By Dixxy Mouri
Late at night, once he was positive that all of the other men were asleep, Sanji made his move.
He wasn’t always able to get away from the men’s room – sometimes Luffy fell asleep in an odd position by the door and was sometimes a light sleeper. Other times Usopp or Franky was up late working on blueprints for some . . . thing. Or Chopper had a nightmare and would latch onto the first person he realized was still awake, and sometimes it took a while to calm the little doctor down.
Tonight the coast was clear. Out the room he went, silent as the stars in the sky, deftly making his way to the darkened, empty galley. He opened the door, quietly closed it, and clicked on the light dial he’d gotten Usopp to give him a while back. Still satisfied the coast was clear, he went into the pantry.
Inside was a box. Once, the box had been filled with some kind of bran cereal, something that the other Straw Hats wouldn’t be interested in. In the event someone wanted some extra fiber in their morning meal, he made sure to always have a box of a better known brand in a box with brighter colors and shapes to draw their eyes away from the other box.
The box where he kept his . . . secret reading materials.
It was hard to smuggle it aboard the ship without the others seeing, but every time they were in port, he always made a special detour when doing the grocery shopping (and ditched any of his companions – even his lovely Nami-san and Robin-chan – if he was accompanied) to get the latest issues. It was his secret – they couldn’t know.
He pulled out the most reason issue and grinned. Yes, here it was. He flipped through the pages, taking in every beautiful, gorgeously detailed image. Sanji relaxed a little – now that he was alone, he could enjoy the magazines without worrying about someone like the stupid damn swordsman walking in and saying something like “what the hell, stupid cook?,” for example.
“What . . . what the HELL you stupid cook!?”
Sanji looked up and froze as his worst nightmare became a green haired reality. Out of all the other Straw Hats . . . it had to be THIS ONE. Zoro was hovering over him, a perplexed look on his face as he stared at the reading material in horror. “I . . . I . . . what the hell are you doing in my kitchen, Marimo? Get out!”
Zoro ignored the cook and grabbed the magazine from his hand. “Really. So this is what you’ve been sneaking around collecting,” he said, shaking his head and clucking his tongue as he leafed through. He gave the cook a sidelong glance. “And I suppose you’re going to tell me you read this garbage for the articles?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact, I DO!” said Sanji, trying to take his treasure back from the swordsman.
The swordsman shook his head, trying to ignore the cook as he examined the magazine for himself. Little by little, Sanji’s protests were drowned out by his own fascination. He cocked his head to the side, looking at the contents and slowly discovering that, suddenly, he was understanding where the love cook was coming from.
“. . . uh, you don’t have any more, do you?”
And so began their shared secret. During the day, they kept up the front of their rivalry, making sure that they got into at least one physical altercation wild enough to draw Nami’s attention every day and kept their conversation around the others curt, rude, and biting when addressing each other. In other words, business as usual.
But now Sanji always brought Zoro with him when going grocery shopping, citing the swordsman’s strength and ability to carry more as the reason why, when really, they now had more money to pool to buy more stuff for the secret collection and it was only fair that Zoro had a say in what was added to the stash. Sanji had to applaud his good taste. He was a fast learner.
Having the two of them also made it easier to sneak out of the room – Zoro was the best at calming a panicky Chopper back to sleep and knew what to say to keep Luffy from fully waking up if they had to sneak past their captain. If Franky or Usopp was still awake, one of them would feign interest in the project while the other snuck away – when their partner in crime was out, they would make up an excuse to leave (usually fresh air, a smoke, a snack, something else trivial) and join the other in the galley.
This arrangement went on for three months.
“What the – you did NOT get a stain on the November issue!”
“It wasn’t me! You were the one who made the pot of coffee last time!”
“I didn’t spill it!”
Nami opened an eye as she listened to the cook and the swordsman squabbling. Granted, them arguing was nothing unusual, but this didn’t sound like their other arguments. It was too . . . civil. Both of them seemed concerned over whatever had spilled on the November issue of . . .
Oh, HELL no.
Nami got out of bed, quickly got dressed, and grabbed her Perfect ClimaTact before storming out of the girls room. “What the hell do those idiots think they’re doing? Ooo, I’m going to kick their asses so hard their grandmothers will feel it!” she growled under her breath as she stormed towards the galley.
“False alarm, Zoro, it was a raisin – didn’t leave a stain or anything.”
“Good, that one’s my favorite.”
Nami slammed the door of the galley open, ready to start yelling at them, and then stared at them in disbelief. Sanji and Zoro stared back like a pair of seagulls startled by a fog light, their jaws agape as twin expressions of horror crept onto their faces. They dropped what their were doing, scared voices emiting from the backs of their throats.
“YOU ARE GROWN MEN! WHY THE HELL ARE YOU READING MY PRETTY PORPOISE COMICS!?”