Subtle Lesson

by: a psycho chibi named Wendy

Disclaimer: I do not own a thing except a slightly dented imagination.

Warnings: Language, shounen-ai-ish, AU, ONESHOT

Pairing: just barely Zoro x Sanji

Summary: Something's bugging Zoro, and Sanji has been watching for a while.

Enjoy~

fjfjfjfj

"What's with him...?"

"I dunno, but he's bumming me out. Imma punch him if he keeps looking like that."

"Luffy, that's hardly the best way to deal with this."

"He looks sad... Should we do something?"

"Imma punch him."

"Luffy!"

Rolling his eyes, Sanji tried his best to ignore the crowd trying to peek through his kitchen's swinging doors at the lone occupant of the livingroom. He continued to carefully stir the sauce recipe he was tinkering with, but it was getting difficult to focus. The combined sounds of Usopp's mouth breathing, Chopper's jittering, and Luffy's general dumbassness were rubbing his last nerve the wrong way.

He knew what he was getting into when he agreed to share a large apartment with them. He knew the random chaos that followed their group like bad juju. What he took for granted was their ability to be fuckin nosey as hell.

The recent shift in attention started a few days ago, but really Sanji was certain it was something much older than that. Once a year, like clockwork, the other occupant of their shared living space, one Zoro Roronoa, would fall into a pensive blue funk. The green haired, muscled bound idiot usually grated Sanji like nothing else in the world. They fought like cats and dogs, and tried to be as indifferent as possible. Seemingly their mutual friends were the only reasons they bothered to occupy the same room, let alone an apartment.

However.. That same time every year, Sanji was forced to sit back and watch the shadow of Zoro roam the halls. His very presence put off anyone from seeing what was wrong. Which led to the totem pole of idiots trying to spy through the kitchen door.

"That's it. Time to punch him."

"Luffy! Stop it! Zoro will kill all of us!" Usopp hissed, already quaking in fear.

Chopper looked sad and worried, so the young med student looked helplessly towards Sanji with those big brown eyes. "Sanji... What should we do?"

Unable to ignore that lost innocent voice, Sanji let out a defeated sigh and turned off the stove. He faced Chopper and placed his hand on the shaggy mop of brown hair atop his head. "I think the best thing to do is leave him be. I'm pretty sure it's something personal, so best to let him get it out of his system."

The young man bit his lower lip and fidgeted. "Are you.. Sure..?"

Sanji smiled at the concern and nodded. "I'm sure. I think you and the others should go out for something fun. I'll make some onigiri for the moss head. That should make his mood a bit better, right?"

That seemed to do the trick. "He does like it when you cook Japanese food..." Chopper glanced around quickly before leaning in to whisper into Sanji's ear. "Don't tell him I said this.. But one of the reasons he moved in was because you were in charge of all the cooking."

The cook seemed genuinely surprised by that, but was soon smirking. "That's interesting... Thanks, Chopper. Now go on. Get those two outta here before they break something."

Sanji stood back and watched the young doctor to be work his cute magic on the others. Soon enough Sanji was alone in the apartment with the brooding wall of moss occupying the livingroom couch.

Sanji stood at the doorway and watched Zoro for a moment. He was posed with one elbow on the armrest of the couch, chin propped on his fist. Staring out the window with a far away glaze to him. It was actually sort of depressing to look at. Sanji could only guess at the cause, but he was certain what would snap him out of it.

Slowly he crossed the livingroom and stood behind the couch. Not bothering to move with his usual silence that unnerved most people. He took a moment to wait and see if Zoro would take notice. When nothing happened he moved closer, this time taking heavier steps. Finally he leaned on his elbows against the back of the couch close enough to feel Zoro's body heat.

Still nothing.

Deciding to go for broke, Sanji leaned in even closer. Lips barely an inch from the pierced ear.

Zoro took a deep breath and Sanji held his…

Zoro let out a heavy sigh….

Nothing.

A bland stare formed on Sanji's face. 'Seriously..?' But he eventually shrugged. 'Might as well.'

"Gyahh!"

Bolting from the couch, Zoro spun around clutching at his left ear. "What the fuck was that?!" he demanded as he stared at the blond still leaning against the back of the couch.

A slow smile curled Sanji's lips. "Me tongue fucking your ear."

Zoro's jaw dropped. Not only at the words, but the blunt and casual way it was said. "Why the fuck would you do that?!" he demanded as he tried to scrub the moistness out of his ear.

The cook's shoulders tilted in a careless shrug. "See if you were still alive. Congrats, you are."

At first Zoro seemed to be thrown off kilter, but like a switch he was livid. He stomped back up to the couch, it being the only thing separating the cook from a fist full of pain. "You're fuckin past pushing it, blondie!" he practically snarled.

"Well, it was either that or let Luffy punch you. Luffy hits hard, if you don't recall." Sanji pointed out lightly, not the least bit intimidated.

When Sanji didn't rise to their normal fight, Zoro was even more confused. "Luffy..?" He looked around the livingroom, but saw no one else. It was dead silent within the apartment. ".. Where is he..?"

"He's gone. I had Chopper take him and Usopp out before they did something stupid like try to nag you into telling them what's up with you."

"What's up with me...?" Zoro repeated slowly. "What are you talking about?"

Blue eyes rolled sarcastically before Sanji stood. "Look, you can keep whatever secret it is to yourself. It's not any of my business, but whatever it is seems to seriously be messing with your head. You've been brooding around the place for the past three days. You're making the others uneasy and worried."

Slowly the information settled and Zoro eased out of his rigid posture. "... Oh.."

"Yes, Oh." Sanji replied dryly. He folded his arms over his chest and gave a knowing look. "I know you get through these stints with some time, but they've been getting increasingly longer."

That had Zoro looking back at the pale face, his brow creased in an uncertain frown. "You've... been watching me."

It wasn't a question. It didn't need to be.

"Not that you ever noticed." the blonde countered. "I could be in the same room, and you'd breeze by completely oblivious. I've even tossed stuff at your head, but it'd bounce off and you'd do that slow blinking thing." Sanji described. It still unnerved him when he thought to the few times he couldn't pull Zoro out of his thoughts. It was like Zoro wasn't even there.

A doubtful look fell over Zoro's face, but he didn't argue. He knew he was off. He was more than aware of the reason. His gaze shifted away from the blond and towards the front door. ".. Maybe I should leave the apartment then..."

"That's only inviting the others to hound you to death."

That pulled Zoro's gaze to the blond, shifting into a glare. "Like you're doing now?" he grunted.

Blue eyes blinked before the visible one twitched hard. Sanji's expression grew annoyed as he stiffly turned from the idiot. "Fine. Do whatever the fuck you want. I clearly don't give a shit." he stated flatly before heading back into the kitchen.

Zoro watched the cook disappear behind the door with a frown. '… I just messed that up…' Though it wasn't all that conventional, Sanji had been trying to help. Their volatile relationship always kept them at arm's length… Or leg's length in Sanji's case. Zoro hadn't really been ready for that attempt at communicating. Though that wasn't an excuse.

It was unexpected, but he knew Sanji wouldn't have tried like that for the sake of some joke or bitter rivalry. Though worded strangely, Sanji had tried to show concern. 'And I threw it back in his face...'

However an apology wasn't likely. Zoro didn't apologize. Just wasn't done. Instead he settled back down on the couch to mull it over. His thoughts didn't linger on the moment for very long as his attention slowly faded out. This time he didn't even notice it when he slipped back into that daze. Eyes glazed as he stared out into space. His mind in a different place. A different time. Chasing after someone who he had once thought would always be there to be chased...

A loud clatter made him jolt again. Clutching at his chest as his heart rocketed, Zoro's attention shot to the metal platter on the table. On it were several onigiri, some toppled over from where the platter had landed. His amber eyes blink in confusion before he saw a pale hand placing a bowl of some kind of sauce next to the platter. His green head lifted up to the blond that was pointedly looking away from him.

".. What's this..?" he asked, internally wincing at the stupid question.

"It's food. Eat." Sanji stated flatly. He then headed back for the kitchen without another word.

No sarcasm...

No insults...

'Shit.. I've seriously pissed him off...'

However it was strange to think that considering food had been made for him. His favorite food at that. He looked to the onigiri, feeling a bit conflicted. Had it been anyone else, Zoro would have been convinced that it was poisoned. That was the one thing Zoro knew Sanji would never do.

He took up one of the rice balls and wondered what the filling was. Sometimes Sanji got really creative with what he chose. Zoro normally enjoyed a silent game of trying to guess before he ate. With the mood Sanji was probably in, Zoro figured it was something spicy. Parting his lips, Zoro bit in to it.

Immediately Zoro felt like it mouth was burning. 'Shit shit shit!' It was the jalapeno pork that Sanji had made the night before. His eyes shot to the table as they were watering.

He now knew what his punishment was.

Sanji hadn't brought him a drink.

He was getting uncomfortable quickly as he chewed and swallowed. His throat was burning with his tongue and lips as his face flushed brightly. 'Fuckin hell he is mad at me…'

His eyes flickered to the sauce in the bowl. Wondering if it was a trap, Zoro hesitantly dipped the remainder of what was in his hand in the sauce. Taking a cautious bite, Zoro blinked in alarm when he found it was cool and sweet with a hint of salt. It tasted almost like caramel, and tempered the spice. And it tasted damn good.

Punishment with a reprieve as long as Zoro tried what was placed in front of him. It was a lesson that Zoro could appreciate the subtlety of. He sat there quietly as he ate. Mulling over the situation he was in now rather than brooding. He knew he should show more appreciation for Sanji's efforts. Perhaps now was that opportunity.

Back in the kitchen, Sanji had to resist the urge to check on how his new sauce went over with Zoro. He stubbornly stayed put. Cleaning up his mess, though there really wasn't much of one. Sanji was always meticulous with his kitchen. Cleaning as he went so there wouldn't be a pile of dishes waiting for him after putting in a lot of hard work. Getting the others to do dishes was like trying to force feed Usopp mushrooms. Impossible and aneurysm inducing. Sometimes it frustrated him that no one would help him when he did the majority of the work. 'Can't have everything, Sanji..' He thought to himself as he buckled down to finish up.

He was so focused on trying to scrub the last of the sticky sauce out of the glass pot that he didn't hear the kitchen door swing open.

Zoro stepped in and quietly placed the tray and bowl on the counter. He watched Sanji work for a moment. Seeing the determined set of his jaw as he focused on his task. It was something Zoro had admired about the blond. That determination towards any task, no matter how mundane.

Taking a moment to consider his next move, he finally stepped closer. Slowly, he moved behind the cook and let his arms wrap around the narrow waist. He immediately felt the thin body tense, but he still held on. Letting his chin rest on Sanji's shoulder. "… Thanks." he mumbled next to Sanji's pale ear.

Standing completely stiff, Sanji had been about to demand what the idiot thought he was doing, but that simple word had him pausing. He looked over his shoulder at the face that was staring ahead calmly. "… S'okay." He placed the pot in the dish water and looked to the arms around his waist. ".. Ever going to talk about it?" he eventually asked on a quieter tone.

"No." Zoro closed his eyes and sighed. "Not yet… But.. Give me time."

His expression softened as he placed his hands over the strong arms holding him. "Okay." Sanji whispered.

"Need help?"

A slow smile twitched over Sanji's lips.

"Sure."

fjfjfjThe Endfjfjfj

All it takes is the simplest gesture.

Later~