There was something frightening about the look on his face… like he'd just gained some sort of victory.

I looked at my hand, frowning at how much of the smoke stick had eroded away as I held it idly, and realized I hadn't thought about it at all… not even my subconscious that usually took over when I smoked had moved to use it. Maybe just to counter him, I lifted the cigarette to my lips, and took a drag.

I held it in, probably longer than I should have, until just before the moment it would've sent me into a fit of coughs and gags, and then let it out. I looked at Ace's face through the smoke, and now he was simply studying me. Probably wondering where I'd take this next.

I sighed, and stamped out the cigarette in the ashtray despite the fact that it wasn't fully eroded yet, and reached into my pocket for another. "I know what you're thinking." I said finally as I breathed out another cloud of smoke, this time toward the ceiling as I lay my head back miserably. "I'm not completely clueless about it either."

He leaned forward, I only saw it out of the corner of my eye but it was obvious he was interested.

"Been thinking about it a lot actually." I was probably stalling.

"Thinking about what?" He caught that.

"Even before now… for… hell, months…" I tapped it against the ashtray to lose the burnt end. "I've been catching myself looking at him, especially when he smiled, or made some other stupid face. There's always been something about the look on that bastard's face that just… I don't know, calmed me, or made me want to feel what he was feeling."

"I didn't think much of it until now but…" I sighed. "Guess there's just too many pieces to ignore unless I'm a complete moron."

"So?" Ace urged me on.

I leaned forward again and rested my head-tilted cheek in my palm. "It doesn't matter. It's still her." I shrugged. "It'll always be her… I just had to get it off my chest, probably."

"Probably." Ace snorted, and I glared.

"What?"

"You're sitting here telling me you've either fallen or have been in love and too dumb to realize it with Roronoa Zoro and that it doesn't matter?" He was giving me this sort of confused scowl that I didn't know what to do with.

I scoffed. "I never said the L word." And grumbled.

"Still." He cocked an eyebrow. "What happened to the Sanji that freaked out the first few weeks I hung around you because of my orientation? You don't think his absence in all of this means anything?"

"That was a long time ago, and I'm over it." I shrugged. "Besides, I've been freaking out plenty these past few days. But I got sick of it and that's why I'm here. It doesn't matter or change anything because no matter what kind of weird feelings I've developed for men, women will always be most important to me." I said this as I got out of the booth. I didn't know where I was going, I just felt like if I stayed with him longer he'd pry too much, and he didn't seem to question the retreat. "Nami's feelings are more important than mine, or his, or anyone's."

He just sat there with his arms crossed as I stood next to the table awaiting a reply. It took a few moments, and in a moment I thought he just wasn't going to say anything, so I started to leave.

"Luffy noticed it you know." Ace said. "He said it a while back, before you were with Nami, that he saw the way you looked at him and figured you had a crush on him." He looked at me. "He's been waiting a long time for you to pull through on that because he thinks even if Zoro doesn't see you now, you'd be able to help him get through all this."

I scoffed, because… fucking Luffy. That guy really has a way of pissing me off lately, and it's not even in a manner I can hardly make any complaints about. It's all potentially right it's just maddening. Things would be so much easier if he'd just screw the marimo.

"That's not happening." I shook my head. "Like I said, it's a new, strange feeling, and I just needed to tell someone. Thanks for listening." I stomped out my cigarette, this time because it was over and done with. "I'll see you tomorrow, I gotta get home." The word was really something more like 'wanna.'

"Right." He smiled, which surprised me, especially that it didn't look fake. "Glad I could be of service."

I walked out of Galdino's with a stupid smile on my face despite the circumstances because… what can I say? I love Ace Portgas.

…Not like that.

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

I was surprised as hell to walk out the front door, look down at my vibrating phone and see the name 'Zoro' in little white letters that served as caller ID. This time, when my heart skipped a beat, I didn't pretend otherwise. Still, why the fuck is he calling me now?

I picked it up and without thinking, barked "what?" rudely into the receiver.

"Sanji!" It wasn't Zoro's voice, it was much higher.

"Luffy?" I scoffed. "What's going on?" Why the hell was he calling me in the first place, and why on Zoro's phone?

"Zoro stormed off and forgot his cell phone in the dojo." Luffy explained, and really it explained nothing. "I'm in the car with Law." It just confused me more.

"And you're using his phone to call me, why?" I asked, scratching my head as I stepped off to the side to lean against the building and smoke as I spoke.

"Because it's so cool!" I swear I could hear him bouncing happily through the phone. "It's got so many buttons… how did Zoro afford this awesome thing?" That is kind of a good question… and on top of that, Zoro didn't seem like the type that would go for a nice phone. He hardly even uses his phone, why would he need anything nice?

I shook my head away from that for the time being. "Luffy." I said, interrupting his little happy gasps and the beeps and boops that were coming through the speaker as he pressed the buttons. "Why did he storm off?" I asked.

"Law picked me up after class…" Luffy trailed off, then continued awkwardly "I got him to offer to take Zoro home too but he…"

"Stormed off." I finished it for him.

"The reason I called you is that I thought if you're not busy you could pick him up?" He sounded a little apprehensive to ask. "It's kind of a long walk from here back to where he lives and he'll probably get lost…"

I didn't say anything, a little lost in thought. "I would've called Ace but he said he had plans with Marco, so…"

"He-," I stopped myself and shut my mouth before revealing that Ace had actually cancelled for my sake and was now perfectly capable of rescuing the wandering swordsman from his impending doom. But, hell, there was little reason I couldn't do it, it's not like I'm going to pussy out of seeing him just because I've made some revelations concerning him.

"I'll pick him up." I answered, just after having made up my mind. "Don't worry about it."

"Thanks, Sanji!" His voice brightened immediately. "See you at school!"

"Yeah, see-ya then." I replied, flipped my phone shut, puffed at my cigarette and stepped off the curb and into the parking lot.

o-o-o

The name of my little endeavor that followed I would later refer to as "Marimos: Easy to lose, hard as hell to find." I drove all around the vicinity of that damn dojo, crossing my own tracks numerous times and there wasn't a sign of the bastard. By the third or fourth go around I started to consider he may have run into someone he knew and gotten a ride. Or maybe just got lost and entered one of the many fast food joints or stores in the area to rethink his strategy.

Either way, I said I'd pick him up, not drive all over town looking for him. So it came to the point that I decided I'd just give up and go home like I'd planned in the first place.

I pulled into an empty bank lot, cut my wheel and whipped around in a quick U-turn to change directions. To my surprise when I did, as I waited for the cars to clear I saw a familiar green head bouncing up toward the sidewalk from an abandoned lot across and a few addresses down the street. I rolled my eyes as he chose his direction, which was of course, the opposite direction he should go to reach his home most quickly.

The road cleared and I hit the gas to zip out and pull alongside him. He didn't notice me at first, which gave me time to snicker at the pouting, angry and confused look on his face.

I checked the rear-view mirror, and no one was directly behind me quite yet. "Hey!" I shouted as I rolled down my window. "You lost?" I couldn't help the evil smirk.

He glanced at me, and quite pointedly stuck up his nose. "The hell do you want?"

I sighed to myself, deciding to just make this easy for once and tell the truth. "Luffy asked me to take you home."

"Well tell him I don't need him to play my mother chicken."

"Don't you mean mother hen?" I creeped alongside him as he sped up to get away. "Just get in the car."

"Or maybe I could yell pedophile and run the other way?"

I laughed, because imagine the reaction anyone nearby would have to someone with such a deep voice shouting about pedophiles. "Well at least then you'd be going in the right direction."

He stopped in his tracks and I watched his face turn red. He now had two choices, admit he was going the wrong way, or give in and get in the car. Zoro has been and probably always will be in denial about his void of directional skill, so I knew which he'd choose.

I smiled victoriously to myself as he grudgingly walked toward my car, and yanked the passenger side door open. He sat in- or more like slouched- and slammed the door shut.

We started to move, and for a few minutes it stayed quiet with only the soft background sound of the radio. And then…

"Don't touch that!" I barked.

"This station sucks." He was pushing buttons on my radio, random buttons, and I don't think he knew what any of them were.

I swatted at his hand and switched it back. "Fuck you, this is a good song."

"This is the worst shit I've ever heard." He started hitting things again and I think finally caught on to how to change it. Traffic was shit so I had to pay too much attention to driving to keep his hands away.

"Stop it! I'm doing you a favor, don't touch!" I switched it back again and started to hum along just to spite him. "For your information I like Lady Gaga."

"You would." Snort.

"What the hell is that supposed to mean!" If I was speeding at this point, I wouldn't have realized it. But my foot was definitely getting tense, and just maybe pressing down harder than it should have been.

"Would you still like her if she had a penis, I wonder?" He said, and failed miserably to mimic a philosophical tone. Zoro and intellect just do not go well together.

"That's not the point!"

"I think it is."

"It's NOT!"

o-o-o-o-o

"Are you seriously falling asleep?"

"Shuddup."

"I've been driving for all of five minutes, how can you be falling asleep?"

"Well obviously I can't with you blabbing off every five seconds."

o-o-o-o-o

"This car is a piece of shit."

"WHAT!"

"Can't get comfy…"

o-o-o-o-o

By the time I pulled up in front of his apartment, I was fuming, and my face was probably beat red. I doubt he could see it, because as soon as I didn't have to look at the road, I was scowling at my lap and refused to lift my head. What was that nonsense I was talking to Ace about earlier? Whatever it was, I take all of it back. I fucking hate this guy.

"See-ya tomorrow, Love Cook." He got out, and I drove away, vowing that I would never, ever sit in a car alone with him again. Unless he was emo like the last time… in fact, Luffy should reject him more often.

o-o-o

We all found out the next day that Ace had set a party date for the approaching weekend. Some part of Luffy was still in Junior High and it was a portion of that part that made him demand a party even on his eighteenth year. Not that I minded, though it was always kind of a childish drag until Dragon left for work and Ace pulled out the drinks.

Anyway, Luffy informed us that his party would take place that Saturday night, starting at four and anyone who wants to sleep over should sleep over. I, in partnership with the Monkey family's extensive refrigerator, would provide all food-related party necessities according to Ace. This was in exchange for not having to think of a present.

I asked Ace for a guest list, just to see who was going to be there, knowing that Ace often invites a few of his friends to Luffy's parties as well. I skimmed over the expected names, Zoro, Usopp, Nami, Vivi, Sanji, Chopper, Law, Marco because of Ace. My eyes widened when I saw Kaya's name on the list and I snickered a little. I'm sure Usopp was happy to hear that she could come home for the day to attend. Kaya's late father and Luffy's dad were close friends, so her grandfather probably allowed it for that reason. Kohza was coming too, which probably meant Vivi had pleaded him into it. I didn't know him well but I did know he wasn't typical party material. He and Luffy weren't exactly close either so he had little motivation aside from her. It goes without saying that she was damn good motivation, though.

The name my brain really zeroed in on was at the very bottom of the list, scribbled on in a different colored pen like it had been added a day later than the rest. Shane. And I was relatively sure Ace nor Luffy had any other Shanes in their lives. Damn it, it meant I had to see that creep again, but I approved of all the others.

I arrived a half-hour early to get a headstart on the cooking, and at least have the snacks ready for when people started showing up. Law was there when I walked in as well, and according to Ace he'd spent a lot of time there lately. I wondered if he'd gotten into Luffy's pants yet. Because, though I have concluded that at least half Law's feelings are honest and platonic, I've definitely spotted some less than platonic looks in his eyes when Luffy's shirt was open or when he bent over.

Zoro showed up next, which would have been a miracle if he hadn't arrived with Marco and Shane. Apparently he didn't have a ride so Ace had asked Marco to pick him up on the way, and apparently Shane was just too good to use his gas for such an occasion. But that's just my insulting assumption.

The six of them stayed in the living room waiting as I scooted- or more like glided around the familiar kitchen, trying to get everything set up before any of the ladies arrived.

Just when I heard what sounded by the pre-pubescent voice like Chopper, probably dropped off by his Dad, Ace walked into the kitchen.

"Keeping me company? Or getting in the way?" I greeted.

"Can't I do both?" He leaned against the counter, grinning.

"Not unless you want to get kicked out. Literally." I wasn't big on guys who didn't have a clue what they were doing or what I was doing observing me or making comments while I was cooking.

He snickered. "So how'd it go with Zoro? I heard you drove him home right after you left Galdino's?"

"Yeah." I shrugged, stirring the melted cheddar into the peppers and spices. "How'd what go?"

"Did you say anything to him about your epiphany?"

I rolled my eyes. "What? Did you think I'd confesss?" I snorted. "You're taking this too seriously."

"And you've been stealing glances at him every single day at school since you told me. I think more of you than you think is just now realizing how you feel." Bastard. He'd noticed? I hunched my shoulders a little and started to stir faster.

"Anyway." Ace sighed, and looked out at the livingroom. "I think Usopp and Kaya just pulled in. I'm on greeter duty, but this conversation is far from over."

I just snuffed and nodded him off. I love how Ace seemed to have this plan to get me to fall for Zoro or something. Like he wants me to be gay? But that'll never happen, no matter what Zoro says, does, or feels, because Nami is what matters to me, and nothing can beat her.

I was cooking about an hour and a half into the party while the others sat in the living room, eating the various dips I'd pulled together with tortilla chips as they chatted and watched TV. It always took me a hell of a long time to make dinner on Luffy's birthday because not only was I one guy cooking for thirteen people, but I was one guy cooking for thirteen people while one of those thirteen people was Luffy.

Dinner was one of my own original and relatively standard beside a few small but vital details recipes for pizza. Extra heavy on the meat toppings because, of course, Luffy.

I had to make five. Four to make sure the rest of us could get our fill, and the fifth just for the birthday boy himself. Along with the snacks that might end up satisfying him to a certain degree of 'enough.'

When the pizza was gone- and no, you do not have leftovers at one of these parties- a wave of boredom fell over the room. It would be hours until Dragon left, so what to do before then?

"Can we do presents?" Luffy flailed his legs around, slouching next to Law.

"Not yet, my present won't be here until later." Law said.

"Cake then! Cake!" Luffy shot forward and looked at him like it was the best idea ever.

"We all just ate." Ace moaned. "Let's play a game."

Luffy pouted and slouched again, this time deeper into the cushion. "But I'm hungryyy." He was ignored.

"Strip poker?" Ace suggested, and Shane chuckled and smiled. You could tell he liked that idea. I almost raised my hand in agreement before I considered A) the ratio of men to women, and B) the though of any of these barbarians seeing Nami with her top off. Then again, at least I would get to see-

"No. Let's not." Usopp was the one to reply, and no one contradicted him aside from Ace's pouting bottom lip.

"What about traditional poker then?" Nami suggested. "With chips and real money on the line."

"Yeah right, you'd cheat, and you'd never risk your own money." Usopp countered that one as well.

"I'll just have Zoro cover my losses." Nami shrugged. "He owes me anyway."

"WHAT?"

Nami said that a lot, and I've yet to hear the story behind it because I haven't bothered to ask. Personally I think regardless of the logic that may or may not exist, he should just cough it up because she was beautiful and he was- well… he wasn't a lady, at least.

"Spin the bottle then."

"With clothe removal?" Law questioned, because typical spin the bottle from Ace's mouth was far too innocent.

"Did anyone forget that Chopper is here?" Luffy poked Chopper's cheek and earned a growl.

"It's not like he doesn't know what's going on." Zoro shrugged. "Besides he's probably ahead of all of us mentally."

"SHUT UP!" Chopper barked at him, waving his arms. "I know what you meant and calling me smart won't make me happy, jerkwad!" The silly grin and the blush could have fooled all of us.

"I just meant spin the bottle." Ace finally cut back in. "Whoever you spin, one kiss, on the lips, at least three seconds."

"You just made that three seconds part up." Nami protested.

"Makes it more interesting." Ace wiggled his eyebrows as she shrugged and got up.

"All right, circle time then." Following Nami's lead, we all got onto the floor and formed a circle in the space behind the couch.

"I'll get the bottle." Ace left for the kitchen.

The whole idea seemed kind of silly at first, but it didn't bother me. I guess it meant we'd all resigned ourselves to the possibility of touching lips with someone of the same sex, but I was okay enough with that. Maybe part of it was just the thrilling idea that Nami, Kaya, or Vivi might spin one another. I can't be the only one who feels like that would be nice to see.

Once we got seated, I was perfectly content with the situation. I'd only coincidentally sat down between two of the worlds most lovely ladies, Nami to my right and Vivi to my left. Kaya was a seat away, but in plain sight from where I was. The rest were in various places in between.

"All right." Ace set the bottle in the center and sat down in the open space between Chopper and Kohza. "Who's first?"

Eyes shifted around the circle, but no one volunteered.

"Why not the birthday boy?" I suggested, nodding toward Luffy.

Luffy stood up immediately, and threw his fist in the air to make his announcement. "As the birthday boy I declare that I refuse to go first!" He shouted. I just looked at him, a little surprised, and noticed that Nami, Usopp, and a few of the others seemed equally. I didn't think Luffy would be shy about something like this.

"All right, fine." Ace sighed. "I'll get us started." He leaned into the circle, took the bottle by its center, and gave it a good spin. It went around four or five times, and we wall watched silently, not really into the spirit of it, but no one sweating yet. Probably just because it was Ace, and kissing Ace as a result of a game just couldn't be a big deal.

It took a few seconds for me to register when the bottle stopped, and was pointing directly at me.

I looked up at Ace and his silly grin, and rolled my eyes. "All right." I stayed seated though, because he could come to me. I looked at the floor as he stood up, walked over, and crouched in front of me. He waited for me to look at him, and I snuffed with a lazy smile, and let him incline forward to touch his lips to mine.

What I didn't expect was for him to tilt his head, close his eyes, hold my face and make the kiss so deep for the three required seconds it lasted. When he detached, my eyes had widened, probably noticeably, and he was wearing that evil smirk of his. I scowled, but no one else had any reaction, like none of them were surprised at all. When I thought about it, I shouldn't have been either.

"Next." Ace said, and returned to his seat as I rubbed the back of my wrist against my mouth because it got a little wet.

"Guess that's me." Kohza, who was sitting next in line clockwise to Ace's position reached into the circle and spun the bottle half-heartedly.

"You planned that." Usopp accused, pointing his suspicious finger when it landed on Vivi.

"I might've just hoped really, really hard." Kohza shrugged, but the smirk suggested he spun it just right to land on her. I wouldn't put the ability or the bad sportsmanship past him.

"Like we haven't seen this before." Ace rolled his eyes. Vivi was blushing when Kohza crossed the circle and put his lips gently to hers for three seconds, and then pulled back.

"You're so adorable." I sighed, and I had to say it. That embarrassed smile and the pink cheeks were just too much.

"She's almost as red as you were a second ago." Nami inquired.

"N-Nami, I wasn't!" I gawked at her. How could she play on such a lie at my suspense? I heard snickering from my right and held up a forefinger in Usopp's direction.

"My turn!" Nami raised her hand up in the air and swatted the bottle so it spun. "I want whoever it lands on to know how lucky they are that I'm allowing this free of charge."

I stared intently at the bottle, because if it landed on anyone male that wasn't me, I was going to kick that person after Nami was finished, just for the hell of it.

I gawked and groaned audibly when it stopped on Usopp.

"All right." Nami shrugged, and started to get up and cross the circle.

"Wait!" Usopp held up his hands. "Someone hold Sanji first, I'm seriously afraid for my life here…"

"I'll keep him back!" Luffy volunteered immediately and got up.

"No, sit down." I said. "I'm not going to kill anyone. But you better not move. Not a muscle. Let Nami do that part, you just sit there. Hands to yourself."

"Is he allowed to make those rules?" Chopper leaned over and whispered to Ace.

"Shut up!" I shouted. Usopp obeyed me though. I pouted a little when Nami put one hand on Usopp's upper arm, because that didn't really seem necessary, but I didn't say anything. When it was over and she pulled back, the first thing Usopp did was look at Kaya as if to apologize. She just smiled and shrugged.

"Someday your luck will run out." I pointed my most aggressive finger at Usopp. "…Or get transferred to me…" I went on to muse.

"It's your turn. Spin it." Zoro barked at me, snapping me out of my lovely fantasy land. I scowled at him and snuffed as I reached into the center and gave the bottle a spin. My finger kind of got caught on the side though, and it only moved in a half circle before stopping.

"Does that count?" Vivi asked.

"It counts." Ace assured.

My eyes flicked up to the person the bottle was pointed at, and he was looking at it with an expression I couldn't read. God, I wish I could have read it because that would have at least done something for my rising heart rate. Not exactly wonders, but something, because I was already afraid that if I got too close he might hear it.

When he looked at me, he scoffed. "Okay, get it over with." He shrugged.

I gritted my teeth. "Damn marimo." Sure, I could do it, but there was one huge problem with this entire scenario. Sitting there, looking at him with that damn bottle pointed at him, I realized that I wanted to kiss him. I couldn't fucking wait, my fingers were tingling and my body aching because all of the sudden it was so close. Damn it, I was supposed to be getting over the bastard. Now this tiny, fake opportunity comes up and suddenly I feel love struck.

When I was there in front of him I wanted to touch his hair, his face, his cheek, his jaw line. I wanted to stroke those tiny stupid looking short green hairs that went a little too far down the side of his neck. I wanted to do so much more than just kiss this son of a bitch, and for a moment, I had to gather myself.

"Just do it." Zoro scoffed, and as soon as he said that, his mouth so close, his voice vibrated against my throat and my breath nearly hitched. I put my mouth against his to hide it, and left it there for three seconds before pulling back. It wasn't a proper kiss by any meaning of the word… our noses hit each other awkwardly and I didn't push that hard. But, it was probably best that way.

I kept myself from looking into his eyes as I backed away and returned to my spot. If I hadn't I probably would have fallen into them.

It was Vivi's turn next, and I tried to contain my excitement when her bottle ended up pointed in at Nami. Maybe a miniscule part of me was jealous of the idea of anyone kissing her but me, but the rest was tingling with anticipation.

"Don't get too excited, Sanji." Marco smirked at me, and I guess that meant it was showing on my face. But I guess I was in too deep to care because I didn't even think about what expression I might've been making.

Nami was the one to cross the circle, because I think Vivi's embarrassment toward the idea was keeping her stationary for a few moments.

"All right, let's make at least half these guys happy." Nami said to her as she leaned in with a tiny smirk. Vivi snickered and seemed to relax to the idea at the last moment, and did the rest of the leaning herself until their lips were together, perfectly like puzzle pieces. Two soft, sweet pairs of lady's lips, falling into place with one another- it was the perfect kiss.

My heart sank a little when they broke apart, both smiling a little sheepishly with expressions that were nothing short of adorable as Nami settled back next to me. "You can wipe that look off your face now." Nami nudged me with her elbow, and I did as she asked, just because she asked.

Next it was Zoro's turn, and he leaned forward lazily to spin the bottle in a circle with a half-assed grunt.

A wave of tension fell over the group, and one section in particular when the bottle's point stopped on Luffy. In a moment of pause, Luffy looked more nervous than any of the three who would be affected by this. Even though it was an odd expression for Luffy compared to his usual self, I wasn't that surprised. He was probably dreading the strong possibility that Zoro would take it too far just to piss Law off and then Luffy would have to deal with Law's opinion later. The question was, is Zoro dumb enough to do that to his little crush?

Luffy was scowling as Zoro came over, like he was warning the mosshead with his eyes not to fuck around. Law was looking the other way purposely, which was probably best. I wished I could have seen Zoro's face from my angle. Just because I would bet that it exhibited pain hidden behind a sly grin.

They kissed slowly, carefully, and without many details to repeat. It was half tense, half relaxed, and then it was over, and Zoro returned to his seat. I guessed that meant he'd decided to move on. Sad, but he didn't really have a choice, I don't think any of us could have argued his case at this point. Especially not after watching Law nudge Luffy teasingly about it directly afterwards. He wasn't getting irrationally pissed at all, like I would have, or Usopp would have. Instead he immediately took the opportunity to save Luffy from any irrational guilt. I don't think any of us had even the beginning of a case against Law in favor of Zoro.

Turns passed, Kaya had to smooch Chopper, which was somehow just adorable in it's own way. After that was Usopp and he landed on me. That was no big deal, not for either of us since we'd been friends so long. Then it was Luffy and Kaya with Usopp's intent and critical stare all the while, followed by Law spinning Luffy and more complaints from Ace that it was nothing we hadn't seen. After that Chopper rolled Usopp and was blushing like hell as he completed the kiss, and afterward hurried back to his seat and sat on his knees like he was in trouble.

Only two more to go for the first round and I think the majority of us were bored enough to silently decide the first would be the last. Unfortunately, it was only fair that everyone got a turn, especially since no one had spun Shane or Marco. I'm sure Marco wouldn't have minded being left out, and I'm sure I didn't give a fuck what Shane minded but others might've disagreed.

So, we all sat there watching as Shane spun the bottle, and it wasn't until after he did that I realized how much of a fit I'd throw if it stopped pointing at me. Luckily, it had started to slow while facing me, so I let out a sigh of relief, but too soon. I felt my eyebrows furrow off command when it stopped between Kaya and Zoro. It was close, hard to tell, so I couldn't decide which option was pissing me off more. I mean… Kaya, it was Kaya of course!

Ace cocked his head at it, and so did the rest of us. "I can't tell." He sighed. "Spin it again."

"Looks like Zoro to me." Nami offered, and for just one moment, my unconditional, constant love for her may have faltered.

"It is Zoro." Usopp agreed. I would've said he only did that to keep the pervert paws off his beloved, but I couldn't contradict. It was pointed just a little to the left if you saw it from the right angle. My eyes flicked up to the Marimo. He looked indifferent.

Shane got up and I watched him warily as he side-stepped to kneel in front of Zoro. I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand on end as he leaned in. But there was no kiss- not yet. Instead, Shane passed his mouth and whispered something into his ear. My eyes flicked to Kaya, but her expression didn't reveal whether she'd heard it or not.

When he backed up again to look at Zoro's face, there was a pause in which my chest tightened. I hated that look, the intensity of it as he locked eyes with Shane. He'd been had, it was clear as day. He was curious for the bastard. Damn it, what had that asshole said to him?

Then- just for a split second, and I'm not sure that I didn't imagine it- Zoro's eyes flicked and met mine. I shivered, and in that tiny moment I felt certain that he knew…

He was looking at Shane again, and shrugged with a tiny quirk of his lips- the beginning of what was probably an accepting, sly smile. The likes of one I hadn't seen on him in a while.

"Get on with it already." Ace barked, and Shane obeyed. When their mouths touched, well- it was a lot more than touch. Mutual on both ends, they meshed and molded in a chorus of smacking that seemed almost planned or rehersed. Or more like they were showing off- one of them anyway. By three seconds I was glimpsing Shane's tongue slipping in, and it didn't look close to over. It felt like some kind of slow-motion torture when Zoro's left hand lifted to cup Shane's cheek. Did either of them have any shame at all? Did they just forget we were all watching?

"Okay, time's up!" I could've kissed Marco when he clapped his hands and they, more slowly than I would have wanted, broke it up. They shared one last pair of matching smirks before Shane returned to his seat, and my hands curled into fists.

"Well, that was more than I would have asked to see." Usopp scoffed and shuddered. When I looked back at Zoro, his face was sour again.

Marco was next, and last as we'd all unspokenly agreed. I didn't think a pre-high school game could have made my blood boil so intensely. But apparently some people couldn't leave it as a game.

I was glad when Marco's spin landed on Ace, because that at least was something we'd all seen and therefore could get through quickly.

Ah, but today must've been universe-is-fucked-to-shit day because neither of them seemed exactly thrilled. In fact, I don't think anyone else in the game looked more put off by their outcome then these two did right then. I was seriously dying to know what the hell was going on with them, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one. A lot of us had assumed Marco and Ace would end up together, and they'd been getting there, but now this?

They were sitting next to each other, so they just kind of turned their heads and put their lips together in the most mild way possible. It wasn't a kiss, just a dutiful touch like most of ours had been. I felt like it shouldn't have been that way for them.

"All right, new game." Ace snatched the bottle from the center and got up.

"Aaaaaaacceeeeee!" Luffy groaned. "I want cake!"

"It's barely been an hour, I'm still full." Chopper patted his stomach.

"Chopppeerrr!" Luffy groaned. "Sabotager!"

"I think you mean saboteur…" Usopp corrected. In the middle of his speech, the doorbell rang. Ace and Luffy simply looked at each other as if communicating some wonder as to who it might be. It rung again, and all heads turned to the direction of the door.

"That must be your present." Law said, and started to stand up.

"REALLY?" Luffy got up with him, on his sandaled tip-toes with quivering excited fists and stars in his eyes. "Is it a pizza?"

My face landed in my palm.

"Not quite." Law shrugged and started toward the door, all the while Luffy clinging with his curled fingers to the back of Law's shirt.

"Meat then?" Luffy started to jump up and down.

"In a way." Law shrugged, and I think all eleven of the rest of us were tilting our heads with wonder.

"So…" Luffy stopped suddenly a few steps behind, and Law looked back at him with his hand on the doorknob. "It's a mystery present." He concluded.

Law rolled his eyes, still smirking a little, and faced away from Luffy and the rest of us as he turned the doorknob. "You'll see."

When the door clicked open, glances were shared around the partially remaining circle until a short, sharp sound from the direction of the open doorway turned all attention. Was that…? No, it couldn't be…

"A dog?" Luffy's confused voice confirmed that yes it was. "Why is there a small dog in a cage?"

Nami got up, intrigued, and naturally I decided to follow, maybe a little interested myself.

Over Nami's shoulder and between Law and Luffy I could see a man standing just outside the door on the porch. He was wearing a funny hat with something written on it and an orange jumpsuit, but that wasn't the interesting part. Held up in one of his hands by the handle on top was a cage meant to carry small animals in. In this case, by the big brown eyes that looked straight into mine, a puppy.

"He's yours." Law explained. "Don't worry, I already ran it by Dragon and Ace."

"Hmm." Luffy looked back at the small creature. I couldn't name the breed myself, but it was rather muscular looking, with big paws and pointy ears. Not exactly fluffy, and looked very confused. It looked at each of us, and then finally when it looked at Luffy, who was peering critically into the cage, it tensed and then barked twice.

Luffy laughed. "You sound kind of tough for such a little guy."

The puppy whined out what sounded like a mix between a growl and a cry, and barked at him again, as if frustrated that he was being made fun of.

Luffy laughed, and Law reached out to take the cage from the other guy. "Thanks Penguin, appreciate it." He said, and received a smile nod and wave in return before he shut the door with the new resident inside.

"I can't believe you bought him a puppy." Nami's face was in her palm.

"When you think about it though, Luffy and a dog could be a serious disaster." It had to be said. "Almost fits though." I shrugged.

"Yeah and you have that big white dog, right Law?" Luffy said. "They could be friends!"

"Is it an Akita?" Vivi was peaking around me now to see. I hadn't noticed her until she said that, otherwise I would have moved out of her way.

"Yeah, I got him half-price." Law said.

"Vivi?" I looked back at her. "You know dogs?"

"I just recognize the breed." She shrugged. "I saw a lot of them helping a friend who worked at a shelter."

Law put the cage on the ground, and had the whole rooms attention, especially Luffy who was bent all the way over with his head turned sideways to look inside. The dog was already trying to either bite or lick his face through the bars, and when Law opened it, bounded forward and latched its teeth onto his nose.

"Ow!" Luffy started to flail, and then finally yanked his head away. The puppy fell back onto its butt when he did, and looked up at Luffy like it had been rejected. "All right, I'll have to train you then." Luffy pointed an assertive finger and earned an enthusiastic bark.

"He is pretty cute." Nami caved, but I think the rest of us had a long time ago.

"Is it safe to leave a living thing in Luffy's care?" Usopp raised his hand, and I'm sure to some degree all of us were thinking that.

"Probably not, but that's why I'm here." Ace stepped up. By then the entire group had surrounded the little animal to have a look. Its eyes darted around the wall of staring, mumbling people, ears twitching up and down. Finally, it hopped to its feet and scampered out of the spotlight.

"Hey wait dog!" Luffy shouted, reaching out to where it ran, but hesitated when it stopped, turned, and sat right between a pair of feet, looking warily back at him. It turned itself sideways to at first hide its face, and then finally looked up at the owner of the feet. Zoro looked back down, blinking.

Luffy laughed through his teeth.

"Look at that, Marimo." I snickered. "I think he feels safe with you."

Zoro cocked an eyebrow, as if trying to figure it out. Unfortunately when you're Zoro, your thoughtful face looks an awful lot like an angry face, and the puppy pinned its ears back like it was in trouble.

"Spoke too soon."

Zoro and the small furry animal regarded each other for a few moments before the puppy suddenly hopped to its feet and barked up at him to assert itself. Zoro frowned and blinked, surprised.

"Zoro has been defeated." Chopper giggled, and earned a laugh from the rest of us, and a glare from the marimo himself.

"Hey, hey, Law, what's his name?" Luffy asked bouncily.

"He's yours. You name him." I noted the tiny amusement in his smile and eyes.

"All right." Luffy looked hard at the puppy standing between Zoro's ankles, wagging its tail and panting happily as it looked up. It probably liked the grass imitation on Zoro's head. "His name is Sunny!" Luffy decided with an assertive nod.

"Why that?" Usopp seemed to disapprove.

"I dunno. Just came to me." Luffy shrugged, and walked over to where Sunny and the marimo were still observing one another. He crouched next to Zoro and scooped the puppy up into his arms. He struggled as Luffy held him against his chest underneath his arms.

Luffy carried him awkwardly to the couch and slouched into one of the cushions as he held Sunny tighter and tighter as he tried to get away.

"Guess it's time to pull out the rest of the presents then." Ace said, and as soon as he did Luffy threw his fists into the air and Sunny made his escape, running right into the kitchen.

A/N - Soooo... this took five billion years!

Sorry about the wait... I got a little sidetracked. Aside from being attacked by Burger King hours I got kind of absorbed in things that weren't One Piece. First Buffy the Vampire Slayer and then Torchwood directly after... but FINALLY I came back to One Piece, and here I am ^-^.

I really want to finish this story. I haven't finished a full length novel since I was 11 years old. It's sort of got a long way to go, and I have a lot planned... it's not going to be /too/ long though, I'm thinking maybe 12-13 chapters? Maybe more, maybe less, I'm bad at predicting those sorts of things.

Anyway... I hope to have the next chapter out a lot faster than this one came. Thanks to everyone for reading!