Zoro had always been able to see the threads that connected people. He could tell the general relationship from the color but if he really wanted all he needed to do was touch a thread and he'd feel the emotion zinging through it with his entire being.
It didn't take him long to decide he really didn't want anything to do with them and the best thing to do was ignore them and just keep this little fact to himself.
That worked out fine for quite a while. When he did inadvertently notice them it was a subconscious effort to gain perspective of certain dangerous situations he accidently wandered into here and there.
It wasn't until Sanji had joined the crew that he started finding them hard to ignore. It was all that movement that caught his eye just by walking along in town. With a "Zing! Zing!" noise a thread would shoot from the cooks chest and attach itself to any female with in line of sight. Young, old, pretty, ugly, villain, saint, they all got a one.
A light rose color tinged with silver on the outside. He had never seen that color thread come from anyone before and never in such abundance. Curiosity got the better of him one day and while the cook was shopping for bananas he reached out and touched the thread heading back to the shop girl the cook had just bought mangos from.
"With my own, let me love and protect your life that so brightens the world." Whispered the cooks low, gentle, assuring voice, vibrating the promise of protection and unconditional acceptance deep into his core.
Zoro stumbled backward into the cart of mangos with a blush and a strangled sort of noise escaping his lips.
"What the hell was that!?"
Sanji was growling at him for spilling the poor ladys mangos and began picking them up for her with apologies.
"What the fuck is wrong with you?!" the blond hissed as he pulled Zoro out of the way of his cleaning efforts. His eyes flicked around like he half expected to see an enemy skulking around.
Zoro pushed the hand on his arm away with a snort.
Sanji just put a cigarette to his mouth and frowned. Luckily Nami came around the corner and he was distracted rushing over to show her the deals he had gotten.
Yes. Zoro knew that by touching the thread he would get something but nothing like that. Usually it was something simple like 'lust' or 'friendship' and it would just be just a clear identifiable feeling. This was a sentence in the cooks voice that conveyed at least two separate distinct feelings and that it was uniform to so many women…never mind the idiocy it contained. Incredible.
Okay maybe he could see something stupid-noble about the sentiment but at the heart of it was just stupid. That somehow all women made the world brighter or worse that they needed protecting? Idiot.
He watched as Sanji turned into some love struck noodle as their navigator said something.
He certainly hadn't expected the depth and power of the emotion from this guy. It made him a little more curious about where he got these fool notions and what other strings from the man would be like.
This curiosity was his undoing.
The more he watched the chef the more he noticed that maybe he wasn't terribly bad looking. That the way he took down an enemy had an air of elegance about it that looked as appealing as any dance of blades Zoro had ever seen. That the mans skill at planning meals somehow translated nicely to planning battles. That for the important things Sanji could step up maturely beside him and know the values of being a man.
It didn't take long before he stared forelornly at the string connecting himself to the chef. Looking at threads connected to himself always gave him a headache but he couldn't help himself.
He had watched Sanjis threads to the crew change colors over time, becoming deeper and stronger colors, all had hints of what he now referred to as 'the ero-cooks stupid sacrificing silver' which he had figured out was a loyal desire to protect at all costs.
Everyones had changed except his own.
From the damn near beginning, since he first decided to risk the headache look, he knew there was no hope for him and the cook.
A thick black thread.
Sure they fought all the time but had been certain that under that there was SOME kind of bond as crewmates or nakama.
Zoro had only seen black threads (and even then much thinner than the cooks) attaching the worst of hated enemies. If seeing his own threads were hard, touching them were 1,000 times more so and he had no desire to have his heart crumble right in front of the idiot.
He refused to be jealous of his female crewmates bright and happy colors. Namis was beautifully vivid. Rose, silver, yellow, purple mixing brilliantly in the sun. Robins much the same but with traces of more a blueish purple, equally pretty. When Zoro had given in and touched their threads he was surprised to find the cooks love for them was much like any other woman but with stronger admiration, deeper respect, a painful desire to help heal the wounds of their past (or at least pamper them to make up for it), and a bizarre sisterly affection at odds with a much weaker lusty desire to see them naked than the swordsman had expected.
No, IF he was going to admit any kind of jealousy it would be for Luffys woven thread of strong primary colors that Zoro could identify well enough on sight. If the idiot cook fell for anyone on the crew it would be him. There was tender affection there already, a jelous respect of his strength, and a loyalty that damn near burned when Zoro touched it. Luffy had given something to Sanji and the blond was willing to do damn near anything for the captain. It was so strong and simple.
He was giving himself a headache again staring at his own thick, ugly, black thread. Of course there was another pain right there with it but that would have to remain unacknowledged.
Zoro was so focused on the thread he hadn't notice the man walking toward him with a plate of sandwiches.
"Oi, shithead…what's wrong? It looks like you're about to…"
"Tch! Don't imagine stupid things." Zoro looked up with a glare and froze.
The cook was bending down dangerously closer to his face than he had expected, evaluating. The visible blue eye showed concern and the swordsmans eyes flicked in annoyance to the thread for proof again of the obvious lie.
Bending down so close, the thread had slackened and untwisted slightly showing a fan of the thinner interior strings that made up the extra thickness.
Blindingly colorful strings.
There were colors. So many colors. Mixed matched. Pastels. Dayglow. Metallics. Plaids. Patterns. Without really thinking he reached up and grabbed the thread between them.
It wasn't just a feeling. It wasn't just accompanied by his voice.
It was like Sanji was stripped naked in some private room of his mind, laying under thick, warm quilts, pressing his body heat against Zoros back and whispering hotly in his ear.
"You're such an infuriating idiot. I love you. I hate you. I respect you. I want to beat you. I don't understand you and yet I somehow do. You piss me off. You make me hot. I want to protect you and yet you don't fucking need it. I want to help but you wouldn't accept it. I'm jealous of all that stupid strength and how easy it is for you to risk everything without regret or hesitation. I admire and hate that stubborn pride. I won't betray you or stand in your way. I'll make you acknowledge me even if I want you like no man should. I want you to be happy."
The emotions that rolled into him along with this little speech…Zoro didn't know there were so many in existence. Complicated, simple, innocent, perverted, warm, cold, loving, bitter, prideful, shameful, clear, contradictory, and tangled confused feelings, thoughts, hopes, dreams just flowed into him determined to map out every hint of feeling the cook ever felt for him down to the most recent worry at finding Zoro sitting on the deck moments ago looking on the verge of a breakdown.
Zoro was panting hard and grinning stupidly despite knowing his face was probably red from embarrassment.
He thought the cook hated him all this time when in fact the cook felt everything. Every possible emotion. Love, hate, desire, disgust…EVERYTHING.
Sanji really was an idiot with no discipline for focus. Luckily he had a good idea on how to narrow his point of view to the more positive prospective.
The cook was kneeling next to him now as a panic began to cross his face as he was shaking the swordsman.
"OI! OI! What's happening!? Marimo? Talk to me! Chopper!"
He grabbed the cooks wrist easily and with a jerk pulled the blond across the gap to Zoro's waiting mouth and the deep kiss meant to communicate as much as any damn colored thread ever had.