This took forever. I am so sorry.

This fic is rated M.

I do not own One Piece.


"Luffy, you idiot! This is the hallway!" snapped Usopp, smacking his friend upside the back of the head.

Sanji felt a small smile pull at his lips. He had been right; these people were very much like the cooks at the Baratie. He watched with quiet amusement as Luffy rubbed at the back of his head and whined at Usopp, who just grumbled back at him.

"So, can I have a tour?" Sanji asked, drawing the attention of his bickering hosts.

If it hadn't been for the years he'd spent working in a busy kitchen, Sanji probably wouldn't have been able to understand Usopp and Luffy as they spoke over each other. Apparently, for a relatively small house, there was a lot to see. He was immediately invited to visit their rooms. They also informed him that he should see the living room, sun room, and backyard. There was a workshop in the basement that was a prime point of interest—for Usopp, at least—as well as Nami's office, and the infirmary. Sanji listened with as much patience as possible, only really perking up when Luffy started talking about the kitchen. Which reminded him…

"Did you remember to take the bacon off the heat?" asked Sanji, interrupting the non-stop stream of information. Luffy and Usopp both froze, their mouths hanging open as Sanji's question sank in.

"The…" Luffy began.

"…bacon," finished Usopp.

They both turned to Nami, whose irritation was only just beginning to fall away.

"I think it might be burning," Sanji added.

Sure enough, the sharp odor of burning meat drifted into the hallway, prompting his hosts into action. Nami swore loudly and bolted for the kitchen, arriving at the entry way just after Luffy, who was screaming "Save the bacon!" over and over. Usopp followed suit, scrambling to his feet and running to join his friends, leaving Sanji alone in the hall with Chopper.

"We better get in there," said Sanji as he watched after them. He could feel instincts that had been repressed by Them coming back to life. He wanted to be in that kitchen correcting his hosts' mistake. Out of the corner of his eye, Sanji could see Chopper watching him closely, though his rapt attention remained on the entry through which the others had disappeared. "I'm a cook, you know. I can probably fix it."

Without waiting for an answer, Sanji began the surprisingly difficult task of trying to get up. His bruised ribs and backside twinged and ached as he pushed himself up into a seated position. He gripped at his middle more tightly, digging his fingers into the layers of bandages beneath his cotton pajama top. Despite all of the distractions, he still hurt. As he moved to maneuver his legs beneath him, a sharp spike of pain shot up his back and an involuntary groan escaped from between tightly clenched teeth.

"We should go to the infirmary first," Chopper finally spoke, his words stopping Sanji mid-motion. "Even if you didn't get hurt in the fall, I still want to see how everything is progressing and maybe give you some pain medication."

Sanji began to protest, only to be silenced by a stern look from the young doctor. It was incredible. Not two minutes before, Chopper had been nothing more than a panicky kid. But now he almost seemed twice his size, projecting the same authority as any other doctor. There would be no arguing with him on this. Sanji sighed, giving the entry to the kitchen one last look of longing, and nodded.

"Good." Chopper knelt beside him, expertly placing his hands in the places that would cause him the least amount of pain, and helped him up. He turned Sanji so he was facing deeper into the house. "The infirmary is this way. Do you need help walking?"

"I can manage," Sanji ground out, steadying himself as best as he could. The hallway was wider on the main floor than it had been upstairs with nothing other than the wall to offer support, but he really didn't want to risk falling again.

Chopper gave him an incredulous look and then bent to retrieve Sanji's house slippers, which had been scattered at the bottom of the stairs in his fall, and wordlessly handed them to him. Sanji frowned as he slid his feet into the soft shoes and shuffled after the doctor. In the company of Luffy and the others, Chopper had been so energetic. But here with him alone, he almost seemed distrustful. Did the kid think he was dangerous?

They passed an open entryway similar to that of the one leading into the kitchen, this one opening into a living room. Sanji paused as he peeked inside, only to be ushered on by a pull at his sleeve by Chopper before he could get a good look.

The infirmary, as it turned out, was almost directly across the hall from the den. When he stepped inside, Sanji found a room roughly the size of his own. There were more wood paneled walls—they seemed to run through the whole house—only these had been painted white. The entire room was bright and clean, from the curtains over the window to the desk in the corner. Opposite of the desk was a small hospital bed, complete with fresh sheets and a pillow. Cabinets and shelves lined all of the available wall space, only broken by a modest countertop with a sink. Sanji was impressed. For a halfway house, this was a rather sophisticated set up.

"Please take a seat on the bed," said Chopper, still projecting the attitude of a professional.

Sanji bit back a smirk and followed the teen's directions, feeling as though he were playing doctor with a child. As he eased himself onto the slightly hard mattress, he saw Chopper pull some papers from a folder and loop a stethoscope behind his neck.

"And take off your sweater and shirt," Chopper added as he collected bandages and other supplies from a cabinet.

That part gave Sanji pause. He'd just finally gotten to wear clothes again; he didn't want to take them off. Logic told him that it was necessary, but the irrational fear that They had instilled in him said that he wouldn't get his clothes back. If he did as he was told, he'd be going down a path that led right back to the place from which he had just escaped. The thought sent a shudder running through Sanji's body, which Chopper turned just in time to see.

"You know what? It's kind of cold in here. Why don't you leave your shirt on? Just unbutton it for me, okay?"

Sanji let go an involuntary sigh of relief, thankful to the doctor for saving him from having to beg. With less trepidation than before, he removed his cardigan and unbuttoned the pajama shirt. He sat silently as Chopper stepped forward and began his examination, trying his best not to wince or complain as the doctor pressed at his bruised mid-section or placed the freezing stethoscope to his bare skin.

As his examination progressed, the silence in the room went from slightly awkward to deafening. Even when Their doctors had treated his various injuries throughout his captivity, there had always been some sort of conversation, though it was usually Doctor Heartstealer exasperatedly telling Bellamy to shut up. Sanji wasn't sure what was making Chopper so quiet. He had sounded so lively with Luffy before. Just as Chopper began to pull at the bandages over his shoulder, he decided that he couldn't take it anymore.

"So, Chopper, huh?" Sanji asked, his question making the teen jump back in surprise. Sanji tried to keep his face neutral and friendly so as not to scare him off. "That's an unusual name. Is it a nickname?"

Chopper scowled at him for a moment as if assessing the purpose of his patient's question, and then relaxed. "Yeah. My real name is Tony. You can call me that, if you like."

Sanji shrugged his good shoulder, giving the young doctor his friendliest smile. "No, Chopper's cool. How old are you, though? You seem kind of young to be a doctor."

The teen laughed nervously and went back to unwrapping the bandages around Sanji's shoulder and waist, struggling only a little with maneuvering around the shirt.

"I'm fifteen," he explained, rolling up the last of the cotton strips and tossing them into a bin marked "Hazardous Waste". "And I'm not really a doctor. Not yet."

Sanji pulled away at that and gave Chopper a skeptical look.

"I'm studying to be one, though!" Chopper quickly amended, his voice earnest. "I'm pre-med. This is my last semester before I go to medical school." He gently pulled away the square of gauze over Sanji's shoulder, making him wince as it tugged at the injury underneath. "And I've had lots of practical experience. Luffy gets into a lot of trouble and Zoro's even worse—oh, this is coming along nicely already."

At Chopper's comment, Sanji turned to see for himself, questions about this Zoro person banished for the moment. He only very vaguely remembered receiving the injury to his shoulder. All he could recall was gunfire and an explosion of pain as he, Luffy, and Usopp had run through the lobby.

"The bullet only grazed you," said Chopper as he took a closer look at the wound. "But it was deep enough that you needed stitches. And you lost quite a bit of blood. Luckily, we had the right type to give you a transfusion."

Sanji raised his eyebrows, shifting his gaze from the neat line of stitches on his shoulder to the bandaid on the inside of his arm. How had he not noticed that before? More importantly, how had they known his blood type? It was extremely rare and not even something They had bothered with.

"This looks really good, though," Chopper continued on before Sanji could ask who had given them his medical information. "Especially given the amount of time it's had." The doctor-in-training smiled at him. "You should be feeling better in no time!"

"How long has it had?"

"What?"

"Er—" Sanji paused for a moment, searching for a good way to rephrase. "How long have I been here?"

"Oh." Chopper frowned, his fingers nervously working at a packet containing fresh gauze. "It's been two days."

"Two days?!"

Chopper hummed and nodded.

Sanji felt like he might hyperventilate. Two days. Two whole days. That was at least forty-eight hours that he had been vulnerable and exposed. A fearful chill crept up his spine, bringing mistrust with it. He shook his head once and then a second time in hopes of dismissing the toxic feeling that clutched at his heart and burned with nausea at the back of his throat. Deep down, Sanji knew he could trust these people; he hoped desperately that he could. But he had learned that losing days meant being haunted by mostly repressed memories and a strange imagined filthiness that clung to his skin. The thought of missing two whole days and not knowing what had happened in them made him sick.

"Sanji?" By now, Chopper's worried voice sounded far away and Sanji didn't even notice the doctor until he had reached out and touched his shoulder.

"Don't—!" He flinched away from the teen's hand, his eyes wide and his heartbeat echoing in his ears.

"I'm sorry," Chopper whined, looking terrified and hurt. "I didn't mean to upset you."

It was then that Sanji realized he was shaking, clutching his shirt closed around him tightly enough that his fingers hurt. Almost instantly, his blind fear and mistrust faded and was replaced by guilt. By now, he had lost count of the number of times he had suspected Luffy and his friends of malicious intent. All they had done was help him, yet he continued to place them in the same category as Them. Sanji hated himself for it. He hated himself for the doubt that lingered in his mind, for allowing himself to be so easily broken, and for the tears at the corners of Chopper's eyes. Most of all, Sanji hated himself for letting Marimo's betrayal poison him against innocent people. He sighed.

"No, I'm the one who should apologize," Sanji said. "You've taken really good care of me and you don't even know me. I should be thanking you. I don't know how I'll ever repay you guys for what you've done."

Chopper blinked dumbly at him for a moment and then a bright blush accompanied by a wide grin spread across his face. "Don't compliment me! I still have a lot to learn. Besides, it doesn't make me happy or anything."

Sanji gave him a wry smirk, his grip around his shirt beginning to relax. Chopper was a good kid. There wasn't anything to fear from him.

"Hey, how about I just wrap your shoulder for now?" suggested Chopper, some of his blush faded, but his cheer still evident. "We can redo the bandages over your ribs after breakfast."

The last of the tension fell from Sanji's shoulders at the doctor's suggestion.

"Just try to avoid doing anything strenuous until then, okay?" he instructed as he taped fresh gauze into place over Sanji's stitches. "Or actually, don't do anything too strenuous, or I'll put you on bed rest until you heal."

Sanji pressed his lips together and nodded. He wasn't sure if it was possible to avoid trouble with Luffy around and he would have to ensure that Usopp wasn't anywhere near the stairs when he used them, but he would try his best. Anything to avoid being confined to a bed again.

"Here." Chopper handed him a sling. "To keep weight off of your shoulder. I don't want you using that arm too much until it's healed."

Again, Sanji nodded, setting the sling to the side so he could button up his pajama shirt and put his sweater back on. He fumbled a little with the buttons, the metal brace on his finger interfering with his fine motor functions. He looked up when he saw Chopper fidgeting in his peripheral vision.

"What?"

"Do you want help with that?" The teen sounded hesitant. "Or maybe with the sling? There are a lot of straps, so it can be kind of hard to do one-handed."

His immediate impulse was to turn Chopper down. It had been so long since he'd gotten to do anything for himself, Sanji wasn't keen on giving that up right away. That and his mistrust still lingered, no matter how guilty he felt about it. He had gotten close to Marimo, attached feelings of friendship and even affection to him, only to be devastated weeks later. The risk of betrayal was too high. But Chopper's offer to help was so innocent and his wide brown eyes were almost pleading. Sanji had the feeling that the young doctor would be crushed if he turned him down.

"Yeah, I could use some help with the sling," Sanji compromised.

He saw Chopper's face split into a wide grin as he finished buttoning up his cardigan. It turned out that the young doctor had been right about the sling; there were a lot of straps. Sanji found himself glad for Chopper's help as he looped one Velcro strap over his shoulder and another around his waist. When all was said and done, his left arm was completely immobilized and his shoulder hurt significantly less.

"And now for your foot," said Chopper as he stepped back.

"What about my foot?"

"Well, you fractured it and…" The doctor drifted off, his brow furrowed.

"And?"

"And you shouldn't be walking on it." That worried tone was back again. "I saw how bad your limp was. If you keep walking around on it, it won't heal!"

Sanji grimaced. He had an idea of where this conversation was going and he already didn't like it.

"I think you should use a wheelchair for the next few d—"

"No."

"But you need to keep weight off your foot!"

"No."

"Why? Do you want to ruin your foot?"

Sanji sighed and pinched at the bridge of his nose, having to suppress a wince as a dull spike of pain reminded him that that was also bruised. "Tell me something, Chopper. How the hell am I going to push myself around in a wheelchair with only one arm?"

"Oh." Chopper thought for a moment. "Well, someone else could do it!"

"Someone else…"

Chopper nodded enthusiastically.

"Like Luffy or Usopp," Sanji said, incredulous. "I barely know them and I can already tell that's a bad idea."

"Nami could do it," offered the doctor.

Visions of the beautiful Nami dressed in a nurse's uniform flashed through Sanji's mind, making his heart flutter and his stomach do a succession of backflips. To have such a goddess accompany him for every task would be a dream…except that she would have to join him on trips to the bathroom or be there to possibly witness him crumble when his recent past got the better of him. He thought back to his reactions to simply being touched and how hurt Chopper had been at his rejection. He couldn't do that to Nami.

"I'm not going to impose that on a lady," Sanji grumbled. "Why can't I use one of the crutches in the corner?"

Chopper gave him a pleading look, which Sanji met with a determined one of his own until the teen finally broke. With a sigh, he retrieved a crutch that had been leaning beside the door and handed it to his patient.

"If I see you struggling, I'm going to take it away and order you to—"

"Bed rest. Yeah, I know," said Sanji, eagerly taking the crutch and standing up.

It took him a moment to find his new center of balance with the crutch. He shuffled around on his good foot, shifting the padded support of the crutch around until it was comfortably situated under his arm. When he was satisfied, Sanji looked back at Chopper, a triumphant smile on his face.

"See? Nothing to worry about."

Chopper frowned, obviously still skeptical.

"Do you think they managed to save any of the bacon?" asked Sanji, already hobbling toward the door in hopes of getting through it before the young doctor changed his mind.

Walking with the crutch was more difficult than he had anticipated. It was definitely better than walking directly on his foot, but challenging to manage without his other arm for balance. By the time he reached the door, he had only half-figured out how to pattern his steps with the crutch so that it actually did its job without him tripping. Opening the door posed a whole new problem. The sling took his left hand completely out of action and the crutch limited his reach. He could feel Chopper watching him as he strained to grasp the knob. This was a test; Sanji just knew it was. If he could manage this on his own, he might be allowed more freedom without his hosts constantly hovering around.

With a final lunge, Sanji managed to get the door open, a small victorious "aha!" escaping from his lips as he not-so-gracefully hobbled into the hall. He paused briefly to glance at the doctor over his shoulder, flashing him a lopsided smile and a thumbs-up. Chopper only heaved a worried sigh and turned back to the papers on his desk.

"You go on without me," he said, flipping though a few documents whose contents Sanji couldn't quite see. "I'll be there in a minute."

Sanji needed no second bidding. He was ravenously hungry and eager to put some distance between himself and the infirmary. He took a few uneven steps into the hall, trying to decide upon the best route. With the crutch hindering his gait, the base of the stairs and adjacent doorway to the kitchen seemed much farther away. That and part of Sanji wanted to explore while he was on his own. As his gaze swept the hall, his eyes immediately landed on the open entry to the living room.

In his eagerness to examine Sanji's injuries, Chopper had stopped him from entering the room before, but there was nothing to keep him from it now. Like the rest of the house, the living room was modest yet cozy. There was a small gathering of mismatched seating that formed a semi-circle around an older model digital television. Blankets and throw pillows were strewn across the chairs and floor, and the skewed cushions on the couch spoke to the recent creation and destruction of a pillow fort. Sanji raised his eyebrows at the sight. This looked like the living room of a home with children, but he had a sneaking suspicion that the mess before him was Luffy's doing.

"Sanji!"

Speak of the devil.

Sanji looked up from the disheveled living room to find Luffy beaming at him from a second doorway to the kitchen. To Luffy's left, there was an opening that seemed to serve as a bar, through which he could see Usopp fearfully scrubbing at a pan in the sink while Nami looked on in irritation.

"Are you feeling better?" Luffy continued, drawing Sanji's attention back to him. "Chopper's a really good doctor! Hey! Are you hungry? There isn't any bacon left, but we could make something else! Oh!"—He turned back into the kitchen.—"Hey, Nami! Do we still have any of that steak?"

"No." Nami scowled at her housemate. "You ate all of it last night, remember?"

"Inhaled, more like," grumbled Usopp from the sink. "Same as the bacon. You didn't even save me any." He whined miserably. "I think I might collapse from hunger!"

"Oh, shut up. You will not," snapped Nami. "Keep cleaning that pan. This is your fault, you know."

"My fault?!" bristled Usopp. "How is it my f—"

A hard slap to the back of the head shut the longnose up and set Luffy into a fit of laughter.

"And you," growled Nami, rounding on Luffy. "You're just as bad, standing there laughing. Help Sanji get some breakfast! I bet he's starving!"

Sanji wobbled where he stood, thankful for the extra support provided by the crutch. To have such a lovely lady as Nami worried about him; it was almost too much.

"Are you sure you didn't hit your head in that fall?" asked Nami.

"I'm fine," Sanji reassured her as he limped further into the kitchen.

"I did," said Usopp. He dropped the half-cleaned frying pan into the sink with a sudsy splash. "I think I need to go lie down. Luffy can finish this, right?"

Nami turned and scowled at Usopp again, and he resumed work on the pan. When she turned back to Sanji, there was still slight irritation evident on her face. "Is there anything you're hungry for?"

Sanji had to take a deep breath to hold himself together. He was pretty sure that his unique tactics for gushing over a woman as breathtakingly perfect as Nami would likely qualify as "strenuous activity" in Chopper's book and he really didn't want to be confined to a bed. Once he'd gotten the hearts in his eyes under control, he paused and thought for a moment. "What do you have?"

"Not much," said Usopp before Nami could answer. He hazarded a glance over his shoulder at Sanji. "Luffy's eaten just about everything and we haven't been grocery shopping in a week."

"Is that pan clean yet?" asked Nami, shooting a venomous glare at Usopp that sent him back to vigorously scrubbing. She sighed and pinched at the bridge of her nose. "He's right, though. All that's left is flour, sugar, some eggs…" She counted off their inventory on her fingers as she listed them. "We have some milk and maple syrup. Oh, and there's oatmeal."

Sanji winced at the mention of oatmeal, the memory of the gruel They had fed him sticking in his throat.

"I could make something," he offered. "I'm a coo—chef. I'm a chef."

"Really? That would be wonderful, Sanji!" said Nami, her eyes sparkling.

Beside her, Luffy look equally excited. Sanji was pretty sure he could see drool collecting at the corners of his host's mouth.

"Can you cook meat? Meat would be good. You should make meat."

Sanji and Nami heaved identical sighs.

"I can't cook meat if you don't have any," said Sanji.

"You can't cook anything anyway," came Chopper's voice from behind him.

All of them turned to face the young doctor, a collective groan echoing in the small kitchen.

"Why not?" whined Luffy, voicing the unspoken question in the room.

Sanji hung his head. He already knew the answer without having to hear it.

"Sanji is supposed to be resting," explained Chopper, his face set in a determined yet unintimidating scowl. He laid the file folder from the infirmary onto the breakfast bar and slid up onto a stool. "I told you, Sanji, you can't strain yourself or you won't heal."

As Luffy and Usopp began to complain, Sanji's mind raced. He needed to find a way to convince Chopper to give him some freedom. His fingers itched for activity once again and he drummed them against his crutch, the exposed metal of his finger splint clinking softly as it made contact.

"What if I direct and you guys cook?" offered Sanji, speaking slowly as the thought formed. He resolutely met Chopper's gaze. "I don't even have to move. Hell, I could even sit, if you want me to."

Chopper frowned. "I don't know…"

"I was thinking about making pancakes," Sanji continued, barely hiding a small victorious grin as he saw the gravity of his offer sink in. Apparently, his young doctor had a sweet tooth.

All eyes were on Chopper as he visibly struggled with his concern for his patient's health and his own loudly grumbling stomach. Sanji shifted uneasily on his good foot, lightly tapping the toe of his broken one against the floor. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, Chopper crumbled.

"Fine." He let go a defeated sigh. "But! You have to promise to take it easy. And…can I have chocolate chips in mine?"

Sanji nodded eagerly, a wide genuinely happy grin spreading across his face.

Unfortunately, cooking with his hosts turned out to be more difficult than Sanji had anticipated. Nami, in all of her angelic perfection, was extremely detail oriented in her approach to cooking, missing the bigger picture almost entirely. Normally, Sanji wouldn't have minded giving the redhead extra attention—he knew that he would have countless "cooking with Nami" fantasies later—but he also needed to keep a watchful eye over Luffy and Usopp. Within mere minutes of starting, the two of them had gotten into a flour fight, which resulted in half of the bag covering the counters, the floor, and themselves. Sanji found himself having to watch over Nami's cooking whilst simultaneously managing Luffy and Usopp's self-inflicted cleanup duties. By the time breakfast was finally cooked and served, Sanji was trying to his best to hide his exhaustion from Chopper.

The Going Merry Halfway House had no formal dining room, so Sanji found himself seated in the living room with the others, a plate of fresh pancakes balanced on his lap. He quietly observed his new housemates as he thoughtfully chewed his food, the rich flavors feeling foreign on his deprived tongue. Luffy was an even bigger nuisance when there was food to be had, and Sanji quickly learned that he had to carefully guard his plate if he wanted any chance at eating his entire meal. Luckily, the so-called Captain seemed to be dead set on stealing from Usopp's plate for this particular meal.

"Ah! I almost forgot!" Chopper practically yelped, drawing Sanji's attention away from a fresh squabble that had broken out between Luffy and Usopp. The young doctor hurriedly shoveled the last few bites of pancake into his mouth and then rushed to retrieve the file folder from the bar. "I still need you to answer some questions for me, Sanji!"

"Oh…kay," Sanji said slowly, handing his leftover breakfast to Luffy. He was still hungry, but it seemed that the Captain was too, and offering his remaining share allowed Usopp to eat in peace. He may have been a little rusty, but he was still a world class chef. He had no intention of letting anyone go hungry. Not to mention that by donating his food to the bottomless pit that was Luffy, he won a brief reprieve from Luffy's antics for all of them. "What kind of questions?"

Chopper beamed at him, the folder already open in his lap. Sanji doubted that he would ever be able to take such an adorable kid seriously.

"Just some basic medical history questions. I already have a lot of your information; I just need to know if anything has changed…oh! Unless you'd prefer to do this in private. We can go back to the infirmary, if you'd like—"

"No, no, here is fine." Sanji really didn't want to go back in the infirmary. He had a sneaking suspicion that he would walk out even more bandaged and immobilized than he already was.

"Great!" Chopper grinned widely. "Do you have any history of heart conditions?"

"No."

"Diabetes?"

"No."

"Fainting or lightheadedness?"

"No."

Chopper's list continued in this fashion for several more bullets, the monotony of Sanji's repeated no's wearing on the mood in the room. In the corner of his eye, he could see Luffy and Usopp beginning another shoving match whilst Nami tried to ignore them by reading a book.

"Okay, last two," said Chopper, checking off the most recent category with a small flourish. "I see here that you used to smoke. Is that still a habit?"

Sanji paused at that, his mouth hanging half way open. Once again, he couldn't help but to wonder who had told Chopper that he had smoked in the first place.

His smoking had been a persistent and excessive habit in his former life, and a cause of constant nagging by Zeff. The nicotine withdrawal had been hell when he had first been taken. Sanji could almost feel the violent shaking that had overrun his body and the crippling nausea that had turned his stomach. They had delighted in withholding his addiction, using his cigarette habit as yet another tool to break him. Sanji suppressed a shudder, remembering how excited Crocodile had become during his first visit when his "Prince" had hungrily inhaled the lingering scent of cigar smoke on his clothing.

Now, Sanji wasn't sure if he would pick the habit up again, though his mouth itched for a cigarette at the thought.

"No," he finally answered with a dejected sigh. "I suppose it isn't."

"Is there any other history of drug abuse?"

"No. Well…" Sanji frowned.

"Yes?" Chopper asked, concern clear in his voice.

"Well…" Sanji sighed and resisted the urge to pinch at the bridge of his bruised nose. "It's just that They gave me a lot of drugs, but I don't know what they were or how much or anything. I don't think that I'm addicted to any of them, though."

Chopper mirrored Sanji's frown. "Okay. I might take some blood and urine samples, if that's okay. See if there's anything lingering in your system."

Sanji winced. What an appetizing thought right after breakfast. He really would have preferred to avoid anymore poking and prodding, and he didn't even want to think about the logistics required for him to pee in a cup with one arm in a sling and as unbalanced as he was.

"Don't worry," said Usopp, his tone even and casual despite having Luffy's foot planted in his face. "We all had to do that stuff when we first got here. Though…not all of us were in as rough shape as you."

"Zoro was!" interjected Luffy, sitting up straighter and disrupting Usopp's grip on his collar. "Zoro looked awful. Remember that, Nami?"

Nami glanced up from her book and frowned. "I remember. The moron almost died." She grimaced and then shrugged. "Wasn't the last time he got into that kind of trouble, though."

"Zoro…You guys keep mentioning him," said Sanji. He had a sneaking suspicion of who he was—it was pretty obvious when he thought about it—but he hoped he was wrong. The others really seemed to look up to this Zoro person, even idolized him, if Chopper's expression was anything to go by. If Sanji suspicions were correct, then there would be a big problem with him staying at the Going Merry. "Does he live here?"

"Of course!" Luffy grinned widely. "Us and Zoro and Robin and Franky and Brook. Law stays sometimes too, but not lately."

Sanji mentally tallied the names. Including him, that made nine residents of the Going Merry. Ten, if he counted this Law. He wanted to inquire further, but all conversation stopped when the sound of the front door opening and closing and heavy footsteps on hardwood floors echoed down the hall. Sanji could hear vaguely familiar voices speaking lowly to one another, his heart freezing midbeat at the moment of recognition. Relief and joy washed over the others in the room while a combination of terror and rage clutched at Sanji's body as the footsteps neared the living room.

"They're finally back!" exclaimed Luffy, bouncing excitedly in his seat.

Two familiar figures rounded the corner into the living room. His hosts' happiness was palpable, but Sanji didn't care. Cold dread and righteous anger turned his stomach as he glared at the murderous bastard that had betrayed him.

"Hey, everyone," said Marimo with a small smirk, stepping slightly to the side to let Doctor Heartstealer through the entryway.

Sanji coiled himself to attack and Marimo finally seemed to notice him.

"Oi, Curlybrow, you look like hell," he said with a grin. "Sorry to leave you alone with these guys. Are you feeling any better?"


I'm still not sure where the plot went. I'll have to go look for it.

I am updating my ongoing fics in this order: Chivalry Makes Dead, Gifted, The Golden Spiral. (That way, nothing gets abandoned for ages and ages.)

Thanks for reading!