Chapter 14 - Horizon


Sanji had nightmares that night.


The faint taint of sweat tinged the air as he fisted the sheets, tossing and turning and groaning just softly, mumbling words that Zoro couldn’t hear. The swordsman wrapped one protective arm around the shaking blonde and wished for the thousandth time that he could fix all his problems. It was a stupid whim. As if anything like that could work… He hated to admit it, but it was bizarrely comforting for him to feel so close to another person after being fiercely independent for so long.


Not that the cook would accept his protection, he was more likely to erupt in a towering volcano of indignation – but that could be good too…


He didn’t want to be a hero anyway; even here holding the blonde in his sleep, he scoffed at the idea. He wanted to be an anti-hero. He wanted to be the one to fire Sanji up enough to become the man that he really was… under the doubt and self-loathing.


He just had to figure out how to do it.




When Sanji finally woke, he jumped out of bed in an instant, muttering.


“I have to get to the Sultan, we need to get him to release her…poor Nami-swan!” the blonde mumbled as he rummaged through the tangle of clothes on an overflowing rack and selected something sombre.


“There’s nothing you can do,” Zoro said from the bed.


Sanji would have sworn that he was snoring just a second ago. Damn Marimo and his freaky cat-napping!


“You’re wrong!” Sanji said defiantly, “As soon as I speak to the Sultan we can have her released, he is very generous and sweet Nami-swan was only trying to rescue her village. You don’t understand what she has been through!”


Sweet?!  Zoro coughed.


Sanji’s stare was piercing – and the swordsman knew all the history and emotions churning behind those clear blue eyes. This wasn’t a time to get into an argument. He wanted to help but he knew how this would unfold if it was rushed.


“The Sultan won’t be up for hours, he said he’d deal with it today, if you pester him it will just piss him off,” Zoro said to the canopy of the over-the-top pink bed. He thought Sanji may still be listening but he wasn’t particularly hopeful.


“I don’t care if I piss him off, Nami is being held prisoner! How can you lay there all blasé as if nothing is happening? At least have the decency to act like you care, you said you were going to join a crew with her!”


“With her? I don’t think that was rea..” Zoro trailed off, cut off by the ice in Sanji’s trademark shut-the-fuck-up-or-I-hurt-you-now glare.


“We have to rescue her!” Sanji shouted, throwing clothes at Zoro’s head.


The swordsman caught them and begrudgingly put them on; he was hoping to have just a little more time alone with Sanji before all hell broke loose – but it was not to be. Stupid woman had to go and get herself caught.


“Ok. Ok,” Zoro huffed and got to his feet and then belatedly wrapped himself in some sheets, “So what am I doing this time?”


Sanji turned back to face him, “That’s the most sensitive thing that you’ve said all week.”


Zoro rolled his eyes, “I’m getting mixed messages Sanji, your body says touch me but your mouth says kick the crap outta me,” he raised one provocative eyebrow.


“Yeah, yeah, moss-for-brains, just hurry up and get dressed,” Sanji replied, flushing just a little at the sight of Zoro half naked, much to the swordsman’s glee.




Nami lay in one of the most elaborate rooms in the palace and enjoyed the view. Butterflies drifted through the one open window, seduced by the explosion of colour. Even from the bed the combination of mirrors and stained glass windows enabled you to see the garden in all its glory. Prisms of light and the colours of the stained glass added to the glittering, sparkling effect, making an all white room dance with a breath of life.


Nami brushed an errant strand of hair from her face, where it was tickling her nose. The movement caused the sleeping figure beside her to stir and Robin turned over, her face slightly puffy from sleep. Even when she woke, Robin was gorgeous. Her long lashes caressed her cheeks and her lips were turned in that Mona Lisa smile. Her firm curves pressed against the navigator under the covers; the feeling of a soft breast and a warm thigh here and there did not help Nami to focus one tiny bit…


“Good morning angel,” the older woman said.


Despite Nami’s house arrest, supposedly locked in her room, Robin had managed to smuggle her out. The navigator was pleased at the offer, anything to get one up on the Sultan, but more than that – she was happy to see Robin’s face when she came to the door. Robin had a soothing, sexy presence that was hard to fight. Nami let herself be reassured by her words and her soft, cool hands on her brow.


Her tenderness had caught Nami by surprise.


Normally, she hated being surprised.


At the beginning of all this, she came to Robin to get an advantage, a lead, a way into the palace and through it, the prize. She knew that in this way, her plan had worked. Even now, she knew that Robin had already spoken with the Sultan about Nami’s ‘predicament’. When Robin came to fetch her last night… the way that the raven-haired woman cleared the room in three strides to cup her chin and kiss her twice – it was confident. Nami was hopeful that meant that the talk had gone well… but there was so much more than that.


She had started out simply attracted to Robin, her cool smile, the assured and sensual swagger of her hips… but from that she had become… attached. Not with the bonds of some serious, unfathomable love, but with the small ties of comfort and friendship that can come so softly that you never notice them until you are already captured utterly.


Robin kissed her forehead and told her about the oceans that she would map, the treasures that she would find. She was warm and tender, gentle in her way but also cold, clear, logical. Nami knew that she would never act out of pure pity, and for that she was glad.


She let herself get lost in Robin’s soft flesh, the gentle caress of her fingers, the whisper of her sweet breath… forgetting everything except a taste as sweet as honey and a soft moaning noise that would probably give her wet dreams for weeks.




Sanji walked into the large banquet hall, all of the tables had been removed and the festive banners of the night before were long gone. His cheeks flushed with indignity as he saw Nami and realised that she had a guard with her. As if anyone needed protection from his precious flower!


“Come forward Nami,” a courtier boomed into the sudden hush.


Nami stepped forward boldly; she nodded her head in a bow but remained standing, defiant.


The Sultan rose to speak to the assembled guests and a ripple of uncertainty stirred the crowd. Sanji was suddenly so tense he thought all his joints would pop. He was ready to leap to her defence the second she needed him.


Hurry up with the announcement already!!!


“Nami, you have broken the laws of this country and betrayed my trust. I let you into my house and you took advantage of my, and my people’s, good faith.”


Nami cringed a little and Sanji’s heart went out to her. She just wanted to do the right thing; it was unfair to punish her! He started to stand, but before he could stumble forward Luffy’s voice pierced the silence,


“Dad…” he whined.


“BUT!” the Sultan bellowed, cutting Luffy off, “my son has made a plea in your favour. He has told me that you are fair and brave and true, that you fight and steal to save your people. Is this true?”


Nami nodded, dumbstruck.


The Sultan peered into her face from across that wide ceremonial room, all the weight of a dynasty behind him. He made his “old man who is serious about the future” face and turned to his son. His one remaining child, to guide and protect for better or worse.


“You, Luffy, I want you to become like this woman. To be fair and brave and true. I know that you want to travel the seas and I give you my blessing..” Luffy began to hyperventilate and leap about uncontrollably, “..PROVIDED you keep my dear sweet wife Robin and any companions she chooses safe, and bring them all back to me when your adventures are done.”


“SUGOI!!!” Luffy cried out, beaming and bouncing through the crowded hall bowling over messengers and nobles galore. “I’m going to go to sea!”


“Luffy, take good care of her,” the Sultan said, turning to Robin who sat at his right hand side, impassive and immune to his praise, “She’s a very special woman.”


“And you Robin my caramel-book-bunny, please take care of my son, he is… distracted… and may need some guidance.”


Robin leaned in to kiss his cheek and whispered her reply, “I will try to keep him from being killed too young my lord.”


The Sultan cringed and kissed his wife goodbye, he would miss her and Luffy very much but he knew now, at last, that he was doing the right thing.


“And you, Zoro,” the Sultan said, nodding his gilded head in a very confiding manner, “you take care of Luffy, yes? You know? Yes?”


Zoro cringed and turned slightly purple and the Sultan nodded serenely, the swordsman understood. Luffy would find the right woman. Or man. Or something…


Once the Sultan had finished making the arrangements for the voyage he turned to Nami to receive what he expected to be her enthusiastic gratitude …but for some reason, she looked a bit flat.


“Are you alright Nami-san? You seem a bit… deflated.”


“Oh, It’s nothing. It’s so lovely that you are being so generous Your Majesty but I was all prepared for a big exit.”


“Dare I ask?” The Sultan smiled.


“It wouldn’t hurt anyone…” Nami said slowly.


Not really.


“Oh…” The Sultan grinned at the canny girl, “..go on then.”


Nami squealed with excitement and shouted at Luffy across the room. “Luffy, do you see the cord tied around that marble pillar? Untie it and pull the cord.”


Once he had finally found the right pillar, Luffy enthusiastically complied and a hushed silence descended as everyone waited.


With a muffled boom, a cloud of smoke erupted into the centre of the room, spreading quickly to engulf the entire hall.


“This way!” Nami’s voice called out in the swirling fog.


Luffy reached in and grabbed Robin, the others followed the retreating thief as she ran along the corridors shocking guards left and right with bolts of lightning.


That's my Nami-swan!!!


As they ran out into the courtyard, a series of sharp cracks echoed through the palace and the sky erupted with flashes, booms and puffs of smoke. Luffy paused, concerned and distracted by the noise and the lights.


“I set off the fire works display for next week!” Nami called back.


“Nami-swan is the best!” Sanji called out.


The navigator whistled sharply and ran to the closest gateway. By the time Luffy had arrived (Zoro scruffed Luffy who was wandering off and then Sanji scruffed Zoro who was going the wrong way), Nami had two horses laden with saddlebags of palace goods at the gate.


“What’s all that?” Luffy asked.


“A parting gift from the Sultan,” Nami said, trying to hide her smirk. Robin laughed and shook her head. She had dobbed the Navigator in, of course, and received the Sultan’s blessing, as she always knew that she would.


“Awesome! Treasure!” Luffy shouted, bounding ahead through the gate and out into the open desert. “I have to get some people, wait here!” Before anyone could grab hold of him, Luffy turned and ran off, back towards the living quarters of the palace.


Fetching Kami-knows-who to join the crew, Nami mused, maybe I shouldn’t have let him go off on his own…


Finally, the straw-hatted lad returned with a man Nami assumed was the Usopp of crossbow fame, a large hulking man with a metal nose and (to her horror) Brook.


“Do we really have to take Brook?” Nami asked.


“I found him in a bush!” Luffy said enthusiastically, “He’s a musician,” he was nodding his head furiously. Looks like that was a ‘yes’ then.


“I was merely checking the security measures around the ladies baths,” Brook commented, “you can never be too careful,”


“Is that everyone?” Nami asked, mentally checking people off on her list and ignoring the perverted skeleton.


Luffy and Robin were ahead of her and Sanji and Zoro were walking together behind the group, chatting.


Nami watched Zoro and Sanji interact; the way they walked together was so easy and free. They laughed, they hit each other and they insulted each other with practiced ease. It was so perfectly symbiotic, quite remarkable really. And hot, very hot. With this going on and Robin’s very handy eye powers, the trip ahead looked like it would be a good one.


And, as always, it all went perfectly according to plan.




As Zoro walked through the carefully tended grounds for the last time, he felt a pang of regret. A tiny part of him had enjoyed his brief lazy holiday here, training and sleeping in the perfumed gardens. The grass here was still green even during the height of summer and shade allowed the jasmine to bloom and spread its heavenly scent all year around. The fruit trees called to him with their shade and the tiny nooks and crannies of otherworldly bliss that only he knew about beckoned. In a few short weeks he had gone from the cushiest job on the planet to one of the hardest: full-time babysitting Luffy.


Given all the things that Luffy had managed to break, injure and/or destroy just within the confines of these secluded and protective walls, well… he hated to think what it would be like out in the world. It would require him to be just as strong as the crazy rubber kid and push his endurance ever further. He could fight and train and once again pit his skills against any man who dared to claim that he was stronger.


A butterfly drifted into Zoro’s path and for the last time, he turned and surveyed the gardens. They were bathed in golden sunlight, enhanced to a haze by the tiny motes of floating sand that filled the air. The wind had stirred the sands but now all was clam, the many coloured blossoms steeped in gold and nodding in the last trace of a breeze. It was soothing, tranquil… boring.


Very boring.


He followed the sounds of Luffy whooping in joy and ran towards the gate: the only thing that barred him from the rolling sands and his new life.


Their new life.




Luffy looked out over the sea of sand and longed for the ocean. With every week, he would get better, with every day, he would get stronger and with every single step he would get closer - to the man who had always been in his heart, the man who had given him his goal, his passion, his dream… and his arm.




They would meet again.

And when they did, he would be the Pirate King.




As Sanji walked across the sands, he felt like he was wandering in a dream… his feet were light, tripping and stumbling – and his head was full of fuzz. He couldn’t wipe the stupid grin off his face… in a moment of introspection Sanji wondered if he had hit his head but… No. This was different…


Sanji stumbled again and stopped, giddy with the sight of the blue sky, endless and beckoning.


“Sanji, are you alright?” Nami asked, ever observant.


“I…” Sanji thought about how he felt, what to say… he felt…


Like the beginning.


Like pure potential.


He could do anything.


He could find All Blue.


He was strong.


He was free.


He was ready.


The cook clicked his heels and ran to the top of the nearest sand dune, he called to the void of night,


“I’m ready!!!”


Luffy laughed and ran to his side shouting to all the world that he was hungry.


Zoro shook his head and tut-tutted.


Baka cook.


A warm weight filled his chest and squeezed.


Hope? Pride? ...love? No!


Zoro told himself that it didn’t matter.


He was ready to start a new adventure, cook or no cook.


Although with hot sex would probably be better...


“Fuck you, Zoro!” Sanji called from atop his dune, either randomly or through psychic powers.




Zoro laughed.


Well, I wanted the real Sanji.


“I bet I can beat you to the harbour,” Sanji called, striking a perfect roadrunner pose.


Zoro arched one eyebrow and took off.




But Sanji’s protests were lost on deaf ears as Zoro ran blindly into the desert, grinning like an idiot as he went.


Chapter 13 ~~~~~~~~ Back to Zoro/Sanji ~~~~~~~~                



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