.chez du soleil.
"Hello, hello, hello!"
Per usual, Sanji had pirouetted to the fairer crewmates onboard the Thousand Sunny in his blue pinstriped shirt and black pants. His shirtsleeves were rolled up to his elbows, that in itself also not unusual, though there was an orange stain on one sleeve and he had a blue apron slung low on his hips. What was unusual was the black mustache that curled at the ends and twitched when Sanji grinned. Somehow he had gotten Brook and Franky to play along, Franky still in his briefs but now formalized with a black bowtie and Brook playing muzak on his violin.
His efforts were rewarded when Robin smiled politely at Sanji's new-yet-not-quite-different antics, and his face didn't quite fall when Nami rolled her eyes spectacularly and didn't bother looking up from the novel she was skimming through.
"Today," he continued, undaunted, "onboard the famous floating restaurant, Thousand Sunny, the specials are Tamarind Marinated Chicken Breast In Coconut-chickpea Flour Curry or the very famous Pork Smoked Sausage Tasso Andouille Jambalaya, which I would highly recommend. It's one of my specialties, you see, and delicious enough to inspire the most difficult palettes. I warn you, though, it packs quite a kick."
"MEAT!" Luffy crowed, swinging from somewhere way above them. "Sanji! I'm hungry!"
"I'll try the jambalaya," Robin said, humoring the enthusiastic cook.
"Whatever, Sanji," Nami said grumpily, not at all willing to play along today. Her mood was nastier than normal, since they had recently had to drop a pretty penny on repairs.
"Oi, Waiter-san," Zoro said, from where he was below. "Aren't you going to take my order?"
Women temporarily forgotten, Sanji leaned on the railing and peered down at Zoro, who was looking up at him in utter seriousness.
"For you," Sanji said, adopting a ridiculous accent now that he found someone to play along with, "I have reserved the Swordsman Special." He held his hand up to his ear, pinky and thumb extended as if he were on a phone. Without missing a beat, Zoro put up his own hand to his ear, still sober-faced.
"I'm interested," Zoro prompted.
"It's a stirfry of the freshest vegetables—broccoli, asparagus, greenbeans—all tossed together in a splash of pesto with the fuzziest caterpillars collected from the Spring Islands."
"Sounds tempting," Zoro said, unable to hide a small grin, "but I'd rather have the sausages."
"That's what she said," Sanji said immediately, and then the two of them were cracking up, Zoro holding himself up with one hand against the mast and Sanji with his head hanging over the railing.
"Will you be taking that with the Soup du Jour?" Sanji gasped out, and Zoro collected himself to say seriously, "Depending on what it is."
"Clam chowder," was Sanji's prompt answer, and they were off again. Luffy laughed with them, though he clearly didn't understand what was so funny.
Somehow, during a particularly easy fight with Marines on a rambling island appropriately titled Haphazard Isles, Zoro and Sanji escaped (read: got lost, in Zoro's case) from the battle to chase each other all over the bumbling houses. There was no particular order in these neighborhoods, nor did any of the streets make sense, since half of them ended at a wall or a house or a store. Zoro wasn't even particularly sure why he was chasing Sanji, just that Sanji was running and shouting taunts over his shoulder, and that meant he should follow.
Zoro treated this like any other training exercise, with a grim sort of determination that was belied by a mischievous sparkle in his eye. Suddenly, Sanji stopped and Zoro, confused, stopped too.
"Hup!" Sanji shouted, then leapt to the air and, using Zoro's head as a springboard, was off again.
Sanji never got too far ahead, and Zoro didn't try very hard to catch up. Rather, they kept a steady pace across the town, trading insults and startling the poor inhabitants. At one point, Sanji slipped (probably on purpose, Zoro decided), and caught himself on a clothesline, dangling face to face in front of a lovely woman who was in the middle of hanging a rather lacy brassiere.
Sanji grinned hugely. "Lovely day today, isn't it?" he asked the woman.
The woman, startled, replied, "Yes it is."
"I highly commend your taste in undergarments," Sanji continued, a thin trickle of blood dripping from his nose, and the woman slapped him.
"Whoops!" Sanji cried, swinging up like a trapeze artist and balancing on the wire. "It was lovely to meet such a charming creature as yourself, my lady, but it seems the cavalry has come to ruin our touching moment."
Zoro launched himself at Sanji, who deftly took a couple steps back, and now it was Zoro who was hanging in front of the stunned, but grinning woman.
"I wouldn't marry him!" Sanji called to the woman, over his shoulder, casually walking across the line. Zoro shook the line and Sanji almost fell, but regained his footing with a grace that belonged in a circus. "His confused genetics would ruin any possible chance at a beautiful child."
And then he was off again, laughing, as Zoro snarled and started after him.
It was no surprise when they somehow ended back in the thick of the battle, but this didn't stop their impromptu run-around. Sanji kept pace ahead of him, knocking any obstacle that was stupid enough to get in his way, and Zoro didn't even bother to unsheathe one sword, just whacked them all out of his way like a green-haired bowling ball. He might have accidentally knocked Usopp out of his hiding place inside a garbage can and into the fight, but Zoro wasn't worried. These marines weren't even a challenge for the long-nosed liar.
The chase ended just outside of the fight, when Sanji let out a surprised yelp after his foot caught on a loose shingle and, Zoro, unable to stop his forward velocity, caught Sanji around the waist and sent them both airborn. The ground broke their fall. Zoro didn't even grunt and above him, Sanji, with his face buried against Zoro's neck and his hands flat against his chest, vibrated in barely contained laughter.
Zoro stared up at the brilliantly blue sky, and couldn't help but to grin, also.
.once upon a time.
The battle had been a particularly nasty one. It seemed that the marines, insulted by the hit they took in Haphazard Isles, were more than determined to get their revenge on the Straw Hat Pirates. That, plus the huge bounty on their heads made them go all out with a determination rivaled only by Zoro's. They sent out the big guns, ridiculously strong metal heads with grips like steel vices.
Zoro learned this the hard way when one of the muscle-men got a hold of his arm and he could not, for the life of him, break free. His attacks bounced off the guy's chest as if he were hitting a brick wall—no, much stronger, because he could cut through fucking brick walls. He was wearing his captor down, though, he could feel it.
In the middle of beating Mr. Metalhead's noggin, he caught a flash of blond out of the corner of his eye. Distracted, he turned, and saw Sanji fall to his knees, blood dripping from the corner of his mouth, a gun barrel pressed against his temple. He didn't look afraid, just furious.
At that moment, Zoro wrenched his arm from the man's grip. He felt it snap from the strain, but that didn't even slow him down. In a flash he had Wado Ichimonji in the guy's neck and Sanji tucked safely at his side.
This cost him his other arm, but it was a small price to pay. Gunshots to the arm heal, bones mend. Sanji wouldn't have gotten back up if he had a bullet in his brain.
When Sanji yelled at him, calling him names, saying that he could take care of himself, you fucking dumbass idiotic hard-headed stupid sonuvabitch, Zoro just smiled and said, "Nakama, right?"
They won, because they always won, but Zoro was forced into bed until his injuries healed. Chopper had ranted at him for an hour—"you idiot, you're so lucky the bullet didn't damage your muscle, you saved Sanji"—then tucked him into bed like a weirdo and left him to sleep. He didn't complain that much. After all, he had fodder on Sanji for forever, now.
Sanji had stationed himself by Zoro's bed, doing menial chores that he would normally do in the kitchen or on deck, enjoying the sunlight provided the weather allowed it. At that moment, he was peeling apples because Nami professed a craving for apple pie. Sanji was still pissed at Zoro and wasn't talking to him, but that didn't stop him from coming whenever he could and sitting in that damn chair brooding.
"There once was an idiot princess from a stupid kingdom that was obsessed with swords who had the ugliest green hair anyone had ever seen," Sanji began out of nowhere, peeling an apple with more force than necessary.
"And yet she could probably still be the crap out of you," Zoro snarled.
Sanji ignored him. He dropped his freshly peeled and sliced apple into a bowl that smelled like lemons and grabbed a new one, cutting it into perfect pieces. Then, with almost obsessive precision, he cut a v out of the top of a slice, then another chunk out, making a perfect little rabbit. He leaned forward and made the rabbit bounce in the air. Sanji smelled like cinnamon and nutmeg and lemons from the kitchen and salt from the ocean, and he ruined the warm feeling building up in Zoro's stomach by unceremoniously shoving the apple-rabbit into Zoro's mouth.
"She had the face of a bulldog and these beady black eyes that always looked pissed and—really stupid."
Zoro tried to protest, but his mouth was full, so he settled for glaring at Sanji with everything he had. He was itching to strangle the chef, but didn't want to fuck his arms up even more than they already were.
"No prince in the kingdom wanted her, but she didn't really care because she was too busy trying to become the best swordsman in the world. Lucky for her she was built like a gorilla, so beating most her challengers was a piece of cake. Or pie."
Zoro made a satisfied noise and Sanji snorted, but there was a small smile twitching the corner of his lips. Sanji sliced up another apple.
"Though the princess was uglier than the ugliest duckling, her castle was bustling. There was the court jester who doubled as one of their best knights who had an unfortunate habit of eating everything out of the kitchen and could stretch his body in ridiculous ways—sort of like a contortionist, but weirder." Sanji was rambling the story out, obviously not really going anywhere.
"A beautiful, er, mapmaker, and an equally beautiful librarian, both who were madly in love with the dashed handsome, manly, charming, witty, brilliant, intelligent, talented, gentlemen chef. This chef was so amazing that swarms of women would crowd the castle in order to get a taste of his cooking or his—"
"Stop. Right there. Just—ugh." Zoro shuddered, and Sanji grinned at him.
"The princess was obviously very smitten by the cook, but—"
"Oh, please," Zoro interrupted again.
"Excuse me, but this is my story here, and I'll tell it how I like."
"It's not as if I asked for you to tell me this shitty fantasy of yours."
Sanji smacked him on the forehead with his mixing spoon, leaving a sticky smear of brown sugar and cinnamon and who knew what else in its wake. "—but showed her attraction by treating the chef like shit—"
Zoro snorted loudly.
"—she also had this really unflattering habit of snorting like a bull when she found something unbelievable. Anyway, while the cook would never even dream of bedding a horrendous creature like the princess—"
"Wow, you've twisted this situation so far out of proportion that I don't even know what to say."
"Then shut up already, and let me tell my story. Anyway, however unbelievably not attracted the cook was to the princess, he couldn't help but to strike up a sort of a friendly rivalry with her, considering her personality was interesting enough to overcome her genetic faults."
Something clicked in Zoro's head. "Are you trying to tell me something, shitty-cook?"
"Of course I am, idiot, I'm trying to tell you a story. So the princess and the cook became friends even though it hurt the cook's aesthetic sensibilities to even look at the princess—"
"That's like, what, the sixth time you've called me ugly? You know what they say about saying one thing and meaning another?"
"Wow, Holmes, you sure are a brilliant one," Sanji said, voice all but oozing with sarcasm.
Sanji sighed, then continued. "So one day, the castle was attacked by an army from, er, another kingdom, or something. The other army was filled with these ridiculously strong gorilla men, but since the princess seemed to be of the same kin, she had no trouble fighting them. However, one of the gorilla men caught the dazzling cook unaware and—" Sanji faltered a little, eyes faraway, remembering the battle with the marines. Zoro said nothing.
"The gorilla man had the love cook trapped, with a gun pressed to his temple and about ready to blow his brains out but the princess, devastated over the idea of losing her one true love—"
"Not how it went," Zoro said.
"—took the hit for the cook, saving his life."
The story seemed to end there, Sanji falling silent as he mixed the apple pie filling in a large bowl. Zoro stared up at the ceiling, knowing what Sanji was trying to say in his roundabout way.
"The cook would have done the same thing for the princess," Zoro said, and Sanji paused in his mixing.
"Yes," Sanji said quietly.
Zoro hated when he had to be left to guard the ship, but in retrospect he was sort of relieved that he didn't have to fight the last battle. When his crewmates came back—well.
"Gosh, the last thing I ever want to do is eat," said Luffy.
"I am a weak, useless individual," said Usopp.
"Medicine is a waste of time," said Chopper.
"What," Zoro said to Sanji, who was still in his dismay, "the fuck is going on?"
The usually pristine kitchen was a disaster. Pots and pans were lying about everywhere. Food was scorched black and oozing off the counters, smelling like a mix between sulfur and the restroom after a stomach virus was passed around the ship. Sanji looked as horrible as his domain, blond hair standing at odd angles and shirt misbuttoned.
"Ah, Zoro!" Sanji said, twirling to the swordsman and looking unbelievably disgusted while doing so. It was an odd effect. "You are a flower amongst your kind! I don't deserve to be around such a handsome and intelligent individual! Your talent and looks surpass those around you."
Zoro stared at him.
Zoro said, "Well, obviously."
Then, "Oi, shitty cook, what the fuck."
Sanji glared at him so hard any lesser of a man would have combusted on the spot, though Zoro was close.
"I love you," Sanji said.
"Oh my god." Zoro took a couple steps back, looking horrified and disgusted. Sanji's expression mirrored his.
"I never should have doubted that someone with such superior intellect would understand what I'm saying!" said Sanji, with a murderous and mutinous look to his blue eyes.
"Did you guys get hit by some sort of truth serum?" Zoro asked.
"That's precisely what I'm trying to say, you brilliant creature." Sanji clasped his hands to his chest. "I would love nothing more than for you to not put me out of my misery."
"So, you're saying I'm right?"
Zoro was dumbfounded.
"The battle between us and the man who didn't eat the Reverse Devil Fruit was a simple one," Sanji said, desperately.
Zoro wasn't nearly as stupid as Sanji made him out to be, though it did take a moment to click. They stared at each other, Sanji looking increasingly more distressed and Zoro with a small, knowing smile crawling across his face.
Zoro sat at the table, ankle resting on his knee, elbow on the table. He rested his cheek to his hand and looked at Sanji, smiling broadly.
"So, shitty-cook, tell me how you really feel about me."
The compliments that Sanji shouted at Zoro could be heard from all around the ship.
"Zoro," Nami said. "What are you doing?"
"Working out," Zoro grunted, lifting the ridiculously huge barbell over his head.
"I can see that," Nami said slowly. "But why are you wearing that stupid mustache?"
"You don't like it?" Zoro said, genuinely surprised. He held the barbell up with one hand and stroked the mustache with the other. Nami threw her hands up in the air, muttering something about how Sanji was making Zoro even stupider, then stormed off.
Zoro twirled the mustache. "I thought it made me look dashing."
"I don't get why you have to put salt in cookies. Aren't they supposed to be sweet?"
Sanji had chosen something relatively easy to cook, but he should have known that Zoro would have no idea what the fuck he was doing, even when it was something as simple as chocolate chip cookies.
"Shut up and just do exactly what I tell you to do," Sanji said. "If we ever have to depend on your cooking again because of what happened with the Reverse Devil Fruit user—" He shuddered at the memory. "Just measure out three-quarters of a tablespoon of salt," he ordered.
Sanji turned on him in disbelief, then glared when he saw the teasing grin playing at the corner of Zoro's lips. To anyone else, Zoro would have looked utterly serious, but Sanji knew better by now.
Sanji had taught his fair share of people how to cook on the Baratie, but working with Zoro was distracting. It didn't help that Zoro was dead set against learning, but that wasn't what made Sanji sometimes stop mixing the ingredients or kneading the dough. Rather, it was the chef's hat perched jauntily on Zoro's head and the apron tied neatly around his waist that loudly proclaimed 'KISS THE COOK.' The effect was oddly—endearing, though Sanji would chop off both his hands before admitting this.
"That's stupid," Zoro decided, all on his own, then dumped half the bag of sugar into the mix.
Sanji stared at the mess disappointedly, then sighed. "You don't deserve this hat," he said, and snatched the chef's hat from Zoro's head, putting it back on his own.
They eventually did finish the cookies, though interrupted by an impromptu death match with Sanji's knives substituting Zoro's swords. The resulting cookies were a travesty, black and stuck to the bottom of the pan, smoldering rebelliously.
"Well," Sanji said sadly. "That's that."
"Er," said Zoro, poking at one of the cookies with a knife.
"How high did you put the oven on, anyway?"
"As high as it could go. I thought it would bake the cookies faster."
"SAAAAAAAANJI you cooked something?!" Luffy bounced into the kitchen, grabbing the pan off the counter though it had just come from the oven. Without even looking, he dumped all the cookies into his inhumanly wide mouth and chewed.
Well, crunched, really.
For a long moment there was no sound in the kitchen but Luffy furiously masticating the cookies. Zoro and Sanji just watched him in horror.
"That," Luffy said, tongue hanging out of his mouth, "was disgusting."
A distressed look stretched across Luffy's face. "Oh no, we're going to have to find a new cook! You can stay, Sanji, because you're a good fighter and you're my Nakama, but as captain I'm banning you from the kitchen."
"Yeah right, you shitty captain," Sanji said, stretching out Luffy's cheeks as far as he could spread his arms. "Those were Zoro's cookies."
"You made them for Zoro? Are you trying to kill him?!"
Sanji sighed, rubbing his forehead. "No, I mean, he cooked them."
Luffy blinked, then turned to Zoro. "You really suck."
"I agree," said Sanji.
"What are you doing?"
Zoro looked up from his mixing bowl at Nami, who was leaning against the table, frowning at him. He had the chef's hat perched determinedly on top of his head and the same 'KISS THE COOK' apron tied not-as-neatly around his waist. He, once again, was wearing the swirled black mustache.
"Nothing," he said flatly. His furious expression did not at all match the rest of his ensemble.
Nami sighed. "Well, if you mess up Sanji's kitchen in any way, I'm increasing your interest by 500%. The last thing I want to deal with is Sanji bitching for forever when he's up again."
.chocolate chip cookies.
The injury had taken more out of Sanji than initially thought it would, though he would have taken the hit again if he could do it over. It had originally been aimed at Zoro and, if he wanted to be really honest with himself, he probably didn't need to jump into the line of fire like he had. He knew Zoro could take care of himself, and he also knew that Zoro knew he knew, but for some primal reason—perhaps to settle the debt he had with the swordsman for saving him from being shot in the head—he had punted Zoro out of the way and took the slash across the chest. It really wasn't deep enough to do that much damage, but it knocked him flat and kept him from getting back up again.
Zoro had railed at him, apparently, while he was unconscious, and didn't stop even after he woke up. Then he stomped off after he'd gotten everything off his chest and hadn't been back since.
"He was really worried," Robin told Sanji quietly, one evening. "After you fell—well, the man who injured you—" She faltered, and Sanji shivered a little at her expression. It must not have been a pretty sight.
On the fifth night, after Sanji had become so bored that he was somewhere beyond that, Zoro visited him. He sat heavily on the chair near Sanji's bed and glared.
"You shouldn't have done that."
"I would do it again, Princess," Sanji said, stubbornly.
"I know, because you're a fucking idiot."
Sanji lit a cigarette against doctor's orders. "Of course you'd be insulted at a little help."
"Only if I didn't need it!"
Sanji knew this, of course. On a normal day he wouldn't have done something so stupid. He looked up at Zoro and shrugged. "Well, it's not like there's anything I can do about it, now." He held up a hand to stop any arguments. "I don't even know why I did it. I do know I'd do it again, if I had to."
Zoro looked as if he'd like to argue, but instead his scowl just deepened and he dropped a small paper bag on Sanji's stomach. Sanji blinked in surprise, carefully pushing himself up to a sitting position.
The cookies weren't nearly as big of a disaster as the first batch, but they were still a little crispier than normal.
"Zoro," Sanji said, voice low.
"Shut up. You don't have to eat them."
Sanji gripped the bag tighter, as if he were afraid Zoro would take them away from him. "Don't be stupid. I wouldn't waste food." He took one of the cookies from the bag and inspected it cautiously, before taking a small bite. It was much saltier than he would have liked, and it tasted as if Zoro forgot the vanilla and didn't measure the butter out correctly, but they were edible.
"It's good," Sanji said, then smiled at Zoro.
For the first time in days, the scowl on Zoro's face softened into something close to a smile.
Sanji didn't end up eating all the cookies. He kept one, out of sentimentality.