(and one day, it just sort of hits you. like mold on a special dessert you've been saving for Nami-chwan who never is in the mood for quite that much chocolate, that you give to Luffy who beams and eats it in one bite and asks for more and doesn't notice, of course)

You are in love with your captain.

It's all sorts of wrong for a ladies' man like yourself, and you've got to hate yourself for it because anything involving romance and Luffy just seems wrong somehow, seems like you're a sick pervert because this is Luffy, Monkey D. Luffy, it's Luffy of all people.

(and sure, he'll eat anything. he swears that your food is the best, but what does that mean really, when he eats mold and doesn't notice? never stops to savor the taste but just shovels it all in?)

You've got to hate yourself, but you can't quite do it because on the other hand this is Luffy, and he's such a damned idiot, but at the same time he's just so – so – Luffy, something you couldn't describe in glittering phrases or swooning compliments no matter how much you ever tried, and you really aren't inclined to.

(and then again, he eats it all. he doesn't care or notice that he's chowing down on the leftovers or almost-bad food or skins or guts or whatever else another cook would toss over the side. and even Nami can't bring herself to eat a couple of the things you cook, not because they aren't delicious but because of what they're made of, but Luffy doesn't care. he'll eat everything)

It's so damn uncomfortable, too, because you start getting these little awkward twinges and you don't know how to act, exactly. It would be impossible to treat Luffy like you do the ladies, and preposterous besides, but you don't know what else to do in such a situation. All you know is to ply him with food – but in a way no one else will notice, so in the end it's not like anything changes.

(and okay. that's just fine. it's not really indicative of anything, is it, that watching Luffy eat mold and potato-skins and half a fish yanked out of the stomach of another fish that he just finished eating right before, is so pleasing to you? no, you just appreciate that he doesn't waste. instead you get angry at him for eating too much of it all, he'll empty the food stores out and then everyone would starve anyway – a thought that you should take seriously but can't ever quite and you never ask yourself why, just smile sort of under your breath)

But of course it's not like things can just stay the same anymore, not now that you've realized this, and so you're always on this crazy sort of high alert you can't control and you actually find yourself getting jealous.

(and he's always latching on to that fucking marimo, not that you care. but you do sometimes make the swordsman's servings entirely too spicy for human consumption, not that the bastard ever seems to notice)

There's jealousy, and attraction too. Oh, it's not like this love business is limited just to confused romanticism, there's a whole dirty side to it too and your hammock is right next to his, and it's not like Luffy ever wears a lot of layers anyway. And you've already gone over the feeling-like-a-pervert thing, but it's true and somehow the lust part doesn't feel quite as perverted as the love part. In some backwards way, it's more innocent.

In fact, you wouldn't actually be surprised if it turns out that Luffy's not been a virgin for a long time, any more than you wouldn't be surprised if it turns out he still is. His personality and past would account easily for either, and pondering it doesn't do you much good.

(and he just laughs in that inscrutable, everything way he has, like you can't see the three-pound raw steak he's got under his vest, and it's like you want to hit him with your hand rather than your boot. not hit him exactly but swipe out, scrape your fingers along his cheek and feel that peculiar not-exactly-rubbery skin of his. you scowl and kick at him instead because it only makes sense, and Luffy doesn't ever stop laughing)

Wondering about Luffy never does you much good, though. Thinking about your Captain at all is generally detrimental to your mental health and stability and tends to lead to things like cold sweats in the night and something weird stuck in your throat when he gets that hard look in his eyes so rarely.

It always comes full circle, anyway. Luffy will always come back to your kitchen, and you can count on that if nothing else. It's pathetic how much you do count on it, if only to yourself and very quietly.

(and with a sort of horror and sea-king under your fingernails you realize you can't remember when you first fell in love with him at all. it feels like it's always been, and nothing has changed. you shudder instinctively and yet feel weirdly comforted)

Nothing is going to come out of this. You know that for a certain fact, which is why it's such a surprise to you the day you find yourself confessing to him.

(and you feel choking like fishbones stuck in your throat, which make your eyes water and sharp pains stab you from the inside and you suddenly can't breathe ever again)

He's in a bad way, with concrete splinters scraping through his skin and exhaustion painted around his eyes. Blood stains the various bandages that Chopper's already had to reapply at least three times, but Luffy's breathing is slow and steady, and that's something. You're alone with him for the moment because everyone else is too exhausted and it's your turn to feed him in his sleep – not so much so that he won't starve, but so that he won't sleep-raid the kitchen and open up his stitches.

So in between feeding him a raw cabbage (you're exhausted too) and a slab of meat hot off the grill, you lean down and press your mouth softly against the side of his jaw. It's smooth and just chomping along steadily. You keep your eyes closed and try to swallow, and whisper, "I love you, captain," so quietly you can't really even hear yourself.

Luffy moans, smacks his lips, and easily starts to devour the meat you drop into his mouth. You don't open your eyes or pull away, but instead just stay there for several long minutes, with your heart seizing and wetness pricking your eyes and Luffy just chewing irrepressibly forever.

(and every star lights up for him in a way they won't ever for anyone else, blazing through your soul until none of it even matters. because there he is, and always will be, just your captain eating what you cook for him or anyone else, no matter how it looks or what's been put into it, grinning and eating even in his sleep with over half his body in bandages and Chopper saying five more minutes of bleeding would've killed him)

(and you realize now that even if you're in love with him in a way you will never be rid of, you can't imagine any more than this. it's all right this way and Luffy chose you to be his cook. so that's what you'll be, to the end of time and longer)

Two days later, Luffy wakes up. You have a feast waiting for him, which he eats in less than five minutes, and several gourmet desserts for Nami and Robin's fine palates. When Luffy demands one too, you refuse and slip him a popsicle instead, which he accepts with exactly just as much joy. Watching him stain his lips purple, you know you've made the right choice.

(and you will be the pot of water that simmers but never quite boils, and Luffy will be the idiot who keeps watching and complaining about it. the thought makes you smile)

I have no idea why I wrote a Sanji/Luffy fic. Not because I dislike the pairing particularly, but I love the characters as Oda writes them too much to ever really be comfortable reading pairing fic, though I do sometimes. Their dynamic is already so wonderful I feel like badly-written romance will spoil it. I guess that reluctance to change the dynamic too much influenced the way this fic turned out, with Sanji deciding to be content with the status quo, but it is still a pairing fic in a way. Which just feels weird. (And also I, like everyone else except Boa Hancock, have trouble imagining Luffy being romantic in any traditional sense of the word, which probably is why he was coincidentally asleep the whole time.)

I'm still a little amused by the fact that even my romance fic is still mostly just introspective. I no real confidence in my ability to write characters as awesome as the Mugiwaras in action. That's why my other two One Piece fics are also almost entirely narrative - I don't plan it this way, but that's just how it ends up. Anyway, I much prefer writing stuff like this than trying to do something more traditional and flubbing it.

Well, regardless of my mixed feelings about this fic, I did enjoy writing it and I hope you've enjoyed it. Props if you read my rambles.

The grammatical lapses and parentheses, by the way, were utterly intentional and, I thought, worked well in with this kind of narrative. If you had any thoughts on this technique, I'd love to hear them.