This fic is a side fic to It's Time For A Change! If you had read the other fic, you would probably get the ending of this one. Well, even if you didn't, this story should make sense (as much as it does with this rare pairing and poor battle scene, LOL!) too.
I do not own One Piece!
The first time they met was when the Whitebeard Pirates were getting the Strawhat Pirates out of trouble once again.
When the surrounding Marine ships almost caught up with the Thousand Sunny, the Moby Dick intervened which allowed them to escape. Ever since the Marineford war had ended, the Whitebeard Pirates had grown more aggressive towards the Marines. It was no surprising since they had lost two of their most important members. Throughout the years, they had reclaimed the islands that used to be under Whitebeard so that they could pull them out of their plight.
Not all pirates were as kind as Whitebeard or Shanks.
Those who claimed those island usually used them for their own benefit out of their expenses. When Whitebeard took them under him, they hardly had to worry since Whitebeard had never made outrageous demands. However, the rest of the world didn't understand that. The nobles, pirates and people living in other cities viewed him as a dangerous criminal who deserved to die. But at least the islanders who were protected by Whitebeard would always stay true to him. Marco planned to keep the spirit alive and continued to fight his way with his experience. He was already one of the strongest and his abilities was even noticed by the World Government before he became the new Captain of the Whitebeard Pirates and Yonko.
When they arrived at the island together after shaking the marines off their tail, Luffy immediately greeted Marco with much enthusiasm. He could see that Ace's brother was different. He had grown more mature despite the ever more childish behavior compared to many normal people.
Then, Marco proposed a fight between one of his crew members to see if they were capable to protecting Luffy. Their first-mate had somehow gotten lost in the island (again, as the rest of the crew members said) and he ended up facing the cook instead. The fight wasn't concluded after a joke at his devil fruit ability and Luffy who took the joke to heart and tried to catch Marco for their lunch.
"Let's take a break, shall we?" his opponent had proposed afterwards. Sanji, the cook of the ship, was his name.
It had been awhile since he had seen a smile which was as sincere yet innocent as Luffy's.
When Sanji was cooking for everyone including the Whitebeard Pirates (Marco wondered how would Sanji be able to manage that since he said he'd do it with that much of confidence), he had a nice talk with Luffy about his crew members. They steered clear away from Ace's and Whitebeard's death since they hadn't completely gotten over that yet and it wasn't a proper topic to talk about for their first meeting ever since Luffy set off for the New World.
"Zoro is a swordsman and he is really strong! He could use three swords at a time and you wouldn't even be able to see that he was attacking you," Luffy went on cheerfully. "Sanji's food is the best. He is strong too and he always get into fights with Zoro. Shishishishi! Nami is our awesome navigator and she really loves money!"
And Luffy went on with the list.
Marco thought that his crew has a very strange… variety. Especially the skeleton.
"Well, I've only fought your cook so far and he is pretty impressive, yoi. I've thought that I've seen that fighting style somewhere before," Marco commented.
"Sanji once said that Zeff taught him how to fight when he was on the Baratie. Ah, I missed that restaurant. I wish I can go there again," Luffy reminisced.
"Zeff," Marco let the word slip through his lips. No wonder Sanji's fighting style seemed so familiar. Whitebeard and Zeff used to have a friendly spar after the former had his meal on Zeff's ship. It was a long time ago but Marco had a pretty good memory of veterans who are good friends with Whitebeard. "I see. I've met him before too, yoi."
"You did? Sanji said that he taught him how to cook delicious food!"
"I suppose they are mentor and student then. Zeff must be very proud."
"Yeah and they are pretty close too. Shishishishi," Luffy snickered.
Marco continued to contemplate on this before putting the matter away from his mind. No one really knew what he was really thinking most of the time other than Thatch and Whitebeard. Even though he could be friendly, he only kept it within his crew and wasn't as energetic as most of them.
He really missed Whitebeard, Thatch and Ace. They were the closest members and the former two had been with him the longest on this crew. It was heartbreaking for him to lose all three of them within such a short amount of time. Ever since then he had become more reserved and withdrawn yet never to the point whereby he would be completely closed off from the crew He had no one close who he could talk with freely about his personal problems anymore. There wasn't a place for him to let things out verbally. It felt suffocating at times but it wouldn't stop him from bottling many things up. If he showed his insecurities, he wouldn't be good enough to protect to crew. Without a strong front, how would the ones he wanted to protect feel safe? He may seemed like he was underestimating his crew but Marco always worries no matter what.
"What about that person?" Luffy asked when they had moved the subject to Marco's own crew. "He seemed like a guy but…"
"That's Izo," Marco said after looking over to where Luffy was pointing towards. "He has a hobby of crossdressing, yoi."
"It means to dress up as a female," Marco explained.
A few distance away, Izo had seemingly overheard the conversation and huffed. "The least you could do is to give a much nicer explanation to Ace's little brother. You make me sound like some pervert! It's just my interest and I like feminine clothes more."
"Is that supposed to sound better, yoi?" Marco retorted playfully.
"Maybe it will after I hang a pineapple outside your door," Izo shot back teasingly.
"Oh, how lovely," Marco said sarcastically.
"Shishishishi," Luffy snickered again. "You guys are pretty funny!"
Marco and Izo gave him a weird look before smiling.
"Food is ready," Sanji announced from the kitchen.
Marco felt a dash of wind flying past him and when he turned around, Luffy was already gone.
"Food! Food! Food! Food! Food!" Luffy chanted.
"Oi! Ladies' first!" Sanji snapped.
"Ah, food is finally ready," Brook said.
"Today's lunch look just as good!" Usopp piped in.
"Which part of ladies' first did you guys not understand?" Sanji shouted.
Again, he was ignored when Luffy and the others started to dive for lunch as though it would be their last. It had always been like that so Sanji had already gotten used to it. He brought the tray containing two plates of food and served the two women on the ship. There was a long table lined up along Moby Dick's deck filled with plates of different kind of food. Despite the quantity, Sanji doubted that it would be enough as long as Luffy was there. Hopefully the Whitebeard Pirates would be smart and fast enough to make a grab of their share before they have to starve for the afternoon.
Sanji had made so much that he was already full from tasting.
"I guess I'll be going back to my room," Marco said and stood up.
"Huh? You're not going to get anything?" Sanji asked.
"Nah. I still have things to do, yoi."
"Well, that can wait, can't it? I've already made a lot for everyone so I don't want anyone to miss lunch. Just grab a few bites or something. Or was the food not to your liking? I heard that guy called Izo said something about you only eating bird seeds or else you'd start plucking your own feathers. We don't have any bird seeds so you'd just have to make with what I've made."
"He's lying. I don't eat bird seeds or pluck my feathers either," Marco said simply and shot the snickering Izo a glare.
"Is that so? Then it's fine, isn't it? Just eat something. I don't let my customers or guests go hungry," Sanji persuaded.
Marco gave in and sighed. "If you insist, yoi."
After trying to avoid being hit by Luffy's arm and battling his way through the crowd, Marco finally emerged with a sensible amount of food on his plate. Luffy wasn't even holding a plate. He was eating everything from the table even though Sanji had stopped eating to scold him so many times. It must be tough for the cook to control a hungry Luffy.
Marco returned to his first spot, where Sanji was, to make himself comfortable enough to eat. Sanji still remained on the same area all this time, giving the better spaces for both crews to eat while the females took the tables on Thousand Sunny's deck.
"I heard that your mentor was Zeff," Marco started off.
"Yeah. You know the old man? He did say that he was pretty strong when he was traveling in the Grand Line."
"Pops and him are old friends so I got to meet him occasionally as well. We were his regular customers too before he left the Grand Line, yoi. Your fighting style was similar to his so I got curious and brought it up with your captain."
"The old man used to teach me how to fight. We go a long way back. I didn't like him initially because his ship attacked the cruise ship that I was working as a chef at. In the end, a tidal wave swallowed all of us up."
"What happened after that, yoi?"
"He saved me for some odd reasons and we ended up stranded on an island. He tricked me into eating the only bag of food available while he starved. That's when I started to respect him, I guess. When he established a restaurant, I worked for it naturally."
Things weren't this simple but Sanji was never good at expressing his relationship with Zeff.
"Zeff wasn't soft, yoi," Marco commented. "He had his honors in preventing killing during raids but it was rare for him to grow on anyone."
"I hope I wasn't an exception."
"I think you are, especially yourself."
"I think I need to take a trip to the bathroom."
Marco chuckled. He could tell that Sanji was acting like this because he was feeling awkward. Ace wasn't good at expressing himself either before he had gotten used to it. Marco wasn't very open about how close he was with Whitebeard to anyone either. It was an embarrassing topic for men. The only time whereby Sanji would be honest about his feelings was when in face of a beautiful female.
"Why did you decide to quit working at the restaurant to sail with Ace's brother, yoi?" He wasn't sure where the questions came from but Marco felt interested to know this man.
"Have you heard of the All Blue?" Sanji asked and a childish smile slowly appeared on his face. His eyes sparkled like a kid when having found his favorite toy in the world. "It's a sea whereby all kinds of sea creatures from East Blue, West Blue, North Blue and South Blue come together. It's known as a cook's paradise and I want to look for it."
"It might very well exist," Marco replied.
"Do you really think so?"
"Yeah, why not?"
This guy wasn't pretty bad after all, Sanji had thought.
The trip together had went along pretty well. Even though they had agreed to part ways at the next island, the plans changed when Blackbeard appeared again. The Whitebeard Pirates wanted to avenge their dead comrades while Luffy became more concerned for them. It wasn't that he thought the Whitebeard Pirates were weak but he just didn't want to lose any more friends after he had lost Ace. His crew easily went along with their captain and chased them down.
In the end, they couldn't eliminate Blackbeard. He had grown stronger during the two years but Marco was able to withstand his devil fruits abilities and got all of them out of the fight before more friends had gotten hurt. The Strawhat Pirates were able to make it out as well but there were causalities among them. They didn't fight Blackbeard but his followers was also a challenge. The strongest people on both of their crews were Marco, Luffy, the remaining commanders, Zoro and Sanji but it still wasn't enough to be evenly matched with Blackbeard and his crew. Not yet, at least.
After the fight had ended, Marco had shut himself in his room more than before while Luffy had grown more solemn after hearing Blackbeard's words. They were the most affected out of everyone. But as everyone had believed in, Luffy was able to get over it in due time. Izo and Jozu, however, was concerned about their more reserved captain.
The first thing was that Marco started to skip meals and Sanji was allowed to visit his room as long as he was able to get their captain to eat. It was successful as Sanji had dealt with many stubborn customers and like the other Strawhat Pirates, hardly anything could really intimidate them.
"They were all worried about you," Sanji said after not needing to force feed the stubborn blonde.
"They shouldn't. I'm fine, yoi."
"Come on, all of us have a fine pair of eyes unless you're including our captain." It'd have to take a very blind man to refuse a proposal from the most beautiful woman in the sea. "No matter what you say, they will worry. I know what that roasted beef had said was too far but don't shut yourself out forever. Or at least keep yourself healthy enough to wash the dishes."
"I can't forgive him for what he did to pops. He killed him and stole his devil fruit ability. I can't keep myself calm, yoi."
"Everyone on your ship feels the same way. We don't really like him either. All of us wants to bury his corpse in Ookami island. So… you're not alone in this."
Sanji wasn't very good with words either.
As if sensing his discomfort, Marco chuckled and didn't make him speak anymore. "I understand. I apologize for worrying all of you."
"Good thing that you did. Maybe those guys will stop piling their pineapple tarts onto the tray I was bringing to you."
Marco looked at the enormous amount of desserts made of the fruit that had been compared to his head as a joke. "Those guys," Marco grumbled.
"Apparently they thought that your brothers would be able to get you out of the room," Sanji said.
"I'll be ordering all of them to cut the hairstyle of a watermelon soon."
"Then this crew can be renamed as the Watermelon Pirates- Oh, there is a Pineapple too."
"Ha ha," Marco said sarcastically.
Sanji watches out for everyone's health, just like how Marco watches out for everyone's safety.
After spending more time together, Marco and Sanji had gotten closer. At first, they mostly confided in each other about their respective crews' antics. Sanji does have his moments too but it wasn't as bad as Luffy putting a shark into the aquarium tank, Zoro getting lost on a straight path, Usopp almost following Luffy's examples at some times, Chopper jumping into the water after Luffy fell into it (Sanji was usually the one who had to jump after the both of them), Franky's choice of clothings and Brook's random farts and burps. Sanji never had anything bad to say about Nami and Robin but Marco thought that the former was strange because of her love for money that made her prioritize it over Sanji's life (which Sanji was more than willing to put it on the line for the sake of her). Robin watches over the crew too but does it in the shadows.
Marco's own crew was self-explanatory. When they weren't busy, they were pulling pranks on him.
Very soon, their talks had grown more personal and Marco became less reserved. Around the same time, he had paid more attention to Sanji even when they weren't talking or standing next to each other. He watches out for the blond cook (who has his own reckless moments of going solo during huge fights with another gang of people) more but still kept a close eye on his own crew and Ace's brother.
He knew that his feelings towards Sanji wasn't normal. He realized it after he had taken care of him. He already knew it even when he was opening up to him. But he wouldn't do anything, at least after Blackbeard was defeated and everything became peaceful again.
"I can't believe that we're close to our captain's dream," Sanji muttered.
"We're also getting close to Blackbeard. This should be our final encounter, yoi."
"Are you scared?" Sanji teased.
"Not a chance."
While most of the Whitebeard's crew, Nami, Franky, Usopp, Brook, Chopper and Robin stayed behind at the outskirts to fight off the Marine fleet, the others went ahead to face Blackbeard and the gang. The Revolutionary Army had joined them shortly before and Luffy was able to reunite with his supposedly dead other brother, Sabo. Dragon had left to face Akainu and the rest of the vice admirals. It was a huge war on the last island of the Grand Line.
"Look what do we have here," a member of the Blackbeard Pirates spoke.
"Not another one," Zoro grumbled.
"I'll fight this one. You guys go ahead," Sanji ordered and took out a cigarette. "It won't be good if our captain were to get tickled by a minor enemy before facing the big boss."
"Are you sure, Sanji?" Luffy asked in concern.
"Oi, don't speak as though I can't win this. Just go. I'll catch up to you guys after I make snacks out of this one. I know you probably don't want to leave someone behind but you have more important things to deal with. Just trust me on this one."
"I'll stay behind too, yoi."
Sanji looked at him weirdly. "You wanted to fight Blackbeard too, don't you?"
"I do. My abilities allow me to recover so it wouldn't matter if I get pricked once. And it should be quicker this way, yoi."
Luffy nodded, choosing to trust his friends and let them have their own battles. "Alright, I'll leave it to you guys. You have to catch up to us soon, okay?"
"We're not going to wait for you when the party starts," Zoro warned.
"Just leave Luffy to me," Sabo reassured and the three of them continued making their way.
"I suppose you are not going to allow me to chase after them," the Blackbeard pirate spoke, knowing that it'd be useless if he tried and it'd leave an opening for the both of them. He was dealing with Marco the Phoenix and Black Leg Sanji this time. "No matter. Blackbeard will crush them anyway."
"Don't make hasty assumptions when the oil isn't heated yet," Sanji said.
"Leave the talking aside. Let your hands do the talking, yoi." Marco took on his phoenix form and allowed Sanji to jump onto his back.
Of course, the both of them easily won over the Blackbeard pirate and made their way to where Blackbeard and Luffy were fighting.
The sky had split once again like how it did when Whitebeard and Shanks clashed. The clouds had disappeared and the sky took on a fiery orange color fading into dark blue from the bottom of their sight. The air was limited and their surroundings had already been reduced to pathetic shambles (except the trees which were rooted to the ground and the roots were out of Yami Yami no Mi's reach) upon Blackbeard's power. Only Luffy, Sabo, Marco, Zoro were left at the bottom of the altar. They were still only evenly matched against Blackbeard's abilities. Even if he was unable to suppress Sabo, Zoro and Sanji with his Yami Yami no Mi, his Gura Gura no Mi was a more difficult feat to overcome.
In the end, Sanji and Zoro were injured badly while Sabo was struggling.
"Zehahahaha! I'll be the strongest in the world!"
"I'M going to be the Pirate King!" Luffy yelled.
"Someone who steals other's abilities will never be strong, yoi!"
"What you say doesn't matter, what will only matter are your dead bodies!" Blackbeard bellowed and activate the Gura Gura no Mi's ability once again, sending the surroundings into a vicious shake. "If you can't defeat me, your words are meaningless!"
"I will definitely defeat you! Third Gear! Gomu Gomu no-" Luffy ran over and leapt as both of his hands enlarged into an abnormal size.
Blackbeard smirked and easily side-stepped with his speed but caught Marco flying over at the corner of his eyes. He turned around and activated Gura Gura no Mi again to send him crashing into the wall. The amount of time it took the Gura Gura no Mi's ability to take effect, Sabo made use of the distraction to swing his bo staff at Luffy to further his distance. When Blackbeard noticed what was happening, it was too late as Luffy had already sent his powerful punches towards Blackbeard. It wasn't over yet but they had dealt a powerful blow to weaken him greatly.
"Are you alright?" Sabo called out.
"Yeah, I'm fine, yoi," Marco answered and winced when his regeneration was starting to get slower. He had already regenerated many heavy blows he sustained and was already nearing his limit. It had been a very long battle indeed.
"Urgh," Blackbeard groaned and stood up. "It's not over yet!" he yelled and his fists glowed white. Before he could activate the earthquakes, his body was suddenly pushed backwards.
"What happened to him?" Luffy asked as Blackbeard was struggling on the ground.
"Your attack must've dealt a lot of damage. On top of that, his Yami Yami no Mi doubles the impact. No matter how strong his body may be, once it's weakened to this extent, it won't be able to sustain more than one fruit ability inside. On top of that, both of the fruits abilities he had taken each shortens his lifespans."
"You mean that he is dying?" Zoro asked.
"Possibly. But aside from that, the stronger and secondary devil fruit power is going berserk. As it dealt damage to Blackbeard himself, the Yami Yami no Mi doubles everything. "The two fruits are destroying him."
Blackbeard roared loudly and started trashing around. His fists flew everywhere in trying to control it once again but it was only sending earthquakes everywhere including in his own body. The only place that wasn't affected was the altar.
"Everyone, hurry up and get to the altar," Sabo ordered as everyone dodged the the visible cracks that was formed.
"Sanji!" Marco shouted when one of Sanji's legs was caught in the attack.
Sanji cursed and was brought down onto a knee. "Don't mind me! Get moving! Don't you dare stop now or I'll get mad!"
The shaking grew even more violent as the attack became more irregular and quicker. The ground soon began to split in many directions and the sky became distorted. As an a crack formed beneath Sanji, the ground began to split under him as well and threatened to swallow him up. The rest of them were already nearing the altar but Marco immediately turned back and flew over to Sanji. Luffy wanted to go to but couldn't when Sabo and Zoro were pulling him away, not wanting to go against Sanji's words.
"Stay back!" Sanji yelled at Marco when his phoenix form flew over.
The Yonko didn't listen as the bird wrapped his large wings around Sanji before he turned back to his hybrid form.
"Your wounds…" Sanji trailed off when he noticed that they weren't recovered.
"Looks like I'm reaching my limit too, yoi…"
"Damn it. Then all the more you should've stayed back like I told you to, you shitty bastard."
"Three is already enough for me. Plus, I wanted to do this for some time," he muttered and suddenly pressed his lips against Sanji's.
Sanji's eyes widened when he felt Marco's lips against his. He had wanted to do this? Crazy bastard… Just when they were about to drop to their deaths too. This wasn't the time to do this sort of thing, ya know? And without waiting for Sanji's consent too? Even when this was all too sudden for Sanji, he found himself accepting the gesture and didn't pull away. So all those secretive glances and looks weren't figments of Sanji's imaginations. Marco had really been looking in his way. And now he is doing something like this... where everyone... could see. Really… Marco is such a…
Crazy shitty bastard…
The world around them grew black before a flash of white appeared and Sanji found himself in the Baratie while Marco in front of Whitebeard's smiling face.
The last thing they could remember was when all of them were preparing to face Blackbeard under a cloudless sky.
Sorry guys, battle scenes are really my weakest point so forgive me if the so-called 'final battle' sucked. TTATT Review, yeah? :DD