AN: They are all kin, but some of them share things beyond their common dream. Nakamaship, no pairings.
Disclaimer: One Piece and its characters belong to Eiichiro Oda.
by Miss Mungoe
It's a day quite like any other when he learns something about his captain that puts him in a new light.
Of course, he wasn't thick – he knew very well there was more to the eccentric rubber monkey than what met the eye. What he hadn't counted on was to discover he actually had something in common with the one person with whom he least expected to feel kinship beyond being nakama. Because the idiot was everything Sanji was not. Loud, impulsive, carefree, lacking basic manners and being all but oblivious of the opposite sex (or the same sex for that matter) – the latter two being the most prominent differences, in Sanji's opinion, and ones that had him wondering if the boy had, in fact, been raised by monkeys. He had nothing but the utmost respect for his lively captain, but when it came down to it, even the smallest of similarities between them was close to impossible to find.
Except one thing, and he'd discovered this not without a small amount of surprise.
"Ne, Sanji. How did that cook-ossan lose his leg?"
Coming from Luffy, there was nothing but innocent curiosity behind the inquiry, but for Sanji it cut like a well-aimed stab to the gut with a dull kitchen knife.
He didn't answer his captain at first, taking instead a long drag of his cigarette and letting his gaze linger on the horizon in the far distance. The sun was setting and the ship was oddly quiet for its vivacious crew. Exhaling deeply, he watched idly as the smoke evaporated on the chilled air, letting his thoughts touch upon the part of his memories he usually kept under tight wraps. An image leaped out at him, of a scowling face set with grim determination in an inward battle against an impromptu amputation.
Shitty old cook.
Even now, a good decade after the incident that had saved his life and cost the captain his leg, Sanji still felt guilt eating away at his gut, a feeling not unlike the persistent gnaw of hunger, and knew there was no way he would ever be able to repay the old man for everything he had done. For saving his life, for raising him despite the fact that he'd no obligation to do so, and for training him even if he'd been a disrespectful little brat who'd barely deserved the meals he was given. But most of all for being the father Sanji had not previously had the luxury of having.
He exhaled, releasing a lungful of smoke, but didn't look at Luffy as he spoke. "I fell overboard during a storm when I was a kid. Shitty old cook lost his leg saving my life," he said brusquely, not willing to shed any more light on the subject. He didn't think the others would ever understand the guilt of robbing another person of something so vital, anyway.
"Y'know, Sanji. I can't remember my parents," Luffy said after an awkward lull, a curious look on his face, as though uncertain of how to feel about this particular fact. Sanji snorted, and was about to retort with a rather sharp 'join the club', but the words died on his tongue as Luffy opened his mouth to continue, a sudden and bright smile having abruptly replaced his previously quizzical expression. "There was this one guy, though! A pirate that came to visit when I was a kid. He was so cool! And I think…maybe, that's what having a dad feels like, y'know?"
He grinned cheekily as he continued, and Sanji, in an odd moment of curiosity found himself listening, because there was something about his story that hit home. The light in his eyes as he spoke of a red haired captain who had given him his infamous straw hat, and the admiration he held for the man that had become both a hero and a role model. A man who was not his father by blood, but undoubtedly the only father Luffy had ever truly known.
"…and he laughed at me and teased me because I couldn't swim! So he wasn't cool all the time, the jerk!"
That sounded familiar, Sanji mused with a wry smile. Not that he'd ever admit to Zeff that he thought of him as anything but an old fart – he'd rather fall on his own kitchen knife. Although he had his suspicions that the shitty old chef already knew, anyway.
"He saved my life, too, y'know," Luffy said suddenly, having dropped the act of gesturing wildly with his hands in favour of fiddling with the worn hat on his head. A wistful smile that didn't look quite right on him made its way to his lips.
"Kind of like cook-ossan! 'Cept, Shanks lost his arm instead of his leg."
Sanji's eyes snapped from the horizon to his captain.
…lost his arm…
And with that comment, Sanji, for the first time since meeting the energetic rubber monkey, found himself genuinely relating to his captain. The guilt in his eyes – familiar guilt he knew was often visible in his own eyes, yet guilt he had never expected to see in their ever-optimistic captain – hit him like a sharp kick to the face. It wasn't like Luffy to succumb to those kinds of emotions, and somewhere along the way, Sanji found he had come to genuinely believe this, which went to show just how good the younger man was at hiding them.
"…saved me from a Sea King when I was seven, 'cause I'd done something stupid…"
That sounded familiar, too, if you paired it up with a measly knife and a shitload of arrogant bravery.
"I know now, y'know? Why he didn't want to take me with him back then. Should've seen it earlier, I guess. Maybe then…he wouldn't have lost his arm. Maybe?"
Sanji said nothing to that. 'Maybe thens' and 'What ifs' were old friends of his. He'd certainly thought about them enough, and although it would seem the only thoughts occupying his mind were related to either meat or becoming the Pirate King, Sanji realized that Luffy probably did, too.
But it didn't change anything, did it? The guilt was still there; the only difference was the fact that he wasn't the only one carrying it around. Woo friggin' hoo. So the idiot's not as dense as he's given credit for. Tch.
But then, just as he had been about to succumb to his cynicism and pull out another cigarette, Luffy surprised him by doing something Sanji never could have made himself do after putting everything about his past on the table.
"But I promised him I wouldn't feel guilty about it! 'Cause he did it of his own free will. And I think…that's what parents do, right?" he asked, the rhetorical question of an orphan. Then he shrugged, a smile on his face as he grinned down at his chef and nakama. "They make sacrifices, yeah? A small price to pay – that's what he said," Luffy declared, and Sanji realized that he wasn't just hiding his remorse – he sincerely, wholeheartedly believed the words of this Shanks-character.
He also wondered why he hadn't thought about it like that himself. Because it was the same, wasn't it? In the end, they were both orphans, but Sanji wasn't going to pretend he'd grown up without a father anymore than Luffy would. It was so simple, too, the fact he could now see staring him right in the face.
And it had taken the least perceptive man on board to make him see it.
Parents made sacrifices for their children; for their kin. Cynics would call it an act of obligation, but others would claim it to be something else entirely. Something devastatingly simple and human in nature that surpassed silly things like self-preservation and caution. Instinct.
When one's child is in danger – or for some people, when achild is in danger – action becomes necessary, common sense overrated. A limb becomes a triviality in light of the suffocating urge to protect. Hadn't he felt that way himself, towards his own kin? Wouldn't he give both his legs in a heartbeat if it meant his crew would be safe; the little family of brothers and sisters they'd made for themselves on the vast waves of the Grand Line?
A small price to pay, indeed.
He smirked, lighting another cigarette as he leaned on the railing. "You know, Luffy, if you're going to keep up the image of being a dimwit you're going to have to stop saying shit like that."
Sanji's smile widened, and he shook his head, glad the world hadn't completely tipped off its axis.
AN: I don't like it when Sanji isn't portrayed as having the same amount of respect for his captain as the rest of the crew. I just think he's got a different way of showing affection for people that aren't beautiful ladies.