Longest one-shot I've ever written and also the most intense one. I actually started it a few months back but lost interest when only two scenes were missing. Thanks to a writing spree, it's complete now.

I only edited the story once, so please tell me if there are unbearable mistakes. The length just made the process pretty hard, but I might look it over again later. It should be readable, though.

Roommate is also on a good way and if work stops bugging me long enough, I should be able to update next week.

And now, enjoy! :)

Disclaimer: I STILL don't own One Piece.

Of Love And Loss

The air was heavy with cigarette smoke and the stench of sweaty bodies. Music droned loudly over the dance floor and most guests in Makino's club were dancing to its heavy beat, swinging their barely clad bodies to the rhythm while the rest did their best to get drunk or pick someone up for the night.

A blond man sat at one of the tables, an unlit cigarette dangling from his lips and oblivious to all the half-naked people dancing around him. Usually the first one to chat someone up, Sanji Black had settled for something else that night and was now supporting his chin with his hand as he looked at the green-haired guy in front of him with a gentle smile.

Zoro, who had had a few rough nights at work, was sleeping with his head lying on the table, snoring loud enough that even the music couldn't drown him out. He hadn't even taken the time to change his clothes and was still dressed in his 'Security'-shirt with the bullet-proofed vest beneath it.

Sanji's smile widened as he reached out to touch a strand of Zoro's green hair, letting it slip between his fingertips. "Stupid marimo head," Sanji whispered, his eyes shining as he took in the sleeping swordsman, his fingers still running through surprisingly soft hair. "You have to learn to say no, you know?"

The sleeping man grunted in response, neither really hearing the comment nor feeling the manhandling of his hair.

Zoro was working as a freelance bodyguard and with his reputation of never letting his clients even get a scratch, he had more orders than he could possibly take care of. If he could help it, he still refused to turn them down, however, and the result was always this: a completely exhausted idiot, sleeping inside a dance club.

"He still out of it?" a voice asked and Sanji looked up to see Franky with new drinks standing next to him. He was wearing one of his bright Hawaii T-shirts, a stark contrast to Sanji's elegant suit. Franky had the habit of standing out and his light blue hair, trademark speedos and colourful shirts were nothing against his blazing personality.

The man had also been the reason why they were at the club in the first place: it was his very first day at work as a barkeeper and as his friends, they wanted to make sure, he would have more than enough work... a plan that quickly went sour when the strongest drinker among them passed out minutes after his arrival.

"He overdid it again," Sanji answered softly. "Had to protect some rich brat... you know how he is with kids."

"Same as you with women," Franky replied, nodding his head while Sanji grimaced. "But that seemed to have changed too, huh? Shouldn't you be out there and pick up some chicks instead of messing with Zoro-bro's hair?"

Sanji's hand stopped at once at Franky's words and surprised if not a bit shocked, he looked at his hand hovering over Zoro's head.

Franky frowned. "Dude, don't tell me you haven't realised... what's up with you lately? Your cigarette isn't even lit!", he said, his voice disbelievingly as he stared at his friend who quickly took the cigarette out of his mouth. "I haven't even seen you flirt at all today."

"I... don't know," Sanji answered.

Franky was silent for a bit and then lay a hand on his shoulder. "I've noticed it for a while now... Zoro and you, the way you talk and touch each other... Sanji-bro, don't take this the wrong way but it looks to me as if you two aren't just friends any more."

Sanji turned his head away from his friend and looked at his hands again. The music seemed to quieten down as his thoughts keeled over and he took in his pale and tingling fingers.

"I... really don't know."

Sanji lit up a cigarette, his gaze shifting to the bright moon as he sucked in the smoke.

He was standing at the back entrance of the Baratie, a posh restaurant where he was working at most of the time, and let his thoughts wander back to the day when his world had turned upside down.

It had been an epiphany of sorts, a revelation that had come as unexpected as unwanted. Sanji was a man who loved women more than anything else. Nothing could compare to the softness of their skin, full lips that begged to be kissed or gentle natures that ought to be worshipped.

Never before had he thought these things about a man and even now, he wasn't quite seeing Zoro the same way as he saw those beautiful women.

And yet, there was this... thing between them.

Sanji sighed, the breath that escaped his mouth being mixed by a wisp of smoke. With his shift ending two hours ago, it had become awfully late... all thanks to the shitty old geezer who had made him stay longer when he had 'bothered the female costumers'.

Sanji gritted his teeth, breaking his cigarette in the process as irritation made his brow twitch in annoyance. The ladies hadn't complained... on the contrary, Sanji was sure, he was the sole reason they were coming to the shitty restaurant in the first place.

Every woman wanted to be treated like a princess and that was what he did: he treated every lady like a true diamond... it wasn't even as if he tried to pick them up or anything.

No, not any more.

Shuddering as a fresh gash of wind surged through the alley and messed up his hair, Sanji finished his cigarette, stumped out the butt on the ground and with hands in his pockets, he made his way home.

He wasn't living far from the restaurant and that was sole the reason, he had chosen an apartment in a rundown building, placed in one of the worst parts of town.

Living in Tokyo was expensive and even though Sanji earned more than enough money as sous-chef to rent a nice enough place, he was saving money to fulfil his dream: to open up his very own restaurant: 'The All Blue', a place where you can eat seafood from all over the world.

It had been his dream since he was little and even though people had laughed at him for such a romantic dream, he had paid them no mind and continued to work hard for his goal.

Not everyone laughed, though. Zeff had always been supportive and his friends cheered him up whenever he had been in a slump.

They were always complimenting him on his food, even when it wasn't up to par, and Zoro, too, had grunted out a compliment or two.

Sanji grinned.

That guy was always the toughest nut to crack. Only Sanji's riceballs never failed to catch him off guard: the damn bastard loved them to death and it always showed on his face.

It was a surprisingly cute trait... one Sanji never got tired of teasing him about.

Humming as he walked through the dark alleys that led to his home, Sanji stopped abruptly when his sensitive ears picked up a noise. After a few seconds, he thought he had misheard and wanted to walk on, but then-

"Oh, no! Please let me go! I don't have anything! Please!"

Sanji whirled to his right when he heard the panicked voice and started to run down the narrow way between buildings.

It was coming from an alley just by the main street, one many people had to walk through when they didn't want to make a detour... a fact well known by many robbers.

His feet carried him on and on, always following the obviously female screams as walls flew past him. A cat hissed angrily as he approached her but Sanji jumped over her, scaring the poor thing to death as he landed on his feet behind her. "Sorry, kitty!" he said, holding up his hand apologetically and never ceasing to run.

Sanji's feet screeched over the pavement when he had finally reached the infamous alley and stopped suddenly as he saw the originator of the voice: a young girl surrounded by three ugly bastards with knives in their hands.

One of them, a fat guy with three missing teeth was leering at the poor girl, swinging his knife in front of her eyes. A dirty grin spread on his face as tears spilled down the girl's cheeks. She had to be quite young, sixteen, eighteen at most and with the braids in her hair, she looked like a doll... innocent and trembling before the leering men.

"We don't care what you say, missy. Think ya can fool us, don't ya?," the fat guy said, using his knife to touch first her tear-stained cheek and then lining his way down to her cleavage. "We gotta make a body search then, right gu-"

The bastard's dirty talk was stopped as Sanji's foot in his face.

As if in slow motion, the man's face distorted by the sudden force, two teeth broke out of his mouth and when time returned to its proper pace, he flew to the side and crushed against a wall, his body slumping to the ground, lifeless and unmoving.

"Aniki!" the two other thugs cried out in shock before turning to the blond who had kicked their boss aside. "You damn bastard! Who the fuck are ya?!" Their bodies took on a defensive stance, the knives in their hands trembling as they regarded the blond stranger with fear and disdain.

Sanji stood tall in front of the woman who silently cried behind him. His face was twisted in anger as he looked at the ugly fools, his hands balled into fists in his pockets.

"Oi, you alright? Are you hurt?" he asked the girl over his shoulder, ignoring the men in front of him.

The girl didn't answer at once but then Sanji could hear a tearful 'yes'. "Run and get the police. I'll take care of these bastards," he said and the remaining two men cried out in outrage at his words.


"I can handle them. Go!" he said a little louder this time and the girl seemed to finally snap out of it. Taking a deep breath, she thanked him and began to run down the way Sanji had come from.

One of the men wanted to follow her but Sanji quickly blocked his way. "Not so fast, asshole. I said I would take care of you, didn't I? And I always keep my promises."

The guy sneered but Sanji only returned it with a twisted grin. They had no idea what they had bargained for when they attacked a lady in his neighbourhood.

Thirty minutes later, Sanji's curled eyebrow twitched as he saw the light in his apartment.

"Great... just fucking great," he mumbled as he limbed up the stairs.

He was living on the second floor of a small building, his apartment being one of five others on that floor. A metal stairway connected every home and provided a sort of joined balcony. Not that anyone spent more time than was necessary on it.

The stairs creaked under Sanji's weight and reminded him once again of the building's bad state.

If it hadn't been for Franky and Usopp helping him and the other residents out, Sanji wouldn't even be able to live there any more. Things kept getting broken... the metal staircase was rusty, the heater was as reliable as a Luffy entrusted with food and fourth floor resident Coby recently paid an involuntary visit to third floor Alvida as her ceiling broke down.

But that was why it was cheap... cheaper than any other apartments of that size and for Sanji, it was good enough.

Hobbling, he made his way to his door, careful not to put too much weight on the rusty metal. He fumbled a bit with his keys in his pocket and then slowly turned the key in the lock.

Loud TV noises greeted him after Sanji had opened the door and walked in.

As expected, the first thing he saw was a green alien stretched out on his couch, a bottle of sake in his hand as he laughed loudly about some bad joke on TV.

"You do know that you don't live here, right?" Sanji asked as he closed the door behind him. He gritted his teeth as he tried to walk over normally. It was no use alerting the marimo of his injured foot.

"I have a key," Zoro replied, shrugging before taking a swig of his bottle.

"That's for emergencies."

"This is an emergency."

"In what way?"

"I was out of sake," Zoro answered, swinging the now empty bottle in front of Sanji's face as the chef came to a halt before him.

"I'm not a fucking convenience store, Zoro! Do it like other people and buy your own damn food!"

Zoro grinned. "Strange... you aren't even drinking sake and yet you always have a whole new stash of bottles when I'm here. And don't even try to say they are for you... I know you just drink that fancy wine of yours."

"I have other friends, you know?" Sanji said through clenched teeth.

"But only Franky and Ace drink stuff like this," Zoro replied. "And neither of them are visiting you regularly. That's only me."

Sanji felt his eyebrow twitching again at Zoro's smug tone. "So what? I just like you intoxicated and quiet when you're here. That doesn't mean you live here."

"I have a drawer and a toothbrush, though."

Sanji stared at him. "You've what?! Since when?"

"Today. It's more convenient that way and I don't have to use yours any more..."

Sanji didn't even know where to begin to reply to that but he desperately hoped that Zoro meant the drawer and not his toothbrush with that last remark.

"You... I... what the-" he started but Zoro ignored him and stood up, making his way to the bathroom.

"Sorry, gotta piss," the marimo said and went past Sanji, making him feel like an idiot.

"Now, you just wait, you damn bastard! I'm not finished talk-" Sanji began. Forgetting about his foot, he wanted to follow Zoro but was stopped by a surging pain in his right ankle as he set his foot on the floor. "Fuck! Dammit!"

Apparently noticing the pain in his voice, Zoro came back at once. "Shit, I knew something was off. Your suit was too wrinkled for a princess like you... Are you hurt?"

If Zoro hadn't sounded that concerned, Sanji would have giving him a piece of his mind for that 'princess' remark. "I'm alright," he said instead as Zoro crouched down before him to look at his foot. "I just got careless when I beat up some thugs... twisted my ankle."

Sanji grabbed Zoro's shoulder for support and hissed as Zoro picked up his foot and gently removed his shoe and sock.

"It's swollen... we have to cool it. Lay down, cook," he said to Sanji and too tired to protest, Sanji did as he was told. He lay down on the couch and waited until Zoro had done his needed bathroom break and came back with some ice from the kitchen. Gently picking up Sanji's foot, Zoro sat down and lay Sanji's feet on his legs to put the icepack on the cook's swollen ankle.

Sanji hissed again at the first contact and then sighed in relief when the cold began to ease the pain.

"Fine with this program or do you want me to change to the cooking show?" Zoro asked, remote control already in hand.

"Cooking show," Sanji mumbled, staring at a point at the wall. It was embarrassing how familiar this whole situation was.

Sanji often got hurt, mostly when defending a lady but sometimes, also at a tournament or when he was sparring with someone.

And Zoro... Zoro was more often at Sanji's place than at his own and thus normally the first person to take care of him.

Sanji wouldn't ever admit it but he was rather stubborn about injuries and it always took one of his friends to make him realise that they needed treatment. Zoro, as the first person at the scene, usually did everything he could with his limited medical knowledge and then dragged him off to Chopper the next day.

It had taken Zoro a whole lot more of 'convincing' the first few times but now Sanji didn't even try to fight him any more, because...

Another thing he would never admit to was that he quite enjoyed the pampering.

"What happened?" Zoro asked quietly as he took off Sanji's other sock and shoe. "Another damsel in distress?"

"Something like that, yeah."

"You have to be more careful, cook. Those guys might have been weak but anyone can get a lucky shot once in a while."

Sanji's eyebrows rose at that and he turned his head to look at Zoro. "You lecturing me now?"

Zoro shrugged. "More like giving you advice. I know you turn blind and deaf whenever a skirt comes your way but this is just stupid," he said as he began to massage Sanji's healthy foot. "How often do you intend to get hurt?"

"Says the guy who is covered in scars," Sanji muttered, gripping the cushion at his side as Zoro eased his tense flesh. Damn, he was good at that.

"That's why I'm saying this, Sanji," Zoro replied, looking away from Sanji's feet and directly into his uncovered eye. "I don't want you to end up like me."

"I won't. It's just a hurt ankle, Zoro. It's not like I'm fighting with swords like you."

"But they were armed, weren't they? Cowards like that always are."

Sanji flinched inwardly as he had been caught... again. "Just knives. They were... tiny, really."

Zoro scowled but didn't say anything. Sanji thought he was saved but then-

"Ow, ow, ow! Zoro! Stop it, dammit!" he cried out as Zoro removed the icepack and poked his swollen ankle with a finger instead. "What kind of a fucked up nurse are you?!"

Zoro snorted in return. "Nurse? Do I really look like a fucking nurse to you?"

"No, but your head looks like a big ball of moss-... Ow! I told you to stop, dammit!" Sanji cried out after another strong poke. The marimo was obviously unable to take a joke.

"It's your fault. You've got to take better care of your body. You're overworking yourself at the restaurant, too, aren't you?"

Sanji crossed his arms. "It can't be helped... the shitty old geezer needs me, alright? He had been... a bit sick lately."

Zoro frowned. "Sick? Nothing serious, I hope?"

"Nah, just... colds and stuff. Simply what old farts get when they are getting even older."

Zoro just grunted in response, lay the icepack back on Sanji's foot and continued his massage on the other one.

Sanji tried to focus on the TV show instead of the hands on his foot.

For a long time now, he had tried to ignore it... tried to ignore how much the other's presence affected him but it was a lost cause.

Ever since Franky had approached him at the club and said that his relationship with Zoro seemed to be odd, that they seemed to be more than friends, Sanji had been overly aware of the other man.

Every touch, every gesture suddenly seemed to have a deeper meaning. Sanji began to follow him with his eyes whenever Zoro entered a room and above all: his heart began to thunder with every look.

But there was one, tiny thing that stood between them.

"Ah, Kuina said she wants to meet you, by the way," Zoro said, gaze concentrated on Sanji's foot.

"Kuina, isn't she... angry that you're always here?" Sanji asked tentatively.

"We're both guys. Why would she be?"

Sanji gripped the cushion hard enough that his knuckles turned white. Why would she be, indeed...

Kuina was Zoro's long-time girlfriend and also his very best friend. They have known each other for ages and had a love you normally only saw on TV: child-hood friends turned fiancées.

"But you aren't spending much time with her."

Zoro shrugged. "We both love our freedom and have known each other for such a long time... a bit of distance doesn't hurt," he replied. "And most of my work is here, anyway. Not to mention my cook."

Sanji fought the blush rising to his cheeks. Give it to Zoro to make him feel flustered with such a simple remark. "I'm not yours," Sanji mumbled, eyes fixed on the TV.

"And yet you're always taking care of my body."

Biting his lip, he turned to Zoro with a glare. "Stop using this stupid innuendo! Coming here every night is suspicious enough... the neighbours already think I'm a homo."

Zoro frowned. "Really? Aren't you bringing women here?"

Oh, busted!

"I... o-of course not! Don't you think the walls are too thin?"

"Ah, you a screamer then?" Zoro asked, smirking and Sanji thought he was about to lose his damn sanity.

"Stop it already, you damn marimo!" he cried, grabbed the cushion behind his back and hit Zoro with it who just laughed. "This isn't funny!"

"Alright, alright," Zoro said after several hits. "Didn't know you are that insecure about your sexuality."

"I'm not, it's just... people have been saying stuff," Sanji mumbled. "And I don't want to lose my reputation."

"Really? What's so great about being known as a lovesick fool, then?"

Sanji hit him again.

"Ow!" Zoro exclaimed as he blocked the cushion with his arm and laughed again. "But seriously, don't worry about Kuina. Even if people say stuff about us, she won't believe it. She knows we aren't into guys and just friends, cook."

Yeah, just friends.

But as Sanji sat there with Zoro, watching silly programs and enjoying the massage on his feet and legs...

If there was nothing to it then what was he feeling so guilty about?

Time stretched on and before Sanji knew it, Zoro's birthday approached.

Blowing on his cold and glove-covered hands, Sanji looked at the collection of cakes in the shopping window of the confectionery and smiled.

Of course, he wasn't thinking about buying one... his pride as chef would never allow him to buy a cake made by someone else, but he did look to see if he could get some inspiration from the display of sweets. The marimo was extremely picky about any sort of sweet food and Sanji planned to surprise him with the best fucking cake, he had ever eaten!

The party would be at Robin-chan's house... the woman was a famous archaeologist and living in a big mansion, so most of their parties were being held at her place. It had been supposed to be a surprise party but... Luffy and Chopper were as good at keeping secrets as Ace was at keeping his shirt on. Or Franky his pants, even.

Now, it was a surprise party sans the surprise but that didn't mean they weren't looking forward to it: the Strawhats (as their circle of friends had been called since High School) were famous for their parties and one of their friends turning twenty-one deserved to have the best fucking celebration Tokyo had ever seen!

Sanji grinned as his genius mind had just come up with a great receipt. Mentally going through the list of groceries he still had to buy and the ingredients for Zoro's cake, he went off in direction of the twenty-four hour grocery store at the corner of the street. He would have to try out baking the cake first...

But not only Zoro's birthday made next Saturday special. It was also the day when most of them would be meeting Kuina for the first time. They didn't have the chance until then because Kuina was usually busy working at the dojo she had inherited from her father but seeing that Zoro and her were now engaged...

Sanji's smile wavered slightly.

He was happy that Zoro had found someone like Kuina but... that didn't keep him from feeling this pang of jealousy in his heart whenever the thought occurred.

Sanji paced in his living-room, his eyes darting again and again to the clock.

He clucked his teeth angrily as he waited for Zoro to arrive.

The bodyguard was having a job that day and as it was too late to drive back home for him, Zoro had warned Sanji that he would be staying over that night.

Now, it was a bit over two hours after the promised time and Sanji was becoming nervous. Zoro's job was dangerous... it happened often that he was stabbed, broke a bone or two and barely escaped a situation that would have meant sure death for any normal person.

Sanji had lost count of the times he had been called by Chopper and told that his friend had been submitted to the hospital again.

Chopper's grandma Kureha was working at the hospital and always got to know first when one of their friends were there. Chopper himself had a vast medical knowledge, seeing as he had preferred to study medicine instead of playing when he was young and so he was unofficially a young doctor at the age of fifteen.

Sanji's heart nearly stopped when there was suddenly a loud thunk on his door. Going over quickly, Sanji opened the door and Zoro stumbled in, covered in blood and with his shirt cut to pieces.

"Zoro!" Sanji cried out as he slang an arm around Zoro's shoulders to support his body. "You... what are you doing here?! You have to go to the hospital!"

"No..." Zoro said panting, his chest heaving with heavy breaths. "Not my blood... most of it... not mine."

"What... what the hell happened? You said the job today was routine, didn't you?!"

"Yeah, but... got ambushed. Turned out the politician had made some enemies out of a loan shark company," Zoro said through gritted teeth. "Didn't tell me about it or I would've asked Johnny and Yosaku to help out. Got them all, but... collateral damage."

"Collateral damage?! Collateral damage?!" Sanji yelled and Zoro flinched. "Are you fucking insane?! You look as if you had just fought against an army in World War III!"

"Keep it down, will you? Aren't the walls thin?"

"I don't fucking care about that now! All I know is that I'll get you to the shitty hospital, marimo! I'm gonna call Chopper and-"

"No!" Zoro cried out and clutched at Sanji's shirt, dirtying it with blood. "He has his entrance examination for Tokyo U tomorrow, doesn't he? And I'm not hurt badly... the bruises are a bitch but nothing I can't handle."

Sanji stared into Zoro's determined eyes and sighed. The shitty swordsman was right... Chopper had been nervous for weeks and incredibly happy that he finally got the chance of entering the best University of Japan. Despite his vast medical knowledge, he had freaked out whenever his entrance examination was mentioned.

Calling him now and telling him about Zoro would probably give the young boy a heart attack.

"Fine..." Sanji said reluctantly. "Fine, but I'll take a look at your injuries and if I get even the slightest impression of you needing a doctor, then I'm going to fucking get one, got it?"

"I don't need a doctor, curly-brow! A bit of sleep and I'll be fine."

"Don't give me that shit, Zoro. I'm gonna call Law if I have to."

Zoro blanched. "Are you insane?! That guy is fucking bonkers!"

"He is a fucking genius, that's what he is... and now, shut up! I'm gonna get you to the bathroom."

Zoro scowled but didn't say anything as Sanji supported him. Once there, Zoro sat down on the toilet seat, his shoulders sacking as his legs finally didn't have to carry his weight any more.

Sanji peeled first the remains of Zoro's T-Shirt off and threw it on the floor to throw away later... with that many cuts and blood stains, Zoro couldn't wear it any more, anyway.

After that Sanji slowly opened the clasps of Zoro's bullet-proof vest and took it off. The chef hissed as it made way for toned skin and he saw the full extent of Zoro's bruises. Practically his whole torso was covered in a collection of red and blue, one especially large bruise covering the swordsman's entire left side.

"What the hell have they hit you with that you look like this?"

"Iron tubes..." Zoro mumbled sheepishly and then grinned. "You should see the tubes, though."

Sanji scowled but didn't remark on Zoro's bad sense of humour as he carefully scanned his chest for broken ribs. He heard Zoro suck in a breath or two as he touched his sensitive flesh but Sanji didn't think he found any broken bones. Muscles tensed under his touch and the chef tried not to stare as they moved under Zoro's tanned skin.

Slowly, Sanji went on with his examination, determined not to look into Zoro's eyes while he worked. Having Zoro half-naked in front of him and having to touch his well-build chest, was a dangerous situation if there ever was one.

Franky's words kept flowing into his mind as Sanji's touch became less probing and more caressing, his fingers brushing over skin that was much softer than he had imagined...

"Sanji, I..."

Nearly, jumping as Zoro spoke to him, Sanji blushed and jerked back his fingers. "Th-There doesn't seem to be anything broken, but we should go to the hospital tomorrow. Just... just to be sure, you know?" he said, avoiding the swordsman's no doubt curious eyes.

Taking a deep breath, Sanji looked back at Zoro's body, avoiding the head as he tried to estimate the rest of his injuries.

At least, Zoro seemed to have said the truth about the blood... he did have a couple of cuts on his skin but nothing bad enough that he would need stitches.

A fucking miracle, seeing as Zoro had gathered more of them than Frankenstein's monster itself.

Frowning, Sanji went to get a wet cloth and his first-aid box. He took a few deep breaths as he stood in front of the sink, cringing when he saw his flushed face in the mirror. Glaring at his troubled image, he grabbed the edge of the sink, gritting his teeth as he gave himself a mental slap.

He was such an idiot.

Taking care of your friend's injuries... there was nothing strange about that, was there?

They had done so much before... even bathed together in hot springs or sparred with naked upper bodies and Sanji had never let his eyes wander before, had never felt his stomach flutter or his heart speeding up when he had looked at Zoro or even touched him.

And yet, here he was... completely flustered and acting as if it was a hot, half-naked woman he took care of.

Franky's words must have opened a vent of some sort... they had started something in Sanji, made him notice Zoro more and introduced the possibility to him that maybe, just maybe, he was feeling more for him than friendship.

At that point, there was no sense in denying it: Sanji was attracted to Zoro, painfully so, and if he was completely honest with himself, then he had known it for a while... even before that fateful night at the club.

Once Sanji had gotten a cloth and wetted it in the sink, he carefully used it to clean Zoro's cuts and to remove the dried blood around them.

The vest had protected Zoro's chest from getting cut, but there were several ones on his arms and one on his face.

He tried to ignore the swordsman's half-naked state, his eyes refusing to look at the broad chest. Sanji's heart was beating heavily in his rip cage as he gently brushed the cloth over Zoro's skin. Muscles tensed again under his touch and Sanji's heart seemed to speed up at every move, every ripple of muscles...

After Sanji had finished cleaning the one on Zoro's arms, he washed the cloth and made to clean Zoro's cheek, his hand outstretched to reach the wound as he looked at Zoro's face for the first time after starting to treat the swordsman's wounds.

Sanji swallowed as dark eyes met his... a look so fierce and probing that Sanji's breath hitched in his throat. The hand that was still holding onto the cloth was clasped by rough fingers, the warmth they emitted seeping through Sanji's every bone.

"You've changed," Zoro said, his voice low as he held Sanji trapped with his gaze. "You've never done this before. You were never that... gentle."

"Don't Zoro..." Sanji replied in a trembling voice. "I have to clean-"

"You're nervous, too. Your face is red and you-... you're avoiding my eyes."

Sanji swallowed as fierce eyes bored into him. He tried to pull back his hand but Zoro's grip was strong and the swordsman didn't even allow him an inch of backing up. He was completely trapped... by the strong grip as well as those storming eyes.

Taking a few shaking breaths, Sanji said, "I'm not nervous, Zoro. I just... I have to clean your wounds. The cut on your cheek and then... disinfectant. I still have to use it, I-"

Sanji was stopped by a tug on his arm, the cloth he still had in his hand, falling to the ground upon the sudden movement. His face flushed again as he realised that he was standing between Zoro's legs now, his heart thumping and thumping as Zoro's free hand suddenly lay on the small of his back.

Zoro sighed, his head falling forward and his forehead leaning on Sanji's chest, right above his fast beating heart. He had to feel it... had to feel the strong, steady beat under Sanji's skin.

"What changed, Sanji? When did it start?" Zoro asked honestly, his hand letting go of Sanji's one and joining the other one on the chef's back, hugging him tightly.

Sanji closed his eyes, another shaking breath escaping his mouth as he began to tremble. "Don't... do this. Don't ask," he said weakly. "Your wounds... I-"

"Fuck the wounds," Zoro mumbled. "This is more important."

Taking a few more deep breaths, Sanji slowly lay his arms around Zoro's shoulders, fingers running through soft, green hair as he pressed the swordsman's head closer to his chest.

"I don't know," Sanji said. He had realised that it was useless now, useless to feign ignorance. He had been completely figured out. "I don't know when it started."

"We've been... strange, haven't we?" Zoro said against Sanji's chest, his breath warm even through Sanji's shirt.

"Yeah... it's been going on for a while, I think."

Zoro chuckled. "We're hopeless... not noticing something like this."

Sanji smiled, his fingers brushing over the base of Zoro's neck. He grinned as he felt the swordsman shudder under his fingertips.

The situation hadn't become any easier but... Zoro seemed to be feeling the same way and that alone lifted a heavy weight off Sanji's shoulders. "It's... not easy to accept. Guess we didn't want to accept it," Sanji said. "We're both guys. I'm a ladies' man and you... you're..."

"Kuina... I have Kuina," Zoro said, the hands on Sanji's back holding onto the chef even tighter. "Shit! This is bad... really, really bad, Sanji."

Sanji opened his eyes and removed his arms around Zoro to press his shoulders back. Getting the idea, Zoro let go of his back to look up at him.

"You love her," Sanji said slowly, avoiding the swordsman's eyes.

A hand came up to his cheek, startling Sanji as Zoro willed him to look at him. "Yeah, but... I'm so confused. Kuina is... she is safe. I do love her but you're... you."

Sanji swallowed as his heart began to speed up at those words. What he was implying was-

"Fuck! This is so messed up," Zoro said, his face twisting as if in pain.

Sanji's own face heated up as he looked at Zoro, as he saw that earnest, haunted look.

"Y-You're joking... right?" Sanji said. "You can't-... you can't compare me to Kuina! Kuina is-"

Everything he was not, Sanji finished the sentences in his head.

Zoro's thumb brushed over his cheek, the callous digit leaving fire on every part of his skin and Sanji took a shaky breath as it moved down to his lips and brushed over sensitive skin.

"Sanji," Zoro said breathlessly and his name on the swordsman's lips was enough to destroy even the last bit of the chef's resolve. "Does this feel like a joke to you?"

Zoro grabbed the collar of Sanji's shirt and tugged him down, smashing his lips against the cook's. Sanji closed his eyes at once at the contact, moving his lips against Zoro's and opening his mouth as soon as Zoro's tongue begged for entrance.

They clutched at each other. Like drowning men, they tasted each other's lips, each contact an explosion of feelings.

Zoro pulled Sanji onto his lap, hissing when their erections rubbed against one another. Forgetting all about Zoro's injuries, Sanji wrapped his legs around Zoro's waist, not noticing how the swordsman flinched as Sanji's leg brushed against the bruise on Zoro's side.

He was too occupied with ravishing Zoro's lips and moving his hips on his lap, enjoying the friction it caused on their stiff and still covered members.

After a while, the kissing ceased and they concentrated on moving their hips together, their trousers getting uncomfortably tight.

"Sanji... bedroom," Zoro said through gritted teeth and Sanji nodded against the crook of his neck.

Without wasting even a second, Zoro held onto Sanji's legs and stood up, carrying him out of the room and in direction of the bedroom.

Clothes were shed with alarming speed and once both of them were naked, Sanji pushed Zoro onto his back and let his hands wander over that broad chest, he had examined only a few seconds ago.

"Your bruises," Sanji suddenly said. "I... forgot about them. Did I hurt you?"

"Not in a way that I didn't enjoy," Zoro answered, smirking so smugly that Sanji rolled his eyes.

"What a pervert... you a masochist?"

"Do you want to find out?" Zoro asked as he grabbed Sanji's hips and pressed them down, so his erection was pressing against Sanji's ass. "Or do you have a thing for it, too?"

Sanji flushed as Zoro was pressed against him. "Are you asking me if I want to be the bottom?" he asked, biting his lip at the thought.

"We can take turns?" Zoro asked, grinning. "I wouldn't mind being fucked by you."

"I'll have to take your word for it, shithead," Sanji said and leaned down to softly kiss Zoro's lips.

"Make me feel good."

"When did you first notice?" Sanji asked afterwards. Zoro was lying on his stomach, one arm under one of Sanji's pillows as he felt comfortably drowsy.

Sanji, on the other hand, felt strangely awake. There was a faint pain in his back but nothing too uncomfortable. Thankfully, he still had that bottle of lube stored in his bedside drawer.

"I don't know," Zoro answered after a bit. "I do know that I began to see you differently since a few months ago. I suddenly wanted to spend more and more time with you, yearned to talk or even fight with you. I've been searching for excuses to stay with you and... and I also began lying to Kuina."

"So... I'm the 'other woman', huh?" Sanji said and made a face. "Don't think I like that expression, though."

"I hate this," Zoro said, making Sanji look at him. "I hate being beyond control and hurting her."

"W-We... can stop this, you know? Just stop and... she doesn't even have to know."

"Can we? Can we really stop this?" Zoro asked.

Sanji wanted to say yes, wanted to tell him that they shouldn't hurt Kuina and that he wished them happiness but the words got stuck in his throat. These lies were just too unbearable.

Sanji turned over, so his head lay beside Zoro's on the pillow. One of his hands made its way near unconsciously over to the base of Zoro's neck and absent-mindedly, his fingers began to run through Zoro's short hair.

Zoro sighed when he didn't receive an answer, his eyes closing at the tender fingers in his hair. "Sanji... what are we doing here?"

"What we've been doing for the past few months, marimo," Sanji answered. "We're cheating on your girlfriend."

A week later, it was finally time for Zoro's birthday party.

In order for them to have a bit of time to think everything over, Sanji and Zoro had agreed not to meet until that time, but three days after that night, Zoro had missed his last train home after a job and reluctantly appeared on Sanji's doorstep. It had taken them a whole of three seconds to stumble into Sanji's apartment, shed their clothes and slamming the door shut behind them.

They had ended up making love right on the floor that night.

Nervously, Sanji fumbled on his tie as he looked down the street. He was right in front of Robin's house and had been told to go and greet the guests after he had nearly destroyed one of Robin's favourite vases... his nervousness had made a right klutz out of him.

Meeting Kuina that night was what had him on edge. Sanji was feeling guilty, so incredibly guilty that even the mere thought of having to meet her and act as if nothing had happened, made his stomach churn.

Both, Zoro and him, had agreed that it couldn't go on like that. They didn't want to betray Kuina, to hurt her, but... they had already done just that and it was nagging at Sanji's conscience. He had always heard stories about men who had cheated on their beloved and when they made excuses and said it couldn't be helped, Sanji wanted to do nothing more than to kick their sorry asses.

There was always a choice and the one Zoro and Sanji made, would ultimately end up hurting Kuina.

"Care to tell me what is eating you up now, cook-san?" Robin suddenly asked, making Sanji jump and release a breath that turned to white smoke in the cold air.

"Robin-chan! As lovely as you look in that coat and with your flushed cheeks, you shouldn't be out here," Sanji said, smiling his gentlest smile. "This weather isn't suitable for such a lovely lady."

Robin wasn't fazed by that, however. "Cook-san, I believe I asked you a question. Will you tell me what's going on or am I allowed a guess?"

Sanji tried to stare her down but she looked just too lovely like that, so he sighed and looked down instead. "Your guess will be right as always, anyway. It's Kuina."

"Indeed it is then," Robin said with that unnerving smile of hers. "The only question now is, why you have your panties in a hypothetical bunch. Are you nervous to finally meet your best friend's fiancée or is there something else your friends ought to know?"

There was something that everyone in Sanji's circle of friends knew by heart: Whenever Robin was talking to you like an all-knowing therapist, then she was an all-knowing therapist. And quite a good one, actually.

"You've been talking to Franky a lot lately, haven't you?" Sanji asked, his eyes squinting.

"And Zoro had spent a lot of nights in your apartment."

At that moment, Sanji tried his best to glare at Robin, but once again, she was too beautiful for hard feelings. "So, you did talk about us."

"How about we make a deal, cook-san?" Robin said, smiling charmingly. "You tell me about your relationship, I tell you about mine?"

Sanji took a long look at her, but then decided that denying anything had no use at this point. "Fine... fine. Just like Franky had noticed before, Zoro and I are... not just friends any more."

"Then you have already...?"

Sanji's face flushed and he desperately hoped that the cold had reddened his cheeks enough that Robin wouldn't notice anything. "Yeah, we did."

"Oh! How interesting! How was it?"

"Robin-chan!" Sanji exclaimed, his eyes widening at her undisguised joy.

Chuckling, Robin looked apologetically at him. "Sorry, cook-san. My interest might appear a bit shameless, but I do find such a development delightful."

"Really? But... Kuina..."

Expression suddenly turning serious, Robin said, "Yes, that's truly unfortunate, but... I can't help but feel happy when two of my friends find happiness in each other."

"Did we? Find happiness, I mean."

"You don't know?"

"I'm not sure," Sanji answered, rubbing his cold hands together. "There was no big declaration of love or anything between us. We just accepted to have this... attraction between us."

"But you're spending a lot of time together, Sanji-san. And you've been friends for ages, yet you count out love?"

"It's difficult," Sanji admitted. "Putting the fact that we're both men aside, how can we really know that our feelings go beyond friendship? Where is the border between friendship and love?"

"That's a question not easily answered, but I think you know it when you've crossed that line, cook-san."

Sanji looked down and nodded. "Maybe... you're right, Robin-chan."

"And? Did you cross it?"

"Well, did you and Franky cross it?"

Robin just replied with another charming smile.

Zoro and Kuina arrived about fifteen minutes later and save for Sanji tripping over the carpet when he was serving Hors d'oeuvre, nothing had happened that could tell the nature of Zoro and Sanji's relationship.

Now, they all sat at the dining table with Zoro's cake standing proudly in the middle. Thanks to the green colour and three candles being stuck on top of it, the cake had a striking resemblance to Zoro.

"Zoro didn't promise too much, Sanji-san," Kuina said as she looked at the cake with a smile. "You really are a master in your field."

"Zoro said that?" Sanji asked, frowning and looking at Zoro who flushed and avoided his gaze.

"Oh, yes! He keeps complaining about any other food and compares everything to yours. Good thing I'm not the classic housewife or I would be devastated before the wedding. I don't think anyone could compare to that."

"That's... rather interesting. Zoro never compliments my food."

"Kuina is just exaggerating. Don't believe everything you hear, shit cook."

Kuina laughed and poked Zoro in his ribs, which made him glare at her. "Don't be so shy, you idiot. There is nothing wrong with telling your friend how you feel."

A pregnant pause followed those words and maybe it was Luffy's instinct that made him cry out how hungry he was and that they should start eating already.

Still, the moment hadn't been lost to anyone.

And least of all Kuina.

After dinner, everyone had scattered in Robin's home. Some of them were busy listening to music, others just chatted or enjoyed some more of Sanji's snacks and drink. Usopp, Luffy and Chopper were currently busy lying their hands onto the video games Robin had bought and positioned in her home for them. Something that had been well worth the investment, seeing as they tended to destroy much less of Robin's things when they were busy like that.

The only thing Robin had regretted to buy that far had been the Wii console. The controller had landed no less than three times into her TV.

Kuina, on the other hand, was enjoying a few of Robin and Nami's stories from work. Especially Robin had a lot to tell and so, the ladies were engrossed in chatting about rich men caught up in questionable situations.

"And then Mr Caughtwrite came up to me and asked if I was up to have an affair with him," Robin mentioned, chuckling at the memory.

"Mr Caughtwrite is the museum's director, isn't he?" Nami asked. "And? Did you agree?"

"Well, I have to admit that he has quite a brilliant mind and isn't too bad looking either, but I'm... otherwise engaged at the moment."

"Really?! You didn't tell me!" Nami said with a slight pout. "Who is it then?"

Zoro had to grin as he noticed Franky, who sat right behind Robin, turning unusual quiet in his conversation with Brook.

"Well, it's just an interest so far. A mood, if you so will. I'm not sure it will come to anything."

"Love often begins with a mood," Kuina threw in and the naturalness with that she spoke about love surprised Zoro. He hadn't really seen her talk about such things... then again, he wasn't a girl and girls talked differently to each other.

"So, Zoro and you have started out of a mood, too?" Nami asked her and Kuina frowned.

"I'm... not too sure. It just developed out of friendship, I guess."

"Then you didn't notice crossing a line? You didn't notice something changing?" Robin asked, her eyes strangely glinting.

"I really don't know," Kuina answered. "But that's not really important, is it? The most important thing is that it did happen, right?"

"If you think so," Robin replied and something in her voice told Zoro that there was more behind her question than she let on. Zoro knew Robin well enough by then to notice such things.

Kuina, on the other hand, just went over to asking Nami about her love life.

Having enough of the girl talk, Zoro decided to take a breather and stepped out onto the balcony.

Fate had it that Sanji was currently standing there, looking over Robin's garden that lay in darkness before him and smoking a cigarette.

Zoro sighed and rubbed his neck. They had deliberately avoided each other after that conversation about Sanji's cooking skills. Too dangerous had been the risk after that tell-tale pause and so, they had searched for something to do in different parts of the house.

Kuina was busy at the moment, though. He could still hear her voice out there and, if he was honest with himself, then he really longed to talk to Sanji.

Talking couldn't hurt, could it?

"Oi, cook," Zoro said and Sanji's reaction would have been funny, if it hadn't been so sad.

Sanji shrieked like a cat at the call, nearly jumping and jerking enough that his cigarette fell with a zish into the snow below. "You scared me half to death, marimo!" Sanji said, clutching his heart as he turned around.

"Didn't picture you to be such a scaredy cat."

"I-I'm not, okay? Just a bit... nervous today, I guess. Where... where is she?" Sanji said, looking around.

"Kuina? Talking to Nami and Robin."

"I see..." Sanji said and turned around again.

He seemed a bit lonely standing there in the cold and, feeling the sudden urge to be closer, Zoro went up behind Sanji, wrapped an arm around his waist and put his chin on his shoulder.

Sanji tensed immediately.

"Zoro, what are you doing?"


"I can feel that, you idiot. But why? Kuina could come at any moment."

"You haven't said it yet," Zoro said and Sanji's heart skipped a beat.

Haven't said it? Said what? He couldn't mean-

"Happy birthday. You haven't said that yet," Zoro answered Sanji's unasked question and Sanji relaxed.

"You're such an idiot..."

"Your point?"

Sanji sighed and gave in. This childish behaviour, it sure had something adorable.

Reaching up, Sanji ran his hand through Zoro's hair and smiled as Zoro turned his head further down to give him better access. If Zoro had purred, then the picture would have been perfect.

"Happy Birthday, you shitty marimo. May you have a great year with many more to come."

Zoro's contented smile remained on his face for the rest of the whole evening.

Sanji rubbed his burning eyes as he made his way to the kitchen.

The past few days, Zoro hadn't been visiting him and for some reason, it made Sanji uneasy. Uneasy enough that he couldn't even sleep properly at night.

It shouldn't be a big deal... despite that one night, the drawer and toothbrush thing, Zoro wasn't really living with him and had his own life to live.

But Sanji had gotten used to their routine. He had gotten used to Zoro being there when he came home from work late at night and see him crashing on his couch. He had gotten used to that deep voice, a laugh that could send chills all over your body and to hear his snores all the way to his bedroom.

These little sounds had calmed him before, had made his body relax and settle down after a long, hard day at work.

And Sanji also missed the massages on his tired feet, the pampering when he came home with scratches and bruises, the... stolen kisses. Even their fights and insults, he missed, and it was just another hint to a conclusion he had reached a long time ago: Sanji had gotten it bad, very bad.

The swordsman had become an invaluable part of his life. Suddenly missing that part was like losing a part of his soul and yet, Sanji hadn't called him.

It would seem too needy, wouldn't it? Clingy even?

Sanji had always claimed to be annoyed by Zoro's presence at his place. Now admitting that he was missing their time together, that he yearned for his touch... no, he was too damn proud for that.

Sighing, Sanji went to make himself a cup of coffee, only to realise that he was out of both beans and powder. Great. Just fucking great.

Just thinking he could settle for tea instead, his phone rang with a suddenness that he dropped the basket with his teabags.

Grumbling, Sanji made his way to pick up the receiver. It was most likely Carne to tell him they needed his help at the restaurant that day. With his old man catching cold after cold due to his recklessness lately, that had happened more and more often.

All the more surprised was Sanji to hear Nami's lovely voice answer instead.

"Sanji-kun? Oh, thank god, you're there! Listen, something has happened. It's about Zoro..."

Sanji felt his heart beating all the way up to his throat, his fingers clutching the speaker hard enough that his knuckles turned white from his grip as he listened to Nami speak.

With trembling hands, Sanji hang up after she had finished explaining and rushed to get his coat. He cursed his bad luck as he realised that his car was still broken from the one time he had let Luffy drive and ran to the bus station instead.

Thoughts racing inside his head, Sanji tried to call Zoro several times with his mobile phone on the way but cursed when no one answered.

He only hoped the swordsman wouldn't do anything stupid until he was there.

With trepidation, Sanji opened the door to Zoro's home. He had gotten the keys ages ago but never used them before. It had been one of Sanji's conditions to give Zoro one to his apartment but Zoro was living in the outskirts of Tokyo and Sanji didn't have much reason to visit him when he was that often in his home.

Thick air mixed with the heavy stench of alcohol met Sanji's nostrils when he shoved open the door and scrunching up his nose, Sanji covered it with his sleeve. Slowly, he walked through the dark corridor of Zoro's home, dread gripping him as he placed one foot after the other.

His heart nearly stopped when he found Zoro lying on his floor in the living room, surrounded by empty sake bottles and snoring loudly.

Sanji's heart skipped a beat at the sight and slowly, it settled for a steadier beat.

Zoro's state was bad... he looked as if he hadn't showered for days and there was a stain on the ground that looked suspiciously close to vomit but it wasn't nearly as bad as what Sanji had feared to find.

Careful to avoid the bottles on the ground, Sanji stepped over to open the curtains and blinked rapidly as light filled the room.

A groan behind him made Sanji aware of Zoro waking up from the sudden brightness and the chef had to chuckle as he took a proper look at the swordsman.

There was a green stubble on his chin, a sight Sanji had never witnessed before. Despite popular belief, Zoro usually took good care of his body and to see green hair somewhere that wasn't his head was quite an unusual sight.

"Who there?" Zoro asked, his voice raspy as he blinked against the light that engulfed Sanji from behind. He must be not more than a shadow for Zoro, at the moment.

"Your cook," Sanji said, smiling as he went over to Zoro.

Zoro groaned as Sanji stepped out of the light and it hit his reddened eyes full on. "What are you doing here? Did someone tell?"

"Nami-san called me... and it was good that she did. What are you doing here? Trying to drown yourself in sake?"

"Shut up, shitcook," Zoro said, glaring. "You have no idea how I'm feeling right now, so leave me the fuck alone!"

Sanji ts'ed as he crouched down before Zoro. "And here is where you're wrong, marimo. I know how it is to miss someone so much that you don't know how to go on," he said, smiling sadly at his friend. "It hurts... much more than physical injuries ever could."

Zoro's gaze softened at Sanji's words but his face soon twisted into a grimace. Rubbing his red eyes angrily, he said, "Shit... she left me, Sanji! She fucking left me! After all these years, just... gone. My friend, my-"

"I know," Sanji said sadly and pulled Zoro into his arms. The swordsman clutched at his shirt. "I know."

The next few hours, it had taking Sanji more than good intentions and a few kind words to get Zoro to clean himself up and rub this unbelievable stench off his body. He had practically kicked him into the bathroom.

"Feeling better now?" Sanji asked when Zoro came out of the bath. With his upper body bare and a pair of training pants hanging low on his hips, he looked a lot more like himself. He had even shaved.

"No, but my skin isn't itching as much."

Sanji grimaced at the words before bending down to pick up the remaining bottles. He had been tidying up Zoro's apartment while Zoro had been busy cleaning himself up.

"That stain over there... that's not-" Sanji began but Zoro rolled his eyes.

"I never vomit from alcohol, shitcook. That should be the salsa from last week."

"And you haven't cleaned it up yet?" Sanji said, scrunching up his nose. "You're such a pig."

Zoro shrugged and sat down on his couch, water dripping from his wet hair and onto the cushions. Then he made to grab one of the last sake bottles on his table, but Sanji snatched it away before he could reach it.

"No can do, Zoro. I'm not here to see you getting drunk again."

Scowling, Zoro grabbed the towel around his otherwise bare shoulders and dried his hair as he muttered insults under his breath.

Satisfied for now but still not completely trusting, Sanji picked up the remaining three full bottles, brought them into the kitchen and hid them deep inside a cupboard.

He was met with another hard glare as he re-entered the living-room but shoved it away with a charming smile.

Zoro looked peeved that his tactic didn't work with the cook and put his bottom lip up in a half pout.

Sanji grinned. "You look cute, pouting like that."

"Shut up! I'm never cute!"

"You are! Like a scowling, green bunny."

Zoro growled. "One more word cook, and..."

"What? You gonna stab me with a carrot or three?"

Sanji jumped out of the way when Zoro lunged at him and laughed. He knew that Zoro was far from being alright again... there was still this deep sadness carved into his eyes, but it felt good to be back at bickering with him again.

Still laughing, Sanji turned to go to the kitchen. "I'm gonna scrap something up to eat and don't even bother telling me you don't want any! Now that I'm here, I'm gonna make sure that you don't damage your body any more than you already have, got it?"

Without waiting for a reply, he vanished into the kitchen, Zoro's grumbling following him the entire way.

After finding a replacement for him at work, Sanji stayed with Zoro for the next few days. He was helping him with the chores, cooking for him and taking care that the swordsman wouldn't fall back into another depressed state.

Both just treated the time as their usual evenings and didn't speak about what had happened. Neither the thing with Kuina nor the few passionate nights they had previously spent together.

Sanji didn't breach the topic even once, determined to let Zoro take his time and tell him as soon as he was ready.

And after three days, it was finally time.

Zoro lay on the couch, his head resting in Sanji's lap as they watched a comedy show on TV. Sanji's legs were lying on a footstool in front of the couch, his left hand massaging Zoro's scalp while the other one was clasped in Zoro's right hand.

"She left me because of you," Zoro suddenly said and Sanji's heart started hammering against his ribcage at those words. It was just as he had feared. "Kuina noticed something at my birthday party. She-... she had seen us on the balcony and put one and one together. She was so hurt, Sanji... I've never seen her like that before."

"Did... did she say something else?"

"Yeah, she said that she had been growing tired of our relationship for some time now. That I haven't really been with her for months and that I should have been home more often. Stupid, isn't it? Kuina always told me it was alright if I spent time with you. Guess I've been too naïve... You've been right all along," Zoro said, sadly. "She must have felt lonely and I just didn't get it. That thing with us both must have been the last straw."

Not knowing what to say, Sanji just squeezed Zoro's hand and waited until he spoke again. "We've never been a normal couple in the first place, you know? It wasn't like... like we craved the other's presence or we were all lovey-dovey. She was my best friend and I thought she had become something more but... seems like I didn't treat her like that. Maybe... maybe we were just together because it was convenient."

"But you love her."

"I do, but... maybe not enough or not in the way she loved me."

Sanji's mind was racing forty miles per hour. The things Zoro was saying, gave him hope... hope he had lost a very long time ago.

"Sanji, do you like me?"

Sadly, Sanji smiled down at Zoro's question and saw how his breath hitched in his throat. "It's obvious, isn't it?" Sanji answered while running his hand through Zoro's short hair. The swordsman's eyes were wide as he looked at him. "The real question is... what do you think about me?"

For a while, Zoro just looked at him. Looked and looked, his gaze fierce and unyielding. And just as Sanji had lost all hope, Zoro suddenly reached out and pulled down Sanji's head. Their lips met in an aggressive kiss.

Sanji's eyes widened but what was surprise before, quickly turned to lust as he began to respond and lapped hungrily at Zoro's mouth.

Then Zoro sat up and they both used the short pause catch their breath. Heart still beating erratically, Sanji flushed as Zoro slowly slid closer to him, cupped his cheek and caught his lips once again. He kissed him slowly at first, but then passion took over and their movements became much faster,

Their tongues joining the fight as they nipped and sucked at each others' lips, they were completely lost in each other.

Still, there was something at the edge of Sanji's mind... something he couldn't quite push off. Zoro hadn't answered his question, not explicitly at least.

Was there a reason for that or did he read too much into it?

Sanji watched Zoro's sleeping face while playing with an unlit cigarette in his mouth. Absent-mindedly, he pushed it up and down with his tongue.

"You haven't answered my question, Zoro."

"Because there is nothing to answer, cook. It's obvious, isn't it?"

That is what he had said after they had sex. An obvious answer, indeed.

Frustrated by his dark thoughts, Sanji took the cigarette out of his mouth and threw it across the room, roughing up his hair afterwards and clutching his head with his fingers as he looked at the blanket.

That was it. Zoro didn't want to say it, disregarding Sanji's wish, Sanji's need to hear those words. To hear the reassurance that made it clear that he was more than just a friend with benefits. That Zoro loved him to an extent, that much was clear. Sanji couldn't deny that but... but the same thing was true about Kuina. Zoro loved her too, so what would keep him from walking away from him, from Sanji, too?

Sighing, Sanji looked once again at the snoring Zoro beside him. That noise that he had missed because it had managed to sooth him before... right now, it only made him restless, nervous.

Why couldn't he wake up and just say it? Why couldn't he spell it out?

After Sanji stared a bit longer at Zoro, he couldn't take it any more and stood up. He didn't like to be this vulnerable, didn't like to rely so much on Zoro's moods.

While he couldn't be sure what he was to Zoro without him putting it into words, Sanji also didn't want to ask for it again. This relationship had scrambled up his thoughts enough, had made him needy and clingy and he wasn't like that, not really.

He was a man, dammit! He sure as hell could look out for himself and didn't need to rely on anyone, not even him.

So, as an attempt to get back a bit of self-respect, Sanji stood up and picked up his clothes. He needed to get away for a bit, needed a bit time to himself, so he could sort out his thoughts.

Zoro awake slowly out of his deep slumber. Sleeping a lot and at inconvenient times was one of his bad habits and immediately falling asleep after having sex was definitely a part of these times.

He had been criticised for that by all of his lovers, Sanji being no exception. So, when Zoro's mind was completely awake, he slowly looked at his side, already fearing to face a grumbling expression that wouldn't go away without extensive massages.

What he found, however, was much, much worse than that.

Suddenly completely awake, Zoro's eyes widened as he looked at the empty space beside him.

Sanji didn't leave the bed after having sex. He was the type to cuddle, to bathe in the afterglow and who wanted to exchange sappy nothings after a night of passion.

He was an romantic idiot, so where was that idiot now?

Bathroom? Kitchen?

Zoro touched the empty space beside him, relieved to find it still slightly warm. Quickly, he stood up and called for Sanji, called for his cook as he stumbled to put his clothes on.

When no answer came to his calls, fear clawed at Zoro's heart again, leaving him slightly breathless. He knew it was irrational, this fear, but he couldn't help feeling it. What if Sanji had left him? Like Kuina did?

Kuina, his childhood friend and fiancée against his better judgement, had been bad enough, but Sanji? Zoro couldn't let him go, couldn't bear to let him go.

Sanji had become an inseparable part of his life. How could he go on without spending time with him? As lovers or otherwise?

"Shit! What the fuck am I doing freaking out here for?!" Zoro suddenly said to no one in particular, put on the rest of his clothes and ran to the door.

Once outside, he ignored the rain beginning to soak his clothes and looked up and down the street. The sheet had still been warm, so he couldn't have gone too far. Zoro knew Sanji's car was still broken, so... bus station! He had to be at the bus station!

Looking up and down the street again, Zoro frowned and then decided to go right.

He hadn't realised his mistake until half an hour later.

Sanji sat on the bench of the bus station, blowing at his hands every once in a while. The bus had already come but Sanji had told the driver to go on without him. It was just a hunch, but... something made him feel that he should wait.

Would Zoro come for him? Would he care enough to follow him out into the rain?

And most importantly: Would that idiot even find the shitty station?

Sanji scowled as he thought that was not very likely. Zoro had gotten lost in a cottage they had all rented out before, so how could he find Sanji at a tiny place where he could take that many wrong turns?

"I should take the next bus before I freeze to death here," Sanji muttered as he rubbed his cold arms.

Winter had come far too early for his taste that year. The snow was pretty and all but the cold was nothing more than annoying. And then there was the rain, of course. Rain and cold wind made the most tiring of circumstances.

Sanji felt already drowsy sitting there on the cold bench, shuddering every once in a while and wishing for nothing more than something hot to drink.

Or to hug.

Yeah, a hug would be nice. Strong arms engulfing him, warming him up to the core. And a hot bath, maybe. A hug in a hot bath?

Sanji sneezed as he thought about that.

"Is there someone talking about me?"

"Nami, quit your bitching and just tell me where that damn bus station is, okay?! I have to find him!"

"Didn't you say my directions were wrong just now?" Nami hissed into Zoro's ear. "Just get a damn phone with GPS already, Zoro. You can need it more than anyone I know."

"I hate that technical shit. I just can't keep up with all those damn buttons and functions and-"

"You do realise that you sound like an old man, huh?"

"Oh, just shut the hell up and tell me where to go."

"What? Am I supposed to shut up or tell you the way?"

"Nami..." Zoro growled dangerously. Give it to her to piss him off in desperate situations.

"Okay, okay. You're at Sengoku High Street now, right? Then you have to go right." There was a short pause until Nami continued. "You do know what that means, yeah? Right like your right. Not East, West or any other excuse you come up with to get lost."

"... tell me the name of the street?" When there was another pause, Zoro swallowed up his pride and added, "Please?"

It wasn't difficult at all to know that Nami enjoyed herself quite a lot over those next few minutes.

"Five more minutes," Sanji mumbled as he looked at his watch for the twentieth time. "He won't be coming, huh?"

Sadly, he looked up at the sky where the rain was slowly turning into snow. Five minutes and the bus would come to take him away. Zoro was probably still sleeping peacefully, not even realising that Sanji was gone.

What was he to him?

That question kept and kept appearing inside Sanji's mind, torturing him to the point of reaching insanity. How often had it kept him awake at night? And when had it begun? After Franky had pointed out the strangeness of Sanji and Zoro's relationship? Or even before that?

"Not that it matters, anyway," Sanji mumbled on, tearing his gaze from the sky and once again blowing at his cold hands.

He wasn't exactly dressed for the cold. Because he had spent that much time with Zoro without going home even once, Sanji had borrowed a few clothes from Zoro.

Not the pants, no those were entirely too big, but he had taken a sweater, socks and even a coat from Zoro. It was still a few sizes too big thanks to Zoro's buff body, but it fitted well enough.

Only the wind managed to find its way under the clothes every once in a while, leading to a sudden cool wave that made Sanji's teeth clutter. Still, he felt comfortable in the clothes.

Not that they smelled of Zoro or anything. No, they were freshly washed, but... Sanji's memory made him feel Zoro in the clothes. All those little touches, innocent or not, had stayed inside his mind and when he felt the fabric of Zoro's clothes on his skin, then he felt the man himself.

And that kept him warmer than any clothes ever could.

"I'm such an idiot," Sanji whispered with a small smile, the sappiness of his thoughts not being lost to him. Maybe Zoro was right and he really was a hopeless romantic.

Sighing, Sanji stood up as he saw two rays of light appear at the end of the road, making the snow flakes glitter in their path.

He had no reason to be that depressed, had he? This didn't mean the end or anything. Even though, Zoro hadn't turned up, that neither meant that he didn't care, nor that Sanji didn't have a special place in his heart.

They just needed time, yeah. Time to think and maybe to make a decision.

Nothing more.

The bus came to a stop beside Sanji and the doors opened up to reveal an elderly man.

"Wanna come along, son?" the man asked, revealing a few missing teeth as he smiled kindly at Sanji. "Terrible weather today. You shouldn't walk around like that, boy. 'Tis not healthy."

Smiling back, Sanji reached for the metal handrail, relieved to feel warmth as he pulled himself up into the bus. "These aren't my clothes. Borrowed them from someone."

"Ah. That friend of yours sure must be big then."

"Yeah, he is one big idiot," Sanji replied as he fully entered the bus. Looking around, he realised that he was the only passenger. "Busy today, I see."

The old man barked out a laugh. "It's Sunday. No one but idiots go out in this weather on Sundays. That friend and you, you guys must be quite a good match."

"Maybe, yeah," Sanji said sadly.

The man looked closely at him but didn't say until he closed the doors. "You are one of those guys who want to go far away, huh?"

"Not... exactly. Shinjuku. I'm just going home," Sanji said as he sat down behind the driver.

"Hm, I see," the old man said, starting the engine and bringing the bus back to life.

How much had that guy seen as a driver? What kind of stories did he have to tell if he was able to know what went on in Sanji's head with only a look?

"You've done this job long?" Sanji asked

"All my life. Never did anything else. Taking people from one place to the other is important, you know? You youngsters might not get it yet, but reuniting people with loved ones, bringing them home or somewhere where they could start a new life... that's a beautiful feeling. I've never been happier than in this old bus here," the old man said, patting his steering wheel lovingly. "I even found my love in here, my family." Bus still standing in place, the man reached inside his breast pocket and pulled out an old photograph.

Sanji took it and smiled as he saw a younger version of the driver standing next to a kind looking woman and three children in the picture.

"I've got two grandchildren now, too. My oldest son got married two years ago."

"Congratulations. You've a very beautiful wife."

"Yeah, she is a handful but I love her nonetheless," the man said and leaning back, he reached out to take the photograph from Sanji again. "Love isn't always easy but it's always worth the effort. And sometimes you have to give it a little push."

Sanji just wanted to ask the driver what he meant when the man suddenly reached for his cell phone in his bag and began to dial. "Got him," he said into the phone. "Now get you damn ass here, sonny. You're slower than a turtle on drugs."

"W- What?" Sanji asked as the driver hang up.

The man grinned his toothless smile. "There is this big guy who works in Tokyo and always drives with me. He is a nice lad but whenever I take him to the train station, he just can't shut up about that blond he always visits."

Face suddenly feeling hot, Sanji looked out of the window to see something green nearing the bus with amazing speed.

"You should screw thinking and just get your love, boy. Youth is fleeting and should be enjoyed."

"But-" Further Sanji couldn't go on because the doors opened again and a panting Zoro stood in the doorway, clutching the bus with both hands.

"What the fuck do you think you're doing, cook?!" Zoro asked Sanji agitatedly and then turned to the driver. "Thanks, Jerry. I owe you one."

Jerry saluted him and Zoro nodded before looking back at the cook. "So? Care to tell me why you ran away and why the fuck I had to wake up alone?"

"Shouldn't we talk about that... somewhere else?" Sanji asked with a side glance at Jerry.

Zoro shrugged. "He knows everything, anyway."



"It's good to be young," Jerry chirped and began to twiddle his thumbs.

Shaking his head, Sanji looked at Zoro. " I wasn't running. I just... need a bit of time."

"Why? I thought we were... you know?"

"I don't know and that's the point," Sanji said. "Kuina was your best friend and you became lovers. I was your best friend and we became lovers. How am I supposed to know that you won't end up thinking that this is a mistake as well?"

Zoro looked down and rubbed his neck. Letting out a frustrated groan, he looked up again and said, "I know it isn't, alright? I can't tell you how I know but... it isn't a mistake."

"Then tell me what I am to you, Zoro. It's not that difficult."

Zoro frowned as he looked at him. "But... I already did that."

"You didn't," Sanji replied dead-panned.

"I did! Last night!"

"You didn't say-"

"I showed it to you!" Zoro cried out, frustration evidently in his voice. "Doesn't that mean more than words?"

Blushing, Sanji avoided his gaze and said, "W-Well, you were a bit... gentler last time, but-"

"You know I'm bad with words, cook. I rather show than tell what I feel."

"Can I really believe that?"

Instead of answering, Zoro entered the bus, grabbed Sanji's face and smashed their lips together. Forgetting everything, the bus, whistling Jerry and that he had been determined to get Zoro spelling everything out to him, Sanji responded in kind.

"My body isn't lying, Sanji. Feel it," Zoro said, putting their foreheads together, taking Sanji's hand and leading it to his chest, right over his thundering heart.

Sanji's eyes widened as he felt the steady, fast beat under his fingertips.

"I've never felt like that with Kuina. Never," Zoro said and even though Sanji was still determined to hear those words, to be told what he meant to Zoro, he believed him.

"Fucking idiot," Sanji muttered and Zoro just grinned as he leaned in for another kiss.

At the same time, a girl was looking out of her window, forehead leaned against cool glass.

"Do you hate Zoro now?"

Kuina looked up from her place on the windowsill to see her father standing in her doorway, a steaming mug with hot chocolate in his hands.

Receiving the hot drink gratefully, she said, "I don't hate him, no. I just... don't like him very much at the moment. I deserve that much luxury, don't I?"

Her father's smile didn't waver. "Want me to get some algae out of the pond and put it on the training dummies."

Laughing, Kuina said, "Maybe later." and then took a sip of the chocolate. Strange how that always managed to calm her.

"Well, you do seem better than I expected you to. What did Zoro say to you that you can forgive him that easily?"

"Something I'll never forget," Kuina whispered, her eyes following a snow flake falling down from the sky.

"I'll never be able to make this up to you," Zoro said, kneeling on the floor and bowing his head. "What I did, I'll never be able to apologise enough for that, but... but please know that I do love you. I just didn't know it wasn't the same kind of love you deserve."

"And Sanji? Do you love him, too, or was he just... there."

"Sanji... Sanji is-" Zoro started and then stopped, looking down. "What I feel for him, I don't think I can put it into words. I'll probably never be able to say it to him either, but... but I can't live without him. I know that much."

"Such an idiot... saying he can't put it into words and then doing it that good, anyway," Kuina said, taking another sip as the snow flake melted on the glass of her window.

It hurts to be left alone by someone you love. It hurts to love someone who can't love you back. But what hurts the most is to end a relationship that was never even destined to start.

~ by Unknown

The End

I've always wanted a grandpa like Jerry... missing teeth included.