So... this is the promised in-between three-parter.

Despite the rating being T, it will have some sex but I wanted it to be readable for younger readers and those who aren't comfortable with my explicit writing, so I'm planning to cut it out and publish it as a PWP one-shot later.

And speaking of one-shots: I'm coming to like the world in this fic, so I might be writing more about it later... I still need time to plot that BIG fic, I'm working on, so that might be good to pass the time XD

I'll try to update this one once a week but I'm in the middle of exams, so I can't promise anything.

Anyway, please enjoy and I would love to hear what you think afterwards!

Disclaimer: Last time I looked, I wasn't a slightly crazy, Japanese man, so... nope, don't own it. Eiichiro Oda does ;)


bentō = Japanese lunch boxes

Chapter 1: A Kiss in the Dark

Sanji's eyes were wide as he felt hot lips and a warm, hard body pressed against him. Held against the elevator's walls, the railing digging in his back, his wrists in a tight lock on either sides of his head, he stood there completely still, rigid with shock.

A few seconds before, a sudden blackout had stopped the elevator and turned out the lights, leaving its occupants in the dark and robbing him of his sight. His other senses were working overtime, as the unknown person's lips moved against his, using Sanji's gasp of surprise to push a hot tongue into his mouth. Sanji moaned quietly against those lips, the taste and hardness of the other body feeling strangely familiar and unbelievably exciting. His hands stopped fighting against their hold as he began to return the kiss, lost in the moment and the pleasure the other person (a man it had to be) provided.

Then the lips left as suddenly as they came, the hands let go of his wrists and Sanji had to grab the elevator's railing behind him when his knees began to buckle at the weight they suddenly had to support. The lights turned back on as the elevator began to move with a shudder and Sanji found himself facing five unconcerned looking men.

"Ah, finally... thought we were stuck here. Are you alright, Sanji? Your face is all red..." he heard Ace say, a frown appearing on his freckled face.

Sanji stared at him as he tried to catch his breath, his lips still tingling from the unexpected assault. He looked at the men behind Ace, who all stared back at him, their faces giving nothing away but slight concern at his dishevelled state...

Who the hell had kissed him just now?

Twenty-four hours before...

Sanji massaged his shoulder as he entered the elevator, lifting his hand in greeting when he saw a grinning Franky nearing it from the other side.

"Rough day?" the blue-haired, bulky man asked after they had stepped inside and the blonde pressed the button to their floor.

"You have no idea," Sanji muttered, thinking back at the day in his foster father's restaurant. "It's like the Baratie became magnet for ill-mannered apes... I've done nothing but throwing out bastards who think they could harass the ladies at our place. That damn idiot Patty lets anyone with money in without even looking at his 'honoured guests'. Damn idiot..." Sanji sighed as he rubbed his sore neck. Being a renowned cook at the tender age of 19, his days were tough for he had not only to cook for his rich and picky clientele but had also to defend his position as sous-chef from the other ambitious and jealous cooks. And now he even fulfilled the position of bouncer on top of everything else. Still, protecting his father's restaurant was part of his job and he loved his work with all his heart.

Franky whistled. He had often been witness of the nights like the blonde had just described and knew what he was talking about. "Sounds like you could need a drink... Wanna go to Shakki's tonight?"

Sanji shook his head. "Nah, think I'll pass. I have been at the Baratie since this morning... All I need is a glass of wine and a nice hot bath for tonight."

"If you go on like that, you'll end up as a hermit, bro. You have to get out once in a while."

Sanji smiled at the man. He might not look it with those big star tattoos on his arms, his light blue hair and the questionable affinity to wear speedos instead of proper pants, but Franky always had only the best in mind for his friends. He was the adoptive brother of Iceburg, owner of a giant business called 'the Galley-La Company'. They did business in all kinds of places, mainly in craftsmanship but they also owned a couple of restaurants. Zeff, Sanji's adoptive father, had known Iceburg for years and when the Baratie had been in trouble, he became Zeff's partner in name only. He invested quite a lot of money in their restaurant for little to no profit, saying he would do anything to keep his favourite place running.

And to eat fantastic food for free every day. It happened often that Iceburg neglected his work, called off his meetings even, to visit the Baratie, only to be dragged off by his bombshell of a secretary again. Kalifa... it had been a while since Sanji had thought about her and with relief, he realised he felt only a slight twinge in his heart when he did. It had been a year since their break-up but he still found it hard to accept... especially seeing as she was the right hand of the man he was so greatly indebted to and they saw each other practically every day.

Even the place Sanji was currently staying in belonged to Iceburg. It was a building that housed most of the company's important employees and stood right next to Galley-La's main building, making it possible for them to get to work whenever they were needed. Franky himself was head of Galley-La's shipbuilding branch and had to work at ungodly hours, whenever something didn't work out one hundred percent and his assistance was needed.

Sanji, on the other hand, was one of the big exceptions. Being fed up with living together with his old man over the restaurant (and being kicked awake every damn day), he had been searching for a cheap place to live in. When Franky had heard about this, he had suggested to his brother to let Sanji live in the free space next to his flat. The cook had refused at first, not wanting to rely on Iceburg even more than he already was, but was soon convinced when Franky suggested he could make bentō for him and his team whenever they had to do extra shifts and thus practically became a part of the team.

Living in the Galley-La apartment building, lovingly called 'the Thousand Sunny' as it provided a lovely view of dawn every morning, had soon proved to be like living with a big, troublesome family. While it was in no way quieter than over at the Baratie (the Monkey brothers who lived above him loved to play wrestle and out of Usopp's flat under him often came sounds of small explosions, not to mention the firefighter's signal horn whenever said explosions were accompanied by a whisk of thick smoke), Sanji still felt more comfortable than he had ever had in his life. His gentlemanly attitude and talents in cooking had always set him apart from other boys, making him an outcast in all of his school life and beyond.

The Galley-La Company, on the other hand, seemed to consist of people like him... people who were different than most others and excelled in unusual hobbies and talents.

Sanji had soon felt at home at this strange place and grew fond of everyone living there, no matter how strange and unusual they were... almost everyone. When things went well in life then there was usually something ruining it a little bit... like a small black point on an otherwise white sheet of paper.

The cook groaned when the elevator stopped at the seventh floor and the doors opened to reveal a gruff looking, green-haired man. The black point of his life.

"Nice to see you, too, shitty cook," the man grumbled at Sanji's reaction, stepping in to stand beside Franky.

The green-haired man was Sanji's childhood... well, rival you could say: Roronoa Zoro. Until he had gotten a job at Galley-La, he had lived in the dojo next to the Baratie that was owned by the father of Zoro's childhood friend Kuina. The man had taken Zoro in when his parents had died in a car crash and taught Zoro all he knew about swordsmanship.

Unfortunately, he was also Zeff's best friend and so Sanji often had to spend time with Zoro. They never got along and fought against each other whenever they could. Be it fighting, racing, or goldfish catching, they had competed in every area possible and always ended it with a tie.

Zoro was the one person, Sanji wanted to beat, the one person he had set as his goal... and he hated the guy's guts.

"Shut up, moss-head! No one would be happy to see that ugly mug of yours..."

When Zoro scowled, Franky held up his hands. "Now, now, don't fight," he said, looking nervously from one man to the other. Everyone in the Sunny knew about Zoro and Sanji's relationship. Gifted with unbelievable strength and unusual fighting styles (one with three swords, the other with his feet only), they were known for starting to fight over the most ridiculous things... and to destroy half the building in the process. While Usopp's experiments, Franky's robot building, Chopper's chemical researches and the Monkeys' madness usually had disastrous impacts on their home, they were nothing against those two's matches. If Sanji and Zoro were to go all out in a small place like this, Franky was sure he wouldn't survive. As spacious as the elevator was, it couldn't hold a full-fledged war.

Seeing the blue-haired man's desperate and pleading look, Sanji shrugged and crossed his arms, looking anywhere but at Zoro, satisfied when the other man apparently decided to do the same.

Franky sighed in relief when the elevator had reached their floor, unable to endure the tension between the two men any longer.

"Well, see you tomorrow, bro," he said, waving to the green-haired man and dragging the blonde out with him before the doors closed behind them.

"Damn! When will you two finally realise it's a good romp in the bed that you need, huh?" Franky said to Sanji who glared back.

"If I weren't a gentleman, I would tell you exactly what kind of a night I had yesterday. I don't need to get laid, thank you very much!" the blonde said while taking out his keys and fumbling them in his door's lock. "It's that damn fool who needs some action, anyway. The bastard probably doesn't even know what a woman's naked body looks like." Sanji turned his key and after a satisfying click, opened the door to his apartment. "Now, if you'll excuse me... I've got a rendezvous with a good glass of Merlot. 'Night." He closed the door behind him with a loud bang that made Franky jump.

Scratching his head, the blue-haired man looked quizzically at the place Sanji had just vanished into. "I meant a good romp with each other, you know," Franky said to no one in particular and shrugging, he turned to enter his own apartment.

Zoro leaned his head against the cool surface of the elevator's doors, groaning at yet another fail. Why did he always end up fighting with the blond idiot? He was sick and tired of it! All he had to do was to look at Sanji in a certain way and the blonde was immediately at his throat... not to mention that Zoro even took sick pleasure in riling the man up on purpose.

The past year, Zoro had given his all to improve their relationship, had tried to be nice to the blonde, tried to stop pissing him off, but... all had been in vain. In fact, it seemed Sanji even took Zoro's improved attitude as yet another insult.

What was he supposed to do if the cook didn't even give him a chance?

He had even tried to get advice from Ace, his co-worker, at some point. Despite his carefree attitude, rivalled only by that of the wandering catastrophe, he called his brother, Ace had the uncanny ability to find solutions for the most devastating of problems... he had even managed to get Franky to wear pants for meetings! A thing not even Nico Robin, archaeologist and Franky's girlfriend, managed to do and she was the most persuasive woman Zoro knew... her methods even went way below the belt. Although, judging by Franky's perverted nature, he might have even liked the mistreatment of his balls that time. No one could say that for sure.

Nevertheless, the accomplishment of Franky wearing pants over his speedos was a damn miracle! Even more disappointing was the advice Ace had had for Zoro...

"You shouldn't do anything, mate. Just be your charming self and Sanji will get around eventually. He might act like he hates you but I know that's just for show. Once he gets his head around this whole rivalry thing, he will realise that you are the best friend he has and maybe more..."

Zoro resisted the urge to bang his head against the metal wall in front of him as he remembered those words. He was supposed to be his 'charming self'? What the hell? If he had a charming side, would he even be in this situation?

The doors opened with a ping and revealed the corridor to Zoro's apartment. Sighing, the green-haired man took out his keys and went to the third door. Just as he had the key in the lock, he heard hurried footsteps and a cry of joy.

Eyes widening, Zoro fumbled with the lock, trying to get the damn thing opened before-

"ZOROOOOOOO! YOU'RE HOOOOOOOOME!" came the primal cry of a monkey and the loud bang of a door was the only warning he had, before Zoro was tackled to the ground by a knot of arms and legs.

"What the hell, Luffy? Get off!" he yelled, pushing against the young man plastered to his body.

"Don't wanna!" Luffy pouted, tightening his arms and legs around Zoro and making him first gasp in surprise then groan in pain. The boy had ungodly strength. "I'm cold and you're warm... stupid Ace broke the heater again."

A low chuckle made Zoro aware of the other Monkey brother standing in the doorway. "I broke the heater? Whose idea was it to see what would happen if you showered it with that green goo, Usopp invented, hm?"

Luffy pursed his lips. "You didn't stop me so it's your fault..."

Shaking his head at his brother's logic, Ace looked down at the now purple looking man. The arms around him seemed to cut off Zoro's windpipe. "Luffy, I think you're killing Zoro there..."

Luffy cocked his head as he looked at the man beneath him and loosened the hold of his arms around Zoro's neck and the legs around his torso enough so he wouldn't crack any more ribs than he probably already had. "Sorry, Zoro! Forgot how fragile you are! Shishishishishi!"

"Fragile?" Zoro bristled. "You could kill a damn elephant with your hugs!" Finally managing to push Luffy off him, Zoro stood up, put a hand on his back and leaned backwards. After hearing a satisfying crack that made Luffy and Ace flinch, he looked at them with a raised eyebrow. "What are you guys doing here, anyway? Shouldn't you be with your Grandpa today?"

When both of them put on matching expressions of innocence, Zoro had a pretty good idea of why they were back early.

"We sorta pissed off an important government lady and Grandpa threw us out... said we would start a war if we stayed any longer," Luffy said with a big grin. It was obvious he wasn't sorry at all about all that.

"Well, it's not our fault. I told him it wouldn't be a good idea to have Luffy accompany us for tea, but of course he didn't listen. He is still dead set on having him become a politician. Can you believe that?" Ace asked Zoro. They both looked at the younger Monkey and Luffy just had to choose this moment to pick his nose.

Shaking his head, Zoro said, "Garp-san's head is as hard as yours... I'm not really surprised. By the way, what lady did you meet this time?" Monkey D. Garp was an important government representative and always had to meet with other important politicians. Those meetings usually led to some very interesting stories as he was just as eccentric as his grandsons.

"Dunno... we didn't really get to the introduction. She brought her four dogs along and... well, Luffy wanted to play."

"Shishishishi! They had short legs and looked sooo funny! One bit me when I wanted to cuddle it," the young boy said, showing the battle wound on his hand proudly.

Staring at the bite marks, cogs in Zoro's head began to wheel. Tea? Four bad-tempered dogs? It couldn't be... "Say... that lady didn't happen to be a queen, did she?"

"Could be, dunno... She spoke some rapid English but we were thrown out before I could understand anything," Ace said, shrugging.

Gaping at the clueless men in front of him, Zoro wondered not for the first time how the grandsons of a family made of government representatives could be that clueless about the political world. Then again, the Monkey brothers seemed to live in their own little world that consisted of adventures, games and parties. Sometimes Zoro wished he had even a bit of their carefree attitude... it would make handling the cook a whole lot easier.

Feeling his heart sink again as his thoughts revolved around the blonde, Zoro nearly jumped when he felt a hand on his shoulder. "Wanna come in for a bit? We can talk... you met Sanji again, didn't you?" Ace asked softly, squeezing his shoulder in a comforting gesture.

Zoro raised an eyebrow. "How can you tell?"

"That's easy, babe. You've got that lost look in your eyes again... Come on in."

Realising all fighting would be in vain at that point, Zoro pulled out the key that still stuck in his lock and let Luffy pull him into their home.

"So, you met Sanji? Did you play? He always plays with me when I steal food," Luffy said after plopping down on the couch in their spacious living room.

"Luffy, blondie trying to kick your thick head in is not playing," Ace said, dropping down beside his brother and ruffling his hair.

"Shishishi, it's fun, though."

Sitting down in an arm chair, Zoro scrutinised Luffy with a stern look. "We didn't play, Luffy. He got pissed at my existence and that was it. How am I supposed to act if he already scowls at me for breathing the same air as him?" he asked, directing his question at Ace.

Ace gave him a long look before turning to his brother. "Luffy, could you go to Usopp's for a while? Zoro and I need some time alone."

Luffy made a face. "You're not gonna make out again, are you? I thought you and Marco were-"

"That only happened once and no, I won't cheat on him. I just want to talk."

"Alright, but you're the one who tells Franky about the heater later!"

"...Yeah, alright. Just go."

After seeing Luffy closing the door behind him, Ace turned around to see Zoro grinning at him in a very disturbing way. "What?" he asked angrily. He knew that grin too well...

"You and Marco, eh? Whatever happened to you being just 'friends'?"

Ace blushed and rubbed the back of his neck in embarrassment. "That... it just sort of happened. You can say that he swept me off my feet..."

"What? Did he appear on your doorstep with a bunch of roses or something?"

Ace snorted. "Don't be ridiculous! I meant that literally. We were sparring, he threw me on my back and... the clothes sorta... vanished..."

"Vanished, huh?" Zoro asked, amused at his explanation. "You a magician now?"

"Oh, shut up! I wanted to talk about you, not me. Hasn't there been any change at all?"

Zoro threw up his hands. "How could there be? Sanji hates me, hates everything about me. He always did! It's not like I have a chance with him, anyway. You know what kind of a womaniser he is."

"Well, I also know that you guys fucked after my birthday party in the Baratie last year," Ace said, remembering the day as if it had happened yesterday. He remembered how happy Zoro had been, only to find out hours later that Sanji had been so drunk out of his mind that he lost all memory of it. "He really doesn't remember anything at all?"

"Nothing... and if he does, then he is a pretty good actor. That doesn't count, anyway."

"He knew who you were when you did it, Zoro. He called you marimo, didn't he?"

Zoro blushed deeply as he remembered that night. The way the blonde in his arms had arched his back in pleasure and moaned his nickname in such an enticing way... it made him hard just thinking about it.

Zoro shook his head to clear his thoughts. "Ace, if he ever does remember, he will only kick my head in. I sure as hell can't expect a reaction more positive than that... I more or less took advantage of him."

"The person you've been in love with for over ten years practically threw himself at you... no one would've been able not to respond to that. Besides, Sanji isn't really the kind of person you can take advantage of..."

"But he wouldn't have done anything if he had been sober! And damn it, I should have more control over my fucking body! What do you think I'm doing all this training for?"

"Zoro, you're the strongest person I know. One little moment of lacking control when facing a situation like yours is not weakness. Every other person would've broken under the pressure."

Sighing, the green-haired man ran a hand through is hair. "That's just it... I don't know how long I can go on like this. I just have to see him and... I can barely control myself. If Franky hadn't been in the elevator just now, I probably would've smashed him against the wall and-... and-"

"Maybe you should do just that," Ace said and Zoro stared at him. "You never know... he might like it."

"Yeah, right... he likes it just before he kills me."

"You know, I sometimes don't get you, man. You're a damn death machine in tournaments. Whoever your opponent, you go into the fight with that manic smile... but whenever love is concerned, you're an emotional wrack! Why do you have to be so negative?"

"Ten years, Ace. Ten damn years... how the hell am I supposed to be positive now? Sometimes... sometimes I think it would be good to leave, to just pack my things and try my luck somewhere else."

Ace looked shocked. "You can't be serious, Zoro! This is your home!"

"Yeah, but I just can't concentrate any more! I want to be the best! The fucking best! I want to beat Mihawk in a real fight without those judges and damn safety rules! What do you think I've been messing with his goons for? Maybe... maybe he will come to find me soon and I'll be finally able to beat him. But I can't do that if all I think about is him!"

Ace held up his hands after Zoro's rant had ended. "Woah, calm down, man! I get you, but... Mihawk is here somewhere. How do you want to fight him if you aren't here?"

"I-... I don't know. Maybe I'll go travelling for a while... get some more experience from fighting other big shots like Daz Bones or... or... Ryuma even. I heard he is in Japan again. Still runs around looking like a samurai from the feudal era but he is supposed to have great skill. And, well, I guess we all are a bit crazy in these field... using real swords and all."

Zoro chuckled, a low humourless laugh, and Ace could see how tired and worn out he was. His seemingly unrequited love sat heavy on his shoulders, dragging him down into depths of hell and beyond. Since two years ago, Ace knew about Zoro's feelings and had been there for him while the man grew more and more restless and desperate. If he thought Zoro could be happier if he just did as he said and left this place to travel, then Ace would support his decision in a heartbeat... but as it was, he would end up here, anyway, if he ever wanted to beat Mihawk and Sanji who dreamed of beating Zoro would probably dislike him even more for leaving... or he would at least act as if he did.

Ace sighed. Every employee of Galley-La Company had basic fighting abilities. Iceburg insisted a healthy body to be invaluable if you wanted to do good work and so included two gyms in the apartment building. No one complained about the training as all of them had great fun sparring with each other. Zoro, as the only swordsmen among them, trained mostly with weights and had a hard time to find opponents he could go all out against. Sanji was the only one who managed to hold his own against him (and no one ever got how he actually managed to fight three swords with mere shoes... it was a mystery in and of itself) but that made everything even more complicated. Zoro wanted to get along with Sanji, Sanji wanted to beat Zoro, Zoro fought Sanji to have a real sparring partner and Sanji was being angry at Zoro and at himself because they always ended it in another tie. And Franky cried crocodile tears because of the damage they had done to their Sunny.

The same damn circle every fucking time.

He understood Zoro's frustration with this whole situation but couldn't brush off the feeling that Sanji felt the same way... he always had this fire in his eyes when he looked at his green-haired friend, a fire no one else was able to provoke and that had nothing to do with rivalry.

Wanting to at least be of some help to his friend, Ace racked his brain for solutions. "Zoro..." he began slowly. "...can't you fight Brook or Kaku? I know they are nowhere near your level when it comes to sword-fighting, but they've got some skill." He knew Brook, a musician who often played in the Baratie, had been studying swordsmanship in his earlier years and sometimes still trained with willing opponents. And Kaku, one of Franky's shipwrights, even won in some tournaments before joining Galley-La. Though, he preferred to fight with his legs these days and often had sparring matches with Sanji.

"I know Brook is good, but it's too dangerous! He needs his hands to be a musician and I could end up hurting him. As for Kaku..." Zoro's eyes darkened. "I won't ask him."

Ace frowned. "I still don't get why you don't like him... he is a nice guy, you know?"

Zoro turned his head to avoid Ace's eyes, jaw tense as he pursed his lips and Ace had to grin. He was the very picture of stubbornness. "I've got my reasons. Leave it at that," the swordsman said and the freckled man decided to heed his wish but planned to look into the strange reaction to Kaku's name later.

"As you wish, oh fearless master of the sword!" Ace said grinning before standing up and bowing mockingly.

Zoro growled, Ace chuckled.

"Wanna have a beer, Zoro? Nothing better than a good buzz to forget your blonde for a while..." The freckled man stood up, already expecting an affirmative answer, seeing as the swordsman never turned down free alcohol. Even more surprised he was, when Zoro shook his head.

"No, I've got an appointment tonight... gotta go now."

Ace frowned. An appointment at ten at night could only mean one thing... "You're going to fight again? Zoro, you've been doing this for the whole week! Together with your work at Galley-La... your body won't be able to keep up with that."

"It has to if I want to become stronger... See you later, Ace."

And with that, Zoro walked out of the door... leaving his worried friend behind.

Sanji dried his hair with a towel, a glass of wine in his free hand as he stepped out onto the small balcony of his apartment. When it was dry enough, he hanged the towel around his shoulders and went to the edge of the balcony, laying his arms on the railing and taking a sip of his wine.

"Ah, that's the stuff..." Sanji sighed as the familiar taste of Merlot exploded on his tongue. He watched the still active city, taking in the dancing lights and sounds of a busy Friday night. Hundreds of people would be out right now: dancing, drinking, searching for a partner for the night... and Sanji wasn't one of them.

Sighing, he thought about Franky's earlier invitation. He would have accepted immediately if it wasn't for the early shift, he would have at the Baratie the very next day... but as it was, he had to go to bed early, already knowing his old man would work him hard the next day. That shitty old geezer... he had been doing this for weeks now! Giving Sanji one early shift after the other ever since he had heard from Patty about his nightly adventures... damn bastard! Telling the geezer something that leads him to think, Sanji was wasting his life away!

And he had lied to Franky as well. He hadn't seen some action for weeks now and the blonde was slowly getting desperate.

He just didn't want to admit to Franky that he had been right... god, he needed to get laid! It was all Sanji was able to think about lately.

After Kalifa, he had had quite a few wild months... drinking enormous amounts of alcohol and waking up next to different woman every morning. Of course, he had been nothing but a gentleman... even intoxicated, Sanji knew he would treat a woman as nothing else than the jewel she was. And he always knew when to stop drinking... he knew his limits, damn it! Alright, he might have overdone it the day when Kalifa broke it off, the day of Ace's birthday party last year. All he remembered of that day was that he ended up drinking with Zoro of all people. Well, at least that guy was a great drinking buddy... pissed off when he found out Sanji didn't remember anything of that night for whatever reason, though.

Sanji snorted.

The marimo was probably just pissed because he had to take care of him and Sanji didn't remember anything about that later. Damn bastard... maybe he thought he could use it against him or something.

But back to the real problem: getting laid.

Damn... how was he supposed to get any like this? Messing with his shifts like Sanji was a little boy who needed a good spanking was completely uncalled for! Shitty old geezer... damn bastard Patty... stupid marimo for... for... anything.

Sanji looked down as he registered movement below. His curled eyebrow rose as he watched the marimo leave the building, three long and clothed objects in his hands. Well, speaking of the devil... Was the damn bastard going to fight again? Not that it concerned Sanji... not really. He only worried about his dear Nami-swan and Robin-chwan who had expressed their fear of the idiot getting hurt.

Sanji knew, Zoro was frequently going out to fight a street gang with his mad santoryu fighting style. Having the same circle of friends unavoidably led to him hearing discussions about the marimo, whether he wanted to or not. And Koshiro-san, Zoro's sensei had talked to Zeff as well about this matter.

It seemed everyone was strangely concerned of the bastard getting himself killed... a thought that seemed as ridiculous to Sanji as Luffy announcing, he would be fasting for the next three weeks. Honestly, the cook didn't think that damn swordsman even knew how to die... he seemed too stupid for that!

If it had been any other person, though, Sanji would have been worried as well. He had heard how strong that street gang was and especially their leader was widely known among fighters. Several police investigations had tried to prove Mihawk's involvement in the increasing number of crimes in the city... none of them turning anything up. And still everyone knew he was the leader... no one else could lead a street gang using real swords as weapons. Not to mention that Mihawk was known to kill men simply for disturbing his nap!

Although... Zoro could be the leader of such a group as well. Sanji hated to admit it, but the marimo was damn skilled with his three toothpicks. He was too good to tell anyone to commit crimes, though. He was the type to fight them instead and used the experience as training... not to mention that he hoped to lure Mihawk out that way.

"What an idiot..." Sanji mumbled as he took out a pack of cigarettes from the pocket of his pyjama pants. Taking his lighter out of the other pocket, he lit one of the cigs and breathed in, filling his lungs with the toxic, yet soothing smoke.

No, Sanji wasn't worried.

He wasn't worried a pack of cigarettes later, when he still stood on that shitty balcony and Zoro wasn't back yet. Neither did he worry when he realised an hour had gone by or when he rushed to the door, threw on his coat, stepped inside his waiting shoes and ran out of his apartment to search for the idiot.

He wasn't worried at all.

Zoro blinked rapidly as he tried to see through the stream of blood that was running down his face. There were so many... way too many. It was like all the elite fighters of the kendo street gang had waited for him to get his head.

He dodged two of the swordsmen rushing at him, using the back of his swords to knock them out. Another three came up to his back and Zoro struck them down without even looking. They were stronger then those thugs who normally strolled through the streets but still no match for him. It was the sheer number of them, however, that made them a threat. Like rats they rushed out into the alleyway, one after the other and there seemed to be no end to them.

They had been going at it for an hour now and Zoro would be able to last several more if it wasn't for that damn head wound he had suffered when several desperate swordsmen had jumped him and his head had collided with a nearby wall.

Now his vision kept to blur and the blood dripping in his eyes was a bitch.

Dodging another attack, Zoro whirled around, his blades slashing down and disarming several opponents at once. He stumbled when his surroundings slipped out of focus and he sank to his knees. The whole world seemed to turn as a blade came crushing down out of nowhere, aiming for his head. Suddenly, Zoro remembered Sanji's loathing look from before, remembered ten years of repressed feelings and lonely nights. He shuddered at the memories, all rushing through his head in a mere second and thought this had to be what dying was like. Still refusing even death to defeat him, Zoro tried to lift his arms, tried to defend against the coming blow, but they wouldn't move. Realising, his body wouldn't listen to him in time, Zoro closed his eyes, waiting for the impact to come.

A gash of wind and the sound of a familiar voice were what woke him out of his stupor.

"What the fuck are you doing, marimo? Get your sorry ass up and fight, damn it!"

Zoro opened his eyes, wide in shock as he saw a man standing in front of him, keeping the blade away from his head with his foot. A breeze blew through golden hair, bright blue eyes shining between the strands of gold, glaring fire at his attacker.

"Angel..." Zoro whispered.

What the hell was the damn moron doing? Someone was trying to split his shitty head open and he just knelt there, doing nothing to defend himself!

There was a terrible wound on his head, oozing out blood and with a start Sanji realised, the marimo was trembling.

"Damn bastard! Is a wound like that keeping you from fighting? Get the hell up, damn it!" he yelled, kicking down several opponents with a roundhouse kick. He kept his hands in his pockets to protect them from getting hurt. It had been a while since Sanji had fought against swordsmen other than Zoro but none of them could even compare to the green-haired man.

When the marimo still kept staring at him, Sanji wanted to give him a kick or two to wake him up, but just as he was ready to spurt out another gash of insults, Zoro's face split in a brilliant grin.

Feeling a strange flutter in his stomach, Sanji gaped as new energy seemed to rush into Zoro's body and he jumped to his feet, swords slashing out to disarm ten of the approaching thugs at once.

Smugly, he looked at the cook. "Who defeats more wins," he announced, a manic glint lighting up his eyes.

Sanji grinned in spite of himself. Figures the idiot would make a competition out of this. "You're on, shithead!"

Twenty minutes later, they stood panting in the middle of unconscious gang members, grinning like idiots.

"I've had 134, you?" Sanji said, fumbling at his cloak before realising, he had forgotten his cigarettes at home.

Zoro lifted an eyebrow. "Same. Tie again, shitty cook."

Sanji groaned. "Why does it always end like this?"

"Dunno... but there is something, I've been wondering about... what the hell are you doing out here?"

Sanji snorted, an excuse ready ever since he ran out of his door. "What reason could there be? I was out of cigarettes, so I went to buy some when I saw you getting your ass handed to you."

Completely ignoring his insult, Zoro replied, "Buying cigarettes? In your pyjama?"

The cook blushed as he looked down at his white pyjama bottoms looking out from under his coat. Damn it... he just had to wear the ones covered in hearts that day!

"S-So what? I didn't want to change."

"A priss like you wouldn't go out like that unless he had to."

Sanji growled. "Alright already, you damn bastard! I was following you, satisfied? I was on the balcony when you went out. I didn't see you come back, so I went to have a look. That good enough for you, moron?"

Zoro stared at him. "I went out over an hour ago... how long have you been waiting?"

"I wasn't waiting, asshole! I happen to like watching the city with a glass of wine."

"But you were worried..." Zoro said, his heart beating rapidly in his chest. Did he dare to hope...? "You... came running after me, because you thought something might have happened, right?"

Sanji glared at him. "You're damn right I was worried!" he started and Zoro's heart skipped a beat. Then the blonde's eyes suddenly turned into hearts and Zoro's own one sank.

Oh no... please no... don't do this to me... not again.

"I was worried my dear Nami-swan and Robin-chwan would be sad if you got yourself killed. Thanks to their kind hearts, they happen to care about a moron like you and a gentleman like me couldn't bear to see them hurt."

Zoro felt like he had just been hit by a bucket of ice. His insides churned as the cook went on and on with his declarations of love for their two friends and Zoro tried to tune out his words best as he could.

The chill of the night seeped through his bones, as he shuddered and his heart broke for the millionth time in thousands of pieces. He wasn't sure how much more of this he could take.

Zoro rubbed his shoulder, stiff from a day of tough labour. The memory of the day before when his hope had went up only to be crushed again, still fresh inside his mind, he had asked Franky for any work he could give him. The shipwrights could always use a pair of strong arms to help moving piles of wood or lead, so Zoro, who was known for his ungodly strength, was always a welcome guest. Franky had been puzzled by his desire for work and worried about the bandage on the swordsman's head but was finally persuaded by Zoro's honest plea. So he had spent the day moving stuff until he had felt the satisfying feeling of exhaustion seeping through every cell of his being. There would be no dreams of blond-haired angels that night.

"Zoro, you really alright, bro? You look ready to drop... "

"I'm okay, Franky. Just a nap and I'm as good as new."

Franky shrugged. "If you say so..."

As they entered the Sunny, they saw how the elevator's doors were ready to close and made a run for it.

"Hold it!" Franky yelled.

Ace, who was inside, put his hand between the doors, smiling at them as the elevator opened up again.

"Thanks, mate. That was a close call," Franky said, stepping in to stand beside him. Zoro followed before he saw the other men riding with them. Beside Ace there were Jabra and Kaku, both part of Franky's team, the former having a grin that looked like a wolf while the latter had a strange rectangular long nose. Going further in, Zoro was able to look who stood behind them and immediately froze.

It was Sanji.

Knowing it would be bad to just turn around and run out, Zoro gritted his teeth as the elevator's doors closed, willing his pounding heart to calm.

A few seconds later there was a sudden bang, the elevator stopped with a shudder and they were left in darkness.

Feeling nothing else than his thundering heartbeat, Zoro broke.

Next time: Sanji investigates! Who dared to kiss him in the dark?

Thank you for reading and please review! :)