Chapter 3 - Clouds

Sunny day followed sunny day, the sweet scent of roses replaced the heady jasmine and the sun set later every night. The dying light of evening lit the Palace in rose, but during the day it blazed on the hilltop in bright white. The sand reflected the heat and made the air shimmer. In short, it was perfect weather to do nothing whilst wearing very little and the ladies were not going to miss it for the world. This afternoon they were swimming – again – which meant that Sanji had to be close by. He was never far when the ladies were in more than their usual state of undress.

Zoro wandered over to where the girls were sunbaking. Robin was being fanned by a dozen palm fronds, conveniently powered by hands sprouting from the ground at the foot of her sun bed. Nami was next to her, enjoying the breeze and bossing around the other girls like she ran the place. Already. Vivi was swimming, Perona was terrifying a new guard… Sanji was floating a foot off the ground, carrying a tray of ridiculously delicate teacups.

Zoro had been observing him since he discovered the cook’s hidden talents. Just keeping an eye out to try to get to know a bit more about the elusive man. Even though they had only exchanged half a dozen words, the blonde was playing on his mind. He spent most of his time fawning over the ladies, when he wasn’t attending to the Sultan and his never ending stream of guests. Sometimes he went to see Luffy; sometimes he just read a book. His personal habits were also noted: he smoked, he loved food and he always, always changed at least twice a day. Outfits for dinner, outfits for walking, outfits for swimming… It was just ridiculous.

The only reason he could even have so many clothes in one room was because every outfit would fit in Zoro’s closed palm. The swordsman sighed as he was besieged with mental images that were entirely unnecessary. Damn it.

Sanji was currently in light blue satin pants and jewellery. Nothing else. His body was starting to get a sun-kissed glow but his face was still fair and his hair shone golden in the summer sun. It was so distracting! He looked so feminine in the soft fabric but Zoro had felt his strength. He had felt the willpower behind that elegant leg and he was intrigued. It made the blonde even more alluring. He wasn’t a delicate boy; he was a man with red-hot blood and a quick temper. Even if he was an asshole, that was pretty sexy.

The cook hovered like a bee gathering nectar, distributing the tea to as many girls as he could reach. He looked the complete opposite of violent. He had stars in his eyes and was practically foaming at the mouth. The girls didn’t mind him though; Nami in particular seemed to take very well to his fawning.

“Sanji,” Zoro said, hoping to distract the cook before he got caught up in the next elaborate display of devotion. The girls all stopped what they were doing and turned.

“Zoro-kun!” “It’s been so long since you came to talk to us!” “Rub my back, Zoro!” “Swordsman-san!” “Show me that move you used on the burglars!!!” “Come and talk to me!” Thirty scantily clad women all jumped up and ran at Zoro with terrifying determination.

The swordsman was frozen to the spot. It all seemed to be happening in slow motion… like he knew what was going to hit him but he was powerless to stop it. They slammed into him like a warm wave of destruction and hung off him in every direction.

Damn it again.

He peered at Robin through the cloud of oestrogen begging her silently to intervene.

“Come on now girls, give swordsman-san some space,” she chuckled.

The barrier of soft flesh sighed collectively and parted. Zoro stepped back and belatedly waved defensive arms in the direction of the retreating mob.

“Sanji.” The swordsman repeated, “I need to have a word with you.”

The cook raised an eyebrow, put down his tray and addressed the girls, “Ladies, I must bid you adieu but I will be back soon.” He waved them a fond farewell, walking backwards and blowing kisses, then finally turned and strolled over to Zoro.

They had only gotten a few steps when Sanji broke the silence, “So you get bored peering through the bushes and decide to come and annoy me in person?”

Zoro stole a glance at the cook, an unreadable smile graced his lips.

“You know I’m paid to guard you, yeah?” The swordsman replied. Sanji had noticed. Shit. Seems like he was getting careless from living soft. Might be time to move on…

The cook stopped walking and lit a cigarette, then looked up into the clear blue sky. Finally he returned his gaze to Zoro, who stared at him blankly.

“Ok, then. You want to talk? Then talk,” the blonde blew smoke rings and flicked his hair out of his eyes. Zoro noticed the strong line of his jaw and the fine lines of his bone structure. It helped to distract him from the whole perfect-half-naked-and-within-reach thing. One long lashed blue eye was peering at him curiously. That was right, he was meant to be talking.

“Thanks for teaching Luffy to wrestle; not sure it’s what his father had in mind though.” Zoro grinned. It seemed Luffy was destined to be a virgin for a little bit longer after all.

Sanji scoffed and puffed in equal proportions. “I told you I wasn’t, asshole. It’s just that Luffy seems a bit, well…”

Zoro stared at him and offered no assistance. This close he could smell exotic spice wafting from the cook’s soft blonde hair. He could see the shape of his legs under the flimsy pants and those cheeky curls of gold peeking out were making the blood rush from the swordsman’s head.

Sanji blew a frustrated stream of smoke in the air and finished his sentence, “…he’s just like a kid. He just thought I was wrestling with him.” The blonde sighed. Zoro laughed. So that was what had happened… oh Luffy! “Shut up already!” Sanji snapped, “I’ll get him eventually, don’t you worry. His is gay, isn’t he?” Zoro shrugged, Luffy was Luffy. It was hard to put him in a category.

The blonde waved a dismissive hand and continued, “Doesn’t matter. I always get my man.” He smiled seductively and ran one hand down his own rippling abs, hooking his finger into his waistband and pulling it even lower. Zoro tried to look away but he found his eyes had defected from the rest of his body. Sanji smirked.

“So, what did you really drag me out into the bushes on my own for, Harem Master? All the look-but-don’t-touch starting to wear you down or do you want me to show you why I don’t need your fucking protection?” Sanji took two steps forward and before Zoro could register it, the cook was leaning on his chest and looking deep into his eyes. He produced a breathy whisper that sent shivers down Zoro’s spine, “What’s your problem, Marimo?”

Don’t react. Don’t grab him. Don’t knock his long legs out from under him and pin him to the ground. Zoro took a calming breath and thought about returning to the sea with enough sake money for months.

“Umm… just be careful,” the swordsman said. Sanji glared at him and he could feel the muscles in the blonde’s thigh twitch through the thin silk. No, that wasn’t it. What the hell was he trying to say? “The Sultan may be annoyed if he finds you fawning over his wives like that…” Zoro could feel his face slowly turning red as Sanji’s warmth suffused his body. His mind was telling him to move away, but his feet were rooted to the spot.

“Well, maybe…” Sanji whispered, moving his body even closer and running one finger along the ridge of Zoro’s collarbone, “You don’t want anyone to do what you can’t, Mr. Compensation.”

“What?” Zoro blinked.

“Well it doesn’t take a genius to figure it out. Running a harem… Three swords... Missing something, perhaps?” Sanji raised one curly, knowing eyebrow.

Missing something? What? Zoro took advantage of the distraction of being even more confused and stepped back, away from the intoxicating cloud of hormones and scent. Sanji was standing there grinning at him.

“Oh well,” the blonde laughed, “Don’t you worry about me. I can take care of myself… and don’t forget it.” He flicked his cigarette over his shoulder and waved nonchalantly, then wiggled his perfect ass back in the direction of the ladies.

Zoro wasn’t sure what had just happened, but his body was telling him – very loudly – that he liked it.


The warm air was stifling as Zoro performed yet another set of crunches and then raised his protesting body into a handstand to do push ups. The aching of his arms and stomach was reassuring and familiar, comforting like an old friend. The sensations usually helped him to clear his head but today there would be no rest for the wicked.

Missing something?

Running a harem?

Three swords?

Mr. Compensation?!

He wasn’t short; he was at least as tall as that smug bastard, so it wasn’t that. There were some people who seemed to think that a large sword indicated a deficiency in other areas, but what did that have to do with being a Harem Master? Most men who ran harems didn’t even have a cock so it seemed a bit rich to g…


Zoro let his body down slowly and sighed heavily into the lawn.

Sanji thought he was a eunuch.

Pretty obvious really, when he thought about it. No wonder he had been so smug about Zoro’s lecture. If only the poor man knew… He certainly wouldn’t have been pressing himself up against the swordsman and running his damn chef’s fingers all over him. Very dangerous.

He probably thought that he was upsetting Zoro. Far from it. Even though his touch lingered in ways that were going to make it hard for the swordsman to sleep, Zoro had no issue with Sanji mauling him whenever he liked. He may not be allowed to fraternise with the concubines, but he also wasn’t allowed to hurt them. If Sanji put him in a position where he had no choice… well, what else could he do?

Zoro grinned. What would Sanji think if he knew the things that Zoro had planned for him? He’d probably run a mile. On reflection, it may not be so bad that Sanji had got the wrong idea. It meant that it was unlikely that the cook would try anything beyond groping him a little and trying to throw him off balance.

The swordsman was enjoying the lazy lifestyle at the Palace for the time being and he didn’t want to blow it. Certainly not for a fair-weather-fuck like Sanji. He was gorgeous but pretty shallow from what Zoro could observe. He must have his own agenda but his love of women and his foul mouth were written on his sleeve and they didn’t really spell relationship material.

Relationship material? He really had been here too long. Zoro resolved to get laid as soon as possible. He had found it more difficult to keep his lust under control than he’d expected. He didn’t doubt his willpower but his body did seem to have a mind of its own whenever Sanji was around. The cook was so slender and toned and always right fucking there in his face! Chiselled perfection. Even with his iron will, there was a small danger that if Sanji tried to have his way with him, he wouldn’t resist at all. He was fine with this level but if Sanji got serious, he’d probably be in trouble.

Or he could just teach the baka-cook a lesson…

He was so arrogant and mouthy, he was just begging for a fight. He might be strong but he couldn’t be that strong. Zoro smirked. He would love to see the cook’s face when he ground it into the dirt. It was also far to tempting to prove his manhood in a different way... a way that Sanji couldn’t deny. The blonde probably wouldn’t mind, he was a concubine after all. Zoro had to be better looking than the men that Sanji would be ‘entertaining’ in the Palace... The way he fought and his wild eyes said he was the type of man who would only do what suited him. What would make him want to do that? He’d wondered about the girls in that way before but none of them were as headstrong as Sanji… as raw.

Maybe he just liked it that much. His eyes were always inviting, even when he was spitting with rage. His body was so flexible and toned that it would make a night with him a guaranteed ride of a lifetime. The way that Sanji’s eyes had burned when he said he would get Luffy no matter what… Zoro mopped up his nosebleed and marched out of the bushes, resolving to go and find the rubber boy and bash his idiot head.


The next time Zoro saw the cook, he was making good on his oath; chatting up Luffy like his life depended on it. The girls were giggling and encouraging him as best they could. Pretty much all of them except Robin had been sent to Luffy’s room at one time or another to try their charms on him. So far he remained uncorrupted, wild and childish and completely free.

“You’re tickling me Sanji!” Luffy giggled and tackled the cook to the ground. They both proceeded to roll in the grass much to the delight of all the watching girls. Finally, after much shenanigans and goings on, Sanji ended up sitting on Luffy, legs spread. He earned himself a round of applause from the crowd for this achievement and rose to make a bow.

“Saaaaaannjiiiiiiii…” Luffy grumbled, “I’m hungry!!!”

“I’m not meant to cook for you Luffy, your father said that I was ruining your appetite.” Sanji smiled indulgently down at the boy. He had a certain way with people, that was for sure.

“But Saaaanjjiiiii… your food is so much better!” Huge brown eyes completed the plea. Sanji sighed and called the guards over.

“Please bring a side of beef, oil, kitchen knives, trestles, table cloths, some bowls and a cutting board. Oh, and light the western outdoor barbeque.” He issued orders with ease and sighed as Robin came over laughing.

“I thought that you weren’t cooking for Luffy-sama anymore," she said. The cook fawned and apologised helplessly.

In a matter of minutes, Sanji was serving up razor thin slices of cooked meat and fresh garden salad. The swordsman retreated to one of his favourite afternoon resting spots and settled down to meditate for a few hours. He was surprised when he heard someone rustling through the grass only a few minutes later.

He opened one lazy eye and then blinked a few times. Nope, it was still Sanji. He was striding over determinedly holding a plate.

Sanji handed the plate to Zoro, his expression clouded.

“Here. I thought you might want something.”

Zoro was about to protest when his stomach growled loudly, goading him for skipping breakfast. The smell wafting up from the beef was incredible, some kind of spices Zoro had never seen before.

“Just take it.” Sanji grinned. He shoved the plate into Zoro’s hands and then stood over him expectantly.


“Try it!” Sanji rolled his eyes.

The swordsman took a mouthful and grunted in appreciation. Sanji looked on horrified as the entire contents of his plate disappeared in a heartbeat.

“You’re as bad as Luffy!” He exclaimed.

“You prefer me to spit it out?” Zoro challenged. The cook glared at him but as he took Zoro’s empty plate his expression softened.

“I guess it is nice to see you enjoying something for a change. You’re a moody bastard, you know that?” Sanji looked down at him with a mixture of confidence and cheek. Zoro was temporarily overwhelmed by the urge to put the cook over his knee and punish him for being such a tease. Somehow he managed to get out a reasonable reply,

“There are things I enjoy.” Zoro stood up slowly, rolling lustful eyes over Sanji’s half naked body. For the minute he was wearing a see-through vest of blue and gold and red silk fisherman’s pants, slung low as always.

A smirk pulled at the corner of Sanji’s lips but he continued, “The ladies really like your company – Kami knows why – so you should come and see us more often,” The cook leaned forwards and brushed his lips gently over Zoro’s ear, “you must get lonely out here on your own. Don’t make me come and get you… There are so many things that I could do to you and nothing you could do to stop me…” Sanji’s hands explored his chest and his hot breath was on Zoro’s lips. “I see you watching me, Zoro…” The cook whispered, he let one sharp fingernail trail down to Zoro’s waistband as he pressed his body against him.


Something inside Zoro broke. In one fluid motion, he pinned Sanji’s wrists behind his back and pulled him close, forcing him to look the swordsman in the eye.

“Stop.” He said, low and clear.

Damn! He had almost gone! Zoro hurriedly dropped Sanji's wrists but the man didn’t move a muscle. He just stood, staring into Zoro’s eyes, so close that the swordsman could almost taste his lips.

Sanji leaned just a centimetre further forwards and his soft fringe brushed along Zoro’s cheek. His breath was warm on Zoro’s neck and he whispered a single word,


Zoro blinked as the haze of Sanji’s hair, his touch and his near-naked flesh cleared. Sanji grinned. Then the blonde ran his fingers up Zoro’s chest and walked away; his touch still lingering long after his wicked smile had gone.




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