Title: Challenges
Author: AoiTsukikage
Rating: PG-13, probably
Characters/Pairing: Law/Sanji
Chapters: 1/1
Word Count: 2513
Other Notes: Spoilers for recent-ish manga chapters
Summary: "It's not weak to have feelings," Sanji hopped up so he was seated on the rail, heels knocking against the wood. "I know it's important to put up a front sometimes, but when you've got people you can let your guard down around you should take advantage of it." He wasn't sure what his words would do, because either Law would open up a little or he'd close off even tighter, but it was a chance he was willing to take.

Challenges

"You saved my life."

"Probably," Law was still scanning the sky, his dark eyes taking in everything until he nodded, apparently satisfied. "There aren't any clouds," he said in response to Sanji's unspoken question. "He can't get to us if the sky is clear, so we should be safe for a little while," his body relaxed somewhat although his grip on the nodachi he always carried didn't slacken.

"Why?"

"We're in an alliance, Mr. Blackleg. That should be reason enough," he turned from the rail and strode to the stern, but Sanji wasn't satisfied with that answer. He lit a cigarette and gave it about thirty seconds before following, stepping up beside the other man and not speaking. "Don't go thinking you're special," Law said after a period of silence, his normal frown in place. "Doflamingo and I have unfinished business that goes back over a decade. Anything I can do to get in his way, I'll do. You just happened to benefit this time."

"Heh," Sanji chuckled around his cigarette because while he had no doubt that was true, Law really needed to drop his act. He supposed, however, that it was understandable that in his position the last thing he'd want people to think was that he was really a lot nicer than his reputation painted him out to be. Of course he could be dangerous, and Sanji had a feeling he had a bit of a sadistic streak in him, but he wasn't nearly as terrifying as the tales all said.

"We have to keep moving," Law abruptly turned and Sanji reached to grab his wrist without thinking, holding him steady as Law turned to him with a glare.

"You said we're safe, right?"

"For now," Law reminded him but Sanji took a look at the clear sky and figured that meant they had time.

"So relax a little bit," Sanji let go of him to lean back on the rail and tipped his chin up, releasing a stream of smoke into the clear air. "You're probably exhausted."

"Need I remind you that I'm a doctor and know my own limits rather well?" Law snapped, but his shoulders slumped forward the slightest amount and Sanji knew he was giving in.

"Sometimes if we try too hard to take care of other people, we neglect to take care of ourselves," he didn't mean it to sound like some sort of proverb but it kind of came out that way, and Law twitched one corner of his mouth in an almost-smile before his face became impassive again.

"You would know, would you? Being a cook?"

"Yeah," he tapped some ash off the end of his cigarette. "I've often found myself too worried about making sure other people eat to eat anything myself. We both keep people alive, Law, even if it's in different ways," he pointed out, and Law looked like he was reflecting on that information.

Truth be told, Sanji was going to miss the other man when he inevitably took off, and a big part of that had to do with the fact that he was one of the only people…only men, he amended, because if he really focused he could do the same with Nami-san and Robin-chan...but one of the only men Sanji could have a legitimate conversation with on-board. Law was smart…maybe a little too smart, and Sanji wasn't ashamed to admit that he was attracted to intelligence.

"That's an interesting way to look at it," Law finally answered, letting himself lean beside Sanji and crossing his legs at the ankle. It looked almost casual, but Sanji knew he was ready to attack in an instant if the need should arise.

"Look at us, huh?" Sanji let the, well, absurdness of their situation wash over him for a moment. He didn't give himself over to those thoughts often, mostly because he'd probably collapse in hysterics if he tried to get any logic from them. "Two kids from North Blue, fighting Warlords and Emperors in the New World…did you ever see your life going this way?"

"I think I'd be bored out of my skull up there in the snow and ice if it hadn't," Law actually smiled now, a quick flash of teeth, and Sanji grinned back. Yeah, he might not remember much of his childhood home, but cold and snow and ice? That he was never going to forget. "There are things in my life I regret, Mr. Blackleg, but taking this path isn't one of them."

"Yeah, I know what you mean, I'd probably go stir-crazy if I was still stuck on that floating restaurant," Sanji wasn't sure if he could consider this a breakthrough, but it was by far the longest conversation he'd ever had with Law, and he figured it was safe to ask his question again. "So? Gonna tell me the truth now?"

"Why I saved you? I told you, it was beneficial to our alliance. I'm quite sure your captain wouldn't take too kindly to finding out that I could have helped you and chose not to," Law was apparently not budging from that explanation, and Sanji decided to let it go for now.

"Well, whatever the reason was…thanks. I'd have been in trouble otherwise," he'd stared death down enough times to not be afraid of it anymore, but everything had happened so fast with Doflamingo that it was hard to process how close he'd actually come.

"You would have been. You're strong, but you're not on his level. Few people are," he mused, fingers flexing on his sword, and Sanji had a strange feeling that Law was going to test out that theory very soon.

"Don't kill yourself."

"Why are you so worried?" Law looked directly at him, something smoldering in his stormy eyes that had Sanji immediately on the defensive. "What should it matter what happens to me? You owe me nothing."

"Except my life," Sanji grunted, turning away. "Luffy's life. Probably all of our lives," he shrugged off his suit jacket and rolled up his sleeves enough to reveal the bandages underneath, a stark reminder of how close it had been. "To me, that means something."

"What is honor to a pirate?" Law was smirking now, but it wasn't a nice smile.

"Maybe nothing," Sanji conceded, "but as a man…as a person…it's something I believe in. And more than that, I know what it's like to want to do everything by yourself, but sometimes you need to learn that you can't and when people want to help you, well, sometimes…that's all there is to it. Eventually it stops being about 'owing' somebody something and you just do it because you care about them," he supposed, in retrospect, that this was one of the things he'd always admired about Luffy and why he respected him as a captain: he was never afraid to admit when he needed help, and from what he'd seen of other captains in the world, that was a pretty rare trait.

"I hope you don't think I'll be around long enough for me to get to that point with your crew," Law sounded harsher than normal and Sanji looked sideways at him, having a fairly good idea of what this was about. At least, considering the topic of conversation.

"You miss them, don't you? Your own crew," he added, and Law's fingers tightened around his sword.

"I would be lying if I said I didn't, but that's not something I'm allowing myself to think about right now," he looked up at the sky again, still cloudless, and then off to the side.

"It's not weak to have feelings," Sanji hopped up so he was seated on the rail, heels knocking against the wood. "I know it's important to put up a front sometimes, but when you've got people you can let your guard down around you should take advantage of it." He wasn't sure what his words would do, because either Law would open up a little or he'd close off even tighter, but it was a chance he was willing to take.

Law's response, in fact, was to swipe off his hat and bow his head a little, and that in itself was surprising because Sanji didn't think he'd ever seen him voluntarily remove it before. "I'm aware. I just don't trust you enough to let you be that for me," that was…honest, and not entirely surprising, but Sanji could at least say he'd tried. When he looked up again he looked younger, and exhausted, and it wasn't something Sanji had seen in him before, this obvious weakness.

"I think you do," Sanji took his cigarette out of his mouth and swallowed, because the air had changed and it wasn't because of the weather. It wasn't as if he spent a lot of time thinking about men, mostly because there wasn't really any time for that (but really, despite the fact that he adored women, the fact that he could barely touch one without doing something embarrassing should have been a clear sign of where he was getting his kicks, so to speak). But well, almost dying always gave him a little extra incentive to find a way to distract himself, even if the timing was completely inappropriate.

And the person, for that matter, although Law was fucking gorgeous and Sanji wasn't going to admit that there was any ulterior motive in this conversation (there wasn't, he honestly just wanted to talk to the other man because he was kind of fascinating) but damn, it was turning into that a little too quickly for him to be comfortable with.

"Don't presume to know me. Mr. Blackleg," Law's voice was dripping venom but Sanji had never exactly shied away from danger.

"I don't. But one thing you'll learn pretty quickly if you stick around here is that almost all of us have dark pasts, and I don't care what happened in yours because it's not my job to judge you for it," he heard a shuffling beside him and looked up, a little worried because if Law decided to just slice him in half and leave him there he really had no defense against that, but the older man's expression was unreadable although not really murderous.

"You know, I didn't know what to expect from the rest of you when I decided to enter this alliance," Law crossed his arms, his hat dangling from his fingertips. "You're far smarter and stronger than I could have anticipated looking at you."

"Thanks?" Sanji snorted, because he wasn't sure if that was a compliment or not, but he'd heard it often enough that it didn't really surprise him. Yes, he was skinny and blond and pretty, but maybe that worked to his advantage if it meant people didn't take him seriously until it was too late.

He idly rubbed at his bandages again, patting down his pocket for another cigarette because it felt like they'd reached some sort of impasse. Which, of course, led him to thinking about…things he shouldn't again. He couldn't tell how Law would react to an obvious come-on (most likely it would result in another situation that would have him cut in half) but from what he'd heard the older man had been entirely unaffected in the presence of Empress Boa Hancock, so it stood to reason that he wasn't exactly into women.

Law seemed to be waiting for something, some signal that Sanji had no idea what it was supposed to be, but he'd stopped making excuses about wanting to leave and his gaze lingered on Sanji a little too often to be coincidental. Sanji hopped off the railing, biting his lip and trying to figure out how to say what he wanted to next.

"Look," he finally settled on, clapping Law on the shoulder and feeling the man tense even beneath the soft touch. "I don't need to hear about your demons. I just want you to know that if you ever need to talk about them, you've got a whole bunch of people willing to listen who won't think any less of you for them," he didn't move his hand, his eyes raking over the swirls of the tattoo on Law's chest, and before he even realized he was doing it his fingers were tracing the patterns there.

"You know if you were anybody else you'd be dead," Law's voice had dropped a little and he had one of those tones that sounded seductive at the best of times, but there wasn't any question it was more pronounced now.

"I…" Sanji pulled back a little, meaning to apologize for being so fucking stupid, but Law caught his wrist and held his hand there, pressed against skin that felt cool under his fingers.

"I still only saved you because of the alliance," Law's words this time sounded flimsier than ever, but Sanji didn't care because this wasn't something he was going to object to.

"Yeah. Whatever," he grinned and slid his free hand up into Law's hair, but even though he knew it was coming he was still a little taken aback by how hard Law slammed their mouths together, one hand set in the small of Sanji's back and the other arm locked around his shoulders.

And holy shit, Law knew how to kiss, but Sanji wasn't exactly inexperienced in that area and tried to give as good as he was getting; it was open-mouthed and rough and he'd needed this so much more than he'd even realized. He slid his hand up onto Law's shoulder under his coat, needing to touch as much skin as he could, and Law murmured something into his mouth that certainly sounded encouraging before he broke the kiss with a gasp.

"This isn't the time," there was something final about his tone that had Sanji immediately on-guard, but he didn't move away and Sanji made no move to separate them, either. "I need to…"

"It can wait," Sanji really didn't know if it could wait, but it wasn't as if these moments of peace were common so he was going to take advantage of it as long as he could. "Don't you ever do something just because you want to?"

"Is that some sort of challenge?" Law was smirking again but there was something about it that was softer, and Sanji looked up at the still-clear sky and shrugged.

"Do you want it to be?"

Law's answer was apparently to kiss him again, which he was more than okay with, and he wasn't going to delude himself into thinking this was anything more than a one-time thing. Law wouldn't be around forever; Hell, he might not even be around for more than another hour or two, but right now that didn't matter.

"Don't challenge me, Mr. Blackleg. You won't win," Law was a little breathless and Sanji considered that a victory all by itself.

"Prove it," Sanji grinned, because he had no doubt that Law would, and he was looking forward to every second of it.

Notes:

1. I don't know what this is or where it came from because I've never written this pairing before, but my writing has been so spotty and awful lately that when I get an idea I try to take advantage of it, and after seeing that scene in the manga it gave me far too many ideas (even though I know it's illogical because literally everything happens so fast there would be no time to fit something like this in, but shh, just go with it).

2. Um, if you enjoyed this at all or have any thoughts or anything, feel free to review?