One Piece: Rubber Heart

By Ender (ender1 now I guess…)

Disclaimer: The One Piece has aleady been claimed by Oda-San and whomever else owns OP… I'm just 'borrowing' it – like Nami :)

   It was a clear night… A night of celebration… A night of endings…

   It was finally over.

   Had it really been eight years since it all began? A part of Nami was sure it had been longer – that it had been at least a century since she had been free, free to smile, free to laugh, without knowing at the back of her mind that her home was enslaved, that her the woman who had been her Mother remained unavenged. Nami stared at her reflection in the broken mirror of Belmel's home – of her home – and wondered how much of the little girl who used to run around stealing books still remained.

   And yet, as the sounds of laughter and dancing trickled in from outside, a part of her seemed to awaken, as if her first taste of true liberty in almost a decade was enough to form a bridge over the river blood and tears she had been forced to dam within her for eight years – and for that instant, looking at the way a smile was forcing its way onto the lips of her older self… Nami was a child again. Free. Happy. And loved.

   "Look at you," she said to herself, "Been through hell and back and still not looking half - bad…"

   The young lady's smile turned to a grin.

   "And I know just the thing to turn 'half – bad' to 'perfection'," she said.

   It was time for That Dress.

   With that thought Nami rushed to her closet and rummaged quickly through the old wooden closet of their home before she found what she was looking for – "There you are!" A flurry of cloth and a few accessories later, the girl once again stood in front of her reflection and smiled happily.

   'That Dress' was actually one of her more recent acquisitions – she'd gotten it from the paramour of a rich but rather gullible Pirate Captain – who just happened to be the right size. Normally Nami only stole treasure in gold - whether coins or not – but this time she just hadn't been able to resist. The dress was a light, airy blue – almost white in color, cut high at the leg and low at the bosom for what Nami liked to call 'maximum impact'. What really made it a find however was what it was made of - a rich cloth that had come all the way from the Grand Line – it felt softer than satin and the way it moved against flesh reminded Nami of nothing les than the waves of the ocean. The first time Nami had seen the pirate woman wear it, she almost swore she could hear the water lapping against the shore – and they were miles from the sea at the time.

   It wasn't as if that whore would need it anymore anyway – when Nami had left them, they'd been stranded in a rather desolate part of East Blue – understandable really, since Nami had 'borrowed' their rudder as well as their wheel. It had been their own fault really for making the damn things in Gold…

   Of course Nami had felt a bit guilty about it afterwards – she was stealing for the town, not for herself after all. She'd finally decided to sell it, but before she had the opportunity, Luffy had come crashing into her life – literally – and now, well…

   "Now it's time to remind those low-lifes I didn't swipe 1 billion Belli with quick fingers alone," she laughed lightly, and with a spring to her step she rushed out of the house towards the party...

   It had taken her ten minutes after leaving the celebration to reach her home. It took her five seconds to get back.

   The good word had spread quickly, and the joy the island's inhabitants felt at being free from beneath Arlong's fish-scaled heel could not be contained in their tiny central square. All over the island people were bringing out their best food – the years under the Mermen had left them with little, but that didn't stop them from sharing all they had – and the dancing and singing swept over the land like a tidal wave. Nami stood there for a second with tears in her eyes, saying nothing, thinking nothing, merely savoring the scene… one which she had fought so hard to see, but never truly imagined she would…

   "Nami! Naj-chan!"

   She waved then, as people started calling her name – the tears threatening to burst through, despite her best efforts – it had hurt a lot to be called a 'witch' by people she loved – but then she'd found out that they'd known about her plan all along… She shook herself. Now was not the time for tears! It was time to celebrate!

   So she waved back, laughing, free of the facade she had put up for eight years, as she ran through the streets of her home, and her friends and family responded in kind, showering her with gratitude and praise and gift of all sorts (and more adult propositions from any hot-blooded males who caught a site of That Dress). By the time she reached the center of the village, her arms were laden with food from all major food groups, and a rather pricey glass of red wine which she handled carefully lest it spill on her dress. As she approached the center, a roar emerged from the crowd, and amidst the welcoming cries of the other villagers, one strident voice stood out.

   "Nami! Over here!"

   The young woman turned to see Luffy grinning at her, waving Gen-san's pin-wheel hat above his head to attract her attention while the old man tried in vain to retrieve it. Zorro was there as well, and Sanji, who had been trying to get his arms around Nojiko, was staring a her (and That Dress) with eyes so wide that she felt they were about to curl as badly as his eyebrows. Ussop on the other hand, was standing atop a heap of tables, mutilating an action which, in a normal man, would be dubbed as 'singing'.

  Her family. Her friends.  She grinned widely and started making her way towards Luffy's table.

"Heh, nice to se you could join us," Zorro said, before downing a tankard of beer, "  

"Namiii-chan!" Sanji cried out, practically drooling, "You are the brightest pearl in the sea tonight… The brightest star in the sky…"

   "Weren't you just saying just now how I was the 'cool sea breeze fanning the waves of my desire'?" Nojiko asked, more amused than miffed.

   Sanji turned to Nojiko, eyes wide with shock, "Of course you are my pretty – I have eyes only for you!," at which point he stood and began running to Nami. "Namiii-chan! Let me help you with those – all that meat is blocking our view of your loveliness!"

   Luffy blinked. "Meat?"

   "Why thank you, dear Sanji," Nami said with a smile, a smile which she didn't think had left her face since Arlong Park had crumbled to dust. Everything… Every part of this evening was just perfect. Nothing could take her smile away now.

   Or at least that's what she said to herself - just before she saw a pair of grasping rubber hands flying towards her direction.

   "MEEEEAAAATTTT!!!"

   "Eh?!? Eeek!!!" was all she managed before Luffy's hands grasped the food in her arms and pulled – sending the meat stuffs straight into the pirate's waiting maw

   – and sending her glass of wine – her glass of EXPENSIVE deep RED wine…

   Spinning…

   Tipping…

   Leaking…

   - onto her dress – her brand new, EXPENSIVE pale BLUE dress.

   Time seemed to stop at that moment – if pressed later on, Nami could have probably told you the number of stars in the sky, or the number of blades of grass on the dirt, at that exact moment in time. Not that she actually counted – all that really echoed through her head at that point were four small words.

   The first was Wine.

   "Oh no!" Nojiko gasped, "isn't that… That Dress?"

   The second was Dress.

    "You… IMBECILE!" Sanji raged, and he stepped towards the obliviously munching Luffy, but Nami held him back. 
   The third was Ruined.

   "Luffy…" she said, with the calmness of the sea before a typhoon, "Don't you have anything to say for yourself?"

   "Yup!" Luffy said, still chewing a pair of drumsticks, before turning to her with a grin that was alternately composed of teeth and chewed meat. "Yum!!!"

   The fourth was Kill.

   "You – idiOTIC BASTARD!!!" she yelled as she pulled her foot back and lashed out with a kick that would have made Sanji proud. "DIRTY WOMAN KICK!!!"

   With that she sent Luffy off to do his best impersonation of Arlong's dart attack, sending him careening through a pair of walls, a barrel of beer, and several dozen unlucky revelers.

   "Yaaaaaaa - gurk!!!"

    "Nami-san you're so cool!" Sanji gushed. "Let me wipe that off for you…"

       "Couldn't you have found a better name though?" Gen-san muttered, a pained expression on his face as Nami shoved Sanji away with the heel of her foot.

   "Geez…" Zoro blinked, "I don't think even Arlong hit him that heard…"

   "Serves him ri-ow!" Nami yelped as she felt a sharp whack to the back of her head. She turned to scowl at her sister, who had an infuriated expression on her face.

   "No- Nojiko! What was that for?"

   "How could you do that to him?" Nami's sister asked angrily, "Of all people?"

   "Him?" Nami blinked, then she laughed, "You don't meant Luffy do you? Hehe, it's alright we're always like that… It doesn't hurt him one bit…"

   She turned to look at the spot where their Captain had landed – but strangely enough, Luffy was no longer there.

   "Eh?" Nami said, looking puzzled, "I could have sworn I bunted him in that direction…"

   "Do you see now Nami?" Nojiko asked.

  Nami nodded. "Hmmm, yeah, I guess you have a point… maybe hanging out with these muscle-brains has made me stronger than I thought…"

   "THAT'S NOT MY POINT!"

   "Hoy! Everyone!" Ussop said as he approached the group, "What's up with Luffy? I saw him walking away with a weird look on his face…"

   "There! NOW do you see?" Nojiko prodded her sister.

   "Do I see what?" Nami replied, slightly annoyed. "C'mon sis, you saw the fight – there's no way I could've hurt his rubber body!
   "I'm not talking about his body!" Nojiko shouted, "What do you think that's the only part of him that can cause him pain?"

   "Y'know, your sister is right," Ussop said.

   "Why thank you Ussop-san," Nojiko said in surprise.

   Ussop nodded his head sagely, his long nose bobbing in the air, "Right you have to remember that Luffy gets a headache whenever he tries to add anything in double digits so – aiee!" the sniper yelped as Nojiko gave him The Look.

   "I meant his feelings!" Nojiko said, "Even after you left them, Luffy and everybody else went through a lot to help you out Nami-san… I think you should try treating him a little better."

   "Hey, hey, it's not like that…" the navigator replied, "I appreciate Luffy – I do!"

   The three other Straw-Hat Pirates exchanged meaningful glances.

   "What – was - that – supposed – to – mean?" she asked in an ominous tone.

   "Er, uhm, nothing, nothing Nami-san!" Sanji replied, "Of course you're nice to that idiot!"

   "How would you know?" Nojiko asked, "Didn't you join up with them after Nami left with the ship?"

   "Uhm…" Sanji replied.

   "Sis! I'll have you know that I've been a great help to Luffy from the moment I met him!"

   "As I recall, didn't your first meeting involve you framing him and having him imprisoned on Buggy's ship?" Zoro asked.

   "Wh – who asked you?!!" she snapped, "Why don't you just go… sleep or something."

   "Hey, maybe you really did hurt the rubber kid's feelings Nami-chan," Gen-san whispered to her.

   "D-don't be absurd!" she declared, somewhat defensively, "Luffy knows I don't mean anything by it… I'll have you know that I treat him with the same delicacy and tact that I treat everybody else - "

   "But you have a special place in your heat for me right Nami-chaaan?" Sanji said, pouncing on her.

   "In your dreams Eyebrows!" she said, sending the chef flying with another kick, before she realized what she had done and stared guiltily at the others. "Er… I mean.."

   "Oh just go and bring him back Nami-chan," Gen-san advised, "Friends like that don't grow on trees you know… Better safe than sorry…"

   "I did find it strange that he was walking AWAY from food..." Ussop opined, "That's just not the Captain I now…"

   Nami took a breath. "Oh alright, if it's so damn important to you!" she stood then, and tried in vain to wipe the red splotches from her dress with a towelette before giving up entirely in disgust. Before she had gone far however, she heard her sister's voice behind her.

    "Remember Nami try to be nicer! Just because he has a rubber body doesn't mean he has a rubber heart you know…"

   With those words echoing in her head, Nami strode quickly in the direction she had kicked Luffy. The party had spread over a good and wide area, but eventually she walked far enough that even the sounds of the ribald ballads the men of the village were singing were drowned out by the muted sound of the surf hitting the rocks of the island… And still no Luffy.

   "Luuuuufffy…" she called out. This was so unfair… What had she done to deserve this?

    "Luuuuuffffy!!!" Dangit, she should be back at the party, drinking her fill and making men lose their drinks just looking at her in That Dress, not out here in the chilly early morning air looking for her brainless Captain.

   "LUFFY GET OUT HERE THIS INSTANT YOU IDIOT!!!"

   No – wait – nicer that's the ticket… she had to be nicer.

   "Luffy… Please come out?" she said, in her sweetest little girl voice. Still no straw hat wearing rubber man.

   She was already nearing the edge of the island… Where in the world could he have gone? She couldn't have… really hurt his feelings could she? This was Luffy they were talking about after all right?

   "Damnit where are you Captain…?"

   Finally, she heard a rustling sound that was different from that of the wind blowing through the bushes. She turned slightly to her left and she saw the rim of a familiar looking straw hat perched on a figure sitting on the ground facing the sea, his back to a large tree.

   Navi heaved a sigh of relief. "There you are," she began as she walked towards him, "I've been looking all over for you! My sister has this weird theory that I… I… Luffy?"

   Something seemed… wrong. She couldn't see much of him, what with the tree being at his back, but he seemed to be slumped over, his shoulders shaking, one hand – from what she could see – at his face, while his other hand seemed to be clawing at the dirt.

   "Luf... Luffy?" she asked, concerned now. "Come on… quit – quit joking around… There's still a lot of food waiting for you back at the party…" She could hear some weird sounds coming from his direction… Was he… was he crying?

   What had she done?

   "Oh Luffy I… I'm sorry…" she said, dropping to her knees a few meters behind him. She was scared to come any closer… scared to see his face. Nojiko was right… She had been taking Luffy for granted. Her mind was suddenly awhirl with images – Luffy fighting off a lion to retrieve a 'treasure' that was only worth something to a guard dog… Luffy leaving five million of Belli to help rebuild a town he had stayed in for less than a day…

   "I'm sorry I called you an idiot… It's me who's the idiot… You came here and… And you didn't owe me anything but… but even when it seemed like I'd betrayed you… even when I sent you away…"

   Luffy claiming to be her friend… And proving it in a way that she had never dreamed possible. His hat… she could still remember so clearly how it had felt when he placed his treasure on her head. The conviction in his voice when he said he would help her… And the final affirmation he had shouted to the world, from atop the rubble that had been Arlong Park… The words she'd never expected to hear from anyone again…

   _Nami! You are my friend!_

   "I… I never really wanted any friends Luffy. When I had to join Arlong… even if I knew I was really saving them – it hurt when they called me a traitor. It hurt so badly…Luffy…" she was almost crying now… she couldn't help it. All the emotions she had suppressed for those eight years came pouring out. If she hadn't met Luffy… If he hadn't helped her…

   "I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't come Luffy… If you'd just left me behind like any SANE person would have! I… I don't think I'd be able to repay you with a world full of Belli, Luffy… I'm… I'm sorry if I've taken you for granted! I'll do better now I swear… I'll be the best navigator you'll ever have – you'll see!"

   Still no reply… and Luffy seemed to be trembling even more violently now. A horrible thought crossed her mind… What if – what if he didn't want her back? What if he'd had enough of her abuse?

   "Luffy I.. I'll understand if you won't have me back. I've already betrayed you once after all… And it would't do to have the future Pirate King stabbed in the back eh?" she said, laughing a bit miserably, "But… I just want you to know. You… you've set me free Luffy. You're the map that allowed me to find a way out of the darkness… I won't ever forget what you've done for me! How much your friendship means to me…" She trailed off, her eyes tightly shut. "How much you… Luffy-!"

   "Graaaaglurraaarh!"

   "Eeek!" she screeched, and leapt back as a horrible noise emerged from Luffy. From her new position she could see Luffy more clearly… Could see that his hand wasn't on his face… it was IN his face – inside his mouth to be exact.

   With a final, disgusting belch, the rubber man pulled his hand out of his mouth and tossed something to the dirt. Nami looked at it incredulously – it was a chicken bone the size of her forearm.

   "Aaaah…." Luffy let out a breath, "That's better…. Even a rubber throat can be stretched only so much…" He stood up then, seemingly oblivious to the girl who was lying prone behind him. "Yosh! Now that – that's over with…. It's Meat Time!" He turned the, and spotted Nami just as he was about to step on her hand. "Eh? Nami-chan? What're you doing out here?"

   Nami blinked up at him, utterly at a loss for words. "You… you…"

   "What's wrong Nami? You look a bit pale… Hey but that's ok – it makes you match your dress better!" Then his brow wrinkled. "Except for that ugly red splotch in the middle… You should be more careful with your drink Nami-chan…"

   Nami kept her head down for a moment, then she began chuckling. "Heheh… Monkee D. Luffy… Future Pirate King of the Four Seas…"

   Luffy preened. "Yes dear Navigat – ah! Na… Nami-chan…" Lufy gulped, shaken, as she looked up at him through eyes that were as dark and merciless as any sharks.

   "I'm going to KILL YOU!!!"

==[Epilogue]==

"There she is… Finally! You were taking so long I sent Zorro out to look for you…" Nojiko said as her sister made her way to their table. "So?" she asked Nami.

   "So – what?"

   Nojiko gave an exasperated sigh. "Did you apologize to Luffy?"

   Nami snorted. "Who'd apologize to that idiot?!?" With that she stormed away angrily.

   "Wha – what…?" Nojiko sputtered, just as Zorro walked in with a bedraggled looking Luffy in tow.

   "He was tied to a tree by the edge of the island…" the swordsman explained.

   "Tied to a tree?" Nojiko gasped, "With what?"

   Zorro shook his head and pointed to the rubber man. "HE was tied to the tree. In a ribbon. With tails."

   "Oh… oh… I'm so sorry.." Nojiko apologized but Luffy laughed, and flashed her his patented Wide Grin.

   "'ey 'ey don't worry about it Sister," he said, "Just point me to the Meat!"

   "No, really, I apologize," Nojiko said, "You've already had such a rough day… And.. Your eyes! Luffy-san… were you crying?"

   The boy looked a bit embarrassed, "Ah no, that's not it… Something just got in my eye…"

   "Something? Like what?"

   "A map."

   "Eh?"

   Luffy nodded. "A map out of the darkness…" he said as the others looked on quizzically… He ignored their questioning glances. "Now, more importantly… Let's go find the Pirate King some fresh ham melon!"

   It was a clear night. A night of celebration. A night… of beginnings…

==AN==

  Author's Note: Just a quick little fic … Not aimed to be high art, but I hope it even approached ¼ the level of fun I get from reading OP ^_^ Needed to do something creative to counter-act the mind-numbing effect of mid-terms… And wanted to contribute SOMETHING to One Piece fandom to show my appreciation for the sheer amount of fun that I get from reading OP ^_^

I hope I got the characterization down to a decent level – I'm not used to doing comedy – as you might be able to tell from my other fics @_@; - and you just can't do an in-character fic of Luffy and crew without comedy ;p I know Nami was a bit too emotional – but I think that considering her situation at that time, and after all she went through the past few days at this point – I think its not too much of a stretch to portray her emotions as a bit raw at this point.

Anyway hope you liked it ^_^