"Mine is bigger!"
"No, MINE is!"
The swordsman and the cook faced off at the foot of the enormous carcasses they had brought down, glares evenly matched and volatile as lightning on water. They held it for a beat, then Sanji turned.
"Nami-san! You can tell, can't you? Clearly my kill is bigger!" He clasped his hands in supplication for her good favor, cigarette dangling perilously from his lips as he heartmarked in her direction.
"Hey, Luffy," Zoro said gruffly, turning to their captain, "Obviously I brought back the bigger animal."
Luffy's eyes were sparkling and he hauled his rubbery-loose jaw up with both hands. "MEAT! AMAZING! There's so much meat!" he enthused. "INCREDIBLE!"
Zoro twitched, then turned to Nami. "Hey, you can see, can't you--"
Nami, both hands on her hips, stifled the urge to roll her eyes hard enough to hurt. "What I can SEE," she began loudly, overriding them both, "is a lot of meat that isn't going to fit on our boat!"
That thought stopped Zoro and Sanji in their tracks hard enough to leave skid marks across their faces. Behind Nami, she could hear the tickly-cough sound of Vivi trying to suppress laughter.
"Right," Zoro said, turning and heading for the ship. "Usopp, take care of it, would you?"
Their long-nosed gunner leapt back. "Me!?" he screeched in dismay. "What do I know about butchering a carcass? Especially one as big as that?" He stabbed a finger in the direction of the fallen dinosaur.
Zoro waved a hand. "Well, I'm not going to dull my swords on bones the size of our main mast..." He trailed off. Sanji was moving briskly past him, headed for the Going Merry's boarding ramp. "Huh?"
"Sanji, where do you think you're going?" Nami inquired sweetly, a dangerous glint in her eye. They were not going to leave her with two gigantic, stinky carcasses. Oh, no.
Sanji tossed a casual look over one thin shoulder, hands in his pockets. "Getting some carving knives, of course." That disinterested eye passed over Zoro, then the tip of his cigarette flared as he turned again. "I'm man enough to finish what I start."
"Wh-what did you say!?" Zoro sputtered, breaking into a run. He passed Sanji easily, ignoring the blood that soaked into his socks from the deep cuts he'd given himself. Blood squelched underfoot in his boots.
A blur of pinstriped black passed him.
Sanji barred his way to the kitchen, glaring up at him beneath the fringe of his blond bangs. "Just how," he demanded coldly, "do you think you're going to carve up your monster?"
Zoro was floored. "Uh...with a knife?" Unthinkingly he put his hand on one of his hilts.
Sanji gave him a grin that was positively sharklike. "One of my knives?"
Indignance hit. "Hey, wait just a minute!" Zoro protested, then grinned back every bit as predatorily. "Nami-san does want the meat carved up...you gonna butcher my kill for me, or make her do it?"
"N-Nami-san..." Sanji's cigarette wobbled.
Before Zoro could be deluged with hearts from the other man's eyes, he brushed past him into the kitchen. "Thought not," he sniffed, then folded his arms. "So. Which one should I use?" He'd make use of it if Sanji handed it to him, but he wasn't going to root around in another man's tools.
"I knew it! You've never butchered anything before!" Sanji lamented, but he was moving for the chopping block, pulling knives out, testing them, and sheathing them again in one stroke. He sighed, put his cigarette out, and went for a little closet Zoro had never really noticed in their kitchen before. He didn't do kitchens.
From the pantry, Sanji emerged with two wide, wickedly-sharp looking knives almost as long as he was tall, with double-handed wooden grips. He was whistling softly and looked inordinately satisfied. "Knew these would come in handy..."
Zoro stared. "Where the hell did you get those!?"
"Roguetown, of course," Sanji said. "Before the cooking contest, I heard you'd need these to butcher half the edible monsters in the Grand Line. Think you can handle one of these?"
"Who do you think you're talking to?" Zoro said, arching a brow.
Sanji smirked and tossed him one, displaying casual strength to handle such an immense blade with such deftness. Zoro reached out and caught it one-handed by the haft.
"Now," Sanji said, "we'll see whose meat makes the biggest pile."
"My pile of meat is bigger!" Zoro proclaimed, stabbing his carving knife into the bottom-most steak. It oozed.
"No, MINE is!" Sanji retorted, crossing his arms and spitting his spent cigarette butt in Zoro's direction.
Nami ground her teeth as she stared back and forth between the piles of meat, trying to ignore Luffy as he capered around warbeling something about meat and how great it was. It was clear to her now that neither man would budge until honor, or rather their egos, had been satisfied. Little Garden's jungle was seething with heat and bugs and she would've been happy to board an hour ago. And it was clearly up to her, since their captain was enthusiastic about ALL of the meat and Usopp was by the riverside commiserating with Running Fast.
She motioned to Vivi. "You know, there's a simple way to settle this," she told the princess, then whispered in her ear. Vivi stared at her a moment, then nodded and turned for the ship.
"You know, no matter what we do we're not going to be able to fit all of that on the Going Merry," Nami said, fisting her hands on her hips and jerking her chin at the leaning towers of protein.
"SO~! MUCH~! MEAT~!" Luffy caroled, twirling around them and capering around to the far side of the steak stacks again.
Zoro set his chin in that stubborn way that Nami recognized. He employed it in the determination to spend his life to win a battle on down to trivial things...like whose was bigger. Testosterone, Nami had long since decided, was a poison but it was disappointing to see it in operation with an otherwise reasonable fellow.
"That doesn't matter," he declared with manly arrogance. "Finding out who dragged back the bigger kill, that's the issue at hand, not whether it fits on the boat or not."
Nami shook her head, trying not to gnash her back molars. "Didn't the two giants' story teach you anything?" she demanded, thinking about how long their fight had raged on Little Garden. Then she remembered she was talking to the man who'd tried to cut his feet off so that he could stump down and fight Mr. 3.
The men stared blankly at her.
"Never mind," Nami sighed. She brightened. "Ah! Vivi!"
The princess returned with two rulers, handing one to Nami and flicking her blue ponytail over her shoulder. "We'll settle this once and for all," she said, then quickly put her hand to her mouth, stifling another snicker.
"Yes, we will," Nami said resolutely, though she didn't know whether she had the nerve to go through with this. She looked up at the bloody piles of dinosaur steaks. Then again, the alternative...
"A ruler!" Sanji brightened. "That's fair, yes, of course the wonderful Nami-san would come up with a reasonable way to break the tie..." He clasped his hands together and threatened to swoon.
"Uh-huh," Nami said, striding toward him.
Vivi tittered nervously, then headed for Zoro.
"Ah, at last," Zoro said, folding his arms over his chest, grinning in an infuriating way. "A measurable way to prove my superiority."
You have no idea, Nami thought, taking her ruler between her teeth. She seized Sanji by the top edge of his pants and he stopped swooning, giving her a shell-shocked look.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Bushido!" Vivi burst out, red-faced, and before Zoro could step back or get wise to the situation, she rode his sash up...and yanked his pants down.
"AAAAGH!" Zoro yelled, as if he were being violated by a horde of burly seamen instead of one lovely princess. "AAGH! STOP! QUIT IT!"
"N-Nami-san!" Sanji exclaimed, and dropped like a felled tree. Twin streams of blood spurted from his nose.
"Good," Nami muttered, "that makes it easier."
Vivi marked her ruler by pinching the appropriate mark between thumb and forefinger and stumbled back, cheeks a brilliant shade of pink. She held her ruler up. Nami stood and they compared measurements.
"I knew it!" Zoro fumed, yanking his pants back up. "I knew you can't trust women, not any women!"
"Don't be silly," Nami said, squinting. "You wanted to know whose is bigger. I'm just cutting to the core of the competition, that's all."
Zoro grabbed Sanji by the scruff of the neck and began dragging the cook for the Going Merry's ramp. The unconscious man's heels bounced with every step. "Women...they're all treacherous..." He cast one last baleful look over his shoulder.
"Oh, Zoro?" Nami called out, putting on her best sugary tone.
The swordsman paused, back stiffly facing them.
"Yours IS bigger."
Even from the distance, Nami could see red creeping up Zoro's neck.
Sanji flailed into consciousness.
"Ack--what'd you--watch it, will you?" Zoro spluttered, leaping back. "Your feet are certifiable weapons."
Sanji sniffed. "Horseradish?" he said suspiciously, wondering why Zoro had been digging around in his pantry.
"Yeah, well...it was the best thing I could think of." Zoro tossed the little jar to the table where it rolled to a stop. He gave Sanji an evil grin. "Got you movin', didn't it?"
He took a step, paled, and tension wired his spine straight. "I -- I think I'm hungry," Zoro told him, reaching for the nearest chair, dragging it close, and seating himself.
"Bullshit," Sanji said, eyeing him. He took out a fresh cigarette and pointed at Zoro with it. "Blood loss. What'd you do this time?" He remembered the way Zoro had fought when they were up against Arlong's men. The man had to've lost at least a pint of blood, maybe more.
"Uh..." Zoro furrowed his brow and tugged at one boot. As it came off, a stream of blood coursed from the boot, pooling on the floor.
"SHIT!" Reflexively Sanji grabbed for a mop, but none was to hand. "What the hell DID you do?"
Zoro pulled his other boot off, creating another sticky pool that merged with the first. "Nothing," he muttered. Then he peeled his socks off, stuffing them into his boots. They squelched.
"Like hell..." Sanji could see the cuts now, bloody crescents that sliced open the sides of his calves. "You try to cut your feet off, or something?" He located the mop. First things first, and the kitchen floor was not going to be stained on his watch.
Zoro muttered even lower than the last time, and it sounded like "something like that." Sanji shook his head.
"Well, someone's going to have to stitch you up," he sighed, stowing the mop and rinsing his hands. He couldn't possibly subject Nami-san or Vivi to such an indelicate operation, and as for the other two...Luffy would botch it up, and Usopp was probably too squeamish. "Stay right there."
He returned from the pantry with a needle and thread. Zoro was watching him like a child ready to bolt, until Sanji produced a bottle of grog and thrust it at him.
"Now that's more like it," Zoro said happily, grasping it and uncorking it with his teeth.
"Too bad you can't swill yourself insensible before I start," Sanji murmured, kneeling beside him. The gashes were deep. Zoro really had meant to cut his feet off. "I'm not even going to ask how this happened."
"We were stuck, okay? Stuck on a dais of wax and the air was full of hot paraffin," Zoro said in argumentative tones, then tipped the bottle back for a good long pull. "If I was gonna die, I was at least gonna take someone with me."
Sanji raised an eyebrow. "Yeah, well...if you'd lived after that, there's no good in trying to be the world's greatest swordsman without two feet to walk on."
Zoro had no response for that.
"OW!" he howled, as Sanji put needle to skin and began the first of what would be many stitches. "Ow, ow...ow! What are you, a butcher!?"
"Don't complain," Sanji said, unsympathetic. "You wanna do this yourself?"
Zoro frantically gulped down more grog.
The rough surgery lasted about fifteen minutes. Wounds stitched, Sanji asked for the bottle long enough to splash booze on the stitches and hope Zoro's strong constitution took care of the rest. When it was over Sanji rinsed his bloody hands off. Damned if he was going to rinse Zoro's feet. The idiot swordsman could take care of that himself.
The idiot swordsman was already pulling on his socks and shoes again.
Sanji pulled a disgusted face and Zoro returned it with a 'what?' expression. Then he tipped up the bottle and finished off the grog before Sanji could ask for it back.
"All aboooooard!" Luffy whooped, from somewhere outside. "Zoro, we need you to weigh anchor!"
Zoro peeled himself off the chair, getting to his feet with a grunt. "Not bad," he said appreciatively, testing his footing. He waved a hand over his shoulder as he moved for the kitchen door. "Thanks."
"Hey," Sanji said, shoving his hands deep in his pocket. The matter had been shelved, but he sure hadn't forgotten! "The contest...who won?" A flush of heat crept up his neck and face at the recollection of events that had led up to blood-spraying unconsciousness.
The swordsman paused. "It was a tie," Zoro said gruffly over his shoulder.
Sanji watched him from the corner of his eye as he departed. Without comment, he fished out a cigarette, struck a match, and kindled his tobacco, moving to the door where he could see Luffy and Usopp performing the last chores to make the Going Merry seaworthy. He was willing to let it go.
He could afford to be a magnanimous winner, after all.