The wind whips fiercely around Sanji's face, flicking his hair against his skin painfully. He doesn't care about that, he never does, what he does care about is the man holding onto his arm. He stares at the golden skin, the unusual green hair, the dark eyes and the clever mouth. He knows the man's face by heart of course, he's seen him every night of his life in his dreams. He tries desperately to hold on, flailing with his free arm trying to reach for him as if he could ever change the dream and not lose his grip.
"I haven't forgotten you!" he yells over the howling wind.
The alarm wakes him this time and interrupts his dream before he loses his grip on him. He silences it and rolls over again in his bed, pulling the duvet over his head and hiding in the warm soft cave it creates. He likes being in there, in his own little world that feels safe and warm with the memories of the green haired man fresh in his mind.
He runs his fingers over the bare skin over his heart, the place that he and the green haired man are joined in his dream.
"Morning." he breathes curled up so that he whispers the words as close to his heart as possible. He places his palm over his heart and focuses. He's had the dreams as long as he's been alive. His parents had thought that it was cute at first, they thought that he had an imaginary friend, but as he'd got older and not gotten bored of the idea they'd become worried. They had sent him to doctors and head shrinkers to fix him, they'd told him that he was sick, that he had to forget the dreams, that he had to stop talking to himself. He'd known that they were wrong of course, so he'd run off to the sea to try and find his soulmate. That's what he was sure the man was of course.
He reluctantly sits up in bed and decides to get ready for the day, the waiters had walked out on them again because they were a bunch of cowards, so despite being a sous-chef and not a goddamn waiter he was going to have to fill in. He's tugging on his shirt when he feels it in his chest, a slow unfurling like a flower opening in the sun.
"Lazy ass, just waking up now are we?" he snickers to himself. The guy was a big lover of sleep and frequently drifted off during the day as well as often rising later than Sanji himself.
He makes his way down to the kitchen and starts cooking for the morning, getting what work he can do done before he has to play waiter. He almost gets turned around on the way down though, he blinks in confusion and rubs his heart. He closes his eyes and focuses on the gentle almost imperceptible pull in his chest, it's no longer pulling slightly northeast like it usually does, it's fully east now, maybe even a little southeast. No wonder he got disorientated.
"Where are you going?" he mumbles. The man has moved around before but never such a big difference overnight. Which means... Either he travelled very fast overnight or he's closer and changing direction. His heart speeds up, could he really be getting closer? Perhaps being at the front of the restaurant and seeing every face wouldn't be such a bad thing today!
He's on his way to the front of the restaurant to take a look outside when the boom of a cannon and the smash of splintering wood startles him. It turns out that some idiot somehow redirected a cannonball into Zeff's room. The old geezer isn't hurt though, not really, and he forces the idiot in the cheap looking hat to work for a year as payment. It'd be a first if the guy sticks around for that long but Sanji is grateful for the help. He returns downstairs and gets on with serving, peering at every face as he does so.
It's not too long before some Navy asshole starts giving him shit and whilst he's never in the mood for that he's even less in the mood for it today. Thankfully he gets a chance to kick the guy's ass before Zeff and the new chore boy crash through the ceiling and Zeff kicks the Navy guy out.
Patty is his usual heartless self and kicks some poor starving pirate out because he has no money. There's nothing that he can do but sneak outside and feed the guy. The chore boy appears though and whilst he seems nice enough, albeit completely mad, he starts going on about joining his crew and travelling the grand line. He turns the guy down of course, he can't leave Zeff, not when he owes such a large debt to him and he won't leave when he can feel that his soul mate is so close.
He sidles back into the kitchen after a sneaky smoke and disposing of the evidence of Gin's free meal. He expects to get the stink eye from Patty as he usually does when this happens but instead all the other chefs are staring at him and pretending that they're not.
"What?" he demands irritably.
"Green haired man, table three." Patty says seriously.
Sanji's heart runs at a million miles a minute, they've had false alarms before, whilst green hair is rare and weird it's not unheard of. But today of all days when the pull in his chest has moved... Could it be? Everyone in the Baratie knows to tell him the moment that a green haired man is spotted, most don't know why but Patty and Carne who have been around the longest with the exception of Sanji himself know the full story. Which is why, regardless of current disputes, Patty is telling him this seriously and watching him closely.
Sanji gulps as he looks at the swinging kitchen doors and the porthole windows in them, his hands are even shaking. The other cooks are more or less ignoring him and kicking the chore boy out, ordering him to be a waiter. The straw hat wearing chore boy wanders out of the doors as Sanji gets the guts to look through the window.
He sees him. Green hair, those dark powerful eyes and that clever mouth quirking into a grin. Recognition crosses his features and his face brightens. Sanji's heart is in his throat, it's him.
"Is it really him? Let me see!" Patty exclaims. Apparently Sanji had spoken aloud without realising it. Sanji expects the guy to call out to him but the more seconds pass the more the guy's gaze tracks away from him, he's looking at Luffy!
"Hello chore boy!" he laughs along with the others at his table. He knows Luffy! Shitting shit! He knows Luffy. They both know Luffy, he should… he should go introduce himself or… something. Oh god, what was he supposed to do? He's fantasised a million times about meeting the green haired man, usually involving some kind of cool situation where he gets to show off to his soul mate or perhaps the green haired man spots him and drags him into a soul scorching kiss. But… now that the moment is here he's uncertain and nervous.
"Table three needs wine, crap chef. Get out there." Patty orders him, shoving the wine bottle into his hand and shoving him out of the door. He's cursing Patty inside for shoving him out there but it's probably best that he just get this over with and not psych himself out, probably why the helpful asshole did it too.
With legs that feel like jelly he walks over to table three, surreptitiously staring at his dream man the whole way. He can only really see the guy in profile from where he's standing but he knows the man's face obviously, but he hasn't been seen by him yet. He manages to mumble out something about the wine to the customers on table three and throw a pleasing smile at the way of the lady at the table, not that he remembers and not that he could tell you a damn thing about her if you asked him but still. He eyes the green haired man talking to Luffy and thinks to himself that he should definitely say something. He's teasing the straw hat kid who has just become infinitely important to Sanji now that he's become his gateway to that man. He should… he should really say something.
"Can we change the ship's flag?" the green haired man says wittily to Luffy. God, that is pretty funny, he knew the guy would be funny. Hell, he's always been smitten for the man in his dreams but now he's positively head over heels!
Luffy explodes into indignity, not over the teasing but over the fact that they're eating and he's having to work off his debt. His voice is loud enough for Sanji to have an excuse to speak up.
"Quiet down Luffy, are they your mates?" He asks. Yes, that was pretty smooth. He warily steps a little closer to the group, close enough to see Luffy putting a vengeful booger in the green haired man's drink, he fakes picking it up to drink it before quick as lightning grabbing Luffy and forcing it down his throat. The two shout and scrabble completely ignoring Sanji.
Shit. What does he do now? He's staring at the guy who hasn't noticed him at all and he can't just stand here doing that. Panicking he looks around for some other excuse to be standing by their table until the green haired man notices him. His eyes land on the pretty redheaded girl and some kind of habit kicks in. He practically throws himself at her, being effusive with praise and saying how he would give up everything and follow her to sea for her beauty if it were not for the tragic obstacles in their way blah, blah, blah.
"Obstacles Sanji?" Zeff's voice booms from behind him, scaring him half out of his skin. He spins, how the hell is a man with a goddamned peg leg so stealthy? He stares wide eyed at his father figure who is looking at him with that ever present scowl.
"Follow your heart, go be a pirate. I don't need you here anymore." Zeff says firmly.
"What?" Sanji gawps. He tracks the flick of Zeff's eyes though and, when looking through the curtain of his own hair, he sees the green haired man looking at him. Dark curious eyes watching the fight between him and Zeff. He understands Zeff's words, Zeff has known his dreams long enough and knows him well enough to recognise his heightened anxiety around the green haired man. Follow your heart he says. It's all well and good but what if he doesn't want to leave? He owes Zeff a debt of gratitude, he owes him his life, just because he has found his green haired man doesn't mean that he can just up and leave.
"I'm the assistant chef here, what do you mean I'm not needed?" He demands with a scowl.
"You fight with the customers, you waste hours flaring your nostrils for the women. And you're a lousy cook. You're nothing but a dead weight Sanji. The other cooks don't like you much either, so go be a pirate and get out of my restaurant." Zeff says coldly. Sanji knows the old man doesn't mean it, but he has no intention of leaving and Zeff knows that. Zeff evidently is trying to make him though.
"Don't step over the line old man! You can insult me but don't ever insult my cooking! I'm staying here and you have no say in the matter!" He shouts, jabbing Zeff in the chest. Zeff snags his hand and throws Sanji through the table that Luffy's crew and the green haired man were sitting at. He expects to have food all over him but he glances up to see the green haired man has somehow blindingly quickly grabbed the plates up off of the table.
He doesn't like to waste food either rolls through his slightly dazed brain as he stares up vacantly at the man. He leaves pretty quickly after that, feeling more than a touch embarrassed at getting his ass handed to him by his adoptive father and airing all their dirty laundry right in front of his soul mate at their first meeting. On his return he attempts to talk to the green haired man but chickens out and flirts with the navigator Nami instead and she somehow tricks him into giving her food to her for free.
The long nose guy balks at that and demands his food for free, but the bastard hasn't even cleaned his plate. He puts up some bullshit about not liking mushrooms and Sanji obviously calls him on it.
"Get him Zoro!" the guy orders.
Zoro. Of course. He's always thought that the guy's name was short and it is. Zoro… oh wow.
Zoro's head tilts slightly in their direction and he catches an eye roll from the man.
"Get him yourself." He snorts snarkily, making Sanji's face split into a grin out of reflex.
He can't come up with anything witty to say so he hauls Luffy off under the pretence of making him work. He's hiding out the back trying to come up with something blindingly clever and attractive to say to the green haired man whose name he's finally caught when Gin brings in a man who turns out to be his captain and also a massive bastard.
His return to the front of the restaurant sweeps him up in a fight with Kreig and his men, an opportunity where he doesn't get to talk to his soul mate much more than a few passing words. He has to defend his ethics, his home and his old man all at once, he frankly doesn't have time for the complex confession that he needs to give to Zoro. Besides, the guy has one hell of a poker face and almost certainly knows that too.
Gin brings up "hawk-eyes Mihawk" and Sanji sees Zoro jolt into alertness, his face intense in a way that sends goosebumps running across Sanji's flesh. He wants to defeat Mihawk and he's apparently willing to chase the man to the grand line to do it, which pretty much scuppers all hope that Sanji had for convincing the guy to stay at the Baratie with him so that he can repay his debt to Zeff and be with Zoro.
"You're fools, you'll both be killed as soon as you get there." He says directly to Zoro, hoping to dissuade him.
"True enough but don't insult us. The day I decided to be the world's greatest swordsman I gave myself up for dead, nobody calls me a fool but me. I have my reasons." Zoro says intensely, his gaze challenging Sanji to disagree.
Sanji breaks his gaze and mutters something about him being stupid. He shouldn't be surprised, he's felt waves of fierce determination through their connection before when he's been asleep and Zoro's been awake. He had rather vainly hoped that it'd been about meeting him. He sees Zeff's wide approving grin at the man's madness and Sanji wants to scream, he's surrounded by suicidal idiots.
They make it outside to fight off Kreig's now fed men only for Zoro to spot the aforementioned Mihawk. He can feel Zoro light up in every fiber of his being but even he can feel the warlord's power and Zeff's confirmation that the man is indeed the greatest chills Sanji to the core with fear.
For his idiocy Zoro challenges him and Mihawk brings out the tiniest knife that Sanji's ever seen, it's an insult and Zoro visibly bristles at it. He tries to step forward to drag the idiot back but Zeff stamps his peg leg in his foot and holds him in place.
"Men like us can't be stopped, so don't try." Zeff breathes to him. Sanji doesn't know if he's included in that category or not but when he turns his attention back to Zoro his heart stops. Every technically impressive attack that Zoro tries meets with unyielding resistance, as if Zoro was doing nothing more intimidating than waving three feathers at the man. He's hopelessly outclassed.
"He's going to get killed, I have to stop this!" He hisses to Zeff.
"Then you will be killed too. If he dies then you weren't meant to meet in this life, that's all there is to it." Zeff chastises him quietly. A feeling of despair washes over Sanji, much like when he was on that accursed rock and saw a ship, his hopes rose like bubbles through water only to be popped brutally when the ship passed him by without seeing him. He can't bear for his entire life to be like that, for Zoro to pass him by without seeing him. He struggles against the peg leg in on top of his shoe but he can't do anything to escape.
Even Mihawk is calling Zoro out, urging him to retreat if he wants to live. He silently begs Zoro to agree, to choose to live even if it is to train to beat this man. It is more sensible to retreat and fight better another day than to throw everything away.
"I… can't… if I retreat even one step… my vow, my ambition… everything I care about… will be shattered. And my dreams will be lost forever." He says clearly and loudly.
Sanji thinks that he can feel his heart breaking. Zoro tries one more attack only for his swords to splinter like toothpicks bar one. He sees Mihawk raise his sword for the killing blow only for Zoro to spin with his arms open to face Mihawk.
"Wounds on the back are a swordsman's shame." He grins as if it's all one big joke.
"Magnificent." Mihawk purrs and swings his sword, throwing up a fountain of blood from Zoro's chest. Sanji screams Zoro's name but his cry is drowned out by the cries of horror from many other around him, from Zoro's captain and nakama too. He screams at Zoro just to abandon his stupid dream but it's too late. He should have told him earlier, should have told him how it feels to live without your dream. It's not terrible, but perhaps it could have saved Zoro's life. But he hadn't said it earlier. Instead Zoro falls and slides into the water, surely dead.
Sanji feels like he might be sick as Zoro's two buddies haul him out of the water. His feet are frozen, the rest of his body is still in sheer shock. His fingers touch his heart. Zoro isn't… Zoro isn't gone. He can still feel the man's heart beating, weakly like a butterfly's wings flapping.
"I left him alive." Mihawk states. He goes on to say some other crap that Sanji REALLY isn't listening to because nothing else but those words matters. Zoro is alive.
He fights Kreig's crew, and they eventually wins. He fights like a demon, like he's never fought before, because no matter what happens to him that gentle beating near his own heart reminds him that nothing that happens to him is as hard as what Zoro just went through.
The others clearly notice the change in him, Zeff certainly does. They even try some ridiculous scheme to get rid of him and when one of Zoro's mates shows up again inside, of all things, a panda shark, he agrees to go. He says it almost without thinking. Zoro needs him, the idiot clearly won't survive a month on this ocean without him, let alone the grand line. And Zeff wants him to go, he wants him to chase All Blue for both of them and he knows that he wants Sanji to be near Zoro. It still breaks his heart to leave though and he ends up blubbering like a four year old as he does so but he leaves.
He doesn't get a chance to talk to Zoro alone much when they get to Arlong park either, they fight with each other because apparently Zoro without his normal level of blood is cranky and Sanji when feeling awkward and at a loss for words is mouthy. He also discovers that arguing with Zoro is fun, the guy gives and good as he gets. And actually fighting side by side with him his magic, they work in harmony (except for when Zoro opens his big mouth and pisses him off). They both kick ass and take names.
When they eventually rescue the poor flower that is Nami and drive off those horrible fish men the whole island throws them a party. Sanji is grateful for the reprieve but even more grateful that he'll get a chance to catch Zoro alone. He manages it when Zoro comes for a drink from the barrel that Sanji is sitting by.
He straightens up when he sees Zoro, it's a perfect opportunity, there's no one else around and he can really talk to Zoro now. He swallows nervously and starts just as Zoro is filling his mug.
"Were you looking for me?" He asks nervously.
"Uh, no. Just getting a drink." Zoro frowns at him, clearly not catching his meaning.
"No, no. I don't mean that. Were you looking for me?" He repeats. He knows that he was hoping most of his life that Zoro was looking for him because he was stuck on a shitty ship in the middle of the ocean unable to leave and search himself. Zoro stands up and gives him a strange look.
"No, did one of the others tell you that I was?" Zoro asks sounding confused. Sanji's eyes widen, Zoro does not understand him.
"That's not what I mean, Zoro. Don't you recognise me?" He pleads, grabbing Zoro's arm. The man's face is surprised and confused but he clearly isn't pleased about being grabbed.
"Of course I recognise you, I just met you yesterday you moron. I don't forget faces that quickly." Zoro snorts, shaking him off. Sanji stares at Zoro as his heart sinks.
"You don't recognise me." He breathes in horror. He's spent his entire life dreaming about Zoro and the man doesn't even recognise him. His soul mate has no idea who he is. Could you be an unrequited soul mate? If so that was clearly what he was.
"Are you drunk?" Zoro questions with a laugh.
"Something like that." Sanji mutters and runs off.
He sits on a roof nearby and cries into his knees at the unfairness of it all. Zoro has no idea who he is and there's clearly no way that Sanji can explain the whole thing without sounding like some crazy obsessed stalker. And moreover Zoro seems to be genuinely disinterested in him, he hadn't been playing it cool earlier or keeping up his poker face, he just didn't care what Sanji was saying or doing. He bored the other man. He wants to go home, he wants to go back to Zeff and tell him that it was a terrible mistake. But he can't, he said his goodbyes and he can hardly return after a day without having found All Blue, just because the love of his life barely knows that he's alive.
He grows to kind of hate Zoro. He fights with him and aggravates him and makes him look bad, anything to get over the injustice of the man not remembering who the hell he is. He's probably cock-blocking himself in the process but he's not sure that he could bear to have sex with Zoro, not when he knows what it would mean to him and knowing that it probably would be just sex to Zoro. No, he won't do that to himself.
And it's crazy, but time has a way of not flowing how it should. Sometimes time flies like it's got one of Franky's rockets up it's ass and sometimes it crawls. Like how it does when he sees Zoro launch ahead of him towards Kuma, to sacrifice his own life to save Luffy and by extension, him. And then when the hilt of Zoro's sword smacks him in the side and knocks him unconscious time leaps forward to when he wakes up.
He stares at the sky above Thriller Bark for a few seconds before the past catches up with him and remembers that Zoro sacrificed himself instead of him. He scrambles to his feet and places his hand over his heart. Weak fluttery beating is all that greets him, almost as bad as when Zoro fought Mihawk. He looks around in terror but sees no Zoro. He takes all of one step before he sees Zoro's swords discarded on the ground, almost as if they'd been left for him. Why… would Zoro do that unless he wasn't planning on coming back for them?
Zoro's words about having long ago given himself up for dead ring through his ears. That bastard! He might be alive now but who knows how long he could hold on for? He closes his eyes and imagines the weak pull in his chest like a line and sprints off after it. He skids over crumbled walls and huge raised slabs of pavement jutting up towards the sky as evidence of Moira's carnage.
"Where is that bastard?" He curses to himself before skidding to a halt as his internal thread that leads to Zoro veers off to the left. He looks that way to see a shock of Zoro's green hair over the tip of a wall. He leaps it and skids down the wall.
"Oi! What do you think you're doing?" He calls to Zoro who is standing in the middle of a clearing of debris with his arms crossed over his chest.
"Where did that warlord go?" He asks, getting closer to Zoro. He looks around, there's no sign of Kuma but there's blood everywhere, splattered up and misted on every surface. Did Zoro do this to Kuma? But he'd been at death's door last night too. And… and his swords were back where he'd woken up, not with Zoro. So how…?
That's when he gets a closer look at Zoro and it stops him in his tracks. Zoro is bleeding from… from everywhere. Every inch of his skin seems to be oozing blood from the very pores, his eyelids are crusted with blood and his ears are leaking the stuff. It drips down his chest and runs off of his elbows.
"Oi! What's in the hell is with all that blood? Oi, are you still alive? Where is that guy? What happened here?" He demands as terror clutches at his heart.
Zoro doesn't look at him though, he just stares straight ahead. God, even his eyes are red and bleeding. And he's shaking like a leaf in the wind.
"A… absolutely… nothing." Zoro states shakily, trembling with fatigue. His eyes roll backwards then, and as if he'd been waiting all night to say that to him and is now done, he keels backwards. Sanji yelps and catches him with the ruins of his shirt before Zoro hits the ground. Gently he lowers Zoro onto the ripped knees of his suit and cradles him in his arms.
"CHOPPPER!" He screams at the top of his lungs and clutches Zoro tighter. He presses his hand to Zoro's heart and feels the weakening flutter of the beating organ below his fingertips echoing in his own chest. Zoro is fading fast.
"CHOPPER!" He screams again.
"No, no, no. You can't leave me here Zoro. I can't take it. I know you don't remember me, but I remember you. You can't leave me alone Zoro, you're part of me." He sobs desperately as he shakes Zoro.
"So you have to live, you hear me?" He shouts, shaking Zoro.
He leans over and presses his chest to Zoro's as if the beating of his own heart might encourage Zoro's to pick up. He doesn't know how this link between them works, or if it's all in his head. But he tries to force every ounce of energy and life he has through it to Zoro because he can't lose the moss headed idiot.
"Sanji? Where are you?" Chopper's voice calls distantly.
"OVER HERE!" He yells, sitting up quickly and brushing the tears from his eyes, he can't stand to have any of the others see him cry, they wouldn't understand. Chopper freaks out when he catches sight of Zoro and all of the blood sprayed around the area. But with a shot of this and a dose of that Zoro's heart becomes a little stronger and beats a little more securely in Sanji's chest.
Zoro falls into a deep sleep under Chopper's medical care, he has a lot to heal after all. Chopper wastes no time in telling everyone how near Zoro came to death. Sanji doesn't need to hear that, he knows. He spends his time loading the ship with supplies, the crew even has a party that Zoro sleeps through. Sanji isn't worried, with every beat Zoro's heart gets a little stronger and he's getting closer to waking up.
When he starts to feel Zoro's sleep become lighter he takes over watching Zoro from the tired Chopper. He rests his feet on Zoro's bed and refrains from smoking just to give Zoro's stupid lungs a rest.
He feels the unfurling in his chest of Zoro awakening. He glances over at the marimo whose eyes are shut still.
"I know you're awake dumbass." He mutters and Zoro's eyes slide open at that.
"How do you always know?" Zoro asks, his voice rough. Sanji hands him a glass of water and doesn't answer. Zoro hands him the glass back. He leans over to take it from Zoro who is clearly still too weak to bend to put it down himself, and weaker still to be okay with admitting that. He has to pause and close his eyes because this is all a little too much for him. He breathes out shakily, Zoro is ok. He's going to be fine. He knows that his emotions are probably written all over his face but he's too emotional right now to suppress them.
A touch of warm skin on his jaw makes him nearly leap out of his skin, Zoro is touching him and looking at him strangely.
"Am I dreaming?" He asks slowly.
"What?" Sanji snaps confused, ducking out of the way of Zoro's hand.
"I thought… I was dreaming. I was, earlier- but I thought I was still. I was dreaming… about you. And I woke up and here you are." Zoro mumbles sounding slightly groggy.
Sanji stares at Zoro, his breath and his heart caught in his throat. Surely Zoro doesn't mean that dream, not after all this time?
"But it wasn't you. I mean, it was… and it wasn't." Zoro frowns vaguely.
"You were a cook." Zoro says thoughtfully.
"That wasn't a dream, stupid. I am a cook." Sanji says dismissively, looking away out of embarrassment, he desperately wants to believe that the cruel hope that had blossomed inside of him just then didn't show on his face.
"No, shut up. You weren't you, you weren't the Sunny's cook. You were a cook in a restaurant, but… but you were dead." Zoro frowns, looking at him like he's not quite sure who he is.
"What? I'm not the one that just nearly died here! You-" He shouts but Zoro actually grabs his face and covers his mouth.
"If I don't say it I'll forget, dreams are like that. I… I was helping you, I think. I could see you, but you were a ghost. We were… and then… then I died. I got hit in the chest with something big, like a train or something. Then… then there was a whirlwind…" Zoro frowns, as if things in his memory are becoming disjointed and confusing.
"A whirlwind?" Sanji yelps, grabbing Zoro's hand away from his mouth and staring at him wide eyed. Zoro's eyes sharpen at that and his eyes narrow suspiciously.
"Yeah… we were being pulled apart… I didn't dream that did I?" Zoro frowns sitting up.
"But… I remember Kuma and… that can't be right." He says sounding confused.
"I- I don't…" Sanji mutters looking off to the side. His first instinct is panic, he's had too many close calls with Zoro where he's wanted to confess and it seemed like Zoro remembered only to start and realise that Zoro wasn't remembering at all. Just because Zoro dreamt of a whirlwind doesn't mean that he had the same dream that Sanji's had his entire life. He stands up quickly and tries to back away from Zoro, he doesn't want to be here.
Zoro's quick hand snags him by the tie and yanks him down. Zoro gives him a scrutinising scowl for a second before jerking his tie tighter and kissing him. He freezes half standing and half crouching where Zoro pulled him as the marimo assaults his mouth, his body happens to be smarter than his brain though and responds. Zoro's lips are warm and his tongue is slick against his own, it's only when Sanji tastes the blood in Zoro's mouth that he has the sense to pull away.
He presses the sleeve of his hoodie against his mouth shakily, this is a dangerous game with Zoro and he's not willing to play. He can't take Zoro forgetting again and he's not willing to risk Zoro's health for a kiss.
They're a few days out to sea when the dream wakes him again, it doesn't always wake him but sometimes it does. He hears Zoro's name echo around the bunkroom, no doubt having slipped from his lips. His arm is raised, his hand reaching for an invisible hand. He sighs and sits up in his hammock with balance perfected from half a lifetime at sea. He stares at his palm in the darkness, still feeling Zoro's fingers slipping from his. The door to the bunkroom slams open, framing Zoro in the light of the hallway.
"You woke me up!" Zoro accuses loudly.
"SHH!" Sanji hisses back equally loudly and runs out of the room dragging Zoro with him and closing the door behind them. He doesn't need Zoro waking their nakama with talk like that.
"You're supposed to be resting in the infirmary, moron. Especially after what you've been through." He orders, looking at Zoro's bandaged body.
"You woke me up. Every night now I'm having that dream, and you're having it too! I heard you call my name!" Zoro repeats, staring down at him with laser precision.
"Shut up, shithead." Sanji grumbles and grabs Zoro's hand and starts pulling him back to the infirmary. Unfortunately Zoro has always had the upper hand when it comes to upper body strength and even in his weakened state he's able to drag Sanji back across the floor towards him.
"You're having the dreams too, but you're not acting any different from normal." Zoro says thoughtfully, his grip on Sanji's hand too tight to escape from.
"Don't damage my hand, asshole." He mutters trying to extricate himself from Zoro's grip, unwilling to talk about such a painful subject as his romantic notion of being Zoro's soul mate.
"How long have you been having the dreams Sanji? Longer than me I'll bet." Zoro continues, as if they're both participating in this conversation.
"Stop bringing that up, will you?" Sanji finally says to Zoro.
"Definitely not." Zoro shoots back and shoves him against the wall. Zoro holds him there and kisses him breathless. Sanji doesn't want this, he knows that if Zoro changes his mind his heart will break and never heal but… but Zoro is just too tempting at it feels too right. He opens up his mouth for Zoro and the swordsman wastes no time in pressing the advantage, he runs a hand up his side and holds him there. He's never felt so small, or indeed so important. Zoro pulls back, drawing a whimper from Sanji's lips and a needy shudder from his body.
"How long?" Zoro asks again, still close enough to Sanji to practically paint the question onto his lips with his own.
"My entire life." Sanji answers honestly, something inside of him un-tensing with the release of the truth.
Zoro pulls back and stares at him with wide horrified eyes.
"How- why did you never say anything?" the swordsman demands much too loudly.
"I tried! But you didn't remember me, and the one time I tried to bring it up you accused me of being drunk!" He shouts back also too loudly.
Zoro regards him with wide horrified eyes from across the hallway. Sanji can hear his nakama stirring from all the shouting so he strides away past the bunkroom and out onto the deck. He pulls out a smoke and is about to light it when Zoro's hand grabs his wrist.
"But… but every time I wake up from that dream I feel like I've had my heart ripped away from me, I feel hollow. And I feel this… feeling in my chest all the time, like someone's pulling me around." Zoro says staring into his eyes with scrutiny.
"Yeah, well. Welcome to my life." Sanji mutters bitterly, snatching his hand back from Zoro as he turns his back to the man. With shaky hands he lights his cigarette. He breathes in the calming smoke and chews tensely on the end of the cigarette.
He hears a clatter and a thud behind him. For a second he thinks that Zoro has fainted until he turns around to see Zoro on his knees before him with his head bowed to the floor.
"What the hell are you-?" He starts confused.
"FORGIVE ME!" Zoro yells into the grass.
"God, be quiet! What the hell?" Sanji hisses shushing Zoro. But Zoro stays bowed on the ground. Sanji's neck prickles with the heat of awkwardness, this situation is just so goddamn weird.
"I didn't mean to forget you, I didn't… I didn't understand. I didn't know that I made you feel like you were so lost every time you woke up, I'm sorry!" Zoro apologises loudly.
"Geez, it's okay. I forgive you or whatever, just get up off the ground and stop yelling." Sanji says quickly, trying to pull Zoro up.
"It's not like I've ever had a night where I've not had that dream, it's fine. I don't know any different." He says trying to comfort the moss-brain, but Zoro only looks up at him with damp eyes. The idiot even springs up, catching him in a crushing hug that must hurt like hell for Zoro's poor injured chest.
"Lemme go!" he squeaks trying to squirm away.
Zoro thankfully loosens his grip and lets his hands fall to Sanji's hips, making him blush.
"Geez, okay, cut it out Zoro." Sanji snaps, pulling Zoro's hands off of him, noticing all too clearly Zoro's dark interested eyes.
"But… don't you want…?" Zoro asks slowly and uncertainly.
"Sure I do," Sanji answers knowing full well what Zoro means. "But, this is a bit much for me. I'd resigned myself to you never remembering so… this is kind of an overload. And you're still injured remember?" he points out, jabbing Zoro in the chest and making the other man wince.
"And besides," He smiles coyly at Zoro, "it's not like either of us is going anywhere is it?"
Sanji is sprawled out on the beach whilst the waves lap at the shore, he's not too far from the pawprint that slammed him there onto the sand but he's already panicked and ran around looking for the others only to deduce that they're not anywhere nearby.
He can tell anyway, the pull in his chest is distant in a way that suggests that Zoro is several thousand miles away at least. Inside his chest he feels Zoro's consciousness unfurl again as the man wakes up in what is no doubt a similar paw print elsewhere.
"It's not like either of us is going anywhere." He parrots bitterly to the sky.
"You, are a shitty idiot Sanji." He assures himself loudly and smacks his head on the sand again for good measure. He sits up and looks at the piece of paper in his hand that slowly slides in the opposite direction to Zoro.
"Well… how long can it really take to get back to Sabody anyway?" He says out loud to himself, after all, it took him only six months from the Baratie, and if this island's weird structure and the heart shaped rainbow above it are any clue he's still on the grand line.
"And, even if it takes a while," he says optimistically as he stands up and dusts himself off ready to explore the island, "how bad could this place be for a little while?"