This is my second One Piece fanfic! XD Yohohoho... Please forgive me if there are errors. P.S. - This takes place in a very slight AU in which the Baratie is a land restaurant. :( It was a sacrifice I had to make in order to make the premise work.

Disclaimer: I don't own One Piece!


"I need some peppers over here!"

"Watch that sauce pot!"

"Someone take this out to table seven!"

"Don't let that boil!"

Zeff stalked through the Baratie's kitchen, his domain, administering blunt advice or blunt trauma as needed. It was the lunch-hour rush and his cooks were all in a flurry, dashing madly about the kitchen and turning the place into a mire of barely-controlled chaos. The air was full of the wafting smells of good food, the hiss of oil on hot pans, and the heat of open ovens.

He made his way through the bustle to his own station and washed his hands efficiently in the nearby sink. He was going to make a wedding cake, commissioned from the restaurant weeks ago by a very wealthy couple. It would be a simple task, he thought, setting out the equipment he would need. But he needed an errand boy.

"Hey, baby eggplant!"

Across the kitchen, the blonde head of his adopted son shot up. His hair fell across his left eye in an unruly curtain, but the other shone out, deeply blue. When he caught sight of Zeff, he frowned suspiciously.

"Get your ass over here!"

Sanji looked down at the pile of potatoes he was peeling for Patty. He looked at Zeff. He hopped up and ran through the kitchen, materializing at the chef's side.

"What?" he asked sullenly, tie askew and hands jammed belligerently into his pockets.

"Go get me a basket of eggs," commanded Zeff, nabbing the cigarette from Sanji's lips. "And stop smoking in the kitchen, brat!"

"None of your business, you shitty geezer!" snapped the boy, though he knew full well that it was. He headed off to fetch the eggs, narrowly avoiding a swat from Zeff's peg leg in the process. The chef watched him go, shaking his head, before he took out the flour. That eggplant really was shooting up, though he wore his height awkwardly. He supposed all teenagers were awkward. He started to sift the flour.

"Eggs," said Sanji, coming up behind him and setting the basket on the counter. "And milk." He received a grunt of acknowledgement. There was silence for a moment. "Are you making that wedding cake?" The curiosity was evident in his voice.

Zeff grunted again.

Sanji hesitated, hanging around the counter only somewhat unobtrusively. There was an unspoken question in the air, the one that had been around since Zeff opened the Baratie. Can I help?

Zeff let him sweat for a bit, chuckling internally at the way Sanji was covertly watching him, eye glued to each subtle movement his hands made. "You want something, pup?"

"…No." The boy turned to leave.

"Here." Zeff dropped a bag of high-quality chocolate squares onto the board between them. "Start melting that."

Sanji brightened immediately and began to go about the work with the contentment of a born cook. It was this quality more than any other that endeared Sanji to him. He knew, again, that he'd made the right choice all those years ago.

But something seemed to be bothering his little protégé. Now immersed in pouring just the right amount of chocolate into his pan, he had started to frown again, eyes obscured by his bangs.

"What's eating you, boy?" growled Zeff, taking in the nervous set of Sanji's shoulders. His eyes landed on a partially-smudged lipstick mark on Sanji's cheek and he chuckled dryly. "You bothering my customers again?"

"They were bothering me, you shitty geezer!" declared the boy, chopping up the chocolate with a rather vicious swipe of his spoon.

"No doubt. You're looking more like a proper man every day." Zeff ignored the surprised look Sanji shot him. "Don't burn that chocolate."

"I'm not going to burn it!" snapped the boy, scowl returning. He turned on the stove.

They continued in silence, listening to the crashing and yelling around them, a pocket of calm in the sea of furious action. Zeff poured the cake batter into his pans easily while Sanji mixed his now smoothly-melted chocolate into the middle layer. He hadn't burned it, of course. Zeff was very proud of Sanji's cooking, even if he'd never say it out loud.

He put the cake pans into the oven and set the timer to let him know when they were done. Then he set Sanji to making the frosting and did another round of the kitchen. Everything seemed to be working like clockwork; he had to forcibly break up a fight in the dining room, but that wasn't unusual for the Baratie. He threw out the offending customer, dared anyone else to make a move, and returned to check on the cake.

Sanji was sitting on a stool, bowl of white frosting in his lap, staring into space. He had his elbow propped up on his knee and his chin resting in his hand. The gloomy expression he wore painted him as the picture of absolute misery.

"Give me that," snapped Zeff, pulling the bowl out of Sanji's lax grip. "You'll spoil it with your moping." He took a seat on his own stool and gave the frosting the good whipping it deserved. "What is it, baby eggplant? Your stomach hurt?"

"Not really." Sanji turned his gaze on the chef and sighed, rubbing a hand back through his bangs. "Um, Zeff? What does it feel like to fall in love?"

Zeff stopped stirring and looked at him blankly. Was it that already? Gods above! It seemed just yesterday he'd dragged the little squirt out of the ocean. Now the boy was worried about love. He sighed. "Well… It feels like you're always thinking about them. Stupid stuff reminds you of them… And whenever they're around, you get really idiotic and tongue-tied." He looked at Sanji's perplexed face. "You feel like gelatin."

Sanji blinked, his one visible brow furrowing. "Oh. Shit."

And he just looked so young…

Zeff put the frosting on the counter and checked the oven timer. There was time enough to talk.

"Sanji, it's normal for you to be feeling… this. At your age. You're what, thirteen? It's probably about time you got around to-"

"Stop! I know all that!" The boy had flushed an amusing shade of pink and was now looking anywhere but at his father.

"Right then." Zeff straightened up on the stool. "Who is it?" He tried to think of who Sanji spent the most time with, but he just kept coming up with the staff of the Baratie. That was, after all, where Sanji lived and worked. He didn't travel much unless he was running errands. Zeff got an idea. "Is it that girl who works in the basket shop?" She was about Sanji's age.

"Who said you could guess, shitty geezer?!" Sanji gave him a scandalized glare, flushing, somehow, even darker. "I'm not going to tell you!"

"I'll just have to guess, then," said Zeff, to Sanji's continued mortification. "Is it the fish merchant's daughter? The one who lives on the corner?" Sanji's outraged face told him nothing. "How about the messenger girl at the dock?" This was kind of fun.

Sanji turned his back on Zeff, sliding off the stool. "Leave me alone." He pulled Zeff's oven mitts off the counter and put them on, ready for the timer that went off just a few seconds later. He reached over and opened the oven.

"Easy there," said Zeff, stopping him from reaching in too quickly. He put a hand on Sanji's shoulder. "It's still too hot." The boy made an indelicate noise but he waited another minute or two before pulling out the softly browned cake layers and setting them carefully on the counter.

Zeff got up to check that the cake had baked for the correct amount of time and Sanji sulked back to his stool. Zeff scowled at him. "Listen, pup. Love isn't usually something that makes people unhappy, so either you're blowing this way out of proportion or you're trying to slack off."

Sanji stiffly lit up another cigarette. He took an aggravated drag before looking up at Zeff morosely. "It's not a girl."

Zeff, who had been contemplating snatching away the latest smoke, stopped. He was startled. He would say that. Sanji had always seemed to get along much better with the female customers. At least, they were always ruffling his hair and telling him how cute he was. The chef had always figured Sanji liked the attention, but… He'd apparently been wrong.

"Well, that's not the end of the world," he finally said, carefully tipping the cake out of its pans. He stacked the layers, centering them with a critical eye and gluing them in place with frosting.

"Yes it is!" Sanji wailed. "There's something wrong with me!"

The chef whipped around and knocked Sanji to the floor with a swift kick to the side. The boy flew off his stool and skidded along the floor until he fetched up against a shelf of pots and various cooking utensils. Zeff took a moment to worry about him, secretly, as he always did, but the young cook was spry. He had regained his feet again in a matter of moments, visible eye blazing.

"You shitty bastard!" He'd bitten through his cigarette and he let it fall to the floor, crushing the butt ferociously with his heel. "What the hell?!"

"Listen, baby eggplant, and see that is gets through your baby eggplant skull." Zeff crossed his arms sternly. "I've got friends who like men and friends who like women. As long as they can make a decent omelet, it doesn't matter which. Understand?" He gaze Sanji a look.

"…I'm not gay." Sanji looked away again, hands once more tucked into his pockets.

"Fine." Zeff went back to his cake.

"I'm really not." Sanji quietly came back to the counter. He washed his hands in the sink.

"All right."

"I like girls."

Zeff sighed. They were going to have to talk about this later. "Less talking, more cooking, pup. Start frosting."

"…Okay."

---

Sanji shifted in the warm recess that was his bed. The waves against the Sunny's hull were gentle this morning and they almost lulled him back to sleep. But… He had a point to make. Before he got too comfortable. He squirmed around to look at his lover. "Hey." Nothing. "I'm not gay." He waited a moment, then forced his companion to look up by pulling on his ear. "Are you listening?"

"Would you shut the fuck up?" Zoro blinked at him blearily, obviously irritated. "It's too early." He closed his eyes again and wrapped an arm around Sanji's waist to keep him from moving.

"I'm not. Okay?"

"Whatever," Zoro growled. "Go back to sleep."

And he did.


Yeah. XD Reviews make me happy!