It relieved Sanji more than it should have that no one changed their attention to him while he entered. It would've just been awkward, a feeling overcoming him more and more lately as he tried to meet with the crew during their meetings. His shoes scuffled against the floor as he tried to position himself into Robin's dining room unnoticed, though the retarded brute yawning loudly behind him didn't help.
The blonde jabbed him with his cane before taking a seat at the end of the table. There was a map and some other documents on the surface, where Robin was hovering, reaching over and pointing to something circled and talking softly to Franky. Luffy had his head resting on his arms on the table, totally satisfied with just being told when to go kick someone's ass.
It was Ace that finally glanced over and looked down the tired swordsman and cook. He offered them a smile, tipping his hat in greeting before turning back. Finally Robin seemed to glance up and spot the two who were late. She stopped informing things to the other members of the crew, like Nami and Ussop who were settled next to Franky. Her lips phased into a smile.
"Thank you for joining us." She purred lightly, retreating back from over the table. She took a deep breath. "We were just discussing what information we have."
Sanji studied her face a moment, nervous as always to be on the other end of that intense gaze. He shifted his legs, something that still felt foreign after not doing so for so long, before resting his arm on the table. He could also feel the dark eye of Zoro on him, silently supporting. Damn bastard should just go back to taking a nap.
"No need to stop because I'm here." Sanji put on his most pleasant smile. "I'm in on this as well."
Robin nodded slightly, her eyes moving instinctively to Chopper, who seemed to be unnoticed at first. He was studying Sanji's posture, analyzing everything he could without actually tackling him down to do an examination. It was when all attention was on him, waiting to see if he as Sanji's physician would disagree, that he realized it was his turn to speak. He lowered his head sightly in embarrassment, scratching at his head.
"Oh um.." He began softly. "Sanji is still in rehabilitation but I'm sure there is something... maybe behind the scenes he can do?"
Sanji had to close his eyes a moment, letting out a disappointed breath he'd been holding. At least it wasn't a flat out no. It didn't mean that later when things began to change that his job wouldn't. He was thankful enough to just be given a role this time and being told about what they were planning. They didn't need another conflicting issue here.
Robin had turned back to Sanji, but pressed her sights further to Zoro who was staring intently at her. She knew he was the supportive role here for Sanji, but also extremely protective. Of course he'd want to look good on both sides, letting Sanji do what he wants, but also wanting him to be in safe hands. Robin continued to smile, willing the swordsman to take her gamble and trust in her plans.
"Well, if Chopper thinks so then I have no protests. Anyone else?" She pondered.
The crew exchanged glances, avoiding Sanji. Alot of them were way concerned about Sanji going back into action, the sight of him in such pain still fresh in their minds. But they knew they couldn't keep him from what he felt so strongly about. It wasn't their place, they could only support him. It made Sanji's shoulders tense as he waited. It was like some sort of judgment he was trying to pass.
He was relieved though when a hand cautiously met with his back and began to comfortingly massage it. He glanced up and over, a little surprised at the swordsman watching him. Since that night when they had finally gotten to be intimate, he was nothing shy of a trailing puppy dog. But his look was still stern. Sanji give him a slight nod and continued to listen.
"But we are still waiting on Bon with his-"
"Haiiii~ How are my candy-chan's today?" Sung the familiar voice of a cross dresser.
Bon Clay had several pieces of papers rolled up in his arms that he disregarded among the table. He gave everyone a warm and slightly uncomfortable to them, smile. Then he struggled to find something he was looking for. Luffy grinned at him.
"Bon-chan! You're here too?" Suddenly everything seemed ten times more interesting. The only reasons their captain seemed to be here were Ace, Bon and getting to kick ass. Oh and if Sanji cooked lunch he'd be all over that. Bon smiled at Luffy.
"Yes! I tried making the outlines Cyber-kun asked for." He glanced up at Franky who returned his gaze with a raised eyebrow. Cyber-kun? That was his nickname? Well, at least it wasn't Candy boy.
Franky leaned over the table a little, taking one of the rolled papers and unraveling it. His eyes scanned the makeshift blueprints, though with his expertise in the field it wasn't too far of a stretch to imagine what was drawn.
"Their base is a mansion?" He asked out loud, grabbing for another. Robin moved and glanced over his shoulder, watching intently. Even Nami seemed to lean in, her arm finally free of its cast, for a good look.
Bon Clay placed his hands on his hips and nodded. "Yes. The leader had been planning to move here for some time. After his place was built the move commenced and we all followed over."
Nami looked up at Bon with narrowed eyes. "Why would they move here?"
Bon took a deep breath, somewhat anxious about answering this question. He glanced at Sanji, whom Ace turned to look at curiously. Sanji seemed to be pretty tied into this mess, didn't he? Bon pointed at Sanji.
Sanji's expression was disbelief. That a whole organization would just move continents to follow him, a boy who escaped once after they tried silencing him about nothing. It just didn't make sense.
"Me?" Just saying the words sounded odd. It ticked him off, really, having always believed this organization to have much bigger purpose. Instead a fleet of people to chase after him? "Why me? I don't even know anything about them, dammit."
Zoro leaned back in his chair, having it balance on its back legs while he crossed his arms.
"They still think you know something?" He growled.
Sanji sunk deeper in his seat. Still all of this revolved around the same feeling Sanji had been torturing himself with this entire time. It was his fault. It caused a shadow to linger over his features for a moment and he forced himself to look up again towards the light and towards Bon.
Bon was still frowning. He pulled out a chair close by where he was standing and sat down.
"We aren't exactly sure why either. We've never even seen the boss in person. We're given our orders for the main cause and then always, if you were found..."
Sanji growled, running his hands through his hair, not giving a damn how much of his face it exposed. This was a bunch of shit!
"So.. what do we do if all they want is Sanji? If we bring him there wouldn't we just be handing him over?" asked Ussop. He was still really nervous, though he hadn't had a calm moment since his and Kaya's engagement party. He had only had a moment of peace when he convinced Kaya to go overseas for a while to visit her estranged family.
Bon pouted, leaning his own arms over the table. Luffy's expression turned to mild determination.
"No. They won't touch Sanji. He knows what he's doing, he won't get caught." He addressed, staring intently at the cook.
Sanji swallowed thickly. Well he couldn't exactly go against anything Luffy said, everything usually proved true. His confidence in them was overwhelming and unique at best. Franky pressed his lips together, sighing for a moment before looking back down at the designs.
"We could divide ourselves into two groups. One to enter at the front here." He moved his finger to indicate. "Another to enter from the back. That should cause enough commotion that if Sanji came in over here... this looks like a basement entrance." His finger stopped at another place.
"He can sneak in and find what information he can."
Zoro slammed his chair back on all four of its legs. "Send him in on his own? What if he runs into this bastard?" He hissed.
Robin shook her head. "No Zoro. I don't think that's much of a possibility. I've worked with men like this before. If they are keeping themselves secret from even their men, the chances of them being found among them is very rare."
Bon nodded. "It's mostly just a bunch of our operatives and our supplies."
Ace turned back to Bon, rolling his head a bit and extending his neck. He glared him down. "Those explosives right? What the hell are they doing with so much and just for Sanji? What is it you guys really do?"
Bon shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
"Well it's not just explosives. We all specialize in our own methods of... work for hire. The government comes to us when someone needs to be silenced. We're the ones who do the dirtiest work of the government. If anyone finds out they automatically become a threat to the nation."
"Wah!" Chopper squeaked, glaring at him and putting his hooves to his ears. "Why did you tell us!?"
Zoro rolled his eyes and reached over to cautiously pat at his head.
"Don't worry they won't be around much longer anyway."
Nami still had her eyebrows furrowed. "So then Sanji's parents, they were assassins for the All Blue?"
Sanji's eyes widened slightly and he glared over at Zoro. The bastard! What part of keeping some secrets between them didn't he understand? Zoro felt his glare and looked at him pleadingly with a confused expression. Shit, he didn't know how the witch knew either! He didn't tell anyone! Robin broke them up though by lightly calling their names.
"Sorry Sanji, Bon filled us in on everything he knew. And about Zeff."
Just hearing his old man's name clenched at Sanji's heart. He winced and looked away again. Dammit old man. He missed him terribly. Bon looked at his fingers he was now fumbling with.
"Ah Zeff-chan. He was such a good man. He had such majestic style."
Sanji made a noise of disgust like a child having heard his two parental figures talking about disgusting lovey dovey shit. Even if that wasn't the case.
Ace sat up in his seat and leaned over the table to the makeshift blue print Franky was studying and planning on. "Where are the explosives located? They are my only objective here."
Bon pressed his lips together than pointed at his badly shaped rectangle that was the basement. It was evident by its label and fancy heart after it.
"They are stored here until needed. Though, before I left there weren't any massive plans for them, other then well.. the factory of course." He trembled under the unforgiving glare of the Marimo. Didn't look like Zoro was going to forget the tricks he had resorted to.
Nami took one of the spare pieces of paper and turned it over, beginning to jot down notes.
"Alright, Ace will go with Sanji." She said, being sure to send a glare to the overprotective swordsman. "Then the rest of us will split up and cause enough commotion for them to slip in and slip out. If done right we should have some more information about where this ring leader is located-"
"I'm going to kick his ass!"
"Shut up Luffy! We know that! We'll find where he's at and take him out."
"But Nami-chan!" Bon cried worriedly. "Don't you understand by doing this you would be willingly making yourselves enemies to the government?"
Robin laughed slightly at Bon's concerns. She placed a hand lightly and reassuringly on his shoulder.
"Bentham, I think you underestimate us and our own connections. The idea is to exterminate the threat without anyone finding we did. They are not the only ones who value secrets."
Sanji sighed, internally swooning over the calmness of the lovely ladies. In harms way, unfortunately because of him, but stunning and ruthless none the less. Chopper glanced over at Sanji.
"Sanji are you sure you can really do this? This place is probably going to be filled with people who.. you know."
The blonde forced a small smile in an attempt to comfort the tiny doctor. It was unusual, feeling this exposed to his companions now that they knew the past he had had. But nonetheless he was touched at their concerns. Honestly, after all of this he had been expecting a far worse outcome from them. It only reassured him that maybe the swordsman had been right once upon a time. He needed to have more faith in the crew and those who cared about him.
"I'll be fine Chopper." he said hushly in reply. "I'm more concerned about finding this man and taking him out and freeing you guys from my burden."
Ussop was staring down at the table's surface and at the blue prints, his hand slightly shaking as he looked through some of them. "So this is really happening? We're going to do this?" He asked, looking up and meeting his friends' eyes. "When?"
There was a silence among them. Honestly they weren't sure when they would fall into action. Suddenly now they had so much information in front of them to use as they pleased. Sanji reached over and brushed the top of his new walking cane. He scowled at it of course, because it was nothing of a nuisance to him, even if it helped him walk. Then it traveled to his jacket's pocket where it fetched his ever familiar and well appreciated box of cigarettes and lighter.
"I don't know about you guys." He began, lighting up his nicotine stick. "But I'm free whenever."
The mansion in question was nothing Sanji would have expected when he imagined the All Blue's headquarters. In fact, since he was a child and had escaped that hell hole of a white room he was starved in, he'd liked to imagine it a dungeon of sorts, where many others like him were probably kept. It was a foolish dream of a child to want to come back and face them one day, to save the other people they had hurt.
Though that dream ended fast when Sanji began understanding more of what was reality. Zeff helped him understand that things weren't like they were for Sanji when someone got captured by the All Blue. He was a special case in some ways, apparently so if they went this far to eliminate him, and should never try to seek his revenge.
Crouching in the bushes now, waiting for his signal, Sanji couldn't help but send Zeff a silent apology. He had once promised to try and live the life on the run, to try and escape the All Blue like Zeff had wanted. But just because he was finally going to do something he had wanted to for so long, did it mean it would rid him of the other things he had promised? Like living his life to the fullest and following his real All Blue dream?
"Damn old man." Sanji found himself grumbling under his breath, something he did often now when little things like that came back to him. He hated being nostalgic, for reasons.
He had changed out of his nicer clothes since that morning's meeting. When he had mentioned that he was free he had no idea that Robin and Franky had graciously had everything on standby for the operation. So here he was, in his makeshift spy outfit that consisted of mostly black clothes, thanks to the delightful Nami-swan. Though the gesture was ruined when Zoro glared at him while he swooned, demanding he at least attempt to survive so that outfit could serve purposes later.
Sanji wanted to gag but still was flattered by the hidden meaning in his words, even if the slightly disturbed expressions of the crew's sharpshooter and doctor meant it wasn't a hidden meaning at all. It was all Sanji needed though for his motivation. Honestly had Zoro done something more sentimental, like kissing him or embracing him, it would have made things ten times harder.
A hand on Sanji's shoulder brought him out of his train of thought. It was Ace, also sporting similar fashion. Nami had really out done herself planning these. He even had a headset thanks to Franky, evident by its 'Franky Family' logo. Really, what was Franky thinking if they were trying not to get tied back to this and that got left behind? Well.. publicity was publicity.
"You okay Sanji?" He asked him lowly.
Sanji studied his face a moment, his mind coming back to reality. Really, he shouldn't be making this so personal. Even if he did run into familiar faces, this was something he was still capable of achieving. Revenge? Maybe. But he kept telling himself it wasn't for him anymore. This was for everyone, not just the crew. Anyone who ever had the misfortune of being victimized by the All Blue.
"Yeah I'm fine." Sanji half lied.
He pulled out his box of cigarettes again. This time though he didn't even need to grab his lighter. Ace, next to him still, snapped his fingers lighting it for him and grinning at the sense of surprise on the cook's face. Sanji would never get used to that trick and suddenly felt really thankful Ace was traveling with him when they were going through a room of possible explosions.
A loud noise broke out from the right wing, causing both Sanji and Ace to tense. That was the only cue they were gonna get. They exchanged glances by the time noise began to erupt at the other end as well. Things were starting. It was show time. Sanji had his cane, a device made by Ussop and Franky (the least they could do since their super wheelchair wasn't very needed anymore) was tucked inside itself, sliding into a more convenient size and hooked onto his belt. He couldn't run, not wanting to risk the limited amount of strength and energy he had, but was quick to make his way across the lawn with Ace at his side.
Ace's eyes were scanning around though even if it took them a little longer, his hand curved out at his side ready to send out and block any attacks. The ground began to curve inward, the basement door being unearthed in front of a few steps. They hurried down then and Sanji studied at the lock.
"Think Ussop packed us something for this?" He asked the fire fist, bending over to look at the items on his handy belt crafted by the long nose.
Ace shrugged before reaching over and taking hold of the doorknob. "Doesn't matter." He explained, his hand becoming red hot as the knob began to melt clean off the door. It swung inward with ease.
Sanji watched Ace for a moment, not being able to help but let out a chuckle.
"That's really handy isn't it?"
Ace grinned. "Helped me ditch school all the time."
They strolled in one after another, moving their backs against the nearest wall like they had seen done in spy movies. The basement's room was dark and much like Bon had mentioned before it only seemed to roughly be storage. There was nothing but crates and boxes up on shelves here.
Ace peeled himself off the concrete wall and moved to one of the crates. He bent down and lit his thumb to flame, bringing it close to read at the label. When he still couldn't tell, due to the dust, he wiped at it with his hand.
"Clay was right. Here are all the explosives."
Sanji moved closer, reaching his hand out against the crate to stabilize himself, also resting his hip against it. "What will you do with them now?"
Ace seemed to be contemplating that himself. He let out a small hum. "I could always call and report this now that the proof was at hand but..." He paused, glancing up to see Sanji, his face only illuminated by the small flame. "As long as these are down here you are all at risk of being blown sky high." he gestured with his eyes to the other containers. "Who knows if this is some last ditch effort to hide what's being kept in this building secret, should anyone get to close."
Sanji couldn't help but snort at the way Ace noted 'they' would be the only ones in danger of that. He thought about suggesting to his captain's brother to just light the damn explosives and absorb the explosion himself, similar to the way he had absorbed the flames before they could reach Sanji and Zoro before. But he knew that was way more than he could simply ask the fire fist to do. Ace didn't show it but even he had his limits.
The sound of another door being opened somewhere in the dark, the distance of the room away made them both freeze. Ace put out his light and grabbed onto Sanji's pant leg, just so that in the dark he didn't lose him.
"Shit." Sanji breathed. Now what were they suppose to do?
There was no way in hell they could fight right next to explosives. Certainly not Ace trying to fight like that. He'd just set them all off and things would get really bad.
"Oi! Is there someone in here?!" A gruff voice called out.
It made the two men regret having left the door they entered open, a faint light of the moon draining in at the entrance. Ace tightened his grip on Sanji's pants, pulling himself up. It was awkward, but Sanji listened as the fire fist tried to find him and whisper into his ear.
"You go ahead. There should be a door on the left. I'll handle this."
That was much appreciated. Sanji almost had forgotten what it was like to be working with someone who knew how directions worked and actually went the extra mile to study the blue prints Bon had tried making. The grip on Sanji's clothes loosened and Sanji took a step back, narrowing his eyes in the dark at Ace's location.
"Alright but if you blow us all up I'm kicking your ass."
A laugh was his only reply before Sanji turned on his heel and began leaving towards the location the door should be, avoiding the maze of crates as he went.
When Ace was certain he was gone, he lit up the storage room with his flames, the red and oranges fleeing from the top of his skin along his arms and back. Instantly the enemy who had come in search of a fight, had found one. The man, now visible in the light took a step back in surprise. He raised up his gun and tried shooting at Ace.
Ace just chuckled and continued to smirk as the bullet went past him and straight into the concrete wall behind him.
"You should really be careful where you aim that thing. You wouldn't want to hit these explosives." He warned lightly.
The man just stared in disbelief he'd missed. "The hell are you!?" He spat in his confusion.
Ace tipped his hat and lowered his chin. "Don't worry bout it."
Author's Note: I want to apologize for taking so long! I haven't any excuse, I've just been.. writingmpregsorry. XD Hope you enjoyed it! Guess things are starting to get 'heated' ./shot