Sanji wanted to make lunch in peace just this once, but alas, it was not to be, because something sounded suspiciously like a marble ricocheted off the wall and knocked the spoon in the pocket of Sanji's apron onto the floor. The cook whipped around to see the galley door closed, but the window was open…he growled in aggravation and leaned down to pick up the spoon, turning his back to the door as he did.
Usopp peeked into the window to see if his trick had worked. Aha! The chef had his back turned, wiping the spoon off on his apron. Usopp hopped through the window and tiptoed across the galley until he reached the table, at which point he threw himself down and army-crawled underneath it to the other side. He jumped up, ran, and dove behind a sack of flour, remaining hidden for several tense seconds before cautiously lifting his head. Sanji was chopping vegetables at the counter, apparently oblivious. The marksman shifted a bit to his left and stretched out his arm, feeling– yes, there it was; the bag of carrots. But when he opened the bag, it rustled just a bit too loudly. Usopp winced and slammed his eyes shut. When he opened them again, he found himself looking at a pair of long, black-clad legs. With his eyes, he followed them up to Sanji's face, which was frowning in annoyance. Usopp winced again.
"Do I even need to say it?" the chef snapped.
"Get out of the galley?" Usopp ventured with a nervous grin.
Sanji pointed to the door. The sharpshooter ungracefully removed himself from the stack of supplies and began to walk, a reluctant, defeated shuffle, toward it. Without further conversation, the cook went back to the counter and continued preparing lunch, only stopping several minutes later when he realized that Usopp was standing by the door, scuffing his foot on the floorboards, and staring at the bulkhead as if he had something to say and couldn't quite bring himself to say it. Sanji slammed the knife down on the counter and faced him.
"Usopp." The marksman looked up. "You don't even like carrots."
A pause. "Not really," Usopp mumbled, looking at his feet.
"This is the third time today you've snuck in here. I always find you out. You don't actually want any food. What do you want?"
Usopp opened his mouth, closed it, and mumbled something else. Sanji knew that there were no actual words in the statement Usopp made.
"Fine, don't tell me," the cook said, throwing his hand in the air and returning to the vegetables. "Either make yourself useful or get out."
"You never say anything nice to me," said Usopp, the words jumbling together slightly in his rush to get them out. "You always have admiring comments for Nami and Robin, and you say good things about Luffy and Chopper sometimes, and you've even complimented Zoro once or twice, don't look at me that way I've heard it, but you never have any kind words for me and I, I wonder if you even really like me at all, okay?"
Usopp seemed a little surprised, either because of what he had just said or that he had actually told the whole truth and nothing but it for once, or maybe a bit of both. Sanji was, however, ten times more shocked than Usopp could even pretend to be. He dropped the knife he had been holding on the floor and looked at the marksman, stunned and gaping. Usopp winced for the third time and looked at his feet.
Great Captain Usopp, thwarted by honesty, he thought bitterly, reaching for the door. But no sooner had he opened it than Sanji kicked it closed and grabbed his wrist, holding it away from the doorknob.
"Idiot," Sanji snapped. "How could you think that I don't like you? You're my nakama."
Usopp gulped, looking up into Sanji's eye, and suddenly wished that he was wearing his goggles. Or that he was hiding behind someone more capable of dealing with this sort of situation. "But you never–"
"Fine," said Sanji, who still hadn't let go of Usopp's wrist. "You want compliments? Okay. You're the best sharpshooter I've ever seen. You know how to make everyone laugh. You'll stand up and fight something that scares the hell out of you to protect your friends. You're so ridiculously devoted that you'd got to the ends of the Earth to save someone you care about. You have so little self-esteem that you feel like you have to tell over-the-top lies just to get us to accept you, and it's…it's so endearingly stupid that you still don't realize that we'll love you even if you don't have eight billion followers and can't wield a five-ton hammer or fight off ten giants all by yourself. And you wear those idiotic goggles and fool around with chemicals all day and you're probably smarter than all of us in some ways, and I have no idea what any of us would do without you, even if you do interrupt me when I'm making lunch." He stopped, replacing the ever-so-slightly mawkish look that had crept onto his face with one of stern annoyance. "That good enough for you, longnose?"
By this time, Usopp was staring, wide-eyed and open-mouthed, at the cook as if he had no idea what to say, because he didn't. "I…I…" he began, stopped, and looked down at his shoes. "Thanks."
"Just get out of the galley," Sanji said, a bit awkwardly. "Lunch will be ready in ten minutes."
"Right," said the marksman, and headed for the door. He faltered for a moment with one hand on the doorknob and spent a second trying to figure out how to say what he had to say next before realizing that the only way to say it was just to say it. "Sanji? I, um, I like you."
"I know," said the chef, slicing a cucumber. "I like you too."
"No," Usopp said, nervously. "I mean–"
"I know," Sanji said again, meaningfully, and looked up at the sharpshooter hovering by the door. "I like you too."
"Oh," Usopp said, and then swallowed. He felt his face heating up and hoped desperately that he wasn't blushing. "Oh."
"Out," Sanji ordered, returning to the cucumber. "Ten minutes."
"Oh right," Usopp replied, and left the galley, closing the door behind him.
"What're you grinning at?" Zoro said a moment later to Usopp, who was staring off into space and doing exactly that.
"Nothing," Usopp lied, and then amended "Compliments."
The swordsman raised an eyebrow, shrugged, and went back to sleep. Across the deck, the girls exchanged glances and smiled, and Chopper bounded up to ask the marksman for a story from his days as a great adventurer. Usopp, still grinning, leaned back against the railing and gave the reindeer exactly that.