Title: Occupational Hazards

Summary: Zoro can't seem to breath right and Chopper is yelling at him through the Den Den Mushi. Or, in which Sanji discovers the only situation in which Zoro would let him use his swords.

Characters: Sanji, Zoro, Chopper, with the addition of Luffy, Usopp, and Nami.

Length: 8,040

Additional Notes: Pre-Time skip, but not really time relevant.

Warnings: Cursing, violence (not too graphic)

A/N: This story was mostly born because it's the type of story I wanted to read, but couldn't find, so I had no choice but to write it. Yup, entirely selfish. But if you read it, and you like it please leave some feedback, or just a simple review. I have so many more stories in mind and would love to see how many people enjoy my writing before starting them. Happy reading!

The Baby Den-Den Mushi's muffled ringing is as unnerving as it is incessant in the pregnant silence.

Puru-ru-ru, puru-ru-ru, puru-ru-ru, puru-ru-ru and on and on it goes until Sanji finally recognizes the noise for what it is. He snaps out his confused spell and pulls the snail from the swordsman's pocket, setting it on the ground. He hesitates for a split second before answering.

He doesn't speak; Nami is already shouting from the other line, the snail's mouth moving with her furious words – "Finally! God damn it, Zoro, I've been calling you for hours! What was the point of giving you this thing if you weren't even going to answer? You were supposed to be back at the ship four hours ago! Do you have any idea what time it is? You better be with Sanji or I swear to God – "

"Nami-san," he says, surprising himself with how calmly the word comes out. He wonders, briefly, why he even bothered to answer the Den-Den Mushi when the predicament in front of him requires his full attention.

"Oh, Sanj-kun! Thank God – that means you found Zoro, right? That idiot. I told you guys buying the Baby Den-Den Mushi was a waste of money. What the hell was he doing that he couldn't even bother picking up? Ugh! Whatever. Listen, Luffy's getting unbearable with waiting for dinner, so you guys better hurry up . . ."

She's still speaking but Sanji can't decipher most of it because his attention is stolen by the disturbing noises coming out of Zoro's mouth. The swordsman's breathing sounds more labored and more strained than before; so strange and unnatural and wrong – and the way Zoro's face is paled, the way his brow is furrowed, the way his eyes stare ahead in furious concentration, reaffirm his theory that something was not right with the green-haired bastard.

"Nami-san," he says again, and maybe a little too breathlessly and too hurriedly because Nami stops speaking immediately. That's all right; he'll apologize for interrupting her when he gets back to the ship.

"Sanji-kun? Is something wrong?"

Leave it to the magnificent Nami-san to effortlessly recognize that something was amiss just from the sound of his voice. He opens his mouth, ready to tell her that yes, something is wrong! Something is very, very, very wrong with their shitty swordsman and he has no idea what he's supposed to do and –

He bites his lip. He is suddenly without words. He realizes once again that he doesn't know why he answered the Den-Den Mushi, doesn't know what to expect from talking to Nami-san, doesn't know how talking to her or to anyone else could possibly help his situation.

And speaking of his shitty situation – the rhythmic, strangled breathing is cut off when Zoro coughs something fierce, something undoubtedly painful. Sanji jumps at the sound.

The swordsman tenses from where he lies. His face pales even further, his skin turning a sickly gray. Yet, his eyes are hard and firm as he stares blankly ahead, all his concentration solely focused on the difficult task of breathing. His breaths are now raspy, wet gasps, and they sound thin and constrained and fuck, it's all wrong.

"What was that? Sanji-kun, what's going on?"

Hell if I know, Sanji wants to reply crudely, because he doesn't know what's going on at all. Zoro gets injured all the time. The man collects battle wounds as if his body was a goddamn scrapbook. It isn't abnormal to find the man bloody and bruised and sliced. It isn't.

So when Sanji was tasked with finding Zoro and bringing him back to the ship after he failed to return at his designated time, he wasn't surprised to find Zoro miles and miles away from the port. He wasn't surprised to find Zoro standing with his swords drawn and slick with blood. He wasn't surprised to find dozens of broken and bleeding bodies surrounding the swordsman, some moaning in pain, some disturbingly still. And he definitely was not surprised to find the pirate himself with his own compilation of wounds and cuts.

Sanji wasn't bothered by the sight at all. It was normal – for Zoro, at least. It was routine with the shitty swordsman; dock in a new island, go exploring, get lost, pick a fight, come back to the ship hours and hours later demanding sake. He wasn't surprised to find the routine playing out here.

He was surprised, however, when after an hour of walking back, Zoro had stopped, leaned against a tree, and placed a hand on his bloody chest. He was surprised when Zoro failed to rise to Sanji's taunts, when he failed to respond entirely to Sanji's queries, even the begrudgingly worried ones.

He was immensely surprised when the swordsman's knees buckled, when his face lost its color, when he choked out, "I can't breath."


"Nami-san," he says again, this time levelly. He swallows thickly. "I need to talk to Chopper."

Chopper would know what to do, he reasons, looking at the marimo. Zoro's eyes are steady, but there's no mistaking the barely concealed lines of pain and panic that surround them. The swordsman is staring at him now, and Sanji wonders if he should be concealing his own panic that has definitely made itself known on his face.

"To Chopper? Why? Did something –"

"Nami-san, please," he interrupts once more, because one of Zoro's hands are clawing at the moist dirt while the other is curled around the fabric atop his chest – atop his lung. "It's an emergency."

The word has its intended effect; he hears a light tap as the mouthpiece is set down on a hard surface, and then silence. Only, it is silence on her end, because on his end Zoro's breaths now sound choked and gurgled.

The swordsman suddenly shifts from where he lies, his mouth curled to bare his teeth. Then, he coughs – but this time, instead of air, blood comes out, coloring his lips and chin an impressive red.

Zoro looks just as surprised by it as Sanji feels, but the expression is minute and now his face is pinched and he coughs and coughs and coughs

"Oi!" Sanji is by his side instantly, pushing his shoulders back down as the idiot struggles to sit up, the Den-Den Mushi forgotten. "Stay still! You're making yourself worse."

Sanji doesn't actually know if he's making himself worse, but the coughing sounds like its ripping his lungs apart and he wasn't coughing this bad before when he was lying still on the ground so obviously he should just stay still –

Zoro doesn't say anything after the coughing fit subsides. He hasn't said anything at all since this whole mess started, which in itself is discomforting. But judging from the confusion that lines his face, Zoro probably doesn't even know what's happening to him either. That in itself is worrisome – no, it's disturbing.

"You stupid piece of shit," Sanji bites out. Zoro's eyes squint fractionally at an attempt at a glare, but its so weak and pathetic and not the reaction he was baiting for that it just makes Sanji angrier. "You goddamn shitty directionless asshole."

"Sanji? Hello? Sanji?"

Sanji blinks at the new voice before quickly matching it to a face. He grabs the snail and speaks into it, the calmness of his voice melting away. "Fuck, Chopper. I don't know what the hell is wrong with him."

He stares at Zoro as he speaks, which he knows he probably shouldn't because the marimo looks fucking awful now and its making his anxiety build. Zoro's eyes are firmly squeezed shut now, the paleness of his face making the contrast of the blood almost illuminating.

"Wrong with who? What's going on?"

"The shitty swordsman. He just fucking collapsed, Chopper, just dropped to the ground. He won't – can't – get up, and his breathing . . . it doesn't sound right at all. I don't know what it is, it's like he can't breath or something – He said he couldn't breath."

And since when did Zoro admit to an injury? This isn't like him at all – shouldn't Zoro be waving off the severity of injuries, like he always did? He should. He should be standing, ignoring the pain and discomfort in favor of preserving his pride, or whatever shitty noble reason he cited. He doesn't show weakness, doesn't show vulnerability; he shouldn't be laying on the fucking ground, spitting out blood and not saying a goddamn word.

"Wha – " Chopper starts, and Sanji wont blame him if he couldn't understand any of that because he's self aware enough to know he was babbling, but Chopper stops because there are other voices from his side that interrupt him.

" – Is that Sanji? Saaaaaaaaanji! Come back already! Oi, Chopper – tell him to hurry up, I'm hungry!"

"Don't bother him, Luffy, he's talking! Leave him alone –"

"But dinner was supposed to start two hours ago and – "

Luffy and Usopp's voices sound far away, but Sanji knows that they're both in the room with Chopper. He grips the snail tightly, listening as Nami's voice joins the others. She's shouting again, and only catches a few words but knows that she's telling them to either shut up or leave the room.

Chopper's voice is back; "I'm sorry, Sanji, what was that? I couldn't hear you."

Sanji grits his teeth hard and wishes a cigarette was between them. "Chopper. Something is wrong with Zoro. I need you to get your ass over here and fix him because I don't know what the fuck to do."

That gets his attention. Actually, that gets all of their attentions. After a stunned silence, he hears Usopp stammering loudly in confusion and Nami telling him to shut up. Then he hears shuffling and clicking and suddenly its Luffy's voice – "Oi, oi, Sanji! What's wrong with Zoro? Did he get into a fight with someone strong? Where are you guys? How come –"

He doesn't have time for this. The marimo's lips seem to be turning blue. "Luffy! Put the shitty doctor back on!"

His outburst is effective enough to get even Zoro's attention. The man's glassy eyes find him again, but Sanji can't decipher anything from that expression. All he can understand is that the swordsman sounds like he's being strangled by some invisible enemy and that he's spitting out more blood than air and that he's getting worse every fucking second –

"Sanji," there's Chopper's voice again. It's different this time, however. He's clearly using his Doctor Chopper voice and thank fuck, Sanji thinks, because he does not have any more time to establish the seriousness of this situation. "Is Zoro hurt?"

"Yes," he replies quickly. Then, he shakes his head. "I mean, yeah – he's injured like he always is after a fight, nothing serious – at least by his standards. But, I think this is something else. Like internal, maybe."

Hell, he needs to calm down. Why the hell is he so frazzled? He sets the snail down, reaches into his pockets, and starts lighting a cigarette while Chopper talks. "Is he with you? I need him to tell me his symptoms."

His hands are shaking as his thumb flicks the switch. "He's here, but I don't think he can talk, or even stand. Hell, I don't think he can even breathe – which is why I need you to get your ass over here right now and do something."

"WaitHe's not breathing!?" Chopper's voice squeaks, then Usopp's voice butts in, "Don't worry, Sanji! We'll come right away! Where are you guys right now? Zoro couldn't have wandered off that far, right?" and then Luffy's voice follows it with a "Yeah, yeah! We'll bring Chopper to you! I can run really fast!"

An inkling of relief swells within Sanji's stomach. If Chopper were here, then he could fix whatever this shit was, and then Sanji wouldn't have to be responsible for this mess, wouldn't have to hear the gurgling breathing, wouldn't have to see the marimo looking so – looking so hurt.

"I'm at a clearing outside of the village," Sanji says. "Not the one the marimo said he was going to –" since clearly the idiot managed to get lost on his way there, he refrains from saying, " – a different one. Maybe a two hour walk east of the port."

"Yosh!" That's Luffy's voice. "Maaaaaaap! Map! Map! Nami, where's the map? We gotta go! Zoro's got a mystery injury!"

He sits back and raises a trembling hand, breathing in the nicotine before slowly blowing it out. Good, he thinks, looking down at Zoro. Let them deal with this. He hears his nakamas' voices mixing together along with the sound of ruffling paper, but he tunes it all out because now they'll come and now they'll fix this and everything can go back to normal.

He wonders if Zoro overhead the conversation through his respiratory turmoil, and if he's relieved that help would be coming. Sanji can't tell though; the swordsman's expression hasn't changed a fraction since he answered the call. If it weren't for that piss poor excuse for breathing, Sanji would think the other dead – he's so fucking pale now, so still except for the slow rise and fall of his chest. His eyes are shut, mouth slack, skin clammy – god dammit, no, Sanji thinks furiously, looking away.

He doesn't want to see Zoro like this. Doesn't want to be around Zoro like this because – because – fuck! He shoves the cigarette back in his mouth and inhales deeply. Fuck it all. Luffy and Chopper better hurry up. Speaking of, he tunes himself back to the ruckus that goes on through the other line.

" . . . Ah! Luffy, put me down! No, no, wait!" Chopper's voice yelps, high and sharp. Sanji grimaces, imagining his captain picking up the little doctor against his will and preparing to slingshot themselves out of the ship.

It doesn't sound like that happens, though, because Chopper's voice becomes serious and demands notice. "I'm not leaving, Luffy. Put me down!"

"Wuahhh, you're not? So then . . . wait – b-but you're the doctor!" Ussop supplies lamely when a silence follows Chopper's demand.

Sanji speaks before the others interject with their own questions. "What the fuck, Chopper?" He sneers and he knows he's being harsh but he can't find it in himself to be sensitive. "You're the damn doctor – get over here and fix the shitty mosshead like you're supposed to because that's your fucking job!"

The others exclaim Sanji's sentiments to Chopper in a more calm and placating manner, but the doctor doesn't respond to any of them. He sounds completely unfazed when his voice comes through the Mushi, loud and crisp. "Sanji, is Zoro breathing?"

He stumbles. "I – What?"

"You said he wasn't breathing."

He did? Sanji frowns. "No, that's not . . . he is breathing, but it doesn't – it's not right."

"He's having difficulty breathing?"


"And you said he was injured?"

"Yeah," he replies . . . but no – fuck. He's being unhelpful with these half assed answers. He clears his throat and explains quickly, "He got into a fight with some bandits or bounty hunters, I don't know. The usual. When I found him he seemed fine and none of his injuries looked life threatening or anything. But when we were walking back, his breathing was starting to sound weird, and then he says he couldn't breathe and just drops. He hasn't moved since and was coughing up blood a few minutes ago."

Nami's voice murmurs something softly and Ussop makes a distressed noise. At least that confirms that he wasn't overreacting and this whole mess is as serious as his mind made it out to be.

Chopper asks, "His breathing. What does it sound like, exactly?"

"Sound?" The strange question gives him pause. "I don't know, Chopper, it sounds weird. It doesn't sound like normal breathing."

"Yes, but I need you to describe it more in detail."

Sanji frowns. "It's . . . I don't know. It doesn't sound like he's choking on something, like on food or anything. Sounds more like he's drowning in shallow water."

Chopper makes an affirmative noise. "Can you put the Den Den Mushi closer to him so I can hear it?"

Sanji grits his teeth to stop himself from raising his voice. "The hell does it matter what it sounds like? Damn it, Chopper, why don't you just get over here and heal him instead of wasting time with these fucking questions!"

"Because I have to make sure what it is!" Chopper fires back. "I know you're stressed Sanji, but you need to trust that I know what I'm doing. I have to make sure this isn't something that could kill him if left untreated for a few more minutes!"

"What the hell can I – "

"Sanji," and fuck, that's Luffy's voice talking to him now, and double fuck because he's using his Captain Voice that he only whips out when he's being frighteningly incensed or disturbingly solemn and it makes Sanji's blood freeze. "Listen to Chopper."

And he does. After a quick inhale of smoke, he closes his eyes and tries to quell his frantic heart, because Chopper's right, he is stressed. Which was weird because it was Zoro who was stressing him out and he was doing it without saying a damn word.

"Alright," Sanji replies to both Chopper and Luffy. He scoots closer and puts the snail next to the semi-unconscious swordsman. Mouth open, Zoro rasps out long, prickly breaths one after the other, slow and deep, as if trying to inhale as much air as possible through the invisible barricade that seems to have set itself inside of him.

"You got that?" Sanji asks a few seconds later, pulling the Baby Den-Den Mushi back.

". . . Almost," Chopper says slowly. Sanji has no idea what that means, but Chopper continues, "Does he have any injuries on his chest?"

Sanji purses his lips and looks over the swordsman. He his shirt is ripped on some sides, and red splotches of blood are splattered across it, some bright and fresh, some dark and drying. Sanji wonders how much of it is from Zoro and how much is from the enemies he cut down. "Yeah. A few cuts here and there, some bruising."

"Are the cuts deep? Any puncture wounds?"

Sanji shoves the cigarette between his teeth. He lets out an annoyed huff before ripping Zoro's shirt open effortlessly. The thin fabric tears with a soft noise, and Sanji spares the marimo a brief glance. Zoro doesn't budge, eyes still firmly shut, and Sanji is certain that the man is deep in the throws of unconsciousness. He's glad; at least this can be weird for one of them, but something tells him that, medically, it probably isn't a good thing.

He inspects the bloody chest with a frown. The cuts are shallow, like the tips of the enemies' blades just barely grazed the skin. There's one that's fairly deeper than the rest, and is probably responsible for most of the blood, but it doesn't seem severe at all. "Doesn't look like," he answered. "I told you, his injuries aren't serious."

Chopper makes a thoughtful noise. He asks, "What about the bruising?"

"The bruising . . . ? Oh," there is a fairly nasty looking bruise on Zoro' side that he caught early on, but he didn't think it held any significance. One of the marimo's enemies probably landed a solid blow on him while he was distracted, knocking the wind out of him. "Yeah, he's got a real ugly one on the right side of his chest."

"Ah!" Chopper gasps, the noise so sharp in makes Sanji's shoulder twitch. "Sanji, describe it – size, color, whatever you can see."

Sanji really doesn't want to look at it any longer; but obliges. "It's big, and fucking disgusting. It's dark and purple and around it is all red – practically covers his whole side."

"Touch it and tell me what it feels like."

Sanji almost swallows his cigarette. "What the fu –"

"I wouldn't be asking if it wasn't important, Sanji!"

Sanji grits his teeth because Chopper has a point and hell, he is the doctor so he knows what he's talking about and who is Sanji, the chef, to question his expertise – but that doesn't mean Sanji has to like it. He thinks for the second time in a short while how glad he is that the green-haired bastard was unconscious.

He places the palm of his hand on the bruised skin and winces at the heat that raises from it. He's about to make an unpleasant face when he realizes how absurd this might look – him, with his hand on the marimo's fucking chest – when he pauses. "Bumpy . . ."

"What?" Chopper asks.

He runs his hand across the bruise just to be sure. "It's, uh, bumpy underneath. I think his ribs are broken or something."

"Oh no," Chopper whimpers after a long stretch of silence. "Ahhh, I really didn't want it would be that. This is bad – we need to work fast! He doesn't have time!"

"Chopper, calm down!" Nami-san interjects, overlapped by Luffy's, "What's going on? What's bad?"

"Ehh, aren't you maybe overreacting?" Usopp's voice floats by. "I'm sure he's had much worse than broken ribs; Actually, I'm pretty sure every one of his ribs has been broken at least three times in the course of his life."

Sanji agrees. To Chopper, he says, "Oi. I don't think the marimo's ribcage is the most pressing matter here –" As if to emphasize his point, Zoro's gurgling breath chokes and suddenly he's coughing and gasping, head twisting to the side.

The other line of the Den Den Mushi must've heard it for all their voices go silent at once. Sanji presses on, " – His breathing, Chopper. What do we do about his breathing?"

Chopper's voice filters in, audibly calmer than he was a few moments ago. "No, no, the ribs – it's important. It means that it's pneumothorax. Ahhh, I had a feeling it was it since you mentioned his breathing, but I really, really hoped it wasn't. Sanji, listen, you need to act fast. There's nothing I can do since I'm so far away and he doesn't have much time and he might not make it by the time I get there so –"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" Sanji says suddenly. "Slow down! What are you talking about? What the hell is pneumothorax?"

He hears Luffy try to pronounce the word in the background. The panic in Chopper's voice isn't gone but he at least slows down, "It's his lung. – he can't breathe well because his lung's collapsed. The broken rib must have punctured it. Every time he breathes, the air is escaping from his lung and into his chest. If we don't do something quick he could suffocate and . . . and . . ."

Die, Sanji silently finishes for him. He hears panic erupt from the other line, but it's a whir of noises to him.

What the fuck is the only thought that seems to buzz through his mind. What the fuck. His cigarette has become a stick of ash and he spits out bitterly. He stares at the Den Den Mushi, stares at the barely breathing swordsman, stares at his undisturbed surroundings and thinks what the fuck.

"So what do we do?" He vaguely hears Nami-san ask. "How do we fix him?"

"We can't do anything – " Chopper answers softly and immediately afterwards Luffy's voice explodes, "No! Don't say that! Don't say stupid things, Chopper! You have to fix him!"

"Oi, oi, Luffy calm down –"

" – No! Chopper doesn't know what he's talking about! We're not giving up on him!"

"Shouting isn't helping anyone, idiot!"

" – Give me the map, Nami, I'm gonna go and bring Zoro here and you're going to fix him no matter what!"

And finally, Chopper's voice breaks through the ferment commotions – "Stop, all of you! That's not what I was gonna say! Let me finish!" A deep inhale, a puffed exhale, and the reindeer continues: "I meant that we can't do anything, but Sanji can . . . are you listening, Sanji? Sanji?"

He is listening, barely but he has a strong urge to tell Chopper to be quiet for a second because most of his attention and hearing has shifted over to Zoro and his breathing – or lack of.


"What happened!?"

Sanji crawls over to Zoro, his mind already dreading the absolute worst. He should have known something was off when those rasping breaths had gradually gotten quieter and quieter, but he was so preoccupied with listening to the others that he didn't notice. Fuck, fuck, fuck!

He puts his ear just above Zoro's mouth and stares intently at the man's still chest. The longest two seconds of his entire fucking life sludge by until finally – finally – he hears that familiar, unnerving wheeze and sees the chest hitch slightly.

"Sanji? Sanji?

He sits back and feels dizzy. "No . . . it's nothing," he says in a shaky breath. He runs a hand through his hair. "I thought he stopped breathing there. Never mind."

The Den Den Mushi's eyes are focused on him in that same ferocity that Chopper's would have when he was in his element. "OK, Sanji, I need you to listen. You need to work fast. With every breath he's slowly collapsing his lung. The air that's supposed to go into his lung is escaping through the puncture wound his broken rib made and it's filling his pleural space with air, crushing his lung. I don't know how much longer he has until his respiratory system crashes and –"

Irrationally, he feels his frustration return. "I don't need you to tell me what it's doing to him when I can see it clearly right in front of me! Just tell me how to fix it already!"

"You need to remove the trapped air."

"How?" But immediately after asking – a split second before Chopper answers – he realizes he already knows the answer, and suddenly his head feels heavy and his knees feel numb and he wants to be anywhere but here –

"Usually it would need a . . . a needle covered with a tube to be put through the skin to let the air out, or a chest tube if its really bad. I've got all that here, and I can bring it to you guys, but in the meantime the air needs to be let out as soon as possible and the only way I can think of for you to do that is if you can make an incision so that the pressure on his lungs is eased."

Sanji feels sick. "Chopper . . . I'm not a doctor."

Chopper at least has the tenacity so sound sorrowful; His voice hitches when he says ". . . I'm sorry. It's the only way."

Sanji shakes his head. None of this is making any sense to him because he shouldn't be the one here. He can't take care of nakama like this – he's not a fucking doctor. He's a chef. He feeds and revives people from the endless pit of hunger, not fatal injuries. He shouldn't be here because he doesn't know what to do – and if the shitty marimo gets worse – if he fucking dies from something someone else can save him from, someone more qualified, someone who knows what the fuck they should do, then – then . . .

Chopper is still talking, ". . . You won't be alone, Sanji. I'll talk you through the whole thing and once you're done we'll come to you and I'll take over the rest. I just need you to make a small opening so the air can come out and he can breathe easier."

At those last words, Sanji watches as Zoro's chest twitches as he inhales. His face has paled considerably since the ordeal began, and there's a morbid tint of blue forming over his lips. He's barely breathing, Sanji thinks horrifyingly, and more so because soon Zoro won't be breathing at all which means he needs to do something quick but he can't – he needs more time – he needs time to wrap his fucking mind around this.

He bites his lips, then says. "I don't even have anything sharp enough to make an incision."

"Zoro does."

In his agitated state he doesn't understand what Chopper means by that. Not immediately. But then his gaze falls on Zoro, and then his stomach drops when his eyes fall on the three swords that lay beside his prone body.

He really, really thinks he's going to be sick now.

"You can't ask me to do this."

He hears the frown in Chopper's voice. "I know it's not ideal – "

"Not ideal? Fuck, Chopper, do you even know what you're asking me to do?" He shouts. "You're telling me that the only to save Zoro is to stab him? With his own fucking sword? This is insane!"

"I know it is!" Choppers shouts back. "If there was any other way I would pick it in a heartbeat, but there isn't! This is the only way we have right now and the more time you spend arguing about it is the less time Zoro has! I can't get to you until I know you did it, Sanji – please, please just trust me!"

His hands are shaking. Where's Luffy's voice? Where's Nami-san's voice, and Usopp's? Why weren't they saying anything? Why weren't they objecting to this senseless plan, or shouting their protests? Why didn't anyone else see how fucking crazy this whole thing is!?

Because they know Chopper's right, a voice, a faraway voice from deep, deep within his mind whispers, and Sanji deflates. Because Chopper's right.

"I could kill him if I do this," Sanji says weakly.

"He'll die if you don't."

Sanji blanches. He's right – Sanji knows he's right but it doesn't make it any easier. He realizes he's been wringing his fingers since he began shouting and now they're red and numb. His hands . . . he feels his blood run cold at the implication of what his hands are about to be tasked to do. For the first time, he stares at Zoro's swords with something very akin to fear.

Then Luffy's voice pierces the air like a bullet. "Nah, he wont," He says, and Sanji could just hear the shit-eating grin that his captain is absolutely sporting right now. "Zoro wont die 'causeSanji's gonna help Zoro with the breathing thingy, and then Chopper's gonna help Zoro with the medicine thingy, and then Sanji's gonna help me with the dinner thingy, because we're all nakama! And nakama always help each other out, no matter how hard or crazy it is! Right, Sanji?"

Easy for you to say, he wants to retort but a small smile is tugging at his lips because Luffy's confident words actually seem to slow everything down, quiet the noises in his head, and ease the trembling of his hands.

His shoulders sag considerably and he lets out a shaky sigh. "Right, Captain."

Luffy laughs happily and Chopper says, "Robin got my bag with all my supplies for me, so we're ready to leave when we finish. If I use Leg Point I can get to you guys in less than an hour, but if everything goes right then there shouldn't be any complications until then. I'm ready whenever you are, Sanji."

Robin's there too? he thinks numbly. He reaches into his inside pocket and pulls out another cigarette. Focus, he tells himself as he lights the stick and sucks in a long whiff of cigarette smoke, letting the bitter stench overwhelm his senses. He feels himself relax marginally.

He looks at the three katana attached to Zoro's hip. His fingers shake slightly so he wrings them out to forcefully make them stop. Let's get this over with.

He reaches for one of the swords tentatively, his fingers touching one of the hilts – when suddenly Zoro's hand shoots out and grabs his wrist.

Sanji chokes, cigarette falling from his mouth.

He gapes at Zoro, who has one eye open in a slit. "Y– You're awake!?"

Zoro's face is haggard and pinched with strain, yet the grip on Sanji's wrist is so strong he can feel his bones grind. He makes an effort to not wince in pain as he stares at the gasping swordsman.

Zoro bares his blood stained teeth and rasps, "Don't."

His voice is so weak Sanji almost misses the word. He doesn't know why but suddenly his heart is beating so annoyingly loud and fast. He stares, dumbfounded for an agonizingly long second, then recovers and tugs at his wrist.

"Shitty bastard, you think I want to do this? Think I like cleaning up after your messes, you stupid, trouble making asshole?"

Zoro doesn't let go of him and he can feel his hand numbing. Sweat has gathered on Zoro's pale face, his hair sticking to his forehead. He looks, in every sense of the word, like shit. A pale comparison to his relaxed, napping self, or his cocky, battle-hungry self. The swordsman's eyes are narrowed, and Sanji can't tell if he's glaring at him or just in an enormous amount of pain.

Zoro's fingers dig into his wrist and Sanji suddenly remembers an anecdote Luffy once divulged with the crew during dinner months ago. The conversation had somehow shifted to mocking (mostly on his part) Zoro's strange habit of hugging his swords while he napped, when Luffy had shared that Zoro had once thrown him overboard when he caught Luffy playing with one of his swords while he slept.

The crew was appalled, but Luffy had shrugged it off saying it had happened a long time ago when he first met Zoro, and that Zoro only waited a two minutes before fishing him out. Luffy laughed when he added that Zoro was livid with him and refused to speak with him for the rest of the day until Luffy apologized and promised not to touch his swords ever again. Zoro took a long swig of his sake after Luffy finished the story and nonchalantly added that it was three minutes.

Sanji grits his teeth and wants to yell that this was no time for the stupid marimo to be possessive, but his retort dies on his lips when Zoro shakes his head fractionally and drops his gaze.

He takes three shallow, quick breaths and says through his teeth, "Not . . . that one."

Sanji blinks in bewilderment. He follows Zoro's gaze and sees of the three swords, his hand was hovering just above the one with the red hilt. He frowns. He didn't really put much thought onto which sword he would use to stab the marimo with, but the unwavering look on Zoro's face makes him realize that he did.

Sanji swallows thickly. "Alright," he says slowly, then feels Zoro relax his grip, but he doesn't let go. Sanji studies the swords for a brief second then lets his hand hover over the white hilted one. He looks at Zoro.

Zoro stares at their hands for a long time, as if considering the qualifications of the white sword. Finally, he nods marginally and lets his hand drop.

Sanji pulls the white sword from the scabbard in one fluid motion. It's lighter than he imagined, and seems longer unsheathed. Staring at the glistening steel and the dried blood that Zoro must have missed when he cleaned it earlier, Sanji feels his anxiety bubbling once more.

"You heard what Chopper said, then?" he asks suddenly, overcome with the desperate need to have someone agree with his opposition. "You know what I'm gonna have to do?"

Zoro closes his eyes. "Make it quick," he grunts.

Sanji's stomach drops. "Don't you get it? I'm about to –"

"Cook," Zoro growls, the word seemingly ripped out of his throat. "Hurry . . . the fuck up."

He involuntarily grips the white katana tighter. The shitty bastard was conscious this whole time, then. He knows – he knows what Chopper asked him to do and he isn't fighting it. He isn't questioning it or even challenging it. Sanji envies how easily the bastard has accepted the situation. I really am the only sane person on this fucking ship, he thinks cynically.

"Fine," Sanji snaps. With a scowl he adds, "But if I kill you, you better not fucking haunt me."

Zoro makes a sound akin to a snort, then says to him, ". . . as if I could be killed by you."

He smirks at the retort. One hand balancing the white katana, Sanji reaches for the Baby Den Den Mushi and says, "I'm ready, Chopper."

Chopper's soft voice is leveled as he instructs, "Alright. You're going to insert four inches of the blade between the second and third ribs and then slowly pull it out so the air can escape with it. Simple."

"Simple," Sanji repeats.

He grips the white hilt with both hands and momentarily ponders how strange this entire situation is – him, stabbing Zoro with his own sword. Sanji wonders if there was some swordsman code out there that prohibits a wielder from getting cut by his own sword. Sounds like something that would exist.

He shakes his head to clear his mind. Focus, he tells himself.

He points the tip of the blade between Zoro's ribs. He feels a small sense of pride for keeping his hands steady. He steals a glance at Zoro, but the swordsman's eyes are closed and his brow is furrowed – clearly, the simple task of breathing has monopolized his complete attention. Sanji's glad; he's pretty sure he wouldn't be able to do this with the pressure of an audience, especially not the shitty marimo.

"Alright," he says breathlessly. Then, firmer, "Alright."

Zoro grunts. Chopper says, "Remember, just four inches deep."

Sanji purses his lips and nods. Then, he inhales deeply and pushes the tip of the blade into Zoro's side.

Zoro doesn't even twitch at the piercing. Blood seeps from the sword's bite and Sanji tries not to focus too much on that. He pushes the blade fractionally deeper, the steel sliding into the skin as if his flesh were made of water, until four inches of the sword's edge is between his ribs.

He grimaces hard at the sight. Then he slowly begins pulling the blade back and more blood spurts out and Zoro's eyes fly open and he lets out a strangled cough.

Sanji stops. "What? What is it? Oi, oi!"

But Zoro just shakes his head. He turns to the side and viciously spits out some blood. He takes a few breathes, of which Sanji notices are deeper than they were before, and gasps, "Felt it. Keep going."

Sanji nods and pulls out the sword with a yank. Blood coats the edge and seeps out of the freshly made cut.

He doesn't let go of the sword and notices that now his hands have decided to shake because holy shit he just stabbed his own crewmate and notices that Zoro's hands are tightly clenched and his jaw is set and what if he just made it worse –

But Zoro makes a soft noise, like a low groan, and his fists loosen and the tension seems to seep out of his shoulders. His eyes crack open and he stares at the bloody sword with an unreadable expression.

Sanji lets out a breath he didn't know he was holding in.

It's . . . over, he thinks breathlessly. It's done. I'm done.

He is beside himself with apprehension to the point where he is frozen in place; his mind is annoyingly pestering him to prepare for something bad to happen, that the worst isn't over yet, that this was just a prelude to something horrible. He knows he should say something, probably to the others on the other line who are most likely at the edge of their seats with anticipation, but he cant seem to make his mouth move.

Zoro's arm weakly sweeps the ground and grabs the Den Den Mushi. "Chopper," he says to it, his voice thick with fatigue. The words come out like a tired sigh, "Start coming, s' all good."

It's Luffy who responds. "Shishishi! Silly Zoro, making everyone worry like that. You made us miss dinner!"

"Mmm." His breaths are soft and slow. Luffy's voice by itself seems to soothe the swordsman's breathing, and the lines on Zoro's face dissipate. "M'fine. Stop whining."

"So Sanji did his job good, then, huh?"

Zoro's eyes find his. Sanji swallows thickly. He knows he should say something but the reality of his situation has him stunned. He sits back and lets the blade rest on his lap, one hand on tight around the hilt.

Zoro lets out another weary sigh. "Yeah."

Luffy chuckles again and Choppers voice cuts in. "We'll be there soon, Zoro! Don't move around!" Before the line cuts off, he adds quickly, "and don't fall asleep!"

The silence engulfs them like large blanket. Sanji belatedly realizes that somewhere between Zoro and Luffy's brief conversation, the swordsman actually paid him a compliment. He doesn't focus on it too much because he's currently holding a sword with Zoro's blood on it.

As if reading his mind, Zoro makes a rude noise and says, "Stop looking like you're the one that got stabbed."

The words have the same effect as a slap to the face and Sanji bristles. "Don't fucking joke about it!" He snaps immediately, and even he is genuinely surprised at how angry he sounds.

Zoro looks at him strangely but recovers quickly. He closes his eyes and takes a few short breaths. The wound on his ide bleeds sluggishly but Zoro pays it no mind. "Why not? S'not a big deal."

Sanji sputters. He shouldn't respond or give Zoro a reason to respond. Cleary, simply talking is wearing out the marimo, and he would very much like to avoid any more complications.

But he doesn't care because he needs to talk and he wants to be fucking heard for once. "Maybe to you it isn't, but it sure as fuck was for me."

"Cause you're not a doctor?" Zoro asks, and the words are so familiar it hits Sanji that Zoro really was conscious and listening in the entire time, and that he heard everything – every one of Sanji's complaints and Chopper's reasoning. He heard it all and didn't object to any of it, didn't gripe about it. He accepted it, and accepted that his life was in Sanji's hands –

So Sanji lies and says "Yeah," because it's not just that – It's more. It's so much more.

It's because even though he can fight and attack and hurt his enemies, he never imagined doing that to his nakama. It's because his hands were made to cook and feed his nakama, not to hold weapons and hurt them. It's because he isn't qualified for this type of thing and if he fucked up, if he fucked up on something Chopper would never have fucked up on, then Zoro would have died and it would have been his fault.

But he doesn't say any of that because Zoro is looking at him the same way he looks at Luffy when the first mate and captain seem to understand each other without saying anything. It's a look that Sanji has never been on the receiving end of, and he realizes that this is what it feels like to be understood, to have someone know exactly what he's feeling and what he's thinking, to be trusted. He realizes that Zoro understands.

And then his shoulders sag and the stress he had accumulated through it all seem to bleed out of him as he realizes that it's over. He didn't fuck up and he didn't kill his nakama. Soon Chopper would be here and patch this idiot up and they'd be back on the ship and he'd be in the kitchen preparing dinner and doing his job –

Sanji finally lets go of the sword's hilt and says, "I'm not a swordsman either, you know," because stabbing people is Zoro's area, and he has no business holding Zoro's swords. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out another cigarette.

Zoro grunts. He lifts an arm and reaches for the sword. He holds it above his face and narrows his eyes, like he were inspecting it for any damage. "No, you're not," he agrees, putting his arm down. His thumb strokes the hilt distractingly and he closes his eyes, muttering, "No one was asking you to be one, and no one was asking you to be a doctor, either."

So Sanji blows out a long like of smoke and doesn't say anything because he knows what Zoro wants to say, and Zoro doesn't say anything because it's clear to them both that Sanji already knows what he meant and yeah, Sanji thinks . . . – yeah, the hardest and craziest job he has on this ship was definitely being nakama with these idiots.

And he's fine with that.


(a/n: Please review! This is my first foray into the One Piece fandom and would love to know if you guys like this and would want more!)