theremedy: (Sanji)
[personal profile] theremedy
Chapter Nine


Present:

Fine by me

Sanji woke automatically at the usual ass-end of the morning o’clock to the sound of mouse squeaking snores coming from the trundle bed on the floor. He needed a smoke. That would require moving. When he was a teenager he used to keep a pack in the drawer there to indulge the moment he woke up. Sometimes, if Usopp was spending the night, he’d be an ass and leave the drawer open so the longnose would bang his head into it when he sat up. That was before the great shitty adventure, though. He can still smell the arena sometimes, feel the heat from the lights, hear the ladies scream. It had been a dream he hadn’t even known he’d had but all dreams ended with waking up.

It was too damn early in the morning to be morose. Might as well get breakfast. Sanji opened the drawer before rolling out of bed and starting to amble out of the door when he remembered Nami was here. Shit. He grabbed some clothes, looked both directions, then scarpered upstairs to the bathroom. It would probably be okay if he didn’t shower first. After all she’d seen him…unrepresentable. Ah but that wasn’t the point. He could do without. Anyone could. But he was a different sort of guy because he chose to strike an appearance no matter how much effort it took beforehand.

In any case, she deserved it, how hard she was working for them all—how hard she always working for them. Last night was one of the few times he’d ever seen her truly drunk, her face flushed, lips parted, breasts pressing against his arm in the warm heavy weight of love….

Sanji threw on the shower, tossed off his clothes and got in, hissing between his teeth at the ice that pounded down his back. The point was, he reminded certain parts of himself. That she’d been drunk. And not because the party had gone on too long. So he would have to be there for her in every aspect he could possibly be. Help her, too, even when she didn’t know he was.

Which reminded him, he thought as he began to wash his hair. What the hell was Zoro doing going to Colorado? He didn’t have family there— or anywhere—as far as Sanji knew and he didn’t just randomly go places. True he randomly ended up places but that was because he was a braindead idiot. Ahh— He’d think about it later. That meatheaded moron was the last person Sanji wanted to think about while naked in the shower.

In twenty minutes he was dressed, groomed, shaved and trimmed his goatee, proud still that after all this time, he finally had one to trim. Fate had finally smiled on him. He went back downstairs, smirking at a soft thump that came from his room.

“Ow~! Son of a—” Usopp muttered, turning Sanji’s smirk into a grin. He skirted around Chopper who was still snoring on the air mattress in the living room and into the kitchen. There was evidence of Zeff’s breakfast, which Sanji, ever the chore boy, was expected to clean up. Shitty broom faced old geezer. He put the dishes in the sink and started on the coffee, training his face into a bland expression as he heard Usopp padding into the kitchen.

“Morning,” he said in a hushed voice, leaning back against the counter. Usopp gave him a bland look, massaging his forehead.

“Why do you live to torment me?”

“A man has to have a hobby,” Sanji said with a shrug. Anyway it was probably something to do with lingering anger from the ‘Charlie’ incident and in no way twisted affection for the shitty liar.

“What are the chances of getting an omelet for breakfast?” Usopp asked, pouring himself some orange juice and scratching his boxer clad butt, showing an alarming amount of not caring for a lady being present a room, a staircase, and a closed door away.

“Pretty high,” Sanji said, eying him. “What are the chances of you putting some pants on?”

“Pretty low.” Usopp sat at the island. “Guess I’m just feeling super today.”

Sanji snorted and got the stuff for the omelet, deciding that everyone was going to have one this morning unless Nami wanted something different. Also bacon and sausages so he could make the smiley face with ears that Chopper said he was too old to geek out on. Usopp poked his head in the fridge and came out with an orange. Sanji started cooking. He heard Chopper moving around and poured him some coffee, setting it at the island just as the yeti meandered in wearing the silk pajamas that Sanji had got him last Christmas unlike some inconsiderate asshole.

“Mofin,” Chopper mumbled.

“Morning,” Sanji said. “You want eggs before or after your jog?”

“Aftnn,” he mumbled again, nose half in his mug. Usopp was eating a bowl of mini donuts. Sanji pretended not to see and went back to the eggs. He didn’t mind the longnose grazing so long as it didn’t get out of hand. Though Sanji doubted it would ever go back to how it was in eighth grade when he’d gotten fat from eating his own lunch and stealing everyone elses… it was still something to keep an eye on. Usopp had worked damned hard for his physique and Sanji wasn’t going to see all that effort go to waste just because…

…because of the …inevitable.

After all just because…just because that empty-headed brat… Well it didn’t mean they had to stop living. And in fact they should keep living as hard as they ever did to honor…things.

“Burning?” Chopper said.

“What? Ah, shit!” Sanji flushed, attending the eggs which were singed black around the edges.He’d eat them himself later.

“Day dreaming about Princess Peach again?” Usopp said and Sanji grit his teeth. You have one shitty dream and stupidly tell it to your best. friend…. He glared at Usopp who gave him an innocent look back, fluttering his eyelashes.

“You want eggs or not?” Sanji said, wielding the spatula at him. Usopp raised his hands.

“I’ll shut up.”

“That’s what I thought.”

“Okay!” Chopper said, standing. “I’m off! You guys should join me. Jogging is good for your cardiovascular system and really gets you going!”

“No thanks, I don’t believe in being alive before ten o’clock,” Usopp said. Sanji waved the yeti off.
“Have fun. But be careful, traffic is pretty bad on Peter’s Road.”

“I know,” Chopper said with a giggle. Oh right. Sanji slanted a narrow gaze at Usopp. He did. That damn Charlie stunt. Why was he making that curly haired jerk eggs again? A man shouldn’t be exposed to a body like that so suddenly. It was enough to give someone a heart attack.

He waited until the front door closed before lighting a cigarette and taking a drag. Chopper wasn’t enough to stop him smoking, but he didn’t want to deal with those damn cow eyes this early in the morning. He finished Usopp’s breakfast and poured him some coffee before plopping it in front of him and sliding across from him with his own singed eggs and coffee.

“That’s all you’re having?” Usopp asked. Sanji waved a hand.

“It’s enough.”

“It’s just…you haven’t been eating much lately.”

“Usopp I know how to eat,” Sanji said, giving him a tired look. “Stop worrying.”

Usopp raised his eyebrows and sipped his coffee. He didn’t believe him. Or he suspected something was off. He could think about it all he wanted. It was nothing to worry about and definitely nothing for him to worry about so he didn’t have to be worrying about everything else.

Sanji took a bite of eggs and then got up, putting the pan in the sink to rinse and be ready when Chopper came back or Nami woke up. She’d probably want a muffin to start with but they were out. Well an English Muffin would probably do the trick. She liked something light first the morning. Maybe he could do an English Muffin and an orange cut into a flower. She’d like that.

“So why is Zoro going to Colorado, you think?” Usopp said.

“Hell if I know. Maybe there’s a moss convention.” Though he supposed the more important question was, why was Nami sending Zoro to Colorado. And even if he got there in the next few days, it would be hard for him to make it back here for Christmas. Even with a GPS the idiot made everyone dizzy with u-turns unless someone was snapping directions in his ear.

“We could find out…” Usopp said, hesitantly. Find out? Sanji took a draw on the cigarette.

“Assuming we cared what happened to that moron, what are you thinking? It’s not like he’d tell us if he didn’t want us to know.” He would just brood and grunt at them like a goddamned Neanderthal.

“Well…I was just thinking…we make him think Nami is calling him and see what he says…”

“How the hell are we going to trick him into that?”

“Well she’s not going to take the phone into the shower with her,” Usopp said.

“First of all, no,” Sanji said, pointing a cigarette in Usopp’s direction. “A man does not invade a woman’s privacy and second of all, when she found out…and she will, shithead, trust me” He said as Usopp opened his mouth. “She’ll roast us slowly over hot coals and we’ll deserve it.”

“Yeah…you’re right…” Usopp said, poking at his eggs. Then he straightened and Sanji watched the lie bloom in his expression before it ever made it to his lips. “He is a secret agent after all, and probably our number one contact with alien life.”

“He is alien life,” Sanji muttered. And why the hell, when there was a sultry goddess asleep upstairs, probably ready to rouse to a perfect breakfast made by her loving and doting prince, were they still talking about Zoro? It was especially annoying since, out of all of them, Zoro was the one he saw the most— Which was to say he saw him when Zoro mysteriously appeared in Luffy’s room about once a month, looking dark, dangerous and so damn macho that Sanji wanted to kick him in the head.
Usopp was quiet, poking at his eggs with a fork. He wasn’t really hungry, Sanji knew. Not after all that he’d eaten, but he’d eat it anyway because it’s what he did. Right now he was worrying. About Zoro. About Nami. About everyone in their mixed up world which was even more mixed up than usual—and would likely never recover.

Maybe it was a good thing in a sense. Maybe it meant that Sanji would finally be able to get out of this place. Zeff’s place. Zeff’s house. His car. His van. His restaurant. Everyone kept joking that the Baratie would be his one day. That Zeff had better watch out. But so far Zeff hadn’t offered the place—which was fine as Sanji didn’t want to take it.

He wanted… He wanted adventure, damnit. He’d felt alive back then after he’d stopped wanting to murder Usopp. He’d done things. Important things. Grand things that had made his heart soar. Hell, he even missed Franky’s shitty state of the art kitchen in his shitty state of the RV. It had been absolutely ridiculous trawling around in that thing. It had been absolutely amazing. And then the shit had hit the fan. And then the shit had hit the fan again. And then in trying their best to help the captain they all loved—

“Sanji?”

He looked up and startled to see Nami standing in the doorway, looking frazzled and hungover.

“Ah, I didn’t see you. What would you like? I was just getting ready to make something for you.”

“Just coffee,” she said, sitting at the island and pillowing her head on her arms so that her long tangerine hair spilled over her shoulders and her back, catching in the sunlight and taking Sanji’s breath with it. Women were so damn beautiful. He poured her some coffee and she made a soft sound in acknowledgment, though didn’t lift her head. Usopp smirked, looking down at her with his cheek resting against his knuckles.

“You got pretty toasted last night.”

“Don’t remind me,” Nami muttered. “My head is splitting.”

“You should hang out with us today. We can play Mario Kart and watch Sanji’s vast collection of Disney movies.”

“They’re for Chimney, you shithead,” Sanji said. Never mind that she was in her teens now. That was his story and he was damn well sticking to it. “And even if there weren’t.” He lit another cigarette. “There’s nothing wrong with a man enjoying a cinematic masterpiece.”

“Oh yeah, cuz Belle’s Enchanted Christmas is right up there with Citizen Kane.”

That was it, Sanji decided. Hands be damned. He was going to strangle himself an Usopp. Even if that movie was shit and the Beast was a bigger back of dicks than usual, Belle was gorgeous and it was a man’s pride to watch a beautiful woman even if she was just a drawing. On the other hand, there were other paths on the road to revenge. Sanji sat with one leg curled around the barstool to finish his eggs and put that in the sink as well as Usopp’s plate and their coffee mugs.

“Looks like it’s dishes time, chore boy,” he said. “Snap to it.”

“Sorry.” Usopp yawned. “I’m coming down with my if-I-do-dishes-I’ll-die disease.”

“Don’t worry, I have the cure of good-swift-kick-to-the-ass.”

Nami snorted a laugh and Sanji couldn’t help but feel inordinately proud of himself. Ah. What joy to procure that sound from her honeyed lips! A phone buzzed but it wasn’t his. Nami took hers from her pocket and groaned softly before answering it.

“Well?” she said. Then rubbed her forehead with her free hand. “How the hell did you end up in Missouri? No, you know what? I don’t need to know.” She looked up at them, then took her coffee and moved out of the kitchen.

“It sounds nothing like--” she was saying, her voice fading as she went up the stairs. “I’m telling you it’s completely the opposite. Why are you such an idiot?”

‘Zoro’ Usopp’s glance said as he filled the sink with soapy water.

‘Of course it’s Zoro, you idiot, who do you think?’ Sanji’s eye roll said as he stole the sink to rinse off the egg pan and began to dry it. Usopp’s mouth twisted to one side and he glanced over his shoulder as the upstairs door shut.

‘Do you think it’s okay?’ the glance back at Sanji asked. He shook his head and shrugged, glancing at the ceiling as he blew out a stream of smoke. Who knew. Who really knew.



Past:

All about the wordplay

Tracey Morgenthau is staring at him. She’s one of the most gorgeous girls he’s ever seen. Raven hair in easy curls, intelligent brown eyes and a great sense of class. She’s almost like one of those 1950s starlets come to life. She’s also a stone cold bitch and Sanji isn’t inclined to like her. Coldness in girls can be kind of fun sometimes and he loves a good rose thorn whip villaness like any other shitty redblooded male, but Tracey was something completely different. In the last week of class, the substitute had called out ‘Usopp’, Tracey had said ‘Who’? Making the entire class laugh. Who. Who. As if he hadn’t been there the whole shitty year. Even helping her out on her science project because he was too nice of a guy for his own shitty good and desperate for shitty friends who didn’t even appreciate the help he gave. Who. Tch.

He ducks back into the semi-cool air of the inside of the shitty food cart that Zeff likes to set up in shitty parks during the summer, to cater to shitty teenagers and lure in new shitty business. The kicker is, it’s a job he looks forward to every summer—or since he was fourteen or so. It’s a chance to get out of the shitty restaurant and out from under the crap geezer’s hawk like nose. Plus, the fact that the pool in the park meant girls in bikini tops roller blading by, bikini top sunbathing, bikini top hanging around on park benches becoming peppered with sweat, it was a wonderland of soft valleys and swelling breaths. Not to mention the short shorts and sun dresses and tight jeans and wet white shirts from water fights and when they order ice pops and eat it sitting under the shade of the tree just there, mouths sliding-- Well it is paradise…. That’s all….

Paradise that he can’t enjoy right now because of that girl, but mostly the fact that the shitty longnosed lying son-of-a-bitch decided to up and disappear without telling anyone where the fuck he was going because the girl he had been pining after in secret had just hooked up with someone else…and other reasons that Sanji can only suspect but make him grit his teeth. It’s not that he doesn’t understand Usopp’s escape, but what the fuck is Sanji supposed to do when all he can do is to sit around worrying about his stupid face? Asshole. Sanji grabs a coke from the cooler and sucks it down, wishing he had a cig.

“Slacking off already?” says Patty from the other end of the wagon, sweating as he turns over hamburgers.

“Fuck you, I’ve been here all day.” Which was twice as long as that guy had been.

“Respect your elders, stupid brat. Even if you’re here all day I do most of the work.”

“Excuse you, shithead, I covered the morning shift and ran the till.”

“Pfft as if that’s hard.”

Sanji’s about to tell him where he can stick his spatula and rotate it when Tracey’s voice sounds like musical notes, that he hates, through the trailer.

“Excuse me?”

“So do it,” Sanji says, thinking fast. She’ll do things. Say things that’ll make his brain boil. He’s going to hold it off for as long as he can.

“What?” Patty says.

“The till, moron.” Sanji says, crossing the narrow space and opening the window above the freezer. “Get it. I’m out.”

“Hey wait!”

Sanji slips out, landing easily on the ground and unlocks his bike. He can hear Patty’s stuttering exchange with her going on in the background and feels bad momentarily but gets over it. Asshole deserves it. He straddles the bike, lights a cigarette while he’s back there and kicks off, pedaling fast.

But not fast enough.

“Sanji?” Tracey calls. Sanji pretends he doesn’t hear the dulcet clear notes of her voice like the song of an evening sparrow and pedals faster. “Sanji, wait!”

He doesn’t wait. Doesn’t slow. He’s too loyal even for the possible bright future with Tracey Morganthau, her of the dark hair and dark eyes and mole just above her cleavage and plump soft lips who would probably lean over and whisper in his ear…

Whisper in his ear ‘Usopp, who?’ Tch.

He bikes through the park aimlessly, mostly heading out of it, but taking his time to go by the pool and sitting back a bit, unbuttoning the top two buttons of his shirt and sitting back, guiding the bike with one hand while the cigarette streams smoke between his fingers. The flock of girls he’s going past watch him and the shy soft one in the one piece hides behind her hands as he grins at her. A fiery redhead winks at him and Sanji nearly slams into the trashcan, avoiding it with a swerve and well placed kick. He looks back to see if any of them noticed and it’s hard to tell because they’ve continued to go toward the pool, once or twice looking back.

He rests his elbow on the bicycle handle and his cheek on his fist and watches them go. Ah, sweet sirens of summer. Sanji giggles to himself, feeling a little better, and continued on his way out of the shading trees of the park and into the humid sunshine. It’s once he’s out of the park that he doesn’t know where he’s going. He’s not going back, that was for sure. It was too cool of an exit to ruin. Going to the shitty restaurant was out of the question and going home… Like he wanted to sit there and stare at those shitty walls all day. If Usopp were here they’d go down to the bay or the small park near the cemetery or just ride around and try to find some trouble to get into as Usopp greeted nearly every shop owner in town.

Their kingdom. Usopp had said that. He knew all the shop owners, Sanji knew all the food vendors and together they had an empire of shit they couldn’t buy. Shops that Sanji can’t even go in now because all the shop owners do is give him this worried expression or tight smile or empty reassurances. Who cared about a girl. No really. Who cared about one girl when so many people worried about you? But love…love was something else. Sanji gripped the handlebars and ground the cigarette between his teeth.
He would have been less worried if not for that shitty phone call and how it’d ended. Usopp had just hung up on him. That never happened. Even when they’d fought he’d always said bye at the end as if he was too well trained in shitty manners to not… That had been a week or so ago and he’d told the police like he was supposed to but so far nothing had turned up. He’d better not be dead. If he was dead, Sanji was going to kill him. He is going to use that damn nose of his as a corkscrew.

The cross-walk sign across the street at the bottom of the hill turns red and Sanji skids to a stop so he won’t get run over by some shitty yuppie in an SUV. He’s breathing hard, he realizes. His sweat damp shirt clinging to his skin. He’s been riding hard. All because of that idiot. He either needs to get some perspective or Usopp needs to come home and he’s not the one changing. Shit. He needs to calm down.

He spots a little cafe just around the corner that he hasn’t seen before and walks his bike over to it, resting his bike against the table and stubbing out his cigarette as he grins at the pretty smiling waitress, not a girl, but a lady, with curves like a mountain road, and orders a cool mint tea. You could tell a lot from a cafe from how they make their tea. Coffee, too, but tea has to be made with a light touch and a delicate hand, unless they were just lazy and used shitty bags.
Even before the tea was out, he felt calmer, lulled by the atmosphere of the green umbrellas and cursive words spilled elegantly over the window. La Chatte Cafe, with the trademark cat a white decal, underlining the words with her tail.

“La chatte,” he murmurs out loud as the language dances in his head, though the words and syntax are just out of his reach. Zeff says he used to be fluent. That he had to train the English into him and make him use it. Sanji doesn’t really mind. He doesn’t remember anything about that place, and other than the romance of it, is sort of fine here. Sort of. When he had a shitty friend who was there keeping him company instead of god knows where and hopefully not dead in some roadside ditch.

The thought sent a sour chill through him. He can’t help now but see it in his mind’s eye. Usopp lying there, bleeding and broken like he’d been the first time Sanji had ever seen him— All because some assholes had decided that he’d make a good target. Because he was small and because he was scared. Because he had nowhere else to run. Sanji had gotten expelled for a month for kicking the shit out of those bastards, but he hadn’t cared. But who was kicking the shit out of bastards for Usopp now? There were worst bastards out in the world than some school yard bullies. There were people scarier than Usopp even knew. He was going to get his ass handed to him and Sanji wouldn’t even know.
Fuck he needed a distraction. He needed a smoke.

He lit a cigarette. There was a slight intake of breath and he looked up to see the waitress. He could see it in the changes of her pretty face. The furrowing between her brows, the pull of her lips.
You’re way too young to smoke, she was saying with her face. You must be some sort of delinquent. He’d heard it all before. Though he usually abstained from smoking in the face of pretty ladies. Especially since she was so obviously put off about it. Shit. He gave her a faint smile and put it out, her answering smile almost worth it. Almost.

“You deserve a long life,” she said, putting a cool slim hand on his shoulder. He can smell coffee on her and the faint hint of lilies from her perfume. He takes a small but subtle breath, glancing at the tender skin of her throat before looking away.

“Thank you,” he says. For the tea. For the sweet secret moment that he might have stolen a little.
She walks away and Sanji shoves his hands in his pockets so he won’t reach for the cigarette and stares at the tea, willing himself to want it. It wasn’t easy considering the shitty packaging. A mug. Just that. Thin green tea in a mug. A place with a name like La Shitty Chatte should have served it in a delicate cup and saucer with maybe a sprig of mint at the side, or to save money, a clear glass, that will at least catch the light and paint a soft hazy glow on the table, especially with the sun at this shitty angle. He’d known this basic crap even before he could see over the goddamned counter. It was just such a shitty disappointment.

He chugs the tea, which is more than it deserves, slips the money with a generous tip under the mug because if you didn’t tip a lady that sweet, you were just a shitty criminal and got back on the bike, this time to chain-smoke by the bay. He does just that, sucking down the whole pack even though it burns the tip of his tongue after a while. The sun sets slowly on the water, turning it a sparkling amber. Crickets begin to chirp from the grass, calling out sweet melodies. Fireflies rise like tiny ghosts from the fields, winking as the sky smudges from red and orange to a deep blue, speckled with stars.

Bella notte, he thinks. Bella Nuit. Two dogs eating spaghetti by candlelight. God, what a romance. He closes his eyes and plays the movie back in his head. ‘That’s a good meal’, Zeff had said, though he never talked during movies or really much at all. But it was true. A simple meal but a lover’s meal. Honest and intimate. He opens his eyes and traces a heart with the smoke from the cigarette. He would have made it for them. Usopp and Kaya. If Usopp had ever grown the balls to ask her. Poor sweet bastard.

He had balls enough to run away. To where? For what? Sanji feels like he’s going to go crazy from the wondering. He sits up and sees the moon glimmering on the horizon. Time to get back. He stubs out his last cigarette, putting it back in the pack before shoving the pack in his pocket and picking up his bike.

The moon is high and the streets are dirty by the time he gets to the Baratie. He brings his bike inside so assholes won’t steal it. It’s about an hour to closing and the cooks are tired but chummy as Sanji moves along the workstations, picking up leftovers and send-backs to put on his plate.

“Here Sanji, try this,” says, Chutney, a new guy and supposedly with some shitty talent with fish. He’s standing beside a plate of what looks like seared tuna over wasabi butter sauce. Sanji makes his way over, noticing the others stopping or slowing what they’re doing. A quiet snicker disguised with a cough. Just because he’s younger by most of these assholes by a decade doesn’t mean he’s stupid. Only Carne is standing by the door, looking largely unimpressed.

Sanji examines the dish. It’s tuna, but leftover from maybe two days ago. Even from this far, he can tell it’s not just over wasabi butter sauce, but drenched in it. Bastards. Chutney offers a fork and he can see everyone staring at him as he takes off a bit near the best part of the fish. If there is any best part to two day shitty old fish. He sponges some of the wasabi off on a clean portion of the plate, then pops the morsel in his mouth. Even with taking some of the sauce off, wasabi induced fire races over his tongue and tries to melt his teeth. It’s not a sauce to be underestimated. Chutney’s smirk fades as Sanji gives him a bland look.

“Don’t waste food on shitty pranks. You think you get paid to goof off?”

“Who the hell do you think you are?” Chutney says, rising to his full height which is six foot of so fucking what. “Little punk, just because you’re the owner’s son—”

“Chutney, get out,” Zeff says from the office. “Baby eggplant, come here.”

“I’ll come when I want, shit gee—” Sanji starts but the door shuts and he curses. Fine. Whatever. Chutney is still gaping like the fish he’s supposedly so good at.

“I’m not his son,” Sanji tells the fish-faced ex chef. Then takes the shitty wasabi tuna that now no one is going to eat except him and grabs a hunk of left over bread before shouldering his way into the office.

“Where the hell do you find these…” Sanji trails off as he sees Zeff is not alone. A man is sitting in the flimsy folding chair, which now looks even more flimsy in comparison, and scowling at Sanji around the cigars that hang from his mouth. He looks kind of like a shitty constipated walrus.

“This is Detective Smoker,” Zeff says. Usopp’s dead. The words flash through Sanji’s mind and he feels his legs go weak. He braces them against the floor and mentally wills that asshole to tell him that Usopp is still alive and is found and is okay because if he says anything otherwise Sanji will kick a hole in his face.

“Calm down, kid, I haven’t said anything yet,” Smoker says.

“Fuck you,” Sanji says, the words sliding out of his mouth like second nature. Both men are giving him a look and Sanji swallows, knowing he overstepped his bounds on that one. “Ah, sorry.” He sits in his chair before he falls on the floor and holds the plate of shitty tuna in his lap.

“Usopp is a friend,” Zeff says. Detective Smoker grunts in a way that says ‘he gets it and he’ll overlook it for now and it’s not important anyway.’ Instead, the detective shifts in the chair which squeals underneath him. There as a faint flicker of trepidation which crosses his stony features that’s gone as soon as it came.

“You reported that he called you?” Smoker says and Sanji nods.

“Ah yeah…he said that…he was following some…shitty king.” Whatever the hell that meant. The fuck are you doing, Usopp? The fuck are you on? “And then…” Sanji swallows. “Someone said…He’s perfect or some shit like that and someone else snickered and—there was a bang.”

He swallows again. He needs a smoke. The cigar smell is driving him nuts. But Zeff won’t let him keep a spare pack in the office and Sanji knows better than to light up in front of a cop.

“Can you describe the voice?” the detective asks. Sanji thinks back.

“It—ah— wasn’t really distinctive. Kind of high and nasally.”

The detective nods, taking out both cigars in one large hand that Sanji is envious of, and blowing sweet cigar smoke in the room which Sanji hates him for. He clenches the plate as Smoker pulls a Polaroid from his pocket, handing it over.

“You know either one? Seen them?”

Sanji takes it. There’s a guy and a kid in the picture. The guy, green haired and with impressive shitty shoulders, that asshole. He’s trying to avoid getting his sandwich stolen by the kid, who has messy black hair and a scar under one eye. Sanji’s not sure what these guys have to do with anything but in either case— He hands the picture back.

“They’re not familiar.”

“We’ve reason to believe that the Usopp kid is traveling with them,” Smoker says, tucking the picture back into his jacket.

“Kidnapped?” Sanji asks.

“It’s not impossible,” Smoker says with an odd expression that Sanji can’t read. Something like long suffering. He stands. “In any case, if your friend calls you back, ask him and then call me… I’ll leave my card…” and he starts patting his jacket.

“Are you going after him yourself?” Sanji asks and the man nods, still patting.

“Let me come with you,” Sanji says, standing. Smoker raises his head slowly and looks at him. He can feel Zeff looking at him too, and his heart beats like a trapped hummingbird in his throat.

“Kid…”

“No really, if Usopp thinks you’re a shitty cop he’ll run. He’s always afraid of getting arrested. If I can come I’ll talk him down. I can fight, too, if I need to so you don’t need to worry about that.” He can’t wait here wondering. Especially if there is a chance that Usopp is with them. And he wants to be the first one to mop the pavement with that shitty green haired asshole who dared to kidnap his friend.

“Kid, it might be weeks.”

“It’s summertime. Please.” He’ll follow him if he has to. He’s not sure how. He’ll figure out where he’s going and just, go with him. Catch a bus or something like that. He’s shaking lightly, he realizes, still holding onto the plate, the edges of his thumbs getting slimy with wasabi but he doesn’t care. Smoker shakes his head.

“Your father will have to—”

“Not my father,” Sanji says.

“Guardian then.”

“It’s fine,” says Zeff and Sanji stares at him shocked. Zeff doesn’t even look up at him. “Let him go with you. It’s about time the shitty eggplant became a man.” Did he have to couch it like that? Bastard. Sanji already was a man thank you so very goddamn much. Smoker is still watching him.

“I’ll pay his way,” Zeff says. More that Sanji will owe him but that’s fine. That’s fine. It’s worth it and he’ll make Usopp help him pay it back since it’s his shitty fault for being a stupid fuck and making them all worried. Smoker sighs a long gusty breath.

“You can come with me to their last known location,” Smoker says. “If they’re not there, you’re on your first flight home. Got it?”

“Got it,” Sanji says with a nod, thinking: Don’t worry, shitty longnose, I’m on my way.

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The Remedy

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