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Wanted Man

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 Luffy happily bit into his lunch, “Hwey, Twavvy-”

 “Don’t talk with your mouth full. I’ll throw you overboard,” Law said.

 Luffy rolled his eyes with a grin, “Don’t talk to your captain like that, shishishi.”

 Law turned just enough to see Luffy out the corner of his eye and raised an eyebrow. “Please, do keep talking, Luffy-ya.” There were spikes and ice in every word, a warning about what would happen if Luffy crossed Law’s personally-drawn line with lording his new authority over the other.

 Luffy rolled his eyes again, swallowing. So it was Grumpy Traffy today. “Okay, so, Traffy, what’re you doing?”

 “Research,” Law said, going back to the old newspapers he’d grabbed before leaving Dressrosa. “We just upended the New World and have no idea what state it was in before we did.”

 “Huh. Good point. So?”

 “X Drake is rumored to be working for Kaido…Kid’s been killing people as usual…Bonney escaped custody two months ago…Hawkins tore some other crew apart,” Law said. “Also lots of bounty increases.”

 “Cool” Luffy said. He didn’t really care about most of that but it was cool how Law was able to understand so much so fast so he wasn’t lying when he said it. “That’s one of the old ones, right?”

 “Robin has the newest one,” Law agreed. “There was something about Crocodile in it she was looking into.”

 Luffy nodded. They’d dropped Law’s dads at an island and picked up a new newspaper and everyone’s new bounty posters as well. Zoro finally had a bounty—the government finally having figured out that he worked for Luffy, not his father, and so was not shielded by Mihawk’s Warlord agreement—a respectable hundred and forty million for his first, just above Sanji’s new hundred and thirty-five. Luffy was proud of his new bounty, he and Law were both up to six hundred million with Ace, Jinbe, and Robin right on their tails.

 Ace, however, had to be restrained from setting his on fire because Doflamingo’s media frenzy had led to his reading “Gol D. Ace” instead of his real name. Usopp had quickly offered to alter their copy to read “Portgas” to placate him.

 “So, since you’re being all smart and stuff right now, what about Sanji’s poster?” Luffy asked.

 Law pursed his lips. “I’m not seeing anything. No odd information in articles on the crew, nothing. My only guess is something having to do with it being his first really clear bounty poster image…but that would be odd…”

 Luffy sulked. If Law didn’t find anything in the papers then he sure as hell wouldn’t be able to. So why was Sanji wanted only Alive? Sanji said he had no idea…but Luffy got the feeling he might have been lying. “Any other ideas?”

 “Well…I don’t want to bother them so soon after Dressrosa, especially because Ice threatened us not to…but maybe my father could find something?” Law said, rubbing the back of his head.

 Luffy nodded. Kuzan had been very, very serious about getting a vacation. Scary serious about it, in fact. “So you think they could help?”

 “My father might know something, or even be able to find information we couldn’t,” Law said. “After his vacation.”

 “Yeah. Let Ice-guy have his break first,” Luffy agreed. “They earned it. But they can also tell us if they think of something.”

 “That sounds fair,” Law agreed, getting up. Luffy bounded ahead of him to the transponder room and had already dialed for Rocinante’s portable Den Den Mushi by the time Law caught up.

 “Yes?”

 “This is Monkey D. Luffy and I’m going to be King of the Pirates!” Luffy said.

 “Hi, Cora-san,” Law added, looking amused. Luffy’d noticed he got like that sometimes when he thought Luffy was being weird but in a good way. It was cute. Not that he could tell Law that. Law hated being considered cute. Even when he totally was.

 “Hi boys,” Rocinante said. “How are things?”

 “Fine, you?” Law asked, making Luffy scoot over so they could share the receiver.

 “Well, maybe Kuzan was right about taking a break,” Rocinante admitted. “Is something going on?”

 “Well, we were wondering if after your vacation, you could look into something for us,” Law said. “No rush or anything, just when you have the time-”

 “We want to know why Sanji’s only Wanted Alive,” Luffy said.

 “Huh, really?” Rocinante asked. “I only really looked at Law’s poster, will have to give them another once over…”

 “When you have the time,” Law repeated.

 “Yeah, we don’t want Ice-guy to miss his vacation!” Luffy said.

 “Well Ice-guy’s out cold right now and I’m bored so I might poke around a little…” Rocinante mused. “We’ll see what I find.”

 “Thanks, Cora-san,” Law said.

 “Well now what?” Luffy asked after they hung up.

 Law shrugged, leaning against the back of the bench. “Wait.”

 “…That’s no fun.”

 “You’ll live,” Law said, smirking.

  “Fine,” Luffy said, throwing his arms up. “I’m going to go help Usopp and Sabo fish.”

 “I’ll be in the library if you need me,” Law said.

.o.o.o.

 Law and Luffy got a call back within three hours.

 “That was fast!” Luffy said. Law opted to stand this time, as Luffy was soaking wet from a large fish dragging him into the sea while he’d been distracted by Usopp’s catch. Jinbe had saved him, thankfully. Goodness knew Law wasn’t going to do it.

 “Well I managed to get some information quickly, what can I say? And Kuzan’s even still asleep,” Rocinante snickered.

 “Wow, your information gathering skills are that good?” Law asked, impressed.

 “He’s a good spy,” Luffy agreed.

 The Den Den Mushi shook as Rocinante laughed harder, “Nah, just son of the former head of the Navy! I asked him what was going on with that. Unlike you two I’m not a wanted criminal—yet anyway—so I can do it.”

“And?” Law asked.

 “Your Sanji is from a mercenary family in North Blue,” Rocinante said. “The Vinsmokes, they’re famous assassins, killers, and so on. He’s the third son of the current family head, but been missing since he was very young. My guess is they want him back for…well, I don’t know. I mean, I’ve got an adult son and you don’t see me being weird about you doing the whole pirate thing; I’m fine with where you are.”

 “Glad you approve, Dad,” Law said dryly, but Luffy didn’t miss his tiny but pleased grin.

 “Hey, my son is one of the rising powers of the pirate world, drown me for having some pride,” Rocinante said. “But anyway, the Vinsmokes want your chef, Luffy, that’s about all I’ve got.”

 “Huh, thanks,” Luffy mused.

 “Thanks, Cora-san,” Law agreed, hanging up. “So…I’m sorry, I just don’t see why Blackleg-ya is freaking out. Biologically you’re the son of Dragon the Revolutionary, Ace-ya is the son of Gold Roger, and Sabo-ya is from a random noble family on top of you three being the adopted sons of Emperor Shanks and grandsons of Garp while Nose-ya is Yasopp’s son, Moss-ya is Mihawk’s, and Ice is practically my stepdad.”

 “And your dad’s an ex World Noble,” Luffy said. “Which is weirdest.”

 “Yeah but Sanji doesn’t know that, while he should know the rest by now,” Law said, rolling his eyes. Luffy wasn’t supposed to blab that, Rocinante didn’t like people knowing—for good reason. “Why would he want to hide a family of assassins, why would he think anyone would care?”

 “Don’t know,” Luffy said. “You’re from North Blue, do you know anything about the Vinsmokes?”

 “Mostly what Cora-san said, famous assassin family, had a few encounters when I was a member of the Donquixote Pirates, mostly minor business transactions on Spider Miles,” Law said. “Given Sanji ran away at such a young age…one has to wonder…”

 “Hey, hey, Sanji’s past is Sanji’s business,” Luffy said, wagging a finger.

 “We just asked my father to pry into his past, idiot,” Law said.

 Luffy blinked, looking surprised. “Oh…guess we did.”

  “Yeah,” Law said. “So, now we know. Do we ask Blackleg about it or not?”

 “Well…I mean, how much trouble could it be, really?” Luffy asked. He sighed at Law’s upraised eyebrow, “Yeah, yeah, okay, it could be, but will it be?”

 Law frowned. “You cannot be serious.”

 “What do you mean?”

 “Luffy-ya,” Law dragged a hand down his face, trying to think how he could explain this in a way that would hit home. “…Things usually don’t go the way we expect them to, do they?”

 “Yeah, no,” Luffy agreed.

 “So if you think it’ll be fine…”

 “Then it won’t be!” Luffy said, wide-eyed. “But wait, you think it won’t be so then will it be? Which one of us wins?”

 Damn it. He had a point with that. Law frowned, trying to think of a compromise. “We tell Blackleg we know…but that we don’t think it’s a problem?”

 “You mean we let him know we know in case he needs to tell someone something?” Luffy asked.

 “Right, but that we don’t think it’s a problem-”

 “You do think it’s a problem!”

 “Okay yes, but I think lots of things are problems, this isn’t, say, a specific problem,” Law said. “So we tell Blackleg we don’t think it’s a problem, and you honestly don’t so we’re not really lying, and that way he stops being all on edge and if he does think something’s up can tell us.”

 “Yeah, okay, makes sense,” Luffy said, shrugging.

 “How much of that did you listen to?” Law asked, eyes narrowing in suspicion.

 “Some of it, but Traffy’s plans usually make sense and aren’t boring and I’m not good with plans so it’s going to have to be whatever you came up with,” Luffy said, scratching his ear. “It sounds like that won’t upset Sanji much so let’s do it.”

 Law sighed, “I suppose that works…” It was a good as he was likely to get anyway.

 They headed for the kitchen.

 “Luffy can’t have any meat and if you warp it out of the fridge I’ll kick your ribs in,” Sanji said, not looking up from the dinner he was working on.

 “Nah, we need to talk to you,” Luffy said. “We kinda…sorta…well, we found out why you’re freaking out over your wanted poster, sorry!”

 Sanji stopped chopping tomatoes. “…What?”

 “We got nosy,” Law said. “…We know about the Vinsmokes.”

 “And…you’re telling me,” Sanji said tightly.

 “So you know we know,” Luffy said. “We didn’t want to know without you knowing.”

 “I…see,” Sanji said. His hands sunk to his sides, fists clenched. Law wondered if maybe they’d gone too far, or done this wrong.

 “It’s just…if you need someone to talk to,” he offered lamely. He knew he and Luffy were both bad for that sort of thing. “If…I don’t know, you notice something or…” Fuck it he was a professional, he could do this. “Look, if you think something bad’s going to happen, you can tell us because now we know.”

 “We don’t want to make a big deal of it, you know, tell everyone, cause you didn’t want to,” Luffy added.

 “Right. Just…if you notice something, let us know, okay?” Law asked.

 “Sure. Fine,” Sanji said, running a hand through his hair.

 “It’s no big deal, Sanji,” Luffy said. “And it’ll probably be fine anyway!”

 “Look at it this way,” Law offered, having an idea. “My family got you all dragged into that mess on Dressrosa. You’d have to top that.”

 Sanji laughed so Law assumed he felt slightly better. “Good point. I can’t think of anyone they’d have connections to who can wipe memories…”

 “See, Traffy’s way more trouble than you!” Luffy laughed. Law rolled his eyes, but refrained from commenting since it seemed to be cheering Sanji up and the goal was not freaking the chef out.

 At least Sanji was enough back to himself that Luffy got kicked in the face for making a dash to the fridge, anyway.

.o.o.o.

 Zoro wondered why Sanji was so damn tense all of the sudden. Sure, he’d been weird ever since seeing his wanted poster, but tonight he was just off.

 Luffy looked weirdly guilty too…had he done something? Had Law done something? Law had looked actually apologetic for a moment when Sanji had tripped while passing out servings.

 Hell only knew what kind of transgression it took to make Law actually sorry.

 Sanji had been tense all through serving dinner. Law and Luffy had looked surprised upon seeing him, and then the guilt had settled in. So they hadn’t expected him to be upset, but knew what it was about once they saw him that way?

 “Oi, cook, what’s with you?” he asked as soon as Sanji joined everyone else at the table.

 “Fuck off, moss head,” Sanji growled, glaring at him.

 “I’m trying to be nice!” Zoro protested. “You seem upset!”

 “Most people who are concerned don’t snap it,” Usopp offered quietly. Shachi nodded in agreement.

 “But he is right, you’re tense,” Robin said gently. “Sanji, is there something on your mind?”

 “No, fair Robin, I promise,” Sanji said. The looks he shot a contrite Luffy and marginally-more-guilty-looking-than-a-minute-ago Law said otherwise. Law even shifted in his seat a bit.

 All right, Law was clearly displaying remorse now. This was bad. Did someone die? Was Zeff dead, was that it?

 “Then why are you glaring at Luffy and Creepy?” Ace asked.

 Law dropped the guilt in a burst of annoyance and flicked a meatball at him. Ace caught it on his fork, cooked it slightly more, and bit into it with a smug grin—only to duck as Law threw his own fork at him. The tines sunk into the wall of the dining room and it quivered for a moment, but it could only distract them so long.

 “Whoa, hey guys,” Franky said. “How about Ace’s point instead of Ace’s insults, huh?”

 “Yeah, if nothing's wrong why are you glaring at the captains?” Bepo asked gently as Luffy stopped Law from throwing more cutlery.

 Ooh, good move. It was hard to get mad at the bear. He was too fragile. It was almost as bad as spooking Chopper.

  “Because they’re sneaky shitheads who pried into what they shouldn’t,” Sanji muttered darkly.

 “We just got worried!” Luffy said. “I didn’t even think it was prying until Traffy said it was but we’d already done it by then! And we didn’t want to know without telling you so we told you we knew but we told you it’s not a big deal!”

 “Of course it’s a big deal!” Sanji snapped rounding on him quickly enough to make everyone on that side of the table flinch, even Jinbe. “My family’s a pack of shitty assassins who apparently are willing and able to pressure things enough so that I be captured alive and you think it’s not a big deal?”

 He went rigid as soon as the words left his mouth.

 Everything was kind of quiet, which was nice. Zoro was sure as hell having issues trying to think anything but…but that it made sense. Sanji’s fighting prowess despite his former listed professions being “chef” and “waiter”…the lack of fear of Zeff in his past on the island, despite the guy being a pirate captain…

 How calm he was in taking down opponents he could handle without trouble…

 “WHAT?” Chopper squawked. “A-a-a-assassins? But—mmph!”

 Jinbe kept his hand clamped over Chopper’s mouth and hissed, “Bad time.”

 “So there’s assassins, big deal,” Ace said, shrugging.

 Wait, wasn’t Sanji mad that Law and Luffy didn’t think it was a big—oh, yep, one super-strong kick to Ace’s head it was.

 “I think we all need to calm down,” Robin said firmly as she restrained Sanji with hands from the floor and Sabo held Ace back from retaliating. “Sanji has obviously been under some extreme stress and it’s come out in an…inopportune fashion. Let’s all just sit down before-”

 “But he was only under stress because he didn’t tell us to start with,” Zoro said. That was obvious enough. Sanji knew as soon as he’d seen his wanted poster but instead of explaining had shouldered the stress for days. He’d done it to himself, kind of.

 “Shut up, moss head!” Sanji growled.

 Zoro hissed as Nami yanked his head down by his earlobe, “Ow! It’s true!”

 “You’re being an ass. We don’t need that right now,” Nami said tightly. “Shut up.”

 “Look, Sanji, we told you it’s really not so big a problem,” Luffy said. “It’s going to be okay. I promise!”

 “You have no idea what you’re talking about!” Sanji snapped.

 “Yeah because again, you didn’t tell us!” Zoro argued, ducking a slap from Nami. “Come on it’s true! Don’t hit me for that!”

 “Sanji, what are you worried about?” Sabo tried as Koala shot Law and Luffy—both about to talk—warning looks and Nami gagged Zoro with Brook’s cravat. “Specifically?”

 “Yes, you can tell us, we’re all friends here,” Bentham said.

 Sanji about froze before he took a deep breath. And another one. Zoro was too busy trying to chew his way around frilly lace to tell him to just tell them already so they could fix it.

 “This is really stressful for me and I don’t want to talk right now,” Sanji said tightly. “Some people don’t just blurt things out, no matter what Moss Head thinks.”

 “Hey!” Zoro snapped, finally able to speak again. Brook groaned at the shredded, damp mess his cravat was in as it landed on the table. “Don’t blame me for this, I wasn’t freaking prying!”

 “We’re really sorry!” Luffy added. Law looked like he was getting a bit overwhelmed. Great. They’d broken the surgeon. That’s what they needed.

 “Okay, look, we’ll handle this later,” Sabo said, pulling out his sensible tone.  “Sanji, Zoro, stop fighting. We’ll just…try and sort this all out…somehow…”

 “We can all sit in a big circle and talk it out!” Brook said. “It’ll be good for everyone, really!”

 “Oh come on, really?” Jean Bart asked. “I ain’t going kumbaya…”

 “Fine, you can take watch while everyone else talks,” Brook said. “Okay, let’s just finish our food and-”

 “…Fine,” Sanji sighed, sitting back down.

 “Seriously, you two, no fighting,” Nami told him and Zoro. “We’ll talk it out later.”

 Ace snickered, “Yeah, just because you and Zoro like each other-”

 “What does that have to do with anything?” Zoro demanded because really, Ace, it was not the time for that and-

 Everyone went quiet again.

 “You…you…what?” Sanji asked.

 Oh shit. He’d said…shit.

 Zoro stared at everyone, rubbed the back of his head…and ran out the door at top speed.

.o.o.o.

 “Oh, shit, don’t let him get lost!” Usopp cried, rushing after him with Chopper.

 “I…he…he what?” Sanji asked.

 “Sanji, you okay?” Luffy asked.

 “I…I was just messing around!” Ace said, holding up his hands. Robin flicked his ear anyway. “Ow!”

 “Um, so….that came out,” Brook said. “I’m sure once Zoro’s done being all embarrassed we can all sit down and…there he goes.”

 “Well…damn,” Sabo muttered, looking at Sanji run out the door. “Now what?”

 “Now what?” Penguin demanded. “I’ll tell you now what! Now I’m going to clean all this up, on my own, and you all are going to fix Sanji and Zoro, tell the captains what they did wrong, and make sure this doesn’t happen again!”

 Everyone slowly inched away from the seething secondary chef, steam practically smoking out from under his hat.

 “Well?” Penguin demanded. “Get on it!”

 “Okay, um…Sabo, you’re sensible, you handle Sanji,” Jinbe said. “Koala, Bentham, you’re empathetic so you can back him up or give them some space, whichever…”

 “I’ve got the idiots. Come on, Ace, you’re helping cause you helped mess this up,” Nami said, grabbing Law and Luffy’s arms and dragging them out. Ace followed silently, still stunned his teasing had accidentally caused Zoro to fess up.

 “I’ll go help with Zoro!” Shachi yelped, running out.

 Nobody else moved. Robin cleared her throat, “Penguin, would you like some help cleaning?”

 “YES!” Penguin yelled angrily, storing into the kitchen.

 .o.o.o

 “What were you thinking?” Nami demanded.

 “…That since we knew Sanji deserved to know we knew?” Luffy asked.

 “In his defense, Luffy-ya genuinely did not realize it was prying until after we had already done it,” Law said. “I merely thought it bore looking into, being such an anomaly.”

 “And you’re stunned Sanji was upset?” Ace asked. “Come on, Lu, what if someone looked into Roger and confronted me on it before everyone knew?”

 Luffy winced. Law sighed, “Look, Sanji said he was fine-”

 “Law. I am going to ask you something and you are going to answer honestly,” Ace said tightly. “When have you ever shown any sign of having anywhere near decent levels of people skills?”

 “…Point,” Law admitted. “But we couldn’t have brought someone else in to check without telling anyone.”

 “I should have known Sanji was lying about being okay though,” Luffy said. “He wouldn’t want me to think I’d made him sad…so he stuffed it down til it boiled over…”

 “Hopefully Sabo can talk some sense into him. It’s what Sabo’s good for,” Nami sighed. “And Usopp and Shachi can get Zoro out of the crow’s nest…”

.o.o.o.

 “…So,” Sabo said. “…You’re, you know, still alive in there, right?”

 “I’m not going to hurt myself,” Sanji said, voice strained.

 “Good. Was…kind of worried. We’re not used to, well, freak outs like that,” Sabo said. “Koala and Bentham are keeping the whole floor clear, it’s just me.”

 Sabo jerked slightly at the thump against the door. He heard Sanji sigh and assumed the chef was leaning on the other side of it.

 “Well,” Sanji said. “It can’t get-”

 “For the love of all that is good do not finish that sentence. Ace and Lu give me enough trouble with fate-tempting,” Sabo said.

 Sanji laughed, “D stands for ‘determined to make trouble’ doesn’t it?”

 “Would not shock me,” Sabo said, shaking his head at the thought of how Law and Luffy had caused this all by accident and not thinking. Jeez. Law not thinking...must be the D genes… “You want to talk or…you know, want me to get someone else…?”

 “Talk about what?” Sanji asked.

 “The Zoro thing, your family, whichever,” Sabo said. “Neither, even. I can get Penguin, I know you’re pals, or Nami-”

 “You’re fine.” Sabo heard the door unlock. “Just…get in here.”

 Sabo stepped inside. Sanji’s cabin wasn’t too large, as it had to fit so close to the kitchen, so he move closer to the desk to give Sanji some space. “So…”

 “I…feel humiliated,” Sanji said.

 “Yeah, we can start there,” Sabo said, sitting on the small desk.

 “I just...they had no right to pry.”

 “Pretty sure they’re getting it from Ace and Nami right now,” Sabo said. “In their defense…you weren’t saying anything. Add you were clearly nervous.”

 “What was I supposed to say? ‘Hey, guys, my family are murderous assassins and are probably trying to have me recaptured’?”

 “…Yes?” Sabo offered. “Kind of a heads-up we’d need to keep you un-kidnapped.”

 “Like you’d all have taken it well?” Sanji hugged himself, not looking at Sabo.

 “My big brother is the son of Gold Roger, wanted since before he was born; try again,” Sabo shot back. “Hell, technically we’re at war with the government over Robin!”

 “It’s complicated, all right?” Sanji complained. “And then there’s the stupid grass-brain…”

 “Yeah, we all saw that coming,” Sabo said.

 “What?” Sanji asked.

 “Everyone. We saw it coming,” Sabo explained. “We knew, it’s fine-”

 “I didn’t know!” Sanji yelled. “I mean sure you all teased us about it but…you were serious?”

 “Well, yeah,” Sabo said.

 “I…but the jokes!”

 “Were teasing you guys about the fact that you both obviously…shit you thought we were all totally making shit up,” Sabo sighed.

 “Yeah,” Sanji said. “Or, I don’t know, making fun of the idea of us getting together.”

 “I can see how maybe you took it that way. Our bad,” Sabo said.

 “Okay but…say I do like Zoro? I also like women! What’s up with that?”

 “So? You can like both women and Zoro,” Sabo said.

 “…Both?”

 “Yeah, both,” Sabo said, sounding confused. “I like both, Shanks thinks pretty much anyone can be hot, Penguin’s dated guys and girls, Robin likes both-”

 “Wait, you like both? But you’re just seeing Koala!” Sanji said.

 Sabo pinched the bridge of his nose, “Sanji, I’m going to be really nice and act like you didn’t practically just say I should be dating two people at once because I’m bisexual.”

 “Well it is what he practically said, but only because he’s an idiot about these things and doesn’t actually mean to be rude.”

 Sabo and Sanji turned to see Bentham in the doorway. Bentham calmly pushed up his sleeves before striding over to Sanji and jabbing a finger between his eyes, “Sanji, you are ill informed about a lot of things. I don’t know your background or the hows and whys. However, that does not mean I’ll let you kick yourself because you think you’re not allowed to be attracted to men as well as women!”

 “You know, it’s starting to make sense…” Sabo mused. “Like how you really overcompensate when you compliment a woman.”

 “Overcompensate?” Sanji asked.

 “Sanji, nobody, but nobody, gushes that damn hard over every single person they think is hot all the time unless they’re hiding something,” Sabo said.

 “Frankly given the rather impressive blood loss he tends to suffer I wonder if he’s subconsciously conditioned himself into doing it by this point…in fact maybe that’s why it’s gotten worse since I saw you in Alabasta…” Bentham mused.

 “You know it does seem to have become more over the top as time’s gone on,” Sabo agreed. “…Sanji are you overcompensating because you’re around a lot more attractive guys now?”

 “Not all of you are that attractive—urk!” Sanji groaned. “Sabo, I hate you.”

 “…So who is attractive?” Bentham asked slyly.

 “My guess is a certain swordsman and anyone who looks similar. Lu and Law are probably off the hook, though,” Sabo mused.

 “Law can be kind of attractive now and then,” Sanji muttered, looking humiliated. “Do we have to talk about this?”

 “No, we don’t,” Bentham said. He put a hand on Sanji’s shoulder. “But I think you should.”

 “…Sabo…you’re bi,” Sanji said.

 “Yes, this has been established,” Sabo said.               

 “When you’re attracted to a guy…does it feel…different but not?” Sanji asked.

 “Can you phrase that differently?” Sabo asked. “I’m not sure I got it.”

 “I…this doesn’t leave this room,” Sanji said.

 Bentham shut the door. Sabo nodded, “You have our words.”

 “You know what happened when I was nine,” Sanji told Sabo. “Short version for Bentham, I was a nine year old chef on a cruise ship—I’d signed a few months ago as a runaway—Zeff’s crew attacked, he and I were shipwrecked together, he gave me his food and ate his leg to survive-”

 Bentham gasped dramatically, hand on his heart.

 “-we were rescued and he opened the Baratie and took me in,” Sanji finished. “And, well, the staff was mostly guys. The restaurant profession can get like that in some places. So…the way some of them talked about ladies…it got crude. And Zeff would cuff them and say women are to be worshipped, not insulted…”

 “Which kid-you internalized very literally and you’re still working off of,” Sabo said, nodding. “Like how Ace internalized all the stuff people in Foosha said about Gol D. Roger when he was little even when Shanks and, heck, Gramps told him other stuff.”

 “First impressions can last a long time,” Bentham offered.

 “It’s not just that,” Sanji said. “In my family...my birth family, anyway…romance wasn’t a thing. You maybe seduced someone to pull them in, but normally you had a kid with someone and then they had to stay in the family because of the kid. My mother didn’t like it there. She helped me get out…she died to get me out.”

 “So that’s why you’re so over-into romance and protective of ladies,” Sabo mused.

 Bentham kicked him in the shin, “This is not the time for analysis-friends; this is the time for comfort-friends!”

 “Oh, shit,” Sabo said, noticing how Sanji had sort of sunk into himself after revealing his mother’s death. “I…sorry, Sanji I…shit…”

 “Yeah,” Sanji said. “Bentham…thanks.”

 “You’re welcome,” Bentham said, squeezing his shoulder.

 “And sorry for sometimes being an ass to you. I partially blame Ivankov, but that doesn’t mean it was okay to be rude to you because he was an ass before you all rescued me.”

 “I can see where he might have…given you trouble. A lot of trouble, really. Sorry that happened,” Bentham said. “Friends?”

 “Sure,” Sanji agreed. “So…now what?”

 “Well…what do you need?” Sabo asked. “Seriously, I will make everyone else sleep on the sub if I have to.”

 Bentham nodded in agreement, rolling up his sleeves again.

 “No, no, they’ll just get madder at the captains…they weren’t trying to fuck up,” Sanji said. “Hell, Luffy didn’t even realize it was prying and knowing Law he just didn’t think about whether or not it would be wrong or not to pry. Guy’s not the pinnacle of understanding feelings, after all.”

 “So…now what?” Sabo asked.

 “I wish I knew,” Sanji chuckled. “Want to try and help with the Zoro thing? Because fuck if I know what to do with that…”

 “Do what you want. No pressure,” Bentham said brightly. “Zoro’s reasonable, he will understand things, you know.”

 “…I…when it’s Zoro…he pisses me off so damn much,” Sanji said. “I think I have…feelings…of some sort for him, but…it doesn’t feel like what romance is supposed to be…but it also does.”

 “Well, look at me and my brothers,” Sabo said. “Love isn’t always romance.”

 “Right, Sabo and Koala are peak romance, Ace and Marco like a romantic moment now and then, but Luffy and Law, bless their silly selves, would be utterly confused by the idea of most things we consider traditionally romantic,” Bentham said, tossing his hands up in mock surrender at Law and Luffy’s utter lack of romantic sensibilities.

 Sanji smirked, “But at the same time both would get damn pissed off if you ever implied they aren’t in love.”

 “It’s different for everyone,” Sabo said. “Though…given how Zoro does have feelings for you, you could probably wrangle just a bit of romance out of the guy if you need it.”

 “Just a smidge,” Bentham said, winking. “Like you can get a smidge of blood from a stone.”

 Sanji laughed, “Thanks, I needed that.”

 He squared his shoulders, “Well, guess it’s time to humiliate myself for a second round.”

 “Oh please, like you can do worse than Ace and Marco making out just to see if it made Law and Luffy squirm,” Sabo said.

 “Or that time Sabo and Koala hid in the map closet!” Bentham added.

 “Thanks for that one,” Sabo said with an eye roll.

 “It is very true,” Bentham said primly.  “And quite adorable, I assure you.”

 “Wait, when was this?” Sanji asked.

 “Before we got you back,” Sabo muttered. “Koala and I were kind of in pure honeymoon phase, okay?”

 “Ask Nami, she has so much to tell,” Bentham said, grinning. “It’s all so lovely!”

 Sanji laughed, “I might have to, later. But let’s get this over with now.”

.o.o.o.

 It took Shachi and Usopp ten minutes to get Zoro to let them in the crow’s nest. After fifteen minutes of looking for him. So they knew time was kind of short as they sent Chopper off to report Zoro was talking with them now.

 “I can’t believe I said that,” Zoro said.

 “Ace kind of gave you a good setup,” Shachi said, shrugging. “But yeah, you haven’t said anything even though we’ve been ragging on you two for ages about it.”

 “I can’t believe it, though. I thought he hated me!” Zoro said.

 “We all tried telling you. Bentham tried every day for a week, remember?” Usopp asked.

 “Yeah but he’s just so—I mean he’s—I—argh!” Zoro said. “Why is he so damn…so Sanji?”

 “…Really?” Usopp asked.

 “Yeah, okay, that sounded weird,” Zoro admitted. “So…I like him, have for a while, now help me.”

 “Well at least you’re direct,” Shachi said. “Hell, let’s go with that: be direct.”

 “And get a flaming kick to the face?” Zoro asked.

 “What, scared?” Shachi asked…only to cower behind Usopp, himself covering behind a barrel, as that got an enraged glare out of Zoro. “…Still valid question!”

 “No!” Zoro said. “It’s just…okay I guess it would put all this to rest for me, one way or another…”

 “I think he likes you,” Usopp said. “But um…yeah I guess it’ll be good to, you know, know.”

 “Yeah,” Zoro sighed. “Let’s do this.”

 No one could ever say Zoro was a coward. Just prone to temporary panic after accidental confessions.

.o.o.o.

 Brook had in fact insisted on the “big kumbaya circle” as Jean Bart insisted on calling it. Bellamy had hovered at the perimeter before Bentham, Brook, and Bepo had sighed and declared “the B team” were going to sit together. There was some discussion on Jean Bart joining, but he empathically insisted his name was a two-word first name with no surname, he was not in fact named “Bart.”

 So Bellamy ended up wedged between a skeleton and a polar bear.

 Luffy and Law had sat down near the mast, but Luffy had almost instantly rethought his position and had sprawled sideways across Law’s lap in order to law down, his feet resting on Ace’s knee.

 Sanji and Zoro were separated only by Jinbe, who seemed to have declared himself the person who would pull them apart if they came to blows this evening as Nami was tired from captain-scolding.

 “So, Sanji,” Robin said. “Ready to talk?”

 Sabo gave Sanji a thumbs up. Koala elbowed him. Sanji rolled his eyes at him but stood up.

 “All right so…so my family are assassins. Really powerful, deadly, well-connected assassins that I have no wish to be associated with.”

 “Then do we have to call them your family?” Luffy asked, raising his hand. “Can’t we just call them something else?”

 “You can call them the Vinsmokes,” Sanji said. “But…the Wanted Alive on my poster indicates that they are somehow influencing things to get me back to them.

 “Do you think they’re honestly a threat?” Robin asked.

 “Fair Robin—assassins,” Sanji said. “CP-9 but worse.”

 “Oh, okay. Good thing we know now,” Franky said.

 “Yeah. We’ll have to beef up security a bit, I guess,” Jean Bart agreed.

 “I—aren’t you worried?” Sanji asked.

 “Well yeah, hence the beefing of security,” Franky said.

  Sanji groaned, “I—these people will kill their own loved ones, you really think-”

 “Okay, now I kind of want to rip their organs out,” Law admitted.

 “Maybe we can get enough appendixes to find out what it does!” Penguin suggested.

 “Hey, don’t be rude, listen to Sanji,” Ace said.

 “How do you not see that I’m putting you all in danger?” Sanji said.

 “…You do know a bunch of us were gutsy and badass enough to attack Marinford, right?” Law asked dryly.

 “Worst Generation ring a bell?” Ace added.

 “To say nothing of Luffy declaring war on the government over me,” Robin said. “You think he won’t give your family the finger, too?”

 “Well, giving the finger’s more Traffy’s thing, I’d just beat them up,” Luffy said.

 “Same difference!” Zoro said. “We’re keeping you, stupid cook!”

 “I…oh…” Sanji said. “I guess I…maybe thought…to hell with what I thought.”

 “Got that right!” Nami said firmly. “All right, so, the other issue?”

 She looked at Zoro pointedly.

 “So, um,” Zoro said, rubbing the back of his head. “I…guess maybe we need to talk about…the thing.”

 “You know I just said my family is going to kill the people I care about, right grass brain?” Sanji asked dryly.

 “You think I’m scared?” Zoro demanded. “I’m Roronoa Zoro, son of Dracule Mihawk and soon to be the greatest swordsman in the world! Some bratty assassins trying to get you back and make you join them or whatever else don’t scare me! And I’ll date you to prove it!”

 There was dead silence on the ship, broken only by the sound of Nami, Sabo, Jinbe, and Koala smacking their foreheads and groaning.

 “…Zoro…Zoro I don’t think that’s how that works…” Usopp said as Robin hid a smile.

 “And was not what I meant by being direct,” Shachi added.

 Sabo looked to the captains for some sort of reaction. Luffy was beaming and Law was nodding thoughtfully, as if Zoro’s idea made some form of sense. Of course this would be where Law’s logic failed them. Hell, it’d been failing them all day, apparently.

 “Oh really?” Sanji demanded, ignoring Usopp and Shachi in favor of getting in Zoro’s face.

 “Kids these days,” Brook jokingly told Jinbe. “No idea of how to ask each other out…”

 “Yeah really!” Zoro yelled.

 “Huh, even you weren’t that bad at asking me out,” Law told Luffy. “You know, you at least asked. Kind of forcefully, but there was a please in there…”

 “Well fine then! Date me!” Sanji snapped.

 Franky grinned, “Super! Glad you guys finally-”

 “Fine!” Zoro said. “Whose room?”

 “Moving a bit fast, guys,” Penguin said.

 “Please, they’ve been moving towards this for ages,” Ace said.

 “Well yes but this is a bit of a sudden move,” Bentham said.

 “My room!” Sanji said.

 “Why yours?” Zoro asked.

 “Closer to the kitchen, I still have to cook for you lunatics every morning!”

 “…Well good to see they’re getting the logistics covered?” Chopper offered.

 “That’s…something?” Bellamy admitted. Poor guy looked close to shock by now.

 “Fine, I’ll move my stuff!” Zoro said, still sounding more like he was yelling across a battlefield than deciding where to live with a boyfriend.

 “This is giving me a headache,” Law groused.

 “I’ve noticed emotions do that to you,” Ace said dryly.

 “Ace!” Luffy complained.

 “Might as well help you, you’ll get lost if I don’t!” Sanji declared, as if arguing with an unruly restaurant patron instead of offering assistance.

 Both of them stormed inside.

 “…Well, that happened,” Usopp sighed. “Anyway, what are we doing about the Vinsmokes?”

 “We’re telling them that if they want Sanji, they go through us. Zoro first because he’s the boyfriend, but then the rest of us,” Luffy said.

 “We’ll need more information on the Vinsmokes, as well. I’d rather see what we can dig up on our own before calling Cora-san again, though,” Law said.

 “I’ll call Vivi, she might know, princess and all,” Nami said.

 “We could probably ask Shanks, since we think they have something to do with Big Mom. He might know,” Ace suggested.

 “You mean Benn might know,” Sabo said, smirking.

 “Well, yeah,” Ace admitted. “But for all we know Shanks did bother to remember some of it.”

 “True,” Sabo conceded, but he doubted it. Shanks liked to tell stories, and he couldn’t imagine his father having forgotten to mention something like what the Vinsmokes sounded like…unless he thought they were too terrible, which didn’t bode well.

 “I know Crocodile once said he considered hiring them to supplement Baroque Works but felt we were strong enough on our own…” Bentham mused.

 “So, what, Paradise strength?” Ace asked.

 “A large enough organization will have varying levels of strength,” Robin said. “Baroque Works did, as does our alliance.”

 “An Emperor is willing to hire them,” Jinbe mused. “They’re either very strong or very specialized.”

 “Specialization is a good thing to look into,” Koala said.

 “It’s worked for me, Nami, and Bentham,” Usopp agreed.

 “More than just us,” Nami said. “Brook’s speed, Franky’s upgrades, Bepo’s Electro—that’s all fairly unique stuff people can easily be unprepared for. Sure, all Minks can use Electro but most people don’t know Minks.”

 “Yeah, but what unique stuff do assassins have?” Luffy asked. “I mean, how many ways can you be good at killing people?”

 “You’re sprawled on the Surgeon of Death, ask him,” Ace said dryly.

 Luffy looked up at Law who said “A lot.”

 “Okay,” Luffy said, shrugging.

 Several crew members face-faulted.

 “This is what we get for letting Luffy get a boyfriend,” Sabo groaned.

 Law and Luffy both glared at him as everyone started laughing at them.

.o.o.o.

 Zoro didn’t exactly have a lot of belongings, so the move took only one trip. He was just stashing his swords when Sanji sighed loudly. “Something wrong?”

 “…I can’t believe we fucking did this,” Sanji muttered, slumping against the wall.

 “What? Why?” Zoro asked. What was wrong now?

 “Because this is not how relationships work!” Sanji said, waving an arm at the air between them as if that would somehow make Zoro understand. “You…people don’t date people because they don’t want them to be kidnapped!”

 “…You don’t want to date me…because I don’t want you to be kidnapped,” Zoro said slowly.

 “No!” Sanji said.

 “Okay good, because I’m not going to act like I want you kidnapped,” Zoro said. That would be ridiculous.

 Sanji gaped at him, “Do you really not get it?”

 Zoro shrugged, “No? I like you, you like me, we’re dating now. Pretty easy.”

 He frowned as something occurred to him, “Unless you don’t like me?”

 “I do I….I don’t know!” Sanji said. “I mean, I guess but…”

 “Oh…we rushed things. Oops,” Zoro said. “Look if…if you need some time to…whatever…”

 Damn it how would Usopp put it?

 “Time to sort things out?” Zoro tried.

 Sanji chuckled, “I don’t even know, honestly. Part of me just kind of wants to say ‘fuck it’ and just go with it.”

 Zoro sat down on the bed, swinging his feet. “…I do really like you.”

 It was like pulling teeth. Zoro didn’t really do emotional openness. Which he was given to understanding was kind of a thing you needed to do when you liked someone. And he really liked Sanji.

 “Thanks,” Sanji said. “I…I think I like you…I mean…I don’t feel this way about other people…”

 Zoro laughed, “That could mean anything, though.”

 “…I don’t think it does, though,” Sanji said.

 Zoro’s heart did a weird fluttery thing. He didn’t know if he liked it, but he knew it was usually Sanji’s fault when it did that. “Yeah?”

 “I…okay, so where have you been hiding your ability to smile like that, huh?” Sanji asked, tilting his head with a small smile.

 Zoro scowled, “What?”

 “That thing, the one you just did with your face!” Sanji said.

 “What thing with my face?” Zoro asked, confused.

 “Oh forget it,” Sanji said, shaking his head. “You just looked really cute for a minute there, moss head.”

 Zoro scowled, “I am not cute!”

 “You’re plenty cute,” Sanji said, crossing the room and sitting next to him. “…I can’t believe your response to me saying my family is dangerous and wants to hurts the people I care about was ‘I’ll date you!’”

 “…Yeah, well. Dating’s hard. Stepping up to a challenge is easy,” Zoro said. “Just…kind of combined them.”

 Sanji laughed, rubbing his eyes in a way that briefly brushed his bangs aside and revealed to the world that yes, his eyebrows did in fact curl the same way.

 Zoro felt himself smiling.

 “That sounds just like you. Never change,” Sanji said, grinning.

 Zoro wanted to kiss him. “Can I kiss you?”

 Sanji went red, “You…want to?”

 “Why else would I say it?” Zoro asked. “…Look if you don’t want to it’s fine, like I said, take your-”

 Sanji kissed him.

 It was…really nice, Zoro decided, leaning back and letting the chef have his way.

.o.o.o.

 “I can’t sleep,” Luffy complained.

 “Welcome to my world,” Law joked dryly. “…Before you ask, yes I still feel a bit bad. But at least it turned out all right.”

 “Yeah but I’m the captain. I should know better.”

 “And I should have realized you didn’t realize we were prying,” Law said.

 “Yeah but you don’t think prying wrong, so why would you tell me we were doing it if you didn’t think it was wrong?” Luffy asked.

 “Point. But we can go in circles like this all night or just apologize in the morning. No point in putting it off.”

 “Where’d you learn that?” Luffy asked.

 “Kuzan.”

 “Huh…seems kind of lazy to be so direct…”

 “Less energy to get things out of the way, though…than, you know, let them keep going and annoying you…”

 Law folded his hands behind his head. “We can do better next time, right?”

 Luffy made a face, “Next time assassins want to kidnap some of my crew while we have a weird dating situation going on?”

 “…Okay, yeah, two of those would be too weird even for us.”

.o.o.o.

 Sanji woke up it a jolt, “What?”

 “…You were freaking out,” Zoro said awkwardly. “I started shaking you.”

 “Oh…thanks,” Sanji said, rubbing his eyes to chase away the nightmares of his blood family coming after his real family. He’d been having them ever since he’d seen the wanted poster. “Thanks.”

 The images wouldn’t leave him alone though, “Zoro, do me a favor?”

 “Mm-hm?” Zoro hummed as he lay back down.

 Sanji swallowed, “Tell me you love me.”

 “…’Kay. I love you,” Zoro offered sleepily. “What, you forget?”

 “No. Makes it less real,” Sanji sighed, relaxing. He wasn’t back there, his friends were safe—for now—and everything was fine…

 Zoro jerked out of bed.

 “Hey, where are you going?” Sanji asked, sitting up.

 “You just fucking said…that and…how does me telling you make it less real?” Zoro asked angrily.

 “What?” Sanji asked. “Wait you—no Zoro, no! It made the nightmare less real.”

 “…Oh.” Zoro shuffled awkwardly for a moment. “Do better at saying what you mean. Now I’m all cold.”

 “Then get back in the damn bed,” Sanji muttered.

 Zoro did so, “Hey…how’s it make it less real?”

 Sanji chuckled, “Because if I was back with them, no one would say that.”

 Zoro stiffened, “What? Are you kidding?”

 Sanji shrugged, “No? It didn’t happen…not there. Not with who’s still there.”

 “My dad’s fucking Dracule ‘emotionless asshole’ Mihawk and he managed to tell me a few times!” Zoro hissed. “Your family all need kicked in the fucking neck, Sanji.”

 “Tell me about it,” Sanji agreed.

 He really wondered what that said about his family. The one time he’d met Mihawk, at the Baratie, the man had been very cold and almost entirely treated Zoro as a student instead of a son.

 And then Don Krieg had taken a shot at Zoro and Mihawk had causally decimated his entire fleet before going back to discussing what to order with Zeff like nothing had happened…bar his eyes carefully checking over Zoro to make sure he was unharmed.

 Sanji remembered the look on Zoro’s face, simultaneously pleased at his father’s actions and embarrassed his father had stepped in to defend him when he could—and knowing Zoro’s thought process, thought he should—have done so himself. It had reminded him of when Zeff had protected him when he was a kid, when the restaurant was new and sometimes some weak pirates had come in looking for an easy robbery.

 And Marinford! Mihawk had fought Zoro’s friends and gone home to Zoro being there like nothing was wrong! And then when Zoro was rightfully pissed at him, still agreed to train Zoro for a little longer despite Zoro pretty much admitting he hadn’t had a kind word for his father the entire time due to still being angry about Marinford. Trained him knowing Zoro’s ultimate goal was his defeat, even…

 “…Your family must suck if it makes my dad look amazing,” Zoro muttered, seemingly reading his thoughts.

 “They do,” Sanji said. “…How old were you when Mihawk took you in?”

 “Ten, eleven?” Zoro hazarded. “Yeah, ten, but it was close to my birthday. Zeff took you in when you were nine, right? So you ran away at…?”

 “Eight. Eight and three months,” Sanji said. “June fifth.”

 He couldn’t forget the date. His mother died on that date.

 “Wait so…you were trained before then, huh?” Zoro asked.

 “From as soon as I could walk,” Sanji said bitterly.

 “Shit,” Zoro said.

 “I’ll say. I could walk before I turned one.”

 Sanji tensed as Zoro pulled him into a hug. “Jeez, Moss Head, let me breathe!”

 “They aren’t allowed to take you back. You know that, right?” Zoro asked. “I’ll stop every one of them myself if I need to.”

 “You think I wouldn’t fight back too?” Sanji complained, elbowing Zoro for breathing room when he wasn’t given it in time. “Come on, moss head, there can’t be only grass between your ears!”

 “Can you not insult me for five fucking minutes?” Zoro groaned.

 “Sorry,” Sanji snickered. “Reflex.”

“How many bits you want sliced off?” Zoro asked. “I mean, I won’t kill anyone if you don’t want…”

 “Have fun with it,” Sanji decided after a moment. “I don’t really care.”

 “Yeah?” Zoro asked, sounding eager. Battle loving idiot…why did that make Sanji smile?

 The smile dropped as something occurred to him. “Unless they go after Zeff. Then I want them in a hundred bits, minimum.”

 “You’ve got it,” Zoro said. “You want to toast them first or after?”

 “Hmm…after would cook them more evenly, I guess…” Sanji mused. “Have to think about what we’d dump out for the sharks, right?”

 “Okay now you’re trying to seduce me,” Zoro groaned.

 “No, no, no, no seducing, we’re going back to sleep. I have to make breakfast in the morning,” Sanji said. 

 “Okay fine,” Zoro yawned. He pulled Sanji a bit closer, “Night.”

 Sanji smiled, “Good night, Zoro.”

.o.o.o.

 Things mostly were back to normal the next morning. Sanji got revenge on Luffy and Law by surprise-kicking them into the ocean. While Luffy accepted it, Law in turn took revenge by stealing Sanji’s eyebrows with Shambles. Zoro then got into a swordfight with Law in an attempt to help Sanji get them back. Luffy broke the swordfight up and actually made Law give them back.

 And then finally breakfast was had.

 “We’re all good, yes?” Bentham asked expectantly. “All friends again?”

 “Until Blackleg-ya tries serving me bread again,” Law muttered.

 “Only if you’re too much of an ass to stand,” Sanji agreed. “So yes. Friends again.”

  “…What?” Bellamy asked.

 “Okay, I’m going to explain this again,” Usopp sighed. “Bentham is the Friendship Queen, friendship must be properly observed in his presence. Sanji and Law like to mess with each other because they’re both nitpickers who need someone else to make them stop so if other people don’t they just go.”

 “…Where does Zoro fit again?” Bellamy asked.

 “Next to Sanji, duh,” Luffy said, mouth full of bacon.

 “I still don’t understand you people,” Bellamy said.

 “It’s okay, I’m sure working for a jerk like Mingo makes not-jerks seem weird,” Luffy said, stretching his arm to reach across the table and pat Bellamy on the head. “We totally get it.”

 “So…do we need to address the whole…thing with Sanji’s family or let it be?” Zoro asked.

 “Well, we’ve got some new info to run by Sanji, but otherwise jack,” Nami said. “I say we leave it for now and focus on other endeavors—preferably profitable ones.”

 “We’ve potentially got Kaido after us and you want to talk money?” Sabo groaned.

 “It’s Nami,” Zoro said. “…So, what about the money?”

.o.o.o.

 “So…yeah,” Pekoms said. “The Vinsmokes are offering their third son as a marriage candidate now that they know he’s alive.”

 “They called me during my midmorning meal for that?” Big Mom asked.

  “Um…yes,” Pekoms said. “Those assassins always did have an odd sense of timing…”

 Big Mom snorted in derision at the offer. “Pekoms, take a letter.”

 “Um, okay Mama,” Pekoms said, pulling out pen and paper. He’s better keep it legible this time…

 “Tell the Vinsmokes that I am grievously insulted that they offered one of my darling daughters some brat who hasn’t been in the family for years and is in fact not available for delivery,” Big Mom said.

 “…Available for delivery?” Pekoms asked blankly.

 “He’s running around with Red Hair’s boys. Red Hair already messes up parties of mine either on a whim or even on utter accident,” Big Mom growled, remembering the time Shanks had snuck into a wedding and stolen a bouquet to give his damn First Mate on an anniversary. Drunk as a skunk and with an equally drunk Dracule Mihawk tagging along because apparently the world’s greatest swordsman was the world’s greatest wingman when sufficiently plastered. Now that she thought of it, Mihawk’s brat was on the same crew…

 Crushing them would be too much trouble. She didn’t want to put up with Red Hair, Mihawk, or the damn Phoenix, even if it got rid of some annoyances. You didn’t shoot the bear cub that was only maybe going to get in your dumpster when its mother would know.

 No, you only shot it when you could give someone else the gun and the blame.

 “Tell the Vinsmokes I expect them to make me an offer with a son they actually have in their possession,” Big Mom decided. They could offer that Sanji brat if they got him themselves, then Red Hair and the rest would mess with them, not her. “Until then our business relationship will stay that: strictly business. As for the insult, they’re knocking fifty percent payment off my last bill if they don’t want trouble.”

 “Yes, Mama,” Pekoms said, finishing the letter.

.o.o.o.

 “Hey, Zoro finally wrote you something!” Perona said, tossing Mihawk a letter.  

 Mihawk took it. Normally any news he had of Zoro came from Perona, who called the Thousand Sunny when she was bored. He hadn’t heard much since Zoro had left months ago.

Dad the note read I’m not quite ready to beat your ass yet and I’m still mad at you for going after my pals at Marinford. But you’re still my dad so I’m telling you that I’m dating Sanji, aka Vinsmoke Sanji, and any fucker who claims he’s their future husband or clan member whatever goes through me cause he’s mine now. We’ll let you and Perona know if that changes or anything.

I don’t hate you,

Zoro

 “…That is the most dreadfully unromantic declaration of a relationship ever,” Perona said.

 “It’s perfectly acceptable,” Mihawk replied, smiling softly at the sign off. Good, he’d been a little worried on that front, honestly. “He conveyed all relevant information. He is dating Vinsmoke Sanji, it is serious, and any interlopers threaten his honor.”

 “Oh…that means we get to beat them up if we run into any?” Perona asked.

 “Mm-hm,” Mihawk agreed, smirking. What the hell, he’d been bored anyway. Maybe fighting mercenaries would be good for something. “The Vinsmokes are famous assassins in control of an extensive organization of killers. This should be interesting.”

 “Wait, Zoro’s in love with the weird chef, and the weird chef is from a family of crazy assassins?” Perona asked. “…I’m joining that crew!”

 “What?” Mihawk asked.

 “I’m bored and want to fight people, and they’re going to get to fight assassins. And meanwhile I can tease Zoro about falling in love!” Perona laughed. “It’s like my birthday came early!”

 “…Your birthday was last week,” Mihawk said slowly.

 “And it’s back again! Horo-horo-horo!” Perona laughed. “This is going to be great!”