Summary: Sanji searches for answers and discovers an understanding. Zoro clarifies a few things about their captain and his own roll during the incident with Kuma on Thriller Bark.

Disclamer: Eiichiro Oda is to be thanked profusely for creating the One Piece universe and revered for allowing us to play in it.


Late one night on board the Thousand Sunny Sanji wandered the decks unable to sleep. They had left the nightmarish place called Thriller Bark behind, but many things still bothered him. First and foremost was how their resident strong man had nearly killed himself for the sake of their captain. Sanji might know the story of how it happened. He just still didn't know why Zoro had done it. The swordsman had ignored any attempt to broach the subject and tried to return to normalcy before the wounds had even closed.

That night Zoro had been on dish duty with him. It was the one time the two could stand in close proximity without a fight ensuing. It still surprised him at how non-confrontational the Marimo could be. Not wanting to ruin the experience or chance his dinnerware breaking, Sanji brought up the question towards the end.

"Why did you do it?"

Both of them knew exactly what he was referring to. The shitty swordsman merely glanced over, rolled his eyes, finished drying the remaining silver, and left without saying a word. Why didn't he want to explain that incident? Sanji had been there. He had been willing to put his life on the line as well. And Zoro had knocked him out cold without an explanation. In the cook's eyes, that certainly required an apology at the very least.

Extinguishing his cigarette, Sanji glanced up and saw light glowing from the crow's nest. Damn annoying swordsman. Chopper would have a fit if he knew Zoro was still working out. Might as well go make sure the man wasn't going to rip open his wounds and give Chopper an aneurism in the process. Glancing at the Log Pose next to the wheel, the cook reassured himself they were still on course before climbing the ladder to the weight room.

On arriving he saw something of a surprise. Yes Zoro was awake and fidgeting, but no he was not tempting fate by moving those massive hunks of iron around. He stood facing the aft portion of the ship, staring off into the distance. As if staring at the island of a ship known as Thriller Bark. His right hand alternately caressed or gripped his sword hilts in reflection of his thoughts.

"What do you want, shit cook?" For someone who seemed so oblivious to his surroundings the man did have keen perception when it came to potential dangers.

"Wondering what the light's still doing on up here, marimo." The swordsman just grunted an unintelligible response without evening turning around. There was just silence as the cook took a seat on the wraparound bench to gaze at the blackness beyond their ship. So much for talking, Sanji thought as he lit another cigarette. "You still never answered me."

"Yeah? And I probably never will." The Marimo did turn around at that one, the bite returning to his voice.

"You don't think I deserve an answer?"

"Damn right."

That struck a nerve in Sanji and he felt a vein twitching on his forehead as he tried his hardest not to come to blows. "And why don't I deserve an answer?"

"Because you don't understand what you were doing."

"If I recall, I was trying to save yours and Luffy's life."

"No, you were trying to get yourself killed."

"And how is that different from what you were doing, huh?"

"You just don't get it, do you?" Zoro scowled. The glare seemed to last for an eternity before the shitty swordsman eased himself to the bench. It was odd to see Zoro favoring his wounded body with gentleness. "You don't understand what Luffy has done, is doing, for us. If you can't understand that then you don't deserve an answer."

Just what was the damned swordsman trying to get at? "Luffy nearly died fighting a strong opponent. How is that different from what he does on a normal basis?"

"That's exactly my point." The shitty marimo growled in frustration. "Luffy is always risking his life to protect us. To protect our dreams. Or haven't you noticed?" Sanji stared dumbfounded at this statement. Of course he noticed. It was hard not to. This couldn't be what Zoro was trying to get him to understand. Whatever was going through Marimo's head was not the obvious. While Sanji tried to formulate his thoughts, Zoro continued. "It's something I've noticed. Even from the beginning, Luffy was willing to stick his neck out for us so we could have a shot at our dreams. I don't know how many times I've watched him dive into danger, not knowing if he would survive, but knowing if he didn't then something precious would be lost. It's not for our lives, cook. It's for our dreams, our ambitions."

If the crew of the Thousand Sunny knew their swordsman had such a deep understanding of the world they would die from shock. Sanji could only gape at what he had once considered a moron. It only occurred to Sanji now that he had been taking for granted that he was on a crew that let him delve into his passions and dreams. Finding All Blue was probably the most outlandish ambition of all of them. Unless he counted Usopp's dream of being a 'great warrior of the seas.' Zoro had known all this. And for a while now.

"What you did, you shit cook, was respectable but stupid. Yes we all want Luffy alive and well. We don't want him to suffer any more pain than necessary. But you can't expect him to accept that you died for his life. That was not what he would have wanted. Besides, what 'glory' could there be in killing a half dead bastard?" Zoro snorted at Sanji's last speech. It had been over the top, Sanji would be the first to admit to that. But he wasn't about to make fun of it.

"We're not here to die for our captain, Sanji. And he's not going to let us. He wants us to succeed in our personal goals just as much as he wants to succeed in his. Luffy will become the next Pirate King and I will stake my life on it." Zoro continued with much more force than Sanji thought possible. "If he is willing to put his life at risk for our dreams, then who is going to risk their lives for his? I would have never had the chance to become the world's greatest swordsman if it weren't for Luffy. And I won't be able to become so if Luffy can't reach his dream. Because it would mean there was someone out there stronger than me because I couldn't protect what's precious to him. I would rather die knowing Luffy could carry on and reach One Piece then live knowing I had failed to protect him and his dream. This is not about mere lives, Sanji. This is about the desire for dreams."

Sanji sat quietly, studying the dying cigarette butt in his hands. It made sense. Damn him for making sense. "When did you come to this conclusion?"

"When I challenged Mihawk and he didn't stop me even though it meant loosing sight of the Going Merry."

"Would you have listened to him if he had told you to go after the Merry?" Sanji was curious. This man had obeyed the Captain's orders several times without liking them.

Zoro glanced to his chest, eyeing the long prominent scar earned at that crossing of blades. "Who knows…" For the longest time Sanji thought Zoro would leave the statement there. "If chasing the Going Merry was more important than challenging a dream, then he wouldn't be worthy of the title, Pirate King." The swordsman caught and met Sanji's eyes. "You didn't understand then and you don't understand now. Giving up on ambition is worse than death." Being pierced with that intense gaze shook Sanji to his core. Then it was gone and Zoro walked passed him. "I'm going to bed."

Damn the man for being right. The longer Sanji thought about the explanation the more it made perfect sense. Luffy was always looking out for their wellbeing and their dreams. Why else did he go through all those troubles to bring his crewmates aboard? But if Luffy was protecting their right to dream, who was protecting Luffy's dream? Who was strong enough? The cook turned to watch the shitty swordsman descend from the crow's nest. It seemed Zoro was going to take up that challenge. "Oi, marimo." Sanji got a disgruntled 'hmm' in response. "Becoming King of the Pirates isn't a dream one man can protect." Zoro just smirked and continued on his way. They would all have to step up if they wanted to see Luffy claim the title, Pirate King.