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It's not what it seems, I promise

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V.

He had been sitting like that for nearly an hour. No, he corrected himself.

It was the damn Cook who had been sitting there for nearly an hour.

Since their little heated conversation, the swordsman had been waiting on the deck, in reasonable proximity to the kitchen door, for the blond to come out. Because he had to, he had injured his hand after all. But the longer he awaited any sound or movement, the more worried he grew. It was impossible for the Cook to bleed to death (right?). Nor would he continue cooking with hands stained with blood. So what was he doing there?

Pride - flashed through his mind - he probably doesn't want me to see him in this state. He sighed and took a few steps towards the kitchen.

"Oi, shitty Cook!"

Silence answered him. The swordsman's eyelid twitched in annoyance.

"I'm going to Chopper to get some bandages!" he tried again.

Still nothing. Well, tough luck, he thought, heading for the doctor's office. Guilt was trotting at his heels.

***

Chopper wasn't at his place, which seemed like an even better solution to the situation, the reindeer would surely be mortally concerned about the whole incident and would insist on seeing Sanji himself. Unnecessary fuss over a petty matter.

Zoro approached the kitchen again, stepping a little louder so as not to accidentally surprise the already nervous Cook, they could run into each other and this time it wouldn't end with just a bloody hand. He figured it would be for the best if he just leaves the necessary things by the door, after all the blond man certainly didn't feel like seeing his face that day anymore, especially near his place. He in fact wondered if Sanji would even accept the stupid bandages from him.

"I'm leaving these here" he said loudly and turned away, with the intention of heading someplace unknown, as long as it was away from the other. "I'm going to the aquarium" he added just as loudly after a moment's thought.

As the kitchen door creaked open, the swordsman turned involuntarily, only to see a flash of blond hair for a second. And to hear the angry slamming of the door.
"Tch." he smirked with undisguised mockery. He was about to leave when suddenly the door opened again. A familiar eye appeared in the crack, looking distrustfully at Zoro.

"Marimo." Said Sanji in a voice full of seriousness. "I need you to help me."

"Huh?" the swordsman's arched his brows. "Like with what?"

The other didn't answer, just opened the door slightly wider, inviting him inside. Zoro sighed and shook his head in disbelief. Then walked right in.

***

A mess.

Only with this word the swordsman could describe what he had encountered. Firstly, there were shards of glass and dots of blood everywhere, secondly, all sorts of handkerchiefs, towels and other makeshift bandages were scattered on the floor, all stained with blood and strangely crumpled. The cook was sitting at one of the chairs not far from the table.

It was then that Zoro noticed that the blond was still awkwardly embracing his injured hand at the wrist, holding it close to his body, as if he were restraining himself from involuntarily hiding it. Zoro looked at him questioningly. Sanji lowered his gaze and stared at the floor.

"I tried-" he muttered, then fell silent again. He looked like he was collecting his thoughts. A nervous swallow. "I tried to wrap it up with something, but..." He hesitated, glancing cautiously at Zoro.

"I can't do it right with one hand."

Oh.

The swordsman crossed his arms over his chest closing his eye, head tilting forward slightly.

"I see." He looked at his rival - in his eyes he noticed a strange expression of uncertain hope.

"I m-mean," the blond stammered out hurriedly, "under regular circumstances, of course I'd ask Chopper, but now..."

Zoro nodded. That was exactly what he was thinking. He tentatively took a step closer, not really knowing how he should act. Of course he was used to dealing with his own (much more serious) wounds. But this was Sanji, who was now watching him with a fair amount of distrustful waryness, further guarding his hand.

"Uh, would you mind...?" The swordsman pointed at it uncertainly.

The cook glanced confused in the indicated direction. "Oh, oh yeah, sure." He swung his hand as if stabbed, extending it towards Zoro, and turned his head away.

***

Delicate.

That was the only way to call the manner in which the swordsman proceeded to carefully remove the fragments of glass and wipe the blood from his palm.

It took him by surprise. Of course, the swordsman did not take care of his hands as he did - it would not even be suitable, the calloused skin from training was less sensitive, which came in handy when wielding, of course, swords.

He winced as Zoro washed the deeper cut with disinfectant. As soon as he did that, the swordsman's hands stopped.

"Sorry." Sanji looked at him. Zoro was studying him with his gaze, as if searching for something in his expression.

"No worries." He replied in a neutral tone, slightly shocked. That was new. Who would have expected that from him? He wondered if he had ever seen the other so composed and strangely focused.

"Cook?"

He suddenly realized that he had been staring into Zoro's eye the whole time. He smirked nervously.

"Y-yes?"

The swordsman seemed perplexed, looking to the side, frowning with a bandage in one hand and disinfectant in the other. "Uh, can I go on?" his eye again shifted uncertainly straight to the blond man.

The Cook swallowed, again abruptly turning his head away. "Sure." With that, Zoro grabbed his palm tenderly, continuing his work.

Sanji felt a strange kind of heat spread across his face. He attempted to turn his head even further.

They sat like that in awkward silence, Zoro working quietly, carefully wrapping any cuts, and covering each finger with a thin bandage, not taking his eyes off his handiwork.

The tension in the air was clearly palpable, at least to the blond. Usually small talk wasn't the type of contact the two of them would look for with each other. Now, even more so.

"I'm sorry."

The Cook stiffened.

"Nothing hurt this time." He said quietly.

"That's not what I meant." He heard the hesitation in the swordsman's voice. "I'm sorry about, uh, you know." He gestured awkwardly at their surroundings.

The air now seemed to get even thicker now. Great. Sanji had no intention of confronting his gaze with the other's again, worried what kind of things he would see there. He clenched his healthy hand into a fist, trying to keep from biting his lip, not breaking his silence.

If Zoro was awaiting for some kind of reply, he must have let it go, because he occupied himself with first aid again. How long can one do this? - thought the Cook with growing irritation. His first instinct would be to pull his hand away and leave the kitchen. Asking idiot Marimo for help - he must have fallen on his head, it was clear from the start that this was a bad idea.

At the same time he was awfully glad.

Zoro had agreed to help him. As Sanji swung the door open - after a second he realized his growing dread - what had tempted him to show himself so vulnerable in front of the swordsman? Surely he would refuse, after all he was angry with him - and yet. As soon as the idiot algae took the first step towards the kitchen, his heart began to beat faster. It meant that there was still some chance of fixing it all.
He was momentarily enlightened.

"I'm sorry as well, Zoro."

He squeezed his eyelids shut in anticipation. The answer didn't come. Instead, he felt the swordsman's fingers tighten on his hand until he began to feel the sting of freshly treated cuts. Startled, he glanced at the other.

Zoro looked wary.

He said something quietly under his breath, but Sanji heard it all too clearly.

"For what exactly?"