Hi everyone. It's been quite a while, hasn't it? Well, not really, but, ya know. It feels like a while. I've been working on this for a month, (literally a month, I started it on November 24th) so I hope you guys like it. You better like it. . Kidding! No pressure!
This is kind of AU, in that ZORO'S A TREE, and TREES CAN'T SAIL, but aside from that, yeah, totally, same universe. xD I can't think enough to give anymore details right now, kinda running on no sleep. So, um, Merry Christmas. And, if you don't celebrate Christmas, Happy Holidays. And, if you know not what a holiday is, well... I'm sorry for you. xD
Leaves crunched beneath Sanji's feet as he walked through the forest of bare trees, looking around. He could see his breath linger in the air when he exhaled and he smiled. Even though it was really cold, it was always fun to see his own breath.
Sanji rubbed up and down his arms with his mitten-clad hands, still feeling the record-low temperatures through two jackets, two shirts, two pairs of pants, two pairs of socks, winter boots and a scarf. He had to at least find what he came for before the cold defeated him and sent him back to the restaurant for a cup of cocoa with his tail between his legs. The old man would be expecting him back soon, anyway, since technically, ten-year-olds weren't supposed to go out by themselves, especially on Christmas Eve.
"Tree! Show yourself! Obaa-san said it had to be today!"* Sanji called, shivering as a breeze played with his hair. He really wasn't sure if he quite believed the old lady that frequented the restaurant, since she often said some kooky things, but she had told him a tale about trees on Christmas Eve. He wasn't one for stories, but his friends had told him that it was true and he believed them.
All he had to do was find the perfect tree, one that wasn't too tall or too short, and then he had to help it grow. The old lady told him that if he talked to the tree and if he loved it and took care of it, that in ten years' time, the tree would grant him a wish. It was with a very hopeful heart that Sanji perused the woods full of nearly dead trees on the day the old lady said would be the best for picking one.
Sanji peered around a number of tall, skinny trees, stepping over roots and around the poison ivy leaves that refused to die even in winter. None of them particularly stood out to him. They were all just trees, as far as he was concerned. He wasn't trained to know when a tree was special, so how could he pick the right one?
He wasn't watching where he was going as he took a step and a root seemed to jump up out of the ground just to catch the toe of his boot. Sanji let a short squeak slip past his dignified reaction to falling as he landed on his hands and knees. For a second, he found himself unable to remember how to get up again, and in that time he noticed what his hands were in.
"Moss...?" Sanji pulled off one of his mittens and poked the bright green poof. "How did you manage to grow here?" Sanji asked, following the trail of moss all the way up the trunk of a tree. Little patches of fluffy moss grew on some of the branches, making it a peculiarly colorful tree in a wood full of leafless white or black trunks.
"Must be a dumb little guy, huh?" Sanji laughed, petting over the healthy looking bark as he circled the tree. "I'm pretty sure that's not even North."
A strong breeze blew past, making the branches dance and swoop just above Sanji's head. If he didn't know better, he'd say they were trying to hit him. "You must be pretty strong, though," Sanji observed, shrugging at the rational side of his brain that said talking to a tree was stupid. "All the other trees are like 'we don't like the cold,' but you're still growing moss and holding together. Even if the moss does look ridiculous and unnatural."
At that moment, his finger caught on a splinter from the mossy tree and he yelped, pulling his hand back. A tiny dot of red became a single bead of blood right before his eyes and Sanji frowned. He kicked the tree with the toe of his boot. "That's not polite, stupid tree!" he scolded, keeping his fingers away from the mossy tree as he circled it again. "And here I was thinking of choosing you!"
Taking a step back from the tree, Sanji looked it up and down. It wasn't one of the taller trees, Sanji noted, putting it at maybe twenty feet high, but it looked sturdier than the brittle statures of the surrounding trees. It was a shame that the only tree of the bunch that he liked was rude.
"Maybe I could teach you manners... Well, tree manners," Sanji thought aloud, feeling a bit silly, but continuing nonetheless. "Because, just between you and me, these other trees look evil. Plus, I wanna figure out how moss can grow in the winter, only on one tree." Sanji nodded to himself. "It's decided, then. You'll be my mossy tree."
Somewhere in the distance a bell chimed and Sanji jumped, suddenly aware that he was closer to town than he realized. Looking towards the origin of the chime and then back towards the mossy tree, Sanji made a decision that he would surely regret on the walk home. He took off his scarf and wrapped it around the only branch on the mossy tree that he could reach without a ladder. "Just in case," he said, shivering heavily as the cold air touched his neck. "I'll be back tomorrow, so don't go anywhere!"
Sanji laughed, hurrying away with his shoulders shrugged up to his ears as the first snowfall he'd ever seen in his life began.
He'd never had eyes before, but he likened the sensation he had at that moment to opening them. He had never had thoughts before, but at that moment, thoughts began streaming through a mind that he was not aware of until the very same moment. He did not previously know anything at all, but he especially didn't know he could hear and feel and see.
The most beautiful sounds he'd never heard came to him. He had the mysterious knowledge that they were birds and bugs and the wind, but he didn't know how he could identify sounds he'd never heard before. Around him, other trees danced in a solemn lifelessness that he no longer possessed. It was strange.
Standing right before him was something he'd never seen before, nor did he know how to identify it. Made of colors and substances and sounds that he didn't recognize but somehow knew to be normal, the being created a feeling in him. A singular feeling that was warm and made him shiver inside at the same time.
"It's decided, then. You'll be my mossy tree," the being said. A distant, musical sound called away the being's attention and he gained another feeling that was not so pleasant as its predecessor. When the being looked back towards him, he noticed a difference in the light-colored circular mass between the shiny, stringy leaves on top and the dark, oddly shaped mass making up most of its size. The being removed a part of its dark mass, revealing more paleness, and wrapped the strange object around one of his branches. "Just in case," the being said, shaking. "I'll be back tomorrow, so don't go anywhere!"
Like I could, he thought, though with the sudden gain of thoughts, feelings and senses, he would not be surprised if he could. He watched the being go, slightly envious of its mobility, but another feeling that he couldn't name sans experience with feelings took its place.
Left alone with his newfound life, he began to experiment with it. He didn't want to dwell on thoughts of the strange being anymore, since it had little to no significance in his mind. He didn't even know what it was. A random blobbish thing of unnatural colors? That sounded about right.
A rogue thought train snatched him away from testing his senses and he suddenly wondered where all his words came from. He didn't have words before. He didn't know anything other than working with the breeze and keeping still for the birds until he saw that being. It was almost as if he didn't previously exist.
How could that be? I have always been here, haven't I? A living, breathing tree, he thought, spinning his vision around and around with a feeling of omniscience. He existed before the being, he was sure, but he had almost no memories from his "life" as a plain old tree. And why, for all he was worth, could he not put a name to the being that plagued his thoughts so terribly? Surely it must be some kind of creature. So, how did he know birds and squirrels and bugs and grass and trees and rocks and everything except what to call the being?
Before he knew it, he was tired of thinking. In the middle of a thought process that no sooner had he thought than he had forgotten, his conscious stream of senses and thoughts simply stopped and he could no longer recall what was going on.
A very small number of moments seemed to have passed before he was awake again. He didn't know why. Not for another moment or two. And then he could hear a voice. "I've been thinking since yesterday, Moss, that you should have a proper name. What do you think? Good idea, or stupid?"
His eyes opened slowly, possibly against his will but probably not. He could see a colorful blob in the distance, red in mass and topped with gold. It was the being again, he knew, but only because of the voice and the feeling that bubbled up anew.
The sun was bright overhead and he could feel that it was windy. The being, as it approached, looked like its course was affected by the wind. He didn't doubt that. The being was very small. "Oh, yeah, I'm Sanji, by the way. I don't know if you can hear me, but just in case." The being, no, Sanji, laughed as it approached. He supposed he could call the Sanji a "he," but he didn't know what the defining qualities of a male were in that species. It could be a female.
The breeze shook his branches and made the strange object that the Sanji had tied around his branch the previous day flutter. The Sanji grabbed onto it and wrapped it around his branch even more. "I don't guess I'm gonna get an answer from you on that, huh? But, it would be kind of weird to just call you "tree" or "moss" for the rest of... a long time. So, you'll have a name," the Sanji said, getting very close to his trunk and walking around him without stepping on his roots.
"I can honestly say I've never named a tree before. It's sort of dumb to start now, isn't it?" the Sanji asked, taking a seat at the base of his trunk between two of his larger roots and scooting back against him. "But, you need a cool name. I can't have a dumb, mossy winter tree without a cool name, now, could I?" The Sanji laughed. He wished he could move himself out from under the strange creature called Sanji and let it fall in the resulting hole. That would be funny.
"It has to be a dignified name," the Sanji continued, oblivious to the tree's thoughts. "Something really awesome. Something with a Z! No one has a Z name. Z... Z... Z... Oh, that sounds like snoring. Hahaha, oops!" The Sanji laughed loudly and the tree wanted to cover whatever orifice through which the sound came to him. That mystery creature is going to call me something really stupid...
"Oh, I know! How about Zoro? Doesn't that sound cool?" the Sanji suggested, turning and looking at him in the general area of someplace not his face.
The inside of his trunk and limbs felt very warm, hearing his potential name. He didn't like it, but he didn't dislike it. And the Sanji was doing that thing with the part of it that must be its face that looked really happy. So, he decided that he would not find a way to injure the Sanji. Not yet, at least.
"Okay, I've decided. Your name is Zoro, so get used to it. And, you should also get used to the fact that I'll be here every day. Well, maybe. If it rains really hard, the old man probably won't let me come out here," the Sanji said, turning back around and huddling into his trunk. "I wonder if trees get cold. Or warm. Can you feel the temperature, Zoro? It's almost as cold as yesterday, and that was two degrees below zero!"
I can't feel much. I can feel you sitting in my dirt, though, he thought, leering down at the small whatsit. Despite the strange new feelings he had in his core, the Sanji and all its lack of knowledge about trees was irritating him. Not to mention the name. He didn't want or need a name.
"I bet you're kind of annoyed by me, huh? The old fart tells me I talk too much and I'm an annoying runt, so I won't stay long. It is Christmas, after all, and my friends are coming over soon," the Sanji said, patting a patch of moss gently. "Granny says I should come every day, though, so I'll be back tomorrow and the next day. Who knows, maybe you'll end up being a prayer tree for the New Year?"
He didn't like the way that sounded. Not the part about being a prayer tree, that part sounded nice. The part where the Sanji didn't sound happy anymore was the one that got him. He almost wished he could talk in a way that whatever species the Sanji was could understand.
"Anyway, the restaurant opens at one today. I've gotta get back before then, so I should get going." The Sanji stood carefully and looked back at him. "I wish I could tell if you needed to be cared for... Do you need water or something before I go home?"
No, if you're leaving, just go, he thought, staring the Sanji down. I don't need anything from a weird, blobby creature like you. Go do whatever your breed does. He had a nagging feeling in the core of his being that told him he'd done this before, that he knew what the Sanji was and why it was there. His mind was jumping around, seemingly unable to decide which thought or feeling to settle on concerning anything at all. He needed to learn how to control his new thoughts.
After a minute of just standing there, the Sanji nodded slowly. "Okay. Well, that was informative. I'll be back tomorrow," it said, turning slightly. "I promise."
Everyday, he told himself. Everyday, he had to visit the Zoro tree. After the first few months, he stopped telling himself why he had to visit the Zoro tree, not because he would remember regardless, but because he had all but forgotten. Right after New Year's it had just become a habit to visit Zoro the tree. And, he talked to it and sometimes he brought compost from the restaurant or a pitcher of water. The tree was practically one of his friends.
Sanji had decided it would be a part of his routine to take care of Zoro, between school and the restaurant. He didn't know exactly why, but he really liked the tree, even if it did seem sarcastic and snarky and sometimes gave him splinters. It was irrational to be mad at a tree, anyway. It probably didn't know what it was doing. Or, maybe Sanji was just crazy, thinking a tree was sarcastic and snarky.
Through the spring, the Zoro tree was the only one that did not at any point sprout flowers. It sustained no small amount of moss throughout the season and sprouted short little leaves, but all the other trees seemed to have more natural life than the Zoro tree. Zoro was a weird tree, to say the least, but Sanji stuck with him.
When summer came, there was a time when it didn't rain for three weeks straight and every day Sanji brought Zoro water. He couldn't tell if Zoro really cared, but he wasn't going to just let his tree thirst. Even if it didn't look affected except for the moss.
"Good morning, Zoro!" Sanji greeted, walking carefully with a pitcher of water. "Tell me, can trees be over-watered? I think you're too big for that, but the chefs told me I'm probably going to drown you." He poured half the pitcher of water over Zoro's roots, then set the pitcher down on the ground. "I really wish you could talk. Maybe then I'd know if I'm doing okay," Sanji muttered, partly to himself. "Think you could become a person, Zoro?"
The wind blew, but Zoro's branches hardly moved while the others trees danced. Sanji decided that meant "no." The boy shrugged and sat down away from the puddle around Zoro's base. "That's fine if you don't wanna be human. I might prefer to be a tree, too. Trees don't get yelled at or anything. You don't have to wash dishes either! Aren't you lucky, stupid plant."
Zoro just stood there lightly swaying with the residual winds, showing little emotion, as per usual. "At least you aren't gloating," Sanji pouted, slouching a bit. "I'd have to kick your trunk if you were gloating." The tree responded only by being a tree.
Sanji huffed and stood up. "Some help you are... then again, why am I confiding in a tree?" He stood and waited for some cosmic end-all to answer his question, but nothing happened. "You're supposed to be a good listener, you know, since that's almost all you can do, but I kinda feel like you're tired of me."
If he didn't know any better he'd say the Zoro tree was mocking him with its stoic, mossy self. It stood there, practically staring him down. He wondered if it wouldn't be saying something like "Hah, I don't have your stupid human problems, kuso gaki."*
Glaring at the tree slightly, Sanji began to pace. "I should probably talk to my friends about this instead of talking to a tree, but I already know what they'd say," Sanji said, gesturing to nothing. "I don't even know why I'm telling anyone about it now, because I sound stupid, but... I was thinking... about running away from home.
"The chefs are idiots and the old man keeps calling me an eggplant and he never lets me cook what I want to cook! I'm just an annoying kid to them! They probably wouldn't even miss me if I ran away! Maybe they wouldn't even notice!" Sanji ranted, throwing his arms out wide. He looked to the Zoro tree, frowning. He didn't like the way those words sounded out loud, but he had meant every one of them. Zoro, however, did not look convinced.
"I'm serious, you stupid, mossy plant! I'm not appreciated there, and I don't want to stay where I'm not appreciated! Besides, Luffy said I could stay at his house. I'll do that! I'll stay there and I'll never have to deal with that old man ever again!"
The Zoro tree moved with the breeze, but it didn't seem snarky or annoyed anymore. The way its branches moved looked almost lonely, if Sanji had to guess.
"What?" Sanji asked, confused. "What are you trying to say? I don't understand, Zoro. Are you lonely?" The wind blew hard enough to blow Sanji's hair back away from his face, but Zoro hardly moved. After a thought about really starting to either go crazy or actually understand trees, Sanji noted that that was "no" again.
"So, what? You saying I'd be lonely? As if!"
And then Zoro was mocking him again. He didn't know how he knew, but he knew. Zoro didn't believe him.
"I'd never miss that dusty old fart, or those crazy, rude chefs! I'd be glad to get away from them, even if they'd keep my stuff..." Sanji paused, frowning in thought. Slowly, realization dawned on his young mind. "My stuff... My apron they gave me when they took me in. And, my book about All Blue that they gave me, even though they don't really believe in it..."
He began pacing again, this time slower. "And, of course they wouldn't let me cook in the kitchen if I ran away. They'd never forgive me for that," Sanji mumbled, his hands clasping each other behind his back. When he looked up at Zoro again, the tree had a triumphant glow around him that may or may not have been the sun. Sanji frowned at that.
"Plus, I'd be losing to him if I just gave up and ran away," Sanji thought aloud, remembering Zeff's smug face the first time Sanji said he'd quit. "I don't want to lose to that old-as-dirt crustacean." Looking to Zoro, Sanji said, "And, as much as I don't want to take advice from a tree, I really don't want to lose to that old man. He'll have to kick me out if he wants me to leave!"
If trees could look proud, then that's what the Zoro tree looked like when Sanji left with renewed determination and half a pitcher of water.
Zoro had no idea what possessed him to do it, or how the Sanji, whom he'd come to learn was human, even understood him. Maybe over the time they'd known each other, he'd actually grown fond of the little creature, if only just a little bit.
He couldn't remember their tree-to-human conversation well enough in his mind to truly recall his motivation, but it must have been pity towards the Sanji because every other emotion he had towards it was negative. He did pity it, though. After all, how could he not pity something so small and weird?
After the Sanji had left, Zoro wondered if, had he not telepathied the Sanji out of it or whatever just happened, would the Sanji have come to stay with him? Would it have visited at all? Zoro was sure that would have been a relief if the Sanji decided not to visit him, so why was he proud of himself for talking the Sanji out of running away?
With an irksome start, Zoro realized that he may have become attached to the small being because it named him. He had begrudgingly accepted the name back in early spring, but he hadn't realized the result would be so bad as attachment.
As he dwelled in his thoughts, the summer winds seemed to speed up and drag out time with the very same gust. One minute things would be nothing but blankness and idle thoughts, the next minute, the Sanji was there talking to him again.
At the beginning of whatever quest the Sanji was on, Zoro hadn't known what "everyday" meant. He knew a day was the period of time during which the sun was up and when most creatures were out, and there was a seemingly large number of hours between days when the moon and all its followers rose. He knew that was night. But he hadn't noticed the frequency or the length of days until Sanji had been visiting for innumerable days.
Zoro didn't know how long it had been, not really. But, it had been a long time that the Sanji had been coming to visit him. He noticed, after a while, that the Sanji was getting bigger. It made something in him ache, but he didn't know what and he didn't know why.
Every day that passed, Zoro learned something new about the Sanji and humans in general. However long the Sanji had been visiting, it was over that time that Zoro heard about the friends of the Sanji and about the chefs of cooking. He learned that humans did not consider talking to trees as normal and that the Sanji didn't care about that. He learned that the Sanji believed in a place called "All Blue" that most people, according to the Sanji himself, believed to be fictional and that the Sanji had kicked another little human to defend his belief. After he'd heard that story, he'd decided that the Sanji was an honorable creature, one he could respect.
One day, in the autumn, the Sanji brought his friends to see Zoro and they all bowed and introduced themselves. They stayed for a while talking about strange things that Zoro didn't understand, being obnoxious and even trying to climb him. He didn't particularly care for little humans, especially the Luffy and the Usopp for saying he was a stupid tree and still trying to climb him relentlessly, but he still refrained from injuring them. He told himself it wasn't just because the Sanji was happy and laughing.
That was the first day, to Zoro's memory, that the Sanji came back to see him a second time, when he was without his friends.
Zoro observed that it looked troubled, but as the Sanji got closer, it smiled at him. "Sorry about those idiots. They were really excited to see you, since I didn't let them come until now."
He wondered why that was.
"And, before you get all annoyed in your tree-ish way, they were practically begging me to come here, but I knew they'd be crazy, and... anyway, I put them off as long as I could," the Sanji told him, being the creepy psychic that Zoro had learned it could be sometimes. "As much as you're annoyed by me, at least I don't try to climb you."
Zoro agreed with the Sanji on that. The Sanji was much more tolerable than its loud, monkey-like friends. And, much, much more tolerable than the orange-headed human who thought it was a waste of time to take care of a tree that didn't grow fruit.
"So, what do you think of them?" the Sanji asked hopefully, sitting down near Zoro. "I know they were rude and you haven't seen the best parts of them, but I'll ask anyway."
The most interesting parts? he thought. Do they get more annoying?
"Hmm, I can tell you haven't answered me yet. Well, if you even did that to start with... But, were they that bad?" the Sanji asked, looking disappointed.
It's not like I hated them, Zoro tried to say. It was the truth, yes, but he couldn't say he particularly liked them either.
The Sanji exhaled loudly, sitting back on its hands. Its head was bowed so its yellow leaves blocked Zoro's view of its face. Zoro didn't like that at all. "I must be crazy, thinking I can talk to and understand a tree. I'm probably only imagining things," the Sanji muttered, creating a face that Zoro hadn't seen before as it looked up again. "Sorry, Tree, for subjecting you to my friends."
That wasn't good, Zoro knew. The Sanji was the one who gave him his annoying name in the first place, so why the hell wasn't he using it? Was it that disappointing that Zoro didn't like small humans very much?
"The old man will be expecting me soon," the Sanji said, standing up and dusting off his flimsy outer shell. Without another word, it left. Zoro didn't like the feeling lingering in the Sanji's absence.
Sanji felt like a crazy person. The tree didn't say anything; it never did. He knew that, of course, but he'd always thought that the mossy tree was saying or thinking something. To confide in and converse with a plant was stupid, he realized. Even if it often seemed like the tree did talk back. But, that probably made it more crazy.
He wasn't quite sure why that day was the day he decided it was crazy. Maybe it was because his friends, specifically Luffy, Usopp and Franky, told him it was weird. Maybe it was because he knew all along that he was being crazy for treating the tree like a pet. Maybe it was just everything. That was just as likely as anything else.
For the next few months, Sanji treated the tree like a tree. If he hadn't already decided he couldn't understand the tree and therefore it wasn't talking, he would've thought it looked sad. The first few days of treating the tree like a tree, he couldn't remember seeing it move with the breezes at all, but since then he'd received a large number of splinters. He wondered if the tree was paying him back for practically ignoring it.
The tree that shall not be named had somehow given him so much trouble over those few months. It must have had the power to control the weather because after the first few days it always got windy when he visited the tree. Branches swooped and grabbed at his hair and leaves flew into his face and the more that happened, the more distance Sanji kept.
"You've torn my hands up, you know," Sanji said one day in December, as he was pushing leaves into a pile at the mossy tree's base. Without looking up, he knew the tree was completely still in the wind. He'd caught on to feelings and auras in the air that gave the same effect as peoples' tones and expressions. He must really be going off the deep end, he figured. "They aren't letting me cook until I can, and I quote, 'properly take care of my greatest tools.'"
He could practically hear the tree saying, "Yeah, like I care."
Sanji frowned determinedly, putting aside the fact that he should not be talking to the tree like a person and looking up at it. "Cooking is my dream, stupid tree. I'm going to be the world's greatest chef one day and if I'm not allowed to cook because my hands are hurt, I'll never be able to learn how!" Sanji announced firmly. "Keep wrecking my hands, wreck my dream, see what I do!"
The wind blew, but the tree stood stock still. Sanji felt that it was listening to him. But, that was stupid, because trees don't talk or listen and least of all understand. So, he could say whatever he wanted and get the same result.
"Y'know, Baa-chan said that if I take care of you for ten years, visit every day, then I can get a wish granted. Well, here's my wish: I wanna be the greatest chef in the world, considered worthy by All Blue to search its seas for the best ingredients. I wish that this dream of mine will come true. It'll be the same in nine years, I swear to you."
Wish. Dream. A girl. A small human girl. He was much younger, then. A swordsman; that's what he would be. His only purpose in life was to be the greatest swordsman in the world. For her. No one else's dream mattered, not to him, except for the dream he shared with her.
She was the most important part of him. She always had been. He didn't know how he'd forgotten her, however briefly. She was his world. She was the reason he knew what he knew about life. She taught him things long before the Sanji ever came along. She was night and day and the only reason he was alive. She gave him his consciousness. The Sanji didn't do that. The Sanji didn't nurture him or teach him things like she had. He didn't matter at all compared to her. Zoro belonged to Kuina.
The Sanji was talking to him, but he'd stopped listening. He was reliving the memories of Kuina that had come rushing back. The sun rose and set in endless motion and, going on things he remembered Kuina telling him, he'd say it had been years. He wouldn't try to keep up with the time any more specifically than that. He was remembering the days when Kuina would come to train in front of him. How much he liked to watch her. How much he admired her swordsmanship. How much he missed her. Loved her.
Kuina was the only human he could ever really care about. He couldn't fathom his previous semi-affection for the Sanji. That human was much less special when Zoro thought of Kuina. To believe he had regretted upsetting the Sanji. That wasn't important anymore. He'd do it a million times over just to remember one day with Kuina. Even though the Sanji had started calling him Zoro again. He remembered Kuina's name for him and it wasn't Zoro. She called him Roronoa, so that was his name. He wouldn't let the Sanji change the parts of him that Kuina had made.
"Ne, Zoro, I might not be here tomorrow," the Sanji informed, cutting through the fog of memories and pulling Zoro out of his years-long reverie. The Sanji was much bigger than he had been the last time Zoro bothered to listen to what he was saying. The Sanji's leaves, what Kuina told him was hair, had become longer. It covered half the Sanji's face, but it didn't lessen the effect of the unnatural blue orb that was the Sanji's visible eye.
Wait, why? Zoro thought, remembering that the Sanji had said something very strange.
"Well, if I'm being honest... I may not be back for a week. Luffy's got this stupid idea that we should all go down to the beach for the first week of summer break. And, well, I can fight it all I want, but the old man already packed my bags for me and kicked me out!" The Sanji laughed starting to walk back and forth as he'd done when he was much smaller.
Beach? What is that...? Zoro could not recall ever hearing of such a thing.
The Sanji pulled a little white box out of his clothing and opened it. From inside the box, he got out a pair of of strange shapes that Zoro didn't recognize. With one odd shape, the Sanji made a little, seemingly contained fire, something that Zoro did recognize, and lit one end of the other odd shape. It was a strange procedure to say the least. Exhaling a cloud, the Sanji said, "I'll be back as soon as possible, okay? I probably need a vacation. And, you probably need a break from me for a while, anyway."
What the hell is that thing? Zoro thought, puzzling over the thin stream of smoke coming away from the Sanji's mouth and the odd shape he was holding. Why didn't that thing just burn up? Zoro had the vague idea that he already knew the thing wouldn't become engulfed in fire, but he didn't know how he knew that. When did that happen?
"So, see ya, I guess. Don't shrivel up and die before I get back." Zoro moved his branches as much as he could to try and get the Sanji's attention, but he just kept walking away. Zoro didn't know why that irked him, since he was still thinking about and remembering Kuina. And yet, his primary thought at that moment was that the Sanji wouldn't come back.
He still thought about Kuina, yes, but in those few days when the Sanji was gone, seven, if he counted correctly, he was almost entirely focused on the world around him and whether or not the Sanji was in it. Zoro wondered if he'd been unfriendly, retreating into his mind to think of a girl that had come and gone from his life without thinking about the Sanji. Kuina was the most important person to him, she always had been, but he felt like he lost her all over again when he thought the Sanji was not coming back. He didn't think he could handle that.
When the Sanji finally returned, Zoro paid as much attention to it as possible. The mere remembrance of Kuina's "departure" nearly tore Zoro's metaphorical heart in half. He couldn't think about her anymore, and he couldn't think about losing the Sanji. That would hurt too much. So, he decided, for the time being, he would be the Sanji's tree.
The vacation he took with his friends in June after his fifteenth birthday was the most paranoid time of his life. He wondered if a week away would ruin his streak with Zoro. It had been nearly five years of consistent visits, so maybe he had enough good credit or whatever to miss a few days. But, he couldn't help worrying that he was putting his dream in jeopardy just to oogle Nami and Robin and bake in the sun.
When Sanji got back home, he took a shower, changed clothes, grabbed a pitcher of water and went straight to the Zoro tree. "You better not have decided to ignore my wish now, shitty tree," Sanji said upon arrival. There wasn't really any way he could tell whether Zoro had or not, but if he didn't know better, he'd say Zoro looked happy to see him.
"I still want my wish granted. I'm going to go to All Blue someday and I want to be the best chef I can be by then. So, you better remember what I wished for," Sanji said, grinning at the tree that he'd both insulted and sort of threatened. He got the feeling that Zoro wouldn't hold it against him.
For the rest of the year, on past their fifth Christmas together, Sanji got a strange feeling from Zoro that he'd only ever felt a few times. It was something eerily similar to mourning. Sanji didn't know what or why a tree would be mourning, but it made him curious. He asked Zoro about it, but, of course, he didn't get an answer. He doubted that Zoro would answer even if he were human.
"It'll be fine, you know," Sanji told him, sometime in mid-January. Whatever it is that's bothering you, it'll be fine."
He believed the Sanji. He didn't know why, because he honestly thought the human was out of his mind and probably the most annoying person on earth. But, he believed him.
Kuina had been his everything when he was her tree. He'd never really forget her, not ever. But, it would be fine. He didn't know how and he didn't know when, but it would be fine, because the Sanji said so. He almost hated to think that, but it was true. In his stubborn mind, he knew the Sanji was right.
It took numerous days of continuously stopping all thoughts of Kuina before they got too far for Zoro to even succeed a little bit. The Sanji consoled him again one day and he began trying harder to keep her out of his mind. Needless to say, he made almost no progress. He couldn't stop the memory of Kuina telling him she was becoming a woman and that her dad wasn't going to give her the dojo. When she wished that it didn't take ten years for her wish to be granted. When she cried and all he wanted to do was help her. If his memory was not mistaken, she "left" the very next day.
"Hey, hey, didn't I say already? You're going to be fine. Why do you still seem depressed?" the Sanji asked, rubbing his hands together and exhaling on them. Zoro thought it was a strange thing to do when one was cold, but then again, he'd never been cold before.
I can't just forget her, stupid human, Zoro tried to say. The Sanji showed no signs that he understood.
"You know, if you keep up with this, I might start to think it's my fault."
You don't have anything to do with this, Zoro thought at Sanji, trying to get across to his psychic side that Zoro knew was there.
The Sanji did an odd little dance that he usually did when he was really cold. "Did one of your tree friends get chopped down or something?" the Sanji asked, looking completely serious.
I don't have friends, idiot.
"I'm sorry about whatever's bothering you. I really don't know what kinds of things you've seen over the years, Zoro, not even a little bit. But, nothing is bad enough that you can't cheer up," the Sanji said, grinning as he had when he was much smaller. "Aaaaand, I'm talking to you like you're a person, again."
You... why do you have to be like that? Zoro asked, but it didn't go through. The Sanji just bid farewell and went on his merry way, leaving Zoro with the kind words that he felt somehow unworthy of. At that point, he didn't know if he could ever get over Kuina, since he'd been trying so hard not to remember her and nothing worked. The Sanji was being the nicest he'd probably ever been to Zoro, but Zoro couldn't focus on him or his wish.
But I still call myself Zoro, not Roronoa...
With a jolt, Zoro realized that was true. He had only ever called himself Roronoa once since becoming the Sanji's tree. Zoro had become his name. Did that mean he wasn't Kuina's tree anymore? That he didn't care about her name for him because he had moved on? Is that what that meant? He didn't even know how to tell. Sure, he was Zoro, but he may have called himself that because the Sanji called him that, every single day. Maybe that's all it was. Yeah.
Or, maybe it wasn't. He didn't know. He wasn't used to thinking that hard about anything. It made his head, wherever that was on him, hurt. Zoro didn't know what to think anymore. Maybe it would all be easier if I was a human? At least then I could talk to him...
When Sanji visited Zoro on his sixteenth birthday, informing the tree of the date, he noticed something different that may have been there longer than he'd been able to see it. It was still a sad feeling, a sad disposition that he did not find himself liking. But, it wasn't mourning. At least, not completely.
But, as it seemed, his tree-reading skills were yet undeveloped. Sanji couldn't figure out what that feeling was, or if it was really there, but it was bugging the hell out of him. No matter how childish it was, he wished trees could talk. He wanted to know why the Zoro tree had been upset for years when, at first, it had seemed perfectly fine if not full of aggressive attitude.
"This is getting old, shitty tree," Sanji said, watering Zoro's roots on the abnormally warm March day. "Your leaves are kinda brown this year. You are literally worrying yourself to death, idiot," Sanji scolded almost idly, noting inwardly that there wasn't as much moss as usual on Zoro. It was with a considerable amount of alarm that Sanji realized Zoro may actually die. The past season had not been a good one for plants all over the island. It hardly rained and it was too windy and dry. But, Sanji hadn't thought until then that Zoro might...
"The weather will be better in the fall," Sanji mumbled, nodding with a thoughtful frown on his face. "You'll be okay, Zoro." He put his hand to the biggest patch of moss on a branch, one that used to be out of his reach that now only came up to his shoulder. The moss crunched slightly under his palm and Sanji frowned deeply. "I promise."
Later that week, it occurred to him that he should maybe be worried for his wish. But, he wasn't. It was hardly a blip on his radar. Sanji had always been confident that he would become a great chef and he worked his hardest on doing so, with his wish on the Zoro tree being a fallback. But, he didn't need it and he knew that. So, he didn't worry about the wish that he was supposed to receive in four and a half years. All he cared about was the Zoro tree itself.
With each passing month, he noticed more and more brown in Zoro's leaves. What little moss that had remained on Zoro would crunch and fall off if Sanji touched it, and water and fertilizer weren't helping. The next spring was a little better, but not much. Zoro's leaves got a little brighter and his moss a little thicker, but the following summer was a devastating drought. No matter how much water Sanji brought, Zoro still seemed to shrivel a little more every day. For a while, Sanji tried not watering Zoro to see if he was actually drowning him, but things only got worse.
"I don't know what to do," Sanji admitted, in the late summer of that very same year, pacing almost frantically. "I don't know, Zoro! Is it my fault? Is it because I took it upon myself to 'take care' of you? Would you have... Would you be healthier if I weren't here?" The wind blew and Zoro moved with it naturally like all the other trees. Sanji felt like his heart was going to break, no matter how much he told himself it was just a tree.
"Goddamnit... Are you going to die, Zoro?"
As few things as Zoro could ever actually feel, he could feel fewer then. He couldn't feel it when the wind blew anymore. He couldn't feel it when the Sanji poured water over his roots. He couldn't hear the Sanji's voice very well. Sometimes he couldn't see. That was the extent of his senses that had once been so great.
It seemed that just a short time ago he could hear and see so much more, but he knew it had been going for at least a year. He had never been able to really feel the Sanji's touch, but he felt that he was only truly missing it now, when his consciousness came in shorter and shorter instances. He could no longer tell how much time was passing. It passed and he went with the flow of it all. He didn't have enough control over himself to stop it. He couldn't communicate anymore to be able to tell the Sanji what was happening. So, when he heard a vague murmur of a question to the effect of "are you going to die," he could not do anything, except wonder if that was the case.
Of course, Zoro had never died before. He had never seen anyone else die. The only death he ever knew of was the death of his beloved Kuina. And, he had only heard about that from her father, days after the fact. He remembered that well. But this, he thought. This may be worse...
The Sanji looked irked when he had started to notice. But, after countless days, weeks, months, Zoro didn't even know how long, the Sanji looked sad and angry at the same time. It pained him to see that. He wanted to not be upsetting the Sanji, but he couldn't stop the numbing process that had taken him over. He was almost sure, at that point, that he was going to die.
It was a strange thing, to think about one's own death. Zoro wasn't scared, he never had been. But he didn't want to die. He wasn't ready. One day while he was conscious, he had looked around at his fellow trees and seen that none of them were the least bit brown in the leaves. They were all healthy and well. He was the only one that was dying. The only one with a human, with a reason to live and a wish to fulfill, was the only one dying.
I won't go without a fight, Zoro told the Sanji on a snowy day when the Sanji was particularly glum-looking. I'll stay as long as I can. I will do my best to grant your wish. But, the Sanji didn't hear him. Couldn't hear. No matter what he did, it didn't work. The Sanji was hardly talking to him anymore, or else he just couldn't hear the Sanji either. They were quite a pair. Unable to communicate with each other and each suffering in a silent misery.
But, then, one day, the Sanji's misery wasn't silent. He was angry. Zoro recognized that. He hated it. The Sanji was angry, he was pacing furiously, he kicked one of Zoro's neighbor trees, hard. Something had upset him and all Zoro could hear for many moments were indistinct yells of frustration.
"I can't believe this! He's fucking-" The Sanji's voice faded in and out and Zoro had to strain to hear any of it. "I worked so hard-... Fucking shit! I knew this was going to-... Zoro, I can't even-... I'm sorry, I really-" And then he stopped. Well, maybe he was still talking, but the Sanji's back was to Zoro. He couldn't tell if his hearing had failed him or if Sanji had simply stopped talking. There was something in his hand, Zoro noticed, and the Sanji brought it up to his mouth. It wasn't one of the odd shapes that he usually had. No, if he remembered correctly, it was a bottle.
The Sanji turned and stomped over to Zoro before promptly dropping himself down between two of Zoro's biggest roots like he'd done when he was a child. Needless to say the fit wasn't exactly the same, but Zoro felt that it was better than before. "He treats me like a fucking kid," the Sanji grumbled, pouting, by the sound of it. "I can't believe the goddamn bastard humiliated me in front of everyone..." The Sanji leaned his head back with the small end of the bottle to his lips, but Zoro didn't know why. He guessed the Sanji was just watering himself.
"Zoro, you should be a person," the Sanji told him, his voice a little different from normal. It was slower. "I need someone to talk to and my friends, they... they'd calm me down, but I don't want that. I don't need that. I need to yell and scream and fight! I fucking need you, stupid fucking tree! I know you would do it! I know what you'd be like, if you were human!" the Sanji shouted, coming in loud and clear to whatever received sound inside Zoro's being. "Why the hell are you a goddamn fucking tree?"
Zoro didn't know how to answer that. Not that the Sanji would understand even if he did answer. But, he wished he could.
Getting drunk was a bad idea. A bad fucking idea, and he knew it, too. But, he didn't care. It wasn't that the old man had particularly scarred him, he wasn't thinking about that. It was the usual thing, insults and blunt comments that were the complete opposite of the truth and they both knew it. But, the old man had said something, something that Sanji couldn't remember only an hour after he stormed out, that had reminded him that he was only a year away. Ten months, actually. Ten months from his wish being granted, if only Zoro lived that long. But, whatever the old man had said made him believe that Zoro would not live that long.
So, he drank a bottle of the restaurant's strongest alcohol. Well, not a whole bottle. About halfway through he started to spill and he may have knocked the bottle over at some point, but he was counting it as a whole bottle. It was almost the right thing to do, in his mind, for about five minutes. And then, he was rambling. He couldn't identify the words that were coming out of his own mouth, but he knew he was talking. A lot. To Zoro. The Zoro tree that may or may not already be dead.
"Yanno, when I w's a kid," Sanji mumbled, almost immediately forgetting the words. "I thought it was so cool. This whole... You're a tree. Y'know that? You're a tree, but I'm not a tree. I'm not- Yeah, not a tree. And, you're not a person. So, I was really- no, I thought it was really cool. 'Cause you're like magic."
He settled himself further against Zoro's trunk, feeling the cold February air biting at his skin. "I don't... I dunno if I want my wish anymore. Would that help? If I gave it back?" Sanji hesitated for a long moment and maybe another moment, too, just to be sure Zoro wasn't going to talk. "It's prob'ly my fault. Yeah... I should jus' go home and not come back so you can get better an' stuff, bu' I can't. I can't do it. Why can't I go?"
Again, Zoro didn't talk. But, he still waited. It was only polite.
"You can't die, baka marimo. You can't do that... I'm freaking attached." Sanji laughed, loud and hysterical. His mind idled for a minute, not really on and not really off as he stared at something in the distance. He snapped back to himself with a loud inhale. "I'm attached to a tree... I like you, Zoro, because yer good at listenin' an'... I think yer a person on the inside. Are you? Well... that would suck. Then, you'd be a person stuck in a dying tree. You'd just be... fuck, I don't even know what."
Sanji waited again, though he'd forgotten why he was waiting. Zoro wasn't going to say anything. But, Sanji just sat and waited, breathing deeply. Maybe that was all he needed. It would probably help him clear his head, compose his thoughts.
Sighing, Sanji said, "Or not. I can't think straight... Why is tha- Oh, wait, I forgot. I'm drunk." Sanji leaned back against the tree, not really remembering when he leaned forward to begin with. He took another swig from his empty bottle, whining when he realized for the third time that it was, in fact, an empty bottle.
"I shoulda not drinked- drank, uh, drunk? I shouldn'ta drunk this. The old man'll skin me for it, but, hell, I don't care. You're dyin', so I'm mournin' a friend... or a tree. A tree friend. Are you my friend?" He looked to Zoro, but the tree didn't say anything. Of course it didn't. Zoro never really spoke to him. Never.
Sanji sighed again, knocking his head back against Zoro's trunk lightly and looking up at the sky. "I'm bein' stupid, right? Yer jus' a tree," Sanji said, mostly to himself. "It doesn't make aaaaaany sense. Trees die. All the time. But, you have a real life. I know you do. Yer a person, I jus' know it."
He didn't remember when he stopped talking. Or when he got tired. Or when he closed his eyes. But, whenever that was, he fell asleep moments later, leaning into the tree that had become something of an obsession for him.
He put that in the top five worst days of his life. Zoro hated watching Sanji ramble on about whatever nonsense had put him in a bad mood. He wanted to tell him it was going to be okay, but the Sanji fell asleep before Zoro could muster enough strength to speak.
Zoro's consciousness seemed to skip, so that the next time he opened his eyes, the sun was up. The Sanji wasn't there anymore and Zoro had the feeling that he hadn't been there for a while. He didn't know how exactly he knew, but he gave most of the credit to the glaring fact that it was late spring.
A cracking sound resonated throughout Zoro's body, almost not a sound at all. It didn't hurt, not really, but he knew it should. One of his branches dropped to the ground, bare and brown through-and-through.
I really am dying, aren't I? Zoro thought, looking down at the branch and a few branches on the ground around it, puzzled. He couldn't say it with complete confidence, no one ever could, but he was ninety-nine percent sure that he would soon die.
If the Sanji showed up that day, Zoro missed it. He spent a long time fighting off the sleep he couldn't see coming, waiting for the Sanji to show up, but, in that time, he counted four more branches that fell off, all without a single leaf. He was partially glad that the Sanji wasn't there to see him like that. But, he was also partially upset that he may not get to see the Sanji again before he died.
Over the next few instances of blurred consciousness that may have been hours or weeks, Zoro didn't see the Sanji very much. And when he did see him, he couldn't hear the Sanji. More branches fell off, but he lost count of how many. Then it was winter. Then it was spring again. In what may have been late spring or early summer, Zoro started having hallucinations. He could've sworn he saw the Sanji cry. And then he could see Kuina there, visiting him at the same time as the Sanji and crying right along with him for a completely different reason. It completely tore him up inside, but he wasn't aware enough most of the time to think about it.
In the autumn, though, something changed. He woke up one afternoon, hyper aware of everything around him and feeling every breeze and leaf that brushed by his remaining branches. But, he also felt pain. Insane, striking waves upon waves of pain that were coming from everywhere. He wished he had the ability to stop it, but he could hardly move in the stiff form that had been his life and was going to be his death. He was stuck, completely still on the outside, but vibrating with agony on the inside.
Is this what dying is like? Zoro asked the other trees, spinning around wildly inside himself to look at them. They all spoke the language of the wind, one that he did not understand. If they were talking to him, he couldn't tell.
A sharp pain paved it's way through his middle and the wind blew harshly to announce his pain to the world.
Zoro wasn't aware that he had been breathing before, but when he found that he couldn't, he started to panic a little bit.
His vision slowly receded to a small tunnel, straight ahead. His head, the one that he didn't actually have, was pounding.
He was becoming splinters, he could swear. It must be. Nothing else could feel like that.
Another burst of pain split through his center and Zoro would've screamed if he could.
The next moment, he was unconscious.
It'd been happening so fast. All Zoro's leaves fell off prematurely, most of his branches broke off with the slightest touch, all his moss dried up and crumbled away. They were minutes away from the ten-year mark and Sanji didn't know if Zoro was alive or not. He couldn't leave the restaurant, his dream, fast enough.
He ran through the woods, although he stumbled and tripped in his haste quite a few times. He had to get to Zoro. He had to. He had to see Zoro, to know that he was alive. If he was still alive, though, Sanji feared that it would not be for much longer.
"Zoro!" Sanji called, unsure of why. The tree wouldn't hear him. Couldn't. He just had to do something. He didn't know why. He really didn't. But, he loved Zoro. As stupid as it was to say that about a tree, he felt that it was true. Maybe it was his own fault for becoming attached as a child to that tree, but he couldn't help it now. It was his tree and he didn't want it to die.
He didn't care about his wish, or his dream, or anything. Not a thing except Zoro. That tree was important to him, even if it was a stupid thing to say and completely irrational. He didn't want Zoro, whom he'd known for ten years and had many a one-sided conversation with, to die. Not on Christmas. Not ever.
"Zoro!" Sanji stumbled into the area that he knew Zoro was in and almost slammed right into the bare, nearly limbless trunk that was his snarky, sarcastic tree. "I changed my mind! I don't want to be the best chef in the world and I don't want to go to All Blue! I want you to be human! I want you to live and tell me how a tree can argue and mourn! Help me solve these mysteries you created! I want to know why you're like a person on the inside! Please!" Sanji shouted, looking over the cracked trunk and dead branches.
A gust of wind that felt like the closest thing to a tornado Sanji had ever experienced knocked him back onto the ground away from Zoro. He had to shield his eyes from the wind and the crisp leaves that seemed to be targeting him, temporarily blinded. When the wind finally quit, Sanji hesitated a beat before putting his arms down, away from his face. And then his jaw hit the ground.
The Zoro tree wasn't there. It was just gone. No branches or a stump, or even a single splinter remained. The Zoro tree was no more.
On the ground, there was movement that slowly received Sanji's attention. Tan. Arms. Legs. A man? Whoa, God, yeah, that's a man. Why- His thoughts were cut off when the strange, naked man shakily sat up. Sanji couldn't believe his eyes. Not before he started scrambling up and towards the man with moss for hair.
The moss-headed man didn't look up, he just smirked sleepily. "This is a dream... isn't it?" he asked, shaking his head very slowly and making fists only to spread his fingers back out again. "I can't be human... I just can't be..."
Sanji dropped to his knees in front of the man, where roots had been not a minute earlier. "Zoro? Is that you?" Sanji asked, feeling way beyond crazy for thinking so, but absolutely sure he was right at the same time.
The moss-headed man, whose eyelashes, eyebrows and nether-hair were a mossy green as well, looked up at Sanji, eyes wide. "I can't be. This- you... You got so big," he said, reaching a shaky hand out to Sanji. "When did that happen...?"
"Just, please-" Sanji seized the moss-headed man's freezing hands and held them tightly. "Please, just tell me your name. Please."
The moss-headed man seemed to have a little trouble with his mouth, making various odd faces for a minute before saying, "Zoro. You named me that, idiot."
"Shit," Sanji breathed, thinking to himself that he was right. That Zoro was a person on the inside. He was really there. Sanji didn't love a tree. Not really. He loved Zoro. Zoro who was a person.
"Is this what cold feels like?" Zoro asked, shivering violently. All Sanji could do was laugh. He couldn't stop it. Zoro was there. And, he was cold. And that was the funniest thing Sanji had ever heard in his life. "What's so funny?"
Sanji shed his coat and wrapped it around Zoro, grinning like an idiot. "Nothing. Everything. God, Zoro, you're a person! Merry fucking Christmas, how about a mind-blow?" Sanji said, almost hysterically and probably only to himself. Zoro was staring at him with a very puzzled and intrigued look. "What? Is something wrong?"
"You're... warm. Is that warm? I've never felt that before," Zoro mumbled, touching Sanji's neck with his icicle fingers. "That is strange. I think I like warm."
Sanji let out a slightly insane giggle. "You can feel me," he said, shivering away from having his veins frozen in his neck. "Damn, you're cold, though. Come here," Sanji beckoned, pulling Zoro towards him by the shoulders of his coat. It was probably the coldest hug he'd ever received and he couldn't say that he liked that, but he could guarantee that Zoro felt much better for it.
"I think I really like warm," Zoro mumbled, burying his nose in Sanji previously warm shoulder. Sanji nearly squeaked, wondering if it was possible that there had ever been a colder being than Zoro. "What the hell's with all these parts, though?" Zoro groaned, looking down at himself with his legs folded up awkwardly. Sanji didn't know how that connected to liking warm, but he let it slide.
Foolishly, Sanji followed Zoro's gaze and blushed heavily from head to toe. "That's just... necessary, okay? Don't-"
"But, what is it?" Zoro asked, incredulously.
"Jesus, I do not have the energy for this, today," Sanji groaned, hiding his face in his own arm. "I'll tell you some other time, Zoro."
"Okay." Zoro moved on quickly enough, getting as close to Sanji as he could without sitting his naked self in Sanji's lap. "It's... really cold. I can't believe I thought you were pathetic before."
"That's- wait, you thought I was pathetic? It's freaking ten degrees out, Zoro! It's normal to be cold in this weather!" Sanji defended.
"Ow," Zoro grumbled, rubbing his ear. "That hurt..."
Sanji giggled again like a complete child. "You can hear me," he laughed, hugging Zoro tightly. "I'm so glad."
"I could always hear you, stupid," Zoro said, squirming in Sanji's hold. "Everything until the last... while. I don't know. But, for a long time. You're damn annoying, ya know that?"
Sanji snorted. "Yeah, thanks," he said, with a sincerity that shouldn't have been there, because Zoro was being rude, but he had been a tree only five minutes ago, so what the hell ever. He felt like kissing him, no matter what Zoro blurted. It was insane and he was straight and Zoro was a tree turned into a human, but, God, he liked him so much.
"Ne, Zoro? Do you know what a kiss is?" Sanji asked, stupidly. Zoro shook his head, eyebrows furrowed. Sanji had to smile. He looked like such a child, even though he must have been at least Sanji's age, physically. "Allow me to show you."
Zoro tried to say something, maybe something unrelated, maybe something tree-ish and weird, but Sanji stopped it before it started. He kissed Zoro's frozen, human lips and Zoro stared at him. It was more than a little strange, but he couldn't have stopped himself. It was his Christmas present to himself, he decided.