A/N: Fixed a few errors I noticed after reading it over yet again! Sorry about that! 5/23/17
Le Petit Chateau
My body wakes itself up like clockwork at 5:30am, the same time as every day. I stretch my body under the covers, legs stretched out and arms pulled high above my head feeling my muscles strain and quiver. I ruffle my golden hair and rub the sleep out of my eyes trying to chase away the drowsiness of waking up. Sitting up I fling the covers off myself and sigh in happiness at the mild temperature in the room, winter is finally gone leaving spring in its stead.
I hop out of bed and make my way to the bathroom; I rinse the foul morning taste from my mouth and get dressed in my black jogging pants and t shirt. I slip on some light blue socks and step into my running shoes then make my way downstairs through the narrow staircase leading from my upstairs living area to the lower floor housing my pride and joy, my Café.
Emerging downstairs to the main floor I glance around admiring the quiet early morning light streaming in through the large front window shades that were left partially closed. The floor is a shiny walnut wood clean enough to eat off if you so wanted. The tables have their chairs turned on top waiting to be placed back down for the day's service, but they will have to wait a couple more hours or so yet. I scan over to the wall to ceiling book case opposite the front counter and admire the books lined up tidy and organized. I make my way over to the counter on the other side of the room. The counter is accompanied by a medium sized display counter clean of its muffins and cupcakes that will soon fill its space. I get behind the counter and grab the things I need to take with me on my morning run. Water bottle, phone, earbuds, keys and of course my wallet.
Finally ready, I exit through the front double doors leaving the closed sign in place and glance up at the sign hanging above the doors in wrought iron that reads Le Petit Chateau. I lock the doors and set off briskly walking to warm up before I start running. It's a little chillier then I thought it would be but its sure to warm up a little as the day goes on. The cobbled streets of this small town are well kept, the buildings bright and clean permeating a relaxing sleepy atmosphere that's been present since I was a child and first moved here with my father.
I check the time and notice I only have about 45 minutes or so before my employees should be showing up, I open my music app and slip the ear buds into my ears and select the playlist I created for my workouts. In seconds, I have Deftones lead singer Chino Moreno's sexy melodic voice sending me straight to another place entirely, allowing my mind to clear and body to wake up. As I run, buildings and familiar people also getting ready for the day fly past me. Hardly anything seems to have changed in this quiet French town since the last 30 years I've been living here. I run through the town and eventually make it to the outskirts where the fields and pastures reside along with the church and cemetery.
I slow down to a jog as I enter the cemetery gates and weave my way through the paths of the head stones, I pass by my father's stone offering a small wave and continue until I'm standing in front of his grave. I'm breathing hard from the run so I sit down next to the relatively new grave stone and gulp down the water I brought with me. I lean bodily against the stone and rest my head against it as I cool down.
I close my eyes and quiet my breathing, sucking air in through my nose and breathing out through my mouth. The stone is smooth and cool against the heated skin of my neck and cheek. I listen to the wind rustle the branches and grass; I hear the birds that have already arrived for spring sharing their songs with one another. I open my eyes and look up at the sky to find it clear with the promise of a bright day once the sun fully emerges.
I scoot over and lay myself down in front of his grave and just relax next to it, taking in nature and the peace I feel when I visit him. I don't always come and sit here with him; some days are just harder than others even though it's been five years already.
I look over to the words on the stone, 'Ace D. Portgas, beloved friend, brother and companion, January First, 1985 – June Fifteenth, 2012'
I pat the words with my hand, "I can't believe you would have been thirty this year, my birthday just passed a couple weeks ago…. thirty-three now, I feel so old Ace." I slowly sit up and face the stone, eyes glued to my crossed legs, "So, Luffy keeps trying to set me up. Everyone he tries to set me up with are all in their early twenties, I feel weird thinking about dating someone so young when I'm so much older than them. I know age doesn't really matter these days but, it's just so strange. All I can think about is how adorable you were when you were that young and all the time we spent together, the things we accomplished." I take another drink of water, "I do have to admit though, the longer time passes the more I feel a deep loneliness setting in, I just never thought I'd have to date again. I planned on growing old with you, seeing our dream café continue to grow and become everything we imagined it would be, you know?"
I look up from my lap and stare at the stone willing it to talk back to me, but I know it won't. I let the tears stream slowly down my face, knowing its best to just let it out. I tried keeping my grief in during the first year but that just about got me killed. I couldn't take the pain and I tried to kill myself, luckily my friends stuck close and stopped me in time. Since then I refused to keep my emotions bottled up thinking about how sad Ace would have been if I had succeeded, so I make it a habit to come talk to Ace like this a few times a week. It's still feels like there's a crater where my heart lies that Ace used to fill, it's been 5 years and it still hurts. I worry it'll never feel whole again sometimes. I let out a heavy sigh and get up, dusting myself off and checking the time again. I'll have to hurry back to help with prep.
I kiss my fingers and brush the top of the stone, saying good bye to Ace's grave and jog back home.
It's about 6:25am once I make it back to the café, I should still have plenty of time to help the other two finish up prep work before we need to open. I walk in happy to find the doors are unlocked telling me at least one of them is on time this morning. I slip inside hearing the light jingle of the tiny doorbell hanging above the doors. I walk upstairs first and quickly shower, I throw on black slacks and a nice comfortable white button down shirt and slip on my black dress shoes. I leave my headphones and wallet on my dresser. I slip my reading glasses on to my shirt to hang on the highest button, then head back downstairs. I head behind the counter and open the kitchen door slipping on my simple clean black apron with the stores name in French script on the upper right. I then loosely tie my hair back at the nape of my neck so it doesn't get in the way.
The kitchen isn't overlarge but big enough for at least four cooks to be back here with plenty of elbow room and counter space. I find both Luffy and Usopp already at work. Usopp is prepping sandwich fixings and placing them into containers. Luffy is pouring batter into a cupcake sheet. He looks up and smiles widely at me, "Good morning Sanji!" Usopp also looks up and waves sleepily at me.
Luffy wiggles excitedly and a bark a laugh at him. I walk over to him and place a hand on his head, "Good morning Lu!" His smile gets even wider and he goes back to pouring the batter out evenly. I walk over to Usopp and pat him on the back, "Hey Usopp, glad to see your on time today!" I laugh at him as he yawns widely in response.
I inspect the two ovens along with the pots cooking on top, checking to make sure the food is on track for the morning and rest of the day. I'm pleased to find the muffins and cupcakes are either ready or almost there, some racks of them cooling off already. The soup for the day is creamy tomato bisque since it's still a little chilly out. We also serve ready to make sandwiches and simple dishes like pasta, sausages and eggs that type of thing. Everything is from the local farmers and organic.
I make my way back to the front with a tray of different muffins and start setting up the display case. Once finished, I begin prepping the coffee and get all the coffee syrups and toppings ready and set out. I then head out to the quaint dining area and take the chairs off the tables setting them on the floor, I give them a wipe down as well just to be sure everything is tidy. I make my way over to the large bookshelf and check that all the books are lined up nicely and see if I need to place an order for any extras.
Once I'm satisfied that the dining area is clean and ready I look to the large clock on the wall above the double doors and see it's already 6:50am. I walk over to the doors and flip the closed sign to open figuring its fine if we open a little early today, I glance up and look through the window and am a little shocked to see a man outside the doors already waiting.
The man is unfamiliar to me which is a little surprising considering this is a small town; I know almost everyone or have at least seen them before. I quickly open the door and motion him in, "Welcome Sir and good morning, please come in!" I smile kindly at him and he stares at me for a bit before offering a small smile in return. I take note of his appearance as he walks in looking around the café. He's wearing some sort of security guards uniform much like Luffy's other brother, the man also has a scar over his left eye and it appears he's unable to open it. His skin has a natural tanned hue to it as well that leaves me wondering where he's from. He's wearing a hat that matches his uniform and just as I wonder what his hair looks like the man takes his hat off and turns around to face me. I'm a little shocked to see soft looking bright green hair, 'Is that natural?!'
The man clears his throat and my eyes snap down to his he stands just slightly taller than myself but only by a few inches, "Nice to meet you, my names Zoro." He holds out his hand and I automatically take it and then lean in kissing the air on either side of his face. When I pull back Zoro's face is red and I can't help but giggle at how cute he looks.
I let go of his hand, "My name is Sanji, and this is my café. Sorry if I startled you, I prefer to greet everyone like that even if they are new." Zoro seems to relax a bit his face going back to a normal shade. "Please come take a look at the menu, you look hungry and a little tired. Can I get you a coffee?" I walk behind the counter and hand him one of the single sheet menus we have containing the items we constantly carry. I point behind me at the chalk board, "Here are our specials for today as well, take your time."
Zoro nods, "I'll take a black coffee for now, thank you." I nod at him and start getting his coffee ready.
Once I finish pouring it and bring it to him he sets the menu down, "I'll take the meat breakfast platter, it sounds good."
I smile at him, "Great choice, that's pretty popular. I'm sure you'll love it," I point behind him, "Go ahead and take a seat where ever, I'll bring it out in just a few minutes." Zoro smiles back at me and takes his coffee, calmly walking over to a table near the front windows where the sun is now shining in warmly. I think to myself, 'He has a really nice smile.'
I make my way through kitchen door and ask Luffy to grab me the meat platter ingredients. I head over to one of the stove's and get what I need to start cooking the food. "Usopp could you watch the counter for me while I cook this for our guest please?"
Usopp heads out after giving a salute and Luffy brings me the food, "So who's our first customer today? Is it Miss Mary?"
I start to cook the sausage and bacon, "No it's actually someone new, his name is Zoro. Oddly enough he has green hair." Luffy's eye go a bit wide, "Oh, actually he's wearing a similar outfit to Sabo's, I wonder if they work at the same place."
Luffy laughs nervously and heads back to finish washing dishes. I quirk an eye brow at him but decide I'll ask him about his suspicious behavior later.
Once I finish cooking the eggs along with the rest I plate it up and grab the silverware. I walk out to the front and find a couple new regulars have shown up, Usopp is busy preparing coffees behind the counter. I smile and offer a good morning to the regulars as I pass by.
I get over to Zoro's table and he looks up at me as I set down the plate. I give him his silverware and napkin as well, my face splits into a grin as I watch him take a deep inhale of the platter of food, almost drooling at how delicious it looks. "So if you don't mind me asking are you new to this town? I have seen pretty much everyone who lives here but I've not seen you before."
Zoro leans back in his chair a bit setting his napkin over his lap, "I've actually been here for a few months now but I was working the graveyard shift over at the indoor shopping mall down the road. Someone I work with recommended this place to me so I figured I'd check it out today since I just got off."
"Oh I see, no wonder you looked tired. Well I'm glad you decided to come in. I actually know someone who works there, do you know Sabo?" I cock my head in question at him.
Zoro seems to perk up a bit, "Yea actually, that's who recommended this place; He said his little brother works here."
I smile warmly at him, "Ah, that would be Luffy. Well I hope you enjoy it, I'm glad we met. I'll let you get to eating." I pat his shoulder and notice his face blushes a little when I do, 'How adorable.' He has a very muscular build if his thick hard shoulder anything to go by. I feel my own face blush at the thought and give him another quick smile before scurrying off to the kitchen to try to calm down.
I burst into the kitchen and immediately lock eyes with Luffy. He looks a little guilty, I immediately grow suspicious. "Luffy, did you tell Sabo to have Zoro come to the store to meet me?" Luffy immediately blushes and looks down. I close my eyes and try not to get too angry.
Luffy walks over to me and looks up at me with puppy dog eyes, "Sanji please don't be mad ok? I just don't want you to be sad and lonely anymore. I know you are sometimes, it's not fair to you to be alone like this, Ace would want you to be happy Sanji." Luffy wraps his arms around my torso and I automatically wrap my arms around his shoulders. I bury my face in Luffy's hair and heave a sigh. Luffy murmurs into my shoulder, "Did you like him at all?"
I feel my face warm again, "Ye, yeah. He is pretty attractive, even though his hair is green." I sigh a bit in defeat, "He seems nice." I whisper into Luffy's black hair. "But he's way too young for me Lu, I'm thirty-three now, he can't be far over twenty. Let's not forget he may not even be interested in me or gay. I'll never forget the one guy Sabo had me meet, that guy was as straight as they come." I shudder internally as I recall how awkward that was.
Luffy glances up at me, "Age really doesn't matter to anyone anymore Sanji. Also, your only thirty-three, that's nowhere near old!" Luffy pulls back a bit, "I'm pretty sure he is gay. I yelled at Sabo about that last guy and told him to be sure this time!"
I pull back too and pat Luffy's cheek. "Thank you for caring about me Lu, I do appreciate it. I'm not sure about this though, I'll have to think about it." Luffy just nods. "Anyways, Zoro is probably better off with someone with less baggage." I give a weak smile to Luffy and head out the back. Luffy looks like he wants to say more but he thankfully just goes back to what he was doing.
I head out to the back alley through the door at the back of the kitchen and lean against the wall. The alley is narrow and a bit dark, the building next door shades the alley from the sun throughout the entire day. I grope my apron pocket and find an old creased up cigarette pack. I smack it until one of the last few cigarettes comes out landing in my open palm. Ever since Ace died I had quit smoking cold turkey, he had always wanted me to stop since it's such an unhealthy habit. This pack is the last one I ever bought and have managed to only smoke once since then, it was back during that first year when everything was simply too much. When I'm really upset, or stressed out I just hold a cigarette between my lips for a few minutes until I feel calmer.
I put it between my lips and let my head rest against the rough bricks of my building. I close my eyes and Zoro immediately comes to mind. I have gone five years without being intimate with another person, but feeling his strong shoulder, seeing his rugged face and hearing his deep smooth voice is making me think about things I normally have no problem ignoring. I put the cigarette back in the pack, adjust my slacks and head back inside going straight out into the dining room to take over the front counter.
Usopp is currently walking around picking up dirty cups and plates, I nod at him and he finishes up heading back into the kitchen. I'm surprised to find Zoro still sitting at his table, once he sees me however he gets up and walks over to me. I feel my heart flutter in my chest as he looks me straight in the eye.
"Hey, so I just wanted to tell you before I left that the food was really delicious." I feel my face blush at the compliment. "Also, my hours at work are changing starting tomorrow, so I'll be back for lunch from today on. I'll see you tomorrow Sanji." He pushes the stores copy of his receipt along with his payment towards me and nods at me, offering a shy smile before promptly leaving, giving me no time to form a response. I watch him walk out admiring how his shirt stretches over his muscular arms and back.
I hear a snicker behind me and whip my head around to see Usopp and Luffy spying on me through the kitchen door window. I squawk, "Get back to work!" They both laugh out loud and run off. My face flushes and I find it hard to wipe the smile off my face.
I grab up the receipt and payment, placing both in the till. Just as I go to close it up I notice something scribbled on to the paper. I squint at it and pull it back out, I place my reading glasses on and find scrawled on the back Zoro's name and a phone number. Zoro's phone number. I stare wide eyed at it, just below his phone number is a short message, 'Call or text me whenever you want to, I'll be looking forward to it.' My face flushes all the way down to my neck and I hold the receipt close to my chest as my heart thumps loudly against my ribs.
Trying not to think too hard about what I'm letting myself do, I grab my phone out of my pocket and enter Zoro's number into my modest contact list. I quickly save it and shove my phone back in my pocket before I rethink anything and wind up deleting it. I place the receipt back into the till and take a deep breath. I look up just as the next customer enters causing the bell to let out its sweet chime and I'm grateful for the distraction. I put Zoro out of my mind for now and focus on getting through the rest of the day.
Hello! I hope you enjoyed this chapter. This is my first attempt at a modern AU. The characters will be OC to a point because this is not the normal universe you would find them in. If you see any errors please tell me as I do not have a beta or what have you (Side note, I'm not French in any way so if there's cultural things I've gotten wrong please do forgive me.) It may be slow to update but we will see. This is very much slice of life, cute chapters with all the fluff. I have rated this M because I always do just in case. There will be steamy stuff in later chapters but we need to build up to that first! I'd love to read any reviews or comments and thanks again for reading!