A/N: This is dedicated to all of my nakama over at the Yaoi Supernova Author's Guild. (: This is for you, guys!
I dare not claim Oda's genius as my own. Enjoy anyway. ~allbluewitness
Practiced hands, albeit armored with oven gloves, dislodged a thick roast from its prison of heat and placed it firmly on the counter. Sanji released a satisfied sigh upon closing the oven door and surveying the product of his captain's latest outrageous request for meat. The roast's outer shell still crackled and hissed quietly, not yet cool and likely still roasting though it was quickly losing heat. Never one to judge a roast by what he could see, the cook took a paring knife into his hand and deftly sliced off a sizeable piece from the end, noting the coloring and overall appearance of the center. Sanji cut further; a small piece from the one he had cut already to see if his taste buds could discern something his eyes and nose could not.
His lips curled into a lazy grin once the morsel flew through his nervous system. Smooth, but robust, somewhat spicy, but of course, not enough that it would offend the delicate tongues of his precious ladies. The blond hummed happily to himself as he led the knife around the edges of the roast, lifting it from its pan to place it on a wood block. He made quick work of removing its bones and portioning what remained before setting it neatly on the table amid a hearty fruit salad and scalloped potatoes. Brushing his hands together in order to cast off any lingering crumbs, Sanji swept through the galley door to call the crew to dinner.
Frigid air slid sharply through the gaps between the buttons of Sanji's collared shirt, causing him to shiver involuntarily despite his double breasted suit jacket. He cupped a hand close to his mouth and lit a cigarette that had previously resided behind his ear, dragging the warm smoke into his lungs in an effort to warm the rest of him. This weather took cold to a whole new degree.
Sanji snorted at his pun and glanced upwards into the blanket of layered, gray clouds that yielded a few snowflakes every so often. The ship was fast approaching another Winter Island; the swiftly falling temperatures and snow made that very clear. The chef turned on his heel, intent on going below deck to seek out his delicate flowers wherever they chose to take refuge from the cold. Before he reached the door, however, he noticed a shock of green hair peering out from around the corner.
The blond straightened his tie irritably, his smoldering cigarette dropping a few ashes. Damn swordsman was more than likely sleeping - well, honestly, there existed no question. But how he could manage to do so in this cold was questionable. Sanji plucked the cigarette from his lips, exhaling a smooth stream as his mouth curved into a mischievous grin. Which was not to say, of course, that he couldn't more than likely give him a rude awakening.
He tapped quietly around the corner, muffling his stalwart shoes so as not to ruin the swordsman's imminent 'surprise', for lack of a better word. What Sanji saw made his curled eyebrow raise in curiosity.
The ship's implicit first mate was asleep, which would not have been surprising had the ship's captain not been asleep as well and curled neatly against his side. Sanji crouched to eye level with his nakama, fighting an urge to laugh outright just as Luffy's head made a staggering fall from and jerking trip back up to Zoro's shoulder. His captain's sudden movement dislodged a pile of snow that had collected among his shock of black hair. The swordsman's left arm tightened in a gradual motion before loosening again around Luffy's shoulders, his face statuesquely impassive. Sanji blinked as he caught a smile flicker across Luffy's face in his sleep in the same way his lighter flickered a flame in and out of existence.
The chef's brow furrowed and one corner of his lips tugged upwards unwittingly, his eyes focusing on Zoro as he stood. Idiot, he thought moodily, don't you know Luffy is moronic about being cold?
Dinner became an erstwhile priority as Sanji removed his jacket, placing it carefully across Luffy's body. He straightened methodically, the thought of dinner with his ladies and without the ship's resident idiot and black hole making his heartstrings sing. Sanji disappeared around the corner, headed for the door that led down inside the ship's hull.
Seconds later, Sanji returned to face the sleeping pair without having gone into the hull at all. He rubbed at the back of his neck and let out an exasperated sigh, condemning whoever the hell gave him a conscience to all hell. He gently plucked the sleeve of his jacket between his fingers and lightly tossed it to one side so that it landed on Zoro's knee. Sure, it wasn't quite as much of a thoughtful gesture, but hey, this was a moron with three sharp sticks, not his obliviously cold captain. Besides, mused the chef as he sat close to Luffy against the wooden wall, the guy's so hot blooded and hot headed there's no way he's gonna need it.
Sanji turned his head to look at Zoro through half lidded eyes as the man snored on, breathing in tandem with his captain. It was simultaneously fascinating and amusing to watch how whenever the swordsman drew a breath, the captain exhaled, and vice versa. The cook took the cigarette that dangled from his lips, pitching it over the side of the ship as he watched a solitary snowflake land on the railing. It just went to show how deep their bond was, having been together since the beginning, chasing their respective dreams side by side since Zoro joined Luffy. Even in sleep, they found their own middle ground, their meeting point, their halfway, their yin and yang, their continuum.
The blond stared straight up, watching their crew's jolly roger snap back and forth in a tempestuous breeze. His companions were human empathy at its finest - when one yawned, so did the other, a natural tick, as it were, just like when one smiled, they found their smile's reflection in the other. Sanji shook his head, grinning as he turned his head back down to regard the grains in the wood of the deck. Hypothermia must have been setting in without his jacket to keep him warm, what with his illusions and visions and trundling trains of lucid thought.
Sanji played with these ideals in his head, quickly losing the battle with his eyes as they were lulled closed by the bewitching aural combination of the waves carrying their ship through the Grand Line, the creak of the hull, and the slow, steady breathing of both Luffy and Zoro. Not to mention the warmth radiating in pulses from their sleeping forms. His frame eventually fell slack against Luffy's side, his head soon following suit and finding purchase atop Zoro's hand, which still remained around their captain's shoulders.
Jolted from his narcoleptic haze by movement, Sanji cracked open one eye, training his blurry vision on one of Luffy's hands, which latched slowly onto his shirt and tugged him closer, much like a toddler reaching for a favorite blanket and pulling it to his chin in his sleep. Unable to stop his sleepy smile, the chef assented, his heart taking on a strange seize as he was allowed into their continuum.
Without warning, Zoro's hand jerked roughly out from underneath his head. Before he had time to reacquaint the swordsman with his foot, he felt his head being gently pressed back down into the sharp curve of Luffy's shoulder by a few callused fingers. Once Sanji's head made contact with Luffy, Zoro's fingers continued in their momentum, threading lightly amid Sanji's flaxen hair as his palm became flat.
Sanji was momentarily stunned by Zoro's uncharacteristic gesture, but quickly abandoned the thought in favor of relishing the bizarrely uplifting feeling of being caught between the soft fabric of Luffy's vest and the lustrous warmth of Zoro's hand, between their respective energies.
Between his friends.
The sound of heels and coquettish laughter from Nami and Robin as they clicked away from him and into the galley stirred Zoro in his sleep. The swordsman cracked open an eye, arching his back against the wall to realign the vertebrae in his spine before resuming his position. His eyes briefly clouded with stars before becoming transfixed on a black coat sleeve spread across his lap. He followed the tailoring of the coat as it spread across Luffy and ended against...Sanji. Sanji, who was sleeping next to Luffy. Sanji, whose hair was his left hand's current resting place.
Luffy's head angled upward to look at Zoro, his own sleep disturbed by the change in Zoro's breathing. His groggy expression slowly morphed into confusion as he twisted his head to follow the swordsman's line of sight. All he saw was a peacefully sleeping, calmly breathing, very warm and snuggly Sanji. The captain turned back to his first mate and giggled quietly as if to say he didn't understand why Zoro was so unnerved. Luffy yawned then, curling back into Zoro's shoulder and resuming his snoring as if nothing had gone on.
Zoro glanced down at the top of Luffy's head, then to his fingers laced in Sanji's hair, then back to Luffy's head. A slow smile worked its way onto his features as he closed his eyes again, resigned to mulling over his captain's tacit wisdom as he slept alongside his nakama.