Bonus Chapter: As True As Steel

Zoro's side of the story

"Then what about men?"

Although it had been a serious suggestion, the look of pure mortification on Sanji's face left Zoro feeling unreasonably satisfied.

The whole conversation had been quite pleasing, really. It had been a long time since the swordsman had been able to best him so completely and one-sidedly. Sanji's insults had barely fazed him, but each comment Zoro made seemed to shake the cook to his very core.

Yet, while his phrasing may have been chosen to achieve the most entertaining response, it was a genuine suggestion. As much as Zoro disliked having to justify himself, he attempted to explain his reasoning to the sputtering cook as best he could. "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 contemplated continuing his explanation. There were many things about doing it with a man that made it less complicated than a woman, particularly when there was no expectation of it becoming anything more. It was easier to deal with the temperament of a man—at least, the swordsman though so. Sexual urges tended to coincide more frequently among two men, as well.

Yet as Sanji hung his head in his hands, somehow managing to look both exhausted and defeated, Zoro closed his mouth. Clearly, it was not information Sanji needed—or particularly wanted—to hear.

And so, they bickered for a few more moments. Then Zoro grew weary of trying to give Sanji any advice that might help him in his predicament, and he shrugged and finished his drink.

"Then take care of it yourself and quit complaining," he told him with finality, making his exit speedily enough so the cook did not have any opportunity to respond.

Zoro actually felt more annoyed than he had anticipated, which increased his agitation even more. Of course he knew Sanji would have that kind of reaction-in fact, he had been looking forward to it-but somehow, the conversation left him with a feeling he was not in any mood to deal with... a yearning, even.

It felt as though Sanji's itch had somehow rubbed off on him.

"Looks like being around that damn ero-cook is starting to turn me ero," Zoro muttered under his breath.

With growing impatience, he climbed the ladder up to the Crow's Nest. Sleeplessness was usually not a word in Zoro's vocabulary, but the restless feeling within him was clearly going to be difficult to overcome.

The swordsman knew his body well. Sure enough, sleep did not come, and after some time, he decided to go out for some cool night air. As an afterthought, he swapped his slightly clingier shirt for a loose-fitting shirt made out of an airier material, which he thought would be more comfortable to sleep in, in the event he fell asleep somewhere on the deck of the ship.

Yet he was only on the deck for a short while when he heard someone stirring. Rapid clicks of shoes, belonging to a person with a noticeably irritated, fast-paced gait drew nearer. Recognizing them instantly, Zoro smirked in anticipation.

Slipping into the shadows, he waited for a moment until Sanji stormed into view. The blond pirate had a bent up cigarette clamped between his teeth and clenched his fists with resolve as he rushed past the swordsman, not even noticing his presence. His stormy gaze was fixed on the place where Zoro had just left: the Crow's Nest.

With a mirthful smirk, Zoro followed him as silently as he could muster. When he saw the blonde man was near the top, he began his ascent up the ladder. He could barely suppress a snicker when he heard a low, angry voice call out, "I'm coming in!" before Sanji disappeared inside.

Zoro reached the top and, without trying very hard at all to conceal himself, pulled himself up so he was standing just behind Sanji.

The cook was looking from side to side, a finger pressed against his mouth, with a hopelessly baffled expression. It was as though he just could not comprehend why the swordsman was not there.

Zoro leaned forward until he was mere inches from his ear. Still, Sanji did not notice.

"Looking for me?"

The speed at which the cook spun around was amusing; Zoro was already entertained with how the other man had temporary lost the ability to try to keep his cool.

"What do you want?" Zoro asked, a bit more seriously. He thought it was a fair question.

It led to a rather annoying conversation that he would have rather not bothered with. Yet when Sanji brought up his suggestion again—the one about trying men—Zoro was not quite certain what the emotion was that he felt inside of him. It was barely discernible, but undoubtedly, something felt slightly off.

As they traded blows, it became more apparent: he felt like his strikes missed something crucial. Fortunately, Sanji was worse off than him, so he doubted the blonde man even noticed the difference.

He closed his eye for a moment, imagining that still, tranquil place he often went to in order to find his inner strength. He felt like someone had dropped a grain of sand inside a vast lake, and though the disturbance could not be seen by the naked eye, undoubtedly, there was something unseen yet unmistakable now churning below the surface.

He opened his eye again, meeting Sanji's challenging gaze. As he stared at the other man, panting slightly from the effort of his assault, glaring at him darkly with gritted teeth, blond hair intermittently falling over both eyes, rather than just the one, he identified the source of the feeling. It was want.

Zoro seldom found that kind of want, that hard-to-ignore craving, in his repertoire of emotions, but now that it was there, it could not be ignored.

As the cook struck, he sheathed his swords and grabbed Sanji's calf in such an effortless motion that Sanji cried out in surprise.

Pulling himself close, he asked the slack-jawed cook, "is the thought of this happening bothering you?"

Sanji tried to break free, but when it came to brute strength, Zoro would not be bested. He gripped the other man's arms tightly, leaned forward, and started nipping his neck.

The noise that came out of Sanji's mouth was both startling and satisfying. For all of the stupid sounds the cook made in the presence of women, he had never heard anything quite like this.

Zoro felt oddly pleased when Sanji began to respond, pressing their bodies tightly together-it was hard to miss that certain telltale sign grinding into his hip, telling him that Sanji was enjoying it. He could tell from the atmosphere that the cook was only seconds away from panicking, though, so he preemptively backed away.

Zoro definitely had the upper hand during all of their interactions today… and he had no intention of letting Sanji forget it. With a smirk and a shift of his eye, he let him know he felt it. He was also satisfied to see that he had been right about one other thing.

"Your nose isn't bleeding."

Once again, a perplexed, confused look crossed his face, like Sanji had temporarily forgotten his angry facade. Zoro felt a stir within himself as well, making the want, the need, grow stronger. Though not a strength Zoro wanted, now that he felt it, it was not a feeling he wished to ignore.

"I'm surprised just that little bit could get you so turned on, though," he commented, hoping to get a rise out of the cook; he was successful.

Gradually he started to approach Sanji, bringing himself closer and closer, enjoying the increasingly perplexed look on Sanji's face. Sweat began to drip from the cook's brow.

Yet, as much pleasure as he got out of Sanji's failure to keep the upper-hand in the situation, he felt a moment of hesitation as he readied himself to make a move he could not take back. Fighting back the more primal urge threatening to overtake him, he reached out his hand, and tentatively grabbed Sanji's, lacing their fingers together.

Sanji's brow twitched slightly in a gesture of surprise. He tried to pull away, and spit out a few insults, but Zoro gripped tighter, not wanting to let go until he could figure something out.

"There's less complication when it's just with men," Zoro felt the words fall out of his mouth before he had a chance to reconsider them. His tone was calm and even, but inwardly, his mind reeled as he chastised himself for whatever he was about to say.

What the hell am I trying to do? Explain the reason to do it?

Dozens of thoughts rolled around in his mind, most of them related to the reason he held such an opinion. His life revolved around his goal to be the strongest swordsman. There had never been any reason to pursue an actual relationship with anyone. He had not necessarily ever pushed away a willing woman, but he had often questioned if sex was worth the messy, emotional aftermath.

Zoro figured out very quickly that with women, it was necessary to quash any expectation they may have had from the onset. Even then, those women still asked for more than he was ever willing to give. Admittedly, that wasn't much, but he felt like even if he had given them something, they would have wanted more.

Even when he worked as a bounty hunter before joining the Strawhat crew, Zoro never stayed in one location for very long… Yet he could recall all too many occasions when he had heard pleading words from a woman's mouth, begging him to stay just a little while longer. Another day. Another month. Another lifetime. He could not figure out what it was about him that made them want him to stick around, but he had no reason to stay. He had a goal to pursue and it didn't involve them.

Just when he had reached that breaking point, where he was about to swear off any kind of physical intimacy because it seemed too troublesome, a single encounter changed his entire outlook on sex. One day, while alone with a certain man, that man approached Zoro with a strangely covetous look in his eyes. Before Zoro had time to consider any consequences, he found himself in the middle of the most aggressive, passionate sex he had ever experienced.

Afterwards, there was some residual soreness, and a few minor bite-marks and abrasions; but emotionally, there were no consequences. That man, who Zoro had seen numerous times before and after they came together, never asked for anything more from him. He didn't try to alter their relationship or become closer to the swordsman; in fact, he did not even act like anything unusual had happened the moment he and Zoro had torn their bodies away from one another.

They simply shared a mutual need, and once it was met, they parted. The swordsman was left with nothing more than an interesting memory and a refreshed outlook. Even in recalling it, Zoro realized that who that man was did not really matter to him—he just the symbolized the start of a change. After that encounter, he had similar experiences with other men; it was an ideal result that he was just never able to achieve after being with a woman.

However, Zoro was not about to reveal any of these things to Sanji. He did not care to discuss the past, and his reasons were his own, so there was no reason to push them on the other man. And, besides, he did not really care to arm a stupid ero-cook with that kind of ammunition against him.

"...and it's been awhile for me too," Zoro finished, the only additional explanation he was willing to offer.

He let go of Sanji's arm and stepped back slightly. The range of emotions flickering across Sanji's face were enough of an answer, though. The cook was reeling; it was pointless to say or do anything further.

Trying to ignore the slight twinge of disappointment in his chest, he moved his hand to his sword. "Alright. We can just fight until you're satisfied, then."

Parrying Sanji's blows was simple; the cook visibly began to seethe, growing infinitely more furious. Unfortunately, this fury made him sloppy instead of stronger. The swordsman felt a vague sense of disappointment; he could use a fiery fight to take the edge off of the anxiousness growing in the pit of his stomach.

Suddenly, Zoro felt himself pinned against the wall. "Who the hell isn't admitting what they want to do now?" Sanji's angry words sounded almost deafening in his ears.

Zoro was not sure if it was the temperature suddenly changing outside (likely the result of entering the climate of the next island) or just the heaviness of the cook's gaze, but the air felt inexplicably stifling.

It's not the weather, Zoro decided, as he found himself locked in a gaze with the cook that he could not turn away from. He consciously relaxed his expression, but inside of him, the tension was building, knotting and folding, until there was nothing left but that feeling; that carnal urge that he could not ignore.

After several moments of motionless, Sanji shifted his stance just slightly, moving himself fractionally closer to the swordsman.

And frankly, that was all Zoro needed to galvanize him. The noisy clanging sound that echoed through the Crow's Nest told him that he had undoubtedly discarded his sword, but he was too busy focusing on his mouth, pressed firmly against the other man's.

With satisfaction, he felt a slight jolt of surprise in Sanji's body; he had, once again, managed to startle the cook. But after a moment, the blonde man relaxed and began to respond with a need easily matching his own. Zoro noted that the hesitation in his movements had disappeared, as well.

I hope that damn ero-cook realizes I'm past the point where I can stop myself now.

He chose to keep this thought to himself, however; even if Sanji had a problem with it, Zoro was hardly going to let him change his mind now anyway.

One month later

Too quiet lately, Zoro thought with a heavy sigh as he settled into the steamy bathwater.

After the unusually difficult strength exercises he had been doing over the last few days, the warm water felt soothing on his crying muscles. But really, muscle strain was not the nuisance Zoro felt he most needed to alleviate.

As he felt his body start to relax, he closed his eyes and let his mind wander. The crew's last few stops at islands had been fairly uneventful; Zoro was itching for a good fight, but the tiny skirmishes he had been involved in were hardly notable.

So damn unsatisfying, he thought, his brow twitching in irritation.

The swordsman loathed internalizing his feelings and needs; he wanted to recognize it so he could either do something to fix it or ignore it if there was nothing to be done. But this time, Zoro could not even isolate the greatest annoyance swimming around inside his easily overworked mind. All he felt like was he needed a challenge… something, anything to make him feel like he had discarded even an ounce of all of the tension coiled inside of his body.

Maybe there was nothing to be done, but ignoring it was not an option. Fighting was the easy solution, but it had to be a really all-consuming, fervid battle for it to do the trick. Unless they were randomly attacked by a particularly strong pirate crew out in the open water, or he got one of his own equally powerful crewmates to engage him, it was not going to happen.

Tch, last time I did that, I nearly died for a different reason, Zoro realized, unconsciously rubbing a spot on the back of his head where Nami had violently struck him multiple times when he and Luffy had gotten into a bit-too-rough of a sparring match aboard the ship.

Besides, there were only a few of his crewmates who could truly fight on par with him. Luffy was the best choice, but there was also that stupid dartboard-brow.

Zoro's thoughts languidly drifted in another direction.

If it's the dartboard-brow, maybe we could do that again, Zoro thought, the image of the tall, lean body straddling him, dripping in sweat, entered his mind. The look on the blonde man's face, like nothing in the world mattered at that moment but their desperate battle to climax… At the mere thought, Zoro felt a wave of arousal course through his body.

It seemed like ages ago since it had happened, though. For a day or two afterward, Sanji had seemed a bit uneasy around him, but as Zoro continued to treat him with the same amount of hostility and antagonism that he always had, the cook fell back into old habits. After that, everything had been perfectly normal.

With a heavy sigh, Zoro concluded that it was probably better not to make a habit of it. Sanji wasn't a woman, but he was an idiot, so he had no idea what kind of ridiculous notion the cook might get in his head if they did it again. And again, and again, he mused.

Still, some kind of erotic distraction would have been a nice way to rid the tension.

Clearly, he was making no progress in his mind. After some time, the combination of his weary muscles and the warm bathwater began to make him drowsy, and eventually he drifted into a confused, dreamy sleep.

His dream was filled with blonde hair and the smell of cigarette smoke. Strong legs coiled around him, and as they vigorously careened back and forth, their bodies were pulled so tightly together that the swordsman could not even tell who was entering whom. All the while, a low, sultry voice rumbled faint insults in his ear, increasing his excitement. Faster and faster they went, with each thrust seeming more exciting than the last.

Yet at some point, the voice in his ear began to seem a little too vivid. Slightly befuddled, Zoro lost focus on the rhythmic rocking as he struggled to listen more closely to what was being said to him.

"I said, what kind of idiot falls asleep in the bath?" The voice murmured in his ear again, so close that Zoro could feel hot breath. For a moment, the swordsman hung between the state of dreaming and consciousness, but the slightly more pungent smell of smoke fully brought him back to reality.

His eye snapped open, and with a start, he saw that Sanji was sitting next to him in the bath, leaning close, his lips nearly touching his ear.

"Eh, it's a shame you didn't pass out and die," Sanji continued, a smirk that reeked of superiority plastered on face. He took a quick puff from his cigarette as he scooted a short distance away from Zoro.

He's still a bit close, Zoro thought hazily. But, groggy or not, he was not about to allow the arrogant cook to make one-sided insults. "Tch, how about what kind of dumbass smokes in the bath?"

"If you can nap in here, I can smoke."

"I'd say that's one of the stupidest things I've ever heard you say, but that's probably not true. You say a lot of stupid things," Zoro replied. "Why the hell are you in here, anyway?"

The mischievous grin on Sanji's face told Zoro that he was probably about to hear something that would piss him off.

"At first, when I saw a stupid marimo was already in here, I was going to leave," Sanji explained, a bit too smugly. "But then I heard it… And, well, how could I not respond to such a pathetic call?"

Zoro clenched his jaw. "What call? What the hell are you talking about?"

"It sounded something like, 'Mmmm, ahh, stupid ero-cook'," Sanji mimicked in an exaggeratedly low, raunchy voice.

"What the hell are you going on about?" Zoro growled, pulling himself into a more upright sitting position.

"'Ahh, right there, faster, faster'," Sanji continued in the same mocking voice.

"Oi, knock it off," Zoro said a bit more angrily, rising to his feet.

"That's what you were murmuring in your sleep." Sanji shrugged, taking another drag. "It was a little disgusting actually." The cook's eyes slowly meandered down the length of Zoro's glistening body.

Suddenly, Zoro realized two things, and he instantly felt a hot flush creep up the back of his neck. First, by standing in the water, his naked body was clearly visible to the cook; not something that, by itself, would have concerned himself too much. But the second thing was a bit more troublesome…

Maybe it was the remnant of the lustful dream, or maybe it was because he was seeing Sanji's naked body, sprawled out in the bathwater, for the first time in awhile; either way, it was impossible to miss that Zoro was aroused by something.

"See, you're still thinking about it," Sanji commented as Zoro abruptly sank back into the water.

Zoro scowled, trying with difficulty to avert his gaze from Sanji's body. "Why are you here, anyway? Last time we were in the bath together, you spent the whole time complaining about it."

An inordinately long pause followed. Finally, Sanji responded with a simple mutter… "Idiot marimo."

For some reason, the reply took Zoro somewhat by surprise. He looked over at the cook again, who was leaning back with his arms resting on the edge of the bath tub, his head tilted slightly upward as he held his slightly bent cigarette between two fingers by his mouth. His wet hair covered both of his eyes, so Zoro could not quite tell what kind of expression he was wearing, but he could feel the agitation that emanated from him.

What the hell is that all about? I'm the one who should be pissed off right now.

Finally, he concluded that he was in no mood to analyze whatever the hell had gotten up the cook's ass. If he was pissed off at something, it's not like it was his responsibility to figure it out and comfort him. The green-haired man turned around and started to stand so he could exit the bath.

"Zoro," Sanji said lowly.

Zoro stopped, feeling like the breath had caught in his throat. The simple pronunciation of his name—never mind that it was his actual name, not one of the assortment of insults that he was usually addressed by—was spoken with such a complex and profound sense of agitation, uncertainty and longing, that even he could not fail to miss it.

Hesitantly, Zoro sat back down and turned around. As he met Sanji's unreadable gaze, he momentarily felt the world had suddenly decided to turn in slow motion. For an excruciatingly long moment, the two men stared at each other, seemingly frozen in the confines of time.

And the one to break the confinement was Zoro. As though in utter opposition to the slowed time he had just felt, he moved with unnatural speed to close the gap between himself and the blonde man.

Then he was on top of Sanji, loosely straddling his lap; he paused briefly to take in his position. He firmly clutched the back of the cook's head with one hand, fingers intertwined with wet, blonde hair, while the other hand gripped Sanji's jaw so he could not turn away if he wanted to. Not that it was necessary—as they stared at each other, faces nearly touching, Sanji did not put up even the slightest bit of resistance. Zoro took a haggard breath as he noted just how gratifying the feeling of Sanji's slick skin pressed against his was.

Zoro bent forward and crushed their lips together, a rush of relief instantly surging through his body. He could already feel the other man's arousal, and he shifted the hand that had been gripping Sanji's jaw downward so that he could feel it in his own hand. There was no need to do anything extraneous or unnecessary; he knew all the right places to hit, because those pleasure centers were the same for him.

He only gripped it for a moment, but the moan that accompanied it made Zoro's spine tingle. The rapturous look on the other man's face was almost too much to take in.

The first time he and Sanji had sex, the tension he was feeling was troublesome at most; today, however, the aching need was the result of a vast accumulation of stress and frustration, and the amount was so great, the swordsman simply could not pause or hold back. He needed it so badly that he could not even think as he aggressively took in Sanji's body. It worked just fine that way, though; thoughts were unnecessary when he knew exactly what to do.

And it appeared Sanji knew as well. As much as Zoro often hated to admit it, the cook was a formidable foe. As Zoro touched his body with shameless desperation, Sanji responded in perfect sync with him.

Zoro pinned him back against the side of the bath, strong hands holding his body in place as he pressed his mouth against his slick chest. He was vaguely aware that Sanji seemed to have one arm trapped below the water, but the cook was not attempting to break from his grasp and Zoro was far too focused on more important things to care about the other man's comfort.

There was something strangely exciting about the cook's slender body. Perhaps it was because it felt so much different from his own body, which was ripped and coiled with so many layers of muscles and scar tissue that it was all he could feel. Yet Sanji's muscle tone was considerably slimmer than his. As he traced the faint outlines of them with his fingers and tongue, he could still make out his slim frame underneath.

Unconsciously, Zoro found himself tracing those places. His well-defined collarbone. The edges of his ribs. The line of his hips. As his tongue playfully explored the blonde man's body, his hand began to stray toward that organ that was desperately craving to be touched. As his fingers drew nearer to it, however, Sanji suddenly sprung into action to take the lead.

Now Zoro found himself pinned in place, his own back pressed against the side of the bath. Zoro looked up at Sanji, and the cook smiled at him, a sort of predatory smile that made his heart begin to beat into overdrive.

Then he felt something amazing. As he cried out, he could no longer stay focused on any of the little details around him. All he could feel was hands. Incredible hands.

Though he was intrigued by Sanji's body, it was those hands that held the most wonder for him. They were perfectly smooth, delicately soft like those of a woman, yet with a manly, vice-like grip accompanied by that knowledge of just where and how to make it feel best.

How the hell does a pirate have hands like that, anyway? All Zoro could surmise was that maybe it was the result of engaging in combat that never involved using his hands; whatever the reason, he certainly was not capable of thinking about it at that moment.

In fact, the most Zoro could reason was that he better not let the other man continue at this pace. He reached up and aggressively pulled Sanji's head down toward his to pull him into a desperate kiss.

Peculiarly, he reveled in that smoky, ashy flavor. The taste of cigarettes would have normally seemed distasteful to him, but the aroma of smoke was so permanently engrained in his image of the cook, it only seemed to strengthen his excitement. With a free hand, he reached around Sanji, feeling the fervent need to get him ready as soon as possible.

Sanji smiled slightly, his cheeks faintly tinged pink. "Ah, it's okay," he said, a bit hesitant. "I was already getting myself ready."

The green-haired man paused for the briefest moment to study him, one eyebrow raised. He recalled the hand strangely kept underneath the water when Zoro had been pinning him down. "I guess I should expect nothing less from an ero-cook."

Sanji glared at him; however, instead of making his comeback with words, the cook sharply grabbed Zoro's aching member and slid his body on top of it.

"Shit!" Zoro shouted, followed by a string of other loud syllables that did not quite form intelligible words. He was not expecting the other man to act so quickly.

His brain had officially turned off. Every word and movement was completely instinct- and sensation-drive.

But he knew he could not keep it up for long. After all, if he did that, Sanji would definitely get the upper hand, and he could not have that. Fortunately, Zoro probably knew the pleasurable spots on the other man's body even better than Sanji did himself. He knew how to hit every receptive place without a single wasted movement.

Clenching rough hands on Sanji's strong shoulders, he grinded his body against his with great intensity. Instead of the loud moan he was expecting, a nearly silent gasp escaped from the cook's throat, as though the sensation had knocked the wind out of him.

Zoro grinned. "I see you didn't argue about what position to get in today," he commented.

"I figured I should let you go first in case you couldn't get it up a second time," he replied, not missing a beat.

"Tch, you should probably be more worried about yourself than about me," Zoro said, fiercely grabbing Sanji by his cock, attempting to hide his excitement over the prospect of doing it multiple times.

Mercilessly, he pumped the engorgement as he simultaneously thrust in just the right position to elicit the maximum amount of pleasure from the cook. He knew all the spots that would drive him to the brink; they were the same spots he was itching to have hit, again and again, until all of his tension finally unwound.

Sanji panted heavily in his ear. Zoro stole a quick glance at his expression; even with his hair wet from the bath, he could tell there were newly forming drops of sweat beading down his forehead. His face was surprisingly flushed—probably the combination of the warm bathwater and their feverishly hot bodies.

A moan, a shout, and then a single word whispered in his ear.


It was a chilling, lustful pronunciation of his name that made the hair on the back of his neck stand up and his heart beat erratically. It also made him feel so close that he could hardly find his breath.

But he was not ready to give up yet. Using every last trace of willpower he could muster, he held himself back, crazily close to climax for what felt like an eternity. But just like when he somehow found the strength to keep his sword drawn when he was wounded so badly he should not have been able to stand, he somehow held on.

Really, Sanji looked like he was in far worse shape than he was. The blonde man's strained expression was utterly unreserved, and Zoro felt a strange sense of marvel that the irritable man could make such a face.

The expression became more strained, and suddenly Zoro felt fingernails roughly dig into his back. "Ahh, you idiot… sh-shitty… Zoro!" Sanji cried out, so loudly that the sound noisily echoed off of the hollow walls of the bathroom.

Dammit, stop saying my name like that, you stupid ero-cook, Zoro thought, but he was already over the edge. In fact, his mind was in such a blur from the sensation around him that he failed to notice that other man had already released his load onto him just before he reached the peak of his own climax.

Zoro's cry did not rival Sanji's in volume, but it left him feeling senseless for several seconds, as he leaned back against the side of the tub, unthinkingly clutching Sanji's body against his as he tried to put together a coherent thought in the sea of euphoria swimming around in his head.

"Dammit," Sanji muttered in Zoro's ear, his chin resting on the green-haired man's shoulder. "Can't believe you held on that long."

Zoro knew he should have probably retorted with a jab to rub in the defeat that Sanji was admitting to, albeit in a rather roundabout way, but he honestly could barely think at the moment, let alone form intelligible words.

He wasn't sure how long it took him to reach that point, either.

"Oi… I get that you need a second, but that doesn't mean that I'm going to sit here and spoon with you until you're ready," Sanji noted with artificial irritability.

Blinking, Zoro realized one arm was still clutching the cook's side tightly. "What, are you too weak to pull away yourself?" he muttered, pleased that the sentence formed the way he expected it to. He released his grip, half-shoving the cook away with a noisy splash.

The splash of the water made a certain thought come to mind. He was not particularly panicked about it, but the idea did make him feel the slightest twinge of worry in the pit of his stomach.

"Say, do you think anybody might've tried to come in just now?"

Sanji, now leaning back, shook his head negatively. "I locked the door."

Zoro nodded for a moment, but as he considered it, he suddenly sat upright and looked at the cook a bit incredulously. "Wait, why the hell did you do that?"

A complicated expression crossed Sanji's face, which told Zoro the other man had said a bit more than he intended.

"Well?" Zoro asked impatiently.

Sanji shrugged in defeat. "Ehh, I locked it when I overhead you mumbling about me."

Zoro narrowed his eye at him, but he was inwardly pleased that Sanji had decided to give in so easily. He wanted to badger him about it a little bit longer, but it had worked in his favor that Sanji had responded that way, so he decided that just once, he would let it go.

"We should probably get out of here now, though," Sanji continued. "It's unlikely anyone will come here, but if they do, they'll wonder why it's locked."

"You scream so loud, they've probably already figured it out anyway," Zoro commented.

"Liar, I'm sure I wasn't," Sanji denied. "Besides, you were pretty loud, too."

Zoro shook his head. "I wasn't even close to being as loud as you. You're too noisy for your own good."

Sanji glared at him, but before he could open his mouth again, his snappy retort was cut off.

"I'm getting out of here," Zoro announced, abruptly standing and trying to ignore the slightly unsteady feeling in his knees as he pulled himself out of the bath.

Wordlessly, Sanji followed, pausing for a moment to pull the lever that would drain the water.

"Oi, why are you doing that?"

Sanji looked at him incredulously. "I don't know about you, but I'd be pretty pissed off if I found out I'd been bathing in your sperm."

"But isn't that what you just di-"

"It's a different situation!" Sanji barked. "Anyway, I'll come back later and fill it."

"It may be a lot later," Zoro warned, reaching for a towel.

Sanji raised an eyebrow at him. "Oi, that sounds threatening."

Zoro grinned as he carelessly yanked a white shirt over his head. "Then maybe you should take it that way," he commented.

Sanji studied him for a moment, his eyes locked on the swordsman as he absent-mindedly patted his body dry. Drawn in by the intense yet unreadable gaze, before Zoro knew what he was doing, he had stepped up to the blonde haired man, yanked his still-naked body toward him, and pulled him into a fierce and unintentionally longing kiss.

Both men pulled away from each other panting. Zoro felt the same rush of arousal flood through his body that he had felt earlier, although this time it was a bit less desperate. Perhaps now, he could enjoy the attack a little bit more.

With an expression that was somewhere between a scowl and a smirk, Sanji nodded his head. "Alright, alright, I'll hurry," he muttered, flippantly waving his hand at the swordsman.

Sanji grabbed his clothes, but before he made any move to put even a single article on, he clumsily dug around in his pockets until he retrieved a half-crushed cigarette.

Zoro stared at him in disbelief.

Noticing the gaze, Sanji looked at him questioningly as he lit the cigarette. "What?"

"Idiot ero-cook, put your damn clothes on before you do that."

"You're the one who's rushing me, shitty swordsman," Sanji glared, pulling up his pants with obvious irritation.

Ah, that's more like it, Zoro thought. It was easier to deal with being insulted than hearing that captivating articulation of his name.

"That's because you're so damn slow, stupid dartboard-brow," Zoro responded.

"Just hold on a damn minute, you shitty marimo," Sanji grumbled, his cigarette dangling loosely from his lips. The green-haired man could not help but stare at those lips as he spoke.

Suddenly, a devilish grin spread over Zoro's face. As the cook turned his back to him to grab his shirt, Zoro leaned over until his lips were next to Sanji's ears. "I want you to hurry up and put those clothes on so I can take them off again... Sanji," he murmured, pronouncing the final word as nothing but an alluring, throaty whisper.

The shudder that followed was exactly what the swordsman was hoping for. A bit victoriously, Zoro turned on his heel and headed toward the door. To his amusement, he could hear Sanji frantically try to pull on his remaining clothes as he hurried to rush after him.