Zoro’s left eyebrow twitched. It always twitched when the cook was closing in on him. Not always the same kind of twitch, no, there were three very distinct types of twitching. The first was, it twitched lightly, three or four times like the tiniest brush of butterfly wings when Sanji was just about to pass him by on his way to bring the girls drinks. The second was when the blond was coming to attack him, his killing intent evident in the air. Zoro’s eyebrow would twitch twice sharp and quick then as a warning. This kind of twitch always had Zoro wanting to paw at his face to relieve the itch that the involuntary muscle spasm caused him.
The third kind of twitch was very rare and was by far the most annoying. The third type was one long twitch, like a Charlie horse directly above his eye. This twitch had Zoro sometimes making strange faces and never failed to put him into a bad mood instantly. The long twitch always meant that Sanji was about to talk to him. As if the fact that the cook wasn’t the most annoying person on the planet in the first place, the cosmos had to inflict upon Zoro this curse of his face spazzing out whenever the idiot was around.
The kind of twitch Zoro was experiencing now was the Charlie Horse Twitch. Oh yay.
“Oi,” that voice that grated against Zoro’s nerves spoke up from the swordsman’s left, “You awake?”
Zoro sighed. There wasn’t much point in pretending. He could try and ignore him and the jackass would kick him upside the head now, or he could just brave it and be ready for the inevitable kick when it came later.
“Yeah,” Zoro muttered and cracked an eye open, “I’m awake. What do you want?”
Sanji kept his distance, which was strange. Usually the cook liked to walk up into your personal bubble and fill it with his nauseating cigarette smoke.
“I want to show you something,” Sanji said.
Zoro’s twitching eyebrow relaxed and he raised it. “Is that your new code for ‘Let’s go below deck so we can fight and Luffy won’t see’?”
Sanji blew out smoke and made a face.
“Fuck you man, I don’t want to fight. I just wanna show you something. I thought you’d like it. It’ll take like two minutes.”
This had to be a trick. Sanji never wanted to show him anything, except the bottom of his shoe. Zoro was wary, but he stood slowly and grabbed his swords which had been napping along with him at his side against the rail.
“This had better be good,” Zoro muttered.
Sanji rolled his eyes and turned towards the galley. Zoro followed, breathing in the scent of the cook’s tobacco.
Okay… so it wasn’t that bad of a smell; not really that nauseating. Zoro had started to associate the smell of Sanji’s cigarettes with the only home cooked meals he could ever remember eating. Some of the best… okay, fine, the best meals he had ever consumed in his life had been eaten in the comforting haze of that bitter, musky smell. Zoro knew, but he would never admit aloud, that the smell of cigarettes would forever make him think of home.
Pushing the door open and striding across the galley floor in a few quick steps—damn, his legs were long—Sanji put out his cigarette, washed his hands, and reached into a large clay bowl. Turning back to Zoro, the cook held out something small and green to the swordsman.
Zoro looked at the offering skeptically. It resembled a large cherry, but it was green and instead of a stem, it had a top like a strawberry.
Zoro reached out slowly and took the assumed fruit. “What is it?” He asked.
Sanji shrugged. “No idea. I gathered a couple barrels of them when we stopped at that last island. They should make for some good eating.”
That twitchy eyebrow rose again and Zoro narrowed his eyes at the cook.
“You have to forgive me if I’m a little skeptical. How do I know this isn’t poison and you’re not just trying to kill me?”
Sanji rolled his eyes again and reached into the bowl. He plucked up his own small, green fruit and popped it into his mouth. “Try it,” he said as he sucked the juices out.
Zoro’s eyes lingered on Sanji’s tongue as it rolled the green cherry-thing around in his mouth, but then he caught himself and returned his attention to his hand. He pulled the leafy thing from the top and tossed it in the sink before he slipped the fruit between his lips. He bit into it but not all the way, just enough to break the skin and allow Zoro to suck the juices from the inside. It was sweet like a strawberry, but slightly tangy like an orange. Zoro thought the texture was not unlike a grape and bit down to test his theory.
His teeth came together hard on a pit and he kicked himself for not thinking of that before he so recklessly clamped his jaw down.
“Ah, haoch,” Zoro said around the fruit.
Sanji smiled. “Yeah, the pits, I was gonna tell you, but I thought it would be funnier if you figured it out yourself.”
“Huck youh,” Zoro said and tried not to dribble juice down his chin.
Then something strange caught Zoro’s attention. The pit felt funny. It was bulky and lumpy and shaped like… wait… As he separated the fruit from the center, Zoro realized what was wrong. He swallowed the flesh and spit what was in the center into his hand.
Frowning down into his palm he exclaimed, “Mine had three pits!”
Sanji chuckled and spit into his own palm. “They all do.” As if to prove it, he showed Zoro the three round seeds in his hand. “That’s why I wanted you to see it. It reminded me of you. Good flavor, but a pain in the ass cause you have to eat around three huge seeds… And then of course they’re green…”
Zoro looked up, and for a moment, he was caught with a feeling that something important was happening at it was going to go right over his head if he didn’t pay attention. He looked as Sanji, smiling at him carefully and slipping another of the little green mutant cherries between his lips. Realization started to trickle slowly through Zoro as he stood there watching the cook lean against the sink and grin at him.
Holy shit if he wasn’t about to grin right back.
“I thought you should be the first person I showed them to since I’m gonna name them the Roronoa Fruit. Or maybe just Roronoas.”
Zoro did smile then. “You can’t name a fruit after me. I can’t be the greatest swordsman in the word and have a fruit named after me!”
“Why the hell not?” Sanji was laughing. “You’ll no doubt have ships and shit named after you, might as well have a food too. Besides,” he held up a monster cherry in front of Zoro’s face, “What the fuck else am I gonna call it?”
Zoro said nothing as he snatched the… Roronoa from Sanji’s fingers and shoved it in his mouth. He chewed slowly, savoring the taste and separating the flesh from the pits. It was actually kind of hard. Damn fruit, it was a pain in the ass…
Sanji turned back to the bowl and picked up a small knife. His hands moved quickly, slicing a small ‘x’ at the base of each fruit so he could push the seeds into another container. Zoro watched quietly for a time, trying to decide if he should stay and reciprocate this unprecedented show of trying to be friendly, or just treat it like another one of Sanji’s eccentricities and make his way back out to the deck to train before dinner.
Absently, Zoro’s hand went up to feel the bandages underneath his shirt. The swordsman had noticed the subtle differences in the cook’s behavior towards him since his… ‘injury’ at Thriller Bark. Up until this point, he hadn’t known how to react. But now, if Sanji was going to take this big of a step in… whatever it was he was going for—friendship? Zoro could buck up and do it too. He was infinitely more mature than the baka cook after all.
“What can you make with them?” Zoro asked quietly.
Sanji’s hands faltered for a split second, like he hadn’t expected Zoro to say anything.
“Pretty much anything you can make with cherries. I can top desserts with them, put them in ice crème, fruit salad, drinks…” Sanji shrugged. “Don’t know. I have the barrels frozen below deck. I’ll try a bunch of different stuff over the next couple weeks. I’ll spread it out, wouldn’t want you guys to get sick of them right away.”
“Can you make a pie?” Zoro asked.
Sanji turned to look at him. Something shone in his eyes briefly, but he looked away again before Zoro could identify what it was.
“Would you like a pie?” Sanji asked, his voice just above a whisper.
Again, Zoro was struck with a feeling that there was a deeper meaning to this conversation than just how many ways one could serve this new fruit.
“Yeah,” Zoro said, “I’d like a pie…” And with a knot tying itself in his gut, Zoro added softly, “Please…”
Sanji stood frozen for a moment before he slowly nodded into the sink and continued with his pitting.
“Dinner’ll be ready in just a few minutes, so go get the others and I’ll make you your pie after we eat.”
Zoro nodded and slipped out of the galley.
* * * *
Dinner was the usual chaos. Captains trying to eat everything in sight, including food from their shipmate’s plates, musicians singing and dancing eliciting shrieks of laughter some small reindeers, girls smiling and rolling their eyes as they watched the boys fight and throw food at each other.
Zoro’s eyes wandered several times to glance at the cook, who was eating at his usual spot: standing by the sink. The swordsman wondered why Sanji had said nothing about his discovery to the rest of the crew. Maybe Sanji was waiting until he made the pie, then he could fly down the stairs and surprise the ladies with the first bites of his newest masterpiece while he spewed mindless BS and cried hearts into the sky.
Zoro made a face and turned his attention back to Luffy, who was trying to steal his last few bites of roasted potatoes. The swordsman hoped he would at least get an actual piece of the pie and not just the leftover scraps this time.
* * * *
Later that evening, Zoro sat leaning against the railing, watching the sun dance on the horizon. He was waiting for Sanji’s shouts of ‘Mellorine!’ or something to indicate that he had finished baking the pie. Although he had eaten his fill at dinner, the swordsman’s mouth watered in anticipation of the dessert Sanji had promised.
When he heard the light footfalls coming towards him, Zoro turned his head to see Sanji standing at that careful distance again, holding a plate and a tall glass of something green and white. It didn’t slip Zoro’s mind how his eyebrow was still relaxed and sitting where it should be on his face. But he was a little confused by the whole thing. He sat there and blinked stupidly for a few moments.
Sanji started to get impatient though and huffed, tapping his foot on the deck.
“I worked on this for an hour, asshole. Don’t tell me you don’t want it now.”
Zoro shook himself. “Uh… no… No, I want it. Give it here.”
The plate was passed and so was the drink. It looked like one of those fancy things Sanji made for Nami when it was particularly hot outside… only green.
“Nami and Robin enjoy it?” Zoro asked.
Sanji pulled out his lighter and lit the cigarette hanging from between his lips.
“They haven’t tried it yet.”
Zoro looked up at him. “Excuse me?”
Sanji sighed, and as if the moment wasn’t already strange enough, the cook moved closer and sat down beside Zoro, leaning back against the railing and stretching his long legs out in front of him.
“You asked for it,” Sanji said quietly, “And I thought you should be the one to try it first. It’s named after you after all.”
Zoro looked down at the generous piece of pie in his lap. It smelled heavenly, even if the green filling was a little disconcerting. He turned to the tall glass he had set on the deck by his thigh.
Sanji puffed on his cigarette. “I tried that out while the pie was baking. Thought you should test that out too.”
Zoro sat, trying to take everything in. Trying to make sense of this bizarre day and all the subtle implications that had almost passed over his head.
Zoro finally managed. “You have to know that this is a little weird for me.”
Sanji didn’t look at him. “Not just for you… It’ll take some getting used to.”
Zoro nodded and picked up his fork. He paused before bringing the sweet-smelling treat to his lips. He turned once more towards the cook and that with that knot tying itself in his stomach again, he said carefully.
Sanji looked at him then and there were no more words. They didn’t need them for understanding. Not that either one of them would be able to speak them anyway. The cook nodded, whispering a quiet ‘You’re welcome’ and the swordsman took the first bite of his pie.
Oh… good… God…
Zoro must have made some kind of noise because Sanji started to grin.
“That good huh?”
Zoro nodded and said around a mouthful.
“Everything you make is good, Sanji.”
Zoro felt the cook freeze beside him but he kept eating and watching the sunset like nothing out of the ordinary had happened. He let the name sink in and let the cook take it however he wanted.