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It Hurts to Love You

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There was a reason Zoro never truly believed in Gods. He knew evidently there was some higher power since that was the only logical explanation for this bullshit. Because seriously, what kind of sadistic asshole connected your physical pain to another person. Like hi honey, I’m injured again.


In his childhood he’d often had bruises and scrapes he couldn’t explain. He remembers the pity many of the adults had often took on him. He also remembers being reckless in his training. Not fully grasping the concept that you’re hurting another individual when you get hurt. That what gets done to you is a phantom manifestation to them too. The pain didn’t normally leave marks, so if there was a physical mark it means that the injury must have been truly awful.


Kuina had been the one to tell him that. To finally make him understand that he needed to be careful when he trained lest he’d be hurting another, innocent went unspoken. She had also been the one to explain that all of the injuries that randomly appeared on his body were a form of torment his soulmate was experiencing. Zoro swore to pay back whoever was hurting his soulmate. He could feel their life energy, knew that they were alive but he couldn’t begin to understand the torment they were experiencing.


There was no way to know if your soulmate was older or younger than you. It was something you’d need to figure out when you met them. Zoro had heard awful stories about people who devoted their lives to potentially dangerous and harmful lifestyles and how their soulmates rejected them for the torment they’d been put through. 


Zoro knew his soul mate was strong. It was a gut feeling. Instinct really. He could tell that as the years went on things improved for his soulmate. There was a year where he’d feel phantom nics of a knife on his fingertips, or an occasional burn on his hands and arms. Occasionally there’d be a phantom sting of a hand across his face, or a phantom kick. But all together it was better than the phantom pain he’d been feeling years prior.


The swordsman peeked an eye open watching the crew go about their daily business. Luffy, Usopp, and Chopper were playing some sort of game. Nami and Robin were sunbathing. Brook was working on a new song, the notes flowing peacefully through the air. They were occasionally interrupted by the sounds of tinkering from Franky’s workshop. The kitchen door swung open and the momentary peace was disrupted. 


The cook was swirling about, passing out drinks, and fawning over the two female crew mates. Zoro could never explain it but he was inexplicably drawn to their cook. Even back at the Baratie there was something about him that stuck with Zoro. Maybe it was the way he’d doubled over right after Mihawk had sliced up his torso. Maybe it was back at Arlong Park. 


All he knew was that the cook was almost always on his radar. He knew that after what happened at Thriller Bark that the cook hadn’t let him fly off his radar either. Zoro knew something must have happened after he passed out. He could see the pain lining the others face.


Per usual, a rival pirate crew had to break the peace even more. Granted, Zoro knew that the Straw Hat Pirates were not conventional pirates by any means, but still. He’d drawn his swords, parrying with a rival crew member, when time seemed to slow. The world turned grayscale and sound was snuffed out. The only sound that managed to cut through the haze was Sanji's pained scream. 

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Zoro’s eyes went wide, his attention focused on Sanji. The blonde was struggling against the men pinning him down. The sickening glint of a dagger shone above him. Zoro watched in helpless horror as the man swung, a broad swipe. Much like the way Mihawk had once ripped his torso open, he bit back bile at the familiar feeling of a foerign object forcing skin apart. Being cut by a sword was a bitch, because it's not really the initial cut that hurts. Your skin is split but its not torn apart. The itching deep pain washes over Zoro like a wave. The disconnect the body feels, the frazzled nerve endings that delay the pain because there's something wrong but they can’t pick out exactly what's wrong. 


The pooling blood gave everyone pause. Sanji’s eyes wide, breathing shallow. His blue eyes wide and unblinking. Zoro felt the itching pain blooming across his stomach, could feel the phantom pulse of blood spill out. He stumbled, barely dodging the men that he’d been fighting. His sole focus was on Sanji. He knew that if they didn't treat that soon, the cook would be in danger. Zoro’s own wounds had a gnarly look to them, the medical care he’d received was enough to fight off the start of the infection he’d gotten, but this, Sanji’s wounds were exposed to the air of battle. Sweat, blood, and other substances were abundant. He was in danger. 


Zoro charged ignoring the pain the phantom punches and kicks, the prodding of swords. He lunged at the men around Sanji, swords poised to strike. 


He cut the men down like they were stalks of wheat. He had zero sympathy, nor regard for what happened to them. The Straw Hats tended to keep their death toll down, they weren’t heartless killers. But they hurt his Nakama, he was sure Luffy would be able to forgive him for this. 


Zoro dropped to his knees, cringing when he realized the rain of blood had misted Sanji, the blood mingling as his wounds bled.


Sanji’s eyes were barely cracked open, his pupils dwarfing his irises, leaving only a faint ring of blue-gray. Zoro cursed, the adrenaline must be keeping Sanji from going into shock. The cook was bleeding, a nasty cut on his head, various other scrapes littering his lithe frame. Bruises painting his porcelain skin, smudges of purple distracting Zoro from the clear liquid mixing with the blood. 


“ ‘m s’rry Z’ro” Sanji rasped, fingers clenching in the fabric of Zoro’s haramaki. 


“Stop, don’t talk,” Zoro pleaded eyes scanning the rest of the deck. 


“ no, ‘t’s not,” Sanji paused to cough, eyes flying wide as the cough turned wet. Sanji rolled slightly to the side, spitting blood with his next coughs. 




Sanji grasped at Zoro again halting the rest of his warning. 


“Zoro, I’m sorry,” Sanji managed before he fell unconscious.


There was a moment early in Zoro’s life where he remembered a lingering pain. A pain that cut so deep it felt like his chest was splitting in half. The adults always said you can feel physical pain that your soulmate is feeling. Something no one ever mentioned was the emotion pain. The guilt, the loss, the heartbreak. None of these were a stranger to Zoro. He knew then that the heartbreak splitting his chest apart, taking a flamethrower to his lungs and heart, these feelings belonged to his soul mate. 


He’d had his suspicions since he joined the crew. He had a feeling that somewhere in his travels he’d meet his soul mate. He just never realized it would be so blatantly obvious. He’d never made the connection. That in the sparring sessions he’d feel the pain he inflicted on the cook and vice versa. He could never understand the looks Sanji gave him. The disbelieving, exasperated glances. He could never understand the reactions the cook had if he was injured in battle, how they’d grown since that ill-fated day with Kuma. 


It wasn’t until he could feel the phantom tugs of Choppers stitching and the burning of the fever from the infection Sanji was fighting that all the dots connected. He really was a dumbass.

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The worst part was that Sanji knew.


He’d known and instead of telling Zoro he left him in the dark. 


So Zoro had to sit there, helpless, as he watched the shallow breaths fall past his lips. Sanji’s brows were furrowed, sweat beading on his brow. Zoro could feel exactly what this felt like for Sanji. He only got the lingering feelings of pain rather than the injuries themselves, but it sucked to know he couldn’t do anything to take this pain away. To make it better somehow. 


He reluctantly left Sanji’s side when Luffy ordered a crew meeting in the Kitchen. They needed someone to temporarily take over while Sanji was recovering. He knew that as soon as the cook was conscious he’d likely be throwing them out of his space and trying to continue on like nothing happened. Chopper however, would not be accepting of that. He knew that the little reindeer would haul Sanji’s ass out of the kitchen and chain him to the sick bed fast enough to make their heads spin. 


Nami had taken over kitchen duty for all their sakes. Luffy had said he wanted to since Sanji is always the one to feed him and while the idea was great in theory, Luffy could only cook meat over a flame. His style of cooking wasn’t all that safe for everyone. He had a feeling that some time in the future he’d attempt to cook for them but that’d come with time. 



For days the crew had assimilated to this faux peace. Everyone going through the motions, constant worry for their cook looming over their heads. They’d all taken it hard. They’d given Zoro some distance, his brooding a near constant companion. 


He’d been getting weird looks from Robin. He knew she was practically clairvoyant. She saw things normally blind to the eye. Or maybe he was just really dense. She’s probably known since they met her. With a heavy sigh, he tore his gaze from her and made his way to the infirmary to see Sanji again. 


He watched the male as he slept, he hoped it was just sleep. Chopper hadn’t said if he’d regained consciousness while they weren’t around. However he hadn’t said whether or not he was in a coma. Zoro hoped it was too soon to call it one of those. It sucks learning how important someone is to you, only to have it be too late. 


Chopper allowed him some alone time, however he was given strict instructions to come get him if Sanji woke up while he was gone. Zoro selfishly wanted to ignore the doctor’s orders.


Taking the cook’s hand in his, Zoro committed each of the faint scars to memory. He could think back to the slight sting of each of them. A master devoted to his trade. Zoro’s tongue felt too big for his mouth then. He realized no matter how much he’d thought of this moment as a child he’d never imagined it would turn out like this. He mumbled as much out loud. Zoro’s eyes fell closed. He channeled emotions and memories he hadn’t entertained in a long time. He let those guide his words. 


“I know you think I’m a dumbass, and you know maybe you’re right for once swirly,” Zoro let some of the tension ease from his body. 


“I have no idea how long you’ve known, and I realize now that you’ve known much longer than I have. It explains a lot if you did actually. I still can’t believe that I didn’t notice this sooner. I just…” Zoro sighed. 


“I just never thought I deserved a soulmate. I knew I had one, but I just never dreamt it would be real. Half the time I was convinced it was imagination playing tricks on me. That it was all in my head. And when we sparred,” 


“It should have been obvious, but I had myself convinced that you couldn’t be my soulmate because I didn’t deserve that sort of kindness from the world. I know I’m not good with words, but realizing you love someone when you can’t reach them… realizing it when it feels too late…” Zoro drew in a shaky breath, “It sucks,”


Zoro blinked his eyes open against the tears. He met Sanji’s wide eyes, they too were lined with unshed tears. 


“How-” Zoro’s voice definitely didn’t crack, nope.


“How much did you hear,” Zoro asked, his blush a neon inferno. 


“From when you thought I was right,” Sanji said with a dorky smile. Zoro made an afronted sound. 


“Is it true, what you just said.”


Zoro mumbled something, face going even darker. The heat radiating off his face could be felt by Sanji’s hand that he seemed to forget he was holding.


“What was that?” Sanji asked with a smirk, he’d understood, but this… This moment was something he’d been craving for years. 


“Why would I lie, idiot,” he grumbled, pressing his lips to Sanji’s knuckles


“Awwww Marimo, you do have feelings,” 


“Shut up,”