Zoro loves Sanji.
It hits him one day, a harsh slap to the face, reminiscent to the way Kuina would slam him into the ground years ago.
The realization comes with a certain thought of oh.
Its a lilting cadence that echoes happily in his mind as he pretends to sleep in the galley, listening to the chef cut vegetables with an intimidating precision.
You should've been a swordsman. Zoro think to himself, smiling at the visage of a Sanji who used blades.
Daggers, maybe something longer, he'd be a dual wielder, though certainly the blonde would be formidable enough with only one.
"I need my hands to cook, Marimo. In case you've forgotten." Sanji responds--making the teen notice he'd spoken aloud-- but for once his voice is amicable, and it holds nothing but amusement.
"You're strong enough to do both and you know it, shit cook." Zoro hums, turning in his small, circular chair so that his back rested against the extended counter.
"Unless of course, you're scared.
" The words don't hold any actual heat, beyond friendly mocking and he knows that the blonde is aware of that fact,
so the green haired teen doesn't bother to move when one of the ornate kitchen utensils end up planted in the wood next to his head.
" He questions lightly, smiling as turns slightly, the cool aura of metal sliding across his face,
onyx handle utterly enticing-- not as gorgeous as his beloved katana of course-- but not without its appeal. "A master marksmen already."
"You're awfully friendly today." The 19 year old says, offhandedly, as if not expecting an answer.
And Zoro doesn't offer one, holding the knife with reverence, admiring the well tempered minerals,
the faint smell of steel hiding under a scent that was so wholly Sanji and it was inexplicable to imagine marking a weapon with something as fleeting as olfactory perception but he supposes
It dawns on Zoro then, that he's current holding a piece of the chef, that this knife is the closest he's ever been to the other's heart. This is a part of the person he loves.
His lips part, amber eyes wide with visible, unabashed awe. He runs a thick, almost gnarled finger along its fine edge, using the back side as to not draw blood.
He's holding Sanji.
The comparison takes his breath away. He wonders if Sanji's skin is this cold, this smooth, or if it blazes as warm as the stove-top fire and riddled with dips and crannies.
Zoro sees his own face within the gleaming metal and his reflection stares back, warped and inhuman.
The image takes the swordsman by surprise, filling his heart with an irrational sensation that feels too close to disappointment.
If the knife is a part of Sanji, and Zoro's reflection is ruined within the blade's surface, is that how the chef saw Zoro? As something less than human, less than equal?
Blemished and undesirable?
It fills the teen with unwelcome panic.
"-ro. Zoro. Oi! Zoro, you in there? Or has the moss finally taken over the shitty excuse you have for a brain?"
The blonde's voice is like an ocean, and with it comes a wave of contentment and reassurance that the swordsman happily drowns in.
He sighs and his eyes fall close, letting out a confirming grunt, so that the other will know he's alright.
There's a light hand cupping his cheek and Zoro tilts his head into the embrace, learning that no Sanji's hands in fact weren't cold and yes they were very warm, and utterly soothing.
He realizes that he's fallen head over heels. But its fine, because he trusts the cook to catch him.
"Do you hate me?" The swordsman asks, suspecting--knowing the answer, but needing confirmation regardless.
Sanji's visible eye softens, thin layer of ice melting to something unfathomably deep, something almost unbearably soft and it makes him hurt, makes him want to double over and clutch his heart,
snatch it back before it can be shattered, even though he already knows the answer, and has heard it plenty of times before.
A milky thumb skims over the rough planes of his face, mapping the jagged, imperfect features, the same features that that part of Sanji saw as unworthy.
The gentle finger presses into the corner of his lips and less than a second later his boyfriend's lips follow, igniting Zoro from the inside out.
It burns him, its scorching, and yet he stays, ignoring the misgivings that claw at his back, the voices that rise and tell him to run.
That tell him Snaji will leave, that one day his lover will disappear, slip through his grasp like a phantom, like the last person he'd loved with the same passion.
His life is on an ever moving flight of stairs, the blonde always urging him up, up and forward, pushing gently, insistently and it terrifies him.
The last time he was on stairs, this corridor that forever went up, forever climbed, he inevitably fell, for a girl his age, who didn't want to be a girl.
He fell and she died.
She fell too.
Zoro's had enough of falling.
Sanji pulls back, a sad, but understanding grin on his face at Zoro's unresponsiveness and the swordsman wants to slap himself.
He stops the warm hand from leaving his cheek, which had become cool in the brief moment the blonde let go, and gives his lover the most earnest expression he can muster,
one genuine enough to rival Luffy's if he so dares.
"I love you." He says, expression hardening to one of determination. "I love you."
His reward is a blinding smile, the one that crinkles the edge of Sanji's eyes, turning them into crescents. Its so gorgeous it makes his eyes hurt and his heart jump.
"I love you too!" The chef chirps, and Zoro can't speak, feels like he might burst into tears even attempting to formulate words, let alone string them into a coherent sentence.
It stupid. Its so stupid because he knows.
He knows the answer, he always knows the answer, because its Sanji.
Zoro loves Sanji. It hits him, just like it always does and the realization is enough to make his knees buckle-- or would if he hadn't already been sitting.
The blonde gazes at him with a silly little smirk, before reaching a hand to the yellow fringe and lifting the hair slowly, revealing the other side of his face.
"I'm not perfect either Marimo. No one is, even if it seems that way." The peck to his lips is too chaste for him to return properly.
"And besides, not liking certain things, and having skewed views of our partners keeps it all so very interesting, don't you think?"
And this is why Zoro loves Sanji.
This is why Zoro falls once more, for the third time that day, and most certainly will fall a little bit in love all over again later.
Sanji acknowledges the swordsman's fears, confirms them even, and the teen is grateful for it.
A beast that is exposed is much easier to defeat than one that lurks in the shadows.
So the blonde drags them all from the depths of darkness, putting them in the open and encouraging, forcing Zoro to confront them.
So Zoro does.
He accepts that he is inhuman to a part of his lover, something completely other, but also recognizes that a warped image isn't enough to scare Sanji away.
It never is. And never will be.
Sanji is here to remind him of that fact.
And so, for the fourth time Zoro falls, and for once he doesn't feel fear, because the idiotic, curly-browed chef is there to catch him, just how he always does.
It's that simple.