Law hates the taste of bread. He’s not sure what it is exactly that turns him off. It could be the texture, or perhaps it’s the way it sticks in his throat, almost choking him when he swallows. He’s conscious that his aversion to bread strikes many, including his crew, as being whimsical. Bread tastes terrible to him, and whether it’s hard or soft, or dry or moist, it just makes his taste buds shrivel. It’s not like he can’t eat it, but he would rather much prefer not to. Aside from bread, Law’s not that picky about his food, so his crew works around his dietary preferences without much complaint. Food is food. To Law, it’s just required sustenance for the body.
That changes, of course, when Law meets Black Leg Sanji.
The first time Law sees Sanji, he isn’t sure what to make of the man. He looks nothing like a pirate, and everything about him is so impeccable, from his carefully styled hair, to the tailored suit, and right down to his shiny shoes. Sanji looks out of place, like a well-off banker or businessman that the Strawhats have kidnapped for a handsome ransom. But then Sanji opens his mouth, and instead of a genteel voice, he curses like a sailor, all foul-mouthed and hot-tempered, and it makes sense to Law now, appearances are deceiving and Sanji has the makings of a pirate all right.
The first time Law sees Sanji fight, he’s completely taken aback. With his lean, wiry frame, Law expects Sanji to be about as useful as Usopp - handy for certain occasions, but not necessarily the one at the frontlines of battle. Sanji looks like a strategist in his suit, someone who moves the pieces of the chessboard around, but never gets his hands dirty. Law’s partially right. He’s yet to see Sanji use his hands in battle, but when Sanji kicks out with all the destructive power of a tornado, Law’s left in a bit of awe as he looks on at the damage this one man has wrought. Then Sanji sky walks like the assassins from Cipher Pol, and Law knows instantly that Sanji has to be one of the deadliest members of the crew, and wonders why the bounty on the man's head is not much much higher.
The first time Law sees Sanji busting out the pots and pans, his jaw almost drops. Sanji’s like a magician in the kitchen, seasoning, slicing, and sautéing with an almost surgical-like precision that Law of all people, can fully appreciate. But it’s not Sanji’s culinary skills that give Law pause. No, what really surprises Law is learning that Sanji is the ship’s chef. With all that skill and power at his command, Law thinks Sanji must be the first mate or vice-captain, and if the Strawhat Pirates' cook can take on a Marine vice admiral, what other monsters did Luffy have among his crew? Law gains a newfound respect for the Strawhat Pirates, and reminds himself not to let his guard down with anyone around him.
The first time Law tastes Sanji’s food, he realises just how much he’s been missing out on in life. Sanji’s meals taste like food from the gods, and Law isn’t sure he can ever say food is just food again. Sanji’s food is an explosion on his tastebuds, revealing hidden depths with each bite, and Law envies the Strawhat Pirates for eating better than kings each time they sit down to a meal. Sanji’s cooking soothes him, calming his nerves and filling him with new energy, although seconds before Law had been so tired, he’d almost skipped dinner. Law’s tempted to try the wagyu burgers, and so he does, and to his surprise, the taste of the bread doesn’t really bother him that much. Law reaches for a second, and then helps himself to a third portion, and manages a fourth, before Luffy polishes off everything else. Law is never able to look at food or bread the same way again. Sanji has ruined that for him forever.
The first time Law sees Sanji with a woman, his breath catches, and he has to force himself to look away, because Sanji reminds him so much of Rosinante, it hurts. Law wonders why he never noticed their passing resemblance earlier - they are both tall, lanky, blonde and smoke like chimneys. But it’s not so much the physical appearance as their similarity in behaviour that crushes the breath from Law’s lungs. The charming facade that Sanji generally has crumbles completely in the face of a beautiful woman, and he turns into a total goofball, even as he tries so hard to be cool and impress, but fails miserably - just like Rosinante always had. Then Sanji drops this great and slightly moronic speech about respecting and protecting women, and he almost dies doing just that, and Law can’t help but recall Rosinante’s determination to save the life of a boy who should have meant nothing to him, but ends up costing Rosinante everything.
Law knows he is in trouble the first time he dreams of holding Sanji’s heart in his hands. Sanji’s heart beats sluggishly in his palms, the rhythm slowing gradually until finally it stops, and Law wakes up soaked in his own sweat, his own heart hammering so wildly in his chest, he’s tempted to cut it out until it calms down.
Law is a very literal man. He has to be when he spends a good amount of time actually slicing out people’s hearts and crushing them, and so he dislikes empty threats or love proclamations along the same vein. And because Law is so literal, his dreams work the same way. He’s not stupid. Even if he won’t admit it out loud, his dreams are telling him loudly and clearly that he wants Sanji’s heart (metaphorically this time) and fears having it at the same time. Law’s lived a life filled with loss, and to him, it’s clear that love and pain go hand in hand. It’s impossible to have one without the other, and Law’s sadistic enough that he subconsciously wants Sanji gone, before they inevitably hurt each other.
The second time Law dreams of holding Sanji’s heart again, the dream ends far more violently, with a knife being thrust straight through its centre, and blood spilling from his fingers. When he wakes, Law does indeed cut out his own heart, holding it in the palm of his hands until the frenetic beating slows into a steady rhythm and Law wishes he could detach his emotions as cleanly as he detaches body parts, organs and even diseases. It’s ironic really, because Law's the captain of the Heart Pirates. He has the power to steal and stop any heart he desires, but he can’t stop someone else from stealing his own heart, and he can’t stop his heart from skipping a beat every time a familiar blonde rounds the corner.
Law is so lost in his thoughts that he doesn’t notice the sharp scent of tobacco in the air until it’s too late. All of a sudden Sanji’s beside him, and Law wants to flee before Sanji can do more damage. Law turns to go, he’s never been known for being chummy anyway, but in an uncharacteristic and typically Rosinante manner, he slips on absolutely nothing, slamming his hand against the side of the ship, and his heart, the heart that Law has so carefully guarded for so many years flies out of his hand, going overboard. Law thinks he might be facing certain death now, because there’s been a school of flesh-eating fish following the Thousand Sunny for a while, and his heart is just about to land in their toothy jaws, but before he can even say that word, he feels this wind across his face. Sanji’s faster than Law can even imagine and he’s leapt off the boat, after Law’s own stupid heart.
And this time, Law does say the word, “Room”, only he chooses to save Sanji instead, and he winds up with an armful of the blonde. With a shaky breath, Law’s knees give, and he slides down to sit heavily on the deck, dragging Sanji down with him. He means to let go of the other man, he needs to let go, but Law can’t seem to release his grip on Sanji. Sanji’s back is to him, and so Law can’t see Sanji’s expression but he’s glad, because that means that Sanji can’t see the terror in his eyes too.
Law’s heart is twisting in agony and his breath is now ragged. He feels like his chest has been savaged and Law wonders how long he has before the fish rip his heart to shreds, and he could kick himself. It’s such a stupid way to die after everything he’s lived through.
Then Law notices that Sanji’s holding something close to his chest, and as he looks on, Sanji opens up his hands with great care. Nestled in the centre of Sanji’s palms is Law’s heart, beating out an erratically quick rhythm. Law wants to laugh, he really does, because despite his dreams, it’s Sanji who is holding Law’s heart in his hands, and Law had known that it was always going to end up like this. Sanji can crush his heart in an instant, but he’s looking at that ugly organ almost reverently now, transfixed by its every beat.
“It’s beautiful,” Sanji murmurs and he twists in Law’s arms to meet his gaze, but Law thinks it is Sanji who looks beautiful instead, with the silver moonlight bathing his pale skin in a glow that makes him look almost ethereal.
It makes no difference if Sanji returns Law's heart to him now, because Law's heart no longer belongs to him, but Sanji reaches out anyway and gently traces the hole in Law’s chest. Then ever so carefully, Sanji slides Law’s heart back into the cavity, but he doesn't immediately lift his hand, keeping it pressed above Law’s heart like he’s memorising every beat and flutter. Law understands. The power of having someone’s heart in your hands is terrifyingly addictive and Sanji looks like a man who is intimately familiar with the feeling.
Law thinks about how unfair it all is, and how even after all these years, he never really stood a chance. Not with men like Rosinante and Sanji. And Law realises something else he should have known the first time he saw Sanji.
From the moment their eyes met, Law’s heart was always his alone to lose.