Title: Taking Turns With the Washing Up
Author: Tiamat's Child
Fandom: One Piece
Character/s: Straw Hats
Disclaimer: The characters and the world do not belong to me.
Summary: Everybody helps with the washing up except the cook. That's the way it works.
Notes: Spoilers through the end of the Water 7 & Enies Lobby arc. Also a tiny crossover. Tiiiiny crossover.
Taking Turns With the Washing Up
There was a rotating roster pinned next to the sink. Nami drew it up the day she said Goodbye and See You Soon to her family and town. Until she did no one had bothered to tug down the old one, with the washing linked to the cooking.
"Can it be my turn first?" Luffy asked, and Sanji, who had heard about his turn at the wash basin on the Baratie, felt his face lose all mobility, but the only actually precious pieces of cookware that Luffy could have actually harmed were his knives, and those he dealt with himself. Nami wrote it for him, on the bottom of the page: Do Not Touch Sanji's Knives.
"If you want," Nami said, and wrote Luffy's name at the top. Sanji didn't protest, but only because it was Nami writing the list.
Then she put Usopp, and then herself. At that Sanji did protest, until she smiled at him and said, "You're probably the only man in the world not dying to get a girl into the kitchen," and then he was too busy swooning, and after that he was too busy trying to work out if that was, in fact, some kind of insult, and Nami had already moved on to Zoro.
"Why am I not on this?" Sanji asked, as he held it carefully, between thumbs and forefingers, the way he'd hold any important document he was trying not to smudge. He didn't know if it was the question or his hold that made Nami smile, but smile she did, a little curled up around the edges smile.
"Sanji is cooking," she answered, and left it there.
When Luffy washed dishes water went everywhere, because Luffy never bothered to be careful how he put the dishes in or took them out. Plates splashed in widest side to the water, mixing bowls were tugged out mostly full and promptly slopped over both Luffy and the deck. He cracked and chipped the soup bowls, he clanked the baking pans against each other, and he lost the spoons beneath his feet. When the dishes were all glistening damply in the drying rack and Luffy had vanished, leaving only laughter, water, and a new set of chinks in the crockery behind him, Sanji would survey the lemon scented puddles on his deck and counters and windowsill and wonder, in a resigned sort of way, if this was twice or three times as much work as washing the dishes himself.
Usopp was always a relief. Usopp was surprisingly good at dishes. He was fast and his hands were steady and he handled each piece with a delicacy that suggested to Sanji that he was accustomed to the thought that there would be no more coming, after these were gone. There was a kind of quiet responsibility to Usopp, a sort of understanding that things didn't stay moving, or healthy, or whole all on their own. They had to be maintained, and he was good at it. It felt good, sitting with his feet up on another chair, head back, eyes half shut because closing them all the way wasn't a sensible plan when Luffy was at large and possibly in search of after meal snacks, listening to Usopp spin a story about the great dishwashing competition of San Barre, which he had, of course, won, and the following feast, that had lasted for seven days and seven nights, although he, the guest of honor, had to miss the last one due to a horrible mutant sea-ferret invasion on a neighboring island, and how much he regretted not asking for any of the recipes, because there were a few that struck him, from the humble perspective of a diner, as right up Sanji's alley.
Nami was as careful as Usopp, but she wasn't as quick. Nami took her time. Sometimes it struck Sanji that Nami handled dishes the way a young child handled dishes, as if she expected them to be the wrong size for her hands, as if they might be heavier than she could handle. Sanji had seen the weight Nami could carry. She was not going to drop a dish.
"You don't have to," he told her every time it was her turn. "I could take a turn too. Nami's time is valuable!"
"It's good to do dishes," Nami said when she was in a good mood. "It rests my eyes from my charts."
Of course, when she was tired, she closed her eyes and said, "Sanji," in that special tone of hers that promised violence and penury if she didn't get what she wanted this moment with no further argument. Sanji respected that tone, belonging as it did to Nami. Nami was a magnificent woman who could follow every one of that tone's promises down to their bitter bankruptcy filled ends.
"You're wonderful when you're decisive!" he said and put on the teakettle. It was easy enough to accept his defeat when he thought (as he always thought, because it was the truth) that Nami was the only woman in the world who could possibly make a frilly smock skate the edge of dangerous - clothing fit for an empress with armies and banners waiting on her word.
Zoro never broke anything. It was about all that could be said for him.
He was horrified when Vivi first tried to take a turn. "Princess!" he'd said, hurrying across the galley. "That is absolutely not necessary at all – "
But she'd clung to the plate she held and said, her eyes steady and even on his, "Please, let me help. Although it's a small thing, it's something I can – " She stopped, corrected herself. "It's something I want to do."
Sanji couldn't imagine Vivi under cover. He knew that she had done it, that she had hidden herself and passed unseen, but he could not imagine it. Vivi was Vivi, everything she was clear and open in everything she said and everything she did and all the ways she moved. There she was, completely herself, standing in his kitchen with a plate in her hands, and it wasn't that she made it look regal, or that she looked like she belonged there, precisely, because Vivi had somewhere she needed to be and the Going Merry's galley was not it at all, it really was only that Vivi was Vivi and he hadn't missed either turn of phrase.
"I'll find you an apron," Sanji said, and did just that. What kind of a cad tried to take away a woman's pride?
"Absolutely not," he'd said, when Chopper first figured out that everyone else took a turn at dishes. "No, there is no way. No. Not at all."
Chopper slumped in on himself. You wouldn't expect someone that small could make himself even smaller, Sanji reflected, but Chopper managed it. In fact, he out right deflated, like a mistreated balloon. A fuzzy balloon. A fuzzy balloon with disproportionately large, brown, innocent eyes that gleamed with unshed tears.
"Why?" Chopper asked. He tapped his front hooves together slowly, looking just about everywhere but directly at Sanji.
"Because you're furry, and in the hot water your fur will come loose, and I don't need fur clogs in my drains, that's why!"
Chopper bounced back, affronted. "That's not so! I never have any trouble with my medical instruments, and they have to be even cleaner than your dishes! I can get your dishes cleaner than you've ever seen them!"
Sanji smirked. "Prove it," he said, the boast bypassing the sections of his mind complaining about bouncy doctors underfoot in his kitchen, and reindeer fur in his sink and too many men on this ship, damn it.
"I will!" Chopper said, grabbing one of the chairs. "You'll see!" he said as he drug it over the sink to use as a step stool. "They'll be the most spick and span, sparkling, sterile dishes on the whole of the Grand Line, that's what they'll be!"
And they were.
"All right," Sanji said, after he'd taken one of the colanders (always tricky) out into the sunlight on deck and turned it this way and that, upside down and right side up and left side too – he'd even held it up over his head and looked through it, "all right. You're as good as your word, Chopper. These are definitely the most spick and span sparkling, sterile dishes on the whole of the Grand Line. Possibly the world."
Chopper giggled and pranced. "Don't say more than I said myself, jackass! It doesn't make me happy!"
Sanji shrugged. "You ever give up the doctor gig, you could be a dishwasher in palaces. In temples, even." He considered. "I don't suppose…"
But, sadly, Luffy held firm on the roster.
Sanji didn't really understand why Luffy was so keen on the dishwashing roster. He could understand why it was important to Nami. The clues were all there in the way she handled dishes. But Luffy was horrible at dishes, not just unpracticed. Either no one had ever taught him how, or someone had tried and failed miserably, possibly giving it up as a bad job. Sanji suspected this was the general state of the case with Luffy and table manners, Luffy and risk assessment, and Luffy and quasi-decent penmanship. Still, he didn't know.
Sometimes Sanji realized just how little he really knew about Luffy. Luffy liked meat. Luffy loved friends. Luffy had lots of friends, most of whom turned out to be appallingly dangerous and yet fundamentally decent upon closer acquaintance. Luffy had an older brother. Luffy was fanatically loyal when he chose to be. Luffy was unpredictable. Luffy was made of rubber. Luffy loved ships, and the sky, and the sea.
It wasn't much. It was enough.
(It didn't explain the dishes.)
"Goodness," Robin had said, "such a thoughtful young man." Hands blossomed from the sink and counter, looking rather like a very strange thicket of trees waving in the wind. Robin was more organized than the rest of the crew. Her extra limbs formed an organized line. Every set seemed to have a specific task.
("Don't let her in the kitchen," Zoro had said to Sanji some days earlier, in that particular way of his that was low, directed, meant for just the one person, but would never go by anything so mundane and possibly breathy as whispering.
Sanji had kicked him in the spot on his left knee that always made him grit his teeth and snarl and, usually, stagger too. Zoro obliged him, and did all three. "Don't tell me what to do in my own galley, asshole," Sanji said. "You're a paranoid son of a bitch with no idea how to treat a lady, you know that?")
The rest of Robin, the part of Robin that had her brain, and her fine eyes, and, which was important in context, her clothes, sat down at the kitchen table, safely out of the range of any splashing. She rested her chin in a hand that was attached in quite the usual way to the rest of her, and smiled at him, the smile she'd been smiling near perpetually since she turned up on deck and informed Luffy that she was their problem now. "I'd hate to be a burden, after all," she said, and laughed when he insisted that she never could be, not at all, would she like something to drink, a snack, just company, anything he could give he would.
Her smile had never changed, never, but later, standing in too bright sun that had been shining too long, dizzying height everywhere, and Robin above him, even higher, her face blotched and red with salt, that maybe there had been some dark flash in her eyes. Something true, something honest, and wasn't this taking hating to be a burden a little far?
But it was still true. He would be aching soon enough, Zoro had nearly killed him by accident once already, and they'd have half the world after them for this, but Robin wasn't a burden. She was never a burden at all. Robin was Robin and Robin was the only person on the crew who would use bleachwater for dishes, and if she would just hold on for them to make it across to her he would make sure she had enough yellow rubber dish gloves for as many pairs of hands as it amused her to conjure up. He would buy a dozen dozen for her, and she would laugh at him, and smile, and her hands would sprout from the underside of cupboards to help pull all the gloves on.
"I thought you could use the dedicated taps," Franky told him, their first night out on the Thousand Sunny. There had been a squabble over whose turn it was to do the dishes, because so much had happened since the last time they'd all been together on the Merry no one could remember quite where they'd been. Nami insisted it had been Chopper's turn, and Chopper was willing to go along with this, although he didn't remember it being his turn, but Usopp had been absolutely sure it was his, and Robin had only smiled and laced two pairs of fingers together and watched them all from behind them, as Luffy argued that he didn't know whose turn it was, but it couldn't have been Usopp's, and Zoro laconically pointed out that Nami was being awfully insistent, perhaps it had been her go?
Sanji had been just about to kick Zoro right through Franky's nice, freshly milled steel door hinges for that, but before he could get around the table to do it, Franky had stood up and swept the plates and bowls and serving casseroles off the table and onto his arms. He had nice balance. Sanji wondered if he hadn't bussed tables when he was younger. "New guy gets the dishes!" Franky proclaimed, and carefully took the spoon Chopper helpfully held out to him. "Tomorrow we can start over from the beginning, right?"
"Yeah!" Luffy agreed eagerly, "yeah! 'Cause that means my turn!"
Sanji had never gotten further than 'resignation, possibly fond' when it came to Luffy and dishes. He really couldn't help the sigh.
"That's good," Franky said, "Captain takes the lead, that so?"
"That's so!" Luffy echoed.
Franky winked at Sanji. Sanji shrugged. "They won't let me near my sink," he said.
"Because Sanji cooks!" everyone else bar Robin and Zoro chorused. Zoro shrugged. Robin just laughed.
Which was why Franky was doing the dishes and Sanji was listening to his run down of the new galley's features.
"I also built you a soap dispenser," Franky told Sanji, "It doubles as a fire extinguisher and in a pinch you could probably clock somebody over the head with it, though I don't recommend that. It might explode."
Sanji, who was busy heartily appreciating Franky's excellent designs for ventilation fans in the best possible way (testing how much cigarette smoke they could readily handle), raised an eyebrow. "Franky, I have to ask. Is there anything you build that isn't likely to blow up important bits of the landscape?"
Franky held a glass up to the light, checking for spots. "Tables," he said. "Mostly." Then he laughed and turned to smile at Sanji, still working his way through the stack. "No, I'm joking with you. Truth is, most everything's got the potential to explode if you treat it right or treat it wrong. There are places in this world where sometimes the trees blow themselves to splinters in deep winter. Their sap freezes, y'see, and that puts pressure on their tissues from the inside out. Which they can't take, so they shatter instead. I'm told it sounds a bit like rifle fire."
"Huh," Sanji said. "I'm from North Blue, myself. I don't remember if we ever had a winter that bad."
"Yeah?" Franky said. "Me, I've never been out of the Grand Line. Have to get you guys to tell me a few stories sometime."
"Got a few myself, if you want to hear 'em now," Sanji said, swinging away from the wall he'd been leaning on, enjoying the feeling of well being as his muscles took the movement and the weight, bones shifting into alignment.
"I'd like that," said Franky. Clunk went a sauce pan against the side of the sink (Franky's own design, he'd said, wider and deeper and slightly higher off the ground than the standard). "That would really be super."
So Sanji told him stories. He told him the one about Zeff and the jellyfish, and the one about the exiled scientist who'd hid on the Baratie disguised as a dishwasher, and the chaos that had ensued when a bunch of big shots turned up and tried to haul her off to lock her up in some sterile lab for the rest of her natural life. "So we told them to get stuffed," Sanji said, "Preferably with pepper, but some lemon juice might do them good, too. Tenderize the tissues."
"Damn straight!" Franky said, as vibrant and fierce as if he'd actually been there, seen Doctor Gradgrind, pale and resigned where she stood in the door, her hand pressed white against the frame. "How'd they take that?"
"Eh, they weren't very bright. Bastards decided to try to rush us…"
Franky made a great audience. He got indignant at all the right points, he asked for elaboration on the good stuff, like the more interesting fights and the dinners and he was attentive and interested even when he wasn't asking questions. Sanji made faces when he laughed, deep and rolling and long and loud enough to be heard over a full broadside, but it was a good laugh, really. It just wasn't a laugh you could tell a story over.
"Yeah," Franky said, once Doctor Gradgrind had sailed off into the sunset to chart magnetic anomalies in South Blue, picking up a promising career she'd never abandoned, only set down for a little while, "yeah, that's the way. Thing's worth doing, it's worth doing with everything you've got, even when everything else is gone. Yeah. Oh, man, I love that woman!" He sniffled. "I'm not crying! It's something in my eye!"
Nami drew up the new dishwashing roster the day after the Thousand Sunny left port. It was on crisp new paper. It didn't have pencilled in notations. The names were evenly divided, not squished all together after the first four. Vivi's name was in Nami's hand, not Vivi's.
It made Sanji ache a little. But the old roster had been a thing of the Going Merry, all its grease and soap and salt stains garnered on that ship. It was fitting that it had burned with her. That was right. That was the way it should be, even if it hurt.
There's always another dream, Zeff had told him, and the Thousand Sunny was their new dream. She wasn't a better dream than the Going Merry, but she was expansive and generous and sturdy, like the man who had designed and built her, and she'd be just as dear as the Merry in time.
The new roster read:
Washing Up Roster
Do Not Touch Sanji's Knives.
The Drain Stops Are Not Toys – Luffy This Means YOU
Sanji tacked it up on a cupboard beside the sink and stepped back, and whistled a little, just a little, just to himself.