Chapter 1: Zoro's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Night
It starts with a party. Just a standard work event with formal wear that Zoro's obligated to attend with Sanji 'cause he's his husband, and it's apparently Expected. Zoro can keep himself out of trouble for a couple hours while Sanji networks, right?
He had been through this enough times that it wasn't new, yet every time it happened he still complained about it.
"Do I really have to wear this stupid suit?" Zoro growled as he tried to shove his arm into the sleeve of his new suit. It fit him just right, but he still squirmed around trying to get it to fit like a regular outfit.
"This is an important event, Marimo. You need to dress a bit better than usual for these things!" Sanji said while helping to smooth out any wrinkles on Zoro. "In order to keep the reputation I have, we have to go to a few fancy parties every once in a while; you know how it is."
Zoro looked at him in annoyance, but didn't fight his statement. He knew Sanji was an important man, and had a reputation that was so good that, even though he was married to a man instead of a woman, those he worked with didn't care all that much. Sure, they would get the occasional comment about it, but it was quickly resolved every time.
"Now remember to-"
"-Be on your best behavior, I know." Zoro interrupted Sanji before he could finish.
“No, not your best, but be good. Don't go around telling everyone you're an unbaptized, non-religious heathen." Sanji said, slightly more serious than before.
Zoro looked down, pretending to fix his sleeve.
"Oi," Sanji looked at him for a second before saying: "I love you, Marimo. Once we get back I'll make you anything you want for dinner."
Zoro looked up quickly.
Sanji nodded and gave Zoro a small smile.
"Yup, now let's get going," He said, pausing momentarily to give Zoro a kiss before walking towards the door.
Sanji and Zoro walked into the large building, arm in arm. The second they walk in, Zoro could already tell it wasn't going to be a fun night. It was bright, and loud, and crowded here. Zoro didn't like that. Zoro liked the smaller gatherings where there was maybe 10 people, 20 if they had brought other people with them. This place was huge and packed with at least 100 people, all dressed up and talking about things Zoro couldn’t understand with all the other noises happening at the same time.
"Well if it isn't the baby eggplant! Nice of you to finally show up!!" A voice cut through the crowd and large, mustached man pushed his way though the crowd and came up to Sanji, pushing Zoro away to go for a hug.
Zoro looked at the man with frustration, but did recognize Zeff, after a moment.
"Ah. Good to see you, ya shitty geezer." Sanji said fondly to the man after he finally let go of him.
Zoro awkwardly stood there as Zeff made conversation with Sanji. Looking around, he finally found the table with the food on it, and contemplated walking over. He glanced back at Sanji again to see if he would mind him going.
Sanji looked over at him almost like he knew exactly what Zoro was thinking, and gave him a nod, signaling that it was okay for Zoro to wander.
Zoro walked over to the table of food; it was nothing big, mostly just finger foods like sandwiches and crackers with things on them that are basically unidentifiable to Zoro. He picked something up and shoved it into his mouth in one bite. He continued doing that for a bit before someone walked up to him.
"What are you doing?" They asked before Zoro could even finish what he's eating.
"I asked what you're doing." This time they had more of an irritated tone.
"Eating." Zoro said bluntly before continuing to do exactly that.
"You can't eat all the food we have more people here than just you!" The person said while basically shoving Zoro away from the table.
"Listen. I'm hungry. I don't want to be here. Let me eat food." Zoro grumbled with his mouth still full of food.
"Who even are you anyway?"
"Zoro Roronoa." His name didn’t sound right, said in that order, but it was the custom of this country, so Zoro did his best to respect it...if only for Sanji’s sake.
Panic then flooded the person's face as they realized who Zoro was, and they quickly walked away, leaving Zoro confused.
At that point Zoro's appetite was ruined so he grabbed a full bottle of wine and walked across the room to lean against the wall. He opened the bottle and took a sip.
"Ugh. This is disgusting." He said to himself, grimacing at the overly sweet taste as he took another sip, watching as the other people talk to each other about who knows what, or dance together to the classical music being played by the orchestra hired for the event.
He looked around for Sanji and found him chatting with a group of people. He looked really happy, so Zoro could tell business was going well. He wondered if he would be a burden to Sanji's work if he walked over to him to chat. He took another big drink of wine and realized the bottle was empty. He glared at it like it personally offended him, then set off to get another drink. He ended up grabbing a few glasses of something off the plate of a passing server.
He drained one of the glasses in a single go.
“Ugh.” He muttered, grimacing at the bubbly sweet nothingness of the champagne. Zoro hated sweet things, but he hated being sober at events like this more.
Zoro paused in bringing the second glass to his lips, shoulders tensing as a shudder of discomfort rippled up and down his spine. The back of his neck prickled like he was being watched; he didn’t like it. He looked around, and spotted a well-dressed man wearing what Zoro could tell was an expensive suit and a pale orange dress shirt heading towards him. Something about the man made Zoro uneasy. His presence felt... pushy, somehow, like Zoro was being poked and prodded by something.
“Oh, hey there! I don’t recall seeing you at one of these events before! Your first time?” the man greeted as he walked up, all friendly smiles that did nothing at all to put Zoro at ease. If anything, the sticky, slimy sweet feeling intensified, leaving Zoro feeling oily and gross for no reason he could discern.
“No.” Zoro grunted in response, subtly leaning away from the man. He wouldn’t have normally responded at all, but Sanji said he had to be on decent behavior, so. That unfortunately required humoring pushy social types like this guy.
“I’m Iemitsu Sawada! What’s your name?” The man introduced himself, holding out a hand with a beaming smile.
‘I don’t care! Just go away!!’ Zoro’s mind screamed, but outwardly he pasted on a smile that was probably more of a grimace and politely shook the man’s hand.
“Zoro Roronoa.” He answered, immediately regretting touching the man when the sticky prodding feeling intensified sharply and left Zoro feeling weirdly violated and angry. It was like everything inside of himself was bristling and rejecting the man’s entire existence.
The man’s eyes widened in recognition.
“Ah, Sanji’s husband, then?”
“Yeah.” ‘Now fuck off!’
“I can see why he married you! You cut quite the striking figure!”
Zoro could feel himself being prodded at, somehow, like something was trying to force him to like the man, and he hated it. He wanted to leave. He wanted this man gone. He wished he had his swords. Why didn’t Sanji let him bring his swords?
Was the air always this thick and cloying? It was getting hard to breathe. Zoro felt gross; everything felt wrong, and he didn’t know where Sanji was, and his skin was itching but not the surface - it was under his skin. Everywhere under his skin, like he’d touched a really bad texture, only he’d been doused in the Bad Texture, and it burned Zoro wanted OUTOUTOUTOUTRIGHTTHEFUCKNOW.
The man still hadn’t released Zoro’s hand, and instead seemed to be pulling him closer, and something in Zoro was sNAPpInG a snarl rose in his throat as everything felt toohottoomuchhewasgonnakillthismanhowdarehehowdarehehOWDAREHE-
“Is everything alright here?” Sanji’s voice cut through the growing haze of rage clouding Zoro’s mind, clarity snapping back into place in an instant as he felt Sanji’s familiar presence (yesgoodrightsafehomeMine). Sanji’s hand was resting on Zoro’s shoulder, grounding him.
The badwrongdisgusting feeling that had been scraping at his mind and senses for the past minutes faded beneath the weight of Sanji’s presence, and Zoro felt his shoulders lowering as his entire body untensed. When had he tensed up like that? It was like he’d been about to pounce on that man. What happened?
The man - whose name Zoro had very purposefully chosen not to remember - was still smiling, but it was so very fake, now. Just plastic. He seemed... angry? Why? Why would he be angry about Zoro’s husband showing up? Things weren’t adding up and it was really annoying!
Sanji’s hand slid from Zoro’s shoulder down his back in a soothing motion, and Zoro let the mystery drop. He could just ask Sanji about it later; he didn’t want to waste any more time or energy on that man. He just wanted to go home.
“Yep! Everything’s fine! I was just introducing myself to your lovely husband! He stands out quite a bit, and I just had to get to know him a little better, is all!” Zoro didn’t feel like the man was telling the truth with that. It kind of pissed him off, and he felt himself bristling again, only for Sanji to stroke his hand up and down his back once again; it was weirdly soothing to that part of Zoro that was so angry. (Sanji was good and strong and safe and His.)
“Mm, he does, doesn’t he? I can’t fault you for looking, because my darling Marimo is an absolute vision of masculine beauty that would make even the Greek gods weep with envy... but that handshake looked like it was going on for a little too long! You’re not trying to make moves on my husband, are you, Iemitsu?” Sanji’s tone was light, cheerful, almost joking, but Zoro knew him well enough to hear the anger underneath; the steel beneath the silk. It made that angry part of Zoro purr in contentment.
Zoro leaned into Sanji’s side, mentally checking out of the conversation. He was done with this whole thing. He just wanted to go home. Maybe take a shower to wash off the rest of this disgustingbadwronggross feeling clinging to him like sickly sweet tar. He didn’t want to be here anymore. It was too bright, and loud, and he felt gross. He wanted his own home that felt like his and wasn’t full of all this noise and confusion and gross, disgusting feelings.
Sanji apparently agreed, because next thing Zoro knew, they were heading to the door, Sanji was murmuring softly to him, but for the life of him Zoro had no idea what he was saying; he just wanted to go home. He felt drained, like he’d been training all night, but without the warm, satisfying feeling of accomplishment and pushed limits. He just felt gross. It almost felt like someone had reached in and put their sticky hands all over the innermost parts of him without permission.
They were back in the limo. Zoro only knew because he felt the vibrations of the engine from where he was resting with his head in Sanji’s lap. Sanji was running his fingers through his hair, still murmuring softly to him. It was nice. Maybe he’d just rest his eyes... just for a moment...
Sanji was furious. How dare that bastard try something like that on Zoro? Zoro was a civilian! They were supposed to be off limits, especially since Zoro’s a civilian married to the head of a loosely-allied Famiglia! Instead, the fucker put his grimy hands all over Sanji’s sweet, innocent Marimo and tried to violate him! Tried to bind Zoro’s soul to his, without so much as a “by your leave”! If the man weren’t in a high position in a very powerful Famiglia... Ooooooh Sanji would have him shot in his sleep. Or worse. Definitely worse.
‘Poor Marimo,’ Sanji thought, looking down at his over-stressed husband, currently napping fitfully in his lap. He’d had a very stressful night. He deserved lots of pampering for this, and Sanji would deliver.
To anyone wondering why Zoro didn't just kick the dude's ass... Well, he *is* trying to be on his best behavior for Sanji! Or at least on *decent* behavior! Which getting into fights uhhhhh goes directly against. Also he had no idea he was even *in* a fight. Poor guy.
Chapter 2: He's Got A Gun!
Chapter by Youkoartemis
It's a beautiful day for a walk, and Zoro's got an urge to wander. What could possibly go wrong?
It was a nice day out, Zoro noted, looking out the window. It was sunny, but not obnoxiously sunny; warm, but not too warm, and with what looked like a pleasant breeze. He felt an itch in his legs; he wanted to Wander. He glanced longingly at the door, but the cook always freaked out whenever Zoro wandered off without letting him know, so he had to find him first and let him know, so Zoro set off looking for him. He'd probably be in the kitchen, right? Right.
It took longer than Zoro expected to find the kitchen; the house was big, and the rooms kept moving on him. He should complain to Curly about that, later, but it was probably intentional that the house moved around, knowing him.
"Oi, cook." Zoro called out, leaning against the doorframe to the kitchen.
Sanji glanced over.
"I'm heading out for a walk." Zoro said simply, antsy to get going already.
"Alright, have fun and stay out of trouble. Bring your phone in case you get lost." Sanji replied, smiling slightly, expression teasing.
Zoro's nose crinkled at the implication that he got lost. He didn't get lost! The roads moved around on him!
"Yeah, yeah." It wasn't worth arguing about that with his husband; not this time, at least. He wanted to get going too much to bother with that right now. Maybe later.
He strolled over to Sanji, kissed him on the cheek, and then sauntered off to go on his walk, already feeling happier and more awake at the idea.
The house moved around on him some more while he hunted for the front door, so he just left through a window. It's his house, he can enter and leave how he pleases! Even if Sanji doesn't like it when he climbs in through the windows. Something about acting like an assassin? Whatever.
It was, indeed, a very nice day out, and the streets weren't too busy, either! That pleased Zoro a lot; he hated crowds. They were always so noisy, and too close together; couldn't get through 'em without touching someone, and Zoro didn't like touching strangers. It felt bad.
Zoro walked on for a while before realizing that the roads had moved on him again and he wasn't sure where he was. He slowed down a bit, looking around. The back of his neck prickled, and he put a hand on his swords, drawing one as he twisted around, turning a gun away from his head with the flat of his blade and leaving his would-be attacker open to a counterattack.
"Trying to mug me, eh?" He asked rhetorically, smirking, before he kicked the man in the stomach, winding him.
Zoro drew another sword and, in a flurry of swings using the blunt sides of his swords, left the man bruised and bloodied on the ground. He sheathed his swords, scooping the man's gun off the ground and looking at it curiously. He glanced at the man, flipped the switch on the back like he'd seen in the movies, and aimed the gun at him.
The man froze.
"Give me all your valuables." Zoro said, voice cold and without inflection.
The man hastened to do so, leaving them in a pile on the ground.
"Alright, now get the fuck outta here before I get mad." Zoro stated, motioning carelessly with the gun, the man limping off as quickly as he could.
Zoro waited for a few moments to make sure the man wouldn't try to come back, and that there weren't any accomplices, then nodded once to himself. He went to pick up the collection of valuables, then remembered he'd never flicked that switch again, so he did. It made a very satisfying click, so he flicked it on and off a few more times, smiling slightly.
The smile dropped as he contemplated the gun. He didn't use guns, so it was useless to him, but it was still pretty nice, as far as he could tell… Wait. The cook had guns. Zoro had found them hidden around the house, sometimes, so maybe he'd like it? Maybe it'd be a nice gift? Nodding to himself, Zoro shoved it into his haramaki along with the other valuables.
He considered heading back home, but it was still nice out, and Curly wouldn't expect him back until later anyway, so he still had some time to wander… but he kind of didn't want to, anymore. He felt satisfied with the wandering he'd done, and that brief fight, no matter how wimpy his would-be mugger had been. His legs no longer itched to wander, so he set off for home, and the road only moved around on him a couple times!
Sanji honestly hadn't expected Zoro back until sundown, so having him back several hours before then was a surprise. The Marimo seemed pretty pleased with himself, though, smirking like a cat that got the cream.
"Have fun, Marimo?" He asked mildly, watching as his mossy husband gracelessly plopped himself down next to him on the couch, immediately sprawling out like the mannerless alley cat he was.
"Someone tried to mug me." Was what his Marimo chose to answer with.
Anger and fear flooded Sanji, but he couldn't see any sign of injury on Zoro, and Zoro was far too pleased to have been hurt, so Sanji would hold off on his murderous rampage until his ridiculous oaf of a husband elaborated on that statement.
"Oh?" He asked, aiming to get Zoro talking.
His lovely, vicious Marimo grinned savagely at him, all teeth and menace. It made Sanji's heart flutter in adoration! Oh~! His Marimo was so wicked and ferocious~~!
"I mugged him, instead." Well, that certainly explained Zoro's smugness! God, Sanji loved him so fucking much!!!
"Good!" He said with force, reaching over to pull his mossy alley cat down onto his lap, beginning to pet Zoro's hair. His Marimo hummed softly and very gently pressed his head against Sanji's hand, causing Sanji's heart to just melt into a puddle of goo. He was honestly just so lovely~~! You know, for a vicious and unmannered brute. Oh, but that just made it better~~!!
"Did you get anything interesting?" He asked, forcefully wrenching his mind back on track, no matter how much he wanted to gush about his adorable husband.
Zoro shifted slightly, and sat up to reach into his haramaki (which really should have been ratty and worn, but was in remarkably good condition with how much care Zoro gave it). He began pulling things out and laying them on the coffee table.
"Wallet. Keys. Ring. Watch." He listed as he laid each item down. And then he pulled out a gun, and Sanji felt his heart stop as he considered the implications of that.
"Got this, too." Zoro said, utterly calm, as though he hadn't just given Sanji a heart attack by pulling out a gun that he'd been threatened by, the bastard.
Zoro turned to Sanji, holding out the gun pointing it right at Sanji what the fUCK.
Sanji instinctively reacted by tossing Zoro onto the floor with a shift of his legs.
"OI!" Zoro snapped, glaring up at him, "The hell was that for?!"
"You pointed a fucking gun at me, shithead! The hell did you expect?!" Sanji shot back, furious now that the spike of terror had calmed.
Zoro opened his mouth to respond, then paused, glare softening into something far more sheepish as realization hit, his mouth closing.
"Oh. Shit. Sorry." He said, rubbing the back of his neck in embarrassment.
Sanji sighed sharply through his nose. God help him, he still loved the bastard, even if he was a clueless moron who waved guns around like toys.
"S'fine, just. Never fucking do that again, got it?" He told him, voice stern.
Zoro nodded solemnly, and very, very carefully set the gun down on the table, not facing anyone.
He looked at it for a moment, then over at Sanji, slightly hesitant.
"...Do you like it, though?" He asked, voice quieter with uncertainty.
( "Is it a nice gift?" Sanji heard asked, in his head.)
Sanji looked at the gun, really looked at it. It was legitimately a nice gun. Looked clean and well-maintained. He picked it up and expertly unloaded it, checking the clip - full, so the previous owner never got off a single shot, thank god - and putting it back, examining the gun at all angles. It really was a good gun. Suspiciously good, for some back alley mugger. Alarm bells went off in the back of his mind as suspicion bloomed.
"It's actually pretty damn nice," he admitted to Zoro, remembering the Marimo was waiting on a response.
Zoro relaxed a bit, looking pleased.
"You want it?" He asked, looking almost eager. He was honestly so cute when he wasn't being a dumb idiot bastard man.
"Yeah, I'll keep it; it's pretty nice. Thanks, Marimo." Sanji said, leaning down to give his idiot a kiss.
Said idiot smiled into the kiss, pleased as punch that his gift had gone over well, despite the rocky start. He climbed back onto the couch and sprawled back across Sanji's lap, silently demanding petting by butting his head against one of Sanji's hands like a pushy cat.
Sanji chuckled softly, putting the gun down and obliging his adorable dumbass.
In the back of his mind, though, he was still trying to figure out what had actually happened, there. He knew Zoro had probably put basically the entire incident out of his head - like most Clouds, Marimo sorted things into "important" and "not important" and weak opponents got classed as "not important" by the mosshead. As such they were promptly forgotten. But things weren't really adding up. A gun like this, and so well-maintained, meant that it was more than just some back alley mugger that'd gone after Sanji's Marimo.
Sanji had the sneaking suspicion that it hadn't been a mugging at all - it had been an attempted kidnapping and that really pissed him off. He was going to have to get his men to crack down on things in his territory. He couldn't have his husband getting kidnapped! His Marimo was tough as hell, but that'd be far too much!! Plus it'd blow his secret clear out of the water, and he. Well, Sanji was scared of what'd happen if Zoro found out. His Marimo had a very strict moral code, and Sanji wasn't quite sure where "organized crime" fell on it. It could get really bad if Zoro decided to take offense.
Sanji stroked his hand down Zoro's spine before reaching back up to lightly toy with his earrings, causing them to softly jingle against each other and Zoro to snort softly in his sleep and shift. Sanji smiled softly down at him, and resumed petting his hair, causing his ferocious little Marimo to settle back down. God he loved this man. He didn't want to lose him.
He'd burn the world down before he let anything happen to him.
Sanji was honestly *really* fun to write, because he's all swinging emotions and creative descriptions! I really loved him swinging from "*God* I love this man" to "I hate your fucking guts you absolute idiot!" and then back again dsaklfjjkls;fd
Chapter 3: Accidental Interruptions
Zoro just wanted to tease Sanji, little did he know a lot more eyes would be on him.
Every day at the same time, Zoro would go to the gym and train for the same amount of time. If he was a few minutes off, then his entire day would be thrown off. Today was one of those days; his entire schedule was thrown off.
Zoro decided that instead of letting the change get to him, he would make the best of it and walk past his spouse's office. Maybe he would just so happen to "forget" his shirt.
The walk past Sanji's office wasn't too long, and it was a faster way to get back to his room to change into new clothes, so he'd be able to use that as a reason to be walking past.
As Zoro approached the office, he noticed that the door was open; perfect. Zoro walked a bit quicker towards the open door, and stood in the doorway.
"Morning Sa-" he soon realized that Sanji wasn't the only one in the room. Apparently there was a meeting at this time, and Sanji just hadn't closed the door.
Zoro looked around the room and noticed something everyone had in common: they were all staring at him. Zoro then remembered that he had no shirt on, but also didn't want to seem embarrassed that he had just walked into a meeting without a shirt.
Everyone in the room seemed to be looking at him for a bit longer than was normal, though. It made him a bit uncomfortable.
'What are they looking at?' Zoro wondered. He looked down at his chest, 'Are they looking at my scars? Assholes.' He thought, looking back up and glaring back at the ones staring.
Zoro wasn't self conscious about his scars; he was actually really comfortable with them.
Zoro realized he was standing there wordless for a bit too long, and was about to leave when he heard a familiar voice cut through the silence.
"Listen. You get one free look, 'cause I know he's gorgeous, but I catch any of you fucks looking at my husband like that ever again, I'm serving you your own dick and balls for dinner. Got it?" Sanji was standing at this point, and shot a glare around the room at the others, who quickly looked away, as though burned, before e walked over to Zoro.
"Sorry about that, darling, you look very nice today, though." E said in a much sweeter voice before giving Zoro a kiss on the cheek. "Let me finish up here and I'll get to work on breakfast." E added calmly, giving Zoro an affectionate pat on the cheek.
Zoro nodded and went to leave, and Sanji waited for a moment before closing the door.
Zoro paused for a moment to listen and, as expected, he heard muffled yelling and what he assumed was people being thrown into the wall by a kick before it stopped and he only heard muffled talking. Zoro nodded to himself and kept walking, a small smirk on his face and maybe a slight bounce in his step; he was ready for breakfast.
Edit (9/8/20): Changed Sanji's pronouns to e/em/eir for this chapter.
Chapter 4: Jealousy
Chapter by Youkoartemis
Normally Zoro's not bothered by Sanji flirting or being flirted with, so what the fuck is this?
Zoro was not a jealous man. He knew his worth, and he was secure in how much Sanji loved him. So he didn't care when Sanji flirted with women: It was just the love cook being the love cook. No big deal. Zoro knew from the start that's what he'd have to deal with: Curly would never be able to stop fawning over every woman he saw, but he knew exactly when to stop before it went too far and actually did start upsetting Zoro, so it was fine.
So Zoro just watched through a half-lidded eye as his cook made a fool of himself flirting it up with all the ladies in the bar, buying them drinks, paying them compliments, and flailing about like one of those noodle armed balloon people put in front of stores sometimes. He looked so stupid; it was fucking hilarious . Zoro hid a grin in his beer, snickering under his breath at his stupid, curly-browed husband.
This time, though, Sanji was also there for a meeting with someone; some informal meet up thing, apparently? It happened pretty often, and the cook had probably told him what it was about, but Zoro hadn't really cared, so it'd just gone in one ear and out the other; he'd only come along because he liked the bar and wanted a drink. Plus it was fucking funny watching Curly lose his damn mind over every woman he saw.
The men Sanji was meeting with strolled in and sat down across from Sanji after introducing themselves and shaking Sanji's hand. Zoro vaguely recognized one of them (older, dark blond, beard, glasses, nice suit, blue dress shirt, bit on the bigger side, made him think of a faint drizzle, for some reason - the only reason Zoro recognized him at all, honestly). Zoro quickly dismissed him and turned his gaze onto the other man.
This one was new; Zoro had never seen him before. Red hair, kinda mousy, skinny, red dress shirt, weirdly reminded Zoro of one of those annoyingly persistent breezes that blew hair and grit into his eyes, so Zoro already disliked him. Zoro didn't particularly like how he stared at Sanji, either.
Zoro's eye narrowed slightly as he paid a bit more attention, sitting slightly straighter on his bar stool. The man wasn't a threat - not physically, at least, 'cause Zoro could absolutely kick his ass if he had to - but. But.
He was being too friendly. Leaning in too much. Staring too much. Flirting? Was the man flirting? Zoro vaguely recalled Sanji explaining how that sort of behavior was flirty, but Zoro had never really understood? But maybe now he did, because this? He didn't like it. Something in him was bristling at the thought of this man thinking he could touch Zoro's husband. That he could look at him like that. Like he wanted to do things to Sanji that only Zoro was allowed to do. Unacceptable.
Zoro drained his cup in one go, paid his tab, and stood, striding over to the booth before he even had time to think. He wasn't really sure what he was going to do, but he was definitely going to do something.
Sanji blinked when his Marimo suddenly plopped himself down next to him, practically in his lap, one arm draping over Sanji's shoulders and the other grasping the front of Sanji's suit jacket. He very faintly felt the way his husband's latent Flames were bristling angrily, like an offended cat. That, coupled with the rather possessive way he was holding Sanji, and the way he was glowering so intently at the rookie Hector, his informant, had introduced him to (Anthony, if Sanji recalled)...
Oh. Oh, how precious! His Marimo was jealous! Absolutely adorable!! He had absolutely nothing to be jealous about, because Sanji couldn't possibly be any less interested in this baby-faced Storm trying and failing to flirt with him, but it was very cute that his Marimo was getting so bent out of shape about it. (Sanji would absolutely tease him about this later!)
'I'll have to talk to Hector about his trainee's behavior, though, 'cause it's pretty damn unprofessional, even if it's kinda flattering and really funny,' Sanji thought, as he ran a hand through Zoro's hair, smoothing down his mossy husband's ruffled feathers. Zoro gently butted his head against Sanji's neck in response; oh, wasn't he just the cutest thing~!
Just as well the meeting was pretty much over, honestly, because Sanji was quite certain that Zoro wouldn't be budging from this spot until he and Sanji went home, the ridiculous lout. He pressed a chaste kiss to his Marimo's temple and rested one arm around his shoulders, pulling him closer and using his hand to continue petting his mossy husband's hair.
Zoro huffed contentedly and leaned bonelessly against him, and Sanji could feel how smug his mannerless alley cat of a husband was at how Anthony had wilted under both Zoro's glare and the fact that Sanji was very much already taken. Even Sanji couldn't resist a bit of a smirk, because honestly: hadn't Hector told the kid that Sanji was happily married? Hopefully Anthony would learn fast: those sorts of mistakes could easily get you killed in this business.
Chapter 5: Deadly Reminders
Chapter by Youkoartemis
Sanji loves his husband very much. He'd do *anything* to keep him safe. Sometimes he needs to remind people why it's a very bad idea to try and use his Marimo against him. There's a *reason* he's the head of the Famiglia, after all.
Trigger warnings for Sanji torturing and killing a man.
(checkered_soul wrote most of this; I just finished it off and added a little polish!)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Sanji takes his job very seriously. He always cleans up all the details and evidence. Not necessarily because he wants it to be kept a major secret; it's just good business...and, well, he does keep it secret from one person. He knows that he'll have to tell him eventually, but he wants Zoro to stay as safe as possible, and if that means keeping his actual job a secret from him then so be it. That, and… He just. Something about how innocent Zoro is of all of this darkness appeals to Sanji. He wants to preserve that light, for as long as he can. He knows it's selfish, and that Zoro won't thank him for it, but. He just can't help it! He doesn't want his sweet, innocent Marimo to be tainted by the darkness of the criminal underworld!
It does get a bit difficult at times, mostly when he comes home smelling of blood. He can always tell that Zoro can smell it on him, even if Sanji spent over an hour cleaning the blood off of himself. His Marimo always got so skittish when he caught the scent of blood, always intently checking Sanji over for injuries, and getting that constipated look that said he was trying to think really, really hard when he didn't find any on him. Sanji always managed to distract him from those dangerous thoughts, though.
It was very early in the morning, and Sanji really didn't want to leave his precious Marimo's arms, but when work calls, you have to go. So Sanji very regretfully untangled himself from Zoro's arms without disturbing him. He got dressed, made breakfast for his Marimo to eat when he woke up, and left a note explaining that he'd had to leave early for work, and that he would be back around lunch time if all went well.
He parked his car in front of the large building and sat for a moment before smoothing out his sleeves and tightening his tie a bit. Then he got out of his car and walked into the building.
The outside of the building looked like it would be a warehouse, but as soon as you walked in it was actually a very nice looking building. The first room was what could be described as a waiting room. Sanji walked up to the front desk.
"Good to see you again, boss." The woman said without looking up from the computer. "Third door on the left, there's someone waiting for you." she told him while inputting information for Sanji to check later.
"Thank you very much, Katya! You're an angel sent to Earth to walk amongst us unworthy mortals!" Sanji crooned, beaming at her before walking over to the door he was directed to and opening it. The room was dark and much larger than one might expect.
Sanji flicked on a light and saw a man tied to a chair. Sanji looked at him, unimpressed; some lowlife that got caught trying to capture Sanji's beloved Marimo. Sanji shook his head and took out a cigarette, offering it to the man.
The man looked up at him with anger in his eyes and tried to free his arms briefly.
Sanji shrugged and lit the cigarette for himself, calling his Flames up to the tip of his finger to light the end of the cigarette in a small, casual show of power. He leaned closer to the man's face and blew the smoke in his face.
"Fuck you." the man growled.
"Don't you wish." Sanji sneered back.
The man tried once again to slip his arm free from the ropes keeping him to the chair and managed to slip one hand free. He attempted to swing at Sanji's face, but Sanji blocked the blow with his knee.
"Hands away from the face. Can't have my husband worrying about how I got hurt."
"Fight me like a man!" The man snarled in return.
Sanji smirked and walked behind the man and untied him silently.
The man quickly stood up and went for another punch only to be met with a kick to the gut.
"I didn't say go yet." Sanji drawled as he took another drag from his cigarette. He watched impassively as the man looked around the room and spotted the table with knives on it and grabbed one.
"How about I make the rules?" he said, full of misplaced confidence.
Sanji laughed a bit at that as he reached into the pocket on the inside of his suit and pulled out a gun. It was a very nice gun too: a gift from his husband that was taken from someone else. Sanji looked at the man as the man's hands began shaking around the knife he was holding.
"Put the gun down." The man said, voice shaking.
Sanji stepped forward to scare the man more. The man looked at him with eyes widened in fear and dropped his knife. Without hesitation, Sanji took the gun and shot twice.
Both shots hit directly in front of the man's feet, and he took a moment to look at the ground in horror. The man looked back up at Sanji with even wider eyes.
"You're insane!" he yelled at him, voice shooting up in octave.
"It's not my fault you're here. You did this to yourself." Sanji replied without emotion.
Sanji slowly walked over to where the knives are laying and picked one up. He examined the knife for a moment, checking its balance and sharpness, before throwing it in the direction of the other man and hitting him in the arm, making him cry out in shock and pain.
"Now, this is supposed to be an interrogation, so I'm going to ask you a few questions." Sanji said in a very serious tone.
"I won't tell you shit." the man growled back.
Sanji paused for a moment and looked at the table. He picked up another knife and threw it at the man's arm again, hitting directly where intended.
"What the fuck!?" the man yelped, looking down at the knife with wide eyes.
"I'm going to ask you some questions now, shithead. Those knives were your warnings. It will get a lot fucking worse if you don't give me the answers I want." Sanji said, tone flat and direct, and eyes glacially cold, mouth twisted down in a severe frown.
The man sat on the floor against the wall, silent. Sanji picked up three knives and stalked towards him, crouching down to be at eye level with the man.
"Two days ago you tried to kidnap my husband. We caught you by watching the security footage of a building nearby. What I want to know is why you did that." Sanji said while making eye contact with the man. Sanji held a knife against the chest of the man and waited for an answer.
The man looked down at the knife, and gulped audibly, but replied: "I can't tell you."
Sanji's grip tightened on the handle of the knife and he pressed it a bit harder on the man's chest, causing a small amount of blood to show through the light color of the man's shirt.
"You don't need to do that!" the man yelped, panic starting to show on his face again, his eyes wide and wild.
"Give me an answer then." Sanji drawled carelessly while pressing the knife harder so that a bit of it was inside the man's chest, and calling up a touch of Flames to lick at and painfully disintegrate the edges of the wound.
"Fuck!!! Okay, Okay! I was sent to get him because everyone knows how important he is to you!!! And…" the man trailed off, looking terrified.
"And?" Sanji pressed while grabbing another knife and jabbing it into the man's leg, tearing a scream from him.
"God damn it!" the man gasped under his breath, trying to not let Sanji hear. "We knew that if we had your husband, we could get you to do anything for us in order to get him back!" The man said quickly.
Sanji was vaguely disappointed and a lot disgusted at how quickly he was breaking, but he nodded, slowly pushing the knife further into the man's chest and making him scream from the agony of a heated blade sinking in and searing and scouring his flesh wherever it touched.
"Who sent you." Sanji demanded as soon as the man fell silent.
The man didn't say anything for a moment and Sanji took it as him not wanting to answer so he picked up another knife. His scarlet Storm Flames flickered along the edge of the blade, as much a threat as a promise. The man tried to move backwards but the wall behind him stopped him from doing so.
"I'll tell you! I'll tell you!!" he pleaded desperately, holding out his hands, and Sanji nodded, waiting for his answer.
"Eduardo Cerchio." the man said quickly to get the answer out to avoid getting another knife stabbed into him.
"Hm." Sanji hummed to himself before standing up. "Well, thanks for spilling the beans, shithead." He said, casually tapping ash off his cigarette and onto the man.
He turned as though to leave, then swung into a roundhouse kick that knocked the man to the ground. "Of course, now that you have, I have no more use for you, so why don't you just die?"
With that, he slammed his foot down onto the man's chest, focusing his will and causing his Flames to flare out from his foot, the scarlet Storm Flames quickly spreading and disintegrating the man to ash while he screamed in anguish.
Sanji simply watched with cold, cold eyes, taking a deep drag from his cigarette, and letting the smoke out slow. The man's screams tapered off as his life was reduced to nothingness. Sanji eyed the vaguely human-shaped dust pile that remained with distaste, then kicked it as he turned and began walking to the sink in the room. He scrubbed the blood off, ditching the knives in the sink to soak, dried his hands, and then casually dusted off his pants before heading to the door.
"Katya, darling? Could you send someone to clean up the room, please? Oh, and set some people on figuring out who Eduardo Cerchio is, and who he works for. I want him and whoever's working with him wiped out as of yesterday." Sanji requested, expression and tone deceptively light.
The woman pushed up her glasses and nodded once.
"Understood, boss. I'll get started on that right away."
"Thanks so much~~!! You're a life saver~~!!" Sanji crooned, beaming brightly at his assistant, "I have a Marimo to go tend to now, though, so I'm afraid I have to leave you, my dear."
"That's fine, boss." Katya stated calmly in a professional voice, pushing her glasses up once more.
"Thanks again~~!" and with that, Sanji walked out the door and back to his car to head home. He hoped his Marimo wouldn't get too skittish after smelling the blood on him.
As he'd expected, his Marimo was awake by the time he got home. Sanji found him curled up on the windowsill seat, munching on the food Sanji had prepared for him while watching the leaves sway in the breeze and enjoying the sunlight like the cat he was.
Sanji took a moment to admire the way the light played across his husband's bronzed skin and green hair; he looked like something out of a classical painting. Sanji could honestly admire his Marimo's looks forever, but it would be far more fun to cuddle his husband, especially after the unpleasantry of what he'd had to do earlier. So Sanji approached, making sure to make noise as he did, so as not to startle his mossy alley cat.
Zoro turned his head to look at Sanji, perking up slightly upon sight of him. It was a subtle thing, but the slight widening of his eye in increased alertness and the way he sat up just a little straighter spoke volumes to someone who'd learned to read him as well as Sanji had.
"Hey Marimo, I'm home." Sanji greeted softly as he approached, settling down next to Zoro and wrapping an arm around his waist, leaning against the solid warmth of his husband, head coming to rest on Zoro's shoulder.
Zoro, brute that he was, merely grunted in response and continued eating, but did lean a little against Sanji, in return.
And then he paused in his chewing, turning more towards Sanji with a couple soft sniffs, a frown furrowing his brow as he picked up the scent of blood.
"I'm fine, Marimo; don't worry about it." Sanji assured him, gently stroking a hand down his husband's spine, hoping to head off Zoro's wariness before his Marimo grew too concerned, "Just handled some particularly raw meat, is all."
Zoro grunted softly, the tension that had been starting to build in his muscles relaxing once more as he resumed eating. After a moment, he shifted a bit, settling himself more comfortably against Sanji, and resting his cheek atop Sanji's head, which was still resting on his shoulder.
"Bed was cold without you." he complained, but Sanji knew it was just Zoro's neanderthalic way of saying "I missed you," and his heart melted a little bit. A small,warm smile spread across Sanji's face at the little reminder that his Marimo loved him.
"I missed you too, Marimo, but I should be done with work, now, so I'm yours for the day."
His Marimo hummed softly, pleased, and settled even further against Sanji, apparently intent on taking a nap.
Sanji chuckled softly. A nap honestly sounded really nice, actually…
I know Sanji doesn't use his hands for anything violent in canon, but this Sanji's a mob boss, so we figured things were a *little* bit different for him. Our justification is that knives and guns are just *Scarier* in a torture/interrogation context, and that sometimes he just needs the added range to deal with certain enemies. Sanji still ***vastly*** prefers to use his feet to do his fighting in basically every other context, though.
Chapter 6: Remembering Days Gone Past
Chapter by Youkoartemis
A look into Sanji's past, and how he came to be where he is now, and two of the people who impacted him most.
Sanji's story begins with a Famiglia. Not a family - the word "family" implies a level of care that just wasn't there. No, there was only a Famiglia: The Vinsmoke Famiglia. Headed by Judge Vinsmoke, a truly monstrous man. Sanji had nothing good to say about him or his reign. It had never been Sanji's intention to take over the Vinsmoke Famiglia, and it had never been his "father's" intention, either.
"You'll inherit over my dead body!" Sanji thought he recalled the man saying at least once. Funny how things work out. Turns out, being as monstrous as his "father" and "brothers" were had consequences , and now Sanji was in charge of the Famiglia. Not that he'd wanted to be, back then, but his sister hadn't wanted to repeat the same mistakes their father and brothers had made (plus the Cosa Nostra being sexist as it was, they would have opposed her taking over, the bastards), so it was up to Sanji to drag the Famiglia out of the hole Judge Vinsmoke had dug them into.
And he'd done it, too! He'd made his Famiglia one of the biggest, strongest, and most highly regarded of them all! He was honestly really proud of how far he'd come.
However, for all the bad in the Famiglia… There had also been Sora Vinsmoke, Sanji's mother and Sky. She'd been the only good point in his life. She'd made everything better, just by being there. Her smile had brightened the room, and her Flames had made him feel safe, and loved. They'd felt like Home. He'd loved her so much.
Her Flames had never prodded or pulled at his the way the Flames of all the Skies he'd met later in life did. They'd smoothed, and soothed, and held his Flames so gently it was like the warmest, safest, and most loving hug imaginable. She'd been his Home. With her, he'd been free to be himself, no matter who that might be. She'd accepted him, wholeheartedly. Sanji had never felt so at peace.
And then she'd died, and it was like his heart and soul had been ripped out of him, leaving a gaping, bleeding hole behind that could never be filled. It had been agonizing, and hadn't been helped by his "father" and "brothers" immediately turning fully upon him and cast him out onto the streets (thank god for Zeff, the only father Sanji would ever willingly acknowledge; the former hitman had taken him in and raised him as his own, and even taught him everything he knew about cooking and fighting, and Sanji would forever be grateful to him for it).
The hole caused by his mother and Sky dying was still there, to this day. It still ached, deep and cold, but it was at least bearable, now. Sanji was used to its dull, hollow throbbing.
He wondered sometimes if getting another Sky would finally soothe that ache, but no Sky he'd ever met felt right. They all pushed and prodded too hard, trying to pull and shape his Flames to fit with theirs, to make him fit what they wanted, and the hollow aching intensified. So Sanji dismissed the idea entirely; it felt too much like a betrayal of his mother's memory, anyway, so he'd never Harmonized again.
Or at least, he hadn't until he'd met Zoro.
He hadn't even realized that elements other than Skies could harmonize with one another, let alone completely different elements, and yet. That's the only word he had for what he and Zoro shared. His Flames loved to twine with Zoro's, even if Zoro's Flames were still mostly inactive; it felt like Belonging. Not quite the Home that his mother's Flames had given him, but it still soothed the aching in his heart and soul from the broken bond. It was special, and Sanji cherished it. Even more than that, he cherished how Zoro's prickly Flames let his twine around and through them when they almost violently rejected any others' Flames. Zoro's latent Flames even all but curled around his, in return! It meant more to him than he could express.
Sanji had first met Zoro in college. Sanji had been attending for the culinary arts; Zoro was a math major. They'd been paired up as roommates by the school, and Sanji had been shocked to meet a civilian with Flames so close to going Active. Zoro had been right at the threshold, so close that Sanji could almost taste his Flames. Sanji had never had the best Flame senses, but even he could feel the faint crackling and billowing of Zoro's latent Flames; two natures coming in conflict and yet working together.
Lightning and Cloud… The most common type and the second rarest type. An unusual combination, Sanji remembered thinking. Sanji also knew many a Famiglia who'd literally kill to get their hands on a Cloud like Zoro: he was strong; he'd be an absolute beast, should he ever go Active.
They hadn't gotten along, at first; both of them too stubborn and headstrong to compromise, but an odd sort of friendship sprung up, as they got to know one another. Sanji had come to realize that Zoro actually didn't always mean to be rude - he was just unbelievably socially dense, struggled with words, and wasn't always able to express when he was getting overwhelmed before he snapped and lashed out . He became far more tolerable once Sanji started figuring out his Marimo language (it was about watching his body language; Zoro said more with his body than he ever did with his mouth).
Sanji… Had actually started to really, genuinely like the Marimo. He'd liked his solid, steady presence. The way his latent-but-nearly-Active Flames crackled and drifted just beneath the surface, as steady and constant as Zoro himself. The quiet support Zoro would provide when Sanji needed it, without Sanji even needing to ask. The way he was just there for him, no questions asked. The way he was willing to throw down for Sanji at the drop of a hat, even if he didn't know what the fight was about. Sanji even liked fighting with Zoro; they were equals in strength.
Sanji had also really liked how Zoro looked shirtless, and the shape of his face, the angle of his jaw, the amber whiskey color of his eyes (or eye, nowadays), the gold of his earrings, the way he looked when bathed in the light of the sun when he napped outside… Sanji even liked Zoro's crudeness, his way too blunt way of speaking, his lack of any sort of tact or discretion, his complete lack of any sort of manners... Oh. Oh, Sanji was fucked. He was so far gone, holy shit.
At least he'd known Zoro was gay, which meant Sanji had a chance at the Marimo's heart. So he'd started flirting… but Zoro, oblivious motherfucker that he was, had missed every single hint. Every single gesture and flirtation had gone right over his dense Marimo head. It had nearly driven Sanji to madness. He hadn't even been able tell if Zoro was even slightly interested in him, in return!!!
And then Sanji'd had a realization.
Zoro was a Cloud, and a Lightning, on top of that! Those two Flame types were notorious for refusing to waste their time on those who didn't interest them - Clouds too antisocial and Lightnings too focused on what actually interested them - and yet Zoro was always making time for Sanji, even if it was just to pick a fight, or issue a challenge. Even more than that, Zoro willingly hung around Sanji even when he wasn't picking a fight! He could frequently be found napping near Sanji, and he dropped by to check on him surprisingly often, even after Sanji had dropped out of college to take over the Famiglia (Zoro, on the other hand, had not only graduated but had then gone on to get a PhD, of all things, and he never let Sanji forget it). Zoro took so much interest in Sanji.
And so Sanji'd realized that, in his own weird, Marimo way… Zoro had been flirting with him! Sanji'd always heard that Cloud courtship was different from any normal courtship, and, well. The Marimo never did anything the way normal people did (Sanji suspected he was allergic to normalcy, but had never been able to prove it). Still, knowing Zoro was almost definitely interested had made things a lot simpler.
So Sanji had asked Zoro out on a date, making sure to make it explicitly clear what his intention was. Zoro had turned an adorable shade of tomato that should have clashed with his hair, but miraculously didn't, and stuttered. Stuttered! Oh, Sanji's heart had melted into goo! What an adorable lout!!
Anyway, Zoro had said yes.
Zoro also said yes when Sanji asked him to marry him, about a year later, and Sanji was still the happiest man in the world about it.
Hope y'all enjoy the bits of Flame lore I included, or at least my take on it! I also hope this isn't too infodumpy, but *god* do I love rambling and sharing information ljakdsfjlk;sfdjkl
Also as a note: Zoro's PhD is in mathematics; he ain't a medical doctor by any means! He just knows numbers real good jlkfdsajlk;sfd and literally it's just because imagine how fucking SMUG he'd be about being a doctor, and the idea was fucking hysterical to us hahahahahaha
Chapter 7: Death and Taxes
Chapter by Youkoartemis
There are two inevitabilities in life: Death and Taxes, and if it doesn't involve cooking, Sanji is very bad with numbers. Good thing he married a math major who's willing to play accountant for him! This does have some downsides, however.
A cold sweat broke out on the back of Sanji's neck. E knew that tone. E turned slowly to look at his Marimo, pasting what e hoped was a charming smile on eir face.
"Yes my darling? Light of my life and king of my heart?" E asked, carefully watching for Zoro's response.
Nothing. Not even a twitch. Oh, that was very not good. That level of syrupy, saccharine sweetness usually got at least a wrinkled nose in response, if not a roll of the eye. But to get no response at all meant only one thing: eir Marimo was MAD.
The cold sweat spread down Sanji's back, causing eir shirt to begin sticking to eir skin beneath eir suit jacket.
Yes, it was definitely that time of year again.
"What the fuck did you do to these numbers?"
"Whatever do you mean, my love?" Sanji asked, hoping eir smile didn't look as sickly as e was sure it did. E very carefully did not look around for an escape route: the Marimo could sense fear, and would take offense.
Zoro's eye narrowed ever-so-slightly, and Sanji swallowed thickly, hoping against hope that eir Marimo couldn't tell how fucking terrified e was (but who was e kidding? Zoro absolutely knew).
"Don't play dumb."
Oh god. Oh fuck. He was SO MAD.
"I'm not!" Sanji insisted, "I'm afraid I really don't know what you're talking about, mon cher!"
A cold, razor thin smile twisted upon Zoro's lips as he clamped a hand down on Sanji's shoulder.
"Then allow me to show you."
Sanji whimpered as e was dragged after eir lovely, terrifying Marimo. E couldn't even properly appreciate the fact that Zoro was wearing his glasses and one of the nice, charcoal grey button down shirts Sanji had gotten him, e was so scared! (He even had the sleeves rolled up to his elbows!! And the top button undone, showing off his lovely collar bones! It was not fair that Sanji was too scared to properly appreciate it!)
Zoro dragged him into his office, sat down in his chair, and motioned for Sanji to take a seat in the chair opposite, still smiling thinly in a deadly, mirthless expression, eyes flat like a shark's.
Zoro took a moment to put all the papers on his desk into order, and adjusted his glasses. Sanji would normally be internally cooing and flailing over how good Zoro looked in his rarely-seen reading glasses, but e was a bit too busy being terrified for eir life.
Zoro cleared his throat, and it was like a death knell. He looked at Sanji over his glasses, looking like a one-eyed, particularly murderous librarian. Oh, he looked so wonderfully vicious like that~! But he was also absolutely terrifying.
Zoro turned the stack of paperwork to face Sanji, and clicked his pen, pointing at one of the numbers with the end of it.
"This business makes roughly 19.8 million a year. After taking out employee pay, utilities, and material costs, that still leaves you roughly 407 grand in profit. Does that sound right?" Oh, he was using his accountant voice, Sanji loved that... or at least e did in situations other than this!
Looking at the paper where Zoro indicated… Oh, that was definitely a lot of numbers. Sanji was so lost. Best to just nod and agree with his Marimo, so e did.
"Right. That part makes sense." It did? "What I want to know is: Where the fuck did this extra 285 grand come from?"
Oh, fuck. Sanji was pretty sure e knew where that came from, but e couldn't tell Zoro where it came from, because that money had been illegally laundered through eir legal business. Shitshitshit fuck.
"I already triple checked the numbers I got from Nami's side of things." Ohhhhhhh triple fuck. "Even taking into account the bullshit that is the stock market, her numbers all add up." fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck!
"I. Do know where that money came from." Oh god what the fuck was e doing?!
Zoro raised one eyebrow, face dangerously neutral.
"Oh?" He questioned, voice as warm as a blizzard in the tundra.
"Yeah, it's income from a special set of orders by a particular client."
"Then why is that paperwork not on my desk??"
Think fast, Sanji!
"I… Forgot…?" Sanji, you IDIOT!!!
Ohgodohfuckohshit Sanji was so fucking dead, or WORSE.
Zoro's eye narrowed.
"You're sleeping on the couch tonight."
Sanji made a sound like a deflating balloon, but didn't argue. E was getting off remarkably lightly, considering the colossal fuck up e'd just made. But this was still a fate far worse than death…!!!
"Yes dear." E agreed in a very small voice, hunching in on emself in contrition.
"And you had better get me that paperwork."
Sanji nodded frantically in response, and stood. E knew a dismissal when e heard one.
No matter what anyone said, e did not run away from eir Marimo's office. E just… Walked. Very quickly. E had a few Very Important Phone Calls to make, to get some paperwork forged to hopefully make eir darling, terrifying Marimo happy. If e got it to him fast enough, e might even get that punishment overturned!
In the end, while it cost em a pretty penny (that e covered up by only using the illegal resources Zoro didn't know e had), Sanji did get that forged paperwork the same day. E just really hoped it passed eir scarily brilliant Marimo's inspection…
E knocked cautiously on the door to Zoro's office.
E did, holding the paperwork carefully. Zoro's eye flicked up, taking note of the offering Sanji held.
"Give it here." He said, holding out one hand.
Sanji obeyed, then stood across the desk from Zoro, hands fiddling with eir pockets in an attempt to not light up a cigarette in eir Marimo's office (that would only make eir Marimo even angrier).
Zoro's eye flickered back and forth as he took in all the dates and numbers on display. He turned back to the paperwork he already had, matching everything together and mentally crunching the numbers. He drummed his fingers once. Twice. Thrice…
And then nodded once, looking satisfied.
"This adds up." He stated, his calm now genuine, rather than being the deadly kind that came right before getting hit by a lightning bolt. He even had a very faint smile on his face!
Sanji let out a quiet sigh of relief, before freezing as Zoro pinned em with a glare.
"Next time, don't wait until last minute to hand me shit, cook." Sanji's darling, ferocious Marimo said warningly.
Sanji knew it wasn't really an appropriate response to hearing the vaguely threatening statement, but e still couldn't help the way the tension in eir muscles unwound after hearing eir Marimo finally start using nicknames for em again.
Zoro's glare intensified, however, causing Sanji to tense right back up.
"And you had better not forget to give me all the paperwork next time. I won't be this forgiving if it happens again." That final warning given, Sanji was dismissed. Zoro's attention returned to the papers in front of him.
Still, Sanji lingered, shifting eir weight from one leg to the other and fidgeting with eir pockets.
Zoro's eye rolled at him.
"-Yes, Curly, you're forgiven. This time. Don't let it happen again."
Sanji nodded rapidly, unable to keep from beaming at eir astoundingly beneficent Marimo.
"I won't! I'll make absolutely certain to keep track of it all for you next time, my sweet, darling Marimo~~!!" E crooned, getting another eye roll from Zoro. (That's how Sanji knew e'd been forgiven: Zoro was reacting to eir cutesy nicknames again!)
"Just get outta here, Curly."
"Whatever you wish, my darling angel of war~~!" Sanji trilled, barely restraining emself from twirling and flailing as e headed to the door. E did carefully shut it behind em, though, knowing eir husband preferred his privacy while handling the finances and taxes. (E may then have twirled and flailed eir way to the kitchen to cook eir Marimo's favorites for dinner, but no one could prove that, and anyone who tried was a filthy liar.)
As you all can see, Zoro puts his PhD in math to good use: Getting Mad About Numbers asdfjlkjlfksdjl
Fun fact: This chapter basically wrote itself by forcing me to wake up after only 4 hours of sleep and refusing to let me rest until I put it into words. I am so tired, but I wanna post this before I crash for the morning, haha.
Edit (9/8/20): Changed Sanji's pronouns to e/em/eir for this chapter.
Chapter 8: Adoption
Chapter by Youkoartemis
Zoro has a habit of picking up strays he encounters on his walks; this one is a bit different from the norm.
Written by checkered_soul and polished up by me!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Zoro liked to go on walks, there was really no reason that he could find to actually walk so much, he just. Feels like he has to, sometimes.
He walked around town, getting lost more than any other person would. That's not his fault though! The roads changed on him all the time! That's just how this place is. How other people can walk from point A to point B so quickly he has no clue.
Today, Zoro was on a walk. He just needed to get himself out of the house for a while, and his legs felt like running, but he was able to ignore that for now.
He was walking past an alleyway when he heard something rustle around in the dark. Zoro usually would chalk it up to a rat or something, but it sounded far too large to be a rat, so he was curious and decided to check out what made the sound.
He walked down the narrow alley and, amongst the trash littering the ground, he saw a small animal.
'Is that a dog?' Zoro wondered to himself as he walked closer to the animal. If it was a dog, it was the oddest one he'd ever seen. For one thing, it was standing on two legs, and appeared to have hooves...and antlers? Yeah, those were definitely tiny antlers on its head, along with a pink top hat. It wore equally pink pants on its lower half, and was hiding from Zoro in front of a trashcan.
"...Isn't that a bit backwards?" Zoro muttered out loud, tilting his head and scratching his scalp.
The creature yelped and switched it's hiding position, now finally behind the trashcan.
"S-stay back!" the creature cried out in a childish voice.
"...You can talk?" Zoro asked dumbly. 'Since when can dogs talk?'
"I'm not a dog! I'm a reindeer!!! I have antlers!!!" The little critter yelled at him, sounding deeply offended.
...Had Zoro said that out loud? Whoops.
"Oh, shit, sorry." Zoro apologized, wondering when his life had gotten so weird. "I've never met a talking animal before; you must be really smart."
"Shut up, you bastard~! Your compliments won't make me happy~~!!!" The little critter squealed, wiggling delightedly.
'Oh, fuck, that's adorable.' Zoro's heart was melting, and it wasn't helped by the fact that something about the little dude kinda reminded Zoro of lazy days spent basking in the warmth of the sun streaming through the window of his favorite windowsill seat at home...but also a little bit like moisture lingering in the air and making the air ever so slightly foggy? It felt pretty nice, honestly.
Zoro came to a decision, and crouched down so he was more on the little reindeer's level.
"I'm Zoro. You got a name, little guy?"
The tiny reindeer eyed him suspiciously, but apparently decided he was okay enough and answered.
"Tony Tony Chopper. Doctor called me Chopper." 'Called?' Oh, that probably wasn't a great sign.
"That's a good name. S'nice to meet you, Chopper." Zoro said in return, making sure to keep his voice soft and as soothing as he could.
"You're… human. Why are you being so nice to me?" Chopper asked suspiciously, but Zoro could see the longing behind those big brown eyes. He knew that sort of loneliness; he'd felt it himself, after Kuina died.
"Why wouldn't I be?" He asked, tilting his head slightly to one side. He genuinely had no idea why anyone wouldn't be nice to a little critter as cute as Chopper was. The little guy was adorable!
"'Cause I'm a monster!" Chopper's distressed voice broke through Zoro's thoughts, bringing them to a grinding halt as he processed them.
As his brain caught up, Zoro couldn't help letting out a barking laugh at how ridiculous they were.
"Well shit! If all monsters looked like you, no one would be scared of 'em!" Zoro exclaimed with a wide grin that softened into a lopsided smirk at Chopper's dumbfounded expression. "Hell, just look at me!" Zoro added, motioning to himself, "I only have one eye, and have more scars than skin! I think I qualify more as a monster than a cute, fluffy reindeer like you!"
He pulled down the collar of his shirt to show the top of the scar that split him from shoulder to hip, causing the little reindeer to gape at him.
"But- but I have a blue nose!" Chopper protested, grasping at straws so hard even Zoro could tell that's what he was doing.
"So? I have naturally green hair. Don't mean shit." He said carelessly, before sighing. "You got anywhere to stay, kid?"
The way Chopper despondently looked down spoke volumes.
"Why don't ya come with me, then? Us "monsters" oughtta stick together." Zoro offered, holding out a hand.
Chopper stared at him in shock.
"R-really? You- you really mean it?" He sounded so hopeful it both broke Zoro's heart and firmed his determination to fight anyone who made Chopper sad after this.
"Wouldn't've offered if I didn't mean it." He said instead of voicing any of those other thoughts.
"I- I- yes!" Chopper exclaimed, beaming brightly as he all but threw himself at Zoro.
"C'mon then; I'll show you to your new home." And he scooped Chopper up and started heading back home. Chopper was his, now, and Sanji would just have to deal (not that Zoro foresaw any issues, there: Curly talked tough, but was a total softie).
Sanji knew something was off the moment Zoro returned. For one thing, he was hiding something under his jacket.
'Please tell me that's not another injured animal he's picked up off the streets' Sanji pleaded mentally.
For another thing, he was very quietly talking to whatever he was hiding under his jacket.
'Oh no it is, isn't it?' Sanji realized, mentally despairing.
And then Sanji heard whatever Zoro was hiding in his jacket talk back.
'Oh god please tell me he didn't kidnap a child off the streets. Please.' Sanji begged mentally, shifting his eyes briefly heavenward, 'I know I'm not the best man in the world, but please let it be anything but a human child!'
He took a deep breath and focused on his Marimo, bracing for the worst.
"Hey Marimo, what's that you got there?" Sanji asked, approaching slowly but casually and carefully keeping his suspicion and concern out of his tone, expression, and Flames.
The thing in Zoro's jacket squeaked in fright, and Zoro looked over his shoulder at Sanji, glowering at him for frightening whatever stray he'd picked up this time.
When Zoro didn't answer in a timely manner, Sanji tried again, this time with a hint of warning in his voice.
The frown on his Marimo's face turned into a pout.
'So cute!!' Sanji internally crooned before mentally slapping himself, 'No! Bad Sanji! Focus on the fact your husband might have abducted a child, not on how stunningly adorable he is!!'
Sanji managed to drag his focus back to the present as Zoro reluctantly turned and opened his jacket, revealing… a raccoon in a hat and pants? What the hell?
"A raccoon?" Sanji asked, blinking rapidly.
"I'm not a raccoon! I'm a reindeer, dammit!!" The little thing yelled, causing Sanji to nearly fall over backwards in surprise, eyes huge.
"It talks?!" He most definitely said in a normal voice and did not yelp, fuck you very much, Marimo.
Zoro's eye narrowed in a glare as he protectively held the now frightened reindeer closer.
"His name is Tony Tony Chopper." He said sternly, daring Sanji to disagree.
'Oh no he's pack bonded with it.' Sanji realized in growing horror. There was no longer any chance in hell that Sanji could get his Marimo to give the little creature up. Clouds never willingly gave up anything they'd claimed as Territory, and Zoro? Had very clearly claimed the tiny reindeer as part of his Territory, so Sanji would just. Have to learn to live with that.
"Chopper, then." Sanji agreed, already resigned to living with a very strange little reindeer from now on.
And Chopper was very clearly not a normal reindeer, from the blue nose, to the shape of his body, to the clearly human level intelligence and ability to speak. A Flame animal, perhaps? Felt… vaguely Sunny, to Sanji's admittedly poor Flame senses, and perhaps a touch Misty?
He was clearly not a normal Flame animal, either, given his odd proportions. The few Flame animals Sanji had seen in the past looked like normal animals but had odd extra abilities based on Flame type. Sanji wondered if perhaps Chopper was the result of some sort of human and/or animal experimentation. Some of the nastier Famiglias engaged in things like that; the Vinsmoke Famiglia had certainly had a hand in that, back when Judge had been in control. All of the Vinsmoke children had been the result of such experiments. Sanji put an end to that sort of unethical experimentation when he took over, however. Good riddance to bad rubbish!
However, as a product of such experimentation, a creature like Chopper would be hunted relentlessly by the Vindice, were he allowed to roam freely. His very existence broke Omerta in a way that was impossible to ignore, after all. Just seeing him would all but reveal the existence of Flames to the general public! That he had apparently been hiding in the city meant the Vindice would've been haunting the area, too. That would've invited all manner of trouble onto Sanji's turf, so it was probably for the best that Zoro had taken the little guy in… and he was pretty damn cute. He definitely didn't deserve what the Vindice would do to him, if they came after him.
...What did Flame animal reindeer even eat, anyway?
And we finally have more Strawhats showing up in this story!!! Don't worry: we have plans for how several others are gonna show up, too! >=3c
Chapter 9: An Open Sky
Chapter by Youkoartemis
Zoro finds freedom in the shape of a boy with an old straw hat.
(Alternate chapter title: Zoro and the Mortifying Ordeal of Being Known)
Holy fuck this is 12 pages long! I really went the fuck off with this chapter! =0
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It was during another walk when it happened. Zoro had been minding his own business when the back of his neck started itching like he was being watched. He kept walking, but a little slower, paying attention to his surroundings.
"Luffy! We can't approach him! He's Zoro Roronoa!! Do you even know who he is?!" A voice hissed, and Zoro looked towards it to see a scrawny-looking kid with pink hair tugging on the arm of another kid wearing a straw hat, trying to pull him away.
Zoro wondered what was said about him that he could be recognized and apparently feared on sight like this, but he didn't really care. It was more convenient if he didn't have a bunch of random people approaching him all the time to bother him, anyway.
"But Coby…! He's so interesting! I wanna talk to him!" The other kid whined, pouting. What was he, 4?
"It's rude to talk about people behind their back, y'know." He stated drily, turning further to face them more fully, keeping them in view of his good eye and scowling at them.
The scowl was more for the appearance of things than out of any real anger; they hadn't done anything to actually upset him yet, after all. They were probably just a pair of gossiping brats interested in the scary green-haired guy with the swords and all the scars, which was fair enough, Zoro supposed.
The pink haired kid yelped and cowered behind his friend, causing Zoro to scoff in disgust at his cowardice. What a weakling. The other kid, though, had a weird blank-yet-not expression. Zoro couldn't read it at all, which wasn't unusual, but did make him the slightest bit wary.
He rolled his shoulders a little when he felt a sensation not unlike he was being lightly prodded at. It reminded him vaguely of the party Sanji had dragged him to, a few months back, where he'd met that really pushy guy who'd made him feel like he was drowning in sickly sweet tar. This didn't feel as invasive or overwhelming as that had, though; this felt more… playful, maybe? And a lot less disgustingly sticky.
He twitched at a particularly sharp poke and mentally slapped back at it, surprised when the feeling actually withdrew in response. Huh. That was new.
The kid in the straw hat was grinning at him, and Zoro was momentarily just the slightest bit dazzled by how wide and open it was. The feeling passed after Zoro blinked, but in that time the kid had bounded over to stand in front of him, completely fearless.
"Hi! Coby says you're really scary and beat a lotta people up, so you must be reeeeaaaallllllyyyyy strong, right?" The kid asked, looking as excited and happy as Chopper was after being given cotton candy. It would almost be endearing if the kid wasn't getting right into Zoro's personal space.
Zoro glared at him in an attempt to make him back off without having to touch him, but it seemed the kid was too dense to get the memo, so Zoro resigned himself to either dealing with the invasion of his space or to shove the kid back if he got any closer. Even if it meant touching a stranger and inviting the Bad Feeling that came with it.
...Then again, punching strangers didn't cause that feeling, so he could always just do that, he supposed.
The kid was still beaming at him, as though expecting something, and it was getting just the tiniest bit uncomfortable, 'cause Zoro didn't know what the kid wanted from him.
"...Whaddya want, kid?" Zoro finally asked, realizing he wasn't going to be getting out of this situation without playing along at least a little bit.
The kid in the straw hat pouted.
"My name's Luffy, not "kid"! And you're Zoro, right?" Hat boy asked, bouncing back from his momentary unhappiness remarkably quickly.
Zoro merely arched an eyebrow in response.
"Luffy!!! Quit bothering him!! He's gonna kill us!!!!" The scaredy-cat hissed at his friend, trying desperately to pull hat boy away, but hat boy didn't budge an inch. Zoro could almost respect the strength it took to so easily shrug off someone else's best attempts to move him, even if the one trying to do the moving was as wimpy and pathetic as scaredy-cat.
"Nahhhh, I don't think so. You're not gonna kill us, are ya, Zoro?" Hat boy replied, turning to address Zoro with a grin that said he already knew the answer, "'Cause you're a good guy, I can tell!"
"Oh?" Zoro asked, putting on his most menacing grin and focusing his rising frustration into his expression. "And what makes you say that? I could cut you both down right here and now. It'd be easy." He put a hand on the hilts of his swords, gripping one of them in a silent threat.
Scaredy-cat let out a soft screech and redoubled his efforts to drag off hat boy, but hat boy still didn't seem fazed in the slightest. Zoro found himself grudgingly respecting that strength of will...or that level of sheer obliviousness. (No, it was definitely willpower; Zoro could tell.)
Hat boy tilted his head to the side, frowning in thought and letting out a hum of effort. He looked vaguely pained at having to think, from what Zoro could tell, and it was actually kinda funny.
"Mmmmm… I mean, you could, but that doesn't sound very fun." Hat boy answered after several seconds of thinking.
"It could be very fun." Zoro disagreed, purposefully widening his bloodthirsty grin and tightening his grip on his swords.
"But Zoro doesn't hurt people who don't deserve it." Hat boy said in response, conviction clear in his voice. He was absolutely certain of what he was saying, and it left Zoro shaken.
Zoro's smile shifted back into a scowl to hide his growing unease. Hat boy was...surprisingly perceptive. And very much correct. It unnerved Zoro that a kid he'd literally just met could peg his nature so quickly. He didn't like it. That feeling that he was being poked at returned (or maybe it had never left? Maybe it had just been faint enough it had faded into the background, and that thought merely made Zoro even more uneasy).
"Buzz off before I get mad, kid." He warned, very much wanting to end this bizarre encounter.
"But I want Zoro to be my friend!" Hat boy protested, pouting.
"Not interested. Fuck off." Zoro snapped, turning on his heel and walking away. He was not running away! He was just done humoring these brats, is all.
(So why did that feel like a lie?)
Zoro encountered hat boy again a few days later while he was on another walk. The roads had moved about on him a lot, and he'd ended up somewhere he didn't recognize. There was a feeling like he was being playfully poked at, and once again something inside of him instinctively slapped it away. It surprised him again that the feeling immediately withdrew after he'd lashed out at it. Last time that had happened, hat boy was around.
He looked around and, sure enough, there was hat boy, bounding over to him with a grin like Zoro was his favorite person in the world.
"Zoro!!!!!" The kid cried out, sounding absolutely delighted, "I knew I'd see you again!!! Are you ready to be my friend, yet??"
"No. Buzz off and leave me alone." Zoro snapped in response, shoulders hunching and teeth baring in a snarl as he walked faster, wanting to get away.
Hat boy just smiled and trotted along next to Zoro, hands behind his head like he didn't have a care in the world.
"That's okay!" He said cheerfully, "I know Zoro's shy, so I can wait!"
That drew Zoro up short, and he abruptly stopped and whirled around to pin the brat with a glare.
"I am not shy! I just don't like you!" He snarled, "Now fuck off and leave me the hell alone!"
With that, he turned and began speed walking away again, determined to leave the annoyance behind.
"Shishishishi! You're funny!" The clearly suicidal brat laughed, grinning like a madman.
Zoro clenched his teeth so hard they creaked and sped up further; he wanted nothing more to do with this weird, crazy kid.
Miraculously, the kid seemed to actually get the hint, and started lagging behind.
"See you later, Zoro! You're really cool and I really wanna be friends with you!!" He called out to Zoro as Zoro continued storming off at a fast clip.
As Zoro got away from him, the feeling that had been surrounding him faded. If asked, Zoro wouldn't be able to put the exact feeling into words, but the lack of it left him feeling a little bit colder than before, and that pissed him off. He viciously shrugged it off and stalked home, people almost throwing themselves out of his way as he passed by.
When he finally got home, he tracked down his cook and pressed his face into the man's shoulder, finally relaxing. His husband's presence was warm and familiar, and it soothed the part of himself that had gotten so bent out of shape by hat boy.
Zoro encountered hat boy several times after that, but never spoke to him during any of those encounters. He'd simply notice That Feeling that always came with the boy hanging in the air (warm, inviting, friendly, playful, accepting) and turn the other way.
Or he'd hear hat boy call after him.
"ZOROOOOOO!!!" The kid's joyful voice always sounded, causing Zoro to tense up.
'No! Nope! Not today!' He thought each time before purposefully going into the crowds around them, braving the colors, smells, textures, and jostles that left him feeling overwhelmed and angry purely to lose the kid. He didn't want any.
(Even if it was kinda maybe a little nice that the kid was always so damn happy and excited to see him…)
One day, the kid actually managed to catch up to him after Zoro had plunged through the crowd, suffering through all the jostling and sound.
"Zoro!!! I caught you!" Hat boy laughed, as bright, happy, and carefree as always, and Zoro was just done. He was just. DONE.
He whirled on the kid with a snarl.
"Why won't you just leave me the fuck alone?!" He demanded, drawing Kitetsu and swinging the blade at the kid, wanting him to just back. The fuck. OFF .
"Whoa!!" Hat boy reeled back, eyes wide and hand protectively cradling his hat to make sure it didn't fly off.
Zoro drew Shusui as well and lunged after, bloodlust and excitement rising as he realized this might actually be a bit of a challenge .
Hat boy grinned back at him, looking determined as he rolled one of his arms and then the other to loosen them in preparation for battle.
"You wanna go? Alright!! Let's have a good fight, okay?"
Zoro bared his teeth in response, lunging forward, blades poised to draw blood.
Hat boy dodged the blades and managed to get within Zoro's guard and actually nearly hit him, a last minute block using Shusui the only thing saving Zoro from a punch to the face.
They disengaged once more, grinning fiercely at one another, before clashing again and again. It was actually a surprisingly good fight; kid was damn strong! Zoro could definitely respect that sort of strength.
Sanji freaked out when Zoro returned that night, covered in bruises, his lip split, and his nose probably still sluggishly bleeding from when hat boy slugged him right in the face. Zoro couldn't keep himself from grinning widely, no matter how much it pulled on his busted lip. He hadn't had a fight that good since he last sparred with Curly!
Maybe the kid might be worth his time, after all...
The next time Zoro actually talked to hat boy, the kid was surprisingly still, staring silently out over the water from his place at the railing. Something about the sight struck Zoro as unnatural, and it made the place between his shoulder blades prickle uneasily. The feeling in the air was equally despondent; nothing at all like the light and carefree feeling that usually hung around the kid.
Like always, hat boy noticed Zoro was there, but this time he merely glanced over.
"Oh. Hey Zoro." He greeted, voice abnormally quiet and gloomy.
It didn't feel right, and Zoro wasn't sure why he cared, but he still stepped up next to the kid, frowning slightly, head tilting to one side in a silent question.
A ghost of a smile crossed Luffy's face.
"Shishishi. Zoro doesn't gotta look so worried; I'm okay." He said, looking a little happier.
Zoro scoffed, looking away and out at the ocean.
"Tch. Who's worried?" He sneered, though his heart wasn't in it; would feel too much like kicking an already injured puppy.
"Shishishi!" Luffy laughed again, the sound not quite as bright as normal, but getting closer, "Zoro's a really great guy!"
Zoro hated how his cheeks warmed slightly at that, and his scowl deepened.
"Tch." He scoffed again, rolling his eye and earning another snicker from Luffy.
They stood in silence for a while, both staring out at the waves crashing against the shore.
As the sun began setting, Luffy turned to Zoro with a grin, as bright as his normal ones.
"Thanks, Zoro." He said, voice still quieter than normal, but filled with warmth. Something in Zoro felt a little warmer at that, and for once, it didn't bother him.
'Thanks for being here.' was what Zoro understood.
"Whatever." Zoro said in response, dismissively waving a hand as he began walking away.
'You're welcome.' Was what he meant, and he knew he was understood as Luffy laughed again, bright and delighted, like his usual laughs.
Zoro smirked to himself as he walked away. He wasn't really sure when he'd begun giving a shit about the kid, but… Luffy really wasn't so bad.
Zoro found himself warming up to Luffy, after that, willing to spend more time letting the kid hang around him, and even letting him clamber on top of him to sit on his shoulders, sometimes. It even surprised Zoro how much he'd warmed up to Luffy; he didn't usually get friendly with others, especially pushy others like Luffy, but. There was just something about the kid that clicked with him, now that he wasn't constantly pushing him away and avoiding him.
Luffy made sense, in a way most people Zoro met didn't. He was just. Straightforward and direct. You always knew exactly where you stood with him, and he didn't put on any fronts or pretend to be anything he wasn't. It was refreshing, after all the fake, plastic people Zoro had met in the past.
Hell, even Sanji put on masks and played pretend more often than not! Zoro loved him, but he could tell when Sanji was playing pretend. He just usually ignored it, because it always faded soon enough, and Sanji went back to actually, really being himself. Zoro loved him more than anything, even if he was rarely able to say so (the words just never came, or felt too small for how BIG the things he felt were, too big for him to ever really say, so he hoped Sanji could tell from his actions; he hoped that Sanji knew just how much Zoro loved him, because he did! He really, really did!).
Luffy never put on masks, though. He was always real . Zoro liked that. He liked how Luffy always spoke his mind, no matter how ridiculous the things he said were. He liked how Luffy just did things, with no regard for "societal expectations" (as Sanji'd probably put it). He was just Luffy, completely and unapologetically.
And Luffy was a pretty cool guy, once Zoro got used to him.
"I'm glad Zoro's not running away anymore; I like being friends with Zoro." Luffy told him one day, out of the blue, turning to him with a bright and genuine smile.
Zoro blinked, momentarily dazzled, then scowled.
"Oi. I was not running!" He protested, taking a swing at the kid, who ducked back with a snicker.
"Zoro was totally running!" Luffy said teasingly, grin bright.
"I don't run away from things!" and Zoro lunged at Luffy with intent to throttle him.
"Shishishishi!" Luffy laughed brightly as he ran away, prompting a chase.
After wearing themselves out, they flopped down on the grass in the park, breathing hard, but content.
"Zoro?" Luffy asked, after a few minutes spent basking in the contentment of a fun playtime.
"Eh?" Zoro grunted, half asleep but cracking his eye half-open to glance at Luffy out the corner of it.
Luffy was on his side, head propped up on one hand.
"Zoro's married, right?" He asked, looking curious.
"Yeah, why?" Zoro asked, wondering where this was going and how long it would take for Luffy to shut up so he could sleep.
"I wanna meet Zoro's husband. If Zoro married him, then he must be a really cool guy!" Luffy said, grinning excitedly.
Luffy? Meeting Sanji? Oh, that would be hilarious! The cook would have a heart attack over Luffy's lack of manners. Zoro was pretty sure Luffy had never even heard of manners before. Zoro snickered at the thought.
"The cook would have a heart attack if he met you." Zoro said out loud, smirking.
"Cook? Zoro's husband is a cook?!" If Zoro had thought Luffy looked excited before, it was nothing compared to how excited he was now. "Can he cook meat??!"
"Makes the best damn food I've ever had, but you tell him that and I'll slice you to bits, got it?" Zoro admitted, shooting a warning glare at Luffy during the last part, "And yeah. He can cook anything." The "duh" was left unspoken, but Zoro knew Luffy heard it loud and clear.
Luffy looked over the moon at this information, sitting up more fully and shaking Zoro's shoulder. Normally a gesture like that would have Zoro snarling and shoving the person away, but from Luffy, it was weirdly tolerable. It was like that with Sanji, too. Zoro couldn't really say he minded. He did, however, still find the shaking annoying.
"Cut that out!" He said, swatting away Luffy's hand and sitting up.
"But Zorrrrooooooooo…! Meeeeaaaaaattttt…!!!!" Luffy whined dramatically, pouting.
Zoro rolled his eye in exasperation. If he believed in any gods, he'd probably be praying to them for patience, but as it was, he just breathed sharply out through his nose, nostrils flaring briefly.
"Quit yer bellyachin'." He grumbled.
"So I can meet Zoro's husband and he'll cook me meat?!" Luffy asked, stars in his eyes.
The feeling that hung around him grew warmer with his delight, feeling almost like a hug, but not the oppressive, confining kind of hug; a hug more like what Sanji would give him: tight enough to be comforting, but loose enough Zoro could pull away any time he wanted. It was nice, now that Zoro associated it with Luffy and not the weirdly pushy people he met at the parties he had to attend with Sanji sometimes. Those people always felt like they were trying to trap him somehow, but Luffy didn't feel like that.
It felt like Luffy wanted him to be as free as Luffy himself, and Zoro could just tell that Luffy would move mountains for him if it meant keeping Zoro as free as Zoro wanted to be. It was nice...but something in Zoro wouldn't fully relax and accept the freedom that feeling offered. Sanji always came to mind whenever he even vaguely considered it; he couldn't - wouldn't - accept the offer unless Sanji did, too.
So it probably was a good idea to introduce them, actually, 'cause Zoro did honestly want to accept the offer Luffy was giving him (how he knew it was an offer Luffy was making, Zoro wasn't sure; he just Knew), but he couldn't and wouldn't without Sanji accepting it with him.
'Together or not at all!' Something in Zoro insisted, and Zoro agreed; he wasn't gonna go somewhere Sanji wouldn't - or couldn't - follow. So best to see if Luffy and the cook could get along, he figured.
"...Sure. Can't promise he'll cook for you, but yeah, I guess you can meet him." Zoro finally answered, scratching his head.
Luffy's beaming grin was all the answer he needed, and he started heading home, a boy who felt like the wide, free sky bouncing along behind him.
When Sanji arrived home, he tensed at the feeling pervading the house. What was a Sky doing here?! An Active one, at that?! While Sanji's Marimo was home alone, no less!! Sanji hurried through his usual routine after arriving home, putting down his keys and whatnot, before heading to one of his husband's favorite haunts, finding both his husband and a strange boy in a red vest and a straw hat.
The kid was obviously the source of the Sky Flames Sanji had felt upon entering. Perhaps he was the strange Sky Sanji'd been hearing reports of? The one who was unbound and leaking Flames everywhere, causing untold amounts of chaos as elements without a Sky were instinctively drawn in? Sanji certainly didn't recognize him, and Skies were very hard to miss, especially ones who apparently had no control over their Flames, like this one, so Sanji would remember if he'd met him at a mafia event or meeting.
What struck Sanji as especially odd, though, was that Zoro was so at ease around the kid; Zoro usually got really bent out of shape when others flared their Flames around him, bristling and snarling like a tiger who'd had his tail stepped on (and just as beautiful, in Sanji's opinion!). And especially if those Flames were flared in the house! Zoro bristled for days any time one of Sanji's work associates made that mistake in the house, stalking around the area where it happened and looking perturbed and angry until it either faded in time or Sanji disintegrated the lingering traces using his own Flames.
Something about this kid had won Zoro over, though, so Sanji had better figure out what, just in case his Marimo had been coerced, somehow.
Zoro's eye drifted over to him the moment Sanji entered the room, looking lazy and relaxed. He lifted his chin in greeting.
"Curly." He greeted, voice calm.
"Marimo," Sanji greeted in return, gracing his darling husband with a smile before glancing at the boy in the straw hat, "I see you have a friend."
"Hi! I'm Monkey D. Luffy! Oh, whoops! I mean, I'm Luffy D. Monkey! Shishishi I always forget!" The boy greeted, grinning brightly and waving. His skin was a bit darker than the sun-kissed bronze of Zoro's skin, and he had a scar under his left eye.
'A knife wound,' Sanji assessed automatically, 'An old one. Kid's lucky he didn't lose that eye.'
"You're Zoro's husband, right?" Luffy asked, looking excited, "I've heard lots about you! People say you're really scary, and a bad guy, but Zoro reeeeaaaaalllllllllyyyyyy loves you, and Zoro's a good guy, so you must actually be a good guy, too!" He rambled, bouncing on the couch as he did.
Sanji blinked once, taking a hit from his cigarette to disguise his moment of surprise. Had the kid breathed even once during that sentence?
"Oi!" Zoro interjected, looking embarrassed. Oh, he was blushing~!!! How absolutely precious~~!!!! Sanji's Marimo was so damn cute!!
Luffy turned back to look at Zoro, beaming unrepentantly.
"Shishishi sorry Zoro! But it's true! You do love your husband lots!!!"
Zoro grumbled something, trying to look mutinous, but really only managing to pout and look absolutely adorable. His blush deepened, and he looked away to try and hide it, how precious!!!
Sanji realized a moment later that Luffy was looking at him, and focused back on the boy instead of his (wonderful, precious, adorable, lovely) husband, and found himself a little wary of the look on the boy's face.
Luffy had his head tilted to one side as he regarded Sanji, his Flames tentatively poking at Sanji's, as though trying to figure him out. Then he seemed to reach a decision, and beamed.
"Zoro's husband really loves Zoro, too!!!" He exclaimed, looking ecstatic at the revelation.
"Of course I do!" Sanji snapped at him, glaring and ignoring how much his cheeks warmed. 'How dare you imply I don't love my husband?!' he snarled mentally, feeling his Flames bristle .
Luffy's smile became smaller and somehow warmer.
"I'm glad!" He said, and Sanji could both see and feel how sincere he was; that sincerity was everywhere in his Flames, which were now apparently trying to give Sanji's a hug.
This boy was like no Sky Sanji had ever met… Well, not since his mother, at least. Warm and accepting, but not trying even a little bit to confine or change Sanji, and not pushing nor pulling on his Flames to forge a bond; the offer was just. Open.
Sanji could almost see why Zoro had taken a liking to this Sky, over all others.
"So you're a chef, right??? Can you cook me meat?!" Luffy's voice interrupted, looking beyond eager at the thought of meat, even going so far as to dROOL ON SANJI'S COUCH HOW FUCKING DARE HE?!
"STOP DROOLING ON MY DAMN COUCH, SHITHEAD!!!" Sanji roared as he kicked the bastard in the head, sending him flying into the far wall, Zoro ducking out of the way just in time to avoid getting hit by the bastard's body, eye wide and eyebrows raised.
Zoro relaxed again nearly instantaneously, though, long since used to Sanji's tendency towards extreme violence. He didn't seem terribly bothered about the violence visited upon the Sky he seemed to be choosing, and given how Luffy bounced right back up after hitting the wall, Sanji could see why.
"Shishishishi Zoro's husband is really strong!!" Luffy laughed, grinning and holding his hat on his head, looking completely unbothered about having been unceremoniously kicked across the room, "But are you gonna cook meat for me??? Pleeeeeeaaaaaaaassssssseeeeee???? "
Zoro just laughed, the bastard.
"You come into my damn house and start makin' shitty demands like that and expect me to fucking go along with 'em?!" Sanji asked, body starting to smoke as his anger rose.
"Oi. I invited him, dartbrow; he's a guest, and aren't you the one always harpin' on about "hospitality" an' shit?" Zoro interrupted, drawing Sanji's ire. How dare that bastard not back Sanji up?! He's Sanji's husband! He's supposed to be on Sanji's side!!!
So Sanji kicked him, only for Zoro to block with a quickly drawn sword.
"You wanna go, Curly?" His bloodthirsty Marimo asked, clearly eager.
Sanji glared at him, then scoffed before lashing out again and being blocked by another sword.
They were about to really start getting into it when Luffy started laughing and clapping.
"You guys are so funny!!!!" Luffy exclaimed, cackling uproariously.
Sanji and his Marimo paused in unison to regard him with intense glowers. Sanji met Zoro's gaze, and shared a mutual understanding with him: Get that bastard's ass.
They both leapt for him, causing him to yelp and scramble to get away, only to be chased around the house, laughing and cheering.
It was actually pretty fun. Sanji thought he was beginning to see what his Marimo did in this kid.
Fun fact: in the Google Doc we use, this chapter takes up a good 1/4 of the entire document! kljdasfl;kjsdf
Chapter 10: People Are Messy
Chapter by checkered_soul
Some things in life make sense from the beginning. Others take a long time to sort out, and some never resolve in a way that makes sense. Gender is one of those things.
Tw for: Transphobia, Misogyny, and Toxic masculinity
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
For as long as Sanji had known Zoro he had been jealous of him. Not about if he was stronger than him or if girls liked him more, but he was so sure of himself. Confident in who he is. He never once second guessed the fact that he was a man, even when they met people who would call him a girl or make fun of him for not being as masculine as other men.
Zoro had always been so sure of who he was. He was like that from a young age, according to him. He had always known he was a boy and acted as such. He got surgery on his chest just because he wanted to not have to wear a shirt; he started hormones just because he had the money to. He didn't actually care if people saw him as a man: He knew who he was.
Sanji on the other hand had never been sure of who he was.
From a young age Sanji had always been made fun of for being feminine. His siblings were the worst, most of the time. Telling him how "Cooking is a woman's job," and that "Men shouldn't have emotions like that." Sanji tried to ignore it all. He did that for a long time.
He decided that he was a man, and he would be how he truly was when no one was watching. He would be as much of a man as he could around others. It still wasn't enough, but at least he was able to lie to himself and everyone else for long enough.
When he met Zoro he realized how insecure and uncertain he was about himself and his identity.
He had always been told that a man needs to be in love with a woman. A man should not be in love with another man. A man was not for another man to be with and care for.
Then why did Sanji look at Zoro and feel the way he did?
Why did he care so much for him?
Why did Zoro make him rethink everything he had ever known?
Zoro was so unapologetically him. Very open about being trans. No matter how many times someone called him a girl or asked what his "actual" name was, he never got bent out of shape about it. He was not biologically male, yet he was more of a man than anyone Sanji had ever met. But if Zoro was more of a man than anyone, then what was Sanji?
Sanji had always thought about his gender being different from what he was told it was. Some days he felt different, but what if he was wrong? What if he was just in a mood? Why was he in that mood so much? Did he even know why he was anymore? Some days he felt like a man, other days he felt like a woman, sometimes he didn't feel like anything at all. Was he who he thought he was?
Maybe he would try out different pronouns for a bit. No. They wouldn't stick. Would they? Maybe he could talk to Zoro about it. No. Sanji didn't want to bother him with such small things. Maybe just suffering silently with himself was Sanji's only option.
Sanji was used to being called he, him, sir, etc. He didn't even pay attention to his own pronouns anymore. Why was this so important to him? Why did it matter so much? Why couldn't he just be like Zoro and know exactly who he is no matter what others do or say? Maybe he should bring it up with Zoro?
It was around mid October when Sanji finally felt comfortable asking Zoro to give him advice about this problem. He walked up to him slowly, trying not to show how nervous he actually was.
Zoro noticed him and scooted to the side to make room for Sanji to sit down next to him. They had been together for a year and a few months at this point, so Sanji wasn't too worried about talking to Zoro about things. He knew Zoro wouldn't get mad or anything; he didn't do that much in general. He was just worried that Zoro would find his struggle funny because he hadn't struggled at all with it.
Sanji sat down and put his hands on his lap. Zoro looked at him and tilted his head a bit to ask a question without really saying anything. Sanji watched as ants crossed the sidewalk in front of them.
"I have a question I need to ask you…" Sanji said very quietly.
Zoro put his hand on Sanji's shoulder, it was one of his ways of saying "I'm here to support you."
Sanji nodded and asked the question as quickly as he could to get it over with.
"I don't feel like I'm a man. I mean. Right now I do! But other times I don't. And I wanted to know how you felt about it. Or maybe I want to know how you can be so confident." Sanji closed his eyes, waiting for Zoro to laugh at him and leave.
Zoro just sat there, thinking to himself.
After a bit of a pause Zoro finally said: "People are weird… They always try to put everyone in a box and make them look all nice and neat. People aren't neat. People are messy."
Sanji looked up at him, not entirely making eye contact because he knew that bothered Zoro.
Zoro took a deep breath and continued.
"Whoever you want to be. Whatever little words you want to go by, I love Sanji. Because Sanji is Sanji. Not because Sanji goes by He or She or They or whatever Sanji wants to go by. If one day you're a girl? You're still you and I still love you. Guess I'm just straight that day. If the next day you're a boy? Cool, still Sanji. One day you're neither? That's fine. Still Sanji." Zoro looked at the floor, frowning in a way that Sanji knew meant he was thinking really hard.
Sanji had never really heard Zoro talk this much, so he could tell he was trying really hard to help Sanji feel better.
Zoro slowly turned a deep shade of red that spanned across his cheeks to his ears.
"Sanji is Sanji. And… I love Sanji, no matter what." Zoro's hand moved to his earrings and started to fidget with them in an attempt to calm himself down, tugging lightly on them and twisting them about.
Sanji chuckled and looked back at the ants, smiling. He really had picked a great guy, hadn't he?
This was based off of struggles I've faced with my own identity. Sometimes things aren't easy, and that's ok. It's your journey, not anyone else's.-checkered_soul
Chapter 11: Equivalent Exchange
Chapter by Youkoartemis
Some things are lost and never return, but sometimes other, far more valuable things are gained in return.
TW for: Major Character Injury, Accidental Self Harm, and Hospitals.
When Sanji received the call, he'd feared the worst. I mean, what else was he supposed to expect, after being told there'd been an accident and Zoro was in the emergency room?! It was hours before he was allowed to see his boyfriend for himself.
When he was finally allowed to enter the room, it was plainly obvious what had happened: Zoro's left eye was covered in gauze that had been taped in place, and bits trailed up over his eyebrow and down across his cheekbone. Zoro was awake, if barely, judging from the way his remaining eye fluttered and rolled to look in Sanji's direction. From the glassy and unfocused look in it, Sanji could tell Zoro was still high on whatever drugs they'd used to put him under for surgery and to numb the pain afterwards.
Sanji strode forward to take a seat next to Zoro. He was about to demand answers when his stupid, idiot Marimo's face split into a wide, lopsided grin, remaining eye crinkling at the corners.
"Sanji…!" He exclaimed in a somewhat woozy voice, rasping just a little from how dry his throat must've been. He looked delighted to see Sanji, and it made the terrified anger in Sanji's heart melt just a little at the most obvious sign he'd ever seen that his idiot moss loved him.
Zoro reached a hand out for him, managing to spectacularly miss, but Sanji took pity on the dumb asshole and gently took his hand with his own, twining their fingers together. Zoro stared dumbly at their linked hands for a moment, then beamed, expression completely unreserved. He was grinning like a lovesick fool, and it was beyond adorable.
But he'd still scared the shit out of Sanji with whatever stunt he'd pulled to get his eye injured, so Sanji was still mad.
Then his dumbass boyfriend looked up to his face, still grinning like a fool, and said the one thing that disarmed Sanji every fucking time:
"I love you." And then the fucker nuzzled their joined hands.
...How the fuck was Sanji supposed to yell at this idiot for being so damn stupid now?! With that dumb, puppy-like look of adoration on his face, and the babbling about how much he loved him?? Sanji couldn't. He just couldn't! It would be like kicking a puppy, and the fucking moron probably wouldn't understand why Sanji was mad at him anyway. For now Sanji would just enjoy how fucking adorable his stupid Marimo was being (and lord it over him later, of course).
The next time Sanji saw his mossy idiot, the dumbass was sober and awake, sitting up (probably against doctor's orders) and picking at the gauze over his left eye (definitely against doctor's orders and Sanji had better make him cut that shit out right now).
"Oi! Stop that!" He demanded, stalking over and stealing the idiot's hand so he couldn't fuss at the gauze anymore.
Zoro grunted and turned to glower at him, the ungrateful brute.
"I know you hate the texture of gauze and that the tape probably also feels like shit against your skin, but you can't take it off right now, dumbass! You only just got your damn eye sewn shut after having it sliced open!" Sanji scolded him, pulling Zoro's hand closer to himself and instinctively twining their fingers together.
His stupid, moss-brained alley cat pouted at him, but at least the neanderthal stopped trying to mess with the stuff covering his eye.
"Itches." The moss grunted unhappily, now in a full blown sulk . It would be cute, if it weren't for the fact Sanji was still nearly boiling over with all the stress and worry he hadn't been able to let out the last time he'd visited. Sanji tamped it down, though; getting mad at the idiot wouldn't help in this situation.
"I know, but you have to leave it in place 'til it heals." Sanji soothed, running his free hand through his Marimo's hair. He then lightly grasped Zoro's chin, turning his idiot's head to look fully at him, though he focused his gaze on Zoro's forehead instead of his eye, out of consideration for Zoro's discomfort with making eye contact.
"I want you to leave that all in place until it fully heals, okay Marimo?" He told his boyfriend seriously, exaggerating his frown a bit so it'd be a little easier for his Marimo to put a name to the emotion Sanji was expressing.
A displeased rumbling noise came from the back of Zoro's throat, his muscles tensing as he very slightly tried to turn his head away, but Sanji gently tightened his grip in response, holding his head in place. Zoro's sulking frown deepened, and Sanji knew he was on limited time before the grip started really rubbing his Marimo's sensory issues the wrong way.
"Zoro," he started, keeping his voice calm, but speaking each word slowly and clearly, to emphasize to his boyfriend how serious he was, "It's important to me that you don't aggravate this injury, okay?"
Another grumble, but this one came with a tiny slump of Zoro's shoulders, and Sanji knew he'd just about won.
"Promise me, Zoro. Promise me you won't start messing with the gauze or tape until the doctors say it's okay." Sanji insisted, still speaking as slowly and clearly as possible without being patronizing.
His Marimo's face scrunched up in genuine distaste, and he let out a sound that he'd deny being a whine but absolutely was.
Sanji was sympathetic, because he knew how much Zoro hated the feeling of gauze against his skin, and the feeling of being restricted, especially by something sticky like the tape, but this wasn't some minor injury. This was a lost eye. Sanji wasn't risking his Marimo ripping his stitches or getting an infection because he'd decided to be an idiot and take off the protective coverings too soon.
"Zoro." Sanji repeated, gently prompting him, "Use your words, please."
A grumble, followed by a sigh, Zoro's face scrunching in thought as he tried to put the words together.
"...I promise." He said grudgingly, looking away as much as he could with Sanji's hand still gently gripping his chin.
"You promise what?" Sanji prodded lightly, wanting to drag the exact words out of Zoro so the Marimo couldn't argue later.
Zoro glowered at him, but acquiesced.
"I promise I won't remove the gauze or tape until the doctors say I can." He grumbled, pouting like a sulky child.
Sanji smiled at him and leaned forward to press a soft kiss to his forehead, letting go of his chin to gently ruffle his Marimo's hair.
"Thank you, my dear~!" He said, trilling the words just a little as he briefly nuzzled his nose in Zoro's hair.
Sanji's brutish beast of a boyfriend "harrumphed" softly, but leaned a little into his touch anyway.
Sanji desperately wanted to pry into how Zoro lost his eye, but he could tell that today wasn't a words kind of day.
Zoro tended to have a "word quota," as Sanji put it: a specific number of words he was able to pull together from his brain and speak out loud. The exact number varied day-to-day (some days Zoro was completely nonverbal, and other days he had enough words for long, excited rambles about one of his special interests), but trying to push his Marimo over that limit would accomplish nothing but frustrating and distressing the poor mossball.
It was okay; Sanji could always ask tomorrow, after all.
The next day, Zoro was detached from the ivs and was wandering the room when Sanji arrived. He obviously still wasn't allowed out of the room, but the doctors and nurses had clearly given up on trying to keep Sanji's restless idiot in bed.
Zoro looked over at Sanji as he walked in, visibly perking up just a bit. It brought a small smile to Sanji's face; it always warmed his heart to see proof of how much his Marimo loved him. He strode over to stand next to his love, looking out the window at all the brilliant orange and red leaves on the trees outside.
He looked at his Marimo, and noted the way his fingers were twitching and the small furrow in his brow; the poor thing was probably still struggling with the urge to scratch at the gauze, so Sanji gently took Zoro's hand in his, curling their fingers together. The furrow in Zoro's brow eased as he looked over to Sanji, expression mildly curious.
Sanji took the opportunity granted by Zoro turning to look at him to examine the covered eye closer. He wondered what the wound looked like, beneath the coverings; it obviously spanned a fair way, given the bandages went up over his eyebrow and extended down to his cheekbone. Sanji couldn't stop himself from reaching out and very gently tracing a finger down the line of where he thought the cut probably was.
Zoro simply watched him, tolerating the touch with a steady patience Sanji had come to expect from his Marimo. He arched his good eyebrow, in a gesture Sanji recognized as him telling Sanji to just ask the question already. So Sanji did.
"Where'd this come from?"
"Training." Was his Marimo's completely unacceptable answer.
Sanji frowned at him, stepping back slightly, releasing Zoro's hand.
"Training?" He asked, tone sharpening as he arched his own eyebrow in a silent demand for Zoro to explain.
His Marimo grimaced, looking almost constipated as he turned to look out the window, avoiding Sanji's gaze. The rusty gears in his head were clearly trying very hard to turn. A very faint flush of embarrassment bloomed across the tops of his cheeks.
"I… wasn't worthy." Zoro said, incredibly managing to explain absolutely nothing at all .
"You weren't worthy." Sanji deadpanned, staring flatly at his boyfriend in disbelief, "So, what? Mihawk cut out your fucking eye because you failed a test, or some shit?!"
Sanji knew Mihawk was a coldhearted bastard of an assassin, but he'd thought the fucker actually liked Zoro, to at least some tiny degree! Fucker had certainly seemed to like Zoro's spirit back when he'd nearly sliced the mosshead in two a couple years ago! The vampiric jackass had even taken the Marimo on as an apprentice last December, so what the fuck?!
Zoro's grimace deepened as he winced.
"Not Mihawk." He said, apparently hasty to clear his sensei's name, then winced again, apparently realizing that he'd just trapped himself in a verbal corner.
"Then who the fuck sliced your eye open, Marimo?!" Sanji demanded, voice rising.
The moss-headed moron hesitated, eyeing Sanji warily from the corner of his eye. Sanji's anger only grew as he realized that the fucking bastard was trying to avoid answering .
"Well??" He snapped, pressing hard for an answer.
Zoro's entire face scrunched up in a deep grimace before he sighed deeply, finally deciding to give up and face Sanji's perfectly justified anger head on.
".....ictmslfsngfiwswrtyfkgta." He mumbled, too quickly and quietly for Sanji to hear.
"Hm?? Speak up, Marimo, I couldn't hear you!" Sanji hissed, glaring, lips pulling back to bare his teeth.
The mossy bastard sucked in a breath, briefly straightening his back and squaring his shoulders, eye flashing angrily before he abruptly deflated, all fight leaving him with a defeated sigh.
"I… Was seeing if I was worthy of Kogatana. So I. Flipped it in the air." The fucking idiot said slowly and haltingly, and a pit of ice formed in Sanji's gut. He had a feeling he already knew where this story was going.
"...I wasn't worthy." Sanji's beyond idiotic boyfriend finished in a near mumble, looking down and hunching his shoulders.
Sanji's mind was frozen in shock for a long moment, processing the absolute bullshit his Marimo had just said. He had… flipped Mihawk's knife in the air? Above his face?! Ohhhhhh Sanji wasn't angry, no no.
He was LIVID.
"You. Did. WHAT?!" He raged, mind finally done processing his absolutely moronic idiot's frankly terrifying explanation, fear and concern translating immediately into seething rage at his Marimo's idiocy. HOW DARE HE DO SOMETHING LIKE THAT AND SCARE SANJI SO DAMN BADLY?! SANJI HAD WORRIED ABOUT THIS FUCKER!!! HE'D BEEN TERRIFIED HE WAS GONNA LOSE HIM!!!!! AND TO FIND OUT IT WAS ENTIRELY BECAUSE HE'D BEEN A COLOSSAL DUMBASS????
Ohhhhhh Sanji was SO FUCKING FAR BEYOND "ANGRY".
"I. Am kicking your dumb ass the moment you get out of this hospital." He hissed at the dumbass bastard he was unfortunately in love with.
Said dumbass idiot just nodded in acceptance, clearly knowing Sanji was right and perfectly fucking justified in being pissed as all hell with him.
"Of all the stupid, reckless stunts!" Sanji continued, starting to pace, hands gesticulating wildly in his anger. He spun sharply on his heel to point a finger directly in Zoro's face, the Marimo leaning back slightly from it, eye wide.
"I know you don't fucking value yourself, shithead, 'cause you keep fucking pulling shitty, dumbass stunts like this, but can you at least fucking try to consider my feelings about it?! Do you know how fuckin' terrified I was to get a call tellin' me there'd been an accident and you were in the emergency room? DO YOU??" Sanji's eyes were stinging, his vision growing a bit blurry, but he furiously blinked it away. He would NOT fucking CRY over this bastard!!!
Zoro's expression crumpled, his shoulders slumping miserably as the muscleheaded brute finally picked up on how much he'd fucked up.
"Sanji…" He murmured, sounding broken . "I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking."
Sanji let out a harsh, broken, slightly hysterical laugh.
"Yeah no shit you weren't thinking!"
That sad, pathetic look in the shithead's eye didn't change as the dumb fucker slowly reached out to Sanji, gently brushing a thumb under his visible eye, hand trailing down to pull Sanji into a hug, his other arm coming up to wrap around Sanji as well. Sanji slugged him in the side, hating how pitifully weak the punch was.
"Bastard…!" Sanji spat into Zoro's shoulder, breath shuddering.
"I'm sorry," Zoro repeated, sounding absolutely destroyed, "I hurt you."
"Who the fuck is hurt, you fuckbrained neanderthal?!" Sanji hissed, viciously digging his fingers into Zoro's sides.
"I hurt you." Zoro repeated more firmly, holding Sanji a little tighter and pressing his face into the side of Sanji's head, "I'm sorry. I should've thought first. I forgot it's not just me I gotta watch out for, now. Not just me who'll be hurt if I fuck up. I can't be so reckless anymore."
He pulled back to very pointedly look Sanji in the eye, even though the muscles in his face tightened with obvious discomfort.
"I won't forget again. I promise. " He said, his voice firm and serious and so visibly distraught about what he'd done that Sanji couldn't help but believe him. Zoro seemed to notice the moment Sanji understood, because his eye abruptly slid away from Sanji's and he buried his face in Sanji's neck once more, holding him tight.
Sanji scoffed into the bastard's shoulder, hating how watery the sound was, so he kicked his idiot in the knee for making him feel like this, getting a flinch and a pained hiss in response.
"You'd better fucking not, asshole. I'll fucking kill you." He spat, but the threat sounded weak even to his own ears.
"I'd deserve no less." His stupid, idiotic asshole of a boyfriend said, tone gravely serious.
"Damn right." Sanji agreed, arms finally coming up to clutch at his idiot's back, clinging to him and reminding himself that the stupid bastard hadn't died on him.
Zoro was the best thing that had ever happened to him. Sanji couldn't lose him. He couldn't! He needed Zoro in his life. He wanted to keep this shitty, stupid, brutish, ill-mannered beast of a mossball in his life forever. He'd known that ever since the conversation he'd had with him a week ago, about his struggles with his identity, and this scare only reinforced it.
As he calmed down, the small box in his pocket suddenly felt like it was burning a hole in the leg of his pants. This wasn't exactly the romantic situation he'd imagined, but. He couldn't wait any longer. He reached down and pulled it out.
"Oi. Shithead." He started, before he lost his nerve (again).
"Eh?" The great lug he'd fallen for inelegantly grunted in response.
"I must've lost my fucking mind, but even with this bullshit, you're still the best damn thing that's happened to me, and for whatever shitty fucking reason, I want you by my side forever." He started, trying to keep his voice level, even as his heart leapt up into his throat from sheer nerves.
He knew this was stupid. He knew there couldn't possibly be a positive outcome to this question, because the Marimo had always made his stance on marriage Real Fucking Clear - he didn't believe in it or understand it. Thought it was stupid and pointless. So why the fuck was Sanji going through with this?? He really must have gone crazy!
Still, he shoved the small box into Zoro's gut, rushing to finish the question.
"Will you marry me?"
He immediately turned his head to stare out the window as he waited on the rejection he knew was coming. He knew it was cowardly, he just. Couldn't stand to see whatever look was on the Marimo's face right now. The fucking pity and condescension. Or worse, the disgust …
He heard his boyfriend suck in a breath and braced himself. This was it…!
There it was! The- Wait. What?
"Yes?" Sanji's head snapped to look at Zoro, eyes wide and jaw hanging open, unable to comprehend that his boyfriend - who thought marriage was the dumbest thing in existence - had actually accepted Sanji's proposal.
The lout frowned, head tilting to the side as though he couldn't understand why Sanji was struggling to process that he'd actually agreed to marriage.
"S'what I said." The idiot bluntly confirmed, nodding once.
"But. You hate the idea of marriage." Sanji said, stunned.
Zoro's face twisted up a bit.
"I don't hate it..." He hedged out, awkwardly rubbing the back of his neck, "I just don't get why people need rings and a piece of paper to tell 'em what they should already know."
"Then why did you-" Sanji started.
"-'Cause you love all that romance crap." His idiot interrupted, frowning deeply as he visibly struggled to figure out how to put the things in his head into words. "You want all the- the-" he frustratedly waved a hand in the air, unable to find the right words, "the pony show of it all."
(That wasn't the right phrase at all, but Sanji loved that Zoro was trying so hard.)
"You don't need the rings or the fancy party, 'cause you know I love you, and I know you love me, but it's part of the whole…" He circled his hand in the air, trying to jog his own thoughts into something he could put into words, "The whole relationship thing to you, right? You wanna tell the world that we chose each other. Make things…" he grimaced, head jerking sideways for a moment as he apparently tried to jolt his thoughts into order, ""Official."" He continued, putting air quotes around the word.
"You wanna- You wanna be loud about it. To scream it to the world. I don't really get how rings and some fancy pants ceremony's gonna do that, but. It'll make you happy, right? Having that stuff?" Sanji's wonderfully thoughtful Marimo finished, a concerned frown on his face as he looked to Sanji for confirmation.
Sanji couldn't keep the smile from spreading across his face as he remembered why he loved this idiot so much.
"Yeah. It'd make me real happy." He agreed, raising one hand to cup his Marimo's cheek. "You're really okay with it, though, right? Not just agreeing outta some sense of obligation?" He asked, frowning slightly in concern.
"Like hell would I agree to something like that outta obligation, Curly." Zoro sneered, sounding almost offended at the idea, his lip curled up in disgust.
"Besides," he continued, sneer fading, "S'not like you'd trap me in it; you'd let me leave, if I wanted out, marriage or no marriage." Zoro sounded Absolutely Certain about that, and his expression was almost painfully soft as he regarded Sanji.
"You're right, I would." Sanji could do nothing but agree in the face of Zoro's absolute trust and faith in his character, because it was true: He would let his Marimo go if he wanted to leave, even if it would irreparably break his heart to do so.
"Then it's okay." Zoro concluded, nodding once and looking content.
'It's okay because it's you.' Is what Sanji heard after mentally translating the statement, and his heart melted into a puddle. He leaned into Zoro's embrace, resting his head against his Marimo's shoulder, feeling like the luckiest, happiest person in the whole damn world.
What had he ever done to deserve this wonderful man?
Chapter 12: Horrifying Realities
Chapter by Youkoartemis
This should not have happened. Please let it just be a horrible dream. Please.
TW for: Child Abuse, Transphobia, Misgendering, Violence, Murder, and (Kinda-But-Not-Really) Major Character Death
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The room was cold and dark, in the corner was a small figure curled in on themself. Quiet crying could be heard from the direction of the figure.
"Rise and shine kid." A loud voice echoed through the room.
The small figure raised their head, mossy green hair falling in front of their eyes. Their hair was down to their shoulders, to the clear displeasure of the child as they angrily kept shoving it out of their face.
They slowly stood up and walked to the door where the voice came from. The door swung open, knocking the child down. They stood back up again and walked through the door.
"idon'twannabehere..." they mumbled quietly.
"What was that?" the adult growled, a hint of anger behind their voice.
"I don't wanna be here!" the child yelled and tried to run from the other person.
Their attempt to run was cut short when they ran directly into another adult.
"Good morning Zoro." said the tall man. He moved himself lower to be at eye level with the 10 year old.
Zoro looked away, eye contact always made him feel horrible.
"Look at me, dear." the man said, grabbing the top of Zoro's head and turning it towards himself.
Zoro closed his eyes tightly so he didn't have to look.
"Be a good little girl and look at me before you get in trouble." the man said before punching the child in the stomach making him fall over in pain.
"I'm not a girl." Zoro wheezed, winded from the hit.
The man rolled his eyes and stood up
"Not this again." he said, very clearly annoyed.
"Get your ass up. You know you have a duty, so let's go." The man says as he grabs Zoro by the arm in a bruising grip and drags him off down the hallway into a larger area.
Multiple people of all ages were out in this area, some were fighting with each other, others were guarding another person from attacks, and in the back corner there were people bandaging others that were hurt.
Zoro was dragged to an empty part of the yard.
The man let go of his arm and Zoro fell onto the ground, getting a face full of dirt in the process. He sat up and rubbed the dirt off his face.
The man stood in front of him and watched until he was done.
"You know your duty, right?" the man asked.
Zoro shook his head quickly and took a swing at the man's leg.
The man quickly grabbed Zoro's arm and threw him on the ground onto his back.
"You do not attack for no reason. Your job is to be a shield for others." the man said sternly, "I guess you need another lesson to get it into your thick skull." He continued cracking his knuckles.
Zoro looked up at the man and knew exactly what was about to happen. He backed up a bit and put his arms up in defense from what he knew was going to be a long ten minutes of hits and kicks.
Zoro could feel himself get angrier and angrier with every blow. He could feel something inside him screaming to get out.
"STOP IT!!!!" he could hear himself yelling. But did he actually yell? Was that him? Why didn't he have control of his body? What was happening??
Zoro could feel something. What was it? It felt like his Lightning Flames? But no. It was purple. It billowed all around him, lashing furiously.
He was going to kill all the fuckers here. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. HE'LL K ILL ALL OF THEM AND MAKE THEM P AY FOR ALL THE SHIT HE'S HAD TO GO THROUGH. HE WON'T LET ANYONE GET AWAY WITH WHA--
Suddenly he felt something. It snapped him back to reality. A sharp pain in his chest. He focused his vision again. The first thing he saw was the blood, then the body of the man who had been beating him. Then he looked down at his own chest: A red stain was spreading from a singular point. Zoro clutched at the bullet hole on his chest. The pain only made him angrier. The Flames surged stronger, the hole in his chest sealing up as his mind clouded back over with rage.
He saw the guard who'd shot him and charged, moving fast. Far faster than before. He reached that guard, ignoring the pains and sounds of other gunshots. It dIDN't MAtTER. He was going to rIP THEM APA RT KILL THEM KILL THEM ALLMAKETHEM PAY .
His body was slowing down, though. Everything was so cold… The colors were fading… But he wasn't done yet. He wasn't free… If he stopped now, they could trap him again. He couldn't do that again. He couldn't! He would rather DIE.
His Flames turned inward, building up and up and up and then-
Sanji's eyes shoot open, breathing hard, sweat coating eir face. E tries to sit up but finds emself weighed down by- a blanket? No, it's not shaped like one.
Sanji lets eir eyes adjust to the darkness of the room, then looks again at what is keeping em in place. Sanji's heartbeat begins to steady as e realizes that it's Zoro. Eir husband. Alive. Safe. He was ok.
Sanji reaches out to touch Zoro's hair, petting it to confirm to eirself that Zoro is actually there. E feels Zoro move his head to lean lightly into Sanji's touch.
Before Sanji can stop emself, e murmurs: "Zoro?"
Zoro opens his eye slightly, blinking blearily up at em.
"S'too early. G'back t'sleep." he mutters, voice thick with sleep.
He gives Sanji a sleepy kiss on the cheek before settling back down more fully on top of em. They both fall back asleep, safe in their home.
This chapter was written primarily by checkered_soul and touched up by me, Youkoartemis!
Also yes, Sanji *is* using different pronouns here. Sanji is genderfluid and we're gonna commit to that, so sometimes e'll use different pronouns!! =D
Chapter 13: A Sky Worth Following
Chapter by Youkoartemis
Luffy may have won over Zoro, but Sanji was still unsure about him. But maybe Luffy's not so bad after all?
TW for: Referenced/Implied Child Abuse (it's really vague, but just in case!)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
To Sanji's chagrin, Luffy started showing up more and more often after that first time Zoro brought him over. Sanji wasn't quite sure what she thought about having her home constantly feeling like a strange Sky's Flames (Sky Flames always clung to whatever they touched; the sticky sweet feeling of the Sky's personal Harmony lingering long after they'd left, like a particularly persistent earworm).
The feeling didn't seem to bother Zoro, though; Sanji's Marimo was just as relaxed as always. Didn't even seem to notice the way the whole house just felt like Luffy now, and Sanji was conflicted about that, too. She could tell it wasn't a full Harmonization, yet - Zoro's latent Flames weren't accepting the offer Luffy's Flames were making, keeping to themselves instead of joining into the Sky's Harmony. Sanji couldn't deny the relief that brought, knowing that Zoro clearly had no intentions of leaving her.
She gently stroked her Marimo's hair, curling her Flames tightly around Zoro's, and relishing in the way they twined with hers, in return, even as inactive as they were.
Her Marimo let out a soft, pleased hum at the feeling, barely conscious where he lay in Sanji's lap, head pressing up against Sanji's hand in a silent demand for more pets. A demand Sanji was more than happy to fulfill! Hair pets always made her Marimo purr like a particularly big and unruly cat, and it warmed her heart and soothed the icy pit of dread that had formed in her chest.
Sanji felt Luffy's presence long before he saw him. The feeling of the boy's chaotic, Flames sprawling out from him in a jumble of almost puppyish enthusiasm and eagerness to try and welcome and ensnare (befriend?) him. It was almost overwhelming how friendly Luffy's Flames were; they kept trying to basically hug Sanji's Flames, and he didn't particularly care for it.
Today they were in the living room, Luffy chatting energetically at a mostly-asleep Zoro, who was merely grunting occasionally in response to Luffy's stream-of-consciousness babbling. That seemed to be enough for the boy, from what Sanji could tell.
Luffy's Flames were ebbing and flowing like the tide, whirling curiously around the room, poking and prodding at the Flames nearby, but not trying to grasp or pull. The Flames hovered happily around Zoro, clinging lightly but backing off whenever the Marimo's latent Flames batted them away. Sanji wasn't good enough to feel the exact emotions behind it, but he could tell Luffy wasn't trying to overwhelm or force Zoro into anything, which already put the kid leagues ahead of 90% of the mafia Skies Sanji had met.
Sanji had taken to closely observing how Luffy interacted with his Marimo; Sanji knew how Skies worked. He knew how many would love to drag Zoro into something the Marimo wouldn't want, were he aware of what was actually going on. But…
Luffy didn't act like a mafia Sky. He wasn't trying to drag Zoro into anything, so far as Sanji could tell. Well, other than being his friend, Sanji supposed, but he couldn't really find anything wrong with that. Yes, Luffy's Flames clearly wanted to bond with Zoro's, but they were also accepting the fact that Zoro's Flames weren't willing to, instead of pushing or pulling.
Zoro got up and began heading out of the room. Sanji glanced at his pocket watch, and realized that, ah, yes, it was one of Zoro's work out times. His Marimo did love keeping to his routines, after all.
Unfortunately that left Sanji alone with Luffy, which admittedly unnerved him a bit.
Luffy looked at Sanji, and Sanji, even with all his experience reading people, could not figure out what was behind that seemingly vacant stare.
"Sanji is worried about Zoro, right?" Luffy stated, sounding oddly serious.
Sanji's eyes narrowed, but he didn't respond, choosing instead to light up a new cigarette after putting the other one out in a nearby ashtray.
"Sanji's been hurt before, by lots of people. Sanji's scared I'm gonna hurt Zoro like those people hurt Sanji." How could a kid as emptyheaded as Luffy be so fucking terrifyingly observant?!
"Oh yeah? What makes you say that?" Sanji asked, showing no outward signs of his unease, eyes flicking up to stare boredly at Luffy in a half-lidded gaze.
Luffy had a finger shoved in one ear, his head tilted to the side, but his eyes were fathomlessly deep.
"People have tried to hurt Zoro before, haven't they?" He asked, rather than answer Sanji, a frown appearing on his face, "Tried to make Zoro do things Zoro wouldn't wanna do."
Sanji just stared at Luffy, unable to form any words in the face of such unbelievable intuition.
"I'm not gonna do that to Zoro, 'cause Zoro is Zoro and Zoro wouldn't be Zoro anymore if I forced Zoro to be someone else. And I want Zoro to be my friend, not some other person! So Sanji doesn't have to worry about me making Zoro into someone who isn't Zoro; I like Zoro. I want Zoro to stay Zoro, just like Sanji does." He said, idly kicking his legs as he smiled so honestly and openly at Sanji that it ached.
Sanji's hand shook slightly around the cigarette he was holding, unsure what to do when his motivations and fears were laid bare so easily by someone like Luffy. What was he, one of the bastard kids from the Vongola line, or some shit? Because that level of intuition is just. Holy shit .
"Hey, hey, Sanji: What's for lunch??" Annnnnnd then the moment was over, and Luffy was back to being a food-obsessed idiot like usual.
Still, Sanji wouldn't be forgetting that frankly terrifying display of observational skills any time soon.
Sanji had to admit… Luffy was growing on em. He always treated Zoro and Sanji like people, not potential possessions to boost his status (Sanji wasn't convinced Luffy even understood that society has rules, period).
It was honestly hard not to like Luffy, given how much Sanji's Marimo had warmed up to the kid. Eir Marimo was prickly at the best of times, let alone when someone was so energetic and prone to climbing on others (things eir Marimo found irritating in general). But there Zoro was, letting Luffy climb all over him like the monkey he'd apparently gotten the family name of, looking completely unbothered about it. Hell, he looked amused about it!
Sanji could count the number of people eir Marimo allowed to be so free about touching him on one hand and have three fingers left over. Two fingers left over, if e included little Chopper in that number. The others were Sanji emself and now Luffy. It was… actually pretty nice, seeing Zoro opening up to others, if e was being honest.
Sanji's thoughts were cut off when Luffy's Flames got a little too rambunctious and Sanji's flared out in response on instinct, sharply batting them away.
Zoro immediately sat up, fully alert and actively scanning for a threat. His eye paused on Sanji, quickly looking em over for any sign of injury before flicking over to Luffy and doing the same. He paused when he couldn't find any sign of a threat, looking confused, and Sanji's heart melted. Aww~! Eir Marimo was so sweet~~!! Responding so immediately the moment Sanji flared eir Flames, in case e was in danger! What a sweetheart~~!! Oh, Sanji loved him so fucking much!!!
It was interesting to note that Zoro apparently did not see Luffy as any sort of threat, though. The Marimo was usually really on the ball about that, being as hypersensitive to Flames as he was. He might be dense and clueless 90% of the time, but his instincts had always been remarkably keen, even by mafia standards.
Hm. Maybe Luffy really wasn't so bad, after all…
The real turning point in Sanji's opinion occurred about a week later.
Sanji was sitting in eir Marimo's lap, leaning against his broad, firm chest, with eir Marimo's strong arms wrapped protectively around em, his chin resting atop Sanji's head. Occasionally eir mossy alley cat would rub his cheek against eir hair, but that was perfectly fine - Sanji wasn't bothered about if eir hair got messed up by eir husband's cat-like affections; it's not like e was meeting with any important mafia connections where e had to look immaculate and untouchably perfect, after all! It was just the Marimo and Luffy, and neither of them cared about such things (hell, they probably didn't even notice things like that, the neanderthals).
Sanji couldn't remember how the subject first came up, but e figured it was a perfect opportunity to test Luffy on a very important topic. After all, if Luffy wasn't accepting of Sanji's shifting gender identity, then he wasn't going to be a good fit as a friend (or anything else). So Sanji asked Luffy about gender, and, well. The response was… Interesting, if nothing else.
"Gender? What's that?" Luffy asked, tilting his head to one side with a pouting frown, arms crossed over his chest as he sat pretzel-style on the couch across from the one Sanji and Zoro were seated on.
All of Sanji's thoughts screeched to a halt at that, along with all the words e'd been mentally planning on how to explain eir gender to Luffy.
"Can I eat it?" Luffy continued, oblivious to Sanji's bewilderment.
"Yes." Sanji's idiot husband answered without a moment's hesitation, the bastard!
"Sanjiiiii!! Cook some genders for lunch!!" Luffy eagerly demanded, all but bouncing in his seat.
"Oh, I'll cook some toxic gender roles for you…" Sanji muttered mutinously, causing eir idiot mossball to choke for a moment before snickering. At least eir wit was appreciated by someone…
"No, Luffy, gender is not edible; the mossy bastard's just teasing you." E said, pinching the bridge of eir nose to try and stave off the headache e could already feel forming.
"Awwwww really?" Luffy whined, his entire body slumping with disappointment as he pouted like a child who'd just been told he couldn't have fast food because there was food at home.
"Yes really." Sanji deadpanned, unable to believe this was really eir life right now.
"Booooooo! I was really looking forward to eating it, too." Luffy pouted, arms crossing over his chest once more.
"I can imagine," Sanji muttered, before collecting eir thoughts and trying to continue, "Gender is… You know how some people are male-"
"-Like the mail person brings?" Luffy interrupted, head tilting to one side as though he hadn't just completely derailed Sanji's train of thought yet again.
Sanji could feel Zoro's body shaking with laughter, the traitor. E could hear the snickers the mossy jackass was muffling into eir hair, too. Asshole.
"No… That's different. You know how some people are boys and some are girls?" Sanji tried again, hoping that this time Luffy would at least kind of grasp what Sanji was trying to tell him.
"Hmmmmmm yeah, I guess?" Luffy agreed, frowning in thought, "Some people get so mad when I walk into the bathroom sometimes, but I dunno why. They keep talking about how I'm a boy, so I can't go into the girl bathroom, but I just wanted to pee! Why's it even a problem? People are so weird!"
Once again, Sanji didn't even know where to start with that.
"Do you even know the difference between boys and girls?"
"Mmmmmmmmm nope!" Luffy answered after a bit of thought, grinning like he was proud of how unbelievably clueless he was.
Then Luffy's grin turned into a curious look as he idly rocked back and forth on the couch, hands resting palm down on his knees.
"Why's this so important to Sanji?" He asked, looking genuinely interested in the answer.
Sanji… Honestly didn't even know how to phrase things, given how little Luffy apparently understood about gender.
"Y'know how Sanji's married to me?" Zoro cut in.
"Mhm!" Luffy agreed easily.
"Well, Sanji's not always my husband. Sometimes Sanji's my wife, and sometimes Sanji's my spouse." Sanji's Marimo explained patiently, "It changes around and each of those have different words attached when talking about Sanji."
"Ohhhhhh...! So Sanji's a mystery person!" Luffy exclaimed, hitting his fist into the palm of his other hand, looking amazed, "Cool!!!"
Sanji felt Zoro's nod against eir head.
"Yeah." He agreed easily, and Sanji's heart swelled with the strength of eir adoration for eir wonderful, thoughtful Marimo~.
"Hey Sanji?" Luffy started, looking at em.
"Hm?" Sanji hummed, distracted from eir mental gushing over eir husband.
"Is Sanji Zoro's husband, Zoro's wife, or Zoro's spow- sprow- spout? - right now?" Luffy asked, an earnest but serious expression on his face.
Sanji felt… genuinely touched at how quickly Luffy was taking to the whole genderfluid thing.
"I'm his spouse." E answered honestly, waiting on Luffy's reaction.
"Oh cool." Luffy answered casually, and Sanji got the feeling that would've been Luffy's response no matter what answer e'd given him.
"What's for lunch? I'm hungry!" Luffy continued, grinning eagerly at the thought of food and beginning to bounce in place.
Sanji snorted in response, but e found that Luffy's childishness didn't bother em nearly as much, now.
"Hold your damn horses, you shitty brat." Sanji griped, reluctantly pulling emself from eir Marimo's warm, comfortable embrace to go start lunch.
E couldn't quite keep the smile off eir face at Luffy's excited cheering about lunch. The kid really wasn't too bad, once you got used to him. Sanji was really starting to see what Zoro did in him.
The final tipping point was making a single realization. It came when Sanji realized Zoro was distracting Luffy from Sanji whenever Luffy started getting too rambunctious, drawing Sanji's ire onto himself whenever Sanji started getting angry enough to lash out at Luffy. That wasn't Cloud behavior; that was Lightning behavior!
Which meant Luffy wasn't courting Zoro as his Cloud Guardian: He was courting Zoro as his Lightning Guardian! And that. That made all the difference. It was proof to Sanji that Luffy had been honest when he'd said he liked Zoro as Zoro, and it was also proof that Luffy was most definitely not a mafia Sky. No mafia Sky would give up the chance to Harmonize with a Cloud to instead Harmonize with the person's Lightning Flames.
Clouds were rare as hell, and successfully courting one as a Guardian was even harder than finding a Cloud in the first place! Lightnings, on the other hand, were dime-a-dozen, and any Famiglia of note probably had somewhere around ten trained up from early childhood to die in defense of any Sky that chose them (an unbelievably disgusting and barbaric practice, in Sanji's opinion).
Still. Luffy was choosing Zoro for his Lightning Flames and not for his vastly more politically valuable Cloud Flames (no matter how latent both Flames were)! It would piss off so many people , if the two actually Harmonized like that!!
("With that sort of potential, your husband could be the Cloud Guardian to a Vongola Sky!" Mafia contacts kept saying to him, as though Zoro hadn't already met all the current Vongola Skies besides Xanxus and disliked them all on sight.)
When Sanji first realized what was actually happening between Luffy and Zoro, he busted out laughing. Not just a sensible chuckle or a snicker, either, but a full-bellied cackle that Zoro once said made him sound like a hyena, and pounding his fist on the arm of the couch. Upon hearing the wild laughter, his Marimo shot him an unnerved look from the corner of his eye, shifting to face more towards Sanji.
Sanji patted him on the arm, using his other hand to wipe the tears of laughter from his eyes, still wheezing and coughing from laughing so hard.
"It's nothing, Marimo; I just remembered something really fucking funny." He reassured his poor, spooked Marimo, still letting out the occasional chuckle.
"What'd ya remember?" Luffy asked, perking up.
Sanji waved him off.
"Oh, just a shitty weather-based in-joke from my work: I honestly don't even know why it was so damn funny anymore." He said dismissively, which was enough for his Marimo to grunt in acknowledgement before he and Luffy both moved on.
If this was the sort of hilarity he could expect from Luffy, then he really wasn't so bad. Might even be worth following.
As he considered it, Sanji felt something sort of click into place.
'Oh.' He thought, eyes widening, his Flames humming contentedly along with Luffy's. Zoro's latent Flames quietly joined in the same instant Sanji's did, a solid undercurrent of support to the harmony of three. Luffy's Flames delightedly wrapped around them both. They were warm, welcoming, and accepting, without doing anything to trap either of them.
It felt like coming home.
And so Luffy has gained his first two Guardians!!! The others will be joining... at some point! >=3c
Who are you guys expecting to see next? I wanna hear your opinions! =D
Chapter 14: Workouts and Coffee Delivery
Chapter by Youkoartemis
Sanji has meetings, and Zoro knows he really shouldn't interrupt them, but he just can't help it, sometimes.
Zoro loved Chopper. He loved Chopper very much. He was so small, and fluffy, and cute! And he had such soft fur … So when Chopper took to riding around on him most of the time, he allowed it; Chopper's fur was soft and so good to touch! And he was so warm!!
Zoro squeezed the little reindeer a bit tighter in his arms, humming happily as he and Chopper returned from a workout. He was shirtless, with a soft, fluffy towel around his neck, pants and haramaki slung lower on his hips than usual. Chopper had a little towel on his head, as well; kid had decided to join him for his workout, and Zoro was so fucking proud of him! He did so well!!
"Did I do good?" Chopper asked sleepily.
"Yeah. Proud of you." Zoro answered, glancing down at the little reindeer, who smiled up at him.
Zoro realized he was passing by Sanji's office on his way to their room, and that the door was open. He glanced in as he passed, and oh, shit. There was a meeting going on. Huh. Whoops.
"Yo." He greeted, waving one hand when he noticed everyone staring at him.
The love cook beamed at him and waved back.
"Hi dear~!" The cook greeted with a small, happy wiggle.
The others were staring at him and Chopper with a bit too much interest for Zoro to feel comfortable, so he quickly continued on, shoulders itching under the weight of their stares. As he was almost out of earshot, he heard one of them ask.
"Is he- was he carrying a plushie? What a-"
"Choose Your Next Words Very Carefully." Curly interrupted, voice promising such intense violence that it sent pleasurable shivers down Zoro's spine and brought a vicious grin to his face. He loved it when the cook showed eir claws.
As much as he'd love to linger and potentially overhear Sanji beating the shit outta the people e was meeting with, Zoro figured it was probably better to get washed off before the cook complained about his post-workout stink, so he continued on.
Zoro was just returning from a walk with Chopper. They'd gone on a run to a few stores, Chopper in his full reindeer form, as Curly advised for when they went out in public. Zoro didn't really see what the big deal was, but Curly was usually pretty smart when it came to stuff like that, so he trusted him.
He and Chopper had gotten a lot of weird looks, but Zoro ignored it, and Chopper did his best to follow suit. (Zoro was so fucking proud of him!) Zoro supposed people must not've ever seen a reindeer before. Fair enough, he grudgingly admitted, if only to himself.
Anyway, they were back now, shopping completed.
"Do we really have enough to build a ship in a bottle, Zoro?" Chopper asked, looking up at him.
"Yeah." Zoro answered, looking back at him, "We could build a couple, with all this."
"Really?!" Chopper asked excitedly, beaming and with stars in his eyes.
Zoro grunted affirmatively.
"Could build some good ones."
"Wow!!! I can't wait!!" Chopper cheered, a little spring to his steps as his hooves click-clacked across the wood flooring.
Zoro hummed in agreement, lips quirking up a little to smile fondly at the reindeer.
He stopped by the door to Curly's office, opening the door to look in.
Sure enough, Curly was still working, and there were others in the room, too. A couple of them felt vaguely familiar, but Zoro couldn't place their faces or names, so he dismissed them completely; Not Important. Curly, however, was very important, and Zoro had a present for him.
"Cook." He greeted, wandering over, "Got you something." He added, handing over the coffee he'd picked up for the cook, knowing he probably needed a caffeine fix by this time of day, especially since he'd been working all this time. (Of course Zoro knew the cook's favorite coffee order by heart; it was Important Information.)
"Oh! Thank you! You're so thoughtful~~!!" The cook trilled, looking delighted, his smile bright and causing Zoro's heart to warm and speed up a bit with adoration.
Sanji took a sip, "Ah, perfection~! Thank you again, my wonderfully thoughtful Marimo~~!!" He leaned over and gave Zoro a kiss on the cheek, drawing a small smile from Zoro.
Zoro wanted to fidget happily, but suppressed the urge, not feeling comfortable with all the other people in the room.
"Did you and Chopper have a nice walk, my sweet?" Curly asked, smiling softly and warmly at him.
Zoro grunted agreeably.
"Went shopping." He elaborated, knowing Curly was asking for more information.
"Oh yeah? What for?" The cook's visible eye widened attentively as he leaned forward a little.
"Crafting stuff." Zoro would've explained more - he wanted to explain more; wanted to tell Sanji all about the ships he intended to build with Chopper - but he was growing a touch uneasy under all the stares leveled his way, and the thoughts wouldn't turn into words.
"Building another boat?" The cook asked, looking genuinely interested.
Zoro grunted again to confirm, shifting his weight from one leg to the other and flicking his gaze towards the people staring at him and Chopper. One of his hands dropped down to bury itself in Chopper's fur, trying to ground himself. His eye narrowed at the vaguely familiar strangers, and they hastily looked away. Some of the tension left his body at that.
"I'd love to hear all about the boat you're gonna build, my dear, but unfortunately I gotta deal with the rest of this." His cook sighed, straightening his tie, "You'll have to show me the boat later, alright?" He smiled a little at Zoro.
Zoro nodded with a contented sound, slowly blinking once at his cook. He gave him a Look, hoping he'd understand.
He knew he'd been understood when Sanji waved one gloved hand in a dismissive gesture.
"Yeah, yeah I won't work too hard, don't worry, Marimo. You go have fun with Chopper, okay?"
"'Kay. Love you." Zoro said, leaning over to kiss his husband on the cheek and briefly nuzzle his soft, silky, sweet-smelling hair (goodfeelgoodfeelgoodfeel!) before walking out of the cook's office with Chopper at his side.
Chapter 15: Zoro vs. Bad Textures (food)
Chapter by checkered_soul
Some foods just shouldn't exist.
Written primarily by checkered_soul and edited by Youkoartemis! Based on experiences we've actually had with the nasty foods mentioned in the story.
Zoro didn't really like going to any of the fancy parties Sanji had to go to, but he went anyway, even though he hated the suits that restricted his movement more than he was used to, and the tie that applied pressure around his neck, and the shirt that was buttoned too high. Felt itchy, and the tie was too tight. He could breathe just fine, but he still felt like it was strangling him. He didn't like having things around his throat.
He hated these events, full of plastic people who never say what they really mean or show what they really feel. He hated having to play nice and smile for the cameras. He hated these events, and wanted to be doing literally anything else… but he didn't want Sanji to be there alone, and Nami wasn't always available to go with Sanji instead of Zoro.
At least there was usually food he could eat without getting in trouble for it, even if it was all stupid fancy rich people shit.
This party was no exception: The table was covered in plates of food for people to take from. There was pre-sliced cake at the very end of the table. Zoro didn't like sweet foods, so he didn't grab a slice and just had a plate of finger foods in his hand.
He walked back over to Sanji, happy with what he had.
Sanji was talking to someone else, but still took the time to lean closer to Zoro, resting their shoulders together. It was nice. Zoro figured he'd stay there for a time, quietly basking in the cook's presence (eye of the hurricane, wildly spinning in every direction).
Zoro got bored of the conversation the cook was having pretty quickly - it was just fake bullshit pretending to be friendly talk - and turned his head to see a woman with two plates of cake in her hands walking over to them. She greeted them both in a very fake way, her smile nothing but plastic, and after a few seconds of meaningless small talk she handed Sanji and Zoro each a plate of cake.
Zoro didn't want to eat it. It was too sweet for him, but he didn't want to upset Sanji by not eating it. Sanji hated to see food get thrown away when it was perfectly good. So Zoro had to eat it.
Zoro nodded at the woman, faking a smile and hoping it didn't look as much like a grimace as he was sure it did, and she walked away cheerfully.
Zoro looked at the cake and picked up the fork. He poked at it for a moment and made a face of disgust internally. He took a bite and that internal expression briefly became external.
The cake was soggy. It felt like an old, rotten apple in his mouth, like he wasn't meant to be eating it. It was weirdly gritty beneath the overwhelming sogginess, like chewing on dirt. Wet dirt. Not mud - too gritty. Damp. Dirt. To add to the hellish experience, the fruit on top was sickly sweet - soft and clearly overripe - and coated in an even sweeter jam that made him feel like he was eating cough syrup. It made Zoro's entire being shudder with revulsion, stomach beginning to rebel, and he'd only had one bite.
Sanji nudged him a little.
"You ok?" he asked, concerned.
Zoro paused before answering, forcing his thoughts into order past the desire to punch something in anger from the stress of eating something so disgusting (it was badbadbadbadbadterribledisgustingickick ick) .
"Yup." He said as he took another bite of the abomination calling itself cake, internally shuddering in disgust. Everything in him was screaming in protest against this sensory hell he was putting himself through. He desperately did not want to take even a single bite more.
"Thank you for holding that for me, my dear; I'll take it, now." With that, Sanji took the plate of cake from Zoro and began to eat it, himself.
Zoro had never been so relieved in his life. He loved Sanji SO MUCH. He leaned over and pressed his face into the cook's neck, and his husband briefly patted him in response. Zoro didn't want to move anymore; he just wanted to go home.
"We'll be able to leave soon, don't worry." Sanji murmured to him, running his hand through Zoro's hair, the action soothing him just a little.
Zoro took a deep, shuddering breath, and steeled himself once more. He nodded against Sanji's shoulder, and stepped back, as fortified for the rest of the event as he could be.
He really hated these stupid parties.
Sanji was on a business trip today, and it was lunch time. Usually Sanji would have made something in advance, but this time it was a sudden emergency call. So that meant Zoro had to make lunch himself.
Zoro walked into the kitchen and looked for ingredients. Bread, mustard, mayo, store bought ham; Zoro had gotten it for a situation like this, because like hell he would know how to actually use regular ham to make something.
Zoro brought everything to the counter and got out two slices of the bread and applied the mayo and mustard. Now all he had to do was add the ham.
He reached into the package and
'What was that what the fuck was that???!!!!' Zoro's entire body recoiled at the feeling of the ham. It was cold and felt like there was a layer of slime on it.
"What the fuck what the fuck what the fuck?" Zoro muttered to no one specifically, eyes wide.
He waved his hand around in the air, trying to get the feeling off his hand; didn't work.
He scrubbed his hand with his shirt; the slime was off his hand, but he could still feel it.
He turned the sink on and scrubbed his hand with soap and a scrubber brush: Bad idea. His hand began to bleed slightly, but he could still feel the slime of the disgusting ham on his hand, so he didn't stop. His hand was red and bloody, and the water in the sink was no better.
Zoro finally stopped after a bit more scrubbing. His hand hurt, but he didn't care. He looked at the ham that fell onto the counter with all the hate in the world, and grabbed a fork to pick it up and place the slimy, disgusting ham onto the bread.
"Fuck you." he grumbled under his breath before taking a bite of the sandwich. "Next time I'll just make noodles."
Chapter 16: Stairway to Hell
Chapter by Youkoartemis
Haunted by ghosts and pushed over the limit, Zoro has a Very. Bad. Day.
TW for: Guns, Extreme Violence, Gore, Mentioned (Canonical) Child Death, Minor Character Death
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The stairs were steep.
Zoro stared dubiously down them, eye narrowed suspiciously.
They were very steep, with short little steps, almost seeming to go straight down it was so steep.
Zoro felt his world tilt a little and he leaned back, letting a breath out slow through his nose, unable to contain the tiny shiver that shook his shoulders, the tension ratcheting up. He didn't want to show his unease, though; that was Weakness, and Roronoa Zoro was not weak! And the cook was already halfway down them! Zoro should really follow, and there was nothing stopping him! He could do it if he wanted to! He could-
-But those stairs were very steep, and Zoro paused again at the top of them, staring down with a frown.
Flickers of not-memories of a small body falling down wrongwrongwrong, necktwistinGsNaPcrACKpOP as it hITthEbotToM flashed through his mind's eye lightning fast and then faded, leaving him cold. Had it always been so cold here? He was shivering. Stupid fuckers must have the air conditioning up too high.
"Marimo?" Sanji's voice cut through the haze in Zoro's mind, and his gaze snapped over to the cook, who wobbled in Zoro's vision before his eye focused properly.
'Relax. Relax, dammit! Stop letting the weakness show through!' Zoro cursed at himself, taking a deep breath and once more glancing down the stairs, only to pause, mind stuttering and heart skipping a beat.
"Marimo, you okay?" Sanji asked again, frowning slightly. Nononononono Zoro can't worry him it's just something stupid, now if he can only just get over himself-
He most definitely did not jump when he felt a hand lightly touch his shoulder. And he did NOT "squeak," no matter what the damn cook said!!
(He absolutely let out an undignified squeaking sound while jumping about a foot in the air when Sanji rested a hand on his shoulder.)
His eye focused on his husband, vision weirdly blurry. It shouldn't be blurry like that; his farsightedness was super mild; just blurring tiny words in books and ledgers a bit at close range. Not enough to blur Curly's face like this.
He narrowed his eye at his when his vision cleared enough to recognize the cook's expression: The fucker was laughing at him! Sure, he was biting his lip and clearly trying to hide it, but he could still tell!
An angry rumble left his throat, the ice that had settled into his bones fading as anger spread white hot from his chest through to his limbs, fists clenching and lips curling back to bare his teeth in a snarl.
"Easy. Easy, Marimo. I'm not laughing at you, I promise." The cook said softly, holding up his hands in a pacifying gesture, tone kept soothing.
Zoro let out another rumble of discontent, but the white hot rage subsided, leaving him feeling like he had ants under his skin and his mouth tasted like ash. He was starting to feel cold again. The air conditioning was definitely up too high.
"C'mon, darling," Sanji soothed, linking his arm through his and pulling him close against his side before heading forward and taking the first step down, leading Zoro along with him.
Zoro paused at the threshold, but Sanji snapped his fingers, drawing his attention.
"Oi oi, focus, Marimo." He drawled, looking completely casual. He continued talking, voice level and calm, and Zoro really should've been able to hear what he was saying, but somehow none of it registered. It was just. Less important than the soothing tone he was using and the warmth of his presence at Zoro's side.
Zoro distantly noticed each step they took down, but any time he'd turn to start looking at the stairs, Sanji would pull his attention back onto himself. Just changed his tone a little, and Zoro looked back over, focusing on his husband instead of the stairs.
It took a few steps to realize when they'd gotten back on level ground again, but when he realized it, it was like all the stress that had been clawing at his mind for the past minutes came swarming out at once. Everything was suddenly so bright, and loud. Sounds echoing in his head and colors blurring, lights leaving spots in his eyes and seeming to runtwiststream together. He could hear the man at the table slurping his coffee. He could hear the children laughing and screaming in joy. He could hear someone whistling a tune and every single one of those sounds was like knives in his ears he couldn't stand it he wanted outoutoutoUTOUTOUTOUTRIGHTFUCKINGNOW.
He felt himself lurch in a random direction, trying to get out of there, but couldn't. There was a touch on him and it was toomuchtoomuchtoomuch he needed-
He noticed the slowly growing quiet and took in a shaky breath, letting it out slowly.
He looked around, and there were far fewer people, here.
"Feeling better, Marimo?" The cook asked softly, touch feather light against Zoro's arm.
Zoro was about to answer when he noticed a glint out of the corner of his eye. Like the blade of one of his swords; metal reflecting light. His instincts SCREAMED.
He shoved the cook aside, turning to look at what had caught his eye right as a loud CRACK boomed through the air from the gun pointing right at him (pointed at Sanji).
'I'm going to die.' Zoro realized numbly, 'The bullet's gonna hit and I'm gonna die.'
There was no time to dodge. He was going to die. He was going to die, and then his killer was going to kill Sanji. A burning sensation rose in his chest, white hot and furious.
'I don't want to die. I want to reach my dreams. I want to stay with Sanji. I want to protect him. I c an't diE NOW I REFUSE IREFUSEIREFUSEIREFUSE-!'
The fire spread
The world was green and he felt something sting against his chest but it didn't matter he needed to move needed to act needed to protect-
His focus narrowed to a single point, everything else fading (NotImportant;Doesn'tMatter) .
There! Theretherethere that's the one!
Zoro felt his lips curl up in a snarl as the feeling burning him from within intensified, purple joining green in the corners of his vision.
That's the fucker who tried to kill Zoro's husband.
Zoro was going to kILL HIM. (tEARhiMApARTrIPhIMtOPIeCEsUNtILNoTHINGiSlEFT)
His fingers twitched towards his swords - didn't have them. That's fine. He has hands and teeth for a reason.
A shift, muscles tensed, then launching forward.
The man fell beneath Zoro's weight.
A bestial snarl roared through Zoro's throat, and out through his bared teeth.
Shove down with one hand.
Grab chin with other hand.
Yank head back; expose throat.
Mouth tastes like pennies.
Grab arm with hand.
No more arm.
Pull other arm.
Jab fingers into stomach.
The screaming stopped.
RIP. TEAR. KILL.
Zoro recognized the presence (ragingrushingthiswaythatwayeverchangingalwaysmovingminemInEmINEMINEMINEMINE).
He turned, mouth dripping red and bloody gore splashed up across every part of him. A snarl echoing in his chest and up his throat.
Zoro knew that voice. (NotThreatSafeWarmMINE)
He cocked his head to one side, mouth closing and snarl fading.
A person. (HeKNOWSHIM)
"Zoro." The voice repeated, figure slowly approaching, hands held up (NotThreateningSafeWarmFamiliarMINE). "It's okay. It's over now. You're safe. I'm safe. We're both safe. You can stop now. It's okay."
Nonononono NOT safe! Not safe! Danger!! Nearly died!!!
"Shhhhhhhhh… It's okay now, Zoro. We're okay." The person (SANJI. It was SANJI!) said soothingly, slowly approaching closer until he was only a foot away.
He slowly reached a hand out to Zoro, as though to touch him.
Sanji was safe. Sanji was Zoro's.
Zoro let Sanji touch him, and Sanji began gently petting Zoro's hair.
The burning in Zoro's body slowly faded, and he started to slump, suddenly exhausted.
What had happened? His mouth tasted like pennies.
Had he. Had he really just ripped a man apart with his bare hands and his teeth?
"Shhhhhhh… It's okay, Zoro." Sanji soothed again, still petting Zoro's hair, "I'm okay. You're okay. We're safe now. You did so good."
He had, hadn't he? He'd protected Sanji. He hadn't died. Sanji hadn't died.
His body relaxed further, the green and purple finally fading from the corners of his vision.
"There we go…" Sanji praised softly, still petting Zoro's hair, "C'mon, let's go get you cleaned up, okay? I'll run you a nice, warm bath. Help you wash your hair. Then we'll have some tea and onigiri. How's that sound?"
That sounded… Really, really nice, so he nodded, feeling himself moving from what felt like a million miles away.
Zoro just wanted to close his eyes and curl up with his husband. He was so tired.
"C'mon, Marimo." Sanji encouraged gently, hand moving from Zoro's head to grasp one of his hands, "Let's get up and head home, okay?"
Home. Home sounded good. Zoro wanted to go home.
He staggered to his feet, unsteady in a way he hadn't been since puberty first started. His legs felt like jelly. He was so tired. He wanted to sleep.
"I know you're tired, mon cher, but we gotta get you home first, okay? Then you can sleep. We'll take a nice, warm bath, and I'll wash your hair, and you can sleep."
Mmmmm yeah… That sounded nice…
"Oi oi. Stay with me, Marimo." Sanji insisted, prodding Zoro's head with two fingers and drawing a frustrated sound from him.
He just wanted to sleep! Why couldn't he sleep?
"Home first, then sleep. C'mon; we're nearly there. Just a little bit further."
Zoro let out a grumbled whine but complied. He was too tired to argue.
He woke up to the feeling of Sanji's fingers in his hair and warm water around him. The air smelled like soap.
"Finally awake, Marimo?" His husband asked teasingly, lightly scratching his scalp.
Zoro let out a sound that could have been an agreement, but it wasn't even comprehensible to Zoro himself.
Sanji chuckled, and Zoro felt the sound vibrating through the cook's chest, which he realized he was leaning up against, the cook's free arm around his waist.
Zoro's mouth tasted like pennies.
He sat up, scanning intently, senses on high alert as warnings screeched like alarms in his mind.
There was still danger! How could he have zoned out like that?!
"Easy, Marimo, easy." Sanji soothed, running a hand down Zoro's spine. "We're okay. We're home now. We're safe."
Zoro focused a little, and yes. This was home. This was Zoro's home, where he lived with Sanji, and Chopper, and sometimes Luffy. It felt like them. Safe. Warm. Familiar.
'MINE.' Something deep inside of him purred.
Zoro slowly relaxed back against his husband, heart still racing.
Sanji wrapped his arms around Zoro, settling him back against his chest, one hand rising to once more begin petting Zoro's hair.
Zoro felt his muscles loosening, mind coming off high alert.
He was safe. He was home. Sanji was safe. No one was in danger. No one died. (Well, except- but that didn't matter.)
A rumbling whine echoed up from deep within Zoro's chest, and he turned to press his face into the crook of Sanji's neck. He was still so tired.
"You can rest, Marimo. It's okay." Sanji said, voice soft and soothing as he kept petting Zoro's hair.
Mmmmmmm that sounded nice…
He'd just. Rest his eyes for a moment…
He peacefully drifted off in his husband's arms.
So here it is, folks! The probably long-awaited Activation of Zoro's Flames! Hope it was worth the wait!! =D
But now they have to deal with the fallout of Zoro going Active... >=3c
Chapter 17: Fallout
Chapter by Youkoartemis
What goes up must come down.
TW for: mentioned blood, gore, and extreme violence
It had finally happened. After ten long years of doing everything he could to keep Zoro from tipping over that final threshold, the Marimo had finally gone and done it anyway.
Oh, Sanji was well aware that there wasn't a chance in hell he could've kept his Marimo from going Active eventually - the man had been too close to that edge for far too long - but he could certainly try! Especially to keep him from popping as spectacularly violently as he had.
Sanji had never seen a Cloud Rage in person. He'd heard the stories, of course - everyone heard the stories - but. It was different, seeing it in person.
The stories tried, but they just couldn't fully express the primal terror that a Cloud in a full Rage evoked in those watching. The moment those purple Flames had started flaring, Sanji had been filled with such an intense terror and dread, and it was like Sanji hadn't been looking at Zoro anymore, but a wrathful demon wearing Zoro's skin; a rabid beast that knew neither mercy nor compassion. Only RAGE.
There was probably a savage beauty in the way his Raging husband had literally ripped the would-be assassin apart, rending limb from limb with nothing but his bare hands (and teeth)... But Sanji couldn't see it, even in retrospect. It had been savage, yes, and brutally vicious, but even in hindsight Sanji couldn't see Zoro in any of the actions taken by that instinct-driven berserker. There'd been nothing of his husband's calm, steady self-control. Nothing of the rigid discipline his Marimo fought so hard to learn and maintain at all times. Just… Rage .
It had terrified Sanji. Hell, it still terrified him!
He pulled his sleeping husband closer to him as they sat in the tub, clinging to him to try and dispel the memories from his mind, even going so far as to bury his face into the damp, green hair.
'In...two...three...four… Out… two… three… four…' Sanji recited mentally, timing his breathing to the mental count until the panicky feeling subsided. He breathed in the scent of his husband's shampoo; the scent strong, since Sanji'd only just washed his Marimo's hair of all the blood that had caked into it.
Sanji had been trying so hard to keep Zoro from going Active. Carefully stepping in and calming him down any time he started getting too stressed. Any time he started getting too angry, or scared, or determined. Anything that would cause him to tip over into actually pulling on his Dying Will and awakening his Flames.
It's not that Sanji didn't want Zoro to be able to defend himself. It's not that Sanji didn't want Zoro to know about everything (though he was legitimately terrified Zoro would reject him due to his rigid moral code)... It's just that...
Now that he was Active, Zoro was as bound by Omerta as Sanji was. There were Laws that Flame users had to follow, lest Vindice hunt them down and imprison them. No taking any political office. No serving in any military. No revealing the existence of Flames to civilians. Rules of acceptable engagement with other groups in the mafia. There were a lot of rules, and now Zoro was bound to all of them. He could no longer walk free if something happened to Sanji... and Sanji was now bound to tell Zoro all of the rules he was now chained by.
Which would force him to introduce Zoro to the mafia. After ten years in which Sanji'd hidden it from his Marimo.
Oh, Zoro was going to be so fucking pissed at him.
'I'm such a fucking coward,' Sanji thought viciously at himself as he neglected to tell Zoro about everything after his Marimo woke back up.
It's just. He was so cute, getting all clingy and refusing to leave Sanji's side!! Growling menacingly at anyone who got too close to Sanji! What a vicious, savage beast his husband was~~!! Sanji adored him more than he could ever possibly put into words.
It. Was a bit of a hindrance to his job that his Marimo wouldn't detach from his side, though. Or stop growling at his men.
Oh but he was so cute~~!! How could Sanji possibly scold him for it?
Yes, Sanji was well aware he was avoiding the discussion he needed to have with Zoro, but he was scared, okay? He'd basically been lying to his husband for years and he knew how much Zoro valued honesty! Zoro was going to be furious, and rightly so!!
His Marimo would be perfectly justified in leaving him. Sanji could fully admit that, even as his heart began cracking to pieces in his chest.
He didn't want to lose him, but he couldn't really see any way that he could keep him. Not while also being honest, like he knew he had to be. Like how Zoro deserved .
How was he supposed to keep Zoro safe when he now had to drag him into the criminal underworld?
"Cook." Zoro said, with a tone that told Sanji he expected Answers.
'This is it!' Sanji thought anxiously to himself, a cold pit of dread opening in his stomach as he turned to his Marimo (who might not be his anymore, in a little bit, and oh, how that thought gutted him).
"Yes, dear?" He asked out loud, turning to look at his husband while drying his hands with a towel. He was careful to keep his anxiety and growing heartache off of his face, doing his best to keep it out of his Flames, as well.
His Marimo paused, frowning deeply in a way that said he was struggling to figure out how to word his thoughts.
"The… Glowing." He said slowly, ponderously, "It wasn't a hallucination."
That was not a question.
"...No, it wasn't." Sanji agreed, putting down the towel he'd been drying his hands with and turning to more fully face his Marimo.
Zoro eyed him intently, running his eye over Sanji's face, expression laser focused. His eye narrowed, and Sanji knew he'd seen something.
"You know about it." It was not a question.
Sanji sighed, pulling out a cigarette and, after a moment of deliberation, forewent using his lighter to instead spark his Flames to life on his index finger, and use that to light his cigarette. Zoro's eye tracked the movement, widening in wonder when he saw the red Flames flicker to life on the tip of Sanji's finger.
Sanji took a long, slow drag of his cigarette, using the time to try and calm his nerves and think of how to say what he needed to say.
"They're called "Dying Will Flames," or "Flames of Deathperation."" He started, "There's seven kinds, each with a different name and different properties and abilities."
He called his Flames to the palm of his hand, coaxing the scarlet red energy into view.
"These are called Storm Flames. They have the property of "Disintegration," though I've also heard it called "Disassembly."" He snuffed the Flames and focused harder, pulling on his much harder to reach secondary Flame, the yellow Flames flickering to life, as faint as they always were, with how small his affinity for it was, "These are called Sun Flames. They have the property of "Activation.""
Zoro stared intently at the Flame.
"Chopper." He stated, and Sanji nodded, gratefully letting his focus on the Sun Flame fade. (It was always such a strain to use that secondary Flame that he almost never admitted to having it.)
"Yeah, Chopper's got Sun Flames." He confirmed.
"Not just Sun." Damn, Sanji had clearly been underestimating Zoro's Flame senses all this time, if he already knew that.
"You're right - he's also got some Mist Flames; they're indigo, and have the property of "Construction." They're what gives him the ability to change shape and talk."
Zoro nodded thoughtfully, still frowning in concentration.
"You have two types. The green is called "Lightning" and has the property of "Hardening" or "Hardness." The purple is called "Cloud" and has the property of "Propagation.""
Zoro nodded, visibly filing this information away.
"Luffy's a Sky. His Flames would be orange, if he ever used them, and they have the property of "Harmony.""
Another thoughtful nod.
"That pushy asshole at that party was a Sky?" Zoro asked, frowning in remembrance.
Sanji nodded, taking another drag from his cigarette.
"He is, yes. A rather strong one."
Sanji hummed in agreement.
"Yeah, most Skies feel like that. I've always kinda thought of 'em like annoying earworms - tune sticks around long after the song's stopped playing, and you can't fuckin' get rid of it."
Zoro's face twisted in distaste and he let out a disgusted sound; Sanji could tell he agreed with the sentiment.
Zoro considered all he'd been told for a bit, thinking deeply. Sanji remained silent, letting his Marimo put his thoughts together.
"You've known about this for a long time." Another statement of fact. This time, there was something faintly accusatory in the slight narrowing of Zoro's eye and the hardening set of his jaw.
Sanji nodded, resigning himself to the argument he knew was brewing.
"Since childhood." He admitted.
"...I'm sorry, can you clarify that just a little, my darling?" Sanji asked, purposefully keeping his tone light and sweet to put the brewing fight off for as long as he could.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
'Ohhhhhh he's mad!' Sanji hissed worriedly to himself, wincing.
"A couple of reasons. The first being that, prior to us being married, it would've gotten me into a lot of trouble. See, there's a set of laws Flame users gotta follow, unless we wanna get locked up for the rest of our lives, and not revealing Flames to civilians is one of 'em."
"And after?" Zoro pressed.
'Best to just get it over with.' Sanji figured.
"So that you wouldn't get dragged into the mafia like I was." 'Shit! Too blunt!'
"The mafia?" Zoro asked, incredulous and growing angrier, "You mean to say you're a fucking criminal?"
"I'm a mob boss, actually." Sanji admitted with a sigh, figuring he might as well go all in and get it over with. He braced himself, and not a moment too soon.
"A fucking mob boss?!" Zoro roared, finally losing his temper, "Well I guess that explains all the meetings and secrets and why you come home smelling like blood!!" He snarled, pacing about and gesturing angrily.
He stopped and pinned Sanji with a furious glare.
"...Since I dropped out of college." Sanji reluctantly admitted, drawing a strangled howl of fury from Zoro.
"Ten years. Ten years we've been married, and you never thought to fucking tell me that I married a fucking crime lord?!" Zoro demanded, looking furious and hurt .
"You think I didn't want to tell you?! I did!! All the damn time!!" Sanji protested, hurting deeply from both the accusations and the fact he was hurting his poor Marimo.
"Then why DIDN'T YOU?!" Zoro roared at him, getting right into his face.
"To keep you safe!!" Sanji roared back, and it was true: Everything he'd done was meant to protect his Marimo from being taken advantage of by the mafia! From keeping him as ignorant as possible to playing up his "Stormy obsession" with him!
"I don't need you to protect me! I can take care of myself!" Zoro raged, and Sanji knows that, but these dangers weren't purely physical! "How the fuck is keeping me ignorant supposed to keep me safe, anyway?!"
"Because you could still just walk away!!" Sanji shouted back, gesturing violently.
"I just might!!" Zoro snarled, eye glowing faintly purple from the force of his emotions.
Sanji's heart was bReAKiNg.
"Fine then!" He snarled back, 'I told you from the start that I'd let you leave me if you really want to!' he added mentally, still desperately holding back tears as his soul and heart felt like they were tearing in two as Zoro's Flames rejected Sanji's, tearing themselves away and leaving gaping, bleeding holes behind (justlikemomgonegonegonelOStfoREvERcoldcoldcoldiThURtS) .
Zoro snarled wordlessly at him and stormed out of the kitchen. Sanji heard the faint slam of the door as his (now probably former) husband stormed out of the house (and out of Sanji's life).
Sanji collapsed to the floor, finally letting his tears fall, shoulders heaving with the force of his sobbing. A broken doll with severed strings.
He'd always known it would end like this.
It was dark out, and Sanji was on the couch, head in his hands. He still wanted to cry, but by now he was out of tears. It had been hours.
He thought he felt Zoro's presence approaching, but figured that was just wishful thinking making his mind play tricks on him, so he ignored it.
He heard footsteps heading towards the room he was in, but presumed it was just another of his men come to check on him, like they had been on and off since The Fight. (Distantly, he really did appreciate how much they all cared about him, but he just couldn't really bring himself to care about anything right now.)
The presence paused in the doorway, and he felt eyes watching him. He thought he felt Zoro's steady presence prickling at the edge of his awareness, closer than it had been since The Fight, but Sanji couldn't bring himself to believe that. Why would Zoro have come back? He wouldn't have.
The footsteps plodded closer, and the couch sank as the person sat next to him. He felt Zoro's Flames reach out to his, as the man rested his head on Sanji's shoulder, leaning slightly against his side. If Sanji had any tears left, he'd have burst into relieved tears: Zoro had come home…!! He hadn't left forever!!!
Zoro's Flames tentatively twined together with Sanji's. They didn't fit exactly as they had - they couldn't, after the bond had torn like that - and it wasn't forgiveness. Not yet.
But Zoro was giving him a second chance, and Sanji had no intentions of squandering it.
Chapter 18: Exposition and Lessons
Chapter by Youkoartemis
Sanji comes clean, and Zoro gains a rather... INTERESTING teacher.
"So. The mafia." Zoro started, sitting down on a chair backwards at the kitchen island, watching Sanji work.
Sanji sighed as e continued working on lunch and starting the prepwork for dinner.
"You couldn't have waited until after I was finished cooking to start this conversation?" E asked, tone somewhat sharp as e shot eir husband a frustrated frown over eir shoulder. E expertly flipped the food in the pan e was holding to keep it cooking evenly.
"Didn't want you running." Eir mossy bastard of a husband stated bluntly, shooting them a Look.
Well. Fair enough, but still!
"...I guess ." Sanji grudgingly allowed, tilting eir head in a shallow nod to acknowledge the point eir Marimo made before adding: "Would rather be able to give my full attention to the topic rather than risk ruining the damn food, though."
The alley cat grunted and looked perhaps slightly sheepish, but still determined. Sanji wasn't going to be able to put this off by much, if at all.
"Can I at least finish this part of the cooking first? The prepwork for dinner can wait a bit, but what I'm doing right now is too delicate to wait." Sanji asked, sighing in exasperation.
Zoro settled down in his seat, leaning forward to rest his chin on his crossed forearms on the island counter, expression softening into patient acceptance. He'd wait until lunch was done, and then begin grilling Sanji for information, but that was fine. At least then Sanji would be done with the delicate work that required eir full attention.
After serving and eating lunch together, Sanji put the dishes in the sink to soak, then pulled up a chair across from Zoro, leaning forward to rest eir chin on eir hands, elbows on the tabletop. E lit up a cigarette using eir Flames, and took a drag, Storm Flames helpfully disintegrating the toxins as they entered eir lungs, leaving only the familiar, calming rush of nicotine behind. E blew the smoke out, cigarette dangling from a couple fingers over the ashtray.
"Alright, whaddya wanna know?" E asked, giving Zoro eir full attention.
Zoro remained silent for a while, thinking.
"How'd you end up in all of… this?" He asked, gesturing a hand about to indicate what he meant.
Sanji sighed. E hated talking about this, but Zoro did deserve to know.
"I was born into it." E started, gnawing lightly on the filter of eir cigarette, "Third "son" of the Vinsmoke Famiglia, born to the Don, Judge Vinsmoke, and his wife Sora." Eir tone was noticeably bitter, but that was fine, "Never had a fucking choice in the matter."
Zoro remained silent, patiently waiting.
Sanji took a deep breath and explained all the shit he'd been through in his life, from activating his Flames at seven to his mother's death, his disownment, his subsequent adoption by the ex-hitman Zeff, attending college, and meeting Zoro.
"And then Judge and your brothers died." Zoro said, both a continuation and a request for clarification.
"They're not dead." Sanji corrected, "Though they probably wish they were: They're in Vendicare, the mafia prison run by the Vindice. It's generally considered hell on earth."
""Vindice." You've mentioned them before. Who or what are they?"
"They're basically the mafia police, but they're. Well, they're fucking terrifying. The stories say they're unkillable monsters that relentlessly hunt down those who break Omerta. I've never met one in person, and I never want to."
Zoro frowned, lips pulling further downward. A spark appeared in his eye that made Sanji wary.
""Unkillable," eh?" He mused, rubbing his chin.
"Don't." Sanji said, as seriously as e possibly could, staring intently at Zoro's forehead to try and drive eir point home.
Zoro's shoulders hunched slightly at the rebuke, lips twisting downward in a pout before his expression evened out.
"Whatever." He muttered, looking away and pretending he didn't care, like a scolded cat.
What an irreverent, godless brute of a heathen eir Marimo was! E adored him more than e could ever put into words, no matter how foolhardy he was.
Sanji took the time to explain all the laws of Omerta to Zoro, as e was obligated to do by those same laws. There were. A
"Why are there so many fucking rules?" Zoro groaned, holding his head in his hands and looking a bit overwhelmed.
Sanji patted his arm sympathetically, understanding completely.
"I know, mon cher, I know; it's a lot to take in." E soothed, gently running eir hand up and down eir Marimo's arm.
Zoro let out a frustrated sound and aggressively ruffled his own hair with his hands.
"You don't have to memorize 'em all, my dear: Most are only relevant to me, since I'm the boss. Basically all you have to worry about is not revealing Flames to those who don't know about 'em."
Zoro took a deep breath and let it out through his nose, nostrils flaring. The agitated ruffling of his hair pausing as he took that information in.
"I can do that." He agreed, nodding. His hands left his hair to rest back on the tabletop.
Sanji linked eir fingers together with Zoro's.
"How'd you end up the boss, anyway?" Zoro asked, looking from their linked hands to a random point on Sanji's face, avoiding direct eye contact.
He was probably looking at Sanji's eyebrow again; he seemed to really like the curl of it. He'd once compared it to the Fibonacci Sequence. He'd gotten very excited while explaining it when Sanji admitted to not knowing what that was, his eye lighting up and hands gesticulating wildly, voice rising to almost a shout in his excitement over talking about one of his favorite topics. Sanji loved seeing him like that, honestly, and adored the fact that Zoro trusted em enough to ramble like that.
Right, Zoro asked em a question, and so e summarized how Reiju couldn't inherit due to both stupid, sexist bullshit and fearing making the same mistakes, and how she'd begged em to take over the Famiglia, instead.
"You've always been weak to crying women." Zoro said, voice solemn and without judgment.
Sanji nodded tiredly.
"Yeah." E sighed, shoulders slumping.
"So, have you?"
"Have you fixed things?" Zoro elaborated, expression serious.
"Yeah." Sanji said with a small smile, proud of eir efforts in spite of how much e'd never wanted to take over the Famiglia, "I have. Put a stop to all the sick, twisted bullshit Judge dabbled in, and dragged the Famiglia into being pretty damn legitimate. It's now one of the biggest, strongest, and most respected Famiglias in the world."
Zoro gave a sharp nod, looking pleased.
"Good." He stated firmly, "I'd hate to be associated with something weak."
Sanji's grin turned vicious.
"Oh, don't worry your pretty Marimo head: My people aren't weak." E bragged, proud of eir people and the effort they put into following eir decisions.
Zoro's eye gleamed with interest at that, sitting a little straighter, Flames silently thrumming with interest at the mention of strong people. What a vicious Cloud eir husband was! Sanji loved him so much .
Zoro looked excitedly at em.
"Yes, I'll set up some play dates with the strongest members of my Famiglia, you battle crazed mossball." Sanji reassured eir husband, rolling eir eyes with a fond smile on eir face.
Zoro's lips quirked up in a smile, looking delighted, in his subdued Marimo way before once again frowning in thought.
"The Flames… You talked about types…?" He prompted.
Sanji nodded, stubbing out eir current cigarette to light up a new one. Normally e wouldn't be going through them this fast, but considering the topics… E just needed the extra nicotine.
"Yeah, I did. Seven types, each with a different color and property: Storm, Sky, Sun, Lightning, Rain, Mist, and Cloud." E confirmed and expanded.
"You said what most of 'em do, but what about Rains?" Zoro said, remembering the discussion they'd had before The Fight.
"Rain Flames are blue and have the property of Tranquility - they calm things down. Tranquilize them, if you will. If I recall, they can also manipulate and even freeze water."
"Do we know any Rains?"
"I do, and you've met a few; I think you might vaguely recall Hector, one of my primary informants? He had that rookie who flirted with me, once; the one you got all jealous of?" E teased with a grin, causing eir Marimo to wrinkle his nose in an expression of distaste.
His face smoothed as realization set in, however.
"That's why he feels like a drizzle!" He said, eye widening, "The other one was a Storm, right?"
Sanji blinked in surprise, looking at eir husband in amazement.
"Yeah… That's right. How'd you know?" E asked, genuinely impressed by how strong Zoro's Flame senses had been even while latent. It was virtually unheard of for inactive people to be able to pick up on the things Zoro apparently had! Just figures that eir Marimo would break the mold, honestly.
Zoro's nose wrinkled once more in distaste.
"Felt like one'a those stiff winds that tosses dirt and shit in your eyes." He muttered, scowling slightly.
"Ah." Sanji pursed eir lips to keep from laughing at that description, but eir shoulders shook slightly with the restrained laughter despite eir best efforts.
Zoro rolled his eye at em, and Sanji's laughter eased as a curious thought entered eir head.
"What do I feel like to you?"
Zoro tilted his head to one side, pondering, a faint frown creasing his brow as he struggled to put what was probably an instinct-based feeling into words.
"...Hurricane. Always moving; changing. Uncontrolled but controlled. Directionless but directed. Calm center; raging winds around. Unpredictable, but constant." He said after a lengthy pause, speaking slowly and ponderously.
Sanji couldn't help feeling a little bit flattered by the description, even as e also felt a little mortified at being so seen by eir husband's apparently frighteningly keen senses. E wondered if the difference in how Zoro described eir Flames versus Anthony's Flames was him feeling the difference in strength. E wanted to ask, but knew eir Marimo wouldn't be able to answer due to lack of knowledge.
"Can you feel them?" Zoro asked, breaking Sanji from eir thoughts. He looked up from his hands to peer at Sanji, a curious tilt to his head.
"Yeah, I can. Not in as much detail as you do, but I've got a pretty wide range, and I can pick up basic intentions and emotions." Sanji said, "Might be a Lightning thing, but I couldn't say for sure, not being a Lightning, myself."
Zoro frowned, but nodded.
"You can use yours casually. I can't." It was a question, even if it wasn't particularly phrased like one.
"Practice, mostly; I've been doing this shit for years, remember? You only just got yours, so of course you haven't figured it all out yet." Sanji said, seeking to reassure eir Marimo before he could start feeling frustrated with his relative lack of progress. E lightly squeezed Zoro's hand and received a soft squeeze in response.
Zoro grunted irritably but seemed mollified by the explanation, frown smoothing a little.
"Can you… show me how?" He asked, a bit grudgingly.
Sanji knew him well enough to know it wasn't that eir mossy alley cat of a husband didn't want eir help; he was just a very proud man who was reluctant to admit he couldn't do something, even to those he trusted completely. (To say nothing of how his trust in Sanji had been sorely strained, recently...)
"I can show you some things, yeah, but I can't really teach you how to use 'em to their full potential, since I'm not a Cloud or a Lightning. I… do know someone who can teach you, though." Sanji answered, a bit hesitant on that last part.
Zoro hummed in interest, wordlessly prompting Sanji to continue.
"I know a guy who's able to use both of the Flames you can, and who both isn't aligned with any particular Famiglia and would be willing to do me a favor, but…" Sanji hesitated, chewing on the filter of the cigarette, "You aren't gonna like him."
"Eh?" Zoro questioned with a frown, head tilting in question once more.
"He's… a lot like Nami-san, but more… intense. He's the best option I have available, and the most likely to succeed in teaching you how to get the most outta your Flames, but. You're definitely gonna fucking hate him." Sanji answered slowly, grimacing slightly.
Zoro hummed noncommittally.
"But he's the best to teach me?" He asked seriously.
"Do it. I can handle playing nice if it means I learn how to use these Flame things." Eir Marimo told em, staring directly at Sanji's face, looking determined.
Sanji took a long drag, then stubbed out eir cigarette.
"Alright. Just try not to destroy the house when you lose your temper at him." E stated, rolling eir neck to loosen the tension that had built up there over the course of the conversation. "I'll call him after I finish the prepwork for dinner."
Zoro grunted in acknowledgement and got up from his seat, graciously remembering to put it back where it belonged before he wandered off to go do something else.
Zoro felt him long before he saw him. It was like a thick, dense fog slowly creeping in through the cracks, filling the air like a thick cloud, a slowly brewing storm with crackling lightning and driving rain. His instincts screamed that whoever was approaching was Dangerous.
When he actually saw the man, that opinion was merely reinforced: Everything about him screamed Unnatural from the sickly paleness of his skin to the bright, bloody red of his lips. The inky darkness of his longish, wavy hair and his well-groomed goatee were a stark contrast to the almost greyish tint of his skin, and only served to make him look washed out and lifeless. The mental comparison to a dead man was further strengthened by the fact his eyes were a pale shade of grey more often seen in the filmed over eyes of corpses, and surrounded by dark circles, like he'd never slept a day in his life. He had numerous piercings through his ears and across his face.
He had several scars on his face: One that wrapped around the top of his head, almost hidden by his hairline and was so precise it looked almost surgical . The other two looked for all the world like bullet holes, one sitting right between his eyes, and the other slightly up and to the left of the first one, overlapping with the surgical scar.
'How is he still alive? ' Zoro wondered with morbid curiosity.
The man had a small smile on his lips, but it did not reach his flat, dead eyes. It was the sort of soulless smile you'd see on one of those creepy antique dolls that are probably haunted. Everything about him made Zoro's scream that this was a Dangerous Man and to never, ever turn his back on him for even a second. To never let his guard down, or he'd Regret It. That this man was Bad Luck, Personified.
Zoro's skin crawled and he suppressed a shiver as he very briefly met the other man's cold, empty gaze. He got the feeling the man was mentally calculating how much he was worth...and how best to use him. He did not like this man. At all.
"Zoro, this is Jakob." Sanji introduced, pronouncing the man's name like "Yay-kob." "Jakob, this is my husband, Zoro."
"A pleasure to meet you, Zoro." The spook greeted him, expression not changing in the slightest. There was an accent to his words that Zoro couldn't quite place, but was definitely distinct from any he'd heard locally. The way he rolled his r's and landed heavily on other sounds...It was almost lyrical.
Zoro eyed him warily, not trusting him in the slightest. Everything within Zoro was screaming that he needed to make this man leave. That he was a Threat to everything Zoro held dear.
The spook tilted his head just slightly to the left, and his smile seemed to grow just a touch wider, just slightly touching his eyes, which held the faintest flicker of amusement .
"Do I distress you, Zoro?" He asked, unfalteringly polite, but Zoro got the slightest hint that he was being taunted, and narrowed his eye.
"No." He stated, tone sharpening.
That smile briefly widened even further, exposing the faintest hint of teeth before returning to the bland, doll-like tilt of the lips it had started as.
"Good." He purred, "Then we should begin. Sanji, if you wouldn't mind…?"
"Yeah, alright, but you'd better play nice with him, Jakob." The cook warned, glaring seriously at the spook. Zoro felt the cook's Flames bristle and flare in a silent threat.
The spook let out an odd, high-pitched, yipping cackle that only served to set Zoro's nerves even more on edge. He sounded exactly like a hyena.
"Don't worry, I won't break your beloved husband, Sanji." He said, sounding deeply amused, though his expression didn't change besides a slight widening of his eerie smile. His voice was oddly warm though, and he sounded completely sincere, but Zoro got the strong sense that he was nowhere near as earnest as he sounded.
"And you'd better keep it that way, or we'll be having Problems." Curly all but hissed at him, visible eye flickering red for a moment (oh, that was hot as hell…! ).
"I know the terms of our arrangement, Sanji." The spook stated, tone softening from the almost glee he'd been speaking with earlier, though he still sounded far too amused, "Your concern for him is a credit to you, though."
Curly's frown deepened for a moment before it faded; apparently Zoro's spouse had accepted Jakob's words as being genuine enough.
"Alright. Play nice, you two; I don't wanna have to rebuild the house if you tear it down in some shitty pissing match to see who has the bigger dick."
"Hiphiphiphiphip! But Sanji~! Neither of us has a dick!" The spook exclaimed with another of those yipping cackles, wearing the widest grin Zoro'd seen from him yet, straight white teeth flashing on display, the corners of his corpse-like eyes crinkling in visible mirth before the expression flattened once more into the dead, doll-like stare.
"Shut up. You know damn well what I mean, you shitty bastard."
"Of course I do, but did you really expect me not to take such an obvious opening?"
The cook sighed, pinching eir nose, but smiling just a bit as e shook eir head.
"Just… play nice." E reiterated once more before heading off, probably to go manage the Famiglia.
The spook turned to Zoro.
"Where would you prefer to learn to harness your Flames, Zoro?" He asked, perfectly polite, words soft and lilting.
Zoro grunted, rolled his shoulders to try and shake off the prickling unease tingling across them, and led him over to the living room, gracelessly flopping down on one of the couches and sprawling out across it while the spook calmly sat down on the other, movements almost unnaturally graceful.
There was a burst of indigo Flames and the spook was holding a teapot in one hand and a teacup and saucer in the other. He calmly poured the steaming tea from the pot into the cup, then set the pot down on a tray that appeared in another burst of indigo fire. A casual twirl of his hand had everything needed for tea time appearing on the tray set upon the table between them.
"Tea?" He asked, the empty, doll-like smile firmly in place.
Zoro frowned dubiously at it. It seemed real, but was it really?
"...It real?" He asked dubiously.
"Of course it is; I simply transported it from another location to here." The spook answered, perfectly patient. Zoro wasn't sure if he was telling the truth or not.
Zoro gave him a dubious look, one eyebrow rising.
"Flames can do that?" he asked, more than a little incredulous.
"Mist Flames can, yes." The spook answered easily, calmly sipping the tea he'd poured for himself. "They're quite versatile, though the other types are equally so, in their own ways."
"Oh?" Now the discussion was getting interesting.
The spook looked at him over the top of his wireframe glasses, and Zoro felt like he was being analyzed and evaluated, like a specimen under a microscope.
"You're a Cloud and a Lightning." It was not a question.
Zoro grunted in a vaguely agreeing way.
"Both are delightfully versatile, I've found, especially Cloud Flames. Can you even imagine how much you can do with the power to multiply anything you can think of?" The spook asked, a somewhat vicious grin appearing on his face, baring his teeth.
Zoro perked up. They could work on anything?
"Anything?" He asked, sitting up straighter, focusing more intently on the spook in front of him.
"But of course!" The spook exclaimed, "The "property" of each Flame is more like a concept! And that concept can be applied to anything you can think of! Propagation can make more of something, or it can increase the potency of something, increase the size and spread of something... Propagation can be applied in so many ways, to so many things! Your senses, your swords, your projected intent to kill, your strength, speed, reflexes.. The size of a grain of sand, turning it into a potentially lethal projectile, which can be launched with propagated force!"
That was… Pretty damn cool, actually.
"Limbs?" Zoro asked curiously.
The spook paused, looking consideringly at him, eyes intense in their scrutiny though his empty smile never changed.
"Yes, I do believe you could. After all, it would simply be a matter of propagating the cells of your body to "grow" those extra limbs, which is something Clouds can do with relative ease, for all that it's not the most pleasant sensation. You'd need to have at least a reasonable idea of what you're doing, of course, but that aside I see no reason you couldn't propagate your number of limbs." He mused, tapping a finger to his lips, unintentionally showing off the bloody scarlet color he'd painted his oddly sharp nails.
"And Lightning Flames?" Zoro prompted, now very interested in this discussion.
"They have the property of hardness, which can, yes, mean the usually thought of definition of making things more durable, or to make things sharper, but, broadened just slightly can mean "to make things harder." As in, more difficult. Consider, if you will: Hard to see. Hard to hear. Hard to ignore. Hard to hit. Hard to dodge. Hard to notice. Hard to lie to. Hard to dismiss. Hard to sense. Hard to disbelieve; it can be applied to just as many things as the concept of "Propagation" can!" The spook explained, almost gleefully. He sounded like a mad scientist.
"Such a shame the mafia limits themselves so much, thinking there's only one way to use each Flame type." He added, tone darkly amused and the twist of his lips suddenly sinister. He sounded amused at the mafia's apparent ignorance.
"So it's good for stealth?" Zoro asked, almost disappointed.
"Yes, but you would likely get more use out of them by using them to become resistant to enemy attacks, making yourself harder to hit, making your attacks harder to dodge, and reinforcing your swords to the point they can cut steel, if you worked at it enough. You could even potentially use both of your Flames to create a propagated shockwave of hardened air that would essentially give you ranged attacks with your swords." The spook said mildly, gesturing idly and creating an illusion of a small Zoro doing exactly that.
'Oh FUCK yes!!!' Zoro thought, an eager, bloodthirsty grin spreading on his face.
"How do I learn to do that?" He asked, leaning forward slightly in his excitement.
Jakob smiled at him. It was not a nice expression, instead bringing to mind a spider inviting a fly into their parlor. It didn't feel threatening to Zoro, though; instead it felt like the spook was matching Zoro's bloodlust with his own.
"Technically this wasn't part of what I promised Sanji I would do, but I've decided I quite like you, Zoro." He started, tossing Zoro two rings, one with a purple gem and the other with a green gem. "These are Flame focus rings. They make it easier to manifest your Flames."
Zoro looked them over; they didn't look like anything special…
"They're not really anything special, per se… They're simply bands of Flame resistant alloy set with gems that react well with the types of Flames you have."
"Resistant?" Zoro asked, frowning.
"You have very strong Flames." Jakob stated simply, "If they were more reactive, you would shatter the gems the moment you called on your Flames."
"Indeed." Jakob agreed, "Now, how best to go about getting you to pull on your will?" He pondered aloud, tapping his chin and regarding Zoro thoughtfully, a calculating gleam in his eyes.
"What is your goal in life, Zoro?" He asked suddenly, pinning the swordsman in place with the intensity of his stare.
"To be the world's greatest swordsman." Zoro answered instantly, tilting his chin up in defiance of any attempt to mock him.
"And what would you be willing to do to achieve that goal?" Jakob purred darkly, stare intense.
Zoro felt determination fill him as he considered it. It buzzed under his skin like electricity.
"Whatever it takes." He said, deadly serious.
Jakob grinned, teeth flashing.
"There it is." He crooned, looking immensely satisfied.
Zoro looked down, and sure enough, the gems of both rings were lit up with his Flames. They sputtered out when he lost his focus, but Zoro focused his will again, pulling on that same feeling from before, and they sparked right back up.
"You're taking to calling on your Flames as quickly as I'd expected you to." Jakob noted with pleasure, "Good. I hate wasting my time."
Zoro understood that sentiment completely. He still didn't like the spook, but he wasn't the worst; Zoro could respect how much the creepy bastard knew about this shit.
"Shall we go outside and put some of these things I've told you into practice?" Jakob asked, eyes glinting brightly and smile showing just a hint of teeth.
"Fuck yes." Zoro agreed, eager to begin mastering these new abilities.
I do hope you all like Jakob! He's a spooky bastard, but I love him!
Chapter 19: Intimidating Sword Care
Chapter by Youkoartemis
Zoro slowly grows more immersed into the mafia, joining Sanji on the occasional meeting. This time, Sanji let him bring his swords, and Zoro intends to handle them.
There's some very slightly racy content in this one, but nothing at all graphic, imo; mostly just a bit of teasing.
Also yes, I did do a bit of research into proper katana terminology and maintenance; if I got things wrong, please let me know!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"You wanna join me for the meeting I'm heading out to, Marimo?" Sanji asked one day while carefully straightening and tightening his tie, tilting his head one way and the other while looking at himself in the mirror to ensure he didn't have so much as a single hair out of place that wasn't meant to be out of place.
"I guess." Zoro allowed with a grumbled sigh, reluctantly getting up from where he'd been laying on the bed watching the cook primp and get himself ready. He enjoyed watching Sanji's routines; there was something oddly soothing about the ritualistic nature of it all. It almost felt like he was watching the cook put on armor in preparation for battle, and something deep within him purred at the thought.
Honestly the only good part of attending those meetings was watching the cook subtly flex those deadly claws kept just barely hidden beneath the silk trappings of politeness and politics. Politely veiled threats all purred in a voice so silky sweet that butter wouldn't melt in his mouth, with razor sharp steel underlying every single one, just waiting for an opening to pounce. It wasn't Zoro's preferred way of handling shit like that, but he could still appreciate it very much.
Aside from that… the meetings were boring as shit.
Still, seeing the cook's smile at hearing he'd come along to this meeting made the eventual boredom during and the immediate fussing he'd have to endure about his appearance and clothing more or less worth it.
"Good!" The cook said, smiling warmly at Zoro, filling the swordsman's gut with a warm fuzzy feeling like he'd just had a saucer of warm sake. He couldn't help the small smile that tilted his lips up in return. "Lemme pick out an outfit for you; this meeting's pretty important."
Yup, as expected: Zoro was gonna have to dress up. He sighed through his nose, but the small smile remained on his face.
Sanji looked through their closet to find one of the suits he'd gotten for Zoro across the years, pulling out one or another to look closer, then muttering to himself and putting them back when they failed to meet his standards. Finally, he pulled out a black suit with clean, sleek lines, and handed it over to Zoro.
"Here, put this on." He absentmindedly ordered, returning to hunting through the closet for a dress shirt.
Zoro huffed at the dismissal but obliged, stripping off his comfortable clothes to pull on the suit pants and await whatever shirt his cook was gonna foist on him. At least the material felt nice against his skin; silky smooth and soft inside. Was tighter than he usually liked his pants to be, though, so he picked up and shook each leg in turn, trying to get rid of the feeling of constriction he knew was only in his head (the pants fit fine; his brain was just being Dumb and refusing to believe it).
He pulled on the pair of socks and the shiny black dress shoes the cook tossed over at him, too, lacing them up securely and hating the way they felt on his feet. The socks were nice and silky, so Zoro didn't mind them, but the shoes didn't feel right: Too tight against his toes. Nothing at all like the well-worn, steel-toed combat boots Zoro usually wore.
Sanji thankfully didn't keep him waiting long before he returned with a dark purple dress shirt, handing it over for Zoro to put on, which he did. Sanji then took over, expertly doing up the buttons all the way to the top one, causing Zoro to grimace slightly and shift his neck from one side to the other while his shoulders rolled uncomfortably, trying to dislodge the feeling of tightness against his neck. He grunted in displeasure.
Sanji huffed softly but obligingly undid the top button of Zoro's shirt, causing him to breathe a quiet sigh of relief through his nose as his shoulders relaxed, brows unfurrowing and lips unpursing.
"Fussy Marimo." The cook chided gently, thankfully looking more fondly amused than annoyed, his visible eye crinkled at the corners and his lips pulled up in a small smirk.
Zoro pulled on the suit jacket without being prompted, causing Sanji's smile to grow wider in response as he patted Zoro's cheek.
"Good boy." He praised, only being slightly patronizing.
Zoro's nose wrinkled in response and he mostly playfully snapped his teeth at the cook's fingers, getting a quiet cackle in response. A smirk spread across his own lips to match the cook's, just a hint of teeth showing through his lips.
"Feral bastard." Sanji said fondly, grinning at him as he grabbed a black silk tie and began tying it around Zoro's neck.
Zoro couldn't help leaning back with an unhappy grunt, frowning at the constriction around his throat. He hated having anything around his neck.
"I know, you big baby, but you gotta look your best for this meeting, and I'm already letting you flaunt suit protocol just lettin' you go without fully buttoning your damn shirt, so you have to wear the damn tie." Sanji said with a mix of sympathy and irritation, brow softly furrowed as he finished securing Zoro's tie in place.
He slapped Zoro's hands away when they automatically reached up to tug at the fabric around his throat.
"No. You leave that be, you mossy bastard." Sanji scolded, giving Zoro a sharp look that had the swordsman scowling in response.
"Fine." Zoro growled, frustrated by the constricting feeling around his throat but letting his arms fall limply to his sides, getting a nod from the cook, who stopped glaring.
Then Sanji grabbed the hairbrush, and Zoro sighed through his nose once again, sitting down on the bed to give his husband easier access to his hair, grimacing at the feeling of the bristles against his scalp. He couldn't help cringing away from the brush a few times, because he hated the bristles, but the cook held his head in place.
At least the cook gave him a kiss on the forehead afterwards, gently running his fingers through Zoro's hair to finish smoothing it, chasing away the nasty, scratchy feeling the bristles left behind as he did.
"You're behaving very well, Marimo." The cook praised, sounding very pleased.
Zoro grunted in response, slightly happier about everything since Sanji was happy.
He received a gentle kiss on the lips for his good behavior, and was even allowed to deepen it and keep it going for a while. Sanji rested his forehead against Zoro's for a bit, smiling softly before pulling away to continue getting ready.
"You're allowed to bring your swords, this time." Sanji added as he resumed ensuring his own appearance was immaculate.
Zoro's back straightened as he perked up. He was allowed to bring them? Really? He shifted in his seat to give Sanji a slightly wide-eyed look through the mirror.
He saw the cook's answering smirk in his reflection.
"Yeah, you heard me: Bring 'em. Hell, bring your maintenance tools for 'em, too! You can sit a bit off to the side and work on 'em during the meeting."
Zoro was. Intrigued.
"What's up with this meeting, Curly?" He asked, tilting his head to the side.
"We're meeting a group I'm not really allied with." Sanji explained while carefully using a razor to ensure his facial hair was perfectly even and exactly how he wanted it, "So the added intimidation of seeing you - an Active Cloud - openly handling live steel should be a nice bonus to the negotiations, since they're coming to me for a favor."
There was a truly devilish smile on the cook's face, baring perfectly straight and white teeth in a predatory look that sent tingling heat thrilling through Zoro's body. It brought an answering predatory grin to Zoro's face, his teeth bared and eye flashing with interest as he leaned forward.
"Oh?" He asked, voice dipping down into a lower register, becoming a dark, rumbled purr.
Sanji's visible eye met his in the reflection, still looking stunningly menacing in his red suit, black shirt, and white tie, appearance so immaculately put together he looked almost untouchable, like perfection incarnate. The smirk on his subtly painted lips was as sinfully seductive as it was potentially lethal.
"Somehow, people find you scary, Marimo. Not sure how, when you're such a sweet and cuddly kitten, but it's useful, so I guess I can't complain." The cook said with a teasing tone, eye sparkling with wicked glee.
Zoro scoffed back, smirking.
"Glad to be of service, Dartboardbrow." He sneered, voice lacking any real venom.
Sanji finished primping, pulled Zoro to his feet and looked over his appearance with a careful eye before nodding in acceptance of his state of dress. Zoro collected his swords and the box he kept his maintenance tools in, and followed his cook out of the house and to the armored car waiting for them, chauffeur ready to drive them to the meeting location.
They were the first to arrive, along with a few of Sanji's men to act as additional muscle. Not that they really needed the assistance, but appearances were always important to maintain when dealing with others.
After learning where Sanji was going to sit, Zoro immediately took up station slightly behind and to the left, keeping Sanji within the range of his good eye, and the empty wall on his blind side. He carefully and respectfully set out all of his swords around himself, setting down the box of supplies in front of him. From that box he took out a bottle of choji oil, a couple clean and lint-free white cloths, and an uchiko powder ball filled with ground up whetstone. The small brass hammer meant to remove the mekugi picks keeping the blade attached to the tsuka was left in the box, as Zoro wouldn't be needing it for the lesser level of maintenance he was about to perform. He did, however, take out a whetstone, in case any of the blades needed a bit of sharpening.
As the other group entered, Zoro chose to begin with Wado Ichimonji, carefully inspecting the sword's saya for any scuffs or dents that would need to be buffed out and potentially relacquered. When satisfied that the saya was as immaculate as usual, he began examining the tsuka ito, ensuring the silk and ray skin were clean and properly in place. With a nod, he carefully removed the blade from its saya, the quiet but distinct 'click' of the blade being unlatched followed by the soft rasp of the steel being drawn sent the tension in the room ratcheting up.
Zoro ignored them, instead carefully setting aside Wado Ichimonji's saya to very carefully inspect the blade. The cutting edge was as clean and straight as it should be, unmarred by any chips or dents. The oil was looking a bit dry, though, so that needed a touch up. He took the uchiko powder ball and gently applied the powder to one side of the blade, and then the other, in about one inch intervals. He used the cloth to wipe the powder off the blade, then repeated the process, taking the remainder of the old oil off of the blade. He applied some choji oil to a different cloth, and carefully ran it along the blade, reapplying the protective oil coating to prevent rusting.
He heard a slightly sharp tone from one of the strangers in the meeting, and paused what he was doing to pay attention. The man who was speaking looked like a rat, and was speaking to Zoro's cook in a way he didn't particularly care for. Zoro glared at him while running the cloth along Wado Ichimonji's blade, contemplating how annoyed the cook would be if he cut the rat man.
Rat man paused suddenly, shooting Zoro a nervous look and visibly shrinking in on himself when he noticed the glare on the swordsman's face.
After glaring for a bit longer, Zoro returned his attention to Wado Ichimonji, giving it one last examination before nodding to himself: The blade was perfectly oiled and maintained. He picked up the saya and carefully slid the blade home, sliding it in place with a soft 'click.'
The tension in the room dropped as the live steel was sheathed, the opposing side seeming to almost breathe a collective sigh of relief.
Zoro almost smirked as he reached for the next sword and began examining its saya; next up was Sandai Kitetsu, and for some reason mafia types got real twitchy around that blade. Maybe they could sense its curse like he could?
As he drew the cursed blade, its bloodlust grew, tugging at his mind to try and incite him to violence. With practiced ease, he shut that shit down cold, blocking out the whispered demands for blood and reminding the sword that he was in control, not it. Its whispering subsided with what was almost a growl, displeased at being denied the opportunity for violence. What a problem child. A fond smirk spread on his lips in spite of himself, especially when he noticed the intensely wary looks those Sanji was meeting with were sending him and Sandai Kitetsu.
The small smirk widened into a far more feral one, baring just a bit of teeth at those watching, his eye widening slightly and glinting with bloodthirsty interest. They all swiftly looked away, sitting ramrod straight in their seats, sweating almost visibly.
'Weaklings.' Zoro scoffed mentally, returning his attention to the blade in his hands now that the possibility of something actually interesting happening had passed.
The meeting wrapped up quickly after Zoro drew Sandai Kitetsu, the other group quickly caving to the cook's terms so as to get out of the room and away from Zoro and the bloodthirsty sword he was holding.
Zoro scoffed audibly, disgusted at their cowardice while he finished up caring for Sandai Kitetsu. The sword felt equally disgusted by the weakness of the cowards, almost ceasing its demands for blood entirely, as though the thought of bathing in the blood of such pathetic wastes of space was beneath it (privately, Zoro agreed with the cursed sword: Those idiots weren't worth the minimal effort it'd take to cut them down).
He clicked the blade home in its saya as the other group made to leave, reaching for his final sword, Shuusui. He was this far into maintaining all of his swords, so he was going to finish the task. The cook could damn well wait until he was done.
And Sanji did wait for him, calmly requesting some of his paperwork be brought to him and taking care of it while Zoro worked on Shuusui.
When the final sword clicked back into its saya, Zoro breathed a sigh of contentment. It was always so satisfying to take care of his swords; left him feeling clear headed and calm at the end. Hmm… He kind of wanted to take a nap. He gathered all the materials together, putting them back in the box before standing up, swords strapped in place at his side and approaching his husband.
"Ready to go, Marimo?" Sanji asked, looking up.
Zoro grunted in agreement, and Sanji stood up, straightening the papers before tucking them into a folder and placing that folder under one arm. He linked his other arm through Zoro's, walking with him through the building and back to the car waiting for them.
As they headed home, Zoro had a question.
"Why'd you meet with small fry like that?" They couldn't have had that much to offer, with how weak they were.
"Not everything's about strength, Marimo." Sanji said, amused, running one hand through Zoro's hair.
Zoro leaned into the touch, settling firmly against Sanji's side, humming softly to wordlessly prompt the cook to continue both his explanation and the petting.
"Those particular people were part of a Famiglia specializing in technology, which is always useful, when it comes to staying on the cutting edge of things. Plus them becoming subordinate to me like they did means I get more territory and resources under my control." The cook continued, getting an understanding sound from Zoro.
"You were beautifully intimidating there, my darling angel of war~~! It made the negotiations run so much more smoothly~." He crooned, leaning more fully against Zoro and using the hand playing with Zoro's hair to pull the swordsman closer so he could nuzzle Zoro's cheek.
Zoro's nose wrinkled at the extravagant endearment, but at least it wasn't sickly sweet cutesy like the ones the cook used for women.
"I will, of course, reward you for your good behavior~." The cook continued in a seductive purr directly into Zoro's ear, making him shiver slightly, pupils dilating just a bit. He gave a teasing nip to Zoro's ear, right by his earrings, making them jingle softly against each other and getting an interested growl from Zoro, who felt a heat completely unrelated to his Flames starting to surge beneath his skin.
Then the cook abruptly leaned away, leaving Zoro's mind reeling a bit at the sudden change.
"I'm thinking onigiri for dinner; what do you think?" He asked with a grin that said he knew exactly what he'd done and had done it on purpose, the smug bastard.
Zoro glared at him, but huffed, letting it go, if only because the promise of onigiri was more enticing than the vindictive idea of shunning the cook for his teasing.
His decision proved wise, because the onigiri were fucking delicious.
For anyone wondering, yes Zoro *is* going commando under that suit.
(And yes, Sanji *does* get a nosebleed when he finds out.)
Chapter 20: Box of Surprises
Chapter by checkered_soul
Sanji takes a trip down memory lane after learning that Zoro's a lot more romantic than one would expect.
Every room in the house was usually very put together, not a single thing out of place. Contrary to what most would think, Zoro was quite particular about where everything should go. Furniture needed to be in just the right spots, and various items needed to be put away in the right places. The "right places" Zoro put items in were sometimes really bizarre, but that was just normal at this point; as long as it wasnt on the floor or spread into eir kitchen, it was fine with Sanji.
Zoro had his own bedroom, even if Sanji and Zoro both slept and stored their clothes in their shared one; eir Marimo liked to have his own space for whatever he wanted, even beyond his office space (which was only for accounting work, and therefore quite bare). He stored all the little things he found and took a liking to in that room. He never slept there, so it was alright for it to be cluttered, according to Zoro; he was really only ever in there to care for his swords, meditate, or add to his ever-growing collection.
Recently though, eir Marimo had stated that it was getting a little too messy, so Sanji offered to try and help organize a bit. Eir adorably mossy alley cat hesitated for a moment before agreeing. This didn't strike Sanji as unusual in the slightest, as e knew all too well how Particular eir Marimo got about things.
The next day Sanji got to work. E started by sorting items into groups as best as e could: Animal bones in one pile, shiny rocks in another, and so on. E was almost done sorting everything when e realized there was a pile of fabric in the corner. Either Zoro had a lot more fabric saved up than Sanji thought, or it was a small amount of fabric covering a large object.
E walked over to the pile and tapped it with his foot, trying to figure it out without touching it yet. If it was already sorted, then Sanji didn't want to make it into a mess. E heard a small tap under the fabric.
"Hm..." E said to emself before carefully moving the fabric.
Under the fabric was a box. A very familiar box. One e had gotten for Zoro a long time ago. One of the first gifts e had given to him when they first started dating all those years ago, in fact. Sanji smiled at the sight of the box; e had completely forgotten about it until now.
E crouched down to pick it up, pausing to try and hear if Zoro was near. After a moment during which e didn't hear any sign of eir Marimo approaching, Sanji continued. E moved the box over to the desk in the corner of the room and carefully put it down. E opened the box slowly in case it made a sound.
Sanji looked in the box and found more boxes and a large, heavy-looking book. E picked up the book and inspected the outside: It was blank and completely unadorned, which didn't help at all in identifying the possible contents. Eir Marimo wasn't much for reading, so Sanji wasn't sure what the book could even be about. And then e opened it.
It was a book full of pressed flowers?
That. Didn't seem like something eir Marimo would be interested in at all. So why did he have this book?
Sanji carefully flipped through the pages, revealing flower after flower. As e got deeper into the book, the quality of the pressed flowers got better and better, as if whoever had originally owned the book had gotten it specifically to press flowers in, and had started with little to no knowledge of how you were actually supposed to press a flower.
There were small notes written in Japanese on the pages: Dates, places, flower names, meanings, and random thoughts. Sanji had been to all of the places listed in this book, and each character on the pages was carefully written in delicate blue-black ink.
Midnight blue; a very pretty color. Sanji used the same color to write letters to Zoro when e was far away on a business trip. The shifting line weight of the symbols told Sanji that a fountain pen was most likely used to write; Sanji recognized it from frequently using a fountain pen, emself.
Sanji flipped to the next page, where a cluster of light blue flowers was beautifully pressed. The crisp, clean, calligraphic lines of the Japanese lettering beside it read: "January 12th. Villa Park. Forget-Me-Nots. Means true love. Color reminds me of his eyes: Light blue, like the ocean."
Sanji stayed on this page for a few minutes before it hit em: This book was full of every flower Sanji had ever given eir wonderful Marimo.
Did he really save all of them? He hadn't ever mentioned it to Sanji; maybe it was something meant to be kept secret?
Sanji looked through the book some more, carefully tracing the flowers with eir hand, warm smile on eir face. The flower from their first date, and all the flowers e got eir Marimo just randomly because e wanted to see him smile: Each and every single one lovingly pressed into the pages of the book with notes on where they came from, when, and what they meant carefully written next to them.
When e got to the end of the filled pages, e closed the book and held it for a moment, remembering all of the dates and places, and how e had felt in those moments. E placed the book next to the large box to reach in to grab one of the smaller boxes.
E grabbed a deep green box and opened the lid, finding it full of small, seemingly random objects: A small, blunt sword that definitely wouldn't have any ability to do anything other than sit on a shelf; small ornaments in multiple colors; rocks, shells, and small toys made to resemble tigers.
Sanji's smile was very obvious at this point. Zoro really had kept every gift Sanji had ever given him! The small things found on the sidewalk; the things e got for him from out of the country to help Sanji feel better about not being able to see eir Marimo: Zoro had kept all of them.
Sanji picked up one of the many, many objects in the box when e heard the door open quietly. E didnt move, e didn't look back, e just smiled.
"You kept everything, hm?" E said softly as a hand rested on eir shoulder, Zoro peering into the open box from behind em.
"...Yeah." Zoro finally said after a moment of silence, Flames flickering with what felt like embarrassment. He was probably all bashful about having been caught out like this, the ridiculous, secretly romantic mossball. Sanji loved him so fucking much.
Zoro wrapped his arm around Sanji's shoulders and Sanji leaned into the half hug.
They spent the next while looking through the box, telling each other their side of the story from that day. They could finish cleaning the room later; they had much more important things to talk about right now.
Chapter 21: A Long Nosed Cloud
Chapter by Youkoartemis
Sanji knows Luffy has a habit of collecting strays, just like Zoro, but bringing this particular stray home was just begging for trouble. Sanji was certain there was going to be blood.
Luffy was coming over to visit, Sanji noted idly to herself, smoothing her silky red dress. It was sleeveless and dipped down her back in a delightfully sexy but clean way; her Marimo would love it. Her red-painted lips quirked up in a smirk at the thought of her darling husband's reaction.
She paused when she noted the other Flame with her Sky.
'Oh shit.' She hissed to herself, head snapping over to face in the direction they were coming from, 'What the fuck is that idiot thinking?! '
There was a Cloud with Luffy! A CLOUD! Coming right into the center of Zoro's territory, without it having been cleared with Zoro first! What the FUCK was Luffy thinking?!
'He wasn't thinking!' Sanji snarled to herself, hurrying down to intercept them, heels clacking against the wooden floors with a satisfying amount of authority.
Unfortunately, she was too late to prevent her husband from reaching the foreign Cloud first.
Shit! This would be a bloodbath! You don't bring a Cloud onto another Cloud's territory without asking permission! That's why she'd told Zoro about Jakob and gotten his permission before inviting the Cloudy Mist over! Clouds got violently territorial when unexpectedly confronted with one another!
And Luffy had just brought an unfamiliar Cloud onto Zoro's territory. Without any warning at all.
Her Marimo stared at the Cloud Luffy had brought with him, and the little Cloud stared back, visibly cringing away from him and trying to hide behind Luffy.
'It's just a kid, too!' Sanji thought with dismay, 'What the hell, Luffy?'
And the new Cloud was just a kid; probably no older than Luffy's age of 17 with dark skin and the longest nose Sanji had ever seen, and she'd seen some pretty unusual noses before. The Cloud's hair was very curly and mostly concealed beneath a checkered bandanna. No shirt, but wearing brown overalls and old leather work boots. The kid was such a scrawny little thing; it would take no time at all for her mossy tiger to tear them apart. Damn it, Luffy!
But oddly... Zoro hadn't done so, yet. He was still just staring at the younger Cloud, arms crossed over his chest. There was a frown on his face as he considered the kid; one of his more inscrutable ones. His Flames weren't telling Sanji much about what was running through her Marimo's head, either.
"Oh hey Sanji!" Luffy greeted cheerfully, grinning as he waved, "I was just introducing Usopp to Zoro!"
So the kid's name was Usopp? Normally that'd be good to know but Sanji was still quite certain Usopp was going to end up dead very soon.
"Is Sanji Zoro's wife today?" Luffy asked, head tilted to one side.
"Yeah." She answered absently. Normally she'd be pleased that he'd asked, but right now she was a bit preoccupied with the impending bloodbath.
"Oi Usopp, meet my mom, Sanji!" Wait.
"WHAT?!" Sanji shrieked, eyes going wide in shock.
She wasn't sure whether to be pissed or flattered, so she chose to be both, and kicked Luffy in the head, cheeks burning in embarrassment.
"I am not your mom, you shitty bastard!" She roared, glaring at him.
Luffy yelped in pain as he tumbled ass over elbows backwards, rolling to sit cross legged on the ground, rubbing his head and grimacing.
Usopp yelped Luffy's name when the other boy hit the ground, Cloud Flames flaring up with protective intent as he started heading over to Luffy's side. He stood down when Luffy laughed, clearly unharmed, Flames reflecting his intense relief at not having to try and fight Sanji and Zoro.
"Shishishishi! Sanji's my Guardian, right? And Sanji's Zoro's wife right now, so that makes Sanji my mom!" Luffy explained with a laugh, paying no mind to the lowkey confrontation going on between Zoro and Usopp.
"THAT'S NOT HOW IT WORKS, ASSHOLE!" Sanji shouted, face burning. She was certain she must be blushing furiously right now.
"Sure it is! You guys take care of me, make sure I'm safe, and that I'm happy! That's what parents do, right? Zoro and Sanji are the best Guardian parents!" Luffy said with a wide grin, Flames reaching out to hug Sanji's, sharing LoveAffectionWarmthAcceptanceHome through the bond, and oh, Sanji was weak .
How was she supposed to stay mad at him when he said and did sweet things like that?! She couldn't! Her heart was mush, now! Mush! That bastard! How dare he get her all emotional like this!
She kicked him again, the force of this halfhearted kick barely enough to make him rock back a little when it connected. Her eyes were stinging, and her face was so hot she knew she had to be blushing a bright red (damn her pale complexion for showing blushes so clearly!).
"Bastard!" She spat, pointedly ignoring how her voice wobbled slightly with all the soft emotions the shitty bastard had evoked in her.
She looked away from him immediately after kicking him, ignoring how he snickered at her behavior, the unrepentant bastard. Sanji adored her Sky more than she could put into words, and she could feel how much he adored her right back, through his Flames as they wrapped around hers, whispering a litany of "Mine mine mine you're perfect and wonderful and I love you so much" to her very soul.
"Shishishishi Sanji's the best!" Luffy exclaimed, beaming at her.
"Shut the fuck up, asshole." Sanji muttered a bit bashfully, crossing her arms over her chest.
The warm fuzzy feeling Luffy had successfully distracted her with froze in her chest when she caught sight of her husband looming over the long nosed baby Cloud. Her breath caught in her chest as she waited to see what the two Clouds would do next.
Usopp was leaning so far back in an attempt to get away from Zoro that he was nearly bent in two.
Sanji's darling husband simply leaned further forward, frowning thoughtfully down at the baby Cloud who had stepped onto his territory, head tilted slightly to one side.
Sanji shakily let the breath go when her mossy tiger of a husband showed no sign of getting violent (yet). He just seemed to want to examine the other Cloud, for now, and that was fine.
"Sanji's worried." Luffy noted as he moved closer to her, looking curious.
"You brought a new Cloud onto another Cloud's territory." She explained quietly, trying not to draw attention and potentially break the tenuous peace that was still holding up.
"Sanji doesn't need to worry: Zoro and Usopp won't fight." He sounded so certain about that.
Sanji glanced over and felt her breath stolen away once more at how Luffy's eyes were glowing sunset orange as he calmly gazed at her.
'Is this Hyper Intuition at work?' She wondered to herself, even as her worries calmed significantly in response. Luffy was so certain that Sanji couldn't help but feel reassured by it. So she turned back to watch as the Clouds examined one another.
Usopp was holding up his hands in a placating gesture, smiling nervously.
"I- I- I- I didn't mean to- to uh. To intrude! I-i-it's just. L-Luffy said I should f-follow him and m-m-meet his parents, a-an-and so I- So I did! And n-now that I have, I'll just be going now! See ya Luffy!!" He said squeakily, backing away and turning on his heel to start striding out the door. His smile was frozen on his face as he waved in what was probably meant to be a casual way but ended up looking far too tense for that, his shoulders hunched and legs shaking almost violently.
Sanji got the feeling he'd been babbling at Zoro for a while before this point, but that she'd missed it all because of Luffy distracting her.
"Oi." Zoro said, voice calm and deep, freezing Usopp in place. It was almost comical how a visible shudder made its way up the other Cloud's body in response to Zoro speaking.
'Here it comes!' Sanji noted internally, standing a little straighter as she felt the Resolve in her husband's Flames. Her Marimo had clearly come to a decision about the little long nosed Cloud that had stumbled onto his territory.
Usopp slowly turned to face the older Cloud, smile a rictus of fear on his face.
"Y-y-y-yeSS?" He squeaked.
"Usopp, right?" Sanji's husband asked, implacably calm.
"Y-y-y-yEsSIR! That's me! The grrrEAT cAPtAIn UsOPp!!!" Was the baby Cloud's answer, voice cracking several times and wobbling in fear.
Zoro eyed him for a bit longer, then his expression smoothed, all tension leaving his muscles, leaving him looking almost bored.
"Stop babbling and get inside." He drawled, jerking his head towards the interior of the house, clearly indicating that Usopp should come in.
Sanji was genuinely shocked, and she could tell that Usopp was, too, with how the boy's jaw dropped in response to Zoro's words, his eyes huge.
He audibly stumbled over his words, clearly not having expected that response,
Luffy cheered at Zoro's words as he grabbed Usopp, whooping in excitement and dragging his new friend into the house as Sanji and her husband watched in amusement.
Sanji finally gave into temptation and lit up a cigarette, taking a drag and breathing the smoke out.
"Bit surprised you let the kid into the house." She admitted to her husband after the kids were out of hearing range.
Her mossy alley cat grunted in response, finally uncrossing his arms as he sidled over to Sanji's side, leaning gently against her, head resting against hers. He took a deep breath through his nose and then let it out, causing her hair to shift with his breath. He hummed softly and took another sniff, clearly enjoying the perfume she'd put on while getting dressed up.
Sanji reached up to gently stroke her Marimo's cheek, drawing another pleased hum from him as he wrapped his arms around her, pressing his face into her neck. She chuckled softly and reached up to lightly scratch his scalp with her fingers, feeling the vibrations of the contented rumble he let out in response through where his chest pressed against hers.
"Why did you let Usopp into the house?" She questioned softly, genuinely curious to know his reasoning, given how territorial Clouds got, especially towards one another.
Her darling angel of war huffed against her neck, and she could feel him frowning as he thought hard on how to put things into words.
"He's young." Zoro started slowly, drawing the words out a bit in an effort to buy himself more time to think, "Weak. But…" His frown deepened against her neck, clearly struggling harder, "There's steel, there, underneath. Potential."
He paused, then, but Sanji could tell her husband still had more to say, so she kept quiet, simply continuing to gently stroke his hair.
"...He looked ready to fight, when you kicked Luffy." Zoro said softly, sounding just the slightest bit impressed, "He's a coward, but. Push comes to shove… He'll fight. He'll do what he can to protect what's his."
'He's loyal.' Was what Sanji heard in addition, and she knew that loyalty was a Big Deal to her husband.
"Besides; he's Luffy's." Her husband finished, causing her to blink, her hand pausing in its petting.
'Oh?' She checked, and, sure enough, there was a new strain in the harmony, flowing energetically around and through the rest of the spiritual chorus; fluffy, dramatically billowing Clouds added into the harmony of Sky, Storm, Lightning, and Sun.
"Huh. Wonder what Luffy did to win him over?" She mused, tapping the ash from her cigarette onto a nearby ashtray.
"Same thing he always does: Be Luffy." Her husband said in response, huffing out a quiet laugh as he continued to softly nuzzle her neck.
"Heh, yeah, you're right." Sanji agreed, smiling as she resumed stroking her Marimo's soft green hair.
Still, to have pulled in not one but two Clouds, even if one was pulled in as his Lightning Guardian… That was damn impressive. Luffy was one hell of a Sky, and Sanji couldn't be prouder to be one of his Guardians.
And so Usopp joins the party!! I very specifically paraphrased what Zoro said to him in the manga version of canon when inviting him onto the ship!
Chapter 22: Marimo Squared
Chapter by checkered_soul
Sanji gets Zoro a pet
this is just a short chapter but I personally think it's really cute
As Zoro slowly woke up from his nap, he opened his eye to see Sanji in front of him with a small container.
Zoro looked at it, then back at Sanji. He raised an eyebrow at the cook.
"What's that?" He asked in a flat tone while scrubbing the sleep from his eyes with the back of his hand, yawning widely.
"You shed so much that I was able to make a whole new marimo out of your hair!" Sanji said with a small laugh, grinning playfully.
Zoro gave Sanji a confused look and grabbed the container, opening it to see not a ball of his mint green hair but an actual marimo. He looked at it for a bit before looking back up at Sanji.
"Why'd you get this? We have plenty." He said, still pretty confused but starting to suspect that Sanji was making fun of him. A frown started pulling at his brows.
Sanji stood a bit taller.
"I got it for you to take care of. You don't have much to do at the moment, so I figured giving you a pet that's very easy to take care of would be good for you." He said with a smile on his face. Clearly Sanji was very proud of his decision.
Zoro set the container next to him and leaned back, closing his eye. He shifted his shoulders a bit to get settled back in more comfortably.
"Thanks, Cook." he said before pretending to go back to sleep.
A few weeks went by and Zoro had been taking care of the little moss ball every day, making sure it moved around to keep its shape, putting small decorations in its tank, and making sure it had the right amount of light to keep it happy and healthy.
Today was cleaning day, so Zoro woke up early to change the water and clean the little marimo he so lovingly named "Green" at the Cook's insistence the little thing needed a name.
Zoro unplugged the filter and light that came with the tank, then took the lid off and carried it to the bathroom sink. He scooped the little marimo out of the tank and into a smaller cup of water before carefully taking out the decorations he had put in the tank. He cleaned off the decorations and set them to the side to dry.
He then carefully poured out a little over half the water in the tank, being especially careful to not get any of the pebbles into the sink. He took another cup and slowly filled it with water and poured it back into the tank, filling it up just enough to reach the max fill line on the filter before taking the filter off and dunking it into the water, waiting for all the bubbles to go away: He knew better than to run the filter dry.
He then set the tank to the side and focused on Green. He took the little marimo out of the water and gave it a firm but gentle squeeze to get the old water out before putting it under running water again, and squeezing it dry for a second time. He held the marimo in between his hands and rolled it into shape, careful to not press too hard or accidentally rip any of the plant off. He inspected the shape of the marimo before placing it in the tank and watching as it floated to the top.
He picked up the newly cleaned tank with the marimo, decorations all placed back inside exactly as Zoro wanted them. He carefully placed the filter in its spot and closed the lid before walking slowly back to the bedroom with it; he didn't want to spill any water on the floor.
He slowly opened the door to the shared bedroom and placed the tank on its spot on the dresser, plugging in the light and filter and watching as his little "twin" - Cook's words, not his - danced around happily in the moving water. He looked over at Sanji, still asleep in bed, and decided that it would be nice to get back into bed, just for a little bit.
He climbed into bed and snuggled up to his husband, breathing in his familiar scent as he drifted off into sleep.
Chapter 23: Broken Sky
Chapter by Youkoartemis
Jakob and Luffy meet. Things go wrong.
Potential TW for: Violence, Described Body Horror, and Discussions Of Poop (Luffy *IS* in this chapter, after all)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It had taken a surprising amount of cajoling on both sides, but they'd finally gotten Jakob and Luffy to agree to meet. It should be going fine, but. Luffy felt twitchy and on edge, and it was making Zoro very uneasy, if he was being honest. It felt like something was about to go wrong, but he didn't know what, and it was driving him crazy.
So far, the two seemed to be getting along: Luffy was fascinated by Jakob's ghoulish appearance, and Jakob seemed amused by Luffy's childish curiosity and enthusiasm.
"I've never met a zombie before! Do you poop?" Luffy asked enthusiastically, leaning forward in his seat with a massive grin.
"DON'T ASK THINGS LIKE THAT!!!" Sanji and Usopp roared at him, only to be ignored.
"Hiphiphiphip! Do you?" Jakob asked in return after one of his yipping cackles, a mischievous spark in his otherwise dead eyes.
"Yeah, of course I do." Luffy said simply while picking his nose. It almost sounded like he was asking Jakob to get to the point.
"Then there's your answer!" Jakob said cheerily with another eerie cackle, semi-sarcastically beaming while holding his arms open in a "there you go!" gesture.
"But I don't poop for you, I poop for me!" Luffy protested, frowning, having completely missed the point.
"Do you, though? Are you sure?" Jakob asked, grin switching from that sarcastically bright grin to a playfully menacing one that showed just a hint of teeth.
"Jakob, stop teasing him." Sanji said with a sigh, interrupting the argument before it could begin.
Jakob just cackled softly in response, completely unrepentant.
They seemed to be getting along just fine, so why were the hairs on the back of Zoro's neck standing on end like something was about to go catastrophically
He lunged forward, body and Flames thrown in front of Luffy's moments before
Sanji was moving the moment he saw his husband leap from his seat, and therefore saw the exact second Jakob's expression turned from amicable to murderous . His eyes flashed a chaotic riot of colors for just a moment before a wave of pure Rejection flooded the room as Jakob launched forward with a wild snarl, Flames screeching discordantly as they violently lashed out, seeking to rip and tear at the source of their pain.
That source being Luffy.
With Zoro now right in the middle.
Sanji would never forget his husband's screams as Jakob's Flames collided with Zoro's, his sharp, red nails raking across Zoro's face at the same time, the Storm Flames wreathing the edges cutting through the instinctive Hardening Zoro had put up to try and protect himself.
The horrible screaming stopped the moment Sanji kicked Jakob into the far wall, Zoro going limp and Luffy staring in a mix of shock and horror, just like everyone else. Sanji had definitely felt several things break beneath his foot when he kicked Jakob, and he was viciously glad for it.
After about a minute, there were several sickening snaps and pops from where Jakob had collapsed as the man rose unnaturally from the ground, twisting himself back into proper shape with flickers of yellow, purple, and indigo Flames.
"...How unfortunate." Jakob commented blandly, reaching up and cracking his neck neck into proper alignment with a sickening pop, a very faint frown on his face.
"What the fuck was that shit?!" Sanji demanded, glaring as he stood between Jakob and his fallen husband.
An expression almost like remorse appeared on Jakob's face.
"A trauma response. I hadn't realized it would be so strong, or I would have handled it earlier." Jakob answered simply, glancing at Zoro, "It's unfortunate that Zoro was the one caught in the crossfire."
There was a brief pause.
"I… Would not have agreed to this meeting, if I had known my response would be so violent. My apologies." Jakob continued, sounding apologetic and actually looking kind of like he meant it. He glanced over to Luffy, adding: "It's a shame Sky Flames set off such a strong trauma response: I was growing rather fond of you, Luffy."
Luffy's expression eased slightly from the serious glare, though his eyes remained a rich sunset orange.
"We could've been friends." Luffy agreed with a small nod, sounding disappointed.
Jakob inclined his head slightly.
"Yes, in another world… I do believe we could have been." It was said so softly, almost wistfully, a flicker of something almost mournful in the depths of Jakob's eyes, as though he was remembering something and missing it dearly.
The unnamed emotion vanished as he composed himself, rolling his shoulders and neck as he slowly began to step forward.
"I'll fix what I've done; it's the least I can do." He said, nodding respectfully to Sanji.
Sanji glared at him suspiciously, but eventually gave one sharp nod and moved just a couple steps to the side, watching him like a hawk.
Jakob stepped over to Zoro and knelt down beside him, lowering his left hand towards Zoro's still form. He tilted his head to the left, as though observing something only he could see. He nodded to himself, and focused on Zoro.
His fingertips flickered red and yellow as he ran them lightly across the scratches he'd left on Zoro's face, the bloody gouges knitting together until it was like they'd never happened, all the inflammation and irritation that had been around the wounds fading alongside them. Jakob's brow furrowed as his concentration focused, eyes flickering indigo and blue-violet as he soothed and repaired what he could of the damage he'd wrought to Zoro's Flames.
He breathed a short, sharp sigh through his nose, patted Zoro's head once, and stood, brushing himself off.
"I've done what I can for him; he should wake shortly. I'll make my leave now. Sanji: Consider the debts you owe me for teaching Zoro about his Flames void and… I now owe Zoro a rather large debt." His face twisted in a scowl at that, lips turning downward, brows furrowing, and eyes narrowed, but with a sigh, his expression returned to Jakob's default empty, doll-like smile. Sanji could still detect a small hint of frustration lingering in the tightness of his eyes, though.
That was. Pretty fucking massive, actually. Sanji felt his anger fade at that, replaced with shock, his eyes widening.
Jakob never let go of debts without full repayment, and Sanji had never heard him acknowledge a debt to someone before. He must've taken a real shine to Sanji's Marimo, if he was willing to both clear Sanji's debt and owe Zoro a "rather large" debt over what happened here… he was probably also trying to keep Sanji's favor, too, now that Sanji thought of it, but the point remained: This was a Big Deal. Still...
"Yeah. It's probably best you leave." Sanji agreed out loud, though with significantly less anger than before.
Jakob nodded and waved one hand over his shoulder as he walked away.
Sanji paid no further mind to him, focusing instead on Zoro, who chose that moment to groan and start pulling himself up off the floor.
"Are you alright?!" He asked, dropping hard to the floor to kneel on Zoro's level, very gently laying a hand on his Marimo's shoulder.
Zoro groaned and pressed one hand to his head, wincing as he looked around.
"What the hell hit me?" He asked, sounding woozy and swaying slightly before forcefully righting himself.
"Jakob." Luffy answered promptly, looking worriedly at Zoro, "But Zoro's okay now, right? Jakob says Zoro should be all better now."
Zoro paused to take this in, and frowned as he visibly took stock of his condition.
"...I've got a helluva headache, but other than that, I'm fine." He answered honestly.
Everyone in the room breathed out a collective sigh of relief, and Sanji hugged his Marimo close, cradling his head in one hand and leaning his forehead against the side of Zoro's head. The faint trembling in his limbs slowly faded as the adrenaline wore off. He began pressing a multitude of kisses to Zoro's face, causing his Marimo to scrunch up his nose and try to pull away.
"I was scared half to fucking death when you collapsed, so you'd damn well better accept my love, Marimo!" Sanji exclaimed, not letting go.
Zoro made an irritated noise in response, but stopped his efforts to get away from the incessant cuddling and kisses, instead staying still and letting his husband reassure himself that Zoro was okay by fussing over him.
The rest of the occupants of the room all began to laugh at the shenanigans and the tension finally began to defuse.
Still, Sanji was never gonna put Jakob and Luffy together in the same room ever again.
This is probably the last *major* appearance Jakob is gonna make in the story. All I'm gonna say regarding his trauma is that he's not lying about it existing and the chapter title was chosen for a reason. You can draw your own conclusions from there!
“GET OUT OF HERE!!!” The woman screeched as she threw a half full wine glass in Zoro's direction, forcing him to dodge rapidly, his shoulder length green hair whipping around his head with the motion.
He ran out of the door of the room, ducking out of sight and listening intently for movement in the room he'd just left. He heard heavy footsteps stomping quickly in his direction, and sprinted for the front door. He swung it open, causing it to slam against its frame, and ran outside to stand in the middle of the road, facing the house.
“DON’T COME BACK YOU BRAT!” The woman yelled, shaking her fist.
Zoro stuck his tongue out at her and flipped her off. He didn't give a single fuck about her or her feelings.
She slammed the door shut with enough force to make the frame rattle. Zoro waited a couple seconds to make sure she wasn't going to come back out before finding a rock and skillfully throwing it at the second story window. It shattered, and he ran away in a random direction.
Free at last!!
Zoro was walking down the street of the large city looking for a place to sleep for the night. It had been a few weeks since he had run from that house and he knew the police were probably looking for him. He didn’t care through: It wasn’t like the police were actually going to do anything.
He looked around before crossing the street. Tokyo was a very big place; he could probably find somewhere to hide for a few days if he really looked.
He turned down an alleyway and found a few boxes he could probably use as a mini house for the night.
Zoro moved the boxes around into a crude shelter: One box facing up and the other as a lid. He climbed into the box and leaned on one side, forgetting the fact that he didn’t lean the side on a wall, and the shelter tipped over, opening a bit.
“Fuck!” Zoro cursed when he realized his stupidly long hair had landed in a chunk of still fresh gum.
He sat up the best he could, gum sticking to his hair. He tried to take it out, and the feeling of it pulling on his hair and sticking to his skin was enough to make his entire body feel as if the gum was all over. It was disgusting, and awful, and gross, and sticky and he wanted it offoffoffoffrIGHTnOW!!!
Zoro started to panic as he pulled abs clawed frantically at the gum, only managing to make his hair even more of a sticky, slightly pink mess. After a few minutes of struggling, he finally gave up.
It was dark out. He could find a solution to his problem after some sleep.
Zoro woke up the next morning, gum still stuck in his hair. He cringed as the gum stuck to the box under them and pulled at his hair. A shudder of disgust worked down his spine at the sensation.
He moved the boxes away so he could get out, and mushed his hair into something that didn’t look as bad as it really was.
He started walking down the road looking for something to help get the gum out of his hair. The gum was really starting to bother him, so he was pulling at bits of his hair, struggling desperately to remove whatever he could.
‘This is so stupid... This is such a me-’ He bumped into a tall figure.
“Oof!” He gasped, falling backwards onto his bottom.
The man he'd bumped into crouched down to be at the same level as him frowning faintly in concern.
“Are you alright?” The man said, voice calm and sweet.
Zoro only nodded in response, trying to scoot backwards. This man was a stranger. Zoro couldn't trust him.
“What’s in your hair?” The man asked, head tilting slightly to the side, continuing to frown slightly in concern.
Somehow, Zoro could feel how much this man cared about his wellbeing, even though they'd only just met. Somehow… He just knew the man wasn't a threat to him, and he relaxed just a little bit in response. He still didn't trust him, though.
“Gum.” He said, standing up and glancing about for escape routes if he needed one.
“Hm. Well if you would like, we can go to my home and I can help fix your hair.”
“Cut it.” Zoro said quickly, eager to get rid of the annoyance of long hair.
The man looked confused for a moment.
“Do you not like your hair? You're very pretty with it long like that.” He said softly.
“People will know I'm a boy if I cut it.” Zoro explained, making a cutting motion across his hair with his hand.
The man looked at the child, eyes widening slightly behind his glasses.
“You’re a boy?” He asked, clearly trying not to sound rude, but with a question like that, it was a bit difficult.
“No one thinks I am, but I know I am. Everyone calls me by stupid names, and uses stupid words, and I know better than them! I know who I am, and they don't, but they never listen to me when I tell them and I hate it, so I keep running away, because why won’t they listen to me when I tell them all the things I know?! Why won’t they listen when I tell them to call me Zoro and not the other name? It's a bad name! It’s not even what my mom called me, so why would they call me that?! I hate it, I hate it, I HATE IT! ” Zoro was in a full panic at this point, tears streaming down his face as he practically yelled all his stress into the air, clawing at his face and pulling hard on his hair, expecting the man to just leave.
The man stood up slowly, and Zoro prepared himself for yelling, or hitting, or something, but none of that came.
Just a simple: “Well Zoro, let’s go get you a haircut then.”
Zoro paused, trying to figure out what was going on.
Why was this man actually listening to him?
Why did he care?
“What do you want from me?” He said without thinking, frowning suspiciously.
He slapped his hands over his mouth, but the man didn’t lash out at him for his sharp tone; he merely stayed silent for a moment, thinking.
“I don’t want anything from you; I just want you to feel safe. You are very young, and have nowhere to stay, and no one to watch you.” He said softly and slowly, tone soothing.
He paused momentarily before continuing: “You may call me Koushirou. Let’s go back to my home; I’ll give you a haircut and some new clothes, and you can meet my daughter. I’m sure you two will get along very well.”
The man - Koushirou - smiled gently at Zoro and waited for a moment before he began to walk, holding one hand out next to him.
Zoro stood there for a moment, questioning if this was really a good idea, but his instincts said it was, and he always trusted his instincts, so Zoro ran after Koushirou and grabbed his hand.
Yeah, the man could still be bad, but Zoro was sure he could defend himself if he needed to.
Chapter 25: Dotingly Domestic
Chapter by Youkoartemis
Sometimes it's nice to take the time to have a lazy day spent at home with the one you love; Sanji decides to spend this one doting on his husband as much as Zoro will allow.
Possible TW for: References to sexual activities (but nothing explicit)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
One of Sanji's favorite things about waking up in the morning was doing so wrapped up in his husband's arms. Zoro was warm, and solid, and he made Sanji feel safe. He was also just… Absolutely beautiful, even with his mouth hanging slightly open as he drooled on Sanji's shoulder. He was even beautiful while snoring like a woodchipper, which happened every time he slept while laying on his back!
'It must be love.' Sanji mused to himself, lips quirking up and eyes crinkling slightly in amusement.
He raised one hand and gently trailed his fingers down his husband's face, tracing lightly across the scar bisecting his Marimo's eye to then stroke the backs of his fingers across his Marimo's cheekbone. He trailed his fingers down Zoro's cheek to gently stroke his jaw. He smiled at his husband with an almost painful amount of fondness, then leaned in to kiss him.
He started with a peck on Zoro's temple, then another on each brow, followed by a feather soft kiss to each eyelid, causing them to flutter slightly in response. Sanji's eyes scrunched further in adoration - his Marimo was so cute!!! So he gave him a kiss on the tip of his slightly crooked nose, then on his exposed cheek, and then a series of quick little kisses across his jaw.
His Marimo shifted, letting out a very soft groan of complaint about being woken up, his handsome nose crinkling very cutely in distaste. Oh he was so lovely~~!! Sanji adored him more than words could ever hope to express~~~!!! And then his eye fluttered open, and oh, Sanji loved his husband's eye!! It was such a warm shade of amber, like whiskey, or caramelizing sugar! And when the light hit it just right, it looked golden! Oh, what a lovely tiger Sanji had married~!!
Sanji wrapped his free hand back around his Marimo, hugging him tightly and nuzzling his neck, breathing in the smell of his skin and the soap he used.
"Good morning, darling~!" He crooned, nuzzling his nose behind his Marimo's ear, causing his earrings to clink against one another.
His moss-covered darling sleepily mumbled back something that might have been a "good morning" before yawning widely, jaw letting out an audible 'pop'. His lips smacked against one another as he blinked blearily. Sanji pulled back to look at his face, and his heart melted at how utterly adorable his Marimo looked: Hair all sleep-mussed and eye still cloudy with sleep as he rubbed his eyes with the back of one fist.
Zoro yawned again before focusing on Sanji, still blinking sleep from his eye.
"You're so beautiful~!" Sanji cooed, smiling sappily at his wonderful, precious husband, hand reaching up to stroke his mossy tiger's cheek, "My gorgeous Marimo who puts even the gods to shame with his beauty~! Angels weep in envy of your radiance, my dear~~!!"
"Tch!" His delightful Marimo scoffed, nose crinkling as he sharply looked away from Sanji, the tops of his cheeks starting to redden in a most delightfully cute manner. It made his freckles stand out a little more, and how could Sanji possibly resist the temptation to kiss them? So he did, pressing kisses to as many of his darling husband's adorable freckles as he possibly could.
His darling Marimo's cheeks turned a deeper shade of rose, which contrasted wonderfully against his green hair and bronzed skin - how adorable~~!!! How precious~~~~!! Oh, Sanji had the absolute best husband in the world!!
He pressed more kisses against his wonderful, perfect husband's face, until he finally got fed up and started pulling away, adorably flustered by the attention. Even after all this time, he still got so flustered when given compliments and attention~! How delightful~!!
"You're adorable~." Sanji crooned, leaning forward to nuzzle his nose against his husband's, getting another embarrassed grunt from his steadily reddening Marimo. The blush now encompassed his entire face and his ears, and was beginning to spread down his neck.
Sanji knew from experience that that blush could spread down across almost the entirety of his husband's god-like body, and as much as he'd love to make that happen, he could tell from the tension in his mossy husband's muscles that his gracious and tolerant Marimo definitely did not have the patience for that.
So with a sigh of mild regret, Sanji subsided, merely giving his husband a lingering kiss on the lips, pressing more fully against him and sliding his hand up his bare back. His Marimo responded eagerly, pulling him closer and gently tangling one hand in Sanji's hair, cradling the back of his head. They parted by mutual choice, resting their foreheads together.
Sanji gently stroked his Marimo's hair, smiling warmly, his heart almost bursting with the intense love and adoration he held for his wonderful husband.
"I love you so much~!" He whispered against his Marimo's lips, grinning.
A soft grunt, coupled with a faint blush, and then…
"Love you too, cook."
Sanji's heart MELTED. Oh~ his mossy kitten was so precious~~!!!
He cooed wordlessly and cuddled his husband closer, beaming against his neck.
"Gonna be one of those days, cook?" His Marimo asked, sounding resigned but amused.
"You deserve to be loved and cherished like the precious, perfect being you are every day, my dear~~!" Sanji answered perfectly honestly, causing his Marimo to snort softly.
"Whatever." His darling brute of a husband sighed, ruffling his own hair with one hand as he finally pulled out of their embrace, yawning widely once more, finally mostly awake.
Ah, right. Sanji should probably start getting ready for the day… Ah, but his darling angel of war was so cute, it would be a shame to have to leave his side…
Ah, but he didn't really have to, now did he?
"Hmm… Mon amour… Would you like to join me for a shower?" He asked, voice a sensual purr as he trailed a finger down his husband's bare chest. His lips were tilted up in a smile that promised how he'd reward his darling Marimo if he indulged him in this as he pulled away to begin making his way to the connected bathroom.
His tiger tilted his head to one side, clearly considering whether he wanted to go back to sleep or to go with Sanji. After a couple seconds, he stretched luxuriously with a soft groan of pleasure at the motion before climbing out of bed to follow Sanji, idly scratching his belly.
Sanji couldn't keep his eyes from sliding down his husband's completely bared body, a very appreciative smirk sliding across his lips.
"Pervert." Zoro huffed, amused. He did nothing to cover himself or stop Sanji from looking, though, so Sanji knew his sinfully sexy Marimo wasn't bothered in the slightest.
"Can you blame me? You're gorgeous ." Sanji replied, grinning as he looked at his darling Marimo's ruggedly handsome face.
His feral alley cat smirked back letting his own eye trail admiringly down Sanji's equally bare body with deliberate slowness before returning to his face with equal slowness. His expression said that he very much liked what he saw.
Sanji crooked a finger at his husband, smirking seductively, and his tiger obeyed with an eager growl.
By the time they were done, the water was going lukewarm, and they hadn't actually gotten much showering done. Sanji had several new scratches across his back where his tiger had dug in his claws whilst caught in the throes of passion - Sanji made a mental note to trim his tiger's claws later - and his Marimo was happily boneless and lethargic as he purred against Sanji's neck, his face still flushed with impassioned exertion, breathing heavily as he leaned back against the wall, holding Sanji close.
Sanji hummed in bliss, nuzzling his Marimo's wet hair.
"I suppose we should actually get clean, now." He mused, voice deep and throaty.
His mossy tiger just grunted in response, too sleepy and content to bother with words.
Sanji's heart warmed at how adorable his mossball was, and he reached over for the shampoo, pouring some into his hand and lathering it into his husband's hair.
His Marimo sighed happily and let his eye slide shut as he enjoyed the feeling of Sanji's skilled fingers massaging his scalp. Sanji smiled warmly at the display of trust; it was the little things like this that proved how much his husband loved him, and he cherished each and every one.
He pressed a kiss to Zoro's forehead as he carefully washed the shampoo from his Marimo's hair, getting a quiet snort of amusement and a very small smile in response. Sanji grinned adoringly, even though he knew Zoro couldn't see it with his eye still closed.
"Je t'aime." He whispered into Zoro's ear just before pressing a kiss to it.
"恋してる." His mossy tiger very quietly whispered in return, and Sanji's breath caught in his throat at the admission his husband had just made. Saying "I love you" was one thing, but that…? Oh, that meant so much more than just "I love you."
Sanji buried his face into Zoro's neck, struggling to keep his breathing steady as tears pricked at the corners of his eyes. He was SO HAPPY…!!!!
He couldn't keep himself from murmuring all the praises and words of adoration he could think of, in every language he knew, in between peppering his sweet, loving husband with kisses.
At least until Zoro finally reached the end of his patience for being fussed over and gently pushed him away, grumbling good-naturedly as he rolled his eye in fond exasperation. Then Sanji reluctantly stopped, and they finished getting cleaned up after their activities.
Sanji picked out clothes for them both to wear, judging from his Marimo's lazy expression that the fewer clothes he had to put on, the better. So he tossed over a dark green, short-sleeved button up shirt and a pair of black jeans for his husband before deliberating over what he, himself, should wear.
He wasn't really feeling like wearing a suit today - he loved them, but wearing one would be a bit much for a day he intended to spend doting on his beloved. Besides which, he knew how much his darling enjoyed seeing him in more casual clothing, so he started rummaging through the more casual section of their shared wardrobe. He pulled out a pair of black skinny jeans for himself, looking them over, checking the look in the full size mirror attached to the closet door, and nodded; yes, these would do. Now to find a shirt...
He snickered softly as he found the "Gentlecook" t-shirt his Marimo had gotten for him as a joke, contemplating it. It was very comfortable, and Zoro did adore seeing him in t-shirts… He held it up to himself in deeper contemplation, head tilted thoughtfully to one side. Yes, it would do… but he caught sight of one more thing as he was deciding, and thought 'Ah, perfect!'
He pulled the soft blue wave pattern hoody from the closet, smiling fondly at it. This would be perfect! He pulled it on, then set about styling his hair into something neat, but casual. He considered his goatee, but decided it was still neat enough that he didn't need to manage it just yet. He did, however, apply a small spritz of the cologne he knew his Marimo adored - he always got so cuddly when Sanji wore it!
Sure enough, as Sanji was contemplating whether he should wear any makeup or not, his husband's arms wrapped around him from behind and his Marimo buried his face in the crook of Sanji's neck, breathing deeply and humming in appreciation before lazily nuzzling him like the big, mossy cat he was.
Sanji smiled, reaching up to gently pet his Marimo's hair, taking the opportunity to carefully smooth it into some semblance of order. He may look adorable with his just-rolled-out-of-bed look, but Sanji personally preferred that his kitten be just a bit neater with his appearance.
He took the opportunity to examine how Zoro chose to wear the chosen outfit in the mirror - he'd left the shirt unbuttoned, but Sanji had expected that, and it looked nice on him - irreverent and roguishly sexy.
"You look lovely, darling~." Sanji informed him, turning to press a kiss to his Marimo's cheek.
"You too." His darling moss replied, giving him a quick kiss.
"You need a claw trim, today." Sanji noted absently, returning to contemplating whether or not he should put on some makeup. He eventually decided that yes, he did want to, but only a little bit. He chose a nice shade of pinkish red lipstick and applied it expertly, admiring how it made his lips pop more, looking pleasantly kissable. He applied a bit of sealant to it, to keep it from smearing over everything, then grabbed his eyeliner and applied it with the effortless-looking ease of practice. He contemplated his many shades of eyeshadow, and eventually decided to add just a touch of the glittery gold color to his upper eyelids. He sealed it all to keep it from smearing.
His Marimo watched with casual interest as Sanji applied his makeup; he knew his tiger thought of it like putting on armor, and that wasn't entirely inaccurate - appearances and impressions were half the battle when it came to the art of diplomacy.
"Did you want me to do your makeup, my dear?" He asked softly, smiling as he looked over, noticing the very faint pout on Zoro's face when he'd realized Sanji was already done with his own makeup.
A noncommittal hum was his response, but Sanji could tell from the look on his Marimo's face that he was interested, so he sat his Marimo down and gently took hold of his chin, looking his face over from a couple of angles.
He'd applied makeup to Zoro numerous times in the past, with varying levels of complexity. He'd even gotten to apply a full face of makeup to him on a couple of occasions!
His Marimo hated the feeling of foundation, so that was out for a casual day like today. Sanji could easily get away with putting eyeliner on his mossy husband, however, so he lined both of his Marimo's eyes with it, effortlessly winging it.
Most of the time he'd stop there, but his husband still looked tolerant, so Sanji selected a nice, dark, muted shade of red to apply to his husband's lips, a pleased smile gracing his lips at the lovely contrast between the dark, earthy red of the lipstick and the bright mint green of his Marimo's hair. He then sealed it, because otherwise his Marimo could and would get it on absolutely everything, including the furniture.
His husband still looked willing to indulge Sanji's desire to pretty him up, so Sanji added a daub of shimmering red to each upper eyelid, and then ran just a little of that same red across the tops of Zoro's cheekbones while his wonderful husband blinked patiently at him. Sanji sealed all the makeup so his Marimo wouldn't get it on the furniture or his clothes, and then kissed his forehead.
"Done!" He announced, stepping back to admire his work with a smile before putting his cosmetics away.
Zoro looked at himself in the mirror, then away, but the faint upward quirk of his lips and the little sparkle in his eye told Sanji his Marimo was quite pleased with what he'd done, and his smile grew just that little bit wider in response, eyes crinkling at the corners.
Sanji started on breakfast while his Marimo watched him lazily but intently from where he was leaning his chin on his crossed arms on the tabletop.
Sanji made onigiri, because today was a day he intended to spend spoiling his husband as much as he would allow him to.
So when he managed to convince his husband to lay between his legs on the couch in the living room, and even managed to convince his darling Marimo to let him hand feed him, he was delighted! His Marimo was being so wonderfully indulgent of Sanji's desire to pamper him today! It made Sanji love him even more than he already did, heart fluttering with delight.
"Hands, please." Sanji requested later, nail care supplies set on the coffee table in front of the couch.
His tiger sighed but obligingly held out one of his hands for Sanji to take, patiently tolerating the sound and sensation of having his claws clipped. Sanji was very proud of him for tolerating it so well, and leaned forward to give him a kiss on the cheek in thanks. He knew how much Zoro disliked the sound of nails being clipped - his shoulders always twitched just a little each time he heard it.
"You're doing so well, darling~." Sanji crooned, gently kissing the back of the hand he was holding and getting a soft snort and an eye roll from his mossy cat beast in response.
After trimming his tiger's claws, Sanji began filing them into shape, pushing back and trimming the cuticles, and then buffing the surface of each nail smooth.
He applied a layer of base coat to each of his Marimo's nails.
"What color would you like, mon cher?" He asked while waiting for the base coat to dry.
Zoro contemplated all the colors laid out on the table.
"Black." He eventually decided. It was his usual choice for nail polish, so Sanji wasn't surprised, but sometimes his Marimo picked other colors, so Sanji always delighted in giving him every option he had available.
"Black it is, my discerning darling!" Sanji agreed gleefully, selecting the matte black he knew his husband preferred. He smoothly applied one layer of the black to each nail, and then started over from the first finger to add a second layer. Once dry, he added a layer of clear top coat to keep his Marimo from immediately chipping it all off.
As his Marimo admired the new layer of color on his nails, Sanji painted his own nails a glittering metallic gold, idly waving his hand to dry it before starting on the other hand.
His darling Marimo leaned against his side and napped, content to keep spending time with him.
Sanji loved him so fucking much.
For those wondering...
"Je t'aime" means "I love you" in French!
"恋してる" is "koishiteru" which is, from what I've been told, *THE* biggest admission of love in the Japanese language, and therefore generally said *VERY* infrequently! As such, Zoro does *NOT* use this phrase often, preferring instead to use actions or other languages/words to express his love, which is why Sanji has such an intense reaction to hearing him say it!
Chapter 26: Monthly Ailments
Chapter by Youkoartemis
Sometimes bodies suck, but having good friends helps make things suck a whole lot less.
Potential TW for: Menstruation; Zoro being outed against his will (it ends well, but still)
This chapter was written by checkered_soul!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Fuuuuuuuck...” Zoro groaned, throwing one arm over his eyes. He had gone through pain like this many times before, but unlike every other kind of pain, it never got any easier.
He pulled off the blanket and slowly got up, walking over to his dresser to reach into a drawer and grab a bottle of Advil.
“This is so fucking stupid. This isn’t supposed to be happening to me.” He grumbled to himself as he tried to open the lid to the bottle.
In his pain and exhaustion, his usually steady hands struggled with the very simple child lock, and, giving up, he threw the bottle at the wall in a fit of frustration.
“Fuck you!" He growled as he watched the bottle roll under his bed, as if to add insult to injury.
Zoro sighed heavily and laid down on the floor in defeat, limbs sprawled out around him.
There was a knock at his door.
“Zoro? Are you okay?” A familiar voice asked through the door.
Zoro reluctantly got up from the floor and padded over to open the door to the room he shared with Sanji.
“What.” He asked sharply, glowering darkly.
“What did you throw at the wall? I could hear it from the other room.” Nami said, hand resting on her hip, foot pressed against the bottom of the door, keeping it open.
“Pill bottle.” Zoro said with an annoyed tone, leaving the entrance of the room to flop face first on the bed in his room.
“Ah. That time again?” Nami asked more sympathetically, walking into Zoro's room and closing the door behind her.
Zoro only grunted in response, face still mushed into the mattress.
Nami sat down on the bed next to Zoro, patting him on the back.
“I can give you some stuff, but I’ll have to add to your debt~.” She said with a conniving smile.
Zoro looked up at her, eyes narrowed.
“Kidding! I'm kidding! I'm not gonna make you pay for this, of all things!” She said, rolling her eyes playfully and reaching out to flick Zoro's earrings.
Zoro mushed his face back into the bed with an annoyed sound.
“I feel like death.” He said, voice muffled.
Nami nodded sympathetically and patted him on the back one more time before standing up.
“I’ll be right back; you stay here.” She said, stretching her arms over her head.
Zoro could hear her walk out of his room and into the main part of the shared dorm room, and then the sound of her walking next door to her own room.
Zoro laid there, hoping that if he just didn’t think about anything, then it would stop hurting.
He started to space out, thinking about nothing and everything at the same time. He thought about Sanji; he had been rooming with him for a while now, though they'd actually only met at the start of the school term, when they found they shared a room.
Zoro had thought he was annoying at first, flirting with every girl he saw, giving them a bunch of sweet foods and fancy drinks for no reason other than that they were ladies. Zoro hadn’t even told him he was trans yet! Luckily, he was really good at keeping his pain hidden when Sanji was around. Like hell was he gonna show any sort of weakness around that curlicue pervert!
When Sanji was at class and Zoro was alone, though, he didn't have to hide how much pain he was actually in.
Not like the cook would understand anyway.
He'd probably treat Zoro like a lady if he told him he was trans. The thought disgusted Zoro. Zoro didn't want to be doted on or treated like he was made of glass - he wanted to be pushed and challenged to keep growing stronger!
That's why he kinda liked Sanji, even if he told himself he didn’t: The curlybrow was surprisingly strong, and always willing to rise to a challenge. Hell, the cook even issued challenges of his own to Zoro! It was. Actually really fun. Zoro liked their rivalry. He liked how Sanji matched him, every single time, insult for insult, blow for blow. It was exciting, in a way Zoro couldn't quite put into words, and made something deep inside of him sit up and take interest in a way he'd never experienced before.
He hated the thought that their rivalry might change if Sanji found out Zoro was trans. The idea hurt for reasons Zoro couldn't quite figure out.
Zoros thoughts were interrupted when there was a light knock on the door before it opened.
“I'm back! I brought extra strong Advil, Nyquil for if the cramps are bad at night, and dark chocolate, because I know you hate regular chocolate. I got a few ice packs you can keep in the tiny freezer thing you guys have here, too!” Nami listed, looking through the bag of stuff she brought, before pausing, “Oh yeah! I got you an extra box of tampons, just in case you can't get more soon enough. Need anything else?” She asked, sitting down next to Zoro, who didn't respond.
“You alive?” She asked, nudging his shoulder.
Zoro grunted in response.
“Good! I'd hate for my most lucrative investment to die on me!” Nami said teasingly, before shoving the bag under Zoro’s bed, “Anyway, that should keep you alive for at least the rest of this month.” She added with a smile.
Zoro curled into a ball and clutched his stomach area, grumbling.
“Hold on, let me get you the Advil.” Nami said, sympathy very clear in her voice. She grabbed a small glass of water for Zoro so that he didn't take the pills dry, while she was at it.
Zoro took the pills and the cup and nodded at her.
“Thanks, witch.” He said, tossing the pills into his mouth and then knocking the water back like a shot.
“No problem!” Nami chirped.
Zoro half expected an offhanded “Us girls gotta stick together” comment, but it didn’t come, and his shoulders untensed in response. He hadn't even noticed them tensing up like that.
Nami sat back down next to him, and put a hand on his shoulder.
“Have you told Sanji yet?” she asked softly, prompting Zoro to shake his head.
“Nah, he wouldn’t understand.” He said quietly, fidgeting with the cup in his hands.
“Mm. Yeah, I can understand why you think that.” She replied, eyes sympathetic and expression softer and warmer than it usually was when directed towards him.
Zoro shot to full attention when he heard the door start to open, spine straightening and eyes narrowing. He relaxed when he saw the familiar sight of the blond cook in the door, resuming his slouched posture.
The cook walked in with multiple bags in his arms and a backpack on his back, also carrying bags.
“I'm home, asshole! Hope you didn't make too much of a me- oh! Nami-san!!! I didn't expect to see you here in our humble abode!!” he said, dropping all of his bags on the floor before basically running to Nami to greet her. "Can I get you anything, my dear? Water? Juice? A snack?"
“Hi Sanji, how are you?” she asked, retracting her hand away from his, and gracefully ignoring the rest of his questions.
“Much better now that I know you’re over for a visit~!” He trilled delightedly, before remembering his bags, “Oh, I'm so sorry, my dear! Could you hold on for just a minute?” Sanji said to excuse himself, before walking over and picking up all his bags and moving them to the kitchen area.
He set the bags down on the table in the kitchen, then quickly and efficiently sorted all the food he got into the fridge, the freezer, or the appropriate cupboards.
“Not that I'm not overjoyed you've chosen to grace us with your radiant presence, but why are you here Nami-san?” Sanji asked without looking away from what he was doing, “I know you’re not here for the mosshead.” He continued, getting an annoyed "Oi!" from Zoro in response to the insult.
“Actually, I am! I thought I would keep him company while you were gone.” Nami said with a mischievous smile as she stood up to lean on the counter and watch Sanji.
Sanji shot a jealous and suspicious glare at Zoro before getting back to work.
“Are you hungry, dearest? If you'd be so gracious as to wait a few minutes, I can make you something to eat!” He said, returning his gaze and attention to Nami and smiling adoringly at her.
“Nah, I'm good, thanks.” Was her only reply, politely waving him off.
“Alright, just tell me if you need anything!” Sanji replied, looking a bit crestfallen that he couldn't wait hand and foot on her.
“Oh! Actually Sanji! Next time you go to the store, could you pick something up for me? I would, but I'm too busy with classes this week. ” Nami said, tapping a finger against her chin as she tested the water on this topic.
“Absolutely, my angel! What did you need me to get?” He said without hesitation, visibly perking up at the possibility of doing Nami a favor.
“My guy friend from class needs some tampons soon; would you be able to get those?” She asked, tilting her head to one side and smiling cutely at him.
Zoro could see the cook's brain screeching to a stop, face going blank as he blinked at Nami.
“Your guy friend?” Sanji asked, looking perplexed.
“Mhm!” Nami confirmed, still smiling.
“A guy???” Sanji repeated, still stuck on this particular piece of information.
“Yes, he trans.” Nami elaborated.
“Oh! I get it now! Yeah, I can get some for him! Actually!! One moment please.” Sanji said, stepping away from what he was doing and quickly walking over to his backpack, unzipping a pocket to grab something. He pulled out a handful of products and handed them to Nami.
“Go ahead and give him those, just in case he needs them before I can get a chance to buy more.” Sanji said with a smile.
“Thank you so much, Sanji!” Nami chirped before walking over to Zoro and handing everything Sanji just gave her to him.
Zoro’s face went completely red as he accepted them, glancing warily over at Sanji, who was clearly just as bewildered as Zoro was, if the way his mouth was hanging open was any indication. The unlit cigarette in his mouth fell unceremoniously to the floor, forgotten in the cook's shock.
“Her. Guy friend. Is you??” Sanji asked, disbelieving.
“Uh. I guess?” Zoro replied hesitantly, shifting slightly and trying to hide his growing anxiety from the cook.
Sanji kicked him in the leg. Nowhere near as hard as he could, but still hard enough to catch Zoro off guard (mostly from the complete lack of malice in it).
“Why didn’t you tell me, idiot??!!! I could have picked stuff up for you instead of you being stupid and having to hide shit from me!!!” He shouted, tone upset, but not angry.
“Didn’t know you were gonna be so accepting.” Zoro answered with a shrug, hiding his relief at the fact the cook apparently wasn't going to change how he treated Zoro due to this information.
Sanji kicked him harder for that comment, glaring and grinding his teeth a little.
“Why wouldn’t I be?????” He demanded, “I'm not that much of a dick!!” He added, clearly offended that Zoro would think Sanji would hurt or make fun of him for something like that.
Zoro shrugged again.
Sanji huffed irritably through his nose as he smoothed out his shirt.
“Well. Enough of that. Are you hungry?” He asked after collecting his dropped cigarette from the floor.
Zoro nodded wordlessly, still stunned at how quickly and easily the cook had accepted the fact that he was trans.
“Alright, I’ll make dinner then.” Sanji said before walking back to the kitchen to cook. “Will you be staying for dinner, Nami-san?” He asked, looking hopefully at the woman.
“Nah, Vivi is coming over for dinner in my room, so I gotta get over there to start cooking!” She said with a smile. "Thanks, though!"
Sanji nodded, looking a bit sad that Nami wasn't staying, but delighted for her happiness.
“Be safe then! Have a good date! Say hello to Vivi-chan for me!”
“Thanks Sanji, I will!” Nami said as she walked to the door, “See ya, Zoro!” She added with a nod before walking out of the dorm, closing the door behind her.
Note: DO NOT out your friends the way Nami did in this chapter! That's an asshole move that only worked because, due to this being a story under our control, Sanji was 100% guaranteed to react well! There's no such guarantee in real life! Be a good friend and DON'T out your friends without their explicit, informed consent!!!
Also yes! Nami makes an appearance!
Chapter 27: Pumpkin Patch Madness
Chapter by Youkoartemis
It's October, which means one thing: Pumpkin patch time!!!
First half was written by checkered_soul and the latter half was written by Youkoartemis!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It was only the first of October, but Luffy was already begging Sanji and Zoro to bring him to a pumpkin patch.
“I’ve never been to one before!! Ace is banned from all of them for throwing pumpkins at Sabo all the time, and I was too little to go!! Now I want to go!!! Pleeeeeeaaaasssseeeeeee!!!” Luffy begged while bouncing up and down on his toes, eyes practically glittering with hope, hands held in front of him in a pleading gesture.
Zoro looked over at Sanji, who was doing their makeup in the mirror, flawlessly winging their eyeliner while speaking.
“I don’t see why not.” They said as they put the cap back onto their eyeliner.
Zoro tilted his head to one side.
“Do we even have those around here??” He asked, trying to remember if he had ever seen signs for one.
“Well not here; we live in a city, so there isn’t really a place for one, but we can always take a short trip to a more rural area that has one.” Sanji said with a shrug, standing up and walking to the closet to find something to wear.
Luffy’s grin widened and he shot his arms up in the air in celebration.
“Pumpkin patch! Pumpkin patch!!!!” He whooped before running to the living room and immediately flopping onto the couch to turn on any fall themed show he could find. Along the way he grabbed hold of Chopper and spun him around in an impromptu dance while continuing to chant "pumpkin patch!!!"
Chopper, caught up in Luffy's enthusiasm, joined the chant, even though he didn't know what was going on.
Zoro turned his gaze from that adorable scene to look at Sanji, trying to pull his thoughts together enough to say what he wanted to ask.
Sanji turned slightly towards him, and could tell just by the look on Zoro’s face that he had at least one question, so Sanji walked up to him and softly placed one hand on their Marimo's shoulder.
“No, you don’t need to be fancy for the pumpkin patch; yes, you can bring your swords along, but no, you can't cut the pumpkins or other things while we are there.” Sanji said with a smile, eyes crinkling at the corners.
Zoro looked up at them and nodded, looking relieved that Sanji had understood and given him answers without him having to put his questions into words. Words were hard, and didn't always cooperate with him, and it was so unbelievably annoying! His spouse almost always knew what he was thinking, though, so oftentimes Zoro didn't need to find the right words, because Sanji already knew what he was thinking. Zoro loved his curly cook so fucking much.
About two weeks later, a good pumpkin patch had been found, and everyone was ready to go. Luffy was basically bouncing off the walls as they all waited for the driver to pull into the driveway.
Zoro sat right outside the front door, on watch for the car, and after about 30 minutes of waiting, the car finally pulled up and the driver got out to greet the others.
Luffy ran to the car. Usopp and Chopper - who was using Mist Flames to look fully human - shot glances to Zoro for reassurance that it was okay to follow. Zoro gave them a nod, and they raced after Luffy, bright eyed and grinning.
Zoro, for his part, simply stood up and stretched a little, turning back and waiting for Sanji.
“Late again.” Sanji said, looking at their pocket watch as they walked forward to stand beside their husband. Zoro nodded in agreement, gaze shifting to the car and the driver.
They walked to the car, and Sanji looked at the driver before letting Zoro get into the car. The driver walked over to Sanji, trying to get out an apology, but failed and just stumbled over their words. They looked completely mortified at their lateness.
“It’s fine," Sanji said calmly, waving one hand dismissively, "But if you’re late again, then we may need to find a new driver: This is the fifth time this has happened in the last few weeks.” They added as they got into the back of the armored limo, sitting next to their husband. The kids were all sitting on the seat across from them, practically vibrating from their excitement.
It took a while because of how far away it was, but the ride to the pumpkin patch was actually pretty nice.
Zoro took a nap against Sanji’s side while Luffy, Usopp, and Chopper spent most of the ride pointing at things on the way there with wonder in their eyes. Sanji really did love all of them for different reasons. Luffy, for example, was very different from anyone they had ever met.
He was very childlike, but not in a stupid way: He found good in everything, and he saw all the beauty in the world, in even the ugliest places; Luffy was what Sanji had wanted to be as a child, if they were being honest.
Sanji turned their gaze to Usopp. Sweet, but timid; an avid storyteller. Uncertain and cowardly, but with a loyalty that strengthened his spine and had him doing incredible things. Everything about his nature resonated deeply with Sanji, who knew that sort of fear and uncertainty intimately.
Sanji shifted their gaze over to little Chopper. Brilliant, gentle, and cheerful, if rather naive; an absolute genius when it came to medicine and doctoring, and Sanji couldn't possibly be prouder of him! Chopper was like all the good parts of their childhood: Kind, dedicated, compassionate, and hopeful.
Finally, Sanji looked over to their wonderful Marimo: Strong, confident, and everything Sanji wanted to be now, but somehow, Sanji had just stayed static their entire life, in an odd way.
Sanji wasn’t confident: They faked that, a lot of the time, because they still weren’t certain on who they were; everything they thought about themself was always changing, but rarely good, and nothing they did felt like enough-
Before Sanji could finish their thought, Luffy leapt on top of them, beaming brightly.
“Sanji! I saw the pumpkin place!!!” Luffy said excitedly, grinning so widely it almost literally stretched ear to ear. His Flames reached out and excitedly wrapped themselves around Sanji's, almost dancing from how eager the boy was to explore the pumpkin patch.
Sanji laughed, suddenly feeling so much better. It was incredible just how easily Luffy could dispel their negative thoughts, just by being himself. Suddenly, it was like the insecurities were gone, leaving only happiness and contentment in their wake. Sanji was so grateful that their Marimo had met this wonderful Sky and brought him home with him.
“We should probably wake up Zoro then, hm?” They asked with a soft, indulgent smile.
Luffy nodded so enthusiastically it almost looked like his head would fly off of his shoulders, and Sanji couldn't help but let out a little laugh at that.
They then nudged their husband lightly with one elbow, and Zoro lazily opened his eye, looking around.
“Eh?” He said, not quite awake enough to understand what was going on yet. He rubbed at his eyes with the back of one fist and yawned widely, stretching luxuriously and looking slightly more alert afterward.
“We’re almost there; you should probably wake up a bit more so you aren’t sleep walking around the corn maze.” Sanji said jokingly, grinning.
Zoro grunted and rolled his eye in response, but straightened up slightly in his seat, looking more alert.
The car slowly pulled into the parking lot, and when it stopped, Luffy immediately jumped out of the car and ran off, followed shortly by Usopp and Chopper.
"Luffy!! Wait for us!!" Usopp called after the other boy, and Chopper followed suit, also shouting for Luffy to wait up.
Zoro snorted softly and began to head after them, but paused when Sanji laid a hand on his shoulder, causing him to look back at his spouse.
Sanji smiled warmly at him and linked their arm with Zoro's, leaning against his side.
"Shall we?" They asked, eyes glittering with amusement and the simple happiness of watching their loved ones enjoy themselves.
Zoro's lips quirked up into a small smile in response.
"Mm." He agreed, nodding slightly.
They set off at a more leisurely pace than the children, arm in arm, keeping the children in sight to make sure they didn't cause any trouble.
Luffy was excitedly looking at all the pumpkins, picking them up and looking them all over while Usopp rambled about how "I've been the best pumpkin chooser 500 times in a row! Pumpkin patches all over the state know me as the best pumpkin picker!!" to an amazed Chopper who hung on his every word.
"Oi, Luffy, Usopp, Chopper," Sanji called, drawing their attention, "We'll pick out pumpkins last, okay? That way we're not carrying them everywhere while we enjoy the other attractions."
"But what if I find the best pumpkin, but put it down and then it's gone by the time I get back?" He whined.
"D'you really wanna be lugging a pumpkin around through the petting zoo?" Zoro asked in return, snorting softly, "Can't pet goats or bunnies if you're carrying a pumpkin."
Luffy looked like his tiny mind had just been blown, jaw hanging open.
"PETTING ZOO!?" He asked, voice rising sharply in his excitement. You could almost literally see stars in his eyes.
"And a haunted house, and a hay bale ride, carnival rides, a corn maze, some carnival games…" Sanji listed idly, holding up a finger with each point.
The three kids looked increasingly amazed with each new revelation.
Sanji grinned slightly; they knew they'd won.
"What d'you boys wanna do first?" They asked, looking over the eager, excited faces in front of them.
"Haunted house!" "Petting zoo!" "Hay bale ride!" They said at the same time, before looking at each other in betrayal.
Sanji laughed, eyes crinkling at the corners as their grin grew, and they could feel their Marimo's rumbling chuckle through where their side was pressed against Zoro's.
"Well, the hay bale ride's right over there, and then the haunted house is there, and the petting zoo's just beyond that, so we could hit up all three in that order, just as we go along?" Sanji offered.
The children mulled this over, each mentally debating if they were okay with that.
"Yeah, okay!" "Sure!" "Alright!" They chorused, grins back on their faces.
With that sorted out, they wandered over to stand in line for the hay bale ride, and when it was their turn, they all sat down on the bales of hay in the back of the tractor truck. All three kids were practically vibrating from their excitement, which helped Sanji feel better about the fact that their pants were absolutely going to be covered in so much dust and hay because of this. Sure, they weren't wearing anything fancier than jeans, but still!
Their Marimo lightly bumped his shoulder against theirs, drawing their attention to him. He smiled softly at them, eye looking like molten gold as the sun's light hit it, full of an almost painful amount of fondness. Sanji's heart melted a little more, fluttering delightedly as they smiled back, utterly besotted.
Zoro's soft gaze slid over to the boys, watching their excitement with a calm pleasure, lips still quirked up at the corners.
Sanji leaned into his side, turning to join him in watching the kids enjoy the ride. It really was quite a pleasant little tour of the farm.
After disembarking from the tractor, they made their way over to the haunted house, Chopper and Usopp beginning to huddle together, with Usopp trying to raise their spirits by telling stories about how "I'm the best exorcist in the country! People all over the world seek my assistance in getting rid of ghosts and demons! There's nothing in that house that I can't handle!" Chopper and Luffy squeaked and cheered in amazement over Usopp's tales, eyes sparkling.
The haunted house itself was hardly interesting, for Zoro and Sanji: Just cheap jumpscares and blatantly fake decorations - many also honestly quite cutesy, so as to be child friendly - attached to obvious mechanisms to make them move. There were a few actors in cheesy costumes to jump around corners and scare people, but that did nothing for either of the adults in the group. The kids, however…
Luffy was delighted, gleefully laughing and clapping at all the scares and complimenting the actors on their spooky costumes, even going so far as to try and invite them to join his "crew," beaming all the while. (Zoro and Sanji always dragged him away before he could finish such invitations, of course.)
Usopp and Chopper screeched at every single spook, clinging tightly to each other, Luffy, or whichever of the adult Guardians was closest. Chopper usually clung to Zoro while Usopp usually hid behind Sanji. The two adults shared amused glances each time it happened. Zoro patted Chopper on the head (or, well, the hat) when the little reindeer in human guise clung to his leg, and Sanji would sigh and pat Usopp on the back with a mutter of "there, there."
Eventually they made it out of the haunted house, and the two scaredy-cats celebrated, loudly rejoicing and praising everything under the sun that they'd survived the ordeal.
"Shishishishi! That was fun!! We should go again!" Luffy exclaimed, grinning, his hands behind his head.
"NO!!!!!" Usopp and Chopper chorused loudly, pouncing on their Sky and attempting to rough him up while loudly insulting him, with Usopp pulling on Luffy's cheeks and Chopper pounding his fists on Luffy's leg and hip.
Luffy just continued to laugh delightedly as he was dragged to the ground by his Sun and Cloud Guardians.
"Pfft~ GAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!" Zoro laughed loudly, doing absolutely nothing to protect his Sky from the mutiny. Tears sprung to his eye as he ended up nearly bent over in laughter. It brought a soft, adoring smile to Sanji's face.
Then a new voice interjected.
Sanji only knew one person with a laugh like that, and Zoro immediately straightening his spine and focusing intently, all signs of mirth wiped off of his face only reinforced that certainty.
"Perona." Zoro stated flatly, an edge of contempt in his voice, arms crossed over his chest as he glowered at the pink haired woman. "Should've expected you'd be here."
"Perona-chan~~!" Sanji greeted brightly, grinning dopily as they waved excitedly at the gothic beauty before them.
"Well, well! If it isn't my uncute baby brother and his way-too-cute-for-him spouse!" Perona said snidely, smirking at Zoro.
"Perona-chan, my darkly devastating ghost princess! It's been far too long since I set eyes upon your ghoulish beauty, my darling sister-in-law~!!" Sanji crooned, noodling about.
Zoro scoffed, arms crossed over his chest as he glowered.
"Stepsister-in-law…" He said mutinously under his breath, glaring at his stepsister.
Perona harrumphed at him, then smirked.
"Dìreach cuir aghaidh ris: tha barrachd gaol aig do chèile dhomh!" She said snidely in Scots Gaelic.
"Dùin do bheul salach, galla taibhse!" Zoro snarled at her in the same language.
Sanji didn't speak a single lick of Scots Gaelic, but they knew an insult when they heard one, so they turned a glare on their Marimo for insulting a lady.
"Oi, mosshead! Don't insult ladies!" They snapped, causing their Marimo to scoff again, looking downright mutinous .
"What lady? I only see my bitch of a stepsister!" Zoro shot back, only to be kicked in the shin by his spouse. "Ow, fuck! You wanna go, Curly?!" He snarled, squaring up, hand on his swords.
"Oh, the warm cider looks soooo good… But I don't have any money with me…" Perona whined, pouting in a blatant manipulation attempt on Sanji, who immediately stopped preparing to fight their husband in order to dart to their stepsister's side.
"Why, of course I'll help you, my ghostly princess!" They simpered, smiling at her as they linked arms with her.
She smiled back at them, then shot a victorious smirk over her shoulder at Zoro, who was visibly seething.
Sanji was, of course, aware of the rivalry between Perona and their Marimo, but they saw Perona so rarely that they saw no harm in playing along with her. They could always make it up to their Marimo later, after all~.
They could even start working on that before leaving the pumpkin patch: Their Marimo loved tiny pumpkins. Loved them to the point that it was always such a challenge getting their darling moss to leave the display of gourds and miniature pumpkins at the grocery store while they were there, so Sanji figured getting a few of those would be a good starting bribe to get back into their husband's good graces.
In the meantime, they were going to buy Perona that cider she wanted.
And then the words of doom were spoken: "Hey guys! Look what I caught!!"
Luffy and Chopper immediately crowded around Usopp.
"Oooooohhhhh!!!! Usopp! That's so cool!!!!" Luffy exclaimed, eyes shining.
"Let me see! Let me see!!!" Chopper demanded before squealing in delight, "Whoaaaa that's so cool!!!"
Zoro stopped glaring at Sanji and Perona long enough to look at what had gotten the kids' attention. He peered down at what Usopp was holding in his hands, and hummed in vague interest.
"That is pretty cool." He agreed, smiling slightly, eye glittering with interest.
Usopp visibly preened under the attention.
"Oi, what's going on here?" Sanji asked, finally noticing the hold up.
As they and Perona approached, however… They found that the thing in Usopp's hands was a live grasshopper. A live grasshopper that decided enough was enough and leapt away… directly onto Perona.
Chopper screamed and ran in circles because they were screaming.
Zoro nearly died, tears in his eye and wheezing with hysterical laughter.
All while Usopp gaped in shock at the chaos he'd unwittingly unleashed.
"Ugh! I can't believe this! Why am I not surprised that your group's as uncute as you are, Greeny?!" Perona complained, finally regaining her composure after she'd spent over a minute screeching and flailing to get the grasshopper off of herself. Her face was red and her cheeks were puffed out in rage as she petulantly stomped on the ground.
Zoro was too busy cackling to respond with words.
Perona whirled on Usopp, glaring viciously.
"YOU." She snarled.
"M-m-me?" Usopp stuttered, pointing at himself, legs shaking.
"You better watch your back, kid." She hissed before whipping around with a "harrumph!" and leaving, nose in the air.
Sanji turned to pin Usopp with a glare, but Zoro sidled over next to the boy, wiping away the last of his tears with one hand as his laughter wound down.
"Usopp, you're officially my new favorite." Zoro informed him, grinning wildly and clapping the boy on the back, nearly bowling him over. He then draped his arm around Usopp's shoulders, pulling him flush to his side as they continued walking along.
Usopp blushed bright red and grinned bashfully back at Zoro, visibly delighted.
"Hey!" Luffy and Chopper chorused, outraged.
"That's not fair!" "I wanna be Zoro's favorite!!" They exclaimed, jealous, as they clung onto Zoro, who wasn't slowed down at all by the addition of their weight.
"I thought Sanji was your favorite, though?" Usopp asked, peering up at Zoro.
"Eh." Zoro shrugged, "That was before they chose my sister over me."
"Ah." Usopp acknowledged, then added, grinning, "Well! You've made a fantastic choice! I'll have you know that I'm known around the world for my sister-scaring abilities, and I also have countless other talents that make me perfect for being the favorite!!"
"Yeah, I know." Zoro agreed, smiling softly and getting another shy, flustered grin from Usopp.
Luckily for everyone, Luffy and Chopper forgot about their jealousy of Usopp while visiting the petting zoo. Petting all the baby animals they could see was far more important than fighting over Zoro's favor, especially since they all knew Zoro loved them all equally, even if he'd called Usopp his favorite.
Zoro followed them all around closely, smiling softly and making sure to keep a close eye on all of them, and purposefully not paying attention to Sanji, as revenge for the cook's earlier "betrayal". He wasn't actually mad - he loved his sister, really he did, but he and she had a Rivalry, and so appearances needed to be maintained whether he was actually upset or not.
Besides: He knew Sanji liked having the excuse to buy him things, and Zoro was perfectly happy to let them.
So of course Sanji did manage to buy back Zoro's favor, and all it took was four miniature pumpkins, two very nice decorative gourds that looked vaguely like geese, and a couple bottles of pumpkin-based booze that intrigued both of them.
All-in-all, it was a really nice day out.
Meet Perona, Zoro's stepsister! They love each other, really: The Cain Instinct is just *REALLY* strong with them! Hahaha
"Dìreach cuir aghaidh ris: tha barrachd gaol aig do chèile dhomh!" - "Just face it: your spouse loves me more!"
"Dùin do bheul salach, galla taibhse!" - "Shut your dirty mouth, ghost bitch!"
(Both translations were done through Google Translate, so if I got them wrong, I'm very sorry, please feel free to correct me!)
Chapter 28: Initiation
Chapter by Youkoartemis
Zoro wants to stand at Sanji's side and support his spouse, but isn't sure how. He turns to his father for help.
"Sensei." Zoro greeted his adoptive father in Japanese with a nod.
"Zoro! It's good to see you again." Koushirou greeted back in Japanese, smiling calmly, "What brings you all the way here?"
"Sanji's mafia." Zoro stated, kneeling on the cushion across from Koushirou's place at the table. His father poured him a cup of tea, and Zoro nodded in thanks.
"You found out?" Koushirou asked gently, smile never wavering, though he was watching Zoro's reaction intently.
"You and Mihawk are mafia, too." Zoro continued, not surprised his adoptive father had known; Koushirou and Mihawk had always kept secrets from Zoro and Perona. Zoro figured it was probably a big part of why he'd never questioned Sanji doing the same.
"Yes, though I was yakuza, not mafia." Koushirou admitted with a small incline of his head, "However, I retired years ago to raise my children."
Zoro hummed thoughtfully in response, sipping his tea.
"My husband is a criminal." He said, repeating himself as he tried to put his thoughts into an order he could speak, "That means, to support him, I must become a criminal."
"You don't have to: Mihawk and I do very well, even though I haven't been a criminal in many years." Koushirou said gently, but Zoro shook his head, grimacing.
He appreciated the reassurance, but it wasn't what he meant.
"I want to stand by his side." He said, attempting to clarify.
"Ah, I see. That's very admirable of you."
"I don't know the mafia." Zoro continued, speaking slower as he frowned down at his tea in thought, turning the cup in his hands, "but I know the yakuza. You taught me."
He looked intently at his father.
"There are formalities." It was both a question and not.
"There are." He agreed.
"I want to do this right . Where do I go?"
Koushirou pinned him with an intense look.
"You're entirely certain of this course?" He asked seriously, "There's no backing out after this."
Zoro steeled himself and met his father's gaze squarely, even though it sent alarm bells screaming in his head about how uncomfortably intimate the eye contact was. This was Important; discomfort was a small price to pay.
"I know." He said, voice calm, firm, and level. He'd thought it all over already. He knew what he wanted.
Koushirou nodded, not appearing surprised in the slightest. He knew Zoro wouldn't have brought it up at all if he weren't already certain.
"We'll make the trip this weekend, then." He said simply.
Zoro nodded, and that was that.
"Cook, I'm going to Japan with Koushirou this weekend." Zoro announced at dinner that evening.
"Oh?" Sanji said, looking up in interest. It wasn't unusual for his Marimo to go on trips with one or the other of his adoptive parents, but usually it was Mihawk dragging Zoro off places, not Koushirou. That was rather interesting.
His mossy cat beast merely grunted in response, clarifying nothing.
"What's the occasion?" Sanji asked, prying gently to see if a little prompting would help his Marimo put his thoughts into words, like it sometimes did.
"Visiting family." Zoro said after a pause to slowly chew and then swallow.
Sanji's Marimo merely grunted in response, clearly not too keen on explaining what he and his father had planned.
"Can we come with?" Chopper asked, looking up, eyes bright.
Zoro visibly hesitated, looking deeply troubled, and Sanji could tell he was torn between giving in to Chopper's cuteness and refusing so he could spend some quality bonding time with his father, who he didn't see all that often.
"Chopper, I've never introduced you to my old man, have I?" Sanji said, graciously stepping in, gaining a grateful look from his Marimo in response.
Chopper's eyes widened in awe as he gasped.
"No, you haven't!!" He agreed, "Are you gonna take me to meet him??" He looked overjoyed, but then paused, "Oh, but is it okay for me to meet him…?"
Sanji smiled kindly at the little reindeer, reaching out to gently stroke Chopper's head.
"Don't worry - he's in the know, and I'm sure he'd love to meet his grandkid." He said reassuringly.
"You mean it?" Chopper asked hopefully, looking up with big, imploring eyes.
"Yeah." Sanji agreed with a nod, "S'about time I paid him a visit anyway, or he'll get pissy and start bitchin' and moanin' about how I never visit. Shitty old man." He scoffed, acting like he didn't care, but he was dead certain his fondness for his adoptive father must've been written all over his face and tone.
"Wow!!!" Chopper exclaimed, looking nervous but excited to meet Zeff.
"And maybe after they get back, we can introduce you to Zoro's dad, too." Sanji added, flicking his gaze to his husband to gauge his reaction.
His tiger looked perfectly content to keep eating his dinner, completely unperturbed by the idea, so Sanji was pretty certain his Marimo was all for the idea.
"Right, Marimo?" He added, pressing gently for a verbal response, just to make absolutely certain.
"Aa." His mossy husband wordlessly agreed. "Koushirou will love him." He added, picking up on the fact Sanji wanted a more complete response than he'd initially given.
Chopper looked over the moon with the knowledge that he could meet both of his adoptive parents' parents.
"How long're you expecting to be gone for, Marimo?" Sanji asked next, looking over at his husband.
Zoro chewed slowly to give himself more time to think it over. He swallowed, and then answered.
"Few days." He mused, "Couple weeks, at most."
Sanji nodded, and that was about that.
They arrived at the Shimotsuki family compound, and were greeted as family. And why wouldn't they be? Koushirou may have retired, but he never left the family, and Zoro was one of Koushirou's children, meaning he was family, too. He may not have realized it while growing up, but he and Kuina had been being trained and groomed to join the family as full members, before her death and the subsequent move to America.
They were family, and even after all the years spent out of the country, Zoro still recognized some of them.
Koushirou led him to a particular building, and they entered.
"Finally bringing your brat to me, hm?" The elderly woman asked, smirking as she gathered items together, "It's about time; I was thinking he'd never join!"
"It was Zoro's choice to join or not, Shima-san." Koushirou said softly, voice respectful but firm as he knelt on a cushion across from the woman, motioning for Zoro to do the same.
"Bah!" She scoffed, "But at least he's finally joining now!" A sly look appeared on her wrinkled face, "Though it's more of an alliance than a full membership, isn't it?" She asked knowingly.
Zoro inclined his head, slightly sheepish at getting caught out so easily.
"Yes, you're correct." He confirmed, following his father's cue and being more respectful than he usually would be.
"Even if you married a foreigner, at least you had the sense to marry a useful one. The family will appreciate the new, powerful connections...as I'm sure your foreigner will appreciate the connections you bring in return." Shima said, smirking as she stood and prepared the area.
Zoro disliked his marriage being broken down into politics like this, but he'd heard Sanji mention once how difficult it was to make connections with yakuza families, given how xenophobic and isolationist they tended to be, and Zoro knew the Shimotsuki were a big group with a lot of power. So, bluntly speaking, the old woman was right, loathe as he was to admit it.
Her tools prepared, the old woman pinned Zoro in place with the sudden, soul searching intensity of her stare.
"You're a brave fool, aren't you?" She asked, though Zoro could somehow tell it wasn't a question, "Strong and honorable, too. A willing killer, but only when necessary. A challenge seeker. Recently gone through a large upheaval, and adapting to the changes." She analyzed, "Yes, I know exactly what to do for you, boy."
She motioned to the cleared section of floor.
"Shirt off; kneel on the floor, and for the love of the gods and our honorable ancestors, Don't Move." She ordered.
This was what Zoro was here for, and he knew it, so he complied.
"So, what did you go all the way to Japan for, Marimo?" Sanji asked eir husband after his return, when they were alone in their shared room.
E trailed eir fingers down eir tiger's side, feeling rather amorous after their lengthy separation.
Eir Marimo didn't seem to be on the same page, however, as he fidgeted with Wado Ichimonji's hilt, clearly deep in thought, judging from the intense glare he was giving the far wall.
"Zoro?" Sanji prompted gently, sitting back slightly to pay closer attention.
"...Do you know of the Shimotsuki yakuza family?" Eir Marimo asked, still staring intensely at that wall.
The question seemed random, but if eir Marimo was taking the time to bring it up, then it had to be directly relevant: Eir Marimo wasn't the sort to beat around the bush or evade questions. So Sanji gave it serious consideration.
Yes, e had heard of the Shimotsuki yakuza. They were a big name in Japan, and quite infamous in mafia circles for how not even the Vongola had managed to successfully negotiate any sort of alliance or treaty with them. They were notoriously reluctant to have dealings with outsiders. Yes, some outsiders married into the family, but even then…
"Yeah, I've heard of 'em. Why?" Sanji said, putting those thoughts into words for eir husband's benefit.
"...Koushirou's last name is Shimotsuki." Eir Marimo said, and Sanji's mind came screeching to a halt.
The only reason Zoro would be mentioning this after bringing up the yakuza group would be if those facts were related. But the only family with that last name associated with the group…
Was the main family.
AKA: Yakuza royalty.
"Your dad is yakuza royalty?!" E most definitely did not yelp.
"Younger son of the main branch." Zoro said with an incline of his head, "But I'm not blood… and I married a gaijin." He added.
"You're still part of the main family of a major yakuza family."
"Am now; wasn't before." Eir mossy husband corrected, "Got initiated."
Before Sanji could feel more than the slightest twinge of betrayal, Zoro looked at em with an intensely serious expression.
"Wanna stand by your side, cook, but I wanna do it right." He explained, eye glowing faintly green and purple from the sheer intensity of his emotions, "Don't know how to be mafia, but I know yakuza. Wanted to show I'm serious about this."
He turned around so his back was facing Sanji, and undid the top of his robe, letting it fall from his shoulders.
Sanji sucked in a breath at what e saw. There was a tattoo covering the entirety of eir Marimo's back and the upper part of his right arm.
Across his back was a snarling tiger ascending up a rocky hill, face turned fully towards the viewer. Its right eye was green and its left eye was purple, both perfectly matching the color of Zoro's Flames. From the tiger's mouth hung a bloody, severed head.
Across the upper part of his right arm was a depiction of water with bright red lotuses, the color of Sanji's Flames. There were even small spots of yellow in the center of some of them.
It was a beautiful tattoo, altogether.
Sanji reached out to touch it, then hesitated.
"You can touch it." Eir Marimo said, apparently reading eir mind.
With an invitation like that, who was Sanji to refuse?
So e reached forward, gently tracing the lines of the tiger inked across eir husband's precious back. Eir Marimo's muscles shifted and rippled beneath eir touch, responding to the feather light contact of eir fingers. Sanji took a moment to marvel at the corded strength beneath eir fingers. To marvel at this fearsome tiger sitting patiently on eir bed, letting em touch him to eir heart's content.
Sanji lightly traced around the tattooed tiger's head, arching an eyebrow upon reaching the gory severed head hanging from its jaws.
"Rather gruesome, to get a severed head tattooed on yourself." E said teasingly, lightly drumming eir fingers on the inked drawing in question.
Eir Marimo snorted softly, purposefully shifting the muscles beneath Sanji's hand.
"Means I'm fearless, honorable, have respect for my enemies, and I'm not afraid to die, so don't mess with me." He said, sounding like he was quoting someone or something.
"There's symbolism to these images?" Sanji asked, hand going still from where it had gone back to tracing the lines inked upon eir Marimo.
The mossman scoffed at him.
"'Course there is." He said sharply, turning to glower at Sanji over his shoulder.
"Explain it to me?" E asked, laying eir hand flat on eir husband's back, looking attentively towards his face.
The glower softened into something that looked far more pleased. Eir Marimo liked explaining things that were meaningful to him.
"The tiger means courageous, brave; a protector. The water means adaptability. The lotuses mean hardship and change." He explained, "So all of it together means "I'm an honorable, courageous protector who has respect for my enemies. I've adapted to great changes, and been through many hardships. I don't fear death, so you better not mess with me.""
Sanji couldn't help but smile.
"It fits." E agreed, stroking eir hand down Zoro's spine, then leaning forward to press a kiss to eir husband's spine at the spot where his neck met his shoulders.
Eir mossy tiger hummed in agreement, gently leaning back into Sanji's touch.
"Shima-san does good work. S'why Koushirou brought me to her." He said softly, muscles relaxed as Sanji wrapped eir arms around him and rested eir head on his shoulder, leaning eir head against his.
E slowly and gently trailed a finger along the scar bisecting eir husband's chest, drawing a contented hum from eir beloved tiger.
"You mentioned you were initiated, though?" E said softly, not really wanting to break the quiet, but needing to understand what that meant.
"I'm part of the clan, now." Eir husband said, voice a low rumble, "But I'm not expected to stay there, and I'm not directly under their command."
Sanji hummed softly in a wordless cue for eir Marimo to continue, idly tracing patterns on his skin with eir fingers.
"...Oyabun wants to talk t'you, at some point. Somethin' t'do with a possible alliance?" Eir unbelievable Marimo continued, pausing for a moment to scratch his head in confusion, "I didn't really pay attention, 'cause I only went to get the tattoo. I figure you can deal with the rest: You're good at all that politics shit."
Sanji's hands stopped moving as eir Marimo's words registered in eir mind, sitting back a bit to look at eir Marimo in disbelief.
"...You mean the Shimotsuki family - one of the biggest and most xenophobic yakuza groups - might be interested in negotiating an alliance with me, an outsider?" E asked, stunned and honestly more than a little skeptical.
Eir husband once more turned his head to look at Sanji over his shoulder, frowning, his Flames prickling with confusion and mild offense.
"...Why wouldn't they? You're family, now." He said, not understanding.
"I'm an outsider." Sanji reiterated.
"You were but then you married me. Now you're family, 'cause I'm family." Zoro said back, a bit frustrated.
"Others have married into the Shimotsuki and haven't managed to form alliances." Sanji pointed out.
"Hell if I know, cook!" Eir Marimo snapped, turning further to glare at Sanji, clearly losing his patience, "Ask the Oyabun!"
Sanji gave eir Marimo an apologetic smile and ran a hand through his hair, thankful that he wasn't so upset he was refusing contact.
"I'm sorry, dear, I was just taken off guard about you coming back with news like this, is all. I'm grateful, of course, but surprised." E explained, keeping eir tone soft to avoid setting eir husband off any further.
Normally e'd love to push further and spar with eir husband, but Sanji was hoping for a different sort of sparring, tonight, and the chances of getting that outcome were low if e pissed eir husband off.
Luckily for Sanji's plans, eir tiger's hackles slowly lowered back down, his muscles relaxing as he settled back against Sanji.
Sanji leaned into eir Marimo, running eir hands along his muscles, up his sides, pausing to toy with his earrings for a little, and then up to play with his hair. E pressed soft kisses against Zoro's neck, causing eir mossy beast to hum appreciatively and tilt his head to the side to give Sanji better access.
"You are incredible, and I love you so." Kiss. "Damn." Kiss. "Much!" Another kiss as Sanji ran eir hands down eir husband's chest to pull him closer.
Eir tiger rumbled deep in his chest and turned to meet em halfway, running one of his own hands up Sanji's back.
"Missed me, ero-cook?" He asked teasingly, voice deep and gravelly, eye half-lidded and dark with arousal. There was a small smirk on his lips.
So of course Sanji had to kiss the smirk off eir smug kitty cat's face.
"Always~." E purred, nuzzling eir husband.
Their lips met again, and they fell into bed, just as Sanji had planned.
The politics were interesting, and the unique opportunity e'd been handed was sublime, but Sanji didn't care about any of that right now: E had eir Marimo right where e wanted him, and e intended to make the most of that, and e was certain that eir sinfully sexy husband wouldn't object at all~.
Sanji was so glad Zoro was finally home.
The symbolism used *is* correct, to the best of my knowledge after I'd done a bit of research into the topic, but any depictions of how the yakuza do and decide such things was *not* researched, so I apologize for any inaccuracies there!
In all honesty, including all these Politics was accidental? This was supposed to be a short little thing about Zoro getting a tattoo to symbolize his commitment to standing by Sanji's side, and then whoops! My hand slipped! Now there's clan politics!! Oh well!
Chapter 29: When it's too much
Chapter by checkered_soul
Stressful days lead to stressful nights and sometimes it can be too much for one person.
It had been a very stressful day for Zoro. There had been lots of meetings, and the people they'd met with were idiots in every sense of the word: Trying to argue with Sanji, yelling, making threats, and even trying to start a physical fight at one point!
Zoro knew Sanji could deal with those kinds of weak people really easily, but it was still stressful, and it had kept Zoro on edge during every meeting!
It was the end of the day now, and Zoro was trying to relax again, but with Luffy bouncing all over the place with Chopper and Usopp running around after him, it was a bit difficult.
Zoro tried to focus on just one thing and tune out everything else, but that seemed to completely backfire: He was now aware of everything .
He could feel the texture of the carpet on his feet, the fabric of his clothing, his hands touching the couch, the voices of everyone yelling and running around and Sanji trying to round them up and failing the bright lights of the room and the smells of the food being cooked and the whispering of a few of Sanji’s men that were currently on guard. Everything was too much. It was too much!
He abruptly stood up and walked to his room to sit on the soft bed and try to calm himself down, face in his hands as he focused on his breathing.
He was fortunately able to calm down enough that he could focus less on everything that was going on. He wasn't going to panic or anything, but he could tell that the rest of the day was gonna be rough.
He took a moment to try and gather his thoughts, taking deep, calming breaths… but his thoughts were still more than a bit scattered when he decided to go back to the main room.
“You alright, Marimo?” Sanji asked, frowning slightly in concern.
Zoro opened his mouth to answer, but realized that words were not going to be a thing he could manage.
He paused for a moment, mentally flailing for a way to respond, then nodded in reply to Sanji’s question.
“Zoro!!! I found a bug!” Luffy shouted from across the room and Usopp started rambling a story about how “That kind of bug is actually very small for it’s kind" and that "It’s so much bigger in the ocean!! Taller than a skyscraper, and wider than seventeen busses!”
Chopper watched and squealed with amazement and Luffy began running around with the bug again, calling it “Little Giant.”
Zoro sat back down on the couch, holding his left hand in his right and feeling the smooth surface of the top of his hand.
‘Little Giant Little Giant Little Giant ocean bug food skyscraper giant little bug’ His head was filled with random bits of things the others were saying, all of it flitting around too fast to even try to make sense of, ‘Almost food ready bug ocean you found bigger’
Zoro couldn’t think. The words were all mushing together in his head into a jumble and he couldn't make any sense of them and it was toomuchtoomuchtoomuch!
“Zoro?” Chopper walked up to him, standing slightly to the left of him.
Zoro looked at him and tilted his head.
“You're mumbling.” Chopper said, frowning in concern, ears drooping a bit.
Zoro grunted and went back to looking at the floor. He had no idea what Chopper had said. It had sounded like "Yuermuomlblnig" to him, or something, and that wasn't words.
Sure, English wasn’t his first language, but this wasn't normal. He'd lived in America for years; he knew English really well! Why couldn’t he understand anyone? Why did all these words feel fake?
Before he knew it, Luffy and Usopp were also standing around him, asking him questions and offering him random things like paper and bugs in containers and little cups of dirt.
Zoro couldn’t understand what they were doing, but they were too close!
Zoro couldn’t get words to work at all.
He wanted space.
He wanted them to get away from him.
Would they understand him if he tried to speak? The only language he could think in at that moment was Japanese, and not even clearly, because nothing was clear! When he tried to think it was just a bunch of random words!
He kept thinking until something finally made sense.
“どこかに行って!” He blurted out, not knowing if anyone would be able to understand him; not caring if anyone would be able to understand him.
He just wanted to say something, and maybe they'd get the hint!
Zoro put his head in his hands, pulling at his hair. There was a sound like growling mixed with whining, and distantly, he realized it was him making the noise. He was rocking back and forth in an effort to soothe himself, but it wasn't doing much of anything at all.
He heard Sanji say something and walk over, grabbing everyone else and moving them to a different part of the room.
Zoro could hear em speaking to them softly.
Zoro focused on Sanji’s voice, his rocking slowing down as more of his attention was grabbed. Sanji's voice was soothing and slow. Steady enough for him to metaphorically balance himself on before his mind fell over and sent him into a panic.
Zoro closed his eye to listen more, even if he didn’t understand what was being said.
He heard Sanji stop talking, and listened as footsteps approached him.
“Bad sensory day today?” He heard Sanji ask softly, the words just barely clear enough for Zoro to understand when spoken as softly and slowly as Sanji had.
Zoro nodded slightly, the movement jerky.
“Alright, one moment.” E said before walking away.
Zoro waited for Sanji to return.
When e did, there were a few things in eir arms.
Sanji put them all down next to Zoro.
Zoro looked at the items: Sanji’s blue hoody with the wave pattern. Zoro picked it up, feeling the soft, well-loved texture of the hoody. Sanji had owned and been wearing it for years. Zoro sniffed it: It smelled like Sanji (goodwarmsafemineHome) . It smelt like Sanji had put a fresh spritz of eir cologne on it, and Zoro's mind purred in pleasure at the smell.
Zoro pressed his face in deeper, nuzzling it to feel the texture more, and breathing deep. He would have put it on, but Zoro was a much bigger size than Sanji, so he just held it.
He looked back at the pile: A blanket. He touched it: Another soft texture he loved! He picked it up, and remembered the blanket was a weighted one, and he draped it around him, smiling slightly at the even pressure all around him. It was grounding, and helped him feel more solid.
Sanji then sat next to him, brushing eir arm against Zoro’s through the blanket and patiently waiting.
Zoro wasn't ready for that, yet, so he grabbed the other things next to him: A soft textured ball that had plastic bits that felt nice to roll between his hands and one of the chew toys Sanji had got for him to chew on - Zoro loved the sensory feel that chewing things gave him, but had a horrible habit of chewing on his hands or the side of his mouth if left to his own devices. Sanji had always complained about kisses tasting like blood because of it, so e had gotten Zoro a bunch of things to chew on instead.
Zoro set it closer to him in case he needed it.
He then remembered Sanji was sitting next to him, so he leaned into em and rested his head on eir shoulder, closing his eye. He had long ago met his word limit due to the stress, but he made a small, soft sound to wordlessly say “I love you."
Sanji got the idea though, as usual, and quietly replied: “I love you too, Marimo”.
A few seconds passed before he could hear the soft fwip slap fwip slap of Luffy's flipflops on the floor, and he opened his eye slightly to see that Luffy was indeed slowly walking over to stand in front of them. Luffy wasn't a threat, so Zoro let his eye fall shut again.
Zoro then felt something be placed onto his head. It felt nice, safe, good; this thing was Important. Luffy’s hat - his Treasure.
Luffy patted him softly on the shoulder and whispered - actually whispered, not just talking slightly quietly: “Feel better soon, okay?”
Luffy looked at Zoro, waiting for him to respond.
Zoro nodded slightly and raised one hand out of the blanket to pat Luffy on the shoulder in return.
Luffy gave one of his signature grins and walked away to go back to playing outside with the other two.
Sanji leaned slightly more into Zoro, draping one arm around eir Marimo.
“Hope we were able to help,” He said softly, but Zoro was already asleep, drooling all over Sanji’s shoulder.
Sanji carefully moved both of them to lay down, then looked at eir men still on guard. He motioned one of them over.
“Make sure the kids are in by 9.” E said, keeping eir voice down so as not to disturb eir Marimo.
The other man nodded and walked outside to watch over the kids.
Sanji closed eir eyes and fell asleep.
Youko's Note: According to Google Translate, "どこかに行って!" means "go away!"
Chapter 30: Girl's Night Out
Chapter by Youkoartemis
Sometimes Sanji just wants to hang out at the club with her favorite ladies.
Sanji elegantly crossed her legs as she sat in a booth at the club with Nami, and Perona would be joining later. It had been so long since she'd last gotten the chance to have a girl's night out with them. It was a shame Reiju couldn't make it, but her sister was always busy doing important things for the Famiglia, so Sanji would never even dream of holding it against her.
"Sanji-chan! You look amazing!" Nami exclaimed upon Sanji's arrival, "Is that a new shade of lipstick?" She asked, leaning forward to get a better look.
Sanji beamed at her.
"It is! I knew a woman as brilliant and observant as yourself would notice, Nami-swan!" She said, "Not like my dumb, mossy brute, who never notices." She added with a roll of her eyes.
"Yeah, Zoro's pretty oblivious." She agreed, smirking.
"And yet he'll immediately notice the tiniest change in the layout of a room! You move something even a quarter of an inch from how it was, and he'll flip his shit! But someone could change their entire appearance and he'll just stare dumbly at 'em and maybe ask if they got a haircut. Maybe." Sanji ranted melodramatically, gesticulating wildly to emphasize her dramatics. The bright, fond smile on her face betrayed her true feelings, however.
"Yeah, my uncute baby brother's like, totally face blind." Perona said idly as she sat down, looking gorgeously gothic as always as she set her parasol down next to her, "If he wasn't constantly cheating with his Flame senses, he'd never recognize anyone."
"Wait, seriously?" Sanji asked, blinking.
Nami looked equally surprised, then thoughtful.
"Y'know, that would explain a lot…" She mused, tapping her chin. Her eyes widened in realization and she slammed her palm on the table, "WAIT! That's why I've never been able to fool him with illusions involving people, isn't it?!"
"Got it in one! It's so not cute of him!" Perona confirmed, pouting.
"God, that explains so much about why he never even looked at illusions I made of people! They would've been nothing more than scenery to him, without Flames for him to sense!" Nami continued, looking like she'd just solved one of the greatest secrets of the universe, "And it explains how he always knows it's me, even if I've disguised myself!!"
"Exactly! He's as vulnerable as anyone else to any other kind of illusion, but unless you can exactly mimic someone's Flame signature in your illusions, using people will never work." Perona answered, lighting up at the chance to talk shop with someone who worked with illusions as much as herself.
She and Zoro may not actually be related by blood, but at times like these, when they lit up while talking about the things they loved, Sanji could clearly see the family resemblance. It warmed her heart and brought a soft smile to her lips as she watched her friends chat about the mechanics of weaving good illusions from over the rim of her glass.
Sanji went to take another sip, but noticed her cocktail was empty, and pouted.
"Sorry to interrupt, my devious and beautiful friends, but my drink just ran dry, so I'm about to head to the bar to grab another. Would either of you lovely ladies like me to pick something up for you while I'm there?" She said, smiling warmly at them as she offered.
They both smiled back at her, Nami with a bright warmth and Perona with a devious half-smirk.
"Oooooooh~ that would be lovely, Sanji-chan! Thank you~!" Nami exclaimed, beaming and holding her hands in front of her in a playfully pleading gesture that emphasized her bust - which Sanji only glanced at for a moment, she swears! "Another Zombie, please and thank you~~!"
"Of course my darling swan~!" Sanji exclaimed, before turning to Perona, "And you, my dark, ghostly mistress?"
Perona giggled at her, one hand rising up in front of her red-painted lips as her eyes crinkled at the corners.
"I'll have a Bloody Mary, of course!" She chirped, smiling cutely at him as she tilted her head to one side.
"I'll return with it at once, my dear~!" Sanji declared with a beaming smile, twirling on her heeled boots and sauntering to the bar to order the next round of drinks for herself and her friends.
A few minutes later, she returned, expertly carrying all three drinks.
"Here you are, my angels~!" Sanji crooned, leaning over and deliberately flashing a bit of cleavage and collarbone as she placed the drinks in front of her friends, "One Zombie for my elegantly brilliant Nami-swan, and one Bloody Mary for my adorably terrifying Perona-hime~!"
"Thank you, Sanji-chan!" "Thanks, Sanji!" Her darling doves said in response, beaming at her as she sat back down, crossing her legs at the ankle to enjoy her own cocktail. A different one this time, in a lovely shade of sunset orange.
"So Sanji-chan~~..." Nami began, leaning forward with a devious look on her face that Sanji couldn't help but find absolutely adorable, "Perona-chan just told me that she's met your Sky."
"When am I gonna meet this Sky of yours?" Nami asked, smirking.
Sanji paused, smile frozen on her face.
Her beloved Nami? Meeting Luffy? Oh that could only end in disaster!
"Ah. Well. I mean." She hedged, sweating.
"You're not ashamed of me, are you?" Nami asked in a pitiful voice with a truly devastating pout.
"Of course not!! You're a beautiful angel and I'll fight any bastard who dares say otherwise!!" Sanji exclaimed, looking outraged at the mere idea that she might be ashamed of her friend, "It's just that my Sky is only a step away from being completely feral, and I would never expose a beautiful flower like yourself to such a ruffian."
"Oh, you mean your Sky is like Zoro?" Nami asked slyly, murdering Sanji with a single sentence.
"I- I hate that I can't actually refute that." Sanji admitted after a lengthy pause, grimacing at the realization of just how similar Luffy and Zoro were.
"It's true, Nami: Sanji's Sky is as uncute as my idiot brother! Horohorohorohorohoro!" Perona cackled.
"Luffy's a menace, it's true. His brothers, though, are remarkably responsible! His brother Ace is so polite!! And he's handsome, too! Ah, if only I weren't married…" Sanji sighed dreamily, chin in her hand.
"Oh please!" Nami scoffed, laughing as she waved a hand at Sanji, "Sanji-chan, you'd never trade Zoro for any other man, and you know it!"
Sanji hummed around the straw in her drink, pretending to consider this.
"Yes, I suppose you're right as always about that, my darling dove." She conceded, before setting her drink down and leaning forward to clasp one of Nami's hands between her own, looking up at her with open adoration, "But for you, Nami-swan, I'd give my husband up in a heartbeat~! Just say the word, and I'll be yours forever!" She playfully swooned.
Nami laughed beautifully, clearly amused.
"Oh Sanji-chan, you're a beautiful woman, and under any other circumstances I'd absolutely snap you right up! But I'm a complete lesbian, and you're a man far more often than you're a woman - I just don't think it'd work out, in the long run!" She told Sanji, bringing her other hand to cup one of Sanji's as she stared soulfully into Sanji's eyes, "I'm sorry, Sanji-chan. I think…" She paused to look tearfully to the side, before returning her gaze to Sanji's, "I think it's better if we see other people." She concluded, lower lip wobbling slightly.
Sanji's face crumpled, distraught as she renewed her grasp on Nami's hand, lunging just a little to lean in closer.
"No! Nami-swan, please! Say it isn't so! Please!! I can change, I promise!!" She begged, her own lower lip wobbling as her eyes went dewy.
Nami lifted the hand not being held by Sanji to cover her face, turning away and bowing her head, shoulders shaking.
"Sanji-chan… I'm so sorry." She whispered, before smirking as she turned to look at Sanji out of the corner of her eye, "But we all know you wouldn't trade Zoro for anyone, not even me."
Sanji considered protesting against that, but, honestly… She let go of Nami's hand and sat back, turning her head to smile softly down at her drink, stirring it with the little umbrella it came with.
"Yeah… He's honestly the best thing to ever happen to me." She admitted with an achingly fond tone in her voice, "You're right as always, Nami-swan."
"Damn right! And don't you forget it!" Nami teased, grinning as she playfully elbowed Sanji in the side.
Perona hadn't stopped laughing at them since their soap opera-level melodramatics had begun. There were tears in her eyes.
After a moment of thought...
"Nami-swan, if you really want to meet my Sky… Feel free to stop by the house; Luffy visits often." Sanji added, smiling softly and genuinely at her friend.
Nami smiled back at her.
"Maybe I will." She said.
This was originally gonna be longer and include Nami actually meeting Luffy, but then I came up with a better idea for that, so I cut this one down to just a fun girl's night out! Sanji's dynamic with the ladies changes when she, herself, is a lady...but Sanji is, of course, *still Sanji*. So she's still a raging bisexual disaster, hahaha
I love her friendships with Nami and Perona, tbh? They're Good Buddies!
Chapter 31: Happy Halloween!
Chapter by Youkoartemis
Halloween is the perfect time for some family friendly fun!
For this Halloween, we bring you two spooktacular gifts! The first is that this is not just ONE chapter, but TWO!!
And the second treat is one that you'll see for yourself later on. ;)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
As it grew closer to Halloween, it was time to carve the pumpkins they'd gotten at the pumpkin patch. Luffy whooped in excitement as he was given back the pumpkin he'd picked out, Chopper and Usopp looking equally excited.
Usopp bragged about how he was the champion pumpkin carver, renowned all over the world for his skills.
"Really?!" Luffy and Chopper chorused, looking amazed, eyes sparkling with delight.
"But of course! The Great Usopp-sama is the best at pumpkin carving! One time I carved a pumpkin so realistic and terrifying it scared off the monster that was terrorizing the city!!" Usopp bragged, puffing out his chest.
"SO COOL!!!" Luffy and Chopper exclaimed, identical beaming grins on their faces.
Usopp preened under the positive attention while Sanji and Zoro exchanged amused glances.
Sanji was quickly distracted.
"No Luffy, these pumpkins aren't for eating!!" Sanji yelped, eyes going wide as his Sky took a massive bite out of his pumpkin.
Luffy stared blankly at him as he pulled back, swallowing the pumpkin he'd bitten off, and pulling a face at the taste.
"Blech!" Luffy exclaimed in disgust, giving his pumpkin a betrayed look, "This tastes awful!"
"That's because it's not the type of pumpkin that's used for baking, Luffy." Sanji said with a weary sigh, facepalming.
"Oh." Luffy said, pouting.
"But!" Sanji continued, smiling slightly, "If you scoop out all the seeds and put them in this bowl here, I'll roast them and we can all have a nice snack after we finish carving our pumpkins!"
That made Luffy's eyes light up with joy.
"Really?!" He asked, looking like Christmas had just come early, every fiber of his being practically vibrating with the intensity of his joy.
"Really." Sanji confirmed with a nod, still smiling.
"WAHOO!!!!" Luffy cheered, immediately digging into his pumpkin to dig out all the seeds.
Sanji laughed and began opening up his own pumpkin to carve, keeping a careful eye on the kids to make sure they didn't hurt themselves while handling the carving tools.
He was distracted by the ring of steel being drawn and the sound of something being cut followed by the sound of something thudding to the ground. He whipped around to see Zoro standing with Wado Ichimonji held out, a good third of his pumpkin on the floor from where he lopped it off with the blade of his sword.
Sanji felt his face go deadpan as he gave his husband an unimpressed stare.
"Y'know, we're supposed to carve the pumpkin, not hack it to bits." He remarked dryly.
His Marimo spared him a glance as he wiped the blade off with a rag before sheathing it.
"This makes it easier to get into." Was all Sanji's unmannered brute said in response, as though what he'd done was perfectly reasonable.
Sanji rolled his eyes, but let it go. He'd long since learned that his alley cat would do as he pleased, and it wasn't worth ruining the kids' fun by starting a fight with his husband over pumpkin carving, of all things.
'Still,' he thought, scooping out the guts of his own pumpkin, 'There's no harm in getting a little payback.' He smiled mischievously as a plan formed in his mind.
After they'd all carved their pumpkins, they showed them off to one another. Usopp had carved a very lovely scene with a cat standing on a gravestone with its back arched and tail poofed out next to a leafless tree on his while Chopper had carved a more traditional smiling face on his own.
Luffy, with the big bite taken out of his pumpkin, had put a small, cramped little smiley face at an odd angle on his pumpkin in the small amount of space left after the large hole he'd bitten in the side. Zoro snickered softly at its - most likely unintentional - resemblance to the Japanese character "shi."
When it became his turn, Zoro smugly revealed his pumpkin had been carved to resemble a caricature of Sanji, with the lopped off part being Sanji's "hair" and the singular eye carved into a heart shape, along with a big smile.
Sanji couldn't help but laugh at the fact that he and his Marimo had been on the same wavelength. He then revealed that his own pumpkin was a grumpy face styled to look like his Marimo, scarred shut eye and all.
The kids all started laughing.
"It's a grumpkin!!" Luffy exclaimed, snickering while Usopp and Chopper giggled at the joke.
Zoro looked supremely unimpressed, and Sanji couldn't help but laugh harder at the look on his Marimo's face.
All of the pumpkins got lights put inside of them, and were set out on the front porch to celebrate the holiday.
On the night itself, the group all got together to take the kids trick-or-treating.
"Whaaaaaat?! You've never celebrated Halloween before?!" Luffy and Usopp exclaimed, gaping wide-eyed at Chopper when the reindeer admitted he'd never experienced Halloween before.
"Well! Lucky for you, I'm a master of Halloween celebrating!" Usopp bragged, grinning widely, "I'll make sure you have the best Halloween ever!!"
Chopper was beaming, his eyes glittering as he leaned forward slightly, hooves pressed together in front of him.
"Really??? Thank you, Usopp!!!" He exclaimed, visibly overjoyed.
"Not a problem at all, my tiny reindeer friend!! The Great Usopp-sama always takes care of his friends!!!" Usopp exclaimed with a thumbs up and a proud grin.
"We're gonna go trick-or-treating and get all the candy!!!" Luffy cheered, almost literally bouncing off the walls in his excitement.
"LUFFY! STOP USING MIST FLAMES TO BOUNCE YOURSELF ON THE WALLS, YOU SHITTY SKY!!" Sanji yelled, chasing after his rambunctious Sky to keep him from knocking any (more) photos, paintings, or delicate knickknacks down.
Zoro just sat there and laughed, the traitor.
After getting Luffy to stop literally bouncing off the walls, plans were made to go trick-or-treating on Halloween. Costumes were planned and either obtained or made, and time was taken off to allow for the fun to come.
Finally, the night arrived.
Luffy brought his brothers and Usopp along.
Luffy was dressed as a pirate, with an eyepatch he "borrowed" from Zoro, a "captain coat" that was really just a fancy red coat with gold accents that he'd probably "borrowed" from Sabo. It was visibly a bit too big on him. Perched precariously on his shoulder was a parrot plushy, fastened in place by a couple safety pins. Finishing up his costume was a gaudy, golden plastic crown with plastic jewels, which was set around his usual straw hat, resting on the brim. The rest of his outfit was the same as usual, to everyone's amusement.
"A crown?" Sanji had asked, an amused tilt to her red-painted lips.
"Yeah, 'cause I'm the pirate king!" Luffy said with a wide grin.
"Fitting." Zoro commented while Sanji gave a playful curtsey and a mildly teasing "Your Majesty."
Ace laughed at Sanji's and Zoro's reactions to his baby brother's costume.
"Careful, or you might give him an even bigger head than he's already got!" He joked, grinning.
Ace was dressed as a werewolf, going shirtless as usual. (Sanji half-suspected his costume choice was just an excuse to avoid wearing a shirt.) He was rocking a pair of fake wolf ears on a band atop his head that matched his black hair perfectly, a long black tail attached to his belt, startlingly realistic fake fangs, claw-like fake nails, and particularly ragged jeans and muddy boots. He had a bit of fake blood smeared around his mouth and on his hands.
Sanji gave Ace a smile while Zoro took a step closer to Sanji and shot a small frown at the younger man. Sanji felt a little bad about the mild hostility Zoro was leveling towards Ace, because it was absolutely her fault for responding to Ace's playful flirting with some playful flirting of her own; she'd intended to rile her Marimo up, and had succeeded….a bit too well.
It was a shame, because the two had actually gotten along quite well prior to that, in spite of both of them being Clouds of similar temperaments.
Eh… Zoro would probably get over it eventually.
At least Ace wasn't taking Zoro's grumpiness personally.
"You two look amazing, by the way!" Sabo said, smiling as he idly twirled his cane. He appeared to be dressed as some sort of gentleman thief, judging from the gorgeous, dark blue waistcoat with muted silver accents, the crisp black ascot, the top hat, and the elegantly designed, vaguely bird-like masquerade mask that covered the top half of his face.
Usopp rounded out the group, dressed as what Sanji suspected was Robin Hood, what with the green tunic, green hat with the red feather stuck into it, and the brown pants and boots. The bow and quiver of suction cup arrows on his back were a pretty big give away regarding that. The costume suited the boy very well, and he looked very charming.
"Thanks! You guys look amazing, too!" Sanji said, grinning and showing off the unnervingly realistic fake fangs she had in her own mouth.
She and Zoro chose matching costumes. Zoro was wearing an elaborately patterned kimono with the top layer merely worn over his shoulders like a cape, and a gourd full of sake. His swords were hanging from the obi, and he had geta on his feet. He'd used a touch of Cloud Flames to grow his hair out enough for Sanji to put it up in a topknot, to complete the samurai look.
That would've been perfect on its own, but Zoro took it a step further: He'd used his Flames to grow a pair of horns that twisted and almost spiraled their way from either side of his forehead. They'd been painted black and red. He'd then grown out his teeth and purposely filed them into fangs, along with growing out his fingernails and toenails to become claws. He'd figured out how to make his eyes glow on purpose, and they were faintly glowing an ominous purple-green. He wasn't just a samurai: He was a demon samurai.
Sanji had painted his face with red eyeliner and eyeshadow to bring out the green of his hair and the green glow of his eyes. His hands and feet were painted a black that faded out as it went up to his elbows, disappearing mid-forearm. The makeup was, of course, all sealed so Zoro wouldn't smear it on everything he touched. The same treatment was given to his feet.
Sanji, on the other hand, was dressed as a devil bride. A form-fitting black bridal-style gown that paired with a black veil held up by an elaborate pair of scarlet red horns. Lips painted a deep, bloody red, eyeliner intentionally messy and smeared, and smokey eyeshadow. Hidden beneath the painted lips were a small pair of fake fangs, and each finger was tipped with a long, scarlet red fake nail shaped into a claw. She carried a bouquet of black roses.
She'd considered a more matching outfit with Zoro's, namely wearing a bridal kimono of some sort... but ultimately decided she preferred the twisting of her own culture's wedding customs more.
Chopper, in a stark contrast to the two adults, was dressed as an adorable little tanuki, with little raccoon ears, a raccoon tail, a blue apron over his usual pink pants, and a little straw hat, through which his raccoon ears poked out. His antlers were hidden with a touch of Mist Flames, completing the transformation from reindeer to raccoon. He was adorable and both Zoro and Sanji loved him very much.
"Enough talk!" Luffy exclaimed, throwing his arms in the air with a wide grin, "It's candy time!!! LET'S GOOOOO!!!"
And with that, they set out, making a trip through the entire neighborhood and pulling in an incredible haul of candy… and causing more than a little mischief.
Ace and Sabo insisted on pulling a few pranks while they were out, such as throwing toilet paper all over the houses and yards of those neighbors of theirs who were particularly unpleasant.
Sanji sighed, and Chopper worried, and Zoro was unbothered while Luffy and Usopp had a blast.
In the end, they pulled in so much candy . It would be days before they ran out, even with Luffy's appetite.
Luffy and brothers ended up staying the night in a spare room, to Zoro's chagrin. Sanji made it up to him with kisses, cuddles, and hair pets; her Marimo was clearly just cranky because he felt neglected, since he calmed right down with a little extra loving attention. Such a fussy Marimo~! Sanji adored him.
They ended up sleeping on the couch after falling asleep cuddling while watching campy old horror classics.
They woke up with all of the others sleeping in the living room around them.
Sanji couldn't think of a better way to have spent Halloween.
Art is credited to checkered_soul! Isn't it great?? =D
Hope you all have a super Happy Halloween!!! Stay safe!
Chapter 32: Meeting the Parents
Chapter by Youkoartemis
Sanji decided it was about time for the kids to meet Zoro's fathers.
This was meant to be a throwaway section from a different idea, but it gained a life of its own. Alas!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
A few days later, Sanji received some rather troubling results from something he'd set his people to covertly looking into.
"Shit. Shit! This was exactly what I didn't want to find out!" He hissed, tangling his hands in his hair and tugging frustratedly on it, "And now that I know… They'll know, too! FUCK!"
He stood abruptly from his desk, needing a break. He went off to go find his Marimo; he was in desperate need of a distraction, and he had something he needed to talk to his husband about, anyway.
'At this time of the day,' Sanji thought, glancing at his watch, 'He'll probably be in his hobby room.'
And sure enough...
"Oi, Marimo." Sanji began as he sauntered into Zoro's hobby room.
His husband hummed softly in a questioning tone from his spot at the desk, not looking away from the tiny ship he was carefully assembling in the bottle he held. He had his glasses on, but Sanji was a man on a mission and couldn't afford to let himself be distracted by how sexy his Marimo looked while wearing his glasses.
"We should take Chopper to visit your dads." Sanji said.
Zoro paused at that, then very carefully finished fiddling with the part he was assembling. He then slowly withdrew the tweezers from the bottle, setting them aside, and then put the bottle on a little display stand to keep it from rolling anywhere.
After everything he was using to build his latest model was put away in its proper place, he looked over at Sanji. He reached one hand up to his glasses and gently adjusted them to sit straighter on the bridge of his nose, looking expectantly at Sanji, eyebrows raised just a little.
"We should take Chopper to meet your dads. Luffy and Usopp, too, perhaps." Sanji said, repeating himself now that Zoro was paying full attention, "They're both in the country at the moment, right?"
Zoro tilted his head slightly to the left, crossing his arms over his chest as he frowned thoughtfully.
"...Yeah." He said after a pause, nodding, "Got one of Mihawk's dumb letters saying I'd better not be slacking or he'll cut me down and take back his old title."
"So he's definitely in the country." Sanji concluded with a nod, wanting a cigarette but knowing better than to light up in the hobby room. His Marimo was Very Particular about what was and wasn't allowed in this room, and considering all the delicate, exceptionally flammable chemicals in the room… Well, it was only sensible.
Didn't mean Sanji didn't still want a cigarette, though.
His Marimo gave him a Look that said he knew what Sanji was thinking, and Sanji had better not do it, on pain of sleeping on the couch for the next week or two. But after holding that stern glower for a second, his mossy husband's expression relaxed and he grunted in agreement.
"So, in other words, it's the perfect time to introduce the others to them, and you did all but promise Chopper that he could meet them." Sanji pointed out.
His Marimo's nose scrunched and his brow furrowed deeply, upper lip curling back to expose a few of his teeth. A grumbling sound escaped from him, putting a wordless voice to his displeasure at the idea.
Sanji rolled his eyes, crossing his arms and shifting his weight from one side to the other.
"Yes, yes, I know you like pretending to hate everything about Mihawk's existence, you big, mossy baby, but he should still meet the others, if only so he doesn't kill them without knowing who they are to you."
That got a derisive snort and an incredulous eyebrow arch from Zoro, who looked like he was questioning Sanji's intelligence.
"Yes, okay, so Mihawk's almost certainly aware of them all already, but you know he's gonna be all 'Roronoa… Why have you not presented your Sky and fellow elements to me?' if you don't." Sanji pointed out with another eye roll, mimicking Mihawk's voice for dramatic effect.
His tiger's face scrunched up in distaste, and Sanji knew he'd won.
"Fine." His grumpy Marimo spat out, pouting, "I'll call Koushirou and see what time works for 'em." He continued grumbling under his breath after that, but Sanji paid that part no mind at all.
"Thank you darling~!" He trilled, reaching forward and cupping his adorable tiger's face in both hands, leaning forward to affectionately nuzzle his nose against his husband's, cooing over how cute he was when he pouted.
A mildly annoyed growl was all he got in response, but that was okay. Sanji pressed a kiss to his Marimo's forehead, ruffled his hair, and sauntered out of the hobby room to let his darling get back to what he'd been doing.
That weekend, they rounded up all the kids and headed out to the Dracule-Shimotsuki household for a visit. Sanji, personally, didn't care much for the place: It was very obvious that Mihawk was the primary decorator of the literal castle the family lived in, out in the countryside.
The grounds were actually remarkably lovely, with a farm of well-tended plants and farm animals out back, and a Japanese style dojo (one of the touches Koushirou added after marrying Mihawk, Sanji assumed, along with the little zen garden).
"ARE THOSE COWS??" Luffy asked loudly, eyes going wide, an extremely excited smile nearly splitting his face in half from how wide it was.
"Yeah." Zoro grunted, "There're pigs, sheep, goats, rabbits, ducks, geese, and chickens, too."
Luffy was vibrating in his seat with excitement.
"Doesn't Mihawk also have horses?" Sanji asked, vaguely recalling that there was a stable on the property.
"Those are Perona's, but yeah."
That got the kids even more excited!
They entered the castle, and it was as dark and ominous as always. In the main room, there were the usual massive oil paintings of the Dracule-Shimotsuki-Roronoa family through the ages. It was interesting to see how Zoro and Perona aged from their teens to adulthood, and Sanji always enjoyed looking at them.
The expressions they each wore in the paintings never changed, though: Mihawk always stared imperiously out at the viewer with an expression that made it clear you were beneath his notice. Perona always looked bored and vaguely pouty. Zoro scowled in a vaguely murderous manner, furious about being forced to sit still for hours dressed in finery he'd never otherwise wear (the images of him as a young teen were adorable, though, the cranky little greenbean~). Koushirou, in stark contrast to the others, was always smiling faintly, though it was impossible to tell if he was actually happy or not.
In addition to the family portraits, there was a slightly smaller one Mihawk had commissioned of Zoro and Sanji together, after their marriage. They were seated side-by-side on one of the sinfully comfortable dark sofas in the castle's parlor, Sanji with one arm around Zoro's shoulders and Zoro leaning into him, arm around his waist. It was the only painting in which Sanji's Marimo was smiling, even if it was a barely-there ghost of a smile. Sanji, himself, had a small smile on his own face.
Most of the furniture was clearly Mihawk's choice, being dark and, while divinely comfortable, looked about as intimidating as the man himself, all sharp angles and dark colors.
There were touches here and there of Koushirou's influence, however: A small shrine in memory of Kuina and a low table with cushions for sitting upon being two examples of such.
Sanji did not like being in this dark and dreary place and he could tell his Marimo wasn't thrilled to be back, either. That was due to the Cloudy rivalry between Zoro and Mihawk, however.
The two Clouds liked and respected one another well enough, but they could only barely tolerate spending time around one another without fighting. Sanji suspected they were simply too similar in temperament to get along if forced to cohabitate for long periods of time, especially now that Zoro had his own Territory.
"So this is the Sky that has managed to ensnare you?" Mihawk drawled, idly swirling the wine glass in his hand, expression severe as he stared coldly at Luffy. He was lounged back in his throne-like chair as he usually was.
Usopp and Chopper both squeaked and hid behind Zoro, but Luffy looked curiously at Mihawk and then grinned.
"Are you Zoro's Hawk-dad?" He asked.
Mihawk regarded him coolly, regally arching one eyebrow.
"I am frequently referred to as 'Hawk Eyes.'" He allowed.
Luffy's grin grew wider, and Sanji felt a frisson of dread form in the depths of his gut.
"That makes you my Hawk-gramps, then!" Luffy announced, causing Sanji to facepalm and Zoro to grimace slightly. Chopper and Usopp both quietly yelped out protests.
Mihawk's expression didn't change in the slightest, but Koushirou lifted one sleeve to cover his mouth as he chuckled softly.
"Yes, I do believe that does make Mihawk your "Hawk-gramps," Luffy-kun." The man said in his soft, pleasant voice, smiling a bit more warmly.
"And you're Zoro's first dad!" Luffy exclaimed, pointing at Koushirou.
"I am, yes."
"Hmmmmm…" Luffy frowned in thought, "You're Nice-gramps, 'cause you're nicer than any of my other grampses."
"I'm very glad to hear that, Luffy-kun." Koushirou said with an amused twitch of his lips.
"Mihawk, Koushirou, these are my Sky, Monkey D. Luffy, Sun Guardian Chopper, and Cloud Guardian Usopp." Sanji's Marimo introduced semi-formally, motioning to each boy in turn.
Luffy continued to grin at them while Chopper and Usopp timidly slipped out from behind Zoro to stammer out greetings of their own.
Koushirou smiled warmly at them, bowing slightly in greeting.
"I am Koushirou. It's a pleasure to meet you all; Zoro's spoken quite highly of all of you." He said in his usual calm and pleasant manner.
"R-really?" Usopp asked, nervousness forgotten as he blinked in surprise at this news. A faint blush appeared on his cheeks as he rubbed a finger over his nose, trying to hide his sudden bashfulness, "Heh. I-I mean! Of course he had nothing but good things to say about me!! I'm the Great Usopp-sama!!" He boasted, striking a brief pose before going back to looking nervously excited, "B-but really, he's really, actually talked about us?" He asked, tone far more sincere, eyes wide as he leaned forward.
"He's really talked about us??" Chopper echoed, eyes equally wide, "Really really??"
Koushirou's smile widened just a little bit more as he nodded.
"Yes, he has. He spoke of how you were the sharpest shot he's ever seen in his life, Usopp-kun, and about how you're the smartest and best doctor he's ever met, Chopper-kun." He said warmly.
"Oi!" His mossy tiger interrupted, glowering darkly to try and hide his growing blush at being outed as the big softie he was.
"Oh? Was I not supposed to tell them how highly you think of them?" Koushirou asked lightly, smile sharpening just enough to take a distinctly teasing edge, "But they're your children, are they not? Should they not know how proud you are of them?"
His Marimo choked and stammered slightly, blush darkening and spreading to the tips of his ears before he cleared his throat and pointedly looked away, arms crossed over his chest, attempting to pretend that he didn't care. Oh, Sanji had the cutest husband ever~!
Luffy chose that moment to get distracted by one of the cats living on the property and wandered off while chasing it with calls of "here kitty, kitty, kitty~!"
Zoro, never one to let opportunities to save face pass him by, all but leapt to chase after Luffy to keep him from destroying anything.
The other two boys, still deeply intimidated by Mihawk's stern stare, quickly chased after Zoro, leaving Sanji alone with his fathers-in-law.
"You have a question for us." Mihawk stated. It was not a question.
"I do." Sanji confirmed, nodding.
"Then speak." Mihawk commanded.
"Your last name is Dracule, and so is Perona-hime's." Sanji started, nodding to Mihawk before turning his eyes onto Koushirou, "And your last name is Shimotsuki."
Two nods from the other men, though Mihawk looked mildly impatient as he waited for Sanji to get to the point.
"So then. Where did "Roronoa" come from?" He asked, frowning slightly as he slipped his hands into his pockets.
"It's his mother's name." Koushirou answered simply, smiling.
"Ah. That makes sense." Sanji said, "Thanks."
"Of course." Koushirou said simply, smile growing slightly wider.
"Your Sky…" Mihawk drawled, stopping Sanji in his tracks and pinning him with a thoughtful, calculating stare, "He's rather powerful, to be from an unknown lineage."
A chill ran down Sanji's spine, but he fought off the shiver before it could be anything more than an impulse. He considered lying, but…
"I know what he is." He stated honestly, "And you have your suspicions too, right?" He asked rhetorically, getting a slow nod from his father-in-law, "I'd appreciate it if you'd keep it quiet, at least for now. The fewer people who know or suspect…"
"Yes… I suppose it would not do to unduly draw their attention…" Mihawk agreed slowly, swirling his wine, "The bumbling fools would make a mess of everything."
Sanji breathed out a sigh of relief as subtly as he could.
"Thank you for your understanding, father-in-law." He said formally, bowing in gratitude.
"Your gratitude is noted. Now be off with you." Mihawk said dismissively.
Sanji didn't need to be told twice.
When Sanji found the rest of his family, Luffy was trying to ride one of the cows, so he had to make a rather hasty interruption to get Luffy away from the poor cows. XD
Chapter 33: Roronoa
Chapter by Youkoartemis
Sanji gets a massive headache and Zoro has no desire to be a skylark.
Potential TW for: Mentioned Child Abandonment and Implied Past Child Abuse
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Sanji was sitting on the couch reading with his Marimo using his lap as a pillow, allowing Sanji to stroke his fingers through his hair. The kids were outside playing, probably chasing one another around, judging from the loud, jubilant shouts, taunts, squeals, and occasional protests Sanji heard were any indication.
He'd just turned the page when his Marimo suddenly tensed, sitting up to look towards the front door like an alerted guard dog.
"What's up, Marimo?" Sanji asked, looking down at his now wide awake husband.
Oddly, he was ignored, his Marimo sitting up further before sliding off the couch to stand and begin heading towards the front door, frowning slightly.
Sanji's brows furrowed in a small frown of his own as he bookmarked his page and set his book aside to follow his husband.
They arrived at the front door just as there was a vigorous knocking upon it. Sanji wanted to wait and get a better idea of who it was, as he wasn't expecting any visitors, but his Marimo simply went and opened the door, revealing…
No, upon closer inspection, she was definitely not Zoro, though the resemblance between the two was downright uncanny. She had unkempt green hair that fell down to her shoulders, not quite the same mint green his Marimo had, but not far off, either, being a green the color of fresh leaves. She had the same tanned skin that his Marimo had, the same amber eyes, and the same wolfish grin. She wore a green robe that she allowed to hang loosely, exposing the sides of her breasts, and revealing that she did not wear a bra.
Sanji coughed very softly and pointedly shifted his stare elsewhere, face warm.
The robe was tied with a dark red sash that honestly contrasted quite nicely with all the green. A plain black katana was tucked into the folds of the sash. Beneath the robe were ripped black jeans and muddy, beat up black boots she'd probably picked up from an army surplus store, or something. She had three necklaces hanging around her neck; red beads on a leather string, with knots in between each adornment, interspaced with…
Were those teeth?!
Holy shit, they were!! Those were definitely teeth!
Mostly the fangs of some predatory animal or another, but Sanji was pretty sure he also saw human teeth amongst the strands around her neck, especially on the shortest one that sat closest to her neck.
Holy fucking shit.
"Mom." Sanji's Marimo stated.
Sanji must have made some kind of noise at the revelation, because his Marimo glanced at him briefly before returning his attention to the woman before him, who was smiling less wolfishly and more fondly as she regarded him back.
"Zoro." She stated, with a voice that would probably be pleasant if it didn't sound so much like she hadn't used it in about ten years.
"Wait." Sanji interjected, frowning and rubbing the bridge of his nose as he tried to stave off the headache he could feel brewing, "Marimo, I thought your mother was dead?"
"No; just left." His rather obnoxious tiger said simply, as though that wasn't a massive revelation.
"She abandoned you?!" Sanji asked, eyes going wide before narrowing in a glare at the woman, who just looked boredly back at him, as though he were mostly beneath her notice, but just interesting enough to bother paying some small amount of attention to.
Far be it from Sanji to say anything bad about a lady, but he was beginning to see where Zoro got all his feral bastardry from.
"Was old enough to take care of myself." His tiger said with a shrug, as though it was a perfectly normal thing and not horrific on every level.
"How old were you?"
"That's nowhere near old enough!!"
"Loud." The woman stated in her gravelly voice, narrowing her eyes at Sanji.
His Marimo whipped around to pin her with a sharp look of his own, letting out a deep, animalistic growl, leaning forward slightly after pulling himself up to his full height and squaring his shoulders.
His husband's mother growled back at him, squaring her own shoulders and baring a few of her teeth.
His Marimo bared his own, in return with a harsh, guttural snarl of "Mine!"
The woman huffed once but backed down, muscles untensing and gaze turning to the side, arms crossing over her chest.
Sanji glanced warily between the two Clouds, wondering if they were about to come to blows. It seemed they were done, for now, though, as his Marimo also subsided with a soft huff. He moved closer to his mother and affectionately bumped shoulders with her, leaning down to bump noses with her, both of them looking far calmer.
There was clearly no bad blood over the abandonment. Sanji wondered if it was some weird Cloud thing, given his Marimo's mother was just as powerfully Cloudy as her son. Sanji supposed he knew where his husband had gotten it from: Flames had a strong tendency to pass down through family lines.
Zoro stepped back and nodded towards Sanji.
"Sanji." He said simply, stepping over towards him and wrapping a possessive arm around Sanji's waist, leaning in to rub his cheek against Sanji's hair, looking pointedly at his mother, "Mine." He added, voice firm.
His Marimo's mother turned an assessing eye upon Sanji, and while normally he'd melt at being the sole focus of a beautiful woman… He hadn't forgotten that this woman had abandoned his beloved Marimo at the tender age of six.
So he simply lifted his chin slightly and stared her down, like he would someone he was meeting with on mafia business.
The intensity of her gaze dropped a notch, and she nodded very slightly at him, turning her attention back to Zoro.
"I like him." She stated, "He has spine."
A short nod was her response from Zoro, the tension in his frame finally relaxing fully.
She looked back at Sanji, expression warmer.
"Roronoa." She stated by way of introduction.
He simply nodded in response, wondering why she was having him use her last name when everything else about her screamed she cared as little about propriety as her son.
His Marimo interrupted Sanji's musing when he tilted his head to one side, eying his mother.
She nodded in response and stepped over the threshold, closing the door behind her. Sanji's Marimo led the way to the living room, where they found the kids waiting for them.
Chopper immediately feigned being a plushie in response to seeing an unfamiliar face while Usopp froze in the middle of telling a tale and Luffy regarded the new arrival with an inscrutable expression.
Roronoa, in turn, eyed each of the children, narrowing her eyes slightly at Usopp, dismissing him with a snort when he wilted under her stare.
She locked eyes with Luffy, who stared back at her with that same unreadably blank expression.
"Luffy, Usopp, Chopper: My mom." Zoro introduced simply, keeping his words short. "Mom, my Sky and Elements."
Luffy tilted his head to one side, and Roronoa mirrored the gesture, both of them clearly scrutinizing one another. The tension in the room slowly increased with each second they remained locked in that silent stare off until it became nearly choking.
Then, all at once, the tension defused, both of them apparently deciding that the other passed muster and relaxing.
"Hi Zoro's mom! I'm Monkey D. Luffy!" Luffy greeted with a grin.
Roronoa gave a single sharp nod in response.
"Roronoa." She stated in response.
"Like Zoro is Zoro?" Luffy asked, head tilting to the side once more.
Roronoa nodded once, looking around the room with interest.
"Roronoa Roronoa?" Luffy asked, drawing twin snorts of amusement from mother and son.
"Hibari Roronoa." Roronoa corrected, and Sanji's brain screeched to a halt.
Hibari? As in the infamous Cloud lineage Hibari? The rumored to be related to the Storm Arcobaleno Hibari? The members highly placed on both sides of the law Hibari? The famed for being related to Vongola Primo's Cloud Guardian Hibari?!
THAT Hibari family?!
Holy fucking SHIT!!!
Suddenly he remembered what Zoro's father had told him several days ago: "It's his mother's name."
Sanji had just assumed he'd meant it was her maiden name, or something, but no, it was literally her name! How the FUCK.
Sanji saw red. He turned on his Marimo and kicked him hard in the ankle.
"Ow fuck!" His bastard of a husband cursed, shooting him a glare, "The hell was that for, Curly?!"
"Your last name is Hibari?!" He demanded, furious.
"Hah?!" His Marimo demanded, face a dumb mix of anger and incomprehension.
"Your mother's last name is Hibari!" Sanji seethed, kicking at him again, only for Zoro to step aside, drawing one of his swords.
" So that means your last name is Hibari, too, you idiot!!!"
"No it's not!" The mossy dumbass denied hotly, taking a swing at Sanji and forcing him to quickly duck out of the way, "That's her family's name! My family's name is Roronoa!"
That gave Sanji pause, if only in utter disbelief that his husband could be that stupid.
"Wait." He started, holding up a hand, his rather furious husband drawing back slightly to respect the time out that had been called, "Are you saying you misunderstood what "family name" meant?"
His dumb brute of a husband glared suspiciously at him.
"No, I know my family's name." He said petulantly, starting to lose his temper again.
Sanji kind of wanted to cry, but he also kind of wanted to piss himself laughing. Only his Marimo could end up with such a serious misunderstanding that he'd ended up taking his mother's first name as his last name.
"You idiot! Your family name is the same as your mother's! You're Hibari Zoro!!!"
His husband's face screwed up in distaste at that as he sheathed the sword he'd drawn.
"...No." He stated firmly, crossing his arms over his chest and shaking his head.
Roronoa cackled, the sound hoarse and jarring.
"Hibari, through and through!" She crowed.
"You don't get to say anything when you ABANDONED him!!" Sanji snapped, overcoming his usual aversion to speaking harshly to women in his anger over this woman having just up and left his husband to the uncaring foster system.
He may not know everything his Marimo had gone through while being moved from family to family, but he knew enough to know he had suffered! All because his mother had just left him when he was only six!!
"Curly." His Marimo began, brows furrowed in concern as he reached out to put a hand on Sanji's shoulder.
"So I wouldn't suffocate him." Roronoa stated, expression serious.
"What the fuck does that even MEAN?!"
"We are CLOUDS, blondie." She said, tone sharp as she bared some of her teeth at Sanji in a cold mockery of a smile, "We would have torn each other apart."
"He was SIX!" Sanji protested loudly, gritting his teeth and glaring, eyes flickering red.
"Oi. Sanji." His Marimo interrupted, taking hold of Sanji and pulling him against his chest, tucking Sanji's head into the crook of his neck and holding it there, one hand cupping the back of Sanji's head and the other splayed across Sanji's shoulder blades. "'M fine. Didn't need her." He continued, voice calm as he swayed slightly in place, gently rocking Sanji with the movement.
"You were six, Zoro…!" Sanji said into his Marimo's shoulder, feeling tears prickling at the corners of his eyes, "Just a kid, and she left you alone…!"
"S'okay, Curly. 'M not alone," His Marimo said gently, voice tender, "Got you now, don't I?"
The hand on the back of Sanji's head traveled to gently cup Sanji's chin, tipping his face up to look Zoro in the face, letting Sanji see the soft, achingly affectionate look in his Marimo's eye.
His Marimo leaned forward to press his forehead against Sanji's, eye sliding closed.
"S'okay, Curly." He repeated, voice barely above a whisper.
"You have a good mate." Roronoa noted, sounding relieved and satisfied.
Zoro's eye lifted to look at his mother over his cook's head. He pressed his curly husband's face back against his neck, holding him close.
"Why are you here?" He asked. His mother wouldn't have reentered his life if it weren't important.
It had been a mutual decision to part ways, after all, even if Curly didn't understand that.
His mother's expression went serious.
"The clams are seeking Elements for their chosen heir. Trying to recreate the first of their line. Seeking the descendants." She said, looking furious, "Came to warn."
"They want Zoro?" Luffy asked, frowning as he sat up straighter on the couch.
Usopp and Chopper straightened up, too, feeling the seriousness of the topic.
"If they knew his blood, they might." She said, "My father was of the first clam's Lightning's blood."
Zoro's cook sucked in a sharp breath, pulling back to look seriously at Zoro's mother.
"Meaning Zoro's related to not just one but two of the original Vongola Guardians. Great. Just fucking great." Curly cursed, pulling out a cigarette and lighting it before running an agitated hand through his hair.
"Only the Lightning." Roronoa said, shaking her head.
"So he's not main line Hibari?" Curly asked seriously, blowing out a lungful of smoke.
Zoro's mother nodded simply.
"Well, that's something, at least." Zoro's cook muttered darkly, chewing anxiously on the end of his cigarette, "Guess that explains where the green hair came from…" He added under his breath.
Zoro thought this whole thing was stupid. Who the fuck wanted a name like "Hibari"? He wasn't a damn skylark . "Roronoa" was a way better name, and he was keeping it! And who the fuck cared if he was related to some guy who died over a hundred years ago?! So stupid...
"They'd want Zoro 'cause of his blood?" Luffy asked, voice edging into something dangerous.
"Zoro is mine." Luffy stated, dark eyes flickering amber as his Sky instincts raged against the idea of someone else taking one of his Elements, "They can't have him."
Something in the back of Zoro's mind purred at his Sky's words, and at the possessive and protective way his Flames curled around Zoro's.
His mother looked at Luffy assessingly, then grinned viciously, eyes sharp.
"You'd burn the world for him, wouldn't you?" She asked.
Luffy stared back at her, eyes glowing orange.
"Duh." He stated simply and without hesitation.
Zoro's mother's grin widened further, and Zoro knew his Sky had just won her full approval.
"Good." She stated firmly, shooting each member of Zoro's family a severe look, "Take care of him."
"We will, 'cause he's one of us, not 'cause you told us to." Luffy stated a bit meanly. Normally Zoro's cook would be scolding him for being rude to a lady, but in this case, Zoro could tell his curly husband wholeheartedly agreed with his Sky; he could feel it in the tight, angry swirling of his cook's Flames.
Roronoa merely let out another raspy laugh.
"Better!" She agreed, taking no offense at all to the rudeness.
She gave one last look to her son.
"Keep hold of them; they're good. Strong. Love you like you deserve." She said approvingly.
Zoro nodded once, resolve firm.
"I know." He stated simply.
His mother gifted him with a soft look, her Flames very gently curling around his own, even though it prickled and burned at them both. Her presence had always burned, and he knew he'd burned her just as much.
He knew she loved him. He'd always known.
He loved her, too, even if his instincts wanted him to fight her and drive her away from what was HIS.
Still, he curled his Flames around hers, in return.
His mother rumbled at him, and paired with the tilt of her head and shoulders, and the expression on her face, Zoro knew it meant "Take care of yourself; I love you."
He rumbled back, mimicking her posture and expression, and there was a quicksilver fast sliver of a smile that flitted across her face before she headed off, back to wandering the world.
She'd likely stop in every now and again to check in on him, same as she had in the past, but he doubted she'd come up and speak to him or any of his again.
It was good to have seen her, though.
He'd missed her.
So we finally meet Zoro's mother! Or at least my interpretation of her! I have a lot of things I could say about her, but I'll simply state this: She did *NOT* just leave Zoro on the streets when she fucked off. She *very specifically* picked out an orphanage with a good reputation - which she *personally* verified by closely watching the place! - and dropped him off there.
(Also no, we will never meet Zoro's sperm donor, largely because no one actually knows who that *is*. Only Roronoa would know, and frankly she's long since forgotten because it Doesn't Matter.)
Chapter 34: Vivi
Chapter by Youkoartemis
An old friend makes an unexpected reappearance in their lives.
It had started out as a fairly normal day. He and Sanji were just leaving the zoo, where they'd taken the kids for a day out when he felt a presence he hadn't felt in a very long time. So long he couldn't quite place who it was, anymore.
It felt a little like a desert landscape, open, expansive, and warm. Not quite Sky, but not entirely dissimilar, either? Felt a bit like gravity. Zoro had never felt any other presence quite like it, and he'd met a lot of people with all kinds of different types and combinations of Flames.
There was only one person who had a presence like that.
Vivi Nefertari, from college. Nami's ex-girlfriend, and the woman who the witch still pined over sometimes when she and Zoro went out for drinks together.
And then a familiar woman's voice spoke up, sounding nervous and uncertain.
"Sanji-san? Mr. Bushido?"
Zoro turned to look at the one who spoke, taking in the sight of a woman with dark skin and long, bright blue hair. Combined with the presence and the unique way of referring to Zoro...
"Vivi-hime?" Sanji asked, stepping forward slightly, eyes wide
At the same time, Zoro stated "Vivi," with a small nod towards the woman.
It was definitely Vivi, but why was she here? Last Zoro'd heard, she was busy working to familiarize herself with her father's businesses in Egypt, in preparation for taking them over when her father retired.
She looked shaken, too, and her presence was whipped up in a tizzy, almost… panicked. It felt a bit like an earthquake.
Zoro narrowed his eye at her, tilting his head to one side, arms crossed.
He didn't notice it, but Luffy was unconsciously mimicking his exact expression and body language.
"I can't believe you're here, Vivi-hime!" Sanji exclaimed, delighted and beaming, "We should go somewhere and catch up!"
"Why are you here, Vivi?" Zoro asked, more suspicious, especially as her Flames rippled uncomfortably at Sanji's suggestion. His fingers twitched against his arm.
He wished he had his swords with him; it would be comforting to grasp one of their hilts. Not because he wanted to fight Vivi, but because it would be grounding to have the familiar weights and feels of his swords at his side. (But no, Sanji hadn't let him bring his swords to the zoo. Said something about "safety violations" and "scaring the civilians." Pfft~.)
Zoro had a bad feeling, and judging from how serious Luffy's Flames felt, he knew his Sky was feeling it, too.
"Who's she?" Chopper asked quietly from where he was clinging to Zoro's leg, Flames rippling with anxiety. Zoro hoped he didn't lose his focus on maintaining the illusion of looking like a regular kid, or things might get a bit awkward.
(Then again, he did kinda wanna try fighting one of those "Vindice" dudes the cook talked about…)
Still, best to try and reassure the kid so that didn't happen.
"Nefertari Vivi. Old college friend." Zoro introduced simply, instinctively using the Japanese naming order because it sounded better to him, not taking his eye off of the woman, "Last I'd heard, she was in Egypt, taking over the family businesses."
Vivi bit her lip, glanced around, and then seemed to come to a decision, straightening her spine and looking determined.
There was the steel spine Zoro expected from her!
"...Do we have somewhere private to talk? There are some things I need to tell you." She said quickly, tone deadly serious.
The cook snapped out of his "noodle over a pretty woman" mode and focused, giving a sharp nod.
"Will my house work?" He asked, all business now that he saw a glimpse of the stakes.
"It's the heart of my business territory, so it's quite secure, don't worry." He answered promptly.
Vivi seemed to relax slightly.
"...Okay. That should work, then."
"Our driver's right up ahead; let's go."
The kids, sensing the serious nature of the situation, kept silent and stayed close. Vivi pulled up her hood, hiding her hair.
They arrived back at their house, and planned to move the discussion into Zoro's office: It was one of the only rooms that could be 100% guaranteed not to be bugged, as Zoro spent a fair amount of time there and was very particular about how everything was laid out. (There was also rarely, if ever, any sort of important business conducted in Zoro's office, meaning it was a low priority target even without those other facts making it difficult to spy.)
Given the topic they were going to discuss was both a bit too serious and probably far too boring to involve the kids in, they left them to play video games together in the tv room. It sounded like they were starting up a rowdy game of Mario Kart as they were walking away; that was good. It'd keep them entertained enough to hopefully avoid causing trouble.
The kids handled, the adults pulled an additional chair into Zoro's office for Vivi, and sat around Zoro's desk. Zoro, of course, sat in his own, very comfy office chair behind his desk. His swords were back at his hip where they belonged.
Vivi drew her knees up to her chest, hugging her legs.
"Okay, so. The first thing I need to say is that I'm sorry." She said, looking miserable, "I was sent to kill the head of the Vinsmoke Family, but I swear that once I saw the picture, I was never going to go through with it, Sanji-san! I came to warn you about it!"
"Well of course I believe you completely, Vivi-hime!" Sanji said warmly, before focusing once more, expression going serious, "But who would send a sweet, beautiful woman like you to do such awful, dirty work?" He asked, frowning and taking a pull from his cigarette.
(Given the nature of the situation, Zoro had temporarily lifted the "no smoking in my office" rule. Better a slightly stunk up room than an anxious, fretful cook.)
"Baroque Works." She spat hatefully, glaring at a random spot on the wall.
The cook tensed, and something about that name tickled a memory…
"Y'mean the bounty hunting group with all the codenames and secrecy?" Zoro asked, idly scratching the side of his face.
Vivi and Sanji both gave him surprised looks.
"...Yes. That is the cover they use." Vivi said with a nod, sitting more properly in her chair and leaning towards Zoro, eyes wide, "But how do you know about them, Mr. Bushido?"
"Some guy with sevens on his face approached me, once. Had a weird chick with him. Gave me a recruitment pitch. I said I'd join, but only if they made me the boss." Zoro said, smirking at the memory as he leaned back in his chair, "They got pissed, and I dealt with 'em."
Sanji frowned at that, tapping his gloved fingers on his chin.
"That was… A couple years ago, right?" He asked thoughtfully.
"Yeah, think so." Zoro agreed with a shrug. That sounded accurate enough. He only recalled them at all because they'd been so fucking weird.
Curly looked pissed about it, though.
"Great! One of my enemies tried to recruit my husband back when he was a civilian! Fucking fantastic!" He swore under his breath, stubbing out his old cigarette and lighting a new one, burning through it at a vaguely alarming pace.
He then took a deep breath and pasted on what Zoro recognized as his "I'm pissed off beyond belief but trying to play nice for a pretty lady" smile. Zoro could tell from how that curly eyebrow twitched and from the number of teeth showing.
"Vivi-hime, how did you end up working with Baroque Works?" He asked in a forcibly pleasant.
"Well, see, my father runs a number of very important businesses, and one day, things suddenly began going wrong, and kept going wrong. I looked into things, and, from what I could tell… It wasn't bad luck: It was sabotage." Vivi began, digging her fingers into her pants and biting her lower lip, "People were starting to get hurt, so I started looking into who was causing it, and I found Baroque Works. So I infiltrated the organization to find out who was behind the plot to take over my father's businesses."
"Did it work?" Sanji asked, leaning forward.
"Yes. I found out who was behind it, but before I could report it to anyone, I was sent out on a mission to kill the head of the Vinsmoke Famiglia, not knowing that it was you, Sanji-san."
"And no one knew that you and us were college buddies." Zoro reasoned, still leaned back in his seat.
"That appears to be correct." She agreed.
"Sanjiii…" Luffy's voice interrupted from the door as he strolled on in without knocking and around the desk to sprawl in Zoro's lap, poking his head up over the desk to pout at the cook, "I'm hungryyyy!"
"Luffy, I'll start dinner soon, but we're kind of in the middle of something important, so could you please wait just a little bit longer?" Zoro's husband asked, clearly trying very hard not to yell at Luffy.
Luffy's pout deepened as he rested his chin atop Zoro's desk.
"What's the big deal? Vivi's your friend, right?" He asked.
"Yes, of course she is-"
"-And these Bratwurst guys are hurting Vivi's dad, right?" Luffy continued, interrupting Sanji.
"Yup." Zoro confirmed.
"So just kick their butts and make 'em stop!" Luffy exclaimed, looking annoyed at how long it was taking them to figure that out.
"I second that idea." Zoro drawled, smirking.
"But the leader is Sir Crocodile!"
That made the cook wince.
"Ah. Yeah. That makes things a bit tricky." He said, lighting another cigarette, "I make any aggressive moves towards him, and we risk starting a major turf war."
"So?" Luffy asked, with Zoro silently asking the same thing.
"A lotta people would die, including civilians." Sanji explained.
"Yeah, but people are gonna die anyway if we just let him keep doing what he's doing, right?" Zoro pointed out in a reasonable tone, arching an eyebrow.
"So we should just kick Croc-guy's butt!!" Luffy exclaimed, grinning fiercely.
Sanji sighed and rubbed his temples.
"Alright… Guess we're going to war…" He muttered, sounding exhausted.
"Please don't! I could never ask that of-"
"-Shut up!" Luffy interrupted, "I've already decided! We're gonna kick their butts and make 'em stop hurting Vivi's people! And then Sanji can finally make meat!!!"
"Sounds good to me, Captain." Zoro said, grinning viciously.
"I have some calls to make…" Sanji muttered, walking off.
And so we start an arc! Vivi returns!!!
Chapter 35: A Very Happy Thanksgiving
Chapter by Youkoartemis
It's about family and togetherness!
Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
They might not be living in America, but once Luffy learned about the American custom of Thanksgiving, he insisted that they all celebrate it.
"It's about family, and togetherness, and MEAT! LOTS AND LOTS OF MEAT!!!" Their Sky had exclaimed enthusiastically, practically drooling, stars in his eyes as he imagined it all.
They all sighed in exasperation, but couldn't help but smile at their Sky's infectious enthusiasm.
Sanji was already planning a menu, muttering under their breath about doing some research, and taste tests, and how they were gonna get all of the necessary ingredients.
Zoro could already tell that he was gonna get drafted into acting as pack mule for his curlybrowed spouse, and, sure enough… He was.
"Zoro, you're coming with me. We need to do some shopping." The cook announced a bit imperiously.
Zoro kinda loved it when the cook got all bossy with him, but he also kinda hated it, 'cause Curly wasn't the boss of him....but it also made Zoro's stomach feel all wiggly in a good way? Made something deep inside of him curl up and purr like a kitten, even as he also wanted to push and pull at his cook's patience.
Still, he complied, and didn't even protest that much when the cook insisted on keeping hold of his hand to make sure he "didn't wander off and get himself hopelessly lost," which was ridiculous because Zoro did not get lost!!
Holding one of his cook's precious hands was really nice, though, so Zoro let it slide. Their hands were so soft and smooth, with really pretty nails. Looked like pretty, perfect porcelain against his own rough, calloused and scarred hands. Dainty and pretty, like a doll's, but still so strong and skilled in everything they did.
(And oh, they did a lot.)
Zoro lifted the hand he held to his lips and pressed a soft kiss to the back of it, taking a moment to nuzzle the tip of his nose against it, too, while he was at it.
Curly chuckled softly and glanced over to him with a small smile, causing Zoro to look up at them and blink placidly.
"You're adorable, mon amour~." They crooned, gently bumping their shoulder against Zoro's, open affection on their face.
Zoro felt his face warm up and scoffed, lowering his hand and looking away to hide the faint blush he knew he was now sporting.
Stupid cook and their stupid, sincere compliments…
The cook cooed at him and leaned in to press a soft kiss to Zoro's cheek, nuzzling him just a little, and Zoro felt his face warming up even further.
Zoro loved them so much.
Loved them so much that he was willing to tolerate all the crowding in the stores. Zoro hated crowding. Hated people.
Someone's arm accidentally brushed against Zoro's and he had to suppress a shudder at the feeling. He wanted to scrub at the area; shake off the feeling of having been Touched. The area burned.
Zoro's mood soured further, lips pulling down into a scowl as he pressed closer to his Curly.
The cook pressed against Zoro's side in return, providing what comfort they could as they carefully examined all the produce on the floor to find ones that were the perfect size and condition for what they had planned.
Produce selected, they paid, and the cook dragged Zoro off to the next store, to gather the meats, cheeses, spices, and everything else that Sanji intended to prepare.
The cook liked going to small specialty stores for stuff. Said they had higher quality products and were usually more ethical in how they got 'em. Zoro honestly couldn't tell, but he never had any complaints about his spouse's cooking, so he supposed it must be true enough.
"Alright, that's all of it!" Curly announced after hours of shopping.
Zoro breathed a sigh of immense relief. He tried to be quiet about it, but from the amused chuckle his cook let out, he supposed he hadn't been as quiet as he'd intended.
Zoro's cook reached up and gently ruffled Zoro's hair, smiling softly and warmly at him in that way that never failed to make Zoro feel just a little bit warmer inside, his stomach wiggling happily.
"I know you hate dealing with all these crowds, darling." His cook murmured, "Thank you for being so patient for me, my dear."
Zoro gently bumped his head against the hand in his hair, rumbling softly. He felt a great deal calmer, now that he knew the ordeal was almost over. The uncomfortable prickling beneath his skin that had been slowly growing worse the longer he was out and around so many people was slowly beginning to settle.
As they were being driven home, Sanji kept softly crooning praises to Zoro as they gently held him and petted his hair. By the time they got home, Zoro was feeling sleepy and content, but knew he'd have to help his cook bring all the groceries in. At least Curly's men also helped out with that.
Prepwork for Thanksgiving began in the days leading up to the event. Invitations were sent out to close friends and family, and Sanji set all their work affairs in order so that they could run the kitchen.
Zoro was dragged into helping with the prepwork, set to slicing, dicing, and cubing ingredients for the cook. He also got set to helping tenderize the meat, and crushing nuts to go into the breads, jellos, sweet potatoes, and whatever else the cook wanted to add walnuts and the like to (there were also, of course, variants without nuts in them).
There were vegan options, pescetarian options, gluten-free options, sugar free, nut free, and kosher options available. There were multiple options available that were safe for anyone to eat, and they were clearly marked to avoid confusion.
The beverages available were also widely varied: White wines, red wines, champaign, beers, ales, heavier liquors, sparkling juices of all types, sparkling water, regular water, and sodas of all varieties. Plus, of course, tea and coffee.
The guests began arriving fashionably late, as was the custom for the country.
Ace, Sabo, and Luffy arrived together, earlier than most of the others. Marco and Thatch came with Ace while Koala accompanied Sabo. The brothers arriving so promptly would've been a surprise if not for the fact that food was involved. That single fact made it completely un surprising: Luffy and Ace could pull off near miracles when free food was involved.
The only ones who arrived earlier than the brothers were Zeff (who promptly took over the kitchen from Sanji, quite literally kicking the cook out of the kitchen to go play host), Reiju, Koushirou, Mihawk, and Perona.
Next to arrive was Brook, who immediately began providing music for the event with a delighted "Yohohohoho~!"
Nami and Vivi came next, followed closely by Franky, Robin, and Usopp. Both groups were accompanied by several select personal guards/members of their families. Zambai, Kiwi, and Mozu had come along with Franky, for example, and Igaram had come along with Vivi.
Sanji greeted them all at the door, smiling brightly and politely while some of their men took the guests' coats and hung them in the closet for them. Zoro and Chopper accompanied Sanji, as was proper for the hosting family.
Chopper beamed brightly and greeted all the guests with incredible cheer while Zoro greeted each guest with a polite nod, graciously accepting the gifts that were brought with all the manners that Sanji had painstakingly instilled into him. Some of Sanji's men appeared and quietly took the gifts to the appropriate areas after Zoro accepted them.
They all sat around the great family table, chattering happily. The mood was buoyant and rowdy, as it always was when they all got together like this.
No one was happier than Luffy, whose smile was so big and wide it nearly split his face in half.
"I'm grateful to have all my friends and family here with me!!!!" He exclaimed joyously, before adding the expected: "And the food!!!!!"
Everyone laughed and the meal began, brought out by some of Sanji's men, in the order Sanji had previously arranged for them.
It was a very successful event, filled with the warmth of friendship, family, and love (and amazing food).
I hope you all have a safe and happy day! Remember to socially distance! Just because this fic doesn't include covid doesn't mean the pandemic doesn't exist outside of it! <3
(And as a note: This chapter's set a ways into the future from what's been previously written!)