The most annoying thing about this whole falling in love thing, Zoro decides, is the fact that he doesn’t even have a say in it.
One day he catches Sanji’s eyes across the table during dinner and it’s a multitude of things at once: like the clearing of fog at dawn, a flood, a thunderclap. Something ended. Something started. Zoro’s breath catches in his throat, a hitch, thick and unyielding; and then Sanji looks away, and Zoro still can’t fucking breathe.
He tries to backtrack, mentally — tries to put the knowledge away, tuck it at the back of his mind, but he can’t stop staring at the Cook’s dumb face and the dumb cigarette in between his teeth and the dumb three-piece suit he keeps wearing, and Zoro knows there’s no turning back from this one. Like a cut from a sword, swift and final.
He’s in love. And it’s as terrible as everyone makes it to be.
He finds himself watching Sanji, following his movements around the ship — the way he likes to smoke in the morning with his back against the railings, the rising sun in his hair, washing it golden; the way he darts around the ship to help everyone with their own tasks, helping Usopp with the laundry and Franky with the reparations and Chopper and Nami and everyone, constantly, without fail, never resting; the way he goes through packs of cigarettes every day and yet still smells like the salt of some distant sea.
They arrive on a nameless port and part ways but Zoro watches him still; the way Sanji’s eyes light up at the sight of spices Zoro can’t even differentiate; the way he would pretend to drop some of his groceries around starving homeless men, head turned away as if he couldn’t see the men picking the food up in gratitude; the way he’d watch mothers hand-in-hand with their children with a certain kind of longing, and he’d smile then, a little curled up around the edges smile that makes Zoro’s heart trip inside his chest.
It’s becoming a problem, Zoro realizes, when he starts doing it in the battlefield.
He knows Sanji can take care of himself, knows first hand what it’s like to face those deathly kicks. And yet Zoro’s throat closes up when he sees one of the marines pointing his gun at Sanji; he freezes, in the middle of all the limbs and gunshots and swung blades, and he has half the mind to turn and catch up to the Cook —
The marine pulls the trigger and Sanji avoids the shot easily. Of course he does. Zoro may have been ahead on the brute force department but Sanji has always been quicker, and bullets have ceased to be a problem for them even long before they learned to use haki. It’s not like Zoro can afford getting too distracted against the opponents he’s up against, either.
So it’s stupid, really.
Sanji smiles, toothy grin stretched across his face and Zoro feels something unfurl within his ribcage. Like sunrise, warming all over.
And Zoro is stupidly in love.
He finds Usopp at his workshop, tinkering on a long rod that looks a lot like Nami’s weapon. He drags one of the benches and sits across the work table, placing his swords at the corner of the table.
“I think,” he begins, because there’s no other way to segue into this. “I want to be with the Cook.”
Usopp’s hand slips and twists his wrench a little too hard at that, and the rod makes a loud bang noise as Usopp snaps his head at Zoro. “What?”
Zoro doesn’t say anything.
“I think I might’ve misheard,” Usopp babbles, dropping the wrench and the rod on the table unceremoniously. “You know, with all the noise and the tools and the, uh, the waves — you were saying something about, who was it again, Sanji?”
“I want to be with the Cook,” Zoro repeats.
“Oh,” Usopp says, twirling his fingers in a nervous gesture. “You’re saying you, uh —” he pauses and wrings his hands, clearly trying to pick his words, before settling with, “you like Sanji.”
Like. Right. As if it were that simple. “No, I’m in love with the Cook,” Zoro says.
“Holy shit,” Usopp blurts, before immediately covering his mouth with his hands. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean it like that,” he says through the hands, “I mean, that’s wonderful, Zoro.”
“No, actually, it sucks.”
The room goes quiet again. Zoro is beginning to think that he’s making a mistake.
Zoro contemplates leaving the room and pretends none of this ever happened, but then Usopp huffs, a soft chuckle slipping through his lips. “No, yeah, you’re right, I’m sorry,” he says in between chuckles, “falling in love sucks, doesn’t it?”
It brought a smile to Zoro's face — the kind that hurts all the way down to his chest. He shrugs.
“So what are you gonna do?” Usopp asks, propping his head on his hands as he leans forward, curious. “Are you planning to tell him?”
“Have you ever told her?” Zoro fires back. “That girl back in your hometown — Kaya, wasn’t it? Did she ever know?”
“God, no,” Usopp immediately says with a shake of his head. “But I was never a brave man, Zoro, I’m kind of — working on that.”
Working on that. Zoro likes the way that sounds. As if there’s a direction he’s actually heading towards, a goal he has to meet. As if he doesn’t perpetually feel like wading through quicksand, heady and breathless and sinking .
“Right. Me too,” he agrees.
Usopp smiles at him, almost wistfully. “You need some help on that?”
He wonders about that too. He has never been the sharing type, especially when it comes to the matter of the heart, but then again, this isn’t exactly something he’s ever had much experience with. “No,” he decides. “I just, I don’t know. I think I just needed someone to know.”
“Okay,” Usopp says, and picks up his wrench again. They stay like that, silent except for the sound of clashing metals from Usopp’s tools, until Sanji calls them up for dinner.
Zoro likes to think of himself as a brave man. Not in the way most low-time pirates would brag to strangers in a corner of a shady bar, but in that quiet acceptance of his, a part of himself he has understood for a long time, the way he faces dangers and towering monsters and knows: he is not afraid.
But sometimes he thinks of Sanji’s face twisting, sneering, of Sanji turning away, avoiding him, hating him — not the petty fights or throwaway arguments but truly hating him — and he thinks, no, he is not a brave man.
Sanji is sitting across the table at the bar, humming to himself as he downs his second glass of alcohol. He’d soon start babbling about pretty women and complicated dishes, the lightweight that he is, but right now, buzzed by the alcohol but not quite drunk, bathed by the dim lighting of the room, the Cook looks almost ethereal.
If Zoro were braver, he would touch those wet lips. If he were braver, he would run the tips of his fingers down the side of Sanji’s face, rest his palms on Sanji’s cheeks, and maybe — just maybe, if he were braver — press their lips together.
I love you, he would say, if he were braver.
“You’re such a dumbass,” he blurts instead.
“What the hell, Marimo — I hate you too,” Sanji says, almost on instinct. It’s a throwaway comment, doesn’t mean anything, but it still hits where it hurts, right in the very center of his chest. The sky is pitch black and the wooden floor is creaking under his feet; the cold night wind feels like it blows right through him, like there’s a massive hole in his abdomen, and Zoro drinks.
His throat burns, all the way down to his stomach. Like fire. Like coal.
They always fight, like clockwork. Sometimes it’s good-natured, almost performative, blades and limbs swung like a dance only the two of them share; but other times — this time, Zoro can’t help thinking — it’s vicious and real, because they get under each other’s skin at the drop of a hat, and there’s a murderous glint on Sanji’s eyes that’s rarely there. Not entirely hateful, never crossing a certain line — they’re nakama, after all — but not entirely unreal either.
“I’m going to kill you,” Sanji growls, and Zoro thinks, you will . Zoro didn’t set himself up for love, but it’s the kind of things you only realize until you’ve stumbled into when it has happened: Zoro has somehow extracted his heart, worn it on his sleeves, laid it out there for everyone to see, and it is now beating, painfully, like it knows that it is fully in Sanji’s mercy; that Sanji can wrap his hands around it, fingers curving around the veins, and presses just so —
“As if you can,” he snaps, but he knows Sanji can; ten times over, hundred times over.
Nami finds him where he always goes, when they’re docked at an island — a corner of a dingy bar, strangers sitting two tables away as they steal wary glances at the man with one eye and three swords.
“This is pathetic, even for you,” Nami says as she takes the stool beside him.
“Shut up,” he says around a mouthful of tankard, downing the alcohol inside. He definitely needs it, now that Nami is here. “Shut up.”
“Eloquent, as always,” she says sarcastically, and orders her own tankard. She finishes it in one go, faster than he did, before adding, “you know you can’t keep doing this, right?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he says, feigning nonchalance, even when Nami is clearly not buying a single thing he’s selling.
“Oh my god, I can’t believe you’re pulling this shit with me — you know what I’m talking about. This whole — ” she makes a gesture with her hand, “thing you have with Sanji-kun.”
“I don’t have a thing with the Cook,” he retorts, instinctively balking at the word. Thing. As if it was ever that simple. As if this bone-crushing weight around his heart could be summed up into a word as short and scant as that: thing. “He hates my guts and annoys the hell out of me. Simple as that.”
“You love him,” Nami says, bluntly. “And it’s hurting you.”
“It’s my problem,” he retorts, doesn’t even bother to deny it. Not to Nami. “I’ll take care of it myself.”
“Because you’re clearly doing such a good job by yourself,” she huffs. “Sulking at some nasty bar, drinking away your savings —”
“Like you’re one to say,” he fires back, “did you ever say anything to Vivi, in the end? You had all the time in the world, when we sailed together; and yet you didn’t say a single word.” He slams his tankard against the table, watches the alcohol spill over the rim. “Takes a coward to know another.”
He sees her face crumple at the mention of Vivi, and immediately feels bad. She looks away, her jaw constricting, throat bobbing, and for a second Zoro thought she would cry.
“Did it ever cross your mind,” she says after a moment, “that maybe I just don’t want you to make the same mistake that I did?”
He thinks of all the times he caught her alone, staring at the distant sea, her mind elsewhere, among the eternal sand. She looked a lot like porcelain, fragile and breakable; she looked unlike anything he had ever seen her be.
“That mistake — you can still fix it,” he blurts out, desperate to atone. “You still write to her sometimes, don’t you? It’s not too late. You can tell her, through those letters —”
“And what good would that do to us, Zoro?” She rests her chin on her hand, eyes cast downwards. “She’s miles away with a nation to lead, and we’re just...we may not even come back from this, you know? I couldn’t put that on her. Not when she has so much to live for. But you,” she suddenly looks up, gaze boring into his eye, “you and Sanji-kun are still here. It’s not too late for you two.”
It’s not the same, Zoro wants to argue, not when Vivi is clearly enamored with Nami as much as she does with her, while Sanji is a man who loves everyone but Zoro. Sanji has so much love to give, spilling over the edges of that bleeding heart of his, but not for Zoro; Sanji tolerates him, on a good day, and Zoro scowls at the thought of bad days.
But he thinks of Sanji, after a good fight, broken bones and open wounds and Sanji would lean slightly against Zoro in that way of his, the kind he does whenever he doesn’t want to admit that he needs help. Their shoulders would press against each other, hands brushing, and what comes out is, “All right, I’ll try.”
Nami blinks, looking as surprised as he feels.
“I’m not doing this for you,” he quickly says before she gets the wrong idea. “Just make sure you throw out a rope after he kicks me overboard.”
She smiles, in a broken kind of way, and Zoro wonders if this whole love thing is ever worth it.
They always fight.
But sometimes, they don’t.
Shared amused glances when Usopp and Luffy pull off some lively antics; backs pressed against each other’s as the enemies close in on them. Quiet moments in the crow’s nest when the rest of the crew has gone to sleep, cold nights and warm alcohol, insecurities laid bare in ways they couldn’t do with other people in the crew, who have different roles and different burdens to carry.
Zoro would help Sanji with the dishes after dinner — standing shoulder-to-shoulder, dirty plates and soap-soaked hands, elbows navigating around each other with ease born from familiarity. They would talk about their day, then, their usual animosity forgotten, soft words and softer laughter.
They get involved in a skirmish with the local bandits who stole a bunch of pears from the market and Sanji kicks a guy hard in the stomach, launching him towards the bandit Zoro has been fighting. Both bandits scream and barrel towards each other before falling unceremoniously on the ground.
“You could say,” Sanji quips as he moves on to fight another guy, “they make quite a pear.”
It’s not a good joke. It’s fucking dumb, in fact, but Zoro laughs, laughs like he’s never laughed before, like it’s the funniest thing on Earth. He thinks he must’ve sounded stupid, but Sanji huffs at him, eyes crinkling, lips tilted up in amusement, and Zoro suddenly thinks he’s not so stupid after all.
Sanji is clearly in a good mood. He makes a gesture with his hand, hand curved around an invisible glass, and tips it towards his mouth. “You wanna grab something afterwards?”
Two men writhe under the sole of his shoes, bloodied and battered. Sanji takes a drag out of his cigarette, unperturbed, his suits still neatly buttoned up to his neck. He looks feral and unkempt and put together at the same time, and he is everything Zoro has ever wanted.
“Sure,” Zoro says, and he thinks, I love you. I love you. I love you.
“Do you ever wonder?” Zoro asks as he drags the Cook out of the tavern, and Sanji snores, completely drunk, half of his body slung over Zoro’s shoulders. His face is beet red and smushed against the back of Zoro’s shoulder blade, and there’s something about the contact that sparks up something underneath Zoro’s skin that fizzes and trembles. “You know I hate this kind of shit — thinking about what ifs and all — but fuck, Cook. Sometimes — sometimes we’re good and you’re awful but you’re also the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” He inhales, his chest shuddering against the cold air. “I can’t help — it’s pointless and impossible and stupid but sometimes I wonder if we could ever — if we could ever be —”
Sanji snores on, dead to the world.
Sometimes, they don’t fight.
That’s the hardest part.
It’s a cloudy afternoon, and Zoro can feel the salty breeze picking up when he catches sight of Robin and Chopper in front of a bookstore.
Bookstores have never been his thing, all things considered — he visits taverns and swordsmiths and the island’s marketplace when Sanji is in the mood to drag him around, but Robin and Chopper are the ones who go to bookstores and libraries whenever they’re docked. So it is unsurprising, then, when he simply nods at them in acknowledgement before walking past.
It is surprising when Robin reaches out and touches him, lightly, on the elbow.
“Chopper will take some time with the books,” she says. “Do you mind accompanying me for a drink in that café?”
It is how Zoro finds himself in his current situation, sipping terrible alcohol from his colorful drink that’s more sugar than alcohol because it’s the only thing the café offered. Robin is smiling enigmatically from across the table, and Zoro is hit once again with the absurdity of his situation. Sure, he cares about each of his crewmates, would lay down his life for any of them in a heartbeat, but getting overpriced alcohol at a café with Robin ? Not exactly an everyday occurrence.
Robin takes her time, enjoying her drinks as she watches the crowd. Zoro has seen these tactics, knows that she’s trying to make him lower his guard, but Robin is not an enemy. So he does, eventually; he lets the tension in his shoulders bleed out, leaning back into the chair.
Robin waits until the grip on his glass visibly relaxes, and he’s in the middle of taking a sip when she says, “why do you hide your feelings?”
Zoro chokes on his drink.
Robin only smiles in amusement as he’s hitting his chest from all the coughing — Zoro’s pretty sure she did this on purpose. Witches, all of them. “It’s none of your business.”
“Your heart is heavy,” Robin replies. “Any weight on a ship is the business of her crew.”
Zoro pauses. It irks him, the mere implication that he’s dragging the crew back, but he thinks of the night outside of the tavern, his breath visible in the cold air as he asks the unconscious cook, what if? What if? What if? — and in that moment he knows Robin is right.
Doesn’t mean it’s an easy question to answer. “I dunno,” he shrugs, struggling to find the right words. “Sometimes I think about him, and the thing here,” he presses a hand to his chest, “it’s — bursting, like something is about to spill. But then I see him and his stupid face and it’s all —” his hand moves up, hovering over his neck, “ stuck, here. It just — freezes.”
Robin listens patiently, her chin resting on the back of her clasped hands. A moment passes before she asks, “do you think Sanji isn’t worth the trouble?”
Zoro balks. “Of course he is! He deserves —“ A lot of things. More than I have. Everything. Not me. He settles with, “it’s not about the Cook. It’s about this — love thing.”
Robin hums noncommittally. “You and I, I think, are very similar,” she observes. “We have a lot of things we keep close to ourselves, secrets we’ll carry to the grave. But when I am with Franky, every part of me tells me that this one —” she reaches across the table and covers his palm with hers, pressing them both against his chest. Against his heart. “This one, at least — it is one worth sharing.”
Zoro yanks his hand from her grasp and looks away, almost — ashamed. For being so — vulnerable, in a way. So easy to read. His body bruises and heals, stronger by the day — but his heart breaks so easily still.
“You don’t understand,” he shakes his head, “you and Franky, it’s different. Your heart has always been something he wanted to carry.”
Robin tilts her head. “Do you think Sanji would disrespect your feelings?”
The Cook would do a lot of things, he wants to say, but that isn’t quite right. Sanji is rough and sharp, bristles under Zoro’s touch, but the word disrespect have never crossed his mind even once, when it comes to the Cook. Sanji, who refuses to fight with blades and yet still treats Zoro’s katanas with reverence; Sanji, who quickly understood what a scar on Zoro’s back meant, and guarded it with his entire being. Sanji, who — cares, always tries to, always does.
“No,” he answers, surely, steadily. “He won’t.”
Robin smiles at that. “Then let me ask you this question again. Why do you hide your feelings?”
And just like that, all his excuses — gone. Like pebbles in a river, worn away to sand. His heart is still heavy, but it’s the kind of weight that’s accompanied with resolve. “I had a promise with Nami,” he says, almost in a daze. “It’s about time that I go through with that, huh.”
Robin doesn’t ask questions. “You do that,” she says, and that’s that.
Zoro doesn’t do things in halves. Not with his dream, not with his nakama, and never, especially, with Sanji, who wouldn’t expect any less from him.
Zoro doesn’t do things in halves, so he takes a blade to the chest and tells Sanji he loves him.
(Zoro might have skipped a few details.)
On second thoughts, maybe details are unnecessary. He told Sanji that he loved him. That’s the point of this whole thing. The other stuff is just... embellishments, at best; irrelevant, at worst.
The embellishments are these: the air, gunpowder and smoke, bullets flying by overhead. The marines, three galleons big this time, cornering the Sunny against a cliffside before it could leave the island. The Straw Hats, their hands full with a few dozen marine officers each, completely separated from one another.
The embellishments are these: a Vice Admiral whose name Zoro can’t even remember anymore, his blade thin but long, a particular kind Zoro recognized as a naginata. A battle, messier than their usual matchups, him and Sanji against at least six of the Vice Admiral’s underlings. Sanji, distracted — they’d heard Usopp’s pained scream only a few moments ago, and Sanji turned his head then, eyes searching the battlefield for the voice, back facing the Vice Admiral.
The embellishments are simply those — embellishments.
Those aren’t the point.
The point is this: he took a hit meant for Sanji. Something cut deep against his chest, and then inside his chest, and before he knew it Sanji was kneeling over him, screaming his name hoarse. He liked the way his name sounded, coming out of Sanji’s lips. The Cook should say it more often. Maybe he should say Sanji’s name more often, first. Like a challenge, because that’s what it always comes down to, when it comes to them.
The point is this: they were both sweaty and disheveled in the middle of an enemy’s ship and Sanji looked absolutely fucking awful, but Zoro loved him anyway. There was dirt under his nails and someone else’s blood smeared across the bridge of his nose, and Zoro loved him still — in spite of, because of — so much that he can feel the sharp ache of desire against his heart.
The point is this:
“I’m in love with you,” Zoro told him. Blood-soaked, dirt-crusted — but the truth, nonetheless.
(This, at least —)
And then he passed out.
It is, admittedly, sort of disappointing to see Luffy instead of Sanji when he comes to.
Luffy takes one look at Zoro and immediately cuts to the chase. He tells him, “you need to talk to Sanji.”
No good morning, no are you okay, but then again, Luffy always knows when to trust his nakama with their own battles. Zoro can handle a naginata to the chest just fine on his own. The thing with Sanji — not so much.
He shrugs. “I did.”
“No, dummy,” Luffy replies with a pout, like Zoro’s the biggest dumbass he’s ever met. “You told him words and then you passed out. That’s not talking.”
“I talked to him before that,” he answers, aware he’s being petty but unable to stop himself.
“I mean talk to Sanji,” Luffy insists. He scrunches his nose, wearing the expression he does whenever he’s thinking too hard. “You talk to everyone on the ship but not Sanji and that’s stupid.”
How did you know about that, Zoro wants to say, but of course Luffy does. Luffy is more observant than he appears to be, especially when it matters, and this matters, to Zoro.
“Listen,” he begins, and holy fuck, he thought talking to Robin was weird, but this? This takes the cake by a long mile. “I’m not exactly familiar with this whole — love — thing, okay? This isn’t some enemy I can just cut down. I asked the others, who — they know this stuff, okay, because Usopp has Kaya and Nami has Vivi, and you know about Robin and Franky and I just had to —” he buries his face in his hand. He thinks of Sanji, rough words and soft touches, Zoro’s heart in the palms of his hands, and he blurts out, “I can’t fuck this up, okay? I had to know how to do this right.”
There’s silence, and for a moment Zoro thought Luffy would understand his perspective, but when he looks up from his hand, Luffy is still pouting. “Well, that’s just stupid.”
He grits his teeth, raising from the infirmary bed. “Stop saying that —”
“I won’t, because Zoro won’t listen!” Luffy stands up, looming above Zoro. “It’s stupid, because you tried to talk to everyone about everyone else but Kaya and Vivi and Franky are not Sanji.”
“I mean, you said all these things about Franky and Robin, and — okay, Franky knows Robin best because sometimes Robin would make this mystery face and Franky would just know what she’s thinking, but no one on this ship knows Sanji like you know him,” Luffy goes on, jabbing his finger at Zoro’s chest. “Sanji’s the one who’s going to carry this.”
He thinks of Nami, of Usopp. Their shoulders, weighed by unspoken words. “I’ve seen how it could drag me down,” he confesses, in hushed tones. He thinks of the cafe across the bookstore, Robin’s hand against his chest. “Robin told me this one’s especially heavy.”
Luffy grins. “That’s for Sanji to decide. Sanji’s pretty strong you know?” He throws his hands excitedly over his head. “Sanji’s as strong as a thousand men!”
“I’m as strong as two thousand men,” he replies, out of instinct, and Luffy watches him with a small smile.
“Talk to Sanji, Zoro,” he says, after a moment. “I think Sanji wants to talk to you too.”
Zoro settles back into the bed. He thinks of Sanji — fire and ice, thunderstorm and still water; the bloodthirsty hellhound who has stood beside Zoro, shoulder to shoulder, bruised and rough and strong , and the gentle caregiver who makes sure everyone on the ship is fed. Zoro loves Sanji in all his contradictions, and if there’s anyone he could trust with his heart, it’s —
“Okay,” he tells Luffy. He means it this time.
When Zoro comes to again, there’s a plate of soup at his bedside. It smells so fucking good and it hits him, suddenly, that he’s hungry; he sits up straight and reaches for it before he could even take in his surroundings, digging into it in record speed. He can feel his joints ache from the movements, but the pain is distant now. Muted.
“You’re welcome,” Sanji says from the other side of the bed.
Zoro almost jumps from the bed — he doesn’t get surprised easily, but Sanji has always been his exceptions.
When he turns to face the Cook, Sanji is smiling nervously at him, almost hesitant. Sanji looks younger like this, stripped off of all his pretense and bravado, and Zoro wants to kiss him so badly. “Cook,” he says instead.
Sanji’s breath hitches at that, his gaze falling onto his lap. “Marimo,” he replies, but the insult doesn’t have the same edge it usually does.
Zoro’s eye instinctively follows Sanji’s line of sight, and he is surprised to find his swords on Sanji’s lap. Sanji must have kept them safe when Zoro was unconscious, and he feels something warm in his throat at the thought.
Sanji seems to notice Zoro’s gaze, because he shies further into the chair, face flushed. His hands curl around Wado’s hilt, and Zoro lets him — can’t even bring himself to mind it. There are many things, he realizes, he would let Sanji do. It scares him.
He’s not a brave person, but —
“I love you,” Zoro blurts out, words spilling over, unbidden.
Sanji looks up, startled. “What?”
“I love you,” he repeats. It’s weird, how it seemed like an insurmountable task to say the words out loud when they feel like the only words he could say to Sanji now. “I just — I need you to just, know that.”
He expects Sanji to do a lot of things, then. Like a kick on the head, if he’s lucky, or an awkward joke about Zoro getting hit on the head. If fate is being particularly cruel, Sanji would look at him in disgust before storming out of the infirmary. He knows Sanji would never do that — would never treat any of his nakama that way — but Zoro’s chest tightens painfully at the thought anyway, almost irrationally.
He doesn’t expect Sanji to lean forward and press a kiss against his lips.
“Eugh, gross,” Sanji says as he pulls away, much quicker than Zoro would’ve liked, “that was so wet , gross. Why didn’t you swallow your soup, what the fuck.”
Soup. Yeah, He can feel some of it spilling out of his lips, and he absentmindedly wipes it with his hand, fumbling with the bowl of soup in his lap as he sputters, “shit, sorry, I wasn’t —”
When he looks up, Sanji is grinning at him, blinding and all-encompassing. He puts Zoro’s swords aside and reaches out, drawing Zoro close, his eyes soft and fond and happy, happier than Zoro has ever seen him be.
“You dumbass,” Sanji says, the undercurrent of a laugh in his tone. “I love you too.”
Oh , Zoro thinks for a second, and then Sanji is kissing him again, and Zoro forgets how to form a thought at all.
For a long moment, all Zoro knows is this — Sanji’s tongue in his mouth, Sanij’s fingers around his wrist, Sanji’s smile against his. His heart is pounding beneath his ribcage, threatening to burst, and when Sanji finally pulls away he can’t help leaning forward, chasing his lips.
Sanji chuckles at the gesture, amused, and rests his forehead against Zoro’s. Sanji is still grinning, cheeks flushed, and Zoro loves him, viscerally, painfully, so hard he can’t breathe around the shape of it.
“Why didn’t you say anything?” He finds himself asking as soon as he finds his breathing.
Sanji’s face turns a shade darker at the question. “I don’t know,” he mutters after a moment. “We don’t exactly talk about our feelings.”
Zoro feels like punching himself in the face. It seems like talking about his feelings is all he does these days, practically half the crew being the receiving end of his sentimental drivels, but Luffy was right — the talking doesn’t count if he doesn’t talk about it with Sanji.
Well. That is all in the past, he supposes. Zoro never finds the point in regretting his past decisions; the only thing he can do is to be better, so he takes Sanji’s hand in his and tells him what he’s always wanted to tell the Cook, “you’re stupid.”
He gets a raise of an eyebrow at that. “Excuse me?”
“You’re stupid,” Zoro repeats, and kisses Sanji again, at the corner of his mouth. He thinks he can get used to this whole kissing thing. “You and your stupid face and your stupid cigarette and your stupid suit,” he’s laughing now, warm and thrilled. “You’re stupid, and I love you.”
“Thank fuck for that, then,” Sanji laughs, and smiles — against his lips, against his heart — and it’s stupid, but Zoro is smiling back too.
Sanji turns out to be a cuddler, Zoro quickly learns as he wakes up with the Cook somehow having nestled himself into Zoro’s arms, head tucked comfortably against Zoro’s shoulder.
His first instinct is to withdraw himself — and he almost does, pushing himself up on the bed with his free hand — but Sanji presses his face into Zoro’s shoulder at the movement, his grip on Zoro’s hip strong and firm, and Zoro finds himself lowering back down into the bed. He can only see the top of Sanji’s head in this angle, but there’s just something — adorable in the way Sanji is curled up against him with bed-mussed hair, and Zoro is just a man, okay,
There’s a moment of peaceful silence before he hears Sanji sleepily mumble, “where are you going?”
Zoro wants to shrug, but his right arm is dead and he doesn’t exactly want to jostle a sleepy Sanji more than he already has, so he settles with a chaste kiss against the Cook’s temple. “Dunno,” he answers truthfully. “I just thought — I was practically lying on top of you for the whole night. My hand and half of my body and all — must’ve been uncomfortable.”
Sanji watches him for a moment with sleepy, half-lidded eyes, before curling up into Zoro.
“You know,” Sanji huffs, eyes crinkling, and smiles. “It’s not as heavy as you think.”
Zoro’s breath catches in his throat. It’s a multitude of things at once: the clearing of fog at dawn, a flood, a thunderclap. Sanji has dozed back off to sleep, but Zoro still can’t fucking breathe, not when Sanji’s entire being is pressed against him like they’ve never been apart — chest to chest, feet tangling with one another's. Something ended. Something started.
(This, at least — )
Zoro’s in love. And it’s not as terrible as everyone makes it to be.