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                                                                           Beneficence



The 21st World Martial Arts Tournament is where Nam meets the dear child for the first time.

-------------

Nam is here for the sake of his family.

Meditating just before his first match with the Giras called Giran, the young man focuses on the sad, yet hopeful faces of those he's left behind.

Vaguely, he wonders how they're doing, if they're all right. He can only pray that all is as well with them as it can be, that they'll hold on just a little longer.

I will save you, my brothers and sisters, he vows. You will not be forsaken.

To his left, the wastefully-eating pterodactyl-like dinosaur smacks his lips loudly as he tears at his numerous slabs of meat. Nam does his best to ignore him, but finds this nearly impossible as he realizes just how long he's gone without a proper meal (really, without more than a mere root or broth here and there).

And as if prodded by fate, his long-empty stomach growls noisily.

His face tints a bright red, and he attempts to clear his mind once more when a new voice breaks in.

"I know that you're hungry!" Nam opens his eyes, which widen in surprise to find a small, grinning, wild-haired boy standing before him, holding out Giran's plate of assorted meats. "Eat up!"

And it is now that the Indian recognizes the child.

This is little Goku, the twelve-year-old student of the famed Master Roshi and the youngest competitor in the history of this competition. From what little Nam has seen of him, he's exceptionally strong for a child and seems to be very much loved by his friends.

Nam turns his attention to the food now, though instead of taking advantage of the offer he wages war inwardly.

How can he possibly eat when his people are increasingly in danger of starving to death? While he might be hungrier than he's ever been in his life, he knows what little he's been able to scavenge in his travels is more than those he loves have eaten in months…

For all of this boy's kindness, he just can't bring himself to do it.

Goku, however, seems to have other plans.

Taking three of the assorted meats from the plate, he hands the plate back to a disgruntled Giran.

Sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of Nam, the boy sets two of the meat slabs in his lap and tears off a sliver of the one he still holds.

Very gently, he presses it to the painfully thin man's lips. In an instant, Nam's face is frightened, ghostly pale, and the child's countenance softens lovingly. As he peers into the older's eyes, it is as if Goku is gently caressing Nam's soul.

And before he knows it the Indian has eaten all three.

The Savior of Light beams blindingly.

"See? I know a hungry stomach when I hear one!"

And Nam can't help but smile gratefully in return.

-------------

His match against Ranfan is…unconventional, at best.

The woman is practically altogether indecent in the ring, and he can't help the flood of very masculine emotions that wash over him.

He strives to concentrate on what he is fighting for, on his reason for entering this tournament in the first place.

He vowed when he left the village and has so many times since that he would never allow anything or anyone to get in his way.

This is still his solemn vow!

So why can't he move past this?

"Hey, Nam!" He snaps up at the familiar, youthful voice. Glancing to his left, he spies a curious-eyed Goku perched on the ring-boundary wall. "Why aren't you fighting?"

Something within Nam jolts at this, and the smallest of smiles graces his lips.

He nods thankfully at the child, then turns toward his female opponent and reaffirms his fighting stance.

His village needs him.

Thank you, child.

-------------

There is something painful, yet liberating here.

Gazing down at his unconscious little warrior friend, it takes Nam several moments to understand that this is truly happening.

This fight pitted him and Goku against each other.

Though Nam had always known the child was strong, the youth surpassed everyone's expectations. He'd taken every punch, every hit, as it came, counterattacked and come back from things that would have sent even the world's best warriors spiraling into defeat.

But this boy… It had taken Nam's last resort, his Aerial Attack, to finally take the twelve-year-old down.

It was never Nam's wish to hurt Goku. On the contrary, he's grown to love this young boy in the short time he's known him.

But at the same time, he is desperate to help his village. The prize money from this tournament will be used to purchase the water necessary to end his home desert's killing drought.

And somehow, he knows the child will understand.

Kneeling down, he strokes the fallen warrior's cheek tenderly.

It is because of this boy that he will soon feel the elated hugs of his little brothers, Dabu and Ami. It is because of this boy that he will soon know the at-last happy tears of his dear Mother. It is because of this boy that his village will survive.

He hopes Goku wakes soon.

Nam can thank him then.

-------------

He doesn't know whether to cry or shout for joy at first.

He lost.

His one chance to save his people…and it slipped right through his fingers…

But just when he is about to make the long journey home with noble head hanging in defeat, his young Savior of Light stops him.

Pressing a pill-sized device Goku calls a 'Dino Cap' into Nam's hand, the child explains that inside it's actually a massive storage container that can hold more than enough water for Nam's village.

Now that he mentions it, the older thinks he recalls some of the others mentioning something about these inventions, notably their expense. And when taking into account the fact that Goku had been beaten out of the tournament title by his very own mentor, Master Roshi…suddenly everything makes sense…

Tears of unrivaled happiness well in the Indian's eyes.

"So you and your family will be all right," the smiling child professes, like it's the simplest and most obvious thing in the world.

And to him, perhaps it is.

As for Nam, one warm hand comes to rest on Goku's head as the tears plummet from the end of his nose and chin and drip from his eyelashes to connect with the soft green grass beneath their feet.

Goku peers up at him, growing concerned when he sees this new development.

"What's wrong, Nam?" he asks confusedly. "Did I do something wrong?"

But the desert-dwelling man merely bends down to the boy's level and takes a long moment to kiss his forehead meaningfully.

"No, my child," he assures, pulling back and opening his warm brown eyes to display their salty wetness proudly. "You have brought new life to my family. I don't know how it shall be done, but I will repay you one day."

Goku, hands behind his head, just laces his fingers together and grins.

"No problem at all! I'm just glad I could help! Besides, Master Roshi and my grandfather taught me to protect the innocent, and that includes you and your family!" He lays a gentle, ever-loving hand on the man's thin shoulder and squeezes strongly. "It'll be okay!"

And once more, Nam cannot hold back the smile that comes to his face.

This child has given him food, renewed his hope, been the answer to his prayers.

He is meant for great things.

Great things, indeed.
Dragon Ball: Beneficence
This is an entry for "The Monkey Boy Club"'s "Golden Heart" Theme Challenge.

This is set during the 21st World Martial Tournament (otherwise known as the Tournament Arc). It studies the interactions and relationship between two of the competitors, Goku and Nam. If you'll remember, Nam is the Indian man who journeys from his drought-struck desert village in order to compete in the tournament, hoping to use the prize money to purchase the desperately-needed water for his village. Throughout the tournament, sweet little Goku has small moments with Nam that seem to really push the man forward, and while I embellished on some of these, I mostly kept true to their main objective in effort to show the beauty and maturity that rises from the odd, yet amazing friendship that comes of these two together.

Disclaimer: I do not own Dragon Ball. Akira Toriyama does, as well as anyone affiliated.

As this is my first DB fic (meaning I've also never written either of these characters before), please forgive me if I got anything wrong (other than the embellished parts, which should be ovious if you're familiar enough with the episode)!

That being said, this is my explanation for changing the ending: while originally Master Roshi gives Nam the Dino Cap, I thought it would be more fitting if Goku asked Master Roshi for the money to help Nam, and in a moment of touched weakness, Roshi tells Goku to go ahead with his plan before he changes his mind. It might seem a little OOC, and I apologize for that, but Roshi does have his moments, and I thought it really would tie things together well (and frankly it's a better way to spend all of that money, no offense meant to Goku's stomach). XD

Thanks so much for reading, as always!
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                                                                                      Inviolate

-Midnight in Gotham

Spells doom for always.-

Joker Venom

Pierces armor,

Makes it through

To Skin.

The boy wracks with unceasing chuckles,

The man's desperate cries are barely heard,

And all is dark

With a clown's smile.

-------------

In twelve hours' time:

Red grins,

Mad cackles,

Pain.

Brave faces,

Sharp tongues,

Whispered prayers between strikes,

Warehouse walls stained with blood.

But the child,

Meant to lure Batman into danger,

Does not falter.

For though his savior is

The Dark Knight,

The Caped Crusader,

The Masked Manhunter,

Batman

(Bruce Wayne),

The boy,

Robin

(Dick Grayson),

Calls

Him

Father.

-And here,

in this,

He

Is

Inviolate.-
Young Justice: Inviolate Prologue
As the summary suggests, this is merely a guess (otherwise known as my version) at what may happen in Episode 22 of YJ, which has been confirmed to deal with Batman's decision to let a nine-year-old Robin participate in a life of crime. So far this is just a teaser, to see if this is even anything you guys would want me to continue.

Originally, this was a freelance poem assignment for my English class that I turned into a Batman/Robin father/son opportunity, and then when I thought of this eventual episode last night and realized how well these two could work together, I was psyched! XD

Inviolate: Whole, untouched, intact, pure.

Disclaimer: I do not own Young Justice. Cartoon Network, DC, and...whoever else does owns them. The awesomeness of the show merely inspired this!

Thanks for reading, as always!
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                                                                                 May I

It’s a rare quiet day on the Thousand Sunny. They docked at a new island the day before, so most of the crew’s gone into town to shop and restock on supplies. Sanji and Luffy have been left behind to watch the ship, and while the straw-hatted captain would normally be driving Sanji half-crazy in the galley, jumping around and pestering his cook for food, today’s a bit different.

It’s past noon, but the Straw Hats’ captain’s still asleep. As it happened, this island was being terrorized by one of the low-bounty pirate crews that’d started up after the War of the Best, and Luffy, being who he was, couldn’t stand to watch innocent people be brutalized and scared into submission like that. So, he’d decided to kick the bastard’s ass while his crew handled the captain’s weakling crewmates. Honestly, it was all over embarrassingly quickly.

Still, the jerk managed to get a few good shots in with his Logia-piercing Devil Fruit ability, so Luffy had needed some of Chopper’s expert medical care. The reindeer reported to the anxious crew three hours later that he’d be fine with a day or two of rest, but that meant he wouldn’t be able to go into town with them the next day. The rubber boy had been disappointed and whined a bit at first, but cheered right up when Robin suggested they stay an extra day on the island just for Luffy, and Nami gave in, saying she supposed he’d earned it (but she’d have to charge him extra interest for the time – as usual, he didn’t seem to mind).

Of course, as to be expected, when it came to deciding this morning who would go where and when to return, both Chopper and Zoro were reluctant to leave Luffy. But ever the voice of reason, Robin reminded them that no one else would know what medical supplies the reindeer needed, just as no one would be able to get Zoro’s swords repaired as flawlessly without his eye for detail and a top-notch blacksmith. Uncertainty hung in the air for a stretched moment, and then Sanji, sitting on the stairs, raised his hand to volunteer.

“I restocked plenty at the last island,” he explained smoothly, taking a second to light a cigarette. Privately, he was reflecting on the two years he’d just spent without his captain, and he felt the need to be close to him again, even if he’d just be sleeping. “Besides,” he reasoned, “somebody's gotta be here to make sure he eats properly once he wakes up. He needs to get his strength back," a puff of smoke and confident grin, "and I'm just the cook to do it.”

So he ended up being the one to stay with Luffy, and it turns out to be one of the best decisions he’s ever made.

He's in the middle of making a meat medley stew, a meat lover’s pizza, and numerous other meaty dishes for his ever-carnivorous captain when piercing, gut-wrenching cries of agony from below deck fill the air. Startled, Sanji nearly burns himself, but he pays that no mind. Dropping everything, barely remembering to turn off the stove in his haste, he scrambles, nearly killing himself multiple times on the way, down to the men's quarters.

“Luffy, what’s—?!”

What he sees almost makes him wish he'd stayed in the galley. Almost. But he's not, could never be, that cruel.

His captain, having fallen from his top bunk and landed in a wounded heap on the floor, is facing Sanji on his side. He’s writhing in a pain the cook can't pinpoint – damn it, he tries, and it's hard to see because the kid’s curled up like he's been Haki-kneed in the gut, but there's nothing there apart from the bandaged injuries he had already – and the mix of strangled, full-blown screams leaving his mouth make Sanji feel like he's drowning in despair that's not his. And— His breath hitches so violently in his throat he doesn't even realize it's not smoke that makes him choke, but his own saliva (his cigarette fell from his mouth the second he entered the room). Luffy... He's crying...!

That last bit of knowledge is enough to snap him out of his stupor, and he's rushing to his captain's side even quicker than he got down here. Dropping to his knees beside him, he reaches out…only to hesitate.

Maybe he shouldn't. This is Chopper's area. He hadn't had to give Luffy anything for the pain, he remembers the little doctor telling him before he left with the others, so he knows it's not a side effect of anything medical. But still, what if this is some kind of hallucination, not just what appears to be a normal, if violent, nightmare?

His second gut reaction, freakily enough, is to wish Zoro were here instead of him. He's better at soothing Luffy and setting him straight than all of them, even Sanji's precious Nami-swan. But he's not here, and even if there were a way to contact him, the idiot would probably just get lost on the way back to the ship, and besides...calling him would be admitting defeat. It would tell that stupid mossheaded first mate that he's not capable of taking care of their captain. And Sanji's not one to admit defeat, especially not now.

He wasn't there for his captain two years ago when he should have been, never mind that they were all doing their damndest to be at his side until he'd given the order to get stronger with him. So he will be now, even if it kills him. Bring it on, captain, he silently challenges. Let's see how much stronger you've become.

A gurgling, shattered cry reminds Sanji of what he'd been doing before hesitating, and he only now notices the way Luffy's grappling at his chest—at his scar. His raking nails seem terrifyingly ready to tear himself raw just to get it off, but then desperate to keep it where it is at the same time. The tears in the shout, in his squeezed-shut eyes and streaming down his face and neck and mingling with the snot running from his nose, twist Sanji's heart so painfully that he feels it as clear as day, as acutely as he had when he'd read about Ace and Marineford and Luffy in the paper so long ago.

And yet, somehow, something about this feels worse. There's a sense of foreboding hanging in the air he can't name, can't even put his finger on, but it's something that makes his skin crawl and him instinctively shift ever closer to his currently defenseless child-captain. Come at me, you damn nightmares! he wants to snarl. Do your worst!

But all the fire and hate and wanting in the world won't change things as they are now. He knows that from personal experience. He doesn't let himself go back there, though, stuck on that rock in the middle of an endless, empty, silent ocean with seemingly equally as endless days without food or water or shelter, waiting for death alongside an old geezer who ate his own leg to survive long enough to ensure at least Sanji himself made it out of this Hell on Earth alive. No. This is about Luffy. Gan Fall knows his own past hurts haunt him enough.

So he throws caution to the wind—but that doesn't mean he's not gentle as hell about it. Sanji has a bedside manner, all right. It's just something the others almost never get to see.

“Luffy,” he says softly, but gets no response. Reaching out to take his hands and pry them from his chest as gently as he can, grimacing at the way his protesting captain's nails bite into his fingers in the process, he tries again, louder this time. “Luffy!”

There's something of a flinch in the boy's face this time, and Sanji'll take it because it's something, even if it makes his heart hurt because this is his captain, and he's an idiot who nearly gets them killed on almost a daily basis, but he's also saved them all in one way or another, saved countless others (even enemies), several countries, and started a war against the world to bring just one of them home. He's their joy and fury and despair and guiding light all in one, and they'd be lost without him the way a part of them was during those two endlessly long years. And that’s why Sanji needs more than ‘something.’ He needs to save him from this, needs him to wake up. Because if he has to hear or see his beloved captain in this much pain for much longer...frankly, he doesn't know how he'll last.

So he shifts to crossed legs and transfers one of Luffy’s smaller hands (even smaller than he remembers, he swears) to the one already holding the other, feeling the sting of broken skin again as his palm greets the open air, but he barely pays it any mind. Normally, he'd just about kill anyone for injuring his hands, endangering his position on the ship, but he's managed with far worse, and anyway, his captain always takes priority.

Reaching down as slowly and carefully as he’s able, he cups Luffy's sweaty cheek, caressing it on instinct because the kid reels back sharply this time, almost like he's been burned, and the pained cry and increased tears suggest the same. His mouth stretches open wide, a gasping sort of choked sob escaping, and for a split second, Sanji swears he hears a name underneath it all. He can’t be sure, however, because it's drowned out almost immediately by still more, and it doesn't matter to Sanji anymore. His captain needs him. That's all he cares to know.

Dropping Luffy’s hands to his stomach with a tenderness he wasn't aware he possessed, he cups his other cheek now, stroking them both in an effort to make those heinous tears and decidedly ugly creases in his brow leave and never return. How dare they? "Luffy!"

This last yell, loudest of all, does the trick. Luffy jolts awake and upright so quickly that the cook barely has time to get out of the way, lest he want to add 'broken nose' to his list of minor injuries. He’s wide-eyed and breathing heavily, bandages and clothes soaked with sweat, and he’s grappling at his chest again, looking down at it like he’s not sure if what he’s seeing is real. He looks more like a frightened child than he has in the longest time. (Probably since Marineford, but Sanji wouldn’t know since he wasn’t there to see it – and the most selfish part of him thanks Gan Fall for that because he doesn’t know what he’d do with himself if he saw his captain that broken.)

Sanji, for his part, watches him cautiously, worriedly, his name on the tip of his tongue. He’s not really sure what his next move should be. He doesn’t want to hurt him or make him even more afraid than he is already, but he doesn’t want him to think he’s alone either…

Before he can do anything, however, Luffy’s falling back down, and Sanji instantly lunges forward to catch him. For several moments, he doesn’t know what to do, cradling him against his chest in a careful, protective grip. Eventually, he lowers him back down to the floor, removing and folding his suit jacket so his captain can use it as a pillow.

“Luffy,” he starts, quiet and soothing, “you okay? Can you hear me?”

Because, just looking at him, it’s hard to tell. His eyes are half-lidded and unfocused, as far away as Sanji's ever seen them, and his breathing’s turned shallow and deep like he’s about to fall asleep again.

Then, he hears it. That croaked, barely-there plea that's so close to a whisper Sanji wouldn't know what to do with himself if it were a scream like all the others.

"Ace...?"

Sanji’s heart turns to stone in his chest, the rest of him to ice, the smallest shards smarting in his eyes. Shit. Now it all makes sense. He can’t believe he didn’t see it before. The screaming, the tears, the scar…!

Zeroing in on one of the golden buttons on his captain’s jacket, it takes every shred of willpower he has to shake his head. It wouldn’t be fair to keep him waiting, not when…not when it’s his precious big brother on the line.

“No, captain… It’s Sanji…” he corrects softly, even more so than before, running his fingers through the child’s hair in any effort to make this easier on him—because he knows this is most likely going to hurt worse than that nightmare did, if that's at all possible. “Ace is...” the words get lodged in his throat, but he swallows and forces them out for Luffy’s sake, “...Ace is gone, captain… Two years ago now…”

He’s silent for at least a minute while he waits for any kind of reaction. When he doesn’t get one and finally gathers enough courage to look at Luffy again, the hand in black hair stops short. The nineteen-year-old’s eyes are wide open and fixed on him, totally lucid and filled with slowly-dawning, haunted remembrance, tears flooding agonized baby browns until they course down his face once more. Sanji can feel his own heart shattering piece by piece in his chest with each one, is one hundred percent sure the pain shows on his face. “Captain…”

“I…I’m sorry,” Luffy apologizes, raspy and hoarse as he raises his wrist to wipe his eyes, and the rest of what the blond was going to say dies on his tongue. What? “For hurting your hands and…for taking you from the food… I-I didn’t…” he grits his teeth and tries to purse trembling lips as best he can to keep from sobbing outright, and to his credit, it succeeds for now, “…I didn’t mean to make you worry…”

Sanji’s on him like a shot, but rather than angry, his voice is naught but breathless in its fondness, thumbs moving automatically to once again brush away Luffy’s tears. “You really think I care about any of that, you idiot?” Taking the boy’s hand in a grip so gentle it surprises them both, he brushes Luffy’s fingers against his lightly scratched ones. “You feel that, Luffy? I’m fine. Lunch can wait, and my hands will heal in no time. You know I’ve had way worse.” He holds his breath a moment before releasing a long-suffering sigh through his nose. “To be honest, the only thing I’m worried about right now is you, nothing else. My purpose on this ship is to be your cook so you’ll be able to fulfill your dream someday…” Sanji’s voice lowers as he hesitates, but ultimately decides to follow through with ghosting his hand over the teen’s scarred chest, stopping at his semi-rapidly beating heart, “…but it’s also my job to look after your heart, just like you do ours…” he makes sure they’re locking eyes, “…if you’ll let me, captain.”

To even try to begin to make up for back then.

Something flashes across the younger’s eyes, and given just enough of his silent, intense scrutiny, he grins a tamer version of that wide, toothy beam that makes everyone’s hearts soar. “Of course!”

And Sanji loves to see that smile and hear that confidence (in him) so much that he hates what he’s about to do.

"Good. Then…do you want to talk about it?”

At the mere prospect of reliving his nightmare, the worst moment of his life, the smile drops like a bird struck mid-flight, and his breath stops and eyes are blown wide with fear. That only lasts a few seconds, though, and then it’s like the question really registers, like all the healing that’s both torn him down and built him back up over the past two years comes hurtling back, and he starts calming down. Sanji isn’t quite looking, wanting to give him as much privacy as he can (one man’s undying respect for another), not moving a muscle or allowing any change in his expression in what he hopes is a show of solidarity.

Slowly, hands blind, Luffy makes to push himself up with Sanji’s help, leaning back against his surprised, touched cook for strength the man’s only too ready to give. His hand wanders to his scar again absently, jumping a bit like he hadn’t realized when his fingers brush the old wound, a marker and trophy in one.

“I…” his free fist curls in Sanji’s pant leg till it trembles, shoulders following, and his voice sinks to a whisper, “…I-I lost Ace…all…all over again…”

And though Sanji’s been expecting this answer the whole time, that doesn’t make it any easier—on either of them. Luffy…

“I see…” he acknowledges softly, sensitivity in every word, syllable, letter, his eyes shutting tightly while he strengthens his gentle grip on his captain’s middle as much as he dares.

Mentally, he kicks himself. He should say more. Damn it, he wants to, it’s just…he isn’t sure what. ‘I’m sorry’ would be like a slap to the face, no amount of ‘should’ve, would’ve, could’ve’s had done him any good over the last two years, and he isn’t willing to take the chance of any of it negatively affecting Luffy. Really, he should be better at this. He’s lost people he loves, too. They all have. But still…this is different. Their losses were all when they were younger, and none of them fought through hell and back just to spearhead an all-out war to save someone who meant more to them than anything…just to lose him at the end of it all…

Just then, an idea sparks in the cook’s mind, and a tiny smile lifts his lips. It might be a bit unorthodox, but it’s the best pick-me-up he has to offer (something that might even put the mosshead’s to shame!), and he knows his captain, of all people, will appreciate it like no one else.

“Hey, Luffy,” he proposes, breaking the relative silence that’s settled between them, “why don’t you come back to the kitchen with me? You can talk while I finish lunch. I know you like watching sometimes, and you must be pretty hungry by now, right? I’ll listen. You know I can multitask with the best of them."

Luffy’s still and quiet for but a moment, and then relief and pride fill Sanji’s chest in watching a slow, albeit still small, toothy grin and nod bubble to the surface. Moving to a crouch at his side, the cook holds out a hand to help him up, reaching back to retrieve the trademark straw hat from the bed-corner and jam it gently on the boy’s head the way Luffy always does. Automatically, its owner reaches up to finger the rim and pull it down a little tighter, his smile that much brighter. It makes Sanji feel warmer inside than he has since Luffy got hurt.

“Hey, Sanji,” there’s an excited lilt to the ray of sunshine’s words for the first time since this morning, and the cook can’t help the way his heart beats faster upon hearing it, “is there gonna be meat?”

Sanji can’t help it. Bright laughter tosses his head back, Luffy joining in as the man assures the bottomless pit there will be plenty and shoves him lightly toward the stairs while he bends to pick up the cigarette he dropped earlier. Chopper would kill him if he left it lying there. Once they get inside and Sanji’s properly treated and bandaged his hands (thank you, doctor!), the cook picks right back up where he left off, his captain plopping down on the cushioned bar at the counter to watch him work with childlike (and salivating) interest.

“Okay, captain,” he invites once he’s all set, practically bleeding tender reassurance, “I’m all ears.”

---------

It’s just over two hours later when the first signs of their crewmates’ homecoming greet their ears.

Phlat! Phlat!

Skrit! Skrit!


“Sanji, is Luffy awake yet? We brought back souvenirs!”

Instantly, the nineteen-year-old leaps up from his stool to race over with stars in his eyes. “Really?! You guys brought presents?! You’re the best!”

The blond in question grins widely at Luffy’s antics as he flicks on the burners and oven to get the food warming up again, knowing the rest of them won’t be far behind. (Really, Zoro’s lucky he had Chopper with him or he might not have been back till dinnertime, if that. Actually, in a way, Sanji’s kind of disappointed. That would have been something to hang over the moron’s head for a while!)

As if on cue, Zoro leaves a blushing “Thanking me doesn’t make me happy, you bastard!” Chopper and his excited captain’s side to stand near the counter, keeping his eye on Luffy a moment or two longer before it flits to meet his rival’s. Sanji knows immediately what he wants. The protectiveness in that narrowed green always means the same thing when it comes to their idiot leader. What happened?

Frankly, he’s a bit surprised Zoro didn’t miss it. Of course, he doesn’t know how anyone could miss the still slightly red, puffy eyes and Buggy-esque nose their captain sports, but this is Zoro. For all his usual idiocy, though, Sanji has to hand it to him: whenever Luffy’s involved, it’s Zoro who’s the authority. The rest of them, Sanji included, have never really understood it completely. Maybe it’s a captain-first mate thing. Maybe it’s fate. Who knows? In the end, Sanji’s always just chalked it up to one of the many marvels that make up his precious nakama.

In that sense, the cook feels he owes it to the swordsman to be honest without giving away anything Luffy might want to keep between them (although, knowing their bond, maybe Zoro already knows—and if he doesn’t, Sanji’s sure he will soon enough). So, without further ado, the man lights another cigarette and, on the way down, his hand splays across his suited chest, nails just barely digging into the fabric before it drops.

The first mate understands immediately. His one eye narrows to a slit, and what Sanji swears is guilt passes across it, one hand curling tighter around Wadō’s hilt (which he’d subconsciously reached for the instant he’d seen evidence of his captain’s tears). Sanji’s own brow furrows at that—it’s something they all feel, regardless of whether they should or it makes sense or not—but he doesn’t have time to dwell on it because Zoro’s pounced on the most important question of all. Is he okay?

This time, a smile, pleased and proud, slips onto Sanji’s face, and he nods confidently, relief rolling off him in waves. Honestly, this being the first time he’s dealt with Luffy’s nightmares, never mind all alone, he’d been nervous and uncertain, terrified of screwing up and making everything worse. But he’d done his best anyway, listened to and helped Luffy as best he could, and to his immense surprise, he’d actually done well. He swears the fact that his captain trusted him enough to be that vulnerable in front of him will humble him for the rest of his life.

So when Zoro moves his steady gaze from him to Luffy, stays there for a drawn out moment, and then comes back to nod and smile at him with a fierceness that says good, nicely handled, and thank you all in one, he has to admit, he’s thrown. Aside from in battle (and even then, sometimes), they’re not exactly accustomed to much of anything but being at each other’s throat. So, this is…—!

The tea kettle chooses that instant to shriek, effectively ruining the moment, and Sanji hurries to get it off the stove before they all go deaf. Pouring some of its contents into four cups, he serves the three and takes a generous sip of his own before checking on the dishes themselves.

That grin, now even giddier than before (which has nothing to do with that mosshead’s approval!), never leaves his face.

Over the next twenty minutes or so, the rest of the Straw Hats pile in, all of them bestowing something small upon their temporarily laid-up captain. Sanji teases the ecstatic boy about being spoiled, all while smiling fondly and brushing black bangs from his eyes, and Luffy just laughs and beams.

(Even more so once lunch is served about thirty seconds later.)

---------

That night, after Chopper gives Luffy something to help him sleep off the rest of his injuries and he’s happily snoring away, the remaining eight crewmembers gather in the galley to get Sanji’s full account of what happened that afternoon. He tells them everything he can, and though most of them still seem a little anxious, he’s quick to assuage their fears.

"I don’t think we have to worry about him having nightmares for a while,” he tells them with an almost obscene amount of certainty, content to grin like a devil around the plume of smoke he lets out. “He’s our captain, and he’ll be King of the Pirates someday. Until then, we’ll be here to support him, just like we always have.”

The others’ reactions range from calm nods to small murmurs to loud declarations of agreement (quickly hushed and reminded of their sleeping captain a floor below), and once it’s all over, everyone but Brook, who’s on watch, heads to bed. They want to be well-rested for the time they’ll get to spend entertaining (and, knowing him, probably fighting alongside) their captain the next day.

Sanji pauses beside Luffy’s bunk on the way to his, unable to stop himself from chuckling a little at the haphazardly-strewn limbs and happy mumblings, the presents from the others still clutched in his arms. Smiling down at him with all the love for him he’s ever felt, the blond strokes his hair and draws his blanket back up to his neck. “Sweet dreams, Pirate King.”

Oh, yeah. He’ll be the the King someday, all right. And Sanji will be right there at his side, cooking up a feast fit for him with all the indescribable ingredients he can get from All Blue.

After all, that’s what he deserves. The best and so much more.
One Piece: May I

A/N: Told you guys I wasn't dead and would be coming back here! Now, right to business: Luffy's relationship with Sanji is my second-favorite in the show after his relationship with Zoro (Monster Trio bonds FTW!), and right when I realized I haven't yet written anything that focuses primarily on the cook and captain, this scenario popped into my head! Thus, I ran with it for all it was worth!

I would say this takes place between Punk Hazard and Dressrosa for the sake of heartbreaking foreshadowing, but I didn't think to include Law while writing this, so I suppose it would go better between Fishman Island and Punk Hazard instead.

(As always, no part of this is meant to be shipping, but if you'd like to see it as such, you're welcome to do so!)

If you wouldn't mind letting me know how I did, too, I'd appreciate it (especially since this is my first post-timeskip fic and basically my first time writing Sanji to this extent! A lot of you guys are faving and alerting this and my other OP fics, which is awesome, but a heartfelt review is better still! (At least, that's my philosophy for reviewing stories, especially ones I like. :D)

Thanks so much for reading!

Disclaimer: I do not own the song "May I" by Trading Yesterday. It merely came to mind when I was trying to think of a title, and I found it perfect. Listening to it while reading might very well improve your experience!

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                                                                            Sleepless at Sea

It's the middle of the night when Luffy wakes, and he's not sure why exactly. He knows nothing's wrong—Zoro would have been up in a flash, warning them with swords in hand and that predatory look in his eye—and he's not really hungry or anything. He's not totally sure what to do.

At first, he tries for a few minutes to go back to sleep. He rolls over, curls into a ball, changes positions so many times and so often that the hammock starts to swing, but it soon becomes clear that nothing's going to work. He's just not tired anymore. So, with a deep breath and inaudible sigh, he swings his legs over the edge of the hammock and hops down to the floor as quietly as he can, tiptoeing up the stairs and out the door to keep from waking his crewmates.

When he reaches the deck, the first thing he does is step up to the railing and take a giant gulp of salty sea air. The breeze is a little aggressive tonight, so he's thankful for the thousandth time that Nami had the good sense to attach a string to his hat. Still, he reaches up to hold it in place for sentimentality and habit's sake before walking over to perch on his favorite spot on the Going Merry.

He's not sure why he's always loved the figurehead so much. It's really cool and the perfect size for him, sure, and it's actually saved them from and survived so many crazy things that it's insane…but it's a bit more complicated than that. It's just, when he's sitting there, the wind seems to hit his face just the right way, and the view is better than any other on the whole ship as far as he's concerned. And…he feels free there, like his dream of finding the One Piece and becoming King of the Pirates is just that much closer.

Somehow, and it might sound strange, but…he's grateful to it.

"Having trouble sleeping, captain?" a soft voice calls from above.

Luffy twists around halfway to see Robin smiling down at him from the crow's nest. He beams. "Robin! I forgot it was your turn to keep watch tonight!"

He stretches until he can grab the yard, and then changes direction while pulling himself up to land flat on his feet in the crow's nest. Robin's smile only grows.

"Have a seat," she offers, not even bothering to hide her amused chuckle. He plops down right beside her, though he's mindful of the reading lamp near the mast. The small light flickers, and it's only then that Robin remembers that the breeze is stronger up here, a little colder, and she disentangles herself from her thick blanket. She holds it out to him. "Are you cold, captain? I'm warm enough by now."

The seventeen-year-old shakes his head and grins impishly. "No, I'm fine, but thanks. I appreciate it."

Robin smiles and nods, letting it fall behind her and over her shoulders again. Luffy's eyes are closed when she looks next, the grin on his face surprisingly gentle and serene, and he suddenly looks very little like the recklessly righteous cannonball he portrays and very much like the seventeen-year-old child-captain he truly is. She's never seen him look this young before, and it makes her wonder what she really knows about him at all. But then, that leads to dangerous thoughts, so she pushes all of it away for now.

She almost turns back to her reading when he gives an excited cry. "Wow! Robin, look!" He grabs her arm gently and points up at the stars, pushing back his hat a bit to get a better view. His beam is almost blinding. "They're so bright tonight! Awesome!"

The woman obliges and looks up. Her eyes widen. "You're right. They are brighter than usual. I must have been so absorbed in my reading that I didn't even notice."

"They're nothing like that cool meteor shower you showed us a few weeks ago, but they're still pretty great!" Luffy gushes, toothy grin and all, and the twenty-eight-year-old laughs warmly.

"I'm glad you enjoyed it. I suppose this makes us even, then," she says, and his grin widens.

They watch the stars together until, by Robin's estimates, the sun will be coming up in a little under three hours. She suggests that Luffy head back to bed if he wants to have any energy tomorrow, but the captain protests and pouts like a five-year-old, insisting he's still not tired.

She winks. "All right, captain. You win." Her amusement is becoming harder and harder to hide. "After all, according to Mr. Swordsman, the captain's orders are absolute. Isn't that right?"

The trademark enthusiasm comes back in a flash. "You bet!" he shouts, throwing a fist in the air and nearly kicking over her reading lamp, but he catches it just in time. He apologizes, and then catches sight of all the different things she's brought up with her. "Hey, Robin, what is all this stuff anyway?"

"Just some things to keep me occupied. A few books on archaeology, ancient civilizations, and even some folk tales that could prove useful in the future. I also have some maps so I can keep track of the books' specified locations in case we come across any of them. I'd like to be able to warn you and the others of any potential dangers."

Luffy nods seriously, arms crossed casually over his chest. "I get it." For the next few minutes, her captain's attention seems devoted to the stars again, but then he glances at her out of the corner of his eye. "Robin?"

She peers up from her book. "Yes?"

"Will you tell me a story?"

The woman blinks at him, surprised. "A story?"

The Straw Hats captain nods emphatically, lips set into a firm line and face almost laughably serious. "Mm hmm! Ace always used to tell me stories when I couldn't fall asleep," he brightens tenfold at his big brother's mention, "and I figured with all the reading you do, you'd know some really good ones!"

Robin grins. "I see. Ace is your elder brother, right? Nami and Chopper filled me in on your unexpected reunion with him in Alabasta. He sounds like a great man. I'd like to meet him someday."

If Luffy's face could split in two, it would have by now. "You'd love him! He's the best!"

She nods. "Well, in that case, I'd be honored, captain." He cheers, and her smile grows. "What kind of story would you like to hear?"

Her captain is holding his ankles and rocking back and forth in excitement, beaming all the while. "That's easy! One about pirates, treasure, and loads of adventure!"

Robin sets her book in her lap and smiles, feeling warmer than she has all night. "All right, captain. I do know one that I think you'll like…"

----------

Around two hours later, it's just before sunrise when Robin hears noise down on deck. She shifts a bit to get a better look and relaxes when she sees it's only Sanji. He must be up to start on breakfast. Still, when he doesn't go to the galley right away, but instead pokes around on deck as if looking for something, she grows curious. He sets to climbing the rigging up to her, and she settles down again to read a few more lines of her book. She'll know what he wants soon enough.

He's talking before she can even see his blond head, and he sounds exasperated and anxious at once. "Robin, have you seen—?"

The words die on his lips as he makes it to the top, throwing an arm over the side and pulling himself up, the cigarette nearly falling from his mouth. To say the least, he never expected to find Luffy curled up with Robin, snoring loudly as he rests his head on her shoulder. Even so, a warm smile makes its way onto the cook's face, and he sighs in relief, hanging his head a bit and closing his eyes.

"That's good. Moss-head was starting to get on my nerves with all his silent worrying," he says, running a hand through his hair, and though he scowls, it's obvious he doesn't really mean it.

"I should have expected as much from Mr. Swordsman, knowing how close he is to Luffy. I apologize. It seems our captain couldn't sleep last night, so he wandered out here, and I invited him up. We didn't mean to make anyone worry."

But Sanji just shakes his head, blue eyes softening as they drift back to Luffy's peaceful face. "You don't have anything to be sorry for. As long as our captain's safe, then as far as I'm concerned, no harm done. I'm sure Zoro would say the same." Robin's expression turns tender at the cook's, and she smiles. "He wasn't too much trouble, I hope? You know how he can be…"

She merely laughs lovingly, glancing down at her captain with just the same expression. "Not at all. He kept me company and showed me the stars, and a little while ago, he asked for a story to help him sleep. He told me Ace's always knocked him right out if they were exciting enough," by now, she's utterly beaming, "and I'd say I found a winner."

Sanji, for his part, is stunned speechless. Maybe it's just the morning light and early hour playing tricks on him, but he's sure there's something different about her here, good different. She seems...happier, freer, less chained down by the misdeeds of her past. He peers down at Luffy again and can't help the gentle grin that slips onto his face. To think that the kid's insomnia could do all that… Then again, when he thinks back on what his child-captain has done for them all, and on a far bigger scale, well…it doesn't seem far-fetched in the slightest.

Reaching over, the cook brushes back a few stray tendrils of black hair usually kept in check by the straw hat that had fallen to Luffy's chest at some point in the night.

"That's our captain for you…" he concedes, a tender lilt to his voice that only shows itself at times like this. "Brings peace and smiles wherever he goes…"

Robin feels as if her chest is about to burst. She never knew it was possible to be this happy.

"He certainly does."
One Piece: Sleepless at Sea
A/N: This is the first thing I've written in a while and my first ever One Piece fanfic, so I'm a little nervous, but please be honest in your reviews! I did my best, and I really love this series, so I'd appreciate any feedback you have!

This isn't meant to be shipping, just friendship and family, but see this as you wish all the same! (If there were couples, I suppose they could be ZoLu, SanLu, RoLu, RoSan, or even ZoSan. Take your pick.)

Thanks so much for reading!

Disclaimer: I do not own One Piece. FUNimation, Eiichiro Oda, and anyone else affiliated does.

(If I were to upload this as a Word document, as was my original intent, would someone PLEASE tell me which category to put it under so it'll Submit correctly? I tried so many different categories multiple times, and NONE worked. I finally had to delete the whole thing and copy-paste the text and write all the commands, etc., by hand. Pain in the frickin' butt. Thanks for your help! dA needs to get its act together... No wonder I haven't uploaded anything in years. It was simpler BEFORE, and that's saying something... XPP)
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                                                                  The Best of All Things

It’s been a few hours now since they escaped from Enies Lobby. Chopper’s sentenced Luffy to bedrest until he can move again, and though his captain protests at first, says he wants to help and be on deck with everyone else, the little reindeer won’t hear of it. After all, he reasons, what use would Luffy be if the Marines came after them? The rest of the Straw Hats would just worry about him, focus on protecting him instead of defeating the enemy.

And, well…Luffy can’t think of anything to say to that. The truth is, his doctor is right. He’d be utterly useless to his friends if he went out like this. The only way he’ll get better, Chopper tells him, is if he rests. So, with no other choice, Luffy does as he’s told, occasionally testing his limbs to see if he’s getting any feeling back.

In the few hours it’s been since then, he’s regained sensation in his hands and feet. It’s not much, but it’s a start, at least. He can still talk, laugh, and smile, too, which was more than enough to calm and cheer his anxious crewmates when they barged in the second Chopper’s examination was over.

And really, he loves them all the more for that. He really, truly, honestly does, with all his heart and soul. The fact that they were so worried that they eavesdropped outside the door and charged in the first chance they got...

He wouldn’t trade a single one of them for anything in the world. If it somehow ever came down to a choice between them and the dream he’s spent ten years fighting for…well, it’s not exactly a difficult choice. When he pictures them both, when he looks back on everything that’s been and then ahead to what it could be…what other choice is there?

His nakama, his precious treasure, is worth more to him than anything else in the whole entire world. If keeping them safe and happy and whole means that someday he’ll have to cast away everything he’s ever dreamed of, that promise he made to Shanks’ crew, to his idol and Father figure, to himself…then so be it. He wouldn’t have even made it this far without his friends. There’s no way he could ever, ever abandon them just to fulfill some stupid dream, even his own.

He’d fallen asleep a bit after they left for lack of anything better to do, and it seems he can move his lower legs and upper arms now, so that’s pretty great. Noticing he’s getting pretty hungry, he wonders what time it is and tries to lift his head. Triumphant, he grins and glances at the door to see there’s no light shining underneath it anymore. That must mean it’s after sunset, so Sanji should be calling everyone to dinner any time now—

And speak of the devil, not five seconds later, Sanji walks in with a bed-tray of food and leaves the door open a crack behind him. Luffy beams and raises a hand in greeting. “Hiya, Sanji!”

For a moment, the cook looks mildly surprised to be received so cheerfully, especially by someone who’s temporarily bedridden. But then he remembers precisely who the patient is and allows a warm smile to paint his features as he makes his way over.

“Hey yourself, captain,” he drawls casually, bending to deposit Luffy’s tray on his lap and take up a chair beside him with a practiced flourish. “You look like you’re feeling better!”

“I am!” The boy takes a huge whiff of the food on his plate and practically has stars in his eyes. “Oh, Sanji, this smells so awesome! Thanks a lot for the food!”

The blond laughs out loud. “Well, good! You’re welcome! I figured everyone could use my best pick-me-up tonight, especially you. You really saved our asses back there.”

And if he’s expecting anything else, he shouldn’t be. This is Luffy, after all.

The seventeen-year-old cocks his head to the side and arches an eyebrow. “But you always give us your best, Sanji! And I wouldn’t have made it out alive today without you guys! If anything, I should be thanking all of you!”

The cook’s eyes start to burn without warning, and he can feel a lump forming rapidly in his throat. He blinks back the tears as best he can and clears his throat, chuckling a bit as he reaches out a hand to ruffle his captain’s hair and simultaneously force his ever-undivided attention on his food.

“J-just shut up and eat before it gets cold, idiot,” he orders, trying his best to keep the tremor from his voice and turning away while he wipes his eyes.

Luffy is none the wiser as he stretches his wrist to reach for a spoonful and then steer it toward his waiting mouth. He takes a gigantic bite and hums happily as he chews, though the sound soon drifts into uncertain territory, and he begins chewing slower before swallowing at last.

Sanji, now fully composed and immediately taking note of his charge’s sudden mood swing, is on edge at once. “What is it, Luffy? Are you feeling okay?”

He snaps up with a tiny gasp as if he’d momentarily forgotten Sanji’s presence. “Yeah, I’m fine, and this is really good. It’s just…” he rests the spoon on the plate with a light clink! and looks almost sad as he continues, “…it doesn’t taste the same without everyone else around to enjoy it, too…”

Sanji stares at him for a few seconds before sighing heavily in relief and lifting a foot to knock his captain lightly upside the head. “You really had me worried there for a minute, you know that? Don’t scare me like that again.” Luffy whines in understanding, and then Sanji grins mischievously. “But as for your little problem…” he wanders over to the door and raps on it twice in succession, “…I think I have the perfect solution.”

He steps back exactly three paces, and suddenly the rest of their shipmates are piling in one after the other, plates of food in hand. Luffy laughs delightedly. “Haha! You guys are going to eat with me? How’d you know I was missing you?”

Nami winks at him. “That’s simple, Luffy.” She ducks a bit to kiss him on the cheek. “We missed you, too.”

Robin nods in agreement and surges forward to hug him as tightly as she dares, mindful of his numerous injuries. “Very, very much,” she whispers close to his ear, and there’s a certain tone, a…a weightlessness to her voice he’s never heard before, but decides he likes a lot.

He copies Nami’s wink and squeezes her hand when she pulls away, sporting an impish, never-say-die grin that only a rapscallion like him could pull off with innocence fully intact. The sheer amount of love in the smile she sends back leaves him fighting for purchase in his mind.

A familiar golden glint snaps him back almost immediately, however, and it’s only then that he spots Zoro leaning against the far wall…and wearing his hat…? He cocks an eyebrow and points.

“Hey, Zoro, what are you doing with my hat?”

The swordsman mirrors his captain’s expression, and Chopper speaks up from beside him. “Don’t you remember, Luffy? You gave it to him for safe-keeping right before you fell asleep!”

The boy thinks for a moment before his eyes light up. “Oh, yeah! I remember now!”

Sanji steps up to elbow Zoro pointedly in the chest. “Yeah, and he hasn’t taken it off or let anyone touch it since,” he half-teases, and the swordsman growls.

“Of course I didn’t,” he responds stubbornly, eyes closed. “This is my captain’s most prized possession. As his first mate, letting any harm come to it would break practically every pirate code known to man.” At this, he reaches up to finger the rim of the old straw hat fondly, and then sends it sailing with even more care than any besides Luffy thought possible to land squarely on his best friend’s head. He smirks wildly and opens one eye. “There you are, captain!”

Luffy flashes a thumbs up and births a beam fit to rival the sun. “Thanks, Zoro!”

The man returns the gesture without hesitation. “Any time!” Sinking to the floor, he settles his plate on his lap and begins to dig in. “By the way, Luffy,” he says between bites, “you feelin’ any better? You look like you are. You’re sitting up, anyway.”

The captain glances down at himself and realizes it’s true. He reaches down to poke his chest and stomach excitedly. “Hey, cool! You’re right! I can feel my middle again!” He throws both arms in the air and cheers. “All right!”

Those around him smile, too, glad to see him so happy with something so small. Their captain’s a child at heart, but they wouldn’t have him any other way.

“Are you sure, Luffy? Even with most of your body free from the paralysis, your other injuries were still pretty bad. Are they hurting at all? I’d be happy to reapply your bandages for you,” Chopper offers, climbing up onto the bed with Nami’s help to fix Luffy with a worried gaze.

Beyond him, the others are waiting just as anxiously for their captain’s answer. He really did outdo himself today, to the point where he nearly got himself killed, so if he’s hurting anywhere, if he’s in any degree of pain at all…they want to know now.

But their beloved child-leader just picks Chopper up and hugs him tightly, sporting a grin as blinding yet soft as sunlight through clouds.

“How could I possibly be hurting when I have the best doctor and most wonderful friends I could ever ask for?” he says, and his voice is the gentlest, most loving, thank-Gan-Fall-for-you he’s ever used.

The Straw Hats sigh in relief as one, and Chopper, now drenched in his own happy tears, returns the embrace one thousandfold. Slowly, one by one, the others get up to do the same, not a single one of them ashamed of the tears he sheds.

As long as their captain is safe and happy and whole, it’ll be enough for them.

More than enough.
One Piece: The Best of All Things

A/N: This takes place at the tail-end of the Enies Lobby arc! To be specific, just a couple hours after the crew escapes from Enies Lobby, but before Luffy recovers and way before the Merry gives out! Just so we're clear on that (otherwise, this could get a little confusing)!

(As usual, this isn't meant to be romance, but see it as you wish!)

This is only my second OP fic, but I pray I did all right! I was actually setting out to write a Robin/Luffy post-Enies Lobby friendship/family fic...but yeah, that didn't happen! Oh, well! That'll just be another project for another day!

I worked very hard on this, so I really hope you enjoyed it!

Thanks so much for reading!

(And if you're in college or high school and facing finals right now - like me, a sophomore in college - I really, really hope you take a deep breath, remember to take care of yourselves, and most importantly of all, study and do your work early! It never fails and takes so much stress off! :D Good luck to all of you!)

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  • Mood: Content
  • Listening to: September by Daughtry
  • Reading: Many, many windows of fanfiction
  • Watching: Sonic, X-Men Evol., Yu-Gi-Oh (original), SRMTHFG!
  • Playing: Nothin'
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First of all, wow. I've gotten so many devWATCHES and favs after only being on here...around 4 months, give or take. Thanks so much, everybody!  You guys ROCK!

Second, I can't draw to save my life, so unless I'm in a weird move or it's some inspiring school assignment or somethin', expect naught but fanfiction and (not likely) some original stuff from me.

Third, while I DO take fanfic requests, I DO NOT WORK WITH FANCHARACTERS OF ANY KIND! I apologize, but I do not respect fancharacters, and thus I refuse to work with them.

Also, I don't do romance.  I do friendship/family fics, and that's it. (Unless you count Harry/Hermione...XD)

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Zanitas Featured By Owner Sep 23, 2014
Thanks for the favs ~ ( ' u ' ) / :heart: 
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Thanks for the fav dude ;D
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AW! *U* I LOVE it! :DD So freaking awesome and adorable! *U*
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Thank you!
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