Author: Visions PM
AU. Bittersweet love story. NamixSanji. Sometimes love happens, whether you want it to or not.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Drama - Chapters: 2 - Words: 3,608 - Reviews: 17 - Favs: 10 - Follows: 3 - Updated: 12-17-03 - Published: 12-02-03 - id: 1625013
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
It's the end of the day. I try to ignore the setting sun and how cold the wind's gotten but reality persists. I'm beat and the bus is late. Bad combination.
With a sigh, I start walking, trying not to grimace at the nine miles that stand between me and my apartment.
I reach the crosswalk, press the button, and am halfway across before I'm nearly killed.
The air is suddenly filled with screams. Tires scream. Somebody screams, "Watch out!!"
My head jerks, the cigarette falls forgotten from my mouth, and I scream.
The car stops a millimeter away from crushing my body and all its precious organs. I jump back instinctively, heart pounding at the close brush with death. It's a beautiful machine, undoubtedly foreign. It's silver. Shiny, too. Probably custom-made. Any other day, I would've admired it but considering how this well-made contraption nearly flattened me into a human pancake, I'm in no mood for admiration.
Angrily, I kick the headlight off the offender and it crashes to the pavement with an unpleasant clatter.
"You idiot!" I can't help but raise my voice, "You nearly killed—"
I stop, aghast, "Nami-san???"
She stares at me, looking ashamed and horribly pained before turning away. "I'm sorry," she says. Her voice is shaking, her whole frame trembles, and I'm suddenly afraid that she's going to pieces right in front of my eyes.
"It's alright," I tell her and when she looks at me in surprise, I grin, "If I was plastered to your tires, it'd be a different story but I'm not so it's alright. Don't worry about it."
"You…" she says disbelievingly and she clenches her lip as if holding back tears.
"Don't worry about it," I reassure her again, disturbed by how fragile she appears right now.
She nods slowly and I walk away. But before I've taken three steps, she's driven up to my side.
Is she angry about the headlight? I think anxiously, nervously. I can't afford to replace it. I turn to her, ready to plead.
"Hop in," she says, not meeting my eyes, "I'll give you a ride home."
The parking lot is empty and I'm thankful. I don't need anyone to witness how horrible I'm feeling right now.
I walk to my car and each step seems tainted, clumsy. My body is like lead, heavy. Or maybe it's just my mind. My meeting with Crocodile went the way it always goes so I suppose it's understandable that I feel like dirt.
"You're brilliant…" I remember his compliment and his laughter. I scowl, thinking of my own smirking response, and am sickened. I clutch my stomach, trying to fight the nausea and guilt.
I slide into the driver's seat, turn on the engine, and try not to think about it. Damn conscience.
The sky is brilliant outside. The sun sets against a backdrop that is the shade of purple, blue, and flaring red. It's a momentary distraction. I gaze at it wistfully.
…What would Bellemere say if she knew? She, who had given her life to save children? Would she hate me??
My foot presses the gas and I know I am trying to lose myself in the acceleration. But the hatred remains. I can't ever outrun it. Hopelessly, blindly, I press harder, not caring that I'm going well beyond the speed limit.
Faster… faster… I don't want to be here anymore…I want to be with my family…Far away from here…
I've closed my eyes without thinking and it's only when someone screams that they open again. Somebody's in front of me, in my way.
Shock. Then panic.
Stop, stop, STOP!!
My breath catches in my throat. I slam on the brakes, my mouth opening in a silent prayer that it isn't too late.
The force of the stop throws me forward and then back. My neck is aching. But Sanji is alive. Thank God. I sigh with relief. Sanji's still alive.
He curses and kicks the headlight off my car. I blink in shock, dumbstruck. And then the headlight crashes noisily to the ground and the impact of what I could've done suddenly hits me.
I could've killed him. The image of him, broken and bleeding on the ground, flashes through my mind. Against my will, tears rush to my eyes. Murderer, a voice taunts from the back of my head, When will it ever stop?
I meet his astonished gaze and the sight of his face, tenderly concerned, makes me want to die right then and there as I recall my recklessness. I was only an inch away from mindlessly killing this naïve, white soul…
My cheeks burn with shame and embarrassment as I search frantically from something to say. But what can I say? What can I possibly say to someone whose life I almost took?
"I'm sorry," I manage finally, hating the lameness of those words, hating the weakness in my voice, hating how my whole frame seems to be shaking from some emotion I can't control. I want to apologize again, apologize a hundred times. But it won't be of any use. So I just clench my teeth, waiting for the whiplash I'm about to receive.
He'll hate me now. For sure. He'll never come around again with those silly flowers. But that's a good thing.
It's good, right?
So why am I so… I bite down hard on my lip, unwilling to finish the thought, suppressing the rain in my eyes. Let him yell, let him rage, and when it's all over, let him leave. It's all for the best anyway.
It's all for the best to let him go…
Against my will, my head jerks up to look at him.
"If I was plastered to your tires, it'd be a different story but I'm not so it's alright. Don't worry about it."
"You…" I say haltingly, confused by his words, by his forgiveness.
"Don't worry about it."
Before I can sort out my thoughts, he walks away and the sight affects me more than I expect. My foot steps on the gas pedal and I drive up to his side.
I look away to avoid the brilliance of his eyes, suddenly realizing that I have no idea what the heck I'm doing.
But maybe some part of me does because my mouth opens on its own accord and I say, "Hop in. I'll give you a ride home."
Maybe he knows how guilty I feel and how much I need this because he doesn't question me, doesn't refuse. The next sound I hear is the slamming of the passenger door followed by a murmur, "Arigatou…"
I try to act normal as if this isn't the first time we've done this whole take-you-home thing. "Where to, Sanji-kun?"
"3572 All Blue Street. It's an apartment building complex in," he pauses, thinks, and then says, "the other side of town."
It's code for the local slum and a nice euphemism for a place that is notorious for its dangers. I notice that his shoulders have slumped and that his lips have drooped into a frown.
"Look, Nami-san…" he begins with unusual seriousness, trailing off uncomfortably.
"Sanji-kun?" I venture.
"You don't have to take me home," he finishes and with a sudden fierceness I've never seen in him, he says, "It was a mistake to even get in here… I shouldn't have bothered you, Nami-san…"
He tries to get out.
But I'm prepared. The car races forward and to my satisfaction, he is forced back into his original position by the motion.
"Don't be a fool, Sanji-kun," I tell him as I drive. I try to sound as upbeat as I can, "You're not bothering me at all. If anything, I enjoy your company when you choose to grace me with it. Besides, I should drive you home. It's the least I can do after I almost… I almost…"
The words are stuck. My attempt at cheerfulness has backfired. My casual demeanor abruptly fades and once again, I become aware of the hollow, guilty feeling inside.
"It's ok," he says quietly from the side.
"It's not," I reply.
We arrive in front of a grey, dilapidated, two-story building. The apartment doors are yellow with age and some are missing the appropriate numbers. For some reason, I find myself surprised that Sanji lives here. His carefree personality doesn't belong in such a dejected area. The parking lot is filled with litter and a stray, black cat glares at us suspiciously as I enter.
"We're here," I say and I turn to him with a fixed smile in place. Somehow, politeness remains the best barrier, "May I walk you up to the door?"
He stares at me curiously and does not object. I take this as a good sign but he remains oddly quiet, from the moment we ascend creaking stairs to the second floor to when we've stopped in front of a yellow door.
"How do you know which room is yours without numbers?" I ask, letting my fingers graze the rotten wood that lacks numerical digits.
"I've lived here a long time."
He fishes out a key, inserts it into the doorknob – ironically new and golden – and twists. The door opens and the most delicious aroma, a combination of smoked sausage and sweet waffles, wafts out. It's dark inside but it feels homey and welcoming from where I stand.
"Seems nice," I comment, resisting the urge to take a closer peek.
He nods his farewell, takes a step forward into his home, and then pauses halfway, taking out his lighter. "Nami-san…"
"Yes?" I smile brightly…
…only to be immersed within a cloud of smoke. It's thick and everywhere. I cough a bit and my eyes water. I close them and for an instant, I can't see anything.
Warm arms wrap around me and pull me close as Sanji crushes me gently to his chest. My hands are pressed against the cheap cloth of his shirt and I can feel his heartbeat through my fingertips.
He smells good, like tobacco, like fast food, like temptation.
"It hurts sometimes to see you smile."
His voice is low and intimate.
"Because it's so beautiful yet so sad at the same time."
I can see better now and my chin drops comfortably onto his shoulder. I let it rest there.
"Don't ever feel like you have to pretend around me because…"
Here, hesitation creeps in and he sounds afraid. Before I understand what I'm doing, I raise my hand to touch his cheek in silent encouragement.
His embrace tightens fervently and then I hear his him, whispering softly into my ear, "…because I love you."
The smoke clears and I'm standing alone. Dazed, I wonder if I had imagined it all. I stare for the longest time at the door, wanting to knock but unsure of whether I should. Then, slowly, I walk back to my car.
It's amazing how fast he can light a cigarette.