Sanji watched Zoro from across the table. All around him, the crew was laughing and joking. Forks clicked against his stoneware plates and cake crumbs littered the white cloth he’d thrown over the table before dinner. The tea kettle and coffee carafe were getting low and the ice cubes in the water pitcher were almost gone. But Sanji couldn’t be bothered by any of that. He was too focused on Zoro.

Zoro wasn’t paying any attention to him though. His eye was bright and his smile wide, the deep baritone of his laugh echoing off the walls of the galley. The lights overhead cast small shadows from his tufted bangs over his forehead and caught his earrings as he turned his head, the soft jingle only adding to the noise of the room. The swordsman’s cheeks were flushed, a testament to how much he’d drank today and no one had dared touch the last onigiri that still sat on the serving tray before him— a snack for later, Sanji knew.

With shaky fingers, Sanji reached into his breast pocket and drew a cigarette from his pack, leaning to the side slightly to pull his lighter from his pocket. Placing the stick between his lips, Sanji brought his lighter up, sparking the flame to life as he continued to watch Zoro over the flicker of the blue fire. Snapping it closed, he set it on the table, exhaling that first drag toward the ceiling and trying to pick Zoro’s voice from the chaos of the room.

It was mostly just babbled banter. Dares to keep Usopp and Luffy drinking, but Sanji caught the quick nod and mumbled ‘thank you’ when Nami handed everyone a tangerine, as was custom on special days, and the excited ‘come on’ when Chopper asked to sit in his lap. Sanji smirked around his cigarette as he, like everyone else, peeled back the thin skins of their fruits and for a moment conversation stopped.

Sanji watched Zoro as he set his down, half peeled, onto the table to peel Chopper’s for him, the little reindeer unable to do so with his hooves. Then, as he bent his head to listen to what their doctor was saying, picked his tangerine back up and kept on where he’d left off. He took his time, ate his piece of fruit, slowly and carefully, same as everyone one did, but Sanji noticed how Zoro, Nami, Usopp, himself, and yes, even Luffy, always seemed to savor the flavor longer, eat a little slower than the rest of the crew.

“These seem,” Zoro paused, chewing the piece of fruit in his mouth and swallowing. “I don’t know, they seem sweeter somehow. Than before, I mean.”

“I hadn’t noticed,” Robin replied, looking over to where Nami had paused in eating her own fruit. “Did you do something different to them, Nami?”

“Just tastes like home to me,” she replied quietly, inspecting a new slice carefully. Looking up, she grinned at everyone. “Come on! It’s Zoro’s birthday! Let’s not get all depressive!”

“Well said, Nami-swan!” Sanji spoke up, reaching out to flick ash into the tray on the table. As he looked up, he met Zoro’s gaze, the gray of his eye flashing in the lights. Sanji couldn’t look away and Zoro didn’t either, and Sanji felt his skin shiver in anticipation.

“Hey,” Zoro started, and to Sanji everything else fell away. All the noise, all the clamber of the kitchen, hell, even the sound of the waves crashing against the side of the ship. The only thing Sanji could focus on was Zoro and the sound of his voice. “After dinner…”

Sanji nodded as Zoro trailed off, and Zoro pursed his lips before nodding sharply himself and returning his attention to Chopper. Sanji didn’t mind as the chaos flooded his hearing once more and he took another drag off his cigarette. There was no need for words to be spoken between them, enough had been said already.

Leaning back in his chair, Sanji watched Zoro and thought about the different things that could happen after dinner had been cleaned up tonight. He could feel Zoro’s hands against his skin, warm palms and rough calluses and Sanji could almost taste the sake that he knew the other man had been drinking all night long. He could smell the lingering scent of the polishing oil he used when cleaning his swords and his fingers twitched with a want to run them through Zoro’s hair, the fluffy strands much softer than he’d ever admit to them being. He could hear the harsh pants and taste the salt of slicked skin, feel the heat of the moment and picture the storm of excitement in Zoro’s heated gaze.

Yet, for now, Sanji watched, content to sit back and wait. At the end of the day, when all was said and done, and the crew had given all they could to Zoro, Sanji would just be beginning, making sure that Zoro’s birthday was one he would be remembering until Sanji could outdo himself next year.