Sanji had always said he could be in the biggest crowd of people and be able to find that bastard just from the Marimo hair on his head. So even here, through chandelier chains hanging from the ceiling in a magnificent array of silver reflection, was no different. Tired eyes that mimicked the décor of ice gazed past the party's intensive guest list of silver and white party goers, finding themselves across the ball room to the bar, where the clash of color sat, his shoulders slumped.
Sanji's heart began to beat faster, in that moment when everything seemed to go slow motion. His mouth grew dry, despite the glass of wine in his hand he'd been nurturing. Zoro? Could it really be him after so much time had passed? His face softened, his lips pursing as he turned to politely dismiss himself from the conversation he'd been sharing with a stunning lady.
He began moving through the crowd with what felt like cement blocks on his feet. Of course, it was Zoro, it wouldn't be too much of a surprise, would it? He'd made a motion to invite him every year to his Holiday celebrations, regardless if he already knew the answer would be a polite decline. He had no reason to be here after all, not after what had happened...
Realization hit Sanji like a wall of air and he stopped, feet from behind where the man of interest sat. He felt like he was just in reach, but something held him back, a growing suspicion inside his mind. Would Zoro even want to see him? It was possible he didn't even realize who was hosting this party, Sanji's name wasn't exactly written on the card. He could have come for mutual acquaintances alone.
But Sanji's mind was no longer worrying over harboring such thoughts, as he'd moved on to a different bizarre feeling he hadn't felt in at least the ten years since they'd been apart. The chef clenched his grip harder around his wine glass, holding his breath at the back outline of the Marimo, a memory of seeing him this way years before just the same brought back such warm nostalgic feelings Sanji didn't know what to do with.
He had to go. Coming across the floor like this just to see him had been foolish. Had he really dismissed what had happened between them so absentmindedly? It was a bad idea, there was a reason their communication had been sliced over the span of time. He couldn't be here, he thought, when the other turned around, a glass of sake in his hand like always.
So much time had passed, Sanji had aged, Zoro had undoubtedly as well. They were completely different people. He'd moved on, Zoro becoming nothing more than a fine memory of a beautiful time. Why was fate so cruel? Having made his decision to flee before his presence could be noticed, Sanji turned on his heel and shifted to walk away, his eyes lowering downward with the cloudiness of his thoughts. He froze though, when his plan had backfired, the voice he'd woken up in the middle of the night just praying he'd hear beside him, that voice he hadn't heard in over ten years time, caressed his ears.
Just hearing his name off those lips had his face shadowing, his image threatening to shatter. He braced himself though, lifting his chin and taking a deep breath to will the disguise back to him before turning to see him again. It almost crushed him.
It was Zoro, just as he remembered. Sure, there were subtle differences, the marks of aging around his eyes of a tired expression, no doubt from continuous years of scowling. A scar took shape across one of his eyes rendering it closed, which was bitter sweet considering as his eyes had the most beautiful shade of amber that warmed even Sanji's cold bite. But there was something missing about them. Then that hair, still styled the same as if he'd just gotten out of bed, it wanted to make Sanji laugh.
He was staring at a ghost of a man alive, the memory he'd once had of him over shadowing him and merging to the person before him. Zoro, his Zoro. He couldn't imagine what must be going on in his mind as he slugged out of his seat instantly, nearly spilling his glass just to stare at the cook. Was he thinking the same? That damn time had really fucked them over? Or was he regretting joining the festivities tonight?
Sanji wasn't too different anyway, or so he liked to tell himself. He still parted his hair in a childish manor to conceal an eyebrow, matching Zoro's new trend of one eye which arguably he had started first. Though he'd let his stubble grow a bit more on his chin and his hair long enough for a slight pony in the back that he felt added just enough class. A grin graced his features, it was time to break the air between them, he'd been caught so he'd have to play this through.
"Only you would wear green to a white and silver ball, Marimo." he breathed cooly, taking in Zoro's image still.
Zoro took a step in stride out from his place at the bar and closer to the blonde, his voice stuck in his chest, where everything was in total disarray. Sanji, it was Sanji. He'd finally noticed him then? There was a growing excitement in his mind he hated to dismiss, his grip on his glass of sake slightly shaking, but not enough so that his nervousness was evident.
He looked perfect, just the way he'd imagined him to be. Fucking cook, managing to keep himself so clean and sharp after so long, perhaps Zoro should have listened to those advices he'd talked his ear off about, once upon a time.
"Only you would set a shitty dress code." The Marimo retorted, a smirk crossing his lips as well.
So, he did know Sanji was hosting the Christmas party? Sanji didn't know why but something about that changed everything. He didn't mind coming to a place he had to know they would run into one another. The bastard, had that been his plan? Well in that case, Sanji gazed down to his wine glass and brought it to his lips, finishing it off before side stepping and reaching past the Marimo to set it on the counter of the bar.
"Least you didn't get lost this time." His voice rang hushly into Zoro's ear as he took his arm back.
Zoro just shook his head lightly, turning half way to set his drink, though it still had some alcohol in it on the counter as well. Sanji couldn't help but raise an eyebrow at that because something drastic could only be the explanation to Zoro willingly leaving sake behind, but he didn't question it. He only froze again under the gaze of a former love, awaiting any next words.
"Nah." Zoro averted his eyes and took a deep breath, spying at those dancing to slow winter songs on the floor. "Not this year. There's something I need to do."
Sanji couldn't help but narrow his eyes, tilting his head slightly to study at the Marimo's expression. What could he mean by that? Something to do? Perhaps, something to say? Someone to meet? He didn't want to think it could mean anything towards him, as he'd learned long ago from silence that stopped being true.
"Oh? A Marimo on a mission? And what's that?"
Zoro only fiddled with the cuff to his suit which was far more impressive than the fact he was actually wearing one. His eyes still didn't meet Sanji's. He furrowed his brows and looked down towards their shoes.
"Oi, cook, you wanna dance?"
Sanji nearly choked on his own spit. Only Zoro would find a way to ruin their already tense atmosphere. But his proposition made his chest ache slightly. Dance? It'd been more than a little long since the last time they'd ever done something like that... ever stood so close. Still he stared at Zoro in mild confusion before glancing over at the dance floor himself.
He could remind himself always of their past and what had been said and done, but he could not deny the times he'd wished differently. How many years having this annual holiday celebration since he had someone to dance with? It seemed foolish and un-Sanji like, but he just hadn't had the motivation to pursue anything else in that way he had with Zoro. Did that make him a sad old man that perhaps Zoro pitied?
Even so, Sanji supposed, he could treat himself with this just for tonight. Even if he knew it would just hurt him, he'd kill himself for ever passing up an opportunity. He shrugged his shoulders casually, turning back to Zoro, still smiling.
"Only if you still remember not to step on the shoes."
Zoro couldn't help but chuckle, but felt it was the only permission he needed, reaching and clasping Sanji's hand whether he wanted him to or not. Next he was dragging him out to the next clear space among the dancers, grinning as he pulled Sanji into a half spin to face him, the excitement of their youth flowing back to possess him.
Sanji's scowl at him for being so childish about it was something he didn't mind either, his hands taking their places.
"Oh so that's what you had to do? You needed to get your assed kicked? Cause you know I'm willing to oblige-"
"Shut up cook and just dance."
The first song was nothing but them being silent, staring awkwardly at each other and then away like a pair of high school heart throbs who despite knowing what they were doing, absolutely didn't as they rocked back and forth. Sanji's face found itself resting down, his eyes staring at the Marimo's chest, a calm expression painting his features.
"You've gotten better at this." He whispered.
Zoro's eye glanced down to view at the blonde, remaining silent a moment more.
"Had a lot of time to learn."
"It has been awhile hasn't it?"
"Ten years today..."
Sanji's heart fell into the pit of his stomach. No he didn't want to be reminded of this, not in the small moment they were sharing for the first time in forever that he had wished he could experience just once more.
"Have you been... well?"
He had. They spent the next few songs, just talking in their low whispers about what had been happening since the last time they saw each other. Zoro had gone over seas like he had always planned to study more and train himself. He didn't go into specifics over certain injuries, like the one to his eye, only kept to a minimal, opting not to bother Sanji with ten years worth of details.
Sanji was a little harder to get answers out of. He didn't want to accidentally slip and reveal the way he'd been torturing himself a good chunk of their years apart, but kept his cool. Explaining his abilities as a chef went world renown, even if Zoro could have already guessed. He left him hanging with only a summary of being busy, very busy.
But in their talking something interesting happened that neither of them picked up on. It was as if the ten years apart washed off their shoulders and they were standing there again as ripe young adults, not knowing yet the true definition of loneliness. Like they had never left each others sides. Before they knew it they were cursing each other out on the dance floor, laughing at each others failures and not even caring the looks they received for breaking the fine atmosphere of the party. Fuck, it was Sanji's anyway so he could do what he wanted.
Time had moved so quickly though and the floor began to become less crowded as people retired to the tables along the walls to drink or exchange gifts, the night growing older.
"You look good cook." Zoro whispered then, lifting his hand up to brush his fingers lightly against the stubble on his chin.
Sanji's face flushed and he averted his eyes. "Shut up, shitty Marimo. I got old, that's what you mean."
Damn him for coming in here so randomly, treating him so kindly and affectionately. What was his goal here? Was he trying to unlock what Sanji had hidden away? Make him fall for him again in only the coarse of one night? Because if that had been his motive, he'd accomplished it already hours ago.
"Old or not, it's true. You look just like I thought you would."
Sanji's throat swelled a little and he lifted his hand, pushing Zoro's hand away.
"Bastard...Flattery will get you nowhere, you know that."
His eye widened though when Zoro turned his hand around, clasping it tight around Sanji's.
"It was worth a try though, wasn't it?"
Sanji's gaze fell down to Zoro's grasp on his hand and he tried to pull away, his eye widening. His heart stopped, feeling the smooth surface of a ring. He could see it, the silver band on Zoro's ring finger. Quickly he yanked his hand back and took a step away. What was this? A wedding ring? The Marimo had.. he was.. but they...!
Zoro looked at him confused then down at his hand, noticing what must have spooked him off.
"Oi cook I can explain." He said quick and in his panic. Shit he knew he shouldn't have worn that tonight.
Sanji still kept taking steps back. God he'd been such an idiot. He'd totally melted into Zoro. He knew this would happen! He knew he'd just be disappointed and hurt again! Of course Zoro had moved on, who wouldn't have moved on after what had happened, but dammit he'd never really thought it could happen...
"It was nice seeing you again Zoro. I'm sorry I've gotta go say goodbye to my guests..." He whimpered out, cursing the way his composure shattered, showing his feelings.
He could not help the buildup of waterworks at his lashes. He was a fool and he deserved to feel this way. He only hated that Zoro kept trying to follow him, reaching out and forcefully grabbing his arm, making him turn to face him.
"Sanji it's not what you think."
He released the cook and looked down at his hand, turning the ring a little on his finger.
"I'm not married. I haven't been... this is..."
Sanji, glaring at him and whatever the hell he was doing just continued to feed the humiliation. Now he could see what it was... it was the thing that brought the strongest memory he detested most back to them. It was the ring he'd proposed with, on a night ten years ago, but why had he kept it? And son of a bitch, now he got to see Sanji's embarrassing and broken response when he did think he was married. Dammit!
Zoro's face had flushed and he shoved his hand wearing the ring into his pant pocket, looking back up at Sanji sternly.
"I came because I'm tired of waiting. I told you I would so I've been holding off for you to come back on your own, when you were ready, but... I don't know how much more time you need. So I came back to get you myself."
"Tch! Don't tell me you don't remember?!"
No Sanji remembered quite well what he'd said. That he loved Zoro, very much, but that he wasn't ready. That the future scared him and even more so he hadn't wanted to tie Zoro down. How juvenile he'd been back then. He'd told Zoro he wanted him to go off and accomplish all that he could and wanted to live his life... and that maybe again in the future if they were meant to be, they would come back.
But it had honestly been shit he found off the top of his head when his fear took a hold of him and he'd made the worst mistake of his life. When he had to witness the defeated face of the Marimo as he left, never to be seen again for ten years. He thought he left with it as a denial and moved on with his life. Now to realize it had been a lie, that he'd actually done what Sanji had said and lived, only to come back and wait for him and Sanji to have that moment of fate?
"You waited... all this time?" Sanji asked quietly.
Zoro nodded. "I'll always wait. I told you then, you're the only one, you asshole."
Sanji shoved at Zoro's chest, scowling at him.
"Don't call me an asshole! You're the fucking idiot! Ten years? You waited around like a lost puppy dog for ten years? Why... Why didn't you say something?!"
"I knew it, you shitty cook! You did forget it. I swear...!"
"The only thing I forgot was how much of a moron-"
Sanji's insult was stopped mid sentence, the grace of two lips pressing against him, the warmth of his former lover, back to ignite the spark. Not even having the energy to be further humiliated or angry, Sanji's arms moved up and wrapped around Zoro's neck, directing him closer into his grasp and to deepen their kiss, both their lips having craved this over ten years time.
Neither one of them wanted to admit what this meant, that they were foolish over the last ten years and that from their own misunderstandings it was their fault they had been alone so long. If they could turn back the clock, things could have been different, but they knew they couldn't dwell there, the future and present being far too real to them already. Time only moved forward and they could only move with it if they didn't want the past to repeat itself.
Zoro pulled back from the kiss, taking in a deep breath as he gazed at Sanji's face, his hand reaching back up to move away the bangs for a full view.
"I missed you, cook... I will make you wear this ring. Kept it warm ever since."
Sanji couldn't help but snicker. Stupid Marimo, always so determined to win something and to get what he wanted. He allowed his forehead to fall forward, resting against Zoro's chest as he listened to him breathe.
"Shut up Zoro..." He growled, moving his arms around his waist instead now, never wanting to let him go as he held him close and took in the scent he'd been missing.
Sanji didn't know what he had done to deserve a second chance, or maybe it was just his luck that the Marimo was an idiot and hadn't moved on with his life. That didn't say a lot about him either. He didn't want to admit it because it did mean he'd forgotten he'd asked for more time, but he really had been feeling just the same, waiting at home for something to happen like a second chance. Though it had been there all along.
He closed his eyes. He liked this song the band was playing, it was more romantic than the others and totally added the finishing touch to their emotional scene. Opening his eyes again, he gazed up at Zoro's face where he still held such a child like demeanor of not standing down and Sanji just smiled.
"Just keep dancing with me."
Author's Note: Happy Holidays to my readers/followers! I hope you have a good one *^*. This was beta'd by that one chick I compliment all the time who probably only came here just now to make sure she had a mention! The wonderful, ever fab, MyLadyDay. Review's are much appreciated as always!