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He felt the scratchy fabric of the blanket beneath his hands… the lumpy pillow supporting his head. A soft, steady beeping nagged at the back of his mind… what was that beeping? His alarm clock was much louder than that…

He lifted his eyelids slowly… the room was dim, but the barest amount of light stung his eyes. How long had he been asleep? He blinked furiously, squinting. Where was he… nothing seemed familiar…

He tried to turn his head, but it felt like there was a weight pressed to his forehead. He tried to open his mouth, but his tongue felt like sandpaper.

He heard a door open… footsteps… a curtain drawn aside…

“Mr. Black?” a woman’s voice.

Long brown hair… slim waist… perky breasts…

“Mr. Black… Sanji can you hear me?” a soft hand gently took his.

He tried to answer, tried to nod, but his body wouldn’t cooperate.

“Sanji, if you can hear me squeeze my hand. Can you do that?”

Squeeze? Squeeze her hand? Her hand…

He fought with unconsciousness… it was pulling him in… trapping him… His fingers twitched trying to get the woman to realize he was falling… he was falling back into that darkness… He twitched, tightened, fought… fingers… squeeze… squeeze her hand…

 

The phone rang. Nami shifted under the covers, burrowing her head into the pillow as far as it would go. Maybe if she ignored it, they would go away. What time was it? Two? Three?

A warm body pressed against her back and a long tan arm reached over her to pluck the phone from its cradle. She snuggled into the warmth and listened as her lover mumbled in a sleepy voice.

“Hello… Yes this is Luffy Portgus…”

There was silence for a long minute and Nami found herself drifting back to sleep. Who calls at two in the morning?

She was jarred from her rest when Luffy shot up, throwing the covers off the bed. Nami opened her eyes and was about to twist around to knock him on the head when he screeched into the phone.

“When? For how long!”

Nami sat up also and put a hand on Luffy’s arm. What the hell happened?

“Yes!” Luffy grabbed her hand and turned to her with wide eyes. “Yes, we’ll be right there! Thank you!”

“Oh my god, what?” Nami squeaked as Luffy dropped the phone to grab her face and kiss her gleefully. When he pulled back, he had a maniac smile splashed across his face.

“That was the hospital…” he whispered. “Sanji woke up.”

Nami stared at him, taking several seconds to process the information. Sanji? Awake? Wait! AWAKE?!! Her jaw dropped and she gasped.

Oh my god!

The two jumped from the bed and started to run around the room, stripping out of their sleeping attire, grabbing shirts, trying to find socks. Nami barked orders to Luffy as he tripped over himself trying to pull on the pants he wore the day before.

“Call your brother!” she frantically searched through the clutter on her desk. “Then call your work! If they don’t give you the day off, let me talk to them! I’ll call Zoro- god if I can find the number to his damn hotel! Jesus! Of all the times to be out of state!”

Luffy happily pulled up his pants and got his cell phone off the night stand. He flew into the living room to slip his flip flops on and grab his straw hat and keys. Sanji! Sanji was awake! He was awake and now everything could go back to normal! There wouldn’t be a cloud of melancholy hanging over him and his friends anymore. The sadness that flashed in everyone’s eyes now and then would go away! They could have dinner parties again, and Luffy could eat until his sides burst! Good Lord he had missed Sanji desperately, but he’d missed his cooking almost as much! Everything would be better now! Everyone would be happy! And Zoro…

Zoro would be happy again…

He flipped through his contact list and pressed the ‘send’ button when he scrolled over Ace’s number. He waited for a few rings before a sleepy Vivi answered the phone.

“Hmmm… hello? Luffy?” she yawned.

“Guess what, Vivi!”

* * *

Chopper rushed down the hallway heading towards a group of doctors and nurses talking quietly amongst themselves.

“Excuse me!” he squeaked. “I’m sorry! Pardon me!”

Tony “Chopper” Charlton may only have been a third year medical student but he was already known throughout the hospital, not to mention the local medical community, as a genius. A prodigy destined to become one of the Northwest’s best surgeons ten years down the road. He was greatly respected and admired by his peers, so when the mass of people heard him coming, they parted for him and watched with interest as the young man tried not to sprint to the elevators.

Chopper pushed his wavy brown hair out of his eyes and grumbled into his phone. Busy signal, Nami must already know.

Kari, the charge nurse from the Neuro Ward had been so kind as to page Chopper in the ER and tell him about Sanji’s status. She knew he and the blond were good friends and that Chopper was working tonight. Nurses had watched as tears began to poor out of the boy’s eyes as the nurse told him his friend was awake and reacting to the doctor’s questions.

When Chopper had turned those big watery eyes on his supervisor, she caved and told him to go see Sanji. Yes, the kid was respected by students and doctors alike, but the real reason everyone liked him was because he was the most adorable thing anyone had ever seen.

The elevator couldn’t go fast enough. He should have taken the stairs.

Trying not to run madly thorough the ward, Chopper rushed to the desk and gave them a courtesy ‘I’m going to go see him’ before tripping over a chair and making his way towards room 405.

His hands shook as he pushed open the door and entered the dimly lit room. A nurse was standing beside Sanji’s bed blocking his view. She was writing on a clipboard and checking the monitors. Sanji lay in the bed, his eyes closed. Kari had said he had fallen asleep after the doctor talked to him, but it was a normal sleep, nothing to be worried about.

“How is he?” Chopper whispered.

The nurse turned and smiled prettily at him. “He’s doing very well. He followed the doctor’s penlight and even muttered a few words before he fell asleep.”

Chopper wiped his eyes on his sleeves and moved to the other side of the bed. The whole thing was hard to believe. Sanji looked the same as he had for the last several months: eyes closed… pale… slack.

“Do you want a minute?” the nurse asked.

Chopper looked up and frantically wiped at his face. The tears just wouldn’t stop!

“No, no… it’s okay,” he sniffed. “Keep doing what you’re doing.”

He moved to sit on one of the cushioned chairs but stopped when his phone buzzed. He fumbled as he pulled it out and answered without looking at the caller ID.

“Hello?”

Oh my god! Is it true!?” Usopp’s voice yelled through the receiver.

Chopper couldn’t help but smile at his best friend’s crazed voice. “Yes, they say he was awake and spoke and everything.”

Holy shit!” Usopp bellowed and honking blared in the background. “I’m on my way now! Traffic is killer though, there’s some kind of accident on I-5 right after the bridge! I might have to get out and rescue a few people before I can get there!

Chopper chuckled and sat down. He leaned his head against the chair back and sighed. “You do whatever you need to, Usopp. Just get here.”

* * *

“Sanji?” Nami’s voice said soothingly. “Sanji can you hear me?”

She brushed his bangs from his forehead, he needed a haircut desperately. That and a good meal. He was so skinny she felt he was going to crumble underneath her fingers. The feeding tube gave him enough nutrients to stay alive, but just barely.

Luffy stood by her side, practically bouncing. Chopper watched with Usopp from the end of the bed. Luffy’s brother, Ace, along with his fiancé, Vivi, stood across from them on the other side. The blond had a comforting hand on her soon to be husband and was rubbing soft circles on his back.

Ace had his arms crossed over his broad chest. His dark, shaggy hair hid his eyes and he was chewing the inside of his lip in a gallant attempt to hold his emotions at bay. Sanji and Ace had been close friends since the blond had moved to Seattle from France. They had volunteered at Ace and Luffy’s dad’s dojo together for six years, teaching martial arts to little kids. Sanji’s accident had hit Ace hard.

“Sanji,” Nami tried again. “Sanji wake up…”

The blond stirred and everyone stopped breathing as Sanji slowly opened his eyes. He blinked a few times before he inhaled sharply and turned his head toward the red head.

“Sanji!” Nami smiled at him, taking his hand gently. “Welcome back!”

Sanji frowned and worked his lips slowly.

“Nami?” he rasped. Vivi’s quiet gasp could be heard as the six took in the sound of that voice they had thought they had forgotten.

“I’m right here, Sanji. We’re all right here,” Nami’s smile widened.

Usopp held back tears as Chopper’s grip on his arm became tremendously painful. He pried the fingers loose and put the arm around the sobbing boy’s shoulders.

Sanji closed his eyes and slowly worked the muscles of his jaw. Everyone stood still, waiting for the blonde to relax the tension enough speak again.

“Nami…” Sanji croaked again.

“Hmm?” she replied.

Sanji opened his eyes and cocked an eyebrow. “Why… the hell… am I in a hospital… and why the fuck can’t I move my arms?”

The tension in the room was broken as Luffy and Ace burst out laughing. It was such a Sanji thing to say, they had all missed his biting comments and his outrageously foul mouth. Seeing him lying there, eyeing Nami lecherously in spite of his feeble state, lifted everyone’s spirits and solidified in their hearts that Sanji was in fact back.

Nami moved to kiss the top of Sanji’s head as the blonde looked around his bed.

“You okay, Chopper?” Sanji asked as the boy turned his face from Usopp’s soaking shirt.

Chopper sniffed and nodded. “Yeah, I’m okay. I’m just so… so happy… S-Sanji…” he turned his sandy – brown head into Usopp’s chest again as pitiful sobs racked his body. Usopp looked out over his head and shared a smile with Sanji.

“How do you feel besides weak, Sanji?” Ace asked quietly.

Sanji slowly turned his smile to the dark–haired man above him. “Ace, holy shit your hair is long.”

Ace chuckled and hugged Vivi to his side as Sanji winced and tried to change his position.

“I’m really uncomfortable,” he muttered, “How long have I been laying here? All my joints are fucking stiff as hell.”

Luffy opened his mouth to answer, but Nami silenced him with a whack to the shin.

“You’ve been in a coma, Sanji,” Nami said carefully. “You’ve been out quite a while.”

Sanji’s head turned and the smile left his face. “How long is a while?”

Nami sucked in a deep breath and squeezed his hand again.

“Almost a year...”

Sanji’s eyes widened and he made a pathetic attempt to sit up. “What the fuck!” he cried, but hissed as pain shot down his spine and he let Nami push him back onto the pillow. He relaxed, exhausted by the small about of movement.

“Holy shit… holy shit…” Sanji was mumbling. Nami’s heart broke and put her other hand on Sanji’s.

“I’m sorry, Sanji…” she watched the hard lines in his face as the cook rolled what she’s told him around in
his head.

“What… the hell happened?” he asked slowly.

Luffy crossed his arms over his chest. “We promised Zoro he’d be the one to tell you. He’s on his way from Oregon right now- Shanks got him a flight. He should be here in a couple hours.”

Nami watched several expressions pass over Sanji’s features before the blonde opened his eyes and looked questioningly at Luffy.

“Shanks?” he asked. He sounded as if he was losing his voice. “What is Shanks doing in Oregon? And who the fuck is Zoro?”

* * *

Zoro wanted to strangle the cabby. The taxi was doing exactly sixty miles per hour in the slow lane of I-5. Hadn’t he told him to hurry? Didn’t he understand the most important person in the world to him had just woken up from a near year-long coma, and the only thing prolonging their reunion was his shitty-ass driving?

Keep your hands to yourself, Zoro. It won’t do to be arrested for murder the same day you’re reunited with your lover after eleven months and sixteen days.

God, it really had been almost a year. Doctors had told him the longer a person was in a coma, the less likely they were to make it out. As the months slipped by, there was more and more talk of ‘dealing with finances’ and ‘making tough decisions’. But Zoro had never given up hope. Sanji was a fighter, a fucking martial arts champion, and it was only a hobby! Nothing, no one could keep Sanji down or keep him from something he wanted. Sanji never gave up; never gave in to anything. It was one of the things Zoro loved most about the feisty blonde, so he resolved himself to do the same and not give in.

Zoro looked out the window and watched the tall buildings of Seattle rumble by. Just the thought of being able to hold Sanji again… to kiss him and be kissed back… to eat with him and talk with him and live… live with Sanji again… it caused a painfully sweet tightness in his chest.

He felt moisture in his eyes and blinked it back furiously. He didn’t cry. He wouldn’t cry. He was Zoro Roronoa for Christ’s sake! He was Mr. Bad Ass National Sword Fighting Champion himself! He wouldn’t break down and cry for anyone! Not even Sanji! … Okay maybe he would for Sanji… when they were finally alone and back in their house… together in their bed…

The next ten minutes seemed like hours as they exited the freeway and headed towards the hospital.

“Where do you want to be dropped off?” the cabby asked.

“There’s an entrance on fifth,” Zoro muttered distractedly. He was about to just jump out of the taxi while it was still moving.

When they stopped, Zoro threw a couple twenties at the driver and grabbed his sword case before he jumped out. He hadn’t brought anything with him besides his weapons. He trusted Shanks, his manager, to bring his other stuff back safely but the swords stayed with him.

He pushed through the familiar doors and jammed his thumb into the elevator ‘up’ button. The receptionist behind the desk smiled and waved at him. He nodded to her and slung his sword case over his shoulder before he stepped through the sliding doors. When he reached the Neuron Ward, nurses and doctors, who had become familiar with him over the past year, shouted congratulations to him as he passed by. He waved and jogged down the hall.

He spotted Ace waiting outside Sanji’s room and called to him. But when Ace turned his eyes to Zoro, the swordsman’s heart slowed. The tall dark–haired man was looking at him with a look that turned his blood to ice.

“What?” Zoro almost shook with anxiety. “What’s wrong? Is he okay?”

He tried to push past his best friend, but Ace grabbed his shoulders roughly.

“Wait! Wait! Zoro!” Ace said quietly but with such force that Zoro froze.

“He’s alright, Zoro,” the slightly taller man reassured him. “He’s alright, he’s responding really well.”

Zoro was not deterred. “But?”

Ace gripped Zoro’s broad shoulders and looked up at the ceiling. Pain was evident in his face and Zoro felt he was going to scream is his friend didn’t start explaining.

“Zoro…” Ace said as he lowered his head to look into Zoro’s eyes.

“He doesn’t remember you…”

TBC