The 3 a.m. Itch
They always assumed he was asleep and, yeah, he usually was for the most part. But their mistake in thinking he was asleep was that they didn't know he was awake. A swordsman always kept one metaphorical eye open. It didn't help that there had been rampant giggling and sshing for the past ten minutes.
Zoro cracked an eye open and surveyed the situation
Moonlight flooded through the porthole into the cabin. And he could just make out Usopp, Chopper and Luffy looming close to Sanji's hammock.
Luffy giggled and Usopp shhed him, and Chopper pulled his hat down, shoulders shaking.
"I'll do it," Luffy said in a whisper, though it was a Luffy whisper and therefore louder than any whisper should be. Usopp clapped a hand to the rubber man's mouth.
"Sshh, no, no, it has to be done very precisely. Let me do it."
Chopper let out a faint squeaking sound as if he was trying not to laugh and it was coming out his nose. Okay, he was awake; time to find out what the hell was up. Zoro rolled out of the hammock and padded toward them, Luffy looked over his shoulder and gave him the 'isn't this cool?' grin. Zoro rested an elbow on Luffy's head because it was there and watched Usopp reach a trembling hand toward Sanji's stomach.
"Yo," Zoro said quietly.
Usopp and Chopper shrieked at near the same moment. The sniper jumped, thumping back against Zoro's chest, and Chopper bolted, though a second later, Zoro felt tiny hoofs on the back of his leg and felt shuddering breaths against his hand. Luffy fell over, clutching his stomach and laughing.
"Shishishi! That was hilarious! You were right!"
"Shut up!" Usopp whispered. "I haven't done it yet."
"Of course not!" He snapped in a regular voice, then clapped both hands over his mouth and looked at Sanji who was still out. Damn chef could sleep through a hurricane.
"Oi," said Usopp in a lower voice, slapping Zoro's chest with the back of his hand. "Don't disturb a man when he's doing delicate work."
"What are you doing?" Zoro asked.
"We're going to make Sanji's leg move," Luffy said and while Zoro had a feeling that wasn't the whole story he couldn't help but point out:
"Then you're on the right track, but I'm not sure why you want a concussion."
"Not like that," Usopp said. "We're testing Chopper's theory."
"He's waking up!" Chopper said.
"Shit!" Usopp hissed. "Tactical stations! Tactical stations!"
He heard Chopper clatter away and Usopp did a pretty graceful twirl around him followed with an equally graceful dive into his hammock. What the-?
"Come on, Zoro!" Luffy said. Too late Zoro felt that rubbery pressure around his waist.
"Wait!" But too late, he hurtled backwards and felt himself slamming into Luffy so they hurtled even further backwards and right into a hammock otherwise occupied by Franky. Some confusing seconds later he was trapped between rubber and a cyborg and ready to kill them all.
"Oi oi!" Franky said. At the same time as Sanji said:
"What the hell are you guys doing?"
"Are you wrestling without me?" Franky said. "You bastards!"
"Nff mff nff nffh!" Luffy said into the back of Zoro's head.
"No, of course not," Usopp said. "You see uh, uh Zoro had a terrible nightmare."
"I what?" Zoro started before he could say more a rubbery hand slapped over his mouth. Zoro tried to tug it free but Luffy had a damn strong grip.
"Yes, it was awful, I'm surprised you didn't hear it," Usopp said in his best big fucking liar voice. "He was raging and crying for his mother."
Oh, he was going to rage in a second. He sent a murderous glare at the bottom of Usopp's feet and willed eyes into them so that Usopp could see what was going to happen to him when he got free.
"You have got to be shitting me," Sanji said. Zoro felt wet on his face and realized Franky was crying on it.
"What a tragedy, I'm not crying, but I feel for you, bro!"
Zoro glowered at him, too, but Franky was already getting up and reaching for his guitar. Fortunately, Sanji's hairy leg descended on Franky's arm before he could reach it and they all suffered.
"Oi!" Franky said.
"Oi nothing, it's 3 am and the ladies are sleeping," Sanji said.
"Oh right," Franky said, sitting back on the hammock. Zoro squirmed and tried to break free but of course Luffy's arms came with and snapped him back and there was a pock! pock! as both their heads hit adam wood.
"Ow!" Luffy said, and Zoro wasn't inclined to feel sorry for him.
"So if the shitty marimo was having a nightmare," Sanji said, there was the click of a lighter. "How do you explain that?" and he pointed the lit cigarette at them.
"He's still asleep!" Usopp said.
"Sleepwalking!" Chopper said.
"Still asleep and sleepwalking!" Usopp added.
Luffy's arms tensed and he let out a muffled noise as if he believed this and was surprised. Zoro knocked his head back into Luffy's face, not caring that it hit the wall again. A lot more was going to get hit once he got free. To top it off, Sanji was giving him a long look as if he suspected something and that Zoro was the culprit. Zoro glowered back. Franky was still wiping at tears and Usopp's toes were clenching as if he really really hoped Sanji bought the lie.
"Whatever," Sanji said finally, rolling back onto his hammock. The cabin settled. No noise but Usopp's and Chopper's breathing and Franky's faint:
"It'll be okay, bro. It'll be okay."
After way too damn long, the cook's cigarette died, and smoke was replaced by deep heavy breathing... echoed by heavy breathing beneath him. No. That idiot had not just fallen asleep on him. Zoro opened his mouth, managed to get hold of one of those fingers, trying his best not to taste it, and bit.
"Shut up!" Usopp hissed. Zoro moved away from his captain and lifted him up by the vest only to find that Luffy was giving him a hurt look.
a hurt look.
"You bit me!" Luffy said.
"You had your hand over my mouth and fell asleep," Zoro said, feeling a small vein start to go in his forehead.
"Yeah, because you were going to ruin the fun," Luffy said, sticking the finger in his mouth.
"What fun?" Zoro said.
"You'll see," Usopp said, landing on the floor with a quiet slap of feet and Zoro remembered who the real culprit was here.
A few seconds later and he had a hand wrapped around Usopp's nose and was really tempted to make it point in a new direction. Usopp held his hands up.
"You'll dee! You'll dee!" the sniper said frantically. "Id'll be abading!"
Zoro glowered at him. Noticed Chopper was watching from where it seemed he was trying to hide on top of the blankets and Luffy was sucking his finger, blinking at him owlishly in the moonlight.
"Fine," he said, letting Usopp go and rubbing the back of his head. "But it better be damned hilarious."
Even as he said that, he still couldn't believe he was there standing in front of Sanji's hammock again with the rest of these idiots. But for some reason no one was doing anything. Usopp was sweating, his hands trembling and Luffy was watching, wide-eyed, waiting for the funny.
"What exactly is this theory?" Zoro said.
"W...well," Chopper said. "San...Sanji's really excitable so... I just wondered...if...if you scratched his belly his leg would kick."
The sound of his hand slapping his forehead was so loud Usopp shh'd him but not so loud that he didn't hear Luffy's:
"Oh, so that's what it is? Cool!"
Laugh or cry? Was it sad that he wanted to do both? That was the most- He was gonna- Well fine. Forget it. He gave up.
"Ri...right," Usopp said, and Zoro heard an audible swallow. He reached out again, hand shaking so bad he looked like he was having a minor earthquake. The moonlight picked out the beads of sweat on his arm. Luffy leaned in closer. Chopper clutched at Zoro's leg. Zoro folded his arms and waited.
Usopp's hand was right over Sanji's stomach, trembled once, twice and then jerked back.
"M...maybe w...we should wait til tomorrow n...night!" Usopp said with a laugh.
"No," Zoro said. No way was this happening another night. He was here. He was comitted. It was going to happen even if he had to do it himself. He jerked Usopp out of the way, stepped closer to the hammock, raised his hand-
-and paused. No! What the hell was he doing? How the hell did he get sucked into this! He wasn't going to tickle any damn love cook's stomach.
"Do it, Zoro!" Luffy said.
"Be brave!" Usopp said.
"It's not about bravery!" Zoro snapped at him. No way. Noo way was he gonna get suckered into this. Zoro let his hand drop. He was just gonna go back to sleep and-
Then Usopp's voice came out of the dark, quiet and low and sneaky.
"Are you chicken?"
Son of a-
Zoro turned his head to look at the sniper and pointed at him, letting him know under no uncertain terms just how much trouble he was in. Usopp swallowed.
Zoro took a deep breath, squared his shoulders, raised his hand and with his nakama leaning in all around him-
-tickled Sanji's stomach.
Sanji's leg kicked.
"HA!" the sound burst out of him before he could stop it, loud and ringing.
As a swordsman, Zoro knew that life was measured out in seconds, and that sometimes those seconds were as long as hours.
He FELT the second Sanji's eye opened, filled with all the maliciousness of a tightly wound cook woken up awkwardly at 3 am
He FELT the next second that he was alone, Usopp and Chopper diving for cover taking the muffled Luffy with them.
And he sure as hell FELT the third second when that hard as hell foot shot up like a boom, caught him in the chin and sent him crashing into Franky again who startled and added a punch of his own.
The next few seconds went by in a blur as Sanji went around kicking everyone in the damn room including a confused Brook who had just came in from watch and got kicked right to the bone yo ho ho freaking ho.
And finally when things settled by Nami threatening to slap them all into oblivion if they didn't, everyone was bruised, and annoyed except for Luffy who giggled until Sanji drop heeled him in the mouth.
Breakfast the next morning -or later on that day- was strained to say the least. Zoro's portion was ridiculously small. Luffy was telling the story to Franky and Brook who were too damn amused by it but sent Usopp into trembling whenever his name was mentioned. Probably due to the look Sanji sent his way.
Zoro finished his breakfast as fast as he could, not that he had to try too damn hard and was about to leave but was distracted by the sight of Robin smiling at him across the table. He dared her to say something. Her smiled widened. Shit. Shouldn't have dared.
"If you wanted to know if Sanji kicked, you should have just asked me," she said.
Zoro stared. Robin smiled. Sanji yelled at him that if he was finished eating he could get the hell out of the dining room.
Zoro got. Thought about it for a moment and decided it wasn't worth knowing. Now it was time for a nap and a serious consideration to join the Marines.
Disclaimer: All and sundry belong to Oda