Didn't want to sit on this until the weekend, so merry early Yule to you, minna!!! As usual, Silva-love
, is here as Law, and Jenna
returns as Ace. Beta-read by the wonderful Ember
There's some implied stuff here, so folks who are a bit... squeamish about darker relationships should mind the tags as they come up in a couple of chapters.Description:
When he took the job at the dive bar just off Red Line Ave, Sanji Noir really didn't know what he was getting himself into. Life was hard growing up the second son of the most famous riverboat chef on the Four Blues, but surrounded by the craziest people he's ever met, he's found himself sucked into chaos, intrigue, and romance? Just what kind of bar is Luffy running here?Warnings:
Modern AU, yaoi, trans character, asexual character, polyamoryPairings:
Zoro/Sanji, Ace/Sabo/Luffy/Law, Sanji/LawDisclaimer:
One Piece belongs to Odacchi, I'm just borrowing them.
Back at the Sunny, Wednesday morning, the Baratie long pulled out of port taking That Person with them, Sanji had finally relaxed after three very intense days. He actually surprised himself, the tension he'd been carrying since Sunday seemed to be drained from his body, and all but for his side where his ribs were still bruised, he was virtually ache free. Well... mostly. He could ignore it. Bruises tended to be slow-healing type things after all. He figured that probably had something to do with how he felt as he moved about the kitchen whipping together breakfast for dinner.
Already he had a buffet lined up on the bar so that people could come and go as they pleased. Nami had warned him that Wednesdays were Painting Days, whatever that meant, and that they weren't open to the public. So, that meant a sit-down dinner with the crew before the public descended on them was literally off the table. Thus he had a mountain of pancakes, bacon, sausage, friend potatoes, and at current moment he was scrambling enough eggs to feed an army platoon. Or at least one Luffy.
What he didn't realize, in the hustle and bustle of the early afternoon, was that he was humming, mumbling words lightly under his breath. "Je ne sais, ne sais, ne sais pas pourquoi on s'aime comme ça, la seine et moi…"
Ace peeked into the kitchen, muffling a yawn with his hand and then practically pranced inside. The new guy was distracted by his cooking and… singing? Nice. He was pretty up close too. Very, very nice. Ace grinned, opening the fridge door, snagging up an energy drink and then moved to stand behind their new cook and bartender. That close he could actually make out the words, even if they weren’t strictly loud enough to be understood.
"Ooooh you're French? Lu never told me that!"
The blond jumped nearly three feet, egg flying out of the pan for a moment. He had just enough wits about him to hold out a plate to catch the flying breakfast, before turning back around to the stranger. He muttered something and exhaled slowly.
"Yeah. My family is entirely French, as far as I know. Maman, that is, my mother taught me both languages. And you are?"
"Mm." Ace hummed in understanding and opened the can, taking a small sip. He held out his free hand to the blond, and bangles of citrine and sunstone jingled together against a suspended lavender quartz pendant wrapped around his wrist. "Portgas D. Ace. Sanji, yeah? Pleasure to meet ya!"
The cook shook it, with a nod and a small laugh. "I guess you're the other one I'm supposed to guard my fridge against? The last of the infamous D brothers?"
Ace grinned, squeezing the hand before releasing it. "That'd be me, though honestly I'm nowhere near as bad as Lulu is. Honest."
"Pardon my rudeness, but oh thank God! I don't think I could handle more than one of him!" Sanji laughed harder, going back to his eggs to mound them high on the plate he'd used just a moment ago to catch the escaped bits.
"He is a rather excessive eater." Ace leaned back against a counter, sipping slowly at the drink and fighting another yawn. "I mean, don't get me wrong, I can eat a lot, but nowhere NEAR as much as him."
"Heh. Then I guess I'm gonna become your new favorite person. I already know I'm Luffy's."
"Of course you are, you can cook." Ace snickered.
"Oh I'm not just a cook, Ace-chan," Sanji teased, snagging a piece of bacon with a fork and holding it out for the artist to taste, "I'm the cook."
The brunet raised an eyebrow and leaned in to take the bacon into his mouth, slid it off the fork, and chewed on it thoughtfully. He let out a small delighted sound.
"Mmmm, yes... very, very nice, Sanji-kun!" He pulled back with a grin. "But that's just bacon. I've had a loooot of bacon in my life, and admittedly while it is delicious, it's nothing special."
"Is that so?" There was an air of affected insult about the blond, and he gestured to the bar, "Then by all means, try what you'd like. I stand behind my food."
Ace pushed himself up from the counter and made his way over to the bar. He placed down his drink and snatched up a plate and some utensils to pick and choose from it all.
"Don't mind if I do~! Haven't eaten since lunch yesterday..."
Something made a high pitched whine and it took a moment to realize that something was the cook. His eyes wide, though only one was visible, his face pale, and a storm of confusion reigned all over his expression.
"Good heavens, WHY?!"
Looking up from the plate of sausages he was eyeing, Ace blinked at the cook in confusion. He tilted his head, the light glinted on a red tiger’s eye shaped like a spade hanging from his ear. "Something the matter?"
"Y-you can't just not eat! It's not..."
He bit his tongue. Sanji had no right to judge. He didn't know a thing about the other man, and frankly, he wasn't a saint about it either. If he didn't snag bites from what he was cooking as he went, he simply didn't eat all day long.
He seemed a little green at that, "Nevermind. I just... I'm not used to people taking it so casually."
Ace blinked again.
"Aaaah... um." He grinned sheepishly and stabbed a sausage with his fork and dumped it on the plate. "'S not like I didn't eat deliberately, I don't skip meals if I can help it. Nothing to worry about. Was just sleepin'."
"Oh." And then things started to click a little, taking in the brunet's appearance, "Oh! You're the painter! The one that does the murals, right?"
"Yep, that's me." Plate now piled high with different foods, Ace made his way back to his spot at the counter. "Paint 'em whenever I can on Wednesday's, since it's basically a free day for everyone."
"Hmm." Sanji tapped his chin thoughtfully, "I think maybe everyone has a free day because you paint. I haven't been here long, but even I can see the way Miss Nami manipulates everything. Crafty and beautiful. It's a good thing she's got a heart of gold, or I'd be worried for everyone's safety."
The artist tilted his head in the other direction, which revealed a duplicate spade in the other ear. "Huh. Never actually thought about that before. But now that you mention it, it wouldn't surprise me… Nami can be terrifying..."
He took a bite of the sausage and let out a hum of approval, and then tried some of the fried potato.
"An' I gotta say, Sanji-kun, you do cook really well~"
The cook allowed himself to preen a little. It always felt good to have someone appreciate his food. It felt even better when the someone was a freckled cutie in a jumper two sizes too big and splattered with paint. Call him a sucker, but the blond had a thing for the off-the-shoulder, peek-a-boo singlet look. And the legs... Sanji had good legs, they were one of his favorite features, but he couldn't pull off tights like that. Not and retain his masculinity. He let his eyes wander for a second, dancing happily from labret piercing to ear studs to the top of a bold letter A tattooed on his left shoulder, and shook his head, pretending to be responding to the artist's comment.
"This is just simple fare. Something to warm the belly and energize the body for whatever work the day, or in this case night, has to offer."
"Then I can’t wait to taste something that's 'not so simple'."
Ace grinned and then started to scarf down the food in a similar fashion that Luffy did. And it was a wonder that he didn't choke. Soon, the plate was clean, and he once again had his drink in hand, sipping at it in content.
Sanji chuckled. "You really are Luffy's brother." Something about the bob of the brunet's Adam's apple and the curve of his neck caught in the cook's mind though. He frowned briefly, "Though... I gotta ask... you're not actually related right?"
"Hmm?" Ace looked at the blond and laughed, before making his way over to the sink to deposit his dirty dishes. "Not really… well... we're cousins. Grew up together."
"There aren't any... other leggy brunets with fantastic asses and adorable freckles hanging around are there?"
"Mmmm nope. That'd just be me." Ace licked his lips with a sassy smirk, hands on his hips in a way that betrayed hidden piercings under his sweater. "Why do you ask?"
"Oh, well, see I saw this really hot kiss the other day, and I was pretty sure it was Luffy getting kissed, but y'know... I didn't exactly stick around long enough to really find out too much." The blond smirked back, his nerves about the whole thing hidden deep below his casual at-work mask of two parts flirt, one part ego.
The artist frowned for a moment, thinking, before his expression brightened.
"Ah! When Lu was training? Yeah, that was me, guilty as charged." he sipped at the can, and made a face as he discovered it was almost empty. "Anyway, what about it?" He raised an eyebrow and tilted his head. "...Something wrong with it?"
Sanji shook his head.
"Unconventional. I don't think I'd be able to do it, growing up with somebody like that and then taking it that way... eh, the guys I did grow up with were just disgusting enough to turn me completely off of them! But hey, it's not like there's any worry for birth defects or whatever, cuz you're both... well, I assume you're both... Ah fuck."
Where had his confidence gone??
"I'm babbling. I always babble when I'm nervous. Sorry."
Why was his mask slipping?! Shit! He could feel it, the way he wanted to be genuine with the freckled brunet. Maybe it was an effect of the last couple of days, having to hide things from That Person all the time.
"No, there's nothing wrong with it. Not to me. I'd just worry about what other people think. I mean, not that I'm not... er... That didn't come out right."
Ace stared at him for a good, long moment, his face blank. He swished the remaining liquid around in the can, before throwing his head back and downing it. After he placed the empty can down on the counter he turned back to Sanji with a grin.
"Hey, no worries! Sorry 'bout that. If it was me that made you nervous that is. I get where you're coming from too, so just relax." He moved over to the fridge and pulled out another can. "I just get a little defensive sometimes. Like you said, I worry about what other people'd think too. It's not like we keep our relationship a secret, but we don't really broadcast it either. But since you're cool with it, really, nothin' to worry about."
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said anything. It's not my business. I was curious, though that's no excuse. I should've just... let's go back to flirting and pretending that I'm not a complete and total spazz, y—!”
Ace laughed, and leaned in and silenced him with a kiss—just enough to take him by surprise. With a small flick of his tongue across the cook's lips, Ace pulled back with a snicker.
"Like I said, nothin' to worry about, Sanji-kun."
The blond melted a little. Yup, was definitely a reaction from the weekend. He was still all geared up from seeing That Person he'd forgotten he didn't have to walk on eggshells with everybody else. As such his next response was both too soft, and too high, compared to his normal tone, "...'kay."
"Great then." Calmly, Ace opened his new can and took a sip. "Need any help in here? For... anything?"
"Yeah, I... no. I'm..." The cook shook himself a little, color on his cheeks, and stepped back, pretending to check that the stove was off completely, and gathering little tidbits of things he really didn't need to do. "I'm fine. Thank you. I'm glad you liked dinner. It-It was nice meeting you."
Ace's smile softened and he nodded. "Alright then. Best start painting now before the shakes come on..." He stepped closer to Sanji again and kissed his cheek. "Thank you very much for the food, Sanji-kun. It was delicious."
With that, he turned and exited the kitchen, a bounce in his step.
Sanji watched him go, feeling a bit colder than before now that the bright brunet wasn't filling the room with his personality, and his hand drifted to his cheek absently. "Yeah..."
The feeling didn't last long because just as soon as the sexy artist was out of his sight Luffy, Usopp, and Chopper descended on the bar, having only just then come in from the back lot. The cook assumed from the state of their clothes that they'd been sparring, though he had no idea how Usopp, with his skinny build and cowardly attitudes, could hold his own against the Rubberman, let alone little Chopper.
"Oi! Assholes! Go wash your filthy mugs before you even lay a finger on the food!!"
He loomed over them and for a split second it looked like they were going to listen, but then Luffy, trying to be sneaky, inched his hand towards the plate of bacon. Sanji moved faster than all except Zoro had seen before. One second the captain was disobeying orders, the next he was picking himself up off the floor, having crashed through a table in the process.
Both Usopp and Chopper screamed. Then Nami joined them.
"Sanji's trying to kill us!!"
This drew the attention of the other girls, as well as Sabo and Franky, who had been messing around with the sound booth only a minute before. Even Zoro looked up from his nap against the steps of the stage. Tension mounted as everyone took in what had happened and began to turn to the suddenly popular cook. One by one they started to draw a not altogether wrong conclusion but just as the furious manager was about to round on Sanji something cut her off.
Luffy was laughing.
A hand on his head to make sure he still had his hat, the Rubberman picked himself up off the floor and out of the splinters of table to reveal a grin so wide it made his whole face look stretched out.
"Now that's more like it!" He clapped the cook on the shoulder and headed off to the bathroom to wash up, subtly fixing his necklace.
Sanji turned to Nami, who was the only one still watching him. “I-I-I… Miss N-Nami, I can explain I-I-I… it’s…”
She held up a hand, bangles jingling, and shook her head, clearing her face with a deep inhale.
“I’ll pay for the damages, if… if you want.” He tried again.
“Luffy said it was fine, then it’s fine. This isn’t the first time someone’s broken something inside. How do you think the ‘No Fighting Inside’ rule came into existence, if not for things like this.” She sighed again, making her way to the broom closet. “BROOK!! Come give me a hand with the table!”
“Yo ho ho ho! On my way, Nami-san! Perhaps this time you’ll be gracious enough to let me see your panties after?!” The hippie chortled, dancing off the stage with a graceful leap—
Right into the broomstick in the manager’s hand.
“NOT ON YOUR LIFE!”
Whatever response Brook had for her, Sanji didn’t hear. He’d already ducked back into the kitchen, heat on his face, and the feeling that someone was watching him closely. He needed to get out of sight. Hide. Get away. Lose himself in his cooking and forget about the ball of anxiety churning in his gut. Maybe a cigarette would help? No, he’d probably anger the beautiful manager further if he stepped outside now. It was better that he just… do what? The food was cooked. Ah! Wash dishes, and it was tucked around behind the wall that had the shelves of alcohol on display for the patrons too. Perfect!
Outside in the dining room, Zoro, Robin, and Ace exchanged a look.
Hours and about two dozen cans of paint later, Sanji wrapped his arms around himself more tightly, marching quickly towards Hack’s Café. He was supposed to have met Law almost twenty minutes ago, but Luffy, chasing Chopper because the little doctor-to-be had the last of the cotton candy treats Sanji’d made, had tripped over Ace’s ladder, sending the entire bucket of bright blue paint cascading over the edge…
Right over one rather jumpy and very unaware cook.
The captain had apologized, though Sanji doubted his sincerity, and Nami assured him that damages to his suit would be taken care of by Luffy. Whether that meant the Rubberman would be buying him new clothing, or the money would be added to his paycheck, or they were simply going to clean the one they’d damaged? Sanji didn’t know. All he did know was that the stunning manager had sent him home without his suit coat. Fortunately, Ace loaned him a jacket, but it wasn’t very warm, and it was covered in glitter and sequins. If he hadn’t been shivering, his skin would have been crawling.
In any case, all of that meant he had to go home and change before he could meet up with Law, and since he couldn’t wear his favorite binder because of the bruises on his ribs, it meant layering more intelligently.
Truth be told he didn’t really want to go out, but he’d promised the handsome surgeon another cup of coffee on Monday night via text message. That Person hadn’t been happy about that. Which meant Sanji was all the more determined to go through with it, no matter how he felt at the moment.
Jogging the last block, the blond gave Sabo a wave before ducking inside to give a look around.
Law was seated at one of the tables near the wall, his hat hung with his jacket on the back of the chair as he worked on a mess of papers, a pair of thin-framed glasses on the end of his nose and his legs crossed under the table as his pen moved rapidly over the papers. Scattered around him was the real indicator of how long he'd been here; five empty espresso cups stood stacked neatly, lids stuffed inside the cups, next to three much larger mixed coffee cups. From the foam still clinging to the rim of one and the thick smell of chocolate near his table, they had been some sort of mocha. He'd arrived early so as to make up for being late last time and had been there almost forty five minutes.
The line of his back seemed longer, the knobs of his spine visible through his shirt as he practically crouched over the table to get his face closer to... whatever he was working on. His hair was also a mess, rather thrown about even worse than the hat hair Sanji had seen last time, and it became apparent why exactly that was when he lifted his right hand from the papers to shove it into the fluffed black mass and massage his scalp, making it tangle further.
From the way he was camped out, it seemed he was prepared to wait at least an hour or more for his date to arrive. Of course, being an ER doctor made one much more aware how easy it was to fall out of time and wind up running quite late.
The blond didn't even look at the counter as he crossed the shop, "I am so sorry! Luffy spilled the paint, and then Nami tried to mop it up, and I barely got out of there with my shirt on let alone intact to come here, so I had to go home, and I really hope you haven't been waiting that long."
He wasn't blind, he could tell how long it'd been, but it was polite to say that, to pretend that he didn't know. He was also careful not to look at the papers, certain that they were most likely carry over from his shift at the hospital, and though Sanji wasn't entirely confident on what exactly was legal about reading someone else's medical files, he knew on a personal level that they often contained things he most certainly wouldn't want anyone else to find out about. So he turned such that Law would have a chance to gather up the sensitive ones while he unwound a scarf from under his hoodie, and draped both layers over the back of his chair.
Underneath he had a long sleeved tee-shirt that was baggy on his skinny frame, and layered over with a second slightly tighter tee with his favorite band's logo across the front. Even if the shadows hadn't given him away, the way he hunched his shoulders did; he was being good and not wearing his binder. Or anything actually. It felt weird, but he'd rather deal with being on edge from people he didn't know than risk a lecture about how he was going to aggravate his bruising.
Unfortunately what he didn't notice was that turning like that revealed several new dark spots. Things the average person wouldn't recognize, but being a medical professional, the brunet knew how to judge the age of a bruise just from coloration alone. And the line of the blond's jaw, a circle on his wrist, and something that looked suspiciously like a bite mark just above his collar were all less than four days old.
Law quietly filed that information away, but he had no proof; not even a suspicion to go on that it wasn't merely a bit of rough play. Or another fight with Zoro. Or Luffy not watching his strength as he hauled the newest Nakama around. He had absolutely no proof of any of it and no basis for suspicion, though he was suspicious as he began piling the anatomical sketches he'd been reviewing together to put in his bag. It wasn't exactly sensitive information, mostly just review he liked to indulge in to keep his mind sharp, but he found most people were uncomfortable with the graphic nature.
"Ah, it hasn't been long at all, no worries," was what he actually said as he tucked the sketches away. "And there is almost always something that goes wrong on Painting Day. If one outfit doesn't get completely ruined then Ace has had one hell of a bad day and Luffy was probably out sick."
He leaned back and uncrossed his legs under the table to clear the space between them for Sanji to get some coffee if he wanted it, or some pastry or the like.
"Does that actually happen? Luffy getting sick I mean." The cook laughed, taking his seat gratefully. As soon as he was off his feet he let out a half-squashed groan, and he reached down to rub the back of one calf. "I swear that boy is like a living hurricane. Or a tornado? I'm fairly certain I still have bacon stuck to the ceiling."
"To be honest, he doesn't really get sick, thankfully. And yes, he is a living tornado and you probably do have bacon on the ceiling, but I can promise it'll be gone by morning," Law grinned a bit as he drained the last of his current drink and set the cup aside.
"Good, at least that way it isn't wasted." The doctor was good for him; Sanji could feel the left over tension leaving his shoulders. A romantic interest that already knew the details under his clothes? It made the flirting thing so much easier. "I hate to see good food in the trash. Especially my food! And I'm not trying to sound egotistical here, but I make damn good food."
"Oh I know. I've had Luffy telling me every spare moment he has about how good your food is," he laughed softly. "He's been telling everyone he knows… everyone that will listen, and even some strangers who seemed rather alarmed at suddenly being screamed at that 'Sanji makes the best food in the worlddddddd'."
His grin stretched wider on one side than the other as he elongated the word to convey the enthusiasm with which Luffy proclaimed his skill.
"Oh God." Sanji covered his mouth with his hand, laughing and grinning. "That would explain the text my brother sent me this morning."
"Oh dear me, what did he hear? I'm almost afraid to ask."
"He said one of his customers told him to hire me because a... hang on, I'll read it to you."
Snagging the phone out of his hoodie pocket unwittingly revealed another of those bite marks, this time on the other side, and the skin had clearly been broken in a few places because there was a ring of slight scabbing in the center of the bruise.
But the blond seemed not to notice as he pulled up the message, "He says, 'Prince, heard you were making an impression at your new place. Being told to hire you because a strange bouncy man in a straw hat keeps complimenting your food. Something you need to share?'"
Law added that to his mental catalogue even as he burst out laughing. "That's exactly what he's doing. I almost feel sorry for your brother, he's going to get a lot of that. However, do warn him not to feed Luffy under any circumstances, otherwise it'll be his turn next."
"Oh, trust me, Alex already knows about Luffy." Sanji shook his head fondly, "It's because of Luffy the place is even doing as well as it is. He goes there after every match when he's in town."
"Oh! Your brother is at Rain Dinners? Be careful, or Luffy might just adopt you to get access to excellent food. Not that he hasn't already adopted you, but much moreso." The brunet realized his cup was empty only when he tried to take another drink, and blinked down at the little smears of chocolate on the bottom. "Did you want anything to drink? I appear to need a refill."
"I would kill for a caramel mocha that I don't have to fix myself."
"Soy or almond milk, yes?"
He remembered from the last time. He was a doctor, after all, and assuming an allergy of some sort, had added it to the growing 'file' in his head about the handsome blond.
"Yeah, that's probably smart." The cook blushed lightly, and internally blinked at himself because he hadn't even been thinking about it. He'd been wrapped up in the conversation.
Law smiled again and nodded, pacing up to the counter.
"Koala, I have to impose on your excellent coffee-making skills yet again," he began, the edges of his eyes crinkling in a grin, "I simply must throw myself on your mercy, I cannot live without another of your large mochas, and Sanji is in need of a caramel mocha with soy and almond milk. Please," he added on the end with the best begging eyes he could make. He had, after all, bothered her almost ten times in less than an hour for more coffee.
The barista laughed merrily, "Anything for my two favorite workaholics!" She brought the order over in almost half the time, having started Sanji's the moment he walked in the door, and gave Law a winning smile, "Why if it weren't for your caffeine addictions, I might just be out of business."
The brunet chuckled, his lip ring glinting when it pulled to the side. He was only wearing one today, instead of both because he'd lost the end to the other one this morning and still hadn't found it.
"Ah, but it is my pleasure to support your excellent skill. Also, how bad is my tab? I know I forgot to pay at least three times over the last couple weeks."
"Not too bad until tonight. If you want I'll take it out on the lay-about on the curb." She winked, knowing he was going to pay, but wanting to tease Sabo for stalking the couple.
He looked out at said 'lay-about' and his eyes danced. "As tempting as that is, I'd better settle up myself. Otherwise he's likely to tattle on me and I'll wake up painted green. Or purple. Or blue. Again. I don't think I ever got all the blue paint out of my hat the last time."
"That's just because he thinks you wear too much black. Picking on Sabo is an excuse to give in to the urge." The register dinged with the printout for Law to sign. "Are you covering Sanji's too?"
"Of course. I asked him out for coffee, not the other way 'round. He can pay next time, presuming there is a next time," he chuckled gently. "Besides, if I give him a 'gift' of the coffee, maybe it won't be such a large shock when I give him the present I already got him for today."
Koala shook her head, adding the caramel mocha, "Someday, Mr. Crow, your shinies are going to come back to bite you in the rear. If he kicks you, I am not picking you up off the floor."
"If he kicks me I better pick myself up off the floor, otherwise Daddy didn't teach me a damn thing," he replied simply as he picked them both up in his hands after handing over the cash to cover his tab and headed back to the table.
He couldn't even dispute the 'crow' or 'shinies' comment. It was all too accurate really.
Sanji looked up from his phone like Law was a godsend, pouncing on the drink as soon as the darker man handed it to him. The first drink was accompanied by a moan that really had no place being legal in public, his eyes closed and phone forgotten on the table. It vibrated twice, but he didn't even notice, too enthralled with his mocha.
The surgeon chuckled as he sat down and sipped his own, just luxuriating in Sanji's obvious enjoyment. He used the hand in his pocket to carefully adjust his pants before pulling the small velvet box out and turning it in his hands.
"Hmmmm." The blond melted, and sighed happily, then all at once said, with an embarrassed chuckle, "Yes. By the way. About Rain Dinners and Alex. I hadn't answered you before. Too focused on coffee."
"Oh, don't worry about it. It happens," Law replied easily, smiling again.
A muscle in his cheek twinged and he realized he probably hadn't smiled this much in such a short time span since he'd first dated Luffy and Ace and Sabo. Not that he didn't smile while with them, but that giddy first-couple-dates energy that made smiles come easier was gone from the comfortable, loving relationships he already had. There really wasn’t anything quite like New Relationship Energy.
"But yeah, have you been there? You said you're Luffy's league official doctor." With both hands wrapped around his cup, Sanji tucked his feet up on the rung of the chair, pointedly ignoring the phone as it vibrated again.
"Once or twice. My hospital shifts don't leave as much time as I'd like for leisure dinners, not even for my friend's championship dinners. Or sponsor dinners. Or any of the myriad other occasions Luffy comes up with to eat there," Law crossed his ankles and sipped his own drink, fingers still idly spinning the box on the tabletop.
Like a flare, the thing caught the blond's attention, "What's that?"
"A present for you." A flick of his clever fingers and it slid across the table to gently bump the other’s elbow. "I figured it wouldn't get in the way when you cook. I would have got you something much nicer but everyone I know says I way overdo it with my starting gifts so I tried to dial it back. Some."
"But we've only... ahh?"
Color lit up his cheeks as he opened it, and the moment his eyes landed on the charm was obvious. His mouth moved but no sound came out. Gaze darting from necklace to... were they boyfriends now? Was that what this meant? Sanji didn't know, but.... wow... It was... wow... Was that real gold?! And... and... sapphires?! ON A SECOND DATE?! The cook's inner child squealed at the magnitude of the present, lifting it gently from the box so he could watch the light reflect from it suspended on his fingers. He brought it back down, thumb tracing the S-shaped charm tenderly.
"A-are you sure?!? It's... it... I... you... for me!?" He actually looked like he might cry.
"I… yes, was I wrong? Will it get in the way when you cook? I wanted to get you a bracelet or ring, but I thought those might get in the way," he almost stammered, taken aback (as always) by the reaction. "And well, people with one allergy tend to have others, so I figured real gold was safest to prevent a possible skin reaction, but if it's no good—" Law was babbling, he knew he was, but he couldn't seem to help it.
Instead of trying to come up with some kind of answer, Sanji just surged across the table and kissed him, hard! What? It had worked when Ace did it to him that morning! And he really did like the necklace. It was perfect!
Yep, that worked, and Law settled into kissing him back easily, his hand coming up to cup his jaw gently.
A brush of thumb across brand-new bruise though made the blond wince, breaking their kiss. He pulled back trying to subtly shift the doctor's hand back up his cheek so that they could continue the touching, but away from where it hurt on his jawbone. The tiny flare of pain shot the memory of how he'd received said bruise through his mind. He desperately wanted to just continue the impromptu making out, even if they were in danger of spilling their coffee.
Law paused, something was... off. Something was off in Sanji's posture. He was listing. Just a little, anyone else would never have noticed. But Law was a doctor, and Sanji was... favoring. He pulled back all at once, his eyes darting down to his side. Yes, his arm on that side had the elbow tucked in protectively, not by that much, but he was clearly favoring his bruised ribs.
After several days, the pain should have abated enough he no longer needed to favor, and his eyes found Sanji's again with concern and worry, and an undercurrent of anger. Of 'what did you do to that rib'. Not the kind of anger that would have him lashing out, but the anger that said he knew he'd been hurt further.
"Ah, sorry, I ran into my door this weekend. The mosshead is apparently living downstairs now, and he sort of chased me up the steps, and I tried to close the door, but he's a wall of bricks, I swear to God!" The cook's lip tucked up between his teeth, and his eyes immediately darted away to the floor. "I must've... made it worse. I haven't been binding though! I promise! I didn't even wear... um..."
"Sanji." The doctor’s voice held a quiet firmness that cut through the excuse. "Something has put pressure on that rib. I can see you favoring it. The only reason it would still be hurt is if there was pressure. If you didn't bind, you did something and running into a door wasn't it."
"Can... can we not do this? Here? At least..." The tone of his voice was small, defeated, "Can we just... go back to me kissing you about the necklace?"
Law’s face softened.
"...Okay. I hear chefs are excellent with their tongues maybe if you distract me really well I'll forget the question," he proposed in an attempt to lighten the air.
"I certainly try to be." Sanji ghosted a smile and shifted carefully around the table to recapture Law's mouth.
Law let him lead, bringing his hand to his cheek where Sanji had put it earlier and breathing deeply of his scent as he parted his lips in invitation.
After a few minutes of memorizing the surgeon's flavor, the cook pulled back again, this time smiling and gloriously kiss-flushed. "We didn't quite make it that far last time, but... would you like to come back to my place for a drink or something?"
His question wasn't at all subtle, but he hoped that Law could read the undertone of 'yes, we can finish that conversation to a certain extent once we're in private'. He even allowed the curtain of his bangs to fall back so that both sapphire blue eyes could look up into gold hopefully.
The brunet rubbed their noses together with a soft little croon in the back of his throat. "Yes. Why don't we do that," he took his hand in his own and kissed him again, just a little peck. "Don't forget your coffee," he added as he picked up the box, still open, to hand to Sanji.
"Yes. Coffee. Right."
Sanji's thoughts collided a bit as he took the box and stood quickly. There was a moment's pause before he clasped the brilliant gold and sapphire S around his neck, just long enough that he could look down and see it where it rested on his shirt. Then he covered it with his hoodie, wrapped the scarf around his neck, and tucked the box into his pocket. Now that Law was aware of it, it was clear that all of the blond's movements were favoring his right side. Including the somewhat muted dance over to Koala for a refill on his mocha.
Law observed it carefully, and noted he might want to get a shorter chain. That one hung a tad low. Another note to add to the file as he waited patiently for Sanji's refill and ruefully accepted one of his own. As it was his mouth was probably still going to taste like coffee and chocolate when he woke up tomorrow.
The cook barely flirted with the pretty barista, causing her to glance worriedly at the doctor when Sanji turned his back, and as they made their way out of the cafe, Sabo looked up from his acoustic, never breaking song, to watch them go, also touched with worry. It was likely the two had different reasons, but then again, the vibrant gentle-cook had wormed his way into the middle of their group with the same sort of delicacy and grace as he'd displayed in his food. Though it wasn't yet obvious to him, the entire extended staff of the Thousand Sunny saw him as Nakama. Regardless that it had been less than a week since he'd joined them.
Law tried to signal to Sabo that it was alright, but he wasn't sure he managed it as he hurried to keep up with Sanji's quick stride. They had legs of comparable length, but Sanji was definitely much faster on his feet, so it took real concentration to keep up.
It took a couple of blocks before the cook realized, "Oh! Sorry." He slowed his pace a little and gave a little shrug, another sheepish smile, "Kitchens. You move fast or you get run over."
Law smiled back. "Indeed. Surgeons, on the other hand, have to be perfectly still; shifting at the wrong moment unconsciously can be lethal. But thank you for slowing."
"You should've said something sooner. I'm forever outpacing my friends, either by being taller or faster. I honestly don't notice I'm doing it anymore unless I'm specifically concentrating on keeping pace with them."
The brunet sipped on his mocha and shrugged.
"I'm used to running to keep up, actually. I'm used to following after people with much longer legs," he said a little carefully as he offered his hand to Sanji's, thumbs barely brushing.
Sanji gladly wove their fingers together, and brought the inked knuckles up to his lips to press a careful kiss to them. "Still. It's only considerate to walk with one's date." A twinkle of desire curled in the corner of his mouth over Law's hand, "Especially when inviting someone up for the first time."
"I wouldn't call it the first… well, perhaps it's more accurate, considering you brought me to my knees the last time we were out on a date," Law teased back, his own eyes having a low glitter of their own. "Though I admit I like you at my side much better."
"That was entirely your own fault, Mr. Sexy Voice! You give me that kind of serenade, even if you don't know how much of a romantic I am, and then expect me to just walk home?! That. Just. Wasn't. Fair." The blond leaned into his arm, using his shoulder to take pressure off of his ribs, "You can't blame me for needing to return the favor."
The other laughed gently. "Indeed. However I think I might have to return the favor to you, as well. I admit not having gotten such excellent… and surprising… rewards for my singing in a long time and I do desire to give you a similarly exciting experience."
"Hmm..." Sanji sounded coy. "We'll see." Then he danced away a little and up the three steps that was the front of his apartment building, "This is me, fourth floor. Still wanna come up?"
"I am no stranger to stairs, I promise," Law replied, not letting go of his hand as he skipped up the stairs after him.
"There is an elevator but it's been broken for so long I don't think anybody even remembers it's there half the time. Mostly we use it as a message board for the landlord." The cook laughed, gesturing to the poster-littered corner of the entranceway beyond the door leading to the basement and mounted the first flight up.
Part of him hoped the marimo was listening, since the hallway echoed and noise was always filtered down to the laundry room, but he didn't poke too hard at that feeling. It almost felt like he wanted the green-haired bastard to be jealous! But that was just ridiculous!! If anything, the pain in his ass should have been pissed off that he was happy! See, asshole? Trans people can have healthy dates with sexy doctors too! He didn't have to be a 'lady' to get laid! Or be worth someone's time!
His hand drifted over the necklace with a fond smile at Law. He really didn't want to admit how long it had been since someone had given him something like that. Well, someone outside of his family. Not since That Person had first started taking interest in him when he was nineteen! Almost... he did some quick mental math... seven years ago! It floored him a little, and on the final flight of stairs, he leaned into Law's shoulder again. He had no idea what they'd been talking about, but he was so, so, so grateful that the doctor had thought him worthy of presents.
Law leaned back on him and kissed his cheek, unaware of Sanji's thoughts but watching him touch the necklace made the ball in his guts feel fuzzy and happy. He'd made someone happy with a present!
He hummed as they reached the landing of the fourth floor and dropped another kiss on him with a little squeeze of his hand.
Unlocking the door revealed a neat, well-lived-in home. It was clear the cook had been living here for a while. The first room had two large, plush couches framing a decent, if second-hand, television set. A few shelves around it had movies on them, and the entire runs of Iron Chef, Good Eats, and Hell's Kitchen. Beyond that was an island, bar stools on one side, and the kitchen... oh the kitchen! Stainless steel appliances, spotless pale blue counters, honey-tone maple cabinets of every shape and size, and a walk-in pantry that looked like it used to be the coat closet from where it was positioned between the front door and the kitchen. That certainly explained the row of hooks on the other side. If Sanji had plastered over the original door to the closet so he could access it from the other side, he would have had to put up something to cover the change on the side next to the entrance of the apartment. Bookshelves lined the other wall between the kitchen and a door that Law could only assume was the bedroom, or possibly bathroom? It was hard to tell, but there was only one other door, so it had to be both somehow.
"Can I offer you anything? Tea, coffee, something to eat? Wine?" Sanji pulled his hoodie off and tucked his shoes in the corner under the hook.
Law lifted his coffee. "No, unless you happen to have some chips or something else around, because you're favoring even more than you were and I would prefer you not stand too long so I can examine you… in the purely professional sense for the moment… and see what, exactly, you did to your ribs."
“Right…” The blond winced, and sighed, knowing he wasn't getting out of it. "I do. Give me a moment."
He stepped off to the kitchen, pulling a box of something out of his fridge. The way he moved in his element was no less graceful, but he was definitely favoring his right side. And he seemed to avoid one end of the island. He skirted it around the other side multiple times in his path back and forth warming up the snack. Though it only took five minutes exactly from Tupperware box to plate, he was obviously dreading the examination.
Setting the plate down on the table that had been hidden behind the back of the couch that faced the door, Sanji sighed again, "Just shirtless, or do you need to look me all over?"
Oh how he wished that question was actually as lewd as it sounded in his head.
"My main concern is your ribs, but if I find anything else there, I will need to give you an entire once over," Law replied as he nibbled at the snack between sips of his coffee.
He was perfectly willing to give Sanji all the time he needed to come to terms with his exam and even stall on getting undressed as much as he liked, but he definitely wasn't letting him wriggle out of it.
"Might as well start there then..."
Song: Vanessa Paradis and M - La Seine