"Now step to the left. The left, Usopp. Other left. Come on, you're not the shitty swordsman, you can handle this."
"Sorry, sorry, um, can we start over?"
Sanji sighed and gave Usopp a plaintive look. When the younger boy had confessed that he didn't know how to dance, Sanji knew that had to be remedied– how did he expect to pick up women if he couldn't dance? (Any conflicting motives that had crept to forefront of his mind at the time had been firmly repressed within the past half hour, or at least that was what he told himself.) But really, this was getting ridiculous. Usopp had the rhythm of a blind hippopotamus, and what he lacked in tempo he made up for in an apparent inability to pay attention.
"Fine, fine…from the beginning." Sanji rubbed his forehead in exasperation for a moment before taking one of Usopp's hands and guiding the other to his shoulder. Then he put his own hand on the small of Usopp's back, causing him to jump again– Why did he keep doing that?– and started counting for what felt like the millionth time.
On two, Usopp tripped over Sanji's foot.
"Argh!" Sanji cried, extricating himself from a complicated tangle of limbs against the bench of the table. "Look, can you just focus and work with me here? Dancing takes cooperation, and you are not…not…why are you staring at me like that? You look like you're about to hyperventilate."
Usopp stood up. Then he sat down on the bench. Then he stood up again, thought for a second, and sat back down. He stared at the floor, hauled in a couple of deep breaths, and blurted out "I can't focus because you're holding my hand and you have your hand on my back and I have my hand on your shoulder and there are just hands everywhere and we're only standing like six inches apart and it's making me want to just explode or possibly fall into a hole and never come out because you don't like me the way I like you and I think I should just go to bed because it's ten o' clock already goodnight."
With that, he bolted for the door, but Sanji grabbed him by the elbow and yanked him, stumbling, back to the table, and practically threw him down on the bench. Usopp made a noise like a shot rabbit and covered his face with his hands, ineffectually.
"What do you mean…'I don't like you like you like me'?" Sanji asked, slowly, gazing at Usopp with a guarded expression.
Usopp swallowed hard, three times, before finally getting up the nerve to speak, which he did while looking at the hands that were wringing each other in his lap. "I-I…I like you, Sanji…a lot…and I know you don't like me because you like Nami, and-and Robin, and women, and not men. And I'm a man. So you don't like me." He swallowed again, still staring at his hands, and looked for all the world as if he were trying to shrink away into nothingness.
"Oh." Sanji took this information in with considerable shock. So much shock that he had to sit down, right next to Usopp, which made the other boy jump and cower away from him as if expecting a kick to the head. "Calm the hell down, will you? I'm not going to kill you."
Usopp seemed to recognize this as a sign of Sanji patently not freaking out on him, and thus relaxed a fraction. Sanji sighed and ran a hand though his hair, staring at his shoes.
"So you like me, huh?" he said, tipping his head toward Usopp but not actually looking at him.
Usopp nodded, a quick, uncertain jerk of his head, and began to tap his left foot nervously while picking at the fabric of his overalls where they covered his thigh. A long time passed before Sanji replied.
"How long?" he asked, and Usopp looked up sharply; that was clearly not what he had expected.
"Er," Usopp began. "Um. I don't really know. I think…really I just kind of looked up one day and there you were, and…I don't know. But like, a while now. Because of…well, you rescue me when I don't deserve it. And you save my goggles from crazy freaks in ballet getups. And you kind of know when I need talking to and when I need left alone…and you don't make me eat mushrooms anymore." He paused then, and smiled, warily. "Two months, maybe."
Sanji turned to look at Usopp and blinked. "Two months…that's how long I…damn." And then he laughed, as if something were genuinely funny, and after a second Usopp joined in, mostly out of relief that Sanji seemed to be taking it well and also because he never could keep from laughing while Sanji was.
"Do you realize," Sanji said after a long moment, still chuckling slightly, "that we've both been in the same position for two damn months and neither one of us has done anything about it?"
Usopp stared at Sanji, shock and realization hitting him like one of his own rotten eggs. "You mean you–"
"Yes, Usopp," Sanji said with a smirk, cutting the other boy off. "I like you too."
"Oh," said Usopp. He felt oddly hollow inside, but not in a bad way: as if something tight and knotted up and awkwardly painful had been removed from his chest. It was a good feeling. A really good feeling. He grinned. "Well, you know the thing about dancing…is that you can't stay in one place."
Sanji grinned back, imagining for a brief moment that this must almost be what finding All Blue felt like; not the greatest in the world, but still one hell of a discovery to make. He stood up and held one of his hands out to Usopp; offering.
Usopp took it, stood up, and didn't let go. "Shall we?" he said brightly, if somewhat timidly.
"Promise to pay attention this time?" Sanji said, warningly.
"Of course." And that wasn't timid at all. "Cooperation is important, after all."
"Very," Sanji agreed, smiling, and pulled Usopp close.