The nightmare was always the same.
Bartholomew Kuma's monstrous form loomed over Zoro, as Zoro offered to trade his own life for their captain's. Bruised and broken on the inside, Sanji stepped between them, trying to save Zoro, willing to be the sacrifice instead. An agonizing jab to his kidney took Sanji down before he could finish his sentence, and everything went black.
Sanji awoke with a start, an unuttered protest on his lips. Soft lantern light illuminated the curved wooden walls of the crow's nest and the weight set put up for the night. Stars studded the inky sky beyond the square-cut windows circling the enclosed room high above the main deck. Sanji sat forward on the cushioned bench seat lining half the room and clutched at his blond hair. He inhaled a shaky breath. He hated that nightmare because it wasn't one; it was a memory, and he knew what had happened next. He'd found Zoro closer to death than the swordsman had ever been, all because Sanji had failed.
"You didn't." Zoro's low voice pulled Sanji away from his self-recriminations. Sanji turned his head and saw Zoro standing at the far end of the bench, leaning his forearms against the windowsill, looking out at the calm sea. His moss-colored hair appeared darker in the dim light. His white shirt stretched across his broad back. The three gold earrings dangling in his ear caught the light when he glanced over his shoulder. "And I'm still here."
Sanji scoffed and turned away. He patted his blue dress shirt pocket for his cigarettes. Zoro did nothing but eat, sleep, and train when they were at sea, but somehow he always knew what was going on in Sanji's head, all day or night.
Sanji retrieved his lighter from his black trousers pocket, and allowed the first drag on his cigarette to chase away the vestiges of the dream. He leaned back against the bench seat, staring up at the cobwebbed crossbeams. He'd been on evening watch when Zoro had come to relieve him at midnight, and Sanji had chosen to stick around. They didn't get a lot of alone time on the ship. Sanji hadn't expected to fall asleep.
Zoro pushed away from the window. His bare feet made no noise on the wood floor as he crossed the short distance between them and took a seat next to Sanji. Sanji glanced down when a large, calloused hand settled reassuringly on his thigh. He shifted awkwardly and grumbled, "Aho marimo."
Zoro made a quiet sound of amusement, but didn't remove his hand. "Stupid cook."
Sanji returned to his cigarette and his empty contemplation of the ceiling. He didn't tell Zoro that the comfort worked.