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It's not what it seems, I promise

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VI.

 

For what exactly?

Running away. Not trusting you. Being a bad friend. Letting you down. Causing you problems. Being a burden-

"Hey." He felt Zoro's hand squeeze his. This time tenderly. "Breathe."

Sanji didn't notice that he held his breath. For a moment he thought he'd already said it all out loud. He really wished he had the courage to do that. Then the Cook realized what position they found themselves in.

He was facing Zoro, leaning back in his chair, his hands trying to clutch at his hair, held back carefully only thanks to the swordsman, who was kneeling in front of him, leaning forward, watching him with wary apprehension. The blond felt how his cheeks had begun to burn.

Suddenly everything seemed like too much. Zoro was too close. His hands were too warm. Breath too loud. His stare not like he expected. Sanji stood up abruptly, hitting his back against the table.

He saw the caution turn to confusion on the swordsman's face. Then even more worry appeared. And he was still stubbornly gripping onto his hand. That wasn't what Sanji wanted at all.

"I-" he tried to force something out of himself, very well aware that his so called angry tone would waver at every syllable. "I'm just sorry, okay?"

With those words, he clumsily pulled his hand from Zoro's grasp, though there was no longer any actual strength in it. Feeling a stinging sensation in the corners of his eyes, he hastily made his way for the exit, trampling the glass and cursing the papers that were getting stuck to the bottom of his shoe.

"Oi, you-" he felt Zoro trying to grab him by his shirt. It only quickened his step.

"Sorry." He mumbled out once more, walking out the door with a thud.

 

***

 

Had he gone too far?

The swordsman sat on the floor in the middle of the kitchen, looking a bit lost, with his arm still raised toward the exit, where seconds ago he had tried to catch a hold of the leaving Cook.

More like a fleeing, he thought. He hadn't expected the blond to react like that. It didn't really suit him. Though asking for help in such a situation wasn't something they normally allowed in their interactions either. In combat they watched each other's back and that was it, such cooperation was most efficient and for the best interest of the entire crew. This was something totally different. He scratched the back of his neck.

It also didn't escape his attention how Sanji's hands almost instinctively darted towards his head. It was suspicious to say the least. When he thought about it now, it was not the first time he had observed such a gesture in the other. And that look on his face. Hell, the Cook seemed awfully terrified. Zoro never thought he'd see him like that.

He glanced around the room aimlessly, shoulders slumping with a heavy sigh. He swept his gaze over the glass remains. He could as well clean up the mess.

He rose from his knees sluggishly, searching for the broom, and grimaced. It was sticky with blood. Of course that idiot had tried to clean up.

Without further thought, he began to gather up the trash. It was the pieces with a visible label that caught his attention, Chopper's handwriting evident, with some pills scattered nearby. He carefully picked up a few shards in his fingertips and lifted them up towards the lamp, trying to decipher the letters.

Sleeping pills.

His eye involuntarily widened. Theoretically, he had expected such a thing, but could not piece together the obvious facts that were being laid out before him. Or maybe he didn't want to.

Was this what Chopper and Robin were talking about? Surely. What had they noticed that he had missed?

He kicked himself mentally. He hadn't been paying much attention to the Cook lately, blinded by anger. And hurt, he admitted to himself with some difficulty. Truly, at some point, legitimate offense turned into empty stubbornness, a rebellion against the fact that everyone was acting as if nothing had happened.

And you don't abandon your family for no reason.

So logically, he was aware of it. But it seemed that everyone but him knew what that reason was. And he had thought that despite everything, despite their constant bickering, arguing, fighting and teasing - Sanji trusted him at least enough to say something. Anything, really.

And the way the blond fiercely tried to hide that vial.

He felt the sharp edges scratching his palm. He almost got some answers, but now he felt more lost than ever. That damned Cook.

 

***

 

He was a goddamned idiot.

Now any chance for a peaceful night's sleep was gone. He had been lying like this in the dark for probably an hour or so, tossing nervously from side to side, completely losing any sense of time. The others had been asleep for a long time. His eyes were starting to close by themself, but he did not want to sleep. He anticipated what would happen afterwards. At the very thought, his legs were beginning to tremble uncontrollably with every slight tension in any muscle. Sanji bit his lip and tried to stop himself from letting out a frustrated whine.

So what if Zoro saw the pills? He could always come up with something on the spot. It's for Chopper, he's been sleeping poorly lately. Absolutely not for me. I'm fine, after all. Dumb algae would've let it go.

Yes, it's true, it was all his fault, he completely panicked. Even though he didn't mean to, as soon as he saw the expression forming in the swordsman's face he decided that at all costs he must not let him see what these are.

So maybe Zoro did not find out, but he witnessed another embarrassing situation with him in the main role. And the pills were gone. He had gathered as many as he could from the floor, but they were no longer of much use. He thought about going to Chopper's to get some more - he had even been to Chopper's office - but he couldn't find anything, and too much searching would put the doctor on alert.

He couldn't ask him directly for another batch, it would mean he either needed too many of them or - or he would have to explain the whole situation with Zoro. The reindeer would also undoubtedly take notice of his hand.

He ruffled his hair in frustration with a quick motion, clenching his teeth as he felt his muscles twitching again.

And heard the sound of the door opening.

A beam of light spilled into the room, and a figure undoubtedly belonging to Zoro stepped into the doorway.

Sanij momentarily slowed his breathing and squeezed his eyelids shut. Hopefully the bastard algae wouldn't try to continue their discussion right now. He heard slow footsteps heading in his direction, stopping right beside him.

The smell of the seawater and sweat.

Warm air being breathed out.

After a moment, just the sound of the hammock next to him bending under the weight of Zoro settling down for the night.

Why isn't he on watch? The thought crossed Cook's mind. Especially now, when he had no way to defend himself in his dreams, this Marimo had decided to sleep a meter away from him. In such situation, wouldn't it be better not to fall asleep at all?

His debate was interrupted by the soft sound of rhythmic snoring.

The Cook cautiously opened his eyes, slowly lifting his head, glancing over his shoulder at the still form of the swordsman.

In this way he looked completely harmless. He took one look at Zoro's stoic face, slightly parted lips, and oddly positioned arms tangled in the blanket, palms clutching the edge of the hammock.

If Sanji concentrated hard enough, he could still feel the strange comforting gentleness with which these hands gripped his.

He shook his head at the feeling of strange longing that swept over him.

Indeed, they were both idiots.