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The cigarette crackled to life, and a plume of smoke drifted from his mouth. Sanji leaned against the chill brick wall and resisted the urge to sink to a squat, head in hands. What a day. What a day like any other.

The back door opened abruptly to let sizzles, chops, and shouts pour into the alleyway.

"Break's over kid, get back to your station." Patty barked out.

"Yeah, yeah."


He wrapped up the last 3 hours of his shift, plus clean-up of course, and stepped back to take in the rare sight of a sleeping restaurant. In just a few hours, the morning crew would be in to start the next day, and so it would start again. In just a few hours, he'd wake up and dutifully pay attention in lecture and admire his Nami-swan's beauty, and so it would start again. It could addict a man, this push and pull; each day he questions his sanity for committing himself to this hectic schedule, and each day the thrill of proving wrong all those long-gone voices keeps him going. The joy of a snowball, refusing to quit, refusing to ever stand down.

Sometimes, though, it was lonely. The 2am silence, broken only by the crunch of gravel under the tires of his trusted red Camry, left him restless. Locked into the pattern he'd written for himself, though, he drove subbornly home through the silence, mind lazily filtering through the events of the day. That girl with the blond hair, hadn't she seemed familiar? Should he have been more effusive with his compliments? Did he come across as overbearing? A tension coil inside of him was pulled tight, muffled only by the tingle of nicotine in his veins.
He was home now, leaning on the Camry as he sucked the little white stick down to its filter. Then, as he did every day, he tossed it into the dumpster on his way up the fire escape in the back.

He entered the apartment noisily, keys tossed on the dining table, a glance spared to the kitchen to check that nothing needed to be washed or burned. He stepped around scattered shoes, recognizing their silhouettes even in the dark.

As he lay in bed, his thumping heart thumped a little more slowly; racing mind raced a little more calmly. A heavy arm slid across his chest and pulled him against a warm, familiar body. Breath fanned his face as soft lips grazed his neck and unintelligible affection-filled grunts spilled into his ears. Sanji pressed a simple kiss against his partner's jawbone and rested his head on a well-muscled chest.

Sleep came easily that night, as it did every day he lay in those arms.