Sanji leaned against Baraties railing, with an unlit cigarette in hand. It was another boring day that had passed. Nothing ever interesting happened on the floating restaurant. Well, except for the day he met Gin and Don Kriegs gang. That had probably been the most interesting day of his entire life. Even six years later he could still see the fight clearly in his mind like watching a movie. He could still feel the cold steel of his weapon against his neck and he could still feel the sticky tears on his face when the poor man had begun to cry, screaming that for the life of him, he could not take the one life that had saved his. Remembering made him smile. Someday he'd love to see the guy again and fight him properly and not because the guy had been ordered to and not because he was trying to save the damn restaurant.
"Oi, Sanji! What the hell are you doing? We have customers to serve!" Snapping back to his dry reality Sanji dropped his cigarette and headed back towards the main entrance. Even though he'd only been back for half a year, Sanji missed the sea greatly. He missed the adventures and the horrors everyone had been through. Sadly he missed Luffy's boisterous attitude and Zoro's violent, swordsman ways. He missed Usopp's crazy inventions that rarely worked except on few occasions. Hell, he missed Chopper's naivete and innocence and how, no matter how big the fight, he always gave his best. Some days he missed Franky's inventions that saved them more times than he could count and he missed Brooke's random out bursts. Of course he especially missed the beautiful Nami, and the drop dead gorgeous Robin but all of them were in the past now. Now he was just an ex-cook turned pirate, turned ex-pirate cook. There was nothing that could be done. Sanji entered the restaurant feeling depressed now. Not once had anyone bothered to visit him. Not even the two beautiful ladies aboard the vessel. Of course they were probably back to what they were doing before which in the long run he'd never asked them what they'd done. Day jobs were so boring compared to the vast unknown.
Inside the restaurant it was lively. Guests who had gone out of their way to come to Baratie drank and ate until they were content. Laughter rang out like church bells and voices reverberated off the walls. Just the noise brought back fond memories, but Sanji shoved them as far back in his mind as they would go. Putting on a sly grin he strutted over to a table where a fine young lady sat drinking alone. "What is such a gorgeous lady like you doing drinking alone?" He asked, leaning casually against the back of the chair. The girl blushed and looked away, smiling. "Don't be shy now. You can tell this lonesome cook."
She giggled and looked back at him with bright brown eyes (which held striking resemblance to Nami's.) "Is it not proper for a lady to eat on her own?"
"Not for one with such striking beauty. Order whatever you want. For you it's free." Sanji flicked his hair back with his classic lady killer smile on his lips.
The girl smiled but politely declined. "I could never do such a thing, cook-san. If someone has the money to pay for a meal than they should pay." With those words hanging in the air she went back to her meal as though nothing had happened.
Such a modest woman.... Never thought I'd see the day. He thought as he left the table. After a few minutes hanging out in the dining room Sanji decided to go back to the kitchen to put his much used cooking skills to work. Making a lot of food was no problem any more after feeding such a hungry, but small, crew of nine members.
As he was cooking someone suddenly burst in the door and yelled, "Sanji-kun! Sanji-kun! Someone is here to see you!" Everyone looked up in surprise. Was his crew here to see him? They were all prepared to shoo them out of the restaurant. Last time they'd come they had nearly eaten an entire supply of food. Sanji's pay had been cut for about a month because of it. The cook who had crashed through the door had a look of what one might call surprised horror on his face. "It's.... It's... It's Gin-san!" He cried.
Sanji nearly dropped the frying pan he had been holding in surprise. The newer cooks looked at each other in confusion while Patty and Carne gave each other disapproving looks.
"He'd better not be here looking for another free meal." Someone muttered from the back of the kitchen.
"Owner!" Everyone responded in unison.
"Well eggplant are you going to keep him waiting?" Zeff stood up and stumped his way across the kitchen to stand before Sanji. "You know better than anyone that you shouldn't keep a hungry customer waiting." Sanji glared before he turned on heal and glided from the kitchen.
He heard Patty scream from behind him, "If he doesn't have any money we ain't feedin' him ya hear?!" Sanji disregarded the comment, just like he had the first time, and continued out to meet his old friend. Outside in the dining area Gin rested at the same table he had before with his feet propped up on the top. It was like rewatching an old scene, except he wasn't being thrown to the ground and wasn't being repeatedly kicked in the gut.
Stopping about a foot away Sanji muttered a halfhearted, "Yo," realizing that the guy probably wouldn't remember him. Gin didn't look up. He stared directly at the ground as though he hadn't heard. "What can I get for you?" Deciding that he hadn't been remember, Sanji became what he considered a good waiter.
Laughing Gin looked up. "Is that how you greet an old enemy, Sanji-san?" His response made the blond grin wider than his mouth would allow him to.
"So you do remember you bastard."
"How could I possibly forget? You made me cry and not only saved my life once but twice and then lent me your food carrying boat. I'm in your debt."
Sanji pulled out a chair and sat down. "Didn't I tell you not to worry about that damn boat?" Gin laughed.
"Sure you did. And I didn't worry about it."
"So why are you here?"
Gin sighed and leaned his head back against the chair. "Once again we couldn't conquer the Grand Line and were thrown back like bad fish. Can't an old... Acquaintance visit? Though I really should be asking you the same question. Why the hell are you back in this shitty little restaurant?"
"Watch what you say about the restaurant, Gin. Remember that the owner of this place is the one I owe my entire existence to. And like bad fish huh? You just can't beat it can you?"
Sanji laughed and lit a cigarette. "So how's that stupid captain of yours? Don Krieg or whatever the hell his name was."
Gin shrugged. "Probably got eaten by a king fish or something. We dumped his ass after the third week. He'd been killing too many of his own men. Probably to get back at straw-hat for his defeat. Like I said what are you doing back here?"
Sanji blew out a stream of smoke as he replied, "We conquered the Grand Line. I arrived back here six months ago." Gin raised an eyebrow. "You don't believe me?"
"Not a word. You are telling me that Zoro managed to become the best swordsman in the world, and that Luffy managed to become Pirate King?"
Sanji shook his head. "That shitty swordsman is still only second best. Even to this day he can't defeat Mihawk. It's damaged his pride as both a swordsman and a pirate." He inhaled deeply again and then released it, letting the smoke dance in his face. "Nami did manage to draw her map of the world and Usopp became as brave as he can ever be. Those are the only one's you know of."
"What about the other two aboard your ship? Yosaku and Johnny?"
"Those screw-offs? They weren't pirates. They were pirate hunters. They just happened to be in the way of Luffy and Usopp's aiming practice." This made Gin burst into laughter. "Anyway you look better."
"Yeah. After getting rid of Don I could rest easy and my body relaxed more. It wasn't as suffocating on that ship." Sanji snickered. When their laughter died Gin spoke again. "It's great to see you again. It's good to know you're well."
"So do you have any food? I'm freaking starving. Couldn't care less what it is... Or was."
"Do you have money this time?"
"Not a cent."
"Then there's nothing I can do for you old friend."
"I thought you wouldn't let a single hungry person go. And I'm kidding. I got money and plenty of it."
Shrugging Sanji stood. "Anything you'd care for in particular?"
"How about that craptaculor fried rice you fed me our first meeting?" He said, putting his feet back on the ground and leaning into the table with his elbows. "Who knows? You might just save me again."
"Don't diss my cooking, shitty pirate. You don't plan on having someone surprise attack us again are you?" Sanji asked, turning to head back to the kitchen. "Luffy isn't here to kick ass this time so we might actually lose the restaurant."
"Na. No one is gonna attack again. And have you no faith in the fighting restaurant, Baratie?" Gin muttered, smiling an unfamiliar smile. Never having seen it before, it surprised Sanji that the man could smile. Every time he'd seen him the man had either been crying or half dead.
"I never had faith in this beat down restaurant. Come on back. I don't trust you out here alone." The blond headed towards the kitchen, listening for the others footsteps. When he reached the doors to the kitchen he swore he felt a hand glide over his ass as Gin passed him. It was so light he figured he imagined it.
"Sugei! Pretty nice back here, ain't it?" He asked, scanning the interior of the room. His eyes lingered on a few of the newer cooks. For as bad as his memory was he still remembered every cook that had been aboard the ship that fateful day. "What happened to some of the other cooks?"
"How the hell should I know? I've only been back six months ya know."
Zeff limped up to them from the back of the kitchen. "Do you have money this time, Gin-san?" He scowled a menacing scowl and crossed his arms over his chest. He was in no mood for customers who weren't going to pay. "And you had sure as hell not have that moron will you again." Gin smirked.
"Ain't got a cent with me."
"Then get the hell out of my restaurant you free loader." Zeff pushed the man back with the tips of his fingers. He caught himself on Sanji's shoulder sending them both stumbling backwards. As soon as Sanji caught his footing so did Gin.
"Wha the hell was that for, ossan?" Sanji growled, scrunching his eyebrows together.
"I'm kidding, owner. I got the money to pay for it. And I ain't got any extra baggage neither."
Zeff didn't reply to Sanji but instead said to the grayish-black haired man, "Then eat as much as you can pay for." He turned away from the two and headed back to yell at the young chefs who were peeling potatoes and apples. Angry Sanji lit another cigarette and inhaled as much as he could. In one breath he'd nearly finished it.
"Chill Sanji-san. Don't get so worked up." Gin gripped his shoulder tighter and shoved his other hand deep into his pocket. "Anyway let's eat."
Letting out a calming breath Sanji muttered, "We're not eating with the other customers. Don't want to deal with them. I'm no waiter. Let's go eat in my room." Laughing quietly Gin didn't refuse. Quickly they retrieved as many plates of food as the two could carry and then headed up to the cook's room. Upstairs the two of them laid the food on the floor and began to shovel food into their mouths like a pair of carnivorous, hungry, t-rex's. As they ate they talked. Mostly of their adventures, and misadventures, along the Grand Line. Sanji felt more relaxed than he had in forever with Gin. It was ironic that on the day he'd thought about him he showed up.
"So," he began, after they'd finished eating, "do you want to finish that fight we began so many years ago? After having good food and no damn pearl man I'm all revved to go."
Gin shrugged as he downed another glass of wine. When he finished he set the glass down and climbed onto his knees. Then slowly he moved his body across the floor, closing the distance between them. Once close enough he fell down to his hands as well so his face was little more than an inch from the blonds. "That fight was decided six years ago, Sanji-san."
Nervous and confused Sanji backed away a bit as he responded, "What the hell are you talking about, Gin? I could beat your ass half way across the world now."
Gin smiled a partially drunk smile and got closer again, now leaving less than a fourth of an inch between their opened lips. Every muscle had tensed in his body. "Keep telling yourself that. Even now I could still beat you in thirty seconds or less."
"Than just try-" Before he could finish Gins wine stained lips pressed against his. Sanji could still taste the fresh wine on his breath. It was bitter and yet... Sweet. What's going on? What the hell is he doing? He's probably just drunk but geez! Sanji put his knuckles to Gin's chest and pushed and was surprised at how easily he backed away. Still dazed Gin looked at him until he finally realized what he'd done. His bronze face lit up in embarrassment.
"S-Sanji-san, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to do that, really! Please forgive me!" With a horrified look on his face he scurried backwards until his back was pressed against the dresser. His eyes were wide and his body shook. His eyes glimmered as if he were going to cry again.
"You must be drunk as fuck." Sanji murmured, running his tongue over his bottom lip. Wine, not his own, still lingered there. Surprised, Sanji found he wanted to taste more of the wine but not from the glass. Standing he walked over to kneel in front of Gin. It him this time who brought his face impossibly close before closing the space between them. Gin looked taken aback. His hands shook as Sanji's mouth pushed harder into his. His body felt numb as the calloused hands grabbed his face. When the man didn't back off any, Gin placed his hands around his waist and held them steady there.
The gentle hands move casually from his face to his shoulders. With just the one movement their eyes closed, completely lost. Everything felt so wrong but neither could pull away. Gin's hand moved nonchalantly closer and closer to Sanji's crotch. What the hell was happening? Before they could get far the owner slammed the door open with a more than pissed look on his face. "Oi, chibi eggplant! Who the hell said you could break? Get your ass back to work before I kick you out of the place myself! And Gin-san pay your bill and then get lost!" Embarrassed beyond belief Sanji stood and jogged out of the room, his face red to the tip of his ears. Unsure completely of what had happened, Gin paid the bill and stumbled away. As soon as he left Zeff began to laugh, harder than he had ever laughed before. That boy was a moron. Acting tough was fine but acting as if he didn't have a care in the world was not. Satisfied with his movements Zeff stomped back to the dining area.
A few weeks after the chance encounter Sanji received a letter that had been sent from Gin. Inside the letter it read:
How are you? I hope you're doing well. I hope that because of our meeting a few weeks ago you didn't lose your job. I know it seems like we've talked about everything but I would love to meet with you again. Even if you can't accept my feelings because you're a ladies man I want to tell you that not only do I thank you for saving my life, but that I love you. It may sound weird coming from the man who damn near killed you but it's the truth beyond truths. Hope you're well and hope to hear from you soon.
letter made Sanji smile a tiny smile. Grabbing a pen and a clean
sheet of paper he responded:
Come and visit me any time. I'll be waiting for you.
He sealed the letter, and sent it with the mail bird. Smiling he thought to himself, iGin you moron. It's only been a few weeks and I already miss your dumb ass. I'm glad that, in the end, you remembered this poor insignificant soul.