Disclaimer: One Piece is © Eiichiro Oda, SHUEISHA Inc., Viz, Toei, etc. This is a nonprofit fanwork.

Duodecad
by Fushigi Kismet

1. She was heavy, he thought, running through the streets, her legs dangling on either side of him, her arms tight around his neck. But it wasn't her weight. And it wasn't his guilt.

She was yelling and he was yelling back. The air smelled like dust and blood and rang with the sound of metal and shots.

He could barely breathe from the heat and the dust and the pain and the weight. Her bloody foot hit his side. She drew in a pained breath before letting it out in a yell to go faster. He winced as more blood gushed from his side.

It hurt, but he didn't want to set her down.

2. She felt small, like a child, every time he became her shield.

He would grin, arrogant all over, looking at her expectantly, and even to her own ears the words came out petulant and ungrateful: "Thank you."

She didn't want to thank him. Because afterwards he turned away.

3. There are things against which even steel is powerless.

4. One time she'd spent an hour counting all the scars on his body.

He'd spent the time kissing all the scars on her heart.

5. She liked to tease him. Sometimes he would grow angry and his face would flush and other times he would feign sleep until she would grow tired of the game. One day she pushed him too far and he whirled at her and said, his voice sharp, "YES, I love her. Now leave me alone!"

Oh my, she'd thought quietly to herself, smiling. It didn't take much to make him snap after all. She supposed it was because he wore his heart on his sleeve.

Perhaps she'd tease her next.

6. He'd watched her drinking one night, downing shot after shot with the careless ease of someone too used to masking her sorrows. When she reached for the tenth shot, he grabbed her wrist.

She looked at him and said gently, her eyes and voice clear (she really was a bottomless pit), "Care to join me?"

He took the shot from her and knocked it back. She poured him another.

7. Once he was lost in the jungle for three days before they stumbled into one another amidst much cursing.

"You have NO directional sense!" she'd said, exasperated.

"But," he'd said, looking at her in the circle of his arms, "I always find my way home."

8. He could still remember the very first instant. It had been a gray day. She was standing at the railing, ocean spray flashing through the air about her, the wind blowing back her vivid red hair. Her eyes were shut and she was smiling.

Brushing back a strand of hair behind her ear, she turned and glanced at him. "Storm's coming. We should tie down the sails and pull the tarp over the trees."

Perhaps, he'd thought, seeing the light in her clear brown eyes, it really was that easy to fall in love.

9. He was sitting, one leg drawn up against him with his arm draped over it, looking at the horizon.

"Shouldn't you be swabbing the deck or washing clothes or doing something useful?" she'd muttered.

"Wait," he'd said. She'd turned away and he had grabbed her arm automatically to stop her. She turned and the light hit her full in the face as the sun dipped beneath the level of the sea, red and pink-gold chased by violet coloring the sky.

The pastels soon faded into dusky lavender and blue, and he said, "There," suddenly and quietly, his breath warm against her ear. Standing, he clapped her gently on the shoulder. "The first star. Make a wish."

As he headed for the mop and bucket, she stared at the faraway point of light, her shoulder still tingling from the imprint of his hand, and was incapable of thinking of anything to wish for at all.

10. Once, many years later while she was picking mikan, he asked her what about him had attracted her in the first place.

"Hmmm," she mused. "The fact that you didn't have any tattoos. At that point I was really sick of seeing men with tattoos. Oh, the lack of scales helped too."

He took it upon himself to prove to her that he was still very much lacking in either.

11. She is very glad he has never asked her when she fell in love with him. She wouldn't have been able to say.

It was only after it had happened that she had known it, and even then it had been more acceptance than surprise. It was, she thought, like dawn . . . sometimes the sky just grows brighter and brighter until, without you realizing it, it has already become day.

12. There is a map of the heart. It is three-dimensional and hard to map. The terrain changes minutely each second, every second. As for destinations . . . X marks the spot.

She has never lost sight of where she drew her mark.

For his part, once he'd found her, he'd never left.