Title: Um. "Good Incentive"
Warnings: Unbeta'd. This means mistakes are very likely. Vague spoilers for Thriller Bark. Some OOCness (would Zoro and Sanji ever be gentle with each other? I dunno).
Disclaimer: If I owned these two, would I really be spending my time on fanfiction?
Notes: For my good friend anyjen , who has been patiently waiting for this for...two months now? Something like that. You are far too nice to me, you know. Anyway, I really, really hope you like. If you don't...message me. I'll cry and you'll comfort me (you're so sweet, after all), and I'll promise never to sully your name with a fic of mine again. Um.
Happy (so very belated) Birthday, anyjen!
Zoro had been surprised when he woke to find himself wrapped in bandages and surrounded by a party. He honestly hadn't expected to wake up at all, and in the seconds before his death he had made peace with himself for not achieving his dream. Sacrificing himself for his friends was something Kuina would have forgiven him for, and probably would have earned him a smack upside the head and a "Good job!" coupled with a smile. If she'd been alive, anyway. And around to witness it.
The party hadn't let up when he awoke, and he was conscious long enough for Chopper to take notice and begin to check him over, peppering his pokes and prods with questions and relieved babbling. Zoro had fallen asleep to the sound of Nami attempting to calm the reindeer-doctor down, the sticky, coppery taste of blood in his mouth, and the smell of nicotine in his nose. He was oddly comforted by it all.
When he woke for the second time, he'd had enough energy to sit up and glance around the room. People were scattered everywhere, snoring and drooling. Empty bottles of alcohol were everywhere, as well as plates of food. Zoro took a moment to locate all his slumbering nakama before retuning to his reclined position on the table. A thin blanket had been draped over him, and he pulled it to his chin and sighed. He was so tired...
The noises of someone shifting at his side had his eyes snapping open just before he had fallen asleep. He turned his head slowly to the side to find the love-cook resting against the table near his shoulder, his cheek held up by his fist, arm bent at the elbow. Most of his face was hidden by his hair, which had slipped down to cover more of his face than usual. Zoro itched to push the hair out of the way, but after briefly considering it he discarded the idea; if the cook woke up while he was touching him, then all the healing progress he made might be lost with a particularily vicious kick. Or worse, the cook would begin shouting and wake everybody up. His nakama needed rest.
Sanji had gotten comfortable and was slumbering peacefully again, his breathing even and deep. It lulled Zoro asleep, and the last thing the swordsman saw before his eyes closed was his nakama's sleeping face. He really was glad the cook was alright. He hadn't been doing too well before Zoro had knocked him out...
The third time he woke, he felt well enough to move around. Despite Choppers protests, Zoro forced himself up, to walk about and stretch his tired muscles. He still felt weak, and he had an annoying need to rest every few minutes, but he was awake and responsive. Another party was thrown in honor of his waking -- though he suspected they just wanted a reason to celebrate now -- and he politely accepted the thanks and talk of how glad they were he was awake with a small, uncomfortable smile.
Eventually he retreated outside, away from the noise and the crowds. It was chilly at night on Thriller Bark, a nip to the air that Zoro felt was refreshing at first, but became a little too much for him the more he stayed out there. He didn't feel like going inside, however. Chopper would mother him, Luffy would try to convince him to sing and dance, and Sanji...Sanji would stare at him. Like he'd been doing all day. And his expression...it wasn't right. Zoro didn't like it.
Speak of the devil, and he shall appear, Zoro thought. He couldn't remember where he'd heard that before, and though it didn't completely fit the situation -- he hadn't spoken, and as annoying as he was, Sanji was no devil -- it summed up his feelings pretty good. He didn't respond to the cook's words, instead hoping his lack of communication would convince the idiot to go back inside. No such luck, since it had the opposite effect and the cook came closer, his footsteps light as he carefully made his way through the rubble. A blanket was draped around Zoro's shoulders suddenly, and he would have shrugged it off -- he didn't want the love-cook taking care of him, and he didn't need a blanket -- but it did feel warm and nice. The smell of spices, cologne, and nicotine coming off of it was comforting too, and even as tired and weak as he was, this realization was enough to make Zoro jolt violently enough the blanket slid off.
"Dumbass," Sanji said angrily, and Zoro knew he wasn't completely talking about the blanket falling off. Before Zoro could pull it back up, Sanji was already holding it. Rather than draping it over the swordsman's shoulders again, he crumbled it into a ball and threw it at Zoro's head. He growled, but unfolded the blanket and covered himself with it. He was surprised when Sanji settled in next to him, but didn't make room for him on the big rock he was sitting on, nor did he offer to share the blanket.
It wasn't what they did. They fought and cursed and annoyed the hell out of each other, not bring each other blankets and warm drinks.
Because that's what Sanji had done; along with the blanket, he'd brought out a warm drink of hot chocolate. He took it reluctantly, and cursed when he noticed his fingers shaking as he reached out to take the cup. Sanji no doubt had noticed as well, and Zoro waited for him to say something sarcastic, but the cook stayed silent and still. Sitting tensely next to him, Zoro curled his cold hands around the cup and savored the warm feeling it gave off before taking a sip. It was delicious, like the swordsman had known it would be. The quiet, calm atmosphere set him on edge, and he wracked his brain for something to say, anything to stop this weird...thing between he and the cook. Before things got out of hand.
"What are you doing out here? The women are inside." Zoro blurted, and felt his cheeks flush. He sounded like an idiot, and the last thing he wanted was for Sanji to wax philosophical about the two female members of the Straw-hat crew. Zoro wasn't in any mood to listen to the idiot tonight; he wanted Sanji to take his weird calmness and his damn annoying staring away. The cook hadn't heard it seems, since he stared at the ground and tapped his long fingers to some beat in his head. He sighed then, and turned to meet Zoro's dark green eyes with his own blue ones.
"You are an idiot," he said quietly. "And a blind one."
"I'm not blind," Zoro snapped. "I can see perfectly well, and just 'cause I get lost every now and then --"
"Every now and then? Fuck, you can even walk a straight line without getting lost. But that's not what I mean, idiot." Sanji interrupted. Zoro shook his head. As well as hearing the blond go on and on about Nami and Robin, he also didn't want to talk about what happened before Kuma...and after.
So Zoro stayed silent and didn't bother responding to Sanji's last sentence. The quiet between them didn't last long before Sanji was shifting where he sat, his shoulder brushing Zoro's. The thought I want to lean against him was there and gone in Zoro's mind, and he felt his face heat up again. What the hell is wrong with me? Zoro thought. He was thinking strange things and feeling strange things, and dammit Sanji was still watching him with that calm look that drove the swordsman nuts.
"The fuck is your problem, love-cook?" Zoro exploded. His hands clenched into fists and he fought not to lash out, to tackle the blond to the ground and...and...
"You're my problem." Sanji said. His eyes never left Zoro's as he spoke, and he seemed unfazed by the show of temper. "Did you think you were being noble? Did you really think sacrificing your life for Luffy's would fix anything?"
"It wasn't just for Luffy, it was for everyone." Zoro said gruffly. He didn't want to talk about this. He didn't! "And I was the better choice, between the two of us."
"Why?" Sanji asked, and the swordsman was surprised to hear his voice crack. "Why are you better than me? Why is your life worth more?"
"It...it isn't! That's not what I meant!" Zoro snapped. "You're a fucking idiot, dartboard-brow. You...I...you're the cook, Sanji. What would the others do without you? Starve, that's what. And even if we got a new cook, it wouldn't be the same, it'd still hurt. They'd look at that new cook and wish it were you, and eat the food and wish you had made it!"
Sanji's cheeks had colored halfway through his speech, and somehow Zoro doubted it was because he'd just sort of complimented the fool.
"You said my name," Sanji murmured, proving Zoro's hunch right, and the cook's lips curled up at the corners. Zoro was mortified at his slip, and this only made him more angry.
"That's not the point!" He shouted, and jumped to his feet. Attempted to anyway, instead swaying where he stood. In his hurry to stand, the rest of the hot chocolate in the cup was knocked over, spilling all over the rock. The cup rolled over the edge and hit the rubble-covered ground with a loud crack. Neither man noticed.
"Easy, shithead. Do you want to fall and get a concussion? Chopper would have your ass." Sanji admonished. He stood at Zoro's side tensely, ready to leap forward and catch the swordsman should he collapse, like he did after the incident with Kuma. The heat in Zoro's cheeks spread outward until his ears and neck felt warm as well, and he prayed it was too dark for Sanji to see him blush. Falling into Sanji's arms like some sort of weak airhead woman was embarrassing, and even more so since before he passed out he sort of...hugged the thin cook. And had smelled him, had breathed in deeply while his face was pressed against the cook's dirty shirt.
He had thought it would be his last chance....that he would never wake up.
"When I brought you to the others..." Sanji began, and Zoro was drawn out of his thoughts by the rough emotion straining his usually smooth-sounding nakama's voice. "When I brought you to them, they were so scared and worried. They didn't want to leave your side, and Chopper had a hell of a time getting everyone to back up enough to give him room to work. I've never felt tension while we waited to hear whether you live or die. Shit swordsman, everyone would fall apart if you left." Sanji's voice was trembling audibly now, and Zoro felt regret pierce him deep inside. He had scared them, had hurt the very people he wanted to protect so badly. And Sanji...
"I'd do it again." Zoro said softly. "I'd do everything again, but...I'd regret not saying goodbye."
"Dumbass." Sanji muttered. He reached into his hoodie pocket and pulled out a cigarette, placing it in his mouth. He pat himself down searching for a lighter, and as Zoro watched him he finally noticed something. The cook wasn't in his usual suit, instead wearing a comfortable looking blue hoodie and loose pants. It should have looked horribly wrong, but somehow the blond made it work. Still, even after a bad battle Sanji was always freaky about his appearance.
"Oi, idiot. What's up with your clothes?"
"Hmm?" Sanji said, and glanced down at himself. "Do I have something on me?"
"No. You look..." good. "...weird." Zoro finished.
Sanji snorted. "Thanks, marimo."
Zoro shrugged. "So, where's your suit?"
It was Sanji's turn to shrug this time. "All of them are on the Sunny."
"Why are you wearing that, then?" It didn't make sense. If Sanji had prissy suits to wear, then why choose to wear something so casual and relaxed?
Sanji stared at him a moment. "So blind," he said to himself, and Zoro felt his hackles rising.
"Never mind, I don't want to fucking know. I'm going inside!" And he spun around to walk away, but Sanji had grabbed his wrist and was hanging on tightly. Has Sanji always been that strong? Zoro couldn't remember. He tugged, trying to be free, but those pale fingers only tightened. And then he was being yanked forward roughly and warm, soft lips were meeting his. He had been pulled a bit too hard, so rather than a gentle kiss Zoro's face had banged into Sanji's, but it didn't matter.
Things were making sense now, things about himself, and things about Sanji. Zoro tried to deepen the kiss, but the cook was doing his best to keep it gentle. To piss me off, Zoro thought, and couldn't help the small smile that formed. Sanji felt it, his lips pressed against Zoro's as they were, and he pulled back to smirk.
"We'll have to wait until you've recovered before continuing this. I wouldn't want to hurt you, invalid that you are."
Zoro made an angry, growling noise deep in the back of his throat. He was not an invalid! The swordsman leaned forward to kiss the blond and prove it to him, but Sanji slipped out of his grasp and smoothly leaned down to pick up the now-empty cup. He moved farther away from Zoro when he noticed the green-haired man moving closer, and held up one pale hand.
"Later, Zoro. Hurry up and get better, you damn swordsman. I've been waiting too long for this."
"Fuck waiting!" Zoro snapped, and Sanji laughed.
"Now that I know you aren't going to die on me, I guess I can get back to my regular duties." He headed toward the large hole in the wall that served as a door into the building, and Zoro followed cursing every step. Damn that pervert-cook, starting something and having no intention to finish it! I'll show him, I'll...
Sanji's words repeated. Hurry up and get better!
He'd get better. He'd recover so fast, that by the time they reach the next island Zoro will be ready to go. And the cook would never know what hit him.
Devious plots and images filled Zoro's mind as he rejoined his nakama in their celebrations, and not even seeing Sanji fawning over Robin and Nami made the smirk on the swordsman's face disappear. Nobody called Roronoa Zoro and invalid and got away with it. And punishing Sanji would be great fun.
Zoro sent the back of Sanji's head one last heated look before turning away to accept the drink being offered to him. It was time to celebrate.
Ugh. I fail at ending and naming fics. You know what's difficult? Writing a fic for someone who writes better than you. *coughanyjencough* I'm glad to do it, and I hope the recipient likes it, but a;kdfa;skad It's hard. I've had to do this before, too *coughsapphirestarcough*
Important: Sanji dressing in that blue hoodie...outfit is a source of much fascination for me. I don't recall him ever dressing down after a battle before. So I thought, perhaps it isn't how bad the battle is, but who was hurt in it. If someone you care deeply about is hurt, the last thing you feel like doing is dressing up. Leave my delusions alone, I like them!
Now, I have other fics to be working on. I should have them done by the end of the year.
*Has gone to hide*