a/n: just wanted to let you guys know that im going to be going to bonnaroo this year, so i probably wont upload for a while after this bc i plan on having a real good time while im there

also this chapter marks the last of my setting shit up plotwise so now the real fun story parts can start and the big huge eventual in the story description can finally get started so

thanks for sticking with it this far i know its been really boring but itll start to pick up and get exciting real soon i swear

When Monday came around, Sanji found himself at a loss with what he was supposed to do. He'd half expected Zoro to either send him an e-mail asking him to hang out or for the oaf to drop by on his own while on his way to work to harass him, but when the day came and went without a single word or irritating action from the punk, he became confused, and then became confused as to why he felt confused.

They weren't friends, and only became acquaintances through awkward and forced interaction. Still, being brushed off so completely left him feeling abandoned, and he wasn't sure why he felt he should feel that way exactly. Just the other day he'd been wishing for contact with Zoro to come to an end, and yet today he found himself wondering why his wish had come true.

He kept an ear out to listen for when Zoro came and went, but even though he heard him loudly coming and going, Sanji didn't make a move to engage him in the stairwell. He wasn't sure what he even wanted to say to him, and wasn't sure when Chopper was or wasn't with him and certainly didn't want to cause a scene involving the monstrous dog.

Confused, (and still confused about that), he spent the day cooking and smoking and watching tv alone. If Usopp's art show was Wednesday, and Zoro had promised to take him along, then surely the punk would at least try to contact him by Tuesday to work out the details. The man was an idiot, but surely he wasn't stupid enough to think that Sanji was some kind of a mind-reader who could anticipate what was expected of him. Hell, Sanji didn't even know where the gallery was, and he sure as shit wasn't going to be pleased with him if Zoro came down to get him with only a four minute warning before they were wanted at the show.

With this logic in mind, he relented himself to sleep and waited to see what Tuesday brought him, though it became increasingly clear to him as he made himself breakfast that morning that Zoro wasn't going to initiate anything with him if he didn't have to, and maybe, just maybe, he really was that dull. Scowling down fiercely into his plate of pancakes, Sanji wished he'd gotten Nami's number when he'd had the chance. If Zoro wasn't going to follow up on his promise by giving him details about what they were meant to do tomorrow, Sanji bet Nami at least would give him the specifics.

As he ate, he noted that his mood was interfering with what should have been a very sweet breakfast, but was instead leaving a bitter taste in his mouth. He rolled his eyes, admiring how much Zoro was able to piss him off without even having to be around to do it. As he spread some syrup over his pancakes, he put his troubles with Zoro aside and tried to enjoy his own cooking before the punk could completely ruin his morning.

After he'd finished eating and cleaned his station, he continued the rest of his morning routine to bathe and shave and dress himself for the day, though as he stood before the bathroom mirror- adjusting his tie and appreciating his form- he gradually came to realize he had nowhere to go.

He was still becoming used to the idea that he no longer had to go to work, and became annoyed that there was nowhere he was needed so the could show himself off. Feeling that this was all somehow Zoro's fault (even though it was rightly all Zeff's), Sanji grabbed his coat and cigarettes and stepped outside for a smoke.

The rain that had afflicted the area over the last couple days had finally passed by, but the weather was still dreadfully chilled. The clouds remained cluttered and grey in the sky, and held in the unpleasantness the rain had brought with it. Stepping out onto the sidewalk, he looked around for one of his usual smoking partners but found himself alone with the threatening atmosphere. He pulled out his pack regardless and withdrew a cigarette that he then struggled to to get lit in the wind, and while he stood there, he wondered if he was going to spend his day as productively as he'd spent the last.

Finally having won the battle to light his cigarette, he bared his teeth at the wind and tried to enjoy his smoke as best he could given the circumstances. Alone, time that usually passed by quickly for him when shared with other smokers seemed to drag now. He quickly became bored, but had no desire to stub his cigarette out early now that he'd gone through all the hassle of trying to light it.

Slipping his pack back into his pocket, his hand brushed up against his phone, igniting an interest within him. Deciding it might be worthwhile to check, he withdrew it to see if he'd either received some word from Zoro or an apology from Zeff, but found himself the recipient of neither.

Unlocking the screen, he navigated to his email window anyway and refreshed it, hoping to see some new message that his phone had failed to alert him to. There was nothing new amidst the filtered inbox, causing his mood to descend further into annoyed territory that made his eyebrow twitch. He even checked through his spam folder, but didn't see Zoro's name anywhere between the emails advertising free viagra and other genital aids.

Huffing angrily on his cigarette, Sanji brought up the window to compose a new email and addressed it to Zoro's ridiculous address, but paused when he got to the subject line and the message body boxes, wondering what exactly it was he wanted to say. Blowing out smoke through his nostrils, he was about to put his phone away when an idea struck him that would both alleviate him of his boredom and give him an excuse to talk to Zoro face to face.

He left the subject line blank as he typed out, 'where do you work?', and hit send. Satisfied, he slipped his phone back into his pocket and remained standing outside alone until he'd finished his smoke.

When he went back inside, he checked his phone again to see if Zoro had a reply, but saw nothing as he took his coat off and hung it on the coatrack by the door. Anticipation built up within him as he waited for Zoro to reply, though he wouldn't get one until thirty minutes later. When his phone finally buzzed with the response, he excitedly checked but quickly found himself disappointed when he read Zoro's curt answer.

'dont even think about it'

"Well, I am," he said to himself lamely in retort.

He stared down at the message and made several attempts at creating a suitable reply to send back that would illustrate why exactly they needed to talk, but found that any excuse to meet Zoro at his place of employment that he tried to come up with seemed faked and awkward, and so he left it alone. Dejected, he dropped onto his sofa and tossed his phone onto the cushion at the other end, almost missing the way the screen lit up to alert him to a new message.

Sanji looked at it crossly and let out a loud, exaggerated sigh as he leaned over to grab and check it. He stayed stretched belly down on the couch as he saw that he'd gotten another message from Zoro.

Wondering what insult the bastard had forgotten to add on to his reply, he pulled open the email and was surprised to see that the message was from Nami instead.

'We work at Super-Star! Guitars downtown. Google it; there's directions to the store on the website.

And bring us some lunch! Zoro wouldn't share your food last time, and it smelled delicious! I'd love to try some :p

(heart) Nami'

Her voice read the message to him three times over in his mind as his eyes scanned over each line of text. Elated, he swooned and rolled off the sofa, hearts in his eyes as he landed on the floor, clutching the phone tightly to his chest like the lovestruck fool he felt he was. She wanted to see him, even if Zoro didn't! Oh, her beauty and kindness knew no bounds. His mood elevated him off the floor, and he all but floated into the kitchen as he set about preparing meals to bring along with him, as per Nami's request.

Still spurned by Zoro's comment of how his cooking had been just 'okay' the last time he'd shared it with him, he created a boring, chilled meat sandwich for the tasteless bassist and was then left wondering what sort of food would impress the gracious Nami.

Mentally stocked with the Baratie's entire menu, he tried to pick something off of it that would be quick to make and suit her tastes, even though he knew absolutely nothing in terms of what she liked to eat and what she didn't. Not knowing her on a personal level made making decisions about what to make for her difficult, and as he looked around his kitchen for ideas, his eye landed on a piece of fruit he thought she may have made mention of the other day.

"A-ha!" he exclaimed, picking up the orange he'd found and set about creating a simple, yet elegant, tasteful fruit salad he was certain Nami would appreciate.

While he pulled up directions to the store on his phone, he packed the lunches and some disposable silverware into spare tupperware containers and then put on his coat and left. Locking his apartment after him, he hurried out to his car and excitedly began the drive to Super-Star! Guitars.

The packaged meals sat in the passenger seat as he drove, and he noticed on the way that the guitar shop was relatively close to the Baratie. He kept an eye on the navigation as it lead him along, a growing sense of anticipation brewing within him as he imagined Nami's reaction to his food, becoming so caught up in his fantasy that he nearly drove past the store once he turned onto the street.

He recognized Zoro's motorcycle parked on the sidewalk, attached to the bicycle rack and rolled his eyes at the way the green-haired idiot was crass enough to believe himself above basic road regulations. Coasting slowly and looking for a place to park, he found that every store-front spot was taken, leading him to drive down to the end of the street to an advertised public lot. Parking as close to the entrance as he could, he quickly got out of the car and grabbed up the lunches he'd prepared and then swiftly locked his car to make his way back down the street as casually and quickly as he could, hardly able to suppress his grin as he walked to the store.

Super-Star! Guitars was bigger than it'd looked from his car, such that he was momentarily overwhelmed when he finally approached it. Ignoring that it was as big as a Best Buy (and apparently just as popular), Sanji opened the glass door and stepped inside, and even though he knew it was a place that sold guitars, he still found himself surprised by the sheer amount of instruments that littered the sales floor and hung displayed on the walls. He stood in place as he looked around, taking in everything he saw until Nami caught his attention.

"Sanjay!" she exclaimed from behind her position at the counter, grinning cheerily and waving him over.

"Sanji, actually," he politely corrected, smiling as he skirted past a few exiting customers and placed the containers of food in front of her. He glanced around briefly, looking around for Zoro, but didn't see him anywhere in the immediate vicinity.

"Sorry, I was watching Sanjay and Craig before work," she said sheepishly as she stood up and looked at the containers hungrily. "Oh man, did you really bring us lunch?"

"Of course!" he declared, turning his attention back around to dote on her. "I can't resist fulfilling the desires of a woman as beautiful as you."

Much to his delight, she laughed as he picked out which tupperware container held her salad. He pulled the top off and presented it to her, garnering a smile of delight as she looked down at what he'd made for her.

"Oh wow, it looks delicious," she said as he provided her with a fork. She wasted no time in digging in, puncturing as much lettuce and fruits onto the end of her fork as she could before shoving it all in her mouth.

Sanji watched as her face morphed into an expression of ecstasy and admiration and felt his heartbeat quicken in response.

"Holy shit, this is good; how did you make a salad taste so good? You really are a five-star chef!"

Pleased, he grinned but didn't reply so as to let her enjoy her lunch. He glanced around for Zoro again as he picked up the container holding his sandwich and then asked, "So, where's moss for brains?"

"Oh, mm, he's, ah, hang on."

Putting the fork down, Nami wiped her mouth clean of the dressing that had smeared across it and then leaned forward to point across the store.

"See that banner that says lessons? He's back there doing that," she said, and though she sounded serious, Sanji couldn't help but snort and quirk his brow.

"Lessons? The guys a music teacher?" he asked incredulously.

Nami laughed as she recognized his expression and nodded earnestly, grabbing her salad and sitting back in her chair.

"Well, he doesn't teach theory or anything like that, but he's damn good at all kinds of guitar," she remarked with a wink. "He looks scary, but he's really good at what he does. He's in a lesson right now, but if you talk to Brook back there he'll let you wait around 'till he's done."

"Thank you, my beautiful darling! I'll come back and see you on my way out," Sanji said with a flourish, bowing a bit before heading in the direction Nami had pointed out to him.

He took great care in avoiding the instruments on display as he made his way towards the large lessons banner. Peering down the hallway, he saw the oddly decorated waiting room and a small office with a man inside that he assumed was Brook.

Walking forward, Sanji took his time in progressing down the length of the hallway to admire all the various portraits of musicians that were hung along the walls. The sounds of patrons trying out guitars followed him as he moved along, thanking Zeff and his older taste in music that he was able to recognize most of the classic rock guitarists that gazed back at him. As he reached the end of the hall, he noticed that a few punk musicians had made their way onto the wall as well, and Sanji sarcastically wondered who they had to thank for that.

Criticizing the taste in tack, outdated waiting room decor, Sanji quickly walked through it to knock on the office door. Brook looked up from the computer he'd been typing into and gave Sanji a smile before he stood up to open the door.

"Hello!" he greeted, smiling broadly. "What can I help you with?"

"I'm here for Zoro," Sanji said, holding out the sandwich container to explain himself.

Brook cocked his head pleasantly and stared down at him quietly for a moment before he let out an odd laugh and beckoned Sanji to follow him back into his office.

Hesitantly, Sanji followed after him, looking back over his shoulder to the waiting room he thought he'd be sitting in. Brook sat back down in front of his computer and began typing and pulling up various windows that left Sanji to look around at the photographs he had scattered on his desk.

"What's your name?" Brook asked, causing Sanji to look back at what he was doing.

"Er, Sanji?" he replied, watching as Brook typed it into the window he had open.

"Last name?"

Shaking his head in an attempt to clear his confusion, Sanji floundered before saying, "It's Black, but, uh, why do you need that? Is this protocol for every visitor he has?"

"Well, you're a new student, aren't you?" Brook replied as he entered in his surname, swiveling around in his chair to look up at him expectantly when he'd finished. "I'm merely putting you in the system, is all."

Sanji's mouth formed an 'o' as he realized that Brook had mistaken him as one of Zoro's potential clients.

"Oh, no, no, I'm just here to drop off his lunch, I'm not signing up for lessons-" he tried to clarify, when Brook cut him off.

"You simply must! I've already input your name and created a student profile for you, it's only a matter of picking a day and time now," Brook said, chuckling. "And trust me, it's much easier to put you in than to take you out."

"I don't… I don't even have an instrument to learn how to play," Sanji tried to explain, though his argument seemed to be falling on indifferent ears. "I'm really only here to leave him some food at Nami's request."

"Ah! You're one of Nami's friends, are you? Well, then she can vouch for Zoro as well! You don't even need an instrument; you can pick anything out here and bring it into the lesson with you."


"I know Zoro would appreciate it. He could always use the business, and you wouldn't regret it either! Music is wonderful, and knowing how to create it is a gift for all ages."

Brook's speech was enthusiastic and encouraging, but Sanji shook his head no all the same. He was about to turn out of the office and rejoin Nami at the front to leave Zoro's food with her when his eye caught sight of one of the framed photographs on Brook's desk. Taken by surprise with what he saw, he stepped further into the office instead and leaned in close to examine the picture.

"Is this you with Jimi Hendrix?" he asked, turning towards Brook with a look of awe on his face.

Brook laughed loudly and nodded, picking up the photograph and handing it over to Sanji so he could look it over closer.

"Indeed it is! We performed at Woodstock together back in '69; we were very good friends."

"Holy shit," Sanji breathed, admiration gripping him like a vice. "Wait, did you say 'performed'?"

Handing the picture back, Brook took it and looked at it fondly.

"Ah, yes, in the days of my prime I was once called the Soul King. Jimi and I toured together frequently, and playing those festivals with him was truly an honour."

"Soul King?" Sanji asked skeptically, giving the older man a scrutinizing look. "You're the Soul King? I thought the Soul King died back in the 80's."

"Yes, well, sometimes it really is better to burn out than to fade away," Brook said thoughtfully, wistfully looking away to some of the other photographs that were aligned on his desk, immersing himself in his past. "Rust never sleeps, you know."

Taking in his words, Sanji silently looked at the other photos and saw that Brook really must have been the fabled Soul King. The appearance of the tall, thin, afroed man in the pictures was certainly younger than the man he was talking to, but age did little to deter from his more recognizable features.

"My old man loves you," Sanji commented quietly, earning a chuckle from the somber-faced has-been. "You were really famous, what're you doing working here?"

"Sharing my talent!" Brook suddenly exclaimed, standing upright with such gusto that Sanji was taken by surprise and almost knocked his head back against the wall as he scampered backwards to escape his enthusiasm. "I give lessons here, of course! The Soul King may be dead, but that does not mean his spirit can't keep sharing his gift and knowledge of music!"

"That's, very uh, noble of you," Sanji said. "But I thought Zoro was…?"

"Oh, Zoro and I teach different things! He covers guitar, bass, and some other things, while I cover other classical instruments and basic music theory, but make no mistake! If you were thinking of switching from Zoro to me, I won't have it! I already have you listed as one of Zoro's pupils."

Brook gave him a suspicious leer as Sanji started to say, "Hang on, I never said I agreed to that-!" just as the double doors opened and Zoro stepped out, guitar in hand, with a young boy.

"See you next week, Momonosuke," Zoro said, pulling on the kids ponytail affectionately, earning him an angry fist to the stomach in return.

Sanji laughed as the punk wheezed with surprise, alerting Zoro to his presence. He froze like a deer caught in the headlights, hand on his stomach as he then gave Brook a confused look before exclaiming, "What the fuck are you doing here?!"

"Zoro! Language!" Brook chided sharply, which made the kid laugh as Zoro grit his teeth and tried again.

"What the hell-"


"What are you doing here?! Are you stalking me now?!"

"That's much better, but still no way to talk to your new student!" Brook said, and then laughed at the disgusted face Zoro made as both he and Sanji said in unison, "No way!"

"You can go on now, Momonosuke, I heard your father playing around on the floor." Smiling, Brook waved the child off, though Momonosuke didn't depart until he'd stuck his tongue out at Zoro, who sneered and responded by flipping him the middle finger. "Now, Sanji, I've schedule you in for Thursday, as that's the only day Zoro has free, but is that alright with you?"

Brought back to the issue of taking lessons, Sanji floundered for a moment and was about to decline Brook yet again, when he caught sight of how angry Zoro looked at the prospect of having him for a student. And, well, when he thought about it, what else did he really have to do? He had no life outside of the Baratie; no friends to hang out with, and no reason to even leave his apartment. But above all that, he knew Zeff would question what he'd done with his time off and would certainly cause a fuss if he learned Sanji hadn't at least picked up a productive hobby of some sort. Zeff wouldn't approve of him becoming a punk, but Sanji was certain that learning to play an instrument would classify as a hobby he would approve of.

Zoro's brow was furrowed, and he looked about ready to tell Brook off himself when Sanji intervened and said, "Actually, yeah, Thursdays are good for me."

"Wonderful!" Brook exclaimed, throwing his hands into the air in celebration as Zoro's face fell sheer through to the floor.

"What!" he shouted, holding his guitar up to point it accusingly between the two of them. "I said no!"

"What time best works for you?" Brook said, ignoring Zoro as he put a hand on Sanji's shoulder to lead him back into his office. "Zoro has a few openings around 5 and 6, depending on if you want to take hour long or thirty minute lessons."

"I can do hour long lessons," Sanji replied, glancing back over his shoulder to snicker evilly at Zoro who still stood frozen in a pose of accusatory rage. "6 is fine by me."

Brook laughed aloud again and then shut the door to his office before Zoro regained his senses and began trying to shout them out of finalizing their arrangements.

"You bastards! Quit making decisions without consulting me first!"