For day 20 of the ZoSan Holiday Exchange! Happy holidays if you celebrate, and if not, have a good week anyway :)


Sweet Talk

March

Zoro was sick of arranging and rearranging furniture, and of bumping into the cardboard boxes that inhabited every room in the new apartment. He hadn't even brought more than the bare necessities with him, and it was still too damn much. His earlier keenness to have the place in living order by the end of the day was now both laughable and disheartening.

As if to make matters worse, Perona was lounging on the sofa, gleefully watching his steady descent into failure like the sadist she was. Zoro fumed to himself, wishing she'd leave so that, at the very least, he wouldn't have to feel her eyes on his back the whole time. But she'd staunchly refused all of his offers to drive her back to the base thus far, and so he was stuck feeling sweaty and embarrassed under her gaze.

Just as he slid the kitchen table into its final resting place, she spoke for the first time in several hours. "I think I'll order some dinner," she said airily. "Your treat."

He grumbled, sending an exhausted, half-hearted threat her way. Still, when the food arrived, he discovered that she'd gotten something for him too - surprisingly good beef stroganoff with a side of buttery bread - and that the receipt the delivery man handed to him wasn't half-bad either.

At the end of the night, instead of throwing it away, he put the menu on the refrigerator for later consideration.


April

"You've reached the Baratie, take out or delivery?" said a deep, smoky voice from the other end of the phone.

"Delivery," Zoro replied.

"Great, because sending out vital staff to lazy shitheads is just what I wanted to do on the busiest night of the week," the guy muttered.

Zoro raised an eyebrow and felt his placid expression turn into an irritable frown. For starters, he'd been on his feet all day, then he'd gotten lost on the way home, and he'd had enough lip from some uppity lance corporal who thought he knew more on his second tour of duty than Zoro did on his sixth. He wasn't particularly interested in getting off his ass for the rest of the night, except to walk to the door and have food handed to him. And there was no way he was going to take attitude from some mouthy little fuck who didn't have shit to complain about in the scheme of things.

But the guy continued before Zoro could work up the strength to ream him out. "What can I get for you?"

A sudden stroke of genius caused Zoro to realize that, though he couldn't specifically call the guy out, he could definitely waste some of his time. "I don't have the menu in front of me," he said, finding it hard to keep the smile off his face now that he actually had something to smile about. "Could you read it to me?"

"Fuck no! Call back when you're serious, asshole!" And with that, the phone line went dead and began to beep in his ear.

Zoro let out what could only be described as a cackle, then hit the redial button.

"I swear to god," the same man answered.

"I was just fucking with you," said Zoro, laughter still evident in his voice.

"Well aren't you just as sweet as sugar. But I've got some advice for you: don't fuck with me, it won't end well for you."

"Yeah, sure, fine," Zoro said, not at all taken in by the tough-guy act. "Gimme the beef stroganoff."

"Anything else?"

"That's it."

"Your total will be $7.38 and my foot up your ass."


May

"This is the Baratie," the man said. "Take out or delivery?"

Zoro said nothing. He had ordered from the Baratie about a dozen times now, give or take, and it was only ever this guy who answered the phone - thus, he was ripe for Zoro's very specific brand of revenge. Honestly, he wasn't sure why he clung to that grudge, except that the guy had stood out to him ever since that first time he'd called in an order. At this point, it was kind of a given that one or both of them would mess around with each other a little.

"Hello?"

Still, Zoro said nothing.

"I can fucking hear you breathing!" the man practically screeched into his ear.

"Sorry," Zoro said, smirking. Hell, who was he kidding? He stuck with that grudge because it was fun to fuck with this guy. "I was distracted by your beautiful voice."

"Shut the fuck up. What do you want?"

"Food," said Zoro. "What else would I want?"

"To hear my beautiful voice, apparently."

"And now I've gotten it. How about beef stroganoff."

"$10.38."

"That's more than usual."

"Just for you, sugar. Time is money, and I'm sick of you wasting mine."

Zoro turned his mouth away from the phone, trying with questionable levels of success to hide his laughter. "Fine."

That night, he handed three extra dollar bills to the delivery boy, and on each one of them, he'd scribbled in pen: Thanks for the good time, "sugar."


June

"You order the same thing every time," said the man. "Don't you ever get bored of it?"

"Not really," Zoro replied, and then, on a whim, "Got any suggestions?"

"Sure. Anything you're allergic to, sugar dumpling?"

"Your bad attitude, for a start."

"Great. Then I'll give you a double order of it."

"No thanks."

"Too bad," the guy said. "How about a turkey, cheddar, and pear sandwich? That's pretty good this time of year."

"Fine."

Half an hour later, after he'd paid the delivery boy and closed the apartment door behind himself, Zoro opened the bag and pulled the sandwich out. It was wrapped in wax paper, which had been scribbled over with a marker: Added a bit of my bad attitude for you, sugar.

And sure enough, there was a very fine layer of spicy ginger mustard when he bit into the sandwich. It was one of the most delicious things he'd eaten in a while.


July

"This is the third time you've called for delivery this week. Might I add, if you were unaware, that it's only Tuesday," the voice said down the phone, sounding utterly exasperated. "Don't you ever eat a home cooked meal?"

Tonight, Zoro couldn't be bothered at all with amusement regarding their banter, all thanks to work-related stress. "I'm fucking paying you, you know. Just bring me the damn food."

"And what if I don't? What'll you do then?"

Zoro wished dearly that he could reach through the phone and strangle the owner of that voice. "Complain to the manager, probably."

There was a laugh, rough and guttural. "He won't give a shit."

"Guess I'll starve then," Zoro said.

"No, I won't let that happen." The man was suddenly serious, the complete flip-side to his usual teasing, brash demeanor. "The runner'll be around in half an hour. Hang tight until then, okay?"

"Whatever," Zoro said, and hung up the phone. It took him several minutes to realize that, where he'd had a strained frown on his mouth before, there was now a smile, small though it was.


August

It wasn't like Zoro was really that bad at cooking for himself. He just worked long hours, and was often too exhausted to bother with it once he got home. And damn it, the place had good food, even if the guy who answered the phone could be kind of a prick at times. At least Zoro knew how to give as good as he got.

He refused to admit that sometimes, those short phone calls with someone who didn't look up to or down at him were kind of the highlight of his week, which was exactly why he felt so disappointed when a new voice answered the phone

"This is the Baratie, what can I get for you?" a gentle female voice asked.

"Uh..." Zoro said eloquently. "Where's the guy?"

"Huh? Sir, what are you talking about?"

"Nothing. Sorry, I think I have the wrong number." And with that, he hung up, a frown on his face. He wondered why the hell he cared so much, and why he was so disappointed that he didn't get to hear that annoyed, sarcastic drawl.

Maybe someday, he'd be able to get his life into something resembling normal order. Maybe at that point he'd be able to go to work, and also have the time to cook himself meals and make new friends outside of the Corps. Maybe he'd have time to go back home to his family and friends.

Maybe he'd stop looking forward to talking to some guy whose name he didn't even know.


September

"Hey, is that the Baratie? Get me something too!" Perona demanded.

"Is that your girlfriend?" the guy asked. He was finally back, having apparently been out sick the previous week, and Zoro might have been keeping him on the line longer than usual tonight in an attempt to make up for lost time.

"Hell no."

"Oh? Why so defensive?"

Zoro rolled his eyes. "Why do you care?"

"Dunno. You've caught my interest."

"There's not much to know, but I can assure you, I'm not dating her."

"Alright, I believe you, sugar."

"That's not my name, you know."

"I know, Zoro," the guy said, sounding all too amused.

It was strange to hear his name come out of this stranger's mouth. Strange, but also nice, for some reason. Zoro wasn't sure if he was deluding himself when he heard a bit of warmth in those two syllables of his name, but he liked it.

"Do I get to know your name?" he asked.

"Call again and I might just give it to you," said the guy, and Zoro definitely wasn't deluding himself into hearing the flirtation in those words.


October

"You sound rushed."

"Yeah, I have to get back to base in an hour," said Zoro. He tried not to let the exhaustion bleed through his voice, but it did anyway.

"There's stew tonight. Beef, potato and apple," the guy said conversationally. "If you were looking for something a little different. More seasonal or whatever."

"Okay," said Zoro.

"Or does the fruit offend your delicate sensibilities?"

"I like apples," Zoro said indignantly. He was starting to wish he'd never actually told the guy he wasn't a big fan of fruits or vegetables, because he'd latched on and wouldn't fucking let it go now.

"You sure?"

"Yeah."

"Okay. I'll make sure to send you some garlic bread too. On the house."

"Thanks, that'd be nice."

Instead of the usual singular paper bag delivered to Zoro's door, there were two. The first held a couple containers of the stew, and the second, garlic bread wrapped in wax paper, as well as a styrofoam cup. On the side, in Sharpie: Hot chocolate - it's cold out tonight, make sure to keep warm. - Sanji


November

"Sanji," said Zoro, for the first time.

There was some strange, hitching noise on the other end of the phone. "Yeah?" Sanji said, after a moment.

"Is there any more of the stew?"

Sanji let out an irritated breath. "No, there isn't. You didn't call last week."

"I was busy at work."

"Did you make sure to eat everyday?"

"... I dunno."

"Dumbass," Sanji accused, and his voice actually sounded angry for once.

"What? You mad at me?"

"No, why would I be mad at you?" Sanji asked brusquely. "You're a stranger, you're not worth my time or consideration."

Zoro raised an eyebrow. It sure did sound like Sanji was pissed at him, but maybe that was just wishful thinking. "I see," he said after a moment. "I just realized I'm not really that hungry after all."

He hung up the phone, and sat very still, very quietly. It was hard not to feel stupid, like he'd made some fundamental but simple mistake. They were just people who vaguely knew each other, joking, making pleasant (and sometimes not-so-pleasant) conversation over the phone during a service transaction. They didn't owe each other anything, they weren't friends, they were nothing.

And those thoughts only served to make Zoro feel more ashamed for what he felt.


December

"You realize it's Christmas Eve, right?" Sanji answered after two rings.

Zoro frowned. The girl from a few months ago had been answering all his calls since the fallout a couple weeks ago, and Zoro wasn't quite prepared to be confronted with Sanji just yet. "How did you even know it was me?"

"You always call at the same time. Also, caller ID."

"Right."

"So, Christmas Eve. Don't you have anybody to spend it with?"

"All my friends live halfway across the globe," Zoro said.

"What about that girl who isn't your girlfriend?"

"She's spending Christmas with her girlfriend."

"Oh. Nobody else?"

"No."

"Right. So you're, what, a shut-in? That's why you have no friends?"

"No."

"Then what?" Sanji asked, seeming genuinely curious.

"Why should I tell you? We're strangers, remember?" Zoro sounded so bitter to his own ears that it was embarrassing.

"Because apparently I'm the only one who's decent enough to ask why you're spending the holidays alone. What about your family?"

"Also halfway across the globe," Zoro grudgingly admitted.

Sanji made a small sound of disapproval. "You're not going home to see them?"

"Why the fuck do you care so much?" Zoro asked. He didn't even try not to sound hostile, because Sanji deserved it, both for pretending to care and for making Zoro so frustrated.

"Just curious," Sanji said.

"You get that way about all your customers?"

"Nah, just the ones that need taking care of."

"I'm stationed here," Zoro said after a moment, figuring that he could make a single allowance. At least Sanji was making an effort to be nice. "I can't fly out to see them."

"Ah. No wonder you order from here so often, then. You must not need any more stress on top of that kind of job."

"Yeah," Zoro said. "I'm kinda surprised you're open on Christmas Eve."

"Huh? Oh, we're not."

"Why are you there, then?"

"Getting Christmas gifts from their hiding places..." said Sanji. "I've got some nosy roommates."

"Oh. Alright, I guess I'll dig around for something here then."

"No, wait. Listen. I have your address, right? I can bring something by really quick."

"You don't have to do that," Zoro said. "It's not a big deal."

"It kind of is," said Sanji. "I gotta go, though. It was nice to talk to you again."

"Sure. Bye." Zoro hung up the phone, smiling.

Despite saying that he'd find himself something to eat though, he laid on the sofa for a while, half watching TV and half dozing. Therefore, when the first knock came on the front door, he was half convinced it was a figment of his drowsy mind, and ignored it. When it came again (a little harder and more insistent this time), he gave in and rolled off the couch, shuffling over to the door.

It was hard to see out of the peephole; the landing was dark, and besides, whoever was out there didn't seem to want to be seen. He pulled the chain back and unlatched the deadbolt, then pulled the door open.

There was a man standing slightly to the side, about Zoro's height, with nicely-styled blond hair and blue eyes hidden behind a pair of black frames. His mouth and nose were mostly covered by a soft-looking blue scarf, and he carried a couple grocery bags in his peacoat-clad arms.

"Special delivery," he said, and his voice was that of Sanji's - a bit raspy, smoke roughened. Pleasant to the ears nonetheless.

"I thought I told you not to," said Zoro, and yet he stepped back, allowing Sanji to come in after he'd stomped his boots off on the landing. Perhaps the darkness would hide the way Zoro was reeling at the physical existence of Sanji. It had been hard to imagine him as anything but a voice, and yet here he was - entirely too present, and entirely too attractive. Far less rough-looking than his harsh words would imply, at any rate.

"Couldn't leave somebody starving on Christmas Eve... That's just not good karma," Sanji said. He dropped the grocery bags onto the coffee table and then tucked his hands into his pockets. "I was just working on assumptions with the things you usually like, so hopefully you'll find something good here."

"What is it?"

"Uh... seared garlic prime rib and roasted rosemary potatoes. Creamed corn, rolls, a piece of pumpkin pie. It's just some leftovers I had from a dinner party the other night, sorry."

"You cook?" Zoro asked.

"Yeah. You've been eating my cooking for the past several months," said Sanji, one eyebrow quirked as if he couldn't believe Zoro didn't know this.

Zoro tilted his head in consideration. It was surprising how many things he did know about Sanji, but the realization that what he knew was ultimately very little hit him like a ton of bricks.

His silence seemed to make Sanji nervous, because he quickly continued. "I heated it up at the restaurant, so if you wanna go ahead and eat... I'll get out of your hair."

"Nah," Zoro said. "Stick around, have a beer."

Sanji wrinkled his nose in what was probably distaste - Zoro really couldn't be sure, and that was all too clear to him - but he sat down gingerly on the lone armchair anyway. With that taken care of, Zoro turned toward the kitchen with intent to retrieve a six pack and a couple of plates and cutlery.

Instead, he paused by the sink, staring down at the mug he'd rinsed out but not washed earlier that morning. Everything felt strangely surreal, as if somewhere along the timeline of his day, he'd veered off into another dimension entirely. It was just that he'd never actually thought he'd meet Sanji - that they'd forever be two people who were aware of each other, but that their lives wouldn't intercept. Zoro had to admit he was still a bit shaken, not least of all because now there was a very real, very attractive person on whom he'd unwittingly placed his affections. And with that came the chance of rejection.

When he returned to the living room, Sanji was still sat uncomfortably on the chair. Zoro passed him a plate and one of the sets of cutlery before taking his own place on the sofa.

"There's still stickers on these plates, you know," Sanji said after a moment, clearly unimpressed.

"Oh."

"You've been here how long again?" Sanji asked, and didn't even wait for an answer before steamrolling on. "If I weren't so sure that all the stuff you ordered from us was made with decent ingredients, I'd be severely worried for your health."

Zoro said nothing, more distracted with opening the lid of the container holding prime rib. It smelled amazing, strong and flavorful, and he gladly forked some onto his plate. With only a short pause to add in the side dishes, he began shoveling it down so quickly it was a miracle he didn't choke himself.

But he didn't stop there; he refilled his plate afterward, then emptied it again, and when he finally deemed himself finished, he put his dishes on the coffee table and kicked his feet up. His stomach felt uncomfortably full, but like hell he was going to skimp on the first decadent meal he'd had since relocating. And anyway, nerves caused him to want to distract himself - the proximity of food just so happened to be a pleasant way to do so.

Still, Sanji seemed to take his empty plate as a cue to leave, and stood awkwardly.

"Where are you going?" Zoro asked. The words came out all in a jumble, hurried and almost desperate.

"You don't need me hanging around," said Sanji with a shrug of his shoulders.

"You already know I don't have anything to do," Zoro said. "Unless you've got places to be. I guess I didn't think of that."

"No, I don't," Sanji said. The words were out of him before Zoro had even finished his sentence, as if he didn't want Zoro to have that idea.

"Stay then."

Sanji quirked his mouth to the side, then nodded. For the first time since arriving, he relaxed, slipping out of his coat and dropping it on the armchair. When he sat this time, it was beside Zoro.

And Zoro was confronted with Sanji's warmth, the nice - if subtle - scent of smoke and some kind of cologne hovering around him. He felt Sanji's presence intimately, from the shift of his elbow against Zoro's side, the muscles in his thigh tensing just inches away, to the set of his jaw. It was uncomfortable and too nice and Zoro had to clench his teeth to keep from just touching Sanji.

"I'm really glad I got to meet you finally, you know," Sanji said. His voice was much quieter than it had been yet, like he was hoping perhaps Zoro wouldn't hear him after all.

"Yeah."

"I was worried about you last month, when you didn't call for a while."

"Sorry."

"Were you eating well? Did you move away? Did you suddenly hate my cooking? Or was it something worse? Shit, I couldn't stop thinking about all of that."

"I was just busy," said Zoro. "I'm sorry."

"Stop apologizing, shithead."

Zoro went silent for the simple fact that he had nothing to say, and Sanji huffed out a breath.

"I don't know why I care so much," he said. "I just wanted you to be okay."

"I am."

"You're alone on Christmas Eve," Sanji scoffed. "That's not okay."

Zoro shook his head. "I'm not alone. I have you."

The sound Sanji made at that was almost furious, and he leaned over more quickly than Zoro could register. But the touch of his lips on Zoro's was soft, chaste, and lasted barely a second before Sanji was scrambling backward again.

Zoro reached out hurriedly, barely managing to catch his hand before he escaped entirely. Absurdly, his first thought was to press a kiss to Sanji's open palm, and Sanji seemed to realize how weird it was too, if the scrunch of his face was anything to go by. "Do I have you?" he asked.

Sanji's eyebrows lowered, and his mouth became a thin, serious line. "I thought you said you were allergic to my bad attitude."

That startled a laugh out of Zoro, and he shrugged his shoulders. "I think I've acquired immunity by now."

"Yeah?" Sanji asked. He smiled, but it was tentative. "Well in that case..."

Zoro didn't wait to hear it. He leaned across the space between them and curled his arm around Sanji's neck, drawing him into a kiss. This one was less chaste, more pent-up want, and it lasted. It lasted long enough that Sanji had to come closer, then press himself to Zoro's side, long enough that Zoro could learn how Sanji wouldn't let him have control, but goaded him on, teasing all the same. And he learned that he liked it.

When they broke apart, Zoro was smiling, and Sanji just stared at him curiously.

"You're strange, you know?" he said.

Zoro nodded. "You too."

Sanji leaned forward, resting his head on Zoro's shoulder, and let out an audible sigh. "I can't believe I want to fuck such a weirdo. But I really do."

"What's holding you back?"

"I have to go home and make dinner for my shitty roommates."

"They can survive without you, can't they?"

"Those idiots?" Sanji asked. "No. They'd probably burn the place down if they tried to cook, and that's not the kind of Christmas gift I want."

"We could make it quick." Hell only knew why Zoro was trying so hard for this. Ultimately, he'd only met Sanji today, and yet... he was just as compelling as Zoro had thought he would be.

Sanji was full-on smiling, and it wasn't anything like Zoro could have imagined. It was wide and happy and there was something childlike, innocent in it. Zoro's stomach dropped like he was going full-speed over a steep hill in a car.

But what Sanji said was, "I can't. I really have to go."

Zoro nodded, trying to look as understanding as possible even as he scooted backward to the far edge of the sofa. Perhaps it would be easier to let Sanji leave if he was further away. "Okay, yeah. That's fine."

"But you should come with me."

Zoro raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"

"Yeah. I'll make it worth your while."

A real, genuine smile came to Zoro's face, and it almost ached. He didn't know how he'd gotten here, or where he'd go from here, but... "I'm sure you will, sugar."