The Howling Fruit

Chapter 15

After the incident with the sea leopard, things became very quiet between the interested parties. Gijun avoided most people, finding high, difficult-to-reach places to sit and be alone with the sea. Zoro trained every waking hour, and spoke to almost no one. Sanji and Robin observed with a hint of despair, having heard from Chopper what happened between them. They both knew Zoro. Both had little hope in the situation.

Then, something very small happened. Yet it set in motion a series of events that would change the situation drastically. It was very small. It could so easily have not happened. But fortunately for Zoro, it did.

Knowing Gijun never approached the crow's nest during the day anymore, Zoro went up one morning to do his exercises. He stepped inside, pretending that he hadn't glanced at Gijun's bedding as he almost always did, and was about to start training when he happened to glance out the window.

The sun was only just risen, and casting a warm, yellow glow to everything that faced it. At the very edge of the yard of the mainsail, in a place where only a cat could safely go, there sat Gijun. Apparently she had been watching since it started to rise. She was watching the sun with such a serene expression on her face. He knew that because, and he had no idea why, her mask was all down.

Zoro watched the face that was so dear to him for many long moments. Unconsciously, he took a step toward the window. Gijun noticed him, though of course he wished she hadn't, and turned. His heart jumped. This was only the second time he'd seen her whole face. At first she watched him expressionlessly as always. Then, something amazing happened.

It was so gradual he hardly noticed at first. But as the sun lit half of her face, warmth began to spread over it. Soon, she was smiling at him. Somehow, Zoro could tell that she was not even aware she was smiling. Despite the fact that he had been so harsh with her, she looked on him with such joy. She was not asking for anything. She was simply happy to see him. As a result, instead of guilt, which would have closed Zoro in on himself again, his heart felt a very welcome warmth.

He eventually glanced aside, and the moment was over. She turned back to the sunrise, pulled up her mask, and lightly made her way down to the deck, and Zoro began his exercises. For a time, neither of them thought about that moment again.

Things remained this way, in a kind of unsure peace until they reached the next island. It was a remarkably tame one, the only major worry being the man-eating moles which popped up now and again, but on this island there was a town. After Zoro cut the head off of a mole that was about to eat the mayor's daughter, they were welcomed into the town with food and drink.

The inhabitants of this island, called Mogura Manman, were all gregarious and immediately intimate, and they evidently enjoyed a good time, since none of the Mugiwaras considered Zoro's act to have been all that remarkable. Nevertheless, they accepted their charity happily.

Once Luffy had eaten himself into the rough shape of a meatball, and Sanji had all but passed out in the laps of two pretty local girls, people were starting to get drunk and rowdy. Over at the quiet table were Gijun, Robin and Zoro, though he was drinking heavily and looking sleepy.

Chopper came ambling over, obviously past his limit, and collapsed in Robin's lap. She chuckled and patted his back.

While Robin was distracted, the mayor's daughter approached and sat down very close to Zoro. Zoro glanced at her in mild irritation but didn't move away. Gijun watched silently.

The girl had obviously had a few and was flushed and smiling. "Mr. Samurai, sir…"

Zoro set down his tankard and wiped his mouth. "I'm not a samurai."

"Do you have a girl?"

At that, Robin became aware of the conversation and looked up from comforting the dazed little reindeer.

Zoro closed his eye and his face darkened briefly. When he opened it again, he was back to cool annoyance. "No."

The girl blushed further and smiled. "In that case, I'd like to give you a proper reward for saving me."

She shifted and sat in his lap. His eye widened, but he was not fast enough to stop her from doing what she did next, which was to capture his lips in a kiss. He sat in wide-eyed shock for a few moments. Some of the townspeople noticed and cheered and whistled. Finally, Zoro had had enough and pushed her back. She instantly giggled and ran off.

Sanji had seen the kiss and rose from the laps of the two girls. "Zoro, you complete and utter bastard! What are you-?!"

But Robin raised a hand to stop him. She and Chopper were both staring at Gijun. Soon, Sanji and Zoro, and also Luffy who happened to glance that way, were as well. Her expression seemed hardly to have changed, but steady tears were dripping one after another down her cheeks as she stared at the place the girl had been. Zoro's lips parted.

"Gijun…" Chopper murmured.

She turned her gaze to him. Her expression was still unchanged.

"Do you know you're crying?"

Gijun blinked. She raised a hand to touch her face. She stared for a while at the dampness on her fingertips. Gradually, sadness finally came to her face. However, she said nothing. She wiped her eyes and rose, then calmly left the building.

"Gijun…" Sanji murmured. After a moment, he got up and went after her.

They all watched for a time, Zoro clearly fighting the urge to go, and eventually Robin sighed. "I knew she cared about you, but to be honest I didn't think she cared that much," she murmured.

Zoro's fists tightened.

"Someone like her, I assumed her feelings would have at least cooled by now," she continued. "After all, she watched her mistress receive suitor after suitor. Yes, she did throw them all out, but somehow I can't picture her weeping every time."

Zoro closed his eye.

"Poor Gijun," Chopper murmured, though still not quite sober. "Maybe I should go talk to her too."

"Perhaps Sanji-kun will be best for now. I suspect what she needs now, neither you nor I can give her, Chopper," Robin added suggestively.

Zoro flicked a sudden glare at her. She held his gaze defiantly, then smiled.

Outside, Gijun walked until the sounds of the party were dim. She ended up near Sunny, and looked out over the sand and the waves as tears continued to drip down her cheeks. She heard and felt the presence of Sanji approaching, and allowed him to do so.

"Gijun-chan," Sanji murmured. He came close, and rested his hands on her shoulders from behind. He gently nuzzled her head. "You poor thing." He slowly wrapped his arms around her, which she did not object to. "You don't have to say anything. It's all right."

Hesitantly, she touched one of his forearms which rested on her collarbone. She closed her eyes and felt his comforting warmth, though it only reminded her that it wasn't the warmth she wanted. She breathed in. This was not the smell she wanted either. Sanji was tall and narrow of frame. His body was also lithe, where Zoro's was hard and unforgiving. Zoro's arms were so much larger and heavier, his chest wider. Gijun had only slept with him once, but she remembered everything. The memories kept torturing her, crushing her spirit with sweetness.

Eventually, she felt Sanji breathe in deeply, and start to speak. "I may be a poor substitute," he murmured against her hair. "But I would give you anything you wanted. You need only ask."

Gijun felt swept up in comfort, but she found it difficult to explain that she still wasn't attracted to any man other than Zoro. She merely closed her eyes and accepted his kindness.

Back in the banquet hall, Zoro had been staring into his drink without drinking it for some time. Robin and Chopper had gone to get some more food, and eventually Luffy sat down beside him.

"What's up, Zoro? You've got a long face," Luffy said, smiling.

Zoro took a breath in and out, but Luffy was one of the few people he shared most things with. "It's all right," he murmured. "I'll get over it soon."

"Hmm. I see," Luffy considered for a moment, watching the festivities. At length, Zoro sighed and took a drink, seeming to finally snap out of his malaise, though not very far. He and Luffy continued to sit in silence for a time. "Hey, Zoro."


Luffy paused for a long time. Then he turned to Zoro with a grin. "You think too much sometimes."

Zoro sighed. "What is that supposed to mean?"

"Hmm," Luffy started picking his ear. "I don't know. But I think you're plenty strong."

Zoro frowned. "What?"

Luffy shrugged. "Nothing. Just that I think I'm strong. And if I had a choice of having something and needing to protecting it, or not having it at all, I'd try to protect it." Then he grinned. "Right?"

Zoro stared at him. As usual, Luffy's straightforwardness had cut right into Zoro's soul and cleared all the clouds away. At length, he closed his eye and breathed for a moment. Then he nodded, and stood.

"Oh, you're going? In that case, send Sanji back on your way. We need more food!" Luffy cried, grinning again.

Zoro scoffed with a soft smile and made his way outside. He walked slowly at first, then with gathering sureness. He found Sanji holding Gijun on the beach and bit back his rage. He clapped him on the shoulder.

Sanji jumped a little, though from his bitter expression he had felt Zoro coming with his haki. He still held on to Gijun for a moment, though.

Zoro glowered at him. "Get lost, lover boy."

"Pots and kettles," Sanji growled, though he did release Gijun.

"Say that again to me later so I can kick your ass. I'm busy now."

Despite his complaining, Sanji glanced between the two of them and a smirk tugged at the corner of his lips. He slowly turned and started to walk away, merely waving behind him to mark his absence.

Gijun looked very surprised to see Zoro. Strangely, though he felt nervous, and a little scared that she might have changed her mind since then, Zoro's resolve did not waver. He felt like he'd been trying to fight the current of a fast river all this time. And now he was laying back and letting it take him, wherever it went. It was frightening, but felt more natural than anything in the world.

They didn't speak for a long time. Emotions were starting to well up inside him, much though he wished they wouldn't.

"There are…some things I would like to say to you," he murmured softly, hoping she would not see the redness in his eye. "But before I say anything else, I would like to know one thing from you."

She blinked, clearly astounded that he was speaking to her at all, and hesitantly nodded.

"If…I were to say that I'd made a mistake," in spite of himself, he felt emotion forming in his throat. "…would you…still..."

Gijun had started to cry again. She still looked a little unsure, but she gently picked up his large hand and placed it in the center of her chest. Zoro stared in amazement. Her heart was pounding underneath his hand. A single tear dripped down his face. Then he merely gathered her up in his arms and held her tightly to his chest.

"I'm sorry."

Gijun nodded and sniffled.

Without telling any of the others, they went back to the ship. Silently, they went up to the crow's nest, and once there, they sat down and Zoro pulled her into his lap. For a time, this was how they stayed. Gijun pulled down her mask and rested her head against his to smell his hair, causing pleasant sensations to wash over Zoro. He tightened his arms around her, letting his ear rest on his chest to hear her breath and heartbeat. How could one possibly be so dear?

Seemingly of the same will, they both pulled back to meet one another's gaze. Gijun gently took his cheeks in her hands. She kissed his eye, where some wetness still remained. Then she drew up his face and they shared a deep, sweet kiss. Fire rose in the pit of Zoro's stomach. His sadness melted away into desire.

He took hold of her legs underneath the knees, rested his other hand in the center of her back and lay her down on the bench. Her body was so warm underneath his fingers, no trace of ill will in her expression. She wanted him badly, and that was not an unpleasant feeling. He climbed over her and resumed kissing her for a time. Her hands wove into his hair at the back of his neck, giving him very pleasant shivers. But gradually they moved down, and he briefly pulled back his arms as he realized she was slipping his kaftan off his shoulders.

She tilted his head and kissed his neck. He shivered. Her kisses went higher and she lightly bit his ear, evoking a soft gasp from him. He pulled her legs around his waist so their hips met, causing soft moans from both of them. Then he changed tactics and kissed her hard, and started to undress her too. As he did, she explored his bare skin with her fingers, tracing the lines of his shoulder blades and collar bone.

Zoro kicked off his boots and set his swords on the floor as he was kissing her chest. He removed what remained of her shirt and lifted her back a little so he could start to unwrap her breast band. She propped herself on her elbows and their eyes met. Zoro couldn't help but abandon his task for a moment to kiss her possessively yet again. Gijun wove her fingers in his hair again. She clearly wanted to take the lead like before, but he wouldn't let her this time.

Once her breasts were free, he squeezed them gently, then attacked them with his mouth. Though Gijun had remained more or less composed so far, when his mouth claimed her nipple, she yipped like a fox, throwing her head back. Zoro tried not to moan. He loved the feeling when her body tensed like that as she was feeling pleasure. Eventually, he moved farther down.

Zoro loosened and removed Gijun's pants and shoes. He left her socks on because (not that he would ever admit this to anybody, ever) he found tabi socks sort of a turn-on. He slipped out of his kaftan and pants, then wrapped his arms around her and kissed her solar plexus. Gijun's hips had started writhing beneath him. He smirked as he started to kiss down her stomach.

Gijun's breath grew fast and labored, and her body seemed unable to keep still. Once Zoro kissed her hip, and she was sure what he was doing, she let out a long, soft moan, arching her back.

Finally, Zoro wrapped both arms around her legs. He glanced up at her. "Has anyone ever done this for you before?"

Gijun hastily shook her head, biting onto the joint of her index finger in desperation.

Zoro smirked again. "In that case if I'm terrible, you probably won't know."

She looked down at him, panting and merely mouthed silently, 'Zoro'.

He swallowed. But Zoro was a man of conviction, and when he decided he would do something, he would do it. True, he had no idea what he was doing. So he would just have to figure it out.

To start, he gently parted her labia with his hands. She was already trembling. He experimentally licked her. Much beyond his expectations, and anything they had done together so far, Gijun wailed and her whole body tensed. For many seconds after, she was still panting hard.

Zoro blinked. "Should I stop?"

She shook her head with conviction.

He gained another smirk. The last time they had sex, he had given her pleasure with his hand, but for the most part it felt like she was guiding him. Now he felt a thrill from being able to make her lose her senses completely. He wanted to keep that up.

He tried some of the same tactics he had tried with his hand. He licked a trail up to her clitoris (he had snuck himself into Chopper's library and read up a little since the last time), and pressed his tongue into it.

Gijun nearly screamed and gripped his hair. The faint pain from that was making Zoro even hotter. He wrapped her clitoris in his lips and sucked on it. Gijun was briefly silent as he realized she was crying his name, then more moans poured from her. After that, his desire was so strong it was difficult to think clearly. He thrust his tongue inside her.

Brief silence as she cried his name, then wild dog yipping. Zoro's mind went blank. He fucked her with his tongue, thrusting over and over again as deep as he could, almost feeling as if it was his cock. Her fingers sometimes caressed and sometimes dug passionately into his hair. Her voice was probably loud enough to reach the shore, and her hips thrust unconsciously against his mouth.

He wrapped his arms around her legs again, and lifted her hips so he could thrust in even deeper. Gijun was losing it. In so much pleasure now that sometimes her voice wouldn't come. Her eyes fluttered and sometimes rolled back. Then finally her whole body tensed as her voice stopped, her fingers nearly drawing blood from where they rested on Zoro's shoulders.

Zoro felt her tighten around his tongue, and shivered with the sensation. Then Gijun's body relaxed, and she collapsed against the bench. She was putty in his hands now. He slowly drew his tongue out, shifted up and gently kissed her.

"How was that?"

For a time, she couldn't answer. Her eyes fluttered. Her lips moved a little but not with any intelligible words.


She blinked, then vaguely nodded.

"You ready for more?"

She swallowed, then did something so sexy he almost lost in then and there. Though she was obviously still dazed, she placed her arms around his neck, and lolled out her tongue, her eyes on his lips.

He couldn't stop. He ravished her with kisses, grasping her naked body tightly against him and thoroughly overstimulated by her burning kisses and the feel of her slender form against him. She shifted her hips so that her hottest place was softly rubbing against his cock. She was so warm and wet. He groaned against the hollow of her neck.

He drew back briefly. "Are you ready?" he breathed against her lips.

She whined, twining her legs around his body.

"Okay then. Try not to pass out."

He thrust inside her. He grunted with sensation, closing his eye tight. She cried out, arching her back and therefore pressing her whole body against him. He wanted to encourage that and unconsciously pressed his palm against the small of her back, pulling her harder against him.

Once he was inside her at last, the few anxieties that remained with him started to melt away. Without moving yet, he gazed into her sweet eyes. Much though she had opened up after meeting all of them, she was still so quiet and so fragile in many ways. The feeling to protect her was so strong, especially after what Luffy had said. Without saying anything, he gently kissed her on the cheek.

Gijun gave another one of those soft, heartbreaking smiles. She kissed him, then wrapped her arms tighter around his neck and shoulders. Without words, he could tell she was telling him she loved him.

His heart and body ached for her. Slowly he moved his hips. Gijun's composure slipped away. Her lips parted and she began to pant softly in his ear. He thrust again. This time, a little moan escaped her. Again. Her fingernails dug into his back. Again. She threw her head back and cried out.

And then Zoro cut loose, one hand still at the small of her back, he moved the other to her hip and started pounding mercilessly into her. But in fairness, Gijun's hips still desperately rose up to meet his own, in time with her passionate cries which drove him even harder.

"Gijun," he whispered in her ear.

She moaned louder.

Then, in a moment of sentimentality that he would deny later, even as he thrust deeply into her, he whispered, "Don't be anyone else's. Be only mine."

She clung to him, and he could see tears on her face from the corner of his eye. In the end, they made love sweetly, then fell asleep in one another's arms. When they woke, they made love again. Neither noticed that the ship was disembarking, and the rest of the crew knew better than to go up to the crow's nest at that particular time.

The longer they spent, naked in one another's arms, the more peaceful Zoro felt. He'd never felt better in his life than when she was sleeping on top of his chest, curled up against him as if it was the most comfortable place in the world. Love was scary for Zoro. If he'd fallen in love with Gijun and his feelings were not returned, he would never have even tried. Being loved by her turned torture into bliss.

And as for his sword fighting, he soon had a chance to test whether Luffy's theory was true. The next day (Zoro and Gijun had not emerged until the next morning), Robin and Sanji were standing at the stern and observing the very subtle happiness emanating from the two lovers, though they rarely interacted. Both viewed it with varying mixes of displeasure and relief.

Sanji lit up. "I take it the big gorilla figured something out."

"It would seem so. How disappointing."

"You're telling me," Sanji commented, bitterly. "But, well, I suppose our alliance has served its purpose. For Gijun-chan."

"For Gijun-chan, indeed," Robin said with a subtle smile. "I suppose I can forgo my plan about what to do if Zoro broke her heart again. Disappointing, but unavoidable."

Sanji gave her a sidelong glance with a good amount of fear. "Robin-chan, I will never get on your bad side.

She smiled at him. "Yes. Try not to."

Even as she finished this statement, a shark the size of a whale burst out from the water, its jaws aimed straight at Gijun at the bow. She had already drawn one of her knives, but both Robin and Sanji glanced at Zoro to see if resolving his emotional turmoil had worked to-

But it was not even an instant before Zoro was at her side, and at the same time, Gijun loosed her knife and Zoro fired a 36-pound cannon. The beast was shot through both eyes, and promptly crashed back into the water again. Gijun caught her knife as it came back around. She and Zoro looked at each other for a few moments.

Suddenly, they both burst into laughter, though Gijun's was that of a hyena. Zoro was doubled over with laughter, Gijun leaning on the rail. Both Sanji and Robin were a little horrified by this display.

"And what exactly is so funny that those two can't control themselves?"

Robin tilted her head and observed them for a moment. Gradually, a smile broke over her face. "I have absolutely no idea."