(Note that this story does NOT consider Filler to be canon. Follows manga storylines purely. No spoilers.)


CHAPTER ONE

He knows someone is approaching him without having to open his eye.

It's not a sound or a weight in the floor that gives it away. No – he can feel it like a sixth sense. He can feel it in the shift of the wind, or the pressure disrupting gravity's pull.

This time it's a slight twitch in his head that alerts him, his honed senses rousing him from his nap and warning him of the danger.

Someone is approaching him, but Zoro doesn't react. Not yet.

He's lying down on the Sunny's deck, comfortably sprawled out for his doze. He's not asleep now, but he gives the illusion of it to humor this person. His eye remains closed and his breathing is steady.

It's a beautiful day. The weather is contentedly warm and the waves are patient and gentle. But Zoro isn't fool enough to assume that correlates to a day of complete safety.

There's a stranger on the ship, and whoever this person is, they are getting closer to him.

His senses tell him that it isn't Luffy or Usopp sneaking their way over to pull a prank on him. It isn't Sanji stomping over to kick him awake, to tell him lunch is ready. Isn't Robin coming to ask him if he'd rather sleep inside and away from the sun's rays.

And where are the others, exactly? he wonders, his memories still a bit muddled from sleep. He expands his senses, searching for his crew – ah, there – half are scattered around the docked ship, doing whatever mindless tasks they do to shelve their boredom.

The other half of the crew are exploring the island carelessly, last he remembers. Luffy's with them, Zoro recalls. There was talk of Marines vacationing here, on this island. Maybe he pissed them off and started some brawl. Zoro strains his senses further but can't locate any type of disturbance happening on that end.

So, this stranger is acting alone, Zoro finally deduces. What a dumbass.

This person is getting closer now, close enough that Zoro can hear their footsteps. They're making no effort to make themselves unknown.

Zoro tries not to frown. Why can't someone else deal with this? Clearly this person is an amateur, to think they can board this ship alone and sneak up on him, of all people.

But then again . . . they did manage to get on the deck without anyone noticing. And if they've decided to challenge me voluntarily, then they probably have some confidence in their ability. Zoro was never the type of fool to underestimate an opponent, after all. Even one who overestimates themselves.

A threat – his senses finally conclude. Fine. I'll take care of it.

Tap, tap . . . tap, tap . . . their footsteps are light and slow.

He keeps his eye closed, waiting for the intruder to get closer. The element of surprise is always on Zoro's side.

Tap, tap . . . tap, tap . . .

His senses are screaming at him now, danger, danger, danger!

But Zoro is a patient man.

He waits for the perfect moment to catch this person by surprise . . .

Tap, tap . . . tap, tap . . .

Now.

His eye snaps open.

He pulls a sword from its hilt in a flash, swings it towards the intruder, then lets the tip of the steel abruptly stop just mere centimeters away from their neck.

The person freezes like a deer caught in headlights.

It's a girl.

Young, somewhere around Zoro's age, maybe younger. Her hand is outstretched, like she was reaching for him, but now it's unmoving. Her eyes are wide at the sight of the sword. There's fear in those eyes. Fear and confusion. Zoro is undeterred.

"How did you get here?" Zoro asks, not waiting for her protests or pleads.

He doesn't stand up, keeps the sword pointed at her. She looks weak; there's no way she could overpower Zoro in terms of strength, but he doesn't let his guard down. In the New World, nearly everyone has a trick up their sleeve.

He watches the girl's face. It twists, from bewilderment to uneasiness to even more confusion. "W-What?"

Feigning ignorance, huh. Zoro stands up. The girl takes a step back.

"How did you get on the ship?" He asks again, because if this girl was able to sneak on without any of them knowing, without Zoro knowing, then that means they are susceptible to even more danger. There could be others on-board who can mask their presence like she did.

"What . . ." Her eyes keep jumping from his face to the sword. The sight of it alone seems to have her stunned; she's as tense as a dry leaf. "What are you talking about?"

"I'm not going to ask again."

"This – this isn't funny, Zoro," She manages, her voice faltering. She knows who I am? He thinks. Probably a Marine. "Just, can- can you put the sword down already?"

She's trying to replace her fear with irritation, Zoro notices, but it's a weak attempt. There's a stammer in her voice, ruining the bravado she's aiming for.

He takes another step forward, lets the edge of his sword touch her neck, lets a trickle of blood flow down. "I told you, I won't ask again – "

"What the FUCK?"

Sanji comes at him like a whirlwind of color; he crashes between them, kicking Zoro's sword down and pushing the girl behind him in a flurry of movement. Zoro lets his sword fall, but he doesn't let go of it.

"What the FUCK are you doing?" Sanji practically screeches.

He doesn't wait for an answer; he glances behind him, checking on the girl. "Are you alright?" She's got her hand on her neck. A sliver of blood runs between her fingers. She's pale, shaking. She manages a small nod, her eyes never leaving Zoro.

Zoro frowns at the exchange. Sanji turns back to him, rage seeping from every corner of his face. "Are you out of your fucking mind? What the fuck was that about!?"

Zoro rolls his eyes, sheathing his sword. "Relax," He grunts, crossing his arms. Figures the stupid Chef would come between them; the Devil could be a woman and he'd still try to defend her to his last breath. Whatever. Zoro will let him have this one. Not like the girl was going to give a good fight, anyway.

He jerks his head towards the girl, asks, "You know her?" But Zoro could guess the answer to that. Probably some random local they met while he was asleep. Undoubtedly hitching a ride or grabbing a meal or whatever hospitality one of his crewmates offered. They tend to do that a lot.

But Sanji's reaction tells him neither one of those scenarios is the case. "Do I know her?" He repeats loudly, half disgusted, half dumbfounded. "Do I know her? Did sleeping in the sun burn a hole through your shitty brain? Are you that fucking stupid!?"

The animosity comes faster than Zoro expects. "Watch it," he growls, his hand hovering on the sword's hilt.

"No, you watch it!" Sanji snaps, and Zoro is momentarily taken aback at how real his anger is. Usually it takes a few more jabs before Sanji gets that look on his face. "Asking stupid fucking questions like 'do I know her', what the hell – and attacking her! You attacked her! I saw you! What the fuck, marimo!? I should break your fucking neck for pulling a stunt like that!"

Now his hand does grip the sword's hilt. "Keep yelling and I'll cut your tongue clean out of your mouth!" He never thought the cook's voice could reach such a high pitch. It's giving him a headache. "And calm the fuck down. It's barely a cut," he says about the girl. "If I wanted to actually cut her I would have done it from the beginning – "

Sanji kicks him. Hard.

The leg swings in wide arc and comes smashing down at him like a bullet, so fast that if Zoro's instincts hadn't warned him to raise his sword he would have definitely come out of this with a dislocated shoulder.

Leg and steel collide in a loud CLANG! sound, and Zoro is pushed back. He doesn't let the deadlock last; Zoro swings his sword down, pushing them apart roughly.

"What the fuck!" He shouts, because that wasn't a sparring kick like he usually receives when he baits the cook. That was the type of kick he would dish out to an enemy. Zoro pulls out another sword. This dumbass finally lost his mind.

The girl finally finds her voice. "Sanji-kun. Sanji-kun!" she says pleadingly. "Don't, please! Just stop!"

Zoro frowns at choice of honorific. So they do know each other, he realizes. But even while knowing that, he still feels like he's missing something here. He adjusts his grip on the swords. Something's going on with these two.

Sanji doesn't look at her. His glare burns daggers through Zoro. "I'm sorry, Nami-san, but I won't let him get away with hurting you like that."

Zoro scowls at the dramatics. "I barely grazed her."

Sanji's leg twitches. "You think this is funny!?"

But the girl grabs Sanji's arm before he can charge again. "Wait!" She gasps quickly. "Wait. Sanji-kun, just wait," she says hurriedly. She glances at Zoro cautiously. "I . . . don't think he's joking."

Sanji bristles. "That doesn't make it better!"

"That's not what I mean."

"What the fuck is going on," Zoro interrupts loudly. His headache is getting more prominent now. He points his sword at the girl. The gesture makes her flinch and Sanji bristle. "Who the hell is she, cook?"

Sanji looks like he wants to charge at him all over again, but the girl's grip on him is unrelenting. "Are you blind as well as brain-dead? That's Nami, you fucking dense asshole!"

Zoro frowns. "OK." He says slowly, as if that answer was helpful. "Then who the hell is Nami?"

"Who –" Sanji chokes on the word. He can't even bring himself to repeat the question. "Who's – who – what are you saying? That's Nami! Nami!"

Zoro grits hit teeth. "Repeating her name isn't an answer." He asks instead, "Why is she on the ship?"

"Zoro," the girl says cautiously. She's looking at him directly, searching his face. The way she says his name with such familiarity makes him uneasy. "You . . . you really don't know who I am?"

"Am I supposed to?"

"What the fuck," Sanji growls, looking between the two.

Then slowly, as no one says a word and the sound of waves splashing and gull squawking fill the air, Sanji's face begins to change. It changes to the awestruck one identical to the girl's. Then it changes again, as if he'd just made some horrific discovery in his mind.

Then he says, "Wait, what the fuck?"