Written for Day 6 of the ZoSan Christmas Exchange over on Tumblr. Uploaded two days late, because I fail at life. For more information, please visit my Tumblr page at kumiko-sama-chan, you can find a link on my profile page. There is a special page on my Tumblr regarding the exchange.
This fic is rated T.
I do not own One Piece.
"You know that you're late, right?" asked Nami from behind the slightly tinted glass of the ticket office.
Zoro grumbled irritably in response, hefting his patrol pack higher on his shoulder in order to distribute the weight more evenly. It was too early for this shit, especially since he had both overslept and gotten lost on the way to work. He still didn't understand why the city felt the need to do road construction in the middle of winter; though he had heard something about a water line breaking from the frigid temperature. Either way, the stark orange "Road Closed" sign had disrupted his carefully memorized path to the Grand Line Ski Resort, and he had driven in circles for nearly an hour before he got his bearings and found the gravel parking lot.
Nami sighed and handed him his lift ticket. "If you keep doing this, you know I'll have to dock your pay, right?"
Zoro rolled his eyes and waved off the comment with an exasperated "yeah, yeah". At this point, he was fairly certain that he owed more money to the resort's accountant/cash office manager than he made, so it didn't really matter.
"You're assigned to patrol the Sabaody Trail today," the redhead continued as Zoro attached the ticket to the zipper of his bright red Ski Patrol jacket.
He nodded absently. The Sabaody Trail wasn't too bad. Near the top of the mountain, that particular slope was one of the most difficult ones at the resort. Steep with a lot of tall pines (surprising given the altitude) and plenty of twists, turns, and moguls, the Sabaody Trail would offer him a decent challenge and the opportunity to ski with some really amazing athletes. Not to mention that the forty-five minute chairlift ride to the top was the perfect time for him to meditate and decompress from his ordeal that morning.
"Oh, and Shakky is off today, so Sanji is covering for her."
Zoro's slowly brightening mood darkened considerably at that. Sanji was new to the park, hired on only at the beginning of the season, and he had immediately made a point of getting under the green-haired patroller's skin. The others all seemed to like him; Luffy and Nami had begged Zoro on more than one occasion to play nice. But that was difficult when the blonde absolutely insisted on being an arrogant, condescending, smart-mouthed, womanizing prick. If the obnoxious bastard was running the Rip Off Bar (as many of the regulars had nicknamed it due to Shakky's habit of over-charging tourists) that meant that he would have to deal with him any time he needed anything—food, extra first aid supplies, a direct phone line down the mountain, hell, even if he just wanted temporary shelter from the cold.
"Don't make that face," scolded Nami, scrunching her nose and furrowing her brow in her best imitation of Zoro's grumpy scowl. "Sanji's nice if you just get to know him."
"Yeah, if you've got a nice rack, he is," growled Zoro, earning an indignant huff from Nami.
"Whatever." Nami heaved a sigh and rolled her eyes. "Just get up there before you're any later. Usopp had the night ski shift, and he won't stop yawning into the walkie."
Zoro merely nodded, his mood sufficiently soured, and headed for the staff locker room. It was empty as he walked inside, and he breathed a sigh of relief. If he was lucky, he would be able to avoid running into Sanji for most of the day. It was cold enough that he could just carry his lunch with him in his pack, and it would be nearly afternoon before he finished his water. If he could avoid getting caught on the lift with the blonde, he just might be able to turn his day around.
He was buckling the last of the straps on his boots when his walkie-talkie buzzed to life.
"Oi, Zoro, you on your way?" came Usopp's voice through the speaker. "Nami said you were here, and"—Zoro heard the longnose give a jaw-cracking yawn.—"it's been a really long night."
"Headed for the lift now," he radioed in response, pulling his favorite white skis from their home on the wall and making his way outside with awkward clunking steps.
He had just gotten one foot out the door when Usopp's voice crackled over the walkie once again. "Can you grab an energy bar out of my locker? I think my stomach is eating my liver."
Zoro huffed and rolled his eyes, stomping back into the locker room, not because he was annoyed but because of the unusual gait that his stiff ski boots created.
"Sure thing, Longnose," he grumbled in reply, opening Usopp's locker with the practiced ease of someone that had fetched one too many energy bars from within. Reaching inside, he grabbed one for his friend and one for himself (a delivery fee), and then slammed the door shut and headed for the lift.
The Grand Line Ski Resort's main chairlift wasn't too far from the staff locker room, and even with shouldering the weight of his skis and his patrol pack, Zoro made it to the rattling contraption within a few minutes. There had been fresh snowfall overnight, and the day was forecast to be perfect for skiing, so the crowd gathered around the entrance to the lift was already quite large when he arrived. Dropping his Ichimoni brand skis into the snow, Zoro eyed the group of morning skiers as he stepped into the bindings, warily searching the gaggle of hatted heads in hopes of avoiding a certain someone. When he saw that the coast was clear, he allowed himself a sigh of relief, and seamlessly melded into the jostling crowd of skiers anxious to get up the mountain.
The entrance to the chairlift was shaped like a funnel, the plastic tarp stretched between posts forming a wide opening to a chute that narrowed as it drew closer to the lift. The crowd of people waiting to go up the mountain always condensed as one got nearer to the entrance, and there was often a fair amount of not-so-gentle elbow nudging and shoving as skiers vied to be the first to reach the lift. Zoro had never minded the slightly less than civil approach to forming a line. The competition that it formed was healthy, as far as he was concerned, and Brook, the elderly lift operator, could put more concentration into making sure no one was knocked over by the moving chairs when he didn't have to worry about keeping a proper queue in line.
Zoro was within a few mere feet of the front of the line when he caught a familiar whiff of cigarette smoke. The muscles in his back and shoulders tensed. He did not want to get caught on the lift with Sanji. All too soon, he could hear the asshole's smoke-roughened voice bidding "his ladies" good morning and swearing at the men as he made his way through the crowd. Zoro ground his teeth together, trying with all his might to reach the throughway for the chairs before the blonde. The happily chatting couple in front of him boarded the lift, their friendly wave earning a "Yo ho ho ho!" from Brook, and then it was his turn. Sighing with a mixture of triumph and relief, Zoro glided forward and aligned himself with the incoming chair, not even glancing over at the person that slid up beside him.
"Good morning, Marimo," came the snide greeting, just as the wood and metal bench hit the backs of Zoro's thighs.
It took all of the patroller's considerable years of training to stay upright and avoid faceplanting in the snow, just barely managing to sit back in the chair and let it carry him away from the ground. Grimacing, he turned to face the speaker, his frown deepening when he saw the shiteating grin plastered across Sanji's smug face.
Sanji's smile fell away. "Aren't you a little late? What happened? Did you get lost in the parking lot again?"
Zoro gritted his teeth at the blonde's taunting. If it hadn't been for the fact that he would have to save his shitty ass, he would have pushed Sanji off of the lift to the snowy ground 75 feet below in a heartbeat.
"Oh, shut up, Dartboard," he growled. "How'd you get to the front of the line so fast? Did you push down some of your precious ladies?"
Sanji scowled at that, and Zoro felt a small—if not brief—surge of victory.
"You're just deflecting because you don't want to admit that your sorry ass did get lost," sneered the blonde.
"Bastard," muttered Zoro.
"Prick," retaliated Sanji, his voice just a little louder.
The name-calling continued, each round increasing in volume, as the chairlift steadily climbed higher. Soon the two of them were all but butting heads, their foreheads inches away from one another as they traded insults.
A fierce blush flared on Sanji's cheeks. "That was a onetime thing, and you know it!"
"Uh huh, sure," taunted Zoro with a smug grin.
Sanji scowled at him, temporarily caught off guard by the well-placed insult before a thought seemed to occur to him and his face split in his own version of a sly grin.
Zoro bristled, grabbing onto the arm of the chairlift with a white-knuckle grip. "Fuck you!"
The couple in the chair ahead of them turned and glared at the shouted curse, and Zoro felt his cheeks burn with embarrassment. If Nami heard about this bout of unprofessionalism, he would be screwed. Zoro saw Sanji smile innocently at the woman and wave, and his crossed his arms, intent upon leaving the blonde in stony silence for the rest of the ride.
When they finally reached the top of the mountain, the squabbling pair parted ways, each of them being sure to give the other a rough, and not at all immature, shove before departing for their assigned duties. Zoro scowled as he watched the blonde ski effortlessly down the slope. The Rip Off Bar was a third of the way down the mountain, a sort of stopover at the bottom of the trail where guests could stop to eat a meal and get a drink and then catch a ride on the rope pull back to the top, or continue on their way to the lodge at the base. As he watched Sanji's progress, he couldn't help but to admire his technique. With his back straight, and his knees and ankles pressed together creating a perfect set of parallel lines with his skis, he bobbed and wove over the multitude of small moguls hidden beneath the snow, maneuvering through the tough terrain with the practiced ease of a phenomenal athlete. Watching Sanji ski always caused a swell of frustration in Zoro's chest as he lamented their bitter and spiteful relationship. Sanji was someone that he would have loved to train with, and possibly more, given the opportunity.
Turning away, he skated across the flattened area around the chairlift's drop-off, making for the Ski Patrol shack by the tree line. He and Usopp seamlessly traded their shifts, the exhausted longnose barely sparing him more than a few mumbled words of thanks for the energy bar before making to ride the lift back down. As Zoro watched his friend's retreating back, he couldn't help but wonder how long Usopp would last until he was slumped over on the lift chair, fast asleep.
The day passed uneventfully, with Zoro making one trip after another down the Sabaody Trail, pausing whenever a guest needed help. He dealt with a few minor injuries. There was a child out of his league on the difficult ski run, who fell and needed considerable coaxing to get back up and make it down the hill; a woman with a turned ankle; and a local teenage boy, Coby, who managed to bump his head hard enough to warrant a trip to the medic at the base of the mountain. Throughout the entire day, Zoro was miraculously able to avoid running into Sanji again. The weather was perfect, not too cold or windy with bright sunshine to warm him through his thick patroller jacket. All of this combined allowed him to eat his packed lunch outside. He had only had to go into the Rip Off Bar once to use the bathroom, and he had timed it such that he arrived at the lunch rush, when the blonde was too busy serving customers to see him.
As the afternoon progressed, clouds steadily gathered as the resort grew busier. It was nearing the end of his shift when Nami's voice crackled over the walkie.
Midway up the rope pull, Zoro skated away and toward the tree line, out of the way of any skiers that might not be paying attention.
There was a moment of buzzing white-noise filled silence. "Looks like there's a storm headed for the mountain. The forecast models predict whiteout conditions and a foot of snow. We've decided to close until it passes. Can you make sure everyone gets back down here safely?"
Zoro frowned and looked skyward. The clouds were heavy, and darkening by the minute. Already, there were small preliminary flakes drifting downward.
"Thanks," came Nami's immediate response. "We'll make an announcement over the loud speaker as well. I'm counting on you. Make sure everyone gets down here safely."
He had just clipped the walkie-talkie back onto his belt when Nami's promised announcement blared over the loud speakers mounted to the various lifts and buildings around the park. Zoro didn't listen to the words. He didn't need to. The redhead recited the same paragraph every single time they had to close for weather, and he absentmindedly mouthed along with her as he headed for the Rip Off Bar.
"Attention, Ladies and Gentlemen. Due to poor weather conditions, we are closing the Grand Line Ski Resort early today. Please return to the main lodge immediately. We apologize for the inconvenience. Please come and see us again."
Nami repeated the announcement every ten minutes, until he and the other Ski Patrollers confirmed that all guests had been accounted for. Next came the role call for staff. Zoro stood under the eave of the Rip Off Bar, thankful for the shelter from the now more heavily falling snow, as each employee that had made it to the main lodge called out their names. Soon, only he and Sanji remained out of the entire staff.
"Zoro?" Nami asked, her voice fading in and out as the radio did battle with the worsening weather. "Where are you?"
"At the Rip Off Bar, waiting for the shitty cook to get his ass in gear," said Zoro, nearly yelling in order to be heard over the wind.
"Well, hurry up," commanded Nami. "If you wait much longer, the two of you will have to ride out the storm up there."
Zoro scowled. As much as he didn't want to talk to the blonde, he really didn't want to be stuck two-thirds of the way up the mountain with him alone. Grumbling, he radioed a quick "Roger" in response, and then kicked his feet out of his skis' bindings and went inside.
The inside of the small cabin was dark but for the light that streamed from under the door to the kitchen. Zoro irritably crammed his hands into his pockets as he tromped over to it. Damned cook. He was going to get them frozen to death in a blizzard just because he couldn't drag his skinny ass out of the stupid kitchen. Stomping over, he slammed open the door with only a little more force than he had intended, startling the blonde in the process of wrapping up a tray of sandwiches.
"What the hell, Curlybrow?" growled Zoro, glaring at the other man.
Sanji pointedly ignored him as he sealed the food beneath a layer of plastic wrap, placing it in the refrigerator, and then turned to the next in the long line of leftovers.
Zoro grumbled. "Screw the food, moron. There's a storm coming. Let's go."
"Not until I have all this stored properly," Sanji sniped, tearing off a piece of foil with an excessively hard jerk.
"You're going to risk our lives for some shitty sandwiches?" Zoro deadpanned.
"Not ours. You are free to go. I won't be long."
"Seriously? They're just some shitty sandwiches. Throw them away."
"I don't see what the big deal is. You can always make more. What's the point?"
He saw Sanji press his lips together, his curly eyebrows furrowing as his temper began to get the better of him.
"No really. What's the point? You can always make new ones," Zoro continued to goad. "Just throw the damned things away."
"No!" shouted Sanji, slamming both hands down on the counter hard enough to make the plate between them jump. Zoro could see him shaking. He'd really struck a nerve. He almost felt sorry. Almost.
"Why?" he prodded.
If looks could kill, Zoro would have been toast. When Sanji answered him, it was through angrily clenched teeth. "I. Don't. Waste. Food. Especially up here; you never know when you'll need it."
Zoro's carefully planned retort fell muted and forgotten from his lips, his heart skipping a beat as the blonde pinned him in place with an uncharacteristically intense stare. He had never seen Sanji be so firm about anything. He frowned. Now he really did feel bad. Turning on his heel, Zoro stomped out of the kitchen, only to return seconds later with a stool from the bar.
"What are you doing?" asked Sanji, barely hiding his annoyance as he put yet another wrapped tray away.
"I'm not just going to leave you here alone," explained Zoro as he took a seat. "It's my job to keep you safe, so hurry up."
Sanji gave him a weird look, his eyebrows knitting together as he struggled to understand what was happening, and then he shrugged and resumed his self-assigned task. Zoro drummed his fingers on the counter as he waited, growing more and more uneasy with each passing minute. The wind outside the small cabin was howling furiously, rattling the windows as snow and ice beat against the wooden sides. He was beginning to doubt if they would be able to ski down the mountain in these conditions.
After what felt like an eternity of waiting, the blonde finally put the last plate in the refrigerator with a triumphant "Done!" and turned toward Zoro with a wide grin on his face.
"See?" he said, clapping his hands together as if to beat away dust. "I told you it wouldn't take that long."
Zoro rolled his eyes, but held his tongue, following the blonde out into the common dining room and lounge as they headed for the door. Sanji pulled on his blue coat as he went, his chattering never ceasing.
"We'll make it back to the others, and not a single crumb will be wasted," he chirped, threading his arms through the sleeves and pulling the zipper up half way. "Shakky will be so impressed! I wonder if she'll…um…huh."
Sanji frowned as he tried and failed to turn the knob and push the door open, finding it to be quite uncooperative. He battled against it for several minutes, kicking, pushing, and rattling it, before stepping back with an angry huff.
"Well, no shit," sniped Zoro.
"Why don't you try it then, asshole?" growled Sanji, stepping away and offering the door to Zoro with a mocking bow.
Zoro glowered at him for a moment. Then, pushing up his sleeves, he took a step back and ran at the jammed door, ramming it with his shoulder. There was a sound similar to breaking glass as a thick layer of ice chipped away as the wood was forced open, letting in a gust of frigid air that swirled about the room with fat snowflakes and stinging ice pellets. He and Sanji swore simultaneously, both of them grabbing a hold of the door and pulling it shut before more of the storm outside could come in. They stood and stared at the door for a full minute, and then Sanji turned and walked away.
"Oi, Curlybrow. Where are you going?" asked Zoro, standing stock still and following the blonde with his eyes. "Trying a different door won't change the weather, you know."
"I know that," said Sanji with a nice obvious roll of his eyes. He walked around behind the bar that backed up to the kitchen, momentarily disappearing as he bent behind it and reappearing with a bottle of expensive schnapps in hand. "If I'm going to be stuck here with you for this shitty storm, I'm going to need some alcohol." He pulled two glasses from the shelf. "Care to join me?"
Zoro allowed himself a grin and stomped over, his gait still affected by his ski boots. Now the blonde was talking. As he took a seat opposite of him, Sanji poured them each a generous share of the alcohol, handing a glass to Zoro once he'd settled onto the stool, and taking his own.
"To schnapps," toasted Sanji, raising his glass. "Making bad company better since who-the-fuck cares."
"I'll drink to that," agreed Zoro, tilting his head and downing the glass in one go. The potent liquor burned its way down the back of his throat, and settled in the pit of his stomach in a pleasant ball of warmth.
"Oi, asshole," grumbled Sanji. "It's schnapps, not tequila. You're supposed to sip it."
Zoro cocked a challenging eyebrow. "Yeah? Is that true, or are you just too much of a lightweight to handle it?"
Without a word, Sanji finished his glass in one giant gulp, coughing and sputtering for air almost as soon as the liquid hit the back of his throat. A faint blush colored his fair cheeks as the strong alcohol went straight to his head.
"I guess you couldn't handle it after all, eh, Dartboard?" smirked Zoro.
Sanji scowled at him, and poured two more glasses. "We'll see about that."
"To drinking with lightweights and getting most of the bottle," said Zoro, raising his glass and swallowing the schnapps in one gulp for a second time. He barely managed to contain a snicker as he watched the blonde choke down his share, his face and ears turning red from a mixture of embarrassment and coughing. The two of them shared a challenging glare, and Sanji poured two more glasses.
They continued their ritual for the next half hour, until only a quarter of the bottle remained and Sanji was swaying heavily on his feet. Zoro arched an eyebrow and smirked around the rim of his glass. He had never seen the blonde drink anything stronger than wine, and now he knew the reason why. The blush on Sanji's face extended from ear to ear and down the back of his neck, the rosy color complimenting his golden hair nicely.
Zoro suppressed a hiccup and furrowed his brow. He was drunk. He could tell as much by the warm fuzzies that had completely clogged his brain and made the room tip a little. But he was nowhere near inebriated enough to be admiring the way Sanji's blonde hair looked against his pink-tinged pale skin, or the way his blue eyes lit up like the lights on the tree in the corner when he talked about skiing, or how graceful his fingers still managed to look despite his drunken state as they outlined every word he spoke in the air.
"So, wass yur dream?" asked Sanji, giving Zoro a wobbly smile as he was violently snapped from his reverie.
"Yeah. Wer-Weren't you payin' attention to the-the"—Sanji hiccupped.—"the conver-conver…what I was sayin?"
Zoro slowly shook his head.
"All Blue? Mysterious, magical, mystery mountain?" prodded Sanji, amazingly able to bend his drunken tongue around the multisyllabic words. "Best place to ski in the world? Ringin' any bells, Ma-ri-mo?"
Zoro shook his head again, having to use all of his willpower not to laugh at the tipsy blonde.
Sanji snorted, his smirk fumbling along with the glass in his hand. "Didja—Didja get lost in thought?"
Normally, Zoro would have bristled at the snide remark, but watching Sanji nearly fall over laughing at his own joke sufficiently distracted him from any anger he would have felt.
"So, what is your dream?" reiterated Sanji once he'd righted himself, leaning heavily on the bar for support.
Zoro studied Sanji carefully, looking for any hint of sarcasm on the blonde's face. He could never be sure with him. Sanji had a sharp wit, and always seemed to find a way to turn Zoro's words against him. He didn't want a mockery made of his dream. But the schnapps seemed to have dulled the tooth in Sanji's bite as he watched Zoro expectantly.
"I'm going to be the greatest skier there is," said Zoro firmly, subconsciously standing straighter with the confession.
Sanji raised his curly eyebrows and leaned in closer as if he suddenly found the green-haired ski patroller much more interesting than before. "Oh? And how're you gonna do that?"
"I'm going to make it to the Olympics and win gold," answered Zoro without a moment's hesitation.
Sanji leaned in even closer. His breath carried the sharp scent of alcohol as he spoke, but there was a certain intelligent glint in his eye that betrayed greater sobriety than he was letting on. "Yeah? What events?"
Zoro let a wide grin split his face as he began to count off the winter events on his fingers. "Well, obviously, there's the downhill…"
"Uh-huh." Sanji nodded and edged closer.
"Sup-er." Sanji was leaning so close that Zoro felt the small puff of air on his face when he popped the "p".
"The Giant Slalom."
"Giant," whispered Sanji, emphasizing the word by widening his eyes. Zoro could feel a slight blush beginning to color his cheeks. Hours ago, he had been swearing at the blonde; now, they were painfully close.
"And, the slalo—mmm."
Sanji ended Zoro's list early by closing the very small gap that remained between them in one quick movement, sealing his lips in a kiss. Zoro's eyes widened to the size of small dinner plates as he balked at the intimate gesture, falling backwards off the bar stool and only barely managing to catch himself with stumbling, booted steps. He stared at Sanji with a mixture of shock and embarrassment, the back of his hand hovering over his mouth as he tried to decide whether or not he wanted to wipe the lingering sensation of the blonde's lips away.
"I-I'm sorry," mumbled Sanji, turning away slightly, his drunken blush deepening with shame. "I just…sort of…like you, and well…"
It was lucky that he was wearing ski boots, because the stiff, heavy plastic encasing his feet and ankles was all that kept him upright at the confession. Sanji liked him? No, no; scratch that thought. Sanji liked him? But that was impossible. He was always such an ass.
"But you're always such an ass to me." The words spilled out of Zoro's mouth as he thought them.
"I wanted to be nice," muttered Sanji, hanging his head in apology. "Every time I saw you, I tried. You're just…I just…I don't know."
Zoro could only stare at Sanji in silent, disbelieving awe. If his history with the blonde was a slalom course, then his mind was the skier failing miserably at it; tumbling down the hill, taking out one flag after another, with his skis left stuck at odd angles in the snow at the top.
How could he have been so stupid? How could he have missed the signs? Looking back, everything the blonde had done had been screaming for his attention. Every bump in the locker room; every challenge to race; every time he'd battled his way through the crowd to ride the lift with him. Zoro had been so focused on fighting, that he'd never paid attention to the nuance in Sanji's actions.
"You-You like me?" he asked, incredulous.
Sanji nodded, and he felt his heart swell in his chest. He had half-expected the blonde to laugh at him, to tell him it was all a joke. Getting the affirmative response was all at once validating and gratifying, and a whole new feeling of warmth swelled in his chest as he stumbled toward the bar.
"Well, why didn't you just say so, dumbass?" Zoro all but laughed, hooking a hand behind Sanji's head and pulling him in for a kiss.
Sanji tensed against him for a moment, and then relaxed into the kiss, parting his lips and inviting Zoro inside. All of the tension between the two of them seemed to snap in that moment, melting away in spite of the frigid howling wind outside. Zoro threw himself wholeheartedly into the kiss, suddenly feeling a surge of affection for the blonde that he hadn't realized he was capable of. Here was someone that he could be with who would not only understand his passion, but challenge him. It was something that he had been desperately-yet-unknowingly missing in his training regime and his life, and it had taken a blizzard, some sandwiches, and a healthy dose of schnapps for him to realize it.
Zoro's buzzing walkie-talkie finally forced them apart, each of them panting for air as Nami's voice crackled through the speaker.
"Hey, you guys alive up there?"
Never breaking eye contact with the blonde, Zoro raised the device to his lips. "Yeah. We're trapped in the Rip Off Bar."
They heard a collective sigh of relief, and then Luffy's voice. "Don't worry. We're coming to get you, as soon as possible."
"Take your time," replied Zoro. "No use getting caught in the storm. We have food and water. We'll be fine."
There was silence at the other end for a moment.
"B-But how will you stay warm?" It was Usopp this time.
Zoro locked Sanji with an intense stare, grinning when he saw the blonde rise to the unspoken challenge.
"Oh, we'll find a way."