The light afternoon breeze pulled a puff of smoke from the lips of the Straw Hats' chef and tousled his golden hair as he gazed out across the brilliant cerulean waters. The bow of the Thousand Sunny cut through the brilliant sea as they cruised towards the next island in the tropic archipelago.
All told, Sanji thought, it was an average scene for the crew. Here he was smoking and planning for dinner, Luffy, Chopper and Usopp were fishing, Zoro was asleep on the deck, Robin was reading, Franky was tinkering, Nami was in her Milan grove. A very average day, albeit with beautiful weather. Not that he really noticed, but it was all the same.
Neither, for that matter, did the navigator. She was furiously picking milan, tearing the round fruits from the trees. She was pissed, her stupid nakama, he had gone weird on her. What a loser. How lame! A chain smoker is one thing, but this? No, there was no excuse for this. This was pathetic. Disgusting. This was ice cream scoops from a brain that had always been so discreetly clever. Was their life not good enough for him, that he had to turn to that?
After lunch and with the next island rapidly approaching the crew sprang into action. They followed their usual routine of anchoring the ship offshore. Franky and Usopp readied the Mini Merry to go ashore as the rest of the crew sorted out who should stay aboard to watch the ship. The island was unpopulated, so Sanji felt no need to go ashore immediately. The water barrels had been filled at the last island, as had the food stores. The island was fabulously beautiful, with a wide sandy beach gently sloping down to the softly rolling surf, but the serenity was suddenly punctured as Luffy, too impatient to wait for the Mini Merry, gomu gomu no rocketed his way to shore. Franky returned to the deck moments later, with large hands he ushered the crew down to the Mini Merry. He laughed, smiled, and told them all to have a super time but that he'd stay aboard to watch the ship and finish up some projects. Sanji, with a similar yet feigned cheeriness, chirped something about dishes and claimed he'd swim to the island later. He fawned over Robin, kicked Zoro, and after concluding he'd done enough posturing, retreated to the kitchen.
Nami watched the exchange from the upper deck, her mind consumed by the sinking disgust at the thought of the cook being alone with his... with that... she scraped her mind for an excuse and muttered something possibly relating to maps before ducking into her cabin. The craw scarcely noticed, with only Robin sparing a slight crinkled brow at the exchange before boarding the Mini Merry.
Sanji, for all that the navigator didn't trust him, was true to his word and set straight to work scrubbing pots and pans. The crew had scarcely left the ship and was elbow-deep in suds and whistling a disjointed tune, fully absorbed in the soap bubbles and bacon grease. The navigator, however, was too distracted to work. She'd sit and stare at the unfinished maps then stand and pace the room only to return again to her chair.
After perhaps a quarter of an hour she couldn't stand it anymore; she crept in the manner of thieves towards the kitchen, and, finding the door so slightly ajar, peered inside. She was almost disappointed to see the chef's lean muscled back flex beneath his dark coat as he scrubbed the bottom of a deep stew pot. She felt a wave of bitterness as she returns to her room.
The cycle repeated again, the pacing and sitting, standing pacing sitting. She grew impatient, she couldn't take it anymore. Surely, he was in there just then... she stood and walked out the door. The scene was the same, and again. A third time she went to check on him, anger rising in her chest. This time however, she never made it to the kitchen. Sanji was there on themain deck, his coat lying on a chair and he was unbuttoning his shirt.She watched, fascinated, as he striped his shirt off and tossed it casually over his coat on the chair. He shook his hair a bit, making no indication he had noticed her, then walked over to the edge of the ship and dove in a graceful arch to splash into the brilliant blue water. She saw him surface, and he swam strongly towards the shore.
She stood at the rail, watched him for a bit, then curiosity got the better of her. She climbed down to the main deck and grabbed his coat, reached into the inside pocket. She found a lighter and not one but two packs of cigarettes, one nearly empty, the other unopened. She opened the coat, looked in the opposite pocket and found the dreaded bundle. She felt a chill, even in the bright sunshine, and she quickly looked around only to find herself still quite alone on the deck. She pulled out the bundle and hesitantly untied it. Gingerly, as though it where a serpent waiting to strike, she laid out the bundle on the small table. An old spoon, blackened by fire. A syringe. A pair of unopened needles.
And a little twist of paper holding heaven and damnation inside.
She wondered how a little twist of paper could do these things to her, freeze her heart and chill her blood. She hated it. She hated what it might mean, and she hated that she even had to ask.
"...Why?" the word slipped from her lips, too faint for all but the wind as it swirled past, tousling her hair and prickling her skin.
She neatly rolled the bundle, tied it as it had been, and stuffed it back in his coat pocket as it had been as the tears began to swell in her eyes. Why? she wondered again. Why did he do this, and, why did she care what he did to himself?
She had trusted him. She realized it then, though she'd never really had more than a casual friendly interest in him, he was her nakama and she had trusted him. To find this now, it betrayed her trust somehow. Her faith in him, she believed him to be so simple, so honest, so true. He was strong, he never lost. He kicked the shit out of the bad guys, and he cooked great food. He was supposed to be a stable guy. Not a junkie. She hated herself for the hatred she felt for her nakama at that moment, and hated him all the more for making her hate one of her own cherished nakama. At the same time, another feeling slipped in unnoticed and she despaired for a young man who would poison his own self, for whatever reason. The tears fell in earnest now, as she tossed his coat and shirt back on the chair as he had left them. She retreated back to her room, feeling betrayed by him, but also by her own emotions.