Sanji waited until he was sure Zoro was actually asleep before he tried moving. Wouldn't do for the swordsman to bust something else yelling at him. The idiot; Sanji knew his own limits well enough, better than Zoro was aware of his own, certainly. You couldn't just sleep off everything. Though getting some food in him had helped, and the way Zoro was snoring now, he might have been napping on the deck in the sun. However annoying that racket was, it was much better than his near-motionless silence before.

With his teeth clamped so no noise could escape—not that Zoro would hear anyway, sawing logs like that—Sanji sidled slowly backwards on his hands. Though he was careful not to jar his legs, even that cautious motion sharpened the throbbing ache to jagged pangs, and he hissed through his teeth. Hell of a lot worse than broken ribs, this was proving to be, as well as an incredible pain in the ass. And fighting-wise it left him virtually as useless as the damn swordsman had said. Not to mention Chopper was going to give him hell. If he thought Zoro had been carrying on...well, hopefully he wasn't getting the bones too out of alignment.

The thug was still out like a light, but to make sure he wouldn't cause any trouble if he did wake up, Sanji reached out and snagged the manacles. Pocketing the key, he clamped them around the goon's legs, the chain stretched taut and the cuffs barely circling the thick ankles. With pettily vindictive glee he ripped off the thug's jacket—the cheap stitches tore easily—and used it to bind his hands behind him.

Once the man was secured, Sanji searched him again. The holster under his jacket was empty; the fat man must have confiscated the pistol. Or else it had been the one put to Zoro's head, and Sanji glanced at his sleeping crewmate with a chill that had nothing to do with the draft from the window.

The man also had a dagger in a concealed ankle sheath, a stubby, blunt thing; Sanji wouldn't trust it to cut boiled chicken, but he took it anyway. Otherwise he was empty-handed. After a final tightening of the makeshift bonds, Sanji slid back across the floor, out of the thug's range, then slumped against the wall beside Zoro and concentrated on his own breathing until the pain subsided enough for his head to clear.

And then there was nothing to do but wait. Sanji listened hard, but heard nothing outside the cell. Inside there was only Zoro's snoring, such a familiar sound that he tuned it out without trying. He took out a cigarette, gazed up at the lantern flickering overhead for a long moment before deciding it was hopeless, and stuck the cigarette in his mouth unlit. It wasn't the same but it was something, at least. To take his mind off that annoyance, and the pain in his legs that throbbed with every beat of his pulse, he closed his eyes and began to plan tomorrow's dinner. Something extravagant, to make up for missing serving Nami-san and Robin-chan tonight. Tourtiere, perhaps; this town's market was likely big enough to have the spices he was missing...

The cigarette started to slip from his lips and he jerked up his head with a start, realizing he had almost nodded off.

Way to keep watch. Crossly Sanji sat up, groaned at the motion and then swallowed it short, looking at Zoro. His crewmate hadn't twitched, though, brow furrowed as always in that perpetual frown, like his dreams were never pleasant.

"Still asleep?" Sanji asked, in a mutter too low to disturb him. "Good. You need it." He took the cigarette from his mouth, rolled the narrow cylinder between his fingers. "Luffy'll be here anytime now," he remarked. "Don't know what's taking that idiot so long. They're probably having trouble finding this place." He glanced at Zoro again. "I suppose I should be grateful you're not the one looking, right?

"Even if you should be." The cigarette bent in half when he pressed it endwise between thumb and forefinger. Useless now, even with a light. "Your fault, that you got caught. You didn't have to follow me, idiot. You don't have to. I can take care of myself."

He bent the cigarette further, until the paper split, sprinkling tobacco dust on his slacks, rubbed the dried herbs between his fingers and inhaled the scent. "I'm fine. That was—how many islands ago? I don't even remember. It's over and I'm fine and it doesn't matter anyway. I owe you for that; you don't owe me anything.

"I know it's not just me, but I'm not Luffy or Nami-san or any of them—I don't need any damn guardian. You got that, Zoro? I'm gonna kick your ass for trying. Soon as Chopper says you're all better, I'll show you who needs protection. You didn't have to follow me, however bad my luck is, I can handle it. I'm strong enough on my own. I'm strong enough to protect all of them, and you, too. So you just take care of them, if I'm not there. And watch your own back. And don't worry about me, got it? Because I don't need it."

Sanji threw the crumbling halves of the cigarette into the far corner, looked up at the lantern again and then dropped his head as the glowing flame blinded his eyes. "I don't need anyone else getting hurt for me."

Swallowing, he stopped, held his breath. Distantly, through the door and the walls, he could hear the faintest vibration of approaching footsteps. Probably too quiet to be any of his crewmates. He raised his voice, reached to shake his crewmate's shoulder. "Zoro—"

"I hear." The swordsman's eyes were open; before Sanji touched him he sat up, moving slowly but not too strenuously.

"How long have you been awake?" Sanji demanded.

"Long enough," Zoro said, without elaborating. Instead he drew his white katana and extended it toward Sanji, hilt-first.

When he didn't immediately take it, the swordsman growled and grabbed his hand, wrapped his fingers around the hilt. "You've got all your blood, and it's not broken. Hide it behind you, hurry, before they get here."

Blinking, Sanji took hold of the sword—heavier than the sleekness of that silver blade would imply, but no more than he was expecting. Even his minimal weapon skills could feel how perfectly balanced the katana was. He slid the sword under his legs and leaned back against the wall.

Zoro had lain down again, shut his eyes, faking unconsciousness, lying on top of the white sheath so it was not obviously empty. His other two swords lay within reach at his side.

No sooner had Sanji closed his own eyes then he heard the fat man's raised voice sound through the door's barred window, echoing against the stone. "Get out of there, it's over. And it seems our illustrious employer is brighter than he lets on, this cell was rigged all along. Since he won't be returning anytime soon to deactivate the—"

The fat man's dialogue abruptly cut short, while a key clinked in the lock and the door squealed open.

"What the hell happened?" asked the thug nervously. "Hey!" He stamped over to his fallen comrade. "Did he get here before us, somehow?"

"Don't be ridiculous," the fat man snapped, "how could he have?" But he sounded almost as edgy.

Sanji cracked an eye to peek at the man's face, and had to force back a grin. He recognized that look, the wild-eyed disbelief of someone who has seen Luffy fight, with his crazy power and even crazier technique. Luffy had a way of bending reality like it was the same rubber as his body; once you had experienced that warping for yourself, its signs were easily recognized in others.

"But, boss, the way he took out all those guys—"

"I told you, that was a devil fruit power. These men have none."

"Then how'd they—"

"I don't intend to ask," the fat man said coldly. "Or to wait for the explosion to bring down this cell."

He turned to stand over Zoro, still motionless on the floor. Sanji was at the wrong angle to see what was in his hand, but there was no mistaking the distinctive metallic click of a pistol being cocked.

And Zoro just stayed lying there—had the idiot fallen asleep again? The fat man's arm was moving, coming up to fire the gun—

He was too far away for Sanji to reach him, but the thug was not. Sanji pulled the sword out from under his legs, and holding the hilt with both hands to guide the blade, he stabbed it into the man's ankle, just above his low boots.

It was as good a distraction as he could have wished; the goon shrieked like a seagull and fell. But the fat man didn't sound terribly distracted as he said, calmly, "So it was you." He was smiling as he turned. His thug was on the ground, clutching his leg and moaning, but the fat man's focus was on Sanji, the gun still in his hand, coming up to bear on him.

Tightly gripping the sword, Sanji prepared to lunge at the man, one hand braced against the floor to launch himself. He wasn't sure if he could make it, but there was no way he was going down—

Sanji had for that instant forgotten about Zoro, and so had the fat man, or else he hadn't considered him a threat. Either way, he was completely unprepared for the swordsman to slam into his knees, sending them both crashing to the floor. As the fat man fell the pistol went off, thundering painfully loudly, before flying out of his hands.

Sanji blinked as the bullet cracked into the stone wall beside his head, close enough that its velocity stirred his hair. Then he wrenched the sword up to put the blade against the man's fleshy throat. "Don't move," he suggested, his voice dull to his deafened ears.

The fat man, on his knees reaching for the pistol, froze, his damp face mottled red and white.

Behind him Zoro picked himself up off the floor, coughing, one hand pressed to his bandaged side as he gasped, "Sanji? The gun—"

"I'm fine," Sanji said. "He missed."

He watched Zoro's eyes flick to the bullet hole in the wall and return to Sanji, measuring the mere centimeters between, and the swordsman's jaw set. "Dammit, cook, why'd you blow it like that—"

"Blow it?" The sword was heavy to hold steady, especially sitting like he was. He shifted his grip before it slipped and got more blood on the blade. "Wasn't this the plan?"

"Not cutting it that close! I had things covered."

"Oh, excuse me, didn't know, I forgot to put on my mind-reading helmet. Besides, it worked—Zoro, behind you!"

The thug had staggered to his feet, blood dripping from his ankle over his boot. From his jacket he pulled a knife, a dagger matching his comrade's. As Sanji shouted, he plunged it down towards Zoro's back.

The swordsman didn't look back at the warning, just ducked and rolled out of the way. The thug raised the dagger, not over Zoro, but poised to throw it between Sanji's eyes. Busy aiming, he missed Zoro coming up again into a crouch, sweeping up his two other swords in the same motion. Before the knife could be thrown, Zoro caught it between his two blades and flipped it out of the thug's fist.

"Your boss is already promised to him," Zoro told the man, nodding toward Sanji. He planted his swords against the stone to lever himself to his feet. "So that leaves you for me."

The thug stared at him. "What are you gonna do," he began to ask, "bleed on—" and then Zoro attacked.

"I said, don't move," Sanji said, as the fat man tried to twist his head to look at the fight. He leaned forward, ignoring the twinge that shot through his legs, to better angle the katana's blade against the man's neck. "I'm not too good with swords, and this thing's sharp enough to slit your throat without me even trying." He glanced past the man for a moment. "Besides, there's nothing to see."

The thug fell to his knees beside his boss, groaned and then crashed face-first onto the floor, laid out on the stone limp as his comrade. The fat man's squinty eyes widened as far as they could, straining to make out Zoro behind him without moving his head, then rolling back to stare at Sanji. "What do you want?" he gasped. "If it's—anything, money, I have it, or my employer's name—"

Sanji smiled. "I already told you what I want from you."

"No—wait—you need me," the fat man said. He started to straighten up, froze again when Sanji pressed the sword closer, but it regained him some composure, so he met Sanji's eyes with a touch of his former smirk. "There's charges set in here, timed to go off any minute now, that will bring this cell's ceiling down around your ears. In the condition you're in, without my help, you'll be trapped here, or worse—"

"Hey, Zoro," Sanji asked. "You waiting for an easy escape route?"

Zoro was kneeling on the floor, braced by his swords and head dropped as he panted. "I'm waiting for you to shut that bastard up."

Sanji nodded, looked back at the fat man and allowed his grin to widen. "That's what I thought."

"Wai—no—please—!" The fat man gulped, his bobbing adam's apple scraping against the katana as he stared at Sanji, mouth gaping like a suffocating fish's. "Do you want to die? Are you mad? Wh-what kind of men are you?"

"We told you before," Sanji said, "we're pirates," and then he flipped the katana around and rammed the hilt into the fat man's temple. The man collapsed like a sack of wet cement.

Sanji lowered the sword to the floor, carefully, so the blade didn't clink against the stone. "Not even a broken bone," Zoro commented, shaking his head. "You shouldn't have hit him so hard. Now we'll be gone before he even wakes up, no chance for anything."

"Unless we're trapped here by a cave-in, like he said." Sanji shrugged. "Though he was probably just making that up."

A muffled boom sounded above them. Sanji cocked his head, coughing in the shower of dust that fell from the ceiling. "Or exaggerating it, at least..."

A second, louder boom shook the walls, and then a third. They both looked up as more mortar dust rained down from the stone blocks composing the ceiling.

"Dammit," Zoro swore, and staggered to his feet. As one of the blocks came loose and plummeted, he dove toward Sanji, the stone narrowly avoiding his skull to crack on the floor instead.

"Wait, what are you—" Sanji yelled, as Zoro dropped his swords to bodily grab him. Still holding the white katana, Sanji reached down and snatched up the other two swords as his crewmate threw him over his shoulder and charged for the door, dodging falling rock. Zoro kicked open the door, and they tumbled into the corridor outside the cell right before most of the rest of the roof came down.

Sanji coughed, brushed the settling dust from his hair. Zoro leaned against him, back to back, so Sanji could feel his chest heave as he gasped for breath. "You better not be getting blood on my jacket."

"You better not be...uh...getting blood on my swords."

Sanji looked down at the red spotting the white katana's shining silver. "I'll polish it for you later. Here." He set the three swords down on the floor, slid them back to their master's hand.

As he did he felt Zoro tense, and heard the clatter echoing down the staircase from above. The crack of something breaking, pounding footsteps. "Sounds like someone's come home."

"Yeah." The sword blades scraped against the floor as Zoro picked them up.

He was shaking with the effort. Sanji sighed, set his back to Zoro's and braced his arms to push both of them up. If there weren't too many of them—though if they had guns... "It might not be the master of the house," he said, "it might be marines. Or—"


Sanji relaxed all at once, slumped back against Zoro and felt his crewmate do the same. He found he was smiling so hard his cheeks hurt. "About damn time."

"Took them long enough," Zoro agreed, and Sanji could hear the grin in his voice.

"What were you planning on doing, anyway?" Sanji inquired. "Neither of us can stand."

"We'd have managed."

Sanji snorted, feeling the labored rise and fall of Zoro's shoulders as he caught his breath. By his count the swordsman had about ten minutes' reserve strength until he completely collapsed. Maybe fifteen. Probably not enough for him to make it back to the ship, but with Luffy here that wasn't a problem.

Overhead he could hear the distinctive clopping of hooves on hardwood. "Good, Chopper did come."

Zoro's sigh was almost inaudible, and Sanji chuckled. "Oh, shut up," Zoro growled. "He's not gonna be sewing you up like a stuffed toy."

"What, you liked having open holes in you? Don't tell me the great swordsmaster is afraid of a doctor's needle."

"Are you going to be such a pain in the ass the whole time those legs heal?"

"Well, I'll have to keep my hand in somehow. He's probably not going to let me kick your ass for at least a week." Sanji tipped his head back against his crewmate's shoulder, half-closed his eyes. His legs were throbbing painfully, but Chopper would put them right. "Maybe Nami-san will buy me that icebox lock at last. Don't know how else I'm going to keep Luffy out of it." Footsteps were still pounding overhead. They could call out, but Luffy might decide to take the direct route down if he figured out exactly where they were, and Sanji wasn't sure the corridor's ceiling could handle the stress of a gomu gomu attack without collapsing. They'd find the stairs soon enough.

"Sanji," Zoro said, "Chopper's not going to let you try—if you really want that fat bastard's—"

"Actually, I was thinking on the way back, we should stop by that marine base. Let them know there's some guys in town looking for one of their captains." He waved toward the crooked door and the rubble piled behind the barred window. "Doesn't look like they'll be getting out of there anytime soon, and I'm betting everyone laid out at the docks will keep long enough for the marines to get there, if they're not arrested already."


"You think it lacks the personal touch?"

"I don't think they deserve anything better than getting clapped in marine irons," Zoro said, nodding his approval.

"There's nothing much to get revenge for." Sanji elbowed Zoro in the side, carefully avoiding the bandages. "Just a day's training, right?"

Upstairs a door opened, and their crewmates' voices became suddenly clearer. Sanji smiled to hear Nami calling their names, under Chopper and Luffy's continuing shouts. "Hey," he remarked. "Chopper doesn't really need to know how you got those bullet holes to fix them, does he."

Zoro was quiet for a moment, listening to the growing clatter on the stairs. "How your legs got broken isn't that important, either," he said finally. "And it could've been lightning as easily as eels, don't think that'd make a difference."

"No need to mention any visits to any marine bases, either."

"Or any women passing around drugged drinks." Zoro turned his head enough that Sanji could see his profile out of the corner of his eye, through his hair brushing his crewmate's cheek. "Just don't do it again, cook. Any of it."

"It's a deal," Sanji said, grinning.

"Though, if you do," Zoro added, but quietly, so quietly that when their captain rounded the corner of the passageway at a thunderous dash, Sanji almost didn't hear him finish, "you better be sure I'm there."

Then Luffy all but tripped over them, cheerfully hollering for Chopper, though the doctor was right at his heels, and demanding to know where they were, in spite of the obvious answer in front of him, and in that agreeable pandemonium Sanji had no chance to say anything at all.


Because I never got around to explaining before—"Captain Beinkusu" is simply a Japanese deformation of "Captain Banks", which is an obscure cop show reference hearkening back to my early fanficcing day, making this a very unlikely case of mistaken identity indeed. This wasn't meant to be an actual story, you see; it's more of an exercise that got a bit out of hand...still, hope you enjoyed the ride, and as always, my everlasting thanks to all readers and reviewers—you made sharing this absurdity worthwhile!