Author: Bronze Tigress
Rating: PG-13 (some language, implications)
Warnings: not really
Pairings: San/Zo/Na implied; whether for real or merely for appearances is up to you.
Excuse: Because Sanji needs to stand up and win, once in a while, 'cause, y'know, he kicks butt. Literally. ;) And *I* need to stop playing with this fic and just post it already.
Note1: I wanted to do a fic from an outside perspective, so this fic works from outside appearances; it *should* work for an audience that is not familiar with the characters at all, if I did it right.
Note2: Neither Zoro nor Luffy will fight back over mere insults - as, for instance, at the beginning of the Jaya arc. On t'other paw, I don't recall Sanji ever just sitting back for a beating; in fact, he took on Fullbody for less, and is generally quite up-front about defending those who, in his perception, require defending.
Note3: In light of recent manga events, this is probably even more AU than I first thought. *shrugs*
* * *
It wasn't a bad little place. Nothing fancy, but the food was honest and well-made, served up neatly on clean service with a well-deserved measure of pride, and the atmosphere was relaxed and friendly.
The lunch hour was nearly over, but about half the tables were still in service. Most of those seated pairs of customers; there were a handful of couples of various ages and a set in the far corner that was clearly a pair of business associates. There were also two tables of four (an elegant-looking woman with two rowdy grown boys and a little one in a play-costume, and a couple with two cute little girls) and a table of three light-haired foreigners (a well-dressed young couple whose burly yojimbo had quietly neglected to rack his swords, although they had been surprisingly pleasant to deal with otherwise). Everyone was talking, laughing, eating and drinking happily.
Of course, just when things were humming along, looking pleasant and peaceful? That was about when things had to start going wrong.
At first, the man who walked in -- disheveled by the standards of the other patrons, rather in need of a wash, and with his chin rather far in the air as he swaggered cockily through the door -- had done nothing more offensive than push his way to an unoccupied table and bellow for the serving girl.
Apparently, however, he was known to the regular patrons. And not universally appreciated, by their reactions.
The waitress had scurried over with her tray held, shield-like, protectively in front of her. She scuttled in a way that had the swordsman's open attention instantly, followed nearly as quickly by his blond employer's subtler but equally sharp-eyed glance.
The yojimbo pushed his chair back a fraction, and put the rest of his dinner into his mouth in rather less time than might be considered polite, earning himself a concerned look from the lady and a rough admonishment not to choke from the gentleman. He shrugged in reply, and washed the food down with the rest of his tankard of still-cold beer and a full-body shudder.
The family with the two small children gathered their things together. The man of the group quietly laid money on the waitress' tray as she hurried past on her way to fetch the new patron's drink order. The woman bundled the children into their coats with a quick, too-loud word about going to see Grandma now, that she must be waiting for them. They didn't quite run for the door, given how the girls laughed and skipped at the prospect, but there was a definite hustle in their steps as they cleared out.
The businessmen at the back corner table took one look, then hunched over their table, trying to make themselves invisible as they hurriedly finished their meals. Most of the rest of the patrons followed their example, except for one of the single woman's boys, who peered over with obvious enthusiasm. His long-nosed brother was evidently not nearly as eager, tugging on his arm with a frantic plea to not cause trouble. Finally, the woman hushed them both with a quiet, "We're not here to get into a fight." The animated boy pouted, but quickly subsided at the remonstration, while the other sat back with an exaggerated sigh of relief.
The unkempt man's behaviour deteriorated rather rapidly. It seemed that the ale was no good. The service was no good. The serving girl was ugly and inept. And clumsy, to boot. The food wasn't even edible. The other patrons were rude, too, staring like that; what kind of a place were they running here anyway? Finally, the owner himself came out from his place in the kitchen to speak with the unruly patron.
"Is there a problem?"
"Damn stinkin' right. Your beer's piss, your wench is an ugly whore, your food's not worth feeding to pigs, and you? *You* scream like the girl you are when you get bent over your tables." He looked around, then, as if daring anyone in the room to contradict him.
Under the circumstances, it was really only natural that the rude man should lock eyes with the green-haired yojimbo, whose employer's stiff shoulders were evidently a sign of some impending trouble. He must have seen some challenge in the swordsman's eyes, because his next words drawled out in a jeering taunt.
"What, you got something to say, little yo-bimbo?"
The sharp sound of a single sword being thumbed loose from its sheath was abnormally loud, as was the shocked gasp of the lady at the table of three.
And then, with a sigh, the blond gentleman in the black suit put down his empty wine glass and stood up. With a muttered, "That'll get the place messy, idiot," he motioned his yojimbo to stay put. Then he excused himself to his pretty, orange-haired lady with a wry smile, glanced briefly around at the other tables, and turned to face the restaurant's owner.
"My apologies, jiji-san. With your forgiveness? This mongrel has just insulted me, and mine."
"You? I ain't got no business with the likes of you, Mr. Fancypants," the bully interjected.
The blond man turned. "On the contrary. You've just *made* it my business. You've insulted a lady's character, a man's cooking, and the greatest swordsman in East Blue."
"Don't see no greatest nuthins 'round here. Who the hell's you, you skinny little peacock?"
"See, that, there? That's where you're completely stupid. Guess I'll have to kick some brains into you, as well as manners."
"Oi, Sanji. We're not here to cause trouble," the yojimbo put in.
"Won't be no trouble, Zoro," came the reply. "But I can't let that slide."
An excited murmur rustled through some of the closer patrons at that interplay, and especially the names exchanged. A few others waved towards the elegant woman's table, pointing out the odd assortment of hats the group wore. Most notably, now, the yellow straw hat the excitable boy had slung on his back by a string around his neck. That boy, it seemed, was even more fascinated by the proceedings than the rest of the patrons, and was barely being held back by both of the other boys.
"So, what, you got some guy with a sword sittin' with ya. Don't mean nuthin'."
The "guy with a sword" reached up to grasp the blond gentleman's wrist with one hand and a murmured, "Sanji, please."
The gentleman turned, eyebrow raised. He didn't shrug the hand off, however. Instead, he covered it with his other hand, then bent, very deliberately brushed a light kiss across the scarred knuckles, and locked eyes with the swordsman. "I did promise to defend your honour too, Marimo." Then he smirked at the still-seated (and now silently cursing and faintly pink) swordsman, straightened up, and addressed the rude oaf. "What's your name, lard-ass?"
"Why do you care, queer boy?"
The slender young man gestured towards his lady. "My wife here wants to know what your bounty is. But I can be polite," he stated, moving a couple of steps away from the table and scanning the small open area. The young lady so indicated shot him a sharp glance, then reached for her large handbag. "My name is Sanji. And yours?"
"Well, 'Sanji', you're about to have your ass and your pretty swordsman's handed to you by Sekkai Toragari. That'd be me," he added, thumb to puffed-out chest.
"Big man. Rock head with a bad haircut, unless you think you can call yourself by *his* move?" Sanji shook his head, disgustedly, and straightened a cuff before tucking his hands into his pockets. Behind him, the pretty little redhead stopped rifling through her handbag long enough to lay a placating hand on the swordsman's arm.
"You want moves? I'll show you moves," Sekkai smirked, and began a series of elaborate warm-up movements and posturing that had the man who'd been addressed as Zoro snorting and rolling his eyes.
"Make it, lard-ass," Sanji replied, shifting his weight to his left foot and tapping his right toe absently on the floor, hands still in his pockets.
With a bellow, Sekkai charged, looking and sounding like an angry bull. In fact, as he got closer, his face began to melt into a distinctly bovine shape, and his shoulders bulked with transformation.
The crowd shivered back, gasping, and staring at the thin, elegant man in the black suit, who looked nonchalantly at the approaching menace as if regarding an incoming toddler, hands still firmly in his pockets. And then there was a blur of motion, and Sekkai's bellow was cut off in an "--oomp?" as he was suddenly sailing at full speed out the door, still transforming, to land on his back in the courtyard and lie still with his horns embedded in the pavement. Sanji posed, shoulders tipped slightly back and leg pushed straight out at hip level, for a moment before he lowered his foot to tap his toe on the floor once more, lightly, and looked closely at the doorframe. It didn't appear to be damaged, and he nodded before looking around the room, challengingly.
"Anyone else want to call Roronoa Zoro a girl?"
There were no replies, only hushed whispers. The green-haired yojimbo smacked a palm to his forehead over an expression that clearly begged for patience of whatever deities might be available to grant his request.
The redhead continued rifling through her papers, stopped, pulled one out with a triumphant little cheer. "Hah! Got him. Sannjiii," she pouted, "you couldn't pick on someone worth more than just 15 million?"
Several more excited whispers broke out. Sanji shrugged, and took his hands out of his pockets to extract a cigarette and matchbox from his jacket. "Mah, Nami-swan. He's the one that picked the fight. Fools should be more careful about who they challenge." With a flourish, he lit the match, and then the cigarette. Shook the flame out with a practiced flick of his wrist. When he'd taken a drag, he turned to the restaurant's owner, who was still standing, stunned, beside the bar, and bowed slightly. "Oi, jiji-san. Thank you for the meal. It was excellent, and I regret that I will not be able to stay long enough to charm the secret of your bechamel from you. Nah, Luffy," he called over to the elegant lady's table, "Let's go, hey? The ladies didn't want any trouble. And we should take care of that stunned ox out there before he starts anything else."
"Okay! Let's go. Zoro, do you want to..."
"Yeah, yeah. I'll get him."
With a loud scraping of chairs, two tables full of (what could only be) Strawhat pirates rose, and began making their way towards the exit.
"I believe it might be best if you let LongNose-kun or Doctor-san turn him in, Swordsman-san, in view of circumstances," the dark-haired lady put in. Zoro merely grunted in reply, while the straw-hatted boy sounded surprised at the thought.
The pretty redhead flipped the owner enough coin to cover six meals on her way out, which he caught by reflex and carefully "didn't count" - at least with his eyes. The remaining customers babbled excitedly while the group of seven filed out of the restaurant.
"Um, Papa," the waitress began, once they'd gone. "Those were... pirates, weren't they? With bounties? Really, really *big* bounties?"
"One of whom just defended your honour and my establishment, because that bountied buffalo irritated him. *And* they paid for their meals, or near enough, which makes them just helpful customers to me. I think we'll just leave well enough alone, hmm?"
Outside, there was a sudden burst of noise - rough voices raised in argument, a woman's sharp exclamation, the ringing sound of steel clashing once and the thumping sounds of two bodies falling. The owner darted out just in time to see the tiny boy suddenly grow to enormous proportions and scoop the blond and green-haired men off the roadway, draping one over each shoulder. He trudged off, following the older woman down the street, with the exuberant straw-hatted young man capering beside them babbling earnestly about how the two should know better by *now*, surely, and laughing brightly. Twin swords still dangled from the green-haired man's hands, their tips swaying barely above the dirt.
The redhead rubbed her fist crossly, watching them go. Then she and the last of the boys, who was a skinny thing obviously elected to the job by default, began hauling the unconscious body of Sekkai Toragari down the street towards Marine headquarters by the heels. It wasn't more than half a block and 'round the corner, and they didn't seem to need any help.
Wisely enough, the owner turned, quietly, and headed back inside.
Some Translations, for the curious:
"Sekkai" means "pebble" ("sekai" with one 'k' is "world").
"Toragari" translates in my dictionary as "drunkard's cut", meaning a *very* bad haircut (i.e., as done by a drunk barber). It's also the name of one of Zoro's attacks, with the same kanji, as "tora" also means "tiger".
A "yojimbo" is a (Japanese) bodyguard. A "bimbo" is an (English) attractive but brainless woman, usually of loose virtues; it's not a complimentary term.
"Jiji" is a term meaning (a) grandfather or an older man.
"Bechamel" is a type of white sauce used in French cooking.