AN- Sorry about the long wait.
Zoro woke up, got up from the cramped bunk bed, and went out for a light jog. After two hours of running around the neighborhood he managed to find his way back home, where the water heater was ready to reward him with a nice, long, relaxing shower. He stood, soaking his muscles in heated bliss as he counted down the minutes till making an about-face and letting the other side of his body take in the delightful, wet heat.
The coffee was cold as usual, but since Sanji was currently a part of the household he was guaranteed a fresh meal. After pulling his cup from the microwave and giving himself a small sip he walked over and stared at the nice little breakfast waiting to be devoured.
"Usopp says we should go play volleyball at the park!" a chipper voice said from behind. Zoro sat himself down at the table.
"Good morning to you too, Luffy," Zoro replied, smiling as he poked some scrambled egg with a fork. It didn't look like the usual scrambled mess he was accustomed to making. The yellow color was lighter and the eggs were fluffier in appearance.
"He also mentioned something about board games," Sanji quickly added.
"Volleyball's funner!" Luffy exclaimed.
"Trying to keep my hands in shape for work," Zoro heard Sanji mutter. He continued to listen as the blond washed the dishes. "I wouldn't mind a game of football though."
"Football might be nice," Zoro said through his bite of eggs. He then turned his head and watched the two men go about their daily business. Luffy was drying his hair, pacing around the house as he energetically cleaned up the living room, only pausing to go through and help Sanji organize a messy closet in order to find the games.
Neither appeared suspicious, and the more Zoro went and watched them clean and ready up the house before leaving the more Zoro felt bad for even thinking about it. Luffy was not a bad person. Even if he hated Mihawk he certainly wouldn't go behind his back and separate him from his previous lover. Luffy was too pure. He was to Re…he wasn't like that. No, Luffy would have simply said something right in the beginning.
Sanji didn't even know who Mihawk was. While he might gain something from the separation, Zoro couldn't imagine a situation where the young man might have the time to construct such a plan.
"Are you almost done with breakfast?"
"Give me a minute!" Zoro looked down at his plate and began stabbing at the remains of his meal. He wasn't showing it, but he was getting rather anxious from all the paranoia brought on by his and Mihawk's final meeting. He knew someone wasn't telling him the truth, but it was impossible for him to figure out without any evidence to rely on.
He watched a hand move across his view, picking up the now empty plate in front of him and taking it away. He looked up at a concerned Sanji, a blue eye staring right through him as the plate was sent off, the rest of the face quickly following suite.
"You're upset," he heard the blond remark. The sink was activated and the sounds of running water could be heard. Zoro remained silent as he sank a little into his seat. The food was good.
"What are you thinking about?" Zoro couldn't see Sanji as a suspect. The young man was too busy trying his best to be a real member of the group. And Sanji was just too nice. There was no way he would do something so cruel.
"I'm thinking about school," he lied.
"You don't have to attend if you're not sure," he heard Sanji reply. The water was turned off. He could hear Luffy move around the hallway, probably to get things ready.
"It's a lot to think about," Zoro said.
"Luffy doesn't want to do it. I don't see why you should feel compelled to do it just because I'm applying," Sanji said to him. He rose up his head and stared up at the smiling blond.
"Ah, but what about the great America dream?" he asked sarcastically.
Sanji chuckled, lowering his head and let his lips hover just above Zoro's. "You and Luffy can work hard being stay at home husbands I guess."
"I'll have to find a wife first."
"Make sure she's making at least six figures."
"Oooh, I don't want to come off as a gold-digger," Zoro said with a small smirk. It had started off as a simple lie, but for some reason Zoro felt himself grow all the more reassured that it couldn't have been Sanji.
The two brought their lips together. It was a small kiss that allowed Zoro the chance to prepare and attempt to push the color away. He felt the soft lips, the warm flesh. There was one hand on his shoulder. It was warm. He could feel a hot tickle race across his face, heat spreading through excited flesh. But he could still see a background shade, the color blue washing across his mind with smooth, soft peaceful waves.
"Come on guys!" Luffy's laughter was heard echoing in the tiny apartment. Sanji lifted his head up. Zoro could see two clear blue eyes looking up at him, the color intensified thanks to perfect shadows. He continued staring up, feeling lost, comforted. He almost forgot that there was something to be suspicious about.
Sanji plucked a blade of grass and let his long fingers rub and tear against its thin fibers. Kaya sat next to him, sketching in her notepad. Once in a while he looked over and stared at fine interpretations. He closed his eyes and let his arm cover his face from the sun. Despite it being the middle of summer the weather was cool, and clouds seemed to spread across the sky. His arm burned a little. Overall he felt rather calm.
"You're not going to play?" he heard a soft voice say to him.
"Not yet," he remarked. He kept his eyes closed.
Kaya made a small laugh. "You're worried about hurting your hands?"
"A little. But I could always play on Nami's side. She sounds like she's winning."
"She's doing a good job with Zoro on her team."
Sanji peered over, his arms raised just enough to caste a significant shadow. He could see everyone's legs in the sand pit. He could hear Luffy and Usopp making small talk, the occasional taunt as Nami tossed the ball in Zoro's direction. Zoro was fantastic when it came to sports. Today he looked just a little distracted. It wasn't enough for Sanji to worry. He knew Nami and Zoro would be fine.
It almost hurt Sanji to see the Usopp's and Luffy's reaction when the volleyball came flying their way. "They're going to lose so bad…"
"It's more about the fun though," Kaya enthusiastically pushed. "You know, you can hit with your wrists."
"I'm way too competitive for that. Also I don't think Zoro would appreciate me fighting against him," Sanji said with a smirk. He went back to fully covering his face and rested himself back on the blanket.
"You don't think you two could work together?"
"Kaya dear, it's not that simple." Sanji looked over and stared at the fair skinned beauty. "I cannot help but want to show off. In front of him. In front of both you and Nami."
Kaya smiled back. "I have Usopp, you know."
Sanji chuckled. "Lucky him." He raised his head a bit and looked at the notepad, detecting finer shapes that were beginning to resemble his new friends.
"Do you like it?" he heard Kaya asked.
"You're very talented," he said. "Mind if I…?"
Kaya offered him the sketchbook. Sanji sat himself up and stared at the active figures that had been delicately drawn across the large sheet. He looked towards the left corner, spotting Zoro's kneeling pose. In the background were light lines, eventual trees and a faraway hill.
"I can't believe you did all of this," he said.
"It's just a small sketch," Kaya said, "I usually take longer."
"If this is a sketch I cannot wait to see one of your masterpieces," Sanji said with a bit of flirt in his voice. He smiled kindly at Kaya and handed her back the sketchbook. "I wonder if I'll have time to see them."
"You'll be with us for a while? Nami said you'll be taking her room while she's away."
"Ah, I forgot."
Kaya placed the book away in her bag. "You'll have plenty of time to see my works. You know, I drew Zoro once back in high school during his sword competition. Maybe you could take a peek at it."
"Have you seen his swords?" Kaya asked. "Back in high school he got such great marks he got to compete against a highly skilled swordsman." Kaya looked over at the gang in the distance. Her smile grew a little nervous. "He lost though. Still, I got to draw him during one of his battles. He really liked it."
"That's still pretty impressive," Sanji remarked.
"I'm surprised he hasn't told you," Kaya replied. "It's one of his favorites." She sighed and gave a small shrug in Sanji's direction. "Perhaps he grew out of it…"
Sanji could recall a few memories where he walked outside and noticed his current lover practicing stances with long swords. He even remembered a few conversations about the swords. Zoro certainly enjoyed practicing with them. It seemed strange that he never remarked on the story. Sanji shrugged it off and merely assumed it was pride that kept Zoro silent about the story. Pride had gotten in the way of them getting together, it wouldn't be too surprising if it also got in the way of certain stories. Maybe Zoro would come to tell him about it later.
"…then again, he might not feel comfortable talking about it with the recent news about Mihawk," he hard Kaya finish.
The name struck a sharp cord in Sanji's mind. "Mihawk?"
"Yeah, he was the swordsman. He's very famous."
"Uh-huh, but what about recent news?"
"You haven't heard?" Kaya asked. "Apparently there is some big investigation. Some very famous people were arrested recently."
Sanji thought the name Mihawk sounded familiar. The man was famous for swords, not that he knew a thing about swords. Sanji thought about it and considered that Mihawk may have been known for other things as well. He grew nervous. This Mihawk fellow was someone with money and power, and that was the name that appeared on Zoro's phone number. Was it really connected?
"Are you alright?"
Sanji looked back at Kaya and forced a smile on his face. "I was just thinking about how Zoro might have felt about it," he lied. "I'd be really upset if someone I looked up to was involved in some kind of crime."
He looked over at the volleyball court. As he watched Zoro play he couldn't help but think about the potential connections. He puled out his phone and, while trying to appear inconspicuous, looked up the name Mihawk. He covered the screen with his hand and stared at the first image that came up.
He didn't look like someone who would be interested in swords. Sanji stared some more and found that the overly stoic expression made the man appear like he wouldn't find much interest in anything. It was a harsh, intense stare. If a man like Zoro was going to pick out a lover, would it really be someone so…
"Hey you two," Sanji heard Nami call out. He stuffed his phone into his pocket and looked over to see Nami walking towards him and Kaya. Zoro was far away at the court, talking with Usopp. He took in a deep breath and calmed himself down.
"What is it Nami?" Kaya asked.
"We wanted to know if you wanted to play a game," Nami replied. "If you have the energy for it."
Kaya smiled. "I could probably play a short round today. Just let me get my inhaler."
"What about you?" Nami asked, turning to Sanji. "Thinking about dirtying your hands for a bit?"
"Will Kaya be alright?" he asked. He wondered if his phone had turned off yet.
"Don't worry Sanji," Kaya replied. "It's just a short game."
"And she'll be playing with Zoro and Usopp," Nami added. "They'll help her if she gets tired."
"Alright then. I guess I can try it out," Sanji said. He stood up and dusted off a few dried blades from his clothes, his hand slowing down when it brushed against his pocket. He would need to investigate later. He reminded himself to take a peek after the game, alone.
The three walked down a green slope into old volleyball courts. Sanji stared at the worn out looking net that separated his side from Zoro's. He had played this game a few times before back in middle school, complaining all the way because he was worried his might injure his fingers and ruin his apprenticeship. He wouldn't complain this time though. This was a rare second chance and Sanji understood what it would mean for him. And if Kaya was willing to try the least he could do was pretend to enjoy the risk. He felt a little rush of energy as he thought about potentially hitting the ball, maybe even impressing Zoro with the hit.
"Ok, Sanji," Luffy suddenly said. He blinked and realized that the youth was right in front of him, ball at hand, his other swinging towards it. Sanji stared wide-eyed as he watched Luffy long arm sway back and forth, his hand poised a certain way.
"See how to hit it?" he asked.
"Yeah, "Sanji remarked, his blue eyes following the swaying wrist and hand.
"All you have to do it aim," Luffy said.
"You can use both your wrists too."
"Just let me know if you don't think you can hit it," Luffy added. "I can cover you. But don't worry, my team always wins."
"Oh, thank goodness," Sanji sarcastically remarked. His eyes were locked on the ball. Suddenly he was nervous again.
"Ok, loser buys lunch!" Luffy yelled out to everyone.
The game began quicker than he wished. Suddenly Sanji heard his name being called from the side, and no sooner did he react did a ball come flying past him, hitting a pile of sand and causing him to fall back. He heard laughing from the other side of the court. He could feel his face burn red.
"Good job, Kaya."
Sanji's eyes went wide. He pulled himself up and desperately swiped at his clothes, trying to remove the dirty sand. He looked over at the other side and saw Zoro give the girl a pat on the shoulder. How could such a delicate beauty have tossed the ball so fast? The damn thing was like a rocket!
And to add insult to injury, he heard Zoro add, "Just keep aiming for the cook and you'll keep scoring, ok?"
"Really," Sanji yelled. "That's really how you play your games Zoro?"
The green haired man smirked. "Nothing wrong with exploiting another man's weakness."
"What about honor?"
"There is no honor when you have to pay for Luffy's meal," Usopp yelled back.
Another, more sudden thought reentered Sanji's mind. He could see the cold, stoic stare produced by two golden eyes in the back of his mind. He could see Zoro evil, cruel smirk after telling Kaya to aim her hits at his direction. These two men were too unlike each other. The man in the picture did not share the same energy that Zoro did. Zoro was being playful. He was being a tease. The man in the picture…would he really take a partner like Zoro? Would Zoro ever accept a man like Mihawk?
He looked up and stared at another ball flying right at him. Frightened, but much more determined, Sanji stumbled forward in the sand and made his swing, It barely hit the ball, but the contact of his upper wrist and hand caused the ball to go back flying, and Sanji falling back down from the surprising sensation. He hat hit the ball. He had hit it wrong, but he had hit the ball. He rubbed his hand as he heard Luffy next to him cheer in his success. But his victory was short lived. The ball went high, too high, and was aimed right in the middle where Kaya currently was. Sanji wasn't sure how it worked. Maybe it was the sun. It was too bright. Or maybe she wasn't feeling well. But Sanji could tell Kaya could not see where the ball would land precisely, and her squint eyes made him and everyone at the court very anxious. Everyone watched, calling her to move, when Zoro ran up and grabbed her, pushed her away from the developing shadow, and pausing as the ball now neared him.
Maybe he saw something, Sanji wondered. He saw colors. Even though his body was full of adrenaline Zoro's brain needed to stop and take the time to process Kaya's color. Sanji didn't know what the color was (Zoro would later tell him the color of creamy, peach yogurt), but it made him stop moving for just a second.
Sanji also didn't know this wasn't the first time this had happened. Years ago, at a tournament, Zoro had beaten all his rivals and was left with the honor to fight against Mihawk. He hadn't received any bodily contact prior to this, he was that good. Mihawk touched him. He froze. He was defeated.
Sanji winced, along with everyone else on the court, excluding Kaya who cried out.
Zoro fell to his knees, holding his face as he groaned out, a bit out of pain, mostly out of embarrassment. Usopp hurried over and talked to him. Sanji couldn't hear. He panicked and struggled over to the other side, Nami and Luffy following him. He went under the net and carried his weight over to Zoro. The young man was now rubbing his forehead, muttering a few choice words.
Luffy was the first to say something. "Zoro, are you alirght?"
Sanji saw Zoro's eyes peek through the gaps of his fingers, giving the boy a very "what d you think?" look.
"Do you need to go to the hospital?" Nami asked.
"Zoro, I'm so sorry," Kaya whimpered.
"No, I'm alright," Zoro said. Sanji watched him stumble upright. Zoro removed his hands from his face and stared back at everyone.
Luffy laughed. "You have a big red spot between your eyes!"
Zoro frowned. "I was hit by a ball!"
"Yeah, but you look funny," Luffy replied.
"Luffy, don't laugh," Nami said angrily. She went back to Zoro. "Are you sure you're ok?"
"Dumb cook didn't hit too hard," Zoro replied with a pained expression. He looked over at Sanji and added, "I should be fine in a few minutes."
"Don't be upset," Zoro said. "Mistakes happen."
"I wasn't paying much attention," Sanji admitted.
"You're never going to win at that attitude," Zoro weakly replied.
"What if you have a concussion? You should still relax," Kaya muttered. "Just a few minutes."
Zoro sighed. "Kaya. I'm fine."
The girl shook her head. Sanji could see the distress in her eyes. He felt terrible. He knew this was his fault.
"Zoro, maybe you should rest."
"You too?" Zoro rolled his eyes. He heard Kaya sigh and looked back to the girl. He frowned, sighed, and then rubbed his aching forehead.
"Ok, fine. But honestly, it's no big deal guys. I'm fine."
When the game was over Sanji decided that he would drive Zoro home and let him rest while everyone went to grab lunch. Normally it would be a late lunch at a diner, but everyone promised they'd just pick up and take the food back at Luffy's place. Zoro insisted that he had gotten better, but watching the swordsman rub his forehead a few times since the accident made everyone rather worried. Zoro realized this was not a battle he would win and submitted himself to the will of his friends.
Now he rested on top of the couch, two pillows underneath his head, supporting him in the off chance that something might actually be wrong. Zoro wasn't worried though. He knew he'd be fine. His head just hurt.
Sanji walked up to him and offered him a small ice pack.
Zoro sighed through his nose, not entirely willing to accept the gift. He grabbed it with some force and muttered a low "thanks" before placing it against his forehead.
There it was. He saw the Blue. It was brief this time and faded as soon as he placed the cold pack against his flesh, feeling an instant pain from the iciness.
"Sorry about that."
"Enough," Zoro muttered. The pain was already beginning to ease. He looked up at the somewhat blurry Sanji. He blinked a few times, letting the ice continue to soak through his nerves. "It was not your fault."
"I can't help but feel guilty," Sanji remarked. Zoro felt the blond sit himself down at the edge of couch. He pulled his legs in to give Sanji more space to relax in. "I wasn't paying attention."
"We all fuck up sometimes," Zoro replied.
"Is your vision ok?"
Zoro didn't want to tell Sanji how the ice made his vision blur. He didn't want to remark the first few minutes after the accident caused him to see double. The poor man was already a wreck.
"You know, we get into these sorts of accidents all the time," Zoro replied. "You should get used to them now."
Explains Luffy and Usopp's reaction," he heard Sanji say. Zoro rested himself on the pillows, smiling as he lifted his feet up, stretched his legs out and rested them on Sanji's lap.
The blond stared at the new additions to his lap and asked, "Why did you freeze?"
"Hmm?" Zoro had closed his eyes. He was doing his best to ignore the icy sensation.
"You froze after you pushed Kaya out of the way."
"I…yeah I did, didn't I?" Zoro closed his eyes once more and let the events play out in his head. He had been in a hurry to push her out of harms way. It didn't make much sense for him to just stop. But he did. And he knew exactly why he had. His nerves were busy, waiting for a particular pattern of waves, a spectrum that would mold into one fine color. This was no the first time.
"It freaked me out."
"I'll be ok, Sanji."
Zoro stared up at the ceiling, focusing on the smallest imperfections as he tried to clear his mind. His head still had that dull ache and he figured only sleep would provide him the relief he needed.
"I wasn't paying much attention either," he muttered.
Zoro couldn't tell Sanji what he had actually been thinking. He was supposed to keep an eye on o the ball from beginning, but let his mind wander back to the numbers. He wondered who had messed with his phone. He wondered if he had done it himself, but had somehow pushed the memory away. He didn't realize how close the ball was to hitting Kaya until the last second.
"Daydreaming, like you," he replied.
The backs of his legs were warm from Sanji's body heat. The more Zoro thought about it the more impossible it was for him to imagine a scenario where Sanji would betray him and clear his history. While Sanji had pried for knowledge, had flirted and gotten in his way, it wasn't as though anything he had done prior was dishonorable. Persistence had gotten the blond where he was now: the tiny apartment living room. Zoro had no proof. He had no other reason to believe that Luffy would have cleared the history either.
He yawned. "I'm hungry," he muttered.
"They'll probably be back soon," he heard Sanji say. "You should just relax."
"I'm definitely trying," Zoro replied. He did feel tired. "Cook, take the ice pack away."
He didn't hear Sanji remark on the ice pack. He closed his eyes, hand lifted up holding the ice pack until he saw the deep shade of blue cover fill his brain. This time is was darker, reminiscent of a bruise. Clearly a sign of what was to come.
He let his legs spread across the couch, what little space there was for him to stretch his self with. He listened to Sanji moving around the apartment. When he heard the sounds of the footsteps begin to fade he called Sanji out: "Sanji?"
"Yeah?" He was sure his brain was pushing the sounds away.
"Come over here," he called.
He waited a few seconds before the darkening from Sanji's shadow alerted him of his presence. He felt fine fingers touching his own. He could see the blue. It was still darker than normal. He was sure he could even see some black. He felt a strange, growing distance between him and the new color. He knew this was not the shade he had seen with Sanji.
"Come," he muttered. He expressed a little of that fear in his voice. He wanted Sanji to know just enough to feel compelled to come closer.
"There's not a lot of space on that couch."
"I don't care."
He felt the couch lean. Zoro opened his arms, inviting the blond to come in closer. He wrapped his arms around Sanji's thinner frame, his heart temporarily easing as soon as the two made skin contact with one another. The color was normal this time.
Zoro opened his eyes and stared at Sanji. "I'm just needy."
Sanji smiled. "Well, try to fall asleep soon. It's a little too warm for this."
"You could undress."
"Everyone will be back soon."
He eased his arms, giving Sanji more freedom, but buried his face in the blonde's yellow locks. He let his lips brush against Sanji's forehead.
Sanji chuckled. He laughed when Zoro lowered his head and pecked at warm flesh. He rested his lips against Sanji's Adam's apple, breathing softly until his mind was completely at ease. He listened to the sounds of Sanji's exhales, growing excited when he first heard the fast breathing, becoming calm as each breath grew softer, slower.
He wasn't sure when he fell asleep. When he slept there was no strange dream to remind him of his restfulness.
He woke up when he heard Luffy close the door.
Zoro groaned into a blanket. It hadn't been there before, when he was still with Sanji. Zoro peeled the warm top layer away from him as he looked around the living room. On the table he saw something wrapped up in a bag.
"Oh, you're awake!"
Zoro looked over at Luffy. The boy looked rather pleased, smiling back at him, as thought there had never been an accident. It seemed Luffy was the only one to actually understand what was going on.
"Where is everyone?"
"They just left," Luffy replied.
"How long have I been asleep?" Zoro asked.
"Sanji said you were out for about twenty minutes," Luffy answered. "So we crept around you." He walked over t the table, squatting down and pointing at the bag in front of Zoro. "I got you something," he said. "It's got lots of protein. You'll feel better."
"Thanks," Zoro said. He sat himself up and grabbed the bag. "Did Sanji leave?"
"Yeah," Luffy said. He walked into the kitchen, leaving Zoro to carefully inspect the horror that was ordered for him. "He said you needed the rest. How silly."
"Mhmm," Zoro muttered. He opened up the sub Luffy ordered for him and stared at the many layers of different slices of meat. His heart ached at the sight of it. He stared at the bag and went at it, hoping to pull out a few packets of mayo or mustard.
"Tomorrow we should go something."
"Like what?" Zoro asked. He puled out a few packets and the half-crumbled receipt of his order.
Luffy poked his head out. "We should ride our bikes and get lost somewhere."
"Get lost?" Zoro placed the handful of condiments down. He began tearing at the mayo packet when the numbers of the receipt caught the corner of his eyes. It was not the price that filled him with curiosity.
"It's been a long while. I think we should try visiting somewhere new. I like the rush of a new experience."
Normally Luffy's explanations would compel him to a side. Zoro could not think. He placed the packet down as he brought the receipt up to his face, inspecting the thin white sheet with a pale, expressionless face.
Black. All the words, the numbers and signs, were all a dark, bold black.
Zoro continued to stare blankly at the receipt. He was startled, confused, fascinated. He had never seen so many different letters, words, and sentences, all of them looking the same. He continued to look until he realized his hand was shaking.
How could that be?
"Zoro? What did you think? Should we do it?
Black? No, no, those words should not be black. None of these words were black. His head hurt. That was just it! Zoro rubbed his head a few times, feeling the pain in the middle, right between the eyes.
Things…it would be ok. In a few hours his eyes would readjust. He would see words the way they were supposed to look. He just had to be patient.
AN- Thank you all for being patient with this story. Now that I'm only working on two stories at a time updates should be more concise. I took the time to reread this story and work out a proper end for it. If anyone seemed out of character please let me know. I'd love to hear your thoughts in a PM or review.