A/N: Bonjour! I'm sure you've all missed me, considering I haven't updated either of my ZoSan stories in ages. I'm getting to them, promise. As for this - well, I've been writing tons of drabbles on my Sanji tumblr account (black-leg-cook-sanji for anyone who's interested). This one was inspired by Les Misérables, and the song is the title of this story. In my headcannon for Sanji, he was a momma's boy, having gotten his curly brows from her. This is him reuniting with her, finally. Anyway: don't own Sanji, don't own One Piece. I created Gaspard and Sanji's mother. I hope you enjoy!
How was I to know at last
That happiness can come so fast?
Trusting me the way you do,
I'm so afraid of failing you.
Although he was still young and so very strong, Sanji could feel age catching up with him. He had settled down years ago, upon this floating restaurant, accomplishing his dream. He may have only just touched thirty, but he felt the age of a hundred lifetimes, filled with adventures and laughter. A life on the sea had waited for him, and he would die at her feet someday.
On quiet days like this, he missed the familiar faces, the yelling, the screaming, the fighting… Sure, they had their excitement on the restaurant, but it was not nearly as exhilarating as the life of a pirate. They came to visit from time to time, only a crew of four now, the rest off on their own adventures after accomplishing their lifelong ambitions. When Luffy, Zoro, Franky, and Nami came, it was as if nothing had changed. Except for the fact that Nami and Luffy were madly in love, and he was happy for them.
He had a relationship of his own, a person that would stay by his side even when he was far away. Sanji gently touched the ring on his finger, remembering that exchange of vows, that awkward kiss - making them like awkward teenagers again. He brushed his hands through that short hair as they made love, whispering words of both joy and melancholy. It pained Sanji not to have him around, but he would live with it. Perhaps one day, Zoro would find solace on his little ship, and they could live happily ever after.
These silent mornings made him think, his thoughts going from the recent memories to ones far off. He stood at the maitre'd counter, smoking a cigarette. His blank gaze was upon the open door, the cool morning breeze whisking through the empty restaurant. The cooks were getting ready for the lunch ship, some of their guests already enjoying breakfast in bed. He offered a resting service to weary travelers, and it had paid off in the end; he lived to entertain, and they always asked him stories of life under the Pirate King. Sanji smirked. Finding One Piece still felt like it was yesterday, even though it was already years ago. He laughed to himself.
Zeff, the old man, would be visiting soon. He came once every few months to see how the restaurant was doing, comparing it to the Baratie every time he came. Though it was nice to see him, Patty, and Carne. Sanji's dreams had come true, and the three had entrusted him with their dreams. Something had changed in their relationship, for the better. They were like brothers with Zeff as their patronizing father, but Sanji would have it no other way.
There was now only one piece missing to the puzzle, but he had accepted a long time ago that this one dream, this fantasy of his … was just too farfetched. Though, Sanji had always been a dreamer, and he still had hope that she was still out there. Somewhere.
Suddenly, there were noises of a docking crew outside. A brow rose. It was early, too early for any real customers to be here. He would promptly tell them to leave, unless, of course, it was the crew coming back from fishing. All Blue gave them so many different opportunities for food. He'd offered Zeff, Patty, and Carne a home here, but they told him that the Baratie was their home. He snapped out of his thoughts when a lone figure stood in the shadows, the bright light of the morning sun silhouetting a woman's figure.
Suddenly I see
Suddenly it starts
When two anxious hearts
Beat as one.
Yesterday I was alone
Today you are beside me…
Sanji stood straight, fixing his appearance. The older woman, aging gracefully, entered the restaurant, a calm and gentle look on her features. She was a pale blond, hair streaked with gray, and her blue eyes were as bright as the ocean around them. Bangs covered her forehead, framing her angelic face. He put out his cigarette in the ashtray and cleared his throat.
"Madame," He began softly, "I'm afraid we are not open for business this morning." He was not surprised to see no change in her expression. A warm smile filled his face, "But I am afraid I cannot turn away a beautiful woman."
She chuckled, and Sanji was struck with a long lost memory of a young woman, chuckling as her son ran around with frosting all over his face, claiming he was the Cake Lord and that no one could stop him. "Merci, young man. I am honored." She responded in her North Blue dialect. "Would you sit with an old widow?"
Sanji's heart nearly stopped. Breathing was not an option, but he tried to will his body to continue to function as normal. A widow? Did that mean…? He smiled. "But of course," Sanji fell into his own North Blue dialect, so long forgotten and yet so natural in front of this little blond. "Follow me." He grabbed a menu anyway, and would cook for her himself if he had to. He had the urge to show this woman around, give her an exclusive tour, allow her to taste everything that was being prepared for the day. Sanji had not felt this giddy in years, the childhood he barely knew creeping up on him again.
His second in command, his sous-chef, entered the dining room to ask the owner a question. A confused furrow of the brow set off Gaspard, but Sanji waved him off with a flick of his wrist. It was a silent confirmation that Gaspard did not need Sanji's permission to do what he wanted. The younger man rolled his eyes with a smile, watching as his boss and the woman sat near a window.
Gaspard found himself lost watching their interactions, nearly forgetting why he left the kitchen in the first place. The way Sanji's face lit up with life; he had seen this look before in the galley and when his old friends swung around, but it was different. Happier. It put a smile on the brunette's face, and he sighed contently before turning to the kitchen.
The woman asked him many questions, of his adventures, how he attained this restaurant. Hours passed, and the lunch rush had started with the head chef oblivious. Gaspard could handle it, though, and would not burden Sanji. Not now. The sous-chef even ventured out with the specials of the menu - all of them from appetizer to dessert - and placed them before the duo. He clasped Sanji's shoulder before disappearing.
"I - " Sanji cleared his throat, watching her as she ate, seeing the delight in her face with each new dish. "I used my knowledge of the world's foods to create this menu. I wanted it to be a home from home, but also a place where others could try foods from all over the globe."
"That is very kind of you." She said gently, taking a sip of her wine. "Forgive me, but you remind me of someone who was very dear to me."
Sanji couldn't stop the shaking in his hands, to anxious to even touch the food on his plate. He swallowed back the bile in this throat, the nervousness pooling in his stomach. Could it really be?
"My son was separated from me at a very young age," She tucked her hair behind her ear, staring down at the food. "He was a bright boy, interesting in cooking, in all kinds of foods, with a dream of finding All Blue some day. But his father was a monster, and we had no money… Giving up my son was the day that I thought I had died." When she looked into Sanji's eyes with a knowing look, the tears glistened in his own eyes. She was staring at his curly brow, putting a hand against her bangs. "But you have given me hope, young chef. Tell me, what is your name?"
It was at this moment that Sanji realized the woman was blind in her left eye. The milky hue stood out to him, bringing him back to that dark night. He could barely remember, but she was there, much younger, sobbing for her son who had to witness this pain. Sanji's mouth hung open, and he tried to remember how to speak.
She was crying. She had already known the answer to that, she had known it with every fiber of her being. She reached out, grabbing his hand tightly, trembling just as he. "I am certain you make your mother proud, Sanji. I wish you nothing but happiness." She felt the ring on his finger, looking down. "You are married?"
"To a man whom I love dearly," Sanji answered, holding her hand in fear of letting go, of losing her again. They didn't need to say it. They both knew.
"I am glad."
They sat like that for quite some time, silent, their hands still tightly grasped.
Finally, she faltered. "I'm afraid, Sanji, I must go now."
"Stay," Sanji said in a quick moment of weakness, having a feeling he already knew the answer. "We have more than enough room for one more permanent guest. I -"
She smiled sadly at him, brushing her thumb over his hand. Sanji closed his eyes, swallowing loudly, clasping both his hands over hers. "Avez-vous vraiment besoin d'aller?"
"Oui, mon garçon. Je vais revenir un jour." Her eyes were glistening with more tears, and she kissed his hands. "Je te promets."
The lost child opened his eyes, feeling the pain of leaving for the Orbit all over again, but there was a joy burning in his chest that he could not hide. His mother was alive and well and here. Just having this was enough to make him happy for the rest of his days. He smiled through his tears and helped her out of the chair, walking her out to her boat. The night breeze had come, strangely warm as it embraced him. He stood on the deck of his restaurant, watching her as she walked up the ramp to her small ship.
The ship disembarked, and she turned to wave at him. The wind brushed her bangs away from her face, revealing two similar swirly brows, confirming something that neither of them could say aloud. Sanji waved in return before sticking his hands in his pockets, watching as the ship disappeared in the night. He wished her to be safe, and that one day that their paths would cross again.
"Sanji," Gaspard appeared in the doorway later; the dinner guests all gone, the restaurant closed. The blond had not moved from the spot, a cigarette locked between his lips. Gaspard had encountered Sanji back when the man was still a pirate, knew how scary and intimidating he could be, but to see this serene, content look on his face was … Gaspard couldn't explain it. There was a forlorn look in his eyes, but he knew Sanji was happy. "How about you get your ass back in the kitchen and help us clean up, huh?" He smirked, approaching the man, standing next to him and staring out to the ocean. "You shirked your responsibilities all day. You're setting a bad example for the new guys."
"Go fuck yourself."
The thank you was left unsaid, understood by the two men. The brunette couldn't stop grinning after seeing the smirk on his boss' face.
Gaspard yawned, stretching his arms out. "Well, if you're going to be an asshole, I guess there's no point." He crossed them soon after, staring at the moonlight glistening off the dark water. "Qui était-ce?" He asked, having a hunch.
Sanji blew smoke into the air, gazing up at the stars.
"Le cadeau de vie."
A/N: The french translations for those of you who wish to know:
"Avez-vous vraiment besoin d'aller?" - "Do you really have to go?"
"Oui, mon garçon. Je vais revenir un jour. Je te promets." = "Yes, my boy. I will return someday. I promise."
"Qui était-ce?" - "Who was that?"
"Le cadeau de vie." - "The gift of life."
Until next time~