"I'm so hungry," someone murmurs outside.
Sanji thins the soup a little more.
The aquarium is as empty as the sails, and there doesn't seem to be fish for miles. Their dry stores are running dangerously low, they haven't had money to stock up properly in quite awhile, and Sanji's making it stretch as far as he can.
It means less meals in a day, and smaller portions. His heart aches when they scrape their plates clean, when Luffy, Usopp and Chopper have no energy to play and spend the afternoons napping with Zoro instead, when Nami assures him he's welcome to her mikan if it's any help.
His friends are hungry, he's the cook and he's supposed to feed them.
His hands are shaking as he takes out a cigarette, lurking in the kitchen while the rest of them eat because he can't bring himself to face them. In his head he's going over what he knows is left in the storeroom, wonders if there's enough to work with that he could give them a better meal tomorrow.
He lurches around, heart in his throat, to find Luffy standing behind him.
"Oh, it's you." He ducks his head as he fishes out his lighter, because he can't quite meet those wide eyes. In the time it takes to light the cigarette and take a long drag, Luffy still hasn't said a word. Sanji exhales, bites the bullet. "There's none left for seconds, captain."
"I'm not hungry from sleeping all day." It has to be a lie, Luffy's hungry even when he's eaten five times in a day. Luffy hops up onto the counter, sits there with his feet swinging, looking young and thin and not at all like a young man who's seen prison and war. "Hey Sanji- tell me about All Blue."
The request comes out of nowhere, but he's used to stranger from his captain. So he leans against the opposite counter and describes the sea of his dreams the same way he had the day he decided to leave the Baratie; to Luffy, who believed in magic oceans as easily as he believed in people.
"It's gonna be amazing," Luffy declares when he's finished, and Sanji huffs out a laugh, can't help feeling pleased at the openhanded approval. "But it's no match for you."
He blinks, taken aback. "Me?"
"Well, yeah. That sea may have every type of fish in the world, but my cook can make awesome food out of nothing!"
Luffy's smile is wide and proud; and standing in front of his captain in their kitchen (with its bare cupboards and half-empty fridge) that smile is almost enough to bring Sanji to tears.
Amazingly, somehow, he smiles back instead, warmth bursting in his chest like shrapnel.
"So promise me- the biggest banquet ever when we find that ocean!"
And the no-name chef from a tiny restaurant in East Blue, who went to sea and became Black Leg of the Straw Hat Pirates, who's visited islands in the sky and under the sea, is beginning to realize that dreams can change into something still more wonderful, and promises, "Whatever you say, captain."
The next night he makes plain pasta, and this time he eats at the table with everyone else.