IT'S NOT GOOD OKAY? I KNOW THIS. I'm currently in the middle of some serious writer's block. I just had to try SOMETHING. Why did I decide to pair Sanji and Law? No idea. Why did I decide to make it super sappy? No idea. Whatever. I just feel really good about having finished something OKAY? Hope you enjoy, and if you don't, I don't wanna hear about it. (cries)

Loved in Return

The day was Goddamn beautiful. Fucking clear blue sky, birds were singing, the autumn air was crisp and fresh. It was one of those afternoons when you could stand on your porch and look out over the ocean, across rolling whitecaps and crystal-covered waves and find some kind of peace. Oregon coast was always spectacular this time of year, but this day was exceptional beyond even that of normal standards. Everything seemed to shine, to shimmer, to dance in the bright sunlight like a fairy tale dream.

Law lowered his head and watched a beetle crawl over his shoe. It wasn't right. The day shouldn't be beautiful at all. It should be raining. Grey and ominous clouds should be crawling across the sky, blocking the light from that fucking sun and casting the coastal landscape into a more befitting shadow.

You shouldn't have to bury a friend on a day like this.

You shouldn't have to lower a dark casket into the cold, dark ground when the sun is shining so brilliantly. There shouldn't be icy blue waves crashing against a shimmering beach berm when you look at your friend's face for the last time. Sweet birdsong should not accompany the muffled sobs of your friends and family as they mourn one of your own.

But then again, Brook had always loved birdsong. He had loved all kinds of music from the screeching of the electric guitar to the smooth melodious sounds of the violin. He had enjoyed traditional jazz as well as any popular rock song. The sound of a train clacking across the rails could have inspired that man to compose a tune.

Maybe the birdsong and the crash of the waves, the hum of the insects and the crisp, biting wind were nature's way of saying goodbye? Maybe this was Brook's home playing one last symphony for the greatest music lover to ever have walked these rocky beaches?

The thought made Law's eyes fill, but he wiped the moisture away with a quick swipe of his palm. He sniffed quietly and listened to the small town's only pastor recite the loving words that Brook's friends had chosen for the eulogy.

When the ceremony was over, and people started to mingle or return to their cars, Law turned to the man standing next to him.

"You wanna stay? Or head over to Luffy's?"

Dark hair blew gently over watery brown eyes. A freckled face turned to Law and a strong hand brushed tears away with the backs of calloused fingers.

"I don't know," Ace replied quietly. "I don't really feel like doing anything."

Law nodded and put a hand on Ace's shoulder. The oldest child of the Dee family was taking Brook's death almost as bad as his younger brother, Luffy. Brook had been old, older even then Ace's own grandfather, but he had been a close family friend. The musician was well-loved and would be deeply missed by all, but none as much as Dragon's two sons.

"Where's your brother?" Law asked gently.

Ace was still wiping at his eyes. "I don't know. I think he's with Vivi somewhere."

Law slipped his hands in his pockets and waited patiently for his friend to get a hold of himself. He turned to the fountain, the centerpiece of Canyon Park Cemetery. It was as beautiful as the rest of the day. The water flowed clear and shimmering, and birds of all colors bathed in pools carved into the grey stone. The sound was soothing, melodic. Brook would like it here, on this cliff top amongst the sound of the waves and the rhythmic hum of the fountain.

"Hey, Law," Ace said suddenly, his voice soft. "Why is everyone looking at you?"

Somewhat startled, Law turned and found several pairs of eyes on him. Almost half of the people—half the town—was staring at him, watching as if waiting for Law to do something.

"What the hell?" Law murmured. "What did I do?"

He felt, rather than saw, Ace stiffen next to him. The thicker man put a hand on Law's arm and squeezed.

"I think I might know," Ace said, his voice strangely light.

Law looked to where Ace was pointing, and felt his breath catch in his chest. The ground dropped out from beneath him and his freshly mended, fragile heart thumped so hard it probably bruised the inside of his ribs.

"I can't believe he came…" Ace murmured.

Law swallowed, trying to think of some kind of reply, but nothing seemed adequate.

Ace's hand squeezed again and Law felt like he was in some kind of dream. He felt numb and light-headed, unbalanced as he stood leaning into Ace's touch.

"You okay?" Ace's voice was careful.

Law nodded.

"Would you care if I went to say hello?"

Law shook his head.

"Are you lying?"

Law nodded slowly.

Ace actually chuckled. "I'll stay with you if you want. But we can leave, head that way, down the grass path and up around back to the parking lot."

Law blinked, realizing how pathetic he was being. He straightened and pulled on his tie. The purple satin slid smoothly beneath his fingers. The theme of the funeral had been black and purple—Brook's favorite colors. Law had never owned anything purple before, and he'd had to run out and by the tie special for the occasion.

"No," Law said. "I'm not that much of an asshole. You haven't seen him in a year."

Ace watched him for a moment before answering. "You sure it's okay?"

Law nodded again. "It' fine. I'll go around the back way, meet up with you later."

"Are you going to the reception?"

Law turned his head and regarded Ace coolly. "It's probably not a good idea, now."

Ace waited a beat before he nodded. He turned to the small crowd of people and started out across the pebbled path. Law watched him go, his way flanked by grey tombstones. The eldest Dee son slipped his hands into the pockets of his slacks and nodded to people as he passed. No doubt Ace was smiling that gentle smile of his, turning kind eyes on folks, inherently comforting with just looks and simple turn of lips.

Law stood for a moment, watching pale skin as long fingers gripped Ace's tan palm. The two figures exchanged words, and a familiar mouth turned up in a crooked smile. Blond hair fell into blue eyes and long, lean arms embraced Ace's muscled shoulders.

Law turned away. There was no point in watching. The past was the past, no matter how much he wished for it to be otherwise.

Taking the grass path around back, Law made it to the parking lot without running into anyone that seemed keen on talking to him. He slipped into his car and started the engine. Pulling out into the street he was fully aware that he was running away, but the knowledge didn't even slow him down.

Two days later, Law woke to pounding on his door. He lifted his face from the pillow and glanced at the clock. 8:52 a.m., too early for someone to be at his house making all that noise. Who in their right mind—

"Oh, it's you." Law almost shut the door in his visitor's face. He turned and slunk back into the living room, yawning loudly and scratching at his bare chest.

Kidd followed him inside, flaming red hair damp, and amber eyes pinched with annoyance.

"Where the hell have you been?" the tall man asked. "I've been stuck doing the nets all by myself! They get all tangly and retarded when there's only one set of hands on 'em!"

Law smiled despite himself as he sat on the couch. "Are you saying you can't do your job without me? I'm flattered."

Kidd growled and took off his wet jacket before flopping onto the couch beside his best friend. "You know no one handles 'em like we do together. We lost a quarter of the catch yesterday 'cause Jackie's hands are too baby soft."

Law chuckled and reached for the remote. He switched on the TV and flipped through the menu. "You ever heard of gloves?"

"Shut up."

"They're these things that protect your hands."

"I said shut up."

"They come in real handy when you're-"

"Okay!" Kidd was trying his hardest to hide a smile. "We gave him a pair, but the kids hands were rubbing raw on the inside. Had to take him below and patch him up. His mom's gonna kill me."

"Eh, she'll get over it." Settling for the news, Law got to his feet. "You want something to drink?"

"After being drowned outside just now? No. I'm never gonna want a drink again. Fucking sky opened up and dumped an ocean on my head on the way up here."

Law chuckled as he headed into the kitchen. He opened the fridge and retrieved the pitcher of ice tea he had mixed the night before.

"So what do you have planned on this beautiful Saturday morning?" Law asked as he poured himself a glass. "You and Luffy going out?"

Kidd shrugged. "He's still kind of down. I'm not sure if he's really up to partying yet. He's hanging with Vivi a lot."

Law nodded. "She's good for him."

Kidd shrugged. "Guess so."

The red head was preoccupied, and Law knew why. He sighed and sat in the armchair across from the couch.

"Just ask me," Law took a long swallow of the bitter tea and grimaced. "You're dying to, I can tell."

Kidd looked at him then, his eyes curious.

"Everybody's talking about it, you know? Town's too fucking small."

Law's eyes fell and he swirled the glass. The liquid swam in a circle, spinning even after he stopped moving. He had told Kidd to ask him, but in reality, he had no desire to talk about it.

Kidd sighed. "Are you gonna hide in your house 'till he leaves?"

Law shrugged. "Not the worst idea I ever heard."

Growling, Kidd stood and snatched the glass from Law's hand. "He's such an ass for just showing up! He could have called or something!" He took a swallow from the glass and grimaced. "Wow, this tastes like shit."

Law chuckled and took back the glass. "It wouldn't have mattered, Kidd. I still would have gone to the funeral."

Kidd shook his head. "He still should have given some kinda warning. Then I could have put signs up or something. 'No cheating assholes'."

Law took another swallow and shook his head. "He never cheated on me, he wouldn't do that."

Kidd sighed. "Yeah, you keep saying that."

Finishing off the iced tea, Law headed back into the kitchen. He turned on the water in the sink and rinsed the glass. Practiced motions, preformed unconsciously. He knew if he took a moment, if he opened himself to what he knew he was feeling he would probably collapse.

He gazed out the window, thankful for the detachment his body and emotions were giving him. It was just too soon. The wound was still too fresh.

He heard Kidd behind him, the scrape of his jeans against the textured wall; the slide of his hands into his pockets.

"I was almost feeling normal again," Law said quietly, as much to himself as Kidd. "I was getting to where I could go a couple days and not think about him."

Kidd said nothing.

"He didn't mean any harm coming back," Law continued, his voice shaking slightly. "He had to come, it would have destroyed Luffy if he hadn't. He was as close to Brook as any of them."

Kidd growled from behind. "But to just show up like that? Come on."

Law shook his head. "What was he supposed to say? It's not like he needs my permission to come home."

"I'm not saying he needed permission, I'm just saying he should have told you-"

Law spun on his friend. "He doesn't know!" his voice was low, his tone defeated. "He has no idea how much he hurt me, or how his leaving almost killed me... okay? He doesn't know…"

Kidd's eyes, which had been angry only moments before, softened. Law couldn't stand the pity, so he turned back to the window, his hands resting on the edge of the sink, knuckles white in their grip.

"I don't want him to know…"

Kidd stood silent, still behind him. He stayed leaning against the door frame for a long minute before he moved across the kitchen and turned to rest his lower back against the counter. Law watched him as he folded his arms across his chest and leaned his left shoulder against Law's right.

"He's an asshole," Kidd said softly. "There's no way you can be with someone for four years and not know how they felt about you."

Law clenched his jaw hard, fighting back tears. He wasn't crying, not yet, but he surely could if he just let himself.

"Don't cut him any slack," Kidd continued, "he doesn't deserve it."

Law shook his head. "I don't think I can stop myself."

Kidd put a hand on his shoulder, a tremendous display of gentleness from the red head, and Law was grateful for it.

"He'll be gone tomorrow," Kidd murmured. "Just hang on 'till then."

Law was fine with hanging on, but if hanging on entitled that he starve, he wasn't game. When seven o'clock rolled around, and Law's stomach started to rumble, he discovered that there was nothing by the way of food in the house but a box of stale Ritz crackers and a can of black beans. He hadn't had an actual meal in probably a day and a half, so Law figured he was going to have to brave the outside if he didn't want to actually die.

There was a small diner down the hill on the main road out of town. It was a popular spot for truckers and tourists on their way south to California, but one had to already know it was there. The locals dug it, the food was good, and the atmosphere was laid back and quiet.

It was passed the dinner hour, so Law was relatively confident as he made his way down the hill that it wouldn't be too crowded. Rain pelted his head and he pulled his hood farther down to shield his face. His shoes and socks were wet when he reached the parking lot, but he knew it was a small price to pay.

Inside, it smelled like heaven. Bacon and eggs, gravy and biscuits, onions frying in butter, and the sweet, sweet aroma of fresh apple pie assaulted Law's senses as he stepped through the doorway. The place hadn't smelled this good in a long time.

A few heads turned up when he entered, but no eyes lingered on him for long. Law figured that was a good sign so he moved through the entry and headed toward the bar.

He stopped abruptly as he passed the display case. The racks were packed with all kinds of the most delicious looking pastries Law had ever seen. The cleverness and creativity placed into each piece was like a small work of art. Delicate roses made of sugar, sliced strawberries arranged to look like lotus blossoms, tortes and croissants filled to bursting with bright jellies, and slices of rich, multilayer chocolate cakes were only the beginning.

Law didn't have to think very hard about who had fashioned those beautiful creations. He thought for just a moment that it might be a good idea to just turn around and head back to his house. He could survive the night. He could down a case of beer, get plastered on his empty stomach, and then in the morning, he would be so hung over, he wouldn't have to think about why he left the diner in the first place.

Really though, running? Was he really going to run?


He moved to the bar, slid onto one of the stools, and pulled off his sopping jacket. Law was a lot of things, but a coward was not one of them. Whatever happened in the next few minutes, be it good or bad, Law wanted to look back and remember that it had been his choice.

Wrinkled, pot-bellied Randy, the owner of the diner, smiled at Law and came over as he wiped his hands on a dish towel.

"Evening there, fisherman," Randy smiled. "Lovely night, isn't it?"

Law returned the smile and nodded when Randy offered him coffee. "At least it's not freezing."

"Amen," Randy pushed the mug across the counter and Law's tattooed hand accepted.

When he took a sip, Law's taste buds danced. It was obvious who had made the coffee as well.

He let that familiar taste roll over his tongue, savoring the warm, bitter flavor as it slid down his throat. He sighed and took another sip. It burned but he didn't care.

"So," Law said quietly as he watched his reflection ripple in the mug, "Is he here right now?"

Randy nodded. "Smoking out back, I can ask him to leave if you want."

"No," Law motioned to the ovens you could see clearly through the order-up window, "he's still making something. He won't leave until it's done."

Randy nodded. "You wanna take something back? I'll box up the leftover sausages and hash. You can have it free of charge. You did walk down here in the rain."

For a moment, that seemed like an excellent idea: free food, the chance to just slip away, and never have to face anything harder than that pounding rain outside. It was the perfect opportunity. Then Law remembered how good it had felt to come in here, despite knowing what he was potentially walking into. He felt like this was the first in a long, long time that he was in control of what was happening to him. If he was going to face things, he wanted it to feel like it was on his terms, when he wanted it.

Shaking his head, Law took another swallow from his coffee. It burned less, and seemed to taste even better than it had a moment ago.

"Just keep the coffee coming for now. I'll take a paper too."

Randy shrugged and handed Law the newspaper sitting by the cash register. Law accepted it with a soft thank you and scanned the headlines.

He sat for maybe ten minutes, wondering off and on if he was going crazy. He had been avoiding this very thing for two days, and now suddenly he was inviting it? Was he a masochist? What the hell was he going to say? How was he supposed to act?

He didn't look up when the diner went silent. He read the paper as nonchalantly as he could, sipped his coffee knowing that most of the eyes in the restaurant were on either him, or the man watching him from the doorway to the kitchen. His insides shook, his stomach rolled tremulously. His mouth was dry.

He still didn't look up as long legs guided slender hips to sit on the stool next to him. A faint smell of cigarettes suddenly mingled with the cinnamon and apples already permeating the air. The scent was nostalgic, and Law experienced a brief moment of panic when he thought he was going to break down at the memory.

Pale fingers played with a Zippo lighter, flicking the lid on and off. Law watched blond hair in his peripheral, but could not make himself look up. He was frozen, unable to move even the slightest muscle. Maybe he was a coward after all.

He forced himself to speak, and thankfully, his voice sounded steadier than he felt.

"Coffee's real good," he said softly.

Law could see the smile in his head, he didn't have to look.

"Thanks," was the smooth reply. His voice was as sexy as ever, deeper than Law remembered, quieter.

Tearing his eyes away from the paper, Law turned to look up into sharp blue eyes. His heart pounded in his chest, but he managed a small smile.

"Hey, Sanji."

Sanji was indeed already smiling. His mouth was turned up in that suggestive way that made Law want to laugh and cry and scream all at once. There was a time when he had lived for that smile, and seeing it now made parts of his broken heart ache all over again.

"Hey you," Sanji said softly, "I was wondering if I'd get to see you before I left."

Law's insides twisted. "You know where I live."

Sanji chuckled. "I know, but it sort of felt like you were avoiding me."

Law made a face and shook his head, turned back to the paper. "Not avoiding, just figured you'd be hanging with Roronoa. Usopp's probably shitting himself that you're back, huh?"

Sanji's smile widened. "Did you see that thing he's building in his garage? That fucking go-kart monstrosity?"

"Of course," Law's face actually hurt from the smile that refused to relax, "fire department's been called to his house four times in the last few months. Ace is about to take his project and shove it up his nose."

Sanji's head fell back and his hair fell sideways into his eyes as he laughed. Law glanced at that long neck, the pale skin that disappeared beneath the blue shirt collar, and swallowed hard. His chest still pounded, his fingers trembled, but at least his heart rate had slowed to a normal pace.

Whatever Sanji had been, whatever he had done in the past, he was still the same man that Law had fallen in love with so many years ago. He was still easy to talk to. He was still kind. Things hadn't worked out between the two of them, and that hurt more than anyone would ever understand, but Sanji was still one of the most wonderful people Law had ever met, and he always would be.

Leaning his elbow on the bar, Sanji asked quietly, "Are you hungry?"


"Breakfast or dinner?"


"Potatoes or pancakes?"

Law thought a moment before cocking an eyebrow. "Both?"

Sanji grinned and slid off the stool. "Be back in a few."

After slim hips and blond hair disappeared back into the kitchen, it was easier to breathe. It was easier to focus on the headlines, easier to taste the coffee. Law still felt eyes on him and he almost turned around to tell the other patrons to mind their own fucking business, but he didn't. He sat quietly and read. He listened to the clang and the sizzle coming from the grill. He heard Marty, the diner's night cook, say something and Sanji's musical laughter ring out through the window. If Law just closed his eyes, if he just let the smells and the sounds take him away, he could pretend that things were back to the way they were, back to the time when he was happy. Sanji was making dinner for the two of them, and then after his shift they would walk home together. He would complain that Sanji smelled like onions and garlic, and Sanji would complain that Law smelled like fish.

Neither one of them would really care, they would just do it because they enjoyed teasing each other.

The plate Sanji placed in front of him was something out of a dream. No one could get eggs to fluff or potatoes to brown like Sanji could. To Sanji food was art, a lifestyle. He put everything he had into every piece of every dish. When you ate Sanji's food, you knew you were experiencing a piece of Sanji's heart. His soul.

Looking over the food he had missed so much, along with the care and the attention and everything else that went with it, Law felt hot pressure behind his eyes. He covered up his momentary lack of control by busying himself with his napkin.

"You still like scrambled, I'm assuming."

Law made a noise. "You don't just change your preference for eggs. That's like changing your eye color."

Sanji laughed and the two of them talked while Law ate. The conversation was strange, but comforting. Easy in that way it had always been with Sanji, but almost like it wasn't real. Law went through the motions but worried that at any moment the man in front of him was going to disappear. So many times he had daydreamed of this very thing, and so many times he had woken up in his bed, cold and alone, his heart broken and bleeding out.

Please, don't let this be a dream. Please let this be real, even if he goes away again tomorrow and I never see him again. Just give me this.

The diner was empty by nine o'clock, save for a solitary trucker no doubt on his way to Winchester, or perhaps Newport. Sanji cleared Law's plates and offered a cigarette. Law hadn't smoked in almost six months, but he found he couldn't refuse. After paying, he followed the cook outside and took the offered stick from pale fingers. They stood underneath the diner's overhang and talked as the rain fell and the neon sign above them reflected in the puddles at their feet.

Sanji had done well for himself. He had finished three internships and aced his intensive French language classes. He told Law he was contemplating taking another internship at a school in the Mediterranean, or perhaps Spain, but he was also itching to start up a business of his own here in the states. Listening to Sanji speak about his work, Law felt a stirring in his heart. Sanji always had inspired him to do the best he could, to shoot for his dreams and pummel whoever stood in his way.

"What about you?"

The question threw Law and he froze.

"Uh, what about me, what?"

Sanji exhaled. "How about school? Weren't you going for a residency?"

Oh, yeah that.

Law shook his head, embarrassment and something akin to shame crawled up from his stomach and into his chest. "I fell behind."

Sanji looked at him, his face a mixture of surprise and concern. "What happened?"

"I got sick."

"What do you mean 'sick'? How sick?"

"It wasn't like I was dying…" Law crushed his cigarette butt under his heel and shoved his hands into his pockets. How exactly are you supposed to tell someone that after they left you couldn't make yourself get out of bed? How do you tell someone that because of them you forgot to eat for days? How do you say "because of you I ended up in the very hospital I was supposed to be working in" without sounding bitter or hateful?

"I finished school, so I can start my residency whenever I want. It's not like I dropped out and can never go back."

For several minutes, there was no sound but the rain. Sanji smoked beside him, and tossed the spent butt on the ground and crushed it beneath his toe. When he finally spoke, it was so quiet Law could barely make out his words.

"I'm sorry I wasn't here for you."

Law shook his head, smiled despite the hurt that tore through his chest. "Wouldn't have wanted you to see me like that. Kidd had to slap me around, Luffy threatened with tickling and titty-twisters and anything else he could think of. Nami even told me to get the hell better or she was going to fine me."

A smile cracked on Sanji's lips. "Ah, Nami. She has such a wonderful bedside manner."

Silence stretched again. There was so much more to say, so many things unspoken, but Law was sure that neither one of them was really comfortable saying any of it. Finally, Law decided it was enough. He had seen Sanji, and talked with him like he had been dreaming about for the last year, but there was only so much he could take before he broke down completely.

"Well, I have work tomorrow bright and early," he lied. "I'm gonna head home, get some sleep."

Sanji nodded and his eyes were sad. Law looked away quickly before he could pretend they were sad to see him go.

"If you ever want to… you know, talk or anything, you can get my number from Zoro. Or Luffy. Actually, you could get it from pretty much an—"

"I already have it," Sanji said softly.

Law didn't look at him, he couldn't. He merely nodded.

"Okay then. I'll… Bye, Sanji."

Law ducked into the rain, not waiting for Sanji's farewell. He didn't want to hear it. It was the last thing on earth he wanted to hear. He walked quickly through the downpour, his hands fisted so tightly in his pockets he could feel his nails cutting into his palms. Rainwater caught on his eyelashes, obscured his vision as he climbed the hill. He tried not to think about his actions and how absolutely pathetic he was.

Slamming his door behind him, Law shed his coat and moved immediately into the bathroom. He grabbed a towel from the rack and dried his hair. He slipped off his shoes and threw his socks into the hamper. Angry and frustrated with himself, he tossed the towel over the shower rod and stepped out into the small kitchen. He didn't bother turning on any of the lights and just sat down at the small table. He rested his head in his hands and just tried to breathe. After a few minutes, he lowered his head to his arms and tried to block out all the things that were trying to force their way into his head.

A pounding on his door startled Law awake. He rubbed at his eyes and turned to the digital clock above the stove. Almost ten thirty. Apparently, he had been asleep for about twenty minutes.

"Hang on!" he called.

Making his way through the dark, he grabbed the door handle and pulled.

Sanji really was the last person he had expected to be standing there.

Law's heart stopped beating.

His breath caught in his throat.

Sanji's hair was plastered to his face. His clothes were soaking, sticking to his thin frame. His lips were grey and he trembled from the cold, but he stood there with his hands shoved into his pockets, straight-backed and defiant.

"S…Sanji?" Law choked.

"I was going to come see you," Sanji said. He seemed angry. "I was going to come see you after the funeral, but then Luffy… Luffy said to give you some time, so I waited. And then I chickened out and hoped that I would just run into you, but I never did. I hung out at the diner and the bar, I even went down to the docks and pretended to visit Franky, like I hadn't just been at his house."

Law heard the words Sanji was speaking, but none of them made sense. If his hand hadn't still been gripping the door so fiercely he surely would have slid to the floor.

Sanji must have been expecting Law to remain silent because he continued without pause. His voice was frantic as if he only had moments to say too much and if he didn't there would never be another chance.

"And then, and then you were at the diner! You were there and I wasn't ready for it! And I had all these things that I wanted to say to you but I couldn't because there you were and I couldn't make my mouth work at first because you're just as sexy as you were when I left and there was no way you were ever going to forgive me…" he slowed, huffing angrily through his teeth as one hand pulled at his hair.

"It's just… fuck. I'm sorry. I'm really fucking sorry, okay? I was stupid and I didn't know. But you're fine, everyone says your fine, and I'm just… a fucking mess and I know now that I threw away the best thing in my life because of some stupid shit that doesn't even matter anymore, so…"

Sanji paused, breathing harsh. He lifted his eyes and they bore straight into Law's.

"I just wanted you to know that I love you. I still love you, and I'm sorry… I'm so sorry for fucking everything up."

With that he turned and stepped off the porch. He turned his collar up and walked away, straight into the rain and the dark. His silhouette slowly disappeared into the haze of the street.

Law stood still as stone. His world had disappeared. Time had stopped. There was no way this was real, and if it was that must mean that he was dead. He was dead and this was hell because Sanji had just come back to him and he couldn't make himself move. He couldn't speak. He could only stand and watch the person he loved most in the world walk away, leaving him again.

Law blinked.


Fuck no. It wasn't happening this way.

Law pushed away from the door. He ran down the steps. His bare feet splashed into puddles of ice cold water and trampled sharp rocks, but he felt nothing. He was flying.

"Sanji!" he cried. "Sanji, wait!"

Ahead of him, Sanji's outline turned back. His brilliant blue eyes came into focus as Law came near. Sanji's face was set in shock and his hands came out as Law ran to him, slammed into him and threw tattooed arms around his neck. Law pressed himself against Sanji's body frantically and almost sobbed in relief as the other man's arms came around him.

"It's okay," Law whispered into Sanji's neck, "It's okay… it's okay…"

Sanji was shaking, clutching at the back of Law's shirt. The rain was freezing, coming down like thousands of glass shards, but neither Law nor Sanji cared. The only thing that mattered was getting closer, pulling themselves into each other. The pain and the loneliness that had filled every corner of every part of Law for the last year fell away as the heat from Sanji's body replaced every broken part of him.

Sanji's hands were on his cheeks, pulling Law's face away from his neck so he could press their foreheads together. Their breath mingled, water dripped from Sanji's upper lip and fell to Law's lower.

"I missed you so much," Sanji said, "I thought about you every day."

Law's hands slid into Sanji's hair. He pulled softly as he whispered into the cook's mouth.

"Please come home."

Sanji kissed him and Law's heart soared. He opened for the cook and groaned as Sanji's tongue slid over his. The kiss was forceful, desperate. Law clung to Sanji as though he would slip away if he did not hold onto him tight enough. He pressed closer, pulled tighter, tried everything short of climbing into Sanji's body as Sanji invaded his mouth.

They would have stayed that way all night, kissing in the middle of the street, but Sanji stopped after lowering his hands to Law's hips.

"Babe," he panted, "babe, you're shivering."

Law took Sanji's hands and pulled him toward the house. "Come inside."

Sanji pulled the shirt from Law's body before the door slammed behind them. Piece after wet piece of clothing fell to the floor as they made their way through the hall and past the kitchen. Law felt his way through the house, not sparing a second though to where they were actually headed. He focused only on Sanji's skin as it was revealed; on Sanji's lips as they pressed against him everywhere.

When the backs of his knees hit the couch, Law fell back onto the cushions. Sanji came down on top of him, running his tongue up Law's neck, his hands pulling at his belt. Law scrambled to move up and give Sanji's long legs room. He frantically pushed at his own jeans, trying to get the sopping denim down his thighs. When flesh finally touched flesh, they both gasped. Law threw back his head and gripped strong hips as Sanji arched and rolled against him.

They slowed and Sanji ran a hand over Law's face, kissed him softly. Law managed to pull one leg from his jeans and wrapped it around one of Sanji's powerful thighs. He pulled Sanji against him, pressing his hips up eagerly. Sanji groaned, whispered against a tanned jaw, and slid his hand down to wrap around Law's hard length.

Law tried not to whimper, but it was impossible. His heart was beating so fast, his body was electrified. Every part of him was alive with want and need for Sanji, for Sanji's touch; for his body, for his heart. Law reached down to take Sanji's cock in his hand. He was rewarded with a sweet moan in his ear, and he turned and wrapped his free arm around the cook's neck. He kissed Sanji's lips.

He lost his mind as Sanji started to stroke him.

He wasn't going to last, he knew he wouldn't last, there was no way. It had been too long and Sanji was just too fucking perfect. Already tension was coiling, pressure was building. He stroked Sanji's length in turn, his back arched off the cushions, his breath came faster as Sanji pulled harder and ohgodohgodohgodSanji he came, his orgasm ripped through him like a fire in a dry field. He shuddered and shook as Sanji kissed his neck, his cheeks, his eyes.

"So beautiful," Sanji whispered as he kissed him, "you're so fucking perfect…"

Law was dizzy, his eyes refused to focus in the dark living room, but he still managed to crane his neck up to kiss Sanji again. He pushed with his hands, guiding Sanji to roll to his side, and sat up to yank his jeans off the rest of the way. When he turned back, Sanji was watching him, waiting patiently.

Slipping his fingers over the tops of Sanji's slacks, Law pulled the wet fabric down over thighs and shins that had never ceased to amaze him. Every inch was hard-packed muscle; power and grace wrapped around bone. He kissed one of Sanji's knees, slid his palms up smooth skin as he spread those long legs apart.

Sanji cursed as Law's mouth came down around him. He propped himself up on his elbows and watched as Law's lips slid over him again and again. Law couldn't see him clearly, but he felt Sanji's body tense, felt the cook's fingers in his hair and he moaned around hard flesh when those fingers pulled. When Sanji started making those noises that Law remembered so well, he pulled his lips back and finished the cook off with his hand. He sucked on the tip, savoring every splash of warmth against his tongue and licked every stray drop that escaped over his fingers.

Crawling back up Sanji's long body, Law collapsed on his side and curled against hot skin. He tucked his face into Sanji's neck and tried to catch his breath, ignoring the heat that had returned to his eyes. He clenched his jaw against emotions that would gladly betray him and wrapped an unsteady arm around Sanji's waist.

"Love you…" he whispered.

Sanji said nothing, but his hands were gentle as they ran over Law's skin and petted his hair. Law held him tighter and slipped a leg around one of Sanji's.

When the cook finally spoke, it was so quiet that for a moment, Law wasn't even sure he had really heard it.

"I don't deserve you…"

There was nothing at all that Law could say to that, so he closed his eyes and said a silent thank you to anyone out there that might be listening. He fell asleep, and for the first time in a year, slept peacefully.