"Wait a sec," Nami said to Zoro as he got up to leave.
"Ffff-" Zoro started loudly, but quickly lowered his voice as he undoubtedly realized he was within earshot of the cook. Sanji grimaced and promised himself he'd kick the crass idiot's teeth in after he finished drying this dish. "-fffuck, Nami, I told you I was sorry for breaking the fuckin' plate, alright? I was aiming for his head, and anyway, people shouldn't throw-"
"I," Nami spoke loudly over him, "was not going to ask about that again." Sanji's grimace shifted to a grin as he imagined Zoro's squirm.
Zoro's butt connected audibly with the solid planking of the bench as he gave up trying to leave. "What, then?"
A fingernail tapped on the tabletop for a minute, and Sanji found his own impatience growing thin as Nami refused to continue. "Done with that yet, Sanji-kun?" she asked him out of the blue, and he nearly broke another plate in his surprise. His nakama sometimes had conversations after a meal, even ones intended to be private, but never had they paid any attention to him as he did the washing up.
"N-nearly, Nami-san!" He wondered, a little hurt, what his angel needed to talk to that asshole alone for.
"What the hell, Nami, I'm gonna go nap."
"No, I need to talk to you."
"But..." It wasn't cunning in her voice, or even mere uncertainty. Sanji could tell. She sounded almost apologetic.
"What? ...I don't care. He hasn't got enough brain cells to eavesdrop-"
Sanji grabbed a large pot and dunked it heavily into the sink, drowning out Zoro's smirk, which he didn't need to turn around to see. He sprinkled some more soap and plunged his hands into the fluffy mess.
"I just... wanted to know why you left her."
God, not this. Suddenly Sanji wanted to be out of there as fast as his legs could carry him. He didn't think any of the crew would ever dare. Surely Nami knew better than to...
"Who the fuck're you talkin' about?" Zoro's voice had gone very low, but the tone remained uncaring and offhand, as if he didn't know what was coming. But he did. Sanji wished there weren't still all the cups to clean. Perhaps he could leave them for later and slip out for a while.
"The girl from home. You've... mentioned her a couple times, and." She sucked in a breath. "We all know the white katana is special to you, but we don't know why. We don't even know how you met Luffy."
"Why," said Zoro, the vowel drawn out, "the hell does it matter?"
Nami didn't answer him. Sanji considered braining himself with the wok. Why would the lovely navigator want to know? Sanji only knew because he and Zoro got really drunk one night, and neither of them remembered much of what they talked about. Sanji had the distinct impression that Zoro had not intended to tell him about her, so he'd always ignored the information, unable to quite forget it. They were nakama, of course, but they weren't the kind of guys who talked about their feelings.
"I'm compiling a log of who we were before we were pirates," she said finally. It was the absolute worst thing to say, and Zoro was already shutting her out, standing up. "No, wait! Look, it matters because you matter."
"I know I do, dammit. Did Luffy put you up to this?"
"No. But Robin said she was curious a few days ago, and that got me and Usopp thinking that it's really unfair you know all our stories but we don't know yours! Sit down!"
To the cook's complete surprise, he heard Zoro sit.
"All right. Fine. What do you want to know?"
Nami, from her tone, had been taken aback as well. "R-really? O-okay." There was a sound of leather slapping the table, and then the tiny clink of a small bottle. "The katana belongs to her, right? What's her name?"
Sanji found he had stopped scrubbing and was instead squeezing the life out of the sponge. He forced his hand to relax and rinsed.
"Don't ask two questions at once. Her name was Kuina." Sanji waited for the little gasp from Nami that meant she understood the change in tense. Ah, there it was. "And yes, the katana was hers."
"I... Zoro, I..."
"Are you gonna keep asking questions, or are we done?"
"No, I... um. Right. Well, how did you meet?"
The pen stopped scratching. "Zoro," she said, irritation-tinged.
"Seriously? You don't know?"
"Look, I'm just answering your questions -"
"How the hell do you not know how you met her?!"
"Nami-san," Sanji pleaded, resisting a stupid urge to bolt out the door. The subject matter was making his angel uncomfortable; there had to be some way he could fix it.
"I just always knew her," said Zoro calmly. "We grew up together."
There was a half-second of silence before Nami's pen scratched across the page and Sanji focused enough to plunge the next ceramic cup into the soapy basin before him. Zoro went on.
"I lived at the dojo. Her father took me in when I was small. She was a couple years older than me, and she always kicked my ass. We swore..."
Sanji held his breath. Nami had perhaps missed the break in Zoro's voice, but if she had not, she said nothing. "We swore that one day, one of us would be the best. No matter what."
The scratching of the pen slowed, stopped. "That's it?" Nami said. "What about..."
Sanji scrubbed harder, as though the pressure on his fingertips would let him block out the conversation. Zoro surprised him again.
"She fell. Down some stairs." Suddenly Sanji knew what to do. "It was stupid."
He dried his hands carefully and ignored the bubble on his shoe as he opened the pantry and lifted out a bottle. He was successfully nonchalant as he moved around the counter and slid it across the table to the retarded swordsman, who caught it without looking at the cook. There was a time when Sanji would have been uncomfortable with Zoro's lack of acknowledgment. Something in his chest blossomed like pride, and he made his way back to the sink.
Nami was silent for another moment, wrote a quick note, then put down her pen. Sanji washed cups, a minor agony sprouting at her continued silence. Had the story depressed her? Made her so uncomfortable she felt she couldn't leave? What could he do for her?
"Zoro," she said finally, in a low voice, "does that Marine woman, Tashigi, look like her?"
The sake was steadily placed onto the tabletop. "How," Zoro whispered, "the hell did you figure that out?"
"It's just a guess. I'm sorry. I'm... Zoro..." Nami tried, but Sanji could hear his heavy step walk away from the table and out of the galley, and Nami didn't follow, which was really for the best. There were two dirty cups left. And now the sake bottle to put away. He breathed through his nose.
He heard Nami stand, but she didn't leave. "You knew, right? Sanji-kun?"
"Tch," he said, angry at Zoro for telling him, and pissed at stairs in general. The final mug - Robin's - was in danger of losing its glaze to his vicious scrubbing. "Yes."
"Hmm," Nami said. He heard her move around and open the pantry door, so he glanced over his shoulder, ready to tell her to sit down again, he could get it... but the sake bottle was in her hands, and she was looking for the place it came from.
"In the back, between the sacks of rice," he offered helpfully.
"This is good stuff," she said, reading the label before putting it where he asked. Then she went back to the table and sat down again, so he dried his hands and joined her, pulling out a cigarette.
"Do you think he's mad at me?" she asked after a moment.
He bit down on the cig, "Nah. You know how he gets. He's mad at himself."
"I shouldn't have brought it up like that."
"If you mean," he said carefully, "that you should have gotten him drunk first, you're wrong, Nami-san." Their eyes met, and she nodded that she understood. "He's not mad he told you the story, I think. He's probably grateful we know, in case... uh. Well." He cleared his throat.
"That would never happen," she said, her fists tightening on the table. "Never. He is going to be the best."
"Hai, hai," he said, smiling widely. "I think so too. In any case, if he's mad, it'll be because he thought he was being sneaky about Tashigi-chan and you noticed anyway. And I'm sure... " He looked down at his hands. "He feels guilty for it. You know how he gets," he repeated.
"Yeah," she said. "Yeah."
"I'm glad you asked," said Zoro from the doorway, and they both started, but before they could say anything he was gone again. Sanji looked at Nami.
They could hear Luffy whoop loudly and call the swordsman's name, ordering him as captain to play with him and the other idiots, and though he barked that it was a stupid order from a stupid captain, Luffy began to laugh and that meant there was going to be an epic game of tag on the deck. Sanji put out his cig and untied his apron.
"Please keep that in a safe place, Nami-san," he said, pointing to her leather notebook, and then, blessed with one of her small (cute) smiles, he left the galley.