Disclaimer: I do not own One Piece.
Summary: After a ten-long year absence without finding any sign of him, Sanji is fairly certain he's never going to see Usopp again. But fate has other plans for the cook as he finally manages to reunite with the long-nosed liar in the most unexpected of places.
Warnings: Language (I'm beginning to notice this is always a warning when Sanji is involved), AU, boy/boy relations, slight alcohol consumption and some non-explicit sexual content.
Yet another late entry for Sanuso Saturday; though, hopefully the length makes up for that! This is one of my longer one-shots and, like usual, I'm wondering what is up with my brain and what exactly did I spend two weeks writing. But IchigoOtaku01 gave me a prompt and well… this was the result.
Just as a side note: There are no OCs in this story but some of the mentioned characters are a bit obscure so you may not recognize them!
It was like a fantasy really – the soft sand between his toes, the summer sun warming his shoulders, clear ocean waves making a constant rhythm against the beach and a sea salt breeze teasing his hair playfully. And, of course, let's not forget the ladies. Gorgeous ladies of all kinds: tall and short, thin and stout, snow-white and caramel skinned. Each one was a sight to behold in their sexy little bikinis and their recently oiled bodies glistening.
Yes. He was truly in paradise.
Then the fantasy snapped in two like the titanic in its final moments and for a moment he wanted to reach out towards the fading vestiges of the illusion, promising like Rose to never let it go.
His eyes flew open, the sights around him reminding him he wasn't on the stunningly beautiful Miami Beach full of leggy, busty women but instead an over-crowded, stuffy library room full of, well, mostly women but they weren't in skimpy clothing and asking him to lotion them.
"Ah, yes angel?" Sanji responded, unable to believe he had wandered into his rampant fantasies twice in a matter of seconds.
"Oh, is that so?"
A long time ago, Sanji told himself if he was ever at the southern side of Florida, he wasn't going to do anything but spend time down by the water, having a true man's dream vacation. And yet, here he was, only miles away from the nearest beach and instead opting to spend that precious time standing in this horrendous line for nearly two hours trying to get a signature from some children's book author, his soothing ocean waves replaced with the screeches and crying of dozens of kids and the chides of increasingly (but understandably so) impatient mothers.
Baby, how did you handle this? Sanji thought, running a hand over his face and thinking of his late wife.
Little fingers grasped at his hand, and he turned his head down, his daughter smiling excitedly up at him. He could at least be thankful that his daughter was a perfectly well-mannered angel (never mind the pinching war she had with the boys in front of them or the crying fit an hour ago). She was worth all the trouble in the world.
Sanji crouched down on one knee, saying to her. "You've got your book Laki?"
"Uh-huh!" She nodded rapidly, her little ponytail bouncing as she showed her dad with a proud smile. It was her favorite of course and one he'd read to her so many times the spine was worn out. He could probably recite every line by heart without even flipping the cover – the tale of how the red-caped hero Armadillo Man flew atop his shape shifting sidekick Nukky to reach a land high up in the sky, solving a quarrel using only his wit and some rubber bands.
"And you remember what to say after she signs it right?"
"Thank you very much, Mrs. King!"
"That's my little girl. I'm so proud." Sanji said, kissing her forehead. Being preoccupied as he was, he didn't notice the family ahead of them moving aside. And what happened next might not have surprised him as much as it did had he been able to see around them from the get go; but the mother of the family had been blocking his sight because she was… well….
Well, if some women were hourglasses, other women were defined by… other shapes.
Of which he would not say or even think of one of them lest he be rude. Because a woman was still a woman and were worthy of only the utmost respect. Always.
Besides, she probably deserved his thanks as her unique build managed to keep the secret until the very end – after all, who wanted to open a surprise early, right?
And, it wasn't simply because Sakka King, author of the popular Armadillo Man series and best-selling children's book author of the century, was not a woman as he had expected.
"S… S… Sanji?!"
It was also because he knew him.
Sanji's head jerked up, something deep down inside of him clenching up suddenly at that familiar voice. One he thought he'd never hear again. "Usopp?!"
And, completely naïve to the two men's complete and total shock, Laki pulled on the end of his shirt, asking, "Daddy, do I still say Mrs.?"
"Daddy, look! It's Nukky! Here he is as the giant goldfish!"
"I see that angel. Be careful though, okay?"
"Ah, she won't hurt them." Usopp chuckled, watching the little girl rearrange his collection shelf as she picked up the little assortment of plastic figures one after another, chattering mostly to herself. Although he couldn't help but wince just a bit when she suddenly stopped, the toy of Nukky imitating Nora Gitsune the fox from volume 2 falling from her hand and clattering on the hardwood floor.
Noticing his reaction, Sanji started to scold, "Laki I said-"
"DADDY!" She cut him off with her excited screech, pointing up at a stuffed plush of a red and yellow bird poking out over the edge of the top shelf. She started to practically dance in place. "It's Nukkynix!"
"Okay angel, but-"
Completely ignoring her father, she turned to Usopp, eyes wide, "Can I hold him, Mr. King?"
Usopp spared a glance towards him, chuckling at the pout the cook wore over being snubbed by his own daughter before nodding to her, "Sure." He crossed the room, snatching the plush from its spot and handed it down to her. "You go ahead and play with whatever you like, okay?"
"Really?!" She squealed, hugging the bird tightly, "Thank you Mr. King!"
The writer offered the young girl a smile, leaving her to it and knowing good and well he would have quite a mess to clean up later. Sanji spared his daughter a look, seeing her already dragging a good deal of toys to the floor to play with, before following his old friend down the hall asking, "Sure you're alright with that?"
"Yeah, it's fine. Besides, I'm sure you've had just as long of a day as I have. This way we can relax." Usopp said as they entered the living room where they found a seat on the couch together. He didn't waste any time kicking off his shoes and crossing them atop the coffee tabletop. "Man, I still can't believe you're here, you know that?"
"Yeah… me either." Sanji said mind still reeling from it all as he unconsciously reached for a cigarette before remembering it wasn't there. After ten years, he had never imagined he would see Usopp again. But now here he was, having been taken to his best friend's home after he finished the signing with plans to have dinner together and catch up. He looked around the room. "You seem to be doing well for yourself."
"Heh… yeah. Life isn't bad." Usopp replied, snorting with amusement. "Can't believe you thought I was a girl though."
Sanji argued, "Well how is that my fault? Sakka?"
"It means 'writer'! You know like, Writer King?" The other shot back defensively, adding, "And it was my editor's idea. He said pen names sell better, especially catchy ones and Usopp Dellator isn't… well…" He just shrugged his shoulders as if that explained everything. "I said as long as I was still allowed to write the story the way I wanted too and draw all the artwork, I didn't care what they called me."
Laughter floated from the other room, making them both glance towards it. As it faded away, Usopp leaned towards him some, smiling, "And look at you Sanj'. A family, wow! I mean I always knew it'd happen one day, but… I guess somehow I'm still surprised." He shot another look at the hall when another giddy noise came from it. "Laki's real cute; bet you spoil her like crazy too. Who's her mom? Anyone I know?"
Sanji nodded. "Baby."
"Baby?!" Usopp repeated, surprised. "You mean, Baby Dressrosa? That cute little French girl from math?"
"The one in the same." He said.
The writer fell back into the arm of the couch, shaking his head in amazement. "Wow. How'd you manage that? I thought she had that real overprotective cousin who made sure she didn't keep a boyfriend for more than two weeks?"
"Tch," Sanji scowled a little, "Like I'd let any shithead get in the way of my love life – especially not some feather boa wearing freak like Doflamingo."
Usopp chortled, looking away as he said hesitantly, "Well… I'm sure you guys are real happy."
"Yeah… we were." Sanji said heavily, expecting the look of confusion that played on the other's face. He looked down at his hand, thumb unconsciously running over the empty skin of his ring finger. He had only taken it off a few months ago. "Baby passed away two years ago."
Usopp's eyes widened, his lips parted but momentarily lost for words. After almost a full minute though, he finally managed to murmur, "What from?"
"Lung cancer." He felt more than saw the other flinch. "You know what the shittiest part about it was? Just a few weeks before she was diagnosed, we had actually been talking about quitting so Laki wouldn't imitate us."
"So that's why you haven't…" The writer started but didn't finish the sentence, only getting a nod as an answer. "Jeez Sanji… I'm so sorry."
He shook his head, adding, "At least I have Laki. It helps." He smiled faintly. "Baby may be gone, but she left me with the greatest gift a woman can give a man besides her love."
"Even still I wish that…"
Sanji wasn't sure if Usopp was going to say 'it didn't happen' or 'I was there'; he never did manage to get the words out. So the blonde spoke up instead. "Forget it; what's past is past. Life hands you a shitty deal sometimes; you can only move forward from it, right?"
Brown eyes rose and met his, the look on his face unsure even as he nodded.
They kept the conversation light after that. They talked about work and his restaurant that he both owned and was head chef for or what it was like living down by the coast versus the little tucked away town up north he now lived in. It was nothing like the usual banter they had shared. It was awkward and strained and all pretty god damn stupid because he knew he was holding back from bringing up the thousands of questions he had and, if the way Usopp kept biting on his lip was any indication, so was he.
So he tried testing the waters. "And I mean, it's not supposed to be that color right? Baby kept saying I was being too worried about a little yellow snot, but still I call up Chopper and-"
Usopp uncurled from the bundle he had made of himself on the couch immediately. "W-Wait, Chopper? You mean you still talk to him?"
"Yeah," Sanji answered. "I still see the whole gang all the time."
"O-Oh… Well… that's great!" The response was lackluster at best, a mixed expression on his face.
Ask. Ask damn it! I know you want to! Sanji thought as they stared at one another for several long, silent moments. But Usopp averted his gaze and didn't.
"It's already six." The dark-skinned man said instead. "I promised you and Laki dinner; we'd better head out if we're still going to do that."
He held back the reflex urging him to kick the other's skull in. Do you think we hate you? He wanted to blurt out, despite the other's inhibitions; but the chef side of him counseled him to wait. Maybe after they had some food in them, his old friend would be more willing to talk. "Yeah, alright. Let me go get Laki then."
The doorknob rattled as it was unlocked and turned, admitting three people into the house. The smallest of the three immediately sprinted across room to where a phoenix plush sat waiting on the coffee table where it had been left. The taller two came in more slowly, chattering to one another.
"I still can't believe I had to stop you from going into the kitchen!" Usopp was saying as he hung his keys on the hook by the entrance.
"Did you see what they did to the tilapia? You could just tell they cut out the tender part and probably tossed out the rest. It was a monstrosity! I was just going to teach them a shitty lesson."
"You scared our poor waiter into almost quitting!" The writer tried to give him a scolding look, but was unable to hold it up under his amusement. "What they say is true: cooks make the worst customers."
"But," The two of them paused at the small voice, seeing Laki had plopped herself down right in the middle of the floor with Nukkynix balanced on her knees, saying matter-of-factly, "Daddy's food is better."
Sanji grinned, wiggling in place, "Ah, thank you angel! Your heart must be made of gold to say such a kind thing!" Then to Usopp, "See, even my daughter has better taste."
"Of course she does, you're a cook." He crossly repeated, whapping his shoulder playfully before crossing the room to crouch down before the little girl. "Do you want to watch a movie Laki?"
She tugged at Nukky's tail, asking, "Do you have the Swan Princess? That one's my favorite."
"I think I might." He responded with a smile. "Why's it your favorite?"
"'Cause Odette gets wings and can fly! Just like Nukky!" She curled the plush under her arm, sitting up on her knees and waving to Usopp insistently until he got the hint and leaned closer.
Sanji watched the whole proceeding observantly, an odd but pleasant happiness warming his heart at the sight of Usopp so easily garnering his daughter's trust to the point she was whispering 'secrets' in his ear like she would to Santa Claus. Or well, the term 'whisper' should be used loosely since she was barely talking any lower than her normal speaking voice.
"Daddy says I'll grow wings one day too, just like an angel!"
The writer shot a look of surprise over his shoulder but played along. "And what are you gonna do when that happens?"
She pointed towards the ceiling. "I'm gonna fly up! Up and up, all the way up!" By habit, Sanji started reaching for a smoke and then paused, just letting his fingers curl up in his empty pocket as his daughter finished, "And then when I get so up that there ain't no up anymore, then I'll be there!"
"Heaven is!" Sanji saw the way Usopp's shoulders tensed at those words. "I'm gonna say 'hi' to mommy and make sure she's not too lonely."
"W-Well…" The writer faltered a little but quickly composed himself, "That's a great goal. But it takes a lot of wing power to fly that high right? I should know, I've grown wings plenty of times!"
Laki's eyes widened, looking extremely captivated. "You have?!"
He waved a hand dismissively over the amazing 'feat'. "Oh yeah. I have fairies come visit me at night sometimes. Like the ones in Peter Pan – but because I'm an adult, I can't fly from just thought alone like kids can. So they help me grow wings. I've traveled the entire world twice now thanks to them!"
"Yep! But it's not easy – it can be very, very tiring." He held up a single finger before his lips, "But if you promise to keep it quiet, I can tell you a special trick to becoming a strong flyer so you can go and see your mom."
His little girl furtively glanced towards her father. "Not even daddy?"
"Oh, you can tell your dad. Dads are special. But no else, got it?"
She nodded, her face cutely determined. "Uh-huh."
"Cross your heart and seal the promise. Just like this." Usopp instructed, drawing an X across his heart. "That means you won't break it."
She mimicked him. "Promise!"
"Good girl. Now, this is what you need to do. It's real easy. Hold your arms like this." Usopp raised his own out to either side of him, level with his shoulders. When she did the same, he continued, "Good. Now wave them up and down just like this." Sanji had to hold back a snort of laughter as he watched the grown man flap his arms, his daughter doing the same. "Perfect! That's all you need to do!"
"Really? And that'll make my wings stronger?"
"Yep! Just make sure to do it for a minute every day and once you get your wings they'll be so strong, getting up to heaven will be a cinch!"
Laki smiled widely, "Okay!" Then she went racing across the room, stopping in front of her father. "Daddy, daddy look! I'm gonna be the best flyer!"
"I know you will angel." Sanji replied, watching as his daughter continued to 'fly' until Usopp got the movie set up, unable to help himself from teasing the other man for having it in the first place.
("I-It's for art reference, jerk!")
After that, all the commotion settled down again as Laki sat herself in front of the television, vowing she would stay up so late today she'd see it a million times!
But, his little girl didn't even make it halfway through the first viewing before she was asleep on the couch. Not that this was too surprising; it had been a long day for her. Luckily, he didn't have to worry about bringing her back to the hotel since Usopp had been considerate enough to lend them the guest room in his house (of course, the shithead better have for his precious little girl!) since they both knew the visit would last well into the night.
After Sanji put her to bed, he came back to find the curly-haired man rummaging about his kitchen pantry, mumbling to himself. "Now why did I put them up here?"
"What are you doing?"
"I'm trying to reach this- Oh! Got it!" Sanji heard a scraping noise as something heavy was pulled down and he held it up around the door so the cook could see what it was.
"Now that Laki's asleep, we can really unwind." Usopp crossed the tile, setting the bottle down next to two glasses and a bottle opener. "We can have it on the porch. It's nice this time of year and so quiet you can even hear the ocean. We could be a couple of old guys, just sitting around and reminiscing about our past."
The chef eyed the bottle critically as the other uncorked it, saying, "It's a good year. Just don't drink so shitty much that you think skinny-dipping is a good idea."
"O-O-Oi!" Usopp cheeks flushed bright red, almost spilling the drink he was pouring. "Don't remember those kinds of memories!"
He chortled, taking the proffered glass, before following him out through the back door, finding there was a nice little patio set there – though it seemed Usopp didn't keep more than a company of one at his house since there were only two chairs. The aforementioned host plopped down into one seat, leaving him to the other. The wine bottle was set on the small table between them, the writer leaning back comfortably and shutting his eyes.
Sanji tilted his head up, admiring the clear sky and the bright stars up above. There was a hint of salt on the air and, if he listened close, he definitely could hear the crash of rolling waves in the distance. A breeze gently tousled at his hair, bringing with it a gust of coolness to what otherwise would have been an uncomfortably warm evening.
"It's nice, right?"
"Yeah…" He looked down at his glass, swirling it gently and watching the crimson liquid twirl. Just as Usopp was raising his to his mouth, Sanji, without any warning or preamble at all because he was done dodging the whole issue, said, "We heard about your mom."
The other paused, slowly lowering his hand. He rubbed his finger along an imaginary smudge, mumbling, "Well, I didn't expect the lie to last forever."
"When we found out the house was sold, we looked everywhere you know." Sanji continued, staring at some chipped paint in the railing like he would a grease stain on his beloved dishes. "The motels, the shelters, every shitty bench in the whole damn town… Where did you go?"
Usopp took a sip of his wine. "Back to my hometown. I managed to contact an old friend – I told you about her before. Kaya? She said she had room to take me in; so, I found the cheapest bus fare I could and left."
Sanji turned to him, saying angrily, "Why didn't you tell us? We would have helped you."
The darker male heaved a sigh, drawing his finger around the rim of the glass. "I sure know you all would have tried. That was the problem." When he looked up, seeing the expression on his face, he frowned. "Don't give me that look Sanj'. None of you were in any position to help me. Nami's family and Robin were living paycheck to paycheck – and it was really hard for Robin since she was emancipated and working two jobs."
He set his glass down on the table. "Then Chopper's grandfather was in and out of the hospital and Brook had that near death experience. They were in the same situation as me what with all those medical bills – and health care isn't cheap you know. Franky lived in a god damn scrap yard and Luffy and Zoro were living in some run down cabin in the woods. We were the ones sparing food for them. And what with that health inspector coming after your dad for his restaurant and all that bullshit…"
"Tch, it would have been fine." Sanji played it off.
Or tried to at least. "Yeah, except the Baratie is gone." The other leveled him with a firm stare as if daring him to lie. "I went back you know. About a year after I left, hoping to find you guys. Everyone had either moved or I dunno… no one knew where any of you guys had gone. Heh, though at least I can say I saved myself a punch in the face. I know Luffy's probably still furious with me."
"Of course. What the hell did you expect? You were coming to school as if nothing was wrong for weeks then you just disappear off the face of the fucking planet without a god damn word?" Sanji guzzled down half the glass in one gulp, setting it down with more force than he probably should have. "Shit Usopp you should have at least told me! Or written us a letter or called or… or something, fuck."
Usopp raised an eyebrow. "So you guys could what – come and drag me back and try to make it work? I know when Luffy got all optimistic with that do-or-die attitude of his we tended to get swept up in it… but you know I've always been the negative one. And sometimes being negative comes in handy because it helped me see things for how it really was. Everyone was just dealing with too much right then – too much to realistically handle any more. My shit just came up at the wrong time… and I was smart enough to know you guys would stupidly try to help me regardless of your own situations. I wasn't about to be a burden to any of you. So I ran off."
"You're a friend. You could never be a burden, idiot." Sanji grumbled, hating to admit the shithead had a point.
The writer smiled weakly, clasping his hands together and propping them between his knees, saying something that made the cook glance over in surprise. "And… I almost told you. I… I wanted to. But I knew if I did… hell, Sanji, you knew how crazy I was about you back then. All you would have needed to do was tell me how much you wanted me to stay and… and I would have lost my nerve completely."
"Or I might have agreed with you." The blonde argued, fingers drumming along the edge of his chair since he couldn't occupy his normally busy hands with smoking. "I'm not like the rest of those idiotic guys you know."
"Yeah… you could have, because you've always been pretty smart like that. And then you would have had to spend the rest of your life lying to our friends. I wasn't going to force something like that on you. It wouldn't have been right." Usopp looked towards him, a bit of amusement in his eyes. "Besides, you're a horrible liar."
"O-Oi!" Sanji reached out and wacked him over the head when he started laughing. "Jackass."
Letting out a few more chuckles, Usopp rubbed the sore spot, looking towards him meekly then. "I'm sorry for what I did. I missed you guys like crazy but… it was the only solution I could think of that wouldn't put any of us in a bad situation. You'll forgive me… won't you?"
Sanji leveled him with an even stare, before he reached for his drink again. "You sign the rest of my daughter's books then yeah, I guess I can forgive a shitty long-nose like you."
Usopp smiled widely and Sanji couldn't believe just how much he had missed that stupid, happy expression. "Deal!" He picked up his own glass, asking with eagerness now that the conversation he had been dreading was past. "So, how is everyone anyways?"
"Well, Nami-san and Robin-chan are doing magnificently – of course, being such charming and intelligent ladies there was never any doubt. The rest of the shitheads are fine too."
"So Nami's okay? And Nojiko? I couldn't believe how torn up their farm was…"
"That loan shark took everything; but they took a few trees with them and replanted them." Sanji placed a hand over his heart. "Ah, Nami-san. She was so brave in face of all that opposition. Even though I offered my unworthy shoulder for her to cry on she didn't shed even a single tear! I near about fell in love with her all over again!" Sanji ignored Usopp's eye roll at his dramatics, drinking down the rest of his wine before continuing on. "They're now-"
And that was how they spent the night, catching up on their lives and the lives of their closest friends. Neither of them seemed to notice as hour after hour passed, and even with the air growing cooler around them they hardly felt it as they emptied the first and then second bottle of wine. It was enough to make them both feel the effects of a nice buzz.
"-And then that idiotic Marimo just walked right into the glass!" Sanji was saying, retelling the dinner party he had gone which took place in their hostess' all-glass patio and had somehow gotten convinced in taking the meathead along. "And you know what he said? He said: 'Who put this invisible barrier here'?"
"Hahaha!" Usopp was near in tears, half curled in his chair and holding his sides as he laughed. "Oh man, that's classic Zoro! Invisible barrier; priceless!" Once he had caught his breath, he reached out for his near empty glass – only he missed and it almost fell over. "Oh-whoa!" He managed to catch it by hooking his index finger on the rim, pulling it back upright and giggling. "Okay, that's my sign to stop. In fact it's uh, pretty late huh?"
Sanji glanced down at his watch. "Shit. It's 2 in the morning."
"Really?!" Usopp bolted upright. "Damn, I have a press meeting at eleven." He frowned, wanting to protest, but the writer was already getting to his feet, collecting the glasses and bottles and heading inside, Sanji trailing after. "You're welcome to the other guest room of course. And we can have breakfast and go to – or well, oh!" The glass bottles clinked noisily together as he tossed them in the trash, smiling over his shoulder. "Or maybe you'll want to cook…?"
He shrugged his shoulders, leaning against the fridge, feeling the cold metal hum against his back. "Yeah, I can make breakfast."
"Whoo!" The other shook his hips in excitement. "Your cooking – jeez I can't remember the last time I had it. That's going to be amazing."
Sanji didn't respond, just watched silently as Usopp walked the short distance to the sink, turning on the tap to wash the cups out. His eyes trailed almost beyond his will along the other man's features, really studying how much he had grown up now that he had the chance. His long hair, bundled up into a curly and somewhat wild ponytail, wasn't the only difference. There was also that little goatee and an even more sharply defined face; thinner lips but a thicker nose, a couple lines and wrinkles in his face that hadn't been there before. And it seemed Usopp had gotten onto that training regime he always wanted to, because he could see the definition of some pretty impressive muscles on his arms and in the broadness of his shoulders – a huge contrast to the scrawny, pencil-like build he had remembered.
In short, he had gotten pretty damn sexy.
It wasn't like Usopp hadn't been physically attractive before. But the younger male's charm nearly a decade ago had mostly lied in his almost feminine features that were oddly accentuated by his small form: his long eyelashes, full lips and smooth skin. Now, it was definitely his more masculine qualities that stood out.
Blue eyes rolled down the curve of the other's ass as he bent over to set the glasses into the dishwasher.
Though, it was nice to know that some things didn't change at all.
He knew he couldn't blame his tipsiness on what he did next – except maybe making him a little more brash and bold then he normally would be. "Usopp?"
"Yea-a-ah!" The writer said as he turned around, only to stumble back a step when he discovered the cook was a little closer than he expected him to be. He only moved back further, round eyes getting unbelievably larger, when Sanji leaned even more forward. "W-W-W-What are you doing?"
When his cheeks started to darken, Sanji smirked triumphantly. "You're still crazy about me, aren't you?"
Usopp's jaw fell open in shock, and then he scowled, pushing Sanji away. "Stop messing around jackass!"
He turned away, only to stiffen in shock when arms came around him. The hold was loose, but he made no immediate move to break away. "Do you miss it?" Sanji breathed softly, laying his chin on his shoulder.
He saw the way Usopp's Adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed hard. "M-Miss what?"
"Us?" His finger rubbed, very slightly, at a spot just underneath the other man's ribs.
Usopp shut his eyes tightly, a tongue darting out to wet his lips. "W…What does it matter Sanji? It was years ago and you're the one who broke it off remember? You said that you couldn't handle being seen with a guy."
"Right." He replied, not denying it. "And like you said. That was years ago. Things have changed. I've changed."
The writer opened his mouth to reply, only to gasp sharply instead when Sanji licked teasingly at his ear. He felt him shiver all over – yep, still sensitive as ever – before the curly-haired male tore away from him violently, spinning around to glare at him. "C-Cut it out Sanji. Y-You're not thinking straight – you're drunk!"
The blond snorted at that. "Usopp, we had a bottle of wine each and unless those muscles of yours made you a lightweight, you know it takes a lot more than that to get both of us drunk."
"W-Well… being buzzed messes with your judgment too." He argued weakly.
"Nothing's wrong with my judgment." Sanji said evenly. "I know you're not a woman and I know what I want. And I want you." He stalked towards the other, Usopp scampering back predictably until he hit the counter. Sanji rested his hands on either side of the dark-skinned man, keeping him trapped there. Usopp's breathing, already erratic, became a little more ragged when the chef pushed their hips together. "And from what I can tell, you want me too."
The younger shut his eyes again and made a soft noise in the back of his throat, another shudder coursing through his body. But as Sanji started to inch closer, Usopp squeaked out. "N-No!" It made him pause and Usopp was looking at him, his face twisted with a mixture of emotions: desire, excitement, uncertainty, alarm… grief and sorrow. "No, Sanji. We can't. You're leaving tomorrow!"
He turned his head away, staring down at their hands, both on the counter and only inches apart. And despite what he said, he looked like he wanted nothing more than to reach out for Sanji's; to bring them together and never let go.
"I…" Usopp inhaled sharply again and this time it had nothing to do with pleasure and everything to do with the tears gathering in his eyes. "I'm not out to get my heart broken again."
And as Sanji looked down at the other, his own heart soaring and everything within melting, unable to believe even after all this time Usopp still felt this strongly about him, he could only think to himself: You better not fuck it up this time shithead.
"Hey…" He said, cupping Usopp's chin in his hand, lifting his head until they were looking at each other straight on. "I'm not here to break your heart Usopp. I'm here to mend it." He moved his thumb tenderly across his face, running along his lips and a falling tear. "Won't you give me a second chance?"
"Of course I would." He replied without hesitation, but his voice weakened when he added, "But… you're still leaving tomorrow. And… And I can't just-"
"Then come with me."
"Be a one night st- What?"
"Come with me." Sanji repeated, unperturbed by the other's shock as he let his hand drop. "I mean, I would rather say that I'll come here, but my job's not as mobile as yours and I don't want to move Laki out of her school. Besides… everyone is back home. Nami-san, Luffy, Franky, Chopper… everyone. If not for me, you should move for yourself."
When he reached out this time, it was to give him what he had wanted earlier, laying his hand over Usopp's. "I could be as blind as Brook and as dumb as the mosshead and I'd still of seen it from a mile away. And this close, no lie you could try on me now could ever hope to work." His fingers squeezed gently. "You're lonely."
Usopp's eyes squeezed shut, a few more tears slipping down while his entire body seemed to slump against the counter in defeat, as if all the weight he had felt the past ten years was finally coming off all at once. Maybe they hadn't been up to the task of helping him then – they would never know and it was all in the past now. No use thinking of how things could be. But they were definitely up to it now.
"So come with me. We're all waiting there for you."
When the other looked up at him, teary-eyed, he said nothing.
When he pulled his hand away only to grasp Sanji by his shirt and tug him into a kiss, he still said nothing.
When they were stumbling backwards, an uncoordinated pair trying to find the bedroom, he continued to say nothing.
And when they were strewn together on the bed, clothes thrown every which way and their bodies meshing together into one, all he managed to pull from Usopp's lips was a continuous song of his name.
And no matter how beautiful that was, it wasn't an answer. Not by a long shot.
But if Usopp was thinking about running away again, he was going to find it damn near impossible to pull off a second time – because come hell or high water, Sanji wasn't letting him go this time.
Even though it had been many years since it last happened, waking up beside Usopp was familiar. The dark-skinned male was still a bed-hog who sprawled everywhere – including atop Sanji. And he snored and he drooled and he clung onto whatever was closest – again, Sanji. Yeah, it was just the same as always, except maybe with more hair on the latter's part (somehow all of it annoyingly splayed over his face; but Usopp did warn him about taking out his hair band…).
And all Sanji could think when he awoke was: Damn, I missed this.
Unfortunately, he didn't get much of a chance to enjoy it as he turned his head to glance at the clock, red numbers gleaming tauntingly at him. He sighed and wondered if humankind would ever evolve beyond the need to sleep – because god damn did it waste a lot of shitty time. "Oi, Usopp. Come on, we've only got two hours."
Once, Sanji remembered, he had gone fishing with Luffy, Chopper and Usopp. He had expected for the rowdy trio to like it, the pastime would actually be more exciting than society gave credit for. But no; it turned out society was right. Fishing was boring as hell. How the others managed to sit still in the same place for those many tedious hours when normally none of them could do likewise for a mere hour in the classroom was an sheer mystery to him.
But then, for just a moment, a fish caught his line. And it was as if someone hit the fast-forward button on his life as the other three were yelling for him to hold the line steady – start reeling it i-No! Not so fast! Give it slack – No, not that much! – Hurry, hurry, the net! The ne-
And then the fish was gone.
It probably was all of thirty seconds and it was the only fish that got on his line that day; and, although after the incident he had vowed to never take part in that shitty sport again (a cook didn't catch ingredients. He was given them!), often Sanji would recall that small event and realize that most of his damn life could be defined like that.
Like this morning that was a blur of nothing but eating and getting ready for the day.
Or like this mini-vacation in which it felt like he had only just left and now it was over.
Hell, like the entire space of time between when he was eighteen and twenty-eight where Usopp was absent, only to slide back into it for just as short a second as that damn fish.
And, like that stupid fucking fish, he had no idea if he was going to keep him either.
Even as the writer was heading down the drive and walking them to Sanji's car to see them off, his face gave away no hints about what he was thinking nor did he seem particularly interested in voicing said thoughts as he helped get their small amount of luggage into the vehicle. But just as the cook shut the trunk, about to whirl around on the other male and demand he speak up, his little angel managed to halt his vendetta rather effectively.
"What's this?" Usopp asked in confusion, seeing Laki standing before him, her head down and holding up Nukkynix towards him.
She mumbled just barely over the noise of a lawnmower a few houses away, "Daddy says… to always give back what doesn't belong to me. Don't wanna be a thief…"
"Oh? That's very true." He looked down at her and then glanced back at Sanji, a faint smile on his face, before he knelt down. His reached out, cupping his large hands over her much smaller ones, saying softly, "But, you know, I hear from the fairies that give me my wings that while flying is fun, it certainly isn't if you're all alone." Laki peeked up at him between her bangs. "Nukky can spout wings whenever he likes though and follow you wherever you go. He'll be your best friend I'm sure. So, why don't you keep him?"
"Really?!" His daughter burst out. "I can really keep him Mr. King?!"
"Thank you! Thank you, thank you, thank you!" She said hopping up and down in pure exhilaration only a child who felt like they just had a dream come true could muster and, while only holding Nukky by one wing, threw herself at Usopp to give him the best hug all her three feet and two inches could manage.
It was a very big hug.
Swallowing visibly, Usopp enveloped her easily in his arms, his smile tender. "You're welcome." Sanji wished he had a camera.
After a few short moments, the writer pulled away, clearing his throat and saying with an air of importance, "Now since Nukky will be living with you from now on, you know you got to take care of him right?"
"Ah-huh." She leant forward, eyes wide as she listened.
"And just like us, the most important thing Nukkys need is food. Nukkys eat lots of things like uh, Zoranges and Splares and Rapples. But they are very rare things. It's a very long and difficult quest to find even one Rapple." Usopp tapped his chin thoughtfully, saying with a smile, "But you know what else Nukkys eat that you'll always have with you? Halo light."
He gave a nod. "It's a little ring of light angels like you have above your head. It's invisible to you – but everyone else can see it."
"Mm-hmm." The writer went on, "And Nukkynix here needs to eat some of that light once a day, every day. It's what gives light to his fire. So, this is what you've got to do. Take your hand and hold it just a bit above your head – ah, perfect! Now then, just pinch down."
She did so, frowning peculiarly. "But I don't feel anything."
"Of course not – you can't feel light. It's well, light!"
Sanji chuckled softly to himself, watching Usopp continue to instruct his daughter on how to 'feed' Nukky. Once the lesson was over he spoke up. "Okay angel, time to say goodbye. We need to get home."
"Okay daddy!" She said, giving Usopp another hug. "Goodbye Mr. King, I promise I'll take good-good care of Nukkynix and I won't ever let his fire go out, promise!"
Usopp pat her on the head, chuckling. "I know you will."
He straightened up as Sanji gently pulled her away and got her carefully strapped in the car, saying, "I'll be just a moment angel," before shutting her door, walking to where the other man stood. "I see you can still make up tall tales out of the blue too. Zoranges and halo light."
"Eh," He shrugged. "It wasn't really my best…"
"I like the first part especially." Sanji said, eyeing the other intensely now. "About how it's no fun flying alone. Was real metaphoric."
"Oh? I wonder why." He mumbled, finding the crack in his driveway rapidly becoming rather fascinating.
"Why indeed. Thanks though. You really made her happy."
"Haha!" The writer laughed nervously, rubbing the back of his neck as he averted his eyes. "Yeah well if I made her sad you'd kick my ass."
The cook breathed a soft laugh, "Probably'll have to do it anyway. She'll be sad the second we drive away."
He shifted some and then sighed tremendously, shaking his head. "Well damn. That's a problem."
"Sure is. I'll break a bone for every tear; so I hope you can invent solutions as well as stories."
The younger crossed his arms, rubbing the side of his chin as if he was thinking hard. "Well… you know… I just might have one."
Sanji sent him a sidelong glance and could see the edges of thick lips turning upwards. Could feel something similar happening on his own face. "And what's that?"
"Well I heard from a very reliable source that authors can work anywhere." Usopp finally turned to look at him, grinning. It was a nervous, flittering thing that was just barely holding up in the sea of doubts and worries in his eyes that threatened to drown him, but-
"I promise to kiss the pain from the bruises that Luffy's sure to give you."
"Heh. I think that homecoming gift… sounds just perfect."
-the happiness there was strong enough to keep him afloat until Sanji could build the unsinkable ship that would always keep him safe from it all.
A/N: Well… um… yeah. The prompt was "Books".
This thing turned out way longer then I intended – mainly because of Laki. She wasn't supposed to be in this story quite as much as she was but… but then I couldn't stop and it became a sort of side event.
I left Usopp and Sanji's whole history semi-subtle so that my readers would have to pick it out through their conversation. It was kind of not a normal practice for me but I hope I was a good enough writer that it was able to be easily understood rather than utterly confusing. And I know this thing is full of plot holes that I was too impatient to cover up (not to mention the plot itself is probably cliché). Sorry 'bout that.
Okay, enough rambling.
Just a refresher for anyone who may still be wondering who these people are (these may be a little bit spoilerish too just to warn you):
Laki – She was from the Skypeia arc; she was one of the Shandian warriors.
Armadillo Man – It never really got explicitly said… but it's supposed to be Sogeking, just with a simpler name. And an armadillo is the animal, according to Oda, that (pre-time skip) Usopp represents.
Nukky – From the Spa Island arc (this was filler); he was a 'sea raccoon' that could transform into basically anything whether it is another animal, human or object. I just broke the whole 'has to be the same size as him' rule – because a foot tall phoenix would not be cool.
Nora Gitsune – From the Return to Saboady Arc; it's the name of the fox that imitates Chopper from the fake Straw Hats.
Baby Dressrosa – From the Punk Hazard arc; obviously this is Baby 5 but I took out the 5 in her name. And Dressrosa is actually the name of an island in the New World and I thought it sounded pretty nice as her last name. Adding her in had been a guilty pleasure because thanks to about a dozen people on tumblr I can no longer look at Baby 5 as anything else but the girl of Sanji's dreams.
And that's it I think! So, I hope you guys enjoyed this… weird… thing.