A/N: My first piece of fanfiction, which I originally uploaded to my LJ account the summer of 2009. Pre-Enies Lobby. Rated T for language. Revised but unbetad; the mistakes are my own. R&R. I hope you like it.
Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of One Piece, and I'm making no money of this.
It had rained as good as all day. If you could call it rain.
It was more like standing under a waterfall - the drops pounded down, soaking everything or anyone stupid enough to be outside in a matter of seconds. It wasn't as if it had started out as a drizzle either; no, the horizon had been ominously black ever since they woke up in the morning, and just after lunch they had reached the edge of the almost solid-looking cloud - and the sky came crashing down. They would have counted it as a storm if it wasn't for the fact that it hardly blew.
Well before the start of the rain, Nami came to the conclusion that the best way of facing it would be to raise the sails and wait it out. They, and therefore also the clouds, as she helpfully pointed out to less intelligent individuals on the crew, were traveling in the wind's direction, so letting the cloud pass was easier than trying to sail away from it in the long run, especially if it developed into a real storm. The rest of the crew grudgingly agreed, not looking forward to a day cooped up under deck.
So now, as the afternoon slowly passed into evening (though nobody could tell the difference under the thick, dark cloud) the Merry Go calmly rocked with the waves, silent and seemingly abandoned in the middle of the ocean. The sails were pulled, the wet flag was plastered to the mast, and hadn't it been for Merry's sweet smile, the ship would have looked haunted.
While most of the crew had sought refuge in the bunk rooms under deck (or more correctly, the bunk rooms had been the closest refuge when the bad weather struck), Sanji had pottered around the kitchen since long before lunch. While he technically was trapped in there because of the weather, he rather thought of it as a chance to get things done without the usual interruptions. It did break his heart that he hadn't been able to provide the ladies with their daily delicacies, but Nami had been awfully persistent in her tries to stop Sanji - pointing out the fact for him that not only the food would get soaked in the rain, but he too and "every god damned piece of furniture in the room behind every door you open, so don't you DARE even TOUCH any other door than the Galley's, or I swear that you'll pay the cost with your own blood".
Ah, sweet Nami-swan. Always so considerate of others. If she didn't want him to get soaked in the rain, who would he be to go against her wish? As an apology, he had promised the ladies a large thermos of warm chocolate to bring with them under deck, an offer which they accepted immediately and without question.
The rain would probably stop about nightfall or early night, Nami had continued and everybody except Luffy had therefore voted for a late dinner as opposed to an early - thus giving Sanji extra time to prepare a warm, hearty meal. Sanji hadn't been entirely happy with the situation (shipwrecks always happened when you least expected it, after all, so why postpone a meal that could be your last), but Nami had ensured him that everything was fine - and that was all that mattered.
After finishing the dishes and giving the whole kitchen a good scrub, Sanji had started putting together the biggest French casserole he'd ever imagined having to cook, meant to be accompanied with freshly baked bread and red wine for the crew members who could handle the alcohol. He'd barely allowed himself to dream about serving a casserole on this ship - only the preparations of a dish that size took hours, not to forget how long it had to be in the oven. Thankfully, as soon as it finished, he'd only need to turn down the heat and let it keep warm; the taste would almost get better if he let it simmer a while.
Satisfied with his effort, Sanji dropped himself down on on of the benches, leaning his back to the edge of the dining table. The casserole was still far from done, but a quick look over his shoulder and through one of the portholes proved that the rain had barely let up at all. And by Davy Jones was it dark. Sanji fished his pack of cigarettes out of his pocket, insides wriggling with glee as he thought about his doves' faces when they were to enter the candle lit Galley. He had gone through the effort of taking out on of the ship's barely used tablecloths (locked away so Luffy couldn't spoil them) and silverware (again, locked away so Luffy couldn't spoil them), and by serendipity found a pair of candle holders, probably sturdy enough to ensure that their meathead of a captain didn't set flame to the entire ship (hopefully).
But he hadn't lit the candles yet – Nami wouldn't like him wasting them – so he sat in the dark, tiredly gnawing on the filter of the cigarette now between his lips, the light falling through the window just enough that he could see what he was doing. The heavy rain pattered against the roof and walls. It was in all exquisitely relaxing.
Sanji had never been fond of storms since one, well, actually two, almost led to his demise, but rain was a completely different thing. It was water in it's most harmless form, giving life to all land living creatures, it washed away dust and grime, leaving the world looking almost as new. And when he thought back, it was only during the rainy nights he had been able to sleep peacefully under his wobbly shelter on that infertile piece of rock, despite being wet and cold, knowing that he would have plenty of fresh water to drink the following days. Well, at least in the beginning. He couldn't remember much after the first few weeks.
He heaved a sigh and stood up, rolling his shoulders. It was years ago since he'd given up on thinking back on that time – it didn't make any difference to his life and only made him feel edgy. Walking over to the oven to check on the casserole, he lit up the lantern he had hanging from one of the knobs of the cupboards, instantly chasing off the gray feeling in the Galley and replacing it with a warm, orange light. After taking a peek into the oven and finding everything to be... exactly as he had expected, he quietly wondered if he should do something else, like prepare a dough for tomorrow's breakfast to have something to occupy his hands with, but decided against it. The only thing they would have with dinner would be bread, so to eat the same thing in the morning might be a bit too much. Porridge and pancakes felt just as excessive... he'd have to think something up by nightfall or he might be late with preparations. Patting his pockets to find his, apparently misplaced, matches, Sanji walked up to the porthole facing the stem. There he stopped, peering through the misty glass, condense gathering in small drops on the surface of the windowpane. The sea looked black and angry now that the wind was picking up, gently rocking the ship under Sanji's feet, and the dark gray, almost black, sky above it didn't make the image any more uplifting. Merry's deck was darkened with moisture, eerily empty compared to a normal day. Wait, was there... Sanji squinted and leaned in to the round window, trying to make out something... He raised his hand and wiped away the water with his palm. There, barely visible behind the mast in the pouring rain was...
No no no no.
No fucking way.
Sanji's mind was simultaneously yanked, violently, in two opposite directions – one half wanting to roll around on the floor and laugh like a madman, the other half wanting to scream with untamed rage and kick a decently sized hole in the wall
The shit-for-brains marimo sat leaned against the mast on deck, sleeping.
How was that even possible?
Sanji turned away his eyes from the window with a jerky movement and dried his wet hand on his thigh. Then he remembered that he still hadn't found his matches and started searching his pockets all over again, head bowed, trying his damnedest not to bite down on his cigarette and ruin it.
The lunkhead had really outdone himself this time. How long had he been sleeping out there, six, eight hours? It made sense too, because when the rain started nobody had had any time to do any sort of counting, they had just thrown themselves at the nearest door – meaning that everybody besides Sanji and Zoro had jumped down into the men's bunk room. And Nami and Robin had probably clambered over to their own room through the emergency exit, leaving Luffy, Usopp and Chopper to goof around as much as they liked. There were plenty of other rooms on the boat to take shelter; they knew he was in the Galley and would assume Zoro had slunk into the cannon deck or storage room - meaning that nobody missed them. They probably hadn't even given them a second thought (though it would make him the happiest man, no, happiest human alive to know that his two angels were concerned with his well-being... not that they had to be, it was his job to take care of them). He should just leave the guy out there, pretend as if he never saw anything. It's said that dogs and idiots don't catch cold – this would be the perfect opportunity to see if that also applied to pneumonia.
The thought should have made him laugh. And where the FUCK had he put his shitty matches?
It was probably just the moss head's luck (that luck that kept him alive no matter how many gallons of blood he lost) that the rain hadn't developed into a full-scale storm and swept him clean off deck.
Sanji finally gave up on trying to find his matches and ripped the unlit cigarette from his mouth with a curse.
I can't believe I'm doing this.
The wind was indeed picking up. With the door only opened a crack, a sharp gust of wind sprayed Sanji with ice-cold water, almost making him regret his decision. The sound of the rain was suddenly overwhelming once there was nothing between him and it; a white noise that filled up the world, monotonous to the point of numbing. With one hand on the door handle and the other planted safely on the door frame, Sanji could put his head out the door without completely soaking himself.
"Hey, shit-swordsman! HEY!" No response. Sanji doubted that he would have heard that himself over the racket the rain was making. And still the shitty idiot managed to sleep in it.
Brilliant. Just fucking brilliant. No farther than half a stone's throw away from him the green-haired ape sat snoozing in the middle of a could-be storm and Sanji would have to walk that half a stone's throw to wake him up, alternatively kick his head in, and ruin his clothes, his hair, and certainly his day in the mother of all downpours. He thought about throwing something, maybe a ladle or a bucket, or why not a carving knife,at the moron, but, sad but true, he would probably miss.
Fuck. Might as well get this over with.
Sanji took his first fateful step over the door step and felt like someone had dumped a bucket of water on his head. Except a bucket eventually emptied.
Wasting no time, he walked over to the railing and leaned to it with both hands.
"Marimo!" Still no response. All he saw of Zoro was one of his legs, arms and a sliver of that disgusting green head behind the mast. "MA! RI! MO! ARE YOU FUCKING DEAF?"
Nothing. The man could have been a damn statue for all that Sanji knew. It was no use – he really had to go down there and kick the blockhead into consciousness. He wiped away a few tests of his blond hair that had started to stick to his face and turned to the stairs. The water was already soaking his clothes, running down his scalp, back and legs in cold rivulets, and ultimately filling up his shoes, shoes that Sanji prayed wouldn't get ruined by this stupid stunt. The drops already falling from his eyebrows threatened to get in his eyes and he walked down the stairs two steps at a time, mindful of the suddenly almost... slippery feeling under the soles of his shoes. His shirt and pants stuck to his skin in a more than mildly uncomfortable way and Sanji swore he'd freeze his balls off within two minutes. Damn rain. Damn Grand Line weather. Damn Zoro.
Finally in front of the source of his bottomless irritation, he lifted a bent leg in front of him and gave Zoro a hard, piston-like kick, almost to quick for the naked eye, to his sternum – before he promptly proceeded with slipping on the wet boards and falling straight on his ass. Zoro reacted as expected by giving up a surprised sound somewhere between a low groan and a pained wheeze as his body instinctively curled up around the pain in his chest. Forehead to the deck and arms tightly wrapped around himself, he started coughing, trying to draw air down into his emptied lungs. Sanji watched with a mild feeling of satisfaction.
"ARE YOU AWAKE YET SHITHEAD, OR DO YOU WANT ANOTHER PIECE OF THIS!" He raised his leg threateningly.
"WHAT THE FUCK, SHITCOOK!" Zoro all but screamed in an incredulous tone. The heavy rainfall drowned out more of Zoro's voice than Sanji had expected.
"THAT'S MY GODDAMNED LINE! YOU'RE SLEEPING ON DECK!"
"SO?" Even though he was shouting, the "and-why-the-fuck-do-I-have-to-care" tone was unmistakable. Sanji was so very close to strangling the man.
"'SO'! ARE YOU SERIOUSLY OUT OF YOUR FUCKING MIND! THIS YOUR NATURAL HABITAT, NATIONAL TREASURE! JUST GET UP BEFORE I THROW YOU OVERBOARD AND GET! THE! FUCK! INSIDE!"
Sanji pointed up to the Galley with his entire arm, trying to catch his breath after his outburst, not looking away from Zoro's dark eyes, not even for a second. Both men sized each other up for a few moments, weighing the threat, even though they both knew who were right. It was blowing harder still, and the boat lurched under them, setting the water on the deck in motion around them. It was getting harder for each second for Sanji to suppress his shuddering.
Something was seriously wrong with this storm if Nami actually never had seen it coming. She had predicted rain, nothing more, nothing less – and if there was anything more dangerous on the Grand Line than the unknown, they wouldn't have survived as far as they had.
Zoro broke eye contact first with a sigh. Victory. Sanji let his arm down and let it accompany his other in keeping his warmth by crossing it over his chest.
"Fine, fine, you prissy cook. I'm going." Zoro ran a hand through his wet hair, that remarkably enough still stood up in it's usual spikes. Sanji's, on the contrary, had darkened to the color of wet hay and clung to his face
He barely caught Zoro's words, but he heard enough to know that he was being insulted. "I'M not the one that has slept in a storm for a whole shitty day, you ungrateful PRICK," he hissed through his teeth. Zoro stood up, looking down on on the still sitting cook with a face that boarded on scornful.
"'Prick'? You even talk prissy."
"Say WHAT, moss-head!"
Just as Sanji clumsily came up on his feet, arms still crossed, to continue his bickering with the swordsman, the boat lurched under him, this time violently. Before he knew it, the world tipped backwards, and he with it, sending him skidding across the deck. The railing stopped him from falling into the ocean, but the hit when Sanji's head slammed into it made his vision flash white for a second.
The next second Zoro was crouched over him, holding the railing with one of his hands and Sanji's elbow with the other. He felt like he should be indignant and protest loudly, but only came so far as to blink the rain out of his eyes.
"Come on, cook," Zoro said with a misplaced urgency in his voice, pulling Sanji's arm to emphasize. "We have to get in. Get up!"
He managed to coax the cook to his feet, but refused to let go of his grip around the blond's arm once they both stood steady again. Sanji gave him a murderous glare, but voiced no other protest as they carefully made their way towards the stern. Once by the stairs though, Sanji spoke up.
"Up," he as good as growled.
"What!" Zoro'd rather walk to the storage room on the lower plane, but for some reason the cook's face didn't leave any room for debate. Sanji may have been rattled, but his promise to the goddess below deck still rang clearly in his head. Up it was.
Finally inside after taking almost two minutes to walk a stretch that usually took them a sixth of that time, Zoro slammed the door after them and shut out both the wind and and the rain. He turned around and slid to the floor, back against the door, and relished in the sudden silence. Relative silence, at least, since Sanji finally failed to suppress the sound of his chattering teeth. The shitcook was trembling, and the reason was already forming a remarkable puddle under his feet. It wasn't as if he was dry and warm himself, but it wasn't more than he could ignore. The lovecook was just too damn thin.
"Hey, cook – your head okay?"
A few seconds passed before a muttered "It's FINE," reached Zoro's ears.
"Then get your clothes off before you freeze to death."
This time the reply was "AS IF," before Sanji started buttoning up his jacket with clumsy movements. Zoro looked away with a pointed movement and ripped his boots off his feet. After he'd whipped off his white shirt, he wrung the water out of it, expecting an outcry from Sanji, but getting none, to his surprise. He stood up and walked over to the kitchen sink, where he hanged his shirt on the edge to dry. Not until now did he realize that the oven was turned on. Leaning down, he looked in through the small window in the oven door, but saw only what he identified as a clay pot. The rich smell gave no clues either. Before straightening out his back again, he let the radiating heat wash over his face for a second.
"What's cooking?" When Sanji didn't answer right away, he turned to look at the blond... and sighed. Sure, he'd gotten out of his tie, jacket and shoes, all of the three items neatly placed on the bench beside him, but now he was struggling with the small buttons in his shirt, clearly not getting anywhere. And he was still trembling. With a sharp click of his tongue and a few long strides, Zoro closed the space between him and Sanji. The cook demonstratively ignored him, putting even more of an effort into trying to button up his clothes, and not succeeding any more than before. Zoro followed the movements of his hands for a while, with his arms crossed over his chest and a raised eyebrow. When he finally couldn't stand any more the pathetic display of pride, he shook his head for himself and once again grabbed Sanji by the arm, his calloused hand easily closing around the cook's wiry upper arm, and then just about dragged him over to the oven. Sanji's curses and insults, as well as enthusiastic struggling, went unnoticed as Zoro, not very gently, shoved Sanji down to sit on the floor with his back against the warm oven. Then he plopped down himself on the floor between the cook's legs, his legs crossed over the thinner man's, effectively trapping him. That way he was facing the cook at a not entirely comfortable, but acceptable, distance. Sanji looked nothing short of appalled.
"What the hell are you doing!" He pressed back into the oven, trying to get away from the swordsman's intrusive presense, and noticed with no small amount of frustration that he couldn't get in a single kick that would make any difference to his situation. He could of course headbutt the man if push came to shove, but his lingering headache strongly suggested that he shouldn't. Not to forget that he didn't exactly want to have his face any closer to the ugly mug in front of him – the thought alone was enough to make the hairs in his neck stand on end. Not that they, and almost the rest of his hair too, wasn't already. Zoro's eyebrows furrowed even more than usual in response.
"Shut up, shitcook, and stay put." He then grabbed the front of Sanji's shirt with one hand. "I'm getting you out of this thing."
Sanji bristled out of reflex. "It's a SHIRT, not a THING, you uncultured brute – and I certainly don't need YOUR help for ANYTHING!
"Whatever, questionmark – now shut up."Moving his hands up to open the first button under Sanji's Adam's apple, Zoro caught himself almost hesitating. Which, of course, only convinced him even more that he was going through with it, and he went in for the task with doubled determination. It was no denying that the situation was awkward – not even while fighting did they touch each other much, but this was a special case, and the normal rules didn't apply. He'd just help Sanji to undress as quickly and with as little fuzz as possible, and neither of them would ever mention it again. Sanji, apparently thinking the same thing, leaned his head back in silent resignation to allow Zoro's hands more space. On some basic level in his mind, something told him over and over that baring his throat like that was one of the truly stupid things you could do, and he gritted his teeth not to lash out on instinct as he felt Zoro's fingers brush his skin. He really wanted a cigarette. Once pronounced, that thought seemed to elbow any other thought out of existence, until nicotine was the only thing ringing in Sanji's mind. What a damn moment to get a craving. And it didn't look like he would get that cigarette anytime soon, Zoro was taking a while with his shirt. Fucking rain. Fucking freezing hands. Fucking marimo.
Not fully a minute later, but long enough to be odd, Zoro was still struggling with his shirt. Geez, he knew it was harder to unbutton a wet shirt than a dry one, but this was getting ridiculous. And it wasn't as if it went any faster after the first few buttons, that the swordsman got some kind of knack of it (if he now was capable of learning at all, brain most likely the size and color of a pea) he just kept plucking and plucking and plucking until the button fell open, probably more by itself than the marimo's efforts.
Too bored to feel embarrassed, Sanji lowered his head to get a look of the show. If the idiot's face hadn't been scrunched up in concentration, Sanji would have accused him for screwing around with him within the minute. For Christ's sake, he'd probably do it better himself by now.
And every second he let the vegetable play around with his fucking clothes meant another second without tobacco.
"You doing alright, shit-swordsman?"
"Don't rip it - cost me a fortune."
A quick glare, brimming with promised violence. Pluck, pluck, pluck.
"...What kind of a pansy spends a fortune on a damn shirt?"
"Look who's talking, alcoholic."
Pluck, pluck, plu-
"Could you not move?"
"Believe me, I would if it made this go any faster."
"Then do it, dartbrow!"
"I can't! My leg's cramping up, asshole!"
"Just shut up then!"
Pluck, pluck, pluck.
"This is all your fault anyway."
"My fault? That your skinny ass can't take a little cold?"
"I wouldn't have had to go out there if you had taken shelter like any other normal, sane person."
"I never asked you to."
"I never wanted to."
"Then why bother?"
"Because it'd be easier than explaining to Luffy why we're suddenly one person short-"
Zoro's hands stilled.
Sanji suddenly wished he'd said that last sentence with more venom. Much, much more as a matter of fact. Since something he was saying was finally coming through to the muscle-head, and it was important, though he didn't exactly understand how, and he should beat it in real hard while he could because- ...because he could, dammit!
Zoro's hands slowly started moving again, picking up where they had left off.
"Like you weren't the one close to falling off," Zoro retorted with a snort.
A moment of silence passed.
"Well," Sanji started and he couldn't really stop himself though he really wanted to. Because he could see it what he was about to say, read it like it was written on a humongous billboard sign, and he really didn't want to. And could maybe his big, stupid mouth pleaseshutthefuckupbefore- "- youwere there, weren't you?"
And Zoro had the nerve to stop moving his hands again. Then he raised his head and gave Sanji that oddest blank little stare he'd ever seen on the other man's face-
-and he just let him. He sat there and looked Zoro straight in the eye, face completely deadpan like he'd just said the most natural thing in the world. Like what dinner would be, or that the rain was letting up outside and the others would be coming over any minute now, that he didn't feel cold anymore and the oven was rather burning his back, and that the casserole he was cooking should be done by now and he should probably pick it ou-
Zoro was still staring.
Sanji rolled his eyes and gave up an exasperated sigh. "What?"