Hi everyone, thank you for your patience! I hope you enjoy the new chapter. Please leave a review! This is an old fic so I have no idea how many people are actually still interested. Reviews + telling me what you think = less time taken to work out a new chapter = faster updates. I have no plan I'm just making this up as I go.
Chapter 11 - Flashbang
"Wado Ichimonji..." Mihawk murmured, browsing through the photographs he had taken for documentation. It had been a long standing project of his to catalogue masterfully crafted swords of the world. He now had a more than eager assistant for this project in Miss Tashigi whose passion went even further. While he was contented with knowledge her desire was to 'save' the treasures that had fallen into undeserving hands. Crooks and croocked officials alike had felt the extent of her ardour. He couldn't say he wasn't pleased with the results of Tashigi's liberation efforts since it mostly benefited him and the museum but he had a suspicion that her eagerness might lead her to trouble one day.
Wado Ichimonji was one of the most beautiful blades he'd had the privilege to handle. He could not help but wonder how had it come to Roronoa - it didn't seem like a family heirloom, considering what little he knew about Zoro's background. He would have to handle 'collecting the data' about the years the sword had been lost to the world himself - Tashigi often got little carried away when she was suspicious of something.
And he would get a chance to talk to Roronoa about something else than work...
Although what good would it do? What could possibly come out of it?
It wasn't as if they'd ever be friends. Sure there was some sort of strange mutual interest, a pull if you will - but it would be impossible. What would Roronoa think if he'd find out that Mihawk was Hawk-Eyes, and knew his identity. That would look really bad...
"Hm?" He perked up in surprise as his phone vibrated.
"Benn?" he frowned as he read the text. Not that it was that rare but considering what had happened...
Zoro yawned as he jogged the last few steps to his and Sanji's apartment complex. He was in a good mood, pumped up from running. It had been roughly a week since Zoro had been instructed to go to the library by Dracule. Apparently he must have told him what the essay was about or had mentioned the course before since Dracule's recommendations had been spot on and those shelf numbers had everything he needed. He didn't remember doing that though... but then again he'd been all over the place that day.
He'd sent his work to Robin for proof-reading. She'd also helped him with citing the sources. He wasn't keen on being assisted like this, with something so out of his comfort zone but seeing Sanji seethe while Robin's attention was focused on mentoring Zoro made it all worth it. And if everything went well he'd have the stupid assignment dealt with sooner rather than later.
Hawk-eyes had been helpful too. Sending him an useful link or two on writing and even a meme. Zoro grinned as he thought about his chat partner. He had talked about the essay with him and shared ideas when he saw that it wasn't bothering his friend. He also found Zoro's subject interesting. It was swords, of course, (although selected based on Dracule's shelf number notes...).
Dracule... Where to even start on sorting out his thoughts about the man. There was something predatory about him, the way he moved, the way he watched his surroundings... like he was constantly assessing a battlefield. In Zoro's experience humans were all just animals, every single one was capable of becoming a predator. Was Dracule one that killed for sport or one just looking out for himself? Perhaps he wasn't quite as shitty as he'd first thought. He seemed to be civil enough with Benn, but for some reason Zoro always got the feeling that he was being watched. It didn't help that he'd become more concious about it since he'd been forced to face the fact that his boss was attractive. The rare cases where Zoro had dealt with this kind of interest before had never had the element of danger like Dracule.
Zoro fumbled the apartment door open and was about to go grab a fresh towel for showering when he felt rather than saw Sanji glaring daggers at his back.
"What?" he growled, staring at stupid Curly-brow.
"The hell do you think you're doing!?" Sanji hissed at him
"Uh... going to sho-"
"How dare you upset a lady!"
"I can only imagine her pain, dealing with a shitty moss head like you! It pisses me off that a delicate flower is suffering because of a dumbass like you!"
"...The hell are you talking about!?"
"Don't play dumb moss-brain! She came asking for you, although I don't understand why she would want to have anything to do with a beast such as this..."
"Who? What did she look like?"
"...You're going to have to give a bit more than that..."
"A dark-haired cutie with red glasses! So cute! And upset because of you!"
"I don't know anyone like that! I have no idea what's happening!"
"You stood her up you pig didn't you!"
"Piss off! I'm going to shower now!" Zoro yelled and locked himself in. He hoped that Sanji would cool off while he scrubbed himself clean. The cook gave him the stink eye from the living room, but didn't say anything as Zoro skulked into his room for clean clothes. He heard the doorbell and frowned at Sanji's surprised reaction.
"Tashigi-chan! You're back! Please come in can I get you anything, some te-"
"Ah, please there's no need," Zoro heard a womans voice, slightly meek sounding. "I just thought..." Her voice gained some determination, "I thought that perhaps Roronoa would be home now?"
"Then I'll talk to him, sorry for intruding!" Zoro watched, confused, as she pushed past Sanji and caught his stare. Wait a minute... Tashigi sounded familiar now? Tashigi? At the museum?
"Roronoa Zoro I presume?" Tashigi was a young woman, fitting Sanji's description - yes, pretty too. The look on her face told Zoro that she was not pleased about something, but what did that have to do with him!?
"And you are Tashigi, I've heard about your work." He offered. "The swords in the cellar, I guess you have a lot to do with those, pretty impressive."
"Oh!" her expression wavered into a slight blush "Thank you, it's just years of hard wor- You've been there!? But... no one is allowed without..."
"Yeah I took Wado-"
"Took Wado Ichimonji? So it is true you have it? How?"
"I... Why should I tell you anything!?" Zoro snapped, discussion going into very uncomfortable territory.
"I had reason to suspect the sword wasn't aquired by legal means, now I have my confirmation, please do the responsible thing and relinquish it - unless you can prove yourself innocent. I'm giving you the chance to do the right thing-" She invited herself into Zoro's room, as he wasn't able to do anything about it unless he was going to manhandle her, which he wanted to avoid, since Sanji was watching and everything.
"Look lady, I'm not giving it up-"
"...Wado Ichimonji..." Tashigi stared at the corner where the sword rested. "and... that can only be Shusui! And Sandai Kitetsu!" She spun to give Zoro a severe look. "You really are a sword thief!"
"Enough!" Zoro barked and grabbed the lecturing woman by the shoulders, Sanji raging behind him as he pushed her out of the door and closed it firmly, ignoring her protests.
He muted out Sanji's words too and retreated into his room, but not without getting a beer. He'd just decided that he deserved one.
He sat down on the floor, leaning against the mattress, and stared at the three swords in the dark corner. He wasn't sure how much time had passed until he snapped out of it and grabbed his phone.
'i was just yelled at for hurting a delicate flower's feelings and got accused of theft. now i'm drinking alone in a dark room. how's your day?' he typed and sent the message to Hawk-Eyes.
'Why are you assaulting plant life?'
'I'm minding my own business and this chick Tashigi came by. I've heard her name but I've never met her before, and she walks in and tells me I'm a thief. Sanji's angry because Sanji is Sanji.'
Mihawk had accepted the invitation and found Benn at the local 'angst bar' as they'd dubbed it. The actual name of the place had long left his memory. He didn't seem different from usual, Mihawk noted, but Benn wasn't a very expressive guy. They were both reserved him and Benn - perhaps it was why they got along. That and being able to carry on an intellectual debate about things of interest and current events, unlike some people.
"Where's the Red Menace? Hardly like him to miss a chance for a drink. Or two."
"Off to negotiate a deal or something. The usual?"
"Yes, thank you." Strange. They weren't glued to eachother but it was unusual that Benn would stay behind while Shanks was talking business, Benn being his right-hand man and all. Perhaps it was something unimportant... and he had told Benn to keep Shanks away.
"Well I suppose a little quiet is nice for a change." he smiled wryly. "Is it just me or has he been even more annoying in general lately?" The only answer he got was a sigh and a shrug. Alright, no more talking about Shanks, which was fine by him.
They went on to talk about the news and even some books.
"There's a new miniseries based on that you know." Benn said "We should watch that sometime."
"Is it one of those 'sexed up' versions?" Mihawk made a face of disgust. "I hate it when they make period dramas where everyone clearly has perfect modern make-up. And they keep fucking up the costumes how hard is it to look up reference?"
"No this didn't seem like that." Benn assured him. "And you got a point, if you want to dress them like runway models then make a movie about that. Get that shit away from my period drama." They clinked their glasses.
Mihawk couldn't quite place it but something was off. Benn talked and acted normally but there was something in the air that told him something was waiting to be lifted on the table. He tried to brush it off as little awkwardness after their talk at the museum.
It was Benn that finally brought the matter up.
"I can feel you studying me and dissecting the situation, you know?" Benn smirked grimly, with a sigh of resignation.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to-"
Mihawk watched as Benn finished his drink and stared at the empty glass in silence.
"Hey... Do you think..." Benn licked his lips, searching for words. "Could I maybe come over for the night?"