It's time for the promised new fic! As stated, this is a modern-day AU and, also as stated, it's most definitely yaoi, so it guyxguy bothers you at all, be mature and don't flame. You've been warned. As is my usual, the main pairing within here is ZoSan, but there are many others mentioned and loosely shown (and a liberal amount of AceSan in the first few chapters. Just so you know).
This was the result of a plot-bunny that attacked one day in about November, and I wrote a bit down not expecting it to go anywhere (most of my stories don't). It's now 50,000 words long and counting, meaning it's on-track to be my longest story ever written. Personally I think it's turning out a lot better than 'Bound by Destiny.' I've got a better handle on the characters and I've found who I write really well and who I need to work on, so every bit of practice I can get really helps.
This will also be posted on the OPYaoi group over at LJ, and my username over there is AoiTsukikage. Reviews and comments are much appreciated and don't be afraid to click that link to do so!
Another note: this story probably has about the longest chapters I've ever written, so expect lengthy ones! After about Chapter Ten or so they all seem to be 5000 words. Yikes. There will be spoilers for the series probably up to about Thriller Bark at this point, but nothing newer so far.
And that's it! Enjoy!
Disclaimer: One Piece belongs to Eiichiro Oda, Toei, and FUNimation. It is certainly not mine (I'd feel sorry for these characters if it was…)
***Author's Edit: March 2014***
Okay, I know a lot of people are reading this fic now because I've started posting the sequel, and I feel like I have to explain some things about this fic. At the time I wrote it, there were certain things that were 'in vogue' in the fanfiction community that had to do with character traits/etc. that might not necessarily have been 'canon', but were accepted as such and reading it back they…are probably not in character at all. I also wrote this long before we knew a lot about some of the characters, Ace especially (when I started this as far as we all knew he was related to Luffy), so a lot of his personality is fanon-based (fanon!Ace was generally regarded as a cocky playboy and obviously he's…not like that, but that's what 'the fandom' had labeled him as at the time). There's also quite a few dialogue lines in here that would have me in trouble with the social justice brigade, and actually that I would never write anymore (there's one comment about asexuality being 'freaky' and as somebody that since has realized I'm asexual, that's obviously not a reflection on my own feelings) and I just don't have the time to go through everything and change it because this story clocks in at over 100,000 words long.
So while I'm still very proud of the plot and some of the character interactions, there are other things that I will admit aren't entirely in character (even if they were at the time it was written, but that's one of the problems with reading older fics in a series as lengthy as One Piece). Regardless, even if I feel like the sequel is a better piece of writing, I do hope you dear readers enjoy this fic.
This Is Your Life
Right on the verge, just one more dose
I'm traveling from coast to coast
My theory isn't perfect, but it's close
-Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Wet Sand"
He stood outside of the Social Sciences building, smoking a cigarette and gazing at the slowly-turning trees. Fall had always been one of his favourite seasons, mainly because he could spend time outside wearing the clothes he loved without fear of sunburn. He inhaled the crisp air, still full of greenery and life but with just a hint of a chill that signalled the oncoming winter, and oh, he loved winter too: cuddling by the fireside with lovely hot cocoa and an even lovelier woman, and then…
Nerves. Heh. He laughed off the brain-tangent about the seasons and butted his cigarette in the ash tray, turning to walk through the doors and adjusting his glasses as he looked at the map in his hand. He still had a good half-hour before class started (Mythology. Apparently it was interesting) and wanted to explore a bit before he had to head over there. It was odd being in a traditional University, though. He had spent the last two years in Japan on an exchange trip with a culinary school in Odaiba, and had split his classes between cooking and business, something he thought useful if he ever wished to start his own restaurant.
The transfer program had been one of the best experiences of his life, but now that he was back in Vancouver, worry had begun to gnaw at his insides. He hadn't seen his old high school buddies for two years, and while he had kept in contact with them as much as he could, he still couldn't help but wonder how they would react to seeing him again. He had met a lot of cool people in Japan, but he never felt the sense of belonging that he did with the misfits from his school. Nearly all of them went to the same University now, so he figured he'd run into at least oneof them today, but then there was no guarantee of that in a place thisbig.
He was also nervous about his job, he reasoned. He'd gotten on back at his foster-father's floating restaurant, the Baratie,but he had a strange feeling that Zeff expected him to be incredibly good and he wasn't sure if his skill was up to the standards the old geezer was anticipating. Plus he'd gotten so used to cooking traditional Japanese food that going back to French and Canadian cuisine would be a learning process. He was also unused to speaking English all the time, and his hair…well, that was a story in itself.
Of course, with his Aryan features, he was somewhat of a circus freak among the dark-haired, darker-skinned Japanese. Add to that the fact that he was nearly six feet tall, and he got stared at everywhere he went. His friends at the school had finally bought him a black wig which he wore almost regularly. It didn't stop the stares, but it certainly decreased them to a manageable level. But then, he was used to being stared at, and nearly every girl that had passed him when he was outside on his smoke break had had to look twice before they ran into the door, never mind if they were with their boyfriends or not. He winked at a cluster of girls who had stopped dead in the hallway to ogle at him before wandering into a sort of atrium with tables and chairs, where he stopped at one and put his bag down before sitting.
Oh, yes. He had changed. Before if a girl so much as lookedat him with interest, he would go into crazy-freakish-lover-mode and bound after her with hearts in his eyes and shrilling in an insanely grating voice until they either closed a door in his face or unceremoniously punched him. Both were common. But now…he wasn't some high-school kid anymore. He was a man, and he'd learned to toe the fine line between being romantic and being clingy, which had only resulted in good things from the women he chose to get involved with. He had had somewhat of a steady girlfriend back in Japan, but both of them knew long-distance relationships were a farce, and since she had no plans to come to Canada and he none to go back to Japan, they had decided to end it peacefully and were still friends.
And speaking of friends…
"Well, well, well, Mr. Blackleg," came a voice behind him, and he turned quickly, the one eye that was visible under his curtain of blonde hair opening wide. "Heard you were back in town, but I didn't think I'd run into you so soon."
He continued to stare as the man sat down across from him, wrinkling his nose before kicking his booted feet up onto the table. Even though it was September, the older man still wore cargo shorts and those dratted combat boots, and the tight-fitting brand name dress shirt he had fit his muscular body into left little to the imagination with its low collar. The hat he had always worn was missing, but the first man reasoned that the professors would probably yell at him to take it off anyway: its huge brim would be a vision hazard for half of the class. Two years hadn't done anything to the cocky grin the other man wore, nor to the over-abundance of freckles on his handsome face. He ran a hand through silky black hair before raising one eyebrow and regarding the blonde.
"Ace. Long time no see."
"No kidding, man. Luffy'll be ecstatic," Ace D. Portgas grinned at his friend. "You seen anyone else yet, Sanji?"
"Just got here. I've got Mythology in twenty minutes, though," he added.
"Well, you'll see Luffy, at least."
"Luffy's taking Mythology?"
"Luffy's taking whatever he wants. It's only his first year," Ace replied with a shrug. "I'm glad it's my last, though. I'm sick of school."
"Seconded," Sanji chuckled. "It's good to see you, Ace."
"Same." Ace paused before kicking his feet off and rounding the table, grabbing Sanji's hand and pulling him to his feet and into a hug. "We've missed you. Luffy's missed your cooking."
"And you haven't?" Sanji inhaled the odd scent of brimstone and spice that had always surrounded the other man and returned the embrace.
"Of course," Ace's chuckle reverberated in his chest. "You look good."
"So do you. Got a girlfriend?"
"Nah, girls are too demanding. I've got time for that when I've graduated," Ace shrugged. "You?"
"Had one in Japan, but I guess I'm single now," Sanji replied, stepping back so he could study Ace as the older man kept his hands on Sanji's hips. "What about everyone else?"
"Usopp and Kaya are probably going to get married," he shrugged.
"And Nami's obviouslygot eyes for my baby brother, even if she'll never admit it to anyone. He's convinced her to go out with him, but…"
"Oh, Nami…her beauty is wasted on such unromantic apes," Sanji rolled his eyes, knowing that Ace wouldn't take offence. And Ace didn't, he only laughed. "The rest?"
"Chopper's grown into a handsome young man, although he won't listen to that from anybody."
"We're still calling him Chopper?"
"He hates Tony, so…yeah," Ace replied with a nod. "Who else…oh, Robin and Franky are engaged."
"You're joking?" Sanji clapped a hand over his mouth. Robin Nico was a few years older than him, but she had worked as a student teacher at his high school and it turns out she and Nami had been involved in a sort of Big Sisters program years ago. She hung out with them quite often, even if she was more mature. And Franky…Sanji didn't know him well, but the big man worked as a mechanic at the autobody shop near the high school and had hung out with them a few times, too. "Well, good for them. And?"
"Vivi's practically engaged, too," Ace continued. "One of her old friends from Egypt showed up last year. He's a good guy, even if his political views are a little extreme. You'll probably see him around too; his name's Kohza."
"And Zoro?" Sanji noted the omission.
"Zoro is…the same," Ace reluctantly admitted. "Look, Sanji, I know that they two of you don't like each other, but he's really a good guy, and…"
"Yeah. I…I figured. And it's not that…" he wracked his brain for a suitable explanation as he adjusted his orange-tinted glasses with one hand. "I don't…hate him," he finally said. "We just…we never got along, and I think both of us have been afraid to admit that maybe we could. I never wrote to him either; I mean, what was I supposed to say?"
"Don't sweat it. But the two of you have so much in common," Ace pointed out. "You'd better run, though. Don't want to be late for your first class."
"Yeah. See you around?"
"How long's your class? An hour?"
"I'll still be here," Ace grinned cheekily.
"Great," Sanji moved to go, but Ace grabbed him close and kissed him full on the lips. He started to protest before his body rememberedand brought his arms to rest around Ace's neck, returning the kiss hesitantly at first and then with more enthusiasm after a quick glance around to make sure nobody was watching them. He pulled back and just stared at the older man before asking, "What was that?"
"I've missed you," Ace replied simply. "And I know that…that we…both agreed not to take this thing any farther, but…it's been two years,Sanji."
"There's still fifteen minutes," Ace looked hopeful, and Sanji, probably against his better judgment, nodded.
Which was how he found himself pushed into a bathroom stall, shirt unbuttoned and sweat-soaked as he tried to stifle his moans, having forgotten how goodAce felt against him. The older man ground their hips together and kissed him, and Sanji melted into his touch. This was a bad, bad idea, and he knew it. Ace was only a year older than he, but in high school to have anyolder friends was the epitome of cool, and there was nobodycooler than Ace D. Portgas. Their little relationship had started the night of Ace's graduation, a drunken fling turning into something more, and they had been 'together' on and off for about a year before Sanji had to go to Japan. Both of them knew it was only temporary, but since neither of them had found anybody yet, it seemed fate that they would go back to this place.
"Ah…Ace…" he managed to rasp as the larger man kissed his neck, sucking gently as he braced his hands on Sanji's well-defined hips. "I…class…"
"Right," Ace abruptly pulled back, his eyes wide, pupils completely dilated. "I just…I'm sorry, Sanji."
"Don't be. I think I needed that." Sanji grimaced and willed the tightness in his pants to ease while he kissed Ace gently. "I'll see you later."
"Yeah. See you."
Sanji buttoned his shirt and threw his coat back on, picking up his bag and exiting the stall as he hurriedly got to the classroom, luckily with five minutes to spare. However, he had barely gotten through the door before… "SANNNNJIIIIII!"
He caught hold of the seemingly endless ball of energy hurtling toward him and somehow managed to stay upright as Luffy D. Monkey attached himself like some kind of rubber leech. Of course, with a last name like 'Monkey,' he certainly lived up to it. "Hey, kid." Sanji plucked the straw hat the younger man wore around his neck off and placed it on his own head.
"IT'S SO GOOD TO SEEEEE YOOOUUUU!"
"Luffy, get off of him!" Another boy with an insanely long nose managed to pry Luffy away before he sighed. "Hey…Sanji."
"Usopp," Sanji had to smile at the engineering student before he spread his arms and Usopp readily embraced him. Truthfully, Sanji was glad to see Usopp again. He and the younger boy had always been close, although when he was the epitome of popular and envied and Usopp was just awkward and a nerd, nobody else could see why. But Sanji saw himself in Usopp; saw himself as he could have been if life had been kinder and he hadn't been forced to grow up all at once. When his parents were killed in that car crash. And no matter how much Usopp wanted to prove he was brave or smart or more than he was, Sanji didn't want him to change. "It's good to see you."
"I've missed you," Usopp replied, grinning at Sanji. "Come on, let's get seats."
"So, what's this I hear about you and the lovely Miss Kaya?" Sanji enquired as they walked back to the atrium, and Usopp blushed and ducked his head. "I'm proud of you, Usopp."
"She doesn't deserve me," Usopp muttered.
"Oh, stop being so hard on yourself. Of course I do."
They looked up to see three pretty young women standing outside the atrium and Usopp squeaked and blushed harder. Kaya laughed at the mortified expression on his face and ran a hand through her blonde hair. "It's good to see you, Sanji."
"Of course it is," Vivi beamed at him as well, her hair still as vibrant a blue as it had been when he left.
"Ah, my darlings, my heart is overflowing with joy at the sight of your beauty," he proclaimed, although with much more subtlety and less flinging of limbs and hearts than he used to. They noticed, and Nami raised an eyebrow in surprise.
"You've grown up," she intoned, striding to embrace him, and he picked her up as she settled her legs around his waist. "Haven't gained any weight, though," she teased, kissing him briefly on the forehead.
"And you have the figure of a goddess, my dear Nami," he replied truthfully as she ruffled his hair, tucking a reddish-orange lock behind her own ear as she smiled at him. "But I fear I shall have to join you and our other friends in a few minutes. My bladder, alas, is complaining rather pointedly."
"Oh, go ahead, Sanji," Nami untangled her legs and slid off. "It's great to see you again, though."
"The feeling, my angel, is entirely mutual," he bowed and kissed her hand before rushing to the washroom, nearly running into another man on his way in. "Sorry!"
"No big deal," the other shrugged, and Sanji caught a flash of green hair as he moved by.
"Zoro?" he asked, turning to regard the other man.
"Hn?" Zoro turned, his eyes widening at the sight of the blonde. "Sanji."
"Long time no see," Sanji awkwardly shuffled his feet, remembering what Ace had said about trying to get to know the surly green-haired man.
Sanji stuck out his hand, and Zoro gave him a surprised look before he accepted the handshake. "Well, I…I just have to go to the bathroom, and then I'll come out and join you guys."
"Sounds good," Zoro cleared his throat. "They all missed you, you know."
"So they've told me," Sanji nodded.
"I mean, it was weird not having somebody to mouth off to," Zoro tried lamely, and Sanji merely nodded, wishing with all his might for a cigarette.
"Yeah. Weird," Sanji shrugged.
"Oh, forget all of it!" Sanji snarled, grabbing Zoro's arm and pulling him into a hug. The other man froze in his arms for a few seconds before he slowly returned it, resting his cheek against Sanji's blonde hair. "Can we admit we missed each other and get on with it? I'm sick of fighting."
"Okay. Sure," Zoro sounded dumbstruck, but he accepted the hug after that. "Did Ace talk you into this or something?"
"Partly. He says you're a good guy."
"I've gotta be, to be standing in the bathroom hugging a person who I knowhas no qualms about sleeping with guys," Zoro smirked.
"Shut up. I'm straight."
"Except for Ace, huh?"
"Shut up, Marimo,"Sanji growled.
"What?" Zoro blinked.
"Sorry. It's just…your hair. It looks like this protected type of Japanese seaweed," Sanji shrugged.
"My hairlooks like seaweed?"Zoro groaned.
"Hey, it's a compliment. It's a national treasure in Japan," Sanji said, chuckling slightly.
"I don't know, being called seaweed doesn't seem like much of a compliment to me," Zoro glared at the other man. "Alright, alright, I'll accept it," he rolled his eyes as Sanji pouted. "You're such a baby."
"And you're an over-muscled lout with all the emotional capacity of a rock," Sanji returned with a grin, causing Zoro to give him a very unnecessary noogie. "Oi, watch the hair!"
"Yes, Princess," Zoro slid an arm around his shoulders. "I thought you had to pee."
"Yeah. So leave me alone," Sanji slid out from the other man's grasp.
"What? Afraid I'll laugh at you?"
"I think I remember why I hated you," Sanji moved to the urinal and glared at him. "Could you like, leave now? That's creepy."
"Whatever," Zoro left the washroom and Sanji let out a measured breath. He promised Ace he'd try.
He never promised he and Zoro would become best friends.
The title of the fic is loosely based off of the Killers song by the same name. I was looking through my CDs for a good title and found that one, even though the song has nothing to do with the story.