Rating: Hard R
Pairing: SanZo/ZoSan or something like that.
Warning: Sex (well duh), some violence, language...the usual then. Oh, and SPOILERS for various episodes up to current.
Summary: Hamon: From Japanese, lit. 'blade pattern'. The pattern on the steel that characterizes a katana blade, acquired during the folding, forging and tempering process.
Disclaimer: Don't own the characters, which belong to One Piece creator and distributors, and I make no money off of this fic.
AN: One aspect of this fic is kind of an oddity for me. Normally I use the plot and changes in character behaviour to hint at how relations are growing. In this instance, I show Zoro's character changes through his relationship with Sanji, so it's sort of the other way around. The SanZo takes center stage as a result, but the focus through that is Zoro, too. Well, we'll see how it turns out. I love to experiment and play...The setup of the start of the relationship in this chapter is uber-classic, but hopefully I gave it an original spin.
The tone of this is a bit different from previous fics. I find my style tries to match the character, and since this is Zoro's POV, I guess it's only normal that the tone is, um, rather abrupt at times -_-;
Timeline: Before Skypiea, so Robin's just come aboard and Zoro's still mighty suspicious of her.
Chapter 1: Kitae - folding the metal layer upon layer and hammering it into a single, hardened shape
The first real notice Zoro took of Sanji aboard the Baratie was when the cook was slammed through the pirates' table by an elderly chef with a peg leg.
In the months that followed, Zoro would get to know his new crewmate and see him in all sorts of situations. It didn't take him long to conclude that slammed through a table was the look that suited Sanji the best.
But Zoro had other concerns. Shortly after that first meeting, a big black sword had nearly sawed him in half, cutting him away from his previous delusions like a particularly violent form of therapy. In the months of gruelling training that followed, Zoro had the time for some soul-churning self-contemplation. Most of his introspection was about fighting, living, dying and the states in between. Zoro's soul folded in on itself and hardened into his greatest weapon, just as Mihawk had foretold.
Reflections on personal matters stayed few and far between; he had neither the time nor inclination for those. But events on board the Going Merry did force him at various stages to contemplate the nature of friendship, nakama, adventure and attraction.
Ah yes, attraction...Zoro had never been attracted to men. He'd assumed that somewhere behind his obsession with becoming the best, there lurked some attraction to women, but after being shacked up on a ship with some very pretty specimens for months on end, Zoro learned that he could rely on them, even like them, but he did not feel attracted to them.
Eventually, Zoro had to conclude that he was attracted to only two things in this life. Swords; long straight steel, deadly beauty, death's caress on a razor's edge, the release when resistance parted before their combined strength...Yes, he was attracted to swords, and to idiotic, trash-talking cooks with deadly kicks and a serious attitude problem who looked really good when slammed through tables.
The Grand Line spanned the globe in an array of bizarre places and people, so Zoro had to assume that somewhere in those seas was a guy with a more fucked-up sexuality than his. He hoped he never met the creep.
Beyond that conclusion, Zoro had not the faintest notion of ever acting on this attraction - the idea hadn't even started to cross his mind - until the day Sanji suggested the trade-off.
"What trade-off?" Zoro asked suspiciously. The word wasn't what was suspicious; it was the way Sanji had silently followed him into the gun deck when Zoro went to put away his sword-cleaning equipment, a few hours after dinner. There was a faint sense of tension emanating from the man as he leaned against a stanchion and pulled at his cigarette, poisoning the enclosed space with the sharp scent of tobacco smoke.
"Trade-off. The trade-off. You can't be that ignorant. Are you sure you're a pirate?"
Zoro had been wondering if trade-off was some kind of lingo for a fighting challenge; now he was sure of it. He idly twisted his right wrist first one way and then the other, warming up, eyes not leaving the cook. "Yeah, I'm a pirate. I've been a pirate for the last few months. Before that, I was a-"
"Pirate-hunter. Right, I forgot."
Zoro examined him carefully; that had almost sounded like an apology, when put through the Sanji-filters.
Sanji scowled at nothing. "Lucky you, running around in big cities, chasing pirates in places where there're a lot of comforts to be had. Inns. Barmaids...But come on, you must have heard of the trade-off. You know? You scratch my back, I scratch yours?"
...Okay. Apparently Sanji wasn't looking for a fight, just someone to scratch his back. Metaphorically speaking, it was to be hoped. Now, if only Zoro could figure out what-
"You have no clue what I'm talking about."
"Why don't you ask me straight out instead of dancing your bloody fandangos around the question?"
"Fuck, forget it. It's just..." Sanji kept flicking his cigarette, though the ash wasn't having much time to build up. He wasn't looking at Zoro, staring at the shadows shimmering under the light of the storm lantern Zoro had carried in with him. "It's hard. They are both so lovely, in their completely different ways. It's hard to have a feast in front of your eyes and not feel a little hungry. I know you've been frustrated too, the way you've been carrying on lately."
Zoro did not consider himself to have been 'carrying on'. The only one who 'carried on' aboard this damn boat was Sanji the love-cook, aka the damn thorn in Zoro's side. Yeah, maybe Zoro was frustrated at his inability to progress his fighting skills at the speed he wanted, as well as, in a lesser capacity, frustrated that he-...wanted something he didn't want to want with an annoying prick, but he was not 'carrying on' because of that. He-
"What. Exactly. Are you suggesting we scratch?"
Sanji levered a hip against the stanchion to move a few steps away from Zoro. He made it look casual but it was still self-preservation in its strictest form. Zoro felt a mild surge of grim satisfaction.
"I'm just suggesting a trade-off. It's done on every pirate ship after a long stretch at sea without female company."
"We have two on board." Zoro wasn't arguing. He was just trying to clarify. "You'd never touch Nami, but what about Robin?"
Despite Sanji's behaviour, Nami was 'little sister' material to both of them. They'd been through too much together. But the new chick who'd recently come aboard...Nico Robin, trouble in distilled form as far as Zoro was concerned, who had the rest of the crew, particularly the love-chef, wrapped around her finger. The older woman's calm, clear eyes with the watchful darkness behind them would not blink at anything Sanji could possibly suggest. Zoro was no judge but he thought she'd put out if she felt like it or had something to gain.
"What?! Never! What do you think I am? Do you think I'd insult such a woman by suggesting a- a bit of fast relief? And I could never commit- how could I devastate Nami-san like that? How could I choose?! Are you stupid?"
Zoro decided to avoid a kick to the head and maybe even get laid rather than answer that, but it was a very close call.
"Women should be courted, adored - all of them! Settling down with just one, which is what they'd expect for anything long term- More importantly, you don't get involved with nakama. That's a fast ticket to wrecked teamwork." Sanji appeared to be talking to himself and chewing his cigarette. It was obviously a conclusion he'd come to long before, and he was far from happy with it. "Now, the two of us, we're both guys, and unlike Luffy and Usopp we seem to have functioning libidos; we know what it's like, and we can relieve some of the pressure without risking the crew's integrity. It's not like you’d go all squirrelly on me and expect roses before and cuddling afterwards."
Zoro's sharp bark of laughter frightened one of the bilge rats and sent it scurrying under the forward cannon. Though, truth be told, the idea of Sanji waving flowers and making calf's eyes at him had been as alarming as it had been ludicrous.
The other man nodded. "Right. We're on the same page. That's the trade-off. You interested?"
Sanji looked startled for a brief second. He covered it by dropping his cigarette and grinding it out on the wooden planks. Then he glanced speculatively at the gun deck's door. That's when Zoro realized Sanji was suggesting they do this here and now. His heartbeat picked that up, here-and-now, here-and-now, here-and-now-
Zoro had sod-all experience with sex, but listening to Johnny and Yosaku when they were drunk was an experience onto itself. They'd lifted half the skirts in the East Blue, according to them. They'd also captured half the pirates on that ocean as well, and Zoro knew for a fact that was bullshit.
Zoro had learned more than he'd wanted to know about tumbling a girl through hearsay. At one point, the pair of idiots had dragged young Zoro to a brothel to celebrate his seventeenth birthday and change hearsay into action. Zoro had passed right over the blousy hookers to concentrate on the pirate pinching one of them; the man had a price of 4 million Berries and a reputation as a deadly swordsman. The Madame had tossed the three of them out on their ears after Zoro had ruined her carpet with the bounty's blood and body parts, and that was the last time his partners had tried to take him out.
Johnny and Yosaku also had a hoard of dirty jokes about how men did these things together. A lot of them involved cabin boys. With that in mind...
"Just what is it we are going to do, pervert cook?"
"Oi, who you calling a pervert?"
"The guy who's suggesting we have sex in the hold," Zoro answered, rather aptly considering the circumstances.
Sanji gave him an acid look, but held up one finger in a 'pay attention' gesture. "Handjob, blowjob, nothing more. I'm very serious about that. Nothing. More. You okay with that?"
After a few seconds, Sanji repeated, a lot more aggressively: "Hey, Zoro, I mean it. You hearing this?"
Everything Sanji had said after 'blowjob' had been an unreal succession of meaningless words. The harsh tone of the last question prompted Zoro to mutter "Fine," hoping he was agreeing to something he could live with. At this point, he didn't even care if it wasn't, he just wanted to get back to the blowjob part of the conversation. Everything else was a waste of time.
"Okay," Sanji said.
They stared at each other, unmoving, riding Merry's pitch and roll by body rote. A night breeze whispered in through the darkened cannon bay, making the storm lantern's light crackle and dance; wood creaked beneath oncoming waves.
Sanji stared at him hard, and then his lips twisted in a strange quirk Zoro couldn’t recall seeing before. "You've never had anyone go down on you. You look like a choir boy on his first trip to the cathouse."
"I've been to a brothel before." The words were automatic; Zoro's brain was still in arrested motion.
Sanji nodded sagely. "But you didn't pay to get your pipe cleaned, I take it."
"No," Zoro answered, a bit succinctly but with perfect honesty. The only thing he'd paid for were the damages.
Sanji tapped his chin with two fingers, as if he missed his cigarettes already, then his hand dropped to his tie and jerked it loose. "I'll start then."
Zoro's heart rate hit a high he normally only reached after some serious training.
Sanji glanced around then tilted his chin at one of their boxes of supplies, a two feet high crate of spare rope. "Sit down over there. And take off the bloody belt."
Zoro gave the box a hard look. He was not a man subject to flights of fancy, but a part of him just couldn't believe this was happening and he was half expecting this to be some kind of really devious trick Sanji was playing and the box was hiding a bear trap. His body, which didn't have his misgivings, was already taking a few steps forward, his fingers jerking at the edges of his sash, gliding over the hard-on that was getting with the picture faster than he was.
Sanji had walked back to the door and was tinkering with the wooden frame around it. He drove a knife through the frame into the wood of the door's moulding to form a crude lock, since the only bar was on the other side. The way he'd blocked it wouldn't keep the door from opening, but it would make it stick until given a good shove, and give them some forewarning, though what exactly they'd do with it was another matter...It should be okay; the gun deck was the least used part of the ship, especially at this time of night, with most of the crew in the galley or already in their hammocks. Zoro recognized the knife Sanji used; something he'd seen a pirate hunter try to stick in the cook a few days ago, in some small-ass town at the backend of the Grand Line where the log pose had ditched them for a couple of days after they left Alabasta. Though Sanji might have kept the dagger for any purpose, it made Zoro wonder how long the man had been contemplating this trade-off.
Sanji wiped his hands on his slacks and walked towards where Zoro was sitting. Zoro tried his very best not to stiffen defensively, but he still couldn't quite let himself believe-
Sanji sank to his knees, hands on Zoro's thighs like he did this all the time and Zoro officially stopped thinking for good.
He didn't need any prompting to lean back and edge his hips forward. Sanji undid the fly and peeled back the black cloth without any sign of hesitation. Zoro stared down at him. The storm lamp turned the cook's hair whiskey-amber; Zoro couldn't see more than bangs hanging loose brushing the tip of a nose.
Then Sanji's head took up most of his vision, covering his lap. Zoro silently swore that he would kill anybody who woke him up from this dream if he just happened to be napping somewhere, even the bloody cook - especially the bloody cook. He was regulating his breathing automatically; a smidgeon of control over events. Then Sanji put his mouth around Zoro's boner and he lost even that.
Warm, wet, wiggly (tongue-) oh shit- sensations streamed through his mind. His hand was on Sanji's neck. He hadn't realized he'd moved. He could feel the muscles beneath his fingers stiffen and Sanji batted his hand away.
Footsteps outside, heading down the forecastle stairs and to the hatch over the men's quarters. Zoro's eyes flickered to the door instinctively, but nobody came nearer than that.
Zoro caught a fleeting glance of blond hair, then the door, the dagger's hilt shining in the light, and then his eyes seem to nail themselves of their own volition to the opposite wall. His hands were threatening to leave wooden grooves in the box behind him. He could barely feel it though. He was sure his body was there, on that crate, but his nerves were getting swamped with this foreign and very intense input.
It didn't really occur to him to wonder how Sanji had learned to do this, or if indeed Sanji had learned it at all, or was doing more than an average job that could easily be surpassed by any seaside strumpet. Lack of comparison. No...More than that...For Zoro, foremost was his ambition of becoming the best and then there was everything else; there was never any doubt which was the most important. But here was Sanji - the one person who'd somehow wormed his way under Zoro's skin - giving him head, and really, within the Everything Else category, it just didn't get much better than this.
Sanji made a cross sound - Zoro shuddered heavily on his box - and struck away the hand that had settled on his head.
Zoro was chewing the inside of his mouth, trying to be silent, he wasn't sure why. The pleasure seemed to be a writhing mass in his chest, trying to get out.
Sanji went a bit further, tongue teasing at the edge where foreskin pulled back, fingers - long fingers, strong, clever, fascinating and so fast as they chopped, sprinkled, kneaded, Zoro had tried not to watch them but he always did in the end. Those fingers tracing lines on the skin below Sanji's mouth, curving down firmer, touching-
Zoro tasted blood. His vision blurred with his heart beats, the pleasure was gripping his nervous system, using it, spinning it- like a sword flashing through his mind, steel-bright- ah!
-his lips parted and he came.
Sanji yelped and fell back, spitting.
"Fuck! Ugh! 'coulda warned me!"
Zoro stared at him as the cook rubbed his mouth, then dragged a handkerchief from his shirt pocket - the only guy aboard who carried handkerchiefs - and wiped his hands.
Sanji's eyes flickered as high as Zoro's collarbone. "Hm. Yeah, well, give me a heads up next time, okay?"
Sanji looked around. His disgruntled look smoothed out when he saw the bottle Zoro had put down one eternity and a blowjob ago, and which was how he'd originally planned on spending his evening until it was his time for night watch. Sanji grabbed it, twisted off the cork and took two gulps, rinsed a third around his mouth.
"Sorry." The word was out before Zoro's brain could intervene and he regretted it immediately. Saying it once was already unusual enough for him. He felt stunned, his heart still knocking in his chest. He also felt good. Damned good. He now wished he hadn't gotten himself kicked out of that brothel three years ago, if this was how good it felt. 'Next time'. Oh, he really, really wanted Sanji to make good on that. It might even be worth that second apology.
Sanji looked calmer, though he still wasn't meeting Zoro's gaze. He waved a hand dismissively, swallowed some more gin and shrugged. "'S'okay, should have mentioned that. Didn't think. I guess some guys don't mind. I do."
He didn't say anything about how Zoro would know better 'next time', though. Damn.
Sanji put down the bottle, looked at his handkerchief with a grimace and tossed it out the cannon port. Then he met Zoro's gaze, finally a direct stare. "Not forgetting something, are we?"
Zoro shook his head numbly, though it took him a second to realize what Sanji was referring to. He stood up stiffly, closed his trousers as an afterthought, moved forward.
"Looks like I finally found a way to shut you up." Sanji was recovering from the moment faster than Zoro was. It was irritating.
Switching their respective positions didn't take much time or thought. Zoro found himself crouched before Sanji, but not kneeling; too vulnerable a position. Sanji didn't comment, just leaned back a bit and flipped open his own buttons. His hands moved flawlessly but his gestures looked tense. Tense and anticipatory. Sanji must have already gotten a blowjob at some point in his life, and now Zoro could understand how a guy could really miss those.
A few of Johnny and Yosaku's less savoury jokes ran through his mind, but he shrugged them off. He shoved aside the parted trousers and boxers, and imitated Sanji's moves, more intent on just not getting it wrong, what with that 'next time' still unresolved. Having another man's dick in his mouth wasn’t anything he'd ever done before, but that didn't scare him; he'd yet to meet a thing that did. This shouldn't be hard, as long as he remembered to keep his grip very light and fingernails and teeth out of the equation. Just copy what Sanji had done. Mouth up and down, flick of tongue...
A part of Zoro that normally watched and learned from the outside world - mainly in combat - was now gearing up, not liking that previous small loss of face. He noted the way Sanji's hands stayed at his sides, making no attempt to touch Zoro. How the other's hips twitched and moved into the rough, amateur gestures. The small bitten sounds Sanji made, low in his throat...Zoro tried not to listen to those too closely, because they were achingly distracting...
He also noted it took a deal longer for Sanji to finish. He took really good note of that. Something to work on.
Sanji gasped and prodded him in the shoulder. Zoro let the twitching flesh slip from his mouth, startled. Sanji pushed him away, face shut, his hand taking over, knees coming up. Zoro sat back on his heels, but he couldn’t see much, with the way Sanji had twisted. He just saw the cook tense and shudder, then slowly relax.
Zoro ran his tongue inside his mouth, chasing the musky taste curiously. Maybe he should have told Sanji to...go ahead...feh, he didn't know what the hell he was talking about. Though he was picking up a lot of education this evening in the hold.
Sanji was breathing deeply and wiping his hand on the wood behind him. Zoro took that as permission to grab the bottle of booze Sanji had opened and join him on the long, low box of rope.
A silence dangled, unsure which way to break. Zoro passed the liquor over without looking and without having any himself, still curious about the taste in his mouth. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Sanji upend the bottle with a no-nonsense gesture.
"That's the first time I've seen you drink like a man instead of sipping like you're afraid to swallow."
Sanji passed the gin his way. "When it's shit like this, I'll swill with the best of them. How can you drink this tar-thinner? Do you have any taste buds left?"
Just like that, the weird moment was over and the ribbing and grudging acceptance-cum-teamwork was back. Zoro chugged the gin, washing away some of the experience.
Sanji waited for the bottle back, wiped the top like the prissy pansy he was, and this time only took a small swallow. Always the lightweight when it came to liquor. Zoro thought of building this up into a competition, to make up for earlier, but didn't have the aggressive energy for it he usually had.
Sanji wiped the bottle's top again, as if just making sure all the Zoro germs were off. Always doing things with his hands, especially when feeling his way through a situation; Sanji himself would look as cool as ice, but his hands moved, or else they were buried in his pockets. Zoro had wondered if this was one reason Sanji smoked, to give his fingers something to do.
"So...I guess you're okay to trade-off from time to time? While we don't have any alternatives?"
Zoro nodded. Good, that was 'next time' settled.
"Of course - I shouldn't have to say this, but with a dumbass like you, I'm not taking chances - of course it's understood that we don't mention this above deck, or talk about it even alone. We act just as before in all circumstances. Right?"
"I'm sure it does. When you get an itch, just mention trading off something - watch duty, liquor, chores, whatever, and then if I have the time and say okay, we head here separately. And vice-versa, of course. Fortunately there's nobody aboard who would know any more about this than you did, so it'll be discreet enough. Just make sure it's during a time of day nobody's likely to need rope or gunpowder or anything."
Sanji was hogging the bottle. Zoro rectified the situation, thinking this all sounded very elaborate and rehearsed.
"Did you have this kind of trade-off with anyone on the Baratie?"
“Those apes?!” Sanji looked nauseous. “No way. Besides, there were plenty of ladies around to ply. Didn’t need it.”
“That was your first time?”
It was a logical deduction, but Sanji took it the wrong way for some reason. He stood up quickly and gave Zoro a dirty look. "No, but don’t get any fucking ideas."
"What ideas am I supposed to get?" And did they involve cabin boys?
Sanji was lighting a cigarette with quick gestures, a scowl on his face. "This is just a trade-off, a palliative. I don't go for this normally. There was just a time on the Baratie a couple years back when ladies got a bit thin on the ground because of increased pirate activity. A bunch of buccaneers docked at the Baratie, and one of them actually knew how to shower. I was at the end of my rope by then, so was he; he told me how it worked and we did it. Just happened once, so don't get any ideas."
"Just once, and then Zeff kicked him off the Baratie?"
Sanji stared at him, lighter still flickering between his fingers. "How...how did you- did that fucking old geezer tell you?!"
"Don't be stupid. I just guessed." Zeff wasn't only a restaurant proprietor, he was an ex-pirate captain, and a guy like that knew what happened on his ship. Even if he and Sanji could not give each other the time of day without a fight, the young man was, for all intents and purposes, Zeff's son. Zoro had figured that out two minutes after seeing Zeff kick Sanji through that table. A pirate who knew how to shower, teaching Zeff's seventeen-year-old 'baby eggplant' about trade-offs, wasn't going to impress old Red Shoes a great deal. If Zoro had to bet, he'd lay a golden doubloon against a wooden Berry that Zeff had sent the man out to swim with an anchor around his neck.
Sanji headed towards the door, feathers still ruffled, puffing that cigarette in a bad-tempered way. Zoro wished he'd get over it. He felt too good to have the cook spoil his mood.
Sanji snagged the knife, jerked it out of the wood and spun it absently in his fingers before sticking it in the back of his belt. His bad mood seemed to be passing fast enough. This mutual scratching thing between two of the crew's most antagonistic members could do a whole lot of good for the ship's morale. As First Mate, Zoro would have to see that this happened often.
"Give me a ten minute head start before coming out." Sanji was checking himself over, straightening his tie, rubbing at a spot on his shirt.
Zoro grunted an assent and leaned back. There was a taller supply crate behind the box of ropes, like a backrest. A good place to catch a nap before night watch.
"Hey." Sanji had his hand on the latch, looking back at him.
"We're okay, right? You're not going to go weird on me. This is just a deal, a trade-off."
Zoro looked at him, standing in the light of the storm lantern, gold shining in the man's hair, and he knew that for his own part, it wasn't just a trade-off. Nobody got under his guard like this moron. It wasn't just a matter of a boner, or he'd have had it for other guys before, and it wasn't purely rivalry, or he'd feel the same towards Luffy, who had a much better chance of punching Zoro's ticket than Sanji ever had.
But, bottom line, whatever Sanji was - pain in the ass, emotional pitfall, fuck buddy, whatever - he was like a little paper boat floating down a current, and Mihawk was the white waters and the massive waterfall up ahead. That assessment must have been plainly readable on Zoro's face, because Sanji shook his head, muttered "Stupid question" and swung open the door.
He heard Sanji's footsteps heading towards the forecastle. The cook hailed someone; a distant voice from the crow's nest answered.
Zoro grabbed the bottle and swigged, then settled down more comfortably, head tilted back against the supply crate and eyes on the ceiling. This had been an unusual evening. He took another swallow of gin, the taste punch-drunk solid on his tongue...and wondered if he was going to get his feelings hurt somewhere down the line. It seemed unlikely. He just didn't feel that emotionally into this. Yet. But Sanji wasn't engaging any emotions at all; Zoro might know fuck-all about relationships, but he could still see how a difference like that could spell trouble at some point.
The prospect didn't really worry him. A little emotional pain would have no impact whatsoever on Zoro's greater purpose. In fact, it might be for the best; go to the end of this madness, get it out of his system, and if, by some highly unlikely turn of events, Sanji managed to break his heart, then he'd have one less thing to carry with him when he met his final challenge.
Zoro grinned into the darkness at the edge of the circle of light. Even if it stayed at the level of an occasional screw and nothing more...he was feeling a hell of a lot more relaxed. Nothing like getting that itch scratched; Sanji had been right about that. As he closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep, he just knew he was already looking forward to next time. Damn the rest.
There're five chapters to this. Second one's already written, but I need to work on a section, so should be out next weekend. The third part is what's giving me massive trouble; I'm hoping that posting parts one and two will get me unstuck ^^; Part four is mapped out, part five is 90% written. Hope you enjoyed ^_^
Link to Chapter 2