He didn’t mean. Sanji swears he didn’t mean to. It was just a normal argument, like they always have, in the midst of battle maybe but he didn’t mean to.
He didn’t mean to kick Zoro into the path of a bullet he couldn’t dodge (his blind spot, Zoro had one of those now).
He didn’t mean for Zoro to start dying.
But here Sanji was, in the midst of battle, crewmate struggling to climb to his feet as Sanji made his way over. There was a hole in Zoro’s chest, pierced straight through, dangerously near where Sani’s minimal medical knowledge told him the heart was. The lungs were.
(Maybe it had pierced them. Maybe this was a hallucination made of grief. Maybe Zoro was already a dead man walking.)
Blood, viscous red and fatal, was soaking Zoro’s shirt as he used Kitetsu’s hilt to hoist himself up. His face was focused, as if he lost concentration for even a moment he would lose something dear. Sanji could see how white his knuckles were as they gripped the sword, the squint of his eyes as he told his dumb sword to suck it up, the way his other had pressed to his chest but came away red –
Zoro had survived worse (Kuma-) but this was bullets and vital parts.
“ZORO!” Sanji shouted, dodging under a swinging sword and leaping over another. “GET UP!”
Because if Zoro could get up, he wouldn’t be dying.
(He was standing at Thriller Bark when Sanji found him. It didn’t stop his heart from stopping three times.)
“Shut up shitty-cook! I’m fine! Focus on your own battle!”
Sanji didn’t mean it, and Zoro isn’t dying, and Zoro’s okay, which means he can go back to being Marimo and Sanji can go back to worrying about his own self.
Zoro is not fine because he managed to get kicked by Sanji into the path of the one bullet in the entire goddamn battle covered in poison, and is now pale and half-dead in the infirmary while Chopper tries to save him.
So Sanji didn’t mean it, Zoro’s dying anyway, his nakama are worried and Luffy hasn’t left Zoro’s side since he collapsed on the battlefield and carried him to the infirmary.
The crew doesn’t know who pushed Zoro away, held down his swords with a leg so he could yell in his face, who let him get shot then was stupid enough to get separated from him in the midst of battle.
So he sits there, a pile of ashes at his feet from the cigarettes he has been through in the past three hours, while guilt threatens to eat him from the inside out.
Sanji can’t stop thinking about it, despite Nami muttering things next to his ear, despite Robin rubbing a calming hand on his back, despite Usopp telling everyone that Zoro’s going to be okay (he’s a liar, can’t he know that that’s not going to reassure anyone?) despite Brook’s humming and Franky’s tinkering as they wait for news. He can’t stop thinking about it – the way the bullet entered and exited in a moment, the way blood started soaking the stupid hamaraki the idiot insists on wearing, the way there was so much blood, not as much as Thriller Bark but Thriller Bark hadn’t left bloody handprints on Wado Ichimonji had it?
There’s a rustle and a click at the infirmary door, and Sani would laugh at how they all stumbled up if his hands and heart weren’t shaking so bad.
Chopper walks out, small and quiet. There’s a smudge of red on his face, but no one mentions it. He takes a breath before speaking, as if he needed all the strength in the world to keep him going.
“Zoro… Zoro should be okay. He’s lost a lot of blood and I’m worried about how his body will react to the components of the poison because they tend to cause …” The rest of it’s a bunch of gibberish to Sanji, smart as he is he can’t compare to Chopper’s medical know how, but he gets it, the Moss-head should be okay.
It doesn’t stop the guilt from welling up though – the crews not curious as to how it happened, but the knowledge wails behind Sanji’s lips like a starving wolf screeching to get out.
He has to tell Luffy.
(He can’t keep secrets like this from his Captain – not after Whole Cake.
Secrets cause his captain to go to drastic measures and he can’t have that.)
Sanji’s the last one to visit Zoro (and Luffy) in the infirmary. The moment Chopper was done with his spiel, he had disappeared to the kitchen, to rustle up dinner for the crew and a snack for the captain.
(He doesn’t eat as much when his nakama are hurt and its quiet on the ship)
It’s quiet when he pads in, his shoes too loud in the soft silence of the room. Zoro’s pale, but not bloody any more, and his breathing is steady judging by the up and down motion of the straw hat laid like crown on his chest.
The owner of the straw hat sits at the head of the bed, next to Zoro’s head, a hand trailing in green hair as he murmurs senseless things.
Sanji can’t help but feel as if he has intruded on something private and secret (something he is undeserving of, he hurt Zoro, his nakama oh god - ) but he has to tell his Captain or else he has no place on this ship, this crew.
“Captain.” He addresses Luffy, slowing the stream of words trailing from said captain’s mouth.
“Sanji? Did you bring food?” As a matter of fact, he did (a peace offering for a battle Luffy didn’t know was coming), a plate stacked high with meat buns. “Yum!”
“Captain.” Sanji tries again, and this time Luffy listens. He gets it, now that he’s not thing with his stomach. He knows this is serious.
“I pushed Zoro into the bullet.” The truth slips out like poison
But Luffy doesn’t do anything but hum. “I know.”
“I saw it happen. It’s okay.”
“No it isn’t! I did this! I hurt him! I damn-near killed him! He might die even now! How can it be okay?”
Are his hands shaking?
“Zoro isn’t going to die. He promised. Its okay. Because Sanji and Zoro are nakama, and nakama don’t hurt nakama, not on purpose.”
“But I- “ Oh god was he crying? He was crying.
Since when did he care about the shit-swordsman this much? Why did Luffy not seem to care? He hurt Zoro –
“I hurt him.”
“You didn’t mean to.”
“That doesn’t change what I did!”
In an instant, Luffy is up and out of his place besides Zoro, grasping Sanji’s shoulders in that reckless, confidant way of his. “No. It doesn’t. But it’s okay. You learn, right? Stop feeling guilty. You’re okay.”
A groan came from Sanji’s right, and grey eyes peeked open. This interruption thing is becoming a problem. “Oi.” Zoro’s voice says, hoarse but convicted. “Shut up. Captain said its okay. I say its okay. Fuck off and stop your tears.”
Oh god, he’s going to kick him off the ship into a (safe, this time,) patch of sea once Chopper gives him the clear.
“See? Even Zoro agrees. You guys were fighting but that’s okay. You learn!”
“Ero-cook.” Mosshead pipes in. “You’re an ass but we’re nakama. Suck it up. Stop taking shit for yourself, I should have been able to deflect that bullet.”
Sanji opens his mouth with another protest, the ugly guilt seeping into his stomach like the red in Zoro’s bandages but this time they don’t even let him speak.
“Sit. Eat.” It looks like it phsycially pains Luffy to stay that. “We forgive you.”
The tension in Sanji’s shoulder’s bleeds out. He’s forgiven, even if he hasn’t said sorry yet.
He takes a bite of the food he brought for his Captain, watched under Zoro and Luffy’s careful eyes, before Luffy goes back to murmuring to Zoro. Sanji lets himself breathe, without his lungs constricting for once with terrible guilt (he hurt him) and settles in the quiet comfort.
Maybe it is okay.
(Sanji still fights with Zoro in battle – its them, and it’ll probably never really change. But now he gives a little easier, allows Zoro to shove him back instead of the opposite, allows himself to take the risk instead of Zoro. He gives Zoro extra helpings of booze the following dinners, and in the secret dark spaces of the men’s cabin, helps Zoro rebandage the wounds without Chopper finding out.
(Zoro asks Sanji for help improving his observation haki, to cover what can’t be seen by a missing eye.
He too is not going to let it happen again.)
It’s not much. But neither of them had been men for words and servitude had always been Sanji’s form of apology.
It’s okay, he’s learned.