Follow the Leader

(15 Reasons to Fall in Love: Chapter 15)

Disclaimer: I do not own One Piece

A/N: This is the extended, M-rated version of chapter 15 in my fic '15 Reasons to Fall in Love'. This chapter may or may not make sense without the rest of the story, which I recommend reading first.

14. Zoro is always one step ahead.
They were supposed to stand on the same ground. They were supposed to be equals. But sometimes no matter how hard Sanji tried, he couldn't keep up with Zoro.

Sanji had to hand it to them; for once these marines were pretty smart. Of course luck was on their side as well. Had any of the others been on watch, the marines would have been spotted long before they'd pulled up alongside the Sunny and stealthily invaded the ship.

It really didn't put Sanji in a good mood to be woken by the heavy clump of unfamiliar boots on deck. He didn't like surprises (unless they came from a lady) and these kinds of surprises he especially didn't care for. Rising from his bunk along with Usopp, Franky and Brook (the captain and doctor slept soundly through almost anything) they exchanged sleepy glances for a moment before the sound that had roused them really registered.

Sanji was out of his bunk in a flash, giving Luffy a kick in the side as he passed by on his way to the door. Luffy grumbled irritably in his half awakened state and whined about the pain Sanji knew the rubber man didn't feel. Sanji left it up to the others to wake Chopper and fill the two in, opening the door a scant crack and peering out. Seeing no immediate threat, he silently slipped out onto the deck.

That was when Sanji had decided that whoever it was that was invading his ship had at least had a few shreds of common sense. The deck was black in the night, and Sanji was only just barely able to make out the shape of a larger ship rocking in the waves beside their own. It was smart of them, whoever they were, to extinguish all of their lights. Not that a fully lit ship wouldn't have gotten by the useless Marimo's watch anyway. From the large blackened figure, several smaller shapes came pouring out, invading their home. He watched the dark figures below tramp across the lawn deck and hoped they weren't damaging the grass.

Something tapped his shoulder with delicate fingers, too delicate to belong to anything other than a ladies hand. Sanji spun with adoration in his eyes, ready to woo the woman behind him off of her feet. Instead of a lady though, one of Robin's graceful hands brushed lightly against his shirt again. Now that it had his attention, it waved before pointing up. Sanji followed the direction in which it pointed, looking to the upper deck.

There Robin seemed to grow from the shadows above him. She smiled at him reassuringly; a message that she and the wonderful Nami-san were safe and aware of the situation, Sanji realized. Sanji waved to her again and she nodded once, melting back into the shadows and becoming invisible once more.

With the knowledge that his ladies were safe, Sanji moved to take care of the second order of business. Moving silently to avoid detection he moved to the foremast. Despite their number, the enemies weren't very observant and Sanji picked his way easily across the lawn deck. Once he'd made it safely there, he paused to light a cigarette, the flame of his lighter sparking the night with a flash of light. It caught some attention, but that didn't really matter anymore. He inhaled deeply, savoring the first drag of the day. He could feel the eyes of several marines on him. He knew they were marines now, he'd seen the familiar white uniform from the faint glow of his lighter.

Exhaling a cloud of smoke, Sanji paused before taking another deep breath. "Oi, Marimo!" He shouted as loudly as he could. "You shitty moss-brain! You're sleeping on watch again, aren't you?!" He called up to the crow's nest.

There was a beat of silence in which the marines were apparently too stunned by Sanji's brazen behavior to react. Finally a green-headed monster poked its head out from the crow's nest. Silhouetted against the stars, Sanji could hardly make out the swordsman's features, but he was sure the marimo was probably glaring at him.

"I was not," Zoro denied flatly.

"Bullshit!" Sanji growled. "How the hell do you explain all of this then?" He asked, gesturing at the men scattered around the deck.

It seemed the marine's had had enough of Sanji's blatant shouting at this point, seeing as one of them rushed forward with a roaring battle cry, intending to cleave Sanji in two with his cutlass. His form was sloppy though, he wasn't much of a swordsman. It was very probable that he'd joined the marines for money, as so many young soldiers often did. Sanji spared him a moment of pity before raising his leg and easily casting his attacker aside.

The one brave man's act seemed to spur the rest into action, and Sanji found himself surrounded at the base of the foremast, a variety of weapons pointed at him threateningly. Sanji took another drag of his cigarette, eyeing the enemies surrounding him. None of them looked particularly dangerous, and Sanji didn't feel particularly threatened. He felt more annoyed than anything, really. He was going to have to get up and make breakfast in a couple of hours, and the lack of sleep was going to put him in a terrible mood for the day.

There was a loud thump behind him. Sanji glanced back at the marimo, swords drawn and a feral smile on his face.

"Starting without me, Shit-cook?" The swordsman asked, eyeing the marines like a tiger eyes its prey.

Sanji stubbed out the remains of his cigarette. "You could have started earlier if you hadn't been asleep on watch, Marimo," He sighed.

"Hey, nothing bad happened so what's the problem?" Zoro shrugged.

Sanji wanted to point out that despite the fact that the crew and their ship were still unharmed, a hoard of invading marines was a bad thing. But he never got to make his argument, because at that moment the marines had decided that they'd had enough of waiting and made their attack.

"Hey Cook," Zoro called from behind him, easily fending off a couple of the marines with his swords.

"What?" Sanji snapped, kicking one of the men harder than he intended too. The poor guy would probably suffer quite a few broken ribs but Sanji probably hadn't killed him.

"I bet I can take down more than you," Zoro answered smugly, sending a couple of the marines flying.

It was a game they sometimes played, when the enemy was easy enough. Though even if it wasn't, they compared strengths in their stronger enemies to see who really got the better kill. It was part of their relationship even before they had a relationship. Sanji hated to lose to Zoro, he hated to be one-upped by the mossy bastard and he hated the smug grin Zoro wore every time he won.

"You're on, Shitty-marimo," Sanji gritted out. There was no way to refuse even if Sanji wanted to. With that their count began. Sanji kicked every marine in sight with lightning fast speed, spurred on by the hiss of sharp blades slicing through their targets behind him.

Having taken their time waking up, the rest of the crew emerged from their sleeping quarters. The marines had forgotten about them, focusing all of their firepower onto Sanji and Zoro. Luffy rubbed his eyes sleepily and watched the fray below him.

"Zoro and Sanji have got it; can I go back to bed now?" He whined.

Nami brought her fist down on his head. "Go help them, you idiot!" She shrieked.

Luffy grumbled in reply but followed her orders, launching himself into the fray.

"Franky, take the helm," She instructed. "We need to get out of here before they realize physical force isn't going to work and decide to sink us with cannon balls," She turned to the remaining four. "Usopp, Brook, you're on cannon ball watch. Chopper, you're on clean up," She pointed to the growing pile of unconscious bodies on the deck below them. "Toss those overboard. And Robin," She moved her pointing hand slightly up and to the left, pointing at a connecting line between the ships where still more marines were climbing over. "Get rid of that."

The Straw Hats moved to follow her orders. Luffy was the captain, but in most situations Nami was the boss. She kept her head in most emergency situations better than their crazy captain.

Sanji flipped on to his hands, kicking his legs into a wide circle that easily added another fifteen to his body count. Unfortunately the swordsman had a similar move, creating a tornado of blades that upped his count again. Sanji huffed in frustration. The stupid swordsman had an advantage with more weapons. Sanji only did have two legs after all. But Sanji knew he was faster than Zoro on any given day, if he really tried, and tried to make up his loss with some quick kicks to the group of enemies before him.

He heard his captain's frustrated shouts joining the noise of their fight. So the others were awake now, and the end of the fight would come sooner than later. Sanji worked a little faster, it was now or never on upping the body count and beating Zoro.

Pain blossomed through his shoulder and he backpedaled at the sudden pain. He pressed his hand to the affected area, pain sparking sharply again. Sanji pulled his hand away, finding it covered in blood.

"Not such a tough guy now, are you?" The marine in front of him hissed.

The marine in question held a sword out in front of him in a manner Zoro would have disapproved of. The man clearly had no real experience, skill, or talent for swordsmanship, so Sanji was surprised to see blood dripping from the tip of the blade. It took him another moment to realize the blood was his and that the shitty marine who could barely hold his sword the right way had stabbed him in the shoulder.

Sanji cursed under his breath and quickly sent the inexperienced but lucky marine flying. Sanji cursed himself repeatedly, taking down a couple more marines. He'd gotten careless, so focused on beating Zoro he didn't notice an oncoming attack from an idiot marine. Now his shoulder hurt with every move and it was slowing him down so that he definitely wasn't going to beat Zoro.

The number of marines had dwindled significantly once Luffy joined the fray. Most that hadn't been kicked, stabbed, or punched had wisely fled for fear of their lives. Only a few foolhardy men remained, and they were easily over powered. Nami and Franky steered them to safety while the others took care of any stragglers.

"That was fun," Luffy yawned. "Can I go to bed now?"

"Fifty-three," Zoro reported, sliding up next to Sanji. He wore a smug grin like he already knew the results would be in his favor. It pissed Sanji off to no end.

"Fifty-one," Sanji replied simply. He lit up a new cigarette and headed toward the galley. It was still too early for breakfast but he'd love to take his frustrations out on some bread dough or have at a slab of meat with the tenderizer.

"What was that cook?" Zoro called, a grin etched into his face. "Did I win?"

Zoro's hand fell on to Sanji's shoulder, intending to make the cook turn an admit defeat properly. Unfortunately the jarring impact of the brutish swordsman's stupidly strong hand sent a blindingly sharp stab of pain through Sanji's injured shoulder. Sanji hissed and spun, quickly freeing himself from the marimo's grip.

"That hurt, you bastard," Sanji growled.

Zoro looked at the cook in confusion for a moment before looking at his own hand. Sanji's reaction seemed to imply that his touch was poisonous or something. His hand did have something on it; something red, slightly sticky...blood. His hand had blood on it that wasn't his own. He looked up at Sanji in slight horror. Sure enough he cook was bleeding profusely, his usually pristine clothing was soaked through at the shoulder, and streaks of it ran down the front.

"You're hurt," Zoro stated. His voice was flat and emotionless, which Sanji knew was actually Zoro's way of showing concern.

"It's just a scratch," Sanji shrugged turning to make his way to the galley once again.

Unfortunately for Sanji, though Zoro's voice sounded flat and disinterested it was also low and loud, and had the tendency to carry.

"You're hurt Sanji?!" Chopper exclaimed, immediately racing over to inspect. Sanji sighed heavily and let his shoulders slump in defeat. There was no arguing against the doctor.

Sanji gave the reindeer an assuring smile as he waited for the medical examination to be done. "I can assure you I'm fine Chopper, it's just a scratch."

"It's not just a scratch!" Chopper protested, giving Sanji an irritated look. "You were stabbed! This is deep!" He ripped the fabric of Sanji's shirt, tearing the hole a little wider. "You need stitches! You're lucky it didn't get any tendons or you wouldn't be using this arm anytime soon."

Sanji winced at the sound of tearing fabric. The shirt was a goner anyway, he knew he'd never get all the blood out, but it didn't make him feel any better about the loss. Rather than watch Chopper poke and prod at the injury he decided to send a glare to the swordsman. It was, after all, Zoro's fault that Chopper had gotten his hands on him. If the moss-brain could have kept his mouth shut Sanji easily could have taken care of this himself. Sanji would remember this next time Zoro was trying to avoid Chopper's medical attention.

But his glare lost its malice when he caught the look on the swordsman's face. Worry was etched into ever furrowed lines on the swordsman's face. He wasn't even looking at Sanji, at least not directly; instead he was staring over Chopper's shoulder at the wound that probably looked much worse now that it had been fully exposed.

Chopper brushed against a particularly sensitive area and Sanji flinched, the pain drawing his attention away from the swordsman for a moment. When he looked back, Zoro's eyes were on him, but the look in them had changed. Instead of worry his eyes met Sanji's with a look of pure pity. That look stung worse than his shoulder.

"Come on Sanji," Chopper spoke, breaking Sanji from his thoughts. "Let's get this stitched up."

Sanji followed obediently. Not because he particularly enjoyed Chopper's medical treatments but because anywhere was better than here, where the swordsman was still giving him that look. That look reached right in an tugged at Sanji's innermost insecurities and doubts.

Since Sanji had met Zoro he'd seen him as a rival. He hated Zoro at the time, foolishly thinking of him as nothing more than a booze-stealing, moss-brained, muscle-head. Well...Sanji still thought of Zoro that way, but at least now he knew that there was more than meets the eye when it came to the marimo. But there was one thing Sanji could always admit, even when he'd hated Zoro; the swordsman was strong.

It wasn't many men that could fight on par with Sanji. Sanji had learned from the best, after all, and very few expected, or could hold out, against the cook's particular fighting style. So the first time Sanji had ever lost his temper with the marimo and lashed out, he'd been entirely surprised and secretly a little pleased to discover the swordsman could easily anticipate and block Sanji's attacks. It was thrilling, knowing he could fight with the swordsman using his full strength and hardly make a bruise on the other man. It was freeing and Sanji came to love the feeling fighting with Zoro gave him, even if the fight itself was fueled by hate.

The first time Zoro ever left a scratch on him, Sanji began having his doubts. It was barely a scratch, a nick to the skin of his thigh that barely bled. But it had been more than a lucky shot. Zoro had gotten the best of Sanji, and it wouldn't be the last time.

Sanji began to really take notice of Zoro's skill then. Zoro was supremely talented, and his hard work and dedication to his skill honed that talent down to raw deadly power that sent a slight shiver down even Sanji's spine. Zoro was strong and it was possible, though Sanji hated to admit it, that Zoro was even stronger than he was.

Sanji took notes when they fought every time after that, looking for a weakness Zoro had that he could exploit, looking for something he had that Zoro did not. The problem was that Zoro seemed to be doing something similar, and Zoro was a quick learner. Every time Sanji managed to find a way to take Zoro down, Zoro made a mental note and spent the time until their next fight mentally rehearsing all the ways to avoid or counter that move. It was exceedingly frustrating for Sanji, who then had to make up a new way of defeating Zoro.

Their track record for wins and losses against each other, if they'd kept such a thing, would probably be about equal. But Sanji couldn't help but feel as though he was losing.

Perhaps that was because it wasn't just the fights that Sanji felt like he was losing in. When it came to protecting their nakama, Zoro was always the first to throw his life on the line. Sanji was more than willing to do the same, but Zoro was always there first. And the marimo could never let Sanji take a turn, of course not. To Zoro, Sanji was someone who needed to be protected as well. Sanji was always pushed behind, left with the others while Zoro stood the tallest and the strongest.

Even their current relationship and everything in it was because of Zoro. Zoro had fallen in love first, kissed him first, and waited patiently for Sanji to catch up. Because Sanji was always one step behind Zoro, and it had always bothered him.

So the look of pity on Zoro's face was painfully insulting to Sanji. For Sanji it was like the swordsman had turned around to see that Sanji had tripped and fallen, and felt sorry for the poor man who couldn't keep up. Sanji wanted to kick that look off the Marimo's face, but doing so wouldn't change anything, and Sanji wouldn't feel any better in the long run.

Perhaps he should work harder, Sanji thought as Chopper led him into the sick bay. After all, Zoro trained for hours every day to constantly improve himself. Sanji wasn't exactly lax about staying fit and practicing, but with his duties as cook he didn't spend nearly as much time practicing or working out as Zoro did. Perhaps that was the difference? Maybe Sanji should work harder, but how would he have time to dote on the ladies if he were to do that?

His thoughts were interrupted by Chopper's abrupt stop. They were in the sick bay now, Sanji saw, and he made for the bed. He'd already learned that cooperating with Chopper got you out of the sick bay much faster than arguing with the doctor did. He sat on the bed waiting for Chopper to come over and worry over him some more.

But Chopper was still lingering by the door, which was very inconvenient for Sanji who wanted this over as soon as possible.

"Are you hurt too?" Chopper asked the still open door. Well, obviously there was someone on the other side of the door, but from where he sat Sanji couldn't see who it was.

The answering voice was a dead giveaway though. "No," There was a long pause in which Chopper gave the person on the other side of the door a suspicious look. Finally the voice that set Sanji's teeth on edge spoke up again. "Can I just come in?"

There was another pause, shorter this time though, before Chopper moved aside and allowed the door to swing open freely. "No fighting," The little reindeer warned.

"I won't," Zoro answered, stepping into the sick bay and meeting Sanji's gaze with his own. It was an exchange Sanji quickly broke, pulling out a fresh cigarette. He wouldn't be able to light it here, but he needed the feel of one between his lips to feel more grounded. He didn't know if he could handle sitting in a closed space with Zoro and receiving the look.

Chopper set to work properly cleaning out Sanji's wound and stitching it closed. It wasn't a pleasant process to watch, but Sanji watched the doctor work with a practiced and dedicated focus. Mostly because he could feel the marimo's gaze burning into him, and he had no desire to accidently catch his eye. So he watched Chopper's needle weave in and out of him with perfect precision.

"There," Chopper finally declared, snipping the remaining string from the last stitch and pulling out a wad of bandage. "Now we'll just bandage you up, and you can be on your way."

With the last of the bandages placed, Chopper declared them done and they both stood. Sanji was more than ready to flee the infirmary and make it to the safety of his kitchen. The feel of Zoro's eyes on him was making him itch in a way that couldn't be scratched away, and he wanted free from it.

"I need to talk to you," Zoro announced, seeming to sense Sanji's urge to flee. The marimo just couldn't cut him some slack could he?

Chopper looked warily between the two. "Uh, Sanji, I should mention that intense physical activity will pull your stitches, and I'll have to redo them so…" He trailed off, looking between them once again.

Zoro's expression softened the way it did only when he was speaking to Chopper. "We're not going to fight, Chopper," He assured the small reindeer. "It's just a talk, I promise."

Chopper hardly looked reassured, but seemed to decide that he couldn't stop the inevitable. With a simple nod he ducked out the door alone. "Don't break anything," He pleaded on last time before leaving.

There was a strained silence between the two men. Sanji wondered if Zoro was actually waiting for him to speak first, which would be stupid because Sanji wanted nothing more than to start on breakfast and to avoid the marimo entirely for the next few hours. So Sanji maintained the silence, looking everywhere that Zoro wasn't.

"Are you okay?" Zoro finally asked, breaking the silence.

"It's not that bad, Marimo," Sanji scoffed. He pulled the lighter from his pocket. Chopper would probably kill him for it later, but he desperately needed the nicotine.

"I'm not worried about your shoulder, Shit-cook," Zoro snorted, folding his arms over his chest and slouching down in the chair. "I'm asking what's wrong with you."

Sanji shook his head. "Well I just god stabbed in the shoulder, Marimo. It hurts just a little bit."

"It's not your pain either," Zoro scowled. His voice was gruffer with his frustration and Sanji knew he was pushing the other man's buttons. "I'm asking what's wrong with you that you let yourself get hurt in the first place."

Sanji frowned. Zoro always knew the exact wrong question to ask. It pissed Sanji off even more. Of course in his current mood Zoro could have pissed him off by scratching his head, but that was beside the point.

"Nothing's wrong, Marimo," He replied, his tone conveying a false coolness he didn't currently possess. "I just want to serve breakfast."

There was a long pause. Sanji would have assumed the conversation was over, but Zoro was still blocking the door. Apparently the marimo was willing to starve himself and the rest of the crew for the sake of making Sanji exceedingly uncomfortable.

"If nothing is wrong, why won't you look at me?" Zoro asked.

Sanji frowned. His behavior was too obvious if even the moss-brain picked up on it. Bracing himself, Sanji raised his eyes, daring to meet Zoro's.

Zoro had that look again. Worry mixed with pity, and it hurt even more than it had the first time.

"Don't look at me like that," Sanji growled.

Zoro's face changed to a look of confusion but his eyes didn't lose the look that haunted Sanji. "Like what?" Zoro asked.

"Like I'm weak," Sanji gritted out. He didn't want to fight with Zoro, he didn't want to do anything at the moment but get away. "Like you feel sorry for me; poor, weak Sanji who can't hold his own in a fight."

Now Zoro looked truly confused. "Cook, I don't think that way at all. I don't even know where you're getting this from."

Sanji seethed. His anger and frustrations boiled just beneath the surface, threatening to spill over. He could feel the emotions roll in his gut, an angry tidal wave begging to be released. He wasn't an idiot though, he knew better than to let his emotions get the better of him. He took a deep drag of his cigarette, letting the nicotine placate the wild emotions within.

"Sanji," Zoro spoke again. The use of his name almost made Sanji flinch but demanded his close attention; Zoro didn't use his name often. "I know you're not weak. You're strong, stronger than most men. That's why I'm worried; you didn't get hurt because those guys were better than you."

Zoro's eyes conveyed his sincerity. He really meant what he was saying. Sanji felt his anger drain away, slowly. It left him feeling drained and exhausted. Though, that could have been the lack of sleep. Maybe he was overthinking things. Maybe Zoro's concern was just concern. The pity easily could have been pity for the pain Sanji would feel from the stab wound, rather than pity for Sanji's weakness and inability to fight…Maybe Sanji was just projecting his inner thoughts onto Zoro's otherwise innocent actions.

"Yeah," Sanji mumbled, feeling slightly ashamed of his previous anger. "I know," He looked to Zoro. "I'm going to get started on breakfast now okay?"

Zoro seemed to be able to read the apology in Sanji's eyes and stepped aside. Sanji left the sick bay without another word and made his way to the galley. The galley was where he felt most comfortable and most capable of collecting his thoughts. It was certainly better than the stifling infirmary, and what Sanji needed to do now was use his head.

Sanji pulled out several ingredients for a breakfast of omelets for the crew. Omelets were popular with the crew because Sanji customized them to suit everyone's varied tastes. The only drawback was that making such a varied breakfast was usually time consuming and Sanji didn't usually feel like spending so much time on a large scale breakfast like that. Today however he had time to kill, Luffy had probably gone back to bed for at least another hour, and he could really use the prep time to think.

He let his mind wander. Forcing his thoughts rarely helped do anything more than further confuse him in these kinds of situations. It was best to let his mind wander on its own; it would take him exactly where he needed it to go anyway. Sure enough, once the onions for Nami's omelet had been chopped and he'd tossed them in a pan to caramelize, his mind wandered straight to the problem he currently needed to think about: Zoro.

Now that he was away from the marimo and going through the comforting motions of his chosen profession, he was willing to admit the blame in this situation really lay with him, not the marimo. Zoro wasn't the kind of person that worked hard to impress anyone or show off. He was doing it for a promise and his dream. No, Zoro definitely didn't behave the way he did simply for the purpose of leaving Sanji behind.

That was the root of this problem, Sanji decided. Once he'd considered Zoro his equal. Now he was seeing that Zoro often pulled ahead of him, and he was sure one day Zoro's progress through things would take him far beyond Sanji's reach. Even when Zoro had been nothing more than his nakama and rival, the thought of Zoro passing him by and disappearing had terrified him.

But what could he do? Sanji pondered that while grilling a cut of salmon for Usopp's omelet. It wasn't like Sanji could ask the swordsman to slow down his training. That would interfere with Zoro's dream and Sanji wouldn't even dream of doing that. Besides, it wasn't like Sanji was particularly weak compared to Zoro. He lost some of their fights maybe, but Zoro lost just as often and neither of them came out completely uninjured.

Having grilled the salmon to perfection Sanji removed it from the grill, placing cuts of bacon and sausage for Luffy down instead. No, their fights were almost even, Sanji could make due with almost even. What else? Tell Zoro to step down from protecting their nakama? Sanji wouldn't dream of it. True Sanji would gladly spare Zoro pain and suffering by stepping in for him, but sometimes that wasn't always possible. What if Sanji was far away at the time? Or incapacitated at the moment? What if Sanji wasn't fast enough and Zoro could get there first? There was no way Sanji would ask Zoro to risk their nakama to wait for Sanji to fill in for him. The idea was ludicrous. Sanji would expect Zoro to do what was needed.

Sanji shredded spinach for Chopper's omelet and crumbled feta cheese for Robin's. So what did Sanji expect Zoro to do? What could Sanji do? Their very relationship was started by Zoro, what did that leave for Sanji?

Sanji's hand froze in the middle of shredding potatoes for Franky's omelet. Sudden realization hit him like one of Luffy's unrestrained punches. There was something he could do, something that would definitely give him a slight one up on Zoro.

Feeling relieved and loads better, Sanji continued the process of making omelets for the crew, boiling rice for Zoro's omelet and cracking open the crab he'd prepared for Brook's. All he needed now was a plan, and Sanji was rather good at coming up with plans.

Sanji decided to hold off till after dinner to execute his plan. He spent the time until then hammering out the fine details (the plan was simple enough but it never hurt to have a few alternatives to fall back on) and making sure everything was fully prepared.

His sudden swing from sullen, injured Sanji into gleeful, upbeat Sanji drew the attention of more than a couple of crew members. But Sanji wasn't exactly known for his stable emotions, so really no one was that surprised. And of course no one was going to dare to ask on the off chance the Sanji's moods would swing again and they'd have to face his rage.

With dinner made (perfectly) and served (appealingly) and his crew fed (messily), Sanji set about cleaning his kitchen. Zoro volunteered his services again tonight in helping the cook clean. This probably had something to do with Sanji's injured shoulder that Zoro had been shooting worried glances at each time Sanji lifted something "too heavy", but it worked out perfectly for Sanji's plan so Sanji readily accepted the marimo's help.

The kitchen was cleaned, the dishes washed and Zoro was just putting the last cup away when Sanji slid up behind him, placing his hands on the counter on either side of Zoro's waist. He left just enough room for Zoro to turn and face him before he closed in on the marimo entirely, pressing close and claiming his lips in a gentle kiss.

"Mm," Zoro hummed happily when Sanji pulled away. "You're certainly in a good mood now," He mused.

"Don't ruin it, Marimo," Sanji replied playfully, leaning in to kiss Zoro again. His kiss was less gentle this time, it was more forceful and demanding but just enough to tease and tempt. It worked beautifully though as Zoro met this passion and returned it with his own. One of Zoro's hands came to tangle in Sanji's hair while the other found his hip and tugged him closer.

Sanji obliged, stepping closer and pressing one of his legs in between Zoro's, creating a delicious friction that tore a genuine groan from the swordsman. Sanji smiled into the kiss, completely satisfied with the way things were going.

That was, until the hand as his hip gave a forceful push at the same time that one of Zoro's leg tangled with Sanji's, effectively throwing his balance and spinning the cook around. Now Sanji was the one pushed up against the counter and at the mercy of the marimo, which was not the plan at all. While Zoro seemed ridiculously enthused with the idea, but Sanji was not and completely abandoned the kiss.

When the cook's lips stopped moving with his own and his body seemed to go limp and lifeless, Zoro pulled away with some concern. "What's wrong?" He panted against the cook's lips.

Sanji pushed his shoulder far enough back to meet his eyes. "This is my show, Marimo," Sanji growled. "I'm running it," And with that Zoro felt himself back against the counter.

Zoro probably should have protested this treatment, but the cook's coarse voice sent a pleasant shiver down his spine. Plus the moment Zoro's back hit the counter, Sanji's lips were back against his, just as hot and demanding as they had been before Zoro had turned them around.

Well, he thought as Sanji's lips trailed down his neck, nipping lightly in places that made Zoro's whole body jerk, if this was what he got for letting Sanji run the show he was more okay with that.

Sanji's hands trailed up Zoro's sides, tracing the dips and planes of the muscles beneath. That and the feeling of the cook nipping lightly at his earlobe pulled a soft moan from Zoro that Sanji was nothing if not satisfied with. It was the exact signal Sanji needed to proceed with his plan.

Sanji released the marimo's ear and pulled away. Zoro's eyes snapped open at the loss of contact, his eyes searching wildly until they found Sanji a few feet away.

"Cook...what..." Zoro was beyond forming a coherent thought at the moment. He could hardly breathe properly.

Sanji smiled at Zoro from across the room. It was a suggestive smile that promised much and Zoro knew he was completely under Sanji's mercy. Sanji was in charge now; Zoro would follow whatever command the cook gave in that moment.

"That's as far as you get to go in the kitchen, Marimo," Sanji smiled, that teasing smile that nearly tore Zoro in two as his words sunk in. He wondered if his hand would even do the trick tonight, given what he'd been imagining. How would it be enough?

Sanji's next words fixed that problem for Zoro entirely though.

"The storeroom though is free game," The cook finished, slipping out the door.

Zoro didn't waste a single second in following after him.

Zoro was surprised to see the perfect set up waiting for him when he'd burst through the storage room door a moment later. The cook must have been planning on it and Zoro took a moment to wonder if perhaps this explained the good mood the cook had been in all day. He didn't bother giving it much thought though, not when he saw the cook standing there in the light of the storm lantern. He'd shed his jacket, his shirt was half undone, and he was unearthly sexy with the warm lantern glow illuminating his pale skin.

Zoro didn't waste another moment before stepping closer and pulling the cook in for a kiss. Sanji returned the kiss with the same force and desire, but pulled away the moment Zoro pushed against him.

"My show, Marimo," Sanji reprimanded. He tugged on the bottom of Zoro's shirt and Zoro obeyed, lifting his arms to Sanji could remove it.

"Lay down," Sanji instructed, pointing at the make shift mat of blankets he had arranged.

Zoro moved to obey again, but was disappointed when Sanji didn't immediately follow him down. Instead the cook stood above him, silhouetted in the glow of the lantern. Sanji was great to look at, but Zoro was really more in the mood for touching Sanji at the moment, and the view of Sanji slowly undoing the buttons of his shirt was more torturous than it should have been.

When the last button on the shirt had been undone, Sanji carefully slid the garment from his shoulders and folded it neatly before setting it side. Once the shirt was gone he finally kneeled down, straddling Zoro's hips and allowing the swordsman to pull him into a kiss.

Zoro learned the rules to Sanji's game quickly. Zoro was allowed to touch, running his palms across Sanji's chest and down his abs, but he wasn't allowed to go further on the cook than the cook had gone on him. He learned this when his hands ran down Sanji's back and dipped just below the waistband of Sanji's pants, and had them promptly removed and placed back on Sanji's shoulders.

He was allowed to kiss, but only so long as his kisses stayed gentle and didn't come off as too forceful. He learned this when he moved to kiss down Sanji's pale neck, his tongue darting out to taste the flesh. This had rewarded him with a pleased moan from the cook, but the moment his teeth came into the equation, he found himself being tugged by the hair back to Sanji's lips.

This really was Sanji's show, and once Zoro had figured out the rules he was more than willing to go along with it.

Sanji's hands rand up Zoro's body, pausing on his chest and pushing him down. "Lay down, Marimo," Sanji instructed again and Zoro willingly followed the order, lying back against the blankets.

Sanji smiled, pleased that Zoro was taking this so well. He'd been expecting some resistance, or a fight from the swordsman, but Zoro seemed satisfied to let Sanji have his way this time. Very satisfied if the bulge in his pants was anything to go by.

Sanji hesitated a moment, his hands hovering about the button of Zoro's pants. Kissing Zoro had been easy. Touching him had come naturally. But Sanji had never actually done this with a man before, and though he'd come this far and had some very basic ideas about how this would go, he was actually beginning to doubt his actions. After all, having a basic idea about what sex with a man was like was entirely different than actually having sex with a man and Sanji didn't want to mess this up. What if he hurt Zoro? What if he wasn't good?

"Cook," Zoro called. His voice was deep and strained and sounded just a tad desperate, and the sound of it seemed to be directly connected to Sanji's cock.

"Marimo," Sanji replied with a smile, popping the button of Zoro's pants open with ease. He'd worry about these things later; right now he had a swordsman in need of attention.

With the button undone and the fly unzipped, Sanji could easily maneuver his hand into Zoro's pants. He slid in slowly, still just the slightest bit uncertain, fingers tangling through the course hair beneath.

When Sanji's fingers brushed the tip of his cock, Zoro hissed in pleasure. The sound seemed to short circuit Sanji's brain and he watched as Zoro's eyes squeezed shut when Sanji touched him more purposefully. Zoro was all powerful muscle from disciplined training, and it was unbelievably hot to watch this usually strict and focused man absolutely lose it as Sanji's hand stroked him gently. Zoro had never looked more appealing to Sanji before, and suddenly the fact that Zoro was a man and Sanji technically had no idea what he was doing didn't matter. Sanji wanted Zoro to fall apart even more. He wanted to be the one to cause the swordsman's absolute destruction.

"Lift your hips," Sanji growled, removing his hand and tugging at the sides at the pants in a futile attempt to remove them from under Zoro.

Zoro growled as well at the loss of Sanji's hand on his cock, but when he realized what Sanji was doing he complied, lifting his hips and helping the cook to remove his pants.

"What about you, Cook?" Zoro asked, once his pants had been removed. He palmed Sanji's erection through the material of his pants.

Sanji's head fell back of its own accord and he moaned at the much needed attention to his neglected cock. He had to remind himself that this was his show today. Zoro could have his way next time. Today Sanji was supposed to stay ahead of the game on this one. That in mind he stopped Zoro's hand, taking up the swordsman's cock with the other, and running his hand up and down it with smooth strokes.

Zoro relented, releasing Sanji in favor of savoring the feeling of Sanji's hand on him. This was his dream, after all. He'd wanted the cook since the day he'd seen him waiting tables on the Baratie, and that attraction never left. Instead it grew into something more when he came to respect and then love the cook. By then the simple attraction had become absolute desire. Having Sanji's hands on him now was absolutely a dream come true.

Sanji continued to pump Zoro's cock with one hand while seeking out the small bottle of body oil Robin had given him. How she knew he wanted it he had no idea. She'd simply turned up in the galley after breakfast with the bottle in hand, assuring him he could have it to keep. It certainly simplified things for him.

Having found it, Sanji released Zoro, uncapping the bottle instead. Zoro had bemoaned the loss of contact, but Sanji assured him with a smile that things were not over yet. When Zoro opened his eyes and looked properly at what Sanji was doing, he couldn't suppress the shudder that ran through his body.

Sanji coated his fingers thoroughly, carefully recapping the oil before setting it aside. Sanji leaned over Zoro, claiming the swordsman's lips. Zoro returned the kiss, a little sloppy in his eagerness but Sanji was beyond caring about that.

"Can I?" Sanji asked against Zoro's lips, running one slick finger against Zoro's entrance, waiting for permission before going on.

The sensation was already more than Zoro thought he could take, but he nodded eagerly. He'd take everything Sanji would give him, just in case this was a dream and he woke up from it soon.

Sanji kissed him again, easing one finger into Zoro. The swordsman gasped against his lips, letting out a slight hiss.

"Does it hurt?" Sanji asked, pausing in his movement.

"No," Zoro grunted, though the way his brow was scrunched up seemed to suggest otherwise. "Keep going," He insisted when Sanji still didn't move.

Sanji complied, pushing deeper until his finger was knuckle deep. He waited a moment for Zoro to adjust to the unusual feeling. Once he felt the swordsman relax he moved the finger, drawing it out slowly before pushing back in. Zoro hissed again, but this one sounded much more pleased than the previous one had.

After a couple minutes, Sanji added a second finger. He'd heard enough stories from other cooks that had passed through the Baratie to know this part was important. He didn't want to rush it, though the feeling of his fingers inside of Zoro only made him more desperate to have his cock in this impossibly tight space. This was important though, and he would do it right even if it killed him.

"Sanji," Zoro groaned. "More."

Sanji complied, adding in a third finger. With three fingers now, he moved them more freely, spreading them and curling them slightly to prepare Zoro properly.

One such action caused Zoro to call out, throwing his head back and arching his back slightly.

"Did I hurt you?" Sanji asked, terror gripping his insides and freezing his movements.

"No," Zoro gasped out. "That was incredible. Do it again."

Sanji complied, though he wasn't sure exactly what he'd done. It took a few more thrusts before Sanji found that spot again, and Zoro almost lost it before they'd even started.

"Enough," Zoro grumbled, gathering what little sense Sanji had left him with. "I want you, Cook."

Sanji didn't need telling twice, he withdrew his fingers and quickly undid his belt. His slicked fingers didn't help him at all with the button on his pants and it took a moment to undo it, but he managed. Quickly doing away the pants he returned to Zoro again, feeling around for the body oil.

Zoro found it first and undid the top. "Let me," He said pouring some of the oil into his palm and reaching out for Sanji.

"Zoro," Sanji warned.

"It's your show, I know," Zoro agreed. "Just let me do this much."

Sanji gave in, letting Zoro coat his cock with the oil. Zoro was probably more thorough than he needed to be, but Sanji indulged in the feeling for a moment. Zoro's hands were calloused and rough, but gentle and precise and Sanji knew he was a done for if this kept going this way.

"Enough," Sanji warned, batting the swordsman's hand away. He leaned in for another kiss, this one gentle and slow and very much different than the need they were both feeling, but it was somehow reassuring to them as well.

Sanji pulled away from the kiss. He hooked a hand around Zoro's knee and pushing it slightly towards the swordsman's chest. It granted him easier access. "Ready?" Sanji asked softly.

Zoro smiled in return. "I've been ready cook," He said challengingly.

And suddenly all of Sanji's uncertainties were gone. Because this was Zoro, and no one knew him better than Zoro. Likewise, he could trust Zoro with anything. They were a team, and they would get through this as one.

Sanji pushed in slowly, gauging Zoro's reaction as he went. Zoro's brow furrowed, but his eyes never left Sanji's as the cook slid in. Sanji maintained that eye contact, though it was difficult. Zoro was so tight and so hot it took all of Sanji's will power not to squeeze his eyes shut and lose himself in the feeling. Once he was in he paused, waiting for Zoro's okay.

Zoro's eyes never left Sanji's but he did take a moment, adjusting to the new feeling before he nodded.

Sanji complied, pulling out slightly before pushing in again. Zoro winced, but only slightly. It didn't hurt bad enough to worry, and Sanji continued slowly, until the lines of discomfort on Zoro's face eased away.

"Faster, Cook," Zoro ordered.

Sanji thought about reminding Zoro that he was the one in charge here and he'd move at whatever pace he decided. That thought ended up lost with the rest of his mind inside of Zoro and he found himself obeying, sliding out and snapping his hips back in. Zoro groaned approvingly as Sanji kept his pace faster but steady.

"I know that's not all you have, Love-cook," Zoro teased. His teasing lost his edge when it was followed by a grunt of pleasure.

But Sanji took the challenge anyway, changing the angle of his hips slightly searching for…

Zoro's loud groan assured him he'd found that part that nearly tore the swordsman apart before. There'd be no stopping this time though, not until he watched Zoro come apart beneath him.

Zoro unraveled slowly. He was usually so quiet, so every moan and hiss Sanji pulled from him was that much more rewarding. Sanji moved faster and harder, aiming for that one spot as best he could. He left one hand to support him, grasping Zoro's cock with the other, causing the swordsman to throw his head back.

"Fuck, Sanji," The sound of his name coming out so desperately nearly did Sanji in, and he began to doubt his ability to hold out much longer.

Fortunately Zoro lost it first, with a hissed curse and a groan of Sanji's name Zoro came, shooting into Sanji's hand and across his own chest. The swordsman continued to shudder as Sanji thrust into him a few more times before he lost it as well and came into Zoro.

Sanji's arm gave out and he collapsed against the swordsman's chest, successfully spreading the mess of Zoro's come between them but beyond care at the moment. One of Zoro's arms wrapped around his waist, pulling him up closer and into a kiss. Sanji returned the kiss, though he was now exhausted and the kiss was lazy and uncoordinated.

Sanji broke the kiss first, fishing out a towel he'd had the sense to bring, and wiped the traced of Zoro's come from his chest before tossing it to Zoro to clean up.

"Do you think the others will notice we're gone?" Sanji wondered out loud.

Zoro chuckled softly. "Maybe. Does it matter?"

Sanji looked at the swordsman thoughtfully. Zoro finished wiping away their mess before lying back down on the blankets and stretching like a cat preparing for a long nap.

"Not really. Should we stay here tonight?" Sanji asked, crawling closer.

Zoro pulled him down, forcing the cook to lay beside him. "Yes," He answered simply. "Now sleep, Love-cook."

Sanji did as he was told.

Thank you for reading! Smut is not really my strong point, so I apologize if it was disappointing. Reviews and constructive criticism are much appreciated! Make me a better writer!

I apologize for all spelling error and typos, I'm running on very little sleep so my editing was probably very poorly done. I think I will probably edit it better in the future.

Those who have reviewed my fic so far, thank you so much! You guys are amazing! I can't believe so many people are reading and enjoying this story. It makes me very happy so thank you so, so much.

I hope you enjoyed!

Some random trivia here -

Straw Hat omelets:

Luffy – Sausage and bacon
Zoro – Omurice
Nami – Bell peppers and caramelized onions
Ussop – Grilled salmon
Sanji – Seared shrimp and scallops with hollandaise sauce
Chopper – Spinach and diced tomatoes
Robin – Crumbled feta cheese and diced tomatoes
Franky – Fried shredded potatoes, cheddar cheese, and ketchup
Brook – Crab, swiss cheese, and spring onion