Night and Day

A Post-Piracy Sanji Side Story

By Aoikami Sarah

Chapter Twelve – Showtime

The day before Rupert Krähe and his entourage were to leave Largo, Harmony held a huge party to thank him for filling in and to wish him and his band well. Sanji catered the event flawlessly like the consummate professional he was. There were mounds of exotic purple shrimp cocktail, fine sausages wrapped in philo dough, delicate miniature crab cakes with complex and well balanced spices – and that was just the first three appetizers of seven to be devoured by the appreciative guests. Dinner was lavish in its intricacy and perfection, but not overdone in quantity and everyone cleaned their plates.

After dessert was served and he could finally relax, Sanji sat down at Harmony's left, took a deep breath and attempted to keep from saying something inappropriate to the guest of honor seated at her right.

"This has been really special," Krähe said, raising a glass to his hostess. "We can't thank you enough."

"But I'm sure you'll try," Sanji grumbled.

Harmony heard it but ignored him. "There's no need. I'm just showing my gratitude." She smiled. On the small stage near the head of the table the Looney Gen Band picked up their instruments and shooed the band before them off. They began playing an upbeat but appropriate tune for the occasion. Krähe engaged Harmony in more small-talk and Sanji stewed in silence, disturbed only by a waiter bringing him his Monsieur Kamayatsu which made him remember Opus and the news he'd overhead.

"Ah! Harmony! I just remembered!"

She rolled her eyes. 'Another attempt to distract Krähe, really cute, Sanji,' she thought. "Mr. Krähe, shall we dance?" she asked. He raised a brow and looked straight at Sanji for a beat before standing and offering her his arm. Sanji blinked a few times, stood and grasped her other arm, staring at Krähe defiantly.

"I just remembered that someone told me that Robin is most likely alive," he hissed. "Have a nice night, Ojou-sama." Sanji let her go, turned on his heel and walked out of the dining room. Harmony stared at his back, slack-jawed. Tears came to her eyes and she struggled through a pile of emotions to find something to say but nothing came.

She was startled as Rupert Krähe put his hand on her shoulder. "Would you like to go somewhere a bit more private and talk, Miss Sairen?" he asked.

.x.

Sanji didn't know how he ended up in the Nugget. Perhaps it was just that he was on auto pilot and he'd been going over there so frequently in the last month it was simply where his feet took him. Or perhaps he knew that going up to his room to be by himself would only make him more morose. Carmen saw the ashen look on his face and dropped everything. She snapped her fingers and drinks appeared and the two commiserated at a small table in the back of the restaurant.

"She hates me," he said finally after taking the first loosening sip of his Vodka Collins.

"How can that be?" Carmen asked, disbelievingly.

"She's in love with him."

"Who him?"

"Krähe."

"Rupert Krähe?" Carmen asked, stars coming to her eyes. "Oh, we went over to see him last week. His band es increíble !" Sanji shot daggers with his eyes at his dance partner. "Sorry. She's in love with him? But isn't he…" she raised her left arm and let her hand droop from the wrist.

"I don't know! Does it matter?! She moons over him and totally ignores me!"

Carmen grinned and reached forward to clutch Sanji's hands. "I swear to you I will make certain she won't be able to ignore you!" Sanji looked hopeful for only a moment before slumping back down in his seat. "Alright, Mister Pouty Pants. Go home and get some rest. You're going to need it."

Once Sanji was out of sight Carmen rubbed her hands together and giggled to herself in a most out-of-character fashion. The waiter who collected the empty glasses stopped and stared at her for a second. "What are you so delighted about, Miss Carmen?"

"I'm delighted by my own brilliance!" she crowed and danced away from the table, laughing, attracting strange looks from the restaurant's other patrons.

.x.

Krähe walked Harmony to her apartment and kissed her hand. "Thank you for a most wonderful evening, Miss Sairen."

She blushed. "It was nothing."

"Now I think you should get some sleep. It's been a long night," he pointed out. Harmony nodded. "And I have a long day ahead of me. Tomorrow's performance will be one to remember!"

"I don't doubt it, Mr. Krähe. I don't doubt it." She smiled and closed the door.

Krähe furrowed his expressive brows and pouted slightly. "Now," he whispered to himself. "How can I truly tell you how grateful I am…?" He pivoted and walked back down toward the stairs to get to the public elevator.

At the same time, Sanji was coming up in the private elevator. He dragged himself down the hall a floor below Harmony's and unlocked his own door. As it closed behind him, Krähe emerged from the stairwell and waited for the public elevator. Both Sanji and Harmony fell onto their beds at the same moment and attempted to get some sleep.

Krähe stepped out into the lobby and was flagged down by a bellhop. "Mr. Krähe, I have a message for you," he said. "There's a lady to see you."

"Oh?" he wondered and looked in the direction the bellhop indicated. He didn't recognize the red haired woman but approached her anyway.

"Mr. Krähe!" she greeted him. "My name is Carmen. I saw your performance the other day and it was magnifico!"

"Thank you, Madame, but I…"

"I'm not a raving fangirl, Mr. Krähe, I'm a friend of a friend of yours, Miss Harmony Sairen?" Krähe's brow rose suspiciously. "I believe we need to talk."

.x.

The following evening the performance was set to begin and Sanji was dragged unceremoniously toward his seat. He wore a tuxedo of simple yet classic design. "I don't see why I have to be put through this!" he argued to Carmen who wore a deep violet crushed-velvet dress so long it only just showed her pointed heels. She pulled him gently, as they were in public, but her patience was wearing thin.

"It's for your own good! You need motivation! Your enthusiasm has waned. If you see her on stage tonight with 'the Other Man' it will drive you wild!" she cried.

"It'll make me want to jump on stage and choke the shit out of him!" Sanji argued.

Carmen pushed him down into his seat and frowned at him. "You will watch and you will learn and if you want me to be successful you will do as I say!" He folded his arms tightly but didn't attempt to flee. That would have to do, she decided, as the house lights were dimmed and the performance began.

The band filed in and took their seats to applause and began to play the introduction of "Music Maestro Please", the song Sanji had heard them practicing a while ago. The effect of the very similar looking men in stark tuxedos under the stage lights was simple yet attention-getting. Sanji muttered something incoherent and undoubtedly derogatory but lost his ability to speak at all as Harmony entered the stage.

He hadn't seen her perform in a long time and certainly not backed by such an incredible orchestra. She began playing her violin almost immediately and only bowed her head demurely to the crowd. She was not the star and she wanted them to know it. But she was a star and this was irrefutable. Her jade-green satin dress hugged her curves and accented her curly pink hair and tanned skin incredibly well. Sanji didn't dare blink. Carmen watched him carefully and smiled.

Harmony turned her body to stage left and the music swelled. Out came Krähe and Sanji frowned and hunkered down in his seat and remained there until intermission.

When the lights came up, Sanji bolted for the door followed closely by his mentor. "Don't you think about running away!" she called after him.

"I'm running to the bar!" he shouted.

"Oh no you don't!"

Sanji stopped and glared at her. "Now I can't even drown my sorrows?!"

Carmen flushed. "You mustn't dull your senses. I will buy more drinks than you can handle when this performance is over." He narrowed his eye at her and before he could ask her what she was up to Carmen whipped out a fan, batted huge, feminine puppy-dog eyes at him and he melted. She bapped him on the head with the fan gently to scold him for giving her attention. "I'm not your Lady Love. Concentrate."

He looked a bit deflated but agreed and they returned to their seats for the second set.

Behind the scenes, Krähe reappeared from behind a screen dressed in tails. "Are you ready for your big number, my dear?" he asked Harmony who was seated in front of a mirror and was staring vacantly at her own reflection. "I know it's sort of last minute. You can back out if you like…"

She shook her head. "Sanji is in the audience. I want him to see this."

Krähe put his hands on her shoulders. "Of course. Ready?"

Harmony nodded and accepted his helping hand.

Carmen stared at the stage with wrapped attention and a slow grin began to creep across her face. She leaned forward and clenched her hands. Finally, as Krähe crooned "You've opened heaven's portal here on Earth for this poor mortal. You are my lucky star!" and pointed out into the audience with a sly wink and Carmen bolted up out of her seat.

"Come on!" she urged Sanji who was blocking her way.

"I get to leave now?" he asked pitifully.

"Sort of." She shooed him along and they left the audience. Dragging him around the theater to the left they approached the stage door which was opened for them by a security guard.

"Oh, I see. It wasn't enough that I should be subjected to this from far away I've got to get up-close and personal, right? What's wrong with you?!" he begged his apparent torturer.

"I am going to get you the attention of your Lady Love!" Carmen argued, shushing him as they approached the wings.

"What? You think if I waltz out there and pop Krähe in the maw that'll make Harmony fall all over me?!"

"No no," she half ignored him. "Waltz, yes. Pop, no."

"What…?" Before Sanji could do any more complaining, Krähe finished up singing 'You Are My Lucky Star' and headed off into the wings toward them. Sanji straightened up, ready to give the ostentatious bandleader a knuckle sandwich when Carmen reached out and clutched his hands.

"Are we ready?" she asked anxiously.

Krähe titled his head toward the stage as the band geared up into a familiar song. Sanji's blood ran cold. "Oh no!" he cried.

"Oh yes," Krähe cooed. The song they were playing was called "Night and Day" and just happened to be the very same song Sanji had been practicing with Carmen. "Do you think you can do it?"

"This a test?" Sanji snarled back.

Carmen smacked his arm. "Be grateful!" she hissed. "I begged Mr. Krähe to do us this favor."

"I don't want any favors from him!" Sanji retorted.

"Sixty seconds," Krähe noted with an ever-spreading grin. "I taught her the steps last night. You'll have to account for the change in height as Miss Sairen is significantly shorter than Miss Carmen but otherwise it should be fine. The microphone awaits you, Mr. Sanji."

He stared out at the stage as Harmony was seated in a chair by one of the band. A female member appeared and took her violin and began to play it for her. She seemed perplexed and looked into the wings for Krähe

"Twenty seconds," Krähe drawled. "Do you think you can do it?"

Sanji stared at Harmony and his pulse raced. "Guess I don't have much of a choice in the matter, do I?" he said quietly.

The violinist began to pluck the strings and Sanji strolled toward the microphone. He was suddenly painfully aware that the theater held 500 seats (minus two for his and Carmen's). The audience seemed confused but the lights hid their puzzled faces. He dared not look at Harmony as he grasped the large, silver microphone and began to sing.

Like the beat, beat, beat, of the tom-tom

When the jungle shadows fall

Like the tick, tick, tock of the stately clock

As it stands against the wall…

Finally adjusted to the groove of the song he turned his head and glanced at Harmony. Her expression was priceless: totally confused, shocked, astounded and sitting as still as a doll. He smiled and pulled the microphone stand toward himself so that he could turn his body more toward her.

Like the drip, drip, drip, of the raindrops

When the summer shower's through

So a voice within me keeps repeating you you you…

Night and day you are the one

Only you beneath the moon

And under the sun…

Sanji gesticulated toward her and his smile finally broke her of her shock. Her eyes were wide with amazement, but she tilted her head to one side and listened appreciatively.

Whether near to me or far

It's no matter, darling, where you are

I think of you

Night and day!

Day and night why is it so

That this longing for you follows wherever I go?

In the roaring traffic's boom

In the silence of my lonely room

I think of you

Night and day!

He noticed a certain brow raise that told him she was wondering what was to come next. 'Are you really going to dance with me?' it seemed to say. He nodded slightly and grinned even wider. Her eyes nearly popped out of her head.

Night and day under the hide of me

There's an oh such a hungry yearning burning inside of me

And its torment won't be through

Till you let me spend my life making love to you

Day and night -

Night and day!

Sanji relinquished the microphone and gracefully stepped toward Harmony as she stood, expectantly. His right hand in hers and his left on her shoulder, they began to dance to the lively music supplied by the band. He couldn't get over how amazing she was. In only 24 hours she'd learned the same sequence that had taken him weeks to master. Her body moved as if the routine were only natural. Four measures into the instrumental they reached a quiet four-measure section that called for them to dance quite close, her head rested on his shoulder. "I just couldn't let that hack Krähe show me up," Sanji whispered to her as they danced.

"I didn't know you could dance!" she hissed back.

"Funny. Neither did I." The music began to swell. "Ready?" he asked her and she nodded. They took off across the stage following the rolling rising rhythm. They twisted and turned elegantly, not a step out of place. Finally, they released each other, Harmony moved to stage right and Sanji to stage left.

Carmen and Krähe watched from the wings, Krähe looking as cool and confident as always and Carmen chewing on the knuckle of her index finger. "Here it comes!" she piped anxiously. Krähe nodded.

Sanji stepped slowly toward Harmony as she rushed toward him and leapt up into his arms. He twirled her around as the music fluttered back down and put her back on her feet. A quick turn and a low dip then he pulled her up to his chest, clasping her hands tightly as the song finally ended and the surprised audience applauded demurely, still not sure where Rupert Krähe had gone to and who this other guy was. Harmony was at a loss for words. She couldn't help but swoon and raise her chin toward his lips to accept a long-awaited kiss. The applause suddenly grew louder and some even shouted and cheered the couple. Krähe returned to his position and urged the band which had also become distracted to begin playing the next song, "Dream A Little Dream". "Ladies and Gentlemen, Harmony Sairen and Sanji," he purred into the microphone and applauded them off stage, smiling graciously.

Carmen's tears flowed unfettered. "Perfecto! Parfaitement! Kanpeki!" she gushed and hugged Sanji tightly. "You did it!" She released him and opened her arms to Harmony who looked a bit stunned. Carmen grasped her shoulders and kissed her cheeks.

"This woman…?" Harmony wondered.

"I'm sorry! My name is Carmen" she said, rolling her 'r' and bowing while blotting her eyes. "I had the honor of teaching your man his steps."

"Teaching…" Harmony said slowly, closing her eyes and turning to Sanji. "Oh, I'm such a fool. I saw you dancing. I thought you and she were…"

Sanji's jaw dropped. "Ah!" he exclaimed. "But I…!"

"Well, you were fawning all over her," Harmony insisted. "It was an easy mistake to make!"

Carmen nodded. "See! I told you, I…"

"Carmen," Sanji said, not taking his eyes off of Harmony. "I think perhaps you need a drink."

She pulled a fan out of nowhere and waved it with a sly, satisfied smile. "And a seat, for I have been completely knocked out of mine. That was simply wunderbar!" she chimed and pirouetted away into the shadows of backstage.

Harmony stared up at Sanji. "You do tend to fawn all over every girl but me…" she said quietly. "I thought I was just your 'Oujousama'."

"Oujousama," he said, taking her hands in his again. "I am desperately in love with you."

"Then show me," she whispered.

Sanji smiled and bowed to kiss her again. "I will… Night and Day."

END.