This story is dedicated to Sinisterbug. I thought it fitting because she is the reason I started writing in the One Piece fandom, and this story right here is the reason I started writing Memories. I saw a part of this in my head several years ago after reading Bug's story In Dreams and built a universe around it. So thank you Bug. And thank you for continuing to be an awesome writer and good friend. 3


Sanji pulled himself up slowly from the murky haze of sleep. His senses told him he was cold, his muscles were sore, and he had slept past his alarm. As awareness started creeping in on him from all sides, he shifted his shoulders to try and relieve some of the tension in his joints. When he did, his skin made noise against something like vinyl. For a moment Sanji's mind was lost and confused as to why he was lying on plastic, but then he remembered he had fallen asleep on the workout mats in the D's family dojo.

When he remembered Zoro, his eyes flew open.

He didn't move; he lay on the mats staring fixedly at the ceiling. Sanji could hear Zoro's breathing, feel Zoro's body heat against his side, but he did not have the courage to turn his head and look.

Oh God, what had they done? Had he really just had sex with Zoro and then fallen asleep where someone could have just walked in and seen them? Did they really just have sex in the middle of their friend's family's dojo? Did they really just have sex!? What the hell had they been thinking!? How could they have done this!?

Sanji let out a breath and closed his eyes. Actually, he knew exactly why they had done this. It had been the heat of the moment, a hot and sweaty, mind blowing, earth-fucking-shattering moment.

But oh, what was he going to do now? What was he supposed to do when Zoro woke up?

Sanji lifted one of his hands and ran his palm over his face. Why the hell had he let this happen? Why? Why had he been so stupid? How was he supposed to act around Zoro now? How was he even going to look the man in the face ever again?

Beside him, Zoro stirred. Sanji's breath halted as he listened to the other man wake. When the swordsman groaned softly and sat up, Sanji was sure he was about three seconds from death. There was no way Zoro was going to be cool about it, not when it was just the two of them. Around their friends, sure, but not when they were alone.

Sanji braced himself, ready for whatever Zoro was going to do.

Nothing happened.

Slowly, Sanji's head turned and his eyes found Zoro sitting beside him in a lazy seiza position, his fingers rubbing slow circles into the muscle of his shoulder. Turning his head fully, Sanji gazed in amazement at Zoro's beautifully scarred back. The man's tanned skin was marred by a number of long, thin lines. Most were concentrated across his shoulders, but a few strays lay on his side just under the rib cage. Sanji had some idea of what they were from, just not why Zoro had so many.

Shifting his legs, Sanji made to sit up but froze as a jolt of pain rocketed through him. It wasn't the worst pain he had ever felt, but because of where the pain was located Sanji was suddenly hyper aware of it. All the muscles in the cook's stomach clenched and hot tears welled up in his eyes as he lay almost paralyzed on the floor. The whole thing was so humiliating Sanji wished he could just die right there. As the reality of everything came crashing down around him, Sanji clenched his teeth against the urge to scream. Everything hurt. Everything had gone to shit. He was cold! What was he going to do?

"You okay?"

Sanji's heart skipped as he turned to find Zoro looking down at him. The swordsman's eyes were soft and his brow wasn't creased. He wasn't sneering. Sanji forgot himself for a moment as his heart fluttered a little in his chest.

"I, uh… yeah." Sanji grit his teeth and bit back the pain as he pulled himself to a seated position. Everything inside him from the navel down felt like it was on fire, but he ignored it. He ran his fingers through his hair and swallowed hard against a sob that fought to burst from his lungs.

"…I'm fine."

Zoro didn't look all that convinced but he nodded all the same. "We gotta leave if we don't want to get caught."

Sanji nodded and fought past a wave of nausea as he watched the swordsman stand. How was he going to stand? How the hell was he going to walk?

Miraculously, the cook was not left with those thoughts for very long. He tensed and shifted and prayed to God that when he moved he wouldn't scream like an infant, but was struck almost completely dumb when Zoro held out his hand to help him. Sanji knew what that hand was for, it just took several moments for his senses to catch up with themselves. Sanji stared at the hand, then up at Zoro's stoic face, then back down at the hand like it was some foreign thing, completely alien and out of place.

Eventually, after several seconds of confused contemplation, Sanji did manage to pull himself together and take the offered assistance. He was naked after all and the need to cover himself was pressing on him, getting heavier and heavier with each moment.

Zoro pulled Sanji to his feet and if he noticed Sanji's wince of pain he thankfully didn't say anything.

It took them a few minutes to find their clothes and Zoro's swords. When they did, Sanji made a face at the state his shirt was in. Almost every button was gone, lost somewhere on the floor or between the mats. One of the belt loops on his slacks had been torn off as well, but that didn't matter so much. The suit jacket hid most, if not all, of the damage, and his cigarettes were safe and uncrushed inside one of his shoes.

When Zoro led him out the back door and into the ally, Sanji fumbled around in his pocket for his lighter. If the swordsman was going to attack him, then this was going to be the time and Sanji didn't want to go out without some nicotine in his system.

Shit. He was in so much pain there was no way he could win. If Zoro wanted to kill him, he would kill him.

Fingers trembled as Sanji flicked the lighter. Once. Twice. No fire. He couldn't grip it. He ground the cigarette between his teeth and tried again. Nothing. He stopped, took a breath, and tried again. Nothing.

He almost screamed in frustration but then Zoro was there again. The swordsman's strong hands came up and took the lighter from Sanji's shaking grasp. He flicked it once, twice, and the flame sparked to life.

Sanji didn't want to think about it, so he didn't think about it. He leaned in and took the flame. He watched the fire burn the paper and he pulled the smoke into his lungs like it was the only thing left on this earth that could keep him alive. When he straightened he didn't take back the lighter. He didn't want to touch it. He just put his palms to his forehead and sighed deeply.

"Thanks… thank you," he murmured.

He heard Zoro shift and knew the swordsman was either shrugging or just moving to put the lighter in his own pocket. Sanji didn't look. He couldn't. He wasn't ashamed, but fuck it all if he wasn't so embarrassed he could barely see straight. He slid his hands into his pockets and stared down at the concrete steps he currently stood on. Zoro's feet were right there but he tried not to look at them.

Just focus on the ground.

"Did you drive?" Zoro asked.

Sanji shook his head.

"You walked from the restaurant? It's like nine-hundred blocks."

Sanji blew smoke but his eyes stayed fixed on the ground. "Yeah, if you go your route."

He expected Zoro to retaliate but he didn't. Sanji was both surprised and relieved at that particular development.

A moment of unbearable silence passed before Zoro spoke again.

"I don't live very far away. You could come over and use… I mean you could shower if you wanted… and I might have a t-shirt or something…"

Sanji braved lifting his eyes and watched as Zoro scratched at the back of his neck. The gesture was so strange on the swordsman, so incredibly unfamiliar. It made Zoro look almost vulnerable. It all but took the cook's breath away.

Sanji nodded before he could think too long about it and whispered,


Zoro's apartment was nothing like Sanji had expected. He had readied himself for dirty laundry strewn across the furniture and dishes piled high past the edge of the sink, but what he got was a small, tidy studio with minimal furniture and organization that bordered on obsession. The only bookshelf had books and CDs in alphabetical order. The couch, which Sanji guessed pulled out into a futon, was closed, with blankets and a few pillows folded neatly on top. The kitchen was spotless, but as Sanji made his way inside, he realized it was probably from being unused. The counters were pretty much bare.

Moving inside, Zoro pulled his swords from their carrying case. He placed them on a rack above the fireplace and slid the case under the bookshelf.

"Bathroom's over there," Zoro said, motioning to a walled off corner. "Towels are on the shelf above the toilet. I'll get you a shirt."

Sanji stood very still, wary of his surroundings. He knew there was no need to be, but stepping into Zoro's home—into Zoro's territory, was unsettling. It felt wrong and uncomfortable and even though it had been Zoro himself that had invited him, Sanji still felt as if he was unwanted. He was trespassing. He knew he should probably just go, get out and never look back, but a small voice in his head told him that refusing Zoro's hospitality when the swordsman was finally being cordial would be stupid—not to mention rude.

When Zoro handed him a folded, grey t-shirt, a pair of soft, cotton pants, anda sweatshirt, Sanji found he couldn't speak.

"They're gonna be too big," Zoro murmured. "I looked, but I don't have anything…" the swordsman stopped, closed his eyes as if trying to find words, and then shook his head. "You're too skinny."

Sanji reacted without thinking. "I'm not sk—"

Fuck. Shit, calm down.

Sanji bit his tongue. Hard. He couldn't help it, it was like a reflex. What was he, twelve? He couldn't have a civilized conversation with the guy that had just given him clean clothes and offered him his shower?

The guy that just fucked you in the ass a few hours ago?

Taking a breath, Sanji swallowed thickly and tried to speak.

"I… thank you."

Zoro shrugged and turned away. He started for the kitchen alcove, but stopped and looked back before he got there.

"Do you want some coffee?"

Oh, good God yes."Uh, yes… yes please."

Zoro nodded and continued to the kitchen, his step a little lighter than before.

Sanji turned toward the bathroom door, a feeling that he should say something or do something else weighing heavily in his gut. He knew what it was, he was just so unsure of how to say it. Maybe he just shouldn't. Maybe he should just take the offered shower and clothes and be grateful. Maybe he should just leave the clothes and run and forget the whole thing happened? Go back to the restaurant and never ever show his face outside again?

No. No he couldn't do that. He had some pride left.

Sanji called over his shoulder.

"Do you want me to make some breakfast?"

Zoro turned around, almost awkwardly. His eyes were wide, surprised. His lips were parted in a small oval of what was probably the Zoro-version of shock.


Sanji swallowed again. He wasn't really sure if he wanted Zoro to say yes or not. He wasn't really sure which would be harder to deal with, but it seemed the most natural thing for him to do: offer to cook. That's what he did, right? That was something normal he could ground himself with.

"I thought…" Sanji murmured, "I uh, thought it would be the least I could do since you're… giving me clothes and stuff."

Zoro stared at him until his look of surprise and amazement faded slowly into something more stoic and familiar.

Sanji tensed. Yeah, that had probably been a bad move. Zoro probably wanted him out as soon as he was through cleaning up. He probably wanted to forget this whole fucked up thing had ever happened. What had he even been thinking anyway? Making breakfast? Like what? They were friends? Lovers?

Swallowing a small lump in his throat, Sanji shrugged. "Or, you know, if you don't want to I can just—"

"—Yes," Zoro said. His voice cracked and he cleared his throat before he spoke again. "I would really like some breakfast. Your breakfast."

Sanji's stomach did a flip and he felt his knees actually go a little weak but he managed a nod and, by some miracle, didn't fall over himself.

"I don't have any food though," Zoro said, looking back at the kitchen like it was somehow the enemy. "I don't… cook, so…"

"That's okay," Sanji moved closer and ran a hand through his hair. "You have a pen and paper? I can make a list."

The drawer Zoro opened to get at a pad and pen was so organized Sanji wondered for a moment if the swordsman actually lived here.

"Just get these and I'll do the rest," Sanji said as he jotted a few things down. "Don't worry about brands or anything, just get what you like or what's cheap." The cook reached for his wallet in his back pocket. "I'll give you my card—"

"No," Zoro said firmly, and grabbed the list from the desktop. When he looked at Sanji his eyes were unreadable. "I'll buy it, you cook it. That's fair."

He turned before Sanji could stop him and opened the door.

"Go ahead and take a shower. TV remote's in the drawer under the clock."

The door closed behind him and Sanji was left alone, cradling Zoro's clothes. He stared at the empty space the swordsman had just left and let out a long, shaky breath. He had two choices. He could use this opportunity and run. He could leave and take a bus back to the Baratie and then he wouldn't have to deal with Zoro and all the implications of what they'd done. He could soak in his own bathtub and tell everyone he was sick and just curl up in bed and die. He could avoid Zoro for the rest of his life and hope that the swordsman would never tell a living soul about what had happened.

Or, since he knew that Zoro had no intention of trying to kill him, he could stay. He could man up and take the shower and the clothes and make breakfast when Zoro returned and they could come out of this in some sort of quasi-amicable fashion. Maybe they would even stop fighting? Maybe Zoro wouldn't…

No. If he had no respect for Sanji before, then he definitely wouldn't now. Sanji knew he had pretty much ruined any chance of having anything with Zoro besides a strange and awkward association. Zoro had something to hold over Sanji's head forever, and there was nothing the cook could do about it because he brought it upon himself.

A horrible tightness started pulling at Sanji's chest, and he clenched his jaw hard against the emotions that welled up inside him. He turned, moving quickly into the bathroom, not sure of who or what he was running from, he was alone after all. He closed the door behind him, set Zoro's things on the toilet, and turned on the water. When he stripped out of his own clothes, he didn't look. He couldn't. He didn't look at anything. He stepped under the hot spray and let the water wash any traces of stupid mistakes down the drain.

After a while, perhaps ten minutes, Sanji could feel his skin turning raw and he opened his eyes. He twisted and lowered the temperature of the water, and reached for the soap. The lather on his hands smelled like Zoro when he showed up to parties or came with Chopper to the Baratie, and it jump-started that fluttering in Sanji's stomach again. He stood for a moment holding the bar and breathing in the familiar scent, letting memories of times when he and Zoro would fight or spar, or just brush past each other at Vivi's house and try to glare each other into another round float through his head.

Zoro's skin had smelled faintly of this the night before. It had tasted salty… warm and wet…

Sanji placed the bar back on the metal rack and scrubbed himself clean. There was no room to think those things anymore. That was a dead avenue and there was no use in wishing or wanting anything but parted ways under a white flag.

When he was through Sanji turned off the water and toweled himself dry. He slipped into Zoro's clothes and shoved his cigarette pack into the sweatshirt pocket before he rolled his own clothes into a ball. He knew he couldn't put them in the hamper, but he didn't want to bring them back out with him into the apartment, so he set them on the hamper's lid.

When he emerged from the bathroom, Sanji expected to see Zoro back, he had taken at least a half an hour in the shower, most likely longer, but when he peered out from behind the door the swordsman was nowhere to be seen. Sanji figured Zoro was probably lost, or maybe not "lost" in the traditional sense, more like he turned down the wrong street and kept going until he reached Los Angeles and realized he had to go back.

Breathing a small sigh of relief Sanji moved out into the living room/bedroom area and took his time inspecting the small apartment. There were no decorations on the walls or on any of the table tops, save the painted sword stand on the fireplace mantel. Curious, Sanji stepped across the wooden floors, wary, as if the beautiful weapons were alive and watching him. The golden inlay of the white katana flashed brilliantly in the morning sunlight as Sanji came close. The cook reached up his hand and ran his fingers over the cord at the hilt. He couldn't remember the name of this one, but he knew she was special. He knew that Zoro loved this sword and treated her with the utmost respect.

A sudden, indescribable feeling came over Sanji and he pulled his hand away.

"I'm sorry," he whispered, "I didn't mean for any of this to happen… maybe, in a way I did, but now everything is messed up and it's my fault…"

The branches of the tree outside the window fluttered in the breeze. The sun reflected off the gold once again, imbuing the metal with a kind of glow Sanji had never before seen. As he watched, the silver and the polished black of the other two swords shone in turn, seeming to answer the voice of the first in a dance of color and light. Sanji's breath caught in his throat and his eyes were suddenly blurred with unshed tears.

He was witnessing something very special, and he knew he didn't deserve it. These swords were a testament of all the amazing things that made up Zoro and all the parts of his life. The man was so much more than just the ingenuous muscle-head that Sanji always accused him of being. Zoro was a warrior. He trained his body and his mind to a point of discipline that Sanji had probably never even thought about. Zoro worked so hard and he was so humble about his accomplishments. He was kind and giving and Sanji had fucked up any chance of ever having anything even remotely close to what he wanted so badly. There was no going back now and he had nothing and no one to blame but himself.

It hurt so bad, and Sanji had no idea how he was going to deal with it.

The doorknob rattled and Sanji almost jumped out of his skin. He ran his hands through his hair and blinked back the wetness from his eyes as he straightened the sweatshirt. When he turned, Zoro was carrying a paper bag and closing the door behind him.

"I have no idea what the hell chervil are," the swordsman grumbled, "but I got all the other stuff."

Sanji shrugged and moved quickly to take the bag from Zoro's arms. He was determined to follow through and end this morning in a way that wouldn't come back to haunt him. Or Zoro.

"It's okay, just a spice. I don't need it."

Sanji avoided eye contact and placed the bag on the counter. He could hear shuffling as Zoro removed his jacket and pulled his shoes off. Glancing around the small kitchen, Sanji frowned.

"I can't, however, cook without a pan. Or utensils." Sanji turned back and scratched at his jaw. "You do have things to cook with right?"

Zoro seemed to also be avoiding eye contact. He nodded, glancing all over at the floor and at Sanji's feet, and pointed towards the lower cabinets.

"Chopper made me get some stuff when I first moved in. There's pans down there, and then just check the drawers for spoons or whatever. I don't actually remember what we bought."

Sanji nodded and started to look through the small collection of unused cookware.

"I'm gonna take a shower too, if there's time," Zoro murmured.

Sanji nodded and pulled a spatula and egg beater from the drawer. "You're good. It'll probably be twenty minutes at least."

Zoro didn't answer, and for a few moments Sanji thought he had moved away towards the bathroom, but when he didn't hear the door close he chanced a quick look over his shoulder. Zoro was still there by the door, hands in his pockets and his eyes regarding the floor harshly.

"What's up?" Sanji asked.

The swordsman finally looked up, his eyes questioning and slightly suspicious.

"Are you still gonna be here when I get out?"

Sanji's stomach tied itself into knots at Zoro's words. He felt ashamed for his thoughts of fleeing earlier, but of course he couldn't do anything about it now.

"Dude," he rolled his eyes, "if I wanted to bail, I would have done it while you were out."

The weak half-truth seemed to be sufficient because Zoro nodded and placed Sanji's lighter on the table before heading toward the bathroom. When the door closed, Sanji turned his attention back on breakfast. For the next fifteen minutes his hands worked naturally, his mind lost itself in the comforting motions of cutting, peeling, slicing, and stirring. The meat sizzled in the pan and the spices filled the room with aromas that settled Sanji's dancing nerves.

However, when the bathroom door opened again, Sanji's stomach crawled up into his chest and the tension returned to his muscles.

"Coffee's ready. And I found your plates and stuff so just go ahead and sit."

Zoro said nothing as he got his coffee and moved to the small table. Sanji could feel eyes on him as he worked, but he was confident enough in his craft that even with all the dizzying emotions and almost crippling tension working through him, he was still able to function to standard. When he set the plate in front of Zoro, and the swordsman's eyes lit up for a fraction of a moment, some of Sanji's fears fled.

"Thanks," Zoro said softly.

Sanji nodded. "Don't worry about it. Uh, you don't have a balcony or anything, right? Should I just go out front to smoke?"

Zoro shook his head and picked up his fork. "I don't mind if you smoke in here, just open the window."

Popping the latch and lifting the lower pane, Sanji took a cigarette from his pack and lit up. He pulled the smoke into his lungs and held it there for several moments. The burn grounded him almost as much as the cooking did and Sanji held onto it like a lifeline. A few minutes passed in silence as Zoro ate and Sanji smoked at the window.

"You gonna eat?" Zoro asked, his voice muffled.

Sanji shook his head. "I'll just have coffee. I don't usually eat breakfast."

Zoro grunted noncommittally and Sanji finished off the last of the cigarette. For a moment he stood, terrified and unsure of what he should do. The most natural thing would be to get his coffee and sit down at the table. But if he did that, then what the hell was he going to do? Talk? About what?

Realistically, however, Sanji knew that his standing at the sink was probably a lot more awkward than sitting drinking coffee at the table, so he refilled his cup and moved across the small space.

But then he stopped.

He hesitated for a fraction of a moment, thinking. What if it hurt when he sat down? Would he be able to sit? It was a wooden chair, was it going to… was he still bruised? Shit, should he see a doctor?

Embarrassment washed over the cook like a tidal wave. He felt his face heating but all he could really care about in that moment was if he was going to hurt himself again if he tried to sit. There was no pain now, and there hadn't been any when he bent to retrieve the pans, but if he sat and he was still tender Sanji knew he would fall apart right there. Every bit of this carefully constructed, fragile control he had built for himself would shatter and he would start crying like a child.

Besides, Sanji didn't want to know. He didn't want to be reminded of what had happened. Not yet. He was going to need time to process; space to be alone and let the emotions and feelings that were being held back by mere threads of restraint run their course.

"You sure you don't want anything?" Zoro's voice startled him from his thoughts. When Sanji met the swordsman's eyes he almost flinched. Zoro didn't look angry, or impatient, or any of the things that he usually looked when he was looking at Sanji and it threw the cook. Didn't Zoro understand he was making this harder?

Sanji shook his head. "No, I'm… it's okay."

Zoro regarded him for another moment and then shrugged, "Okay."

Then he lifted his mug to finish off his coffee and Sanji noticed his plate was clean.

"You done? Or would you like some more?"

Zoro's eyebrows rose. "There's more?"

Sanji nodded, "A little."

The swordsman seemed to think about it for a moment, but then shook his head. "I'm actually pretty full. I'll eat it for lunch."

Sanji nodded and took the opening, gracefully collecting the plate right out from underneath Zoro's arms. Whirling around to the sink, Sanji spoke as he turned on the water and located the brillo pad. "I'll just wash everything and wrap up the leftovers real quick before I get out of your hair."

Zoro said nothing for a few seconds and then mumbled a quiet "sure" before standing and moving out of the kitchen.

Sanji's heart ached as he listened to Zoro leave. The swordsman's actions were easy to understand and his intentions were clear: it was perfectly fine that Sanji was leaving. He didn't really want Sanji here anyway. This had been a mistake and now that he had offered his help, and Sanji had reciprocated, they could go their separate ways.

He focused on washing. He put his hands in the stream of scalding water to take his thoughts off things that were useless to dwell on. His skin stung but it brought him back to where he was. He didn't want to remember. He didn't want to think about everything he almost had.

He noticed the tears, but even as they blurred his vision he chose to ignore them. He scrubbed the pan and the utensils clean and ignored his troubled mind and his breaking heart and his stupid, traitorous body as it trembled. He hated himself so much at that moment. He wished with all his soul that he could just go back and erase the past day. He didn't want to remember how it had felt to finally let go and fight Zoro for real. He didn't want to remember the way the swordsman had looked at him—just like Sanji had felt, so lost and alone and wishing, begging to be understood.

He didn't want to remember how it had been with Zoro. He didn't want to remember how good it had felt.

Sanji turned the water off and swallowed a sob that was threatening to climb up and escape past his lips. He pulled down the sleeve of Zoro's sweatshirt and covered his eyes.

What had he done?

What was he going to do now?

He didn't want to think about it.

He didn't want to remember.

He didn't want to remember that, for a few moments, he had held Zoro in his arms and everything had been perfect.

Strong arms came around Sanji's waist and the cook cried out softly. The weight of Zoro's body pressed against his back. The swordsman's hands came around and gripped the front of the sweatshirt. Warm skin slid against the side of Sanji's neck.

Sanji's breath caught and he struggled to breathe as Zoro murmured against his jaw.

"I'm sorry…" Zoro's voice was rough. "I'm sorry… I'm not good at talking to people."

The sob finally clambered up and burst from Sanji's throat. The cook's entire body shook with the force of it and he covered his face with his hands to try and control it all. Zoro held him tighter as his body slumped against the swordsman's weight. Sanji let his head fall back onto Zoro's shoulder as words he couldn't believe were whispered into his ear.

"I don't know what to say… I just… need you to know that I don't regret what we did, okay?"

Sanji pushed away and turned in Zoro's hold. He froze for a moment to take in the look of absolute vulnerability and trepidation that was painted so obviously over the swordsman's face before he took a breath.

"…You don't?"

Zoro slowly, warily, shook his head.

For a moment, it felt like the wind had been knocked from Sanji's lungs. He tried to breathe in and failed. He tried again, but his lungs wouldn't cooperate. Then it suddenly didn't matter anymore. Who needed breathing? As another thin trail of tears slipped from Sanji's eyes he pressed himself so fully back into Zoro's embrace that he wasn't sure where he ended and Zoro began.

"You son of a bitch," Sanji sobbed, "I hate you so much, Marimo. I fucking… h-hate... you…"

Zoro's arms came around him again and he felt those strong fingers slide up into his hair. Zoro's skin was warm as he pressed into Sanji's neck, holding tighter than Sanji could have ever thought possible. The feeling of the other man's body, of his weight against his own, made Sanji's heart burst, pumping relief and emotion and want through him so powerfully that all he could manage to do was slide his arms around Zoro and bury his face in the swordsman's neck. That wonderful smell of soap and the undeniable scent of steel that was so very Zoro filled Sanji's senses and moved the cook to weep silently.

The edge of the counter pushed into Sanji's back as Zoro curled into him. It took the cook a few moments to realize what was happening, but when he did, Sanji's aching heart soared.

Zoro was trembling.

Zoro was just as afraid as he was. Zoro was just as unsure and just as mortified and confused and lost as Sanji and maybe this wasn't the end of everything. Maybe this wasn't going to end in awkward handshakes and silent promises to be civil. Maybe this wasn't an ending at all.

Pulling back, Sanji moved just enough to touch his forehead to Zoro's. He brought his hands to the back of the swordsman's neck, cupping that strong jaw, running his thumbs over rough skin. He willed Zoro to open his eyes, he demanded it in the lines of his body. And when those dark eyes did in fact open and look into his, Sanji lost his breath yet again.

Did Zoro want this? Did Zoro really want him? He would wait these few moments. Sanji could wait. He could hold out as his heart stilled and his lungs forgot how to breathe. He could wait. He could wait…

Zoro's hands tightened in cotton and in blond hair. His eyes sharpened as he shook his head. His body sagged as a shuddering, desperate breath escaped his lungs.

"Shit…" he whispered.

And then his lips were on Sanji's.

There were no words for what Sanji felt at the moment. All bets were off. The kiss was like the one they had shared in the dojo the night before, and then again, nothing like it at all. Zoro kissed like he fought; like he spoke; like he fucked. Like he lived. He was strong, blunt, and forceful, but at the same time gentle and giving and passionate. Sanji groaned into it and returned the kiss with everything he had. He opened for the swordsman and slid his tongue out to meet Zoro's in what could only be described as a dance. They moved together like two parts of the same person, giving and taking, pushing and pulling in a perfect synchronicity that Sanji would have never believed existed.

When Zoro pulled away and started to trail down Sanji's throat the cook arched and let his head fall back. He ran his fingers through Zoro's coarse hair and shivered when the swordsman growled into his skin.

"How do you taste so good?" Zoro murmured.

Sanji let out a soft breath and wrapped his arms around Zoro's neck. The swordsman slid his hands around Sanji's waist and down his hips. Before Sanji could do or say anything, Zoro had lifted him like he weighed nothing at all and set him on the counter.

Pain blossomed through Sanji's lower half and he cried out.

Zoro stopped what he was doing immediately and took Sanji by the shoulders. "What? What happened?"

Sanji clenched his jaw. This was exactly what he had been worried about. He shifted to his side, trying to relieve the pressure but when he moved the pain moved with him. It was like he was bruised inside, tender and sore, like an overworked muscle ache.

"It's…" Sanji whispered, "I'm okay… it's not that bad."

And it really wasn't. The longer Sanji sat, the more he realized that the initial pain had been more startling than anything. It didn't feel like anything was torn, and if he shifted slowly, deliberately, to sit properly it actually wasn't bad at all. He had strained and twisted things during training many times that hurt much more than this.

When he lifted his gaze, the look on Zoro's face almost made Sanji flinch. The swordsman's eyes were wounded and full of something that looked like fear. He had backed away, and was holding his hands up and off Sanji's thighs like if he touched the cook he would break him.

"I hurt you," he said softly.

Sanji did not hesitate. He grabbed Zoro's arms and pulled them around his waist. He caught the swordsman's hips between his knees and pulled the other man close again. Running his fingers over tanned cheeks Sanji whispered against rough lips.

"Shhhh, no, no it's fine. I'm fine."

Zoro shook his head. "I didn't mean to. I knew I should have stopped but I didn't. I wanted you so bad and I didn't think—"

"—Zoro, stop," Sanji said, "It's okay, I'm okay."

He didn't look convinced but he looked down at Sanji's waist, seemingly caught up in something. Zoro's eyes were determined and his hands were sure as he slid them down Sanji's thighs.

Sanji was about to say more, try and find words to satisfy Zoro's worry, but he was cut off abruptly as Zoro backed up and slid an arm underneath his knees. The cook yelped softly as Zoro lifted him and carried him bridal style effortlessly into the living room.

Clinging to a muscled neck and shoulders, Sanji grumbled, "I'm fine Zoro. I'm not a girl."

"No shit you're not a girl," Zoro growled. "Just shut up, please, and let me do this."

The hurt was still there in his voice and Sanji found he couldn't say no. Instead he gave in and held tighter, nuzzling his nose into Zoro's neck.

With a swift kick and the flip of a latch, the futon folded out neatly and Zoro placed Sanji on the mattress as gently as if he were an injured bird. When he pulled away, his face was one of concentration and complete and utter seriousness. Sanji wanted to feel angry. He wanted to feel like this was making him look weak and helpless, but the way Zoro knelt in front of him, and the way his dark eyes watched the ground, made it impossible.

"Zoro, what's wrong?"

He held out a hand to touch Zoro's jaw, but the swordsman stopped him. "Wait," he placed Sanji's hand back in his lap and spread his fingers out across the cook's thighs.

"There's some things I have to say to you first."

Wary, because that could only mean something bad, Sanji swallowed past another thick lump in his throat and sat quietly, waiting.

Zoro swallowed and took a deep breath before he spoke. "I owe you an apology."

Sanji blinked. He was relatively sure that Zoro meant something other than the pain, but what it was, the cook had no idea.

"For what?" he asked.

Zoro still didn't look at him. There was shame in his eyes and it mortified Sanji to see it. What could have possibly happened that Zoro felt this deep of a need to apologize?

When Zoro finally spoke, his voice shook.

"I never thanked you, for what you did."

Sanji started to raise his hand again; started to say, no, it was okay, but Zoro stopped him. He took Sanji's wrist and held it down. He shook his head fiercely and growled, "No. Stop, let me finish."

Relaxing under Zoro's hold Sanji relented again, but he had to clench his jaw against the emotions that fought to surface. He didn't think he was ready for this. His heart might not be able to take it.

"The last few weeks I haven't been able to think about anything but you. I mean, why? Why would you do what you did? Why would you do that for me?" Sanji's breath caught again and his heart broke anew as Zoro's eyes shone and his lips started to tremble. "I just got so angry. You did something I never thought you had in you because I didn't care to look. You did that for me and I couldn't even get past my pride and my selfishness long enough…" Zoro squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head. His breath was harsh and his hands held on to Sanji's wrists so tightly it hurt.

"You saved my life…" Zoro whispered. "You saved my life and I couldn't even thank you…"

Sanji didn't know what to say. He didn't know if there were any words that would be sufficient for what he was feeling—for what Zoro was feeling. The two of them had come together like this after such a long road of pride and hurt and pain and it was so confusing and wonderful that it was almost like it wasn't real.

He realized then that Zoro had been going through the exact same things as Sanji himself had been. They had felt the same uncertainty, the same betrayal, and the same loss. Sanji understood now that Zoro had felt the change, and he had been angry and frightened. They were the same. They felt the same.

They felt the same.

Having no words, and not having any idea how to fix or make sense of anything, Sanji leaned forward and rested his forehead against Zoro's again like before. The swordsman's breath caught and he tilted his head up, leaning into Sanji's touch like it was the last lifeline in his desperate fight to stay afloat. His grip on Sanji's wrists lessened and the cook slid out of his grasp. However, instead of putting his arms around that solid frame, Sanji reached out and placed his palms over Zoro's chest, right where he knew the swordsman's scar stretched across his skin.

Zoro shuddered. "Don't… please…"

"Why not?" Sanji whispered.

"I can't…" A sharp breath left Zoro's lungs as Sanji's hands slid low and slipped underneath the swordsman's shirt.

"I'll die if you touch it…"

Sanji smiled, bittersweet, and pulled away. He slid back on the futon and motioned Zoro to follow. "Come here," he said softly. The swordsman hesitated, but slowly climbed up onto the mattress. He crawled up and over Sanji, and turned and rolled to his back as Sanji's hands guided him down. He lay there, his eyes a blaze of undeniable want as the cook slid one long leg over him and settled over his hips.

"I hated it that you ignored me and were so nice to everyone else," Sanji murmured as he lowered his head to kiss Zoro's jaw. Zoro closed his eyes, his body limp, completely surrendered.

"But I couldn't stop treating you like shit," he continued. His kisses trailed down as his hands trailed up, lifting the soft cotton of Zoro's shirt over his muscled chest. "I couldn't stop antagonizing you. I couldn't stop fighting you. And then I would be so angry when it was over and you were back to hating me."

Zoro lifted his arms as Sanji pulled the shirt off him, "I never hated you."

"It's fine," Sanji smiled. He lowered his head once again and ran his fingertips over Zoro's scar. The gnarled flesh felt so foreign, so terrible and so extremely complex under his touch. It was fascinating and unbelievable and so, so very…

"…beautiful…" Sanji whispered. He ran his lips over the strange topography and Zoro hissed. The swordsman arched and covered his eyes with the heels of his hands. His breath was heavy and harsh in his lungs and Sanji could feel the race of his heartbeat beneath his palms.

"Fuck…" Zoro moaned.

Sanji replaced his lips with his tongue, and Zoro writhed. The scar was cool to the touch. It tasted like clean skin and faintly like salt. Sanji moved down, kissing and licking until he reached Zoro's hip, his hands slid down the ridges of a defined abdomen and teased the top of Zoro's pants.

Strong arms pushed Sanji off and flipped him, pinned him on his back. He breathed heavily as Zoro came down over him. The swordsman's hips pressed down and Sanji parted his legs without thinking as Zoro's mouth found his. This kiss was slower, so much deeper than before and Sanji lost himself in it for what could have been moments or maybe hours. He only came back to himself when Zoro pulled back and stripped the sweatshirt and t-shirt from his body. The swordsman's mouth was hot as lips and breath glided over the cook's chest. Sanji lifted his head and brought his hands back to Zoro's hair, twisted his fingers through it. He shuddered as Zoro's teeth scraped over a nipple.

"Ah… feels good," he murmured and slid his hands down Zoro's back. The swordsman's skin was beaded with sweat, warm and slick to the touch. When Sanji ran blunt nails back up to broad shoulders, Zoro moved up his body and bit gently under the cook's jaw.

"I want you again," Zoro growled.

Sanji groaned and arched up. The feeling of Zoro's body on him was dizzying enough even without the deep timber of the man's voice rolling over his skin.

"You have me," he whispered, "do whatever you want."

Zoro shook his head, "What I really want will hurt you."

Shaking his head, Sanji licked up Zoro's throat.

"I don't care."

"I do."

Sanji opened his eyes slowly, finding his gaze filled with Zoro. Filled with the swordsman's strong jaw, his lips; his dark eyes boring into Sanji's with an intoxicating combination of desire and gentleness. Sanji could see that Zoro wanted nothing more than to spread him apart and bury himself so deep into the cook's body he would lose himself. Sanji could see it, he knew it, because he wanted that too. He wanted that closeness, that fulfillment he had felt when Zoro had been inside him, and all around him only a few short hours ago.

He wanted that so badly he didn't care if it might be a little uncomfortable. It didn't matter. Sanji was going to have Zoro if it killed him.

Lifting his head, Sanji ran his tongue up Zoro's throat again, but this time he did it much more slowly. He kissed the tip of the swordsman's chin and whispered low, "take off your clothes…"

Zoro did not hesitate. He stood swiftly, pushed his pants down over his hips and stepped out of them as they hit the floor. He returned to the futon, sliding back in between Sanji's legs, and rolled his hips down, grinding gently over Sanji's arousal.

"Mmm," Sanji hummed approvingly and ran his hands down Zoro's stomach. He pushed in between their bodies and wrapped one hand around Zoro's dick, the other slid down lower and cupped the swordsman's sack.

"Ah… shit," Zoro grunted into Sanji's hair. The cook smiled.

He stroked Zoro's length, enjoying the feeling of knowing exactly what to do, of this amazing familiarity, while at the same time having everything be completely different. Zoro was thicker than he was used to, shorter. His head was round and smooth, and the sensitive vein along the bottom was more pronounced, more easily teased than his own. Zoro groaned and panted heavily against his cheek as Sanji jerked him slow at first, and then roughly, and then slow again.

"You gonna argue some more?" Sanji purred into Zoro's ear, "Or are you gonna just shut up and fuck me?"

Zoro's eyes opened and Sanji shivered under a gaze of dark fire. The swordsman leaned in and pulled Sanji's lower lip through his teeth before he snarled, "Fine, but if you can't walk tomorrow remember it's your own damn fault."

Sanji laughed and rested his arms above his head as Zoro pulled his pants down over his hips. They disappeared over the side of the futon and then Zoro was moving and reaching into the drawer on the bottom of the shelf.

"What are you doing?" Sanji asked.

Zoro retrieved a small tube and held it up for Sanji to see. "Antibiotic ointment," he said simply.

Sanji's smile widened, "Genius."

"Shut your mouth," Zoro growled as he opened the top and squeezed the clear gel onto his fingers.

Laughing, Sanji took a few of the pillows from the neatly folded stack and placed them behind his shoulders and neck. This gave him a better angle to watch what Zoro was doing. He spread his legs wide and slid a hand down to palm himself as Zoro covered his length with the ointment. When he faltered a moment Sanji wondered what was wrong until he looked up and found Zoro was watching him. The swordsman's eyelids were heavy as his tongue ran over his bottom lip.

Sanji smiled coyly and slid his fingers lower, teased his anus gently as Zoro watched.

"Like what you see?"

Zoro didn't answer. He merely came close, sliding his knees underneath Sanji's thighs and pulled the cook's hips up and into his lap.

"I feel like if this was a fight, I'd be losing," he murmured.

Sanji grinned and ran his hands up Zoro's arms.

"I think if this were a fight, you would've already lost."

Zoro's eyes moved to Sanji's lips, to his hair, and then back to his eyes. The cook's attitude came down a notch as the weight of Zoro's gaze fully hit him.

"Yeah," Zoro whispered, "I think you're right."

Sanji had only a moment to take those words in before Zoro was pressing into him slowly. The cook shuddered and sucked in a sharp breath. Zoro stopped and ran his thumbs in gentle circles at Sanji's hips.

"You okay?"

There was pain, but it wasn't bad; pressure, but not intense. Sanji nodded.

"I'm fine, keep going."

Zoro slid the rest of the way in easy, much easier than before. When their hips were flush, the swordsman leaned in and kissed him. It was gentle, the softest they had ever been with each other. It was a feather-light touch against wet and wanting lips. When Sanji felt Zoro's fingers sliding over his jaw so carefully, he relaxed his legs and wrapped them around the swordsman's waist. Zoro moved slowly at first in case Sanji needed him to stop. His hips ground down and back, the length of him slid in and out of Sanji in a languid flow of carefully suppressed power and exceptionally trained motion.

Sanji's hands found Zoro's chest, his throat, his jaw and cheeks. His heart was racing; his blood was pumping furiously through his veins. The places that Zoro touched him burned, charred black by the heat of the swordsman's skin. Sanji moaned with every thrust forward, and pushed his hips up to meet them.

"Ah… fucking cook," Zoro breathed.

"Sanji…" he answered. "You said you were going to call me Sanji from now on."

Zoro's movement's slowed, stopped. He ran his fingers through blond hair and kissed pale lips once before he whispered against them.


Closing his eyes, Sanji gave in and let himself feel. He let emotion and tension and hurt and pain and shame and want and everything else that was built up and yearning to be released go. He let his head fall back and he tightened his legs around Zoro's body as the swordsman started moving again. Sanji arched up into every thrust and let everything he wanted to happen to him, just happen. The pain and the discomfort dissolved and was replaced with an electric, pulsing pleasure. Every move of Zoro's hips, every slide of his cock pushing back into Sanji's body was devastating. It was amazing and wonderful and overwhelming and Sanji couldn't hold it in any longer.

He cried out, his voice echoing through the small apartment. Zoro slowed again and whispered breathlessly into his ear, "Should I stop?"

"Fuck…" Sanji growled, "no… no don't stop. Do it harder."

Zoro groaned again, shakily, and rolled his hips. He pressed in harder, faster, his breath heavy against Sanji's chin and jaw. When Sanji opened his eyes, he met Zoro's gaze and he snarled, half smiling.

"That all you got for me, Zoro? I said harder. Don't make me get on top and show you how it's done."

That did it. The corners of Zoro's mouth turned up into one of those grins that Sanji knew so well. This was the look Zoro gave them when they fought, when they sparred and ended up breaking bones and drawing blood.

"Remember," Zoro said through flashing teeth, "you asked for this."

The slap of flesh against flesh was loud and it rang out over and over as Zoro pounded into Sanji roughly. Sanji's back bowed as pleasure slammed into him so completely he lost his mind for a moment. When his breath returned to him he cried out again and again, "Ah… ah Zoro… fuck fuck fuck!" When he curled in and flexed his hips to get Zoro deeper, he opened his eyes and watched the amazing display above him.

Zoro's shoulders and arms rippled with every move he made, every breath and every soft grunt. His abs flexed beautifully every time he thrust into Sanji's body. But the most amazing thing, the thing that pulled Sanji in and left him spellbound, was the way Zoro was looking at him. The swordsman was coming undone, and in his falling apart, his guise of perfect control and aloofness was crumbling. At that moment, in Zoro's eyes was a well of emotion that nearly broke Sanji's heart in two. So much vulnerability, so much affection, protectiveness, and possession spilled out and washed over Sanji, mixing with warm breath and the soft sounds Zoro made as he moved.

Sitting up, Sanji braced himself on one arm and wrapped the other around Zoro's neck. The swordsman shifted without losing rhythm, and supported himself with a hand around Sanji's waist and the other on the futon's armrest. They were pressed together so tightly now, mouths mere centimeters from each other. Zoro's thrusts moved up into Sanji and the cook rolled his hips down with every one of them. Pleasure mounted, tension tightened, pressure built. Sanji panted into Zoro's mouth and shuddered as Zoro's hand came around his cock. He came so hard, so violently that he almost couldn't breathe. He clung to Zoro, both arms coming around the swordsman's neck. Zoro leaned back, pulling Sanji fully into his lap and jerking his hips up. He milked Sanji's length with his hand and dug into the cook's neck with his lips and teeth. Sanji's orgasm was long, so overwhelming, he almost missed Zoro's.

"Nnnagh… ah, Sanji… Sanji…"

It took a few moments for time to catch up with them. Sanji stayed wrapped around Zoro, loving the feel of their heavy breaths against each other. He loved the swordsman's arms around him as his orgasm retreated. He loved the sensation of Zoro's face buried into his neck, and the way Zoro's body trembled with fatigue beneath him.

He placed a kiss into sweaty, green hair and sighed softly. His fingers trailed over sweaty skin and teased the tips of the three golden earrings that Zoro wore in his left ear. They chimed in a delightful harmony as they played against each other and Sanji decided that he loved the sound.

"I wasn't expecting this," Zoro said softly.

Sanji chuckled, "I wasn't either."

Zoro didn't move. He stayed kneeling with Sanji comfortably resting in his lap. He breathed easily against Sanji's throat and his fingers ran soothing circles into the cook's lower back.

"What do we do now?"

Sanji closed his eyes. "What do you want to do?"

Zoro was silent for a moment and Sanji's heart began to race once again. His lungs tightened. His stomach clenched.

"I just want to stay like this," Zoro whispered. "I don't really care about anything else…"

Breathing a small sigh of relief, Sanji tightened his arms around Zoro and kissed a sweaty temple. He didn't resist as Zoro lowered them back to the futon and stretched out over Sanji's body. His weight was welcome; his warmth was wonderful. Sanji lay still as Zoro kissed his collar, his neck, his jaw and cheeks. A small trickle of tears may have slid from beneath his eyelids as Zoro kissed his forehead but Sanji would never admit to it.

"Stay with me?" Zoro murmured.

Sanji nodded. "I'll call in for tomorrow."

"They'll let you?"

"They don't have a choice."

Zoro chuckled and reached up to pull a blanket down to cover them. It took a moment of finagling, but soon the two of them were wrapped up together and facing each other. Wonder filled the space around them and for a while neither man could speak. Sanji watched Zoro study him, watched the swordsman's gaze trail slowly over his face.

"Will you stay again tomorrow night?" Zoro asked finally.

Sanji nodded.

"Will you cook again?"

Sanji smiled and he nodded again.

Zoro opened his mouth to ask something else, but then it seemed he thought better of it and closed it. He went back to studying Sanji intently again.

"What is it?" Sanji whispered.

Zoro shook his head. "It doesn't matter."

"Yes it does," Sanji reached out a hand and slid it up Zoro's arm. "Tell me."

They stared at each other again for another long moment before Zoro swallowed and said in a voice so soft Sanji could barely hear it.

"How long?"

It didn't take but a moment for Sanji to realize what Zoro was asking, and when he did, his answer was easy. Obvious.

He took his hand and placed it over Zoro's scar.

"Since this…"

Zoro's breath shook as he let it out slowly. He closed his eyes and nodded. He lifted a hand and placed it over Sanji's.

"Me too," Zoro said softly. "Maybe even before…"

Sanji didn't need to hear more. He leaned in and gently kissed Zoro's lips. He laced their fingers together and his spirits soared as he felt the steady beat of Zoro's heart beneath their hands.