A low grunt sounded in the quiet room and the muscles under Zoro's hands tensed. The swordsman issued his own grunt of disapproval at the reaction and rubbed harder at the bunched muscles beneath his fingers.
"Stop trying to act tough." He rumbled, "It's better if I know where the damn pain is."
"Che," the body beneath his noised and shifted under the scarred hands assault. "Would you let yourself make a noise, shitty swordsman."
Under any other circumstances the only touching that went on between Zoro and Sanji was when they sparred or argued and even then it was only to attack one another. Over the years the crew had spent together though as they'd grown closer they'd all discovered skills and abilities none of them knew they had. Zoro had discovered early on that he was a natural masseuse. It didn't seem likely with his heavy hand and gung-ho approach to life when it came to battle, but those rough hands could work magic over aching muscle.
Luffy had been the first to discover Zoro's hidden talent shortly after his battle with Aoikiji. Though Luffy recovered fast (faster than Robin anyway) to being frozen solid, he wasn't left without residual pain and symptoms. For several weeks his skin remained numb, his limbs sluggish. Several times throughout the day he fidgeted and squirmed as he underwent painfully slow treatment in the form of massage from Chopper. Luffy's patience only stretched so far however and before long he refused the massages (much to Chopper's exasperation) and considered the chase the little reindeer gave a much more exciting game. Chopper's reprieve came in the form of Zoro when said swordsman offered to give Luffy the treatment himself. Chopper seemed dubious to hand over his medical care to one as inexperienced as Zoro but reluctantly agreed. After all at least Luffy would get some form of treatment, and then Chopper could focus more attention on Robin who was recovering much slower.
Zoro was prepared for the resistance Luffy was bound to show but as his rough hands rubbed against his captain's skin Luffy remained suspiciously quiet. The treatment continued without event and Zoro even found himself being woken by his boisterous Captain when it was time for his next massage.
Nami was the next to happen upon Zoro's secret talent. It was on Luffy's suggestion that Zoro had 'really good mystery hands to make pain go away' that she approached her crewmate. Awkward was an understatement as she fumbled around her request, but they soon fell into a comfortable banter as Zoro haggled a debt reduction for his services. He would have done it for free of course, and Nami knew that, but this way it felt more natural and less like she owed him. She hated owing anybody anything.
Over the months that followed it somehow became general knowledge around the ship that Zoro was the go-to guy for such things. After-battle aches, torn tendons and twisted muscles. Somehow his rough hands worked their magic to soothe away the brunt of the pain. There was one crew member however that outright refused any such treatment. Sanji scoffed at the idea of the brutish swordsman running his hands over his body. The thought made him wretch and shudder. Franky, Luffy and Usopp might allow such things under certain circumstances but surely they couldn't understand how this affected their manliness.
It was much to Sanji's disdain however that after a particularly nasty battle after an encounter at sea with another pirate crew he found himself quite tender. His back had taken the majority of the damage dealt to him as he had been bombarded from all sides, the bandages wound thick about his torso a testament to the day's attack. He shouldn't have been surprised when he'd forgone rest to scrub up after dinner that night and his back had locked into spasm. He'd cursed violently as his legs seemed to morph into jelly and he'd crumpled to a heap on the floor, a white knuckled grip around the dish cloth in his hand. That was how Zoro had found him. That was how he found himself in this position now.
"...the hell'd you come in here for anyway?" Sanji mumbled bitterly.
"A drink." Zoro replied curtly as his knuckles pressed against the chef's spine in rhythmic motions.
They lapsed into silence again, awkward and heavy as Zoro worked out the knotted muscle in Sanji's back.
"I didn't ask for your help." Sanji muttered, though he had to admit, he could understand now why his crewmates went to Zoro for this 'treatment'. It almost felt as though the swordsman was pushing out the pain with his bare hands.
Sanji grunted again as Zoro's hands worked out a particularly tough knot of tense muscle. His fists clenched and his teeth clamped down on his bottom lip. "Fuck."
Zoro didn't bother to respond. It was true Sanji hadn't asked for his help. He'd protested violently when Zoro had moved to offer his services but Zoro wasn't one to be denied so easily and Sanji was in no state to fight it out. After a brief struggle he had the blonde flat on his stomach on the floor with his shirt bunched about his shoulders. He didn't ask Sanji to remove any clothes or give him any information; he doubted he would have gained anything useful if he had. The only thing escaping Sanji's snarling lips were curses and profanity the likes of which would make a sailor blush. It was only when he realised Zoro was there to stay that Sanji quieted and struggled to endure the treatment in silence.
By the time Zoro was satisfied with his 'work' the sun had been sank for a number of hours and the moon high in the sky. He didn't say a word as he climbed from his knelt position beside Sanji, tugged down the chef's shirt and then stood and yanked his ward back onto his feet with a distinct lack of the careful treatment he'd shown over the past hours. Sanji couldn't help the small yelp that escaped his lips at the sudden motion. He's almost slipped into a sleepy lull by that time and then to suddenly find himself on his feet and relatively pain free certainly came as a shock.
Zoro hesitated a moment as he watched Sanji test his balance. Neither looked at the other as Zoro, satisfied that the cook would now be okay, made his way to the wine cabinet and pulled out three bottles. Neither said a word as he languidly strolled from the room, rolling his shoulders to ease the cramp that settled there over the past hours. Sanji didn't linger far behind; his pride wounded and back healing, he walked with careful pace to the men's cabin where he collapsed into bed.
A quiet shuffling to the side of him alerted the cook that at least one other man was awake and he squinted into the darkness only to find two wide eyes smiling back at him.
"Zoro's got 'mystery hands', ne Sanji?" he whispered, glad that his cook had obviously been helped.
Luffy chuckled out a quiet 'shishishi' and even in the darkness Sanji could make out his smile. "It was good, right?"
Sanji struck a match and lit a cigarette before he shook the flame from existence and gazed at the ceiling, his face illuminated by the soft glow of the tip. For a long moment it seemed as if he wouldn't answer, but as his cigarette burned to a stump and he snubbed it out against a plate beside his bed he had to admit it. It felt fucking great.
Satisfied, Luffy closed his eyes and settled down to sleep again. Sanji sighed into the quiet of the room and frowned to himself. If that Marimo breathed one word of this to anybody he's make sure he would be the one that needed a damn miracle massage! With a grumpy string of muttered insults directed towards said Marimo Sanji settled in for the night and tried not to think about how damn good his back felt.