would be listening intently, but he had other things on his mind. Luffy was on his right, shooting off random questions and interjecting exclamations.
Since Zoro didn't appear to be going anywhere anytime soon, Chopper was about to try and pick up Usopp's story halfway when Nami walked out on deck with a fistful of rolled parchment. She woke Zoro up with a none to gentle kick to the ribs and handed him the roll. Zoro stood, walked to one of the doors to the men's quarters, and cleared his throat loudly. He waited a moment, possibly expecting some kind of response, then cleared his throat again.
"Oi, Usopp!" he finally called.
"Eh?" Usopp paused mid sentence and looked over at Zoro. The swordsman waved the roll of parchment. "I just remembered that I have an important project to finish!" The sniper jumped to his feet and hurried through the door after Zoro.
"Hey, Chopper, look! You've got a bite!" Suddenly Chopper no longer had time to ponder Zoro's mysterious project.
Zoro and Usopp reappeared at lunch, then Zoro went up to the crow's nest to train and Usopp disappeared to his factory again. Chopper didn't see either man again until his birthday dinner. Usopp was the last to enter the dining room, carrying two wrapped boxes. He handed the smaller of the boxes to Zoro, who tucked it in his haramaki instead of placing it with the other gifts.
Dinner was amazing, as was the delicious cake. One by one, the crew presented their gifts. Luffy gave him a board game they had looked at in a shop on the last island. Sanji had made him a box of special chocolates flavored with berries and herbs. Nami presented him with some medical ingredients she had insisted were "too expensive" when he'd asked for them a few weeks ago. Usopp gave him a book he had hand written and illustrated about the adventures of a superhero reindeer. Robin also gifted him with a book--hers a tome of medical oddities. Brook performed a birthday song on his violin and asked if Chopper had any requests. He didn't know very many songs, so he asked for "Bink's Sake," and they all sang along. Franky had built a cotton candy machine. They cranked it up for the party, but they all agreed, despite protests from the captain, that they should use it on special occasions only. Zoro was the only one left, and everyone turned to look at him.
"I'd like to give you my gift in private," Zoro mumbled, looking slightly embarrassed. "If that's okay." Nami and Usopp smiled knowingly, whispering what they knew to those next to them, who passed the information on in turn.
"Sure." Chopper led Zoro to the infirmary.
"Here." Zoro pressed the gift Chopper had seen before into his hooves. "It's not fancy or anything, but I don't exactly have a lot of money that Nami hasn't already laid claim to."
Chopper tore off the wrapping to reveal a small booklet of uniformly cut rectangles of parchment stapled together. When he looked at the back, Chopper could tell the pieces had been cut from one of Nami's scrap pieces that was ink blotted and smudged. She usually reused them, if at all possible, because parchment was expensive, but it appeared she had let Zoro have this one. The front piece read, "For Use of Chopper Only." He recognized Usopp's flowing script.
"I would have written them myself, but Usopp writes neater than I do," Zoro explained, "and he can draw."
As Chopper flipped to the next page, he realized what the booklet was. They were coupons! The first read, "Good for Zoro's participation in one game." There were several copies. Various small, game related doodles made a border around the edge. The rest were similar sorts of things, and Chopper laughed when he came across, "Zoro will not remove his bandages for the length of time indicated here," followed by a blank. Again, this one had several copies, and each had a little picture of a sulky, bandaged Zoro. Wonder of wonders, the last five slips were left blank, to be filled in as he chose!
"These are awesome, Zoro! Thanks!"
"I'm glad you like them." Zoro smiled fondly at him and turned to leave.
"Zoro, wait!" Chopper scrambled over to his desk and searched until he found a pencil. He scribbled something on a blank coupon, tore it out, and handed it to Zoro. It read simply, "One hug." Zoro rolled his eyes, but complied.
"Happy birthday, little guy."
It was, Chopper thought. It really, really was!