Title: As Simple As Hunger
Disclaimer: I do not own One Piece.
Warning: Post-time skip. Explicit content.
Huge thanks to calloutyoru. Read her stories!
"Drinking alone in the dark doesn't really seem to fit your character," Zoro's deep voice echoed across the empty room.
Sanji, who was lighting a cigarette, glanced in the direction of the voice. The brief flicker of the flame temporarily illuminated his face. Though his expression appeared neither surprised nor pleased that the swordsman had shown himself before him, Sanji was inwardly startled by the other man's presence.
Zoro's presence made him realize he had lost track of how long he had been sitting alone at the far end of the table in the dining hall. At first, he had noted that some of his other crewmates were moving about on the ship, but one by one, they had stopped stirring. After awhile, he became lost in his own thoughts and stopped paying attention to his surroundings.
The cook gritted his teeth as the swordsman peered at him with a blank expression he found endlessly annoying; moreover, he was annoyed with himself for letting Zoro slink in under his radar.
Zoro continued to study him in silence, arms crossed in front of him, idly leaning against the frame of the large doorway. As the seconds ticked by, a curled eyebrow started to twitch, and Sanji glared at the green-haired man. Although it was his intention to ignore him, his patience finally snapped.
"What do you want?" he asked, his voice dripping with annoyance, clenching his jaw as he spoke.
"Nothing," Zoro replied. His eye wandered to a bottle of bourbon positioned in front of the blonde man. "Though, I guess I wouldn't mind a glass." Decidedly, he stepped into the dining hall.
"Tch, take it and leave, then. I'm not in the mood for you," Sanji warned, giving him a cautionary gaze as he slid the bottle forward.
As he pulled himself up to the table and grabbed an empty glass, a jesting grin crossed Zoro's face. Sanji instantly knew the expression was a prelude to antagonism. Bracing himself, the cook took a long swig from his own drink.
"Ah, I guess things didn't go so well with that seal-woman," he commented as he poured the amber liquid into his glass.
"What the hell is a seal-woman?" Sanji barked, slamming his cup down on the table with a loud thud.
"That woman you were hanging all over. She sounded like a seal," Zoro explained shortly, leaning back and resting his arms behind his head.
Sanji stared at him incredulously. "She had a unique laugh," he protested. "Don't insult a beautiful woman like that! …And why the hell are you sitting down?!"
Although he nodded as though he was taking note of the other man's words, Zoro made no point of actually leaving the table. He leisurely sipped his drink, settling back in the large dining chair. Angrily, Sanji leaned back in his own chair—considerably less relaxed than the swordsman—and puffed on his cigarette in annoyance. The two men sat in silence for some time, glowering at each other.
Zoro finally broke the silence. "This is too warm," he said, starring at his glass and swishing the dark liquid gloomily.
"It's not warm, it's room temperature."
"It's a drink. It needs ice."
Sanji's eyebrow twitched again. "This is bourbon, not whiskey or scotch. If it's cold, you'll miss all of the rich, subtle flavors."
Zoro took another sip, his brow slightly furrowed. "It's still too damn warm."
As irritated as he was, Sanji could not help himself when he saw someone unhappy with their food or drink. Before he realized what he was doing, his host-like nature got the best of him, and he jumped out of his seat and snatched the glass out of Zoro's hands. He walked into the kitchen and tossed a few cubes in the glass with a noisy clink.
Returning to the table, Sanji slammed the now-chilled beverage in front of him and poured a bit more of the bourbon in the glass to top it off.
"I thought you said I had to drink it warm," Zoro commented antagonistically.
"You're the one complaining it needed to be cold!" Sanji snapped. As annoyed as he was with Zoro, he was more furious at himself for not trying harder to push him away.
"So, what happened with the seal-woman?" Zoro asked bluntly, leaning forward to listen.
"None of your business," Sanji hissed in reply. "Don't you have something better to do right now?"
"Oi, I'm just trying to make sure you're okay," Zoro said, a bit mockingly.
Sanji wanted to spring up from his seat and launch his foot toward the green-haired man's infuriatingly smug face, but before he could stand, an uncharacteristic wave of exhaustion passed over him. The events of the day had just been too much to deal with. With a heavy sigh, he slumped back into his seat and set his elbows on the table, resting his head on his hands. His cigarette, now barely more than a stub, hung dangerously close to his sleeve.
For a moment, a flicker of something other than antagonism crossed Zoro's face. "Oi, seriously, did something happen?"
With a defeated sigh, Sanji reached forward to smush his cigarette butt in a dangerously full ashtray. "Tch, more like something didn't happen," he replied with frustration, snatching another cigarette from his pocket. "Or maybe what happened is exactly what you'd expect."
Zoro pondered for a moment. "I actually don't know what to expect, thinking about you alone with a woman."
"Don't think about me alone with a woman, you pervert," Sanji sputtered.
"I wasn't trying to do it because I wanted to!" Zoro snapped in reply. "I was just responding to your damn comment!"
Sanji furrowed his brow as he rubbed his temple, his irritation mounting. "Why do you say you don't know what to expect?"
"Because you act like a damned idiot in front of women."
Zoro probably expected another biting comment, but instead, Sanji just sighed. "I actually used to be able to make a woman swoon, you know."
"I don't remember ever seeing that."
Sanji glared at him for a moment. "Look, I know… I know how I act sometimes," he faltered, obviously having a great difficulty in finding his words. "But no matter what, when I was alone with a woman, I really could keep myself under control."
"That's a strange way to refer to control," Zoro interjected.
"I mean under control enough. Women are kind, gentle creatures who are willing to overlook a few shortcomings. They want to be made to feel beautiful and loved, after all. But there's a limit to what they're willing to forgive. They won't overlook a man who acts like a... a panting dog."
Zoro raised an eyebrow at him. If he had any additional mocking comments to make, he kept them to himself.
Wordlessly, Sanji sat up, set down his glass, and started to unbutton his black suit coat.
"Oi, what do you think you're doing?" Zoro asked with alarm, instinctively sliding his chair back a few inches.
The blonde man glared at him, unfastening the last button and removing the coat. Yet even in the dim light, the dark stain on the front of his pale blue shirt was obvious.
Unable to help himself, Zoro let out a mirthful laugh.
"Yeah, a shitty nosebleed," Sanji muttered, throwing the jacket at a nearby chair angrily. "A shitty damn nosebleed."
"A naked woman was just too much to handle, huh?" Zoro asked, still chuckling mercilessly.
"That's not the worst of it," the blonde man slumped in his chair and buried his face in his hands. "She hadn't even taken off a single piece of clothing yet."
"So she didn't want to have a one-night stand with a pervert," Zoro surmised.
"Don't call it a 'one-night stand!'" he said with a glare. "To call spending an evening with a gorgeous woman something so vulgar... It was going to be something far more beautiful than that."
Zoro snorted. "If it's one night and you're not going to see her again, it's a one-night stand, no matter how beautiful you try to make it seem," he said, putting a sarcastic emphasis on the word.
"Oh, but you don't understand how beautiful it would have been!" Sanji burst out, missing the swordman's point. "What a beauty she was… Long, flowing hair, golden like saffron. Porcelain skin. A body that men would surely give their lives for, just to touch for the briefest of moments…"
"You'll die of blood loss if you keep this up," Zoro interrupted flatly.
He opened his mouth to retort, but an uncertain feeling came over him. He reached up to his nose. A surprised expression crossed his face, followed by an angry scowl. "Dammit!" he cursed, jumping out of his seat to grab a tissue; it was another bloody nose.
Zoro let out a low chuckle. However, when Sanji returned to his seat, his demeanor had shifted to downright melancholy.
"This might be it for me," he said heavily.
"Don't be so dramatic."
The blonde man looked down at the ground, his eyes enshrouded in darkness. "That shitty island ruined me. I thought it would get better as time passed, but it's already been so long."
Zoro raised an eyebrow. Sanji rarely alluded to his time on Momoiro Island anymore, now that his erratic behavior had mostly returned to normal. Indeed, these days, even Nami only elicited the cook's typical starry-eyed expression and fluttery language. That he was admitting he was still struggling with the trauma caused from his time there meant he was in a far worse state than Zoro first assessed.
With a heavy sigh, Zoro downed the last sip of his drink and set his empty glass on the table. "It's only been a few months. That's hardly long."
"Ah, maybe you're right. It's just been so long for me now, I can't really take it." His tone made it apparent that the words "so long" were not referring to the time he had been off the newkama island.
"Oi, that's a little bit more than I wanted to know," Zoro smirked, refilling his glass. He topped off Sanji's while he was at it.
"Well it's the damn truth!" Sanji shouted at him, snatching the glass and taking a long sip.
Zoro looked up at the ceiling thoughtfully. "Couldn't you just try to go after uglier women?"
"Tch, that's so hard," Sanji shook his head, rubbing his temples again. "Every woman has something beautiful about her, no matter how unattractive she may be as a whole."
The green-haired pirate narrowed his eye at him. "Is that really all it might take?"
He hung his head in his hands. "I don't know. Probably," he said with exasperation.
"Then what about men?"
"NO!" Sanji shouted, recoiling from the suggestion, a look of horror on his face. "I was constantly chased by men for two solid years! I would never even think about it… Absolutely not!"
Zoro shook his head. "Not those men. Men who aren't trying to be like women."
"How does that make any difference?" Sanji glared at him, his mortified expression turned hostile.
"You can't get with a woman because you act like a damned idiot around them. You can't stand newkama because they're trying to look and act just like the women driving you crazy. Doesn't leave a whole lot of other options, really," Zoro answered seriously, in a surprising moment of insight.
Sanji returned to resting his head on his hands, covering his eyes. "If you're just going to tease me, then fuck off. I don't know why I thought it would do me any good talking about a serious problem with you," Sanji sighed.
"It was a serious question, though."
"There's no way 'what about men?' is a serious question!" he barked, jumping up from his seat in outrage.
The swordsman shrugged and leaned back in his seat, once again resting his arms behind his head. "If women are too exciting, it just seemed like the only other option."
"It's not an option," Sanji said adamantly.
Zoro shrugged again, leaned forward to down the remaining contents of his glass, and rose to his feet. "Then take care of it yourself and quit complaining."