My first One Piece fanfic that I've decided to share. I hope you enjoy and please forgive typos. Reviews are appreciated!

"The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?" -Edgar Allan Poe

Rated T: However there is the F word and some other cursing -but not many. You've been warned.

Can or Can't be SANJIXZORO read it however you wish.

The italicized section is a flashback


The air was damp, hanging low over the deck in an eerie gray mist. Amongst the fog a lone figure sat hunched against the rail, thee swords clutched in its embrace, head nodding in slumber, the green hair sticking to the humidity induced sweat on his brow.

The ship rocked in the dawn's low-tide, small waves rolling against the helm, the ship's lumber groaning as if yawning in the soon-to-be sunrise. The sleeping form stretched, one sword clattering to the deck suddenly free from the grasp, and echoing about the still air of the morning. The sleeping ship blinked awake as the deck's night lights flickered off and the navigator's window suddenly glowed with a warm, yellow hue –casting an eerie ray into the fog.

The sun cracked over the horizon like lightning, splitting the sky in half with a radiant red wound. Long shadows crept like fingers over the damaged Thousand Sunny. The silence seemed to vibrate with color as the sun crept above the horizon like a scared child, the sheer sound of last night –that had been replaced with such stillness, was creepy. There had been an encounter with a Marine ship late last night, the galley clock ringing 11 times once during the fray of battle, the Sunny had taken a cannon ball to the picket railing, and now a ragged space sat torn near starboard, the white railing jagged like teeth. The shipwright had promised to repair it by lunch-time.

The door swung with a long, strident creak and Nami stepped onto the deck, her eyes flickering to the lounging form by the rail, his sword still laying toppled near his hip.

"Zoro" she greeted, averting her eyes to the calm ocean that was blanketed in the mist and invisible below. She leaned on the railing, her slim shouldering hunched staring down into the depths of the sea.

"Any word?" Zoro asked after an uncomfortable silence, reaching over sleepily to pick up his sword and place all three against the rail

"Not yet, Chopper's been with him all night." Zoro's eyes squinted and he tensed, turning his head he reached out with his fingertips to brush the spot next to him –a pale stain, a blood-spot that had been scrubbed but yet still lingered, dyed as a memory into the ship's very lumber. "You've been here all night?" the orange haired girl asked, almost rhetorically, never expecting an answer.

"Hey" the sudden, new voice shocked them both and they startled turning their eyes to the door, on left of the galley, Usopp stood with down-cast eye's "Chopper want's us all."


Inside the infirmary the entire Straw Hat crew stood gathered, unease and fear hanging lower than the mist outside over their heads as if making it impossible for any to lift their head's fully to gaze at their doctor. Chopper sat at his desk his back to them,

"Chopper, what-"

"He's gone." No one dared to move, nor dared to breathe –all eyes flickered to the still frame laying on the bed, all mind's understanding at once and denial hitting the room like a wave.

"Gone, like unconscious…"

"I'm a failure as a doctor." Chopper's small hooves came up to his face and his shoulder's heaved, a pained sob wracking his frame, in an uncharacteristic burst of rage his small arm swept across the desk scattering papers, books and glass beakers across the floor, they shattered like an explosion and the papers rained down slowly, silently. Until all that was left was the doctor's pitiful cries. The captain pulled his straw hat low casting a grim shadow over his eyes, his head turned slowly to look at the limp, white form of his friend, Luffy gave a small chuckle and a half-hearted smile

"Sanji, I'm hungry. Make me meat?" he offered.

"Luffy, he's gone, dead…g-gone!" the pale form of their cook, seemed to glow on the even whiter bed sheets, a once white bandage was wound tightly around his head, and another over his bare chest, both caked in a mixture of dried and wet blood. The entire room stood shock still, as if still unable to breathe from the heavy atmosphere.

"You're lying." The captain said bluntly "You're aliar." Before anyone could flinch, he had strode over to the bed side and grabbed the blonde's thin shoulders, shaking him roughly. "Sanji, stop kidding around!" the cook flopped uselessly in Luffy's grasp, blonde hair whipping around his frozen, yet peaceful face. "It's time for breakfast."

"Sanji!" a wail shattered the room and Nami fell to her haunches, unable to continue the sweet bliss of denial any longer,

"Sanji. Get. Up!" a breath "I order you!"

"Luffy, cut it out! You'llhurt him!" the room broke out into chaos as the long-nosed sniper violently pulled their captain away from Sanji, the limp form falling back upon the mattress, hair falling like a golden halo around his face.

A trembling hand sprouted from the bedding next to Sanji and tugged the blanket up over his frame, Robin's voice wavered and her appendage disappeared in a flurry of petals

"There is nothing that can be done now. Let Mr. Cook rest." The sounds of grief echoed in the room as Luffy's denial suddenly faded and reality crashed into him and swept him away in a wave of despair, he crumpled all strength gone –tears slipping down his cheeks, mouth gaping like a fish.

"How could we have let this happen, bro?" Franky ran his large hand through his hair, pushing the blue strands flat against his scalp. "Why did this happen?"

"What about his all blue?" Someone hiccupped and nearby Brook's teeth rattled as he buried his face into boney hands, his skeleton humor abandoned

"We didn't even get to say goodbye." Zoro could say nothing, he stood by the door clutching at his swords on his hip, with a listless twirl he turned –and was the first to leave.


The night raged with battle. It seemed to echo out across the sea, swords, shouts, guns, flesh-on-flesh contact, all seemed to mix together until it was one consecutive clamor aboard the Sunny. It had all happened so quickly no one really had any time to react, to change the situation –a Marine had crawled into the crow's nest and held a torch to the Straw Hat's flag, Luffy's wail shattered the clamor and he drew back his arm to either snatch the flag or perhaps even the Marine himself, but a dark blur shot past him and with a cry of

"Sky-walk!" had leapt into the nest, "Mouton Shot!" and the Marine fell back into the black abyss of the sea, the splash was the only satisfaction of his miraculous save. The crew on the deck below gazed up into the defiant gleam of the cook's sky blue eyes, as his thin hand patted out the smoke that threatened the skull and it's straw hat.

"Sanji, good save-!" a gunshot shattered the night and for a moment all motion ceased and the deck froze. The cook crumpled, failing backwards and tripping over the rail of the crow's nest, his fingers pressed tightly to his chest. A small sprinkle of blood rained upon the people below, the eyes of his comrades wide, mouths gaping…words lost, and he fell, toppling over the side and crashing into the deck his blood chasing him on his decent in a trail. He laid grimly still, limp, limbs at uneven, awkward angles around him –blonde hair slowly staining a brilliant, beautiful red. The flag flapped proudly in the wind, the only noise above the waves and creaking ships, splattered with a spray of blood.

The deck erupted, the Sunny groaning as if she herself was suffering as well.


Zoro sat by the rail where he had earlier, one hand absentmindedly placed on the stain. The fog had lifted a few hours ago and the morning air was radiant and warm –yet eerie still. Aboard the ship it was uncharacteristically silent, no music, no laughter, nothing. Just silent grievance as each of the crew had disappeared to be alone and mourn. No one had dared to go into the galley, no one was that strong yet.

A sudden thought stuck him, how long would they starve before someone gathered enough strength to re-enter Sanji's kitchen?

Zoro ran a hand through his hair and sighed, his chest aching, the swordsman hadn't cried, perhaps he was the only one aboard that still wallowed in denial, who still refused to believe Sanji was gone, his eyes still wandered the deck looking for the thin man's back, to hear his irritable shouting, or to smell cigarette smoke waft across the deck. His eyes watched the galley for signs of life, to hear chopping or smell the aromatic fragrance of food. And his mouth itched to banter with the cook again –Zoro didn't know how to cope. So he slept.


The evening sun sunk close to the horizon when he awoke, a rough jab in the ribs caused him to jerk awake, the rounded tip of a shoe digging into his side, he winced and recoiled rubbing the spot tenderly. Through sleep hazed eyes he saw a black polished shoe pulling back from the kick that had woken him.

"Damn it, ero-cook. I was-" His voice died in his throat, like the after burn of liquor, a soft, silent breeze blew past the emptiness around him, there was no one near. Zoro hummed in sadness as the memories of earlier came flooding back, his fingers still rubbing at his side. Pushing the strange pain and event to the back of his mind he stretched like a feline, the warm evening sun penetrating his flesh like an uncomfortable presence. Yet he felt oddly cold,

"Wake up-" Zoro cracked his eyelid open and swiveled his head to the sides, still mid-stretch. Yet, there was still no one near. His ears twitched, and his brow creased in confusion. The soft, wafting voice he had heard seemingly coming from no particular spot but instead, if possible, everywhere at once. The green haired swordsman stood, his shadow long across the deck like a solid black streak.

"Cook-?" His eye's fell upon the galley, a stream of light was radiating from the port-hole window that was cut through the thick wooden door, and curiosity exploded behind Zoro's eyes like bright white sparks; he made his way there. He pushed open the door and the familiar smell of food, booze and cigarettes slammed into him like a wall. The galley was comfortable and peaceful, and happy…completely opposite of the grim, eerie aura emanating from the rest of the Sunny. A soft tune was being hummed and Zoro's eyes fell upon the back of Sanji, as he stood at the stove. The cook's sleeves were rolled up, a small song was buzzing from his throat, his shoulders swaying happily to his own tune, blonde hair gleaming in the galley's light. An apron was tied around his waist and he took a moment to wipe his hands on it.

Zoro couldn't move from his spot, he stood with the door still propped open behind him pressed against his back, his eyes wide –throat dry, mouth opening and closing, his breath swelling in cold, misty bursts from his lips. The room was cold, and yet there was a warmth that seemed to emanate from the presence of the blonde hunched over the stove.

"C-cook…" he managed, eyes suddenly dry and bulging against his eyelids, Sanji swung around his blonde hair swirling, as he turned to look at the frozen swordsman, a small, happy, closed-eye smile lighting up Sanji's face.

"Zoro…" He said warmly, the cigarette hanging from his lips, no smoke billowed around it and no embers glowed. "It's time to wake up." Zoro blinked, and in a wisp –a mere moment, the figure of Sanji disappeared and the room was empty, the very cold seemingly sucked back into the lumber and absorbing the aromas with it.

"Sanji!" Zoro strode forward in a mere steps and stopped by the stove where the cook had been, just seconds ago. "W-wait!" The last word like a plea, echoing in the now painfully abandoned galley. The man stood trembling by the stove, looking desperately around at the empty spaces around him, hand balling on his sword's hilt. Suddenly there was a deep 'clank' and the galley door closed shut slowly, Sanji stood there, looking up at Zoro from across the room. And the smell of cigarettes hoovered between them like unspoken words.

"Zoro…"

"You're not dead…I knew it." Zoro sighed in relief, scrubbing at his face with his palms "you're an idiot, getting hurt for a piece of fabric…I wish that stupid stunt you pulled had killed you –maybe teach you a lesson-"

"Zoro, I'm not really here." Sanji gave a sad smile and beckoned around him, the cook appeared before Zoro and pressed a thin, long finger to Zoro's forehead. "I'm here." The swordsman flinched at the burning cold of his friend's fingertip pressed into his brow, but he could feel it…

"You're alive."

"Zoro, I'm not-"

"Damn it, stop calling me that!" the room froze and Sanji's finger recoiled like Zoro was the one who had suddenly gone agonizingly cold. Zoro's breath hitched painfully and it suddenly became hard for him to breathe, let alone speak. "You never call me…don't say my name like that." Sanji tilted his head and took a small step back, his footsteps silent upon the wood. "You owe me an explanation, shit-cook."

"There's no explanation for death sometimes, Zor-Marimo."

"The guy…the Marine that… he wasn't even special. How could –how could you let someone normal…" Zoro's voice died away and Sanji gave an amused chuckle, eyes shimmering

"Let him kill me?"

"You're not dead, Sanji. You're right here." The blonde's face fell at his friend's stubbornness, yet his eye's creased in a sad humor

"You really are an idiot." Sanji smirked listlessly, Zoro didn't smile, they stared awkwardly at each other, until Sanji slowly blinked and averted his eyes "I'll really miss you, ya' know?" Zoro's heart froze and his hand fell limply away from his haramaki. Finally, reality began to sink in, and at last Zoro began to realize –it dawned across his face in a fluid crest fall, brow furrowing and trembling as his eyes suddenly had a pressure behind them so immense that it felt like they might explode from their sockets.

"Why are you still here then? You a ghost or something?" Zoro outstretched his hand and waved it quickly, a cold burn raced up his hand and into his forearm as it passed right through the slightly shimmering form of the blonde, Sanji giggled and clutched his sides as Zoro pulled away in astonishment and fear

"Stop that, bastard! It tickles" Sanji's musical laugh echoed softly in the galley, and Zoro's heart pulled painfully as he hung onto every sound, Zoro's lips turned up into a gentle, amused smirk

"That's fucking weird!" he shook his hand as if to warm it up, both momentarily grinning like idiots despite the grim situation.

"Like I said, Marimo. I'm here" Sanji tapped his forehead looking at Zoro as if it was obvious what he was trying to say "…I guess I am –a ghost." Sanji reached out a placed a hand on Zoro's beating heart, chuckling as he found it beating rapidly "I can touch you –but you can't touch me."

"but why?" Sanji backed away again flexing his hand as Zoro rubbed the icy spot Sanji had touched.

"Why what…be more specific."

"Why are you still hanging around, if you really are…gone. Why haven't you gone to heaven?" Zoro crossed his arms with a smirk "…or hell?"

"I didn't know you believed in those."

"I don't but I know you do." Sanji sighed, and managed a small shrug carefully taking out another cigarette from his pocket,

"Everyone else has accepted that I'm gone, except you." Zoro tensed at the blonde's words "everyone else has begun to let me go –that's why only you can see me."

"So if I don't accept it, you'll stay like this? Stay here?" Sanji nodded and the swordsman ran a hand through his hair and looked around the room absently deep in thought "well, then I'm not going to accept it."

"Zoro-"

"I said don't fucking call me that, cook." Zoro crossed his arms again and took a menacing step towards Sanji, eyes hard "I don't care how selfish that is, I won't let you pass on to wherever, until you see me become the greatest swordsman –until we find the All Blue – and until Luffy becomes King of the Pirates…only then will I let you go." The benevolence and comfort the room had radiated began to disappear until the aura was dark and the chill seemed to seep across the very walls.

Outside night had already fallen and the horizon melted, the sky was glittering with stars which the ocean reflected perfectly, making it almost indistinguishable which was upright and which was upside down. The ship was still deadly silent, most of its inhabitants already having fallen asleep –passed out from a day of relentless mourning.

The silence in the galley spanned as well, the swordsman's breaths coming in haggard, frosty puffs in front of his face "I don't know where you'll go or what will happen to you if I let you go, ok cook? So it's not going to happen. Not until I can accomplish everything –and die myself. So I can make sure wherever it is we go after death is suitable for you…and safe."

Sanji's form flickered as the blonde stared at the cigarette in his hand, averting his eyes from Zoro. "I have to protect you this time." Zoro's arms slowly untwisted from their tense posture crossed across his chest and dropped to his sides "Sanji, I have to."

"You're an idiot." Sanji stuck the cigarette in his lips, fingers trembling "you think me dying is on you? That's not even possible. Think for once." Despite the immense guilt the moss-haired man knew that he couldn't have saved him. It didn't stop it from hurting, nor stop him from finding anything –any little thing, that he could blame on himself. "Anyways…" Sanji tilted his head to lite his cigarette, although there was no smoke, nor embers the sudden intense smell of smoke suggested that it had been lit. Sanji took a long draw "anyways, you've gotta let me go." His voice vibrated matter-of-factly in the dimly lit kitchen, and Zoro's eyes cast away "I've gotta go."

"Why?" Zoro swallowed hard and Sanji chuckled softly at his friend's stubbornness, the comforting kindness re-emanating from the cook,

"Because, Zoro –I'mdead." On deck a peaceful song began resonating in the eerie silence, Brook's voice softly humming Brink's Sake, a slower, mellower version. It was almost haunting. Each note pierced the silent night like a bullet, causing a moment of thoughtful silence between the pair in the galley. "Marimo, you've got to do some favors for me. Feed the crew, look after them, don't let them blame themselves…this goes for you as well."

"You're not going anywhere-"

"Zoro!" Sanji shouted, finally fed up with his friend's pigheadedness, the cigarette toppling from his lips yet disappearing before it hit the ground, the blonde scrubbed a fist across his eyes, "stop it, ok?! Just stop!" Zoro's mouth snapped shut and he grew rigid "I'm tired, Marimo." The song outside bounced around in Zoro's skull like an echo making him dizzy, Zoro breathed deeply and his eyes fluttered shut. Sanji's throat was thick with withheld tears "I just want to rest…don't I deserve that? Don't you care about me enough to grant me that?"

"Sanji." The cook looked up, reacting to the sudden blunt command of his name, and Zoro flinched when he saw tears in his sky blue eyes "It's because I care about you so much that I can't just let you go…" Zoro swallowed painfully and felt tears of his own well up against his wishes "I…don't think I can." The ship groaned as it rocked against the waves and the galley's clock began to strike 8 times, in long, creepy tones pulsating across the air, outside Brook began another song Zoro shook his head slightly "you're right…I'll do it for you, ok? I'll accept that you're gone. I'll let you go –don't say I never did anything for you, shit cook." Another silence gathered around them like a blanket, as tears slipped down the blonde's cheeks he reached forward and embraced Zoro tightly, and Zoro could do nothing –because every time he tried to hug back, his arms grasp nothing but icy air. The cold burns his flesh but he barely feels it, yet goosebumps push up from under his flesh like small needles. Sanji let out a sad, remorseful laugh

"So, we were friends then?" his pitiful voice chased away the sound of the waves and the clock finally drew silent.

"We are."

"Don't tell anyone…" a wicked smile spread across Zoro's face and he swallowed the grief that had caught in his throat, a single tear blinked over his lashes and burned a trail down his cheek, he wiped at it embarrassed, with the back of his fist

"Never." The chill in the air began to dissipate immediately and Zoro took one last breath of that all familiar cigarette smoke.

And Sanji was gone. Parting without a proper farewell.

Immediately the galley feels empty as if the warmth of the memories made there are vanquished, all hope, all family, all light just gone, sucked away with Sanji as he departed.

The galley light flickers off and Zoro is left standing in the abyss of blackness, the moon casting shadows over the wood. Unsure of what to do his leg's fold and he sits where he once stood, his swords clattering. The heaviness of the empty aura pushing his head down –he cradles it in his hands and after finally allowing the anguish to overcome him he allows himself to cry alone in the darkness of the empty shell of what was once his friend's sanctuary.

"I'm going to kick your ass next time we meet, Sanji." He croaked out, waiting with bated breath for a response, internally pleading, desperate for a reply. His blurry eye's searched the room hopefully, but only the quiet and dark greeted him. "You're really gone, huh?" He clutched his sword tightly his knuckles growing white "well, good riddance."

Sanji.


Thank you for reading. Please review and let me know if I should continue to share my One Piece stories!

Forever yours

-EACT

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