Just a little something I had in my head. I can't decide if this is a platonic relationship or not, it can go either way. It's really up to you readers to decide on your own. Also, this is not part of the "Memories" universe FYI. Hope you enjoy. :)
Thursday, everything was fine. He went to class as usual, went to work as usual, trained for a few hours afterward, and then went home. He had some leftover Chinese takeout before watching some TV, and then promptly crashed. This was pretty much his normal routine: get up, go to school, work, workout, go home, sleep, repeat.
There was nothing exceptional about Zoro's life. There was no mystery or excitement—besides the sporadic pop quiz in sociology, or the occasional injury at work. (Thirty-five kids under eleven armed with bokken and too much energy? Something was bound to go wrong once in a while.) Zoro liked it that way. He liked the predictability, the easy, rhythmic lifestyle.
School, work, train, eat, sleep. Repeat.
Friday, he knew something was off. He woke with an itch in the back of his throat, and no amount of coughing or sips of hot tea could make it go away. By lunch, Zoro's head was pounding. He couldn't concentrate on what his professors were saying, and it frustrated him that he had no control over his present state of mind.
"Zoro?" his friend Usopp stopped him in the hallway on his way to business class. "Wow, are you okay?"
Zoro waved his hand dismissively. "Yeah, I'm good. Just got a headache."
"Well then go home, get a nap in before you go to work."
Zoro made a face at that. "Skip class? Who do you think I am? Ace?"
Usopp grinned and adjusted the bag on his shoulder. "Okay, just make sure you're cool for tonight."
"Tonight?" Zoro closed his eyes at a particularly sharp throb behind his left eye. "What's happening tonight?"
It was Usopp's turn to make a face. "Uh, Vivi's birthday dinner? Seven o'clock? Baratie?"
Zoro wanted to groan but he held it back. How could he forget Vivi's birthday? She was twenty-one as of that morning, and the gang had been planning for weeks to get her sloppy drunk and take lots of incriminating pictures. It was going to be a lot of fun, especially with Luffy going to be there. Stuff was always fun when Luffy was there.
The only downside was, the party was going to be at the Baratie. If it was anywhere else Zoro would have been cool with the idea, but not today, not with this killer headache and the weird tickle in the back of his throat. Now, it wasn't that the Baratie wasn't a bad place, on the contrary, the atmosphere was great and it had the best food in the whole city. No, Zoro's reservations had nothing to do with the quality of the restaurant itself.
It was that damn cook.
"Zoro?" Usopp's voice was laced with worry.
"Mm?" Zoro mumbled.
"I think you should go home. You look like you're getting sick."
"No way," Zoro growled. "I never get sick. I'll be fine after a nap." He zipped up his coat and started down the stairs. As he descended, he called over his shoulder to his friend. "Don't forget, I still need your notes for biology!"
Usopp chuckled and waved. "I'll give them to you tonight, if you show up."
"I'll be there," Zoro growled and slipped out the door. He flipped up the hood on his jacket and headed for the bus stop.
There was no way he was getting sick. He never got sick. Ever.
X x X x X
"Zoro, are you going be okay?"
Closing his eyes to ward off another bout of dizziness, Zoro growled under his breath. "I'm just fine. I have a headache. I'm not gonna die."
Ryuma, the head instructor at Eiki Dojo, and Zoro's boss, lifted an eyebrow at the young swordsman. "I never thought you were going to die, but keel over? Accidentally hit a student on the head with a bokken? Possibly."
"I'm not sick," Zoro grumbled.
"Of course not," Ryuma crossed his arms over his chest, "You are impervious to all sickness, a real scientific anomaly."
Zoro rolled his eyes. "I'm going to a party tonight for one of my oldest friends. I'll go home after and sleep all weekend, how 'bout that?"
"I suggest you go home now, start your weekend of sleep immediately."
Zoro shook his head. "I have to go tonight. She's only gonna turn twenty-one once."
Ryuma closed his eyes and sighed softly. "She is also going to turn twenty-two only once… twenty-three, and four as well."
Zoro shook his head. "I have lots of friends that are gonna be there, they'll watch out for me. I won't drink, I'll be fine…" and then under his breath so no one would hear, "As long as that fucking cook doesn't talk to me…"
"What was that, Zoro?" Ryuma asked over his shoulder.
X x X x X
It turned out the party was a bad idea. The music was loud and the smell of the food was making Zoro's head spin. In the beginning he had faked it pretty well, for the most part, but it was starting to get a little cold and slipping his jacket on hadn't helped.
"Refill!" Ace shouted, and the rest of the party-goers cheered.
Luffy tipped a pitcher into Vivi's glass and then finished off what was left himself. "Bottom's up, Princess!" he cried.
Vivi laughed merrily and sipped daintily from the glass. Her cheeks were rosy, and when she stood, she had to lean on Nami for support. "Where is Kaya!" she cried. "I need my lightweight partner!"
"I'm here, Vivi!" Kaya cried from across the room. "Chopper's putting chocolate in my drink!"
Zoro chuckled at his friends, who were usually so collected and reserved, but then squeezed his eyes shut against the fierce throbbing at the front of his skull. Pinching the bridge of his nose, Zoro stood carefully and slipped out of the side door. The cool air that hit his face as he stepped outside was welcome, but only for a moment. The chill that rocketed down his spine was so sharp it was almost painful.
Wiping the sweat from his hairline, Zoro lowered himself to a crate and pushed his palms into his eye sockets in a vain attempt to relieve the pressure.
"Drunk already, Marimo? You've only been here half an hour."
Fuck. Just what he needed. He should have known. He should have smelled the cigarette smoke.
"Shut it, cook," Zoro growled. "Hearing your voice is the last thing I need right now."
There was a soft chuckle and that low voice murmured, "Moron. You'd think someone who drinks as much as you do would know his limit."
Zoro wanted to jump to his feet, close the distance between him and the ass-hole cook, and have the jerk's face meet his fist, but he was so dizzy he couldn't think of how to do it. The ground seemed to be tilting slightly, shifting under his feet. His throat was so sore he could barely swallow.
"I haven't had anything to drink tonight, shit-head," Zoro managed. "I'm just here for a bit and then I'm going home to sleep this shit off."
He heard a deep inhale and the bottom of a shoe scraping on the concrete. "You sick, Marimo?"
"Fuck you." Zoro hadn't meant for that to come out so harshly, but he was suddenly and inexplicably furious. He opened his mouth to tell Sanji exactly where he could shove it, but a cough overcame him, and pain blossomed in his chest.
Shivering, trying to breathe past the ache in his lungs, Zoro closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the brick wall of the restaurant. "Shit…" he murmured. "Why am I out here? It's so fucking cold…"
Several minutes, or what seemed like several minutes to Zoro, passed in silence, and then a gentle hand came down on his shoulder.
"Zoro?" a voice said softly into his ear. "Zoro, can you hear me?"
Chopper? Was that Chopper's voice?
"Sanji said you're sick, he came and got me. Can you open your eyes?"
Sanji. Goddamn Sanji. What the hell did he know? He wasn't fucking sick! Stupid cook needed to learn to mind his own business.
"Hey, hey, Zoro… Zoro…"
X x X x X
When Zoro opened his eyes, he was on his back, staring at the ceiling of his apartment. What the hell happened? How did he get home?
Slowly, he rolled to his side. His muscles were tight and surprisingly sore, as if he had worked out exceptionally hard the day before. He swallowed past an uncomfortably dry, yet thankfully painless, throat and breathed in deep. His lungs gave him no pangs but he did have to cough a few times to clear the garbage in his throat. Putting an arm under him, Zoro sat up carefully, testing to see if his head was all right with being vertical. Luckily, he was still weary, still a little fuzzy, but the dizziness was gone.
Zoro rubbed at his eyes, but stopped abruptly when he heard a clatter from his kitchen. Who could that be? Had Chopper come home with him? He vaguely remembered his young friend helping him back at the party, but not much after that. Grudgingly, Zoro pulled his legs over the side of the bed and stood. Irritated at finding himself slightly sticky, the swordsman yanked the blanket off the mattress and wrapped it around his body. Hopefully, whoever was in his apartment was okay with him being only partially dressed. His boxer-briefs covered him well enough but didn't leave much to the imagination.
Making his way down the hall, Zoro was unsettled to find that just this short trip was exhausting. He really was sick, and not just a cold or cough kind of sick, he probably had the flu. When was the last time he'd had the flu? He had been seven? Eight?
Rounding the corner, Zoro squinted into the harsh kitchen lighting and almost whimpered as his bare feet landed on the freezing cold tile. He stepped back onto the carpet and waiting for his eyes to adjust. When he finally recognized the tall, lanky figure leaning against his counter, his already sad and pathetic mood plummeted.
Why did it have to be him?
Sanji's head turned and his one visible blue eye slid toward Zoro. The cook sighed softly and put his hands on his hips.
"Seriously, Marimo, if I have to break your legs to keep you in bed, I will."
With that, the blond moved toward Zoro with what the swordsman thought was the intent to do bodily harm. Zoro backed away quickly and smacked one of the cook's hands away.
"Woa, don't even try it, pervert-cook."
Sanji froze for a moment. He looked at Zoro with a wide, open gaze for much longer than the swordsman thought was necessary. Then something in Sanji's eyes went from tense and cloudy, to bright. His shoulders relaxed, and he let out a long breath that Zoro hadn't realized the cook was holding.
"Holy shit, you're awake," the cook said softly. "You're really… I mean, you were sort of awake yesterday but now you're awake awake. Really awake!"
Zoro grumbled as he continued to blink against the glaring kitchen light. "What? What the hell d'you mean I was sort of awake yesterday? I was at the goddamn party yesterday, you saw me."
Sanji nodded. "Yeah, I saw you. I saw you practically pass out in the alley behind my work."
Zoro tried to conjure up a menacing glare, but he was too tired. What probably showed on his face was super pathetic and he hated that the cook could see it.
"I did not pass out."
Sanji shrugged. "Okay, you didn't pass out. You fainted."
"Dick," Zoro replied lamely.
"Ass hole," Sanji replied.
"I need to lie down," Zoro murmured as the ground did a strange wave thing beneath him.
As if the situation wasn't humiliating enough, Sanji led Zoro to the couch and helped him to lie back and get his feet up and underneath the blanket. Had he not been so tired and sore and just generally pitiful, Zoro would have popped Sanji in the jaw for treating him like he was a weakling. But then again, the cook's hands were surprisingly gentle, and the sure way in which he tucked the blanket around Zoro's weary body and pressed a cool cloth to his forehead was actually quite soothing. Not that Zoro needed it or anything, but it was… nice nevertheless.
Zoro opened his eyes to find the cook sitting on the edge of the coffee table, his gaze soft. His hand moved to press the cloth against Zoro's neck and the swordsman was surprised at how good it felt.
"How'd you get stuck on sick duty?" Zoro whispered.
Sanji shrugged. "Chopper was here all yesterday, but he had to work today so I volunteered. Couldn't let you keep eating the crap that kid was feeding you."
Zoro squeezed his eyes closed in confusion. "You keep talking about yesterday…"
"Yeah," Sanji rested his chin in his palm, "today's Sunday. You were out cold all Saturday. You were really sick."
Oh, that made sense… but a whole day? He had been out a whole day? What the hell? What had he caught? The plague?
Sanji took back the cloth and tilted his head to the side. He studied Zoro carefully for a moment before he murmured, "Are you hungry?"
Zoro nodded despite the strange feeling growing in his gut; despite the warm sensation blooming in his chest. Why was it okay that Sanji was here? Would it have been as okay if it had been someone else?
Would Sanji stay?
As the cook stood, Zoro slipped his hand out from underneath the blanket and grabbed Sanji's wrist. The cook turned back, seemingly unaffected by the movement, as if he had been waiting for it.
Slowly, Sanji sat back down. "What is it, Marimo?"
Zoro lay still, not sure what he had been about to say. Finally, he spoke, his voice cracking as if he were losing it.
"Why are you here, really? I thought you hated me."
Sanji's eyes, or at least his one visible eye, clouded for just a moment. For a brief second the cook's gaze was exceedingly sad, lonely. But then the look was gone, replaced by a small grin and a cocky tilt of a blond head.
"Never hated you, idiot," he said softly. "You're just an easy target."
With that, Sanji stood and gently pulled out of Zoro's grasp. The swordsman lay still for a while thinking about the cook and the situation and what it meant. There were many things he wanted to ask; lots of questions that were still hanging in the air, but when slim fingers pressed a hot cup of heavenly-smelling soup into Zoro's hands, he figured those questions could wait.
At least until he was better.