Zoro thought nothing of it at first. It wasn't often that Sanji joined them fishing, but Sunny had been anchored for a while near an abandoned island – Nami had said a storm was brewing ahead and they should wait it out here – and Luffy had demanded a fishing expedition. He and Usopp currently sat on the opposite side to Zoro, though more pushing and splashing was going on that actual fishing.
"Oi," a voice beside Zoro said and he turned with a frown to face Sanji. "Hand over some bait."
It would be easy to stir up one of their arguments, but Zoro wasn't in the mood. Nami was absent on deck and that meant they still had a while before she came to check the weather and see if they could move out.
"Here," he grunted and Sanji nodded in thanks, slipping his legs over the side of the ship. His toes were bare and Zoro stared for a moment, willing away the urge to comment. He wanted a peaceful morning, nothing more.
As he fished, Sanji began to hum something around his cigarette. Zoro lay back on the deck, fishing line useless since he'd cast it. Fishing was a pretence for Zoro and he preferred to sleep away the day.
"Marimo," Sanji asked quietly, "Pass me the bucket next to you."
Zoro complied, cracking his eye open to watch as Sanji jumped down the rope ladder, scooping something into the bucket with great care. He came back up with a beaming smile, hefting the bucket on board before he hauled himself on.
"It's a bit small for tonight's dinner," Zoro quipped, staring at the fish in the bucket. It was a boring fish, silver scaled glimmering in the ripples of the bucket. Zoro would have thrown it back if it had been his catch, but Sanji seemed fascinated by it, dipping his fingers into the water to let the fish nibble gently.
"This one's not for eating," Sanji said, though his voice sounded far away and without the usual bite he carried whenever he addressed Zoro. "It's a Common, you can find them in any ocean."
There was a wistful quality to Sanji's voice that Zoro seldom heard. He could find it whenever Sanji talked about his dream, of his beautiful All Blue. Zoro didn't know if such an ocean existed – could exist – but for the way Sanji spoke of it, he hoped with all his strength and might that it did.
"Lunch will be soon," Sanji said, and though he wasn't speaking of his dreams, his voice was still soft and melodious, in a way Zoro never had directed to himself. "And then Nami-san said we'll set off."
He was gone a moment later, leaving Zoro alone with Luffy and Usopp, the sounds from across the ship lulling him into a light doze.
All thoughts of an unimpressive, silver fish had escaped Zoro's mind until a few months later. Dressrosa was behind them by a matter of hours, but the festivities hadn't stopped. Trafalgar Law stood in the centre of the deck, looking around at the scene of his crew and theirs at a loss.
Zoro was about to walk the few steps between them, but Sanji appeared from nowhere and had Law's full attention straight away. Zoro was close enough to hear their conversation and he wasn't surprised that Sanji had approached Law. Sanji was good with people who felt uncomfortable and Law was the very picture of discomfort.
"We all know what it's like to lose our nakama," Sanji said softly, passing Law a thick, steaming drink. "Which is why I know how you feel – or at least can guess. You've been without them for so long and now… well it takes time to fit together again."
Law sipped at his drink, making a noise of appreciation as the liquid slipped down his throat.
"It's been a while since I drank this," Law said. "I've never had it outside of North Blue."
Sanji smiled and patted Law on the back. Zoro felt warmth curl in his stomach despite the chill in the air. It was something Sanji's smile always brought to him and he half-turned away, uninterested in what Sanji had to discuss with someone who wasn't himself.
"SANJI!" Luffy called from across the ship, above the hole to the aquarium. "I WANT FISH!"
It was a rare request, but Zoro suspected that Luffy had eaten all the available meat on the ship and had turned to desperate measures.
Luffy extended an arm into the aquarium as Sanji sighed, reaching Luffy's side in time to stop him slipping completely into the sea water. His body was limp, but his hands had managed to grasp a fish in the aquarium.
"Idiot," Sanji scolded, though he wore a fond smile. "Come get our brave and mighty captain, Marimo."
Unusually complacent, Zoro walked to Sanji's side and hooked Luffy up and away from the water, frowning down at the fish he had in his stretched hand. It was the size of a medium-sized dog, gasping as it faced life outside of water.
"Put my Common back," Sanji said suddenly, hands reaching out for the fish as his cigarette fell to the floor. His eyes were wide and Luffy recovered far quicker than usual and let the fish slide back into the water.
"Thank you," Sanji said, picking up his cigarette and cursing. Water had damaged it and he took another out, raising his eyebrow at Zoro. "What do you want Marimo?"
Luffy had taken off, wrapping himself around Law and firing a barrage of questions (the most important whether Bepo could shit) while Zoro had stayed behind, watching as the tail of the Common fish darted out of sight.
"That fish, you still have it?" The average lifespan of a fish in their aquarium was a few weeks, not a few months. Zoro was impressed and wondered whether there was a reason for Sanji keeping it alive. People tended to fatten up animals, didn't they?
An answer wasn't what Zoro got. Instead, he felt someone step up beside him and frowned as Law looked down at the hatch.
"You have a Common?" he said, voice tinted with something odd, and Zoro felt his heart drop at the wide smile Sanji gave. Why did Law's question get such a response when Zoro's had been almost exactly the same?
"It was a small one when I got it," Sanji said, nodding his head towards the door. He obviously intended to show Law the fish properly. "It's grown pretty big, though that's not the first time Luffy's tried to eat it. I doubt it'll be the last either."
And then they were gone, heading to look at fish or whatever. Zoro felt jealousy coil in his chest and he sighed heavily, moving to the alcohol stash and ignoring anyone's attempts to interact with him. He did nod to Luffy's heavy gaze and Luffy nodded in return, relaxing. Even in the midst of celebrations, Luffy always, always, looked out for his nakama.
He spent the night curled up with a pile of growing bottles, watching Sanji feed the hoard on the ship and wondering why it bothered him so much that Sanji hadn't answered his question.
Life continued as insane and unpredictable as their lives always had been. Yet, despite all the drama and adventures, there was one constant routine in Zoro's life. Every night (well, every night they were aboard Sunny) he would sit beside the aquarium with a small bottle of sake, tracking the huge fish that had grown from the tiny one Sanji had caught almost a year before.
Sanji hadn't moved past the name Common, but Zoro secretly named the fish Star because, well, it was shiny like a star. Zoro had never claimed to be a genius at naming things and a fish was no different. But he liked it having a name, even if they were going to eat it later.
After a particularly tough run in with local marines, Zoro took to the aquarium room with more than his fair share of alcohol. Most of the crew had gone to the island they were docked at for dinner, but Zoro had remained behind with Sanji and Franky – the latter to repair the ship and the former for whatever reason.
"Oh," a voice rang out and Zoro wanted to curse his luck. Did simply thinking about Sanji summon him or did Zoro simply have terrible luck?
"I thought you'd be on deck," Sanji offered as explanation, a glass of wine and plate in his hand. Zoro and Franky had been given a hearty seafood stew an hour or so earlier, but Sanji hadn't eaten then. In fact, it wasn't often Zoro did see Sanji eat.
"It's raining," Zoro said, the conversation strangely mild for them. It had become that way more and more when they were alone together, as if they could let their guards down fully as two men who were both searching for something in each other.
"Ah," Sanji said, still hovering in the doorway, as if he was debating whether to stay or retreat. Zoro knew he had to hold out an olive branch if he wanted Sanji's company – and tonight he did want it.
"When you finish that wine, I'll give you a bottle." Zoro shook the bottle he had in his hand from side to side and Sanji grinned, stepping into the room fully and taking a seat beside him. His plate held a decent sized portion of stew and rice, still steaming.
"It's nice to get a bit of peace for a while," Sanji said, once he'd finished his dinner. He sat back and patted his stomach gently, watching the shadows of fish on the wall opposite the glass. "Especially when you know everyone is safe and coming back."
No one would forget their year apart, ever. They'd used such time to their advantage, but every night had been spent worrying whether everyone else was okay. Zoro might never have doubted they'd all return, but he had worried about his nakama regardless.
"What fish do we have in there?" he said, not wanting to talk about their loneliness. Tonight was not a night suited for sadness and Sanji seemed to agree, launching into a list of the fish the crew had caught. He discussed ideas for meals, their different habitats, what they ate… anything Zoro could ever have wanted to know about the fish.
"It's like your own All Blue in there," he commented, taking a long sip of his sake.
Sanji was silent for a moment, eyes tracking one of the fish.
"Maybe," he said quietly and Zoro lay down on the seat, closing his eyes.
"And what about that boring fish, the Common," Zoro said, his voice solid. He didn't want Sanji to know he'd named it or even thought about it anymore than just once or twice.
"The Common?" Sanji said, and Zoro could tell he was smiling. "Ah, that one. It's found in every known ocean on the planet, you know. One of the most plentiful fish in the world. That fish has saved entire populations."
Sanji lay back on his side, far enough around the seat to be able to look at Zoro, who had opened his eyes when Sanji had spoken.
"It grows to enormous sizes, reproduces quickly and plentifully and is the hardiest known species of fish." Sanji smiled, eyes crinkling, and the smile was for Zoro and Zoro alone. "It's a simple, boring fish, but it represents so much more."
Sanji sighed happily and Zoro thought that was the end of it. Still, he couldn't resist one last question.
"So why are you fattening it up to eat?"
Sanji gave a huff of laughter, but he never answered.
"Zoro, Sanji wanted you for something," Usopp said as he hefted fireworks higher onto his shoulder. He was putting on a show on the beach for them all, with Franky's help. Luffy and Chopper had been running around the ship excitedly all day and Zoro had been hiding from most of them in Nami's orange tree grove.
"What does that pervert want?" Zoro grumbled, but he stood all the same and headed towards the kitchen.
It was a strange sight to see when he entered. Nothing was simmering or bubbling away on the stove and the counter was empty. The cook himself was missing from his kitchen and Zoro walked straight back out, looking for Usopp.
"He's in the aquarium," Usopp shouted from mini-Merry, preparing to head the small distance to shore.
Zoro watched until he was on the shore, away from Sunny and dodging Luffy as he burst out of the sand. Chopper followed soon after, waving his arms around and laughing excitedly, their fun warming his heart.
"Finally," Sanji said when Zoro entered. He was sitting on the seat, smoking, and raised an eyebrow as Zoro came to a standstill. Sanji was supposed to want his help with a task, not just sitting down.
"I want to tell you a story," Sanji began, frowning when he noticed Zoro wasn't moving. "Well sit down, I know your brain cells function a little slower than those of us mammals, but you weren't raised in a barn. I should think you know when to sit, shitty Marimo."
Zoro stomped over to the seat and sat down, crossing his arms over his chest and glaring at Sanji. It was only because Usopp had told him that he was here, and Usopp wanted today to go well. The New Year didn't come every day and he'd worked hard to make his fireworks.
"There's a tradition in North Blue that everyone grows up on. Do you remember what I told you about the Common? That it's found in every sea, every ocean, all over the world?" Sanji's voice was steady and his eyes piercing. Zoro couldn't look away and simply nodded. Of course he remembered everything Sanji had told him about the fish. He remembered ever conversation he'd had alone with Sanji.
"Well there was a time, supposedly, when the Common never lived in the seas of North Blue. The people faced starvation when their harvests fell, yet that was the year the fish came to the seas and, well, saved everyone." Sanji's hand tightened on his lighter as he moved to light a fresh cigarette. Zoro knew of Sanji's own experience of starvation and he ducked his head, unfolding his arms and letting them slide to his side. Of course Sanji would love a fish that had saved millions from starving.
"The people were one step away from worshipping the Common and a tradition was born. Every year, at the very start, each family would go and catch the smallest Common they could and look after it for the entire year." A soft smile drew across Sanji's lips. "At the turn of the year, you would set your fish free. After a year of being cared for, it's supposed to bring good luck and tell its friends to return to the family in the coming year so no one ever starves."
Sanji put his cigarette out, smoke curling into the air as he stood. Zoro waited for him to stand before him and looked up, taking the hand Sanji offered.
"I didn't live long in North Blue, but it's a tradition I kept when I lived on the Baratie. Zeff didn't appreciate caring for a fish we wouldn't eat, but he always let me keep it. I couldn't keep one on Merry and we didn't have time to before we were separated." Sanji pulled Zoro up and they walked from the room, moving to the hatch.
"What did you name it?" Sanji asked as he opened the hatch. Zoro looked at him with wide eyes, mouth falling open.
"How did you…?" he began, but was silenced by Sanji throwing his shirt in his face.
"I'll get it out, you get the net next to you ready." Sanji grinned. "I'll be back in a minute."
And then he was gone, diving into the aquarium and swimming after his fish. He caught it with ease, though it was now bigger than Chopper, and let it pull him up. Zoro watched, scooping the net through water as Sanji began to surface. He pulled and the fish came on deck, mouth bobbing as it had when it was small.
"Help me take it to the side," Sanji said. His hair was slicked back and his trousers clung tightly to his skin. Zoro had barely a moment to stare when Sanji aimed a kick at his head growling for him to help.
"And now we set it free. Come on, you beast," Sanji said, setting the net down over the side. "When you see it hit the water, make a wish."
The fish's body twisted as it descended towards the water. It hit with a great splash, scales glimmering in the moonlight as it ducked under the surf and sped off. Zoro closed his eye, wishing that he could keep this moment forever, Sanji at his side, just a touch away. It wasn't an uncommon position for them to be stood side by side, but the darkness had stripped away all their bravado and competitive nature. All that was left was the trust that underlay their entire relationship.
"What did you wish for?" Zoro asked, voice quiet.
"I can't tell you idiot," Sanji said, a snort of unrefined laughter slipping from his mouth. "You tell your wish and it doesn't come true."
Zoro opened his eye, rolling them as he glanced from the moon-tinted waves and to Sanji. He was shadowed in the darkness of night, but Zoro knew every inch of him, had memorised him down to his breathing and heartbeat months ago.
"Bullshit," Zoro said, bumping Sanji's shoulder as he passed. They should be heading towards the beach now; a barbeque was already giving out heat and Usopp was chasing Luffy, a sure sign that he'd finished setting up his display.
"I'm glad I can spend my New Year with you," Sanji said suddenly, and Zoro looked back. Sanji was still staring out to sea and Zoro put his weight on one leg as he turned around fully, understanding Sanji completely.
"You know what I wished for?" he said, and Sanji shook his head, eyes glinting as he rolled them. Zoro grinned; Sanji would be expecting him to remain silent, but he had no such reservations.
"I wanted to keep this moment forever, you stupid cook," he said fondly, and Sanji looked at him sharply. "You and your North Blue have your fish tradition, but the rest of the world keeps resolutions, not wishes."
Sanji frowned. "They're the same," he said, but Zoro took a step forward, shaking his head.
"A wish is not a resolution. A resolution is something you share, something you keep." Zoro smiled and saw Sanji's eyes widen slightly. "And I resolve to keep this."
Zoro had never been one to sit and wait and he pulled Sanji to him, kissing him softly.
"I'm not an object or a pet," Sanji muttered as they parted. He glared at Zoro, but there was a smile on his lips. "You can't keep me, idiot."
Zoro kissed him again, his entire body warming as Sanji wrapped his arms around his shoulders. He was still a little damp from his dip in the aquarium, but Zoro didn't care.
"You would make a shit pet," he whispered in Sanji's ear, taking his hand and pulling him to the other side of the boat.
"I bet I can beat you to shore," he said, noticing the mini-Merry was still anchored near the beach and they had a way to swim. Zoro felt Sanji's fingers slip from his grasp before he kissed him deeply, the splash of a body hitting the water before Zoro had registered Sanji's disappearance.
Their competitiveness was about to get a lot more interesting if this was what Sanji had dealt out. Zoro grinned.
This year's resolution was a good one.
This was written for the ZoSan/SanZo Holiday Drabble Exchange. There are a lot more works on this so I suggest you search on tumblr for it because it has been an amazing event and amazingly organised.