Sorry for the wait! I have had some trouble with the format (my computer crashed while writing and suddenly there were break lines after every single line O.o), so I hope everything is alright now... Please, let me know if something looks strange :)
Also: this chapter is rated a tiny bit stronger than the other chapters due to the beginning... I still think T is alright, though.
That aside, a few people have mentioned Kaku's nose and I have to admit that I messed up. This story being a modern AU, I simply imagined Kaku's nose to be longer than average but not impossible long like in the manga and anime and didn't even think the readers would have the usual image in mind and thus imagine Kaku to... well, stab Sanji's eye out while trying to kiss him or something XD.
So, it's a bit like Chopper being a boy instead of a reindeer, Franky not being half robot and Brook being skinny but no sceleton. I should have given you the necessary information before and am really very sorry about that! I promise to be more considerate in the future :)
There will be only one more chapter after this one and then... I've got a little treat for you.
But for now, I hope you'll enjoy this chapter :)
bokken = wooden sword
'Oni giri', 'tora gari', 'tatsu maki' = Zoro's techniques: 'Demon Slash', 'Tiger Hunt' and 'Twister'
Chapter 3: Kaku's confession! What will Zoro do?
He lay on the floor of the Baratie, a hand holding his head away from the ground, fingers entangled in his hair. A hard body was draped over him. He was being kissed... lips lapping relentlessly on his own, a tongue working its way past his lips and into his mouth.
It was hot... way too hot.
Sanji panted. Sweat broke out on his brow as he clutched at his duvet, his knuckles turning white from his grip as he writhed inside his bed.
The body began to move.
Hips pressing down, a hot hardness sliding first against his stomach, then over his groin, providing delicious friction through their clothes and driving Sanji mad with want.
It felt familiar... so familiar.
"M-More... " His voice was but a whisper, words pressed out between gasps and groans.
He tried to open his eyes but couldn't.
He needed... needed to see... needed to see his face... needed to see who it was...
"W-Who are you... who..."
"S-Sanji..." a raw, coarse voice panted above him and he knew that voice, knew who it belonged to. He had heard it for years and years but never in this manner... never drunken with desire and want. Sanji opened his eyes with a jolt, looking into the dark eyes of-
Sanji's eyes opened wide in shock. He stared at the ceiling of his bedroom in disbelief, panting as his heart thundered inside his chest. Close... he had been so close.
Gritting his teeth, the cook hit his mattress with his fist, fingers clenched in anger. This dream... he had had it since his break up with Kalifa, but for a few months now it had haunted him less and less at night... until the kiss had happened.
Once Sanji had found himself obsessed with finding out the person's identity, the dream had come every night again. Most times, he forgot all about it and only sweat and frustration reminded him of it on the following day, but sometimes... sometimes it stayed inside his mind.
Sometimes, like right now, he remembered every detail of it, every move and every feeling.
Feeling... was it normal to feel so strongly after a mere dream? Was it normal to feel your lips tingling after waking up or to still feel the press of teasing fingers on hot skin?
Why did this particular dream feel so much more like a memory?
Sanji ran a shaking hand through his hair and sat up. The kiss, that dream and the whole thing with Kaku... everything was slowly but surely driving him mad.
Three days had passed since he had tried to talk to Kaku and not even once did he manage to meet his friend alone since then. Not that he really tried... in fact, Sanji had been quite relieved when Franky had announced, the whole team would be working on a special project and was going to pull all-nighters for a while.
Sanji had been dead-set on talking to Kaku, but after they had been interrupted by Ace and Zoro, Sanji had realised with a jolt that he hadn't even really thought about what he would do if Kaku really was the one who had kissed him.
It had felt amazing... that much was certain but would Sanji be able to accept his feelings?
Well, if there even were any feelings... maybe it had been just a weird joke or a passing attraction even.
But if it wasn't, then Sanji was already sure their gender wouldn't be a problem... not after he had reacted so strongly to the kiss. But Kaku was... a friend and nothing more. Like Ace or Franky... he couldn't even begin to imagine a relationship with him.
Sighing, Sanji stood up to get a glass of water but then noticed a particular problem as he looked down at his crotch and frowned.
Damn it... was he that desperate for action that a simple dream like that was enough to get him this excited?
Grumbling, Sanji went to the bathroom instead and hoped a cold shower would be enough to get rid of the tent inside his trousers.
Seagulls soared through the sky over the harbour, casting shadows down on the people below.
A particular brave (or stupid) one flew down to sit on a pillar, watching curiously how a strange dressed girl with pink hair talked to a man with seaweed on his head.
The seagull cocked its head. Humans... they were so strange.
The girl rolled a lollipop around inside her mouth as she watched the man heave up one staple of wood after the other. "You look like shit," she mentioned after taking in the dark circles under his eyes. "That's so not cute..."
"Thank god," Zoro muttered, throwing down the wood where Paulie wanted to have it.
He was working with him instead of Franky because the others were busy building some special ship... Pluto or something. Robin seemed to be strangely interested in it as well as they were following some ancient blueprints. Zoro didn't really care, though. All he wanted was to work until he had no time left to think.
"What are you doing here, anyway? Don't you have someone else to bother?" he asked Perona who was sitting on another staple of wood.
"Nah... Law said he would sell my organs on the black market if I ever talked to Bepo again," she said as if all that didn't really concern her.
Zoro frowned. "Law? Trafalgar Law? The guy who does the intern-ship with Chopper?"
Perona nodded. "Yeah... people say he is pretty wicked and even has connections with the Mafia. Not someone you would want to cross, so I stay clear from Bepo for now. It's a shame... that costume was one of my best."
Shaking his head, Zoro went to get the next pack of wood only to be stopped by a hand. Looking up, he saw that it belonged to Paulie.
"Zoro, I told you not to overdo it... you look like you're ready to drop. Why don't you take a break and talk to your friend?"
"I don't need a break, Paulie... and Perona is not my friend," he answered growling.
Perona giggled and swang her legs around. "Horo horo horo! That's right. I would never be friends with such a lowly creature... I'm his mistress!"
Zoro's face twitched. "You aren't my mistress either, you damn pervert!"
They continued to bicker for a while. After a moment, the seagull decided to search for a calmer place to rest and flew up... but not without noticing two shadows hiding in the dark and whispering without the other humans' notice.
On another part of the harbour, the rest of Galley-La's shipwrights were working relentlessly on building the ship Iceburg-san had requested from them.
"Are you sure you're alright, bro? Those still look painful..." Franky asked after Kaku had winced for the third time that day while trying to pick up a tool.
"I'm fine, Franky-san. Nothing to concern yourself with," Kaku answered with a small smile.
After Zoro had left the gym three days ago, Kaku had sparred with Sanji and Ace and had received quite a lot of damage from the firefist. One didn't need to be a genius to figure out that Ace had noticed Kaku's admittedly cruel actions towards his friend... and the freckled man sure had paid him back in kind.
While Ace usually pulled his punches outside of matches, he had had no such qualms that day and went all out against the shipwright. Now, Kaku's body was covered in bruises and especially his back was hurting like hell. Ace had not even refrained from kicking his behind... not that Kaku blamed him for it.
As much as he didn't like Zoro for his attraction to Sanji, Kaku did realise afterwards that he had been an ass for acting like he did. While his more sadistic side still felt triumph over the image of Zoro bolting out of the room, Kaku did know how it felt to be in his shoes.
Nearly everyone in Galley-La knew about Zoro's attraction to Sanji, sans Sanji himself, and if Kaku was honest then he had to admit that Zoro's chances with the blonde were a whole lot better than his.
But still, he just couldn't stop torturing that man... he was too jealous of his relationship with the cook.
Whenever the two of them met, there was this strange tension between them... a tension that seemed to lock both of them into an invisible room and blocked everyone else out of their little world.
Whether they fought or simply stood beside each other, they had an air of belonging around them and Kaku knew if he was to wait any longer, it would be too late... he knew if he didn't act soon, then he had no chance of stepping between them.
As slim as his chances with Sanji were, he wasn't ready to give up... not yet. Not until he had at least voiced his feelings to the blonde.
Kaku sighed as he picked up a hammer.
How long had it been since he had fallen in love with Sanji?
A year? Maybe a bit longer? It had begun just after they had started to train together... Kaku had always admired the blonde's physique, but when he had seen Sanji's pride in his unusual fighting style, when Kaku had felt the strength in Sanji's body and heart... he had fallen and he had fallen hard.
His heart had begun to speed up whenever the blonde had entered a room and Kaku had soon felt unable to pull his gaze away from him. Sanji mesmerized... captivated him even.
"Kaku, can you help me with the bow?" Franky asked, pulling Kaku away from his thoughts.
Taking heart, Kaku decided then and there, he wouldn't be waiting any more. When his shift was over tomorrow, he would ask Sanji to meet him... and he would finally confess his feelings.
Later that evening, Zoro sat on the couch, a bottle of beer in his hand as he watched Luffy and Chopper listening to one of Usopp's pirate stories. They had all met in Ace and Luffy's apartment to celebrate Usopp winning a price for his green goo. The stuff that had nearly destroyed the Monkey's heater was apparently a great sort of cement that would become rock hard in a matter of seconds once you had applied a bit of heat... Iceburg-san even considered using it for his ships.
As Zoro sat there and looked at his friends, he couldn't help but think the engineer to be a good storyteller... he had heard of Usopp's wish to become an author one day, but always thought of that as just another one of his lies. Now that Zoro saw how awed his friends were by the unbelievable stories of floating islands and a village of mermaids, though, it didn't seem as impossible any more.
"Cute, aren't they?" Ace asked as he dropped down beside him on the couch. "They look like they don't have a care in the world..."
Zoro chuckled. "Seriously, I don't think they do..." he said before pointing to one of the bottles of beer in Ace's hands. "That one for me?"
"Are you kidding? Both of them are!"
Zoro grinned as he received the two bottles of liquor and placed them on the small table next to the couch. It wasn't a secret that Ace wasn't any good with alcohol... it seemed to have a bad influence on his narcolepsy and he usually ended up sleeping every few seconds before waking up again and wondering what the hell he was doing on the ground.
Not that it really mattered. Even an Ace who didn't consume alcohol was still a great drinking buddy... and Zoro was more than capable of drinking enough for both of them.
"Wanna tell me what's wrong with you now?"
The swordsman's eyebrows rose at Ace's question. "There is nothing wrong..."
Ace gave him a long look. "Zoro, you've been drowning yourself in work these past few days... I've talked to Franky and Paulie, you know? It's obvious that you're trying to forget about something."
"I-" Zoro began but then groaned and ruffled his short hair in frustration. "Yes... yes, you're right, but I don't really want to talk about it."
"You got to, mate. You tend to eat things up until they come back to bite you in the butt... it's about him again, isn't it?"
Zoro looked at him as his heart clenched inside his chest. Sanji's name didn't even have to fall and his heart still skipped a beat before clenching painfully. "Isn't it always about him...?" he asked quietly.
Ace put an arm around his shoulders. "Tell me, Zoro."
Normally, he would have brushed off Ace's questions and tried to convince him it was nothing, but the pure honesty in his friend's voice made Zoro want to say what he had been trying to push back inside his mind.
"I... Ace I've done something stupid. I... I have lost control and...," he said and began his tale.
As Zoro talked and Ace listened, they didn't notice Luffy watching them with curious eyes.
The next day, Sanji sat in a small café and looked out of the window while a steaming mug of coffee rested inside his hands. It was cold that day. The temperature had suddenly dropped a few degrees, announcing the transition from summer to autumn and people were rushing past the café's window, hurrying to get somewhere warm, all of them wearing too thin clothes in this surprisingly chilly weather.
Hearing the bell of the door, Sanji's head jerked to the entrance, his face splitting into a grin when he saw Kaku enter.
"Sorry, I'm late... Jabra kept me up," the shipwright said to him.
"Don't worry about it. I haven't been here for long," Sanji replied while Kaku slipped into the booth opposite him.
"I was surprised that you wanted to meet me here, though. Why not in the Baratie or later in the Sunny? The shitty old geezer gave me hell when I told him I wanted to leave early..."
"I'm sorry about that," Kaku said a bit too quickly. "I... Sanji, there is something I have to tell you and I thought a neutral place would... would be better for that."
Sanji frowned. "Neutral? What... what do you want to say?"
The shipwright nervously tapped the table with his fingers while evading the cook's gaze. Kaku had called Sanji out as soon as he had finished working on that special project from Franky for the day and since the chef had something to talk to him about as well, Sanji had accepted right away. While he still thought the meeting place to be unusual, the cook was secretly thankful for Kaku's choice. Seeing that he finally wanted to ask Kaku about the blackout, he felt a bit more comfortable being surrounded by people... at least it seemed better than being alone with him right now.
"What is it, Kaku?" Sanji pressed on when the shipwright still didn't speak and made to sip on his coffee.
"I... this isn't easy for me, but... I... I like you, Sanji. I've liked you for a very long time now."
Sanji nearly choked on his drink. Coughing, he placed the mug back on the table. "W-What?" All thoughts about the kiss had vanished in that very moment.
"I don't expect you to do anything or... or even to return my feelings," Kaku said hastily. "I just wanted to tell you... I couldn't keep quiet about it any longer."
Sanji held up a hand, his thoughts racing as he flattened his hair with shaking fingers. "Wait a minute. You... you like me?"
Sighing, Sanji tried to collect his thoughts. What was he supposed to do, now that the situation he had feared most had come true? "I... I'm sorry but I'll need some time to think about this," he finally said.
Kaku stared at him with wide eyes. "You... you aren't rejecting me?"
Sanji winced. The hope in Kaku's voice was nearly painful. "Well, no... at least not yet. I... I'm a bit confused right now. Can we meet at the gym tomorrow evening?"
"Yeah... yes, of course," Kaku said. He was practically beaming at Sanji. "I thought you would reject me right away. You've always been all over women, so... what makes you consider? What brought on the change?"
Sanji leaned back in his booth, his back resting against the soft cushion and looked out of the window. A child was running past the glass as thick drops of rain began to fall.
"You know, that's exactly what I've been asking myself."
The following day, it was finally Thursday and time for Koshiro to go to the tournament.
"Thanks for helping me out, Zoro," Koshiro-sensei said before heaving a big bag stuffed with bokken over his shoulder. "But are you sure it's alright? Don't you have to work?"
Zoro snorted. "Unfortunately, Franky and Iceburg-san have this strange idea that I'm overworked. They insisted I take a break for a few days..."
"Zoro, if that's true then it would be better if-"
Groaning, Zoro shook his head. "Don't you start, too. I'm fine and training the kids won't put much of a strain on me."
Koshiro-sensei gave him a long look before he heaved a heavy sigh. "Fine... fine then, but I've asked Zeff to make sure you're eating enough. I know of the poor diet you have when you're on your own."
Zoro's eyebrow twitched. That old topic again... it might be true that he usually lived on instant noodles and take-away but that didn't mean Zoro didn't take good care of his body. He had those vitamin pills from Chopper... that was good enough, wasn't it?
"Stop making such a fuss... I'm not a child any more."
Koshiro-sensei laughed. "You'll always be a child to me, Zoro!"
Rolling his eyes, Zoro picked up a second bag and helped the older man to get everything into his car. "Hurry up and get going, sensei. You've got to get your bus."
"Yes, yes. Are you sure you've got everything you need, Zoro? Class attending list, training schedule... do you know where the-"
"Sensei, everything is under control. I know what to do. You just make sure, you won't be late. Your students will insist that you run laps as punishment," Zoro said smirking.
Koshiro-sensei frowned. "They would, wouldn't they?" he said before he got inside the car. "Then take care and thanks again for your help."
"It's nothing. Tell Yosaku and the others to kick ass!" Zoro said, smirking. He waved as the older man drove off.
Sighing, Zoro looked at the still empty dojo. Class wouldn't start until in an hour, which meant... Zoro grinned. It had been a while since he was able to practice his moves in the proper environment.
Humming, he went to get his swords.
"Eggplant, I've got a special delivery for you to make..."
Sanji frowned. "Delivery? We don't do deliveries... what are you babbling about, old man?"
Zeff growled. "Just get this here over to the dojo, you brat. Zoro took over for Koshiro."
Groaning, Sanji looked at the neatly packed bento as if it was something disgusting. "You've got to be kidding! Why do we have to feed that idiot?"
"Are you really asking me that? Did you forget how Zoro gets once he has started training?"
Sanji frowned. He didn't forget... he knew that shithead forgot anything and everything around him when he was inside the dojo. Even outside of class, Zoro still went on practising his sword moves for hours, even neglecting his own physical needs. Once that idiot had even passed out simply because he had forgotten to drink!
"Alright already. I'll bring the marimo his meal... but don't expect me to enjoy it."
Zeff rolled his eyes. "Everything would be easier if you'd just admit that you like him, eggplant."
Sanji looked horrified. "Me? Liking that idiot? Are you insane?"
"Yeah, yeah... just get going."
Sanji was still cursing when he left the Baratie, the package for Zoro neatly secured under his arm.
That shitty old geezer, implying that he... Sanji shook his head. No need to dwell on that... his old man had always had the delusion of Zoro and him being friends. They were rivals, for Christ's sake! Nothing more, nothing less.
Speaking of which... it had been a while since Sanji had challenged the marimo to a match. Maybe he should ask him for a quick one in the dojo?
Thoughts still occupied with dreams of finally beating Zoro, the chef crossed the street and headed for Koshiro-san's dojo. Not bothering to ring the bell, Sanji entered through the big, wooden gate and went for the room he knew, the swordsman would be training inside.
The paper door was open and it didn't take long for Sanji to spot Zoro inside the big room. He just wanted to call out to the marimo as something made him stop in his track. Gaping, he watched Zoro move with his swords.
He was making slow, controlled movements and Sanji knew by now, they were to sharpen the swordsman's concentration and control.
Zoro's upper body was bare, a thin layer of sweat coating his skin, as muscles rippled with every move.
He didn't know what it was, but something about the sight captivated Sanji and he couldn't help but stare... moving like that, Zoro looked so damn strong and graceful.
Then his movements sped up and Zoro's swords began to slice the air. He was a blur of tainted skin and flashing blades and Sanji caught himself reciting the names of Zoro's moves.
"'Oni giri', 'tora gari', 'tatsu maki',..." Sanji whispered quietly as he watched and analysed every one of the swordsman's techniques. Then Zoro started to use even some techniques Sanji didn't know yet and... the cook wondered: had he always been that good?
It had been such a long time since their last fight and the blonde hadn't gotten a good look when they were fighting that gang... did the swordsman really improve that much? Was he... was he leaving Sanji behind?
Now, the swordsman made a particular impressive move and Sanji's heart sped up at the sight. It looked... amazing. Absolutely perfect, unbelievably powerful and... and better than anything Sanji was able to do.
The chef didn't have as much time to train as he used to... what if Zoro was moving to a place where Sanji couldn't reach him? What if their next match wouldn't end up in a tie and Sanji lost? What if he was going to lose the right to fight Zoro equally?
The thought made Sanji's heart clench. He had become so used to their competitions that he didn't even think about the possibility of losing against Zoro.
The swordsman, as annoying as he could be, had become an important part of Sanji's life... a part the chef didn't want to miss.
The shock of that revelation pulled Sanji out of his stupor and with wide eyes, he realised Zoro had stopped to move and... he was looking directly at him.
"S-Sanji..." the swordsman breathed and Sanji immediately blushed a bright red.
Cogs wheeled quickly inside his head as he recognised that sound, recognised that breathy whisper...
He had heard it before... that voice... that voice was... the dream! Sanji had heard it in the dream!
He remembered... he remembered a strong body draped over him and a coarse voice calling out... "S-Sanji..."
Sanji heart threatened to stop as he stared at Zoro. It couldn't be... he couldn't...
"Sanji, are you alright?"
The cook nearly jumped when Zoro's face was suddenly right in front of his own.
"I... food, I have food... Zeff said..." he stuttered, fighting down the blush as another flood of images invaded his mind and then he pressed Zoro's lunch into the swordsman's arms and ran out of the room, ignoring the green-haired man's confused calls.
What the hell was wrong with him?
Confused, Zoro looked at the small package inside his hands. To say Sanji had been acting strange would be an understatement... he had been bright red and looked at Zoro like he had suddenly grown six arms and three heads and... had Sanji been watching him?
Zoro blushed as he imagined the cook's eyes following his body.
Shaking his head, he went to put his swords away and get the bokken. Class would be starting soon and he didn't need that kind of distraction right now... neither did he need to get up his hopes again.
How often had things like this happened now and Zoro had later found out that there was a reasonable explanation for everything?
Sighing, he put his swords back into his bag and looked up when he heard the first kids entering the dojo. He had a class to teach now.
Sanji ran back to the Baratie, ignored the old fart's calls and went straight to his old room. He closed the door behind him and sat down on his bed, taking in the room that had been his home for so many years.
Zeff had left it untouched so it would be ready should Sanji ever decide to come back home... he didn't look it, but his old man had a surprisingly soft heart.
Sanji's wandering gaze stopped at an old photograph of Zeff, Koshiro-san, Zoro and him, the latter two pulling at each other's hair and ignoring the camera while the adults laughed at 'their' boys' antics.
He stared at the green-haired, angry looking boy in the picture and Sanji couldn't believe it.
He couldn't believe that it was Zoro, he had dreamed of all this time... for a whole year after Ace's party.
It was Zoro who had kissed him. Zoro who had moved above him.
Zoro... Sanji swallowed. It was Zoro who had turned him on... Sanji had become hard while dreaming of Zoro!
Groaning, the cook let his upper body fall back down on the bed. He felt... sick.
Zoro was his rival, for Christ's sake! He couldn't feel... couldn't feel like that about him, could he?
Draping an arm above his eyes, Sanji took a deep breath. It was just a dream... just a stupid dream. However real it might have felt, it didn't mean a thing.
Yes... yes. It didn't mean anything, nothing at all.
So what if Sanji had stared at Zoro just now? He was just analysing his techniques... there wasn't any kind of... of attraction between them, was there?
An image of Zoro's naked chest, coated with sweat invaded Sanji's mind once again and the cook felt his face flaring up, his heart pounding strongly in his chest.
Sanji closed his eyes and sighed.
What the hell was he going to tell Kaku?
Two hours later, class was over and Zoro entered the Sunny while rubbing his eyes and stifling a yawn. As much as he loved teaching, instructing hyperactive kids never ceased to make him weary... their amount of energy was simply amazing.
Zoro looked up when he saw someone standing in front of the elevator and groaned inwardly when he realised it was Kaku. Great, just what he needed...
Forcing a stiff smile on his face, he held up his hand in greeting. "Hello, Kaku."
"Hey, Zoro... finished with the dojo?"
"For today, yeah."
They stood in uncomfortable silence for a while and Zoro was certain Kaku wanted the elevator to arrive as fast as he did.
Feeling Kaku's eyes on him, Zoro turned and frowned. "What?" he asked.
"I... talked to Sanji yesterday," Kaku said hesitantly.
Zoro growled. "If you're starting to brag now..."
"I'm... I don't want to brag and I don't want to be an ass about it either, but... Zoro, I confessed to Sanji and... and he didn't reject me."
Zoro froze. He could barely breath. His heart seemed to have stopped beating.
It couldn't be true...
"That... that's not true," he said quietly.
"It is. He didn't give me an answer yet but he didn't reject me, so... I think I have... a chance," the other man said quietly.
Zoro didn't say anything. His mouth, his whole body seemed to have stopped working.
"Look, I... I'm sorry. I know you like him, too, but... well, I just thought you should know."
Kaku said something else but Zoro didn't hear him. He still stood there when the elevator arrived, the doors opened, Kaku stepped in and it closed in front of him again.
His mind was completely blank as he was left alone in the hall and forgot how to breath.
Somewhere in the city, a figure sat in a big armchair, staring mercilessly at his underling.
"What do you want? You'd better not waste my time... If it is about that Roronoa Zoro again then-"
"I... sensei, I'm terribly sorry but it is about Roronoa, we-"
"I told you to get rid of him on your own, didn't I? I've taught you all I cared for you to learn... if you can't even get rid of one obstacle then you're simply not worthy to be my student."
"But, Mihawk-sensei, it's... it's not about that."
"What is it then? Speak clearly, I don't want my time to be wasted."
"I... sensei, we... we saw Roronoa talking to your niece and-"
"And, well... she... Perona-sama said that... she said that she was his mistress, sensei."
Silence fell and after a moment, Juraquille Mihawk stood up and went to his fireplace where his sword, his most precious possession was placed over the mantelpiece. Lovingly, his fingers wandered over the sharp blade.
"Mistress you say..." The tone of his voice was murderous.
"Th- Those were Perona-sama's words, sensei."
"Find out where he is. Now."
The underling bowed deeply and Mihawk's eyes flashed.
It seemed like it was finally time to meet that famous hunter himself...
"How is he?" Luffy asked as Ace came out of his room.
The freckled man shook his head. "Still not talking... he is just lying there."
Luffy looked sadly to the ground. It had been an hour since they had found Zoro standing forlorn in the hallway, staring wide-eyed and white as a sheet at the elevator. When Ace had asked him what the hell was wrong, he had simply said that Kaku had confessed and... he had cried.
That was the first time Luffy had ever seen the swordsman's tears... he had clung to Ace and they had brought him up to their apartment and tucked him into Ace's bed.
Since the moment he had told them about Kaku's confession, Zoro hadn't spoken any more... neither did he accept anything to eat or drink. He just... lay there. Even his tears had stopped long since and all that was left was an empty look.
Luffy stared at the closed door.
It couldn't go on like that any more... he couldn't bear to see his friend hurting like that.
"Ace, we should do something... talk to Sanji."
His brother shook his head. "I know it's hard, but... Zoro doesn't want that. He... doesn't want Sanji to know."
"But it can't go on like this! Zoro is... Zoro is one of my best friends! I don't want to see him like that!"
"Do you think I like keeping quiet?" Ace asked angrily. "But it's his choice! We don't have the right to butt in!"
"I don't care! I'm going to talk to Sanji whether you like it or not!" Luffy said and with a determined look, he left the apartment and his troubled brother behind.
Sanji leaned his head against the elevator's cool surface. His shift was finally over... in the aftermath of that confusing encounter earlier that day, Sanji had been distracted enough that it had affected his work. After he had gone back down, he had ignored Zeff's nagging and tried to concentrate but didn't seem to get anything done without making mistakes.
In the end, Zeff had even kicked him out of the kitchen and told him to serve the costumers instead.
If the old man hadn't kicked him, Sanji would have gladly done so himself... he couldn't believe that his damn personal problems were affecting his work!
The elevator stopped at his floor and sighing, Sanji stepped out only to stop short when he saw Luffy sitting cross-legged in front of his door. "Luffy, what are you-"
"We have to talk."
The chef swallowed at the younger man's serious voice. The only occasion he had ever heard him use that tone was when Nami had been bullied by some punk called Arlong.
"Alright, come in then," Sanji said as Luffy stood up and the cook opened the door for them.
Luffy followed him inside and sat down in the living room.
When Sanji offered something to eat and Luffy refused, the chef immediately knew he was in deep shit.
"I have done something, haven't I?" Sanji asked. He took out one of his cigs, lit it and took a long drag. Something told him, he was going to need the toxic to calm his nerves.
"Yep, you did. Know what?" Luffy asked.
"I don't have the faintest..."
"Sanji, you're hurting Zoro."
Sanji frowned. Whatever he had expected, that wasn't it. "I'm hurting Zoro? We haven't fought in ages... how am I hurting him?"
"Not physically, Sanji. Emotionally. You're pretty mean to him."
Sanji blinked. Having a conversation about the very person who was responsible for his confusion was bad enough... but now he was being mean to him?
"Luffy, the marimo and I have always..." He stopped shortly to reconsider his next words, but then said them anyway. "We have always hated each other. What makes you think that he suddenly cares what I-"
Luffy shook his head. "Zoro doesn't hate you. He likes you very much."
Now Sanji laughed. "That's ridicul-"
"Don't you dare laugh!" Luffy yelled, shocking Sanji with his outburst.
"Luffy, what the hell-"
"Zoro likes you and he is always hurt when you're mean to him. That's nothing to laugh about!"
The cook felt a headache approaching. The marimo liked him... Right. "Look, I've no idea what makes you think that he likes me, but even if he does, he wouldn't be hurt by me being mean."
Luffy shook his head again. "Zoro is hurt... he has been hurting for a very long time. He is always happy when you fight, though."
"He is hurt when I'm mean, but... happy when we fight?" Sanji asked, wondering where he had heard those words before.
Luffy nodded. "Yeah, and you're, too. Everyone says so... Kalifa, too."
Sanji stared at him.
Kalifa had said he looked happy when he... fought with Zoro? Kalifa had meant Zoro?
"Sanji, you alright? You look pale..."
Sanji didn't feel alright. He felt like he had been just hit by a truck... that sort of an impact did the revelation, he just had, have on him. It was Zoro who looked happy whenever they fought... Kalifa had... had she left him because of Zoro and not Kaku?
Sanji looked happy whenever he was fighting with Zoro?
The chef looked up and saw Luffy staring at him with concern. "Luffy, does Zoro... does Zoro just like me or...?"
The younger man looked at the floor. "He... you're hurting him, Sanji."
Sanji felt as if his stomach had left him somewhere in that conversation. Zoro felt like that towards him? That was... that was just impossible! Never... never would Sanji have believed that...
And that kiss! He hadn't even considered Zoro to be a possible candidate... but now that he recalled that strong and hard body, now that the images of that afternoon and the memory of that dream were still that fresh inside his mind, it not only seemed possible... it even made sense!
Sanji did feel elated whenever he was able to spar with the swordsman... Zoro was his rival, his goal. While Sanji was still far from admitting to have feelings like that for him, the swordsman did hold an important place in the blonde's heart and he could easily see why other people would think there was something deeper between them than rivalry.
And Zoro was hurt? He had been hurt whenever Sanji had been mean to him? Every fucking time?
"H-How long?" Sanji asked. His head was still spinning with that new information. "How long did he... like me?"
"Ten years... maybe longer."
Sanji stared at him. "Ten ye-... TEN FUCKING YEARS? FUCK!"
"I wasn't sure if I should tell you, but Zoro had been... he had been so tired and worn out lately. Ace didn't want me to say anything, but I couldn't watch him hurting any more. Especially now, he is..." Luffy shook his head. "I think you can handle it, Sanji. I think you'll do the right thing. Whatever you're feeling for Zoro, I know you won't hurt him any more... now that you know."
Nodding, Sanji dropped down on his couch.
Zoro liked him and Sanji liked him as well, or... he was attracted to him at least.
And then there was Kaku... Kaku who had confessed and would meet him in the gym in about half an hour.
Sanji groaned. Had his life become a soap opera?
What would happen next? Would he find out Franky was his long lost brother? Would someone fall into a coma after Robin admitted to have an affair with Iceburg?
Sanji's lips twitched. Maybe he had some insanely rich relative who decided he should inherit all of his money or he was a prince from some small country...
"Sanji... you have a funny smile on your face."
"Call me Mr. Prince," Sanji said simply and took another drag from his cigarette.
At least he finally knew what to say to Kaku.
Zoro walked slowly through the dark streets. Lonely drunks and other people who intended to make the night to day passed by, trying to avoid meeting the swordsman's haunted eyes.
He could feel Kitetsu practically vibrating inside his bag, thirsting for blood thanks to his master's dark mood.
He had managed to sneak out after Ace had fallen asleep on the couch, had grabbed his swords and took off into the darkness.
Zoro would fight that night... fight and forget.
He didn't care what would happen to him, didn't care if he was to die a pointless death. He didn't even care about his dream any more.
Kuina would scold him... would probably even laugh about him and call Zoro weak, but... Kuina was dead, dead and buried.
He had lost his parents, his best friend and now it even felt as if he had lost Sanji as well... he had lost his angel.
His unrequited love had been bearable as long as he thought the blonde just didn't go for men, as long as it was simply bad luck that Sanji had been born as a straight man, but now... now all Zoro wanted was to forget this pain inside his chest... he just wanted to feel numb and empty.
Zoro walked into an alleyway when a deep voice called out to him.
Zoro recognised the sound of that voice immediately and smirked.
Rain drummed against the gym's windows and a small sliver of moonlight fell every now and then into the big room whenever the clouds decided to part for the big ball of light.
Sanji and Kaku stood in the centre, not even hearing the steady sound of water hitting glass. Tension lay thick between them.
"Can you... give me a reason? When you didn't reject me in that café, I thought that... I thought I had a chance," Kaku said quietly, eyes glued to the ground.
Sanji looked sadly at him. "It's... complicated. Things have happened and... and I realised that I can't have a relationship with you. I'm sorry."
Kaku smiled wistfully. "It's okay, really... You thought about it and that's more than I could've hoped for. Do you... do you like someone else?"
Sanji turned and looked at the window, his eyes following a single raindrop sliding down the glass. "That's the question... hell if I know. I don't know what I'm feeling any more... everything is so damn fucked up!"
"You wouldn't tell me anything even if I asked, would you?"
Sanji shook his head. "It's better if you don't know."
"Right... guess that's it then," Kaku said defeated. "Could we... could we at least continue to train together?"
Sanji smiled. "Sure, I just realised I could need some more training, anyway."
The cook just wanted to lay a comforting hand on Kaku's shoulder when he suddenly heard hurried footsteps in front of the door. With a loud bang, the door opened and Usopp came bursting into the room.
"Sanji! It's Zoro!" he panted. "Zoro is... Zoro-"
Sanji stared at him and held up his hands, his heart speeding up at his friend's panic and the mentioning of Zoro's name. "Woah, Usopp, calm down! What's wrong? What has happened? What's with Zoro?"
Usopp looked as if he was about to cry. "He... Sanji, he fought against Mihawk and... it... it looks bad, Sanji. Really bad."
Silence fell and the raindrops' drumming seemed to be ten times louder as Sanji's mind processed Usopp's words.
And then he ran.
Next time: Big showdown in the hospital and... Sanji tests a theory?
Thank you for reading and please review! :)