When Zoro comes out on deck the other straw hats are crowded around something in the middle of the lawn, Zoro doesn't like it when that happens. If they're crowded around Usopp it usually means something's about to blow up covering everyone in soot or that Luffy's done something dumber than usual, either way it's rarely good.
"What's going on?" He frowns stepping closer.
"A bird landed on deck and we caught it, Sanji's gonna cook it for me!" Luffy exclaims excitedly, looking up at him with drool running freely from his mouth.
"I did not say that, this bird looks like three birds stitched together. It's probably not safe to eat." Sanji growls, kicking their captain's stupid head in an absent minded fashion.
"It's certainly not like any bird I've ever seen." Robin muses from the centre of the group, obscuring Zoro's view of this mystery bird.
"Maybe we could sell it, if it's really rare it could go for a lot." Nami says with gleeful beli signs lighting up in her eyes.
"It's pink and zombie like, who would buy it?" Franky points out.
That makes Zoro pause before shoving his way into the centre of the group. Sure enough it's that same shitty bird that Perona found on Mihawk's stupid island and dyed pink, she'd even stitched a little pink feather boa into it too the poor bastard. Perona must have sent it, he glares at the poor creature and notices the note tied around its leg in a rhinestone satchel.
"Let it go, it's a messenger bird for me." Zoro sighs, pulling up the net and releasing the poor bird.
"A messenger bird for you?" Usopp asks in surprise as Zoro pulls the note free from the slightly relieved looking bird.
"Glad your hearing's still working." He retorts with no real feeling and unrolls the letter.
You're probably lost by now, knowing you you're probably not even in the grand line any more, you're hopeless you know that? It's boring without you here to boss around and Mihawk said that if I keep bothering him he'll kill me in my sleep, he's so mean. When you used to threaten to kill me it was funny, Mihawk's just creepy.
Write back to me!
"Who'd be writing a letter to a moss brained idiot like you?" Sanji demands with a scowl over his face.
"None of your business curlicue. Got a pen Usopp?" Zoro sighs. Usopp raises an eyebrow but after some rummaging in his bag he comes up with a marker pen. Zoro flips the note over a writes back.
Stop bothering me you crazy bitch. And I'm not lost! What do you think I am, retarded? If I see you again, I'll cut you in half.
He rolls the note back up and shoves it back into the bird's pouch.
"Now get lost." He orders it. The bird looks a little terrified but flies off anyway.
"Well, I'm going to have a nap now." He announces and walks off, ignoring the interested stares of his nakama as he leaves.
Three days later the bird is back again with another note, Zoro grumbles but retrieves it again, pointedly ignoring the stares of the rest of his nakama as the bird sits on his knee whilst he reads.
You have no manners, you know that? I was going to give Mr Fluffy here a book on etiquette to bring to you so you could learn the error of your ways but he couldn't fly with it,
"And I'd throw it overboard if you did." Zoro mutters to himself and continues reading.
and you're probably just thinking that you'd throw it in the ocean anyway. I bet you're wondering how I knew what you were thinking there huh?
"Creepy witch." He grumbles.
I knew what you were thinking because you're as simple as the apes on this stupid island. Mihawk says that you're not coming back, not until you challenge him for his title anyway. You should do that soon so that you live here again and I get to hang out with you!
Zoro has a few moments of horror where he desperately considers giving up his life's dream and never challenging Mihawk at all, until he realises that he doesn't have to live in Mihawk's big creepy house with Perona when he's the world's greatest swordsman. He flips the note over and writes back.
I would sooner chop my head off than live with you again. Tell Mihawk that if he can't stand you and wants me to kill him out of mercy, I will. Then I'll be the best and I'll leave you on that island forever.
Seriously, stop writing to me you weirdo.
Over dinner that night Usopp finally cracks and sticks his very long nose into it.
"Who keeps writing to you Zoro? Did you get a girlfriend while the rest of us were off training to be stronger? I was training to be stronger, that's why I'm the strongest man in the first half of the grand line, I was going to challenge the strongest guy in the new world but I thought too much greatness at once might be unbelievable to the press." Usopp boasts and flexes his bicep at the dinner table. Zoro rolls his eyes, though only one is visible.
"Oh wow, really?!" Chopper squeals delightedly and as gullible as ever.
"She's not my girlfriend." Zoro groans and takes a serving bowl from Sanji's stilled hands, apparently the blonde is too good to just pass him things and has to make him reach.
"So it is a girl you're writing to." Robin smiles coyly at him over the rim of her wine glass.
"Zoro has a girlfriend! SUPER for you lil' bro!" Franky crows, slapping Zoro overly hard on the back with his giant hands.
"SHE'S NOT MY GIRLFRIEND!" He shouts indignantly and slams the bowl of mashed potatoes on the table and flicks his sword free of its scabbard, glaring around the table at anyone daring to disagree. Sanji meets his stare but says nothing. He flicks the sword back in and starts eating in silence, after a moment or two Luffy takes the opportunity to steal from Sanji's plate, causing a loud and violent argument to erupt and the matter of the girlfriend he doesn't have to be dropped.
The next time the bird arrives Zoro is midway through swinging his weights up and down before him to practice his sword strike. The fluffy crime against nature lands on the end.
"Go back, I'm not writing to her." He orders, but the bird stays put, clearly more afraid of Perona than it is of him. He continues swinging the weights but it does nothing to dislodge the bird, no matter how violently he does it. After a while he relents, throws the weights down and takes the damn letter from the bird.
"So who's your lady love Zoro?" Brook calls up to him with a trill of merry laugher.
"She's not my lady love! I hate her!" Zoro snarls back and opens the letter.
Two tiny pairs of eyes appear in the paper along with a silly tongue. Zoro has a quarter of a second to think "what the fuck?" and half a second of "oh god no" before the little ghost flies out and right through him. He drops like a bag of bricks and curls up on the floor hugging his knees and wishing for death.
"It's that girl! From Thriller Bark, the one with the pink hair and that ghost power!" Usopp exclaims excitedly as the depression subsides from Zoro's mind.
"I hope that taught you a lesson my dearest, love and kisses, Princess Perona." Sanji reads out flatly before looking up at him with wide shocked eyes.
"You actually… with her?" The blonde gawps at him.
"Give me that." Zoro snarls, ripping it from the cook's hands. He pulls a pen out of his pocket and flips the note over.
BITCH, NEXT TIME I SEE YOU I'M GOING TO CUT YOUR ARMS OFF AND BEAT YOU TO DEATH WITH THEM.
He crumples the note into a ball and storms angrily over to the bird, he stuff the note down its throat and kicks it off of the railing, not caring if the fucking thing drowns. He stomps off to the kitchen, steals two bottles of rum and slinks off to the store room to drink enough to take the edge off of that depressive feeling that Perona's devil's fruit always leaves him with.
The day after that a black hawk arrives on the edge of the ship and looks at him like he's scum, this one too has a note strapped to its leg. Warily he pulls the note off, opens it and throws himself to the ground just in case there's another ghost in it. After a few seconds of not wanting to commit seppuku he picks up the note and reads. It's in some flowing gothic script that screams either pretentious teenage poetry or Mihawk.
If you make Perona cry like that again I will cut out your heart with a rock, she howled outside my room all night. I got no sleep at all. I am running out of wine trying to stay drunk enough for her not to bother me, she's attacking my hat now Zoro, I blame you for this. I will remember this when we fight next – I warn you.
Zoro laughs loudly to himself, drawing stares from his nakama – Sanji especially. He can't get the image out of his head of Mihawk holding pillows over his head to ward off Perona's demented bawling. When he finally stops laughing he pulls a pen out of his pocket and replies a little more nicely this time with a smile still on his face, Mihawk might be an ass at times but he respects him still so he should be at least a little polite.
I'm counting on the challenge. Also, why don't you just kill her yourself and leave me out of it?
He sends the bird off and is unsurprised when the next day Perona's bird arrives. He's in the middle of a set of nine thousand crunches, his shirt is off in deference to the heat and he wipes his face with it before reaching for the gaudy satchel.
"That is the ugliest bird I've ever seen you know." Sanji remarks from the railing above him. Zoro looks up and has to squint from the sun behind Sanji, how long has the cook been there anyway? His cigarette is pretty burnt down, so a while maybe?
"Yeah well, she's a freak." He shrugs, unbuttoning the glitzy monstrosity.
"You shouldn't say things like that about your girlfriend." Sanji points out irritably.
"Well, I don't have a girlfriend, I don't even want this crazy woman writing me letters, so I can call her whatever I want." He argues back, glaring at the cook.
"If you didn't want to hear from her you'd have killed that bird by now." Sanji says in an empty tone before flicking his cigarette overboard and stalking off.
Zoro frowns to himself, the cook is really goddamn weird.
You're so mean, I hate you, your letters aren't cute at all. You made me cry and mean old Mihawk wouldn't give me a cuddle to make it better. I miss when you used to hug me. Mihawk is still resisting my attempts to put rhinestones on his hat to go with the feather, don't you think that's mean?
Be nicer next time.
Zoro sighs and writes back.
Tell Mihawk he has my sympathies, I should have destroyed that stupid sparkle gun of yours before I left. Stop writing to me, my nakama think you're my girlfriend now, no matter what I tell them.
P.S, I wasn't hugging you, I was trying to strangle you.
With every new letter the cook seems pissier and pissier with him, glaring at the bird whenever it arrives and watching him like a hawk whenever he's writing back to Perona. He should kill the bird but it's not the poor thing's fault that Perona has co-opted it into her evil scheme. Anyway, if he does she'll just catch another one and send him new letters, probably with a ghost in.
Besides, it might be… maybe a little bit interesting to hear from Perona. She tells him about what Mihawk is doing sometimes and it's always useful to know what his target is up to. And he did spend two years in her company, technically more than he's spent in the company of his nakama, and he might maybe in the privacy of his head miss her a little bit. Only until he thinks of, well, all the things that she does and says. He misses her more in the abstract way of something that one has become accustomed to, like ill fitting shoes, the absence just feels unusual is all.
He can't fathom why it's making the cook so angry though. It's probably just because he's getting some female attention and Sanji isn't. Despite his and the cook's fights and arguments he wouldn't wish her even on Sanji, that'd just be cruel so in reality he's saving the cook from a terrible fate.
Perona's letters continue and Zoro accepts them as part of his routine, being around Perona taught him a lot about having serenity in the face of things that he couldn't change or get away from. Perona's incessant personality for one.
I wouldn't date you if you were the last man left alive, you can tell them I said that. Why do they think that I'm your girlfriend? And who cares anyway?
They won't shut up about it and the more that they talk about it the pissier it makes the idiot-cook, that's why. Also, I would rather cut off my own head than date you. I would also cut off my own head if I was the last man left alive, so you wouldn't have to worry about being in that situation for long anyway.
You mean your love-cook? The blonde one? He's getting stroppy because I'm writing to you?
How do you know blondie is a love-cook? I never told you that. And yes, he's crashing around the kitchen right now and swearing at the cutlery since I started writing back to you just now. He just managed to say the word shit eight times in one sentence. You're bad for people's health even on the wrong side of the grand line, your powers are somewhat impressive even to me.
You talk in your sleep, that's how I know. Anyway, I saw him at Thriller Bark, he was weird. Maybe he's jealous.
Bitch I don't talk in my sleep, and even if I did I wouldn't be talking about the shit-cook because I don't dream about him. And I've told him about how crazy you are, he'd be stupid to be jealous.
Though he is pretty dumb.
It's been five days without a letter and Sanji's mood has improved, so much so that he feels safe enough to nap in the kitchen because one of Usopp's experiments is taking up the entire lawn deck and waking up on fire got old after the first three times. Sanji's humming quietly and happily under his breath, the sound sends Zoro easily into a relaxed and peaceful nap, so peaceful in fact that when Nami comes in with a call of "letters!" he doesn't wake up right away enough to notice the plural.
After he yawns, stretches and opens his eyes he reads the latter that Nami had thrown on his chest.
You're pretty dumb, it's not you he's jealous of. I saw how the two of you were together, besides, even when your shadows got taken your zombies remembered each other, that's never happened before.
You'll thank me for this.
What are you on about? He's jealous because he thinks that I have a girlfriend and his stupid love hearts don't get him any girls. He also seems completely oblivious of the whole "I'd rather die than date you" thing that we have going quite well between us.
And the reason our zombies fought is that Sanji irritates me down to my soul, of course he'd annoy me even when I don't remember anything else. Sanji is two parts annoying and one part dumbass. Thank you for what? I'm not going to thank you for anything, especially when you don't even tell me what I'm thanking you for.
He yawns and looks around the kitchen, vaguely hoping for food when he catches sight of Sanji reading a letter. He puts two and two together and realises that Perona must have written him a letter too. Meddling bitch! Why would she do that to him?!
"Oi! What's that cook? Give it here!" He snaps, reaching for it.
Sanji's shoe lands square in the middle of his chest and shoves him back.
"It's to me, not you. And Perona says that I'm not to let you have it no matter what." Sanji says distractedly. He lunges for Sanji with his swords drawn and the fight begins, Sanji seems evasive though and it's only when Sanji has drawn him out of the kitchen that Zoro realises he's being led. Sanji ducks under his arm, back into the kitchen and locks the door after himself.
"OI! Let me in!" He shouts, hammering on the door. He draws his sword and prepares to cut the door in half only to spy Franky giving him a serious case of stink eye. He grumbles and sheathes his sword, resigning himself to being stuck outside.
P.S What the fuck did you write to Sanji?! When I get my hands on that letter I'll decide just how painfully I'll kill you.
Over the next couple of days Sanji starts acting odd, the blonde even sent a letter back to Perona but he wouldn't tell him what he said. And when he tried stealing Perona's letter off of Sanji the blonde actually ATE it rather than give it to him! He can't help but notice how closely the blonde is watching him now though and the paranoia about what on earth Perona might have said to him is getting to him, Perona won't say what it was though.
Relax, you worry too much. Did I ever tell you that I think you look really good in those loose clothes that you started wearing when you left here? They were much better than your old shirt, I didn't like that, it was way too tight on you by then, you looked stupid.
Could you pass on a message for me? Tell Sanji that I said "you're welcome".
Don't be evasive, what did you say? He's just staring at me now since I passed your message on, and since you mentioned it I'm wearing my old shirt now and there's nothing you can do about it. I don't care if it's too tight. HAH.
Now tell me what you said.
Admittedly, his old shirt is a little too tight, and since he got taller it's a little short and keeps riding up when he does pull ups from the crossbeam of the mast. Sanji keeps staring at him though and giving him weird looks. Sanji writes back to Perona, doesn't let him see the letter and sends the bird off with a frown.
"What are you writing to her about?" Zoro questions, bumping his shoulder against Sanji's. The cook seems flustered, he wonders if Sanji is trying to flirt with Perona.
"You know she's not going to date you." He points out to Sanji.
"I don't want her." Sanji says mysteriously and stalks off, leaving Zoro to scowl at Sanji's back.
Zoro resolves to wait for that stupid bird and get Sanji's letter before he does, she doesn't always send one to Sanji, sometimes she gives him a message to pass on, but if she does send one this time he's going to have it. He pounces on the damn bird and grabs the letter. At first he thinks that Perona hasn't written to Sanji as there's just the one letter in there but to his surprise he sees that she's not written to him at all and instead to just Sanji! He tears her letter open and reads furiously.
Don't be a chicken and just do it, I'm right, trust me on this.
What the hell was that supposed to mean? That was no help! What was she right about? What were they talking about?
"Did you open my letter?" Sanji's voice asks from behind him, making Zoro jump.
"No." He says immediately, casually refolding the letter behind his back before handing it to Sanji.
The blonde looks at it for a second.
"You refolded it backwards after you read it, idiot." Sanji says flatly, levelling him with an unimpressed look.
"No I didn't!" He exclaims, but when he glances down at the letter in Sanji's hands he sees that it's folded perfectly fine and… he just got tricked into admitting that he read the letter. Sneaky bastard… Sanji sighs and walks off back into the kitchen as he reads his letter.
Zoro follows him and catches Sanji swear and throw the letter away. That's odd, usually Sanji would treasure anything from a lady.
"What are the two of you plotting?" He demands with a glare. Sanji sighs and leans against the work surface, his eyes shut tiredly.
"What makes you think she's plotting anything?" the cook asks wearily, rubbing the back of his long lean neck.
"Because she's always trying to make me miserable, and so do you, so the two of you talking can't be good." He reasons, it's obvious.
Sanji shakes his head and looks off to the side with a small frown.
"I told her that- never mind. I'm not planning anything." Sanji mutters. Something about his look is off, he's not gloating or smug, Zoro's almost a little worried about him. Almost.
"Yes you are, she was telling you to "do it" what's it? What are you two on about?" Zoro presses, poking Sanji in the chest.
Sanji growls and slaps his hand away but Zoro, sensing a fight, does it again.
"Quit it!" Sanji snaps, shoving at him and glaring at him heatedly.
"Not until you talk." Zoro threatens, getting right up in Sanji's personal space and poking him again.
"Oh for the love of- fine!" the cook snaps and grabs Zoro's too-tight shirt. Sanji hauls him close and smashes their mouths together. The cook's clever tongue forces its way into Zoro's mouth without giving him a chance to resist or even react, as Sanji practically fucks him with his tongue the blonde's free hand runs down Zoro's back before grabbing hold of his ass and squeezing hard.
After… Zoro isn't sure how long, it seems both like forever and no time at all, the blonde lets him go and shoves him back with the palm of his hand. The cook's usually pale skin is completely scarlet and Sanji is doing his best to look anywhere in the kitchen but in Zoro's direction.
So that was what Perona was up to. And… the shirts had been a trick, she'd tried to make him wear them, to tempt Sanji. Since when did Sanji like men, or him much less for that matter? And how the hell could Perona have known?
"See? I told her that she was crazy, so just… go away and tell her she's wrong alright?" The blonde mutters, turning his back on him, his shoulders high and his posture defensive.
Zoro dumbly touches his still tingling lips. That had been… interesting. He reaches forward and yanks at Sanji's hip, spinning him back around to face him. Sanji's eyes are wide and slightly panicked and Zoro shoves him back against the counter. Zoro pauses for a moment to examine his rival's face before leaning in and tentatively kissing him.
He's never… kissed a guy before. But if he was going to then Sanji would be the person to choose, no way would Sanji be content for him to beat him at anything, so it'd only keep getting better wouldn't it? It seems pretty good now, Sanji whimpers against his lips and opens up under his touch. This time the kiss is more of a war, give and take with neither of them content to let the other one lead. Sanji's straying hands make him gasp and the blonde smirk against his mouth in satisfaction.
"So… she was right. You were jealous." Zoro muses as he pulls away from Sanji.
"Oh fuck off." Sanji snaps, kicking him out of the kitchen. He doesn't miss the heated look that the blonde gives him through the porthole though. This could be… interesting.
Zoro pulls Perona's letter to Sanji out of his pocket and writes on the back of it.
Thank you, I guess.