Hey everyone! This chapter's been somewhat done for a while but I had to edit and add things and here it is now! I apologize for the long wait times in between, but I'm so happy you guys are still so dedicated to reading this. Maybe after this chapter updates will be more frequent? I don't know yet, but I'm working on the next chapter now! I'm more of an artist than a writer so balancing the two is...difficult and somewhat odd. I don't really write much at all and I suppose it shows? Either way, thank you so much for reading!
The blow to the head caused Sanji to stumble to the floor, his hands instantly reached up to soothe the pain. He tried to keep his body from completely collapsing as he leaned forward, holding himself up with one hand on the floor. He groaned, his head was ringing. Usopp raised the lamp again but noticed the blond hair. He dropped the lamp behind him, instantly kneeling next to the poor guy.
"I'm so sorry! I didn't... I didn't think you were the one coming down the hall, I thought you were Crocodile, I promise I didn't mean it!" Usopp felt his tears trickle down his face, why was this guy here? He seemed familiar but his face was a blur to him. It couldn't have been "Prince Charming", could it? "Please don't be mad!" He whined and looked at Sanji's face. He was obviously in pain, red in the face from keeping in any curse words and trying to remain cool. Even after such a blow to the head, Sanji sat upright. He kept rubbing the spot, but looked over at Usopp and frowned. "I-I really didn't-"
"I get it... stop apologizing, I'm not mad. What the hell did you hit me with?" He looked behind the other, seeing the lamp lay on its side, the bulb had broke from the impact of the fall. "Ah..."
"I didn't... mean it, I swear. I thought you were someone else."
"I know you didn't, but jesus." Sanji sighed, pulling another cigarette from his pack and lit it up, just out of habit. "So, you're Usopp," The younger one quickly nodded, scooting closer and raising a hand to check the wound on Sanji's head. Sanji flinched at first, which caused Usopp to move away from him. The two merely stared at each other, not sure how to react. "Uh, L-Lady's talked about you... quite a bit. Wait a minute, there's no time to act casual, we need to go!" Sanji stood up, his head pounded. He frowned as he soothed the spot one last time and turned his attention to the door. We stay in this place any longer, I'm gonna get my ass handed to me on a silver platter. He put his ear to the door, there wasn't any noise coming from the hall yet.
Usopp was still in awe at the sudden situation, having someone he barely knew in his room telling him that it was time to go, and not too long after being smacked in the back of the head with a large wooden lamp. He couldn't bring himself to even stand up he was so confused. Without any verbal response, Sanji turned back to the dumbfounded Usopp and sighed.
"Come on, we need to go-"
"I can't... I don't even know you! Or your real intentions!"
"Are you seriously saying this right now?"
"Yes! I am! I have every right to question you! And just because you said you've spoken to Lady, doesn't mean I'm suppose to instantly trust you. There's no real way you can help me escape even if I blindly agreed to it." Are you fucking with me right now? Sanji had to keep his cool, from Usopp's perspective it was understandable. Being fucked over countless times in the past year by Crocodile probably screwed up his sense of trust with anyone outside this building. Sanji had to remember he was dealing with someone that suffered abuse numerous times, trust had to be earned, not just freely given away.
"Okay, look. I'm gonna be very honest with you, but in order to get you out of here you also have to trust me. We can't just sit here trying to get to know one another while my time back here is extremely limited. I don't know how long that hooked-shit's gonna be kept occupied out there, but this was my chance to come back here and get your ass to safety, so you either come with me or not." Usopp wasn't letting up, as much as the kid yearned to be out of this shit hole of a place, he wanted to be sure he was being taken to safety and not just another dead end. Sanji could tell by Usopp's shaken nature that it took just about everything to even speak up for himself, his eyes looked more than determined. "I promise I'm not going to hurt you. My name's Sanji, and yeah, I frequent the "Lady's House" cause I'm a shitty pervert that fell for a courtesan. Even though I agreed to doing this for her sake, I now know you really need my help. It was shitty of me, I know, but I seriously wanna help you get out of here. After that auction I..." Sanji's voice trailed off as he turned from Usopp. He felt that familiar guilt from earlier creep back up on him.
It wasn't helping that there was nothing but silence. Sanji was positive this must've pissed Usopp off, but he said he'd be honest. After a few moments of uncomfortable stares, Usopp looked down and nodded.
"I already knew you weren't doing this for me, but I'm not mad. I expected that." He muttered, looking back up at the blond and shrugged. "You didn't know me prior to any of this so how could you possibly hold any desire to help me just because you want me to be safe? I'm just glad you said it without lying to me first." It hurt to hear but Usopp being the cynical person he was, at least he expected it. This wasn't some noble act, the whole "Prince Charming" bullshit was just something thought up by two hopeful, yet desperate people. With that said, Usopp placed a quivering hand on Sanji's knee. "I kind of want to be taken out of here now."
Good! He somehow got through to him. Sanji quickly got up and beckoned for Usopp to do the same. His enthusiasm didn't seem to reach the younger one, who just remained on the floor, unmoving. What...? He kneeled back down, offering a hand.
"Did you need help standing up?"
"I'm fine, it's just I didn't expect this to actually happen."
"A year in a place like this oughta do that to ya, but this isn't the time to be doubting the chances of a miracle, we need to get moving okay? It's a lot to take in, but we can get you out of here!"
"Then what? After we get away from here, where are you gonna take me? Drop me off at some homeless shelter or something? I don't have an actual home anymore... My parents aren't exactly..."
"You're staying with me, don't worry about what comes next, worry about getting out of here first!" Sanji pulled Usopp to his feet, the younger one stumbled, his legs still weren't all the way there. "If you can't walk, I'll carry you." Usopp felt his face flush, shaking his head. He's really disagreeable right now... but who could blame him. "Get on my back." Usopp took a moment to really weigh the possibilities of this being pulled off. Even with Crocodile out of in the main room right now, there was still little to no chance of getting out undetected. Through the Lady's half of the building, maybe, but to get over there without being seen, one would need a key.
Usopp wrapped his arms around Sanji's neck, being boosted up onto the blond's back. His legs dangled, while squeezing the blonds sides with his thighs. He leaned his head down, not wanting to look ahead at what was to come.
"W-Wait! Ah, I'm sorry to ask, but could I get something from my room?" We don't have time for this!
"Yeah... cause we're not coming back. Hang on." Sanji didn't have to worry too much about getting tired while carrying Usopp, the kid was almost bone thin. He was careful not to slide his hands anywhere, keeping them firmly grasping the only spots of Usopp's legs covered by the robe. It was silky but worn, he could feel Usopp's skin right through the fabric. It made him slightly uncomfortable. Judging from how Usopp remained completely still, it didn't seem like he was doing anything wrong, thankfully. Sanji slowly opened the door, peering through the opening and then opened it wider, stepping out of the room. Usopp clung tighter, Sanji could tell he was on edge.
The duo passed a few rooms, finally coming to the one door with "Armadillo" plastered on the name plate. They slipped inside and shut the door, Usopp hopped off of Sanji's back. He was able to walk for the most part, but there was a limp in his step. Usopp opened the closet and pulled out a wrinkly old backpack. He scrambled around the room, pulling things from the bottom of the closet, under the bed, and his pillows as well as his drawers. Sanji watched him scale the room, while listening for any footsteps outside the door. Usopp finished up quickly, the old backpack looked completely full.
"Don't um... Don't look, okay?" Usopp muttered, pulling a t-shirt and pair of pants from his closet. "I don't wanna leave this place in nothing but a robe." Sanji nodded and turned away, that was easy, right? He didn't have any desires to look at Usopp change, right? He shook his head to rid himself of any weird thoughts that suddenly popped up from the temptation just to sneak a peek. He hated that it was almost instinct to do what he was told not to do. He kept his eyes on the frame of the door, finding something to focus on. Out of pure curiosity, Sanji peeked back at Usopp, seeing him strip himself of the robe. His back looked all bruised up, along with his arms. Something about Usopp's frail, beaten body just made Sanji burn with anger. Who was Croc to think he had every right to mess up another human being for probably no real reason at all?
Usopp pulled his shirt on, pulling the bottom of it all the way down to his hips, looking back at Sanji and frowned. Sanji turned away almost as fast as their eyes met.
"I-I said don't look!" He yelled, but covered his mouth. They were suppose to be quick and quiet about this. Way to fuck up, dumbass! Sanji thought to himself, rubbing his eyes. It wasn't that he wanted to look just to be a damn pervert or anything, it was merely to just... see. He felt a pat on his shoulder which caused him to flinch. Usopp held a frown on his face, cheeks a bit pink from embarrassment. "I'm ready."
Sanji nodded, leaning over slightly for Usopp to mount on his back. The kid was slightly heavier with the backpack now weighing down on them both, but nothing too big for Sanji to handle. He was just about to open the door when he heard someone coming down the hall. Of course, just as we're about to leave... Sanji leaned next to the door, listening for the mystery person that was traveling down the hallway. Whoever it was just passed the door, though their deep voice could somewhat be heard. Usopp's arms locked tighter around Sanji's neck. That's not a good sign. He couldn't open the door just yet, even with the sound of footsteps so far that it was barely audible through the door. He had his hand on the knob but didn't yet turn it.
"What are we waiting for?" Usopp whispered, his breath brushed up against Sanji's ear, with his nose just in Sanji's peripheral vision. Sanji didn't answer, he didn't need to at this point. Both boys could hear the sound of a door slamming shut, someone yelling. Usopp knew well who it was now and whimpered. "H-He's here! He's gonna come in here!" Sanji backed away from the door, looking around the room. "It's Crocodile, the plan's a bust! We're not getting out of here, Sanji!" Usopp was already bursting into tears.
"Get off my back and hide, okay? Don't give up so fast!"
"But, he knows I'm gone-"
"Hide!" Usopp climbed off Sanji's back, and dropped to the floor, instantly squeezing his thin body under the bed. He pulled the robe and his backpack underneath as well, remaining out of sight. Sanji hadn't reacted fast enough before the door swung open, knocking Sanji on his back.
"Who the fuck are you?! Why are you in here?!" Croc stomped into the room, grabbing for Sanji's collar before he had the chance to crawl away. His breath reeked of alcohol, but it was rather stale. Sanji was sure this man was already done with tonight and it's odd happenings. He hoped Luffy and Ace were alright. "Answer me you fucking ingrate!" Jesus christ, I'm not gonna get out of this without getting roughed up first. Sanji frowned, using his legs to push at Croc's torso, hoping that'd put some distance between them. Unfortunately for him, the man was much stronger with how large he was compared to Sanji, not so much as making him flinch. He rammed Sanji into the farthest wall, the end of his hook was right next to Sanji's eye. "You better start fuckin' talkin' before I gouge your fuckin' eyes out!"
Sanji couldn't even speak, he was practically being choked. He squirmed, his boots were sliding off of Croc's suit. Crocodile practically slammed Sanji to the floor, getting on top of the blond and smacking him across the face with the back of his hook.
"Where is Armadillo, asshole? Answer me already!" Sanji couldn't see straight, his head was spinning and he thought he'd be dead in a second. He gave it one last shot to use his legs, but Croc was sitting on his stomach, there was no way he could kick this guy at all. He was completely defenseless. Croc swung again, still yelling the same questions. Piece of shit...I'll kick his ass... when I get up. It didn't seem like that'd be happening from Usopp's point of view. All he could see was Sanji's legs fallin limp, not even he could fight off Crocodile. Something had to be done, there wasn't any other way to keep Sanji from blacking out if he just laid under the bed like this, but Sanji told him to hide.
Usopp couldn't bear listening to this anymore, he was sick of Croc's voice. He tried to keep himself from sniffing, his face was wet with huge tears. He crawled from under the bed, moving on all fours towards Croc. He pulled out a heavy hardcover book from his bag, an art book he had gotten long before he came to this place. He raised it above Croc's head, regretting that he didn't keep the lamp. He could see Sanji's eyes slowly coming to a close over Croc's shoulder, large bruises forming on his head. Usopp frowned, trying to muster all his strength into hitting the man square on the head with the book's edges.
Once he got in a hit, he didn't stop. He couldn't afford to stop incase once wasn't enough. Croc made the mistake of looking back to see where the sudden burst of pain had originated from. Usopp's book landed right above Croc's eye, then the side of his head till he raised his good arm up and fell to the side, off of Sanji. Even after the man had ceased to attack Sanji, Usopp kept swinging the book down onto his cranium, hoping to knock him out. Sanji struggled to get up, leaning on one side just to prop himself up with his elbow. He could see Croc was really fighting to remain conscious, but after a few more hits, he was out.
Regardless, Usopp kept hitting. He probably didn't notice through his blind rage that he had already achieved his goal.
"Us..opp, stop!" Sanji called out, he was at least able to get on his feet. "Hey, you have to stop!" He pulled the book from Usopp's hand and held his wrist. "You keep going you'll kill him..." Usopp's gaze remained on the now inert body below them. They couldn't see the actual injuries through Crocodile's black hair, but they must've been enough to cause this monstrous man to lose consciousness. Sanji pulled Usopp away from Croc's body, setting the book on the bed. "Now let's get our asses out of here, okay? He's out cold, so we'll use this chance to escape. No telling when he'll get back up."
Usopp leaned toward Sanji, clinging onto him. He wiped his nose and eyes on Sanji's shoulder, not wanting to let go. He was able to actually do something for once, rather than just sit around and allow all of that bad shit to happen to him. Finally, it was... over.
"T-There...there." Sanji muttered awkwardly, patting Usopp's back and tried to hug him. "It's all done now, we can get you out of here and finally be done with this place. Come on, let's get going before security shows up or something." He couldn't help but hug a little tighter, it felt good to have gotten this far. What would the Lady say if she knew that they at least got past their biggest obstacle yet? Knowing that it was Usopp that really saved the day before it could get any worse, wouldn't she be proud? He smiled to himself at the thought of Lady being more than pleased that they were able to get out of here. Only thing was, they weren't exactly done just yet.
Sanji let go, though Usopp refused to. He clung tightly, leaning more on Sanji as he stepped back. The blond huffed and pried Usopp's arms off, then turned for the younger one to climb onto his back. Sanji proceeded to pick up the backpack and stuff the book inside, closing it up. He looked back at Crocodile, then opened the door. Now they just needed to find out where to go without drawing too much attention.
"You can... go towards the backstage. There's a door that leads out into the alley," Usopp whispered in between sniffs. "From there, you don't have to worry about anyone finding us..." Sanji gave him a reassuring nod, walking towards the other end of the hallway, going back to where he came in from. Zoro was seen standing by the door that lead back into the main room. Usopp instantly perked up, but didn't let go of Sanji just yet.
"Hey, moss head! You didn't see that mad man chargin' in here a while ago?" Sanji called out, referring to Crocodile. Zoro looked up, seeing that Usopp was okay and let out a very subtle sigh. He walked over to them, smiling up at Usopp.
"I did see him, but I had to hide. There was no way I could just be standing around here without him figuring something was up. Where is he? I got worried."
"He's out like a light in Usopp's old room, kid took him out with a large ass book." Sanji looked back at the bashful long nose who just looked away from them both. "We better hurry up though, there's no telling when that monster will wake again." Zoro nodded in agreement and looked up at his friend, this meant goodbye.
"I suppose I'll see you around, Usopp. You better not come back to this place after all this is over."
"But... But what about you? And N... Lady?" Leaving his only two friends behind like this didn't feel right. He couldn't just abandon them, especially Zoro who went through similar treatment before Usopp came along. "Come with us!" What? "You should just leave with us while you have the chance! Sanji, could he come with us, please?" Shit, I never agreed to...
"No, you guys go on. I rather stay and find my own way out."
"Don't be stubborn! You know you can't stand up against him either, don't try to act tough."
"I'm not being stubborn, Usopp. All of this was so YOU could get out of here, not me or anyone else. I can't leave yet."
"But, why? You don't have to stay here and suffer through this anymore. If you just come with us now..." There couldn't be any reason why Zoro needed to stick around any longer. Crocodile was unable to hold them back here anymore, at least while he was knocked out. Maybe Zoro also felt that something would happen if he so much as stepped outside... "Don't be afraid."
"I'm not fucking afraid! Don't say that I just-" He stopped, not sure what else to say. Not even Zoro knew why he was refusing his 'Get Out of Jail Free' card. "I'm not sure where I'd even go after all this. There's no place for me, and it's already enough for curly brows here to just be taking care of you." He crossed his arms, not giving them any other chances to speak, walking toward the door he originally stood by and opened it up. "Now get the hell out of here before I force you out." He must have some reason, or he really is just too scared to leave. Sanji didn't fight it, only Usopp whined and called out Zoro's name as he reached for his friend, pulling on his costume.
"I'm not leaving this place without you! Please, Zoro, come with us!" Usopp was much louder than he'd ever been, keeping Sanji from advancing into the alley with how tight his grip was on Zoro. "I refuse to leave here without you. It's because of you and Lady that this place was bearable at all." Zoro was quiet. This was all about getting Usopp out, not the other way around. "I know Lady's fine with staying but you... I know you don't wanna stay here. Give up the tough act and come with us!"
Sanji was still on edge. Knowing that Croc could get up at any moment was bothering him to no end. The man was huge and even if he was knocked out, didn't mean he'd be laying on the floor like that for long. With that in mind, Sanji felt himself job in place, glaring at Zoro for the answer to magically pop out of his mouth. Any time now! It seemed like forever, but Zoro put his hand on Usopp's wrist and sighed heavily.
"Alright, alright. But I'm only coming to make sure you'll be safe. That's the only reason." Zoro pulled Usopp's hand off of his costume, but looked back. "I'll join you in a bit. I have things I need to get, so just go outside and-"
"We'll wait right here!" Usopp objected quickly. We're fuckin' dead at this rate... "You just need to get your swords right? They're important to you, so please hurry! They're in Crocodile's room at the top of his closet. I've seen them more than a few times... Be quick!" Usopp sounded as though he was the one calling the shots. It was a nice change of pace from the sobbing, cynical kid that Sanji first encountered. With that Zoro gave them both one last glance and hurried back to Croc's room. Sanji inched out the door, in case Usopp were to say anything.
With the door to freedom wide open, Sanji began to run out with Usopp bouncing on his back. They made it out! Even though there were some complications, they were able to actually get out of there. Usopp kept looking back at the open door, hoping to see his green haired friend pop out and run right towards them, but even after they had successfully exited the alley, there was no one in sight. Sanji looked between the rows of cars parked along the curbs, never more happy to see his car sitting snug in between two other cars. He smiled to himself and set Usopp down. "My car is just right over here! We made it out, Usopp!"
Even with them under the night sky, Usopp couldn't celebrate just yet. He himself couldn't remember the last time he had been outside of that horrible place. He kept turning back to the alley... Where was Zoro? Sanji could tell that he was waiting for his friend to come out, but there were also two others to worry about as well. Sanji felt his heart sink. He knew those two could carry their own but the last time he saw them, they were getting on Croc's bad side. He huffed and crossed his arms, pulling out his phone in hopes of getting ahold of Ace. He dialed up Ace's number, putting the phone to his ear and gulped.
The ringer went on for a long while before at the last ring someone answered.
"Hello?" Sanji felt his throat clog up, no one said anything into the phone but there were voices in the background. Answer you dumbass. "Ace? Luffy?" Sanji began to pace, seeing Usopp peek into the alley again and smiled, looking over at Sanji. Someone must've been coming then.
"Oi! Sanji!" A familiar voice! Sanji smiled himself and sighed, finally.
"Luffy, you're okay! Where's Ace? He okay?"
"Of course! That damn hooked guy was annoying! We kinda made him really mad but it was worth it!"
"You guys aren't hurt are you? Well... you probably are but, knowing you two idiots you would probably brush off a broken arm." Sanji chuckled to himself. "Anyways, come outside, I got Usopp. We need to get going, understand? Now." There was a bit of a long pause.
"No problem! I just gotta carry Ace out, he's still asleep! We'll be right there!" The phone call ended, and Sanji put his phone away, feeling much better. He turned to Usopp again who had ran back down the alley. Oi, what the fuck? He's just going to see Zoro right? The guy's... there, right? Sanji peeked over the corner, seeing Usopp hug his friend. Ah, good... now we can actually get out of here. Sanji felt his eyes pan down to the multiple swords that Zoro was holding.
"Those uh... real?" He asked, a bit uneasy. What was this guy doing with real swords?
"Yeah. They're important to me. They were the only reason I stuck around that place, till Usopp came along that is. I coulda cut Crocodile up into tiny pieces if I wanted to, but I could never do something like that." Zoro held up one sword with a white sheathe. "This one especially." He glared at Sanji but then lowered his gaze. "I apologize for coming along, but Usopp gave me no other choice."
"Don't sweat it, Moss Head. Let's just get going. Luffy and Ace'll be here in a-" Sanji heard the two double doors of the "Gentlemen's House" swinging opening. He turned, Seeing Luffy walk out with a sleeping Ace on his back. "Never mind, they're here." Everything's comin' together. "S'bout time! Let's pile in the car!"