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The Alpha's Mage: Revolution - Season Three

Chapter Text

Star Guest:

Shachi as Sasha

 

 

 

 

 

 

Around half past eleven, a black Mercedes’ tires roll into the entrance, crunching the gravel in their stealth. With it comes a slight headache. Wow, of all the people he could have sent, Zoro sent a werewolf?

Sanji has changed into a baggy white tunic and skinny jeans –the ones that stretch around the waist as his pregnant belly grows. And he has been sitting on the swinging bench all this time, waiting with nervous excitement oozing out of his brain.

A tall, hollow-cheeked and pale redhead in a black suit exits the classic vehicle and greets Sanji with an air of slight haughtiness about him, at which Sanji only gawks. He rounds the trunk of the car to open the door of the backseat, now Sanji has to fight against rolling his eyes at the safety measures Zoro goes to in order to keep him from exhausting himself. And for once, he feels like he doesn’t mind the attention; being spoiled by Zoro does certainly give him a very sweet feeling. But sitting in the backseat is taking it too far so he tells the young man to forget about it as he gets into the passenger seat.

 

Sanji is sitting with his elbow propped on the sill of the car window when he notices the driver casting fervent glances at him from time to time, and they aren’t very apart. Sanji scoffs and doesn’t even look the guy’s direction when he speaks. “I really don’t want to end up crushing against a tree.” He said with a steady voice. “Keep your eyes on the road, not me.”

The driver fidgets and nods, now looking through the windshield. “I’m sorry,” he says, “it’s just… lots of rumors are going around back at the bank that director is going out with a man, and I never believed it but seems like people have been right all this time.”

“So what,” Sanji snorts humorlessly, “dating a man is a crime now?”

“No, no,” the young worker denies, “I never said that.” He says on an asymmetrical smile, “I respect Mr. Ronoa a lot, I really do. He’s the only person creating jobs for half of the youth in town, and many people look up to him.”

“But your problem is with me.” Sanji finishes for the other, having finally figured out what he’s been angling for.

The young man’s thin lips twitch into an unexpected smirk, “In a situation like this, I should be talking about how your reputation precedes you. I heard how you helped a Gumiho and released a Jiangshi, but you really don’t look like much to me.” He taunts, “From what I heard, you’re more trouble than you’re worth.” He momentarily pauses and then scoffs, “and now you’re pregnant?”

Sanji frowns, but he keeps his eyes on the window at his side; that small inkling to protect his baby nags at him and he finds that he’s slowly wrapping his arms around his belly.

“Don’t get me wrong,” The young worker gesticulates with a hand, lazily. “I acknowledge your efforts, I do.” He says, now bringing the car to a stop since the street light is flickering red, “You must have been pretty desperate to get your hands on something like fertility spells.” He glances over at Sanji, wicked eyes glinting with malice, “Kinda reminds me of the girl who faked her pregnancy last year so her boyfriend wouldn’t dump her.”

Last year had its failures, and Sanji isn’t going to deny that. He had himself embroiled in things he did not see coming and ended up with something the fertility deity he had been trailing down back then called ‘a blessing in disguise’, which, okay, skank, turned out to be true in the end; he doesn’t know if loving Iskren more than he already does would harm one of them physically. But a spell is still a spell, and Sanji had to see the depths of hell because of it. Granted, his ordeals can’t compare to the things Zoro went through, but an ordeal is still an ordeal too and Sanji isn’t going to let some ineffably babbling filcher with an attention span of a Neanderthal come here with his spiky ponytail and that superior condemnatory attitude to tell him how little the worth of his existence in Zoro’s life means.

Sanji unhitches the seat belt retractor, and glides a hand to the young man’s hair from the back, clutches at it only to slam his face on the steering wheel until the honk blares off. The young man whimpers and rubs the area between his forehead and nose gingerly.

“What the hell!” He exclaims in outright rage.

“Oh, you’re a dog, I’m sure you can heal from something like that.” Sanji gives a sardonic smile, tapping at the young man’s hair and rendering it flat. “Now, let’s make a few things clear.”

The other looks up with a frown and a red spot on his forehead which satisfies Sanji.

“First of all, this” –Sanji rounds his index about his face clockwise– “is the definition of a Godlike face.”

The young man scrunches his face in distaste, which, ouch, disturbs his bruise.

“And second of all,” he tightens his grip on that ponytail, “speak like that again of the Alpha’s mate and you’ll never live to see the next sunrise.” He threatens, “And don’t think I’m going to tell Zoro any of this, because if I ever catch you even thinking about badmouthing me, I‘m not gonna give you some slow-paced, didactic lecture, no; I’ll deal with you myself, and believe me, you’d wish you chose death instead.” He jerks the hair for emphasis and gives the head a hefty shove before he lets go. “Now keep that trash can for a mouth shut and drive.”

 

They eventually reach the place where Zoro works in one piece, he can’t say much about the guy’s nose though. The worker leaves the car in a hurry since the bank building is across the spot they parked at, and he leaves the door slightly ajar. Sanji ducks a little to look out the window of the driver’s side, and he spots Zoro and Kuina by the entrance of the building, chatting away. Then something marvelous happens when the young worker approaches Zoro, hands him the car keys and then pulls Zoro by the lapses of the jacket the Alpha picked out this morning. Sanji is lost for a friction of a second, not really knowing how to react to that but scoff. The young worker then mimes a jubilant ‘are you leaving?’ that has Sanji snorting out an involuntary laugh that gets the others’ attention.

Zoro uncrosses the worker’s arms from his shoulders, and ruffles the snooty bastard’s hair before he waves bye to his sister and walks up to the car, shuts the door and turns to face Sanji, a shy smile on his rosy lips.

“Hey.” He says, leaning in to kiss Sanji’s lips.

Sanji quickly rakes a hand through Zoro’s hair as the kiss prolongs.

After they both have enough, Zoro pulls away, resting their foreheads together and rubbing Sanji’s belly with a hand.

“Next time,” Sanji licks his swollen lips and smiles, “Don’t send a werewolf to get me.”

Zoro pulls away completely now, cocks his head as he sniffs the chemo signals roving about the car’s interior. “Did –” he clears his throat because he’s about to look like the discovery has knocked him off balance, “Did you two fight?”

Sanji plays with his bottom lip, “Nah,” he denies, “What makes you say that?”

Zoro narrows his eyes at his mate, “Are you sure?” he inquires, “you aren’t angry?”

“I’m a little upset because I had to deal with a headache” make it two “before meeting you and that’s not how I want to start our date.”

Zoro clasps his lips together, bows his head and smiles to his lap.

“Oh?” Sanji croons mischievously, “Acting like a grade-schooler. A little shy, aren’t we?”

Zoro pushes the ignition start button and sends a friendly rumble to Sanji, “Stop it.”

Said man smiles broadly, and relaxes in his seat for the first time.

“I’m taking the rest of the day off,” Zoro informs as the car tears off the sidewalk, “we contacted the court” –he glances over at Sanji before looking ahead– “Actually, I just called my uncle, told him to issue some provisional sanction to let me get my authority back, sort of like going out on parole.” He confesses, “I’m positive I’m ready to handle my pack and my work again. He said I only need to give some proof.”

“Proof?” Sanji echoes. He has straightened in his seat while Zoro talked, and now he has a few questions of his own to put on the table. “Like they need to see how you’ve improved?”

Zoro nods agreeably, “Exactly.”

“Zoro, that’s great news.” Sanji intones; the hand he used earlier to hit the other punk is now stroking Zoro’s nape with the touch of a lover, which he is. “It’s going to take a little time but I’m certain you gonna pull it off.”

Zoro smirks to himself, liking the reassurance coming from his mate.

“Besides,” Sanji resumes, not taking his hand off the radiating body heat. “I don’t think the pack can stay away from you for that long.”

Zoro lets out a charmingly deep laugh, “You know them too well.”

“I only know that they care a lot for their Alpha.” He admits on a genuine smile. “They’re good kids, Zoro. I don’t know how it all started but I’m thankful you chose well.”

Zoro nods. And the blond can hear his mate’s thoughts going back in time to when he recruited his pack. One day, he’ll ask how it all started, but for now, he’ll keep this about him and Zoro.

“Also,” Sanji retrieves his hand to rub his belly, eyes scanning the passing landscapes. “Where are you taking me?”

“There’s hardly anything to see in town, so I thought we’d hit the next place.” Zoro shrugs, “or did you have something else on mind?”

Sanji shakes his head, “but, Zoro, it won’t be a fun ride for me if it’s more than twenty minute drive.”

“And why is that.” Zoro arches a brow at his mate.

“Grab a pen.” Sanji jokes, “Seriously, let’s just buy some food and go somewhere nice in the open. There’s sun and there’s no wind, this calls for a picnic.”

Zoro knows the motives behind Sanji’s decision to eat in the open, and he knows since they live surrounded by mountains not many people go out in picnics which will provide Sanji with more privacy, because, as far as Zoro remembers, Sanji doesn’t do picnics. And like he said, Sanji shouldn’t feel insecure when people are around, but this is what Sanji wants and Zoro is going to respect his wish.

 

Zoro then pulls by the new restaurant and asks Sanji to wait in the car, and as Sanji grabs a few bucks from his pocket to pay for the food, Zoro looks insulted before leaving the scene entirely in heavy stomps.

“Snap.” Sanji comments as soon as Zoro vanishes inside the restaurant.

Honestly, even if it’s a few bucks, Sanji wanted to do something for Zoro in return for all the things he does for him. Sanji isn’t rich, and at the moment he can’t get a job, so when people treat him to food it really works on underlining his financial status that has been flagging disaster as of late. But, if spending money on him makes Zoro happy, Sanji will let him have it. At least until he gets back on his feet.

Zoro comes back with the take-outs, places them in the back seat before he gets into his. “There’s a nice clearing just beyond the preserve.”

The wheels roll, the car starts to move again.

 

“By the way, I never asked you this but what the hell is in the preserve?” Sanji wonders.

“It’s the safety zone of some rarest foxes in the world,” he says, “some of those were becoming instinct a few years back so the township had an agreement with the Forest Service to establish a preserve in this area. Some of the executives who work there know about the Ronoa clan, so we also forged a treaty with them to protect the preserve while they clean out the mess.”

Sanji’s lips curl with reverence. “Cool.”

“I’m telling you you’re going to see some of the rarest foxes in the world and all you have to say is ‘cool’?” Zoro can’t help but laugh.

Sanji ends up laughing too. “I’ll have a different reaction if I see one.” He reasons, “Until then, I’ll keep my excitement to myself.”

 

The car soon slides into a treeless clearing that overlooks the town and the mountains they left behind. Zoro stops the car beside a bolder and hops out, rounding the trunk of the car to peck out a couple of blankets still wrapped in plastic. Sanji gets off the car too, his baggy tunic fluttering everywhere when he is fully outside.

“I’ll be damned.” He comments, now walking towards the clearing. “This is actually very nice.”

Zoro approaches him and drapes a blanket on his shoulders, and as the latter reels, Zoro’s poker-face doesn’t change. “You’re not dressed warm enough, and the east wind is blowing.” He says as he adjusts the blanket on those skinny shoulders.

Sanji’s eyes roam in Zoro’s, “being all over me,” he says, “you’re such a mother hen.”

Zoro smiles at that and leans in to kiss Sanji across the cheek, “and you” –he drags his lips towards the other’s ear to whisper into it– “like it.”

Sanji’s heart flutters and he quickly looks away, feigning indifference.  “We’re here” he says, “Let’s sit somewhere before we lose the sun.”

 

 

“Say,” Sanji prompts on a mouthful. They’ve already seated themselves on the second blanket Zoro took out from the car earlier, and they’re sitting cross-legged across each other. “That employee you sent to get me, what’s his name?”

Zoro gulps the piece of meat he’s been chewing, “Who, Sasha?”

“How long has he been working for you?”

Zoro crooks his tongue behind the lower racks of teeth, eyes quivering as he travels back in his memory. “Seven years, I guess, maybe more.” He says, “Why are you suddenly asking me about Sasha?”

Sanji shakes his head idly before he lifts more meat in his chopsticks to dump in his mouth. “Just because.” He says at first but he knows that won’t sate Zoro’s curiosity, “He seems like a loyal kid, overbearing, but overall he cares about you a lot.”

 “I guess so.” Zoro says.

“Don’t give me that face.” Sanji whines.

“What face?” Zoro shrugs.

“That face you make before something bad happens.” Sanji replies.

“Nothing bad is gonna happen.” Zoro assures.

“Then why are you making that face?” Sanji insists.

“Look,” Zoro finally blows a deep breath, discarding his box of food on the blanketed ground, “When I got in the car, I scented anger and jealousy. Now, I don’t know what happened but I know something happened, and now you’re asking about him…” He trails off.

“Don’t put two and two together,” Sanji warns on a sigh, “it’s gonna give you a headache.”

“So you were angry back then!” Zoro exclaims.

“We had a little dispute, but I handled it.” Sanji lifts an assuring hand, “More importantly, we need to talk about the nursery.”

Zoro deflates in on himself and his head lolls to his chest, “I completely forgot about that.”

“I was thinking maybe we should set it up in my place?” Sanji puts his half empty box down beside his first empty box.

“What’s wrong with my place?”

“Nothing,” Sanji replies, “It’s just a little far from town and the hike is a bitch.”

“I’ll have someone drive you to and fro.” Zoro persuades.

Sanji is already shaking his head, “No, that’s not who I am.” He says, “I won’t enjoy it.”

Zoro scrunches his face, “You’re not supposed to enjoy it.”

“My place is warded.”

“We can ward mine, too.” Zoro counters.

“It took both my parents to pull up the barrier.” Sanji highs a hand and lets it flop down on his knee, “and I don’t want to use any magic during my pregnancy.”

“Fine,” Zoro acquiesces, but quickly comes up with another solution, “Chopper will do it.”

“I don’t understand,” Sanji preens, “why are you so against my idea?”

“Because” –Zoro drones as he gets on his knees and crawls towards Sanji– “I don’t want to be separated from you again. I don’t want you and my baby in some place that I don’t know of.”

Sanji relents with a smile that exceeds the sun with its warmth.

Zoro sits appropriately in front of him, his brows meeting in a crease over his forehead, “I’ll tell Chopper to set up the barrier around the entire house. Sanji, I just want you to be safe. I want you to be there when I come back home, that’s all.”

Sanji wants nothing but to pat Zoro’s head for the sweet things he’s wringing himself to say. Zoro isn’t the romantic type and uttering words of love and sentiments like this must be harder than the detoxification his body goes into every time he doesn’t drink Sanji’s blood. Not to bring up the ugly side of this anyway. But Sanji feels movement in his belly and he really wants to let Zoro in on one of the world’s best wonders.

“I want you to see something.” He reveals, lips widening into a grin.

Zoro scowls: typical grumpy fur ball behavior.

“It’s something you’re going to see for the first time, I mean you haven’t seen me naked, not even once since I got back, right?” He asks, and quickly adds “And no, I’m not taking my clothes off.”

Zoro chuckles at that.

“But Ren wants to let you know that he likes you very much.” At this, Sanji shifts, loosens the blanket from his belly and lifts the hem of the tunic up, revealing the bare skin of his swollen belly for the first time. Around the middle, the shape of hands underneath the skin, tiny little hands, push against Sanji’s belly. It gets suddenly too quiet so Sanji lifts his eyes only to find Zoro gaping at his naked middle with gushing ecstasy, and Sanji gawks. “Now that’s a face I’ve never seen before.”

Zoro palms out both his hands on the baby’s.

“Almost feels like he’s screaming ‘let me out of here’,” Sanji jokes, yet his right hand goes to Zoro’s face, framing his cheek, “but I can feel most of what he feels, and I know for certain that he’s happy right now.”

“This is…” Zoro is literally at a loss for words.

“Zoro,” Sanji starts, “I’m fine with your place, as long as the three of us are together nothing else should matter.”

 Zoro ducks down to Sanji’s naked belly, lands kisses all over it. “Sanji, you’re amazing.” He finally speaks, “walking around with this little guy kicking and jabbing.”

“The placenta is very thin which is why I see all of his movements.” Sanji explains as he brings his fingers to Zoro’s hair, brushing in slow motions. “The baby is still safe though, after all, this is no ordinary pregnancy.”

“We’ll make it work.” Zoro nuzzles the belly with his nose, “I want you to deliver our baby soon so I can play dad.”

Sanji barks a laugh, “Which reminds me, I can give birth to him at the end of this month if I want.”

Zoro perks up. “But that’s too early.”

“Not really,” Sanji shrugs a shoulder, “if his brain and lungs can function on their own then he won’t need to stay.”

Zoro’s face brightens up, “Let’s do that, then,” he says, eagerly. “Let’s make a promise.”

Sanji lifts his pinky despite how childish he feels it is, “I promise that you’ll hold Ren in your hands by the end of this month.”

Zoro hooks his pinky to Sanji’s, “Good.”

 

 

The sun reclines to a different angle when the clock hits two in the afternoon. Sanji is still sitting cross-legged with the same blanket on his back, he is leaning his head on Zoro’s shoulder and enjoying the noises those insects and birds make.

“We haven’t seen any foxes, Zoro.” He whines, “I’m starting to think you’re a liar.”

“Very slowly, Sanji, there’s a silver fox on top of that hill.” Zoro whispers, “He’s been watching us for a while now.”

Sanji slowly looks at the aforementioned hill ahead, finding a black-furred fox sprawled on its four and looking at them. “It’s true!” Sanji exclaims, still in a whisper. “Why didn’t you say anything?”

“I needed to make eye-contact with him first, it’s –um, an animal thing,” Zoro says, “He knows we’re not here to harm him, so he doesn’t have to worry about us.”

“You can understand him?”

“His behavior, yes.” Zoro tells him, “I’m half wolf so a very small part of me is related to the biological family of canids” he says, “which includes foxes.”

Sanji takes a moment to appreciate the information, but the part of him that wants to crack a joke eventually wins. “That’s your long lost brother, Zoro.” He says, face mock-serious. “Should we invite him over, get you guys to hug it out and all.”

Zoro shakes his head dangerously, but they both it’s all in good fun, “No, you didn’t.”

Sanji lets out a hearty laugh as he lifts his head off the other’s shoulder, “Oh, yes I did.”

Zoro’s arms dart one to Sanji’s middle and the other to the back of his head so he won’t cause him discomfort when he pulls him over his lap, but Sanji makes a soft giggle at the action and quickly slides his hands over Zoro’s shoulders once he’s straddled the man’s lap. The blanket slowly slides off his shoulders.

“You get easily provoked.” He remarks, “but you caught me, so what’re you gonna do to me?”

“Oh,” Zoro enunciates playfully, “I’ll show you.”

Zoro brings his hands to Sanji’s hair, plunges all his ten fingers through the smooth strands, and both of them let out a sigh at the resultant feeling. Sanji’s pupils roll under his lids as Zoro massages his scalp.

“After this you’re so giving me a back massage.” He purrs.

“That’s not what I was planning to do, though.” Zoro lets out a buoyant chuckle, “but I’ll do that when we’re on a bed.”

Sanji’s eyes are more focused now as he looks into Zoro’s greedy ones. “Then what were you planning to do?”

“Kiss you?” he replies, “we haven’t kissed yet, not since you got back.”

“We kissed at the wildflower field, Zoro, and this morning. Or are you losing your memory again.”

He means it as a joke, but Zoro tenses so hard that it’s impossible for Sanji to ignore. And he can’t miss on the way Zoro lowers his head and smiles solemnly. This wasn’t what he intended to do, him and his big loud mouth. Why did he have to bring it up when the wound is still so damn fresh? The way Zoro’s eyes quiver tells Sanji that he is reliving the past in his head, and he wishes he’d take it back, if he could take it all back.

“Zoro, I’m sorry.” He rasps out, “I fucking ruined it. I’m so stupid.”

“It’s not your fault.” Zoro shakes his head. When he looked up, that poker-face was plastered on again and it takes Sanji to the very first days of meeting Zoro, when he didn’t even know his name. Zoro looks up at the sky and frowns more, “We should head back,” he prompts, “we still have a long list of shopping to go through.”

When he tries to move, Sanji’s hands quickly clasp around his neck and he buries his face in Zoro’s neck, but he remains silent.

Zoro’s arms would have wrapped around Sanji’s back if he wasn’t feeling this darkness eating him from the inside. And he appreciates what Sanji is doing, but maybe it’s wise to head back because his dark feelings have come to consume half of his heart in the past twelve months and he doesn’t know what him being alone with Sanji in an uninhabited place would do to him.

“Come on,” he coaxes, gently. “It’s getting chillier.” Saying so, he unhooks Sanji’s arms and levers up to his feet, and Sanji fixates him with a vague stare.

When Sanji looked back at the hill, the silver fox was long gone.

 

They have collected everything and placed it back in the trunk before they moved out of there, and they haven’t spoken a word.

More than anything else, Sanji hates this silence the most. It’s like they are back to square one and Zoro is too wrapped up in his remorse to see straight. And honestly, Sanji wants him to quit this habit, and it’s more preferable if he does it on his own. So he keeps quiet.

“Which shop ‘you wanna see first?” Zoro asks, gruffly.

“Just take me home,” Sanji lets out a sigh, “I’m tired.”

After a deafening pause

“'My place or yours” Again, bad-temperedly and curtly, it pierces Sanji’s heart.

“Mine.” Of course, if Zoro is going to continue to act like this then Sanji is better safe at his place where he won’t have to deal with angry vibes aiming his way. But what Zoro doesn’t understand is that when Sanji said ‘take me home’, he meant to Zoro’s because that’s where they agreed to build the nursery.

Moments later, Sanji finds himself looking at the entrance of his apartment building. He gets off and before he slams the door shut, because he will, he looks very closely at Zoro and scoffs, “You’re jerk, you know that?”

Zoro looks away from the windshield and at him, “I’ll call you.”

“Yeah, I somehow doubt that.” Sanji grits out before slamming the door shut. He watches with a scowl how Zoro glowers at the road and takes off without looking back, and he wants to throw rocks at him for being so… he sighs. He just can’t figure him out.

 

Upstairs, he realizes that he doesn’t have the keys to his apartment; he must have left them in the car along with his phone, just great. He knows Robin isn’t at Law’s because she’s usually at school around this time in the afternoon, but he wonders if Tsuru could be of any help.

He knocks on their door and waits. Tsuru, donning a black ensemble with Vivi in tow opens the door, and her face lightens up at the sight of the visitor.

“Sanji!” she pulls him into a hug, “It’s been so long since you knocked on my door.”

Sanji wraps his arms around her and relishes the motherly warmth that he was denied at a very young age. He pulls away and narrows his eyes at her. “Do you stash up secret remedies or something?” He wonders, “You look younger every time.”

She chuckles happily, “Oh, dear, you know how to make a woman blush.” She gushes, “Come on in. I prepared some tea, but I don’t want to sip it by myself.”

Sanji bows a little to play with Vivi’s fur, “You look very happy to see me.”

“Oh, Sanji, you have no idea.” Vivi intones. “I’ll jump out of the window if I’m forced to take another shower again.”

Sanji laughs and quickly straightens up to reduce the pressure on his back, “I hope she didn’t cause any troubles.” He tells Tsuru who shakes her head and seizes the chance to ruffle the dog’s fur.

“No, not at all,” She assures, “She is a very smart dog, doesn’t move around too much, docile to take everywhere.”

“Oh, God!” Vivi exclaims. “She makes me sound like a Bullmastiff.”

 

 

 

 

“Not everything, but yeah, I know most of what goes on here.” Tsuru admitted.

They’re sitting in her living-room across from each other with Vivi leaning her chin on Sanji’s lap, savoring up the closeness that was taken from her when Sanji spent quality time with his mate. There’s tea on the table and some pastries dunked in honey and sprayed with sesame, adding a homey feeling to the entire set.

“I knew what my daughter used to do for a living,” she tells him, “and my grandson who is now a royal guard of the Ronoa clan.”

Sanji can’t help the scoff that escapes his throat. He was happy he finally no longer had to feel like he was the only one left out, and you know what, he won’t feel that way again. He grew out of it. People are entitled to their privacy, and he is not going to pry. He believes he decided this a while ago. He just can’t remember when.

“But anyway,” she wraps it up, her eyes land on Sanji’s burgeoning bump. “I heard it’s a boy.”

Sanji adjusts his position, getting a little defensive against his will. “Yeah, Ren, short for Iskren, that’s his name”

“Oh, the sincere one.” She comments, “Now that’s an unusual name, were you the one who named him?”

“My friend did.” Sanji corrects.

“It’s a very beautiful name still.” Tsuru lifts from her seat and approaches Sanji who shrinks slightly away from her. “Relax, my child,” she coaxs, now sitting next to him and occupying the side where Vivi isn’t sleeping. “I’m old-fashioned so maybe I can help with a thing or two?”

He wants to dig his nails into his palms to keep from bolting out of the house. Being alone for four months taught Sanji to be extra careful around everyone, no matter who it was. It’s a habit he will need time to kill.

“Lift up your tunic, let me see how he’s growing.” She ushers with her hand.

With a lot of evident hesitation, Sanji lifts off the hem of his tunic and his naked belly comes into view.

Tsuru’s face is relenting with a warm smile that makes Sanji relax a little. “I’m really speechless.”

“It’s a little unsettling,” Sanji says, “I’m sorry.”

“I would like to cop a feel, if you don’t mind.” Her eyes glint with a little twinge of worry that has Sanji shaking his head in assent. She runs her palm on the bottom side of the belly, her brows furrowing gradually. “It’s a little dry here” she points out, “the stretch marks are going to cause you pain if you don’t moisturize.”

“I do moisturize it,” Sanji provides, “I use regular lotions though, but it still gets uncomfortably itchy sometimes.”

Tsuru retrieves her hand and shakes her head, “That won’t do, Sanji. Your skin is too dry, which tells me you don’t moisturize it very often and you use cheap products, too.”

Sanji lets the tunic fall and he scratches his temple, “I’m sort of on a tight budget these days,” he confesses with a blush, “but I’ll try to use other lotions, I promise.”

She fixates on him for a moment before lifting up, “Wait here.”

Sanji watches with a perplexed stare how she ambles towards the other room and comes back after a couple of minutes with a small box in her hand. She sits beside him again and hands him the box.

“I bought two of this last week for my feet, but I’m really not used to lotions. I prefer olive oil.” She said, “I never used it so what’s the point in throwing it away when you can use it.”

Sanji eyes the box, “Is it really okay to give it to me?” he wonders aloud, “The box is still new and looks expensive.”

She huffs and forces Sanji’s hands flat so she can place the box on them, “I’m giving the other box to Robin,” she informs, “She is so dear, but you are like a son to me.”

Sanji accepts the gift with both his hands and bows his head, “Thank you for looking after her.”

Tsuru shakes her head, a nostalgic expression dons her face, “She makes my grandson happy, and after everything I’ve seen, his smile is the only thing I care about now.” She says, “Robin is very kind to us, and she’s quickly found a place in my heart for her. She is a fine lady and I hope one day she’ll become Law’s bride.”

Sanji quirks a weak smile and slowly lowers his head, as though he’s ashamed. “Both of them are too kind. I don’t know what I’d have done without them.”

“Law told me a few bits of what happened,” Tsuru zooms in on his doleful eyes, “and if it matters at all, you really are strong. I know it hasn’t been easy but I also know you’re not a quitter.”

“Thank you.” He bows again, slightly.

 

 

She finally tells him that Robin never leaves the keys wander far from her because of what happened in the past, and Tsuru even offered he waits inside until Robin comes back. Although his shoulders slumped at that, he eventually perked up at the bright side of it after he walked out of the apartment, eyeing the box in hand with such a happy face. He is going to give his belly a very good and long massage and Ren is going to feel awesome and will have more space to kick and punch after this.

He lifts his eyes from the moisturizer and finds Zoro waiting by the door of his apartment with keys and a cased phone in his hand. Sanji halts mid-stride, narrowing his eyes slightly at the man before walking up to him.

“You forgot these in my car.” Saying so, Zoro offers the aforementioned items to the other.

Sanji takes them but doesn’t take his eyes off Zoro’s. “Do you want to come in?”

Zoro waits until Sanji has taken all the items before he looks up and shakes his head, “I called my office,” he says, “told them I was returning.” Saying so, he touches his palm to Sanji’s belly. “I’ll call you later. I will.”

Sanji’s eyes flutter because he spent too long staring without blinking, and then he nods faintly, “I’ll wait for your call then.”

Just like that, Zoro turns around and walks away.

“Darn,” Sanji lets out a bitter sigh, “I really wanted him to stay.”