In view of the recent efforts of other writers in the OP community, I know I can't do this series justice- but darn it, I'm gonna try anyway. (Well, that and I already promised to finish it…)

Two steps forward, three steps back
Without warning, heart attack
He fell asleep in the snow
Never woke up, died alone

-Type O Negative

Cold Comfort

Still as it may be, the frigid air continued to leech precious heat from his body. Sanji looked up again, trying to judge the angle of light coming in from the only opening above. It had been some time now, since he had been left alone; sitting huddled in this jagged grotto, grateful he had managed to pull himself to the relative support of the wall. He had been listening intently for any sounds above for at least the last two hours, but there was nothing to be heard. It was dead quiet; no wind, not even a bird to be heard for all he strained.

The eerie stillness was beginning to disturb him in an almost primal way- the sort a child remembers, before logic tells him not to fear the dark- where the unknown is watching, waiting…

He shifted slightly, if only for the moment of sound- proving his ears still worked with the snow that crunched faintly under him. There was no reason he should be this edgy; he could take care of himself, had been able to for some time. Still… this felt wrong. He was out of place here and that unsettled him; like he was somehow trespassing in a dead world- with the almost deafening silence pressing in on him now, and the endless stretch of white he knew was above…

He looked around, eyes searching any movement; even a drifting flake of snow, but there was none. It almost felt like he was caught up in a frozen moment, crystallized for only him to see.

It might even have been pretty; with the glassy ice catching the light just right... had he not lost his cigarettes on the way down, and the fall hadn't done something to his back, preventing him from reaching them.

But Nami-san was safe; he had gotten her out of harm's way when the false ground fell away, and she had gone for help- so it wouldn't be long before he could have his precious nicotine, and a warm drink, and then it would be time to make dinner...

He tucked his hands under his arms gingerly, fighting down panic that he could no longer feel them. Of course he had given Nami-san his own warmed gloves once hers grew cold, and being the fey beauty she was, her gloves couldn't possibly fit him in return. But he was fine if he kept moving, and kept his hands in his pockets, and of course he couldn't have smoked in his gloves anyway, so it all worked out really...

Except he couldn't keep moving, not anymore. He had barely managed to sit up as it was; had long ago lost feeling in his legs, though he wasn't certain if that was entirely due to the cold. He hoped it was, though it might not make much difference in the end. He'd be fine so long as he had his hands. Prop him up, he could still cook- Zeff had proved that...

He wasn't sure how long he sat, gazing at the cigarettes not 10 feet out of his reach, in his own world. It probably wasn't a good sign that he had stopped shivering during that quiet contemplation.

A thought occurred to him then, of how ironic it would be- with all the fights he'd been in- all the stupid trouble their captain had pulled them through; with all the enemies they shouldn't have been able to beat... for him to die here, quietly in the snow.

That struck him somehow, and laughter bubbled to the surface- soft at first then growing in strength. It only lasted a minute; he wasn't so far gone that he couldn't hear the hysterical edge to it, realize how unseemly it was. He stopped abruptly, taking a deep breath, and an oppressive silence closed in on his world again.

It would be ok- he just had to hold out a little longer.

A lonely thought emerged in that quiet, wondering if he had been forgotten- or if there had ever been a Going Merry, or a Baratie, or anything else out there besides him. Had he always been alone...? Was this just a fever dream- would he wake up again, on that damned rock, starving under the unforgiving sun?

But that couldn't be right- he didn't dream all of that. There were people out there- his nakama- and they were looking for him. It was just taking time. The terrain was so bland, so easy to get lost there- and with Luffy or Zoro's sense of direction, even Nami-san would be hard pressed to lead them here. They were likely still looking for his lonely crevice among the crags and rocks.

As comforting as thoughts of rescue should be, he spent the next several minutes pushing down the galling thought of being saved by the cabbage-head. He wasn't certain he could make himself call to that bonehead for help. Zoro or death... it was a hard decision.

Finally, someone above called his name- nearly screaming to be heard at distance, relieving his worry. He hadn't been forgotten, and even as relief flooded him he wondered how he ever could have doubted them. To hear his captain now, it seemed absurd. Most people would think Luffy was angry when he used that tone, but the cook knew better; could hear the desperate edge to his voice, had heard it once before, in another desolate and freezing wasteland. Or had he dreamt that too? Surely he wasn't now...

And then the voice was moving away- calling in a new direction, hopeful and desperate, and he knew his chance was passing. He tried to move, prepared to yell- wanting nothing more than to call out, let his captain know he was alright- but his jaw wouldn't work; tongue sitting thick in his mouth. Even so, any noise- any noise could be enough to get his attention, but try as he might, he couldn't muster the strength to make more than a faint keening whine.

Exhausted and mute, he finally slumped back- the last of his energy spent.

So very tired now, maybe he would feel better after a short nap...

- - -

This chapter gave me issues- sorry. Thanks much to Miyu for the help and Beta'ing- I would still be revising, and revising, and revising were it not for her. Now- I finally get to go back to work on 2 and 3, which have been vying for my attention (and frankly, sound much better). Its unheard of for me to post something unfinished- please bear with me…