Too Late 4
Nami paid more attention to Sanji after that; he became a puzzle she wanted to solve. And the more she saw, the more she realized there was more to Sanji than she though; she thought she got him mapped out but he was really uncharted territory.
Waking a little earlier than usual one morning because of the colder climate they were travelling through, she made her way down to the galley, thinking to grab a warm drink. Outside the galley door, she heard some voices inside and paused.
One of the voices belong to Sanji, of course. He was always the first crew member up so that breakfast would be piping hot and ready by the time the rest of the crew stirred.
The other voice belonged to Robin. Curious, Nami placed her ear to the door and listened.
She could hear little sounds that indicated that Sanji was cooking; the tink of a spoon on a dish, the clatter of a pan on the stove. Robin was telling Sanji about something she read from a book. The cook kept mostly quiet as he worked, but his occasional thoughtful questions showed that he was listening to Robin.
That was one of the nice things about Sanji. When it came to the girls, he always listened to them. The rest of the crew members had little patience or interest, and often drifted away if Robin talked about history or if Nami talked about maps. But Sanji always listened.
Nami placed her hand up on the cool wood of the door, smiling softly.
Next to the girls, Sanji probably knew the most about history and map-making. As she continued listening, she realized that though she had not seen Sanji read one of Robin's book, he actually knew a lot. As she continued listening to their quiet conversation, Nami could tell this was not the first time Robin and Sanji have talked about this topic.
Sanji was, Nami realized, quite intelligent. Not the bookish intellect of Robin or Chopper, or the mechanical intellect of Franky or Usopp. Instead, he was more the street intellect, like Nami. She had seen him haggle for groceries and pick out the best of the crop with a discerning eye; that's why she always just hand him the grocery money each time they dock, assured that he would spend it shrewdly. Sanji was also often involved in strategy planning alongside Nami, Robin, and Usopp.
Sanji was one of their strongest fighters, alongside Luffy and Zoro, and sometimes she forgot that he was one of their smartest crew member too.
Did Robin often have these early morning conversations with Sanji? Deep in thought, Nami walked back to the girls' cabin, her earlier desire for a hot drink forgotten. Over the next few mornings, she got up early and listened. Every morning, Robin was there, drinking a cup of coffee and chatting quietly with Sanji as he prepared breakfast. They didn't always talk about her books; they talked about everything.
She knew that Robin had a fascination with the morbid but she didn't know that Sanji had a soft spot for old-fashioned fairy tales; they found common ground in cheerfully discussing old folk tales.
"What kind of stories does Zoro like?" Robin asked one morning.
"Stories of swords, where everyone gets cut up," Sanji replied with a shudder. He was frying bacon and Nami could hear the sizzling, smell the delicious aroma. No doubt Luffy and the rest would be woken up soon.
Robin chuckled. "Those are romantic."
"How is blood and falling on one's sword romantic?"
"Well, those kind of tales are usually about honor and chivalry. Aren't those romantic?"
"True true," Sanji agreed thoughtfully. He was pretty big on the idea of honor and chivalry. "I still like the idea of the hero actually making it home though. More coffee, Robin-chwan?"
As Nami listened, she realized she wanted that. She wanted that easy friendship Robin had with Sanji.
"I was angry because I miscalculated," Nami told Robin later that day. "I thought Sanji was shallow but he's pretty smart too." And sweet, she didn't add.
Robin nodded, not saying anything.
After breakfast, Sanji liked to play with the other guys, stopping only to fix up mid-morning snacks. Sometimes the boys would fish. That meant Sanji and Zoro diving in the water, while the rest of the males sat on top with fishing poles.
Nami pushed her maps away and went over to look out of the lookout's window. Luffy's and Chopper's fishing poles never really caught anything; Usopp's and Franky's inventions could catch more. But it was Sanji and Zoro that brought in the bulk of their seafood. The two men often competed to see who brought in the largest haul, extra points given for rarer creatures. Occasionally, they would team up to bring in a sea king.
"Time's up!" Luffy yelled. The two men surfaced, dragging the catch behind them. Handing their nets up to Franky, they argued good-naturedly over each other's haul. Water sluiced down their muscles as they nimbly climbed up the ladder. Zoro was more obviously muscular, but Sanji was surprisingly cut as well.
Nami was a little surprised; Sanji often wore a suit, but standing there in a pair of speedos, she could see that, after Zoro, he was probably the most muscular of their crew. (Franky doesn't count because most of his muscle bulk was metal.)
The navigator picked up the binoculars hung on the wall and her eyes ran down Sanji's form, from his broad shoulders and well-defined abdominals to legs that can kick down a steel wall. His nipples were pale pink and hard from the cold seawater. Part of his speedos was ruched up and he absently ran a finger along the side and under his buttock to straighten it, drawing her attention to the hollow in the side of his butt and the tight curves that filled out the blue trunks.
Nami flushed, putting the binoculars down abruptly. She felt like a stalker. But damn. She'd seen the bodies of the other crew members; they tended to walk around topless half the time, but Sanji was usually formally dressed. She never knew he hid such a figure under that suit.
The more she found out about Sanji, the more she was intrigued. At the same time, she also started to notice the other crew members. She never really paid that much attention to the rest of the crew, especially the guys, until now. What she observed sometimes surprised her. Humbled her a bit.
She never knew how much work Sanji put into cooking for the crew, making snacks, and making sure their inventory was always well-stocked. Sanji often corralled the guys into fishing or shooting down birds on longer stretches between islands. Sanji, Robin and Usopp also maintained the various gardens that supplemented their greens in-between islands: a vegetable garden in the greenhouse, a small herb garden at the back of the galley, a flower garden outside the girls' cabin, and a seaweed garden in their aquarium.
She knew Sanji was one of the strongest fighters on the ship, but she never thought about how he trained. Which doesn't make any sense at all. Zoro seemed to train all the time and Sanji can fight alongside him. But while Sanji doesn't lift weights like Zoro, he does get in a lot of exercise a day, from swimming (he calls it 'catching dinner') to sparring with Zoro. She knew his favourite cast iron pans were heavy; she could not lift one with both hands, yet he handled the same pans, filled with food, with one hand easily. She wondered how much his stock pot weighed when it was filled with water.
Nami found herself looking forward to watching the boys fish more often. She told herself it was because she never realized how much work they put into stocking their larder. But her eyes kept straying to Sanji's body, enjoying the play of ivory muscles as he swam. She wondered how he remained so pale if he swam almost daily.
Nami sat still, pretending to read a book on maps in the aquarium room as she watched Sanji tend to his seaweed garden. Robin and Usopp liked gardening, but Robin couldn't tend the seaweed garden for obvious reasons, and Usopp was not as good as swimming as Sanji. The blond could hold his breath for a very long time, Nami noticed, and his strokes were powerful and sure.
A splash interrupted her thoughts. Zoro dropped into the aquarium, holding a bunch of a new variety of seaweed and coral. Grinning, the swordsman swam towards Sanji, presenting what bundle as if it was a bouquet of roses. Sanji gave him an unimpressed stare, but Zoro was undeterred, swimming close until he met Sanji in a kiss, pressing the unromantic bouquet into the cook's hands.
Nami caught her breath, eyes wide. It was the first time she seen them kiss and it was… tender. Sensual.
The two men didn't seem to have noticed her; unsurprisingly as she had chosen a seat in a corner of the room that she knew was blind to those in the aquarium. The two kissed slowly until at last, Zoro broke off with a frantic look on his face. Kicking his legs quickly, he headed up to the surface for air. Meanwhile, a small smile had replaced Sanji's previous flat look. He poked at the seaweed thoughtfully, then left the bundle on under a rock before kicking up for air.
Sanji has a surprisingly impressive set of lungs.
Before Sanji returned back underwater, Nami quickly slipped out of the room. That was surprisingly hot. And she felt quite bothered.
Is it because she had never seen her crewmates before in such a light? Heck, she had never seen any of her crewmates in such sensual situations. She herself was, unfortunately, quite inexperienced in such matters, despite her worldly air. She had never trusted anyone while she was with Arlong's crew to even consider allowing them near, and since she joined Luffy, the thought of seeking out romantic engagements were far from her mind.
Yet, what was seen cannot now be unseen. She felt unsettled, confused, curious. Her mind kept replaying the kiss over and over again, and she found herself wanting to see more. It irked her too. Why? Did she like Sanji?
Nami examined herself. No, no, no… she was pretty sure she didn't like Sanji that way. And she definitely did not have any romantic interest in Zoro. Nami reasoned she felt irked because obviously some people are getting some on the ship and she wasn't.
While Sanji's early mornings were for Robin, Nami noticed that Sanji's nights were for Zoro. The swordsman was always the last to leave after dinner. Nami noticed the way Sanji would leave a small bottle of sake to warm in a pot of hot water as they did the dishes, and when she walked by the bow twenty minutes later, she noticed the two men sitting at a shadowed alcove, quietly talking, a small sake bottle and a glass of white wine beside them. Sanji liked to lean on Zoro, his head tucked into the crook of Zoro's neck, one hand resting casually on Zoro's thigh. Sometimes, they would kiss. Lightly, almost chastely. They were still above deck and in the open after all.
They weren't obvious with their relationship, but they weren't hiding it too. Now that Nami was looking, she noticed the little differences, the way they would stand a little closer, the little touches. They were just very discrete. Nami wondered if the rest of the crew noticed.
And after drinking at the bow, the two men would disappear. Nami never thought about it before, but now that she noticed, she was overcome with curiosity. What were they doing, and where?
She started searching, quietly, around the ship. The Thousand Sunny was pretty big for a crew of their size, and had lots of nooks and crannies. One night, she heard muffled voices from the hold.
Creeping stealthily to the door, she tried the door. Locked.
Nami never wished she had Robin's devil-fruit ability as much as she did at that point. As it was, she could only settle for eavesdropping. There were sounds of flesh slapping flesh, clothes rustling, suspicious moist sounds… she tried to imagine the scene. Were they having sex? The thought titillated her; she was embarrassed to admit that while she knew how sex worked, she had never actually done it. And sex between two men? She… heard rumours.
Nami groused. It was so hard to hear; Sanji gasped and moaned a little, all very quietly, and Zoro made no noise at all. How is it that these two idiots, who disturbed the peace everyday with their noisy fights, can be so quiet?
Nami remained crouched beside the door, her overactive imagination filling in the gaping holes in the picture she was not getting.
A sudden curse interrupted her thoughts. Sanji.
"Shaddup." A hoarse whisper. Zoro.
Sanji moaned again, an utterly sex-drenched sound.
"Oh for fuck's sake-"
And then there was silence.
Nami waited. And waited. Did they fall asleep? Did they come? What the hell were they doing? She raised a cool hand to her cheek, which she knew was probably bright red and blushing.
There were a few quiet murmurs, and then, silence again. Finally, tired of waiting, she slowly stood up, shaking the pins and needles from her legs. Nami had a naughty smirk on her face as she walked back to the cabin she shared with Robin, and that night, she fell asleep to imagined scenarios of what happened behind that door.
That next morning, she scrutinized the two men carefully over breakfast. They seemed no different; no hickeys, no limping (she put her money on Sanji being the bottom). They acted as they always did, bickering and shoulder-bumping, though it was all good-naturedly.
The more she looked, the more she noticed: there was this odd aura of relaxedness about them, of calmness. The more she looked, the more she felt… gauche. Young.
It felt as if the two men had suddenly become more mature, not boys anymore, though she knew they were all about the same age. Were they always like this? She felt as if they had moved on and become more comfortable, more worldly, while she remained looking at their backs and tittering about childish issues.
Her earlier smugness on what she overheard the previous night drained away, leaving her feeling small and shallow. She felt like she had intruded on something precious and private.
When Nami got up to leave, she noticed Zoro already carrying the dishes to the sink for Sanji, muttering something about getting Franky to build a dishwasher for Sanji, and she was suddenly struck by an epiphany.
She was envious. Envious of what they have, this passion and partnership. Envious of the physical intimacy and mental connection. Sanji had come knocking on her door before but foolishly, she had dismissed him and kept her door closed. And now, Sanji had moved on and she only just realized that Sanji was a lot more than what she thought.
She was regretful. Sanji was sweet and good-looking, considerate and strong, smart and brave. She could have fallen for him, in fact, she probably has fallen a little already. As Robin chided her before, maybe they could have clicked, or they might not have.
But it was too late now.
As she closed the galley door behind her, Nami realized she had foolishly let a treasure slip through her fingers.
- End -
"Does Nami seem a bit odd, during breakfast?" Sanji asked.
"No, not really." Zoro had noticed Nami's odd behavior, but he didn't feel like talking about her. He had noticed her looking at them strangely all week, especially Sanji, and he didn't like it. So he changed the topic. "Hey, I was asking Franky yesterday about a dishwasher."
He passed another rinsed dish to Sanji to dry.
"You did? That's a great idea!" Sanji beamed, forgetting his earlier concern about Nami. "We had one at the Baratie for the small stuff like cups and dishes, though we still had to wash the pots and pans by hand. I thought about asking for one but it seemed so extravagant to request a dishwasher for a crew of nine."
Zoro handed over another wet dish. "With Luffy's appetite, it's more than a crew of nine. We have our own shipwright; that's pretty luxurious too. Might as well make use of him. Besides, you have better things to do with your time than dishes."
Sanji gave him a leer. "Like you, perhaps?"
Zoro leered back. "Exactly."
"You're so sweet." Sanji leaned over and gave him a quick kiss.
Zoro rolled his eyes, handing over yet another dish.
A/N: And that's it! This story is meant to be from Nami's point of view (except for a couple of omakes), and fairly short.