Author's note: For all the lovers of Sanji / Zoro angst and those that enjoy the two of them getting good and bloodied up.
Tit for Tat
Flocks of seagulls wheeled and dove under a blue sky unmarred by clouds. The weather was calm and pleasant on the Grand Line for a change, and the air was crisp with a salty bite from the spray kicked up by the Going Merry's passage. The crew of the ram figurehead caravel could be seen here and there going about their business in a relaxed pace, lulled into requiescence by the peace of lazy, summer day. At least until the jarring crunch, of course.
Sanji cursed explosively as half the sauce he had been reducing for lunch jumped from the pot onto the floor with the unexpected lurch. He briskly wiped the edge of the pan and mopped up the spillage on the floor before setting aside his apron and hurrying out onto the deck of the Merry. The impact had been large enough that the blond cook feared they'd run aground or hit a sea king. Whichever it was, he wished that just once trouble would wait 'til after he was done with lunch.
When he reached the deck he joined the small huddle of his crew mates by the railing. Nami, Zoro and Luffy were all staring up at an enormous double-masted galleon flying a red-skulled jolly roger which, by proximity, Sanji guessed had caused the crash. Its beam was nearly triple the Going Merry's and dozens of pirates crowded her rails, swords and muskets in hand. Sanji withdrew a fresh cigarette from his pack and lit it with a small sigh.
"How dare you run into us!" Nami yelled up at the crowd of pirates looking down from the other ship. "You ruined a perfectly good chart that I was working on!"
"You hear that, assholes?" Sanji growled. "You ruined our beautiful navigator's work AND you wasted some of the food I was preparing. If the quality of our lunch is affected, you WILL pay."
Zoro offered his own annoyed grunt to their protests, and Chopper emerged from below decks covered in white powder, his face scrunched up and tears forming at the corners of his big brown eyes.
"My experiment!" he wailed.
"And you have made our doctor cry," Robin added as she joined them from the foredeck, mug in hand.
There was angry muttering and shouting from the pirates opposite until a large, barrel-chested man with one ear bellowed back at them, "It was that strawhat shrimp that hit US!"
Indeed, as Sanji looked closer at the galleon's port side he noticed a rather large, fist-shaped hole.
A pause pregnant with meaning and ill intent lingered about for a moment until it became scared and left.
A rolled up chart and the heel of a shoe connected with Luffy's head at the same moment.
"It was YOU!" his crew yelled.
Luffy's rubber face distended comically with the impacts, but his grin remained fixed on the ship.
"I was boooooored," he whined. Nami raised the chart again.
"I'll bet they have treasure on board!" Luffy said quickly. "And supplies!" he added, looking cautiously at the cook's twitching leg.
"C'mon, it'll be good exercise!"
With that, the rubberman extended his arms to the other ship's railing and catapulted himself into the air. There was a collective groan, but Zoro loosened his swords and leapt after him with a grin. The remaining three watched their flight for a moment. Chopper cried piteously in the background.
"You ladies enjoy the rest of the afternoon," Sanji instructed. "I'll clean up this mess."
Robin smiled at him and sipped her coffee. "I shall see to our doctor, then," she murmured over the rim of her mug and strolled back towards the sobbing reindeer.
From above, Usopp began lobbing projectiles. "And I shall support you from here!" The sniper called, all but hidden behind the protective shell of the crow's nest.
Nami sighed and turned back towards the galley. "Sanji-kun, make sure you get whatever valuables they have."
"As you command," the cook replied with a bow, though privately his mind was back in the kitchen and fretting over the sauce still on the stove. He figured he probably had another few minutes before it started burning. And with a final glance at the galley door, he too launched himself at the ship.
How their captain managed to find and piss off the only other vessel they'd seen for days didn't shock Sanji, it just filled him with a deep and vigorous urge to smoke the whole pack of cigarettes on his person. As he landed on the deck he patted the bulge in the breast pocket of his suit to reassure himself they were still there, because he was probably going to need all of them. A pirate with a notched cutlass and terrible hygiene chose this moment to rush him as he stood there savoring one last drag of nicotine. The blond cook didn't even glance at the other man as his upward kick lifted the pirate clear off the ground and sent him careening into several of his similarly smelly cohorts.
"What I would give for just three days of peace. Such creations and confections I could make!" He cried.
Two more pirates charged and were met with the same indifference as the previous unfortunate man. Sanji sighed melodramatically as he felt the second one's jaw crunch under the sole of his right shoe.
"Roasted mynah bird with orange sauce... Seared sea king and pureed ninti yams… If only I wouldn't keep getting INTERRUPTED!"
More pirates were punted into the air. They rained down upon the mass of others fighting Zoro and Luffy like a human shower. No one else seemed suicidal enough to rush him, so Sanji smoothed his suit and waded into the crowd, a black blur of feet and legs that cut through the pirates like some mad dervish.
Zoro, busy with his own group of challengers, was nearly hit by one of the felled foes.
"Watch what you're doing, shitty cook!"
Another unconscious pirate, shoe print clear upon his crooked face, flew at Zoro.
"Dammit, you curly eyebrow! I said watch where you're sending those guys!"
Far across the deck, Sanji flicked him a disdainful glance from under his long bangs and went back to booting enemies into orbit. Zoro grunted, crushed the nose of the attacker behind him with the hilt of Yubashiri and then threw the unfortunate man in the direction of his black-suited crewmate. The cook whirled, leg at the ready and round-housed the pirate back at the swordsman. Zoro ducked under the body.
"Predictable!" Sanji called to him in a sing-song voice. "Next time why don't you try—"
At that moment the mast chose to crack under one of Luffy's wilder attacks. With a splintering of wood and a boom reminiscent of cannon fire, the mass of timber and sails crashed into the deck sending bodies and slivers of wood in all directions. Zoro rolled right, and Sanji cart-wheeled out of the way. When the dust settled, the blond found himself backed up against a crowd of shocked pirates (Luffy's attacks seemed to have that effect), but they only stared at the hole where their mast used to be. All of them looked stunned and had their hands clapped to their ears, whether in disbelief or because of the deafening crash, Sanji couldn't tell. He gave his own head a little shake to try and clear the ringing.
"Luffy!" Sanji roared. "If you squish your cook, you'll never get lunch, remember?"
"Sooooooooooorrrrrrrryyyyyyyyy!" came the reply from somewhere around the remaining mast's crow's nest (though all Sanji really heard was a high pitched whine), followed by a flurry of punches aimed at the few enemies still on their feet.
The cook sniffed and made a mental note to serve Luffy something particularly vile for dessert. Zoro only laughed at their captain's antics and immediately turned to face some new challengers. He met three of them head-on and was locked in combat when Sanji noticed a problem. An ugly problem.
Rising from a pile of unconscious men to the swordsman's right was a slim, swarthy-looking man with an evil grin (missing quite a few teeth now, though) and a pistol. Zoro was either too preoccupied or didn't notice, but the slippery form eeled out from under the bodies and was approaching from behind. Normally Sanji would not have cared, the idiot swordsman could take care of himself and was a literal damage sponge, but if the ringing in his ears from the cacophonous boom earlier was any indication, then Zoro probably couldn't hear much either. At least, he thought smugly, Zoro will have to owe me for this.
The blond started forward, but the mass of pirates behind him suddenly seemed to rediscover their courage, and they piled on top of him as if hoping that sheer mass would defeat him. He squirmed and kicked, breaking all manner of swords, weaponry and the occasional nose in the process. He managed to shake most of them off, but several still clung to his legs, impeding his movements. Laboriously, he pressed on towards his crewmate, dragging the tenacious pirates with him, panic starting to override annoyance.
"Oi! Zoro! Behind you!"
As expected, he got no reply or reaction from the green-haired man.
The swarthy pirate was barely a few feet behind the swordsman now and Sanji still too far away. There was no way he would miss. The hammer cocked back. Sanji kicked another man off, but knew that he was out of options. He'd never get a blow in with his feet fast enough with all the extra weight hanging on his legs. Zoro was about to get a hole in his head and he wasn't going to be able to stop it. Time seemed to slow. Sanji made a decision.
Bending his knees to gather as much power as he could, he launched himself, pirates and all, at the swarthy man, hands stretching to cover the remaining distance. As the hammer came down, his own hand grabbed the barrel.
Seeing the movement out of the corner of his eye, or perhaps just sensing the wild leap, Zoro turned.
There was a thunderous crack, and a cry, and the pleasant afternoon ended.
To be continued...