Disclaimer: I do not own One Piece

Warning: Horror, slash, AU

A/N: Another of my one-shots! Well, uh, actually, it's not a 'one' shot per se...it's actually a short story. CLOSE ENOUGH, DAMMIT. O.o Inspired by 'Prey', by Richard Matheson. Old school horror rox my sox. This story does contain citrus of double F hating kind, so go to my profile and click on the 'homepage' link for details.

The Pirate In The Doll:

Part One

It was one of those things that he'd seen as he was passing by—posed in a curio shop, just a block away from the open market place that he frequented. Loaded with fresh vegetables and wrapped packages of meat, Sanji would have never seen the doll if he hadn't fumbled with the basket he'd clumsily held in one hand. As he quickly crouched to pick up the dropped contents of his basket, he became eye level with the doll that was nestled within a treasure chest-style box; it stood upright, supported by a surrounding of other oddities that had never captured his eye before.

But there was something about that doll, its grotesque face with its hideous features staring right back at him, that drew him toward it. People continued on with their lives around him, forced to walk around his crouched frame. But it was as if time had stopped for him.

It was eight inches tall, stiff and possessing unmoveable limbs; its clothes were tattered and faded pieces of fabric, not entirely decipherable as separate pieces. There a band that seemed to squeeze its head from the eyebrows up with constricting force; its hair was wild and short, but it was stringy and obviously from an animal. Its face was pocked with tiny scars to represent a man's aging features, its mouth open with a menacing sneer. Around its neck was a melody of sparse feathers and fish bones, all strung together on a piece of twine.

Sanji wrinkled his nose, visible eye narrowing as he studied the doll's features. The eyes had long since faded, childish decoration leaving behind blackened spots within the orbits. The menacing mouth with its bared teeth seemed to widen upon his proximity. The hair on the back of his neck rose straight up, but even as he forced himself to stand, he couldn't help but feel appreciative of the cold chill that raced through his spine. Barely focusing on the task, he found himself locating the entrance into the curio shop and walking inside.

-

Zoro eyed it with disdain. The thing gave him the creeps. It was posed amongst Sanji's cook books and battered recipe books, sneering balefully at him while the blond man chopped and diced various ingredients atop of a worn wooden board. The shelves that had been carefully worked into the walls were parallel from the counter where Zoro was sitting. Across from him was the stove where Sanji was working, and from Zoro's profile, he could see the thing in his peripheral vision. It was a dominating object that drew his attention no matter how he was positioned. For nearly half an hour now, Zoro had adjusted himself in the stool he sat on, trying to find a position where he could somehow place the thing out of his sight. But even when he kept his back to the thing, he could feel something burning into the back of his neck, and that was uncomfortable enough to not keep his back to it for very long.

Bringing the bottle of whiskey to his lips, Zoro glared at it, feeling as if the thing was actively watching his every movement. As if the thing could actually think...could actually see...

Sanji looked up as he scooped garlic and onion with his palm and blade, dumping it into heated oil. Seeing Zoro's glare, he followed the other's sight to his most recent purchase and gave it a nod. As he stirred the contents within the skillet, he said cryptically, "It's almost as if it's looking right at you. Like it actually knows what you're doing."

"Creepiest thing I've ever seen," Zoro muttered, pausing to swig and swish, contemplating the doll's tattered clothing. "Why is it here?"

"It looks neat."

Zoro gave him an exasperated look, raising a booted foot to plop it atop of the stool next to him. Sanji stirred the cooking onion and garlic, the apartment filling with scent before wiping off the wooden board and turning to the sink to scale the strips of fish that he'd left in there minutes earlier. Satisfied with the product, he left the strips within the sink to return to the board, chopping up various herbs.

Zoro watched him for a few moments, then glared at the doll once again. His skin was crawling, and as he searched for any evidence that the doll was actively living, he heard Sanji snort.

"It's not alive, marimo," he muttered, stirring the onion and garlic once more before brushing the chopped herbs off the board and into the skillet. He began mixing the ingredients.

"I swear it's looking at me. It's planning my demise."

"It's a doll. A decorative piece of art."

"Your definition of 'art' is fucked up."

Sanji looked over at the doll once more, thinning his lips. The doll looked as it had in the window of the curio shop; lifeless and yet menacing. He couldn't help but shiver as he returned his attention to the meal he was making in front of him.

"It spruces up my kitchen," he declared, turning down the heat to the skillet. He began to slice the fish up carefully. His visible eye slid over to the doll that languished in its position between a couple of cookbooks. From his position, he could see the small details in its faded clothing; the stripes on its head warmer and the sleeves, the tiny fish bones that seemed almost like jail bars over its skinny frame. Its hair was dull and stringy, yet it sprout up from its scarred head like a bush.

And even through the smells of the herbs and vegetables were strong, he could still smell the musky, slightly iron scent of the doll. It made his cheek twitch slightly, but he figured the scent would eventually dissipate with some time.

Zoro frowned, and tipped the bottle once more, leaning on the counter and feeling the hairs on the back of his neck rise straight up as he did so. He decided that he'd paid enough attention to the thing, and thought that if he ignored it, it would somehow disappear.

His eyes cast around every familiar object in Sanji's apartment. The blond man and his culinary skills were more important than the plain, tidy arrangement within the cramped quarters. It was large enough only for a counter, small stove, smaller icebox, a large bookshelf, and a small table that held aloft a radio and record player. There was a family of six on the other side of the wall to their left, and they could hear the loud tromping of feet in the hallway stairway. The radio was playing jazz, occasionally interrupted by the latest war updates. There were paper dividers that kept him from peering into Sanji's bedspace; there were toiletries stacked neatly near the doorway, where Sanji had quick and easy access to them in case he needed to visit the shared toilets down the hall. A narrow door closed off an even narrower closet space.

He looked over at his neighbor. For a moment, he took in the faded linen shirt, the limp blond hair and the color stains on his fingertips. During the day, the other worked as assistant chef in a fine restaurant; at night, he cooked for Zoro. Zoro's 'payment' for free meals was sex. Despite their prickly personalities, they happened to click just right where both contributions become something more than just an understanding. It was a fine arrangement, and Zoro still counted himself lucky for it. "Where'd you find it?"

"On West Main. The curio shop."

"...What's a 'curio'?"

"If you have to ask, never mind."

Zoro scrunched up his forehead. He tried to picture what a 'curio' meant, but that took too much effort. He rubbed his forehead with a dirtied thumb, trying to picture a shop that sold weird and menacing things. Then he had to wonder why anybody would sell such a thing.

As Sanji cooked the fish, he had to smirk. He looked over at his neighbor, who was still dressed in his work clothes; stained and dirty shirts, battered Levi's, boots with loosened ties. He could smell Zoro's sweat and the smell of metal and cement. As a high rise ironworker, Zoro was one of the insanely brave men that faced dizzying heights and death just to survive in a city that continued to expand.

To think that a man that braved the dangers of skeleton frameworks of high rise buildings was afraid of a simple doll made him amused.

"The background's simple," he started, watching the fish cook. "It was found recently in the owner's father's possessions. His father had claimed he'd inherited it from his father's father; the doll is actually a prison of a pirate from the early 1880's. A cruel and murderous pirate that had been punished a lifetime of imprisonment within a child's toy for his crimes. The toy belonged to his last victim. The owner mentioned that, after the pirate's soul was imprisoned within the toy through some primitive voodoo fashion, the toy slowly began to resemble the pirate himself."

Zoro eyed the doll with distaste.

Sanji shrugged, flipping the fish over. Eyeing the doll once more, he gave a shrewd expression. "The necklace is supposed to keep the spirit inside the thing."

Zoro snorted, swishing the whiskey around in the bottle. "A bunch of fishbones and freaky colored feathers keeps a spirit stuck inside some kid's toy? You got ripped off, man."

"It's a true story. I totally believe in it," Sanji said with a half grin, enjoying Zoro's skepticism in the entire thing.

"You would. Only idiots would be into cheap voodoo stories and shit like that."

"Don't tell me you don't," Sanji said, playing up his mock disbelief.

Zoro scoffed, knowing that Sanji was only playing with him. "Idiot."

With his free hand, Sanji reached over for the hand rolled cigarette that smoldered slowly within the ashtray. He took a drag of cheap tobacco, and wondered if he was going to be able to sneak in finer quality with his next paycheck. But with the Depression and the war going on, it was going to be hard to find such things while continuing to struggle to keep the things he already had. He was lucky to work in a restaurant; at least he got to bring some things home with him, the owner allowing his employees that small favor. Exhaling slowly, he rolled his shoulders and thought over the owner's words. While he felt a little tingle in the story, seeing that the owner himself displayed discomfort and unease while handling the doll within its treasure chest-style coffin, he didn't really believe in such things.

He carefully stamped out the cigarette, saving it for later.

"The toy was said to be responsible for...'malicious' hauntings wherever it was stored," he then continued. "Whatever the fuck that meant."

"If it's spirit is trapped by weak-ass fishbones, then how could it 'haunt' things?" Zoro asked in exasperation.

"Shadows at your bedside, things moving...shit like that."

Zoro scoffed again, but he had to toss an uneasy glance over at the doll. If possible, there was a sense of awareness in the air; as if the two men weren't the only two in the room. But he had to toss that sensation aside, because they were living in an apartment building where the rooms were cramped together and families, Americans and immigrants, were able to hear, smell and know what the other tenant was up to through the thin walls.

"But you don't believe in that sorta bullshit, do ya?" Sanji asked, smirking over in Zoro's direction. "You're not scared of a toy, are you?"

Zoro snorted, puffing out his chest and shifting in the stool. "Voodoo. Hell, like I'd be afraid of some fucking doll."

-

After dinner had been served and enjoyed, Zoro sat at the counter to finish off his drink, giving the doll suspicious looks from time to time. Sanji had finished cleaning up his cramped kitchen and was on his way to the incinerator; giving Zoro plenty of alone time with the creepy thing that continued to stare at him from its position on the shelf. Zoro narrowed his eyes, pursing his lips; blackened eyes seemed to glare right back at him as seconds passed.

If it were possible, that menacing sneer grew slightly larger. Green hairs standing up on his forearms, Zoro found it entirely exasperating that he'd continue to allow himself to be somewhat threatened by some deranged toy. He left the stool and snatched the doll from the shelf, finding it somewhat heavier than it looked. Immediately, the fishbone necklace that it wore pricked his fingers, and he swore viciously, dropping the doll as stinging pain shot up his fingertips.

He caught the doll in mid-air, pricked his fingers again, and ripped the cheap jewelry off the doll with an annoyed snarl. Instantly, the shift in the air made his skin ripple. Staring uneasily at the grotesque features, Zoro found himself paralyzed in place, vision slightly greying as he found himself staring into the blackened orbs where the eyes were located. His fingers were blackened by soot. The tattered pieces of the doll's clothing was raspy and irritating; the weight was bothersome.

He suddenly jolted when he realized he was hearing Sanji's footsteps coming back to the apartment, and he set the doll back up on the shelf. When he realized he was still holding the necklace in the other hand, he tossed that in the general direction of the doll. It hit the books that held the doll in place, and slid from the wooden surface of the shelf to fall toward the floor; behind a pair of potted plants.

-

Skin rubbed against sweaty skin; hands moved needily over familiar areas. Though they could both hear people moving up and down the hall and the six member family on the other side of the room, both men made quiet and appreciative noises over every movement made and every hasty and needy action.

Zoro was fully focused on the other; on the way his hands slid over both their exposed erections, pumping strongly and quick. He could smell the musk of Sanji's sweat and body; the smell of his pungent breath that he puffed in small, excited pants. Sanji's long, lean legs were bent over his own; they sat facing each other, where they could easily reach out and touch and pull and tug while mouths met and tasted. Zoro's rough, calloused hands moved over Sanji's hips, underneath the loose fitting shirt that he'd kept on. As he stroked up heaving rib bones, thumbs questing over heated flesh, he felt Sanji shift closer to him. He stopped stroking over both their erections, Zoro wincing at the loss of his hands, lifting his hips slightly to slide his slick cock against Sanji's, needing more friction. He lowered his hands to take over where Sanji had left off, wrapping his fingers around his dick and Sanji's, squeezing them together and wringing a soft moan from the blond man.

Sanji's hands were slick and warm as they quested over Zoro's exposed arms, brushing against the worn and slightly stained undershirt that he'd kept on. His fingertips roughly appreciated the muscle that was there. Zoro liked the feel of Sanji's touches on his muscle-hardened arms; not that Sanji's hands were delicate and soft, but they were just as demanding and rough as his own touches were.

Zoro slowed his pumping, taking the time to slowly tighten and loosen his grip around their dicks, twisting his wrist slightly with each stroke. Sanji's mouth moved over his, his tongue swiping over Zoro's bottom lip, then questing inside to stroke over his teeth, his gums. Zoro caught his tongue with a gentle press of his teeth, pausing in his stoking to devote some time to press his lips against Sanji's. Releasing the muscle, Zoro followed his tongue back into his own mouth, tasting tobacco and musk, Sanji's nose bumping against his as the blond man shifted into the kiss. Sanji's hands moved up to ensnare chunks of his green hair, keeping Zoro close as the man grunted at the slight flash of pain in his scalp.

The wet sounds of their kisses were noisy and consuming, bodies shifting restlessly as Zoro forgot how to do two things at once, his grip tightening over both their dicks until Sanji pulled his head back to give a warning thump to the shoulder. Zoro released them both, pushing into Sanji until the blond's back touched the mattress of his bed, shifting until he could wrap his legs around Zoro's waist and the other could push his shirt up around his armpits so that he could lavish attention onto hardened nipples.

Sanji once more ensnared his hair, arching up into the rough mouthing, Zoro grunting as pain caused his scalp to tingle once more. He pulled himself out of Sanji's grasp with a murmur, Sanji chuckling softly before tugging his ear, pulling him back so that their mouths met once again. Zoro shifted atop of Sanji, his hands moving up his slender body until his fingertips brushed against soft tufts of hair. He tugged hard enough for Sanji to rip his mouth from his and shift to kick his heels against the back of Zoro's thighs.

"Knock that shit off. That hurts!"

"Don't pull my hair, then."

"Stop pretending you don't like it."

"If I liked that shit, I wouldn't be laying the law like I am right now."

"Oh, fuck you..." But Sanji trailed off and grunted at the feel of Zoro's dick sliding against his, his hips lifting in response. He could feel himself growing more desperate for contact as Zoro moved above him, his mouth moving over Sanji's exposed neck and collarbone. He squirmed underneath him to clutch at his shoulders, moving in response to the way Zoro's dick slid against his.

Feeling Zoro's breath against his heated skin, the way the other man's weight ground into his, Sanji lost himself in the moment. His fingers tightened on Zoro's shoulders, the bed squeaking with their frantic movements. He had just started to feel the familiar tingle and heat of his balls tightening, Zoro's grunting growing stronger with each thrust when a tremendously loud cacophony of sound had both of them startling in response.

Over the kitchen counter, cookbooks spilled every which way. Dishes were knocked to the floor, and the drying rack was overturned, contents hitting the floor with another rise of sound.

Both men were quick to disentangle, Zoro reaching out to swipe the separator aside so that they could look into the kitchen's direction. Seeing the mess, Sanji winced, pulling his shirt down and adjusting it. It was as if they'd both been doused with cold, freezing water, and the effect was painful. As he stood, Zoro pulled his pants and underwear on, giving the mess a disbelieving look. He saw that the book shelves had fallen down—that the resulting spill was the cause of the drying rack to fall from the counter. But, quite honestly, it had made too much of a mess.

And while his heart was thundering with startled excitement, there was something at the back of his mind that whispered for his attention.

"Aw, fuck," Sanji muttered, taking in the same mess. "My shelves! What the hell?"

Zoro poked around the fallen books. Then he straightened to give the other man a smirk. "Maybe it was your toy."

Sanji rolled his eyes, and heaved a sigh. "Or a shit-ass job. Damn. Look at my walls. What the fuck."

Zoro noted the clock, and ran his fingers through his hair. "I've gotta go."

Sanji frowned at him, adjusting his pants. But he said nothing, giving his kitchen a look of aversion as Zoro left him in silence. Walking over, he began picking up his books, setting them in neat piles on the floor. He tried to straighten his plants, stems broken from the fallen books, and then gave up on the effort. He came across the feather and fishbone necklace, frowning at it for a few moments. Twirling it clumsily around one finger, he walked around the counter to pick up books and dishes, grimacing as he set the necklace aside to clean up.

Later that night, Sanji found himself blinking rapidly, rousing himself out of sleep. Every hair was standing on end, his skin crawling with ice. He shivered, drawing his blanket tightly around him, smelling Zoro on them. He closed his eyes once more, inhaling slightly at the familiar scent and thinking of the green haired man that was just right on the other side of the wall. The sounds of the city was dull and muted—a boat horn sounded in the distance. The phone rang down the hall. Someone was coughing.

Sanji shivered once more. His bed squeaked as he squirmed for some warmth, pulling his legs up and pressing his head harder into the pillow. Something creaked, and he dismissed it as a neighbor's early a.m. wandering on the other side of the wall. But then the sound came again; a scuff of feet against cheap tile. The bump of shoe against counter.

He opened his eyes, blinking to adjust them to the darkness. The paper divider blocked his view into the kitchen area, but the sensation of not being alone crept over him. Someone in the hall was stumbling against the walls, and he listened to that while he strained for anything other than the scrapes and bumps in his kitchen. More hacking coughs, another boat horn.

Sanji had just resigned himself to try for more sleep when a skillet on the counter scraped against the wood, then hit the kitchen floor with a loud thud that made every one of his muscles and limbs jerk violently. He sat up and was off the bed within moments, sweeping the divider aside to look into the kitchen area. The skillet rolled once before settled heavily within the center of his apartment. Sanji gave it an incredulous stare, then looked back at the counter where it had rested hours earlier. He was absolutely bewildered in how the heavy piece of metal had fallen when it had been resting upside down in the corner of the counter space.

It was absolutely freezing in the apartment. He shivered violently, lifting his hands to rub at his own arms. The darkness wasn't so thick that he couldn't see a thing—the lights outside provided him with plenty of ability to see that his apartment was empty. The closet was closed; there was no way anybody could hide there without him seeing. The stacks of cookbooks were still where they had been left. His brow furrowed with bewilderment.

He brushed his hair out of his face, giving another sweep of examination to his apartment. As he became settled, he realized that he was listening to a steady inhale and exhaling sound that was reminiscent of breathing. He stilled, holding his own, hearing the steady sound. His skin crawled at the fierce sensation of being watched—anxiety flit through him for a moment before his mouth tightened, and he reached over to pull on the lamp nearby.

Light bloomed immediately, and yet as he straightened, the breathing stopped. There was no one there. His long toes curled into the tile, tendons flexing as he set one upon the other in an effort to warm them. He looked at the only timepiece he had in his apartment; the wind-up clock that was nestled between foreign cookbooks in the bookshelf. It read thirteen after eleven. Frowning with uncertainty, Sanji ventured into the kitchen area and picked up the skillet, replacing it back into the corner it had sat on earlier.

He scanned the stacked books, glanced around the counter, then ventured back to his bed space. He jumped high when the loud thud and clatter alerted him to the skillet that once more hit the floor. Spinning, he registered his heart in his throat and his muscles tensing, watching it settle within the center of the kitchen floor. His visible eye widened with surprise and uncertainty as his mind refused to accept that it was there, despite the fact that he was seeing it. He glanced around once more, unsure of how it happened. Maybe he'd set it too close to the edge; no, he knew he'd set it purposefully, upside down, in the corner of the counter.

Licking his suddenly dry lips, Sanji ventured forward and once more placed the skillet back into the corner of the counter. He then took a few steps back, watching it without blinking. The skillet didn't move. Once he hit the paper separator, he absently reached back and steadied it, taking a moment to glance back at his effort before jerking around to face the kitchen once more.

Silence reigned. He waited for movement, strained for any sounds, for any telltale intruder, but there just wasn't a way possible someone was in his apartment with him.

He suddenly jerked, searching the area for the doll. Despite his own common sense, he found himself desperate to have the thing in sight. To physically know that it was still where he'd left it; but then again, it had been sitting on the shelf within his books, and then the shelves had fallen...

He rushed over to the counter, snatching at the feather and fishbone necklace that he'd left there. Suddenly he remembered that he didn't even remember seeing the doll when he'd been straightening his books. Frowning, he groped the counter for it, looking behind containers and pots, and systematically searching through the squeaky drawers. He rushed around the counter, shoving aside his books and the potted plants and coming up with nothing.

Heart pounding, hearing the owner's voice continuously repeat the circumstances surrounding the doll, Sanji sat back on his heels and tried to think. Maybe he'd moved it—maybe—then he gave a start, sucking in a breath. Zoro had expressed such an aversion to it, maybe the green-haired iron-worker somehow snuck away with it.

That made him feel a little better. While the creepy sensation of having the doll somehow haunt his apartment never left him, it did soothe away a little of the panic that fluttered around his stomach. He gave a nervous chuckle, slowly rising from the floor. With one last glance at the heavy iron skillet, Sanji walked over to the lamp and shut it off before maneuvering away to his bed. Once settled, he exhaled heavily, aware of how tense and jittery he felt after all that exploration.

He'd just closed his eyes when he became aware of breathing. The sensation of someone standing much too close to him sent his skin crawling, and his eyes opened once more, focusing immediately on the darkness next to his bed.

For a moment he didn't register it, until he realized he could see the outline of a head and shoulders. The breathing noises were louder then—Sanji sat up, curses coming to his mouth, his mind wanting to believe that perhaps Zoro was fucking around with him. But before he could say anything, the form simply melted away; a shadow disappearing among many within his apartment.

Sanji sat utterly still and tense, blinking rapidly. Unsure if he'd even seen what he had.

-

The shorter hand had just touched up two, the longer hand touching on twelve almost at the exact same time. The apartment was silent, dark. Sanji slept peacefully atop of his blankets, drool wetting upon the pillow he had folded up below his head. The cramped area was still; yet through the thin walls, activity of other tenants in their late-night activities were audible. A baby cried incessantly down the hall, and drunkards screamed at each other. In the next apartment over, a child cried for their mother.

In his dreams, Sanji could see himself sleeping. But it was in another time, in another place. As dreams worked, details weren't very clear. The bed he laid in was massive—the sheets covering him looked expensive. He could hear the steady sound of waves crashing against the shore; the salty air was strong and forceful. Birds called. But as he slept he became aware of a sound—the continuous action of someone walking up a massive, empty hall.

In his dream, Sanji could see his own face twisting with distress, waking quickly with a start. He could see himself start to sweat, and could hear his breath grow quick and strong. The footsteps continued, nearing the room. Only he couldn't see the details of the room, nor could he even fathom what it was that had his dream self so startled. Before he could even think to question what the reason was for this particular dream, Sanji himself awoke with a start.

For a moment, he thought he was still dreaming. He could still smell the salty, wet air, and could hear the 'gulls crying out. But as he grew coherent, he grew aware that he was in his world; the world were the walls were thin and the radio was constant with Depression and war topics. He blinked away the remnants of the dream and exhaled slowly. Growing accustomed to the familiar night and the unfamiliar hour, Sanji stared up at the darkness. He pulled the blanket back up his body and had just settled onto his side when he realized he could hear those very same footsteps from his dream just outside of the paper divider. He gave a slight start, hearing heavy boots tromp over the worn floor. It was so close...it was so loud...it was definitely not coming from the outside hall.

Panic assailed him for a brief moment before he swept the blanket aside and rose from his bed, sweeping the divider away from him once more. As he did so, the footsteps stopped with abrupt action. And once again that night, Sanji found himself staring at nothing.

As his heart rate slowly returned to normal, he realized he could hear that breathing again. It was starting to bother him how these things were happening, and there wasn't an explanation or show to explain any of it. His skin crawled with the sensation of being watched. Of unseen eyes burning through him, taking in every inch of him. Despite himself, his skin crawled once more, and he struggled to control his rising impatience and frustration that he was awake once more during these crazy hours.

He focused on the breathing. His visible eye turned to the door, taking in the light that crept in through the narrow slot at the bottom. Maybe there was somebody outside, playing games with him. Some foreigner, or nutcase that decided to pick on Sanji for some reason or another.

But his mind discarded that thought. Once more, he thought of the doll. In disgust, he swiped at his face with shaking fingers and turned, walking back to his bed. He pulled the divider up and set it straight, then sank onto his bed with a heavy sigh. The blanket was pulled up to his chin, and he settled comfortably once more. He thought of Zoro, hearing his snores through the thin wall behind him. Sanji could still smell the iron-worker; his musky sweat that was both familiar and comforting to him. His skin rippled with the sensation of remembering Zoro's rough hands on him; he could still taste the man in his mouth.

They had a comfortable agreement; and though it started only out of understanding for needs, somehow it had grown into something else. Because every night Sanji returned home after a long day's work, just the thought of being able to relax around the other man made him feel as if he'd accomplished something. Zoro was a familiar constant in his life, and though Sanji wasn't sure what to make of his feelings for the other man, he was quite sure that he didn't want to go without that constant for any reason.

He wished that they had finished what had been started earlier. Just thinking about their activities caused him to harden. Squirming, he forced himself onto his belly, the sensation of his hard-on against mattress both pleasurable and uncomfortable. Soon, his erection left and he resettled back onto his side. He was just about to fall back asleep when the icy cold sensation of fingers against his ear made him jerk upright.

His hand slapped at his ear, even as his mind raced with the possibilities of either rats or spiders. The prickly sensation had his skin rippling, and he frantically swiped at his bed in case he came into contact with the mystery object once more. His hairs were standing on end, and even as Sanji relaxed upon knowing that there was nothing on his bed, he couldn't help but feel entirely apprehensive. He stared out into the dim darkness, the lights of the city filtering in through the window. He glared in the direction of the clock—why couldn't he just go back to sleep?

Huffing, Sanji threw himself on his back and stared up at the ceiling. The baby had finally stopped crying. Someone was thumping on something below his floor.

Blearily, Sanji reached up to nudge his own ear, wondering what it was that he'd felt. He was quite sure of contact—there was no question about it. He had been touched; but by what? Absently, he touched the curly oddity of his exposed eyebrow, closing his eyes as he tried to relax himself for sleep once more. He felt obscenely tired; unaccustomed to waking up in the middle of the night to weird noises and situations. Dropping his hand onto his chest, Sanji took a deep breath and exhaled heavily. The thought of rolling up a cigarette to smoke became suddenly piercing, but he had only to think of the diminishing supply of tobacco before nixing the urge.

With another heavy sigh, Sanji tried to fall back asleep.

-

He awoke what felt like seconds later, breath coming in sharply as restless dreams disappeared and the sensation of having another person on his bed penetrated his sleepy mind. There, at his feet, was a dip in weight at the end of his mattress. He could feel the hairs just above his ankle being disturbed, skin stroked by calloused fingertips.

As he blinked heavy eyelids and once more grew accustomed to the darkness and late hour, Sanji at first thought it was Zoro. Sometimes when the marimo spent the night, he'd awaken the blond in this manner. Caressing a limb, a digit until he realized that Sanji was awake, then administering a slap or punch of some sort that made Sanji cranky. As if Zoro were embarrassed by his own affections.

But it wasn't Zoro. Because it was one-thirty in the morning, and someone was touching him. Seeing the hulking shape at the end of his bed, Sanji could make out that the man (because no woman could have such rough hands, he was sure of it) was around his height. Hunched at the shoulders, thin—and he wore what looked to be dark material of clothing.

Sanji's skin rippled with repulsion and fear, jerking his foot out of the man's grasp and uttering a curse at the same time.

"What the fuck?!" he snarled, kicking out as soon as he escaped the man's touch. But his foot swiped only through air. His eyes were playing illusions on him. He rolled and fell out of bed with a loud thud, knocking over the paper divider. The breathing began again, the piercing feeling of being watched sending his skin into a clammy shudder. Sanji crawled over to the lamp and turned it on for the second time that night, seeing that there was absolutely no one in the room.

He was going crazy. He had to be. But his skin could still feel that unfamiliar touch! He could still see that man sitting at the edge of his bed! He could—! And that breathing, he could still hear someone breathing in that steady, patient manner while his very own skin crawled with the sensation of being watched!

Sanji grit his teeth. He curled his fists. He stared at the edge of his bed, where he could clearly see the indentations of weight there, where someone had been sitting earlier. Again, Sanji frantically searched his apartment for the sly intruder. And again he found nobody. This time, he unlocked his front door and glared up and down the hallway. The dingy area yielded him no possible suspects. Every door was shut firmly. Someone's radio was on. Someone was coughing.

He could hear traffic outside the apartment—of beggers on the street. Sanji shut the door firmly, locking it. Then he tried opening it, but the locks held strong. Glaring at the chain link that danced lightly against the wood, Sanji then rubbed at his eyes and wondered if the fish he'd cooked was bad. He fumbled with the toiletries that sat nearby, and aimlessly rifled through them just to have something to do. But his body wasn't signaling its upset. His mind was racing, though. Over possibilities, thoughts, bewilderment—he thought of the doll and stiffened.

But as his lips curled into a sneer, he turned and scanned the apartment. The owner was just selling his wares, was all. He had sold Sanji a story and a doll. There were no such things as ghosts and hauntings and murderous pirates trapped inside some child's toy. There was absolutely no such thing.

Sanji left his door and slowly shuffled back to his bed. Instead of picking up the paper divider, he merely set it aside so that it rested against the wall. He left the lamp on. Despite himself, he felt a chill run through him as he settled once more onto his side, forgoing the blanket. Sanji stared at the faded wallpaper on the wall and listened to Zoro snoring on the other side. Somehow, despite the cold feeling of dread that crept up his spine, he went back to sleep.

-

He opened his eyes. Books were moving. Pages fluttering. From his position on his side, he could see them on the kitchen counter. Pages moving noisily as they were turned by unseen hands. For a moment, Sanji wasn't sure that what he was seeing was real. True. He laid there, blond hair obstructing most of his vision, hearing the very distinct sound of paper being disturbed. When one book shut, another was open.

Sanji shot up into a sitting position, and the action stopped. The light in the apartment told him the same thing it'd told him hours earlier. There was no one there.

Yet as his eyes adjusted, he saw that books had been spread all throughout his apartment. Some were left open; some were closed and stacked. He felt his skin grow cold and clammy as he observed this. How could he have not heard anybody come into his apartment and do this? He saw that the locks were still in place. There was no where to hide! Where was this person coming from? Why was this happening?!

Sanji wasn't sure what to feel or think at that moment; he stared blankly at the array of books that covered his kitchen floor and that near the bed. He was vaguely surprised that he had so many books. French, Italian, Mexican, Asian—all his foreign and domestic cookbooks had been violated by some unseen hand.

He licked his lips once more, and decided to lay back down. He didn't see the point of straightening up the area if he didn't even know how it had happened in the first place. The silence in his apartment was deafening. He himself felt violated by the unseen, and in a moment of self-consciousness and doubt, he reached up to tighten the collar of his shirt. He fell asleep only out of exhaustion.

-

The next morning, the telltale cast of sunlight bathed his freezing apartment with life. Sanji woke blearily, his eyelids heavy and his mind sluggish. For a moment he allowed himself to adjust to the light, the sound of his clock ticking away within the immense stillness; he heard everyone around him getting up and moving around, the sounds of the city awakening just as noisily outside the apartment walls. Kids jumped and shouted and protested; men called out to one another, women yapped.

Sanji wasn't sure if what had happened to him all night had happened at all. His eyes scanned the apartment floor, and saw that his books were still lying all around. Yet the stacks on the kitchen counter were higher—sometime after he'd fallen asleep, whomever was sneaking around him had finished looking through them and had stacked them high.

Sanji started to move when he realized that the blanket that he'd kicked off sometime during the night was tucked tightly around him. So tightly that he couldn't even move his arms to escape. Panic assailed him as he struggled to get up—as he hit the floor for the second time, the blanket cascaded around him like a warm caress. He pulled on his own hair in a scramble to yank the material off of him.

Things were different in the daylight—they weren't as threatening. As menacing. He strained his ears to hear that breathing, for telltale footsteps, but heard nothing but the tenants around him. Swallowing tightly, Sanji glanced over at the clock, realized he was late, and scrambled to get ready for the day.