Chapter 8 - Midnight

Sanji strode through the garden, soft dark fabric floating out behind him. He had chosen blue, of course, as the appropriate colour for a midnight rendezvous. The chill in the air made his flesh prickle with goose bumps; or it could have been the excitement. It had been years since he had met a girl by moonlight. He flitted in and out of the shadows, appreciating the last notes of jasmine still clinging to the gentle breeze. Somewhere in this garden, she was waiting for him.

“Sanji!” He heard the urgent whisper but he couldn’t pinpoint its source. It was her, she was calling to him! After a minute of heart-fluttering-starry-eyes-patented-Sanji-lady-fit he turned on the spot. “Here!” A hand reached out from behind him and yanked him into a nearby bush.

“What were you doing just walking around in the open like that?” Nami hissed. Sanji only saw the sweet sweep of her lips and the generous dimple in her cheeks. Ah, what a cute girl.

“Pay attention!” she grumbled, sticking out her bottom lip like a petulant child.

“Hai, nami-schwan!” He purred, wondering just what exactly he had gotten himself into. He might be keen but he was not completely stupid. Even if he was more than willing to help Nami, her plans could be a little, well… enthusiastic.

“It’s time for us to move,” she whispered conspiratorially, pulling him down until his ear was at the same level as her lips. “This is as close as I’m going to be able to get to the treasure so we have to strike before anyone gets suspicious. Friday night, when everyone is at the banquet, we will go to the safe and empty it.”

“But won’t there be too much security?” Sanji prompted, trying not to float off on the heady scent of her perfume. He had actually started to like the Sultan and his staff so he wasn’t really in a rush to rob them blind… It was for her though, for her family. He had promised that he would help to save them. Anyway, they had so much money here, surely a little bit wouldn’t make so much difference?

“There are only a few guards out in the foyer area,” she shot back defiantly, “I’ve figured out how to get into the inner sanctum without too much hassle. I’ll need your help though. Can I count on you?” Her large, dark eyes gazed up at him. As always, there was only one answer he could give.

“Of course you can. I always protect my nakama.” He beamed a rather goofy smile. Despite the fact that he liked strong men, girls always were his weakness. There was just something about them and this one was a damsel in distress. No matter how weak he felt, he would always help a woman in need.

“Make sure that you’re not seen on the way back to your room,” Nami whispered as they stepped out of the bushes. She smiled warmly, before turning back into the shadows along the western boundary wall. He watched her go as far as he could see her. It didn’t take long for her form to melt into the pervading darkness and disappear completely.

She would be the death of him one day, that was for sure. He couldn’t help it though. Having had such a hard life, being beaten down so many times… the way that she refused to give up and refused to say die was so amazing. She was inspirational in her own way. Maybe one day he would have the guts to follow his dream like she did.

As he was contemplating what he would do if he could live his life over again, he heard an abrupt rustle in one of the shrubs behind him. His body twisted automatically, one deadly leg held high.

“Took you long enough,” the shrub said, in an all-too-familiar voice.

Shit, Sanji thought, how long was he there?

“I knew you were there!” The cook spluttered; his grin was cocky but it hid his nerves. Zoro could not know what they were planning. Nothing could get in the way of her dream to save her island…

The swordsman strode out of the shrub, a smug grin on his face. His hair was all tousled and a stray leaf stuck out of it, green on green.

Sanji’s nerves were not helped by the fact that the idiot Marimo was standing there wearing nothing but a pair of pants. Pants! The desert nights were surprisingly cold and this one was no exception. Sanji was wrapped from head to toe but Zoro just stood there, half naked. He was gazing at Sanji with intense dark eyes.

The cook regained his composure, “What is it shitty-swordsman?” He glared and lit a cigarette, as if that was what he had been intending to do all along.

“You’re out late.” One corner of Zoro’s lips curled in a smile.

Sanji wanted to just leave. He had a perfectly good plan to get out of this without too much emotional fallout; he just had to walk away.

“Awesome powers of observation you have there.” Sanji quipped. Zoro remained where he was, completely impassive. The cook stroked the line of golden fluff on his chin and tilted his head to one side, “You stalking me again, Marimo?”

“I’m on patrol,” Zoro deadpanned.

In so many years there was one thing that Sanji had learnt well: don’t get attached. He had trusted so many times and fallen over and over again. It was weak and it made him so angry with himself but he just couldn’t risk it. He already felt so down… he had to protect himself from all the assholes in the world. He had to keep the strength he had to survive; so that he could follow his dream.

“Well, enjoy your patrol,” The blonde said. He let his eyes wander over the swordsman’s stunning body. The shadows cast by the moonlight clung to all his best muscles. It made him look like he was a sculpture, a stylised warrior from a museum. Somewhere between Zoro’s pecs and his rippling stomach The cook’s resolve began to waver, “I’m cold, so I’m going to bed…” he hinted.

Hey hey! The sensible voice in his head said, ignore him. That was the plan. You love plans, don’t change the damn plan.

“Well…” Zoro eyes flicked up, his eyebrows knitted together, “Don’t do anything stupid!” He huffed, turning to walk away.

He really couldn’t read people at all, surely anyone else would have heard the invitation in those words. Or at least tried to take advantage! Zoro had been doing his best to drag him back into bed ever since they had spent that one blissful afternoon together. Now it seemed like he was waiting for something… Maybe he really didn’t know that he was being flirted with, even if it was just a little. It was so hard to believe that he had seen the cook’s pain through the mask that no one else could pierce.

“Of course I won’t do anything stupid,” Sanji pulled the cigarette from his lips and a thin stream of smoke escaped. He was going to just walk away, really, he was… but Zoro always pushed his damn buttons! He couldn’t just let the idiot Marimo have the last word.

He flicked his blonde hair back with one hand and smiled that perfect cocky smile, “I’m not the one who fell into a bush, baka.”

“I didn’t fall into the bush, shit head!” Zoro shouted, his voice ringing out in the quiet of the still, cold night. He blinked and continued quietly, “Anyway, just be careful.”

“Me, be careful? You’re the one getting beaten up by inanimate objects.” Sanji grinned. The swordsman rolled his eyes but did not say a word. “Not biting tonight, Marimo? That’s weird.” Sanji prodded. Normally that would have provoked a much bigger reaction. He peered into Zoro's unreadable black eyes. What was going on with him? Was he really just going to stand there?

This could be fun.

The cook raised one leg and playfully tapped Zoro on the chest.

“Hello? Earth to Marimo.”

“I’m serious.” Zoro grabbed Sanji’s ankle and glared, trying to cut through the blonde curtain hiding Sanji’s eyes, “I didn’t get you out of that shitty job just to have you go and get yourself into an even bigger mess.”

The words just tumbled out. He knew that Sanji wouldn’t like them; with his flash-in-the-pan temper and wounded pride he was like an injured animal. He had expected Sanji to go weird after their steamy encounter; he was too emotional to do anything else right now. It didn’t matter though. This was important! He would say it even if it meant he was anther step away from that gorgeous pale body… those searching pink lips… The memory of his warm mouth, sliding slowly down, soft lips brushing against sensitive skin and sending shivers up his back…

Sanji put his weight into his front foot and shoved the swordsman backward, twisting out of Zoro’s grip. His face went from placid to red rage. Zoro sighed, damn it.

“I don’t owe you anything baka swordsman and don’t you forget it! I can do whatever I want! You don’t understand how I feel and what I need to do, you don’t have to worry about anyone! She came to me for help and I’m going to help her!” Sanji quivered with rage.

Zoro shook his head sadly; the guy was a freaking idiot. Really. “She’s just using you.”

“So what if she is?!” Sanji screamed back, stepping right up to look the swordsman in the eyes. Dumb Marimo couldn’t see! All the heat and pressure swelled in his chest, he tried to suppress it. It knocked the wind out of his lungs and left him cold.

Zoro watched the blonde slowly pale. Where Sanji was confused, his emotions were stark and pure: he was angry. Did Sanji really think that running around after someone like that was the best that he could do? Had that witch made him believe that this was all he was worth? He had seen women who did these sorts of things before.

He grabbed Sanji’s silk shirt, feeling the fragile fabric tear in his strong hands. He twisted it up into a bunch, trying to stop the cook from struggling. He knew it was none of his business but despite his front, the blonde seemed to be in trouble. He needed to look him in the eye and tell him that it would not work,

“She doesn’t care Sanji! She’ll just use you up and spit you out.”

Sanji struggled and kicked, their bodies were so close that Zoro could taste the salt of the tears rolling down his cheeks. “Let me go!” He spluttered.

“No,” Zoro held him fast. Sanji twisted like a serpent and kneed him hard in the balls but Zoro managed to keep hold of him. He panted and wriggled, the tears flowing faster and faster.

“You shitty bastard let me go!” The cook growled.

He moved so quickly that even Zoro was surprised when his legs were kicked out from under him. He made a quick decision, it was either let go and pull out his swords, or… He clung onto Sanji and they both rolled across the damp grass. Zoro made sure to use his upper body strength to end up on top. He looked Sanji in the eye and instead of pressing his advantage, he stood up and put out a hand.

“Ok,” the swordsman said, “Do what you want.”

Another random Sanji expression that the swordsman couldn’t understand: anger, pain, fear? Then the cook stared at his hand and scowled, jumping to his feet. The way he moved put Zoro on warning and so the first sweeping kick wasn’t such a surprise. He hopped over it and it wasn’t so bad. It was the dozen after that that were a little unexpected. Sanji shouted and rained kicks down on him like a storm,


Finally, the blonde stopped dead. Gasps of exhaustion and sobs cut his words into pieces, “And.. yo.. u.. are so… dif… fer.. ent… are.. you….? You.. wa… nt… me.. to.. be hap.. py…” Despite the gasps, the whispered words were so clear. Zoro was caught in the pain in his voice, he held the sobbing man tightly in his hands.

Sanji took two deep breaths and the sobbing slowed, “You… are so… fucking different are you Zoro?” His voice had taken on a bitter edge. Sanji finally looked up and his red-rimmed eyes made the swordsman’s heart ache.

“You are so different? Than every person I have ever met? You don’t want something from me? To control me? To use me? To make me do what you want?”

His eyes were so sad. His shaking hands held Zoro’s arms, as if he let go he would fall.

“I…” There were no words.

Zoro did not want him to go with that woman. He wanted the cook to stay with him. He wasn’t thinking of Sanji’s desires. After the things that he had done he would probably never want the things that Zoro wanted… The swordsman had been stupid. Selfish.

It was time to walk away. He would not be one more person to just take what he wanted from the cook. He wanted Sanji to have whatever he liked, to do whatever he wanted.

Even if it was stupid.

He pulled Sanji forwards and held him tight, “Do you really think that she deserves your help?” He mumbled into the soft blonde hair.

“Yes.” Sanji whispered.

“Well, what can I do?” Zoro said.

Sanji did not reply, but his tears were not as warm as his searching lips when he pulled the swordsman close.


Chapter 7 ~~~~~~~~~ Back to Zoro/Sanji ~~~~~~~~ Chapter 9



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