Authors Note #1- I just wanted to take a second to thank all of those who have been reviewing my stories, and have been so patiently waiting between updates. I really appreciate all of the support that I have had from all of my reviewers. Your words keeps me happy and keeps me writing.

They had taken his shoes.

Sanji's eyes, by now well adjusted to dim light of the small room, were riveted on his own naked feet. Every once in a while he would absently wiggle his toes just to see their motion. On his left foot, his second toe was a bit longer than the far thicker digit along which it rested. He had known this, of course, all his life, but he had had hours to contemplate whether this feature made his feet more attractive or less. He had yet to conclude on the matter.

His concentration had a little to do with combating the sheer boredom he had been immersed in since waking up in the sparse and cramped room with his hands chained to the wall and behind his back, as well as serving as a distraction from the nagging shame that still ate at him for his foolishness for getting himself in this mess in the first place.

By now, the crew of The Going Merry had to have been well aware of his absence, and if he knew his friends (and he had known few things in his life as well as them) they were out there, somewhere, looking for him. Coming for him.

And Zoro was no doubt with them.

The study of his feet was abandoned momentarily as he frowned in annoyance. He was torn between his eagerness to be found and taken out of this situation, and resentment that the turn of events may lead to Zoro taking a fairly predominate role in his rescue. Again. Something that was becoming an extremely irritating pattern of late.

He cursed under his breath, just as a small section along the bottom of the thick wooden door which he faced slid aside, only far enough to allow a plate of stale looking food to be pushed in, before the low opening was shut and a locking click sounded. He had given up calling out to the person delivering the food days ago, since no word of reply was ever given. The chains binding him to the concrete wall, allowed enough give for him to crawl over to the plate of food, and lean over until his head dipped into the plate so he could eat without the aide of his bound hands. It was in this same manner that he consumed the daily dish of water that was given each morning. Days with out bathing had turned him filthy, and the manner in which he was fed left him feeling like a mangy dog. He was fairly certain that he had contracted fleas.

The only possible reason that his abductors could have had for removing his shoes was for the purpose of rendering him helpless. If he had been a swordsman, they would have no doubt confiscated his swords, but since he had no weapons to take, they had taken his shoes.

Which was, of course, absolutely ABSURD. To truly disarm him, they would have to have removed both his legs, since his powerful kicks were the thing for which he was feared. Certainly not his foot apparel. It wasn't like he walked around in 'magic shoes' that gave him the ability to kick the crap out of people.

His abductors, he had concluded, were idiots. But that knowledge lent him little comfort, since that meant that he had allowed himself to get kidnapped by bunch of idiots. He bit down hard on the inside of his cheek in shame, and went back to studying his feet.

Hours later, he heard a new heavier set of footsteps approaching his cell. They paused for a minute in front of the door, before the door handle began to turn. Sanji pulled himself straight, more alert and focused than he had been ever since he had woken in the dark room. He knew that whoever was on the other side of the thick wooden door was the key to why he was brought here.

The door opened, and the cook's eyes quickly adjusted to the new glare of light that accompanied his visitor. With him now was a large bulky man dressed darkly from head to foot. His face was almost completely hidden by a riot of coarse-looking dark hair that was liberally streaked with silver. He took a couple of steps into the room and stopped. His dark eyes simply stared at Sanji from beneath bushy eyebrows.

After a while, when the gaze failed to waiver, Sanji had to break the silence.

"Like what you see?"

He schooled his features into a cocky grin, trying to egg a reaction out of the silent man. Anything, even violence, would have been better than the eerie stare.

The immense beard shifted into somewhat of a smile, before he replied in a gritty voice.

"Sorry, lad. Just wanted to take a good look at you. Wanted to try and figure out why my old friend Redfoot would throw his whole life away on a scrap like you."

He shrugged his shoulders, and his smile widened.

Sanji managed, with no small amount of effort, to keep his own smug expression firmly in place.

"Oh, is that all. Well, then, can I leave now?"

A foul laugh filled the room as the man's eyes danced in twisted pleasure.

"Don't worry, we'll be leaving tomorrow."

"Will we?" Sanji counted with mockery coloring his voice, "And where will we be going?"

"You see, boy, I'm overdue for a visit with your Daddy." he paused, and added with a wink, "Does he like it when you call him 'Daddy'?"

It took every ounce of willpower Sanji still had not to try and rush at the old man before him despite his restraints. His expression remained locked.

Not getting the reaction he was hoping for, the man continued.

"You see, Redfoot and Oz, that's me by the way, have a long history together. And I'll be sure to tell you all about it when we get on our way to, what is that place of his called, The Baratie?"

Not waiting for confirmation, he continued.

"Did you know that your old man destroyed my life?"

The chains rattled slightly as Sanji shrugged, looking for trouble.

"Really? Can't say that he ever mentioned you. Guess he doesn't think too much about it."

The grin faded from Oz's face in response, and his eyes shone with fury. His hands fisted at his sides, and he continued in a far harsher tone.

"Well, boy, I'd wager he'll be thinking about it a lot more fairly soon, when I show up after all these years on his doorstep to return the favor."

The grin returned, but far darker, as he added,

"And you know what? I'm going to start by throwing his favorite little boy's dead body at his feet."

With that, he turned and left the cell, shutting the door heavily behind him.

Sanji knew that he had to get out of here, and it had to be today. Because there was no WAY that he was going to be thrown at the feet of that Shitty Old Man! He cringed violently just imagining it. No way in hell was he going to let Zef think that he was so weak that some black toothed granddad could use him as bait! He had to get out, crew or no crew to help him, and fuck the consequences. Death was preferable over giving that Old Man reason to gloat.

The problem was that there was only one way that Sanji could think of to get out of the chains, and the mere idea cast a cold sheen of sweat across his forehead. The chains were wrapped tightly around his thin wrists, allowing little movement, but there was a way he could escape them. He could dislocate his thumbs.

He honestly didn't know if he could bring himself to do it. His legs were his weapons, but his hands were his life. Cooking gave him more joy and satisfaction than a smile from a beautiful woman, and he would be risking that, risking permanently damaging his precious hands, if he took this chance. He thought of his years of training in the kitchens, always with the goal to become the greatest chef in the world. He thought of finding All Blue, and preparing those wonderful treasured fish. He thought of laying exquisite dishes in front of Nami and watching the delight in her eyes as she savored them.

He thought of Zef, that Shitty Old Man who had taken him and raised him for no good reason, with one leg gone, standing on the deck of his dream-shaped Baratie, facing a bitter enemy with Sanji laying between them.

He felt the twin pops of joints moving out of place, bit down hard on his lip from the pain, and slid his hands from the heavy chains.

The pain tripled as he popped his thumbs back into place, and he could feel each pulse of blood coursing through his hands as they quickly swelled.

He could not think on it. Not now.

He got to his feet and walked with great determination to the heavy door. It didn't fly, as much as it exploded off its hinges as he landed against it a mighty kick. He walked into the hallway, which was empty, but not, he knew with cool certainty, for long.

The noise from the door had attracted his captors attention, which he had expected, and he could hear them approaching from the left of where he stood. Guessing that it was the way out, he turned left, and ran towards those who were running towards him.

There were dozens of them, more than he had expected, but it did not matter. He was either leaving, or he was going to die, there was no third option. Finality granted the oddest comfort, but it was one that the cook embraced, as he leapt high and kicked out knocking the firsts of his assailants to the ground.

He fought relentlessly, with everything that he had. But he was frustrated without the use of his hands, and the sheer volume of enemies that continued to come at him was starting to overwhelm him. He needed more power, or he wasn't making it out.

Not thinking of what he was about to do, he leaned over, and put his full weight onto his damaged hands. Agony robbed him of his ability to scream, as he launched a spinning kick attack with every ounce of strength he had. He continued until it was too much, and he dropped to the ground, cradling his searing hands against his chest.

His eyes were twisted shut as he pushed to pull in great gasps of air. The only comfort he had was the silence that now surrounded him. He had done it; he had taken down the last of his enemies, and now he was going to leave.

The click that sounded next to his ear opened his eyes.

Oz's face, surrounded by all of that wild black silver hair, was red and twisted livid. He was breathing hard in anger, and hate burned from the depths of his coal colored eyes. Yet, despite the intense emotion oozing from the old man, the revolver was held in a steady hand.

"This will do." he hissed, and Sanji prepared himself for the shot, but did not look away.

Because of this, he saw quite clearly the moment when silver metal appeared through the center of the Oz's chest. Acting on instinct, the blonde threw himself to the side, barely avoiding the shocked shot that buried itself into the floor.

He rolled to his feet, stumbling only slightly, and watched as Zoro strode into the room in the wake of his thrown sword; the handle of which was now jutting from the fallen man's back.

And goddamn if this didn't feel like freakin' cliché ripped right out of some trashy novel that teenage girls liked to squeal over, where the hero rushes to the timely rescue of a damsel in distress. The characters would kiss, and then declare their undying love for one another.

Zoro closed most of the distance between them, stopping an arm's length away. Their eyes locked on one another. A heartbeat passed.

"Jesus, you stink." said the hero.

"Fuck you, Asshole." replied the formerly distressed.

There was no time for further dialogue, as Luffy came into view with an annoyed expression on his face.

"These guys are boooring. They fall down too easily. Let's get out of here."

Then, spotting Sanji, he began to bounce on his feet with excitement while waving his hands manically.

"Oy! Sanji! There you are!!"

The short rubber captain whooped with joy and continued to wave at the cook, calling his name, as if to draw his attention. As if they weren't standing in the same room. Not five feet from one another.

Sanji grinned.

"Oy, Luffy."

And then, with Zoro on one side, and Luffy babbling excitedly on his other side, Sanji finally left.

The late afternoon sun was relentless as it shone down on the decks of the Going Merry, but Sanji had managed to find some shade leaning up against a corner railing towards the back of the ship.

He was considering taking a nap, since he had nothing else to do, but he found himself too depressed to sleep. Instead, he stared at the stark white bandages that covered both his hands. This was the cause for both his boredom and his depression. He could not fight or cook until his hands healed, and even then, it was not certain that they would heal completely. He had spent his days since his escape/rescue trying and failing to avoid thinking of what his life would be like if he did not fully heal.

He did not look up when another body dropped down beside him. They sat there silently for long moments as Sanji continued to look at his own hands, before Zoro spoke.

"Let me see."

At first, Sanji wasn't sure what the other man was talking about, before strong hands reached out towards him. Startled, the blonde twisted away.

"Don't touch them!"

But Zoro was relentless, and managed to grip Sanji firmly by the forearms. He paused, as if in thought, and then bent to place a soft kiss on top of each of the thick bandages.

Sanji had no words, even if speech was possible at that moment. Zoro continued to stare down at the hands he still held, before looking up suddenly and fixing the cook with a sharp frown.

"You better hurry up and heal, Love Cook."

It took a moment for Sanji to snap out of his trance, register the words, in order to produce an intelligent response.


Or, a response at any rate.

"I'm sick of eating Nami's cooking. It tastes like shit, and I'm not completely convinced that the twisted woman isn't trying to poison me so she can sell my belongings after I'm dead for extra cash. I've been subjected to it ever since you disappeared, and now that you're back, I want to eat your stuff. At least its edible. Most of the time, anyway."

The blonde was so baffled that he failed to defend neither his cooking nor Nami-san's character. He gaped at Zoro for a full half minute, before confusion was replaced with rage. He broke free of the other man's grip and stood quickly, his face flushed and his mouth pulled into an angry line.

"Fuck you. I AM going to heal. Completely. And faster than YOU ever could!"

Seemingly not phased by the challenging words, Zoro leaned back and closed his eyes, as if preparing for one of his frequent naps. He spoke in a bored voice.

"Whatever. Just don't take forever about it. I would like to eat again. Preferably sometime soon."

"Asshole." was all Sanji could manage, before turning around, and pride forgotten, stomped away from the aggravating man.

It was well past sunset before Sanji returned. He stopped in front of the other man, who still feigned sleep. Zoro's eyes remained close when the cook squatted in front of him, but opened when his head was captured between firm forearms. Without a word, the blonde pulled him forward into a firm wet kiss, which lasted far longer than any other kiss they had shared before.

Once finished, Sanji sat back on his heels and stared intensely into the dark startled eyes of the swordsman.

"Asshole." he whispered.

And Zoro smiled at him with something close to shyness, being able to recognize a declaration of love when he heard it.

Authors Note #2- Ok, I know that I promised smut, and I don't want to go back on that promise. As long as I can get the guts up to write it, there will be one more chapter added before I put this puppy to rest.